Jesus counselled his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them (Matthew 5:44). St. Paul advised the early Christians to whom he wrote that they should be subject to the governing authorities as to God (Romans 13:1). So what are we to make of civil disobedience? And how are we to pray for Egypt in its populist uprising?
It is easy, instructed by scripture, to make the case for pacifism. After all, Jesus did not raise up an army against the Romans; nor did he overturn the Jewish Sanhedrin. He submitted to their judgement and died a horrible death, thus setting in motion a far more seditious movement—a spreading community of peace-loving Christians who were prepared to die for their faith rather than pay homage to an earthly emperor.
But there have been other voices as well. Setting aside the biblical passages demanding the brutal conquest of one’s enemies, some have argued for firm but non-violent resistance in the face of oppression. We think in modern terms of the prophetic Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Philip, both Catholic priests and peace activists in the 1960’s who were, for a time, on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for their acts of vandalism against military installations.
It is a complex question worthy of our serious consideration. But this is certain: violence begets violence. So let us pray for the Egyptians in this hour of unrest … that they may forge a peaceful transition into their new future.