Christian Pacifism

Christian Pacifism

I grew up being taught the ways of Christian morality.  I struggled to make sense of what were seemingly contradictory messages between words and the actions of our nation.  I was led to believe that freedom of religion was an expression of the various different Christian denominations that existed in the new world.  This ranged from Roman Catholic to Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans and so on.  We all used basically the same Bible but we had demonstrably different understandings as to what was truly the message or teaching of the Bible.  How would a child or teenager evolve into an adult Christian?  There was a message that always stood out for me, the idea of accepting the teaching as a child.  This had to be balanced with the scholarly theologies that lead to all these different Christian religions.

It is scary how desensitized to violence our society has become.  I say that more out of confusion than to confront anyone.  As a civilization, in 2000 years of Christianity, the biggest issue taught by Jesus, the commandment to love our neighbor is treated like a naive and impractical idea or so it seems.  I don't think it was suggested that Jesus was offering a suggestion, it was a commandment.  What does it mean?  We haven't figured out how to avoid so many wars.  We don't demand that our leaders prove to us that war is the only possible option.  That is just a curious and confusing observation.  

The other idea that seemed to help was the words from Jesus that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, all the other commandments are based on this.  Okay, so love is key to understanding why any commandment, rule or ritual existed in the Bible.  As an adult, one of the most perplexing statements I ever heard was from my mother stating that the movie "The Hurt Locker" - a war movie about the Iraq war - was okay because it wasn't anti-war.  I was in my 40s but I still found that odd since some part of the common sense of accepting God and Heaven as a child had to fit into this adult set of morals.  

To me, it seemed that anti-war would and should be the default position for any Christian in a Christian nation.  I had always felt that if I had gone to war that God would never forgive me.  I was perplexed by the idea of pointing a gun at another human.  I just could not wrap my mind around that.  I had been in the proximity of a gun being shot by someone and the explosive force chilled my warm blood.  I imagined that the projectile would hit a person with an explosive force beyond imagination.  The wound would be gruesome and I wondered how anyone could use such a weapon once they felt the explosive power of a gun.  I do not intend her to make a moral statement that is critical of those who need guns for self-defense.  I speak more from the standpoint of my gut instincts that still exist in me to this day.

It's hard to not be aware of what happens to a human body when it is assaulted by some force such as a projectile, a knife or a fist.  I never liked the old Western stories where the shooting looked too clean.  Sean Penn's character is "Bad Boys" get's stabbed in the knee in a jail room fight and that would make me sick to my stomach.  I couldn't watch the Indian wars with arrows that penetrate flesh since that also made me sick.  Even in self-defense, I would know what a fist would do to the flesh and it would cause me to lose fights because I could not follow through when I was engaged in bare-fisted boxing in the neighborhood.  

That would somewhat change, the boxing part, I mean.  A teenager who was my friend had landed several punches to my face which hardly fazed me at all.  The spectators at our home in the rural neighborhood, including other friends of mine, insisted I go wash off the blood.  I was perplexed and asked "you are kidding?  I'm not bleeding."  Would I not feel something?  I didn't have big legs that would absorb the shock of multiple blows to the face, so why did I feel nothing.  I felt like a wimp when I left after much insistence from the neighborhood boys and girls watching.  I was indeed bleeding more than I expected and so I felt very surprised.    

The point is that we should recognize the damage to a human body of any act of aggression.  My belief is that this would change a person's ability to use physical violence.  The complete desensitization to violence is only growing.  Back in the first World War, there was a problem with soldiers who could not pull the trigger and shoot even though they were in a life and death struggle.  It's good to know that the feelings I always had are not foreign and completely unique to me.  

In a binomial society where everything is seen as "politics", I can imagine someone reading this and getting the wrong idea about what I am saying.  I use the word binomial because in the US there are only two parties and we try to put everyone into one of two of these parties.  It is not my intention to get into "politics."  It is more about my honest curiosity and desire to understand things that make no sense. We tend to use projection as a defense mechanism when we need to act within this world.  We need to project our ideas onto another person so we can feel justified in our opposition to the other side. 

We might project our own fears and concerns onto others in the form of threat and danger. In extreme forms of this, the peaceful protestors who espouse non-violence and pacifism are made to look dangerous.  A person on the right might see these groups as left-wing extremists.  It would be just as damaging to view all Republicans and conservatives as right-wing extremists who are affiliated with the KKK, white nationalists, racists, and other extremist hate groups.  However, in my conservative home, racism and the KKK never were seen as evil.  I never got the impression that racism might be understandable.  The typical response is to say something like "what about..."

"What about..." is like a game of people showing off scars or saying, "you think that is bad..."  Rejecting a group of radical ideas on either of the political spectrum does not imply acceptance of the same radical idea on the other end of the spectrum!