Why I’m A Pacifist

This post has been a long time in the making, thinking and deciding. It is perhaps the most controversial, debatable view that I hold strongly to and so it has been a matter of thought and prayer to even come to the point that I submit these thoughts, just the tip of the iceberg, to the blogosphere. This is why I am a pacifist:

Pacifism, most would agree, is a great thought. The idea of achieving world peace is beautiful and most would say, wonderful to fantasize about. And most would use that key word “fantasize” to claim that it is an untenable position to hold. That the ideal is too high, too unachievable. And until about a year ago I would have agreed. Pacifism is an ideal. For many, that’s enough to stop them from pursuing it any further. We live in an increasingly idealess world where anything that possibly extends beyond the concrete and tangible reality is dismissed as naivete, religiosity or some combination of the two. However, I am willing to run that risk.
About a year ago I had the opportunity to listen to a Jesuit priest speak. This Jesuit priest is also an avid pacifist which, for him, spills over into somewhat incredulous acts of civil disobedience however that is an entirely different topic. His name was John Dear and for me, on September 26, 2008 he made me understand why I could be a pacifist. The answer was simple, almost alarmingly so, and lay at the center of what I professed to believe, namely, Jesus. The pieces fell into place, the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed and lived was a Kingdom of Peace. He was to be called, after all, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). That is not to say that he proclaimed a Kingdom of Weakness or Timidity or Simply-Watch-Injustice. But the Kingdom of Peace that Jesus proclaimed was robust in its very simplicity. That simplicity was “follow me.”
Perhaps one of the most poignant passages and example occurs in the garden of Gethsemane. As the guards lay hands on Jesus to arrest him, Matthew records that:

One of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place…” (Matthew 26:51-52a)

In this definitive moment, when the Son of God is being arrested, when a man has never been more justified to use violence, Jesus affirms the way of peace and commands that the sword be returned to its scabbard.

Jesus did not just model the way of peace, he created it through his very example. What is an impossible ideal is made real in Christ. And so, while I read of wars and killings and senseless deaths. While I hear that mankind is destroying themselves. While I see gratuitous violence and death pervading media, I will still proclaim the Kingdom of Peace because Jesus did and I am his follower.
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9 thoughts on “Why I’m A Pacifist

  1. Great post Matt. I just realized that I had intended to ask you a question about pacifism back when this was originally posted, but I got distracted from the task and traipsed into some vague state of mind, forgetting to strike up the conversation.My question was this: What is Pacifism? How do you define it? (Sub-questions with which I am particularly concerned include: Is violence morally reprehensible? What is violence? What is peace?)I hope you do not mind me starting this discussion. I also hope that you are not annoyed by my request: "define your terms." I ask simply because I want to understand what you are saying, and not simply what I think you are saying.May grace and peace be multiplied to you in Christ.

  2. Beautiful post…very well written. I'm also curious to know more about what you have to say about pacifism. I think I'll keep reading what you post before I ask any questions, but well written.

  3. Hi Matt,(Sorry for the "Admin" account name; I use it primarily for my own blog so I'm reluctant to change it.)Anyway, I'm really glad to have found your blog. My question regarding this post is what "Theophilius" asked: What exactly do you mean by "pacifism?" You make clear that it involves hoping for peace as an end-state, as well as some acts of civil disobedience. But is involvement in war ever justified (specifically wars that bring about greater peace in the future, such as the US' entrance into WWII)? The Old Testament seems to justify at least some wars. And Jesus' compliance in the Garden can be seen as his allowing prophecy to be fulfilled. Jesus' main message seems to be one of love, not necessarily unwavering peace. Given this, I can imagine situations in which acting with love requires violence (defending a loved one against an attacker, armed interventions in the name of human rights, etc.). I look forward to hearing more about your position.

  4. wowwwww and the questions BEGIN. i'm so excited. it's a big iceberg. i'm thinking you should probably just rededicate your entire blog to pacifism. Admin has some interesting thoughts to which i have very instant reactions, the first being: in my mind a message of love equates to one of peace. to which you might say that this great love/peace allows for specific acts of violence. but you might also say that this great love/peace allows for NO violence, that it frees us from the necessity of violence. i favor this option. in the same way that grace allows me to punch my brother in the face and still be forgiven, it also allows me to not punch my brother in the face, take whatever consequences come from that, and have not just the promise of but actual full life in Christ. as far as in instances of courage or defense out of love, i'd begin by saying that this sort of peace is a call to some really high-level love, the sort modeled by Christ. ok your turn to answer go!p.s. of course gandhi shows up in my email the same day i read this. sooooo:I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of causes. – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

  5. Good to hear your thoughts once again Gutierrez! I hope and trust that your summer has been blessed by our good Father.In the interest of hearing more of your thoughts (which I will sadly not get to do in class this next semester), would you be willing to answer this question: What do you mean by peace and love?I am trying to get a sense for how you are framing the topic. Reason being, some people would say that protection and defense can be proper, practical measures for a person to take one one's behalf or on the behalf of another–but he can also go further and say that it is a man's duty to protect another person; he ought to do it out of a commitment to justice and love for others. This is just a situation to help you frame the question I am asking. I am not posting it as an argument.By the way, a very thought provoking statement: "but you might also say that this great love/peace allows for NO violence, that it frees us from the necessity of violence." I never heard that before in a discussion on pacifism.

  6. I think what I mean is … most people will try to say that a characteristic of love is being willing to be violent in the face of an enemy or an unjustice (what Admin said about defending loved ones). most people might say that this is a practical measure; i'd be inclined to say that real love is willing to be UNviolent and therefore peaceful. Peace = no violence. I think another term for peace can be peace given from God in the face of violence. this might be bold / ridiculous, but i think we have to question if acting violently, even in the name of love or justice, really demonstrates love in a Christ-like sense. is the end of love to give, preserve and ensure physical life on earth, or to give, preserve and ensure true life in Christ (whatever that entails, even if it entails death? this is scary territory because it starts sounding like a topic of martyrdom…). i can think of all kinds of things, like… "what if preserving someone's life through an act of violence allows them to see the power and grace of Christ?" but still i think that as Christ-followers, we don't see Christ acting violently ever, so we should live in the trust that we don't need to act violently / in a way other than Christ did in order to prove the sorts of things we believe in.

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