Pacifism: Introduction

pacifismI’ve been planning on studying pacifism since high school, I suppose. And I’ve just never gotten around to it. But it does keep coming up.

I finished high school in 1972. The class of 1970 had draft lottery numbers for the Viet Nam war. If a male student’s birthday was among the first 1/3 drawn, he was drafted. If he was in the second 1/3, he might get drafted. The last 1/3 were not likely to be drafted.

The class of 1971 had lottery numbers (the numerical order in which birthdays were drawn), but they weren’t drafted. You see, Nixon got re-elected by promising to end the War, and that meant an end to the draft.

The class of 1972 was the first class with no lottery numbers. My parents and I spent many an evening before learning that considering whether I should join the National Guard or otherwise seek a deferment. We’d seen lots of our friends come back from ‘Nam messed up, and not many of us were keen on going. And unlike previous wars, there was little criticism of those claiming conscientious objector status. All my friends and I were in constant discussion about whether to submit to the draft, volunteer for the Air Force or Navy (commit to serve longer, but with less risk of combat), claim conscientious objector status, or seek to avoid the draft some other way. Some kids shot a toe off, figuring a missing toe would earn them 4-F status — meaning unqualified for the draft.

Then a couple of years ago, one of my sons thought of joining the military. And so I figured it was time to pull out the materials on pacifism and sort through it all, but he changed his mind (quite on his on). And so I put the study off.

But it seems to be the time. I’ve got the books. I just need to see whether I agree with them.

Let’s start with a few observations.

1. I have great respect for those who serve their nation through military service. I may wind up concluding that God doesn’t want Christians to do that. I don’t know. But if I do, it won’t be for lack of respect for what these men and women do. I mean, there’s a certain nobility in risking your life for your country.

I know plenty of people in the military and who’ve been in the military, and I admire them and their courage and their convictions.

2. On the other hand, I have great admiration for those who refuse to serve out of a genuine conviction. The Churches of Christ were once strongly pacifistic. Many of our members refused service in WWI and were imprisoned for it. But by WWII, military service was considered honorable in the Churches of Christ — a remarkable turn around in just 30 years. It wasn’t until Viet Nam that someone could claim conscientious objector status without shame.

According to the Wikipedia,

In the United States during World War I, conscientious objectors were permitted to serve in noncombatant military roles. About 2000 absolute conscientious objectors refused to cooperate in any way with the military. These men were imprisoned in military facilities such as Fort Lewis (Washington), Alcatraz Island (California) and Fort Leavenworth (Kansas). The government failed to take into account that some conscientious objectors viewed any cooperation with the military as contributing to the war effort. Their refusal to put on a uniform or cooperate in any way caused difficulties for both the government and the COs. The mistreatment received by these absolute COs included short rations, solitary confinement and physical abuse severe enough as to cause the deaths of two Hutterite draftees. …

Civilian Public Service (CPS) provided conscientious objectors in the United States an alternative to military service during World War II. From 1941 to 1947 nearly 12,000 draftees, unwilling to do any type of military service, performed work of national importance in 152 CPS camps throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The work was initially done in areas isolated from the general population both because of the government’s concern that pacifist philosophy would spread and conscientious objectors would not be tolerated in neighboring communities. …

The CPS men served without wages and minimal support from the federal government. The cost of maintaining the CPS camps and providing for the needs of the men was the responsibility of their congregations and families. CPS men served longer than regular draftees, not being released until well past the end of the war. Initially skeptical of the program, government agencies learned to appreciate the men’s service and requested more workers from the program.

3. “Pacifism” is not a precisely defined term. There are pacifists who believe in participating in a war that resists an invasion. There are pacifists who approve a nation going to war but not participation in the war by Christians. There are pacifists who would work in indirect support of a war — in a non-combat role — but wouldn’t personally kill an enemy soldier. And there are absolute pacifists who wouldn’t participate in any way.

There are those who object to all violence, including by the police, while others are fine with being policemen but object to military service. There are those who would participate in a just war but not an unjust war. In fact, in traditional Christian thought, no Christian should participate in an unjust war. Technically, one doesn’t have to be a pacifist to refuse duty in an unjust war.

4. “Just war” theory goes back at least to Augustine, as the church has struggled to draw a line between the obvious truth that we Christians shouldn’t participate in a plainly wicked war, whereas some wars are considered by many to be justified as preventing even greater evils.

5. In the United States, the denominations that have taken strong pacifist positions historically have been the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, the Mennonites, the Hutterites, and, until WWII, the Churches of Christ. At times, Catholics have refused to participate in wars they considered unjust.

Finally, I need to explain where I’m coming from. I’m not a pacifist. Not now. But I’m open to persuasion. And so I figure I should start with the case for pacificism, as argued by the very best, and see how well it stands up.

PS — The icon at the top is one of those ironic icons I like so much. “Pacifism” in big letters in the format used for those character-building posters that you see here and there, with a 50-caliber gun in the picture. It’s a little something for both sides.

In the United States during World War I, conscientious objectors were permitted to serve in noncombatant military roles. About 2000 absolute conscientious objectors refused to cooperate in any way with the military.[22] These men were imprisoned in military facilities such as Fort Lewis (Washington), Alcatraz Island (California) and Fort Leavenworth (Kansas). The government failed to take into account that some conscientious objectors viewed any cooperation with the military as contributing to the war effort. Their refusal to put on a uniform or cooperate in any way caused difficulties for both the government and the COs. The mistreatment[23] received by these absolute COs included short rations, solitary confinement and physical abuse severe enough as to cause the deaths of two Hutterite draftees.[24]
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25 Responses to Pacifism: Introduction

  1. Michael says:

    Leo Tolstoy's "A Confession" is the best book I have read dealing with pacifism, Jesus, and the Bible. Tolstoy focuses in on the Sermon of the Mount–citing this as the clearest commands Jesus gave us for not resisting evil and loving our enemies. Tolstoy's analysis is even more valuable, in my opinion, since it comes from Tolstoy who fought in the Crimean War as a young lieutenant.
    http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/a-confes

  2. Tim Archer says:

    Jay, I'm glad you're tackling this head on. I especially applaud your first two points. We can admire people even if we don't agree with their conclusions.

    I would point out that the non-institutional churches of Christ have historically been more pacifistic than the mainstream, even during WWII. At least that's what I've been able to determine from what little research I've done.

    I've been wanting to address this issue, but have been too cowardly. Thanks for having the courage to talk about the tough stuff.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  3. David Himes says:

    My father was a CO during WWII. While a student at Pepperdine, he received a draft notice. He wrote back that he would not report. Later, he got a call from an FBI agent who came by the next day to arrest him.

    Subsequently, his Selective Service classification was changed by the court to CO, and he (along with his brother and my mother) were sent to Bend, OR, where they worked on a CPS project just south of Bend, at Lake Wikiup.

    By 1950, when I was born, my father was employed by the the US Navy Electronics Lab, in San Diego, and spent the balance of his 30+ year career with the the Dept of the Navy.

    After he retired, and I was living nearby, I asked him about the apparent inconsistency of being a CO and spending his career with the US Navy. He responded, "You finally noticed that, huh?"

    That's all I ever got on the subject from him.

    On a personal level, everyone who knew him would likely described him as a loving, gentle man.

    Because of these and other personal experiences, this topic is close to my heart, so, I'm anxious to hear what you have to say, Jay.

    I may write more later, after you've laid out your case.

  4. David Himes says:

    Jay, as a footnote, my lottery draft number in 1970 was 194, and the national board set the limit at 195, but my local board filled their quota at 192. Thus, I, like you, never received my draft notice.

    I had filled a CO application, which was routinely rejected, but I always wondered what I would have done if I'd actually received a draft notice.

    One of my brothers was drafted, but subsequently volunteered as a medic in the US Army, refusing to carry a weapon.

    One thing I've concluded is the level of pacifism increases in the face of an involuntary draft. Theory and reality have such an interesting effort on how people think and act.

  5. David Himes says:

    "effort" should have been "effect"

  6. Tim Perkins says:

    In 1970, my lottery number was 72. The morning after the lottery/birthday selection, I was sitting across from a fellow at ACU in the cafeteria and he couldn't quit beaming. Finally, I asked, "OK, what was your number?" He replied, "366". (They had added Feb. 29 to the mix, hence 366 chances).

    My father served in WWII and at the time of the lottery, my brother was winning Bronze Stars in Vietnam. I couldn't see how I could become the first CO in the family. I joined the National Guard and spent the next 6 years serving without seeing combat. But deep inside, I was a pacifist at heart.

    This will be very interesting and I thank you, Jay, for taking it on.

  7. Dan says:

    I have worked in the mental health field for almost 30 years now. I just wanted to say how valuable the CO movement was to improving the treatment of the mentally ill. Below are a couple of URLs with some interesting articles about the impact of COs on the mental health movement.
    Jay, I was draft #356, so I had practically no chance of being drafted. But I was in the Class of '71 so none of my age cohort got drafted at all. (10 years later I was in the Army Reserve anyway.) For me the question has not been- can I be a pacifist? But, should I be a pacifist? I think any Christian who chooses pacifism as a way of life should be respected.

    http://www.friendsjournal.org/u-s-conscientious-o… ======= http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestv

  8. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    I am glad you started this thread on pacifism. I think it is part of the Kingdom paradigm of Jesus.

    After being raised in a military family, I became a pacifist in 1967 while a member of the Churches of Christ. A few of my COC friends were CO's )Maybe 4-5). When I transferred to Abillene Christian University, I was shocked by the pro-military stance of the college, the administration, and the faculty. It was not talked about, except in the megative. In 1968, I really sensed this to be a problem for me to continue with the churches of Christ and remain a pacifist. Vietnam was getting worse and KIng and Bobby Kennedy were murdered. I should have left the COC then. A couple of friends convinced me I was overly sensitive and reactive, and besides -I would go to hell if I left the Lord's true church! I thought I would stay, get my BA in Bible and become a missionary (my original calling).
    I graduated and became a minister of a Non-Sunday School Church of Christ in Colorado. The older minister I worked with for a while has pacifist feelings, and his son was doing alternative service. I felt pretty much at peace about being a pacifist Church of Christ preacher.
    I preached one sermon on peace in the small church, and it offended a lot of people. The next year, after a lot or praying and my doubts about the claims of the COC re-emerged, I volunteered to be drafted as a 1AO conscientious objector, and resigned from the ministry and moved back to Texas. This upset my COC raised wife and she left me shortly after we moved to Texas. She came and left several times.The last was a permanent one in 1975. I was considered and apostate for questioning and criticizing the "church of the Lord" about war and racism. ACC gave me no help, and my friends thought I was crazy for being a CO. I was set up and almost beaten to death at the State School where I did my CO work. My father, the retired Major, disowned me and my wife abandoned our marriage. I was fired for reporting abuse where I worked, and moved back home, as my dad said I could live there for a short while. I moved back home and he died 6 weeks later of leukemia. Before he died (the day before) we reconciled, and he said I was right about war in general and especially the Vietnam War.
    My wife just demanded money. I had another CO job working as a housepainter for a counseling and referall center in Dallas. I completed two years of Alternative Service, lost my wife, and my dad died. All within a compressed period of time. This took a toll on me. I went back to Seminary at Brite Divinity School for a couple of years. During this time, I restudied the Restoration Movement from a more liberal perspective, and I also divorced my wife for abandoning our marriage. By the time all of this happened I was spiritually shattered, and decided to go into the medical field. I missed nursing school by a week, and enlisted the next week in the US Navy medical corps as an unarmed Navy Corpman.
    I quickly got trained as a combat medic and a nurse as well. I spent all my time learning the medical profession and struggling with my faith. I lived a sinful life, and finally came back to my faith in Jesus as Savior in 1977. I got out in 1878 from the Navy, and worked as a lab tech till I returned to seminary in 1980. I finished my MDIv. and worked as a pastor in the Friends Church for a couple of years. Though they claim to be a peace church, 70% fought in WW2, and about 80% in Vietnam. I found out the KKK ran the state of Indiana in the 20's and 30's and many of their leaders were Friends ministers. I was shocked, and an antiwar sermon got me fired in 1983. I returned full-time to the medical field then, where I have stayed. My wife Faith and I (yes, I remarried), have worshiped in house churches, non-denominational churches, and the Mennonite Church (where we now attend). The sad thing is that 1/3 of the Mennonite ministers are pro-war, and 70% of the members are pro-war.
    I think the trouble is that people in this country are Americans first, and try to follow Jesus after that.
    It is the same with the Churches of Christ. I have gone back and restudied the pacifist history. Campbell and Stone were pacifists, as was Tolbert Fanning, and then there was the great pacifist David Lipscomb.
    After WW1, Foy Wallace up to and during WW2, made it his personal quest to rid the Church of Christ of pacifists, especially of pacifist preachers.

    Looking back, I do not see how a person who follows Jesus cannot be a pacifist. He is the Prince of Peace, our God is the God of Peace, the Gospel is the Gospel of Peace, and we cannot see God without holiness and peace. The paradigm of the Kingdom of God is one of non-violence and peace. Believe me I have debated all of this a lot since 1967. I have read all the arguments pro and con. I have seen my own sin and the hypocrisy in my own life. With all of this, I still see the Kingdom way as one of peace.

  9. Rich says:

    This should be quite interesting. I have personally had strong convictions on both sides of this issue (at different times of course). I was influenced by one side while in high school and college and then shown other verses not previously considered that caused me to change.

    I can respect many of the aspects to this issue. I also respect churches of Christ for I don't believe this issue has ever created a large cross-the-board fellowship issue as some others. I have personally been a member at a predominately pacifist congregation that had several respected military members and a predominately military congregation that had respected pacifist members. Both would fit the definition of conservative in this blog.

  10. Alan says:

    I grew up in a military town, and have frequently attended a church of Christ in that town. By far the majority of the men in that church are in the military — which also reflects the composition of the surrounding community. Their outreach is to that military community. Their public prayers always include mention of their members who are deployed in harm's way. They publicly give honor to military service on various occasions. I wonder whether the pacifism purists understand the circumstances of those people. I wonder whether they have better answers to how conduct oneself as a Christian in those circumstances.

  11. Jay,
    I hate to be nit-picky and correct you, but…that's not a .50 cal machine gun in your icon. It is a M240B machine gun of 7.62 caliber. ;P

    Check out Reverend Samuel Stone of the Church of Christ of Hartford, Connecticut circa 1637 – one of the first known "Fighting Parsons" and the first US Chaplain on record. (sorry the link I have no longer works if I come up with more on him I will pass it on).

    I'm looking forward to seeong where this study goes. Who knows, even I might change positions. Until then – Hooah.

    Steve Valentine

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  13. Gary Cummings says:

    A HERITAGE OF PEACE

    Copyright Gary Cummings, 1985, 2005, 2009

    When men again speak of war, and when young people once again are asked to available for doing battle, it is appropriate to consider afresh the Christian perspective of war and peace.

    THE WORLD OF JESUS

    Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God at a time when His country was occupied by the oppressive Romans. They were dedicated to world rule through the PAX ROMANA, but were bitterly opposed in Israel by the Jewish Zealot revolutionaries. It was in this context of violence that Jesus gave the world its finest spiritual teaching and ethics, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Forty years after the death of Jesus, the Zealots were totally defeated by the Romans. Four hundred years later, the Roman Empire fell. But the ethical teaching of Jesus continues to be a significant force in history.

    THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE

    It is Paul, often quoted against pacifism in Romans 13, who clearly states the pacifist position in Romans 12:
    "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay., says the Lord. One the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

    Paul's teachings in Romans 12 are a clear reflection of the Sermon on the Mount-the fundamental source for the pacifist stance from the early church to pacifists such as Martin Luther King Jr, John Howard Yoder, and Daniel Berrigan. In that remarkable sermon, Jesus did not urge the poor , the hungry and the downtrodden to take revenge or to resort to the sword. Rather, He simply said:
    "How blest are you who are poor, the Kingdom of God is yours.
    How blest are you who now go hungry; your hunger shall be satisfied.
    How blest are you who weep now, you shall laugh.
    How blest are you when men hate you, when they outlaw you, and insult you, and ban your very name as infamous, because of the Son of Man.
    On that day, be glad and dance for joy;
    for assuredly you have a rich reward in heaven; in just the same way did their fathers treat the prophets.
    But alas for you who are rich, you have had your time of happiness.
    Alas for you who are well fed now, you shall go hungry.
    Alas for you who laugh now, you shall mourn and weep.
    Alas for you when all speak well of you; just so did their fathers treat the false prophets.
    But to you who hear me I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who treat you spitefully. When a man hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek, too; when a man takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you; when a man takes what is yours, do not demand it back; treat others as you would like them to treat you." Luke 6:28-31 NEB)
    Matthew has another beatitude Luke does not record: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
    FOUR INTERPRETATIONS
    Diverse interpretations of Jesus' ethic have accumulated over the centuries of the Church history.
    The two most radical views of Jesus kingdom ethics are those of Albert Schweitzer and many Dispensationalists. Schweitzer thought that the Sermon on the Mount represents merely an interim ethic, in operation between Jesus' proclamation and the fulfillment of eschatology. He thought that Jesus expected the end of the world in His day, and therefore Christians could live like that for a short while. But Schweitzer suggests that Jesus was mistaken about the time of the end, and thus the Sermon on the Mount loses its urgency and force.

    The Dispensationlist (classical) view is somewhat the opposite of Schweitzer's. For them, the ethics of the Kingdom of God on Earth are appropriate for the last days, and the end time when evil will not exist. Also, because of their pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching, the Church will not be here before the end of history. Why worry about ethics?

    Typically, Roman Catholics for centuries have thought that the Kingdom ethics of Jesus to be just for the few who can actually keep them. Thus, these teachings are actualized chiefly in the monastery and the convent. Exceptions to this Catholic trend are Daniel and Phillip Berrigan and their Vietnam War resistance, and the peace witness of Dorothy Day.

    The Protestant view frequently is that we are just poor sinners who could never live the radical life Jesus calls on us to live. Therefore, we must throw ourselves on God's mercy. Exceptions to this have are Martin Niemoller, the early Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jean Lasserre, Andre Trocme, and a few atypical Protestant pastors and professors like Stanley Hauerwas.

    These four views must be seen as evasions of the life that Jesus called his disciples to follow with joy.

    EARLY CHRISTIAN PACIFISM

    The consensus of pre-Constantinian christianity is pacifist; this is the verdict of the church historians. The pacifism of the early church is one of the best commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, for the writings of the early church fathers clearly reflect the pacifist ethic of Jesus.

    Roland Bainton, the famed church historian, gives us this observation from his many years of study of the pacifist question:
    "The best point of departure is a consideration of the factual questions, whether and how many Christians were in the army prior to Constantine. From the end of the New Testament period to the decade 178-188 A.D., there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army." (CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES TO WAR AND PEACE,PP. 67-68)

    Both Origen of Alexandria and Tertullian protested the idea of Christians serving in the armies of Rome. But it was Justin Martyr who most clearly states the Christian stance of peace:
    'We who were filled with war and mutual slaughter and envy and wickedness have each of us in all the world changed our..swords into plows and spears into agricultural implements." (APOLOGY, XXXIX)

    VOICES FOR PEACE

    A strong criticism of war in the Middle Ages came from the witness and ministry of the Franciscans. St. Francis of Assissi, their founder, was a great lover of peace. But even Francis' later followers abandoned his vision and preached the Crusade as the instrument of God.

    The merging radical sects within the church were left to carry on the pacifist witness. Two of these groups were the Waldensians and the Cathari. In addition, the pacifist branch of the Hussite Movement was led by Peter Chelciky who taught that Christians must return to the pure faith of the New Testament which includes the renunciation of war.

    The Christian humanist Erasmus was an outstanding spokesman against war during the Renaissance. HIs pacifist stance is best presented in his COMPLAINT OF PEACE:
    "In the Old Testament, Isaiah foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace and in the New Testament Christ bequeathed peace as his legacy. The mark by which his disciples should be known is love for the other. The Lord's Prayer addresses Our Father, but how can they call upon a common Father who drive steel into the bowels of their brethren?"

    During the Reformation, pacifism was most notably espoused by the Anabaptists after the disaster of the violent Millennial Anabaptist commune of Munster. Ironically, the pacifist convictions of the Anabaptists brought them great hardship and even death from the hands of others christians. Since the Reformation, the peace tradition has been carried on by the Anabaptist's successors-the AMish, Hutterites and Mennonites, and also by the Quakers and the Brethren. These are the "historic peace churches".

    In keeoing with the Sermon on the Mount, the major leaders of the American Reformation Movement in the nineteenth century were of pacifist sentiment. Among the more vocal pacifists of the Restoration Movement were Alexander Campbell, J.W. McGarvey, Barton W. Stone, Tolbert Fanning, and David Lipscomb.

    While Campbell based most of his ethics on Acts and the Epistles, he did oppose the Mexican-American War of 1848. His convictions on the subject of war are made clear in his

  14. Gary Cummings says:

    A HERITAGE OF PEACE

    Copyright Gary Cummings, 1985, 2005, 2009

    When men again speak of war, and when young people once again are asked to available for doing battle, it is appropriate to consider afresh the Christian perspective of war and peace.

    THE WORLD OF JESUS

    Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God at a time when His country was occupied by the oppressive Romans. They were dedicated to world rule through the PAX ROMANA, but were bitterly opposed in Israel by the Jewish Zealot revolutionaries. It was in this context of violence that Jesus gave the world its finest spiritual teaching and ethics, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Forty years after the death of Jesus, the Zealots were totally defeated by the Romans. Four hundred years later, the Roman Empire fell. But the ethical teaching of Jesus continues to be a significant force in history.

    THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE

    It is Paul, often quoted against pacifism in Romans 13, who clearly states the pacifist position in Romans 12:
    "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay., says the Lord. One the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

    Paul's teachings in Romans 12 are a clear reflection of the Sermon on the Mount-the fundamental source for the pacifist stance from the early church to pacifists such as Martin Luther King Jr, John Howard Yoder, and Daniel Berrigan. In that remarkable sermon, Jesus did not urge the poor , the hungry and the downtrodden to take revenge or to resort to the sword. Rather, He simply said:
    "How blest are you who are poor, the Kingdom of God is yours.
    How blest are you who now go hungry; your hunger shall be satisfied.
    How blest are you who weep now, you shall laugh.
    How blest are you when men hate you, when they outlaw you, and insult you, and ban your very name as infamous, because of the Son of Man.
    On that day, be glad and dance for joy;
    for assuredly you have a rich reward in heaven; in just the same way did their fathers treat the prophets.
    But alas for you who are rich, you have had your time of happiness.
    Alas for you who are well fed now, you shall go hungry.
    Alas for you who laugh now, you shall mourn and weep.
    Alas for you when all speak well of you; just so did their fathers treat the false prophets.
    But to you who hear me I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who treat you spitefully. When a man hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek, too; when a man takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you; when a man takes what is yours, do not demand it back; treat others as you would like them to treat you." Luke 6:28-31 NEB)
    Matthew has another beatitude Luke does not record: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
    FOUR INTERPRETATIONS
    Diverse interpretations of Jesus' ethic have accumulated over the centuries of the Church history.
    The two most radical views of Jesus kingdom ethics are those of Albert Schweitzer and many Dispensationalists. Schweitzer thought that the Sermon on the Mount represents merely an interim ethic, in operation between Jesus' proclamation and the fulfillment of eschatology. He thought that Jesus expected the end of the world in His day, and therefore Christians could live like that for a short while. But Schweitzer suggests that Jesus was mistaken about the time of the end, and thus the Sermon on the Mount loses its urgency and force.

    The Dispensationlist (classical) view is somewhat the opposite of Schweitzer's. For them, the ethics of the Kingdom of God on Earth are appropriate for the last days, and the end time when evil will not exist. Also, because of their pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching, the Church will not be here before the end of history. Why worry about ethics?

    Typically, Roman Catholics for centuries have thought that the Kingdom ethics of Jesus to be just for the few who can actually keep them. Thus, these teachings are actualized chiefly in the monastery and the convent. Exceptions to this Catholic trend are Daniel and Phillip Berrigan and their Vietnam War resistance, and the peace witness of Dorothy Day.

    The Protestant view frequently is that we are just poor sinners who could never live the radical life Jesus calls on us to live. Therefore, we must throw ourselves on God's mercy. Exceptions to this have are Martin Niemoller, the early Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jean Lasserre, Andre Trocme, and a few atypical Protestant pastors and professors like Stanley Hauerwas.

    These four views must be seen as evasions of the life that Jesus called his disciples to follow with joy.

    EARLY CHRISTIAN PACIFISM

    The consensus of pre-Constantinian christianity is pacifist; this is the verdict of the church historians. The pacifism of the early church is one of the best commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, for the writings of the early church fathers clearly reflect the pacifist ethic of Jesus.

    Roland Bainton, the famed church historian, gives us this observation from his many years of study of the pacifist question:
    "The best point of departure is a consideration of the factual questions, whether and how many Christians were in the army prior to Constantine. From the end of the New Testament period to the decade 178-188 A.D., there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army." (CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES TO WAR AND PEACE,PP. 67-68)

    Both Origen of Alexandria and Tertullian protested the idea of Christians serving in the armies of Rome. But it was Justin Martyr who most clearly states the Christian stance of peace:
    'We who were filled with war and mutual slaughter and envy and wickedness have each of us in all the world changed our..swords into plows and spears into agricultural implements." (APOLOGY, XXXIX)

    VOICES FOR PEACE

    A strong criticism of war in the Middle Ages came from the witness and ministry of the Franciscans. St. Francis of Assissi, their founder, was a great lover of peace. But even Francis' later followers abandoned his vision and preached the Crusade as the instrument of God.

    The emerging radical sects within the church were left to carry on the pacifist witness. Two of these groups were the Waldensians and the Cathari. In addition, the pacifist branch of the Hussite Movement was led by Peter Chelciky who taught that Christians must return to the pure faith of the New Testament which includes the renunciation of war.

    The Christian humanist Erasmus was an outstanding spokesman against war during the Renaissance. HIs pacifist stance is best presented in his COMPLAINT OF PEACE:
    "In the Old Testament, Isaiah foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace and in the New Testament Christ bequeathed peace as his legacy. The mark by which his disciples should be known is love for the other. The Lord's Prayer addresses Our Father, but how can they call upon a common Father who drive steel into the bowels of their brethren?"

    During the Reformation, pacifism was most notably espoused by the Anabaptists after the disaster of the violent Millennial Anabaptist commune of Munster. Ironically, the pacifist convictions of the Anabaptists brought them great hardship and even death from the hands of others christians. Since the Reformation, the peace tradition has been carried on by the Anabaptist's successors-the Amish, Hutterites and Mennonites, and also by the Quakers and the Brethren. These are the "historic peace churches".

    In keeoing with the Sermon on the Mount, the major leaders of the American Reformation Movement in the nineteenth century were of pacifist sentiment. Among the more vocal pacifists of the Restoration Movement were Alexander Campbell, J.W. McGarvey, Barton W. Stone, Tolbert Fanning, and David Lipscomb.

    While Campbell based most of his ethics on Acts and the Epistles, he did oppose the Mexican-American War of 1848. His convictions on the subject of war are made clear in his ADDRESS ON WAR:
    "The precepts of Christianity positively inhibit war by showing that "wars and fightings come from men's lusts." and evil passions. Christianity commands Christians to "follow peace with all men."

    CONCLUSIONS

  15. Gary Cummings says:

    A HERITAGE OF PEACE

    Copyright Gary Cummings, 1985, 2005, 2009

    When men again speak of war, and when young people once again are asked to be available for doing battle, it is appropriate to consider afresh the Christian perspective of war and peace.

    THE WORLD OF JESUS

    Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God at a time when His country was occupied by the oppressive Romans. They were dedicated to world rule through the PAX ROMANA, but were bitterly opposed in Israel by the Jewish Zealot revolutionaries. It was in this context of violence that Jesus gave the world its finest spiritual teaching and ethics, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Forty years after the death of Jesus, the Zealots were totally defeated by the Romans. Four hundred years later, the Roman Empire fell. But the ethical teaching of Jesus continues to be a significant force in history.

    THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE

    It is Paul, often quoted against pacifism in Romans 13, who clearly states the pacifist position in Romans 12:
    "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay., says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

    Paul's teachings in Romans 12 are a clear reflection of the Sermon on the Mount-the fundamental source for the pacifist stance from the early church to pacifists such as Martin Luther King Jr, John Howard Yoder, and Daniel Berrigan. In that remarkable sermon, Jesus did not urge the poor , the hungry and the downtrodden to take revenge or to resort to the sword. Rather, He simply said:
    "How blest are you who are poor, the Kingdom of God is yours.
    How blest are you who now go hungry; your hunger shall be satisfied.
    How blest are you who weep now, you shall laugh.
    How blest are you when men hate you, when they outlaw you, and insult you, and ban your very name as infamous, because of the Son of Man.
    On that day, be glad and dance for joy;
    for assuredly you have a rich reward in heaven; in just the same way did their fathers treat the prophets.
    But alas for you who are rich, you have had your time of happiness.
    Alas for you who are well fed now, you shall go hungry.
    Alas for you who laugh now, you shall mourn and weep.
    Alas for you when all speak well of you; just so did their fathers treat the false prophets.
    But to you who hear me I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who treat you spitefully. When a man hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek, too; when a man takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you; when a man takes what is yours, do not demand it back; treat others as you would like them to treat you." Luke 6:28-31 NEB)
    Matthew has another beatitude Luke does not record: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
    FOUR INTERPRETATIONS
    Diverse interpretations of Jesus' ethic have accumulated over the centuries of the Church history.
    The two most radical views of Jesus kingdom ethics are those of Albert Schweitzer and many Dispensationalists. Schweitzer thought that the Sermon on the Mount represents merely an interim ethic, in operation between Jesus' proclamation and the fulfillment of eschatology. He thought that Jesus expected the end of the world in His day, and therefore Christians could live like that for a short while. But Schweitzer suggests that Jesus was mistaken about the time of the end, and thus the Sermon on the Mount loses its urgency and force.

    The Dispensationlist (classical) view is somewhat the opposite of Schweitzer's. For them, the ethics of the Kingdom of God on Earth are appropriate for the last days, and the end time when evil will not exist. Also, because of their pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching, the Church will not be here before the end of history. Why worry about ethics?

    Typically, Roman Catholics for centuries have thought that the Kingdom ethics of Jesus to be just for the few who can actually keep them. Thus, these teachings are actualized chiefly in the monastery and the convent. Exceptions to this Catholic trend are Daniel and Phillip Berrigan and their Vietnam War resistance, and the peace witness of Dorothy Day.

    The Protestant view frequently is that we are just poor sinners who could never live the radical life Jesus calls on us to live. Therefore, we must throw ourselves on God's mercy. Exceptions to this have are Martin Niemoller, the early Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jean Lasserre, Andre Trocme, and a few atypical Protestant pastors and professors like Stanley Hauerwas.

    These four views must be seen as evasions of the life that Jesus called his disciples to follow with joy.

    EARLY CHRISTIAN PACIFISM

    The consensus of pre-Constantinian christianity is pacifist; this is the verdict of the church historians. The pacifism of the early church is one of the best commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, for the writings of the early church fathers clearly reflect the pacifist ethic of Jesus.

    Roland Bainton, the famed church historian, gives us this observation from his many years of study of the pacifist question:
    "The best point of departure is a consideration of the factual questions, whether and how many Christians were in the army prior to Constantine. From the end of the New Testament period to the decade 178-188 A.D., there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army." (CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES TO WAR AND PEACE,PP. 67-68)

    Both Origen of Alexandria and Tertullian protested the idea of Christians serving in the armies of Rome. But it was Justin Martyr who most clearly states the Christian stance of peace:
    'We who were filled with war and mutual slaughter and envy and wickedness have each of us in all the world changed our..swords into plows and spears into agricultural implements." (APOLOGY, XXXIX)

    VOICES FOR PEACE

    A strong criticism of war in the Middle Ages came from the witness and ministry of the Franciscans. St. Francis of Assissi, their founder, was a great lover of peace. But even Francis' later followers abandoned his vision and preached the Crusade as the instrument of God.

    The emerging radical sects within the church were left to carry on the pacifist witness. Two of these groups were the Waldensians and the Cathari. In addition, the pacifist branch of the Hussite Movement was led by Peter Chelciky who taught that Christians must return to the pure faith of the New Testament which includes the renunciation of war.

    The Christian humanist Erasmus was an outstanding spokesman against war during the Renaissance. HIs pacifist stance is best presented in his COMPLAINT OF PEACE:
    "In the Old Testament, Isaiah foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace and in the New Testament Christ bequeathed peace as his legacy. The mark by which his disciples should be known is love for the other. The Lord's Prayer addresses Our Father, but how can they call upon a common Father who drive steel into the bowels of their brethren?"

    During the Reformation, pacifism was most notably espoused by the Anabaptists after the disaster of the violent Millennial Anabaptist commune of Munster. Ironically, the pacifist convictions of the Anabaptists brought them great hardship and even death from the hands of others christians. Since the Reformation, the peace tradition has been carried on by the Anabaptist's successors-the Amish, Hutterites and Mennonites, and also by the Quakers and the Brethren. These are the "historic peace churches".

    In keeping with the Sermon on the Mount, the major leaders of the American Reformation Movement in the nineteenth century were of pacifist sentiment. Among the more vocal pacifists of the Restoration Movement were Alexander Campbell, J.W. McGarvey, Barton W. Stone, Tolbert Fanning, and David Lipscomb.

    While Campbell based most of his ethics on Acts and the Epistles, he did oppose the Mexican-American War of 1848. His convictions on the subject of war are made clear in his ADDRESS ON WAR:
    "The precepts of Christianity positively inhibit war by showing that "wars and fightings come from men's lusts." and evil passions. Christianity commands Christians to "follow peace with all men."

    CONCLUSIONS

    While the prospects for the future are grim, we do not have to yield to a deterministic view of the future. Rather, the New Testament teaches that to be a Christian is to be in a state of tribulation with the world.
    Many within the Christian peace community view the current state of the world, with its prospect for nuclear annihilation, as fundamentally similar to the self-deifying state described in the Apocalypse as the "reign of the beast". Whether this is eschatologically true is not the issue, for at least in the ethical sense it is true. When world powers differ over economic or social theories to the point that they are willing to destroy the world, it can only be described as a Satanic situation.

    The Sermon on the Mount teaches that followers of Jesus are to renounce war and violence, and to be about the work of the Kingdom of God. Paul recognized this and taught the pacifist tradition in Romans 12. Pacifism is part of the ethical thrust of the New Testament, as well as the consensus of the Pre-Constantinian church. Since Constantine and Augustine, the pacifist stance of the church gave way to the so-called "Just War" and Crusade. But the heritage of peace was kept alive by various sectarian movements before and during the Reformation. Since the Reformation, the "Peace Churches" (Brethren, Mennonite/Hutterite/Amish, and Friends (Quakers) have kept the pacifist flame alive. That flame burned brightly, if only for a short time, in the American Restoration Movement.

    Now, it is with hope that small groups of Christians around the world attempt to serve others in peaceful ways and to aid the conscientious objectors within the churches. We do this in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ who speaks to each of us: "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23)

    NOTE:
    I wrote this in 1979, after I left the Churches of Christ in 1971. It was published in MISSION , a progressive magazine of the Churches of Christ. In 1981 I joined the Friends Church, also known as Quakers. After serving as a Friends pastor for two years, and as a housechurch leader, we embraced the Anabaptist tradition. I served for a while as a pastor within the Mennonite Church. SInce I wrote this article, the Berlin Wall has come down, the Cold War has ended, South African aparteid has ended, and the Soviet Union has collapsed. Now since 2001, America has responded to a terrorist act with a "War on Terror", and invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan. The future appears to be one of unending war. Sadly, the Historic Peace Churches have left the peace stance in the dust. For the most part. 70% of Mennonites are pro-war, as are about 40% of Brethren, and about 90% of Friends.
    At this time it is for all followers of Jesus to fully renounce war and embrace the pacifist ethic of Jesus and the early Christian movement.

    +++LORD HAVE MERCY

  16. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    Somehow 2 partial copies got posted. Please delete those.
    Thanks,Gary

  17. Brad Adcock says:

    Quick question for Jay or Gary:

    What's your take on Paul 'peppering his speech' with 'militaristic terminolgy' on occasion (i.e., Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 2:1ff; Eph 6:10ff, etc.)? I realize his use of those terms doesn't mean he supports what they represent, but it seems odd to me that he would associate those kinds of words with Christians/Christianity if he felt they represented un-Christian behaviors. What I mean is that if he's just trying to get across ideals like discipline or perseverence for instance, why not just stick to the athletic analogies he uses elsewhere? (Maybe this falls under the category of the 'unjust steward' parable as someone else has mentioned elsewhere in the comments section, but this feels different to me).

    I'm not coming down on either side of this yet. I've obviously heard of pacifism, but I've never studied it or honestly given it much thought. I'd just like to know your opinions so that I can begin to form my own. Thanks.

  18. Brad Adcock says:

    Should have just said a quick question for anyone willing to comment. All opinions are welcome.

  19. Gary Cummings says:

    Figures of speech are just that. Many times, as in Eohesians 6, he talks about the armor of God, and gives each piece a non militaristic meaning. In verse 15 of Eph.6, he specifically says to put on sandals of peace.

  20. Brad Adcock says:

    I don't know, Gary. 'Figures of speech' seems too quickly dismissive to me, whether or not he gives each piece a non-militaristic meaning and whether or not he talks about sandals of peace. I appreciate the fact that the undertone of his message in Eph 6 can be expressed as tearing away the violent meaning of the words that he's using and giving them a peaceful, Christian connotation – but that's not the main point by of his message.

    Also, figures of speech doesn't work in Eph 6, because he's drawing a clear picture of spiritual warfare (the shield protecting us from the fiery darts of the devil) even if 'the only offensive weapon in our arsenal is the Word of God itself' as the old cliche goes. Through the imagery he uses, Paul clearly WANTS his readers to picture fending off the attacks of the devil (i.e., being in combat) even if the attack is only spiritual.

    Am I off-base? BTW, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me. I'm thankful for the insights of someone who's struggled with this longer than I've been alive (only 32). Have a great day!

  21. Gary Cummings says:

    Brad,
    PAul wrote in the midst of the Roman Empire, and often as a prisoner of the Romans. I do think "figures of speech" are just that. Something used to relay a deeper meaning. When Paul said "Take the sword of the SPirit", he was not advocating Christians taking the sword. rather our weapon is spiritual and more powerful than a human sword-The Word of God. Look at the example in Eph. 6, and Paul goes from a physical example to something non-violent: faith, righteousness, salvation, and peace.
    Spiritual warfare is a real thing, and that does not involve carnal weapons (Paul in fact says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal). Faith, prayer, fasting, and non-violence , and the gifts of the Spirit are our arsenal.

  22. Guy says:

    He may have used the metaphor he did not to endorse warfare, but for the exact purpose of contrasting the nature of our endeavor (*spiritual* warfare) with that of the world (carnal warfare). It's at least a possibility in Eph 6 since he's made that very contrast elsewhere (2Cor 10:3-5).

    –Guy

  23. Pingback: Jay Guin on Pacifism | TimothyArcher.com/Kitchen

  24. Brian Bergman says:

    Jay,

    Just now starting to work through this series. Before listing your observations, you said:
    "But it seems to be the time. I’ve got the books. I just need to see whether I agree with them."

    Wondering if you could post a bibliography of your sources for this series.

    Thanks,
    Brian B.

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Brian,

    I'm still writing, so this may not be complete.

    David Lipscomb's "Civil Government" is much more thoughtful and insightful than I expected, and an easy read. I disagree with the man but have to respect his thinking in this book.
    John Howard Yoder's "The Politics of Jesus." This is a must read whether or not you're interested in pacifism.
    Lee C. Camp, "Mere Discipleship"
    Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willemon, "Resident Aliens." Brilliant book — should be required reading even though I disagree with the conclusions re pacifism.
    Stanley Hauerwas, "Brazos Theological Commentary on Matthew."
    D. A. Carson, "Expositor's Commentary on Matthew" (excellent commentary — you can pick it up and just read it front to back)
    Scot McKnight, "The Blue Parakeet" (says nothing about pacifism but teaches us how to read the Bible)
    John Howard Yoder, "Body Politics"
    Richard Hughes, "Reclaiming a Heritage"
    Douglas Foster, ed., "American Origins of Churches of Christ"
    The New International and Tyndale commentaries on Matthew and Luke and maybe some other books. I walk back and forth to the commentary shelves a lot.

    That's probably not complete, but it's what I can remember at 9 pm.

    Now, you should notice that I'm big fan of several books that I disagree with on pacifism. Yoder, Hauerwas, and Camp are good reads regardless of your position. I think I've read "Resident Aliens" three or four times.

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