Q & R: When is violence justified?

Here’s the Q:
Just finished reading your book. When, where or is violence ever justified? To protect others from grave harm or death? If you have the time to do so I would like to discuss this with you. Thank you.

Here’s the R:
Good question. Anything I say briefly will be subject to misconstrual, but let me risk offering something I hope will be both honest and brief.

For starters, let me define violence like this: a forceful action intended to cause pain, harm, or death.

With that definition, my answer to your question would be never.

But that would raise a related question using a different word: when, where, or is nonviolent force ever justified?

And I would say it is appropriate to use nonviolent force to impede injustice and harm. That’s what I believe Jesus meant by “turn the other cheek.” Here’s the late Walter Wink explaining:


In other words, for me, force and violence aren’t the same thing. I would use nonviolent force to protect vulnerable people, but my goal would be to protect the victims and stop the oppressor.

One other thing. Peacemaking doesn’t start when an attacker is coming. Peacemaking addresses the conditions that turn people into potential attackers.

Those are a few super-quick thoughts … again, easily misunderstood because of their brevity … that I hope will be useful.