Journal

Contemplative Life, For the World

Faith & Nonviolence: A Crucial Conversation for the Church in America

This Saturday, Jan 6th is the feast of Epiphany, a day in the church calendar which commemorates the revelation of Christ to the gentile world, through the magi. Three years ago, on January 6th 2021 many followers of Jesus found themselves experiencing an Epiphany like no other. As rioters attacked the Capitol building, with Christian symbolism everywhere, the particular revelation of that Epiphany was that Christian nationalism had grown more comfortable with employing violence in their rhetoric and actions than most of us had realized. As the 2024 political cycle picks up steam amidst a constitutional crisis, there are many Christians who are concerned that perhaps what happened on January 6th 2021 could merely be the shadow of things to come.

How can we as the church respond to the looming shadow of so-called Christian violence? In 2024 Coracle has a clear sense of vision guided by the simple yet profound verse in John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (NIV).”

In the coming months Coracle will offer many different Christ centered, biblically anchored offerings through which we seek to faithfully reflect the shining light of Christ amidst these growing shadows (See Bill’s Article To Become Luminous). These offerings include an upcoming conversation with Bill Haley and Chris Lugo on Jan. 10th about transforming versus malforming Christianity in Arlington, as well as a series of sounding seminars on Justice, Mercy, and Humility accessible to anyone online.

But what about those of us in the Valley?

At the same time as there has been a rise in violent rhetoric and action among Christian nationalists within the U.S there has also been a fascinating counter trend. Namely, among preeminent evangelical Bible scholars and pastors there has been a growing chorus of voices articulating a biblical witness to the way of Jesus as fundamentally nonviolent . As just one example, take this recent statement by Dr Tim Mackie, founder of the Bible Project, in an interview with pastor John Mark Comer:

“To adopt the posture of violence in forwarding the Kingdom of God is ultimately a betrayal of Jesus and everything that he stood for and it is a misreading of the Bible as a whole” – Tim Mackie

So, what might be a faithful response to the rise of violent rhetoric among Christian nationalists? How about a community wide conversation for Christians of every stripe exploring the role of biblical nonviolence in theology and practice.

It is for that reason that here in the valley we will be hosting a 12 week Crucial Conversation series on faith and nonviolence.

What exactly is a Crucial Conversation? So glad you asked! In short, Crucial Conversations is a 12 week inter-generational conversation seeking biblical wisdom on topics of cultural confusion. For more details check out our Crucial Conversations website, where you will also find the link to the registration page.

But wait you say, what if I am not a card carrying pacifist? No worries, depending on what that word means to you, I may not be either. This practice is designed to be an ecumenical, Christ-centered, biblically inspired conversation exploring the intersection of Christian faith and biblical nonviolence through truth, grace & curiosity. Our sense is that most Christians will be surprised by the broad witness of nonviolence as an alternative to violence throughout both church history, and the biblical story.

But wait you say, what if I am not in a discipling relationship with a High School youth? Well, maybe you could be? The format of Crucial Conversations, from the kind of media we engage in, to our hyper competitive inter-generational trivia games (really it is pretty fun!), has all been designed to equip Jesus’ followers to guide the next generation to a deeper understanding of biblical wisdom on topics of cultural confusion. So participation in the format of Crucial Conversations works best and requires a discipling relationship with a youth over the course of the 12 weeks.

However, if that is not realistic there are three other ways that you could still engage in this series.

First, it is the case that all the carefully curated materials we will be engaging with for these 12 weeks will be accessible on the Crucial Conversations website, so any individual or group could organize a study conversation in their own context. And, in the Fall we plan to release both the content, and the format in a way that others can lead a full on Crucial Conversation in their own context.

Secondly, after some exciting announcements about Corhaven in late January, I will be dedicating the ShenValley Newsletter to reflecting on what I am learning about the intersection of Christian faith & biblical nonviolence. So keep tracking with this newsletter as we explore why faith is so essential to biblical nonviolence (Feb), how the Bible’s story has a nonviolent arc to it (March), and how the churches relation to the state often has more to do with our views on violence, than does our understanding of the Bible (April).

Finally, reach out to me via email and share some of your own thoughts or concerns on the topic. I would welcome your voice to be a part of my exploration of this topic (really, I mean it). I am particularly interested in engaging in respectful conversations with anyone who might identify as a Christian nationalist. (To learn more on this topic see the Gospel Coalition article Christian Nationalism: The good, the bad, and the ugly.)

Finally, please join us through prayer. As so many in the church feel helpless as they see the witness of the church to the world being slandered by the idolatry of Christian nationalism. Pray with us, that the church’s witness to Jesus as the Prince of Peace would not merely adorn sentimental songs during Christmas, but would be a political force for good in our world.

In Christ,
Ken

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