Tonight, as the Kurds are left to twist in the wind and Turkey attacks, and as a friend of mine wrote a lovely poem about ministry, I struggle with my pacifism, sort of. I find myself thinking, “What kind of person willingly lets someone get butchered, especially when that person or group has been a good friend and a strong supporter?”. It’s almost a trick question as it is one of those “prove you’re a conscientious objector/real pacifist” questions the military asks to make you go into the service.
And yet, I remain a justice-oriented pacifist, following in the ways of Jesus and St. Francis, Gandhi and Dr. King. There are those who are cowards, and passive evildoers, and then there are pacifists. As I work with more and more traumatized clients, I realize that one can be both a Christian and an apparent coward. The disciples, when Jesus died on the cross, willingly let the Christ get butchered, not out of any good motives, but simply out of fear and a sense of powerlessness before the Romans and the crowd. Jesus, at the same time, willingly died for them despite a knowledge of his power, while being his best self.
This is the difference between what’s happening now in Syria and what should be happening, between Donald Trump’s actions and Jesus’. We should be willing to protect others. In doing that, if we lose our own lives for what we believe in, well, that’s okay — not great, mind you, but ok. For Christians, it doesn’t end there, and our love for humanity and God’s love for us remain for eternity.
For soldiers, I don’t know anymore. I know that I cannot kill, and that the judgement was never mine to make, but I am more aware of parallels between active pacifism and active soldiering. I suppose it depends on what you think soldiers do. Do they protect or do they attack? Do the defend or do they kill? There are some of both out there, but most people that I know who end up being soldiers plan to protect and defend, and are mentally destroyed when they think (or find) that their government wants them to attack and kill.
In therapy, I try to teach people to live in reality and make the best choices under the circumstances that they can. The reality tonight is that soldiers have to watch as their compatriots of another nationality die, because that’s what they have been ordered to do. Nothing about the decision to stop defending the Kurds seems in any way courageous or moral. It seems like cowardice or active evil. It is a horrendous situation for all involved, with everyone suffering but the person who made the decision.
Trump will not be traumatized by this situation, because it doesn’t affect his life and he doesn’t feel powerless. That puts the disciples who actually followed Jesus far above this man who is falsely believed to be God by his followers. Trump is abusive. They were not. The Christian’s life is joyous but acknowledges pain and sometimes agony on the way. It doesn’t deny reality, It tries to rise above the evil and choose for the good despite it.
Sometimes, death simply can’t be avoided. For us, it’s just not permanent.
The powerful are supposed to understand that, and not inflict it on others. In short, the powerful should be willing to sacrifice– themselves, not others. That is where this particular President has missed the moral of the story. But then, I hear he doesn’t read, either.
Resisting with Peace,