For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ. — Philippians 3:20, JB
As a Quaker, I frequently have to consider or defend my more pacifist leanings. As a Quaker in Texas, I am asked if I am “packing,” and if not, I am asked why. The truth is, I settled into Christian pacifism long before I settled into Quakerism. For me, it just makes sense as a way of discipleship.
I get all the questions and arguments about it. How do we stop evil people who don’t value human life? Are no wars justifiable, even if they are to help people? What about defending one’s family?
These are serious questions that merit serious consideration, but for today, I am simply sharing how I feel about this subject. You are free to disagree. I don’t think you’re some war-mongering demon if you keep a pistol in your nightstand or served in the military. It’s just not my way.
For me, pacifism is in line with Christ’s teachings. We are to love and pray for our enemies, not kill them, even if they persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Jesus sets the example for this by washing the feet of Judas (John 13:1-20) and accepting the abuse and humilitation of the cross.
Paul, the writer of Christianity’s earliest texts, teaches the faithful to “Never repay evil with evil but let everyone see that you are interested only in the highest ideals” (Romans 12:17). Keep in mind that early Christians were being arrested, beaten, and killed regularly. The movement also grew in spite of such a gentle response to persecution and attepted annihilation.
In addition to these more faith-specific reasons for living peacefully, I also simply think it makes sense. If I combat evil using that evil’s tactics, I’m really not much better. I am just more accepted by the world because I conformed to the world’s current standards. In short, the world as it is and all of its violence proves to be insurmountable.
I simply can’t go that way.
Now, is this an effective way of forming government policy? I doubt it. Governments and national bodies are representations of humanity’s need to own and control, and so that’s how they will function.
With that said, I simply will do my best not to help. I chose not to enlist though that had originally been my plan. I locked my guns away, and refuse to carry them. I vote for more diplomatic approaches to global relations. I practice forgiveness in my everyday life (traffic still gets me, ARGH!), and I don’t kill creatures that trespass in my home, whether bugs or in-laws (JOKE).
Do my taxes still go to defense? Of course. I don’t know how I can help that. Will I tackle someone threatening my family? Yep. But I also give to Wounded Warrior to put effort into healing the wounds of war, and I will not jump to lethal means of self-defense. In these ways I am still more peace-oriented than I have been in the past, and I can accept the remaining inconsistencies.
A takeaway from this for anyone, regardless of their stance on justified violence, is that we need to consider the ways in which we are positively affecting the world and how much we are letting the world’s negative aspects determine our choices. The person of faith is to be a stranger in a strange land on this earth, living for something different, something higher. How we each embrace that calling is individually determined, and for me, it means as steadfast a devotion to peace as I can manage.
In that spirit I say, “Peace be with you!”