Many of my christian friends point to the above-mentioned hypotheticals as support for a sort of conditional non-violence, a non-violence that is maintained until it is too costly to do so. What exactly is too costly differs from person to person, but most have a line to draw, be it in the defense of personal belongings, the defense of personal safety, or the defense of others. None of my Christian friends validated non-defensive violence.
Like many key issues in the Christian faith, it is possible to biblically support both sides. There are several verses in the Old Testament in which God orders his people to fight battles, condones capital punishment, and completely destroys not only entire towns, but most of the world's population. Any of these verses could be used as evidence for violence being justifiable in Christianity.
Yet, for every verse condoning violence there is a verse preaching peace as well. The New Testament, and the teachings of Jesus specifically, contain many of these verses: "Love your enemies; pray for persecutors" (Matthew 5:43); "Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you" (Luke 6:27); and finally, the capstone on Jesus' message of peace:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:38-42)
These verses are unavoidable commands from the person we are called to follow: Jesus Christ. The question I ask each of my christian friends who are part of the conditional non-violence camp is: "How do you get around these commands?" It is a question I can't answer for myself.
As a person, I know I would be unable to restrain from acting violently in order to stop genocide or to prevent another person's death. I think almost anyone would. Nevertheless, the question remains in my mind: "Are we called to non-violence?" So, I'm taking a poll. Post your comments, answers, more questions, anything. I would love to hear it all.