My “antifa” conundrum

Dear Rebecca:


One thing about being Mennonite: It offers clarity. Violence is the wrong answer, always, no matter the question.

I’m a quasi-lapsed, quasi-worshipful Mennonite these days. It’s complicated. And it complicates how I’m viewing the events in Charlottesville and its aftermath.

See, I’m not a fan of the billy-club wielding “antifa” crews. And I strongly suspect that folks who rely on violence to advance their ideology are in pretty big danger of becoming “fa” sooner or later, no matter how they describe themselves.


I’m also having a hard time getting as angry about the antifa folks as I am about the Nazis who used lethal violence in the name of white supremacy.

Motives matter. We have a billion different ways of judging wrongful deaths based on the motivations of the killer. (Neglect will get you a few years in prison; heat of the moment anger a few years more; something judged a “hate” crime can get you sent away even longer.) But … they don’t for Mennonites.

Violence is violence is violence, and violence is wrong. But I’m having trouble condemning all of it with equal fervor.

This troubles me.

With anguish,


  1. I read a blog from a clergy member that was in Virginia this past weekend. They tried to hold a peaceful line, locked arm to arm, to prevent the alt-right from entering the park. The first group of them was small but they were able to break through by force, hurling insults and weapons as they did. The clergy regrouped. As a much larger group was coming their way the people from Antifa put themselves in harm way, between the clergy and the alt-right. There’s no doubt in my mind that Antifa saved many that day from bodily injury. The alt-right had one purpose in being there. To be a destructive show of force. I don’t condone violence to get your point across but I’m glad there’s people out there willing to protect us from the ones who do.


  2. I support the idea that motives matter. If someone under pressure blindly steers his car to a group of people and one of them dies by a heart attack this must not be treated the same way as a pre-planned massacre.
    On the other hand results matter, too. We don’t discourage people from being violent because it expresses bad motives but because it has negative consequences for others.


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