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...

1 comment:

  1. This fascinates me as well. I am not strictly pacifistic, but I have gone from being not at all to believing that the rules for when war is acceptable are very narrow. When the Assemblies of God was originally founded it actually was officially pacifist, so it's not like being a pacifist automatically makes you a Lefty.

    My strongest argument against strict pacifism being Biblical is what Jesus said about the faith of the Centurion. My second strongest is the violence that God demanded throughout the Old Testament.

    That being said, most of the motivations for and actions in war are deeply anti-Biblical (or at least, anti-New Testament). I'm amazed at how willing Christians are willing to accept things like torture or violent rebellion if they serve to strengthen the purposes of the West.