If Jesus is a pansy, I want to be one too – Reflections on Christlikeness

Recently a pastor wrote an article about why God is not a pacifist. Not only so, he argued that Jesus (the “God-human”) is also not a pacifist and never taught such. He went on to claim that Jesus wasn’t a “pansy,”[1] as though being a pacifist equates one to this derogatory title. [Note: I, personally think, that such a word that has caused many folks shame, is not one to throw around. I use it in this article with that conviction.] Jesus is a man’s man.

Those who want to portray Jesus as a pansy or a pacifist are prone to be very selective in the parts of the Bible they quote. But the God of the bloody Old Testament is Jesus Christ. When he became a man, he walked the earth as a working-class carpenter. The European, long-haired, dress-wearing, hippie Jesus is a bad myth from a bad artist who mistook Jesus for a community college humanities professor. (Source)

I’ve read two responses that do a good overall job of dealing with the theological flaws of this argument. Check out Preston Sprinkle’s article and Greg Boyd’s article. I’ve also written numerous blogs on why I’m convinced that Jesus and the early church in fact taught nonviolence (see my series Nonviolence 101). Therefore, I have zero intentions of defending nonviolent resistance at a theological level. For me, it’s a given. This article is seeking to draw out the implications for discipleship. In what follows, I want to offer two observations to consider, based on the logic of the above-mentioned quotation and article.

#1 Pacifism (or nonviolence) is not a “pansy” perspective

The nonviolence of the Scriptures (which is foretold in the prophets and enacted in Jesus and the early church) has little to do with cowardice. In fact, cowardice is contrary to the God who invites us to allow “perfect love to cast out all fear.” To be a coward, although not to be judged, is to not fully grasp what it means to be a pacifist.

In Matthew 5, for instance, where Jesus invites his followers to peacefully combat evil, he says: “But I say to you: don’t use violence to resist evil!” In other words, there exist other means to resist evil. Violence and passivity are not the only options; we can stand up in the face of evil – unarmed! Think about it. Such a move takes more bravery and creativity that the binary options of violence and passivity.

Think here of Gandhi or those in the company of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Would we say that those who peacefully marched or did sit-ins in the 60s were “pansies?” No way! They modeled what true heroism looks like – loving your oppressors even when they bomb, beat, imprison, degrade, kill, or harass you. Sounds a lot like Jesus: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5.44-45 CEB). Being lovers of enemies looks more like civil rights activists in the 60s and a lot less like beating the hell out of our oppressors. This is the Jesus way.

Even the Apostle Paul agrees with Jesus in numerous places. One oft-overlooked passage is in Ephesians 6 where Paul reminds us that our battle for justice is not against “flesh and blood” but rather against the “principalities and powers.” Based on the ways in which Paul draws this out in the rest of the passage (making various allusions to Hebrew Scriptures where God is a warrior who fights for the oppressed), it is clear that Paul invites us to metaphorically wear God’s armor as we nonviolently fight against injustice which is fueled by evil invisible forces. [For more on this, see this paper.] Warfare is no longer with physical weapons but is fueled by the God who empowers us to walk into dark situations as unarmed ambassadors of peace, justice, and hope. Again, the point is this: it takes MORE courage to choose beyond the binary options of passivity and violence – not less.

#2 If Jesus is in fact a pacifist as a human, we ought to be too, which might mean being called “pansy”

The call to discipleship is the invitation to follow Jesus as Lord and rabbi. A disciple, by definition, seeks to become like their rabbi. This is often referred to as Christlikeness. The more we become like Jesus, the more we will be able to partner with God in the restoration of all things and thereby become more fully human.

So, when we think of Jesus, we have a choice to make if we are truly committing our lives to follow him. Either he taught nonviolent resistance or he did not. If he did, according to the above quote from that other article, then he would be deemed a “pansy.” And if this is what it means to be a “pansy,” then all Christians ought to become “pansies” as well. This is going to be a counterintuitive and irrational move for those who have been conditioned by the ways of the world[2] (and some forms of theology), but embracing this sort of pansy pacifist identity is part of identifying with the way of Jesus. The cross exemplifies this summons to foolishness. Paul states the following:

In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1.21-24)

The cross is the ultimate model of what it looks like to love our enemies and to choose to overcome evil with good. Jesus dying on the cross for the very people who betrayed him and for the very culture that crucified him (Israel and Rome) is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. Yet, this God demonstrated a deeper wisdom – evil is conquered not by violence, but ultimately through love. And however we might nuance this reality of the Kingdom of God, we find another Apostle – Peter – inviting us to understand the cross as the ultimate paradigm of discipleship. First Peter 2.21ff reminds disciples:

You were called to this kind of endurance, because Christ suffered on your behalf. He left you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, nor did he ever speak in ways meant to deceive. When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

No matter our lot in life, whether a slave in the 1st century or a writer in the 21st, as disciples the cross is our model for what it means to follow Jesus – to “carry your cross.” Being insulted, being referred as “pansies,” is what worldly wisdom will offer us for the decision to choose peace over the sword. But rest assured, Jesus is no “pansy” in the sense that such a word was utilized in that other article. No, Jesus conquered death and evil through self-sacrificial love!

In the case of the cross and of discipleship – nonviolence courageously wins against evil – even when the evil of worldly wisdom seems to have the upper hand in gruesome situations. To be a disciple is to allow the presence of Christ to transform our character into the kind of people who are willing to “follow in his footsteps.”

Courageously Following Jesus

Even if we are considered “pansies” as pacifists, no insult should hold us back from following our crucified Lord. Resurrection is on the other side of the cross, so even when hope looks bleak, it remains. If Jesus is a pansy pacifist, I want to be one too. We don’t allow what seems rational to define what it means to follow our rabbi; we follow because he is who we want to be. Such an approach to life actually requires more courage, not less, because we are refusing to play by worldly rules.

So here’s my invitation to the broader church: let’s become known as pansies pacifists! Not only out of obedience to the teachings of Jesus but also because the world is literally dying for a better way of being human.



[1] The word pansy has been used to marginalize various peoples who refuse to give dignity to people who are different than standard gender stereotypes. This word, in this usage, needs to never graze our lips. I’m using it subversively only because of how it was used in the article I referenced.

[2] To be clear: When I use the language of “world” or “worldly” in a negative sense, I mean the mentality or culture of the world as it presently is, not as it will be. In other words, I have zero desire to see the church involved in theologies predicated on some sort of belief that this world is one to be abandoned (in some version of a rapture) for the hope of spiritual bliss in heaven. The Scriptures speak to the opposite – that heaven will one day come to earth to restore all things.

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  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    As I told someone else, anyone who can take a punch to the face, get up, brush themselves off and say, “You can do that again if you want to” is NOT a “pansy”.

    Thanks for this, Kurt. It’s especially helpful to see, repeated both here and elsewhere, the note that violence and passivity are NOT the only options…

    In fact, I think so long as violence is in the equation, we can’t SEE any other options. We’re hardwired, it seems, for fight or flight. We’ll either fight back, tooth and nail, when threatened… or we’ll run away… If we take away the “fight back” response as a viable alternative, suddenly a whole host of things pop up as possibilities… even to the point of taking a bullet to distract the dude long enough for the other people to get away… How many times has that scenario been played out in all the school shooting across the country? And pacifism doesn’t solve anything… humph…

    Anywho, thanks for all that, Kurt. It’s excellent to see so many refutations out there.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Thanks Robert!!!!

      Kurt Willems
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  • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

    You’re absolutely right here, Kurt. The life of nonviolence demanded by Jesus is no life for a coward. I would even say that those who accuse peacemakers (or for that matter, people who DO fear combat) of being “pansies” are actually trying to goad them into violence using the fear of being perceived as weak or effeminate. The courage to accept whatever demeaning insults our “friends” throw at us, can be at least as difficult to muster as the courage to do violence to our “enemies.”

    As you rightly pointed out, 1 John 4:18 teaches us that love, not violence, is the opposite of fear. You probably remember I called up a similar theme when I wrote about Loving our Enemies in an Age of Terrorism.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Thanks Dan… and yes, I remember that article… it was a great piece!
      Kurt Willems
      the Pangea Blog – Subscribe in one step!
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    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Mr. Martin, what is your opinion of self-styled “non-violent” folks who increasingly:

      1. Employ one shot to the head violent imagery to dehumanize their political enemies so that they may be forcefully “pacified,” as evidenced by:

      • “…one shot…to the forehead…” ~Mennonite Central Committee, David and Goliath (Part V)

      • Philistine Pacification Politics: Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” ~1 Samuel 13:19

      2. Delegate their desire for violence against their neighbors to the State, as evidenced by:

      • “Although the neo-Anabaptists sort of subscribe to a tradition that rejects or, at most, passively abides state power, they now demand a greatly expanded and more coercive state…” ~Mennonite Takeover? (2010) The American Spectator

      • “…the new political fervor that some, tongue-in-cheek, are calling ‘Mennonite mania.’” ~A New Faith in Politics (2008) Chicago Tribune

      Thank you for your consideration in my inquiry.

      • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

        Brian, I have a little trouble understanding your question, but let me try point by point. Your #1 seems to me to be lifting a phrase completely out of context, since it’s describing David’s successful defeat of Goliath in the context of anti-gun forces perhaps feeling outnumbered/overpowered by pro-gun forces. While the image is a bit superfluous to the argument made, if you actually read the article it is quite clear that the writer is not advocating a violent attack toward anyone … verbally or literally.

        Your reference to “Philistine Pacification Politics,” while you did not elaborate, I shall presume to mean that you’re making the argument that any attempt to control guns (and therefore to disarm self-styled “law-abiding citizens”) is actually a precursor to imposing totalitarian rule. I know this is a popular trope among Second-Amendment supporters in their attacks on gun-control advocates, but it’s completely belied by the facts of the matter, which are that those who advocate for weapons restrictions are in fact advocating for less violence all the way around. As a rule, such advocates (and though I do not count myself as an anti-gun crusader, here I agree with them) deny the premise that the only thing preserving American freedom is the fear (by the state) of citizen uprising.

        Regarding your point #2 and the article in the American Spectator, the claim that “commandeering health care, regulating the environment, and punishing wicked industries” is violently coercive is one of the sillier claims that conservatives often make … right up there with associating government collection of taxes with armed robbery. It’s just not supportable by objective facts, no matter how often the Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Becks of the world repeat the claim. Law and the rule of law are not synonymous with violent coercion…full stop.

        The “Mennonite mania” to which your third article refers seems, to me at least, to be protesting the very fact that Mennonites and others of Anabaptist persuasion have decided they ought to vote their consciences just as much as conservative Christians do. It’s an odd claim to make, it seems to me … the very Christians who advocate that they (and all citizens) ought to be involved in government when it furthers conservative causes (such as opposition to abortion and participation in the military) seem to me the last people to suggest that citizens with a different religiously-motivated point of view ought to stay the heck out of politics.

        Having said that, let me hasten to add that one of the main reasons I left the Mennonite Church … right after I graduated from Goshen College, incidentally … was because I felt then, and continue to feel now that the main stream of the Mennonites has embraced liberal politics with the same uncritical fervor with which Fundamentalists and Evangelicals have embraced conservative politics. It is my belief that both are wrong, and that a genuinely Jesus-based politics finds plenty to criticize in both wings or parties. I personally find myself voting (and advocating) Democratic causes more often than I do Republican ones because, for all the faults of *both* parties, as I read my Bible it seems to me God cares a whole lot more about who’s getting screwed economically, than anatomically (though he calls out both).

        I hope this offers some clarity to your question. Cheers!

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          > Your #1 seems to me to be lifting a phrase completely out of context

          I understood the context correctly. The author himself clarifies the context, that a supposedly non-violent person is using violent imagery, when he confesses: “While I admit some discomfort in calling upon an Old Testament battle story to urge people…”

          > if you actually read the article it is quite clear that the writer is not advocating a violent attack toward anyone … verbally or literally.

          See above, the author just proved you wrong. He knows well he’s using violent imagery, that may well be used to urge actual State violence, which is why he admits discomfort.

          > Your reference to “Philistine Pacification Politics,” while you did not elaborate

          Philistines Pacification Politics is a cleverly (at least it humored me) alliterative interpretation of 1 Samuel 13:19, the same politics of the gun-grabbers today.

          > those who advocate for weapons restrictions are in fact advocating for less violence all the way around.

          Gun rights are in fact advocating for less violence all the way around.
          press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html

          But even more than the standard gun-rights arguments, I argue that the Second Amendment is an egalitarian power-sharing agreement that limits the violence of the State.

          “The inhabitants of Switzerland emancipated themselves by the establishment of a militia, which finally delivered them from the tyranny of their lords.” ~Representative Jackson, first U.S. Congress, when it met and turned to defense measures in 1791

          Egalitarian power sharing is always good, unless you really like pyramidal hierarchy.

          >…Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Becks

          Pffft…I don’t listen to them. I read anthropology. Plus, I understand Anabaptist theology—before it got progressively contradictory.

          > Law and the rule of law are not synonymous with violent coercion…full stop.

          I suggest reading some political science or anthropology that defines the term State.

          “A true state is distinguished from non­ state societies by the presence of political leaders who maintain a socially approved monopoly on the legal use of legitimate force….Only the government has the legal use of force at its disposal.” ~Elman R. Service (1975), Origins of the State and Civilization: The Process of Cultural Evolution. New York: Norton.

          State = violence.

          But I heard it first from my long-bearded Anabaptist grandfather, who explained one evening to visitors why he couldn’t vote and be non-violent at the same time: voting is collusion with the State, and the state is violence.

          Again, State = violence.

          > have decided they ought to vote their consciences

          Since voting how the State implements violence and a position non-violence are contradictory, the Anabaptist conscience has now accepted the inherent violence that defines the State—just like the typical Conservative voter.

          Anabaptist non-violence is now a false store-front.

          > I graduated from Goshen College

          I’m on their alumni list myself, although I just barely qualified by completing a single summer course there. :)

          > the main stream of the Mennonites has embraced liberal politics with the same uncritical fervor with which Fundamentalists and Evangelicals have embraced conservative politics.

          I concur. TV is the main theologian these days, with Conservative Mennonites worshiping the FOX News Jesus and Liberal Mennonites prostrate before CNN approved Jesus.

          > as I read my Bible it seems to me God cares a whole lot more about who’s getting screwed economically

          Suits me, I just took the Ayn Rand acolytes to task.

          My understanding of the Bible is heavily influenced by Mennonite theologian Ched Myers, especially the following essays:

          Ched Myers (2005) The Fall & Anarcho-Primitivism and the Bible. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Continuum.

          If Man’s Fall illustrates humanity’s “fall” from a more natural, Edenic Paleolithic society, which was highly egalitarian, then the Second Amendment is actually a move back toward an egalitarian power-sharing society, i.e., a less hierarchical society.

          Also note that Jesus said: “Call no man your boss.” (patron, in reference to Roman hierarchical political patronage.) More egalitarian power sharing, less hierarchy.

          In light of egalitarian power sharing, the liberal Mennonite position is a nod to power-concentrating hierarchy, Philistine style. Of course, they’ve made the same mistake of falling in love with State hierarchy previously.

          • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

            LOL, you want to go back to “egalitarian” paleolithic society, be my guest. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard a 2nd-Amendment fan positively associate himself with cave men … usually that’s an insult I hear from liberals …
            I’ve read the statistics about guns purportedly decreasing crime. They’re sloppy statistics that don’t control for confounding factors such as race, urban-vs-rural, economic conditions, and all sorts of other things (and statistics is a key part of my professional training in public health).
            But you really have to separate your arguments a little better. There are modern day “Christian anarchists” (I hate the term, but they use it positively) who suggest that followers of Jesus still ought to be disengaged from political power and stick to ministering to people in a Jesus-like manner. I think they have a point, but carry it too far. Popular theologian Greg Boyd (“popular” in some circles largely as a punching bag) has suggested in the excellent Myth of a Christian Nation that all governments are subject to the prince of this world (Satan), and that no one should expect to accomplish God’s work using Satan’s tools.
            But that’s really separate from the issue of 2nd Amendment rights and gun ownership. Whether or not guns are appropriate, whether or not they benefit a nation, the question for believers is whether a follower of Jesus can legitimately take the life of another human. Most readers of this blog, myself included, would say “no” although with varying levels of nuance/qualification. That is true, from a Christian perspective, whether or not peacemaking “works” any more than it kept Jesus from being crucified. The Jesus perspective is that sometimes when you do the right thing, you die. That’s how this corrupted world works.
            However, it’s quite clear that you and I are coming from such different starting points (the things we hold to be definitionally true) that there is very little chance of meeting of the minds. Key to that is that I still do not accept your principal premise that the state is necessarily synonymous with violence. Secondarily I don’t think a comparison of other countries in the world makes the usual American defense of an armed populace as open-and-shut as you appear to. It’s an oversimplification to be sure, but they have more gun rights in Afghanistan and Somalia than we do here…and less in Sweden and Denmark. I’m not planning to move to any of the four, but if I had to choose, the choice would be pretty clear IMHO.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > LOL, you want to go back to “egalitarian” paleolithic society

            Negative, civilization is going to be around a long time; I just understand evolutionary biology, and the origins of egalitarianism in humans.

            Christopher Boehm (1999) Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. Harvard University Press.

            > I’ve ever heard a 2nd-Amendment fan positively associate himself with cave men

            Can I study humanity’s history without being called demeaning names by some supposed “non-violent” bully? Do you also call people wetbacks and darkies? Way to go with the Lucifer Effect!

            > They’re sloppy statistics

            No so much. But I’m not going to argue that point here; it’s been done by others better than I.

            > my professional training in public health

            Nice appeal to authority, but I’m an RN and quite familiar with statistics too.

            > disengaged from political power

            Such is the traditional Anabaptist view, to avoid voting, lawsuits, being a soldier or police, etc., because the State = violence.

            > Key to that is that I still do not accept your principal premise that the state is necessarily synonymous with violence.

            It is not merely “my” position; it is a well-established definition:

            • princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Monopoly_on_the_legitimate_use_of_physical_force.html
            • britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1916738/state-monopoly-on-violence
            /wiki/Monopoly_on_violence‎
            • faculty.smu.edu/rkemper/cf_3333/Non_State_and_State_Societies.pdf

            Frankly, I’d say you’re in denial of reality. Why? Because you do not want to identify the essential contradiction you hold: (a) You want to claim to be “non-violent” while simultaneously (b) forcing your neighbor to change his behavior via the violence inherent in State enforcement.

            > whether a follower of Jesus can legitimately take the life of another human

            So you think that you can advocate and delegate to the State a violent disarming—that will likely take a civil war as even the Left acknowledges—and have your hands clean because you didn’t actually pull a trigger? How does that work?

            Yep, gun-grabber political policy = civil-war-mongering.

            It will require a domestic civil war against the gun lobby and against interpretations of the First Amendment that unleash the conglomerate rapists of public discourse, especially FOX, a network devoted to making Americans mistrust, fear, and resent one another. It could be as bloody.

            ~The Coming Civil War | Huffington Post | Jim Sleeper, Lecturer in Political Science, Yale University

            Remember, within the concept of peace and justice, you don’t have to actually pull a trigger to be guilty of perpetuating violence, as TEXTJulius Streicher discovered.

            > less in Sweden and Denmark.

            Switzerland, with it’s citizen militia and a battle rifle in every man’s home, that hasn’t been to war for hundreds of years—even when surrounded by the Axis powers. That’s a better record than Sweden or Denmark. Would you like a nation as peaceful as Switzerland?

  • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

    The article by the above artfully unnamed pastor reminds me of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s UHF parody trailer Gandhi II: “No more Mr. Passive Resistance. He’s out to kick some butt! This is one bad mother, you don’t want to mess with!” (At which point in the trailer Gandhi puts a knife to some punk’s throat and says, “Don’t move, slimeball!”)

    Even if one is not universally opposed to all self-defense or all war, the article by Pastor Driscoll is disturbing.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” ~Ghandi (in his 1947 autobiography, My Experiments with Truth)

  • Jacqui Norman

    Kurt, AMEN. AMEN . Thank you (yet again) for speaking out with reason, love and sense.

    Robert Martin – ” anyone who can take a punch to the face, get up, brush themselves off and say, “You can do that again if you want to” is NOT a “pansy”.” …………………. BRILLIANT :)

  • CruisingTroll

    “If Jesus is in fact a pacifist as a human,”

    As a human, in fact, He was not a pacifist.

  • Greg

    Disarmament and then peace follows? Doubtful. Peace, and then disarmament follows. Great article.

    • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

      Except that the peaceful way of Jesus doesn’t, actually, ever include the promise that peacemakers will experience peace. The humanist argument for nonviolence points to Gandhi and King and talks about how, when given the chance, nonviolence can be more effective that violence, and to some extent that is true.

      But the command of Jesus is to respond peacefully even (maybe especially) when peace WON’T “work” from a human perspective. That’s why he talked about taking up our cross, dying to self, “in this world you will have trouble,” “in this way they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” etc. When people object to the way of Jesus by saying it’s not practical, Jesus’ answer is “so, when did I say my way would make worldly sense?”

      The peacemakers are blessed, Jesus said, not because they will receive peace in this world, but because they are children of the Father.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        The absolute non-violence of Jesus requires that you actually follow Jesus and absolutely remove yourself from economics requiring violence, i.e., static wealth and possessions—with the primary possession being agricultural land that needs defended.

        “…we chose the latter [agriculture] and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.” ~Jared Diamond (May 1987) Agriculture: The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race. Discover Magazine. pp. 64-66.

        “The emergence of systematic warfare, fortifications, and weapons of destruction follows the path of agriculture.” ~Violent Origins (Stanford University Press, 1987)

        Got land and barns and wealth? Those require violence to protect, whether the violence comes from yourself, or from violence you delegate to the State.

        I don’t see many Anabaptists selling all they have. It is doable, if you’re single, like Jesus was.

        A pacifist farmer is a contradiction in terms.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ the Old Adam

    We’ll never quite measure up to Jesus, of course.

    But He knows that.

    He’s no pansy. He walked right into death…and defeated it. Something that we could never do. But He has done so for us.

    Trusting that is often very tough in this world where we are so often being had.

    But He won’t leave us. That’s tough. I would have bailed out a long time ago.

  • Leo Campos

    “A compassionate heart is a heart burning for every creature: for people, birds, animals, for demons, and for all creation.” (St. Isaac the Syrian)

  • jon kubar

    Kurt, thanks for the great subject and I am very glad for checking in via FB. Looks like a new place to gain education, and from an old friend.

  • Y. A. Warren

    In my experience, it takes more courage to put oneself between an innocent and an oppressor than to stand on the sidelines shooting at those we think may be oppressors.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      A pacifist college professor at Goshen College finally realized that a man should put himself between his innocent wife and an intruder instead of being non-violent. I greatly admire him for protecting his wife, I, and just about any other man, would have done the same myself.

      Unfortunately, it was his final act in life, because he too had been taught “we can stand up in the face of evil – unarmed!” He had neither the right tools nor the right frame of mind.

      I think my wife would rather have me around for a few more years—I’ve got a piece of furniture yet to wrap up, canning jar shelves to install in the new pantry, garage floor to finish ;) —and I’ll improve my chances by standing up to the face of evil intruders if I am forearmed with the right tools for the job and the mindset for that unexpected moment of gravest extreme.

      “But all moral problems can be illustrated by one misquotation: ‘Greater love hath no man than a mother cat dying to defend her kittens.’ Once you understand the problem facing that cat and how she solved it, you will then be ready to examine yourself and learn how high up the moral ladder you are capable of climbing.” ~Robert Heinlein

      • Y. A. Warren

        I love the Heinlein quote.

        The professor may not have owned a weapon, or may have had no time to retrieve one. He may have simply acted out of loving, protective instinct, not even thinking about his lack of weapons. I have, maybe foolishly, done the same when protecting my children and other loved ones.

        Let me be clear. I know that there are times when one must act as a mother cat protecting her own. The problem is with the culture of fear that oppressors build to frenzy proportions while they stand far behind the lines, sending others to kill their invented bogey-men.

        The great moral leaders in non-violent resistance and change did not stand alone. Their “weapons” were those mentioned by Jesus. “Where two or more are gathered in my name…” and their well channeled passion for peaceful justice.

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          > The problem is with the culture of fear that oppressors build to frenzy proportions while they stand far behind the lines, sending others to kill their invented bogey-men.

          True.

          That’s why I’m an advocate of a Swiss-style Militia, an egalitarian army of the people, a concept upon which the Second Amendment was created. Some points I really like:

          • They haven’t been to war in hundreds of years (even when surrounded and threatened by the Axis Powers.)

          • They are more egalitarian (less hierarchy) and have no generals in peacetime. Only in wartime is the rank of General created, and then only by democratic vote. I think its a great way of following Jesus’ egalitarian advice of “Call no man your boss.”

          • Y. A. Warren

            I like that. The Swiss seem to have it all together on many issues.

            How did our “well-organized” militia turn into a bunch of scared little drunk boys running around in the woods with loaded weapons?

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            Unfortunately, we have two main views of the Second Amendment, both wrong:

            1. Republican anarchists who think the Second Amendment was invented to overthrow the government.

            2. Elitist Leftists who use the subterfuge of “peace” to gain a hierarchical monopoly control of all the gunpower required to enforce agricultural civilization, rather like Mao did:

            Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun…Our principle is that the Party commands the gun… ~Chairman Mao Zedong, (The Little Red Book, 1964)

            Between the two choices, I favor #1, as it is more egalitarian in power sharing, but the anti-government anarchism really stinks, and I have to hold my nose admitting it.

            Ironically, the anti-government anarchism, often called libertarianism, is a kissing cousin to the Anabaptist non-violence. The libertarians call it their ZAP or NAP, i.e., the “Non-Aggression Principle.”

            Unfortunately, real property requires violence to enforce its borders. The libertarians vociferously deny this; they’re as myopic as the progressive Mennonites, who have fallen in love with the State while trying to deny its inherent violence.

          • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

            I’d love to see a summary of what *you* see as the appropriate view of the 2nd Amendment. I would have guessed you closer to #1 … and in fact looking at the historical context of the American Revolution I think it’s at least *part* of the intent.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > appropriate view of the 2nd Amendment

            What it says:

            A well regulated citizen-Militia—The Congress shall have the Power To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States—for the security of a free State.

            We the people, egalitarian power sharing, is why the power of government—always found in arms— is shared in the Second Amendment instead of concentrated into Standing Armies like most nations (except Switzerland, and pre-1800 England.)

            But let’s take it further. I’d support “common sense gun regulation” if it read something like this:

            1. We’re going to totally disband the military-industrial complex’s Standing Army, since appropriations have been way, way longer than the 2 year hard time limit in the Constitution (yep, read it!) regarding an Army.

            2. Every able bodied male person (national defense equality!) willing to defend the nation will report to and train and be armed with a G.I. M-16 and M-9, which they will store at their own home. No other weapons allowed, except by license of the State.

            3. Those unwilling to defend the nation, such as CO’s, will not be required to train, nor will be allowed to own assault weapons or handguns. They’ll have to pay a CO tax. CO’s would be allowed a regulated, similar to Swiss law, hunting or sporting access to firearms. (Would that be fair? That’s pretty much the way the Swiss do it.)

          • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

            You might want to look at the gun laws of Switzerland, which appear to be much more highly regulated than the NRA would ever accept here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switzerland. Sealed ammo, registration of weapons, highly restricted concealed-carry. This looks like a “well-regulated militia.” What we have, not so much.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > You might want to look at the gun laws of Switzerland

            I have. They suit me fine. A battle rifle in every man’s closet. Egalitarian power sharing.

            But the “regulation” the left is attempting isn’t to create a militia, it’s to totally disarm Americans.

            “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them…Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ‘em all in, I would have done it.” ~Dianne Feinstein, on 60 Minutes, February 5, 1995

            > Sealed ammo, registration of weapons, highly restricted concealed-carry.This looks like a “well-regulated militia.” What we have, not so much.

            I concur. Today’s mess is because the Right takes the 2nd Amendment as a call for anarchy, and the Left wants to totally disarm everybody and concentrate power to the few.

            Why don’t we invite the Swiss to come in and show us how to do national defense, and the Canadians to help show us how to do national health care? ;)

          • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

            Swiss for defense (including staying the hell out of other countries’ business) and Canadians for health care…now there is a proposal I’ll join you on!

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > including staying the hell out of other countries’ business

            Indeed. And 1/7th of the cost per capita.

            If MCC would recant their Politics of Jesus Philistines, and instead propose a Swiss citizen-Militia, I’d actually send them money again. Might even end up back in church, and bring my nail apron.

  • Mark Woods

    I’m confused. Seriously. This issue of non-violence is continually presented in a one-size-fits-all fashion (as in “no matter what the circumstances, violence is not permitted”). I have no problem with accepting abuse hurled at me and being willing to suffer persecution at the hands of a tormenter for the cause of Christ. But where does defending the cause of the powerless come in? If you see an evil man beating up on a six-year old boy, would you not attempt to stop him by any means available (assuming you are of sufficient size and strength to do so)? If, as a pacifist, you “speak out” against the violence, and call for him to stop, he ignores you and continues the beating. If you try to intervene in a pacifistic fashion by standing between them, he pushes you aside and, again, continues beating up the boy. But if you apply some strength (and, yes, even violence) and overpower him, you save an innocent from injury and possibly even death. ( And if you decide to call the police in to do the job, all you are doing is contracting out the force and violence that you are unwilling to apply yourself.)
    Simply put, is there no place in your position for opposing evil and defending the cause of the weak and oppressed when the only means available is force?

    • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

      Mark, many of us have wrestled with these issues repeatedly. I would suggest a couple of thoughts. First of all, this post is not about defending the powerless, nor was that the subject of Mark Driscoll’s rant to which the post responds. Rather, Driscoll was projecting a take-names-and-kick-ass image of Jesus that is all about swagger and power, and not at all about defending the weak. So Driscoll’s “pansy” accusation deserves the kind of response Kurt gave it, even if we may disagree about the use of force in defense of the powerless.

      Second, however, it’s important to acknowledge that most situations in which humans exercise violence aren’t easily divided into “strong, bad guys” and “weak, innocent (or good) guys.” To use the (much rarer) case of defense of the weak to (attempt to) destroy the larger argument about Christian participation in violence is a logical nonsequitur.

      But finally, many of us, and I am one, feel that in the true case of encountering the weak or powerless being abused, we *should* intervene even if the only intervention option we can see is forcible. Of course, this must be done carefully, prayerfully, and if possible in discernment with like-minded believers. But I would hasten to add that such decisions are far more clear-cut in the bully-beats-up-the-boy hypothetical you offered, than they are in an international situation where oppressor and oppressed may be much harder to discern.

      And I hope you, too, would acknowledge that the real world contains a lot of examples of people using defense of the weak as a disingenuous excuse for violence that actually achieves (even intends) far less-pure ends. There’s a lot of money and pride in the business of death.

      • Mark Woods

        Dan, thanks for your reply. I don’t doubt for one minute that powerful men or governments with dubious motives take advantage of situations to achieve their own selfish goals in the name of defense of the weak. But I think that the typical pacifistic “no violence – ever!” position is totally unrealistic and avoids dealing with otherwise intractable problems in this world from an untenable and morally-superior attitude. From that perspective, there would have been no imperative to destroy an evil Nazi regime that was killing Jews wholesale, or to intervene in the Bosnian-Serbian conflict to save Muslims from being ethnically cleansed and losing their lives to a sinister political machine.
        I haven’t read Driscoll’s article (which I will now hasten to do), so I guess I was responding with an incomplete understanding of the context of Kurt’s post. I also realize that there can be no absolutely 100% purely-motivated just war. But, messy though the situation may be, there are times when force is the only option to deal with a terrible situation, and secure people’s safety, and bring justice by first of all removing the forces of injustice.

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

          The question isn’t: Is force the only option? Rather, the question is: Should Christians participate in such violence? In other words, there may be times when the state has to intervene. But this is always as God’s plan B and never something Christians are invited to participate in. This of course, comes out of the teachings of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the early church as a whole. For more, see my series: nonviolence 101. Here’s the link- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/category/nonviolence-101-series/
          Peace.

          KURT WILLEMS
          http://kurtwillems.com
          http://facebook.com/kurtwillems
          http://twitter.com/kurtwillems

          • Mark Woods

            Kurt, I will take a look at your nonviolence 101. Thanks for the tip. If, as you say, “there may be times when the state has to intervene”, then I would gladly join in that intervention, knowing that in doing so I am partnering with God’s servant (Rom. 13) to restrain evil. It may be God’s plan B, but in that case, it is still God’s plan. Jesus, Paul and Peter teach me to be willing to submit to suffering at the hands of evil men. But Paul also says the state is justified in using force to restrain evil. There’s a tension there, and the challenge comes in not saying “no force ever”, but rather in determining when force is justified and how to exercise it judiciously.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > there may be times when the state has to intervene. But this is always as God’s plan B and never something Christians are invited to participate in.

            So Christians aren’t a part of “God’s plan?” How does that work? Sounds like a Boss I once knew:

            “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. You do it.”

            You’re trying to have you cake and eat it too. If all humans are God’s children, how can you have a separate Class of violence specialist Untermenschen, lowlier creatures than the Elite Christian Class, to do your dirty work of violence for you?

        • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

          Mark, I think another point to keep in mind is that arguments on either side … “pure” pacifism or justified use of force … often commit the fallacy of conflating all situations in which force might be considered, into a single thing. Let me illustrate:
          You asked about defending the defensless using an analogy of a bully beating up a little boy. I responded that I share your sense, despite my pacifist tendencies, that using restraining (and maybe, rarely, even lethal) force may be justified in such a situation.
          But now you’re bringing in the issues of just war. Those are different issues, and the rightness (or not) of warfare cannot be established solely on the basis of the person-to-person bullying analogy you first proposed, because the situations are not analogous.
          In the same way, you now bring up World War II, which is a popular war to justify all other warfare. What the Third Reich did was evil. But WWII analogies have been used to defend participation in wars from Vietnam to Iraq/Afghanistan during my own lifetime, and the situations are not at all analogous. The possible existence of one just war (which I don’t automatically grant) cannot then be extrapolated to all wars, and I would argue that the burden of proof for the justice of any use of force (personal or national) ought to begin with the presumption that it’s *not* justifiable till established otherwise.
          So to summarize … just because it may be justifiable to exert force on a particular bully beating up a kid, does not mean by extension that it’s justifiable for all of us to pack heat and be prepared to intervene with force in every conflict. And just because one war in history may have had just ends (and even WWII is far more murky than conventional history suggests) does not therefore justify all military acts we might contemplate. You rightly complain that we pacifists show far too little nuance in our position; I suggest that supporters of use of force show equal lack of nuance. And if I’m going to err, according to my read of Jesus it’s better to err in *not* having blood on my hands, than the reverse.

          • Mark Woods

            I would argue that using force against the bully and against the Third Reich ARE the same – only a difference of scale. Either use of force is morally justified to rescue the oppressed or it’s not. The scale and type of force used will depend on the circumstances and the magnitude of the situation being confronted. If the state is God’s servant to restrain evil (Rom. 13), then the state’s use of force is fully justifiable. If Christians are not permitted to join the state in its restraint of evil, then there is a whole area of society that is out-of-bounds for Christian involvement and influence, in spite of the very fact that Scripture condones the state’s use of force.
            Having said that, I do not agree with blind allegiance to the state for whatever war they engage in. I also do not try to extrapolate from one just war to permit all others, or to say that since I should restrain a bully I should therefore pack heat. I chose WW II and the Bosnian conflict specifically. I fully agree with you in questioning the motives and justifiability of other wars such as you have mentioned.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        > the real world contains a lot of examples of people using defense of the weak as a disingenuous excuse for violence that actually achieves (even intends) far less-pure ends.

        Indeed. An example that comes to mind is the Anabaptist position on deploying State violence to disarm their political enemies—people they dehumanize and demean as worthy of one shot to the forehead,” as Mennonite Central Committee’s document states.

        Disarming political enemies has been accomplished before with self-styled “non-violent” Mennonites applauding.

        • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

          Brian, you’ve clearly got a lot of hostility against the Mennonites, and I’m not going to try to defend it as I, too, have left that church, but I think you’re fighting strawmen that show little resemblance to Mennonites I’ve known, and certainly none to the positions I have espoused.

          Several of your comments have suggested that I advocate disarming Americans by force. Had you bothered to ask before assuming, you’d discover that while I’m no fan of the pro-2nd-Amendment crowd, I am quite familiar with firearms, shoot recreationally myself, and do not for a moment advocate firearm confiscation (which I agree would result in a bloodbath and probably not get the guns anyhow). So your accusation is simply not true of my position.

          The original blog post, with which you appear not to have engaged, was decrying the bellicose image of Jesus promoted by Mark Driscoll. And much of my own discussion, with which you likewise have not engaged, has been, not an attempt to force nonviolence on anyone as a way of life, but rather an attempt to say that representing violent actions as any way compatible with the way of Jesus is to grossly misrepresent his teaching.

          In other words, while the right to keep and bear arms is highly American, it is *not* Christian. This does not mean Christians should disarm everybody. It does mean they shouldn’t be leading the charge to arm anybody.

          Am I, or is any other Christian pacifist (I use the term loosely, as my position is far from absolute) fully consistent in what we do? Of course not … no more than any other human. But I don’t try to cover my inconsistencies with bad theology, and I don’t confuse earthly pragmatism with holy life.

          I don’t expect you to understand, much less agree. But your ad-hominems don’t add anything productive to the discourse. I’m sorry that Mennonites have offended you to the extent that you have such a vendetta against them. Like the rest of us, Mennos are far from perfect.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Brian, you’ve clearly got a lot of hostility against the Mennonites

            I think Mennonite Central Committee’s one shot to the forehead that they plan for we gun owners is pretty damn hostile. (But you were hunky-dory with that kind of hostility. What hypocrisy.)

            What’s clear is no Anabaptist has ever been able to defend their theology/politics against my critique. I show that they are the actual aggressors, hiding behind a easily debunked masquerade of pacifism.

            I wouldn’t critique their theology, except that these pacifist-aggressives have first made it their business to stick their noses in my business.

            P.S. Not all Mennonites are Sojourners-addled Leftist busybodies with a hostile disarmament agenda against their political enemies. In fact, I buy my ammunition from a Mennonite friend who has a pretty nice gun shop.


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