The God of Peace, Part 1- Some Groundrules : A Guest Post By Rod

Rejecting the Straw Pacifist

Greetings Simul Iustus et Peccator audience,

This is Rod from Political Jesus, and I know I have tested many a readers’ patience, but today I would like to start a short series on the Christian God as the God of Peace. At the invitation of this blog’s host, Craig, I would like to express my gratitude first and foremost. He was very generous in allowing me to share this space, Craig being a Just War Christian, and I being a Christian Pacifist.

My mission’s first task must be to eliminate the commonly held straw persons launched against pacifism, and for that I turn to Blue Collar Todd’s comments on Craig’s post last November.

“What are you going to if you are walking down the sidewalk and you see a man, maybe two, harassing a young girl, even starting to beat her. What is the pacifist solution? Seems like physically inserting oneself into the situation is called for and even violence in order to stop a woman from being beaten or worse. What if you see a gay man in the same situation. How are you going to show love in this situation? I would suggest that showing love to the oppressed person in both cases would require forceful intervention, bring the wrath on oneself, so the victim in question could get away, then you could apply turning the other cheek. Someone breaks into my house and threatens my wife and children, I will do whatever I need to defend them, showing that I love them by protecting them.”

BCT’s thought experiment is to challenge the presuppositions of a pacifist, who he believes, believes in inaction. The love of doing nothing, it is assumed, is nothing more than a mask of hatred towards the neighbor. However, it does not occur to BCT, that the so-called “thought experiment” in question is not without it’s flaws. One must ask, should Christian ethics begin with questions related to situations, and should these situations, in this case violence against an innocent victim be the prevailing norm for Christian responses? If so, what are the limitations? I would question the wisdom of such a situational approach to morality, for in the end, there is a slippery slope of anything goes that comes with if restrictions are not emplaced. For one thing, Christian pacifism is not the absolute moral rule of condemning all violence, for not all violence is the same. Rather, Christian pacifists, if they wish to be faithful to Scripture and tradition, believe that self-defense is a pre-supposition that most biblical authors hold. The problem is not defending oneself or others with non-lethal force; the problem is that the logic of self-defense is rolled out before any non-violent activity is considered. As for Blue Collar Todd’s thought experiment, I agree with John Howard Yoder in his response to Lisa Sowle Cahill’s text, Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory: BCT’ s question is a loaded one, that ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy to justify lethal violence without restrictions; in addition, BCT’s mode of decisionism/situational ethics refuses to see the difference in varying modes of self-giving, a cost-analysis that undervalues the breadth of reality; the depth of moral reality; as well as the length of moral reality (1). In short, Situational ethics that rely on imagined “cases” limit the moral options of the moral agent, ignoring many of the wide range of possibilities for the faithful Christian actors.

Which leads me to Blue Collar Todd’s (and not to target him, but this includes many other Christians who question Christian pacifism) real question that needs to be addressed:

“Why don’t you and Joel explain it to me. If you think pacifism is robust enough to confront evil in a way that stops it, then you should be able to deal with my thought experiment.”

I cannot speak for Joel, but in my next post, I will give the Christian pacifist answer of “confronting evil in a way that stops it” by examining the heart of Christian peacemaking: The Triune God.

1. John Howard Yoder. The War Of The Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence And Peacemaking. Editted by Glenn Stassen, Mark Thiessen Nation, and Matt Hamsher. Brazos Press, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2009. Page 120-121.

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11 thoughts on “The God of Peace, Part 1- Some Groundrules : A Guest Post By Rod

  1. Pingback: God And Pacifism; Blue Collar Philosophy VS Simul Iustus et Peccator

  2. Who knew I would provide the impetus for this. I will have to wait until Part 2 to see where this is going. I would have less a problem with a pacifist position that can account for what I brought up, and it may seem that is where things are going. I am not advancing a version situational ethics, if by that you mean there are no objective moral truths that can be brought to this or that situation except love.

    For one thing, Christian pacifism is not the absolute moral rule of condemning all violence, for not all violence is the same. Rather, Christian pacifists, if they wish to be faithful to Scripture and tradition, believe that self-defense is a pre-supposition that most biblical authors hold. The problem is not defending oneself or others with non-lethal force; the problem is that the logic of self-defense is rolled out before any non-violent activity is considered.

    I think we may agree that the defense needed to stop something like I suggested does not necessitate in a lethal response, but it may. When conflicting moral absolutes come into conflict with one anther, we have to rank them in a prima facie manner. Lying in order to save Jews from Nazis hunting them in order to save their life would be one example of this. That’s my initial response to this for now.

    • “When conflicting moral absolutes come into conflict with one anther, we have to rank them in a prima facie manner.”

      Humm interesting, or, in the case of lying, one could re-define the definition of Truth all together. As I was reading Bonhoeffer last week, he did mention lying towards the end of his ETHICS, and he hinted that only the complete cynic would tell all of the truth all of the time, and he gives the example of a teacher who tries to embarass a child by trying to make him confess that his father comes home drunk (in front of the entire class). In that case, the child is being truthful because the teacher is being liar, untruthful to her vocation.

      Also, as for your invocation of love, my answer defines love based on the crucifixion, the only way we know God’s love. Love is not WHAT WE WANT it to be any time we want, oh, and Joseph Fletcher’s Situational Ethics was based on love as well. Sorry.

    • When conflicting moral absolutes come into conflict with one anther, we have to rank them in a prima facie manner. Lying in order to save Jews from Nazis hunting them in order to save their life would be one example of this.

      So in order to prevent a “greater” sin, a “lesser” sin is necessary? Sounds like situational ethics me.

      There’s a great statement in an article from Religion Dispatches on another issue, but its relevant to the discussion at hand.

      According to Catholic teaching, a lie (“speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church) is a sin. Always. Even if done for a good reason. And no, you can’t commit a sin to bring about a greater good. That point was made in oh, say, the 1968 papal encyclical reaffirming the Catholic Church’s ban on artificial birth control. “Neither is it valid to argue,” the encyclical states, “that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one… [I]t is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it[.]” (Humanae Vitae II.14) (From http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/4196/lila_rose_targets_planned_parenthood_with_lies/)

      Having studied Ethics under a pacifist, my response to your situation is this: Is there some way to not lie and still protect the Jews?

      • Craig,

        The issue is, to take Bonhoeffer’s example and apply it to Live Action, is that Planned Parenthood exists under a lie that abortion is not murder and that it does not psychologically damage women who have them. As someone who knows women who have had abortion, the latter is just flat out untrue (the idea that women do not have issues after aborting fetuses). So, in light of what is Truth, one would have to say Lila Rose and Live Action are on the side of, Truth, since Truth has a living body, and is not some abstract notion that we can control through our propositions. 😉

        Grace frees us from the world’s definition of truth. But of course, Religion Dispatches has a pro-choice bias to begin with.

      • I wasn’t trying to lead the conversation down this path, but merely linked to the article where I pulled the quote from and use it as a launching board to ask my question. I’m not saying the article itself is great or even that I agree with it. I’m saying that particular statement is a counter to Todd’s claim that we have to rank sins when “moral absolutes conflict with each other.”

  3. Pingback: The God of Peace, Part 2- Revelation: A Guest Post by Rod | Simul Iustus et Peccator

  4. Pingback: Discipleship Experiment Update- Rod | Political Jesus

  5. Pingback: The God Of Peace, Part 3- Reconciliation: A Guest Post By Rod | Simul Iustus et Peccator

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