Five Things Your Pacifist Friends are Tired of Answering

protest sign
My title is the title of a good article by a fellow named Jonathan Fitzgerald at the Burnside Writer’s Collective (BWC). The BWC is a solid site started by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) and a few of his friends that deals with social justice, sports, general rants or thoughts, and other things. The reason I like the site is because they identify themselves as “an online magazine presenting an alternative to franchise faith.” In other words, they’re not afraid of disagreeing with some “Christian” perspectives on issues that are in fact twisted and not reflective of what Jesus cared deeply about.

And so, knowing this reality, Fitzgerald explores an area (pacifism) that is often marginalized in the church (some call it the ultimate and vilest form of immorality), with five subpoints of questions he’s often asked as a pacifist:

1) What if your (insert loved one here) was attacked?
2) What about the Old Testament?
3) Didn’t Jesus mean to live non-violently in our personal lives, but not corporately
4) What about Romans 13?
5) So, you’re suggesting Christians sit back and do nothing?

Now, I don’t always toe the same line as Fitzgerald, and I don’t mind talking about these questions (I’m, in fact, deeply passionate about talking about them), but as a pacifist I often grow tired of people hauling out these questions as trump cards that trivialize and pass over central issues that drive those of us who believe Jesus called all of his followers to nonviolence.

Here’s the link to the article.

p.s. I disagree with the picture I posted above. Just posted it for the sake of kickstarting the discussion.

Comments (12)

  1. folknotions

    Since I am not in front of my Yoder books right now, though will be later and will give a much better answer, I’ll instead say that these are questions that get very well-answered by John Howard Yoder.

    Here are the three books that do a good job with these concerns:

    1)Discipleship as Political Responsibility – John Howard Yoder
    2)What Would you Do? – John Howard Yoder
    3) The Politics of Jesus – John Howard Yoder

  2. Lora

    Proposed #6: What about Hitler?

  3. joe

    what drives me a little crazy is what is so WRONG about peace? i have friends who are physically sickened at the idea of peace. that floors would you rather live? it’s ok to disagree, but to watch people get angry over just the thought? these are believers as well. maybe they make some assumptions. i dont know. maybe they think it is a naive way to live.

  4. folknotions


    your proposal is the one I still struggle with, and which I hope someone can provide some kind of answer, because I’m lost with it!

  5. jdaniel

    Walter Wink relates the following account (page 233 of Engaging the Powers, Fortress Press 1994):

    William Jennings Bryan once visited Tolstoy and pressed him with the perennial problem of what to do if a criminal is about to kill a child. Tolstoy responded that, having lived seventy-five years, he had never, except in discussions, “encountered that fantastic brigand, who, before my eyes desired to kill or violate a child, but that perpetually I did and do see not one but millions of brigands using violence toward children and women and men and old people and all the labourers in the name of the recognized right of violence over one’s fellows. When I said this my kind interlocutor, with his naturally quick perception, not giving me time to finish, laughed, and recognized that my argument was satisfactory.”

  6. Lora

    Folknotions, I’ll just say whenever this question has been posed to me, I always respond first that part of the problem of being a pacifist is that you’re always being asked to solve problems which you yourself never would’ve created. I’m trying to knock out a ten-pager this weekend on Jewish-Christian relations, and I’ll post more when I finish. It connects to your question.

  7. Skylark

    “I always respond first that part of the problem of being a pacifist is that you’re always being asked to solve problems which you yourself never would’ve created.”

    Isn’t that like anything, though? People bring up all their scenarios to the socialists, the orphanage workers, the vegetarians, the homeschoolers and the orangic-only cooks. We’re all being asked to solve things which, by our beliefs against them, we are saying we would never have done. The orphanage workers would never have abandoned their children. The vegetarians would not have built factory farms or slaughterhouses. How are pacifist being treated any differently? Did I misunderstand what you were trying to say?

  8. joe

    if they are bringing the questions to the table, they are the ones that need to answer those questions first. it is important for them to answer those questions, otherwise it is just a setup. oh wait… it usually is. the burden of proof is on them. that is of course, unless you are the one sparking the conversation.

    allow them to answer and dont be afraid to ask questions. not to badger or pin anyone to the wall, but to see at what depth and conviction they are with their beliefs.

    this will hopefully open up dialogue, unless they are confrontational. if that’s the case, then no amount of proof will convince anyone

  9. TimN

    Lora, it turns out that someone has written a whole book on the “What about Hitler?” question. It’s called What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World.

    I haven’t read it, but friends have and recommend it.

  10. Pingback: Practical nonviolence prevents bank robberies » Young Anabaptist Radicals

  11. Lora

    Tim, that books sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out. Skylark, you’re right, it is a point that can be made more broadly than just with pacifists. But it’s amazing how many people haven’t thought of it.

  12. Jordan Green

    Thanks for the link, folks…we were awful proud of that article.

    is that a sin?

    Jordan Green
    Burnside Writer’s Collective

Comments are closed.