By Rachel Hester
I was talking to one of my friends about the burden in my heart about my friend Michael going to the military, and I noticed that one of the other things that came up was how some people genuinely feel like G-d is calling them to go to the military.
My main concern for Michael's not going is his spiritual wellness, and whether if going to the military or not would advance or detract from the Kingdom being furthered. Michael, although he doesn't want to be in combat, feels like the Lord wants Him in combat. My friend Laurel was asking me questions such as, do i believe that Christians who are going to the military and feel like they are called to be there by the Lord, are disobeying the voice of G-d? Is it fair for us to say that refusing to support the military is against G-d, and that a voice that tells us to go to the military is definitely not the Lord's? Or could we consider that maybe the Lord may call us to the military for other purposes?
I think one thing that we can do is to talk to our brothers and sisters about it, and why they feel the way they do, and also pray for them.
I think because of the fact that non-violence is hardly ever talked about in church, we feel like we don't have any options when it comes to opposing violence, and I think that is why non-violence is often seen to be synonymous with passivity. Usually when I mention non-violence, I always receive at least one remark saying that the Lord calls us to brutal, ugly war. But, I have always thought that the war we face was more of a spiritual war, and that non-violence is part of that spiritual battle.
She also asked me, that if we believe in using non-violence in real life situations, what should we do? She believes that violence can be necessary in being able to defend ourselves, and that there is a time for everything. She gave me scenarios, such as if a group were to storm a brothel, and rescue women there, and if there were crazy men who were threatening to kill everyone, should we kill those men to defend the women?
I told her that I really didn't know what to do, but I believed that there must be another way, but perhaps we just haven't figured out another way yet. These are hard questions, and it is hard to think of such a situation where innocent people are being threatened and killed, and whether we can allow someone who may not understand why some of us choose not to be violent to be threatened, because of the fact that we do choose non-violence. It would be wonderful for us to have a way where we do choose not to be violent, but we can also say that we didn't choose to do nothing, because we did do something to defend these innocent people.
All I know is that non-violent love is definitely not a passive love. And I think that when Christians teach Christians about non-violence, that that is definitely something that needs to be mentioned. By no means, if a man is hungry, will we just pray and not do anything about it, but we will feed the man himself. There are times, where we use common sense, and we know that we are the answer to our prayers.
This is so complex. But, now I'm thinking about how we are told, that nothing is impossible for G-d.
My other concern is that Christ's turning the tables (in the Gospels) is often used as a way to defend violence. But, I think Christ's turning the tables and forcing people out of the temple is not to be confused with violence and showing a lack of mercy.
Perhaps it is our definition of what violence is that is unclear. I think violence is whatever causes folks to live apart from mercy and peace and encourages destruction and or self-destruction. How do you define violence? How does PFC define violence?
Laurel also argued that in the New Testament, when Christ returns, that he will be violent. Since he'll be on horseback and wielding a sword, (she thinks) that he isn't about peace, but rather justice. I always thought that his justice would end in peace, but would require a lot of work. I don't know how I feel about assuming that his coming with a sword on horseback will result in violence and lack of mercy. I honestly don't know how I feel about this type of "coming back with sword on horseback" argument or rebuttal, as:
1. I'm not very educated on the book of Revelations and the way it is written and intended to be read, and
2. i know she's a huge fan of Mark Driscoll, and I typically don't know what to believe about some of the things he says about the character of G-d/Jesus. Furthermore, she said that as long as we live in a broken world, that violence will remain as a means of defense that we will have to resort to.
But I don't believe that we HAVE to resort to it. I do believe we can find another way, if Jesus did tell us to turn the other cheek. I feel like turning the other cheek is best explained by MLK's (statement, that) "We will wear you down with our love".
I told her that even the idea of applying non-violence in our lives as a means to follow Jesus Christ, is something that even I, which despite the fact that I want to believe that Jesus calls Christians to live in self-sacrificial love, cannot even fathom how non-violence makes sense, other than the fact that refusing to continue the pattern of violence may encourage others to put down the sword as well.
I think to follow Christ in a life of non-violence is something that requires a lot of faith and wisdom and lots of love.
I know that in the Old Testament, violent acts where done out of faith until Christ came and fulfilled the law and gave us all these new instructions. Paul even warns us later in the New Testament, that if we even have faith to move mountains, but have no love, that we are doing it in vain, and what we have is nothing.
Shouldn't our faith be motivated by love by power of the Holy Spirit? Because Christ has loved us, and shown his mercy to us, that we extend that to others, by committing to non-violence? Are we not to tell if our actions and decisions are of the Holy Spirit if they produce the fruits of the spirit, such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – remembering “that against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-25)
I think that if we love our friends and enemies the same, that we will find that the non-violence, if done in love, will lead us to producing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I almost though, feel like believing that Christ calls us to non-violence in all situations, and not just certain situations, is seen to be very idealistic and unrealistic to most people. Maybe that is why it is such a hard topic.
I hope that my thoughts that I'm presenting can be productive, though. I really appreciate Laurel presenting to me these thoughts, as they really help me, too, and I hope they help you guys in being able to affirm what we believe, and have the courage to teach these ideas, with the ability to present common concerns and thoughts, and also the courage to live it out.
I was reading an article called "To Teach What Jesus Taught: A Call to Fidelity" by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy. He talks about why teaching non-violence is so difficult, and lots of other things.
Teaching non-violence, according to this article, is something that would result in many of us giving up a lot; a lot of us wouldn't have the income we have, which would trouble a lot of Christians who are not ready to bear such a discipline as voluntary poverty. I think that it is an interesting perspective to read in preparing for Pacifist Fight Club, especially because of the fact that you guys will be talking a lot about war and militarism.
You can read the article online here>
Violence tends to be more intertwined with economic situation and riches (or lack of) more than I thought.
What do you think? Do you think non-violence can be practiced in faith in all situations? Or do you think it should only be practiced in certain situations? And why do you think these things?
I want to believe that even though the non-violent life and committing to non-violent action in violent situations is tricky, scary, "impractical", and threatens our security, that it can do a lot to show the love of G-d; His mercy and patience.
I think that because Christ lived a non-violent life, that that says a lot about how grand his love and patience and mercy and grace for us is like.
I think our views on non-violence pretty much reveal how we see G-d, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
It is really hard. I pray that we can have the faith and wisdom to figure these things out together, not just within Pacifist Fight Club, but in the church as well.
I hope my thoughts aren't too jumbled and unorganized.
Your sister in the faith,
P.S. I've grown up not punching my sister when she punches me and beats me up, and i guess i'm still okay. ;)