First off, a confession. A few weeks ago, I made the pledge that I would not get on the scale again until the end of 2006. Yesterday afternoon at the gym, I "fell off the wagon" and weighed myself. It’s a good comeuppance, for me, I suppose; I post so often on this blog about making commitments and redirecting impulses. I’ve had so much success in so many areas of my life, but resisting the urge to climb on the scale is tougher than I imagined. Just thought I’d share my slip…
It’s a busy day, and I suspect I will have time for only one post. Both here and elsewhere, there’s been discussion of Monday’s shooting at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. Thanks to my friend Jonathan Dresner, I read this particularly nasty piece from Judith Klinghoffer at my own History News Network. Klinghoffer opines:
How low can one sink? No. I am not talking about the murderer, may his name be erased. I am talking about those who saved themselves by leaving the little girls at his mercy. Consider:
"They found the suspect dead on the floor," Col Miller said. "Three other students between the age of six and 13 had been killed." He said that when Roberts, a non-Amish, first entered the school he apparently showed the handgun to the children and was "having some discussion in the class". "He told the kids to line up in front of the blackboard. Then, using wire ties and flex cuffs, he began to tie the females’ feet together. It appears that when he shot them he shot them execution-style in the head.
And they LET him. I have yet to hear about a single person who did anything to stop him. By doing nothing, they permitted a deranged man to fulfill his sick revenge fantasy.
This is the ultimate result of Amish pacifism. All evil needs to flourish is for good people to do nothing. Evil flourished in that schoolroom.
Bold is mine. And here on my blog, thechief weighs in:
There’s something we need to realize about pacifists in general, including the Amish: They can afford to be pacifists because somebody else is holding a gun for them. They can afford not to raise their hand against evil because somebody else–a police officer, a soldier–is standing between them and true evil. Somebody else will do the dirty work of keeping them safe, except for those awful situations where the system somehow breaks down, like yesterday in Pennsylvania. Then the pacifists are going to be toast.
Let me be clear that I am an aspiring pacifist. As Stanley Hauerwas always says of himself, I am a violent man trying to become peaceful. When I read about stories like this one, my first thought is always "I wish I could have been there with a gun to blow the s.o.b. away." That’s my first response, but happily, as a Christian, not my second.
Both Klinghoffer and thechief have a tortured, twisted view of what pacifism really is. First off, most Christian pacifists don’t live in the United States. The largest Christian pacifist communities are Anabaptists living in war-torn places like Indonesia, Nigeria, and Colombia. The notion that pacifists are comfortable, middle-class white folks who are protected by a wise government willing to wield the sword is ludicrous and ahistorical. Christian pacifism traces its modern roots to the blood-soaked Central Europe of the sixteenth century. The pacifism of the peace churches (to which Mennonites, the Amish, the Quakers, and others belong) was a response to appalling violence by people who experienced that violence first hand. The great lie that both Klinghoffer and thechief perpetuate is that pacifists are ignorant of the realities of human brutality; the historic truth is that pacifism was birthed by men and women who had infinitely more knowledge of the realities of violence than your average Marine in Iraq has today.
The other great lie is more simple: they equate pacifism with passivity. A Latin lesson, girls and boys: pacifism comes from pax facere, to "make peace"; it does not, contrary to popular misconception, derive from passus sum, to "suffer." In other words, authentic pacifism is an active response to violence, not a passive one! From the sixteenth century onward, pacifists have insisted that the goal of Christian witness is not to run and hide but "to get in the way." Jesus says, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Soldiers quote that all the time, but wrongly. Jesus calls us to the cross, He calls us to come and die, but He never calls us to kill. From a theological standpoint, there is all the difference in the world between being willing to die for one’s friends and being willing to kill for them. For soldiers, both may be true. For cowards, neither is true. For Christian pacifists, only the former is true!
The third lie about pacifism is that it is hopelessly idealistic and has no efficacy. Once we convince our opponents that we aren’t cowards (after all, Christian pacifists are dying in places like Colombia and Iraq all the time), we usually get dismissed as "fanatics." I mentioned in my post on Monday that I hoped that if it came to it, I would be willing to take a bullet for "my kids." But I would not be willing to fire a bullet, even to protect the lives of my students or youth groupers. That always strikes folks as irresponsible and prideful; I seem to be putting my theological convictions ahead of my obligation to protect the lambs.
But as a Christian, I know that there is more to our story than our life on this earth. I love life, I love this planet, I love God’s incredible creation. But my story — our story — doesn’t end here. This is not my final home. I am a "resident alien" in a beautiful, violent, scary, wonderful place. I know that while death is overwhelming and terrifying, it is not the end. Not only do I have an even truer home elsewhere, so too do those lambs I am called to feed. They are Christ’s lambs, not mine. Their lives are precious, but so too are their eternal souls. Crazed gunmen can kill the bodies of the young and the innocent; crazed gunmen can break the hearts of a community. But crazed gunmen don’t get to write the final chapter of the story. After the tears, there will be rejoicing, no matter what, no matter what, no matter what.
It is with the certainty that death does not separate us from each other or from God that I can claim my pacifism. If I thought death was the end of the story, I’d probably be packing heat in the glove compartment of my Toyota Solara. To prolong the short lives of my loved ones here on earth, I would do anything and everything. But I know that love endures past the end. I know that I am called to follow Christ first and foremost. Thanks to Him, I already know how the story turns out in the end. Those of us who are true pacifists are not cowards who run in fear, muttering prayers of thanksgiving for the protection offered us by violent men. We are people who have seen the end of the book. We know that after the crucifixion, comes the resurrection. After the bullets and the terror comes the peace and the joyous new life. With that certainty, we can offer up our lives non-violently. It’s not that we seek death, or value life any less. It’s that we are quietly, absolutely, peacefully certain that our Lamb conquered death for all of us 2000 years ago — and with fear, trembling, and yes, joyful certainty, we will follow Him. No matter what.