Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Thoughts about "Just War" / Pacifism

If you heard the sermon, you realize the problem: Jesus is a clear advocate of non-violence whenever he is speaking of the kingdom he calls us to embody, and yet Paul speaks of the need for the government to bear the sword as an instrument to curb evil. Through the ages, the church has sought to reconcile these two things and has often done so by embracing one truth at the expense of the other. I'm of the conviction that we need to wrestle with the tension inherent in the teachings and seek to become people of peace who understand that, in a fallen world, the day may come when we will be called to war for the sake of preserving the life, dignity, and freedom of either our own nation or others. This position too, creates many problems, but we need to be willing to live in these tensions if we are to be faithful.

Here are few questions to provoke our thinking on this issue. If you missed the sermon, you'll be able to get it online on June 14th at the Bethany website.

Feel free to share, regardless of where you stand on the just war/pacifist continuim, how you see the following issues:

1. What are the main reasons you hold the position you do?
2. What are the challenges inherent in your position? How do you deal with them?
3. How can a community dialogue together on these things if the community is diverse in their beliefs on these matters?


At 12/6/05 22:19, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a difference between non-violence and pacifism? You can be a non-violent activist, but can you be a pacifist activist? That sounds like an oxymoron! When I think of pacifism I think of words such as surrender or cowardice or the French (a.k.a. cheese loving surrender monkeys). I put myself in the non-violence category, but not in the pacifist category. There are many examples of non-violent movements that were much more effective because of their refusal to use violence. Jim Wallis’ book, “God’s Politics” talks about Desmond Tutu’s non-violent struggle to defeat apartheid in South Africa and Dr. M.L. King Jr.’s non-violent struggle for civil rights in our own country not so long ago. Would either of these men be called pacifists?

I think there are two main things we must work toward. First, as the Christian community we must offer an alternative to the traditional two choices of either war or pacifism. I believe Christ calls us to actively work towards finding non-violent solutions towards the wrongs of this world. That is why the Bible says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” not peace-lovers. That means requiring that our leaders not rush to war after feigning they’ve tried everything. I believe Christ calls us to never stop trying.

Secondly, as you mentioned in the sermon today, we must demand that poverty be dealt with. For the first time in our history we have the means and the technology to end world hunger – we only lack the will to do so. That is not acceptable for people who claim to believe in the “sanctity of life”. Imagine if the US had put the $200 billion we’ve spent so far in Iraq into ending poverty and hunger around the world. Where would the “War On Terror” be today?

Regarding your last question, I believe that there are many things our Christian community can agree on - despite the difference of opinions on war. We can all agree that poverty needs attention, even if you don’t believe it can lead to violence. That’s a start, and if we can conquer that, I have faith that many other issues will follow.

Thanks for the chance to dialogue - I wish we could have more open discussions about this topic!

Tiffany McClurg

At 13/6/05 11:48, Anonymous Josh Mabie said...

Thank you for this wonderful series that you have begun! I especially appreciate the foundation you began laying a couple of weeks ago before you began the specific issues. Last night during your sermon, the passage you read from I Peter seemed a perfect example of the importance of letting the person of Christ penetrate our hearts that you spoke about two weeks ago. As I heard you read, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed,” I couldn’t help but think of the story of Jesus arrest in the garden. Peter’s words to us are almost exactly what Christ said to him in Gesthemane, “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’” It seems that Peter, the man of action, never forgot this stern rebuke from the perfect lamb about to be led to the slaughter. It also appears that Peter’s theology of violence was forever changed by this interaction with the person of Christ.

As a somewhat related sidenote. . .
As I was looking back over the stories of Jesus’ arrest through the gospels, I came across a very interesting verse in Luke. Luke’s version of the story is just slightly different than the others; Luke writes in chapter 22,
“When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man's ear and healed him.
I guess I had always just taken for granted that Peter had a sword; but when I stop to think about it now, I wonder what Peter and the rest of the followers of the Prince of Peace were doing with swords? Does this mean that the disciples always carried swords? Did they have them at the Last Supper? At the feeding of the 5000? At the Sermon on the Mount (imagine how awkward you would feel with a sword at your side when Jesus says to turn the other cheek!)? Before Jesus called them when they were just fishemen? Or did they just borrow swords for that evening because they expected trouble?
In the end, I guess these questions are not that important; whether or not Peter carried a sword throughout his time as a disciple, I would think that he probably did not carry one after than night in the Garden.

But the questions do impact how I picture the disciples. . .

At 13/6/05 15:15, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Luke 22:35-38 answers the question about the swords. Jesus actually instructs his disciples to buy swords on the night of his arrest. Though this is sometimes used as a rationale to justify violence, the reason Jesus advocates the purchase of swords was so that he might be 'numbered among the transgessors' and so fulfill prophecy.

At 14/6/05 15:26, Blogger David Gerlach said...

Am burning the mp3 to a CD so I can listen to this in my Jeep. Hot topic!

I am not a pacifist and don't believe in violence, at least not in the way the term is commonly used. I do participate in events, causes, letter writing and such to protest violence.

I will surely have something more to say after I listen to this.

I have been enjoying the series.

At 15/6/05 12:45, Blogger David Gerlach said...

in response to "Is there a difference between non-violence and pacifism? You can be a non-violent activist, but can you be a pacifist activist?"

Yes you can be a pacifist activist. Such is the communal life of the Hutterites and others. They live a life that crosses culture in many ways by the choices they make. Early on in the Iraq debate I was very attracted to this stance. I had several email threads going with some communes. To make your whole way of life support peace is total activism at its highest.

But alas I did not give in to such simplicity! This issue is too complex and being in a Christian cloister is not the best approach and is at the total polar extreme to being a hawk.


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