Miroslav Volf outlines some cases where – and why – Christianity has been a force for good.
There are many cases obviously in the Christian tradition, Christian history, where Christian faith has been not just generically a force for good but where the resistance to violence, where a non-violent character of the Christian faith has been fundamental to its political and social influence.
And in a sense, you can think of it this way. When we think of folks who immediately come to mind when you imagine Christian faith as it ought to be, whether you are secular or whether you are Christian, who comes to mind? Francis of Assisi comes to mind, right? There’s this fool for Christ who has been immensely powerful as an inspiration for peace-loving – indeed, peace not toward human beings alone, but toward the animal world as well. And we can name in many situations, also, where Christian faith has had a tremendous impact on building bridges, resolving conflict. Beloved community of Martin Luther King, the role in which Christian faith has played in Truth and Reconciliation Commission – even in Ireland, in the conflict in Northern Ireland, it has played kind of the both sides … it has both contributed to violence, but also it has been a resource to overcome violence.
So there is this ambivalence in the faith. And so Christian faith, through history, is not one thing. It’s many, many things; many ways in which it is lived out. And I think one of the important, most important tasks that Christians have is to have a prophetic stance not toward other religions in the world outside, but toward their own history, their own character. And so inner purification of the faith is one of the first tasks of the Christian theologian and Christian as such.