Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Truth About Peacemaking

I have been meaning to respond to a message (below) that I recieved in another discussion on another forum during a conversation instigated with a book review and exchange about Ann Coulter and her inflammatory and vitriolic style. I had made some of the same arguments and statements that can be found elsewhere on this blog- visit this link for the original context:

-and this is what was said in return just before further posting on this topic was cut off:

From Jerry Morningstar

Scott - thanks for all the information on the decision to drop the bomb. However - I still disagree with your overall position. When a nation is treacherously attacked the way the US was at Pearl Harbor - dragged into a war they were not seeking - they get to choose how to end the war with the smallest cost in lives of their own soldiers. The reality is that Japan was dragging its feet in surrendering - there is documentation that even the women were trained to to fight to the death with spears should an island invasion occur. There is no question - more Americans would have died. Your information cites the fact that US pow's believed they may have been killed if the Japanese govt. had not collapsed so quickly.

I sympathize with pacifists from the standpoint that there is much that is abhorrent in any kind of war.

But - in a sinful world where there are struggles for power and domination - God says a state has a right to defend itself however that must take place. Oftentimes that will involve the use of force and violence.

One illustration:
Suppose you are sitting upstairs in your house and you hear a young woman scream - you look outside and two thugs are accosting a woman in the street - you run outside and tell them to leave her alone - they refuse and push you to the ground giving you a bloody nose.

You have a choice:
A) you can continue to try to talk some sense into them - but they will only strike you more and more
B) You can say to yourself - 'Now I don't believe in violence - I better stay out of this - and go call the police' - of course it will be too late by the time they arrive
C) You can go to the garage and get a baseball bat and subdue the attackers

I think choice C - is the more Christian position

It is possible to elevate the virtue of peace to the expense of justice

Being a peacemaker - means as far as a situation depends upon us - our actions are in accord with peace. i.e. we do not start fights - we do not go around trampling others' rights, etc. It doesn't mean to sit by and let thugs carry out their wills.

Many people thought the way you do in Europe in the 30s - We can't go to war with Hitler - it's not the right thing to do. We are to love our neighbor after all. Meanwhile - he is systematically exterminating our other neighbors who we are also supposed to love.

Turn the other cheek is a great verse - and a difficult one to apply. I believe Jesus intended for us to use it when it came to how we are treated personally - but not when others whom we are responsible to care for are mistreated. In those situations we protect - we show courage - we defend.

I appreciate your arguments - I have to stand on the other side of the fence though.


Ok, I will now respond to this in the comments.- SS


Starrider said...

Thank you Jerry for your repectful response. I believe this tone is noteworthy- especially since the very thing that started the thread where we crossed paths was intiated by a discussion on the vitriolic style of Ann Coulter. Your words are anti-thetical to that inflammatory and counter-productive style. Thanks again.
Now lets address some of what you have said here by starting with this quote:
"But - in a sinful world where there are struggles for power and domination - God says a state has a right to defend itself however that must take place. Oftentimes that will involve the use of force and violence."

Jerry, I cannot find any basis for this statement in the Bible- especially in the New Testament. What this assertion says, in essence, is that "whatever- means- necessary" are legit- and the very problem is when such distinctions and moral decisions rest in the hands of mortal men. Ostensibly this "whatever-means necessary" philosophy would include genocide. I have heard many people use the directive of God for the Israelites to totally exterminate the Canaanites in the Old Testament to justify such things. The argument generally notes that since "God is the same yesterday, today and forever", we are authorized to employ any means we deem to be in keeping with "godly" purposes to bring about victory. I don't think I need to remind anyone that this is the very approach we label as radical when Islam espouses it.
I have read a very good book entitled: "Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide"
By: Stanley N. Gundry. In this book Gundry examines four different views of the lessons from these passages. It should be noted that none of the four- even the most militaristic- argue that God's orders to the Israelites in the Old Testament can be used as a viable template for an approach to warfare for contemporary Christians. I encourage you and anybody else that may be reading this to re-examine their position on this if they are struggling with this issue.
Take note that the "God is the same yesterday, today and forever" argument is also theologically problematic. Most scholars agree that this passage is a commentary on the eternal nature, primacy and character of God- not to be confused with some kind of locking in of a static relationship between God and man regarding the legalistic system of violence, revenge, domination and atonement for sin. This change from the "eye for an eye system of justice" in fact is what Jesus was addresing in Matthew 5, the sermon on the mount, when he directly marked the evolution from "eye for an eye" to "love your enemies". There is no getting around this. So, the point you are making here is invalid- according to the New Testament. Yes, there is still sin and death in the world until the Kingdom of God, which is already at hand, is fully established at the end of this aeon when Jesus establishes a new Heaven and a new Earth- but they are defeated. Death holds no real threat for a Christian. Our main task is to imitate Christ. Here is what the Amish, recently and quite on point in the news, had to say long BEFORE the tragic events in Pennsylvania in an interview posted online as an FAQ:

"I understand the Amish belief in nonresistance and pacifism. Does this principle extend to personal situations where you are confronted with imminent evil -- say a known murderer confronting you and your family in your home? Can you use force to preserve your life in this situation? To what extent? What is the Biblical basis for your position?"

Both Amish and Mennonites are committed to a lifestyle of peace and non- violence. Yes, this pervades every aspect of life. However, no one can predict with certainty how anyone would really react to an absolutely unprecedented crisis such as described above. Emotions as well as thoughts are involved and the situation is personalized. Having said this, we would hope that as people who have practiced a lifestyle of peace, we would not resort to force and violence in a crisis situation such as the one described.
We must briefly make several points:

1. There is no assurance that use of force would save my life or the life of my family if confronted by an attacker.
2. We could recall many accounts of unhoped for deliverances, whether by mediation, nature, or divine Providence, when Christians refused to use force when confronted by an attacker.
3. If the result is death at the hands of the attacker, so be it; death is not threatening to us as Christians. Hopefully the attacker will have at least had a glimpse of the love of Christ in our nonviolent response.
4. The Christian does not choose a nonviolent approach to conflict because of assurance it will always work; rather the Christian chooses this approach because of his / her commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.

The analogy to war in the situation described above tends to break down when we think of the vast preparations for war -- accumulation of weapons, training of the military, etc. War is planned and seldom is aggression so clearly defined with the defense staying on its home turf.

Some of the Biblical references for peace and non-resistance are: Matthew 5:38-48; John 18:36; Romans 12:18-21; and I Corinthians"

I will only re-visit the point about the atomic bomb as follows here. Let it be noted that many scholars and folks that offered commentary back when the bombs were dropped assert that the Japanese WERE moving to surrender- just not unconditionally as was desired by American military leadership. Also, your point assumes that Japanese life is less valuable than American life- another unbiblical concept. Also let it be noted that the American military leadership chose their course of action as much to serve notice to the rest of the world about their dominance as for any ideal. As for "saving American lives"- lets not forget that when we let the nuclear genie out of the bottle- we also created the nuclear arms race- the doctrine of mutually assured destruction- and the proliferation of nuclear arms to places like Iran and North Korea- which was all inevitable. So, the jury is still out on how many "American" lives were really saved by dropping atomic bombs on Japanese civilians sixty plus years ago.

Now, to adress the hypothetical scene between the hapless woman and the thugs. I think it is a gi-normous leap of reason to try to theoretically link the bombing of cities to a scenario with a victim, two thugs and a hero with a baseball bat. I am pretty sure I would not be alone in that statement. Yet, I see this type of reasoning circulating around a lot - particularly in the popular propaganda e-mails that I recieve all the time. The leap in reasoning seems to be if somebody picks on my little sister then I should call upon all the firepower at my disposal, having already planned for this contingency with a vast military-industrial complex assembled and waiting, find out where the culprit lives and destroy his entire neighborhood or even county since that would ensure that I have removed his entire support system. What? No-one would make such an argument would they? What if we live in the same neighborhood? Such hypothetical questions as these demonstrate that people do not really understand what peacemaking is at all. Being a peacemaker does not mean that somebody allows themself to be murdered without resistance...or that one does not attempt to protect...
It does mean doing evrything possible to find non-violent solutions for problems like this. It does mean that one does not automatically put their faith in partcipating in the cycle of violence and revenge. It means looking for novel ways to defeat violence...and it takes far more faith than just picking up a weapon. The very fact that you only offer choices A, b, and C in your scenario bespeaks a certain mindset and faith in violence... and a lack of creativity in dealing with it.

look at this:
"You have a choice:
A) you can continue to try to talk some sense into them - but they will only strike you more and more"
Ok, so you are automatically assuming that reasoning (diplomacy) will "why try" is implied. I think it is incumbent upon someone professing Christianity to try non-violence first (at the least) and not assume anything like that. What if reasoning works? What if they just split when they discover they are seen? What about trying some other diversion? Where are my other choices and where will they lead? Where is the creativity and the resolution to be Christ- like?

"B) You can say to yourself - 'Now I don't believe in violence - I better stay out of this - and go call the police' - of course it will be too late by the time they arrive"
This is another example of a lack of creative response or preparedness to be Christ-like.

C) You can go to the garage and get a baseball bat and subdue the attackers.

Ok, what if this example just escalates? Let's say that the thugs just wanted a purse to snatch- but when the hero shows up with the bat they pull out the pistol- fatally shoot the hero- then kill the woman because she is a witness- and then decide to enter the house and kill the rest of the family because they too are witnesses. Where is the goodness in that sequence? What assurances do you have that the bat will prevail?

"I think choice C - is the more Christian position"

Why are you so ready to believe in the redemptive power of violence and little else?

Here's related quote from Walter Wink's "The Powers That Be":

"The myth of redemptive violence is, in short, nationalism become absolute. This myth speaks for God; it does not listen for God to speak. It invokes the sovereignty of God as its own; it does not entertain the prophetic possibility of radical judgment by God. It misappropriates the language, symbols, and scriptures of Christianity. It does not seek God in order to change; it embraces God in order to prevent change. Its God is not the impartial ruler of all nations but a tribal god worshiped as an idol. Its metaphor is not the journey but the fortress. Its symbol is not the cross but the crosshairs of a gun. Its offer is not forgiveness but victory. Its good news is not the unconditional love of enemies but their final elimination. Its salvation is not a new heart but a successful foreign policy. It usurps the revelation of God’s purposes for humanity... It is blasphemous. It is idolatrous."

Another related paraphrase from Lee C. Camp's "Mere Discipleship":

"It is not the true Disciples of Christ who naively believe they can cure the world of war and sin and evil. Very often, it is the purveyors of warfare and "peace through superior firepower" who exhibit a utopian trust in the power of violence! Thus, World War 1 was called "the war to end all wars", wars are always characterized as good versus evil, and America's most recent campaign has been too often suffused with the rhetoric of "ridding the world of evil," of "getting rid of terror," and other such utopian dreams. This is of course nonsense."

Do not assume that peacemakers or "pacifists" would simply do nothing in this scenario you have made up. Jesus and the New Testament tells us to make every effort to live in peace as a first choice....never legitimizing the redemptive power of violence. Jesus di once throw moneychangers from the temple- so imitating Christ does not mean the avoidance of conflict- or to be docile in the face of injustice- but it is another gi-normous leap in logic to go from bum rushing some crooked merchants from the temple to KILLING- especially buy use of weapons of mass destruction like a-bombs, clusterbombs, depleted uranium, incindiary rounds, napalm etc. Never does Jesus or any New Testament author confirm any real power to the "domination system" which Christ liberated us from with his sacrifice. Many folks try to use Romans 13 to legitimize worldly power and the domination system. However- ththese verses are often taken out of context with Romans 12- as well as the rest of the Bible. Note this:

Romans 13 which is popularly taken out of context with Romans 12 and the rest of the Bible is understood by Christians in different ways. As noted in the study helps of my life application study Bible:
"All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this:

(1) Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military.

(2) Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others. Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either. They should not, however, confuse the two. In this view, church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres--the spiritual and the physical--and thus complement each other but do not work together.

(3) Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better. They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high-principled leaders. They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society. In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all.

None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government's laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians."

To begin wrapping up- I will say that the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was not in keeping with God's laws- and was not responsible in the sense of Christianity or good citizenship in an international community. The present wars in the Middle East are brought about in large part because US foreign policy has aslo departed from Christian values and good international citizenship. As noted in another paraphrase from "Mere Discipleship" elsewhere in the blog:

"We have held policies toward the Middle East for decades that oscillate between neglect and reactionary bombing... we have exploited the poor and pumped wealth and weaponry into the hands of tyrants and the men we now call enemies throughout the Mediterranean basin...including poison gas, bombs of every sort and all other sorts implements of death and destruction...We have backed Israel unfailingly even when they have also been outside of God's plan for mankind. In the last decade, according to U.N. estimates, we have contributed to the deaths of at least half a million children in Iraq through sanctions and shock and awe tactics...before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" commenced....and then wax innocent and pious when we recieve blowback in the form of "terrorism". "Terrorism" being noted as what one does with carbombs as opposed to laser guided bombs and televised "shock and awe" glory....siss boom bah!."

To conclude we Americans have NOT done eveything possible to keep peace in the world as mandated by Jesus Christ- far from it...and the mainstream American mindset on these things is ill prepared to even think in non-violent terms. Unfortunately, the church and "Christians" have too often colluded in this situation. There's plenty more on this topic throughout this blog. Feel free to comment.

Starrider said...

from Chapter 5 - "The Practice of Resolute Non-Violence":

sub heading: Love Walks

(There is a)...deeper understanding, a radical wisdom that violence begets violence, which begets violence again.

The common wisdom on the streets of L.A., like the wisdom on the streets of most cities, holds that violence is the ultimate reality. This is the conviction of people in democracies and dictatorships, in "developed' as well as 'undeveloped" countries. Here are its basic assumptions.

1. The world is a dangerous place.

2. Human beings are innately, intrinsically, violent.

3. The enemy is evil, more violent than we are, and beyond change.

4. We have only three alternatives: accomodate violence, avoid violence, or use violence ourselves- go along with it, run from it or do it before they do it.

5. The answer to violence is more violence. Evil is the bottom line, and violence its language, logic and ultimate reality.

6. Violence can solve our problems decisively. Power, domination, and extermination of evildoers will stop the spiral, prevent the violence from feeding on itself, extinguish resentment, intimidate those who would seek revenge, render retaliation against us impossible, allow us to dominate benevolently.

Those are the storm waves of violence , beating on counter-currents of equal violence. each side is willing for the other to die to insure its own safety.

Active non- violence steps out of the pitching boat and onto the pounding waves and does the supra-rational. It walks on the water and finds it firm. It summons its courage and reaches outto the enemy as a person. It thinks of the enemy's needs and fears (motivations); it acts in commitment alloyed with compassion. it chooses the surprising.

sub heading: Love Not The Domination System

The way of the cross is not an inner spiritual surrender as Luther taught, or a profound sentiment of spirituality as pretension holds, or any of the other conceptual, emotional, volitional , spiritual definitions of experience that identify the cross with physical, familial or vocational hardships. The way of the cross is the willingness to die.

The World, in the way Jesus used the word, refers not to geography or place, but to "the domination system" by which human societies control, compute, and conflict. This is biblical scholar Walter Wink's best translation of cosmos The domination system is a set of cultural values, basic survival assumptions, and political structures that actively control, impose upon, and exploit human kind through violence and domination(Wink 1992, 139-55)

Of his disciples Jesus said, "They are strangers in the world, as i am'; in other words "they are strangers to the domination system as I am a stranger to the domination system' (John 17;14,16 NEB)We too live in a domination system of organized fear, institutionalized greed, rationalized violence, and socially accepted hatred, but we are strangers to its creed of greed, fear, coercion, and we-they thinking. There is no true spirituality at the end of the pursuit of greed, none that carries out the practices of hate. These are acts of obedience to the domination system and not the reign of God.

Every violent action is an act of faith in the domination system.

Every commitment that answers violence with violence is an act of obedience to the domination system.

Every allegiance to the values embodied in the domination system is an affirmation that men are superior to women, whites to people of color, and the wealthy to the poor, that the northern hemisphere is better than the southern hemisphere, the West than the Third world, and human beings than nature.

Every surrender to the domination system legitimates the un -questioning validation and justification of the use of force and violence. Then even when violence fails to resolve conflicts, it is merely discredited.

Clarence Jordan, farmer, Bible scholar and translator, and founder of Koinonia farm in Georgia thought deeply about the kinds of retaliation he observed in the tit for tat interactions in Southern society:

Jesus pointed out the stages through which the law of retaliation had passed, and how it finally came to rest in the universal love of the Father's own heart. There were four of these steps, each clearly defined and each progressing towards God's final purpose. First, there was the way of unlimited retaliation; second, that of limited retaliation; third that of limited love; and fourth, that of unlimited love (Jordan 1952)

Obviously, the first is both eyes for an eye, all teeth for a tooth. The secongd is eye for an eye, a penny for a penny and no more. The third is "love your neighbor and hate your enemy' (matt 5:43 NKJV; see also Lev.19:18). The fourth is to love as God loves, drawing no lines between friend and enemy, between those who reciprocate and those who do not. One loves in this fourth way- not because it works or is guaranteed to change enemies, but so that they will be "children of their heavenly Father" (Matt 5:45)

This is what the modern Church has misunderstood- even among its most prolific "leaders". This is what has been so thouroughly subverted in our culture...this is where it has all gone wrong...where the breakdown of the family and culture began...and how the destruction of our world will commence...unless things change drastically and soon among those who call themselves God's people. This is true conservatism...the idolatrous faith in the redemptive power of violence is the true secular humanism and liberalism. God gave us freewill- its always been there- from the oldest stories of the Bible. It was when we passed up all of our chances and consistently chose wrongly when we were smitten with collapse and disaster of our own device. A better and more stable and saner world is possible- despite the idea that there will never be peace due to twisted interpretations of the book of Revelation and the end times...eschatology...which we will address next.

Labels: christian, co-existence, ethics, faith, forgiveness, just warfare, morality, non-violence, pacifism, peacemaking, politics, purpose