Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In response to Chris

Chris posted a blog today about not being a pacifist due to his thoughts on Martin Luther King - and since I am a fervent pacifist I figured it was time to respond/articulate my white poppy wearing self - and yes I'm still wearing it.

"The past is prophetic in that it asserts that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars" Martin Luther King Jr.

I was thinking about the best way to defend myself - since well I am a pacifist - though a lot of that was due to my great fortune of being raised in a Mennonite family where one of the key aspects to faith is pacifism - we had no violent TV shows/movies at home, no water guns or GI Joes - none of that. It took me a long time to wrestle with it - but I accept it for various reasons.

1. War is destructive and self serving to borrow a line from Linkin Park - "It's the poor who suffer when the rich wage war." War is nationalistic, it isn't about what's best for the poorest, it's about oil, land, resources and power. WW1 was purely nationalistic - two allied teams against each other. WW2 was that at it's core, we've just managed to tack the whole Holocaust thing in there. The Jews were being killed long before that by England, Russia, Spain - name your European country and they had some form of legislation against Jews at some point in time - the Pale of Settlement - through the area along the far west border of modern Russia and the bordering countries was a confined area for settlement - this containment made pogroms easy - entire Ashkenazi communities exterminated, and with that many Mennonite communities as well just before WW2. The US was not involved in WW2 until it served them - when Japan was getting powerful and strategic positioning was crucial - and death camps not found until areas of Germany, Austria and Poland were liberated - well into the campaign. In the end the US took land - and WW2 became the Cold War - a war about power not about ideas and freedom of people. Vietnam and Korea followed in that vein and now Iraq times 2 has followed under the same guise of saving the masses and yet the issue is strategic position and power - not poverty and equal rights.

2. The people who we hail through history have realized the fundamental truth that a gun solves nothing - Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Mead, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the Dali Lama, Dorothy Day, the man in Tienanmen Square - they are iconic images or people who we look to as the best of society. The individuals who have raised weapons either forgotten altogether or scorned - Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Stalin, the Bushes etc.

3. As to watching people die - we're doing it all over the world - at it's by our hand too dirty water, starvation, AIDS etc - so maybe we should put down the over priced pieces of metal we use to make ourselves right when it's evident we aren't and channel the money and energy into something so counter intuitive to our culture and so much like Christ.


Therrian said...

So, being a pacifist and a christian, how do you explain the willingness of God to use war as a means to help his people?

Do you not see being a pacifist and a christian as possibly coming into conflict?

People have been reading the 10 commandments as 'Though Shall Not Kill' for years, but the actual translation is 'Though Shall Not Murder'.

I 100% agree that most wars are not fought for any reason other then the protect land/resources, but at the same time, I don't think you can blame people for wanting to defend themselves or their country from people who are trying to take it away from them.

Anonymous said...

If you are into old testament justification for war you might want to check out the book, "Yahweh is a Warrior," by Millard Lind. Dry reading but he gives a new perspective on the very question you are asking from a peace church perspective.

You might also want to read Walter Wink's materials about Jesus teachings on nonviolence.

As to being a christian and a pacifist sometimes coming into conflict, I have nothing to say about that since I'm not really a christian anymore. I will say that despite my issues with much of the bible there are surprisingly nuanced tensions within almost all of the bible that point to a very sophisticated way of reading the bible. In other words, the old argument, well god says war is ok therefore it is ok idea doesn't really hold water (by statement or example). Philosophically as well doing something one way just because it was done that way in the past seems pretty pointless, hence Jenn's quoting of Martin Luther is apt, "The past is prophetic in that it asserts that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."

see also www.peacefultomorrows.org

Anonymous said...

If we chose not to defend ourselves, where do you think the war would be?.. I will tell you, our backyards! If we do not fight and defend our freedoms and rights, they will be taken from us!

Look at history...All of the wars have been about someone taking someones freedom or trying to take someones freedom! It may be ruthless and methodical but we have to keep one step ahead of those people who want to take from us.

I could not nor want to imagine what it was like in the consentration camps of WWII. Not that you would want to but could you imagine what it would be like if North America was over throw and ther were such camps?! If we dont stand up for ourselves then who will.

Yeah young people have given ther lives. But have you ever talked to someone that fought in any of those wars? I have. My grandfather was in the Korean war and WWII. My dad was in Vietnam. My brother was in the Current Fight For Our Freedoms. Im not saying that people have gone to war for the right reasons, but the people that went understood why. Some have different views but I say ask them if it was and is worth it. The majority would say that it is because they know and understand that they were fighting for Freedom. Look at the enrollment of young men and women in the military who VOLUNTEERED and still DO to go and fight for our freedoms and rights!

The point is that the fight is not just outside of North America, it is all around us. The adversary trys every hour, minute, and sec to lie, cheat, and steal from us what Jesus went to the cross for. Our right to be at the right hand of our Father. He trys to sneek in and wisper in our ear to convince us that we are not worthy of the grace or rights to be with God. SF

Jenn said...

Alright - where to start...

Joel - I don't blame people for desiring to defend themselves - pacifism is never going to be a universal concept. As to the Christian and Pacifist thing - they go together - in accordance with the New Testament/New Covenant. The OT wars - we God determined and like I said to Leaha - I'm positive Bush was not given God's blessing on Iraq.

Eric - Thanks

Shelby - Rights removal? Like in the US as they seek to eliminate all the laws they can under the guise of security - the same was the case in Germany - slowly the laws are passed and before you know it you supported your own country's attack on it's self - as seen in Russia/Eastern Block, Spain, China, Cuba etc.

The concentration camps again - read the blog about them - the other side was how were the bombs in Japan any different - families and unarmed whipped out to cripple a country... both thought they were acting within defense.

As to people who have fought - my Oma fought for Germany in WW2 - conscripted, Shawn who posts on this blog was in Iraq. Yes they volunteered - why? Can't answer that, nationalism is a powerful thing - starts wars and maintains them as we see now.

Jesus went to the cross for our freedom from sin, He didn't go for McDonald's, suburbs, Landrovers and big screen tv's or even the Internet. The reality is all we hold as freedom day by day takes the focus from His words, His true desire which was to go make disciples of all Nations, to Love our Neighbor as we would desire to be treated etc.

Read the Irresistible Revolution, War with No End - Arundhati Roy has a good quote about the freedom thing.

"Is it possible to bomb the biogry out of India? Can we bomb our way to a feminist paradise? How is it that women got the vote? Or how was it that slavery was abolished?"

As to the issue of the Holocaust - the longest lasting image will be the binary of the travesty of one man's psychosis and the amazing courage of the underground movements, Shindler and all the unnamed families who gave their lives for their brother or sister - as we are to - but not with a sword. With a weapon we become party to all that we are trying to fight against.

Therrian said...

I agree that peace is the better choice to violence.

However, I do not agree that 100% pacifism is aligned with christianity at all.

It's a case of knowing when it is appropriate to use violence as a means to an end.

And in regards to bombing Japan...Japan was not defending themselves, they were trying to expand their empire at the expense of the Chinese. They attacked the US in the hopes that they would cripple them enough to delay them so that Japan would be able to take a ton of Chine before anyone of consequence stepped in to stop them. Hoping that if they had enough land, that they would be able to keep some/most of it in the peace talks that followed. Now the Japanese people were not to blame, but people will always pay the costs of their governments.

Therrian said...

Oh, and in regards to not thinking that pacifism is aligned with Christianity.

If a police-officer could shoot and kill a terrorist who is about to detonate a bomb that will blow up a church filled with children, do you not think that is a valid use of violence?

Therrian said...

Oh, and lastly...those underground movements were not non-violent. Most of them had to be ruthlessly violent when needed.

Shawn said...

I believe it is totally pointless to argue violence outside the context of what Jesus taught.

cheryl said...

woah, there's too much testosterone in the room. hey joel, you're probably the only one that actually knows who i am, and vice versa. the rest of you may just as well be overweight 46 year old hackers that have tricked jenn into e-friendships, but that's just my two cents because i think joel is a quality friend.

i found out a year or two ago that my cousin, who's like a brother to me because neither of us have siblings, - his father fought in vietnam. that blew me away. his best friend's father flew planes in vietnam, and he himself went through basic training somewhere in south carolina. living in canada (those boys were hawaiian), war is so far away from us...i think it is a lot easier to be a pacifist. and even for those that aren't pacifists - canada never has to choose sides or lend america their backing because if anyone should ever foolishly decide to attack canada, who's going to defend us? we've got some pretty great neighbors to the south, and thankfully so since we don't have any armed forces to speak of.

i went to university with a guy in the army. he was digging trenches the weekend we had to study for our pharmacy board exams. the next weekend he had to FILL the trenches he dug up the week previous. he had a thing for guns and violence, but i also believe he had a thing for ....something greater than that that i can't articulate. the word nationalism when applied to canada just sounds silly. the guy now tends to sick people in a hospital in the lowermainland, and i'm sure still does his army thing on the side.

funny though. out of these three guys

as for war, i've never known quite what to make of it in a christianty context myself, considering all the fighting god "ordained" in the bible. to me, the issue kind of fell to the recesses of my mind, the same way i don't waste energy solidifying my stance on the creation theory - 7 days = 7days / 7 days = hundresds of years / primordial soup / whatever. it doesn't matter, it happened in the past, although i guess the same can't be said about war, because yes, it will always be all around us. but i'm a chick, so why should i care...;)

i remember coming down to the US for vintage car shows with my parents - they'd be weekend long events with dinner/dances. i remember them saying that their table was talking about guns, and every woman at their dinner table pulled a gun from their purse (my mom excluded of course). canadians DON'T bear arms. it's just the way it is. it's such a foreign concept to americans when i say so. that's why it's so safe for me to walk alone down east hastings at midnight maybe your uncle that hunts has some rifles that he has to jump through hoops to register, but we don't store pistols in the glove compartments of our cars.

my fiance is against the idea of personally carrying a gun. and for me, my attacker would probably just end up using it against me so i think i should invest in some pepper spray instead perhaps. so he's against the idea of personal guns, but he'd go fight in a war. he'd fight for freedom, knowing full well he'd never come home. that just blew me away, considering he's the most family-centered, passive guy i know.

cheryl said...

and because everyone probably stopped reading that last comment:

"... both thought they were acting within defense."

war is good and mighty and freedom-giving sure - but it's all about perspective.

i remember being in russia, and the guide showing us the tomb of ivan the great. i was speechless. halfway around the world ivan the terrible was ivan the great. it's all about perspective because everyone thinks they're in the right, so that doesn't necessarily make war noble or always worth fighting for.