Saturday, January 18, 2014

Confessions of an (almost) pacifist


It's the name of the game. People tend to like to pigeon-hole others, and by implication - themselves, as far away from those with opposing views as possible. It forces each one of us into thinking in black and white. Shades are a compromise.

But even those who believe that shades hold truth, often believe it with the same force as those who hold fast to a black and white mindset. Any views, whether open on closed, progressive or conservative, left or right, which need to pigeon-hole others as a counterpoint for validation purposes are essentially black and white.

And yet black and white is incredibly attractive to us humans. We believe we have each eaten the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which convinces us that we are righteous judges. Perhaps more so, it convinces us that we are right judges. We have each been to the mountaintop and are so confident in our beliefs that we would commit murder to see them practised among the others.

Confessions of an (almost) pacifist

They came to the village with their weapons. Home by home, they raided. Life by life they ended. In order to do no harm, the villagers stood by watching their wives and children being raped and tortured.

I have a certain admiration for those in our military and police force. To the extent that they are willing to, or in many cases have already taken the courageous step of sacrificing their lives for others, they are the most noble among men. I often doubt whether I or many others would be willing to make the sacrifice they make - at times for their mates, at other times during humanitarian missions. To blindly criticise the army and police-force and what they have committed their lives to without any thought for their vision, hope, and aspiration reflects either blatant hypocrisy or one's own inflated ego.

Could I, as an advocate for demilitarisation and non-violent responses to conflict condemn those that are willing to risk their own lives to save the villagers in the italicised example above? I would suggest that I would have no right to condemn such people for their actions. I have not been in a war zone, I do not know what it is like to stand by while those I love are either being tortured, raped, or killed. What gives me the right to condemn those who are willing to risk their life and liberty for their families? Sometimes I want to blindly condemn such people - because deep down I still want the world to be black, white, and nothing else.

A third way

I believe that it is not inconsistent to admire those who sacrifice themselves for others and yet believe that there may be a third way that involves neither passivity or aggression as tools for overcoming evil.

Love inevitably overcomes evil. I believe that our nature is good and that goodness comes more naturally to us than evil. I believe that no individual created by a loving God is irredeemable. I believe that God still has good work planned for warlords and juntas; presidents and paedophiles. These fundamental ideas give me no other option than to believe that killing even the most evil of men is denying them the option of doing the good and loving works that God (still) has planned for them.

We could argue 'till the cows come home as to whether humans are in fact naturally good and whether all humans are created to respond and be transformed by simple acts of love. We will never get there in a debate. This is where I have to admit that my belief in non-violence which leads me to being an (almost) pacifist is not fundamentally based on rationality but my understanding of human nature, creation, and God.

And while some argue (rather convincingly in my opinion) that non-violence is the most effective means of overcoming evil in real world conflicts, I admit that I am not basing my beliefs on this empirical evidence. I believe that love wins. This is the hope that keeps me alive. 

Perhaps I am wrong

How will I answer if I have got this all wrong. Perhaps I have let innocent people die because of a faith-based axiom which perhaps could be, but is not in my mind, based upon strict and impartial logic. I believe this is a real possibility. If I am deluded and wrong, I can only ask for forgiveness.

None of us should believe that we are beyond reproach. Whatever the answers may be, a good starting place is to desire the good of others no matter who they may are. In seeking the good of others, friend or foe, we move towards an idea of 'good' for the commons and away from relentless polarisation and shouting matches.


If good does win at the end of the day, and if even the most wretched of us can be transformed through love, then there will never be enough time to practice this understanding and share it with the world. If the same God created Muslim and Jew, Christian and Atheist, then we must invest ourselves into building bridges rather than walls. If God is in fact good, and desires good for us, we have no enemy to kill and no need to be validated through polarising others.