Lee Griffith, pacifism, quote, violence

Quotes from Lee Griffith

A week or so back I read through The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God by Lee Griffith. I highly recommend the book for anyone thinking about violence, theology and the state or pacifism. The following quotes from the book are only a few of the many insightful points that Griffith over the course of the book. So go get the book and read it.

In nations in which the majority of believers are Christian, the church must bear the responsibility for the ease with which the name of God has been co-opted into the service of carnage. – xii

Meanwhile, the shelling of Muslim neighborhoods by the New Jersey did not differentiate between soldiers and civilians. While there were doubtless members of militia groups residing in these neighborhoods, the bombs could not set them apart from the children or the grandparents or the other women and men who were clearly noncombatants. If the defining feature of terrorism is the civilian identity of those who are targeted, then the “terrorists” in Beirut were not those who bombed military barracks but those who lobbed car-sized bombs into city neighborhoods. – 5

While the source of the dreams is unclear, in Lebanon, the violence can be traced to its sources. When we follow the trail and trace the violence back, we do not find God. We find a mad confluence of godlets. We find principalities and power, imperial nation states and barely organized guerilla fronts, all self-exalted, all petty, and all appealing to as much inhumanity as humans can muster. It is called Liberation and martyrdom. it is called defense and justice. Call it what you will. It is Terrorism. – 6

Nonetheless, the lack of definitional agreement [on what a terrorist and terrorism is] among terrorism experts is pronounced. – 7

…it was Edmund Burke who bequeathed us the definition of “terrorists” as those who are lacking sufficient awe for Father State. Terrorists see the wounds of the state and, rather than exercising caution, they practice subversion. Terrorists approach the state without piety or trembling. – 12

The crux of the extent to which Christians should fulfill their responsibilities as provisional citizens of various localities came with two defining issues: whether Christians could honor the divinity of the emperor, and whether Christians could wield weapons of war. “No” was the resounding answer on both counts during the first three centuries of church history, with very few exceptions to prove the rule. – 24

The American national mythos is messianic; it seeks to tell a story of freedom spread through self-sacrifice, not victories won through the spread of terror. To sustain the myth, Americans need to rewrite history just as surely as did Stalin to sustain his own version of communist orthodoxy. – 38

While technological developments foster claims (albeit false claims) that ours is an age of greater intimacy in the form of a “shrinking globe,” a “world wide web,” and a “global community,” there is no technological drive towards greater intimacy between combatants where all hell breaks loose in the global neighborhood. – 51

Violence is a form of proselytism which preaches that there is no God. The preachments of violence are more effective than televangelists, more zealous in winning converts than those who sell religion door to door. – 68

When doing battle with the demonic, one can never be too prepared or too strong. This also means that one should never allow oneself to feel secure. – 84

If one may not speak with the demons (for to do so would risk contaminating oneself and conferring legitimacy on evil) and if the demons will not change their ways (and how could demons be anything other than demonic?), then warfare is foreordained as the only possible form of engagement. – 86

These are the two sides of the prophetic mission: to announce judgment on the present order and to weep at the consequences the judgment portends. This biblical pattern is so pronounced that it seems fair to suggest that if either side of the mission is lacking, then the word that is being offered is not prophetic. – 119

Religiously oriented, this perennial (if not tedious) sense of new beginnings has become a prerequisite for involvement in U.S. politics. The Reagan campaign of 1984 gave best expression to the theme, simple but pregnant: “It’s morning in America.” – 143

Woven into the very fabric of U.S. origins, terrorism emerged in two forms: (a) in the violent confrontations between cultures on the frontier, and (b) in violent confrontations between the growing consciousness of rural interest and the power elites of the cities. – 145

Revelation is more a book about terror defeated rather than terror inflicted, which is why worship and liturgy are such a central feature of the book. – 205

Rather that being a time of hot persecution, it was a time when the Empire experienced relative calm, when wealth abounded, when the terror of the powerful seemed like no terror – in short, a time like ours. And so, John depicted the Empire not only as a “Beast” with fangs bared in preparation for violence, but also as a “Whore” who seduced victims onto the path of imperial Rome with no need for violent persecutions. – 206

And so in the name of making no concessions to terrorism, governments make the greatest concession of all, meeting terror with terror. – 221

In order to witness to the defeat of terror, churches and other faith communities must also be zones that are free from terror. Rather than peddling fears and threats of damnation, the church is called to witness to the one and only sufficient antidote to terror – the resurrection of Jesus. – 251

To the point of tedium, “God bless America” was the slogan proclaimed by every car wash and burger joint across the country. I saw not a single sign on a commercial enterprise beseeching god to watch over the people of Afghanistan. – 276


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