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Listen to Bruxy, then Let's Talk About Pacifism

I am a latecomer to Anabaptism (Mennonitism) and have thus not swallowed anything automatically, but have been testing the waters at every step. Pacifism has been one of those things which I have been reluctant to look at – first because (like a typical just-war theorist) I just assumed it was wrong without serious examination. As I came closer to the topic, I began avoiding it because I suspected it was true, but feared its implications.

Yesterday I signed up for an independent study, in which I hope to examine the witness of the Early Church to this topic. This study will take me about four months. During that time, I will try to solidify my own views on the topic. I would like to discuss this topic with others, and hear their thoughts and critiques of my thougths.

For those interested, however, I would gently encourage them to listen to Bruxy Cavey’s series “Inglorious Pastors” (available here, or by subscribing to the MeetingHouse audiocast in iTunes), as a crash-course to the Pacifist position. This will keep people from saying silly things (like, “pacifists are just passive,” etc.) and will keep me from answering the real surface-level questions which most people (including myself, in the past) try to use to dismiss pacifism without really examining it. On the other side of the discussion, John Piper’s article on Just War present a very standard defense of Just War.

Here’s a teaser of the information Bruxy presents:

1) The early Church was united in believing that Christians should be pacifists, right up until Constantine united church and state: all just-war theory came out in after (mostly right after, in Augustine) this event, to validate something the early church had always stood against.

2) Just-war theorists today don’t usually really think through the theory themselves, but: a) rely on one-liners which are clearly out of context, like “Jesus said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, and He told his disciples to buy two swords, and he never told soldiers coming to be baptized to stop being soldiers…” b) rely on personal life-stories which all seem to boil down to “yes, but if I don’t fight, I might get hurt.”  c) dismiss Pacifism out-of-hand since it is the minority view in the church.

3) Matthew 5 is the center, the core of Jesus’ teaching – as He himself says, “anyone who heeds these words of mine is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock”. However, this portion of Scripture has been largely neglected both in personal life, and in social life. Many clever ways have been devised for saying that Jesus could not possibly have been speaking to us literally – but was He? Of course He was. So then what are the consequences of what He said?

This isn’t exhaustive. Please do not respond to what I have written here. If you are interested in this topic, please take the time to listen to all of Bruxy’s sermons, so that you are thoroughly up to speed. As I said, there are a lot of trivial/drive-by-answers that most people raise to this topic, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life messing around on this level. What I am interested in is a deeper application of the topic, some complex discussions of personal application, and getting into the social implications of pacifism.

I hope at least a few people are interested in listening to Bruxy, then sharing their perspectives. Until then, you will know where I am coming from as I continue to post on this topic.

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