Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why I am Not A Pacifist Part 2 (Edited Version)

I must apologize for the length of this post. It is longer than I'd like but cannot be avoided.

Also, if some of the language in this post offends you I'm sorry. Please see the earlier post "Why I am not a Pacifist" to gain the context.

I feel that I need to provide more information on why Dr. Kimmey’s statement made me change my position on pacifism? I need to explain what made the statement so profound.

The statement was simply the beginning of the answer, not the whole answer and as I looked at the question with, as it were with new eyes, I saw a different answer.

Others may disagree with my belief at this point but it is important to realize that we are discussing beliefs. Beliefs are based upon either assumptions or presumptions. The trick is to base beliefs upon assumptions rather than presumptions. Assumptions are something that are either not proven or are un-provable but for which some evidence or rational exist. Presumptions, on the other hand are things that are believed when there is no supporting evidence or in spite of contradictory evidence. Pacifism is generally based upon presumptions. So, what are my assumptions that force is sometimes an appropriate response?

The First Justification: An Innate Desire for Justice
The fact that both Dr. Kimmey and I sometimes meet people who deserve some form of punishment rather than simply being rehabilitated speaks to an innate and universal sense of justice which realizes that sometimes it is not enough to say “I’m sorry.” There are, or so our conscience seems to tell us, some crimes or sins that demand punishment rather than recompense. It can be argued, perhaps that our sense of justice has become corrupted. Indeed, I would agree with that statement. However, has it become corrupted from a sense of legitimate use of force to an illegitimate use of force or has it become corrupted from a non-use of force to a use of force? We need to realize that we, as humans, are part of a fallen nature that is not warm and fuzzy but “red in tooth and claw.”

Thomas Hobbs was correct when he said in the Leviathan that “the natural state of man (Humans) is war” I believe as a Christian that it isn’t meant to be this way but became this way because of our sin. I believe that in an unfallen world violence would be unnecessary just as in an unfallen world clothing was unnecessary However, we do not live in an unfallen world and I don't see many, if any Christian pacifist advocating nudity to bring in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, I think the answer is that force is, at times a legitimate option.

I believe the use of force is at times, as stated above, an expression of what I believe to be an innate human longing for justice. We all, every one of us, have this desire in us. The problem is that often we let our desire for justice melt into a desire for vengeance. However, they are not the same thing and those who cannot or refuse to see the difference are morally color blind. To forswear the use of force because some people have perverted their sense of justice is as illogical as forswearing underwear because strippers and prostitutes wear it.

In short, there are people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because they deserve to have justice meted out upon them.

The Second Justification: Social Necessity

I find it untenable to say that if someone is threatening me I do not have the right to at least sometimes, oppose that threat in a reciprocal fashion. I reject what could be called the moral equivalence argument that is sometimes phrased “hitting back makes’ you just as bad as them” out of hand. It doesn’t because I am not instigating the injustice. I am preventing injustice. Therefore, I am not as bad as them. I believe this right extends to coming to the aid of others. If I see a violent or even non-violent crime being committed I have, not only the right, but the civic duty, to go the victims’ aid.

Do I have the right kill a man who was beating his wife? Probably not; unless I was preventing him from using deadly force; but, I have the right and duty to use as much force as needed to stop the beating. Do I have the right to go to that man the next day and beat him senseless for what he did to his wife the night before? No, I do not.

If I see someone being assaulted I have the right and duty to stop the assault if I can. In this case, using violence could even be considered the polite thing to do. I believe that it is a right and duty to intervene with force, if needed to stop a crime. I believe that in such cases the use of force is not simply a necessary evil but a positive good. To save the life of an innocent from the hands of the wicked, even if the wicked dies is a good thing.

The assumption involved is one of social necessity. I am not a pacifist because I live in a world where there is danger present from evil and wicked forces that use violence to gain control of life, property and liberty. It is an assumption that I feel fits within the framework of the world today. If I do not believe this I cannot be said to truly “Love my neighbor.”

In short, there are people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because they want to beat the shit out of someone and steal their stuff and I have a right to maintain the life, liberty and property, of both myself and my neighbor from evil doers.

The Third Justification: The Biblical Mandate
I believe, as a Christian, that the God of the Bible has sanctioned and used war and violence as a form of chastisement and punishment. Indeed, it is difficult to read the Old Testament and come to any other conclusion

If God has not only allowed but commanded certain nations to invade other nations and make war upon them the use of force or violence cannot always be sinful because God does not command people to sin but to be righteous.

I cannot, reconcile the Old and New Testaments if I cannot find a place for violence in the world. People change but God doesn’t. If war is always wrong then why did God command the Israeli’s to capture their land by war? Why didn't He simply make the land vacant in some non-violent miraculous way? Not only did they capture their land by war but they slaughtered the entire population who had previously lived in that land. Did Joshua sin? If he did it was because God commanded him to.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t just war, this was genocide. God instructed Joshua to go to war and kill every man, every woman and every child.

My first assumption here is that you cannot separate these events from the rest of the Bible. There is no progressive revelation in this passage; God was not bending His true will to allow for the lack of morality in Joshua’s society. If the pacifist is correct then God caused His chosen people to sin because He directly instructed them to go and wipe out another group of people and then appropriate their possessions. The alternative, which is my assumption, is that the ancient peoples Joshua was confronting had been judged by God and their culture was being exterminated because of its extreme sinfulness.

Even Christians who are pacifist have to accept this assumption or they have to believe that God told Joshua and the Israelites to commit sin or possibly that only Jews may murder. If that is what a pacifist believes then they believe in a God who is not holy and cannot be trusted. Or they have to believe that the truth has somehow changed and that is a world too scary to think about.

My second assumption here is that there is one God, with an unchanging nature and that if He told Joshua to invade and slaughter people back then that He could possibly do the same today because there are people who come under the judgment of God.

My third assumption here is that I believe that if Christians were supposed to be complete pacifist then both the New and Old Testament would state so clearly. They do not. What I believe you see in the Bible is a distinction between individuals and government action. To be fair, I think that this was the position my Mennonite riend maintained and claimed that Christians should not be part of government. I cannot see that but it at least made her position almost livable if you ignore the historical account of Joshua, and the Jewish kings. I believe what we see in the New Testament is a separation of the powers between government and the individual. Governments act as the hand of God to administer justice. Individuals normally do not.

In short, there are people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because they are under the judgment of God. That doesn’t mean that every crackpot who claims to be acting as the avenger of God really is.

The Fourth Assumption: Governments have the responsibility To execute God's Justice
In the book of Romans, chapter 13 we are told that "rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

This is very clear, the state or rulers have the obligation, under God to administer justice and sometimes justice requires violence. Otherwise there would be no need of a sword. A sword is a lethal weapon and implies the use of violence. Thus some people deserve to have the shit beat out of them because the have broken the law and the state is administering justice to them.

The Fifth Assumption: The Argument from Impossibility
Christians are told that they not be aggressive or warlike in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. The implication of this verse is also clear. There will be times, hopefully few, when it will not be possible to live in peace with all men. If it is not possible to always live in peace then there will be times of war and strife.

Thus, there will be people who deserve to have the shit beat out of them because it is not possible to live in peace with them.

I cannot as a Christian, be a pacifist. The only exception to this is when confronted PERSONALLY by someone who is persecuting me for my faith. Whether another entity, either individual or corporate could come to my aid in such a an event is another question.
This is a very long post for me. But, it is a post that I needed to make.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Non-Pacifist Blogger

No comments: