By Margit Sandig, Ruth Grauer and Siegfried Bohringer
[This resolution of the theological study group of the Wurttemberg ecumenical study group from November 6, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.imi-online.de/2001.php3?id=172.]
Overcoming Violence by Biblical Interpretation Changing the World
A few months after the inauguration of the ecumenical `Decade of Overcoming Violence' - simultaneous with the UN decade for a `culture of peace' -, we experience a new world-shattering explosion of violence through the horror of terror in the US and the horror of the subsequent war of retaliation against Afghanistan.
With passion, we join the many voices that turn against this war that increasingly appears as a war of the rich North against the poor of this earth.
In our circle, a new relation with the Bible produces an active hope for this earth. This relation is suggested from many sides, from the ecumenical movement for peace through justice, liberation theology, religious socialism, the Kairos documents and feminist and socio-historical biblical research.
For several years, we have tried to practice this relation with the Bible in our small circle and in intensive exchange - listening to the word entirely in light of contemporary events with the `cry of the oppressed' in our ears and interpreting this cry in the light of the `Good News for the Poor', as our study program says. We bid farewell to a use of the Bible that trivializes injustices and adjusts to the rulers. A new understanding of the narratives of `Isaac's sacrifice' (according to Franz Hinkelammert) whose misinterpretation contributed much to the fatal sacrifice-ideology of the West was very helpful. The emphasis on Jesus' solidarity with the marginal groups of his time and a new perception of the creatureliness of the person in his or her interweaving with all other creatures in "our common house, the earth" (Leonardo Boff) was impressive.
In key words, we share some of our experiences and insights from our work that could revitalize our resistance against the new escalation of violence:
We must bid farewell to a God using force who gives poverty, war and terror to some and peace, security and wealth to others. We should open ourselves for a nonviolent God who in his own free decision seeks "life for all" and puts responsibility in our hands.
For the praxis of faith, we should stand completely with the victims of violence and read the message with their eyes. The victims, the poor of this world, may not fall under the wheels of injustice and war.
The core of the Good News, the "doctrine of justification", may not be understood as an inner-church discussion theme. The doctrine of justification is a "promise of life for all", not a claim of power, money and security for a few executed with force.
If Christians should be "salt and light" for the world, this message may not remain a special church theme for special occasions but must be moved into the center of all piety. Only in this way can we be liberated from the narrowness of a church self-reference and a Christian salvation egoism. There is only a future of the church together with the future of the earth and the survival of its weakest members. The deep crisis of our time could be a chance to gain courage and composure in listening again to the biblical word necessary for accepting the long neglected peace commission. The deadly violence that arose from a biblical interpretation in the interest of the rulers can only be overcome by a new biblical interpretation in solidarity with the powerless.