Neglected Voices on Issues of War and Peace

by Christopher Rowland

There is a long tradition of Christian support for war in certain, carefully defined, circumstances. This essay is about aspects of that other tradition. Five authors are considered who in different ways have challenged the culture of violence in the name of Christ. Two are representatives of what may be termed the radical Christian tradition Hans Denck in the sixteenth, and Gerrard Winstanley in the seventeenth, centuries. The other three come from the twentieth century, one of whom, John Howard Yoder, as a Mennonite, is the inheritor of the Radical Reformation practice of the sixteenth century, of whom Hans Denck is one of the earliest advocates. René Girard has influenced many with his big large-scale explanation of the origin of violence and its place in culture. Finally, William Stringfellow is the only Anglican writer. The book of Revelation illuminates his protest against the Vietnam War. There is reluctance on his part to be absolutist about pacifism in that he asserts that in any good contextual theology one cannot decide in advance how one should act. As will be seen, I agree with Richard that simple appeal to the Bible cannot be the last word in determining how one should follow Christ (which is why we find ourselves on the same side in the debate about homosexual relationships), but, unlike him, I think that the context in which the contemporary church finds itself makes the appeal to Just War theory both the wisdom of the incarnate Christ and in danger of ignoring the very different role of the church in our time.

Hans Denck (d. 1527) 1

In 1527 Hans Denck was dying of plague in his late twenties. He was what would come to be called an Anabaptist, as he had undergone rebaptism as a sign of his own commitment to Christ and his move to a new a way of life in which violence was abhorred. Because of his untimely death his influence on the development of the movement was not as great as it might have been, or, for that matter, on the theology of the Reformation. Doubtless, if he had not died of natural causes, his views, already considered with so much suspicion that he had to offer a ‘recantation’ towards the end of his life, his life would probably have been cut short in any case by those who objected to his views. His theological position was distinctive and has many of the hallmarks of what would characterise a particular hermeneutical trend in Christian theology, whose importance for the contemporary debates cannot be underestimated.

For Denck Christ’s patient suffering and is an example of love to be followed, for true love will suffer anything for the beloved. Denck regarded Christ’s incarnation as a means whereby through the impact of his example and presence within humanity lives could be transformed. One of Denck’s favourite verses was 1 John 4:8: ‘whoever does not love, does not love God, for God is love’. Faith and action are inextricably bound together, and the understanding of faith is rooted in the exemplification of the character of Christ in the individual, a character that is marked by non-violence.

Denck believed that God was in all creatures, for all people had their origin from God. As God’s presence is in all people, it is this inner testimony, which has to take precedence over the Scriptures, though the latter can bear witness to him. Scripture’s authority, therefore, is dependent upon the confirmation of the experience from within. Scripture is not the possession of the experts nor is it the kind of text that is transparent of its own interpretation. The Spirit’s role in interpretation is particularly important. Denck read Scripture and found in it a confirmation of the Christ at work in him. The importance of Scripture lies in identifying this internal word and its relationship with the Word which became flesh in Jesus Christ. Scripture bears witness to the way Jesus of Nazareth offers an embodiment of the eternal truth and offers an example of perfect love which one can imitate. Denck stressed the centrality of ethics as the primary criterion of the religious person. For Denck, therefore, much as in the Epistle of James 2 and 1 John 4:7-21, religion is the transformation of the individual and the good deeds which are the result.

Gerrard Winstanley (1609-76)2

One of the most intriguing examples of a social critique inspired by the Apocalypse and related parts of the Bible emerges in the writings of Gerrard Winstanley. Between 1649 and 1651 Winstanley wrote tracts while he was actively involved in creating the 'Digger' colony on St George's Hill in Surrey. Winstanley had a strong consciousness of his own prophetic vocation and believed that the prophetic spirit was again active in the momentous days in which he lived. Winstanley had a vision, not just to improve the lot of the hungry and landless through the cultivation of the commons, but also to create a propertyless society of the kind he believed had existed before the Fall. Winstanley held the Earth to have been originally a 'common treasury' for all to share. The Fall he interpreted as the practice of buying and selling land, which allowed some to become rich and others to starve. From the consequences of this Fall humanity stood in need of redemption by a process of education concerning the extent of the departure from the divine will and the way in which one should return to it.

Following in the spirit which was manifest in the annals of early Anabaptism Winstanley uses the imagery of Daniel and the Apocalypse to interpret the oppressive behaviour of the wielders of political and economic power of his day. In particular, Winstanley regarded the prevalence of private property as typifying the rule of the Beast of the Apocalypse and the Book of Daniel. Like John his interpretation of Daniel’s vision of the beasts arising out of the sea becomes a vehicle of a powerful political critique of the contemporary polity. According to Winstanley the first of the four beasts in Daniel was royal power, which by force makes a way for the economically powerful to rule over others, ‘making the conquered a slave; giving the earth to some, denying the Earth to others’; the second Beast he saw as the power of laws, which maintain power and privilege in the hands of the few by the threat of imprisonment and punishment; the third Beast is what Winstanley calls ‘the thieving art of buying and selling the earth with the fruits one to another’; the fourth Beast is the power of the clergy which is used to give a religious or (in something like Marx’s sense) an ideological gloss to the privileges of the few. According to Winstanley, the Creation will never be at peace, until these four beasts are overthrown and only then will there be the coming of Christ’s kingdom: The Fire in the Bush (March 1650).

Winstanley does not suggest that the overthrow of the Beast should come about through force of arms. Indeed, he offers a view of political change which is dependent on transformation in attitudes: what he describes as the ‘rising of Christ in sons and daughters’. Winstanley’s aim was not to conquer by force of arms but to enlighten, therefore. There are passages deploring victory 'gotten by the sword'.

John Howard Yoder

Yoder stood in a line of several generations of influential leaders within the Mennonite Church. Yoder inspired a whole generation of Christians to follow the example of ‘the politics of Jesus’ (to quote the title of his most famous and influential book) into social action and peacemaking.3 Yoder rejects a pacifism that claims political and social effectiveness as its warrant as well as one of absolute principle. He is critical of pacifism that is based on individual teachings or acts of Jesus, so that it is not what Jesus taught that obligates the Christian to nonresistance but the person and work of Christ that finds its clearest expression in the cross, where God decisively dealt with evil, not by responding in kind, but through self-giving, nonresistant love. Nonresistance is right, not because it works, but because it anticipates the triumph of the Lamb that was slain. Yoder offers Rev. 5 as the paradigm of a counter-cultural politics, and at the heart of a Christian attitude to history. In Rev. 5 John sheds tears in the face of the world’s injustice, but the meaning of history is the formation of a new human race, international in character, around the lamb that was slain. This is determined not by Caesar’s rule, based as it is on violence.4 The lamb’s suffering for the cause of right overturns the principalities and powers. The hymnic proclamation in Rev 5:9 heralds the beginning of a new politics:

On the average and in the long run truth-telling and the love of enemy are the effective ways to create and defend culture . . . the divine activity of overcoming boundaries is what the New Song is about . . .. If we follow the great High priest, who shed not the blood of bulls and goats but gave his life or his enemies, how could we sacrifice our enemies for the sins of their politicians, or even threaten to do so?

The gospel Jesus brings is a call to take part in a new social order in which the only condition of membership is the willingness to become a disciple of nonresistant love. Christ’s ministry embodies a call humanity to a different kind of social-political life, and his death cross was the result of a clash with the powers ruling society which ruled by violence. Jesus rejected the path of the revolutionaries of his day as they assume the complete righteousness of his cause to justify the violence used to win. Jesus protests against any order which subordinates persons to causes.

Yoder believes that Christianity means participation in the economic, educational and professional life of modern society. The primary obligation of the Church, therefore, is to be a community of nonresistance and a sphere of liberation from the powers of this world. As a result the Church reaches out to society by offering discernment to unmask the pretensions of those who have gone mad trying to control the world through violence and help for its victims.

It is often said that the kind of pacifism which is espoused by Yoder and other Anabaptists offers no strategy for making the world more peaceful, and that the pacifists are merely parasitic on the structure of control and force of the international order. To put it crudely, pacifism is a luxury. The practical involvement of Mennonites round the world in peacemaking, conflict resolution and development gives the lie to this, however. The Mennonite Church especially, has not just taken a principled stand against war but has pioneered the whole area of conflict resolution. Inspired by passages like Matthew 18 they have articulated sophisticated ways of dealing with conflict and the obligation not to run away from it. This involves finding ways to encourage a spirit of humility which involves self-reflection as well as challenge, creating a forum for the exploration of the issue and establishing the ground rule for conflict resolution, including the need for a third party. The involvement of the Mennonite Church in conflict resolution, whether individual or corporate, and even international, is testimony to the way in which theological commitment is both contextualised and embodied.

René Girard5

Another account of the New Testament, or at least the Four Gospels, which sees its heart the rejection of the culture if violence is the work of René Girard According to Girard human cultures have their origin in that basic human tendency to imitate (mimesis). This provokes conflicts of desire which are resolved by the murder or scapegoating of an arbitrary victim. Events like this are remembered and retold, and the initial problem which led to the murder wrongly attributed to the victim. Myths grow up which narrate the murder from the perspective of the killers, and, along with such myths, sacrificial rites provide an outlet for the actual violence generated by mimetic desire. In the New Testament gospels, however, we have a story of a victim and a killing, but this time told from the perspective of the scapegoated person, asserting his innocence. This has the effect of unmasking cultures based on violence. Humanity is thereby challenged to initiate a way of renunciation of violence advocated and practised by Jesus, lest they destroy themselves.

The gospel offers an alternative story (though there are hints of it in the Old Testament too where the side of the victims is taken). In contrast with human society’s version of the story of the fate of the victim who are regarded as troublemakers and subversives. The words of Caiaphas ‘it is fitting for one man to die for the people’ (John 11:50) represent the sentiments of the leaders of state security forces down the centuries. Jesus identifies with the victims in his society and as a result sets in train a process of victimisation of himself which leads to a violent reaction as the political elite plots to rid themselves of a troublemaker. The gospel gives the perspective of the victim, the Abel’s of this world, who otherwise remain silent as it tells the story from the perspective of a victim.

In these texts we have a situation which challenges the old African proverb, ‘Until lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.’ The story of the life and death of the lion of the tribe of Judah who is a Lamb who is slain (Rev 5:5-6) exemplifies a different kind of story. The story of Jesus, therefore, becomes fundamental for interpreting all human history and the distortions and delusions we tell about ourselves, the violence we use to maintain the status quo, and our ways of disguising from ourselves the oppression of the victim and the way we maintain a lie in order to keep things as they are.

The story of Jesus’ death, therefore, is not about a sacrifice for sin but of a revelation of the false consciousness of the efficacy of the scapegoat mechanism and the violence which it institutionalises. The gospel unmasks the fact that violence lies at the base of all human culture and does so by proclaiming the innocence of the victim. It offers an alternative pattern for humanity. To bear witness to this alternative way is to risk the violence of the old system. The story of Christ’s life and death subverts the ‘lie’ of culture based on violence as do the lives of those lived according to this pattern. That provokes a violent crisis as the lie is revealed accelerating the process of cultural disintegration. With the gospel there can be no resolution other than acceptance of its alternative way. Culture based on violence is inherently unstable. Religion, myth and ritual can only paper over the cracks of society. The revelation of the gospel reveals the extent to which human culture based on violence:

We can see why the Passion is found between the preaching of the Kingdom and the Apocalypse.... It is a phenomenon that has no importance in the eyes of the world - incapable, at least in principle, of setting up or reinstating a cultural order, but very effective, in spite of those who know better, in carrying out subversion. In the long run, it is quite capable of undermining and overturning the whole cultural history and supplying the secret motive force of all subsequent history.6

William Stringfellow7

William Stringfellow was an American lawyer and lay-theologian (1928-1985). He was hailed by Karl Barth as the theologian to whom America should listen. He was an advocate of the marginalised in the church and outside of it. Stringfellow turned his back on a conventional legal career, and headed to the margins that were New York's notoriously poor East Harlem. Here he lived and worked for many years amongst the poor. Stringfellow set about writing a Christian social ethic for contemporary America. His was an unswerving commitment to the importance and centrality of politics and faith to the Christian life. The other was the central place of the Bible in his theology. The Bible provided him his theological framework for a theology which was grounded firmly in the realities of the world and its contexts: how to live humanly (how to live out the drama of salvation) amidst the fall (amidst the ‘demonic captivity’ and its fallen principalities and powers).

Stringfellow attacks any notion of abstinence from involvement, and spells out for us the absolute necessity of our involvement in politics and in the world as a consequence of our faith in Christ, and his vision of the form this might take: ultimately witnessing to what true society is by living the society of the church. Writing against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, and the widespread resistance to it throughout America, he spoke of the relevance of the apocalyptic images of Babylon and Jerusalem to every age, and the necessity of confronting the reign of the power of death. America, in short, is in the throws of a demonic war, of which Vietnam is but one terrible symptom. It is a spiritual possession with political consequences.

Stringfellow asks what the ethics of biblical politics have to do concretely with the politics of the principalities and powers in America (a theme to which later writers like Walter Wink have explored8). To all such queries, he suggests, biblical politics categorically furnish no answers.

The ethics of biblical politics no basis for divining specific, unambiguous, narrow, or ordained solutions for any social issue. Biblical theology does not deduce ‘the will of God’ for political involvement or social action. The Bible – if it is esteemed for its own genius – does not yield ‘right’ or ‘good’ or ‘true’; or ultimate’ answers. The Bible does not do that in seemingly private or personal matters; even less can it be said to so in political or institutional life.

…. The impotence of any scheme of ethics boasting answers of ultimate connotation or asserting the will of God is that time and history are not truly respected as the context of decision making. Instead, they are treated in an abstract, fragmented, selective, or otherwise, arbitrary version hung together at most under some illusory rubric of ‘progress’ or ‘effectiveness’ or’ success’ From a biblical vantage pint as much from an empirical outlook, this means a drastic incapacity to cope with history as the saga in which death as a moral power claims sovereignty over human beings and nations and all creatures. It means a failure to recognise time as an epoch of death’s worldly reign, a misapprehension of the ubiquity of fallenness throughout the whole of creation, and in turn, a blindness to imminent and recurrent redemptive signs in the everyday life of this world. …

Biblical ethics do not pretend the social or political will of God; biblical politics do not implement ‘right’ or ‘ultimate’ answer. In this world, the judgement of God remains God’s own secret. No creature is privy to it, and the task of social ethics is not to second-guess the judgement of God.9

Stringfellow challenges traditional pacifism, as an attempt to ideologize the gospel, by attempting to ascertain idealistically whether a projected action approximates to the will of God. The typical pacifist answer to the issue of Christian participation in violence is inherently misleading and in error, he believes, because an inappropriate and, indeed, impossible question is being asked. It seeks assurance beforehand of how God will judge a decision or an act. It is a true conundrum which only betrays an unseemly anxiety for justification quite out of step with a biblical life-style that dare in each and every event to trust the grace of God. No decision no deed either violent or non violent, is capable of being confidently rationalized as a second-guessing of God’s will. For this reason Stringfellow viewed sympathetically the contextual dilemma of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his involvement in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.10

In an important respect William Stringfellow differs from the other writers I have so far described. The obvious point to make is that he is not an absolute pacifist, though for very different reasons. The theological reasoning which typifies the approach of the Anabaptist tradition with whom he disagrees is similar. The Anabaptists point to words of Jesus, or, as in Yoder’s case, his example, in order to appeal to give divine sanction to non-violence. It is a powerful; appeal, but the character of that appeal (for all its strengths) is an appeal to the Bible as a kind ‘once for all’ statement. Richard’s appeal to Christian realism, and the wisdom of Christendom however, challenges the purity of this absolute in the light of the world as it is, and, to this extent, parallels Stringfellow. But there is the crucial difference. Theological reflection is an activity which precedes application. For the Anabaptists it is a matter of applying the example of Jesus in all circumstances. For Richard it is a matter of applying the providential wisdom of Christendom to contemporary realities.

Stringfellow’s theological method (which he shares with liberation theology in all its variety) is to turn that on its head. There is a dialectical process but the primary demand is attention to context in all its particularity in which the Bible can function as a kind of aid to reflection. In the context of the activist's life, of an instinctive commitment to peace and the vulnerable and the promotion of human needs rather than support of institution or country, even of justice as an abstraction, present engagement is the catalysts for understanding that this kind of dialectic.

This is what we find adumbrated in the Farewell Discourses of the Gospel of John where the dialectic between present attentiveness to what the Spirit may be directing is in constant dialogue with the past of Jesus’ words and deed. But – and here is the important qualification – this is not an appeal to those words as a determinative appeal so much as a component on that dialectical process where by the Divine Spirit guides into all truth. The divine spirit leads the disciples into all truth. New revelation may be expected (John 16:13), but any new revelation had to be in continuity with what Jesus said, for the Spirit only takes what is of Jesus and makes that known to the disciples. The living witness to Christ in persons who seek to live in conformity with Christ is as, if not more, important than, obedience to the words from the past.

The resort to violence must attend to the fact that it is at odds with the words and demeanour of Jesus Christ, as we are reminded by Yoder and the tradition he represents. There is all too often a tell-tale caesura in modern discussion about war. One may refer briefly to the demeanour of Jesus Christ and reverently and politely refuse to deal with its challenge by asserting its otherworldliness or irrelevance to our different circumstances. If we confess Jesus as lord and claim to follow him then what he said, and more important, what he did, Yoder reminds us is in some way binding on us. If, however, we choose to ignore Jesus’ example and advice (as Paul did in 1 Cor 9:14-15), we need to be clear why we are so doing and what interests are at work in so doing. We also need to be aware that we run the risk of demonstrating by our actions that our own civilisation is, after all, 'tainted with barbarism', as Walter Benjamin put it.

Resort to the New Testament is always going to be important for Christians. Nevertheless Christians should not approach scriptural texts as if their contents should be prescriptive. Paul reminds the Romans of the role of the scriptures: ‘Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope’ (Rom 15:3-4). Paul was here writing about what came to be known by Christians as the Old Testament, but this could equally well apply to the way we as Paul’s successors in the faith approach the Bible.

The heart of the contextual emphasis made by Stringfellow is that the New Testament writings themselves point us to a form of Christian commitment which bids us consult the texts from the past, and should never be the only, or even, prime source of understanding of the divine will. Mere appeal to the Bible was never deemed to be an adequate ground for the Christian life. That has always been Christ through the Spirit pointing and guiding the church who may speak through the Scriptures, but Christ is never exclusively bound to them. The Christian conviction involved discerning what the Spirit is now saying to the churches. In this process, the words and character of Jesus have always remained fundamental for Christian living, and to this extent the scriptures are a necessary component in providing the way of attending to the words of the Word become flesh.

This is a crucial matter and one which engages with the point made by Stringfellow. The emphasis on the ‘living human document’ as well as on the study of texts is key to modern pastoral theology, where there is interpretation of living human realities in engagement with the realities of the faith tradition. There is a consideration of the historical situation of the interpreter and of her life-structure, sense and apprehension. Thereby we admit that knowledge is seldom universal, and that truth is contextual.This emphasis on context and the questioning of absolute perspectives is a point of view which is at the heart of one of the most influential writers of Christianity, Augustine. Inheriting as he did from the heretical Christian writer, Tyconius, a view of the church as a body of people whose eternal destiny was known only to God and where the righteous would be separated from the unrighteous only at the Last Judgement, Augustine stressed that the idea that any Christian community could be regarded as a body of believers, whose ultimate destiny with the blessed was guaranteed, was to be rejected. Thus, judgement was to be something which was reserved for God alone. Meanwhile, it was incumbent upon all Christians to ‘muddle through’ and find ways of relating to each other in love as they journeyed towards the truth, the fullness of which would be revealed only at the End of Time. In so writing Augustine was paralleling attitudes of the apostle Paul himself, who more often than not had to deal with massive difference of opinion and practice among the diverse groups to which he write. His advice to the Christians in Rome, for example, about how they should approach deep divides in their community is a salutary reminder that there is a different and better way than the pattern of mutual recrimination and anathematisation, to which Christians down the centuries have all too readily resorted, deserve to be repeated in an age where too many o us think that they alone are the inheritors of the truth (Romans 14:1-4)

We live in a situation where mainstream churches are at the margins of society and should lay no claim to special privileges. That special role of the Church of England in the governance of this country is becoming become more and more attenuated as reform of the House of Lords removes that privilege of membership. This is a sign that the march away from Christendom had reached a stage where the Church of England had ceased to be in the corridors of power by right but had to earn a right to be heard. The Mennonites have done precisely that, from a position of overt pacifism and can be seen by those with whom they disagree as contributors to the commonweal. Girard reminds us that basing ourselves on the Jesus story gives a very different feel to the culture of a community which bases itself round that story. Access to the corridors of power is less important than advocacy of the victims of injustice and that suffering which is unpredictable as it is devastating. In the last half of the twentieth century Christian aid agencies have been in the forefront of advocacy on behalf of the poorest of our world, because they have learnt that to do is to be faithful to Christ. Reference to just war theory, therefore, reflects a different Christian context from that in which it was formulated. Augustine and his successors in their time and place formulated guidance for the rulers who were their friends and colleagues. Just war theory, however, reflects a situation very different from our own. It was formulated in an emerging Christendom, which no longer exists. Indeed, the modern warfare has its own terrible dynamic, which quickly make hopeful claims for restraint and proportionality in military action difficult, if not impossible, to fulfil.

In one way the situation has not changed, however, even if the church has been conspicuously remiss in practising this. That is, if we take context seriously what is required is responsibility being left to local communities to discern what the Spirit may be saying. The role of theologians and bishops, therefore, is less to point to the past or advise but enable the process of discernment. To do this is to hark back to ways of being Christian with deep roots in the past, to which Anabaptism has borne witness, but which go back even further, to the New Testament itself.

Imaginative, contextual, discipleship is at the heart of the life of any Christian community. The work in the Diocese of Oxford in the last decade in experiments with ‘emerging church’, which is part of the diocesan mission strategy ‘Sharing Life’, are examples of this. Here the importance of small groups, some of whom seek to discern connections between their everyday lives and faith. This pattern of life is similar to the way in which Pauline desires communities link Christ and their own experiences as a minority group. The discernment of the relative appropriateness of these connections is a key to what it means to be church. The contemporary situation, therefore, throws up opportunities to interpret experience and conduct through the lens of scripture and, most importantly, vice versa, to discern the meaning of scripture through the lens of experience. Scriptural texts, read analogically, thereby illuminate everyday life. In this action and commitment are the necessary context of discerning God in the midst of human existence.

Such an analogical approach not only describes how New Testament writers related texts, tradition and action, therefore, but also closely parallels the hermeneutical insight into an aspect of Latin American liberationist hermeneutics as set out by Clodovis Boff.11 Boff’s ‘correspondence of relationships’ method sees the Bible read through the lens of the experience of the present thereby enabling it to become a key to understanding that to which the scriptural text bears witness about the life and struggles of ancestors in the faith which in turn casts light on the present is very similar. Two things are important about Boff’s model. Firstly, this is not only about thought but also about action, about the lived lives of people seeking to embody the way of God in faithful struggle for justice. Secondly, this method does not presuppose the application of a set of principles of theological programme or pattern to modern situations:

We need not, then, look for formulas to ‘copy’ or techniques to ‘apply’ from scripture. What scripture will offer us are rather something like orientations, models, types, directives, principles, inspirations – elements permitting us to acquire, on our own initiative, a ‘hermeneutic competency’ and thus the capacity to judge- on our own initiative, in our own right – ‘according to the mind of Christ’, or ‘according to the Spirit’, the new unpredictable situations with which we are continually confronted. The Christian writings offer us not a what, but a how- a manner, a style, a spirit.12

‘Not what but a how, a manner, a style, a spirit.’ What Boff wrote about the interpretation of the Bible applies just as much to the way in which Christians approach the whole of living, including questions of arms and justice. Yoder is right to point to the character of Jesus as a key to the way in which one explores one’s way in a particular context. Mere application of principle or resort to the past can never do justice to the particularity of one’s context. Equally context (and that was what led the formulation of the Just War tradition in the first place) cannot be allowed to determine how the ethos of the Jesus tradition is going to impact on one’s life as an individual and a community. But, as Mennonites embody in their mission, that is what must be constitutive of faithfulness to Jesus, as peace making and conflict resolution exhibit the way in which alternative possibilities for human relating are not just spoken about but embodied: ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ (Matt. 7:16).

1 Translations of his work together with an illuminating introduction may be found in Clarence Bauman, The Spiritual Legacy of Hans Denck: Interpretation and Translation of Key Texts Leiden: Brill 1991.

2 Brief introduction with translation of key passages and further reading in A. Bradstock and C. Rowland Radical Christian Writings: A Reader Oxford: Blackwell 2002 and on the theme of this essay J. Sproxton, Violence and Religion: Attitudes towards militancy in the French civil wars and the English Revolution London: Routledge 1995.

3 J.H. Yoder The Politics of Jesus Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1972

4 See also K. Wengst, Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ London 1988.

5 See e.g. R. Girard Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World London: Athlone 1987. See the excellent discussion in J. Alison, Living in the End Times: the last things re-imagined London: SPCK 1997

6 R. Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, 209.

7 The discussion in this section is based on W. Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. Waco: Word 1973 and Conscience and Obedience Waco: Word 1977.

8 W. Wink, Naming the Powers Philadelphia: Fortress 1984; Unmasking the Powers Philadelphia: Fortress1986; Engaging the Powers Philadelphia: Fortress 1993.

9 An Ethic for Christians, 54-5.

10 An Ethic for Christians, 131-3.

11 This discussion is found in C. Boff, Theology and Praxis: Epistemological Foundations New York: Orbis 1987 ch. 2 found also in R.S. Sugirtharajah ed. Voices from the Margins: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World London: SPCK 1991, 9-35, on which this discussion depends.

12 Voices, 30.

This paper was presented at the Anabaptist Network theology forum on 16 December 2005.