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Why Pacifism Now?

September 5, 2013

Over the past month or two I have noticed a great number of blogs speaking about a resurgence of pacifism, or a pacifist view, coming out of the evangelical churches in America. This was nice to hear because for a number of years the evangelical church has been a supporter of the wars of this nation. Upon deeper reflection, it brings a question which needs to be asked – why now?

During the Reagan and both Bush administrations the evangelical church seemed to support most of the armed conflicts. In some cases the evangelical church seemed to be the banner bearers for the conflicts. Under the Clinton administration this support for military use seemed to cool and under the Obama administration it seems to have turned downright frigid. Why is this?

While I would like to believe the ongoing armed conflicts occurring around the globe since 9/11 has cooled the evangelical church on supporting wars and has driven them towards the classical pacifist position. Yet I am not that naïve. It would seem the evangelical church is still tightly knit to the Republican Party and will not support the conflicts of a Democrat.

War cannot be a political issue for the evangelical church. A divorce from politics must happen so a devoted return to the faith can happen. A church must view war through the lens of the Bible, not a political party. Whether using the just war theory, pacifism, or just peacemaking theory, a church must develop their own opinions on the conflicts at hand without the help of a politician.

I want to emphasize this by no means is a post about the potential military action in Syria, or even a political commentary. I am simply asking the church to reflect on its motivations for the actions they are taking. Why now? Is it political or a true discipleship movement?

Today, I ask pastors to reflect on this question: Are you helping your church view the world through the filter of Scripture and divorce itself from politics?

  1. “Why now?” is indeed a thought-provoking question, and I enjoyed reading this and thinking about it. I can’t offer much of an answer that differs from yours. Most people have noticed that wars without clear objectives and exit plans, like Iraq and Afghanistan, have hidden costs and unpredictable downsides. Evangelicals would be included in “most people”. So, along with the rest, they would be prompted to re-examine waging war for any reason. Would Jesus accept the theory of a just war? I hope the Biblical lens clarifies decisions.

    • Thank you for your response. I would ask how can wars be prevented? For example, what did we do to engage in war prevention in Syria, Egypt, or in Rwanda? Nothing really. Some wars we let happen because they are of little consequence to us, others we let occur because it benefits us to let them happen.

      Would Jesus accept the idea of a just war? I cannot see how He could. Again, it goes to war prevention. I think he would like that. But when we fail to prevent, what do we do with Rwanda and the genocide or the Nazi extermination camps? What is more evil, stopping those activities with force or letting them continue? See, when we fail to prevent war, we leave ourselves with a question of which act is less evil.

      There is no simple answer except we need to at least get into the peacemaking business. Peace will not happen every time, but until some effort and money are put towards peace we will continue to fail.

      “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 (ESV)

      “You are blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Matthew 5:9 (The Message)

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