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The Kingdom of God Is Within You by Leo Tolstoy * TPL
Or, Christianity Not as a Mystical Teaching but as a New Concept of Life (Excerpt)
Among the many deviations of this teaching of Christ, I pointed out the chief deviation, namely, the failure to acknowledge the commandment of non-resistance to evil, which more obviously than any other shows the distortion of Christ’s teaching in the church doctrine.
I knew very little, like the rest of us, as to what had been done and preached and written in former days on this subject of non-resistance to evil. I knew what had been said on this subject by the fathers of the church, Origen, Tertullian, and others, and I knew also that there have existed certain so-called sects of the Mennonites, Herrnhuters, Quakers, who do not admit for a Christian the use of weapons and who do not enter military service, but what had been done by these so-called sects for the solution of this question was quite unknown to me.
My book, as I expected, was held back by the Russian censor, but, partly in consequence of my reputation as a writer, partly because it interested people, this book was disseminated in manuscripts and lithographic reprints in Russia and in translations abroad, and called forth, on the one hand, on the part of men who shared my views, a series of references to works written on the subject, and, on the other, a series of criticisms on the thoughts expressed in that book itself.
Both, together with the historical phenomena of recent times, have made many things clear to me and have brought me to new deductions and conclusions, which I wish to express.
First I shall tell of the information which I received concerning the history of the question of non-resistance to evil, then of the opinions on this subject which were expressed by ecclesiastic critics, that is, such as profess the Christian religion, and also by laymen, that is, such as do not profess the Christian religion; and finally, those deductions to which I was brought by both and by the historical events of recent times.
Among the first answers to my book there came some letters from the American Quakers. In these letters, which express their sympathy with my views concerning the unlawfulness for Christianity of all violence and war, the Quakers informed me of the details of their so-called sect, which for more than two hundred years has in fact professed Christ’s teaching about non-resistance to evil, and which has used no arms in order to defend itself. With their letters, the Quakers sent me their pamphlets, periodicals, and books.
From these periodicals, pamphlets, and books which they sent me I learned to what extent they had many years ago incontestably proved the obligation for a Christian to fulfil the commandment about nonresistance to evil and had laid bare the incorrectness of the church teaching, which admitted executions and wars.
Having proved, by a whole series of considerations and texts, that war, that is, the maiming and killing of men, is incompatible with a religion which is based on love of peace and good-will to men, the Quakers affirm and prove that nothing has so much contributed to the obscuring of Christ’s truth in the eyes of the pagans and impeded the dissemination of Christianity in the world as the nonacknowledgment of this commandment by men who called themselves Christians — as the permission granted to a Christian to wage war and use violence.
“Christ’s teaching, which entered into the consciousness of men, not by means of the sword and of violence,” they say, “but by means of non-resistance to evil, can be disseminated in the world only through humility, meekness, peace, concord, and love among its followers.
“A Christian, according to the teaching of God Himself, can be guided in his relations to men by peace only, and so there cannot be such an authority as would compel a Christian to act contrary to God’s teaching and contrary to the chief property of a Christian in relation to those who are near to him.
“The rule of state necessity,” they say, “may compel those to become untrue to God’s law, who for the sake of worldly advantages try to harmonize what cannot be harmonized, but for a Christian, who sincerely believes in this, that the adherence to Christ’s teaching gives him salvation, this rule can have no meaning.”
My acquaintance with the activity of the Quakers and with their writings — with Fox, Paine, and especially with Dymond’s book (1827), — showed me that not only had the impossibility of uniting Christianity with violence and war been recognized long ago, but that this incompatibility had long ago been proved so clearly and so incontestably that one has only to marvel how this impossible connection of the Christian teaching with violence, which has been preached all this time by the churches, could have been continued.