Over the past decade the neo-Anabaptist movement has been gaining ground within evangelicalism. Young evangelicals have been particularly receptive thanks to social activists like Shane Claiborne. From working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta to advocating for peace in Baghdad, Claiborne has exhibited an admirable willingness to sacrifice his personal comfort and safety to put his beliefs into practice.

But while admirable as a personal witness, Claiborne’s extrapolation of nonviolent approaches to national policy is extremely naive. For example, as Matthew Tuininga reports , Claiborne gave a lecture at Emory University in which he asked:

What if the United States had responded to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks after the example of the Amish, declaring forgiveness towards the 19 hijackers who took 3,000 lives on that terrible day and responding to their evil not with war but with love and financial support for their families?

Rewarding the families of suicidal terrorists sounds more like something Saddam Hussein would ( and did ) do rather than a policy that should be advocated by a Christian peace activist. But as Keith Pavlischek explains , the neo-Anabaptism of Claiborne and his supporters doesn’t have much in common with traditional Christian pacifism:

Claiborne like most modern neo-Anabaptists, on the other hand, insists that the sword is ordained nowhere and never at all. Not only does he insist that Christians repudiate the “violence” of the sword, but that the civil authority do so as well, even in the face of evil, oppression and wickedness. The only moral option for civil authority, according to Claiborne, is some form of “nonviolence.”

Contemporary neo-Anabaptists dissent not only from Augustinian, Thomist, Lutheran, and Calvinist political theology, but from classic Christian pacifism as well. It is high time for traditional evangelical Christian pacifists to call Clairborne and other neo-Anabaptists out on this point, or explain why they repudiate the sectarian pacifism of their theological ancestors.

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Articles by Joe Carter

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