ANZAC weekend and nonviolent Christian offensiveness

By Jarrod McKenna
April 23, 2010

Christians should give more offence, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favour of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Unquestionably there is a place for Christians to cause offence, but only if our offence is to live the kind of love Christ did, in the power of the Spirit. Our offence must only be the grace of the cross of the New Testament’s nonviolent Messiah.

In a world at war, our offence is what my friend Greg Boyd would call “Calvary-shaped love.” Humbly, with hearts filled with love, and often with eyes filled with tears in the face of the pain of the world, we must declare the scandal of Christ crucified as how God saves all of creation.

To this we will hear many “amens” until we start to let the rubber hit the road (or until our faith hits the fan). This weekend in Australia we will hear John 15 quoted out of context in every major city of Australia, and many Christians will not bat an eyelid.

ANZAC weekend in Australia is treated as the most ‘holy’ holiday on our calendar. It is commonplace for Australians to talk of taking “pilgrimages” to where the battle took place. No one has a problem if you don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter, but if you vocalise that you do not, celebrating ANZAC day is considered “blasphemous.”

Despite historians raising serious concerns about how we are [not] remembering the ANZAC tradition (and instead celebrating war as a national creation story), most Christians remain silent in letting Christ’s cross critique how we remember the tragic deaths of these young people.

I have family that have bravely fought for Australia. I love the land. But I have been baptised into a new identity. I have been immersed into another story that means I must love neighbours and even enemies like Christ has loved me. Knowing this, to let ANZAC day be turned into a sacralised support of war — and not remember the “Diggers” who asked we never forget the horrors of war — is not only to be a bad Australian, it would be unfaithful to Christ who shows us what love is, the costly nonviolent way of overcoming evil with good. (Romans 12.21)

If we say fighting is wrong, we spit in the face of all those soldiers who have bravely served their countries. But if we say the way to fight is with violence, then like those in Matthew’s passion account, we spit in the face of Christ. Do not judge those who did not know there was a better way. But it is a judgment of our Christianity if we remain silent as our governments sacrifice trillions of dollars and the precious lives of young people on the altar of unwinnable wars.

To proclaim the scandalous nonviolence of the cross is not a good way to win friends and influence people. It is not a way to get more friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, or invites to speak. My words may inflict more hate mail on my community. But this is to take the passage of John 15 in context. To let the scriptures be authoritative properly. To witness to Christ as Lord. This is to understand why our Lord would move from saying “Love each other as I have loved you” to say “if the Domination System hates you, keep in mind it first hated me.”

Lord, give us the courage to live your offensive grace, your Calvary-shaped love, in a world at war. Amen.


© Jarrod McKenna (, a co-founder of the Peace Tree Community working alongside the marginalised in one of the poorest of areas in his city, heads up Together for Humanity in Western Australia (an inter-faith youth initiative working for the common good), and is the founder and creative director of Empowering Peacemakers (EPYC), for which he has received an Australian peace award in his work for in empowering a generation of “eco-evangelists” and “peace prophets.” Jarrod tweets at

This article is a shortened version of one that appeared on the Sojourners website blog (, and is reproduced with thanks and acknowledgement. It appears there as ‘Fight or Die: How to Lose Friends and Irritate People.’

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