Throughout my life, it was always an understood fact that self and others’ defense was a perfectly reasonable and accepted fact of the Christian life. I knew about Christian pacifists, specifically those in Amish communities, but while I understood these groups to be Christian, I always believed them to be more legalistic in their dogma. I mean, these were the same people who said it was “wrong” to wear colored clothes and drive cars. I understood why they did what they did, but I didn’t see those things as wrong, and especially didn’t see them as “sin”. However, in more recent years, there seems to be a much larger growing population of Christians who see themselves as pacifists. When I was writing the book that would eventually become Men of Valor, I did a lot of research into this way of thinking. At the time, our church was following a man named Francis Chan, a pretty amazing teacher of the Gospel and this guy had a friend named Preston Sprinkle, a fun name, I know.
Preston Sprinkle seems to be one of the leading modern voices for this idea of Christian non-violence. In fact, he wrote a book about it, first called Fight, and later retitled Christian Non-violence. Preston is an amazing writer. His level of research is amazing and, in the back of his book, he talks about wanting to grab his shotgun and shooting the thug, he says, “The mere thought of someone harming my family stirs up something fierce.” He then goes on to ask his reader, “… are you 100 percent sure that God won’t intervene?” I’ve been asked this basic question several times. Basically, implying that by stepping back and allowing the evil person to continue unimpeded, you are showing faith in Christ.
To me, this just reeks of the story about a man in a sinking ship. He prays to God to save him. A man comes along in a rowboat and offers to save the sinking man, but he refuses. Two others come and ask him if he wants to be saved, but he refuses each time saying that he is waiting for God to save him. Well, the man drowns. He gets to Heaven and asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God replies, “Well, I sent you three rowboats!” God has given man the ability to be a man. “Haven’t I commanded you; be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
He would not require something of us if he hadn’t also given us the ability to accomplish it. As men, even modern men, we yearn for a time when we can stand up and be counted among the great men of the age. Men often attempt to sate this urge with video games and movies about heroes. However, in these arguments we see Christians trying to get us to ignore this inborn, God-given desire to save those whom we love. This isn’t right. Why would God call us to gamble with our family’s lives? God has called humans to a higher standard. One that compels us to put our own lives on the line to save those we love; even if it means killing an evil person. We wouldn’t want to do it, might even beg the person to not make us do it, but in the end, we would do it, if there were no other option.
In another section of his book, Mr. Sprinkle says, “Do you own a gun? Is it loaded? Are you a good shot? Are you a better shot than your attacker? If you are such a good shot, then why not shoot the gun out of his hand?” This is where Mr. Sprinkle really loses his credibility. He makes several other statements about guns and then backtracks and says he “owns several guns” as if that means he is somehow an authority. I am not an authority in any way but know enough to know when someone is just fear-mongering. The ending crux of Mr. Sprinkle’s arguments really falls apart when he says, “But not all enforced pain is violent. It all depends on the intention.” He is calling for you to beat up an attacker and just not kill them.
I mostly agree with his statement, but not in the context of how he says it. I believe that a person’s intention is paramount. I believe I can kill someone with the pure intent of saving someone else or even myself. Not all killing is done in hate. Also, unfortunately, Mr. Sprinkle does not understand a violent attacker. Specifically, while I have not been involved in a fight for my life, I would say I am an authority on people who are coming down off drugs. I can tell you that I have seen men (and women), who are coming down off drugs, who it took eight full-grown adults to hold down in a therapeutic hold. Even with that number of people, it was still like riding a bucking bull. A person who is filled with adrenaline is a powerhouse! I’m sure we have all heard the stories of moms lifting cars off of infants when filled with adrenaline.
What Mr. Sprinkle doesn’t seem to understand, is that someone hyped on drugs or full of adrenaline is more than a match for a person who is scared. For that matter, most home break-ins aren’t done by single individuals, but by more than one person.
In this instance, it’s at least two against one. You must have an equalizer to have any chance at all. He argues that forcefully killing the attacker is an act of violence and he is right, but that violence is not evil, it is providing justice in love for evil here on earth. Christ always calls us to love first and I find that idea compelling and instructional. I like what César Chávez has said about it, “I am not a nonviolent man. I am a violent man who is trying to be nonviolent.” I also quite like Jordan Peterson when he says, “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.” Violence in a fallen world is a necessity to live a Godly life. Being willing to soil your unbloodied hands and your own innocence is at times necessary to do what is right, to live a life that God has called you to.
I have always had a great amount of respect for C.S. Lewis and in reading Mere Christianity again, I find a nearly perfect quote from him about what it means for a Christian to take a life.
“Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment—even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace.” He is saying that taking a life for a justified reason, is not the same as murder, not in God’s eyes anyway and it certainly shouldn’t be in our eyes. I also find the idea that some who preach Christian pacifism or Christian non-violence seem to believe that if you believe otherwise, you are somehow not in line with Christ, or that you cant be saved if you believe this way. I find this to be a very dangerous way of thinking. You might believe I misunderstand a Biblical concept, which I certainly do believe if you preach Christian non-violence, but I do not believe you are not a Christian if you believe this. I believe you misunderstand a Biblical concept, but that this concept is not a salvific concept that much be understood right away. You can misunderstand this, and still be a follower of Christ. But to those who preach Christian non-violence though and say if you don’t agree you are not a follower of Christ… perhaps you should back off a step and remove the plank from your own eye.
So, in the end, I’m sorry Mr. Sprinkle, but I love my family, innocents, and the temple of the Holy Spirit (my own body), too much to allow evil to debase or destroy them. I choose love, not hate. Because you would truly have to hate someone to allow the evil of this world to act when you have been given the ability to stop that evil by an all-powerful and loving God. In fact, I believe you become evil in allowing it to continue.