Pax Mennonita via Flexible Pacifism

It was with much excitement that I read the most recent MCC Peace Office Newsletter (Vol. 36, No. 4), entitled “How do we Protect, Responsibly.” The World Council of Churches had met and released a statement on the “Responsibility to Protect,” hereafter to be referred to by its catch acronym: R2P.

Such Mennonite notables as Mennonite World Conference president Nancy Heisey, German Association of Mennonite Congregations vice-president Fernando Enns, and MCC International Peace Office co-directors Robert Herr and Judy Zimmerman Herr seem to be in favor of said statement, which offers amazing ideas for the current Decade to Overcome Violence. One of these ideas happens to be violence, but we’re going to call it something else: “flexible pacifism.”

It is exciting to hear that the president of Mennonite World Conference came away from this meeting with (1) “a deeper awareness of our complex world,” and (2) “A commitment … to build a radically flexible Christian pacifism.” Finally, someone insightful enough to see the world for what it is: complex. Finally, someone bold enough to bring some sense into the ridiculous inflexibility of the Christian pacifist tradition.

For it is through this newsletter that I now understand that it is not out of a commitment to following Christ’s example that we choose non-violent means to solve our problems, but out of inflexibility. For someone ever deepening her understanding of our complex world, this is amazingly simple. I finally understand what our Mennonite ancestors and theologians of old meant when they said, “He came preaching peace.” They meant, as the adopted WCC Statement says, that while resorting to force is the “result of failure to prevent what could have been prevented …, the world needs to do what it can to limit the burden and peril that is experienced by people as a consequence.” This use of force is necessary in the name of our R2P. And what greater responsibility could Christians possibly have, as followers of Christ, than to protect and provide security to the people of the world? Someone really needs to go back and fix a bunch of John Howard Yoder’s books.

It is clear that we’re holding on to some of our inflexible ways by writing in to this statement that force must respect “proportionality of means,” “international law in accordance to the UN Charter, and can only be taken into consideration by those who themselves follow international law strictly,” but at least we’re not being constrained any longer by “principled pacifism.” It is clear that we are moving on to bigger and better things, namely flexibility, in the pursuit of protection.

It seems now appropriate that we add the practical to the theoretical. It is not enough to preach the good news as we now see it; we must act it out. I propose that we create a protection force to carry out this flexible pacifism in areas of need, such as Sudan and Kurdistan. The United States has its military for bringing peace, security, and democracy; Hamas has its militant wing for its security; and now the Mennonites should create their own flexible pacifism force: the Menno Simons Flexible Pacifism Force for Jesus. Recognizing its foundation in R2P, we could perhaps call it FlexPac4s for short.

In order to allow for a smooth transition, I propose that until FlexPac4s units are recruited and trained, Christian Peacemaker Teams should be equipped with the AK-47s, fragmentation grenades, and necessary anti-aircraft equipment and be redeployed to places where people need more peace brought to them.

Indeed, it will be through flexibility in the Decade to Overcome Violence that we will reach our goals; it will be through flexibility that we will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; It will be through flexibility that we enact God’s will.

It will be a glorious time, and we will call it: Pax Mennonita.

Comments (3)

  1. TimN

    Um, doesn’t “radically flexible” basically mean really really floppy?

    That is some radically bad buzz wording.

    Well spotted, Michael.

  2. carl

    Good post. The Peace Office Newsletter dissected here can be found (at least for the moment) in text format in the Google cache (the original PDF appears to be missing from MCC’s website – in fact, I can’t seem to find the Peace Office page at all).

    Generally I think pacifists and just war theologians alike would do well to spill far less ink on the fine points of ethical theory, and more exposing the radical unjustness, by any just-war criteria ever proposed, of every modern war. In that spirit, I’m all in favor of Anabaptists signing on to a broad ecumenical statement that is really very strong in its unanimous condemnation of warfare.

    At the same time, I’d rather if the Anabaptist representatives in these conversations came off a little bit less like star-struck kids who can’t get over the fact that they were invited to the party. Please, just sign the statement, acknowledge that we disagree with the majority about the ultimate legitimacy of violence, and get busy stopping the damn war already (since it appears we agree at least on that much). There’s really no need to get all floppy-apologetic and wax eloquent about “radical flexibility” and “principles” vs. the “complex world.”

  3. Nathan Eanes

    This is a very interesting issue. On the one hand, I am glad that these people are stimulating discussion by advocating their “flexible pacifism” over the old “we won’t bother you if you don’t make us join the military” version of Mennonite pacifism. Unfortunately, though, I think this “flexible pacifism” will end up supporting pro-war extremists if they’re not careful.

    Also, I think that, rather than rejecting pacifism altogether, these people need to interact with newer ideas coming from people like Rene Girard and Walter Wink, which provide a compelling renunciation of violence through different means than the traditional Anabaptists used.

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