Like most conceptual terms, it is not accurate to paint “pacifism” with a quick broad brush. One form of pacifism is to never strike back, which was practiced personally by Martin Luther King, Jr. While in the midst of a speech, a man jumped on stage and struck him in the face, knocking him down. King, a former wrestler, got back up and offered the man his chair on the stage.
Another form of pacifism allows for the defense of one’s own physical person and immediate family or small group. This form is possibly, but not necessarily in agreement with Jesus, when taken in context of several different teachings; it’s never accurate to extrapolate only some of what Jesus said, as conservative Christians often do.
Jesus drew a distinct line against war and violence. From an accurate historical perspective, war is invariably about either protecting one’s own wealth or taking someone else’s wealth and almost always, about both. Thus, war is not the same as self defense, which is protecting one’s physical person.
In war, soldiers are compelled to obey orders from the top down, regardless of how right or wrong they personally believe them to be. Following orders from the top down in WWII, soldiers who may never had previously violently attacked anyone, dropped atomic weapons on a large civilian population.
No side is right in war, because seeds of one conflict trace to a previous conflict. Just as seeds of WWII trace to WWI and back even before the American Revolution, which was also about wealth; perceived unjust taxation, which was minuscule compared to what U.S. citizens routinely pay today, was a primary revolutionary motivation.
One of the supposedly most “justified” wars in U.S. history is WWII, based on the theory that Japan attacked the United States without provocation. The problem with this theory is, long before Pearl Harbor, we had gained substantially monetarily by supplying England and France with weapons which were used against Japan. And at the time, we were attempting to blockade supplies coming into Japan, which was a threat to their population’s survival.
It is not that Japan was right and we were wrong but rather, war is invariably about both sides being wrong. No nation profiting from a war is guiltless concerning that war.
Perhaps the best American historical example of justifiable self defense in regards to war, is when Colonel Chivington attacked and massacred a tribe of natives, who were sleeping inside their homes with white flag raised. If there was ever a justified response, it is how American natives responded to Sand Creek.
Jesus taught the way to achieve peace is to lay down our swords. This solution is so obvious, a small child can easily understand what apparently, is too profound for many educated historians and conservative preachers to grasp. In the book of Revelation, this command is repeated and, those who resort to violence and war as a means to an end, are placed on the wrong side of God, human rights and human history.
Is laying down our swords wise? Has picking up a sword ever “secured the peace”, preventing war from breaking out again? Is there a better or any other solution to war, other than laying down our swords? Are you smarter than Jesus? You decide.
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