a stand on peace

it is no secret, i am a pacifist. i hold to the teachings of christ, and seek to truly be a peacemaker [matthew 5:9] a son of God. my stance is not based on the politics of the day but on the teachings of jesus the christ in scripture [matthew being just the start of it all]. i believe the teachings of jesus are peace, grace, forgiveness and love and war has no place in those teachings because the core teachings or war are not peace, love, grace and forgivenss. i find the taking of any human life, for any reason, violates christ's teachings and flies in the face of the standards jesus set before us as followers of "the way." over time, many have tried to turn my pacifism into a political stance, and they have gotten angry with me because i refuse to make it political. i refuse to partake in marches that have a political overtone, or speak against, or for, one party or the other. i hold that my pacifism comes from my faith walk and not my politics. now, that being said again, let me add more.

i have been asked if i believe all christians should hold a "pacifist" stance, and my reply has always been "yes." let me explain. i believe that the core of christ is that of peace. i love the response jesus gives his followers as he is being arrested, [taken from luke 22, in the message] "no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd showed up, judas, the one from the twelve, in the lead. he came right up to jesus to kiss him. jesus said, "judas, you would betray the son of man with a kiss?" when those with him saw what was happening, they said, "master, shall we fight?" one of them took a swing at the chief priest's servant and cut off his right ear. jesus said, "let them be. Even in this." then, touching the servant's ear, he healed him." in the process of being arrested, knowing he was going to die and that his followers would fight for him, jesus said, "no fighting, even in this situation." think about that, jesus taught peace even to the point of his willing to die instead of starting a fight - violence for jesus was never the answer, and jesus knew it held no value. war and violence are simply ways of "taking what you want" and james [jesus' brother] teaches us that fighting is caused by our desire to "have things" and because we are not asking God to help with the right motives, [4:1-3; niv] "what causes fights and quarrels among you? don't they come from your desires that battle within you? you want something but don't get it. you kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. you quarrel and fight. you do not have, because you do not ask God. when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

paul, also speaks of living in peace and not going to war [when we place the words of paul through the filter of christ]. in his second letter to the corinthians [10:2-5; niv] paul writes, "i beg you that when i come i may not have to be as bold as i expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." while this is hard to do, it is still something we must live by.

so, why this blog entry? recently i was sent a article written by a tony perkins' at the family research council that completely tossed me back and hurt so deeply i could not believe a man of faith wrote it. how could a man who claims to be christian, hold such hatefilled, violent views? how can anyone who stands for christ speak in terms of violence, war, fighting and killing and claim them to be positive things? granted, perkins' was ragging on mike wallace because perkins' did not like what wallace had to say about the iranian leader ahmadinejad. but the part that hurt the most was his desire to turn the teaching of christ [pacifism] into some twisted, evil idea. he seems to be more concerned about working in the culture then walking in a relationship with christ. he wrote this:

"A better journalist wrote this in The Washington Post: "If Americans do not fight, the terrorists will attack America again. And we now know such attacks can kill many thousands of Americans. The American pacifists, therefore, are on the side of future mass murderers of Americans. They are objectively pro terrorist. There is no way out of this reasoning. No honest person can pretend that the groups that attacked America will, if let alone, not attack again. Nor can any honest person say that this attack is not at least as likely to kill thousands upon thousands of innocent people. Not to fight in this instance is to let the attackers live to attack and murder again; to be a pacifist in this instance is to accept and, in practice, support this outcome." Those are the words of Michael Kelly, prize-winning author, editor, and columnist. He died on the road to Baghdad in 2003. Let's honor his memory, by heeding his warning."

i guess people can have any feeling they desire, but to be the head of a "christian" group that has a connection with focus on the family one would think they would have a kinder view, a more christ like stance then simply "kick ass and take names." it is funny because the website for this group claims the following, "God exists and is sovereign over all creation. He created human beings in His image. Human life is, therefore, sacred and the right to life is the most fundamental of political rights;" and "Life and love are inextricably linked..." how can a group claim that all life is sacred, and them proclaim killing others has value? how can a group that claims "life and love are inextricably linked" put forth a call for christians to leave behind the pacifist teachings of christ and take up arms against an "enemy?" how many thousands of innocent people have died on the streets in a war zone started by people unwilling to follow the heart of christ? i think peter said it wonderfuly when he wrote, [in his first recorded letter 3:8] "summing up: be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. that goes for all of you, no exceptions. no retaliation. no sharp-tongued sarcasm. instead, bless—that's your job, to bless. you'll be a blessing and also get a blessing. whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here's what you do: say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you're worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he's asked; but he turns his back on those who do evil things."

the part i love best is the ending line, when perkins wrote, "He died on the road to Baghdad in 2003. Let's honor his memory, by heeding his warning." wow, how about this mr perkins' "he died on the cross in jerusalem 2003 years ago. let's honor his memory by living his teachings."

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Andrew said...

John - I too consider myself a pacifist, and, like you, my pacifism arises from my spiritual beliefs rather than any political stance. I don't understand how any follower of Jesus' teachings can justify war (or abortion, or capital punishment, or any taking of life). But, let's face facts: the kingdoms of this world are not founded upon the principles of the Kingdom of God. Your quote from the book of James is appropriate, for as long as we are in this world, we will always contend with these inward desires that lead to strife and, ultimately, wars. As Paul described it in Galatians, the lusts of the flesh war against the power of the Spirit within us. But we are the ones who must decide, in our own consciences, which to follow: flesh or spirit.

AC @ bloggedy blog

illgottengoods said...

the view expressed by the post writer is very much in accord with guys like CS Lewis and others who subscribe to a just war theology. traditional just war theology (first expressed by st. augustine) says that it is a sin to not go to war in order to protect innocent people. i'm not sure the iraq war is justified in these terms, but the post writer is not glibly saying that we should kill in the name of Jesus. your blog would be a lot better if you wrestled with the details and specifics of issues rather than painting with big brushes that really end up missing the point. this post in particular does little more than say "jesus doesn't condone violence, therefore any and all war is wrong and mean people like mr. perkins and the post writer are out of bounds." you might as well blog that green is your favorite color.

john o'keefe said...

illgottengoods -

i am not sure i am concerned with what cs lewis or augustine had to say conserning an idea called a "just war" because i do not believe any war can be called "just" - that is my understanding of the words of jesus - i believe one can stand with perkins, lewis, and augustine but i would rather stand with jesus.

now, to my being "better if i wrestled" with the issues - if one is new to my blog, that is cool - this blog started back in 2002, and i have been wrestling with war and violence [and i do believe jesus is against violence] for all that time - even in wrestling with the issue there comes a time when one can come to a conclusion - now, if it is a conclusion others do not agree with, cool - but before anyone can question me, i believe they need to know me and notice i have been wrestling with many issues over the past several years.

i think if we are to dialog on a topic of war, andrew's comment is a good example - his post deals with bibical issues and is not an attack on me regardless of my favorite color. i think, as andrew so powerfuly brings out, discussing the ideas and not attack the person is the way to go.

illgottengoods said...

to not be "concerned with what lewis or augustine had to say concerning an idea called just war" is not to have wrestled with the topic of violence and war from a Christian perspective. wrestling with a topic means more than just thinking about it long and hard. to be in the christian tradition dating back to the first disciples, it means learning from those who have gone before. that's not to say that you have to agree with them, but you do have to at least know about and interact with them.
My post did not attack you, go back and re-read it. I did not say YOU would be better, but that your blog would be better. That's no attack (or at least not meant to be an attack on you), just constructive criticism and suggestion for what i think would make a better blog on the topic of just war.

john o'keefe said...


again, i have been wrestling with the idea of war most of my faith walk - i am not new to this - and i have read augustine and lewis and many others [did a huge paper on a just war for my masters degree] - but i am still not concerned with what they have to say - their words do not form my theology. my faith is determined by the way i read the words of christ, and the teachings of christ - they guide my theology.

in the two examples you give - notice that neither form their idea of a just war via scripture. lewis forms his in the context of war and augustine does his under the desire to create state power. neither points are a place where i desire to start my theology.

if you did not attack me personaly then i will accept that - but remember that a persons blog is also who they are - so attacking that blog, is an attack on the person. :)

illgottengoods said...

i'd love to see a post with a link to that paper on just war. that'd be fun to read.
so how do you engage the words of christ and the teachings of christ? are you saying that you read only the NT and those parts where jesus said something (the red parts in the old red-letter editions)? those are certainly great things to read, but it seems kind of limited to say that you base all of your theology on the words of jesus to which you have access.
it seems healthier to engage the great cloud of witnesses throughout the ages who have also been wrestling to discern what good faith looks like and what faithfulness to jesus looks like.
otherwise, it seems like you think you have better powers of discernment than the billions of christians who've gone before you. sounds like it's you and jesus and nobody else. scary. bro.