Violence in Christianity
Violence, it has been a main tool in the Christian arsenal since the middle ages. From the Crusades to the Inquisitions of Spain, violence is ever prevalent. Even in this day and age, intolerance and violence continue to be preached. But is this violence an instrument of God or man? Is violence an inherent part of this religion? Some would say that it is indeed built in to the very fabric of its being. The Old Testament is full of the smiting of infidels and those who defy God. The Book of Revelations tells of the violent and fiery demise of this entire planet. There are instances of mass genocide, the killing of innocent children, holy wars, you name a violent act and God has called for it. The story of Noah recounts how God killed off everyone in the world save one family. This violence, some speculate, is a result of man?s own doing. Perhaps God?s word was miss-interpreted or those in power sought to legitimize their own violent acts through the involvement of religion. Regardless of whether it was God or man that made religion violent, it is now deeply a part of it. The very involvement of religion into a dispute can cause the dispute to escalate exponentionally. ?Limited mundane conflict may escalate into violence when the issues at stake are imbued with religious ultimacy. (Klausner 268)?
Violence not only plays a strong role in both commandment and practice, it is part of the very core of this belief system. From the zeal and fervor of conversion to the conquest in the name of a deity, violence is ingrained into religion?s very being. ?Religion? engenders an energy that may be experienced as despair or as enthusiasm? Despair can feed an urge to rid the world of pollution and sin (Klausner 268).? Violence in the religious realm may serve several purposes. It can be an end unto itself, a means to accomplish a religious or religious/economic/political goal. It can be done to invoke terror and awe, as in ?witness the power of our God and tremble before his might.? However it is enacted and whatever its reasons, violence is now an inescapable inevitability in religion?s ongoing battle between Good and Evil. In attempting to prove this, I will be drawing on a body of information collected from the Bible; The Encyclopedia of Religion: Articles on: Violence, Crusades, Inquisition; Ethics: Violence; Dictionary of Middle Ages: Crusades, Inquisition; and Dictionary of Christian Ethics: Just War.
In order to see if violence does enter into religion, one first needs to know what, ethically speaking, violence is. Ethics defines violence as follows: ?Violence consists of a violation of another person?s or a group of people?s freedom, dignity, integrity, sense of self worth, or well being; it may be physical, psychological, or emotional (Candelaria 907).? Acts of violence can be further defined by legal and illegal employment of methods of coercion for personal or group gain. This is where things become fuzzy....