non-violence

PC07 Update

Thursday night: Swanky French restaurant (an amazing older couple in Boston took us out)
Friday night: homemade chicken noodle soup
Saturday: Oatmeal and free subs at the Boston Indoor Games track meet
Sunday: Leftover chicken noodle; spaghetti with meatsauce

Reflection from the weekend: We normally like to share leftover food with our neighbors if we make too much, but since this competition started, we haven’t been making enough food to do so.  We miss the sharing aspect of meals!

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I recently got an e-mail from a kind reader of this blog inquiring about the anti-war / nonviolence sentiments that have emerged from time to time on this blog. It made me realize that I probably need to briefly explain where I stand on the subject. Here is a portion of my response to the inquisitive reader:

I recognize and accept my naivete on the issue of war. I have never been to war. I have never lived where my safety was compromised on a daily basis. I probably do not have the best credentials to speak intelligently about war and violence, because to this point in my life, these things have been far from me. I acknowledge this.

But I still hold to the belief that war is a product of a fallen world which God is working to “put to rights” (N.T. Wright’s phrase), and that Christians should strongly consider a position of nonviolence in this world (as we model God’s intended purposes for the world ourselves). Trust me, I struggled with scripture and community discernment, reading several works on all sides of the nonviolence / just war debate, to come to where I stand today. These convictions were not made quickly or without much thought and prayer. I don’t have time to explain exhaustively the manifold rationale behind a Christian commitment to nonviolence, but I can say that there have always been factions of Christians who oppose war and violence of any kind, and their reasons are thought-out and intelligent. Throughout history, Christians have been “conscientious objectors” to war and politics for this reason.

Here are a few documents (stolen from kendallball.com) that might shed some light on this point-of-view, which is ancient. The most common (and unfair) critique I hear about this point of view is that it is alligned with modern liberalism or that it ignores the bravery of women and men who have fought for our nation’s “freedom.” Truth be told, the classical manifestation of this position is older than either liberalism or the United States …

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=6889
http://paceebene.org/pace/stories-of-nonviolence-in-action/2000-year-old-example-of-nonvio

http://www.kendallball.com/2006/09/25/nonviolence-works-gladys-aylward/

Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship and John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus also speak to this issue in greater depth, and I would strongly recommend various chapters fro both books.

However “inevitable” war may be, I maintain that the Christian must hope and advocate for the world that God dreams about — a world void of hatred, violence, jealousy, and oppression. We will not see the completion of God’s dream (the “reign of God”) until the end, but God is calling His people to begin to live out the values of that kingdom here and now. (“…your Kingdom come…”)

But non-violence and opposition to war is obviously only one way that the colony of Christ-followers is salt and light in this world, and thus I believe there is room for disagreement on this issue. The son or daughter of a WWII veteran (or the WWII vet him/herself) may never come to a point at which they condemn all war, because it’s just too hard to separate the concept from personal relationships with fallen comrades in the foxholes. I am sympathetic to this … I really am. And truth be told, I love living in America, whose freedoms have largely come as a result of the sacrifice of these brave people. So though slightly conflicted, I still maintain an ethic of nonviolence for myself and my family, and oppose the use of force on a larger scale. This is part of my discipleship, and I cannot apologize for it.

Duke professor and theologian Stanley Hauerwas wrote a guest column for the Charlotte Observer in the early 1990s, when the “gays in the military” issue was on the front burner. Hauerwas &emdash; an ethicist and pacifist &emdash; thought it “a wonderful thing that some people are excluded [from war] as a group,” and wished “only that Christians could be seen as problematic by the military as gays.” Here’s the last few powerful paragraphs of the column, titled “Why Gays (as a group) are Morally Superior to Christians (as a group)”:

Concentration on just war reflection is probably too abstract a way to imagine how Christians as a group might become suspect for military service. Far more likely are Christian behaviors and practices. Christians, for example, might be bad for morale in barracks. For example, non-Christians may find it disconcerting to have a few people gathering nightly holding hands with heads bowed. God knows what kind of disgusting behavior in which they might be engaged.

Even more troubling is what they might say to one another in such a group. Christians are asked to pray for the enemy. Could you really trust people in your unit who think the enemy’s life is as valid as their own or their fellow soldier? Could you trust someone who would think it more important to die than to kill unjustly? Are these people fit for the military?

Prayer, of course, is a problem. But even worse is what Christians do in corporate worship. Think about the meal, during which they say they eat and drink with their God. They do something called “pass the peace.” They even say they cannot come to this meal with blood on their hands. People so concerned with sanctity would be a threat to the military.

Having them around is no fun. They think they ought to keep their promises. They think that fidelity matters. They do not approve of the sexual license long thought to be a way of life and legitimate for those facing the danger of battle. Their loyalty is first to God, and then to their military commanders. How can these people possibly be trusted to be good soldiers?

Finally, consider the problem of taking showers with these people. They are, after all, constantly going on about the business of witnessing in the hopes of making converts to their God and church. Would you want to shower with such people? You never know when they might try to baptize you.

If gays can be excluded as a group from the military, I have hope that it could even happen to Christians. God, after all, has done stranger things in the past.

However, until God works this miracle, it seems clear to me that gays, as a group, are morally superior to Christians. (taken from The Hauerwas Reader, Duke University Press, 2003)

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