Part-Time Pacifist

Just when I think the world situation can’t get much worse, something will come along and blow that notion right out of the water. Lately, news from Syria has been the culprit. This poses a special problem for me because I am a part-time pacifist. This is a relatively new developement for me; I only started consciously contemplating pacifism and nonviolence in the last year or so. I’m not exactly where it started, but it came to a head toward the end of last year’s Arab Spring, The same unrest that was experienced in Tunisia and Egypt had hit Libya and Muammar Gaddafi, being somewhat of an iron-fisted dictator, started cracking down on dissidents. Things began escalate and before you knew it, U.S. military forces were involved. I won’t say I was ever in favor of military intervention, but I wasn’t deadset against it, either. Three things happened to change my mind on the subject; the  first was re-reading Matthew 5:38-48; you know, the part where Jesus talks about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek? The second was a youth group discussion about “just war“. I heard my youth, the ones I’d laughed with, cried with and taught, speaking about “American pride” and  “exceptionalism”. Hearing someone else say the same things I’d said in the past really got to me; the words hanging hollow and worthless.  The third piece of the puzzle was a quote from Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, who said there were two question people of faith should ask themselves about war: 1) Are you a Christian?  And, 2) Do you believe war is ever justified?  If the answer to number 2 is yes, you should re-examine number 1. One thing about Stanley; God will never spit him for being lukewarm.

We’ve asked ourselves these questions more than once over the past ten years, and so far, the answer has always been “yes”. The current reason for the questions is now Syria. The citizens of Syria want the right of self-determination and the Assad regime is determined to remain in power. To that end, the government has assassinated protesters with rooftop  snipers and attacked them with tanks and artillery, resulting in horrendous loss of innocent of life. The most conservative death toll was  9000 at the end of May; who knows where it is now. The United Nations tried to broker a cease-fire, which failed miserably. I don’t know if the United States will involve itself in yet another foreign adventure and, to be honest, I’m conflicted.

I’m conflicted because of the words of Jesus tells me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. My overdeveloped sense of justice wants to ignore all that, roar in and put a stop to all this killing. Even though Jesus tells me not to indulge in violence, a part of me wants to see Bashar al-Assad aind his family assassinated in cold, dank room like Czar Nicholas and his family. In spite of all that Jesus talked about concerning violence, I still want the U.S. to be the hand of God and punish those who deserve punishment and reward those who deserve reward. Unfortunately, due to our broken nature and the pragmatism of politics, it never works out that way; which just adds to my conflict.

At the beginning of this article, I claimed to be a part-time pacifist. By that, I mean I can maintain a pacifist attitude as long I’m not invested in the situation (like the oil grab euphemistically called Gulf War II). But, when we’re talking about oppressive regimes killing their populations or tribal warfare that encompasses genocide, that attitude is much harder to maintain. So, I’m a part-timer, wishing he could make up his mind and become a full-timer. And, you know what? It really sucks.