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August 04, 2010


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Wayne Northey

Thanks Brad for this post. Years ago I asked Ron to be a spiritual mentor. It has been an amazingly rich journey since! I know of others, you too, who acknowledge that!

I have also long since been (re)oriented by the Red Tory tradition in my understanding of politics: this over against Anabaptism through which I first was introduced to the notion that Christians should even care about same: a major conversion for me! (That new embrace was in turn over against my church upbringing in the Plymouth Brethren tradition that was profoundly a/anti-political.) This first conversion happened for me at Regent College in 1975 through an interterm course by Clark Pinnock entitled "The Politics of Jesus", that drew on Anabaptist theologian John Howard Yoder's famous 1972 publication by the same title.

My second "conversion" at Regent College was: the Jesus way of doing politics is the nonviolent way of the cross. It is this second point that most clashes with the Red Tory view of the state, with in fact all views of the state that authorize it to do (in particular lethal) violence.

No theorist, Red Tory or otherwise, has ever demonstrated how Christians can "love your enemies" and authorize/participate in (in Augustine's terms - who was the father of Christian doublespeak on violence) running a spear through the enemy's gut, hacking off his head, shooting an arrow through the heart, and Christians' making up entire armies for the state with said purposes as Augustine envisioned; or hanging the criminal, burning him at the stake, beheading same; or otherwise in more modern "humane" ways dropping smart bombs, deploying guided cruise missile, creating massive instant overkill with conventional or nuclear weapons; or electrocuting, injecting lethal drugs, using a firing squad, etc., etc., etc.

Is not the state profoundly anti-Christian so long as it arrogates to itself and Christians (Red Tories included) authorize (sole) prerogative of committing lethal violence?

My favourite quote on this is New Testament theologian Richard Hay's final words in chapter 14 ("Violence in Defense of Justice") from The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics,Harper,1996:
One reason that the world finds the New Testament’s message of peacemaking and love of enemies incredible is that the church is so massively faithless. On the question of violence, the church is deeply compromised and committed to nationalism, violence, and idolatry. (By comparison, our problems with sexual sin are trivial.) This indictment applies alike to liberation theologies that justify violence against oppressors and to establishment Christianity that continues to play chaplain to the military-industrial complex, citing just war theory and advocating the defense of a particular nation as though that were somehow a Christian value.

Only when the church renounces the way of violence will people see what the Gospel means, because then they will see the way of Jesus reenacted in the church. Whenever God’s people give up the predictable ways of violence and self-defense, they are forced to formulate imaginative new responses in particular historical settings, responses as startling as going the second mile to carry the burden of a soldier who had compelled the defenseless follower of Jesus to carry it one mile first. The exact character of these imaginative responses can be worked out only in the life of particular Christian communities; however, their common denominator will be conformity to the example of Jesus, whose own imaginative performance of enemy-love led him to the cross. If we live in obedience to Jesus’ command to renounce violence, the church will become the sphere where the future of God’s righteousness intersects—and challenges—the present tense of human existence. The meaning of the New Testament’s teaching on violence will become evident only in communities of Jesus’ followers who embody the costly way of peace.
The best massive study on this is Willard Swartley's Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

I could only wish the Red Tory tradition had wrestled/wrestles with this profound denial of the Gospel in its positive embrace of the state. I just don't see it! But I stand to learn lots more, and could be corrected in this view, I'm sure - and to which I'm open.

And... this is not new to you or to Ron!

With love and care. Wayne

Ron Dart

There are 7 articles on Clarion (there are more) in which I deal with the anarchist way as a dead end and cul-de-sac. For those interested in going further with the discussion, see:

1) Ginsberg and Grant: Howl and Lament for a Nation
2) Stanley Hauerwas: With the Grain of the Universe
3) James Reimer and Anabaptist Anarchism
4) Christian Anarchy: An Aberration of Sorts
5) Chomsky and Mathews
6) Hauerwas and Chomsky
7) Chomsky and Barlow

My book, 'The Canadian High Tory Tradition: Raids on the Unspeakable', also goes deeper and further into the Red Tory way than does 'The Red Tory Tradition'. You might also have a look at my article in The Canadian Encyclopedia on 'Red Toryism.' It is a primer on the topic also---it's online in TCE (TheCanadianEncyclopedia.com)



Thank you for this post, it is illuminating..

Politicians as servants. The Gospel from the top down, or the bottom up, depending on how you look at it.

Brian Zahnd

Excellent. The "Red Tory Alternative" may be the best approach I've encountered yet on how a Christian might relate to the state: engaged, but not compromised. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much hope this offers to American Christians. Presently the United States is so stuck in the binary trench warfare of conservative vs. liberal that it seems to realistically exclude the possibility of much else. For my part, if I can influence some evangelicals to take a breath, take a step back and try to imagine something other than the angry ressintiment of the Religious Right...I'll be satisfied.

I wonder what Ron Dart would think of James Davison Hunter's new (and ironically titled) book, "To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World." I suspect Dart and Hunter might share some common ground.


Here is a link to Andy Crouch's thorough review of "To Change the World."


I like hanging out with you folks!


Brian Zahnd

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