Monday, March 28, 2016

The Violent Pacifist View of War

I'm a pacifist and I've never served in the military. I wasn't always a pacifist. I used to be in favor of some violence. I mean, just look at WWII. Obviously somebody had to stop Hitler, and violence was the only option!
But then, while in seminary, I studied the theory of just war, and read and listened to some of C.S. Lewis' arguments in favor of war. His arguments were so bad that as I listened, I couldn't help but correct him in my mind. And as I read the material, the Holy Spirit convicted me.

While I am still violent, I know now that violence is wrong FOR ME. I respect the military. I am grateful for their sacrifices. But I believe that any government that is forced to wage war has fundamentally failed. God always provides us a peaceful alternative to war. Reading the Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill has confirmed that belief in me. I like to joke that the subtitle to Churchill's book should be: "101 Ways to Avoid WWII With Zero Bloodshed."
But here's what really drives me crazy about war. We like to pretend that war has rules. We like to pretend that war is just one of many "civilized" options to resolve disputes.

Any time your dispute requires the death of others for resolution, you have left civilization and God's will.

Case in point: at one point in 1939, the German navy rescued a number of British sailors. Those sailors were in need of rescue because a German ship had bombed their ship. In other words, while the sailors were on the ship, Germany tried to kill them, but as soon as they were in the water, Germany decided to save their lives. This makes NO sense in terms of war. The goal was to eliminate the British resistance, in part by killing British soldiers. Furthermore, at this point in history, Germany had already begun mass killings, euthanizing adults and children who were mentally deficient. Why on earth would they invest resources in keeping enemy combatants alive?

The whole concept of rules in warfare, rules often proclaimed by the Geneva Convention, is just a way for us to avoid the harsh reality of war: that we are determined to kill other men, women, and children in order to be proven right.

Now, I understand that sometimes your war strategy might best be served by keeping enemy combatants alive. But if it doesn't serve your strategy, then why are you doing it? Why do we pretend that war has rules?

This is why I'm a "violent" pacifist. I believe that if one is going to wage war, one should do it no holds barred. This is how I play chess - screw the strategy, bring on the killing. This is quite possibly why God told me to be a pacifist, because I am too violent!

In the end, I understand that sometimes violence is the only solution. I believe that the death of millions of soldiers achieved a good result: the defeat of Hitler. Their deaths were not in vain, and they were, sadly, necessary. But I believe that there is always a peaceful solution. We can avoid war. And we should.

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