just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Worshipping the Slaughtered Lamb...

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne.

Revelation 5:1-7

The Word of the Lord

I have been reading Mere Discipleship again, by Lee Camp. Been reflecting on the way of faithfulness to Jesus in a messed up world. Thought about my post from May 30 of last year and the victory speech of President Bush on May 2, 2003 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

The following are excerpts from Mere Discipleship (Brazos Press, 2003):

Worship is a matter of allegiance: whom shall we deem worthy of glory honor, and dominion?

Worship is inseparably linked to ethics. Worship leads us to become a particular kind of people, a people who reflect the ways of the God we worship.

The New Testament celebrates not merely that God has won in Christ, but that God has won in the crucified Christ.

To ascribe honor to a slaughtered Lamb--unless it be mere lip service--necessarily leads us to obedience to the way of the Lamb. God has conquered, and we praise him. And because he is worthy of our praise, he is worthy--and authoritative--to reveal how faithful followers are to participate in the triumph of God's purposes in human history. Because he has conquered, he is worthy to reveal how the church shall conquer.

To claim Christ as Lord flies in the face of a constitutional theory that makes "religion" both "private and subordinate (to the nation-state)."

The way of Jesus certainly would have us "believe the right things." But this is not "mere belief"--Jesus instead called his disciples to see the world aright, to envision the world in light of the coming reign of God.

Whether one views history from the perspective of heaven or earth results in profoundly different conclusions: viewed from the perspective of the throne room of God, the way of the slaughtered Lamb leads to victory. Viewed from the throne rooms and Oval Offices of this world, such a way is foolish, unrealistic, impractical, irrelevant: and so, better to keep such notions "private," a matter of "mere belief."

All extant Christian writings prior to the fourth century reject the practice of Christians killing in warfare. They rejected killing in warfare, in short, because it violated the way and teachings of Christ.

Tertullian: "If we are enjoined to love our enemies, whom have we to hate? If injured we are forbidden to retaliate. Who then can suffer injury at our hands?"

Clement of Alexandria: "If you enroll as one of God's people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are his laws?...Thou shalt not kill.... Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. To him that strikes thee on the one cheek, turn also the other."

Cyprian: "And what more--that you should not curse; that you should not seek again your goods when taken from you; when buffeted you should turn the other cheek; and forgive not seven times but seventy times seven.... That you should love your enemies and pray for your adversaries and persecutors?"

Justin: "If you love merely those that love you, what do you that is new?"

Our worship is why we don't kill our enemies. The Lamb of God, through suffering and death, has inaugurated the new aeon, in which offenses are forgiven, sins remitted, and war is learned no more.

Christian nonviolence is not rooted merely in a few proof texts from the Sermon on the Mount or other Gospel accounts of the teaching of Jesus. Much more, Christian nonviolence flows out of the entire narrative of redemption and follows immediately from worshipping the God revealed in the slaughtered Lamb.

Unless our lives embody that good news, our worship is in vain.

Surely, so the reasoning goes, loving our enemies cannot be an effective social or political policy. To "love our enemies," many have concluded, must mean that we have a loving attitude, but little more. In the "real world" the way of Jesus cannot be taken seriously.

But doesn't God desire justice on the earth? So what about the "just war theory?"

In this tradition, certain criteria determine when it is acceptable to use violence against an aggressor: (1) Is there legitimate authority? (2) Is there a just cause, a real offense against innocents? (3) Is the war fought with the right intention? (4) Is the war fought only after all honest attempts have been made to resolve the situation without employing violence? (5) Is the war winnable? (6) Are innocent civilians protected in the waging of war?
Some theologians and leaders have raised their voice in opposition of the religious overtones applied to policy decisions justifying war. They have exposed the false narrative of redemptive violence on the grounds of GOOD exorcising EVIL through the mechanisms of a righteous war conducted by nation-state.

In the final analysis...the just war tradition cannot worship a crucified Lamb.

But the just war tradition can also be critiqued historically. Particularly in our modern era, seldom has the just war tradition worked in practice. Few "just war Christians" have ever used the criteria to actually decide whether they would or would not fight in a particular war.
A lazy use of the just war tradition most often provides a rationalization for Christians killing their alleged enemies. When governments tell Christians to wage war, Christians wage war.
Moral laziness does not take the criteria of the just war tradition seriously. And that moral laziness gives way to nationalism, to blind obedience to the nation-state, to bowing to the idols erected by the fallen principalities and powers. We worship the wrong god.

When will the myth of bringing justice through redemptive violence be exposed?

When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth."


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  • At 11:01 PM , Blogger Gecko Girl said...

    I appreciate your reference to "moral laziness." But I don't think it is just that people are lazy in their uses of justifications for sin, rather, more often, I think, people are too lazy to think things through for themselves. They trust what they are hearing around them and basically parrot the voices that are loudest or have the most influence in their spheres of existence. Too many Christians, for example, would rather parrot the loud voices of particular evangelical or political reps than critique what they hear based on what they know is true of Christ. Perhaps it reveals how much we truly know of Christ, the slaughtered Lamb, as you have pointed out, and/or it reveals who is being worshipped!

    "When will the myth of bringing justice through redemptive violence be exposed?"...Do people really believe redemptive violence works or is it just another justification for their human desire for vengence and power?...another example of moral laziness where humans find it too difficult to think of creative alternatives. Sorry if I am too harsh in these comments.

    Your post reminds me of a quote from Walter Wink in Sojourners Magazine, "The myth of redemptive violence has become the cornerstone of foreign policy enshrined in the doctrine of the national security state. Might is right. Everything depends on victory, success, the thrill of belonging to a nation capable of imposing its will in the heavenly council and among the nations. For the alternative -- owning one's own evil and acknowledgement of God in the enemy -- is for many simply too high a price to pay."

  • At 7:39 AM , Blogger Brian Miller said...

    I think your comments are right on. Just a point of clarification. The term "moral laziness" was a quote from Camp.

    I do think that the United States has uniquely embraced a myth of manifest destiny mixed with a simplistic belief that we can set things right in the world through military action. The Iraq War has once again exposed the flaws of this simplistic belief in military solutions to complex problems.

    Lately President Bush has been asking Americans and Congress to approve policy that would result in another surge of Power (21,500 more troops and More money). The president can't understand why congress is passing a vote of no-confidence in this proposal when it hasn't even been tried. The fact is that this would be the fourth surge strategy. None of the previous surges have effected lasting change and stability. Isn't that enough to question whether another surge is prudent policy???

    Even from a policy standpoint that is not guided by attempts to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus, the current hawkish solution of making war with the axis of evil (did Iraq attack the U.S. on 9/11??? did they have weapons of mass destruction???) has not created a better world. Whether you are a pacifist Christian, a just-war Christian, or a righteous violence apocalyptic Christian, isn't it time to acknowledge that the policy is in severe need of redirection.

  • At 2:01 PM , Blogger Brian Miller said...

    Yes. The desire for vengence is mixed in. The need to make someone pay for the offense of 9/11.

    9/11 was construed as an act of war. But it was not perpetrated by a nation-state.

    The military solution under the auspices of "war on terror" has not proven to be effective. Rather, we have not been able to provide the conditions through "Regime change" for democracy to emerge. The sectarian violence (civil war) that is wreaking havoc with any attempt to build a stable political institution. Sadly, the actions of the last four years have only proven to be a catalyst for hatred against the great Western intrusion. Rather ridding the world of terrorist, the current tactic has fed the fuel of hatred that spawns radical extremists groups.

    Grievously, the invocation of religious language has been cooped in an attempt to frame this as the battle of Armeggedon. Some television preachers are declaring the current course as one that is bringing about the righteous judgement of God on our enemies.

    Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

  • At 11:06 AM , Blogger Gecko Girl said...

    What about righteous judgment on us ALL!!! How we have fallen!

  • At 11:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I find it interesting that you quote the Early Catholic Church Fathers...yet ultimately reject their fundamental belief in the One, Holy, Apostolic Church in favor of the aberration started centuries later by an ex Catholic priest. Was it not these same believers who, after Jesus, baptized all including infants. And clearly understood the words spoken at the Last Supper as the true Body & Blood. And recognized the leadership & authority established by Christ in Peter. And more than even the Pope today fought the earliest heresies to keep The Church together as One Faith. I'm sorry but all those who profess belief in the words of Jesus in the Bible yet ignore these early Truths do not merit much understanding.

  • At 8:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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