Monday, December 28, 2009
"Make up your own mind and don't fall victim to group consciousness."
"When you judge a person you don't define them. You simply define
yourself as someone who needs to judge."
"We are two different people,
Your right is not my right...
Your wrong is not my wrong...
You don't live my life"
From an "Ethiopian Protective Scroll"
by Jessie Dickerson on display
in the Liberal Arts Building at
Boise State University, Nov. 18, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
However I'm more interested in quotes that are not as well known. Here's an example which I just read for the first time in the book, "Anatomy of a Secret Life" The Psychology of Living a Lie" by Gail Saltz. "It is a joy to be hidden, but a disaster not to be found." This quote is credited to D. W. Winnicott. It has the ring of truth to it and it applies to a broad range of human activities and ages from children playing hide and seek to adults who might be engaged in illegal or criminal activities that they enjoy, but may be disastrous to others, and eventually to them.
I frequently see quotes I would not include on my blog because they just aren't that good. I'll make this exception to show you a few examples.
1. "A gift with a kind countenance is a double present," credited to Thomas Fuller. To me this one seems somewhat inane. Would someone be giving a gift without a kind countenance? Is it a gift, if giving it is required, so that the gift giver is doing it out of legal obligation, and is saddened or depressed by his own act of generosity? A gift given out of generosity and love will automatically include a kind countenance. There is no surprise here and it seems to be saying something that is too obvious to justify using in a quote.
2. "It's so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to," said by Sondra Barnes. This quote is a reject because it's simply not true. How many people in this country today want to find a job yet find it very difficult to get one. Wanting to do something does not make it easy whether the person is looking for a job, a spouse, or a college degree. Neither is it easy if the person is seriously ill and seeking healing, or a minority seeking respect and fair treatment from society.
3. "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent," by Eleanor Roosevelt. This one has the same problem the last one did. It's a lie. There are tens of millions of people in the world who have had their self-esteem damaged through no fault of their own, but entirely as a result of decisions made by others. This is true for victims of any kind of abuse or chronic mistreatment, and it happens every day in homes, schools, and workplaces. However Ms Roosevelt does have some worthwhile quotes. I have one on a bookmark that I like very much. It's challenging, energizing, and thought-provoking. It's "Do one thing every day that scares you." The "every day" dimension might be a little too frequent. Perhaps weekly would be more practical, since one should take time to consider the possible consequences, positive and negative, of any scary thing they do, and also take time to reflect after doing it. But the people subjected to abuse that I mentioned earlier in this paragraph are doing that every day by going to school, or work, or to any environment where they are mistreated, or, in some cases, by simply trying to survive in their homes.
There were three examples of what I think are weak quotes, either because they come across as being simply dumb, or are not true. Another example of a strong quote and one of my favorites is "Cities should be built on only one side of the street." I haven't been able to find out who said or wrote that one, but if you know please e-mail me at LeonardNolt@AOL.com and let me know. And if you find any quotes you think are strong, let me know and I may use them somewhere and sometime on my blog. Thanks
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"I know Zach," I said.
And then he smiled broadly and said, "But I'm only six!"
Monday, November 9, 2009
Idaho Christian Worker's Meeting, Indian Cove Church,
Hammett, Idaho, Sunday morning, April 26, 1987.
In the late 19th century the poet, Thomas Hardy, wrote the following words:
That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay
And cracked the chancel window squares -
We thought it was the judgement day
And sat upright.
While drearisome arose the howl of wakened hound,
The mouse let fall the altar crumb,
The worm drew back into his mound.
The glebe cow drooled.
And God called. No!
"Its gunnery practice out at sea.
Just as before you went below
The world is as it used to be
All nations striving hard to make red war yet redder
Mad as hatters, they do no more for Jesus' sake
Than you, who are helpless in such matters;
That this is not the judgement hour
For some of them's a blessed thing
For if it were, they'd have to scour hell's floor
For so much threatening."
So down we lay again. "I wonder
Will the world ever saner be, " said one,
"That when he sent us under in our indifferent century"
And many a skeleton shook its head.
Again the guns disturbed the hour
Roaring their readiness to avenge.
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot and starlit Stonhenge.
(Adapted from Channel Firing, by Thomas Hardy)
The words of that poem are about 100 years old now, but they, along with the Bible and much of human history remind us that things haven't really changed much. People are born, they live for a short while, and then die, but sin lives on, sin that is often expressed in violence.
Words like "violence" and "force" are common words, but before I continue I'd like to tell you how I define those terms. Mennonites have probably throughout history used the word "force" more than "violence" when referring to peacemaking. I prefer the word "violence." I don't think "force " is always wrong. The word "force" is often used as a synonym of words like "persuasion" and "discipline." If I do a good job at my business I force my competitor to do a good job also, otherwise he would be forced out of business. That's not necessarily wrong. The word "force" has too broad a definition to define precisely what we mean when we're talking about sin that destroys peace. However the word "violence" needs to include, in its definition, more than what we usually comes to mind when we use it. Not just crime and war, but also refusing to listen to a friend or loved one when they need someone to talk to can be seen as an act of violence.
Two other words we need to examine are the words "peacemaking" and "pacifism." Mennonites have traditionally frowned on the word "pacifism," probably because of its activist connotations. Quakers are the pacifists. Mennonites prefer peacemaking or nonresistance. However the ways in which words are used, and their definitions change. When we have a president who calls missiles "peacekeepers;" when the United Nations has a "peacekeeping" force; and when branches of the military such as the Strategic Air Command claim that "peace is our profession," the boundaries of the definitions of words like "peace" and "peacemaking" are expanded and begin to include, within the definition, concepts the Bible does not include in its verses on peace and peacemaking.
So I prefer the word "pacifism." I believe the beatitude, "Blessed are the peacemakers..." can today be more accurately read as "Blessed are the pacifists for they shall be called the children of God." If you ask a soldier in the military if he's a peacemaker, he'll probably say "yes." If you ask him if he's a pacifist, you'll probably get a negative response. I wouldn't be surprised if our Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger sends out Christmas cards each year with the message
"Peace on Earth" on them to his friends and relatives, and yet he still wants billions more of our tax dollars for weapons which threaten to destroy that peace.
Obviously the peace the people in the military are talking about is a different kind of peace from that addressed in the Bible. Military peace is simply the absence of violent conflict regardless of how much injustice, fear, hatred, and anger is present. The Biblical concept of peace is Shalom which includes not only the absence of violence and war, but also the absence of those things which lead to war. Shalom is a broad concept which includes human welfare, health, and well-being in both spiritual and material aspects. Shalom has to do with right relationships between people and God. It has to do with justice, equality, and respect. A community on Earth in which Shalom flourishes is probably the best example of heaven we can find outside of the real thing. The word "peace" or "Shalom" is the best short definition and description of the gospel message. It is our mission as Christians to communicate that Shalom to the world.
The first step toward communicating the need for Christians to be pacifists as an essential part of our mission outreach, is to make sure that we believe it ourselves. Is pacifism optional for Christians? Probably all of us have heard Christians suggest that peacemaking is of secondary importance. However in the Bible we find overwhelming evidence that pacifism is expected to be a part of each Christian's life. Let's look at just a few of those Bible passages.
Matthew 5:44-45 says; "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you; in order that you may be sons (or daughters) of your father who is in heaven." The next couple verses remind us that... "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." Their importance is emphasized by the fact that this message is repeated at least twice in the gospels. The same is true of the next verse. "For if you forgive men (or women) their sins you heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). This verse is very important in that it tells us that the forgiveness we receive from God for our sins is based on our willingness to forgive others.
At one time in his ministry Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered to the Jews..." Ephesians. 6: 12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places." This verse tells us that Christians who approve of using military violence against other people have failed to identify the real enemy. There are many other passages that emphasize the centrality of pacifism to Christian faith, but I think these are enough to remind us that if we answer "yes" to the question - "Is pacifism optional for Christians" - we are also answering "yes" to the question - "Is it OK to disobey some of Jesus' most frequently repeated commandments?"
It's been a few days since we remembered Jesus' Crucifixion and celebrated his resurrection. I doubt if there's another event on the Christian calendar which reminds me more of the need for Christians to be pacifists. In order to say that someone has to die for his sins, we first have to forget that Christ died for the sins of all the people who will ever live. When we insist on others dying, as we do when we support a war, we are trivializing the sacrifice that God made when he send his son to die on Calvary. In the resurrection we are reminded that sin has been defeated. Righteousness is the winner. Life has triumphed over death. God has been victorious over the evil one, once and for all. When we look to military forces for solutions to our problems we abandon the resurrected Saviour and trust in the sin that hung him on the cross.
I've heard Vernard Eller compare Satan since the crucifixion and resurrection to a chicken that's just had its head chopped off. There's a lot of activity which gives the illusion that life is present. But the chicken is dead and no one can save him. Satan has been defeated and it's only a matter of time until all of his activity ceases. When we look to state-sponsored violence for security instead of looking to the shalom of God's kingdom we are trusting in that defeated , terminal, decapitated chicken, Satan, while ignoring and rejecting the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection. When we disengage ourselves and our resources from supporting military violence we offer new life to our brothers and sisters around the world and new life is what the resurrection is all about.
Mark 16:15 tells us to go throughout the world and preach the gospel to all mankind. Although we may disagree and debate about which is the best way to follow that instruction, there is no question that the word "gospel" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "Godspel" which means "good tidings" or "good news." The word in the original Greek as found in the New Testament is
"euaggelion" from which, through the Latin word "evangelium," comes the words evangel, evangelism, evangelical, and their other derivatives. In our evangelistic efforts the gospel that we communicate to a sinful world must be "good news." We cannot introduce people to the salvation story of Jesus Christ and still retain the option of using military or any other kind of violence against people. That, obviously, isn't good news and if it isn't good news, it isn't the gospel.
Sin has a two-fold effect. It makes us sinners and it makes us sinned against. As sinners we victimize others and are also victimized by others. It's a vicious cycle. To truly save us God must save us from sin, and from the effects of sin. He does just that. We see examples in the Old Testament when he rescued the Israelites from Egypt and in the New Testament when Jesus Christ met the needs of people by healing the sick. Many pastors and especially those on radio and TV, including all of the better-known ones, teach what I would call a half-gospel, a watered down message of Christianity. They present a picture or image of a weakened or crippled God and Jesus. They claim that God is great enough to save us from our sins, but not great enough to save us from our enemies. So we have to have a vast military force prepared to commit unlimited violence against our enemies in order to accomplish what God is not capable of doing.
Their message is partly true and partly false which is sure to deceived more people than a completely false message. However as long as they put their stamp of approval on the use of military power we can see by looking at those who are the victims of that military power that the news they're receiving is not good news, so it can't be the gospel. Since the word "evangel" is the Greek equivalent of "good news" they cannot be accurately labeled evangelistic. Their support of the military damages relationships so their message is not a Shalom message, which means that it's not biblical. What they have is a very effective prescription for deception. Are those people the false prophets Paul is writing about in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 which says; "In the last days there will be men...having a form of religion, but denying the power thereof." They believe God's power is not sufficient to save us from the Communists, terrorists, or other national enemies , so we need a military force to do that job. They believe the blood shed on Calvary was adequate to cover their sins, but not enough to cover the sins of our enemies, so we need to be prepared to shed their blood ourselves, and to do it with our military forces.
One thing Christians can do to enhance their peace witness is to live consistent lives. Much criticism is directed toward Christians and the church because of what the world accurately sees as a double standard. When we oppose abortion and support capital punishment we make a mockery of our faith and standards sine identical reasoning is used to support both. In both abortion and capital punishment the intended victims becomes victims only because they lack a credible past performance. When non-Christians see Christians support one and oppose the other they cannot help but laugh at such a blatant double standard.
Perhaps the most prevalent theme throughout the Bible is the assumption that people can and should be given the opportunity to change. From Genesis to Revelations everything God does to break down the barriers caused by sin is based on that assumption. His calling Abraham, leading Israel to the Promised Land, the work of various prophets in the Old Testament, the message given to those who wrote the various books of the Bible, the birth of Jesus, his ministry as well as his crucifixion and resurrection, the preaching of the Apostles, and the missionary work of Paul. Nothing on that list would have had any value if people could not change, or if they should not have the opportunity to change. The use of military violence and the execution of criminals take away opportunities to change and can only be done in complete defiance of everything the Bible stands for.
It may be a little late for the characters in Hardy's poem, but all around us we see and come in contact with people who still have an opportunity to change. Life is short, fragile, and very precious. Let's not cheapen and endanger human lives by placing our support behind ideas, actions, or behind institutions such as the military that take away the opportunities people have to change. Let's place more prayer and patience behind our peace witness and remember as we go through life that the gospel without Shalom is as lifeless as an ocean without water.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Walking in, watching the flames shoot upward, the first thing I thought was that I was back in the Third World. My countrymen were going to think that this was the worst thing that ever happened, the end of civilization. In the Third World this sort of thing happened every day: earthquakes, famines, plagues. In Orissa, on the eastern coast of India, after the cyclone, the dead were piled so high and for so long that the dogs couldn't eat any more; they just lay around waiting for their appetites to come back. Lazily looking at one another. Fifteen thousand died in that one. Seventeen thousand died in the earthquake in Turkey. In Afghanistan, in the earthquake there, four thousand. This was mass murder, that was clear, it was an act of evil. Though I'd seen that, too: the forty thousand dead in Kabul. I don't think I was the only person thinking this, who had the darker perspective. All those street vendors who worked near the World Trade Center, from all those different countries, selling falafel and schwarma. When they heard the planes and watched the towers they must have thought the same that I did: that they'd come home (Page 44-45).
The most basic barrier was language itself. Very few of the Americans in Iraq, whether soldiers or diplomats, or newspaper reporters, could speak more than a few words of Arabic. A remarkable number of them didn't even have translators. That meant that for many Iraqis, the typical nineteen-year-old army corporal from South Dakota was not a youthful innocent carrying America's goodwill; he was a terrifying combination of firepower and ignorance (Page 116).
A few miles away, a woman stepped from the voting booth at Yarmouk Elementary School, named for the largely Sunni neighborhood where it was located. Yarmouk was slipping fast, but some of the Sunnis were still coming out to vote. Her name was Bushra Saadi. Like Batool al-Musawi, the young Shiite woman, Saadi covered her hair with a scarf tightly wrapped. But she was older than Musawi and carried herself with greater dignity. Her face was drawn, and her eyes looked as hard as little diamonds. Her neighbors shuffled past her to go inside.
Why vote at all? I asked Saadi. Why not just stay home?
She shot me a withering look.
"I voted in order to prevent my country from being destroyed by its enemies, " she said. She spoke English without an accent.
What enemies" I asked Saadi. What enemies are you referring to?
She began to tremble.
"You - you destroyed our country," Saadi said. "The Americans, the British. I am sorry to be impolite. But your destroyed our country, and you called it democracy" (Page 243-244).
The Forever War is one of those rare books that gives the reader an unforgettable picture of what our US government and military actually accomplishes by starting a war. It's also a grim reminder that it's much easier to start a war than to get it stopped.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Millions of people in the world see the US as a rogue nation, out of control, and using our power, wealth, and military forces to threaten and destroy other countries. We spent annually approximately the same amount on our military that all the rest of the world combined spends on their military forces. We have over 800 military bases on the planet. That's an enormous waste of money and other resources. No one knows the number of civilians who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US military forces. Chris Hedges in his book What Everyone Should Know About War writes that 75 to 90 % of all the victims of wars since World War 2 have been civilians. There are those who have responded to that comment by using the twisted and desperate logic of saying that if we weren't killing them, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban would be doing it, as if that somehow justifies the US killing civilians. The excuses used to start and continue these wars are as absurd as that logic used to justify killing civilians. Obama is in a position to put a stop to two of the most unjustified wars in human history. The sooner he does it, the more he will be perceived of having earned the Nobel Prize. Getting rid of nuclear weapons is an even tougher task, although decreasing the numbers possessed by nations might be easier.
Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to someone who is in a position of power and might actually deserve it in the future is commendable. However we can't expect the other Nobel prizes to be awarded in a similar manner. No one is going to receive a Nobel Prize in physics or medicine because they might accomplish something great or original in those areas at some time in the future. No one is going to receive a Nobel Prize in literature for great novels or awesome and originals collections of poetry that someday, they might write.
The US is seen by much of the rest of the world as a single-minded, tunnel -visioned nation largely made up of people who care only about themselves. US citizens, governments, and lifestyles are the major contributors to global warming and to military violence in the world. We burn more fossil fuels and cause much of the pollution on the Earth. We either cause, participate in, or fund and arm most of the wars taking place at any given time on the planet. The war in Afghanistan is eight years old and the one in Iraq started two days before my grandson was born. He is now more than six and a half years old. Because of these wars his father has been only a marginal part of his life for years. Wars caused by the US government and military, and preparation for war, are the major anti-family forces on this planet.
When the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan the US responded with open criticism and sanctions against the Soviets. We boycotted the Olympics and banned grain sales. By attacking Afghanistan the US behaved exactly as the Soviets did not many years earlier. Shortly after they left Afghanistan in defeat, the Soviet Union self-destructed (or some would say, "upgraded" or "advanced") into numerous smaller countries. There are many people in the world who think the human race might just be better off if the United States did the same. By stopping the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, reducing or eliminating the threat of nuclear war, cooling the violence in the Middle East, and addressing the problem of global warming Obama will certainly have earned his Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so, he may also be helping preserve the US in its present form.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Franz Kafka, 1904
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
From Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge, and Combat Workplace Bullying, by Tim Field, Pub. 1996 by Success Unlimited, Oxfordshire, UK, Page 1.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
For the Christian, pacifism is not optional, and it should be a part of a person's whole life, not simply reserved for the time when the military requests or demands our participation. For many, the biggest challenge to living a peaceful life and relating to others in a forgiving and Christian manner occurs when we are seriously hurt by a relative, friend, or co-worker. I've written extensively about my experience in this area elsewhere on this blog under the heading "Workplace Psychological Abuse," so will not go into much detail here, except to say that I was the target of an abusive co-worker for over two and a half years at my former employer, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a direct result of the abuse, became partially disabled, and had to leave my employment there after thirty years.
Needless to say that experience, which is still ongoing, has been a source of enormous pain to me. Coping with PTSD is a daily challenge, but with time, practice, and help from many sources I've developed reliable exercises to remain functional and confront the injury with which I must live. It isn't as bad as it used to be and I believe it may get better, although I don't expect it to go away. During the course of this experience which began in January of 2004, I've conscientiously and deliberately responded to the psychological assault in a manner that I believe reflected my Christian beliefs. When I first reported the problem to my department manager, I simply told him that I was having a communication problem with the co-worker, because I was afraid she would be fired if I described her behavior in detail. I just wanted to get the problem resolved. I wasn't trying to be vindictive.
Nothing was done about the problem, even after multiple reports to management, not even after the diagnosis of PTSD which I reported to management more than two dozen times without receiving a response addressing the fact that I was being injured. St. Alphonsus, a part of the Trinity Health system headquartered in Novi, Michigan, claims to be a Christian organization, and advertises itself as being the place where "advanced healing" begins. However the treatment I received from management included nothing that even remotely demonstrated Christian principles and no commitment to healing, let alone "advanced" healing. After reporting the injury to management, I wasn't offered any treatment for the PTSD. Instead I was ordered to lie about the injury if asked, and threatened with termination for reporting the PTSD to management. I was told I would be fired if I talked about the problem, or if I continued to report the abusive behavior of the co-worker. I've received numerous written threats from Saint Alphonsus, the most recent one a few days ago, more than five and a half years after the problem began, but no written apologies, no written acknowledgement that I was injured, and no accountability.
The primary purpose of this entry is to focus on how a Christian should respond in this kind of challenging circumstance. In any situation where someone is being injured, the need for safety and protection is paramount. This is an emergency situation. The injured person, especially one with PTSD, cannot be expected to continue performing as before, especially when the abuser is still in his work environment. I made a valiant effort to stay at that job since I liked it a lot, but had no choice and was forced to leave. I felt, and still feel, that it was and is my obligation to report what happened to me to as many people as possible. What I experienced represents a major health and safety hazard to the whole region. There are certain obligations that responsible citizens and health care professionals have and reporting safety hazards is one of them. I will continue to do so in spite of St. Als ongoing threats and attempts to silence me.
It's a Christian's obligation to recognize each person as a child of God, created in God's image, someone loved and cared for by the Creator. That's difficult to do when a person is being chronically cruel and malicious toward you, trying to get you fired or forced to resign by making false accusations about you. Some of the activities that may help one deal with this situation are as following:
1. Pray for the one who is persecuting you.
2. Talk to others who are sympathetic about your experiences.
3. Seek professional counseling (pastor, psychologist, counselor, etc.)
4. Research the problem. You're not the first person to be the target of a bully and there is much literature available on the topic. Even if it's not written from the perspective of a Christian pacifist it will still contain useful information.
5. Request a professionally mediated conflict resolution process. I tried this more than once but the request was denied, which, of course, blocked a resolution to the problem.
6. Be prepared to begin the process of forgiveness.
Recently I sent a letter to the abusive co-worker, briefly reviewing the context of the trauma, and offering her my complete forgiveness. Although I forgave her a long time ago, I felt it was important to say so directly to her and this was the most direct way possible. I also sent a copy of the letter to a member of senior management. Instead of responding in a Christian manner with a thank-you note and an attempt at accountability, management responded by accusing me of harassment. Offering forgiveness for an injury is about as far from harassment as one can get, but unfortunately at St. Alphonsus and Trinity Health there is no awareness of the value of forgiveness. It's a major tragedy when a Christian institution is not capable of recognizing and acknowledging an act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the expected response of Christians to an injustice or intentional injury.Unfortunately managers of many businesses are so blinded by the dollar sign that they cannot see the greater value of human health, safety, and integrity. If a conflict occurs, and conflicts are to expected in any situation with human interaction, the only thing taken into consideration by mangement is the potential cost of the conflict. Many large businesses and corporations see any possible conflict as a litigious situation. Unfortunately this seems to be as true for "Christian" corporations such as Trinity Health as it is for other corporations. Every conflict is viewed as a situation is which two sides will engage in legal battle, each one trying to be the winner, and make the other the loser. However there is a different way to address conflict. It involves both sides sitting down together with an impartial professional mediator, discussing and reviewing the history of the conflict and working together to seek a solution, and also taking steps to make sure the problem doesn't reoccur. That's a Christian approach to conflict. For the Christian, trying to retaliate, get even, or "beat the other side" in any kind of setting, legal or otherwise, is not a desirable goal or option.
Many people have the mistaken concept that a pacifist response to violence, including the violence that takes place, (as I experienced it), in the workplace, means that one does not do anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Likewise some people believe that forgiveness means the injured person pretends that the injury never happened and doesn't mention it again. That too is false. Forgiveness means that a decision has been made to not consider retaliation or retribution as a possible solution to the problem. I believe it also means that holding a grudge or harboring resentment against the one who injured me is not acceptable. Addressing the problem or behavior that caused the injury, seeking justice and a peaceful solution to the problem, and requesting, or even demanding, accountability, is still very much an option. In fact it may be easier, after forgiveness, for one to actually address the problem since the goals are clearer. It's possible that one can focus better on addressing the experience with concern for the safety of others as the foremost priority. After forgiveness one can proceed in a more single-minded and persistent manner.
In any conflict situation, a Christian pacifist response must be an unselfish response. It should take into consideration the best interests and well-being of all persons and parties involved. Such an approach will look to the future, not just at past injuries or losses, and consider the possible impact of any decisions made now. Revenge, selfishness, and an attitude that "you need to lose in order for me to win" is not an acceptable approach to the resolution of any conflict.
My pacifism is based in my Christian beliefs. I grew up in the Mennonite Church in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, one of the increasing number of places in the world with a high concentration of Mennonites. I was taught from my earliest memories that it's wrong for me as a Christian to participate in warfare, to get in fights with other people, or to try to get even with someone who wronged me. I repeatedly heard the stories of Dirk Willems, the early Mennonite, or Anabaptist as we were called then, who gave up his life to rescue an enemy from drowning in a frozen Dutch river, or the story of two brothers, members of the Hutterites, who were tortured to death in a military prison in Kansas because they refused to put on the uniform and participate in World War 1. I am currently a charter member of and on the leadership team at Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship in Boise, Idaho, although the thoughts and beliefs I present in this series and anywhere on this blog are my own. I'm not writing or speaking for anyone else.
I graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1966, during the Vietnam War. Although many young men were being drafted and sent to Vietnam, I not only was not drafted, I didn't even know anyone who was drafted, or who joined the military. All of my friends and nearly all of my acquaintances were Mennonite pacifists like myself. Some would say that I was sheltered and out of touch with the reality of the world where wars rage and people suffer immensely, but who would argue that being sheltered from the violence of warfare is a bad thing? There was no chance I would have participated in the military, if drafted. Becoming a soldier was unthinkable. There was no way that I could have disgraced my family and shamed my parents and grandparents more than by joining the military and participating in warfare.
As Mennonites our pacifism, (or, as some would prefer, non-resistance), is based on solid historical and Biblical foundations. Roland Baintan in his book "Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace" writes that for the first three centuries of Christianity, all Christians were pacifists. Soldiers were not allowed to be church members. The Christians who lived closest to the time of Christ believed that pacifism was mandatory for Christians. The treatment of enemies by Jesus and his twelve apostles was strongly pacifist. None of them were allowd to use violence to defend themselves from their enemies, and when Peter tried to protect Jesus by using the sword, Jesus rebuked him.
The number of Biblical and other reasons for being a pacifist are almost endless. In this series I will be presenting what I see as reasons to reject participation in warfare or any kind of retaliatory violence against humans. However I want to emphasize that being a pacifist does not mean that one is passive. On the contrary. The two words, pacifist and passive are more likely to be antonyms than synonyms. A passive person is one who is nonchalant, apathetic, one who doesn't care. In order to be a pacifist one has to care deeply. For a Christian pacifist, that caring will include enemies, including enemy nations. During the two most recent wars we've all seen the messages on bumper stickers, on magnetic signs, and even on some Christian church signs. Many of them include the phrase, "God Bless Our Troops," which is a profoundly anti-Christian way of directing our requests for blessings. The Christian approach, which has been used in prayer at our church many times, is to request God's blessing for all the troops. Taliban troops and Iraqi insurgents are also created in the image of God. Like us, they are people Jesus came and died for, precisely so they would not have to die for their sins.
You might argue, perhaps with some justification, that the Taliban and Iraqi Insurgents are evil, oppressive people, with no respect for human life. Others would claim, perhaps with equal justification, that they are just protecting their homelands from a vicious foreign invader and occupier. I've noticed that one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, that one person's war lord or insurgent is another's liberator. Any person or country who uses violence for whatever reason is destroying freedom. Killing people destroys freedom. A dead person has no freedom of speech, press, or religion, no choices on election day, and no democracy. We may claim that sometimes it's necessary to use deadly force against those who might take away our freedoms, but in doing so we are also guilty of destroying freedom. And in all of these violent military conflicts, those most likely to be killed or injured are always the innocent, that is women and children. From 75 to 90% of all the victims of wars since World War 2 have been innocent civilians, and that is as true for victims of US military actions as for the military actions of any other country.