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Monday, January 5, 2009


This is something I heard today. I suppose I've never thought about pacifism quite this way. I guess I tended to think some people were more peaceful than others or something like that, which now looks really silly in print... This explanation looks at it as more of a personal struggle and choice, rather than a movement to oppose this or that war. I have heard many a discussion on meekness in Bible classes about how it's not weak or timid- after all Jesus was meek- it's rather power under control. Christians, well, people in general don't have the same attitude toward pacifism. It is seen as a far left hippie philosophy or cowardly. Some great examples of opinions on a similar subject are voiced in an NPR story on the support for a US Department of Peace. Peace in that story (except those in the group supporting the Dept) was decidedly a wimpy notion that would reduce our standing in the world and make us a bunch of "wusses."

Are Christians supposed to be pacifists? Was Jesus a pacifist? I don't know. But regardless, I think pacifism is a respectable idea. And since Christians are to seek peace, it certainly couldn't hurt... I'm not going any farther than that. Those are fightin' words to some and I don't really have strong enough feelings or evidence to passionately defend one side or the other.

The “Golden Voice of the Great Southwest”: Legendary Folk Musician, Activist Utah Phillips, 1935-2008

Ammon came to me one day and said, “You’ve got to be a pacifist.” And I said, “How’s that?” He said, “Well, you act out a lot. You use a lot of violent behavior.” And I was. You know, I was very angry, very angry person. “And you just act out a lot. And if you brought a lot, you’re not any good at it. You’re the one who keeps getting thrown through the front door, and I’m tired of fixing the damn thing. You’ve got to be a pacifist.”

He had a more fundamentalist way of looking at it. And I said, “What’s that?” He said, “Well, I could give you a book by Gandhi, but you wouldn’t read it. So”—but he said, “You’ve got to look at nonviolence like—your capacity for violence like an alcoholic looks at booze.” Alcohol—booze will kill an alcoholic, unless he has the courage to sit in a circle of people that are like that, put his hand up and say, “Hi. My name is Utah. I’m an alcoholic.” But then you can—once you own the behavior, you can deal with it. You know, you can have it defined for you by the people whose lives you’ve messed with, and it’s not going to go away. Twenty years sober, you’re not going to sit in that circle and say, “Well, I’m not an alcoholic anymore.” You’re going to put up your hand and say, “My name is Utah. I’m an alcoholic.”

He said, “It’s the same with violence. You acknowledge your capacity for violence, you see, and you learn how to deal with it every day, every instant, in every situation for the rest of your life, because it’s not going to go away. But it will save your life.” See, it’s a different way of looking at pacifism. I have to be a pacifist, you see.

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