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I don't use the word "pacifism" when speaking or singing across the country. I have to touch on what it means to be a peace maker since my last album was based on that idea and seven others that make up the beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. I used that word, "pacifism", early on, when that album was new, and I regretted it.

I was promptly threatened in the lobby of a church in Colorado Springs by two Christians serving in the Air Force and sent livid hate mail as well. But I didn't stop using the word because I was frightened away from it. I stopped using it because doing so stopped dialogue. It is a word that flips a hate switch inside the patriot or any other other-minded Christian who associates it with hippies and Jane Fonda, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. It's a worn out word defined for us by those who've overused it over the years. When it spills from my mouth, regardless of what precedes it or follows it, my audience, whether one person or a thousand, thinks they have me figured out as a "liberal" or a democrat" or an "unrealistic pansy long haired hippie" and they no longer listen or think about how being at peace with God through Jesus affects our view of war and peace. Threats and hatred, at the very least defensiveness, replaces sane conversation and rational questioning. Conversation is dead.

So now I don't use any one word to describe my theology of war and peace. I don't call myself anything but Christian. Instead, I do something much more subversive and conversation preserving. I simply say there has always been a tremendous amount of conflict in the world - across bedrooms, sanctuaries, boardrooms and borders. head nod in agreement. And then I quote Jesus - every word He ever said about enemies, loving them, turning cheeks, and on and on. I don't speak out against the war we're in. I don't mention specific countries. I don't talk about soldiers or soldiering. I just end by saying Jesus blesses the peace maker who loves his enemy the way Christ loved us when we were His. That starts conversation. And it's killed the threats.

Conversation, more than preaching, book writing, or any other kind of one way communication is what I believe can provoke Christians in any country to reexamine their theology of war and peace and discover how truly central the involved issues are to following the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount and the cross.

So, for the person who asked via e-mail why I'm posting about Hauerwas here, that's the best answer I can give: Non-violence is central to my understanding of what it means to be Christian, Hauerwas is discussing and fielding questions and I believe that is a great way to learn from him - better than a sermon, and lastly, here we can pick up the conversation and ask questions and disagree and learn. This is our chance to reason together after listening to Hauerwas' reasoning on Christian non-violence.

So, let's get on with it. In Part 3, Hauerwas answers two questions I've fielded a lot over the last year: Of course you say you're against war NOW; but what would you have said if you lived in Poland while Hitler was on the march? AND People out there want to take down America and stop freedom; what are we supposed to do about that?

Hope his answers provoke. Let's dialogue.

this is an audio post - click to play

Read Part 1 here and part two here.


Blogger Kathryn said...

i've listened to these excerpts. Thank you for making them available. This war/peace subject is so huge - what can i say? Hauerwas - i'd never heard of him until i read your blog - his thoughts about the "Christian church" who did not oppose a person like Hitler - that hit me in the gut -- pared it right down - spoke to me about the responsibility that rests with those who would follow Jesus. Hauerwas' thoughts on 'freedom' as it links to obedience vs. 'i get to choose'. . .mmm hmmm. . . yeah. that "O" word.

Anonymous jwise said...

I especially appreciate his last few comments on what true freedom is -- that it's not the "freedom" to do everything we want to do, to feed every selfish desire we have... with the tough choice becoming "Sony" or "Panasonic".

The world's mindset has done incredible damage to the church in the last century. We have bought into it hook, line, and sinker. The writings of Jeremiah ring so true today.

The more time I spend with those who claim to follow Christ, the more I wonder, "Would these people really be happy in a world with no bickering, no selfishness, no fighting, no war?" I honestly think they would not. Heaven, ironically, would be worse for them than Hell.

Jesus' true followers, however -- those who love peace, adore forgiveness and restoration, long to see the Kingdom established -- will lay down their own lives in a heartbeat so another may live and be reconciled to God.

Jim Elliot's story rings as a constant reminder. The man had a gun. He could have saved his own life. But he didn't. Not because he was a pacifist or a war-hater, but because he was a God-Image Lover. To trap a man in Hell for eternity is far too high a price to pay for our own safety.

If we really believe the Lord will give eternal life to we who believe and obey, then let's abandon all to see "the least of these" saved.

One day, Shaun, peace WILL break out. And selfishness will never again trump the selfless work of the Lord and His people.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even you regret using the word pacifism. Thanks for speaking that night at the c. springs it was hard to swallow for me and my friends. I remember the whole church was awfully quiet when you talked about it and I still have the recording of that night. It really challenged me to examine my theology of violence and war. I still deal with it but most time im confused and angry but hopefully ill learn more.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question, based on the Sermon on the Mount, and the necessary context of O.T. understandings of definition of "murder":

If a policeman uses deadly force to defend the innocent, and a pacifist is truly angry at the policeman...

Who's actually guilty of murder?

Shaun, I appreciate your convictions on this, and your willingness to provoke. But could it be that "pacifism" stops well short of being radical ENOUGH for the Sermon on the Mount...?

(Sorry I haven't read the thing yet...maybe he answers this.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Paul reminds us in Rom 13:4 that authority has weapons for God's purposes.. to fight those who do wrong. Therefore, those police officers honor God by protecting the innocent.

Another question ... do Christians have any reason to take up gun and badge or is our war of a different kind? I don't have a ready answer for that, as the son of a very godly cop...

Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

Shaun - Well, if you wanted to provoke a lot of thought on this subject, you've certainly done it for me.

My biggest problem at this point is that I'd love to try and discuss the issues you raise, but I'm afraid I'm goint to have the "Longest Blog Comment in the History of the World" by the time I'm done. I listened to all three audio clips. I've spent considerable time reading some of Hauerwas' writings, trying to get a grasp of the essence of the concepts presented. I had previously read the lengthy discussion (yes, in full) that you guys had here on Shlog a few months back about pacifism, just war, crusades, etc. There were a lot of very good points raised on all sides during that discussion. I'm honestly approaching this idea with an open mind. You say that the arguments were compelling enough that it challenged you to change your thinking, so I accept that there is a strong case to be made for this.

So first of all -- I understand how someone could argue that the most Christ-like approach to how you treat the people you come in contact with would be pacifism (I use that word as you intend it, Christian peacemaker, not the "dirty rotten liberal" version of the word). When we consider the demeanor of Christ, the messages He preached, the example He provided, and by all appearances, the actions of His followers in the time period of the early church, we see no signs of anything to the contrary.

I guess my biggest sticking point right off the bat is that it sounds a lot like idealism taken to it's logical conclusion, without regard to the realities of the world we live in. It sets a noble goal, which seems like something worth striving for, but it ignores the real-world conditions which are necessary to bring it about. I know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever -- but the world isn't.

I believe that previously you presented the idea that even the actions of police officers to enforce the laws was judged by a Christian pacifist mindset as being an unacceptable use of force or violence (please correct that statement if I've misrepresented your position -- that's not my intention). And even if I grant you that this is the case, and that as a Christ-follower my demeanor and actions should ideally be that of complete non-violence -- because of the nature of evil, and the influence of sin in the world, isn't somebody going to have to restrain evildoers with physical force to preserve an environment where I can live in peace?

You could say "No, God will supernaturally restrain evil if we obey Him and stop warring, and instead pray", but you and I both know that this is not the nature of the world we live in. There are more non-Christians than Christians, and many of them even feel a religious mandate to kill Christians. So regardless of whether your position is theoretically better, and closer to being Christ-like, surely God knows the nature of the world we live in, and the power structures of man's governments.

My understanding is that the Bible teaches (Romans 13) that God has allowed the power structures of man that are in place to have the authority that they do. Even though the point in that chapter is that we should obey those laws as a good witness for Christ, it also stands to reason that God knows that "force" and "violence" are needed for governments to exist. The Bible refers repeatedly to "the nations", both Old and New Testament, and says that these nations will ultimately bow before Christ as Lord. But in acknowledging them, isn't God saying "man organizes himself into these structures called the nation-state, and I'm fully aware of them, and use them as my agents of authority on earth during the reign of man"?

I hope what I'm trying to get at here is making some sort of sense. Yes, Jesus lived a non-violent life when He walked the earth, His hands were used for healing and blessing, He showed us a clear example of the perfect life and what it looks like. But He was also here for a specific, unique purpose and calling. He didn't just set an example in demeanor, lifestyle, and character -- He also had to suffer and die for us; He was fulfilling volumes of prophecy with each step He took; He was a one-time-only gift from God to the World, sent to save us and bring us back to Himself. He wasn't going to get involved in politics, military movements, government agencies, and so forth, because He had a specific calling and ministry that was unique and separate from that of any other man in history.

But the "we" part of that, the fallen humans that He died for, we are all in different circumstances. He certainly interacted with Roman soldiers, and didn't rebuke them for their vocational choice when ministering to them. He knew that He would die for everyone -- housewives, children, police officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, morticians, computer programmers, judges, rocket scientists, etc. His nature, His character, His essence is what He wants those people to strive for, but does that always mean that He calls them out of what they are doing at that moment, into a different vocation (assuming they are in a "violent" vocation)?

And if so, does that mean that His present intention is that during the present era in which the governments of man still reign over the earth and Jesus has not yet returned, that all His followers have only certain vocations, and only unbelievers hold vocations where violence and force may be used?

To be honest, I found Hauerwas' answers in the third clip terribly lacking in substance. I was hoping for much more. He really answered questions with other questions, and deflected focus from the specific questions being asked by using extreme examples to prove the opposite point (aka, straw man arguments). He seems to concede that if he were in Poland in 1938, he doesn't know what he would do. I read another one of his pieces where he concedes that one of his pacifist heroes, Bonhoeffer, was resisting the Nazis with non-violence -- but that Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and killed for a plot he was part of to kill Hitler. Even Hauerwas called these actions "sinful but necessary" (without elaborating).

And then he starts down a "moral equivalency" path that in my mind, did nothing at all for his argument. He suggests that because there were Christians in Germany who were part of Hitler's army (and frankly, who knows how many were "Christians in name only"), therefore the logical end of any sort of patriotism is that Christians will always blindly follow the nation-state's orders, even in complete contradiction of the teachings of Christ. Several times in the things I read, in trying to goad us to think, he suggests specifically that Bush and Americans today could be lead down the same path as Hitler and Germany if we come to accept the war in Iraq and other "imperialistic actions" as acceptable.

Now look, I hesitate carefully at this becoming in any way political, because I understand that this is neither the point of the discussion or the intention, but Hauerwas seems willing to go there when he feels that it illustrates his point, so I'll just make my point and leave it at that. I don't confuse the actions of America with the actions of Christ. I don't confuse my civic duties (render unto Caesar) with my heartfelt devotion and desire to serve the Lord. When the two are in conflict, the Lord wins every time. And inasmuch as that's not the case, I'm honestly open to asking the Lord (through direct Holy Spirit conviction, or through other servants of His who are wiser, it doesn't matter) to teach me and correct me and change my heart. But America is not Nazi Germany. Bush is not Hitler. Invading neighboring countries with an agressive and shameless desire to conquer the entire world is not the same as sending in some troops to a foreign land in hopes of fighting oppression. We can argue about the political ramifications all day, but I just don't think Hauerwas helps his cause by using that type of implication and hyperbole.

A lot of people scream that "we need to send in U.N peacekeepers to Darfour", including and especially people on the "political left" in the U.S. But calling someone armed with a weapon a "peacekeeper" is a contradiction according to Hauerwas, even if no shots are fired, and millions are saved from genocide. Doesn't the "seeing evil and having a chance to act" carry any weight at all? Hauerwas seems to be saying "No, it is always with a wrong intention, it is always carried out sinfully, it can never be done justly." So -- do we send only non-Christians in as soldiers to do the "peacekeeping"? I guess the real Christians get to unload the bags of beans, rice, and corn from the trucks and bring relief to all the human suffering. Well that sure that sounds nice, but why not share your faith in Christ with one of the U.N. Peacekeeper troops -- and after sincerely praying the prayer with you to accept Christ, and bringing his family back with him to hear the Good News, and setting up a Bible study in his home, you'll have to notify him that he's now in the wrong vocation, and can no longer stand guard with his rifle, because he might have to use it if the Darfour government troops decide to start the massacre again.

I apologize if it sounds like I'm using stupid examples or magnifying minutiae -- but I'm trying to use real-world scenarios to ascertain how this pacifism idea fits into real life. I spent six years in the Army, had been a devout Christian several years prior to joining, and honestly the whole time thought I was operating in good conscience before God in that vocation. I realized I might be asked to kill, or that I might die, though I never found myself in an actual situation involving either. So maybe we only know what the Lord needs us to know? Meaning, yes there are Christians in the military, who do what they are doing with a clear conscience before God, because He has not yet revealed to them that His perfect plan is pacifism? (Or perhaps, they haven't heard or understood that? Or they are not really Christians at all?)

In one of the earlier clips Hauerwas also makes a vague reference that sounds like "to call yourself a Christian but be willing to kill for your nation-state might put your soul in peril", as if to imply that this is such serious business, that you can't even actually be a Christian and take a life (or maybe I misunderstood his point there?). Certainly this is serious business, and if souls are at risk due to ignorance of God's will, then it would be horrible not to tell them. But I'm just not sure I'm convinced yet that Hauerwas is completely right about this.

So, there you have a few of my thoughts on this, Shaun. I could go on, but I won't -- I hope that's enough to give you something to comment on, debate with, argue against, teach about, rebuke, correct...whatever. I hope you don't mind that I hogged such a big chunk of Shlog comment space, but I do appreciate your "iron sharpens iron" subject matter, and I believe that it really is causing healthy growth in a lot of lives. Thanks.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Hammer, I haven't read your entire comment - I'm in a hotel room before a gig in Florida at the moment - but I see that you astutely referenced Romans 13. Do me a favor, please read Romans 12 and then Romans 13 and see if it doesn't clear a thing or two up. Those chapter divisions are destructive to the meaning of Romans 13 - I think. Look at the character that balances Romans 13. The restrictions on government and not just the permissions. More on ROmans 13 later...

Brant, yes I think pacifism - the political Susan Sarandon incarnation if it, falls far short of Sermon On The Mount living. It removes the motivation from peaceful living (the kingdom ) and the power with which to accomplish it (Christ), denies the reason for conflict (sinful nature) and the cure (Convincing by the Spirit of God that Jesus is who He said He was) and often results in sowing the seeds of conflict all over again (anger). Anger is sin. It is murder.

Only God gets angry. Only God kills. These are just two of the ways, as I understand it, in which we, mankind, are NOT to be like our Father in Heaven. Agree?

Good thoughts. I circle back around after the show tonight and read the rest of Hammer's epic and comment if necessary. ; )


PS. I also have a criticism of Hauerwas' non-violence too. Interested to see if anyone else agrees with me or if I'm just being difficult.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

What about Romans 13? The answer is in Romans 12, which says to do good to your enemy and to overcome evil with good. In World War II, Hauerwas has argued, there were many Catholics and Lutherans in Germany who used Romans 13 to justify fighting for the Nazis.

Does that help at all? Or muddy the waters some more?


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