Pacifism

“And Who Is My Neighbour?”

I’ll tell you who – she’s an annoying old bat who wants nothing to do with you until the day she drops by to tell you how much you’ve ticked her off.

“Hello,” says she. Then with barely a breath between her saying hello and the ensuing plaint,
“Are you the people who are feeding the squirrels? Because they are getting into my plants!”
“That’s too bad”, I says. Apparently she didn’t hear me …
“I have many flowers at the back and the squirrels come and dig up my plants. It’s because you’re feeding them.”
“Have you tried raising your plants off the ground into planters?” I says.
“Yes, and they still get in there!” she moans.
After we suggest a few other rodent-discouraging remedies, Mrs. In-a-you-face then proceeds to gripe for 5 more minutes about her squirrel-affected garden. She ends the spiel with a request that we don’t feed the squirrels any more. My wife and I assure her with pleasant smiles,
“Sorry, we like the squirrels – we don’t plan to stop feeding them”.
And then the old lady walks away in a peevish huff.

Was that unchristian? Were we supposed to turn the other cheek? How would we do that … let me see. We could go and buy her plants to replace any damaged ones. Uh, no. We could not only stop feeding the squirrels, heck! we could put out poison and kill them all – that’d keep the old lady’s plants in pristine condition! No again.

That’s simply not what being Christian is all about.

Being Christian – loving one’s neighbour – has nothing to do with acquiescing to another’s gluttony. Our neighbour (in the literal sense of the word) wanted us to satisfy her selfish interests, her penchants. She didn’t ask us to walk a mile with her (presumably to aid her with something) nor did she ask us for a cloak or coat in order to make her life more livable through keeping her warm.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (1.), we read of a guy who got taken down by robbers while travelling down a road. In the story, the victim of the assault was a bloodied mess and left without a penny to his name after the incident. After two religious sorts passed by the injured man without as much as a word, a man of Samaritan background came along who didn’t ignore or avoid the injured soul and met all of his needs. The victim needed healthcare and wound-dressing. Done. He needed a place to heal; “Here you go hotel-guy, here’s some cash for a room and for continuing care costs until this dude’s out of your hair”. Going the ‘extra mile’? Done! The Samaritan comes out of this story smelling like roses, and rightly so!

In similar fashion, an opportunity to love our neighbour should stem primarily from our wanting to address serious, life-impacting types of concerns. But if we come to believe that serving the Lord means pandering to others’ selfish wants and tastes, we’ll end up as sycophantic masochists – not martyrs – and that’s really not what Jesus was calling us to do when he said, “love your enemies” or “love your neighbour”.

Paul the apostle, writing to Roman Christians stated, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (2.). In other words, Christians should do whatever it takes to come up with a peaceful or ‘mutually beneficial’ solution but it’s clearly implied that though this is the ideal, sometimes it just isn’t possible.

If Mrs. Squirrel-hater fell down in the parking lot outside her building we wouldn’t hesitate to help her to her feet. If she was short on change at Tim Horton’s we’d cover her whole tab. We relish opportunities to help others in need. But what we don’t have to do is make everyone feel good by giving in to their petty wants. Christians should not be about making people feel good but should be focused on caring for others sincerely whenever the authentic opportunity arises; and that may often mean doing so while carrying our differences, idiosyncrasies and personal disagreements in tow.

What about you? Do you agree? Do you think we should have tried so work out something with our grousing neighbour? How do you go about loving your (literal and figurative) neighbour when differences arise?

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question:

“Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jesus replied with a story:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.
“Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37
New Living Translation

2. Romans 12:18, New International Version

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Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Neo-Pacifism The New Christianity? Part I

Does anyone remember pacifism?

You know, that fairly extremist position of non-violence held by certain Christian faith-groups who endorse that their members absolutely refrain from joining the military (for combat service), becoming a cop (as all police agencies mandate the use of lethal force when required) or even using self-defence to protect oneself or loved ones if it might lead to killing another human being in order to do so?

Well, it’s apparently back with a ‘non-vengeance’. This time around, however, pacifism’s re-emergence is no longer the theological territory of aloof, simple-life religious communities, but can be found in modern churches equipped with all manner of technology, multimedia tools and eye-catching backdrops. In these places of worship, passionate, enthusiastic preachers are making waves in the Christian community by extoling the virtuousness of old-world pacifism. At first, this might seem like not such a bad thing … after all, what’s wrong with a growing bunch of peaceniks, right? But here’s the rub: those delivering this message of ‘non-violence-at-all-costs’ are stating, in no uncertain terms, that unless all Christians everywhere submit to pacifism, they are failing to fully comprehend or represent the life, character and principles of Christ.

We believe that there is something very disconcerting about this latest push towards a collective peace-initiative – something we’ve dubbed ‘Neo-Pacifism’ – and contend that it’s just one more ‘ism’ that hampers our efforts to spread the true Gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ.

What Does Neo-Pacifism Teach?

Answering this question accurately required quite a bit of reading/listening to several sermons from prominent figures associated with the movement. What we discovered proved to be both interesting and sometimes kind of disturbing. As already noted in the first paragraph of this article, Christian pacifism (which is rooted in the Anabaptist tradition that began about half a millennium ago) means a person does not engage in any act of retributive aggression or defensive violence that could cause harm or especially the death of another human being. Pacifism’s adherents believe their position represents the truest fulfilment of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (or Sermon on the Plain) with respect to His followers loving their enemies and taking the command of Christ to ‘turn the other cheek’ quite literally. It matters not an iota what the prevailing circumstances may be. You simply do not take lethal action against anyone – ever. The concept of ‘just war’ is regarded as scriptural and spiritual error. Though a nation could be taken into captivity by an invading force and its people suffer unnameable atrocities at the hands of evil men, pacifism demands that you are not to become a soldier in order to defend the oppressed or the innocent. Applying for a job in government? Not in the plan. Joining a police force is out of the question (for reasons already mentioned) and it can be assumed that signing up for Mixed Martial Arts doesn’t score any points with pacifists either.

(Why Neo-pacifism misrepresents Christianity will be covered in Part II of this article.)

Who’s Behind Neo-Pacifism’s Rise To Acceptance?

Several popular ministers, we discovered.

One individual who’s covering a lot of territory (and time) with respect to pacifism is Bruxy Cavey, a gifted, charismatic speaker and primary ‘Teaching Pastor’ for the far-reaching, momentum-gathering church known as ‘The Meeting House’. The Meeting House doesn’t hide the fact that it is rooted in the Brethren In Christ (BIC)/Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition, but is of late making a significant push to ensure that the pacifist agenda is tremendously close to being front and centre along with the Gospel message. In 2010, Bruxy engaged his congregation/listeners with a teaching series called, ‘Inglorious Pastors: Waging Peace in a World of War’, which was a seven sermon lecture on how to (and why all Christians should) get on board with pacifism. Right up there with Cavey are other proponents of neo-pacifism such as famous author/speaker Tony Campolo, Woodland Hills pastor Greg Boyd and ‘visionary leader’ Shane Claiborne. All of these speakers/church-leaders are connected with (and are scheduled speakers for) the most recent Christian peace-initiative venture called PEACEWORKS.TV, a group self-described as “a youth movement for peace bringing people from all over the world together for a single purpose…to turn every church into a peace church.” 1

Why You Should Be Concerned About The Neo-Pacifist Movement

When it comes to presenting your church’s doctrines, it’s one thing to state, “What we believe and teach has proven to be effective” but quite another to stress that everyone else not doing what you’re doing or believing what you’re believing has got it all wrong. What’s far more disconcerting is when any church group/denomination – their growth, solid doctrinal foundation or good intentions notwithstanding – comes right out and says that “Jesus is the model for our system of living and anything short of this model fails to fully represent Christian character”. Well, the Christian neo-pacifists are doing just that.

Here’s what Bruxy Cavey, author of the successful and provocative book ‘The End of Religion’, states with respect to those inquiring into pacifism:

“Something else we should think about just before we dive in … this is for those of you who are having to answer questions of others as we process through this … You should be aware that some of the questions people ask are asked ‘genuinely’ and some are asked just because they’re looking for an excuse not to have to listen to the teachings of Christ. In other words … people ask questions of Jesus’s peace-teaching in two ways, sometimes, first of all, in order to find an excuse to disregard it or sometimes to better understand and apply it.” 2

This statement shows Bruxy is making the assumption that those who question pacifism are questioning the way of Jesus. That kind of approach strikes us as ‘our way or the highway’ and has that familiar stench born out of theological arrogance; something I’ve been known to struggle with myself. (‘Takes one to know one’, as they say!)

It’s fine to detail your own position on pacifism and teach what it means; that it’s ‘okay to die for a cause, just not kill for one‘ or that it is ‘not a success strategy but a love strategy‘ etc., but Bruxy takes it to a whole other level by pretty much ordaining it as a religious
obligation for true Christians (which is kind of strange when you consider the title of his book).

Though Bruxy says that pacifism isn’t necessarily the best strategy in a situation where violence could be used as a solution, he states that “WE (the church’s members, leaders etc.) still believe it is the right choice because we choose this way because Jesus ‘called for it, commanded it, modelled it and then calls us to be the body of Christ – today – filled with his spirit – living as Jesus lived, presenting him to the world.’ In the same sermon he also elaborates, ” … we don’t follow the way of peace because it works, we follow it because it’s like Christ.” 3

Again, he infers that ‘the way of peace’ as per the pacifist’s stance is Christ-like, clearly intimating that one’s not being a pacifist is a failure to be Christ-like.

Not wanting to misinterpret the pacifist position of The Meeting House, I spoke to a representative of the church. I asked, “Would we not be allowed to be church members if we did not subscribe to your strong, pacifist leanings? The individual stated that we could be members, but that if we’d climbed the ladder into church leadership by any degree, we would not be allowed to voice our disfavour of or lack of allegiance to pacifism. That information revealed to us just how deeply entrenched the doctrine was. When I asked, “Do you think that those who do not subscribe to pacifism are deficient in their Christian walks or lives?” the person on the other end of the line – as politely as they could – acknowledged that you would be numbered along with those who ‘struggle with Christ’s teachings’. Upon my probing into the issue a bit further, the church representative strongly implied that you wouldn’t be as mature in your Christian faith without being a pacifist.

St. Paul MN’s Woodland Hills pastor, Greg Boyd, recently spoke at the Sunday service for The Meeting House here in Canada. In his sermon, entitled, ‘From Baptist to Anabaptist’ he stated:

“… the true Kingdom always looks like Calvary. … All over the place people are getting this vision … that what Jesus came to do and that it always has this humble, servant, self-sacrificial feel to it. And these folks are looking for … a tribe and a tradition – something that’s anchored and has witnessed in the past. And the only folks who have the tradition are the Anabaptists, the Brethren in Christ/the Mennonites. God’s doing a new thing … is pouring out new wineskin … a new tradition that they can call home and the only ones who have it are you guys!” 4

Once again, there is a definitive ‘us and them’ vibe going on that – I hate to say it – reminds me of a cult mentality. We are NOT SAYING THE NEO-PACIFIST MOVEMENT IS A CULT – please do not misinterpret us. But as it currently stands, the neo-pacifist leaders we are hearing from are stating that all branches of Christianity outside of their own are failing to fully meet the objectives of the Gospel by their not subscribing to pacifism. This is just not the case and is a much uncalled for sweeping generalization. There are many peace-loving, self-sacrificing, love-oriented and ‘mature’ Christians from ALL denominations who are fantastically Christ-like and yet are not pacifists. But try and get a neo-pacifist church leader to accept that and you may find you’re beating your head against a wall. I remember encountering this very same spirit in some evangelical protestant churches where they believe that all Roman Catholics are lost and bound for hell – an inane, judgmental position that’s doctrinally unfounded. It’s this very spirit of judgment, borne out of a faith group’s egotism, which subjects the Kingdom of God to public disgrace by the disunity it ultimately fosters.

The funny thing is that a great percentage of the time (here in the west especially) your pacifist or non-pacifist disposition exists almost solely in the realms of the abstract or theoretical. What I mean is that there is hardly ever a time where you’re provided an opportunity to live out your pacifist views in the same way a trained martial artist almost never finds himself going all Jackie Chan on a bunch of thugs after leaving the dojo. As this is the case, I have to wonder why the neo-pacifists are pushing the peace-agenda so hard?

And so, we would really like to ask the neo-pacifists out there to contemplate the possibility that you’ve let a doctrinal side issue become an agenda that takes precedence over the Gospel. The Gospel is about God’s grace extended to a broken world through the death and resurrection of Christ and about our living a life ‘worthy of the calling’ first and foremost. How you live your life in Christ and how I live mine is bound to be different, but the Spirit of God has given us both a measure of faith and will convict us of our shortcomings, including those that have to do with peace, love and practical real-life application. Harping on anything outside of this – the heart of the Christian life – will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. Things turn ugly when an interpretation of the Gospel (or some aspect of it) is presented as if it were the Gospel itself. Please, don’t make that mistake.

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. http://peaceworkstv.wordpress.com/ & http://youtube.com/peaceworkstv

2. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 6:42min)

3. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 5:10min)

4. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/one-church-2013/week-1-from-baptist-to-anabaptist-5475 – SERMON TITLE: “FROM BAPTIST TO ANABAPTIST … (at 29:02min)

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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