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Pacifism: A Tentative Position

I have been debating whether this is a bad time for a pacifism post. War is on everybody’s mind, and so pacifism is on mine …and yet I don’t want to be offensive. I know this is a sacred time of year for many.

Since this is the place for me to post my own thoughts on things, I will go ahead and do that – but to those who disagree: please know that I mean no offence.

In the last year, I have struggled with pacifism vs. just-war and have now basically landed on the pacifist side. My reasoning is as follows:

1. Jesus’ commandments to “turn the other cheek,” “return good for evil” and “pray for your enemies” is completely incompatible with the “you attack us, we attack you,” “you threaten us, we attack you,” or “you have resources we need, we attack you,” mentality of war.

2. Christian attempts to reconcile war and Jesus have been flimsy and have always lead (in hindsight) to places which we are ashamed of (Crusades, the religious wars of the 1600’s, Bush’s crusade, etc.)

3. The early church seems to have been completely pacifistic until around the time of Constantine: this is also when the Church’s purity went down the drain, as far as I can see

4. Movements in history (most notably the Anabaptist movement) which have marginalized received theology to place a heavy emphasis on Scriptures itself have almost all come away from the Bible with a pacifistic stance.

This is about where I was last year, but two things were still stopping me: first, if war is vital to a nation’s survival – are pacifists good citizens? Second, if violence is at times necessary to a family’s safety, are pacifists good father/husbands?

I wrote out a detailed exposition of my citizenship concern to an anabaptist pastor Bruxy Cavey, which you can read here … ( Bruxy was gracious and directed me to some resources but didn’t really have time to respond. After a while, however, a response began forming in my mind, and I wrote down what he (or someone like him) might say, from scriptures, to my letter. (Link here…

If you have time to listen to an hour long discussion on this, this link covers about all of the issues on pacifism, from a pacifist side of things. ( ; podcast “prince of peace, God of war”).

In sum, my answer is that no, Christians are not to be good citizens. In fact, there is nothing which a nation should fear more than Christianity. It’s members return good for evil – thus, they cannot participating in that one, great act of patriotism, which is war. This refusal will have a destabilizing effect on any nation – and any ruler with a brain will persecute true Christianity. History speaks, however – no matter how much you persecute Christianity, it will continue to spread. So what will the result be? Perhaps the nation will “fall” – that is, be invaded by another nation. This will be devestating to the nation…and yet Christianity will simply be open to a new mission field, and the cycle will begin again.

We all know that war is evil – everybody hates it. But who will lay down their arms first? When will it all stop? Maybe Christianity was God’s answer to a hurting world, which desperately needs to grasp the idea of pacifism.

As to pacifism in the home…well, that is a tough one. There is one quote which really forms my thinking, though. Bruxy recounts discussing a hypothetical scenario with a number of Christians: “What if a bad person broke into your house and threatened to kill your family – then in a moment of confusion left his gun right in front of you. Would you take the gun and shoot him?” There were various responses to this question. Finally one older gentleman replied, “no, I would not pick up the gun. I would fall to my knees and pray – because I believe that I would be tapping into a greater power on my knees than with the gun.”

I am still not completely sure where I stand on all aspects of pacifism – but there are two things I clearly understand: 1) Pacifism is a doctrine of faith in a God who really is in control, 2) Pacifism is a doctrine which lives life before the throne of God: wrongs in this life will be righted in the next, and thus there is no need to fight for our rights here and now.

I am still in the process of working out this theology – I would be interested in thoughts and discussions on this topic!

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