27 September 2010

It's not an easy discussion to have

Lately I've been pondering a very sticky issue. Pacifism - in regards to all of the variety of definitions, personal restraint from military participation, the belief that no country should resolve differences with war, and just a personal opposition to war or violence of any kind.

In the past, I would have answered quickly that well, yes, I believe in using war at times to resolve things. However, recently I've heard some compelling arguments using the New Testament for pacifism in all circumstances. I also have read recently of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr's use of nonviolent protest to cause change. Both the groups that followed these men used nonaggression in their protests and met with violence. The world and their nations grew in their compassion for the causes watching the unprovoked violence that was done to the protestors. Again very compelling.

I recognize as a believer that Jesus did not chose, at the ultimate hour of his suffering, to react with violence to what was done to him; nor did he endorse his followers using violence during that dark hour of his being taken by authorities and eventually killed. His "pacifism" in this case did not result in a physical change like Ghandi's. It was a spiritual triumph and a philosophical change for sure, but the Pharisees and Sadducees as a body of legislators did not become "converted" or changed as a system. Not a huge success physically in the non-agression annals, while I do believe it changed the universe spiritually.

The idea of love changing people and systems is very appealing to me. Convicting even. I think in Martin Luther King Jr's case it wasn't that it was love by the protesters as much as a non-agression policy. The same with Ghandi. Yet, it was powerful. But people did die. It wasn't a bloodless event in either case.

If this was followed very strictly, our country would not exist as we know it. While we can trust in God to be at work, it seems that we have Biblical precedent to act in behalf of others. "Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his brothers." (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16 and many more). Jesus indeed laid down his life for all of us without a personal benefit to himself.

So I ask myself if fighting tyranny and bringing liberty or freedom, to another group of people is worth sacrificing for? Or even to an individual? I mean that is what Ghandi and others have done with non-aggression, right? But would this same manner have worked in the Nazi situation or were drastic measures called for? I know many Jews tried to go along passively until suddenly they were out of opportunities to escape or resist or bring about change.

On an individual level, I realize we are called on to love. We are never to persecute an individual, but we also hold standards out to all individuals. We don't love them into complete acceptance of every action. (pedophilia, murder) So it seems limits, don't mean that we aren't loving. We may be introducing people to something better, healthier even by placing restrictions on them rather than tolerating everything. Not all things are good for an individual. So when is it our loving responsibility to take action? When a woman is being attacked, does she love or fight her attacker? Does a bystander stop the attacker or find a passive way to protest the situation?

Can the same argument be taken to a larger scale? Sometimes pacifism works - Romania's velvet revolution (though some died). But what do we do with Tienanmen Square in China where people were squelched and imprisoned? I want liberty and freedom for everyone so they have a chance to hear about Christ and make a decision for themselves and for them to live without physical tyranny. Surely that's not a bad motivation? I find personal liberty to be part of what Christ stood for. He didn't stone the woman caught in adultery - he set her free and stopped her attackers. (Yes, I acknowledge he did it without violence.)

Honestly, I haven't resolved this issue. I'm fascinated by both sides and find the subject more complicated than I used to. I know we are living under a different time period than the eye for an eye time period of the Bible, but I'm not sure I can go to complete pacifism in all circumstances either. Another stretching place in my character...

15 September 2010

The 5k

Ode to the ones who passed me by, oh so many of you. Thank you four office ladies for keeping the pace in front of me and giving me such interesting conversation to hear. And yes, the answer is we were sore the next day. I think it was the hills.

Lady with the ancient dachsund, how were you able to pass me and disappear into the distance with that geriatric hound?

Oh you runners of the 10k, did you know you do funny things? I suppose all runners do as I am not among your class. There's the girl in the red sport bra top with the one hand that is floppy and keeps a different rhythm from the rest of her steady jog. There was the lady who appeared double my age, yes in a sports bra and matching jogging shorts. Yes, she passed me by and seemed just fine when I saw her at the finish line. An inspiration for sure but I'm still not taking up running.

Lady with the stroller and two walkable age children, was it necessary to keep stopping and passing and stopping and passing?

People I know, where were you in the crowd? I know I'm short, but I should have been able to find you.

Ode to you the ones that pick up the paper cups no longer filled with water that all the runners and walkers fling to the ground at the half way point, and the cute teen volunteers holding signs indicating how far we've gone - thank you for stolid encouragement.

I would do it again, yes indeed. In fact it was bliss to be involved in fund raising that didn't involve yours truly.

04 September 2010

Who am I? Are you ever surprised at yourself?

Three things have come to my attention lately and taken together are a challenge to the way I think about myself. Taken separately they seem innocuous enough, but when I put them together it makes me wonder.

1. In July, I visited my grandfather and he was saying something about Jimmy Swaggert who he likes very much, likes to watch on tv and listen to his music on cd from the good ol' days. I made a negative comment based on Jimmy's infamous fall from grace and grandpa said he repented and we shouldn't hold it against him. I didn't argue that Jimmy refused the restoration process or that perhaps the fall should preclude him from telling people from a leadership role how to serve God. But I thought that.

2. I heard a Christian dvd that at one point did one of those personality analysis. It was sort of like, "oh, yeah, another one," but this one used what I would call a more clear break down of the 4 personality types. Perfect, Peace, Fun, and ? okay I forgot the 4th. What I realized was that while I have strong other characteristics, the perfect category dominates me. Not that by any stretch I'm perfect, but that I'm sometimes paralyzed and very motivated by trying to get things "right" and keep them "on track" and that helps me feel like things are right in the world.

3. I read that Martin Luther King Jr had numerous affairs right up until he died and that he plagerized. This disappointed me so much. I was also surprised I'd never heard it, but it was a reliable source I was reading. It sort of lessened his role for me. It tarnished him and I was surprised that everyone had accepted him so much in this leadership with these flaws.

But in recognizing my shock and disappointment; and putting it together with the other two events above I realized how I was throwing out the person and all their work in one fell swoop. Taking this with #2 I realized I have a very high (too high?) standard for leadership. Or maybe it's not that the standard is too high, but that I throw everything out all at once, including their achievements, if it is flawed.  I would say this was a subconscious thing until this week.

Honestly, as I contemplate it I'm not comfortable with the judgmentalism I suddenly recognize in myself but in the same breath I don't feel comfortable with accepting simply any behavior in a leader. I think I need to learn to accept that some good can come from these flawed people and that it doesn't necessarily delegitimize that good if they (gasp) are terribly human and give in to temptation. Something I read said if we only accept truth from flawless people we are all in trouble. I'm not going to sign up for any fan clubs  of fallen and flawed Christians and I will most assuredly have greater respect for the Billy Grahams who don't give in to the dirty laundry of the world as the norm, but what an amazing thing to realize about myself at this point in life. It's time to grow.