Evangelicals and Pacifism
Something has been bugging me lately with regards to Christian Pacifism. Its very much the tough position to take, and relies on literal reading of several bible passages, and yet, generally speaking, its far more common amongst “liberal” Christians than “conservative” Christians.
When Literal and Contextualised readings of the bible collide, one assumes its the Evangelicals who will be talking about “literal interpretation”, but not so here. Where groups like the Quakers (those identifying as Christian, at least) will quote chapter and verse at you, Evangelicals are often the ones making up the excuses. When I’ve justified not calling myself a pacifist in front of a group of people from a liberal church, I’ve gotten about as good a response as a gay bishop in your average “bible believing church”. Apparently its OK to contextualise and interpret here.
So why has it become so normal for Evangelicals to define away from Pacifism? And why has it so often been Christians identified with Liberal Christianity who have faced jail for Pacifist beliefs? Evangelical Churches do, after all, use cliches like “reflecting the early church” far more often, and the early church, pre-Constantine, was definitely pacifist; soldiers were encouraged to desert the army in the process of converting, indeed they were assisted in doing so.
Its a pity we’ve lost this activity, and even more so that we identify more with our own armed forces than with Christians in other countries who get caught in the cross-fire. Surely if we want a united church, it should be blind to all political and ethnic borders? So why back military campaigns that ignore this? I’m often told liberals want to water down the bible for an easy life. This can hardly be further from the truth in this instance.
Perhaps its because evangelicals have a pact with governments to enforce morality in society, and therefore this becomes part of the trade off. A sort of “we’ll limit abortion if you don’t criticise us for killing other people’s kids. After all, surely pro-life means pro-all-life, human at the very least. The very Christians who are least prepared to talk choice in the context of abortion seem to view war death as inevitable. There’s certainly some interesting kingdom values going on.
I do think this is one of the greatest inconsistencies along the literal/liberal line, and one that needs clearing up. Once all political context is taken out, it makes little or no sense, and does the Church’s mission in the world more harm than good.