In the previous posts I have developed four categories of missions based on relation
to violence and power. Of course the categories are dependent on how the terms are defined.
For the purpose of the categories, violence has to do with acts that may be violent in a classic sense, but may also include methods that are harassing or abusive as well.
Power within this context is based on utilizing the position of governmental, legal, economic or social power or authority.
Some missions methods that fall into these categories:
Violent and Power: Crusades, Inquisition (at times), “Gunboat evangelism” and other forms of govermentally-mandated conversions.
Non-violent and Power: Inquisition (at other times), Colonial regulation of faith and conduct, Blue laws, “Rice Christian” and other dependency ministries. Desecration power encounter. I called this “Duragraha” from Mohatma Gandhi… though I don’t promise to be using the term exactly like he did.
Violent without power: “abortion clinic bombings” and other forms of religious terrorism, Desecration of other’s faith artifacts, religious harassment
Non-violent without power: empowering (rather than dependency-generating) social ministry, training, missions encounters (power, truth, allegiance, and love) when done respectfully and without coersion, dialogue. I called this “Satyagraha” from Mahatma Gandhi… again, not promising to be using the term exactly like he did.
I believe, in general, Christian missions is non-violent and acting without human power or authority. There are exceptions.
For example, I believe that Christian Community Development or Social Ministry is acceptable, however, a primary goal is to go from a position of power to empowering others towards a position of interdependence. The same is true in the case of training. Training begins, in a sense, from a position of authority of one over another, but should be empowering, rather than maintaining that position of power, of one over another.
Much of missions has tended toward the teleological. I am not against the teleological… if something truly doesn’t work, why use it? But we should start from a deontological (and contextual) view. If Christ is our example in missions (and I believe He is), we have a good starting point, as well as healthy limits, on how to do missions. It seems like one should start from a position of non-violence since this appears to be a primary limitation on His methodology. The overturning of the tables in the Court of the Gentiles might be an exception, but I am not convinced that this was a missions method on the part of Christ. Additionally, Jesus did not position Himself utilizing governmental or societal authority. Rather, He came in poverty as a servant. As a teacher, He took on some level of authority, and yet did so in a transitional form… giving His disciples authority to serve and train others in His place.