Christianity = Pacifism?

I’ve heard that Christians are not absolute pacifists. Some people say Jesus wasn’t a pacifist (Jn 2, 14f).

Catholics are not pacifists. Some protestants are, and they are in error.

It is Catholic teaching that there is such a thing as a just war, and in certain circumstances, we should take part in it.

It is possible for a Catholic to take the position that circumstances for war, or even for any form of violence, never in fact arise at least in the modern world. I strongly disagree with that judgement and believe it can only arise in a person with a severe deficiency of certain natural virtues, but that is a matter of personal judgement and not Catholic doctrine.

What is Catholic doctrine is that there are theoretical circumstances in which engaging if warfare would be just and right.

Absolutely right!

Some interesting quotes.

“Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.” CCC, §2265]

The Christian has no choice but to defend peace, properly understood, against aggression. This is an inalienable obligation. It is the how of defending peace which offers moral options. . . .
In all this discussion of distinct choices [for or against taking up arms], of course, we are referring to options open to individuals. The council and the Popes have stated clearly that governments threatened by armed, unjust aggression must defend their people. This includes defense by armed force if necessary as a last resort. [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, *The Challenge of Peace, 1983, #s 73, 75]

It is, therefore, to true Peace, to just and balanced Peace, in the sincere recognition of the rights of the human person and of the independence of the individual nations, that We invite men of wisdom and strength to dedicate this Day.
Accordingly, in conclusion, it is to be hoped that the exaltation of the ideal of Peace may not favour the cowardice of those who fear it may be their duty to give their life for the service of their own country and of their own brothers, when these are engaged in the defence of justice and liberty, and who seek only a flight from their responsibility, from the risks that are necessarily involved in the accomplishment of great duties and generous exploits. Peace is not pacifism; it does not mask a base and slothful concept of life, but it proclaims the highest and most universal values of life: truth, justice, freedom, love.
[Paul VI, “Message of Pope Paul VI for the Observance of A Day Of Peace” 1 Jan 1968]

We are not pacifists, we do not want peace at any cost. A just peace. Peace and justice. Peace is the work of justice. Opus iustitiae, pax.
But on the other hand it is also the fruit of charity and love. We cannot achieve peace except through love.
[John Paul II, “Remarks on visit to St. Dorothy’s Parish, Rome” 17 Feb 1991; in *Origins 20 (Feb 28, 1991): 625]

Clearly, when a civilian population risks being overcome by the attacks of an unjust aggressor and political efforts and non-violent defence prove to be of no avail, it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor. These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome of armed intervention alone.
[John Paul II, “Message Of Pope John Paul II For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace”, 1 Jan 2000, #11]

, 1983, #s 73, 75]

It is, therefore, to true Peace, to just and balanced Peace, in the sincere recognition of the rights of the human person and of the independence of the individual nations, that We invite men of wisdom and strength to dedicate this Day.
Accordingly, in conclusion, it is to be hoped that the exaltation of the ideal of Peace may not favour the cowardice of those who fear it may be their duty to give their life for the service of their own country and of their own brothers, when these are engaged in the defence of justice and liberty, and who seek only a flight from their responsibility, from the risks that are necessarily involved in the accomplishment of great duties and generous exploits. Peace is not pacifism; it does not mask a base and slothful concept of life, but it proclaims the highest and most universal values of life: truth, justice, freedom, love.
[Paul VI, “Message of Pope Paul VI for the Observance of A Day Of Peace” 1 Jan 1968]

We are not pacifists, we do not want peace at any cost. A just peace. Peace and justice. Peace is the work of justice. Opus iustitiae, pax.
But on the other hand it is also the fruit of charity and love. We cannot achieve peace except through love.
[John Paul II, “Remarks on visit to St. Dorothy’s Parish, Rome” 17 Feb 1991; in *Origins 20 (Feb 28, 1991): 625]

Clearly, when a civilian population risks being overcome by the attacks of an unjust aggressor and political efforts and non-violent defence prove to be of no avail, it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor. These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome of armed intervention alone.
[John Paul II, “Message Of Pope John Paul II For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace”, 1 Jan 2000, #11]

Great post. Thanks for all the quotes! :thumbsup:

The passages in the Sermon on the Mount are about personal vendettas and personal vengeance - something that was quite common in ancient Near Eastern culture. They do not forbid legitimate self-defence, or defence against an unjust aggressor.

“There is a time for war and a time for peace”.

While Christians are not pacifists, sometimes I think they run to violence too quickly. They use the permissibility of self-defensive force as an excuse to resort to violence.war.

I’ve always thought that the “just war” teaching is so flexible that the politician hasn’t been born who who cannot bend the 'just war" idea to support his war aims.

Instead of answering every war question by citing Jesus-driving-out-the-moneychangers or “just war” teaching," I wish there were some “preferential option for peace.”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

So lets imagine this scenario:

Im in a room attending a conference. Theres 20 chairs, 20 people seated, 4 rows of 5. In in the second row. Suddently comes in a guy with a gun and begins to shoot people starting from the first row. One by one, they drop dead. The aggressor comes in my direction and in that moment I have a swiss army knife. I see he is going to kill everyone, now its my row’s turn. Would it be just for me to pick up that knife and kill him, saving 15 lives? And what if the killing was because of our faith, like, he asks the people renounce your Christian faith or die? Would it be ok to kill him? Or should we suffer martyrdom?

**It would be just **for you to defend yourself and others the moment it became reasonable to believe he was going to use deadly force. I do not see how his announcement that the murders were religiously motivated would change the equation, except that you would now be a martyr, perhaps a foolish martyr, but still, a martyr.

Most martyrdom accounts I have read did not involve an option of escaping or defending against the killer by otherwise moral means.

It would be just, since you were defending your own life and the lives of the 15 others. Martyrdom is an entirely different matter, which deserves a thread of its own.

It seems to me that in Catholic teaching there definitely is. Some politically conservative Catholics attack that interpretation of just-war theory, but to my mind it seems like the dominant one today. Look at how Pope Francis handled the Syria situation, for instance.

And in fact Catholic pacifists like Dorothy Day have not been condemned as heretics.

Edwin

While I admit that I love this song, I think it’s thoroughly heretical and blasphemous if taken in its original historical context and/or if used as a justification for actual warfare (as it originally was).

Edwin

Amen to that. :thumbsup: It’s poetic, but it’s a terrible misuse of Isaiah 63, and while I wouldn’t call it blasphemous, it’s definitely on the borderline.

Without a doubt.

The Amish have a reputation for being pacifists. In the aftermath of the Nickel Mines massacre, one Plain man was quoted as saying that had he been there to stop the shooting he certainly would have tried.

A local family of conservative Christians was victimized by a home invasion. The husband and oldest son were out of the house when the armed villains arrived. The husband and teen got back to the house and were able to stop the bad guys before they did anything heinous. The question came up of using violence in defense of his family with respect to his Christian faith, and the husband quipped, “I guess you could say I led with my fist.”

Wasn’t the original context to rally the North and abolitionists to defeat the South?

I’ve checked, and that seems to be absolutely correct.

That said, it’s a little presumptuous to assume that God is necessarily on the side of your army, even if your cause is righteous. Besides, this conflation of religion / politics / war continues to cause trouble to this day. I don’t think the Catholic Church took a particular stand on the American Civil War, as far as I can recall, but they had enough troubles of their own at the time.

Yes. Exactly. It perverts the Gospel at nearly every level.

Half a million people wee killed in that war, and the song would have Northerners believe that by doing the bidding of the state they are part of God’s apocalyptic judgment. No doubt they were–so were the Assyrians.

Edwin

I like the Battle Hymn of the Republic I find it a moving and spiritual.

Much like the last verse of our National Anthem:

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Now if you find the Battle Hymn of the Republic objectionable, what is your opinion of one of my favorite grade school songs?

An army of youth
Flying the standards of truth,
We’re fighting for Christ, the Lord.
Heads lifted high,
Catholic Action our cry,
And the Cross our only sword.
On earth’s battlefield
Never a vantage we’ll yield.
As dauntlessly on we swing
Comrades true, dare and do
'Neath the Queen’s white and blue,
For our flag, for our faith,
For Christ the King.
Christ lifts His hands,
The King commands; challenge, ‘Come and follow me.’

From ev’ry side,
With eager stride,
We form in the lines of victory.
Let foemen lurk,
And laggards shirk,
We throw our fortunes to the Lord
Mary’s Son,
Till the world is won,
We have pledged you our loyal word.
‘An army of youth’

The Confederacy HAD to be defeated.

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