The Nonviolent Trinity
“He is the image of the invisible God.”
It is believed by some that God can be known by observing the world. The material universe could not have created itself. Something cannot come from nothing, so the argument goes. Therefore, God must exist. There are some philosophical objections to this process of thought but let us for the moment accept as true that God’s existence can be deduced from a reasoned analysis of an experience of a minuscule portion of the universe.
Beyond Reason to Revelation and Faith
However, even if creation can tell us that God is, what it cannot tell us is that God is love, that God is savior, that God is Father/Mother/Parent. For this awareness, revelation is necessary. A rational interpretation of the world with its horror, pain, madness, war, greed and victimization could reasonably lead a person to conclude that God is indifferent to human beings. If there is belief in a God of unconditional love and perpetual forgiveness, a saving God, then the belief is based on something other than what mere reason can establish. Such an understanding of the Source of all is a matter of faith, that is, faith in something other than human reason.
From where, however, does such a faith come? What is its origin? Why would one think it is true? For the Christian this faith comes through Jesus Christ. But, immediately it may be asked why a person should have faith in what Jesus teaches about God? Why is His knowledge of God superior to anyone else’s knowledge of God? The straightforward answer to these question is that Jesus Christ can tell humanity the truth about God because of who Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ is God “made flesh” (Jn 1:1-14).
When Christians of apostolic times profess that Jesus is the Son of God, the Word of God and The Lord and begin to worship Him, while simultaneously continuing to worship the Father of Jesus as God, those who do not share the Christians Faith ask them to explain themselves. The response these apostolic Christians give to their inquirers is that Christ Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). In other Books of the New Testament the same reality is proclaimed in different language, e.g., “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30), or “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). In the person of Jesus an infallible authority on God enters history and with Him a new, revolutionary understanding of God penetrates history. The new understanding demands that a new name for God be found in history—Trinity!
The Perfect Icon of God
The early Christian community experiences Jesus as the perfect image and complete revelation of the Father. It recognizes that for the Son to be truly “the image of the invisible God,” He must possess the divine attributes of the Father. This is precisely what the Church teaches. There is nothing of the perfection of the Father that is lacking in the Son. The Son is “true God from true God.” To use the language of the theologians, there is no ontological gradation between the Father and the Son. There are no degrees of divinity between them. The Son is the consubstantial with the Father, the image (icon) of the Father. The Son does not simply participate in God; the Son is God.
It is because God places in human history a perfect icon of Himself, the Son, that Jesus is the Way to the Father. Jesus reveals the Father. His Messianic mission is to reveal the true God as Father/Mother/Parent. The Son is the definitive revelation of the Father. To see Jesus, that is to see Jesus in His words and deeds, is to see the Father (Jn 14:9) for God acts in the way God is. As St. Gregory of Nyssa writes, “There is no contradiction at all between the will of the Father and the will of the Son. The Lord ‘is the image of the invisible God,’ immediately and inseparably united to the Father whose will He obeys in every moment.” The will of the Son never varies from the will of the Father and hence the work of the Son, which is the fruit of His own willing, reveals nothing less than the will of the Father.
God Is One
The New Testament is the written testimony about Jesus’ words and deeds. It faithfully hands on what Jesus Christ, while living among people, did and taught for their salvation. It is the ultimate record of His words and works, and hence of His will and the will of the Father.
Now in the New Testament Jesus teaches by words and deeds a Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies. This is incontestable in the realm of scholarship or of common sense. As the renowned Biblical scholar, the late Rev. John L. McKenzie says, “If we cannot know from the New Testament that Jesus rejects violence, we can know nothing of his person or message. It is the clearest of teachings: “Jesus authorizes no one to substitute violence for love.” But, as previously noted, the work of the Son is the will of the Father. Jesus is like us in all things except sin. He wills the Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies as a response to evil, even lethal evil, because God wills the Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies as a response to evil—even lethal evil. Jesus lives this will of the Father with only those faculties which all human beings have at their disposal. Jesus is nonviolent because God is nonviolent and because He desires His disciples to be nonviolent as God and He are nonviolent. Again, God acts as God is. The invisible God chooses to become visible in the incarnation of Jesus so that human beings, who are made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26), can choose to be nonviolent as God is nonviolent, can choose to imitate God by imitating His Incarnate Word, Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is, of course, the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:9). The Holy Spirit is active in Jesus and Jesus is consubstantial with the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus is nonviolent and since His Father is nonviolent, the Holy Spirit must be nonviolent since the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Because the Nonviolent Son and Nonviolent Spirit are consubstantial with the Nonviolent Father, that is, because God is one, the gift that the Holy Spirit bestows on the believer is the gift of the Life of the Nonviolent God. Communion with the Nonviolent Spirit of Christ is communion with the Nonviolent God—The Nonviolent Trinity.
Violent Monotheism—Vesting a Lie
What is apparent from the New Testament is that Jesus rejects the lie of violent monotheism as emphatically as he rejects the lie of polytheism. God, who is to be loved whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, whole strength, is God whose image is the nonviolent Christ Jesus. Yet, somehow on July 16, 1945, the name of the God of Nonviolent Love is given as the code name for the testing of an instrument designed to produce unbound human carnage—the first atomic bomb. How is this possible? How is it possible that the Trinity of nonviolent love is the name assigned to a weapon’s test whose purpose is to secure victory by mass homicide? To code name the first atomic bomb test “Trinity” is the extreme of Orwellian doublespeak. It could not be more deceitful or absurd if the first A-Bomb were code-named “Jesus”! How could intelligent people even consider such an erroneous designation?
The answer is obvious. Seventeen hundred years before the pseudo-Trinity of violence explodes in the New Mexico desert, the pseudo-Trinity of violence explodes in the heart of Christianity. Seventeen centuries ago, Christianity begins to imbibe in violent monotheism, a monotheism whose god, contrary to the teaching of Jesus, leads people in the homicidal conquering of historical enemies. The spirits of violence, retaliation, greed, enmity, deceitfulness, oppression, destruction, terror and cruelty, all of which are utterly necessary to conduct war and all of which are utterly contrary to the Spirit of the Trinity, begin to be operationally justified as spirits compatible with the Spirit of the invisible God whose image is Christ Jesus. Christianity gradually becomes another in the line of religions employing God to validate its own violence and the violence of those who cater to its interests.
Betrayal of the Nonviolent Trinity
Lest it be thought that I am exaggerating the betrayal of the Nonviolent Trinity as imaged by Jesus Christ consider the contemporary spiritual debacle of Catholic Croatia and Orthodox Serbia, of Protestant and Catholic Ireland, of Hutu and Tutsi Catholic Rwanda. Here are groups of Christians chronically and obsessively absorbed in homicidal hate of each other. However, practically everyone in each of these societies starts each day by making the sign of the cross or by saying in some manner that he or she worships the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For most Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Evangelicals then, “God” does not incarnationally mean God as imaged by the Nonviolent Jesus Christ. On the contrary, for most Christians, Trinity means a violent monotheism that enables their homicidal activities to be placed under divine sponsorship. This has been the case in almost every place on earth where Christianity—in any of its forms —has taken hold over the last 1700 years. In the last seventeen centuries no sociologically identifiable unit of people has killed more human beings in war than the group that answers to the name Christian—the group that confesses belief in the Trinity. Is it not then understandable why the scientists and military personnel in the New Mexico desert in 1945 did not consider it blasphemous to name an instrument of mega-violence after what they perceived to be Christianity’s God—the violent trinity?
If humanity’s image of God is distorted, humanity’s image of itself and of the world will be distorted. To worship and to love whole heart, soul, mind and strength a god of violent monotheism, who condones, justifies and even encourages homicidal violence, is to ensure humanity a continuing history of divinely approved, self-righteous homicide with all the nauseating vomitus it ceaselessly disgorges. Violent monotheism is not only a false presentation of God, if Christ Jesus “is the image of the invisible God,” it is also a major motivator to homicide in the human situation. To divinize homicidal violence is to promote homicidal violence because what is thought to be the will of God, people are encouraged to do—and to do with great zeal. Therefore, Christians in general and Church leaders in particular are morally obligated by their Baptism and Call to profess that the god of violent monotheism, regardless of his name or of which religion proclaims him, is a non-existent Transcendent. Furthermore, those who say “Jesus is Lord” must unreservedly declare that “redemptive violence” or “divinely licensed violence” are not only a contradiction in terms, but are also explicit expressions of idolatry—congressing with a false God.
Divine Conscription as Spiritual Fraud
“God is on our side” has been the rallying cry for incalculable human slaughter. Year after year, century after century, God has been drafted to go to war by practically every state and revolutionary military operation, by practically every nation and tribe. However, before Divine conscription is possible, the religious elites of the various societies have to assure the political and economic elites, as well as, the “nobodies” who must kill and be killed, that God is indeed quite open to being drafted! But if Christ Jesus “is the image of the invisible God,” then God has permanent conscientious objector status. The Nonviolent Trinity can never be honestly conscripted to legitimatize, motivate or spiritually underpin homicidal violence for any earthly or heavenly reason—and the religious leadership of the Church has no commission to teach otherwise.
Violent monotheism is killing humanity. It is corrupting all of human existence—especially religion. The only antidote to this planetary spiritual plague is for Christians and Churches to commence to communicate gently, persistently and publicly that the nonviolent Jesus is the true image of the invisible God, and then to try to live out personally and socially the network of implications that proceed from the great truth and Good News of nonviolent monotheism.
Worshipping and Following the True Image of God
God is the heart of the matter, no matter what the matter is. The question of God is inevitably present in all the other questions that stimulate and haunt the human mind. Each human being and all humanity are confronted with a choice. Will the best and the brightest, as well as, the least and the dullest continue down the disastrous and destructive path of worshipping and following images of God created from their own fear-full, sin-drenched, concupiscence-ridden, finite consciousnesses, or will they accept, worship and follow God as revealed in the image of the nonviolent Jesus Christ?
People, however, cannot choose an option they have never heard. Unless the true image of God as revealed by Jesus is gracefully presented to humanity, by those Jesus calls to present it, humanity will continue in its sorrowful and self-torturous enslavement to false images of the Holy. Silence on this matter serves only the status quo, serves only violent monotheism. There is an indispensable requirement, placed on those who believe, to unashamedly and unhesitatingly proclaim the Good News of The Nonviolent God of Love, The Nonviolent Trinity of Love. The active, committed witness of Christians and Churches, who believe that the nonviolent Jesus “is the image of the invisible God,” is obligatory, if all forms of violent monotheism are to become as abhorrent to the human spirit as child sacrifice now is.
If you accept this task of Trinitarian faith, this labor of Nonviolent Christic love, you will be making a Himalayan contribution to genuine peace on the earth. You will also be doing what Christ chose you to do. You will be living unto eternal life what you pray when you say, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.”
(REV.) EMMANUEL CHARLES MCCARTHY