“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who wished to assassinate a noble. He drew his sword at home and struck it against the wall to test whether his hands were strong enough. Then he went out and killed the noble.”—Gospel of Thomas 98
I have thoughts, not logic. I don’t reason my way to convince people of an argument… and ironically I’m convinced that impressive rhetoric does not do much real convincing. I’m not a philosopher, I respond well to Waugh, Orwell, and O’Connor and dread anything systematic… because everything is…
This is a post written by my friend (Stacy Park) in response to my post on Absolute Pacifism. She raises some very sensible points that you will definitely want to check out.
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all understanding and with all strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
I first want to thank Justin for his inquiry; most Christians do not even question half of what Jesus’ commands could actually mean. So thanks. Also, I hope my approach is humble and demonstrates how naive humanity truly is, how truly naive I truly am. If analytic philosophy and analytic…
This is a response by my good friend Russ to my post on pacivism. I am too excited to get to be in conversation with him as we live together next Academic year. He truly has been gifted with a fascinating and brilliant mind! Be sure you check out the entire post for another insight on the subject!
Thoughts On Absolute Pacivism (Memorial Day MMXII)
Before I say anything, I have to say that this isn’t a complete argument for or against pacivism. Quite frankly, this is a topic I’ve only recently begun to think about (due to the words and works of my friends Landon, Russ, and Chase), and I’m not sure I’ve spent enough time in that frame to completely commit to either side (in all honesty, I titled this post “My Current Thoughts on Passivism”…so I feel like I should at least learn how to spell the damn thing before I argue any position on it). While this may seem to be an argument against pacivism as a whole, it is, rather, my push back on certain aspects of absolute pacivism. I must also say that this post isn’t focused on current United States relations. That’s another topic I’m not sure I’ve come to a decision on (Maybe Sadam was a CIA agent, or maybe he was just a cold-hearted bastard). This post is my current thoughts. This is where I’ve found certain tensions. I believe that the God of the Bible is the LORD of my life, and this is my humble attempt to figure out what that means in this sphere. I expect push-back. I expect responses. I expect God to speak to me through you, my gorgeous and wise absolute pacivist friends. Civil discourse is a beautiful thing; yet let us argue in love, rather than in personal opposition.
I grew up in a family that never loses. My mom’s favorite phrase (and she will openly tell you this) is, “Potestas never lose.” That, compounded with the necessity of dominance American masculinity, has had two major effects. The first is that I’m extremely competitive. That was demonstrated by wretched displays of violence both in and out of the context of athletics. The second is that I’ve wanted to join the Air Force for a few years now, and the more it looks like I won’t end up doing that, the more I realize I will never be able to forgive myself for being the one of the first civilians in a history of soldiers.
Also, I’ve begun the process of becoming a lawyer. So, I think I should straighten out what I believe about things like this.
These are things I think you should know before you read on.
When I think of Christian promotions of absolute pacivism, I automatically think of the phrases, “Turn the other cheek” and “If he asks for your tunic give him your cloak, too.” Both of these phrases seem to have their limits in my mind, though, on the national level. The proportions between “turn the other cheek” and “allow brutal murder” don’t seem to match up. It seems that there must be an obvious division between the social implications of these teachings and the national ones. I can’t reconcile these verses with the hairiness of Romans 13. It seems that no nation, regardless of their moral holdings, could even exist on a totally pacivist course. To some extent, absolute pacivism assumes an entire world of pacivist others. This will never be a reality absent of the Christ’s return. More on that at the end.
I can’t sit here and throw my hat in the ring with people who would look at the families of dead soldiers and say, “While I appreciate your son or daughter’s sacrifice, he shouldn’t have been fighting in the first place.” Stepping out of our current context, how could we ever say that the lives lost storming Normandy were unjustified in their cause against pure evil? In 1941, an editorial in the Times Literary Supplement reads, “We have discovered that there is something more horrible than war - the killing of the spirit of the body, the Nazi contempt for the individual man. The world reeks with the foulness of the crimes in occupied Europe, where a Dark Age has begun anew.” My problem with adopting a national policy of pacivism is that it seems to lose sight of the idea that the strong may indeed have an obligation to the weak. Just because the United States is participating in wars that may stray away from this principle now by no means suggests that we should adopt the rhetoric of pacivism for all time. I am totally fine with opposition to Operation Enduring Freedom if it is not rooted on the grounds of “we shouldn’t be fighting in the first place.”
This national obligation to intercession seems to collapse into the social context, as well. In a debate riddled with hypotheticals, I suppose I will have to offer a typical one of my own. Let’s say my brother and I are walking down the street. A man my size, but larger than my brother (I’m going to keep making that distinction between my size and my brother’s size as long as I can, because he’s going to pass me up soon!) jumps out and begins beating Matt. My brother and my sister are two people I have come to love incredibly dearly. I can’t come to justify my two-hundred-and-ten frame standing by and watching my brother, whom I love, get brutally beaten. I feel like many people could argue that, “The power of God will save your brother if he should indeed be saved.” While I totally agree with that argument, I also have to wonder if the power of God breathing life into my dust could possibly be the necessary action. The moment I have trouble with absolute pacivism is when it defeats itself, in a way. Pacivism promotes the sanctity of human capital. The possession of an individual’s life should never be taken from them. But why would this belief disintegrate in the face of violence? If I must assume the posture of violence (not murder) to protect my brother’s life, wouldn’t that be adhering to the strictest degree of the sanctity of life? That I did everything in my power to protect the value of life? On the argument of “Well your brother is saved, so him losing his life isn’t really an issue” I might have to call bullshit. What if I were to argue that Christians in poverty don’t really need to be saved because they are Christians? No one would agree with that argument.
We don’t avoid caring for the poor because the Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t include poverty. Like this, we should not avoid defending the weak, even violently, because the Kingdom of Heaven completes peace. To say in response to this argument that “Well giving to the poor isn’t a sin, violence against someone else is” assumes the entire conclusion of absolute pacivism is true, which I am completely uncertain of on the social level.
These points have discussed moments of intercession, which seem to be my main moments of divergence from absolute pacivism. I hope to hear your wisdom on the subject in the coming weeks.
He found just enough room to curl sideways into the space across from me. He was much too big for the cement curve, and I, too small.
So there they were, the two of us, silent. He, for no need of speech; I, for no capability of it. The tunnel was endless. A dark expanse meant for shit. An entire pipeline meant for nothing but pure, cruddy, shit.
And I wanted.
And it rained.
We leaned, pressed against the steel grate, conforming our widths to the rectangular (if viewed from above), cement, overhang.
Finally, his voice laced between the unnatural rhythms of the water droplets (drip, drop, drop, drip, hush, drip), he asked, “Why don’t you cry?”
So I did.
And we sat like that for awhile.
And I wanted.
And it rained.
Again (drip, drop, drop, drip, hush, drip), “Why don’t you laugh?”
So I did.
Cold and loud and strong.
I couldn’t describe to you his appearance in any sort of human terms. He was shoulders and knees fixed to the long end of golden digits; but his face. His face. It was every scribbled pencil-drawing I had ever seen. It was the scratching false starts made by a pen being tested for ink. It was all lines, and all shapes, and all things.
And all at once I grew undeniably aware that I was a vacuum.
I was a naked canvas huddled from the rain (drip, drop, drop, drip, hush, drip).
And I wanted.
And it rained.
And all the trees in all the forrest floated into him. And all the filthy mouths of all the filthy sailors rang out in his chest.
And I wanted.
And it rained.
And all the desperate children, leaning snotty faces into their mothers’ aprons retreated into his fists.
And I wanted.
And it rained.
And all the king’s palaces, and all the king’s men were spilled into his blood. And all the pretty faces, of all the teenage girls were coiled in his shirt. And all the post-office clerks, reading post-cards from people they’ve never met in places they’ve never been were tangled in his beard. And all the muddy valleys, and all the ancient ruins, and all the six-time-champion-pistol-shooters were sucked into his spine.
“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…”—Timothy Leary (via jarrodis)
“I believe the Gospel is, in lesser terms, the story of what I am not; I also believe it to be, greater than that, the story of what my Holy God always has been, always is, and always will be.”—Christian Tenbrook
“The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.”—Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear (via connercress)
“I believe all sorts of things are beautiful. I believe Brother Sun and Sister Moon are beautiful. I believe the bastard Sky which fathered them both, though he changes his masks every hour, is beautiful. I just can’t quite bring myself to believe I was ever ment to look upon any of them.”—Christian Tenbrook