Friday, July 20, 2007

Good quote

"The late, great Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder, distinguished his historic pacifism from liberal pacifism precisely in respect to differing views of human nature. Liberal pacifism is a tool for achieving peace believing that it can be realized through discussion, negotiation, and increased appreciation of human and societal differences. Historic pacifism, on the other hand, is not a tool, but a way of life for followers of Jesus who understand that they live in a world at war, and that there are those who, no matter how nicely and kindly they are treated, and no matter how much they are helped, will kill whether the enemy is armed or not."
- Allan R. Bevere, from a fine blog post

8 comments:

Roda Zone said...

Keith...under what circumstances would you see any armed conflict as "just?" Do you consider our intervention in Bosnia to halt the ethnic cleansing of muslims to be unjust? Do you consider the possibility of military involvement in Sudan "Just?"

I'm not being flippant here, I really want your response. I am and always will be a "just war" guy. Hitler, Bin Laden, Saddam, and other thugs cared nothing about the loss of innocent life. They viewed non-violence and peacemaking as opportunities for greater power. They broke treaties, defied human rights and international law and used their authority to perpetrate further evil.

How do we stand up to evil if pure pacifism is our only tool?

Write back...

Keith McIlwain said...

We stand up to evil through nonviolence. Just because they are violent doesn't mean we should be like them; rather, we should be like Jesus.

They (the evil forces of this world) can kill us, but ultimately we will rest with the Lord. Nonviolence isn't a strategy to defeat tyrants, it's an expression of faithfulness, it's trying to be like Jesus in the midst of violence, hate, and chaos. The world may kill, but God will honor our Christ-like faithfulness.

Eric said...

Thank you, Keith, for daring to place Christocentric pacifism before us once again. The issue always seems to generate passionate responses, doesn't it?

Yoder's quote reminds us that pacifism, as a theological response, will never make "sense" to a world that is conditioned to see things dualistically and militaristically.

Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with Christocentric pacifism, it cannot be dismissed from our theological discourse. Christocentric pacifism, as you suggest, is a way of life, not a political strategy.

I'm reminded of a point that Yoder made frequently: The word "martyr" literally means "witness," not "victim." The way we die, in other words, is every bit as much a part of our kingdom-work as the way we live.

Roda Zone said...

Keith...I see where you are coming from and your theology is pure. But what about the value of human life? Should we merely become cannon fodder for those who would destroy? I think there is a purpose to our lives and that dignity, justice, equality are values that God has placed upon human life. He wants us to have abundant life not just in the life to come, but in this life as well. I guess I struggle with the idea of martyrdom when I see it being so perverted in our world today.

Keith McIlwain said...

Randy...

"But what about the value of human life?" Being nonviolent, in my view, and refusing to kill, shows an extremely high regard for all human life...so much so that taking a life is unthinkable.

"Should we merely become cannon fodder for those who would destroy?" Yes, if necessary. Hopefully not.

"I think there is a purpose to our lives and that dignity, justice, equality are values that God has placed upon human life. He wants us to have abundant life not just in the life to come, but in this life as well." I agree completely, but the abundant life doesn't have to mean killing others in order to achieve (or secure) abundance.

I also agree that the concept of martyrdom has been really abused, esp. in recent years. We have to remember that the word "martyr" means "witness", and, even in difficult circumstances, we should be the best witnesses we can, even if that means our own death.

Roda Zone said...

Keith...good response. I guess I'm justa "just war" person at heart. I respect your position and in a perfect world what you are saying is dead on. But how do we then deal with the thugs of history and with the very real threat of terrorism?

Keith McIlwain said...

Through prayer, confession, the Eucharist, nonviolence...all of which are far more powerful than terror, guns, and bombs.

Greg Cox said...

Good stuff here, Keith. Way too much for most people to digest. Yoder is so packed and dense that it takes a whole course on Attitudes on War and Peace to even touch the surface. Thanks for beginning a conversation.