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National Pacifism vs Personal Pacifism

June 12, 2013

In March, I introduced the topic of pacifism ( and addressed some of the weaknesses in that particular position ( These two posts were addressing the concept of pacifism in a national view. They dealt with the realities of pacifism as it addressed to international violence and national defense. There is another rub to this position: do you hold an absolute pacifist view or a limited view of pacifism?

The absolute view is a position where a person feels there is no time violence should be used. This would include personal defense or defense of others. Whereas the limited, or national view, would hold a nation should conduct its business in a pacifist way and its citizens should only use violence to protect their family from imminent death.

There are communities who hold the absolute view, and practice it effectively – the Amish community being one. Some of the Brethren church would also fit into this view. Others in the Brethren would feel it’s acceptable to protect their family in the face of certain death.

Here is the question today: If you hold the pacifist view, what would you do if your family was attacked inside your home? Would you be able to able to take radical, violent action to protect your family? Things of this drastic nature are better to be thought through before you have to face the situation. Prepare yourself for the possibility of needing to make the decision. This prepares you to take decisive action, either way, if the situation should ever occur. Police and military use real world scenario role play to prepare for real world situations because it is the most effective way to prepare someone for a proper response. And it begins with understanding where one stands. So discuss this scenario with family and close friends.

This is the toughest standard to put a pacifist view up against. It does not get any closer than family. When family is threatened things can change. Talk over this situation with friends and family who understand your beliefs. Take the time to search out the root of your belief and see if can be applied in a practical situation.

  1. This reminds me of the issue faced by the Jews during the Holocaust. Especially the elders upon realizing the existence and necessity of the Underground Resistance in ghettos and countrysides. They didn’t want to support the violence, yet they also realized it could save many lives. Love this topic!

    • Charity,

      Thank you for your comments. I find this topic fascinating. While the Amish would turn the other cheek, most would defend their family. Can the one who defends their family still be considered a pacifist?

      Other interesting situations which follow along the Jews during the Holocaust would be the Rwanda genocide and the Darfur genocide. Which is the greater evil, the genocide or the war needed to stop it? This is a very complicated issue which is interesting to study. In a perfect world there would be a correct answer, yet we live in a fallen world so there are not perfect answers.

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