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The Kingdom Of God Is Within You


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In light of the recent discussions on gun control, a really good and thought provoking book I would highly recommend reading is The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy. Tolsty was a Christian pacifist who believed in responding to violence with radical nonviolent resistance. He was a contemporay of Ghandi and his book was a major source of inspiriation to famous Christian pacifists like MLK jr. Would anyone be interested in doing a book discussion on it?

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I've wanted to read this book, Neon, so yes I would be keen. But at the moment I'm in a discussion here on Haidt's book - The Righteous Mind. Maybe in a few weeks for me.

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George ,

 

 

Joseph, how so? Maybe you could elaborate a little.

 

George

 

 

George,

 

One has only to read the first chapter to see that his ideas are rejected or considered strange by the majority of societies and existing Christians. Total non resistance is not a concept presently in practice by governments or individuals that i am acquainted with.

 

Even Tolstoy himself says in the book "In this way, then, the discussions of my book on the part of Churchmen and freethinking critics alike showed me that the majority of men simply do not understand either Christ's teaching or the questions which Christ's teaching solves." This to me tells me even Tolstoy believed his ideas were strange or unacceptable to freethinking critics and to the majority of men.

 

Joseph

 

PS I think Chapter 3 and 4 discusses what he views as a misunderstanding of Christian teachings both to Christian believers and men of science respectively..

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George ,

 

i believe his views are based on more of a literal interpretation of the Bible and that he believes the Bible (at least what Jesus is recorded saying) is God's word to us. He makes a good case for his points as relates to his interpretation. Very few people i know including Christians would agree to living with the tenets in the first Chapter though all of them sound in a way noble and virtuous and Christ-like.

 

I will stop there as the OP thread subject is just asking for those who wish to or are interested in a review of the book rather than any opinions at this time. I think the book is worth reading.

 

Joseph

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I do think Tolstoy makes a convincing argument though that "self-defense" has a long history of being abused by religion and government to justify immoral atrocities. It is my understanding that the Quakers have a long history of practicing non-violent resistance.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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It is my understanding that the Quakers have a long history of practicing non-violent resistance.

 

Yes, I think pacifism does have a long history in Christianity beginning with its founder. Constantine helped take it in another direction. In fact, I think if one isolated what is written about Jesus from the rest of the Bible, it would be hard to argue for militarism or violence under any circumstance.

 

George

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I find it curious that as JosephM says, a literal reading of the teachings of Jesus would lead you to accept a pacifist view of Jesus' teachings yet most biblical literalists seem to be very pro war.

 

More evidence that our worldview informs our theology, not the reverse. We can conveniently select passages from the Bible to support our views, overlook others that might challenge it and interpret others as needed.

 

George

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Neon,

 

I think much of the problem is that literalists also take the Old Testament as the word of God which portrays a God much more violent than Jesus represented.

 

Also as George said, i think in general we as a people "conveniently select passages from the Bible to support our views, overlook others that might challenge it and interpret others as needed."

 

Joseph

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Further more, it seems to me that non-violence is deeper than just outward acts. it would be difficult to accept the literalist view of Jesus's teaching.

 

(quoted from another site)

Does Jesus' teaching that we should turn the other cheek and love our enemies mean that it is always wrong to go to war? Should the world have turned the other cheek to Hitler and tried to love him into surrender? When Osama Ben Laden ordered the attack on the World Trade Center, should the U.S. have responded by sending him the Sears Tower as well? Or does Jesus allow a place for both loving our enemies and yet, in certain situations, using force to restrain life-threatening wickedness?

 

Perhaps things can be done in the spirit of non-violence and exhausting other means while not keeping the letter but more the spirit of his teachings.

 

When the soldiers came to Jueus in Luke 3-14 while he was preaching on the kingdom and asked "And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages."

 

Neither did he tell them to get rid of their weapons or to change jobs but rather to do no intentional violence. I think that is the spirit of what he was saying. The word violence includes "intention" . To me, self-defense or defense is not considered "intention" to do harm but rather an act done in the spirit of protection.or preservation of life.

 

Joseph

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But literalists also claim the old law was superseded by the death of Jesus at the same time. It seems to me that to reinterpret the teachings of Jesus as meaning something other than being a mandate for pacifism involves a lot of playing around with the meaning of the words when I don't see what else Jesus could mean when he says do no violence. If Jesus was really a practitioner of self-defense, surely we would have an instance where we would see Jesus fighting back in a violent manner but we never see him fight back against the Romans and he willingly gives himself over to the apostles. The apostle Paul also commanded Christians not to engage in violent responses to the Roman government. Jesus' teachings of non-violent resistance may be difficult to follow but Jesus is always clear in the gospels that his teachings are not something easy to follow so should we really be surprised by this? WWII is easy to cite as an example of "just war" when it's been so far removed from us that we don't have to feel guilty for any war atrocities done on the part of the Allies anymore.

 

While certainly what Hitler and the Nazis did was horrible and immoral, the Allies were also guilty of immoral atrocities such as bombing thousands of innocent civilians in Japan in revenge for Pearl Harbor which was done in the name of "self-defense." "Self-defense" was also used as a justification for forcing all the innocent Japanese American citizens who had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor in immoral and unjust internment camps. Would these immoral atrocities have occurred if we had more voices in the government listening to the worldview of pacifism? Yes, Osama bin Laden should have had to pay for his atrocities against the U.S., but the U.S. had plenty of instances before the raid earlier this year where they could have captured him and brought him to trial but they let him go in order to go to war with Iraq even though there was no evidence or WMDs or that Saddam Hussein had any connections to 9/11 but the Iraq war was also justified by "self-defense."

 

I think it would have made a much more powerful statement to the rest of the world if we had captured bin Laden and put him to trial than simply bombing him would have and the Americans who took to the streets to cheer for his death could have possibly put our nations' relations with the Muslim world at risk. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to expand its militaristic imperialism in the name of "self-defense." The Bush administration tortured terrorist suspects regardless of whether or not they were guilty or had any important information and the Obama administration has continued to allow Guantanamo Bay to remain open. Bush wiretapped innocent civilians and the Obama administration has now expanded the president's powers to unprecedented levels where the president now has the power to assassinate any U.S. civilian that they declare is a "terrorist." The U.S. continues to torture Bradley Manning and is trying to immorally arrest Julian Assange for exposing corruption in our military. All this corruption has been justified in the name of "self-defense." And how many innocent lives have been lost due to America's continuing use of war drones in the middle East? I don't see how we can continue to use "self-defense" as a justification in modern times just because there may have been one or two instances in the past where it may have been a plausible worldview when in modern times it seems clear that "self-defense" is merely an excuse for continue to prolong war for greed and corrupt purposes.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Hi Neon,

 

i certainly am not here to justify actions whether committed by Hiltler or ourselves or allies. My only point was i don't think that "do no violence" means to do nothing in the face of a real threat. Also there is a letter of the law and a spirit of the law. But this is a book discussion area and i have nothing here to debate with you.... only expressing my opinion that Tolstoy 's interpretation is also extreme and in my view impractical as relates to living life here on earth at this present time. Also, it is my opinion that Jesus's words had more to do with the spirit of things than the literalistic fleshly interpretation Leo Tolstoy takes in his book. But if you feel different, that is fine with me as i have no argument with you or your view,

 

joseph

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I think Tolstoy was also about following the spirit of the law over the letter of the law and he was against the idea of turning his philosophy into a religion more than anyone. Tolstoy said this about a dogmatic approach to his beliefs:

To speak of "Tolstoyism," to seek guidance, to inquire about my solution of questions, is a great and gross error. There has not been, nor is there any "teaching" of mine. There exists only the one eternal universal teaching of the Truth, which for me, for us, is especially clearly expressed in the Gospels...I advised this young lady to live not by my conscience, as she wished, but by her own
I don't subscribe to all of his views myself but I think there is still a lot of merit to his pacifist worldviews.
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