Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Plowshares Activist Ciaron O'Reilly at the Cave

“Ciaron O’Reilly is a devout Brisbane-born Christian pacifist. In a life dedicated to protest, he’s been jailed for disarming warplanes, dismantling uranium mining machinery and performing exorcisms of warships. To some he’s an inspiration, to others a criminal.”

(Andrew Denton: Enough Rope June 2006)

Please join us on the 25th of August for a special evening with activist Ciaron O'reilly. We will be serving a vegetarian dinner, providing some entertainment, and then Ciaron will give a talk about Christian anarchy, and activism, sharing some of his stories of 20 plus years of fighting for peace and justice. This will be a challenging night, hopefully giving us an imagination for a world transformed, and a sense of how to get there.

The cost of the evening is $0.00 but we will take an offering to pay for Ciarons flight and to help fund his future court battles :) If you have any more questions feel free to ask, or if you might like to have Ciaron speak at your group while he's here please email me at johnj at



David said...

"The concept of nonviolence is a false ideal. It presupposes the existence of compassion and a sense of justice on the part of one's adversary. When this adversary has everything to lose and nothing to gain by exercising justice and compassion, his reaction can only be negative."

George Jackson
[Source: Wikipedia article on nonviolence]

This looks like a valid criticism of the non-violence philosophy. Or rather, the ideal that non-violence is always applicable in all situations, which I think, is more towards your position, John.

Now, non-violence can work. But isn't it rather extreme to suggest that it should be our only course of action? Let's not move from one extreme - the too-frequent recourse to war - to another.

A "deep thought" from Jack Handy:

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

David said...

Then there is the possible connection between evil - whether social or personal - and nonviolence.

For an interesting background article on evil read

"The Frivolity of Evil" by Theodore Dalrymple at

Is there something, either innately in people, or that arises from social interaction, that could curtail the success of nonviolence? Or is nonviolence a means of reducing the amount of evil in the world?

The Rev said...

Well, I haven't read the frivolity of evil yet, but I will. I must say the deep thoughts made me laugh for a long time.

As to your first post, I would say that success isn't the goal, though I believe it will come eventually, but rather obedience to Christ teaching. If you look at the examples of Martin Luther King, and Gandhi and many others, non violence will work, but I believe the result is not my concern, but the faithfulness to my belief.

Also, the idea is that you cannot remove violence with violence, you only create more violence. It is something other than violence that is called for. Violence is in itself an evil, and therefore we must stand against that evil with a different tool of dissent.


David said...

There are situations where overwhelming force or violence is required. You can think of some yourself. Say, where some meths-crazed nut is running amock. Or on a larger scale where a group or country is violently invaded, in which case it is simply immoral to not consider countering with violence.

And, at the risk of being accused of being negative, I note the Bible contains many examples of God approving of violence, of Jesus overturning tables in a temple simply because people were providing a service for profit. Are there as many examples of nonviolence in the Bible? And when Christ returns to judge the world, is He going to do it nonviolenlty? Is Christ returning as a humble nonviolent "peace warrior".

It is not always the case the violence creates more violence. As illustrated above, that is a lie. It would be more accurate to say that some forms of violence often lead to more violence.

Nonviolence is too simplistic. I don't understand why you jump on this bandwagon.

David said...

To go off on a tangent (maybe it is more going off on a normal), your concept of Christianity and nonviolence is at odds with other Christians interpretation of the Bible.

I've raised this before, without a satisfactory answer. How do you know that what you currently perceive as truth is in fact the "true" truth". You have, on your own admission, changed your theological beliefs over the years. In years to come you might see nonviolence in a different light.

Once again, I see this as evidence that what people describe as a process of being led by the Holy Spirit is a complete nonsense. It's one more nail in the coffin for the existence of supernatural entities that guide people.

Sure, have a discussion about whether and when nonviolence is an effective means of action, but don't claim that it is a higher ideal because of your understanding of a special revelation from an all-knowing God.

The Rev said...

The reason I believe in non violence, and the reason I have grown to this belief is that I have developed what I would consider a more appropriate understanding of Christ, and the interpretation of scripture. Most fundamentalist Christians believe in the authority of scripture, but they also choose to give certain bias to certain passages. Since traditional Christianity is set up to protect the authority not only of the church but of the empire, it makes sense that they would choose such passages that back up their position as more authoritative.

However, I have come to believe that as a CHRIST ian, my bias must be towards the life and teachings of Jesus. And therefore must interpret things through this grid. And Jesus I see as profoundly non violent. The episode in the temple did not serve to injure anyone, but rather to disrupt a business practice that oppressed the poor. In doing this Jesus showed practical civil disobedience, as a way of standing against oppression. We are not called to do nothing, but to respond without devaluing human life. There is nothing more devalueing of human life and killing.

So using Jesus as the grid we use to understand the scriptures we must come to a non violent stance. To prove my point you can look at the early church, for the first 250 years they were profoundly pacifist, and would not baptise those that were soldiers, athletes or judges. So this is not new interpretation of Jesus.

Jesus' judgement is apocalyptic language, it cannot be looked at literally but is akin to the saying all hell is braking loose.

This is a very quick look at this, if you are really interested in this kind of theology I would suggest reading Walter Wink, or John Howard Yoder.


David said...

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

This sounds contrary to civil disobedience. Instead, it suggests that people should work within the existing political framework for change.

Don't you think it somewhat arrogant to consider your personal moral viewpoint to be sufficiently better than powers ordained by God? So much so that you damage a defence installation put in place by the powers ordained by God?

The Rev said...

Well that is a lone passage, that was written by a man that did not submit to either the Jewish powers, nor the powers of the empire. So perhaps the easy translation is not at all the best in this case. The man that wrote that was constantly in prison, and eventually put to death for standing in opposition to the government.

So it would seem that it could not possibly mean what you suggest it means. And from a logical position it would seem quite counter intuitive, as it would lend itself to support of Hitler, Amin and Pot. And again if we are to interpret Paul through the lens of Jesus, we again find that Jesus did not submit to the powers that be, and was himself crucified, which was the Roman punishment for crimes against the state.


David said...

Yes a plain reading of this text does seem counter-intuitive and contradictory. Wouldn't it have been simple for the author to add some clarifying remarks? I've seen commentary that restricts the meaning to governments that act according to "God's will" or morally. But that's not in the text. Does the Holy Spirit really expect everyone to have a PhD in theology to understand His promptings?

Aren't there other Biblical passages that suggest that God creates or initiates evil or visits evil upon people? So it might have been the case that some of the most criminal regimes of recent history were ordained by God (yes, I find that distasteful also, but then it's not my world, is it? God can do as he pleases.)

The example of Jesus' crucifixion is one of submission to the state, not an example of civil disobediance. Similarly with Paul and others.

John, are you sure you are reading and interpreting correctly? Or have you found an appealing philosophical position that blends morally attractive ideas and are now attempting to retrofit it back onto the Bible. In the process, discarding or modifying ideas - sometimes by disparaging them with fundamentalist associations.

The Rev said...

no david, Jesus did not obey the state, but he did not resist paying the price for his disobedience. It is the same with people like Ciaron, they do not resist arrest, and they accept the punishment given them. The idea is that the state by its reaction to our disobedience is forced to act in its own evil, and others seeing the nature of this evil, will rise to the new way of life. If you study the early church, they conquered the Roman Empire (well almost) with their love and non violence. As they refused to kill, and suffered torture for refusing to obey the state, the public was won over to their ways. So much so that Constantine had to do something to either stop the spread of Christianity, or to subvert it. As the greatest violence poured out against the Christians only served to fan the flame, he subverted the Christian church by offering them power, and a share in the Empire. It is this subverted form of Christianity that I am trying to stand apart from, and call to at the same time.

Jesus is the one I follow, and if do not understand Pauls understanding, I believe I am ignorant of the subtleties, but will use Jesus example and teachings as the guide to understand them, not the other way around. The sermon on the mount is the ethics of the kingdom of God, not the book of Romans.


David said...

Are you ranking the various books of the Bible and only concentrating on those that appeal to you? I thought you believed all of the Bible was God's word. Even the boring geneologies and the nasty bits.

Look at the following teachings of Jesus:

"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth."

"Sell all that thou hast, ... and come and follow me."

"He that cometh to me, and hateth not father, mother, brother, and sister, ..., cannot be my disciple."

"Take no thought for the morrow."

The theme seems to be to be entirely devoted to Jesus, to neglect worldly enterprises, planning and saving for our future, to ignore meaningful relationships with other people.

None of this is practical. It is other-wordly nonsense that leads to partial implementation at best - as in your case, John - or to starvation, a life without pleasure and to grinding poverty.

Jesus never spoke in terms of moral principles or clear ideals or concepts of justice. Just a few garbled parables, questionable life-style recommendations and a distinctly unscientific approach to curing disease.

No, faith is to be admired above reason. Belief is required without rational justification or evidence.

Jesus? No thankyou.

David said...

I suppose what is particularly annoying is that God knows what is happening in the world, knows how to fix it, but continues to play this game of hide and seek, to be willfully obscure. And for what purpose?

Here's a prayer:

Look, God, stop treating us like half-wits. Why not be up-front, clear and just tell people what you really want. Stop playing mind-games and creating endless theological positions. And give as better book than the Bible - it's full of shit. See ya. Amen.

The Rev said...

Well David, I am not sure you were listening to me, because I was pretty clear on how the bible is to be translated. I am not picking and choosing but rather viewing all of it through the life and teachings of Jesus. Most of it actually makes sense to me when doing this. I also value the early church, as they understood Jesus teachings within their context.

Now please stop being so disrespectful, I am trying to answer your questions and am not being a jerk to you, or your world view in the process.


David said...

You mean to say that is how you operate at this moment in your "spiritual journey".

You don't know, and cannot know, whether that is the correct method of intepreting every text in the Bible.

You only accept the Bible as "God's word" because other people say so. A committee determined this, not God.

Don't you have a better method than questionable ancient authority?

The Rev said...

Well David, I believe it is Gods word for many reasons, not the least is that it is the opinion of the ancient scholars, but there are many other reasons, my own personal experience validating it, as well as the experiences of those I have journeyed with.

I "know" in a way that is satisfactory to me, if it is not satisfactory to you...

well I don't really give a shit, what you require is not my concern.


David said...

Your personal experience validating the Bible as God's word? But that would not apply to Genesis 1, "In the beginning" because you weren't there. And it couldn't apply to any alleged historical events. No-one alive can verify those with personal experience. And how can you validate the horror stories in Judges via personal experience? Have you cut anyone up and mailed their body parts around the country, recently? (I know, you're saying there's always a first time). And the geneological lists. And the cosmological metaphysical structures of heaven and hell. And the existence of disembodied minds.

The only type of stuff you "validate" from personal experience is when you read a biblical passage and agree with it or like it.

But if magic, fairy-land Jesus has been telling you the Bible is true, I guess you had better listen to him.

The Rev said...

why don't you go away david, you are spouting off your personal opinions where they aren't wanted, I did not go to your website and challenge you. I have no interest in continuing a conversation with someone who will not treat me, nor my friends with the same respect we give you. I welcomed you into my church, and treated you with warmth, and good intentions, I have responded to your nasty, angry rants with respect, and patience. You cannot return the same. Perhaps my faerie tale Jesus is all make believe, but if he keeps me from treating people like you do, I will take my fantasy, so far it is making me more loving, more satisfied with life, and less angry and self centred.


David said...

Does that mean I'm no longer welcome at your church?

The Rev said...

You are welcome at my church, you are welcome here, just stop being a jerk, it really isn't that hard, you just be nice to people even if they don't agree with you. You were very nice in person, so I am sure you are capable of it.


David said...

A side note:

Relationships only arise amongst physical objects. We observe, and are aware of external data because of our physical structure. No verifiable and repeatable scientific observation has ever discovered the supernatural. There is no known human organ that has been shown to be able to sense the supernatural (if so can you place it?)

So when you talk about God and Jesus and other supernatural entities, you can only be referring to a world constructed in your mind.

The huge variety and inconsistency of religious experience is testimony to the mind-only nature of supernatural phenomena.

So whatever feelings this Jesus figure generates or whatever imagined influence he seems to have in your life, you can't point to anything that is evidence of a real entity or object beyond your own mind.

Hope that clarifies the "faere tale" comment.

halieus said...

Hi Rev, just dropping by to say hello. I thought of you as signposts closed yesterday. I found your comments there inspiring and challenging.

You remind me of the early church. Hope to read your comments on SP2 sometime if you decide to comment there. Peace.

" the Christians, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus, have fled for safety to the God of Jacob and God of Israel; and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,— our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage, —and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified... Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus."

Justin Martyr
Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, Chapter 110
Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1 page 254