Violent for peace?

By Simon Barrow
March 10, 2007

Maggi Dawn's new piece in the Culture and Review section, Getting angry for justice, reminded me of another book. Brother Roger of Taize's, 'Violent for Peace'.

It's a title which beautifully captures "the difficult peace of Christ" (I'm writing a book about this at the moment) - something which at once refuses the tools of domination, but shares the rage against injustice that produces them. I think Maggi is right, in the context of a discussion about the excellent film Jesus of Montreal, not to sanitise the 'cleansing of the Temple'. But it bears further comment.

Jesus' action - which involves, quite literally, 'turning the tables' on the money-changers, is aimed at the conjunction of three systems - religious, political and economic. Of course the Temple is a religious operation, but its ring of courts also reflect the way that only an elite (who thereby gain political power) can get to the heart of the system. Those courts were organised in layers of access.

The outer preventative shield was provided by the money men, who also embodied the burden of an arrangement that taxed the poorest. Jesus sweeps all of this away. But he doesn't use an army. He uses tactics against property which would, in our age and context, be called 'nonviolent resistance' or NVDA - a bit like peace campaigners beating the heads of missile cones with hammers, perhaps.

It's anger, for sure. But it is directed towards a system not at people. For Jesus also associates with the very 'tax colectors and sinners' who others shun.

There is a good deal to be unpacked in all of this, especially during Lent...

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.