“Pacifism is not a monolithic stance or approach to war, violence, or politics. There are varieties of it.”
The first chapter of the book distinguished between pacifism and passivity.
Long doesn’t pretend all this is easy. He’s a reluctant pacifist who came from a military family. He doesn’t let us choose pacifism for some bogus reason. He rejects that liberal pacifism where we just say we hate war but perpetuate the conditions that make war “necessary”. He rejects the notion that war is bad because all soldiers are bloodthirsty savages. Many soldiers are and have been decent, loving, exceptional, faithful people who seem to be incapable of harboring hate, and what we call good soldiering requires “self sacrifice, disciplined community, and moral attentiveness.” He rejects the notion that pacifists are better because they don’t like war and everyone else does. Practically nobody loves war (except immature American boys who play Call of Duty all day and think war would be fun). Even the most battle-hardened want to avoid it, with few exceptions. So we can’t reject violence for cheap reasons.
Long also reminds us that there are different “pacifisms” (you might even call true adherents to strict ‘just war’ theory a kind of pacifist and get away with it, I suppose). “Different kinds of pacifism oppose violence for different and incommensurable reasons. Pacifism is not a monolithic stance or approach to war, violence, or politics.”
Your commitment to what you believe shouldn’t be cheap and reductive. Weigh these things out.
So if we’re going to make this commitment it can’t be cheap and dishonest. Why did Long make his commitment? Because, he says, it wasn’t war and violence, but the peace of Jesus, that haunted him. Pacifism, he says, haunts the church. “Are we willing to let others die for our convictions?” is a term that can haunt us in two ways. In one way we ask, “am I willing to kill a man for what I believe?” In another way we ask, “should what I believe lead me to ‘allow’ the innocent to die?”
That is, the easier step is accepting that I will not use violence to protect myself. The harder question is what will I do for my neighbor. It’s a dilemma Long does not avoid: If I love my neighbor I will protect him; If I love my enemy I will not kill him. How is this resolved?
Christianity has been individualized in America, and so if we accept pacifism we tend to do it only so far—I will not use violence for myself, but maybe I will for others. Jesus gave us a faith both individual and communal, however.
Faithful Christians must decide between two routes: absolute pacifism and just war theory. Not the “just war” that says “do what is necessary to preserve peace and prosperity,” for that is sinful thinking, but true just war theory, which says that after all possible measure of peace have been exhausted, we must regretfully resort to violence to protect innocent life.
However, if I am a just war theorist and my problem with pacifism is that it “allows innocent people to die,” then I must admit that the same is true under my conviction, for it is inevitable that in war the innocent will be “allowed to die” as collateral.
So if people are going to die, and we can’t stop it, that sounds depressing. In the most logical of terms, it would seem we should kill the bad and keep the good alive to make life better. If there was no life after this one, that would be the logical route. Kill of the bad and keep the good alive, supposing we could objectively determine which is which.
But then there’s the resurrection. See, Christian nonviolence isn’t about being against violence so much as it is about being for Jesus. The God, the king, the suffering servant who died and resurrected. Not to mention ascended. If we believe in the resurrection, then “letting people die” is not the end. “Letting people die by others’ hands” when no non-violent solution will prevent it isn’t losing. It is letting death win a battle, when you know it has already lost the war.
Our discussion of peace should always center on Jesus, how he lived, what he is, and what he asks of us. Long reminds us that Jesus submitted to wrongful violence in order to bring healing from it, “yet we were commanded not to defend him[…]If ever there were a reason to use the sword, it would have been when he was arrested.”
Yet he struck that option down.
And we have to remember, from what was discussed in part one (the first chapter), that Christian passion-ism is far from inactive. If my neighbor is attacked, I do not simply sit here and pray that the attacker quit. I throw myself in there in whatever i can to peacefully resolve the situation. Even if I choose to use force, it would be wrong for me to try to kill the attacker as one of my goals in the situation. My rights as a citizen of whatever country have no bearing. I made a commitment to the Prince of Peace.
But if you were my neighbor, and you were being attacked, I would do what I could to save you. But I also care for the life of your attacker. If you’re a Christian, you will understand this (I hope). I will do what is in my power to halt the act and save as many as I can from destruction, including saving my soul from the moral destruction of not following Christ. For now, I know that much.
So what are your struggles with the friction between loving neighbors and loving enemies? Are we called to love one more than the other?
If peacemaking is not inactive, is it not cheap to assume that a pacifist will do nothing if you are attacked?
And if we are not to make cheap arguments against violence of any sort, and you call yourself pacifist, are you doing so for fair reasons?
[next is chapter 3, in which we ask, “what if someone was attacking a loved one“?]