In the past few months, we’ve discussed how to handle churches that stray from their nonviolent roots, why we should refrain from commenting on situations we don’t know in-depth, and why those of us in comfortable lives should hold their tongues when people in uncomfortable lives outside of North America use violence. Yes, that’s a simplistic way of saying it, but it’s a decent summary.
My question is, when should we insist on peace and nonviolence? When should we, as people committed to the peacemaking roots of our church tradition (and not because it is our tradition, but because we believe it, too), stand up and say, “Nope, I’m not going to let this get watered down”? If a person with a U.S. military background comes into our churches and says, “Don’t tell people in Palestine not to throw rocks when people point guns at them,” how do you respond? Should we insist on peacemaking and nonviolence for ourselves but decline to comment on how others live? Can we live in church fellowship with those who say otherwise, and if so, does this mean asking them not to promote their beliefs in our churches?
I spoke with a pastor earlier this morning who said he notices Mennonite churches in this area losing touch with the reasons to believe in peace. We don’t have a draft compelling our young men to go to war or find a way out of it, he said, so we get caught up in our cushy lives. (At least one other YAR probably knows who this pastor is, but I wasn’t thinking at the time, “I want to post this on YAR,” so I didn’t get permission to use the pastor’s name in this venue.)
A Palestinian man who lives in Bethlehem, Israel, will soon visit my area on a speaking tour. From what I’m told, he will talk about why he believes in peacemaking and nonviolence for his homeland, and why he has hope. If a U.S. Christian believes s/he should not comment on the violent situations in countries far removed from his/her experience, how would s/he receive someone like this Palestinian man? “Hey, I’m glad to hear you say it, but I won’t openly agree with you because my opinion doesn’t and shouldn’t matter”?
Yes, I’ve asked a lot of questions. I don’t have very many answers. Maybe some of you do.