This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).

9 Comments

  1. For years I’ve been an “almost-but-not-quite” pacifist. (It’s the Nazis that keep me from becoming a true pacifist.) Just in the last few days, though, I’ve been thinking about this issue again. Maybe it’s time for me to re-examine some of the arguments.

    One question, though: Was Bonhoeffer really a pacifist, since he participated in the conspiracy to kill Hitler?

  2. Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for the post! Good point about Bonhoeffer. Yes, early on he was associated with that foiled attempt to assassinate Hitler, but I’m mostly referring to his later writing, particularly his letters from prison and his personal peaceful surrender to execution. But you raise a good point about conversion and how each of us are called to grow in our faith. We can’t simply become pacifists or even Christians overnight — it’s a lifelong journey, perhaps that’s what Bonhoeffer shows us today.

    Peace and good!

    1. I loved this post and I very much identify with the consistent ethic of valuing human life that you espouse. However, I would like to quibble with the assertion that Bonhoeffer’s peacible surrender to execution is a strong example of his avowal of full pacifism. It would seem that by the time he arrived at the time of execution he would have had few options before him except for surrender. His “choice” to “allow” his captors to kil him would not have been a real choice but simply the inevitable consequence of being a captive of Nazi forces during WWII. I’m not trying to minimize his life or the witness to Christian faithfulness that he might represent but millions if others died in the same way and I’m not sure we’d characterize their deaths as a corageous sacrifece or even a conscious choice – tragedy, yes. Valorized witness to Nonviolence? Probably not…

      That brings me to my second quibble…given the clear value that Christianity holds for all life (indeed we are even told to love out enemies, innocent or not) what is the proper Christian response to systematic violence and oppression? It would seem that some form of solidarity (I.e. suffering with the oppressed) would be the answer…but such solidarity hasn’t often changed the hearts of oppressive governments and it seems that many innocents ave died when swift, careful (albeit violent) resistance may have prevented more loss of life (like, for instance, if the plot in which Bonhoeffer had cooperated had succeeded). So what are christian indivduals to do when our efforts to end suffering through noniolent witness fail to produce change that stops violence, injustice and oppression?

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  3. Well said! This post perfectly sums up what I believe, from the too narrow understanding of pro-life in many Christian circles to the compromised convictions of Constantinian Christianity. Again, well said.

  4. A good thought that deserves promotion. My personal biggest challenge is that in this world of sin, we try to “do justice” that we also believe promotes the tenants of the Christian faith and sometimes these efforts have little chance unless a strong military action is used (even to block or contain) a great evil. When evil brings genocide-like situations to the land, to what extent would Jesus want His people to use their available resources to stop innocent killings…? That does not mean (or demand) a full-scale war response in many cases, I would agree. Only that some tyrants might not respond to prayer or negotiations alone.

    I like the premise and groundwork of above. I think there might be places where a force or show-of-force is possibly an extension of Christ’s love as well.

    1. As a real-life corollary to my thoughts above, the situation in the Ivory Coast is a real-world test case in action. Not to bust the cliché, but what would Jesus do here…? Obviously no one wants this situation to turn to a war situation. So, what is needed to curb the factions that might push the country to flash point? U.N. reports attacks on their ‘peacekeepers’ as well.

      http://bit.ly/icvhxa is a link to the Voice of America reporting some of the latest — certainly not all the details, but might turn into the type of situation where strong force of some kind is useful to instill peace and protection — especially for peaceful civilians, women and children.

      If negotiations and talks cannot resolve anything here, what happens and how does the love of Jesus manifest itself to glorify Him?

    2. “to what extent would Jesus want His people to use their available resources to stop innocent killings…?”

      Answer: When Jesus told Peter to put his sword away after defending Jesus.
      “”Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.”

      I feel as though in today’s Christian society we are so consumed by the fact that you need military force to get things accomplished that we believe it is the only answer. This bible passage shows us a glimpse of how the world works through the mouth of Jesus. “All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Its very easy to see that war leads to more war. Why is it so hard to see that non violence ways, on the same line as Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. is the true and Christian way to solve world problems. I know people get so upset with this notion because we have only seen war in our lives and we think it is the only means to solve problems.

  5. The bible states”that their are none good no not one.” We are also called sinners. Sin is not holy hence the day is a unscriptual at best and even blasphemus.

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