© 2013 John Casimir O'Keefe

Going to War – Not a Political View

The first thing I would like to say is that I have no political stance on war – or the bombing of Syria. I could care less what the Politian’s have to share as to why, or why not, we should bomb Syria. My stance against war or acts of violence in general, grows out of my understanding of my faith journey.

I believe all human life is sacred; yes, ALL HUMAN life is sacred.

It is no secret, I am a pacifist. I hold to the teachings of Christ, and seek to truly be a peacemaker [Matthew 5:9] as a child of the Divine. My stance is not based on the politics of the day but on the teachings of Jesus the Christ in scripture [Matthew being just the start of it all]. I believe the teachings of Jesus are peace, grace, forgiveness and love; war and violence have no place in those teachings because at the core of war and violence there will never be peace, love is not found, grace is never seen and forgiveness is never offered. I am also a realist, and I get that some do not see it the same way I do.

I find the taking of any human life, for any reason, violates Christ’s teachings and flies in the face of the standards Jesus set before us as a collective of followers of the way. Over time, many have tried to turn my pacifism into a political stance, and they have gotten angry with me because I refuse to make it political – I refuse to fall into the trap that Bush is evil or Obama is evil, and such. I refuse to partake in marches that have a political agenda, or speak against, or for, one party or the other. I hold that my pacifism comes from my faith journey and not my politics – I will admit that my politics are guided by my faith journey, but my faith journey is not defined by a political stance. Now, that being said let me add more.

I have been asked if I believe all Christians should hold a “pacifist” stance, and my reply has always been “yes, but under their own understanding,” let me explain. I believe that the core of Christ is that of peace, but I would never force another to see it my way. I love the response Jesus gives his followers as he is being arrested, [taken from Luke’s recording of the life and ministry of Jesus (22), in the message] “No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the twelve, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said, “Judas, you would betray the son of man with a kiss?” when those with him saw what was happening, they said, “Master, shall we fight?” one of them took a swing at the chief priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. Jesus said, “Let them be. Even in this.” Then, touching the servant’s ear, he healed him.”

In the process of being arrested, knowing he was going to die and that his followers would fight for him, Jesus said, “no fighting, even in this situation.” Think about that, Jesus taught peace even to the point of his willing to die instead of starting a fight – violence for Jesus was never an option, and Jesus knew it held no value. War and violence are simply ways of taking what you want and James [Jesus’ brother] teaches us that fighting is caused by our desire to “have things” and because we are not asking God to help with the right motives, [James’s first letter (4:1-3); NIV] “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Make no mistake about it; even our desire to bomb Syria is found in our desire to want what we want.

Paul also speaks of living in peace and not going to war [when we filter the words of Paul through the life and ministry of Christ]. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians [10:2-5; NIV] Paul writes, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” While this is hard to do, it is still something we must live by.

With all this talk about it being our duty to hold to some kind of international standard of selective morality, we have to remember that in our humanity we tend to pick and choose what we think is right and wrong. We have to ask ourselves, is our retaliation something that will change the world? I tend to think not. I believe that the only way to change the world is to change the hearts of the people of the world. As a follower of the teachings of Christ, I find that this is done by standing for peace. We need to keep in mind that no war [NO WAR] has ever brought about a lasting peace. All wars, conflicts and actions, have simply fed continued violence.

Generally speaking, people can have any feeling they desire about peace and our living in peace. I just find it hard to hear anyone claiming to be a follower of the teachings of Christ call for war or violence. For me, any follower should have a kinder view, a view of peace and not one that claims “kick ass and take names.” The questions I ask myself are, How can a people of peace claim that all life is sacred, and them proclaim killing others has value? How a people that claim life and love be inextricably linked put forth a call for Christians to leave behind the pacifist teachings of Christ and take up arms against an enemy? How many thousands of innocent people have died on the streets in a war zone started by people unwilling to follow the heart of Christ? I get it, people are being killed with chemical weapons and this is wrong, I get that. But does our killing innocent people in a retaliation attack fix that?

For me, it boils down to how one determines the value of human life – how one sees the value of peace – how one can express the idea of loving our enemies – how one can speak of peace, while agreeing to kill others. I am not saying this is easy, and I am not saying I have all the answers. But I will say that the argument of, those people do not see it our way – doesn’t matter. Jesus did not tell us to only love our enemies if they are willing to agree with us, accept us, or follow us.

I think Peter said it wonderfully when he wrote, [in his first letter (3:8)] “Summing up: be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here’s what you do: say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; but he turns his back on those who do evil things.”

In my view, there is no teaching of Christ that can support any war or retaliatory act; without twisting that teaching so hard that it is unrecognizable as a teaching of Christ.

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