SEE THE COMMENTS ON THE PREVIOUS POST REGARDING MARTIN LUTHER KING’S QUOTATIONS TO SEE WHY AND WHERE BRANT ASKED ME THESE QUESTIONS:
“Is your [brand of pacifism] one that holds that our nation, or any nation, should not use force to defend itself, or innocents in other nations?”
I don’t know. Here’s what I think though. I think this scenario of nations using violence to defend themselves or other innocents is fantasy. I don’t know that it has ever happened in modern history – that I’ve learned of. I can think of no situation in which violence was used by a nation to defend itself or save the innocent in which that was the ONLY motivation, and the result was that harm came to the “guilty” and armed only. It’s just not a real situation you’re asking about.
But, in case that seems like a dodge, while I don’t know for sure what God would say in such instances, I can find no loophole for such instances in the teachings of Christ, the example of Christ, Paul’s Epistles, the teachings of the early church or the examples of the battling Jews of the Old Testament. So, no, using violence to end violence is not just. Or, to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr, to think we can arrive at peace through war is like thinking we can arrive at purity through fornication.
“Is your [brand of pacifism] one that holds that police should not use force to defend the innocent?”
“Police” is too general a term. It does not factor in one’s faith, one’s relationship with and commitment to God. I do not, as a Christ follower, expect those outside the Church to be moral and do not judge them or expect them to behave virtuosly in any way. Moral expectation is reserved for fellow Christians, beginning with myself. (This is why it’s odd to me when folks boycott non-Christians for acting like non-Christians). So, to answer your question and change it a little, no, I do not think Christians should use force with the intent to harm, punish, kill, cause pain to another human being regardless of what it is that human being is doing. The intent matters. So, no, I do not think a Christian should be in an occupation that requires them to be violent in order to fight violence. Tertullian, an early church bishop, instructed that Christians who are part of the military should be disciplined out of the church even if they do not bear arms in the course of their duties. That’s how strongly many early Christians believed the teaching of Christ to be against violence.
“If so, and given that you believe we have political responsibilities to advocate for justice—understandably—will you advocate for the eradication of police and military?”
I don’t know how you’re defining “political” but if you mean political in the nation-state/government involvement sense, the answer is an emphatic no. I have no “political responsibilities to advocate for justice” in that way. I do not vote. I do not pledge allegiance. I do not respect our flag over any other. I do not live for or die for a nation and have no faith in impotent governments incapable of legislating beneath skin, in the soul where law must be written in order for justice to be lived naturally. There is no such thing as justice without Christ and no government can therefore create true justice – only the Church.
Romans 13 says there will be governments (local magistrates, police etc) that have swords (weapons) and will use them to punish those who break their laws. Some use this passage to say Paul is prescribing them to do so, that he is commanding government to punish the law breaker with force. IF he was doing this in Romans 13 (and he isn’t) then the scope of this punishment and violence is, using only this passage, only local, within the borders of that magistrate’s territory. But Paul is not being PREscriptive here. He is being DEscriptive. This matters immensely – the context. He is warning people to obey the laws of men when they don’t cause us to break the laws of God because 1)we don’t want to cut our lives and our impact for the kingdom of Heaven on earth short by getting our heads chopped off. That would be stupid. 2)we should represent Christ well by being respectful and civil and not causing unnecessary problems for society. Following Jesus will bring us enough problems of it’s own without adding to them with negligence and petty law breaking. Die for a good reason, the right reason, the Gospel of Christ, Paul seems to be saying. Don’t die by the magistrates sword over some avoidable infraction. He’s warning us. He’s not saying Hey, magistrates feel free to make any rules you want and kill your citizens if they break them – God doesn’t mind. This is especially true when we read Romans 12 and THEN read ROmans 13. There’s a fishy chapter break thrown in there that really confuses things. Romans 12 ends by talking about how vengeance and punishment are God’s job and that we should love always, even those who harm us, and never seek revenge. THEN the magistrate is contrasted against that, against OUR Christian way of living.
So I admit that police and the military do much much good, when they’re not violent. Traffic laws are not God laws but they help society work better and don’t go against God’s laws so, sure, let’s have them and let’s enforce them with fines. Laws against murder, rape, theft – same thing. They make society safer and don’t break God’s laws so, again, have those laws and enforce them. But don’t use violence in the process of law enforcement.
The obvious follow up question to all of this that I’d ask myself is “So what do you suggest instead of violence mister unrealistic high horse hippie? How do we defend folks and enforce laws without using violence? What’s your alternative? How would YOU stop Hitler or Sadaam or Osama?”
Great question. How would you answer?