In a short piece posted at IRD, Eric Sapp, “a senior partner at Common Good Strategies, a consulting firm that works with the Democratic Party and non-profit organizations on building relationships with religious communities in America” is quoted as saying the following [emphasis added]:
“I think that to be a true pacifist, what you have to be willing to do is say… we have the power to stop genocide, we have the power to stop rapes, we have the power to stop killings, and are we willing to say that our pacifism is going to look those people in the eye and say we did not stop the raping and genocide because of Christ.”
Food for thought… a lot of thought, and not of the fantastical maybe, someday and isn’t that and interesting, hypothetical variety. As the New York Times noted last summer in an editorial strongly advocating unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Iraq:
Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs… [creating] a stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.
…but we should leave anyway (they said).
If this kind of UN-style, Bosnia-Rwanda ‘sorry you got ethnically cleansed, but we were at the spa that day’ self-centered pacifism is part of the Democrat strategy to woo back religious folks, it’s an oddly counter-scriptural way of doing it (i.e., deliberately refusing to look out for the needs of the oppressed in the name of personal purity).
Unilateral pacifism is undiscerning and (often) hypocritical. It requires not only what Eric Sapp noted above (apologizing to people in faraway places for awful things we could have stopped) but a much more personal kind: firing the police and living with the (immediate and dire) consequences. Most folks aren’t willing to go there.
The intellectually consistent distinction is between personal and institutional pacifism, not between pacifism there and 9-1-1 on the speed dial here. If one believes in anger-damping, soul-calming, interpersonal pacifism (as we must–the famous ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ quote from Jesus), it is not necessarily true that one must believe in the latter (disband the army, fire the police and don’t bar the burglar from your home).
If one does believe in the latter (some legitimate institutional force–as even the most dyed-in-the-wool libertarians do, i.e., to keep the public order) then there can be no logical moral distinction between oppressed people in (say) West Virginia vs. (say) Darfur or North Korea. I.e., one must either support institutional and possibly forceful remedies in both places… or in neither.
Recourse to justice and peace-keeping force here creates not just the option but an obligation on the part of Christians to help others enjoy the same where currently they do not. And that entails at least the credible threat of force. One must either support the idea of properly supervised physical force for good everywhere… or nowhere.