>Limits of Nonviolent Action, Part III

In response to Part II, I wrote back with the following comments (see also Part I). And to clarify, the conversation has moved from nonviolence to a discussion of pacifism versus just war tradition.

You are definitely with a majority of Christians when you side with the just war theory — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_War. Should you want to read more about the issues between just war and pacifism, I’d recommend three by John Howard Yoder — (1) Christian Attitudes to War, Peace and Revolution, (2) The Politics of Jesus [not O. Hendricks], and (3) The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking. I read the first two, but so far have only skimmed the third. It looks like a good supplement to the others.

I also haven’t read this, but it may be good (on pacifism). The table of contents has potential — http://www.christianpacifism.com/images/ChristendomandGospel3.doc.

Wikipedia’s Christian pacifism page is weak —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_pacifism — especially the early church part. The section on the early church here is better —http://www.anabaptistchurch.org/pacifist.htm. But an article by Alan Kreider is even better — “MILITARY SERVICE IN THE CHURCH ORDERS.” In one class we had to read a number of the source documents in the controversy behind that article before reading Kreider’s summary of them. If you have access to Ebsco at your university, you should be able to access it, if you ever have time and motivation. It’s also here — http://www.jstor.org/pss/40008336 and http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9795.00146/abstract.

As I mentioned, part of the question for Christians in deciding between just war and pacifism (to me, “blank check” is not a moral alternative, even if it appears to be the most common practice of “Christians”), is deciding how to weight or value different portions of scripture. At this point I believe historians have shown the “earliest” early church to be primarily opposed to military participation, a stance based on the teachings of Jesus and Paul. They favored the new creation, the new humanity as kingdom citizens, over the OT experience and thought under the theocracy. But this reality and motivation is not without debate as outlined in the books and links above.

Bumper stickers aren’t the best place to turn for wisdom, but this one is catchy — http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiless/2627167258/. I’ve seen it in our parking lot a few times.

You might appreciate writings of Reinhold Niebuhr —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhold_Niebuhr — as a strong proponent of just war. Naturally, Mennonites engaged him at a significant level since they are a historic peace church —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_church. One of the main issues debated was “social responsibility.” Were Mennonites irresponsible by being pacifist? Yoder dealt with this at length.

The history of Adventism on this issue is interesting. We started as opposed to military service. In fact, two early members were disfellowshiped for joining the Union army. More on that history here — http://adventistpeace.org/465400. And my summary of the history is here — https://pacificador99.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/sda-militarism.pdf.

This seems to be a pretty thorough collection of biblical writings on pacifism or nonresistance — http://www.plowcreek.org/bible_pacifism.htm. And this author, who I met last year, has a reference to the “blank check” I mentioned above (paragraph 4 and other) — http://thinkingpacifism.net/2011/03/07/world-war-ii-and-the-limits-of-%E2%80%9Cjust-war%E2%80%9D-thought-early-reflections/.

It’s interesting how social location affects the kinds of questions we ask and conclusions we come to. For example, I said earlier that most of us won’t face this question (pacifism vs. just war). But that comes from my social location in a country with conscientious objection and currently a volunteer army.

It’s interesting how social location affects the kinds of questions we ask and conclusions we come to. For example, I said earlier that most of us won’t face this question (pacifism vs. just war). But that comes from my social location in a country with conscientious objection and currently a volunteer army.

I say “often.” That is stating it too strongly.

A bit more about “social location.” Living in a rich country, I’m caught up in the R2P conversation. This was not a debate in the early Christian church because they had a very different social location pre-Constantine and pre-Christendom. Which makes me ask questions about how closely I should align myself with empire and military power, and to what degree should I take a stance similar to the early church that says the real action isn’t in the empire’s military or economy (so utterly mixed — https://pacificador99.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/three-cups-of-freshly-squeezed-ethical-juice/ ) but it’s in giving my life for the Kingdom of Peace, a kingdom that never destroys people to advance its cause.

My response has been to step back from the details you’ve presented and [try] to add additional perspectives — just war, pacifism, early church, early Adventism, biblical material. Oh, and I should have shared these two books addressing just war — Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory (Lisa Sowle Cahill) and Just and Unjust Wars (Michael Walzer).

Walzer was a professor of my professor when getting his PhD in political science from Harvard. I can imagine you appreciating a range of thoughts from Walzer — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Walzer.

Okay, one last things from Greg Boyd as I wrap up for today — http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/kingdom-living/does-following-jesus-rule-out-serving-in-the-military-if-a-war-is-just/.

Here’s a paragraph from that link; it’s pretty strong, as compared with how I generally approach this: [W]hy should kingdom people assume that considerations of whether violence is “justified” or not have any relevance to whether a kingdom person engages in violence? Jesus is our Lord, not a human-constructed notion of justice. And neither Jesus nor any other New Testament author ever qualified their prohibitions on the use of violence. As George Zabelka remarked, the just war theory is “something that Christ never taught or even hinted at.” (1) We are not to resist evildoers or return evil with evil – period. We are to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, bless those who persecute us, pray for people who mistreat us and return evil with good – period. On what grounds can someone insert into this clear, unqualified teaching the massive exception clause – “unless violence is ‘justified’”?

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