For Christians, the choice seems difficult: faced with these tragedies, should we take refuge in prayer, asking for peace to prevail at the risk of being taken for sweet dreamers? Or should we take sides and engage in militant struggles, at the risk of losing our soul along the way? One thing is certain: the central place of the story of the death and resurrection of Christ reminds everyone that this confrontation with the violence, hatred and destruction of this world is unavoidable.
In a stimulating essay (Against the violent, Ed. The Centurion) published in 1972, the Protestant Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) proposed another way of moving forward. As a young professor recently appointed during the Second World War, he was then actively involved in the Resistance. “To exist is to resist,” he affirmed for the rest of his life. Thirty years later, in his work, he tries to explain under what conditions a Christian can accept the violence of the world while evangelical teaching directly denounces its use. First a reminder: “Violence (does) not seem to me, as a Christian, neither good, nor legitimate, nor just.” So no more quibbles about so-called “just wars”. However, certain concrete situations leave us no choice: “that of the man reduced to despair and who sees no other way out” than to defend himself by all means and “that of a situation that is hypocritically just and peaceful which must be put to an end by revealing it for what it is”. A violence of resistance therefore, to dangerous or fundamentally unjust evils.
Violence is a failure
Where Ellul proves surprising is that he also adds that in no case, even the most just, should the use of violence be justified in the name of the Gospel. Because the teaching and life of Christ affirm once and for all that violence is always a failure. Particularly on a spiritual level, since it obstructs the way in which God saves this world from the evil that gnaws at it. In this sense, faced with a situation which requires taking up arms to defend oneself or facing violence in the face to denounce it, Christians must above all remember their own dark side and their difficulty in fully living the gesture of Christ. himself. They are indeed part of a world of sin. Anyone who decides to act, even at the risk of violence, is always invited to do so by asking forgiveness for the impossible situation in which they find themselves, a sign of the tragedy of the world. A forgiveness which makes one lucid, makes one turn away from ideological discourse and makes one capable of denouncing the evil at work.