Guest Blogger - On Paxifism, An Alternative Approach to Non-Violence or Pacifism

Today, we are having a guest blogger again. This is only the second one in Potholes history. So I would like to welcome Jason Vance into the fold. I have known Jason for around eight years. He was a always a guy who I admire for his devotion to following Christ.

Also, Irish Mist, if you have more questions after this, feel free to post them and I will think about them and write about my thoughts.


I am going to venture into this discussion, but i think that it should be said up front, that I'm not sure it will do any good. If we are all seeking truth and God's will, than this can be beneficial for all of us. If we feel like we have already arrived at definitive truth and there is nothing that can be said to change our minds, i think we need to deal with the issue of pride. We are discussing a topic that has been debated since Constantine started allowing Christians to be soldiers. I am NOT going to sit here and type this pretending that I have all the answers and I have it all figured out and that everyone needs to just listen to me in order to be enlightened! I think that we can both learn from each other, if we are willing to listen to one another.

with that being said, here goes...

“Forgive me if I have been, am, or will in the future be too harsh. Prophecy is my gift, and it is sharp-edged.”

I think that we should be forgiving to one another (especially in this format of discussion where we can’t really tell people’s attitudes behind their typed words), but I do not think that we should use Prophecy as a ticket to be able to be harsh to one another. We can speak truth into each other’s lives without belittling or being rude. We should speak truthfully to one another out of love and with gentleness.

Irish Mist, you have lots of good questions, but you are also making a lot of assumptions. This is not some new fangled topic that has just crept up on Christianity. The Mennonites have always been non-violent and they have been around for quite a while. In fact, an amazing book that would deal with almost all of the questions that you have posed so far is called, “What Would You Do?” By John Howard Yoder (a mennonite). It’s a very short read, but very powerful and packed with good thoughts. It is all about the questions (and answers) that you posed with all of your different scenarios.

On to Mark Twain…
If we want to discredit a good thought, we could do that with every single person (with the exception of Jesus himself) by picking things out of their lives that aren’t good. Does this make the thought any less good? Is it possible that a non-Christian would be able to see a Christian truth? Yes, I think that it is! Sometimes God uses outside sources to really bring home a point when we just aren’t getting it. And sometimes we ignore those sources because we think that God wouldn’t use other people to get his point across. Maybe he has to sometimes when we don’t pay enough attention. Anyway, I think it would be wrong for us to ignore something based on the fact that they are not perfect. God can speak through any one of us if he wishes, and we should be open to hearing him (even in unusual places).

If you really look into the churches historical stance on violence you usually can only come to two different viewpoints (and remain biblical). One is that Christians should practice non-violence. And the other usually follows the Just War Theory. It is hard to find any solid theology beyond these two views. What is interesting is that people use the Just War Theory in order to justify all different sorts of violence that are not condoned in that theory. There is not a single advocate for the Just War Theory (that I have read) that believes that self-defense is justified. Yet, so many people will try to do just that! The Just War Theory was not created in order to justify Christians going to war (and killing people), it was created in order to attempt to keep governments in check when they decided to go to war. So far, there has not been a single war that has been entered into that has fit all of the qualifications for the just war theory. I think that the war to stop Hitler was probably the closest. But the ironic part about that is: Guess who the German Christians (if they followed the just war theory) were fighting for? It was their country!

This point has already been discussed a little, but I want to expand on it. As Christians, we belong to a different kingdom. Our loyalties are primarily (if not solely) with the Kingdom of God. There are members of the Kingdom of God living in every single country in the world! Are we going to go killing each other if the countries that we live in decide that they think we should go to war? Christian brother killing Christian brother in the name of some earthly kingdom? This seems like the allegiance is with the wrong kingdom. Can you imagine the people of the Church at Corinth participating in a war against the Church at Ephesus because they were both told to fight by their governments?

“And still my question remains unanswered: why didn't Jesus mention war and/or governmental policies? Surely he knew that many of his converts would be soldiers and/or policemen. Did Jesus forget? If not, what is the only other alternative?”

Surely Jesus knew that many of his converts would be drug dealers, prostitutes, and bank robbers. Does he mention any of them? Arguing from silence is a very tricky business. You imply that there is only one alternative to Jesus’ forgetfulness. I’d like to suggest at least one other possibility. Jesus didn’t need to deal with any direct professions, because he has told us how to live our lives. If a specific profession asks us to live a life contrary to what he has asked of us, does he really need to be redundant by saying not to do that job? In this way, Jesus can instruct us on how to live our lives regardless of what new jobs may pop up in the future.

Now I’ll attempt to answer some of your scenarios…

“What do you do with the Holocaust? Evil reigned, and only by war did evil subside. Are you willing to suggest that the soldiers involved in removing the third reich from power were going against the will of God? What do good, God-fearing MEN do when a sadistic ruler gasses hundreds of thousands of his own people? Do Christians sit back with their hands tied and say, ‘Can't help the defenseless, the fatherless and the widow. Sorry, Thou Shalt Not Kill and all.’”

Only by war did evil subside? Yes, that is the way things ended, but does that mean it was the only possible way that it could have ended? Good, God-fearing MEN show a self-sacrificial love for those people being murdered AND for the enemy that is causing it. Regan, made a very good point by showing the difference between “Pacifism” and non-violence. But even non-violence isn’t quite enough. We, as Christians, are not just called to be non-violent. We are called to be non-violent AND show love to the oppressed (and the oppressor). A good friend of mine thinks it may be beneficial to coin the term “paXifism” Where the X can stand for the greek Chi so that we are really talking about a Christ centered non-violent way of life that actively seeks to right the wrongs through any means necessary (besides violence). Am I suggesting that the soldiers who fought that war were going against the will of God? I’m suggesting that the soldiers who fought in that war, tried to take matters into their own hands because they weren’t sure that it could be handled the way that God has asked us to live as Christians. You ask me, “at what cost do you remain non-violent? How many lives must be lost?” But I ask you, “At what cost do you act contrary to Jesus teaching?” I think that it would have been amazing for all of the churches to take a stand against Hitler and say to the world, “Slaughter us if you must, but we will not sit back and allow you to commit these atrocities!” Expose Hitler’s plan for what it really was! Try to show love to the very soldiers that come to take you to the gas chamber. Do whatever is in your power to show them in some concrete way that you care about them. Not because it could save your life, but because we are told to by our savior! You might be thinking, “How can anything be accomplished without violence (in this situation)?” Well, you can ask Ghandi if you want to see how effective it is. But even that sort of misses the point. Christians should not be paxifists because less people will die this way (although it very well might be true). Christians should be paxifist because we are instructed to live such lives by Jesus himself. Whether it is to our own detriment or not, this is part of the life he has called us to. So we need to be willing to literally pick up our cross and follow him. I.M. you assume that the only way to help the defenseless, fatherless, and widow is to be violent. Is this how Jesus helped them? Why not stand up for them? Take their place if need be, but do all of it in Love! Being paxifist does not tie your hands at all, it frees you from the Bonds of violence in order to act in the most loving ways possible.

“What does a God-fearing committed Christian man do when he comes home from work to disturb a sadist who has just raped, tortured, and brutally murdered his family and now holds the knife at the man's own throat?”

If he has already murdered my entire family and now has the knife at my throat it seems quite simple. Love him. My family is already gone, so the only thing left is self-defense. You made this question too easy! Who is to say that my life is more important than his? God is the only one who can do that. I already know that my salvation is secure, I have nothing to fear in death. I also know that if he has done these things to my family and is ready to kill me, he probably isn’t very familiar with Jesus Christ, who died to save him. Why would I want to kill him while he is in this state? Again, you are assuming a lot. Like there was nothing happening and all of the sudden everything is already done and we are at the moment where he has a knife to my throat (no chance to act in between). This doesn’t leave much left to be done. But I still have a few ways I could try to show him Love. The way I speak to him, my willingness to die rather than harm him. I could offer to feed him, or tend to any of his physical needs (maybe he got wounded while breaking into my house). I could tell him that I love him and I could continue to pray for God’s strength to be a good witness of his Kingdom and show this hurting person God’s love and forgiveness.

“What does the world need with policemen, anyway? If you are a Christian, you should abandon any kind of job involved in "keeping the peace" because one day you will most assuredly have to shoot a lunatic.”

God can still use policemen to help uphold the worldly kingdoms enough for His word to be spread without total and utter chaos. But Christians have another purpose. Our purpose is to be the foretaste of God’s Kingdom. How can we be a foretaste of it, if we live in ways that are contrary to it? And again I say, if your job causes you to act in a way that Jesus has asked you not to, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. That doesn’t mean that anyone who does that job is a horrible person, it just means that they have a different purpose they are playing out that is not part of the Christian narrative.

“What do you do when you are on a plane that's been hijacked, and you have been told by the demons in charge that the plan is to ram this plane into the Pentagon and kill thousands of people? Are you sinning to try to stop that massacre from occurring if one of the demons has to die in the process? But if you restrain yourself, you will kill thousands by your inaction. Is that less of a sin? Is THAT a heroic deed? Is THAT honorable in God's eyes?”

The “demons” in charge of the plane? Without even getting into a spiritual/supernatural discussion on actual demons I think we can safely say that there are still actual humans in charge of the plane. Even if they are under the influence of demons, Jesus still treated them like people and I think that we should too. Calling people anything less than “images of God” is usually an attempt to de-humanize them. This is actually what the American military does about it’s enemies so that the soldiers will have an easier time killing them. Lets try to keep talking as if we are dealing with God’s Creation (even if they are making some really poor decisions), because it makes it more difficult to just kill them off with a clear conscience. Why can’t you attempt to stop the massacre in a non-violent way? You are right if you think that the chances are slim and that you would probably die. But the odds are actually the same if you try a violent method. And again, it is not about which method saves more lives (although lives are sacred, it is not up to us to choose which ones. They all are!). It is about which method is more Christ-like. Do not “restrain” yourself, just don’t be violent! Again, you assume that non-violent = inaction. This definitely should not be. Violence is not the only thing that will change a scenario, but it is the worldly way to deal with something like this.

“Your true reasoning behind your self-acclaimed "non-violent" nature seems to be your idea of the sanctity of life.”

You are partially right, but I am not willing to say which life is more sanctified! The true reasoning behind this non-violent nature is the nature of Christ and his teachings. The results of what happens because of this life style are not as important as the fact that we follow Christ’s example. Another thing that is a major factor is the loving of enemies that Jesus talks about. Difficult to do while shooting them!

Those are just some thoughts on the topic, sorry if it isn’t one concise and neat thought. I typed this over a few different sittings.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts,
In Christ’s love,

Watch out for the potholes.