All posts tagged Pacifism

  • “You’re Not A Pacifist Are You?”


    “You’re not a pacifist are you?”

    I get that question a lot. People who have read my books or heard my sermons will often “confront” me with that question. There seems to be a hint of scandal implied in the question, like asking, “you’re not a pornographer are you?” This strikes me as a bit strange. I suppose the hint of scandal comes from the assumption that pacifism is a sort of cousin to cowardice. This also strikes me as strange. To endorse the dominant view that the employment of violence is compatible with Christianity requires no courage at all — that’s just following the crowd. But to differ from the dominant view on the sanctity of state-sponsored violence may require an uncommon reservoir of moral conviction. Pacifism is not a popular position in America, and especially not among patriotic evangelicals who have ardently sought to amalgamate the American state and the Christian faith into one hybrid entity. Still I know what you’re wondering: what’s my answer to the loaded question about pacifism?

    First of all, I don’t like labels. Kierkegaard was right when he said, “when you label me, you negate me.” Just call someone a pacifist and you can dismiss them with a wave of your hand. Labels are often a way to avoid thinking. “Oh, he’s one of those.” Case closed. Mind closed. That being said, I have no problem with Christians who adopt the label of pacifist — if nothing else they provide an alternative witness to that of the Christian militarist whose numbers are legion.

    But I actually don’t claim the label of pacifist, and for this reason: pacifism is a political position on violence; it’s a position one could adopt apart from Jesus Christ — as for example the great writer and humanist Kurt Vonnegut did. But I am not a political pacifist. What I am is a Christian. And as a Christian we can talk about how Christ informs humanity on the subject of violence.
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