I ended up feeling like a complete fool.
It wasn’t but a few days after the ISIS attacks on Paris that I, like a child sprung from kindergarten class needing to go-to-bathroom, entered into the topic of Paris within the confines of “social” media. I had spent the previous three or so days completely agitated by the posts consumed with a foreign policy that said nothing more than “kill them all” or the better articulated: “They are killing christians, so we should stop them, and by ‘we’ I mean Americans, and by ‘them’ I mean ISIS (or if it serves my argument I will conflate ISIS with Al Queda), and by ‘stop them’ I mean kill them, regardless of the collateral damage.” Genuinely surprised by this interpretation of events, I felt liberated enough to commence with the typing.
When I heard all of the arguments for why we should wipe these people (albeit horrifically evil people) off the map, I noticed immediately that the premises were not coming from even a loose take on Christian Just War Theory, rather they emerged from something else more akin to realism or realpolitik (as the neo-cons call it), which is more prominently reflected in the foreign policy of the The Henry Kissinger, and is seeing a revival in The Hillary Clinton.
So, I attempted a stab at the issue by making arguments of my own.
These arguments are best reflected in the anti-war position of pacifism or non-resistance. This is not to be confused with an unwillingness to do anything, but is best reflected in a willingness to do something that does not perpetuate the cycle of violence and hatred and contempt and whatever other vile effect war produces in people and nations. It is not “passive-ism” but “peace-ism.” The origin of the word can be found in the greek work Jesus uses for “peacemakers” and also from the Latin, Pax. In other words, those who thought it a passive position were either ill-informed or intentionally not trying to understand me in order to show me how much of an ivory tower academic I am.
Just allow me to say one thing..
Governments always seem to spin war to the public by saying something, like, how we are simply responding to aggression and this was out of the blue, unforeseen, and just so you know, the world is best reflected as cowboys and indians. John Wayne was a noted conservative right? But I digress.
What Did I Do?
Well, it didn’t go so well. I would make a point, and you would have thought I was telling people to give up on Jesus..and how ironic when I was simply asking people to tell me how they would reconcile their convictions of foreign policy simultaneously with their convictions on the person of Jesus. Honestly, this was the only response I seemed to get: “Well, I believe in Jesus but we have to kill those guys…”
I am a pacifist, and I’ve held this view at least two years now. But in the midst of every single rebuttal — which even diminished to the point of certain people telling me silly things like, “Well Jon, King David killed some people…sounds like a pacifist to me” — nothing seemed to get through to my interlocutors.
I wanted to stand up and say that I wasn’t a disciple of David, I was a disciple of Jesus. And since I belong to a group of people (the church) who believe that Jesus is smart, and we follow him, then perhaps it would be necessary for us to ask one simply question: “Are we rightly following Jesus into another war, with another people group, whom the government says hates-us-for-our-freedoms, in order to establish peace, or is it to fulfill a need for punitive justice that we instinctively feel is the right thing and have conflated that feeling with the Spirit?” It is very difficult to get Jesus to underwrite our democratic norms and beliefs about intervention and redemptive violence, isn’t it?
These are questions I have been asking myself the last few days. Questions that are uniform in their frequency. But there is only one question which has haunted me:
“What is your solution?”
After long discussions with people who look at me with those deer-in-the-headlights-where-the-crap-do-you-get-off-you-unamerican-passive-piece-of-junk eyes, eventually this final question steers my direction, and I must admit that it is a good one.
What is my solution? Well..that is difficult. Or is it?
You see, after giving it much thought, I realized something: we already have a solution that is the most incredible, ancient, beautiful and effective solution in world history, and that solution is the church of Jesus Christ.
It is the only institution of its kind, which exists solely for the benefit of its nonmembers. It was God’s dream for the world to come into a better understanding of His goodness, and the group responsible for more good will in the world than any other institution in the history of mankind. There may be some rough patches, where whole groups devolved into violent squirmishes over petty doctrinal differences, but compared with the larger narrative, this is small.
We Could Make A Difference
And what of the refugees? We could do it. We could make a difference, as the church, but not as the state. What if we brought them in, trained them, believed in them, helped them, and filled these people with a wonder and imagination for what their country could be? Sounds radical, but it’s rather simple: It is the church. She may be very insecure, but I promise she is very beautiful, and no nation-state can effectively see the results that she, the church, does.
So, the question is all wrong. Honestly, I was doing it wrong. I wasn’t meeting people were they were living, and how can you on a masspersonal medium like Facebook or Twitter? But I have also found hope in the idea that many of us truly care about those who are being massacred and devalued, and simply want to do something. Even one of my heroes, Andrew White, believes that war is the only solution. He had a church in Iraq. Who am I to argue with him, except that it shows me how incredibly complex this whole situation is.
Solutions Are Not Isolated
It is not about my solution. The better question is simple: Who are we?
To be continued…