My pacifism. Sorta.

by K.W. Leslie, 27 July

Since I wrote that piece about how Christ Jesus expects us, his followers, to be peacemakers and practice nonviolence, naturally I got some pushback from my conservative friends.

Of course they pitched me all the usual objections. Some with compassion, some with scoffing; it all depends on whether these were knee-jerk reactions, or they were actually trying to understand where I’m coming from. If we reduce people to nothing more than their points of view, of course we’re more likely to fight ’em than love ’em. But that’s another discussion.

You might have some of these objections yourself:

  • What, d’you wanna open up all the jails and let the murderers and pedos run free?
  • Are you suggesting we abolish the military, and let America’s enemies have at us? [I live in an Air Force town, and have a number of Air Force and Army relatives, so this is a big deal.]
  • If some madman is about to harm your family and loved ones, would you just let him?

It’s not like these questions never crossed my mind. They certainly did when I was more political than Christian, and would argue against pacifism.

To be blunt, these arguments are meant to appeal to my, and everyone’s, fleshly nature. Our sense of outrage at wrongs being done to innocent people. Our tendency to demand vengeance. If someone threatens to grievously harm me and mine, shouldn’t I want them stopped by any means possible? And if I don’t—if I resist those natural impulses which every ordinary, “healthy” human being oughta have—what is wrong with me? There is, people worry, something sociopathic about anyone who swims against such a massive tide.

Especially since most folks would totally kill anyone who dared to harm them and theirs. Not only would they kill ’em, they’d sleep quite soundly about it afterwards. Or so they imagine. Perhaps they oughta have a chat with cops and soldiers who actually have killed people in the line of duty, and see how they dealt with it—assuming they have.

But—to continue to be blunt—these vengeance fantasies are as unlike Jesus as they come.

Yeah, it’s pragmatic to want to defend your family and friends and homeland. Actions oughta have consequences. Evil oughta be stopped. But you know Jesus—assuming you do know Jesus: He doesn’t want anybody to die. That’s why he came into the world, remember? Jn 3.16

Of course there are gonna be those who insist the “should not perish” part of John 3.16 has to do with eternal perishing in hell, not death. Usually these’d be the Christians who think the point of the gospel is heaven, not life; and who are trying to find a loophole which permits ’em a little death here and there.

And of course I may understand Jesus’s point of view, and totally agree with it… but when push comes to shove, and I’m faced with someone who’s threatening my family, I have a bad feeling I’m gonna fail Jesus and really mess the perpetrator up.

I’m not perfect, y’know. Working on it though.

Inconsistent conservatism.

I grew up a political conservative, as regular readers know. Still have a lot of conservative friends. Mostly because I’m still an Evangelical, and white Evangelicals in the United States heavily lean conservative. The only reason I don’t lean as conservative as they, is because we have different methods of following the Holy Spirit: I presume I’m wrong, and try to figure out how Jesus thinks about any particular political issue. Whereas more Christians, regardless of their political persuasion, presume they’re right, that Jesus thinks exactly like they do, and everyone else is not simply wrong but heretic.

So it makes it kinda impossible to have political conversations with certain Christians. They’re not willing to second-guess their convictions: They’re pretty sure that’s how the devil leads you astray. They’re not willing to give me the benefit of the doubt: They’re pretty sure I’ve already been led astray.

Still, I’m gonna try to make ’em think consider their convictions just a bit. So here’s how I begin.

Of the conservatives I know, very few of ’em trust the government. They still hold to Ronald Reagan’s old joke as if it’s gospel, “The most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ” Government can’t be trusted to do anything right, nor run it efficiently, nor morally. Always, always true.

Unless it comes to the military, and criminal sentencing.

In the case of the military, patriotism tends to kick in and take over. We gotta respect the troops and honor their service and sacrifices. If they make a bad call, and kill a bunch of innocents, or commanders accidentally get a bunch of our soldiers killed… well that’s rotten luck. But all the rage ordinarily directed at Congress or the Department of Motor Vehicles? Point any of it at the military and you’re a traitor.

Sometimes this mindset also applies to the cops… unless you’re nonwhite, you’ve been hassled aplenty by the cops for no good reason, and you realize they don’t deserve our unswerving loyalty. There’s a bit of friction between white and nonwhite conservatives over that one. I’ll set that aside for now, though.

Then there’s criminal sentencing. At this point we’re not tapping into people’s patriotism; we’re tapping into their vengeance. People wanna see criminals get punished. Especially if they’ve been crime victims. So when a murderer gets sentenced to death, about 80 percent of Americans are still in favor of the state carrying out that execution. Especially those conservatives who would never, ever let any other segment of the state bureaucracy have that level of power over life and death.

Patriotism and vengeance. Both of these emotions easily override every conservative’s hangups about government. Make ’em stop questioning, stop doubting, stop demanding the government stay out of such things. Make ’em willing to trust our government with the power of life and death. Lemme repeat three key words of that sentence: Trust our government. What’re conservatives doing trusting our government with anything, much less death?

I’ve asked more than one conservative this question, and they really don’t care to answer it. Like I said, they’re not willing to second-guess their convictions.

Me, I gotta reanalyze everything I think in light of Christ Jesus. 2Co 10.5 So I gotta ask.