The Common Good
February 2012

From the Archives: The Unprotected God

by Dorothee Soelle | February 2012

Is it possible to live without violence and without weapons?

There are two objections made to the insistence that it is possible to live without violence and without weapons. One stems from Christian tradition, which after Constantine had to come to terms with Christian emperors, officials, soldiers, and generals. It goes: All well and good, when it comes to our personal lives; everybody should try to live like Jesus. But in the world of governments that principle cannot be sustained. Jesus' message is then treated as something so divine that we can't follow it anyway.

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The other objection to the God who lives without protection is rather more pragmatic and comes from outside Christianity. It is said that it would, indeed, be a splendid idea to live like this fellow Jesus; but, when all is said and done, the poor devil did come to grief, living without protection. He was, wasn't he, condemned to death and hung from a cross? He was a failure. To tell the truth, he is a striking demonstration that his theories were false and his dreams illusory. The cross was a fiasco and should serve as a warning not to go too far.

To this objection I have little more to say in reply than what the Christian tradition itself says with its symbol of the resurrection. It is not true that Jesus came to grief on the cross. They did not cut him down to size; they were not able to kill him. He lives, in and with us, who tread the same path with him.

Dorothee Soelle was a West German theologian when this article appeared.

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