Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an aspiring pacifist. I am vocal about my thoughts on war, but I am also more vocal on my ignorance toward how to fix these problems. When I came to Mount Olive College my freshman year, I was hit with strong pacifist views that opened my eyes to the world in which I had neglected to accept. I read the likes of John Howard Yoder, Shane Claiborne, Martin Luther King jr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanley Hauerwas, and, of course, Jesus. Reading these books messed up my safe, little world in which I could justify violence and ignore its consequences. This experience is one that I am still recovering from.
I remember after reading Claiborne’s Jesus for President, I sat down with my closest friends to work through what I had been dealing with in my studies. My group of friends who we called the “The Crew,” all went to the same southern Baptist church, and in some sense, agreed on most theological ideas. We basically lived together and spent a lot of time talking about church and what it should look like. But after being exposed to the theologians above, I am not sure they were at all ready for what I had to say that night in our meeting at my house. Looking back, I should have been a little more cautious in my words, but I am still much the same today in my views.
I recall after the meeting we went our separate ways. Camille and I stopped going to the church we all attended for various reasons, and our group slowly fell apart. On leaving the church, I don’t know if it was the airplane drop of easter eggs, or the 900 people clapping in favor of something that disgusted me, but I realized it was time for a change. I am still convinced to this day that the talk our group of friends had that night changed everything, and ultimately contributed to the group dissipating. That was a turning point in my life. That was when I actually started to take the words of Jesus seriously and when I started to believe that the Sermon on the Mount was not just a suggestion.
On pacifism, I cannot say I am completely confident in my choice. I struggle with it everyday. I am an advocate, as most of you know and have read, of reading both sides of the story. I would like to say that I would sacrifice myself, and that I would lay down my arms in the name of Jesus. But sometimes it’s not that easy. I can only hope to aspire to be a pacifist. What I will not do though, is try to justify that killing or war is right, even though at times it may be necessary. I may be forced to punch you in the face to protect my fiancée, but that does not mean that it was the right thing to do. Necessary violence just proves the brokeness of our world, a brokeness which many people would classify as sin. When we do accept war and violence as the only option, we have lost all hope in the slaughtered lamb and the power behind love. It is times like this when I wish I could sit down with John Howard Yoder and ask the difficult questions. I will never say that pacifism is the easy way to fix all problems. But I will say that if we do engage in war, we must be repentant, and never celebrate it.
Here, Here, and Here are a few links to some thoughts on war from Stanley Hauerwas, which I believe gives a realistic approach to war with Christian ideals in mind. Thanks to Dr. Hollis Phelps for the links.