I’m fairly removed these days from discussions of pacifism and just war — which I don’t honestly want to complain about. But I read a post from John Alan Turner this morning that really touched me, and made me think. You can read it here. I feel there’s a deeper issue beneath all of this, and I intend to devote some time to understanding it. I’ve posted my response below:
This post reminds me of questions I’ve pushed to the back of my mind for some time — both because of the difficulty of thinking through them, and because I’m living in East Africa now and don’t read often about the military and casualties and discussions of pacifism and just war. And I definitely am standing in the same corner with you, conflicted applause and all.
But as long as my memory’s been jogged, I might as well try and work through a little of this. It’s probably a drastic oversimplification, but I’ve always seen Jesus as one who gave up his own “personal” rights, but was willing to stand and defend the rights of others. That’s how I’ve read the New Testament — that I should be willing to turn my cheek and not raise a hand to defend myself. But that if someone is being oppressed or taken advantage of, and is unable to defend his/herself, then it becomes my responsibility.
I’m reminded of walking down a back alley late one night in Wuhan, China. Often while I lived there I heard about the intensity with which many men would beat their wives into submission. This one night in particular I witnessed it. Without thinking I stepped in between the two, asked him why he was doing this, and told him he’d better stop. He did stop, with his head hung in shame — not because what he was doing was wrong, but because he was being corrected directly by another individual. I don’t know if what I did was right. It may be that his wife received a harsher beating that very night for embarrassing him. It may be that I should have dealt with this problem differently in a culture with so much emphasis on honor and shame. But what I do know is that I didn’t have to hit or push this guy to get him to stop, but would have if it had been required. I know that action would have been justified by most, but I don’t know if it would have been like Christ.
That night in China wasn’t war, nor was it taking the life of another. But I magnify that night times thousands and I begin to wonder about protecting those who can’t protect themselves on a larger scale — and when do we decide to push or hit. Or do we? Will the beating be more severe next time, because we resisted? Will we be less like Christ, because we fought?
Either way, I should make clear that I greatly appreciate and respect those who defend our country. I know there are numerous sacrifices made, so that the U.S. can be a safer place, and so that people like me can sit around and think about these issues and others, freely. I don’t think posting today has gotten me a great deal closer to having all the answers, but at least I’m now engaged in the discussion. And for the time being, I’ll refrain from clapping and fold those hands in prayer — seems like that will help everyone involved a great deal more.