Unity Amidst Diversity: By the Grace of God

By Matt McDonell Are we to be distracted by questions about sexual orientation, when we allow murderers to stand in the pulpit? Okay, I admit it, that headline is sensationalized and intended to grab your attention, but if you’re willing to stick with me for a bit I think you’ll see what I’m trying to say. There has been sharp division among Christians on the question of killing for as long as there has been a church (well, maybe not that long, but going at least as far back as Constantine). Is it ever permissible for a Christian to take a human life? The earliest church fathers held to a conviction that taking up the sword was not permissible for adherents to The Way. No less an authoritative voice than Saint Augustine argues for the permissibility of Christians to participate in a war so long as it is a “just war”, and Thomas Aquinas himself argued that a Christian political leader should use all force and authority available - up to and including the threat of execution - to compel adherence to the tenets of the faith by all under their influence, whether they identify as Christian or not (and who wouldn’t agree to identify as Christian under such persuasive incentives?). Among the worldwide fellowship of believers from those times up until today, there remain individuals, congregations, and entire denominations that hold firmly to the belief and practice of pacifism with the conviction that the taking of any human life is forbidden to Christians under any circumstances. The importance of these convictions is recognized even by our secular government, which will grant exemptions from military service on the grounds of conscientious objection for anyone holding to a conviction that their Christian faith prohibits the taking of a life no matter