Advent is the season between the comings, the space of absence in which we await the Divine visitation. Might it also be a space of resistance, wherein we reimagine our identities and, in so doing, perhaps even become the kind of presence in the world we so desire?
The primal brilliance of the color-scheme—aquamarine Sturgeon-Queen arising fierce and indistinguishable from the sun-shimmered waters themselves, in (visually) bombastic counterpoint to a burnt-rouge sun-rise sky—tags the eye with trance-invitation.
Twenty years after the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement, partisan murals litter the landscape of Northern Ireland reminding all of the thirty-year civil war between Catholic and Protestant neighbors.
Christians are called not to ignore despair, but to help sow joy in its wake; not to condone hate, but to be all the more zealous in their own loving in its face. The politics of overcoming evil are about neither ignoring nor condoning evil, but rather, fighting it with the strongest power possible—love.
The resurrection does not erase suffering: it teaches us to live in a world torn by injustice. It gives us hope that God is present in the ugliest violence of human life, and that God engages human history to create meaning on the other side of tragedy and injustice.
Later Calvinist texts, like the famous Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos, would go further than the Reformer and claim natural law defenses for resistance. I want to contend that Calvin’s principles provided a basis for this kind of argument, even though Calvin did not take this route in his own thinking. And the place to begin this line of argument, I think, is with his comments on the sixth commandment.
…Just considering very recent history, from the Arab Spring to South Sudan to Ukraine, revolution and resistance has been a very real part of our world. The popularity of this idea in cultures spanning the planet gives the political theologian pause. Is the apparent widespread support for this kind of act an expression of common grace, a preservation of the light of practical reason in spite of the fall? Or is it simply an expression of the rebellion bound up in the heart of our fallen species?
At the very least we might say that both nonviolence and pacifism should attempt to understand and redirect violence. And maybe we should shelve the tired terms for a spell and speak of life-giving or death-dealing acts, which might reframe exhausting debates about property destruction. Pacifism should not be at odds with physical force, with the force of physicality such as sit-ins, strikes, human chains, roadblocks, or even strategic property destruction.
Nonviolence and pacifism are often pitted against one another, even though pacifism was once considered the activist term to distinguish it from nonresistance. Now, pacifism is thrown under the bus, even by vigorous advocates of nonviolence. For instance, Gene Sharp clarifies that nonviolent action is, appropriately, action that is nonviolent, as opposed to pacifism.