What About Pacifism Now?

In the conclusion of my last post I wrote:

So what does all of this mean now? It means a lot of things. Primarily, it means that nonviolence is the minority view in the global Church. However, that does not mean it is irrelevant for today’s world. Modern generations are becoming more disillusioned with global militarism and more committed to peaceful reconciliation. I believe that now, at this point in history, Christian nonviolence might have significant relevance for a generation that has grown up in perpetual global warfare. Personally, I believe that we have an opportunity to not solely return to the early Anabaptist ideals of nonviolence, but actually look to our foundations in the first three centuries of the Church. We have an opportunity to rewrite history and reclaim a significant part of theological identity as Christians.

In this post, I want to spend some time exploring what it actually means for us to embrace pacifism and nonviolence today. I do strongly believe that we live in a world with growing disillusionment with war and militarism. In the United States, it can be hard for us to fully understand the extent of this disillusionment, but I believe that Generation X and future generations will grow more disillusioned by war. Personally, I believe that nonviolence and pacifism starts with one.

The idea of peace starting with “one” is simply to say that each of us have a responsibility to find peace in our own lives. This means looking at the areas of life that cause us conflict and tension. Then we ask ourselves, “How do I resolve this and find reconciliation?” Sometimes this inner tension is a personal issue, or a relational issue, or an ethical issues, and the list can go on and on. If we cannot find peace in our own hearts and our own lives, how can we expect other people to seek peace. A very simple exercise that can help us seek this better in our lives is: every night take a moment to ask the question, “What did I do or say today that broke the peace in my life or someone else’s life?” I think that when we ask this question, it helps us better understand what we need to be doing in order to turn our hearts toward the peace of Christ. If we can’t answer that question, it either means we are perfect or in denial (I highly doubt it’s the first option.)

Then we need to follow up asking ourselves, “How can I make up for that thing?” This is where our “preaching” comes into practice. It isn’t simply enough to recognize our shortcomings. We need to act on them. So for example, if we realize that we might have said something harsh to someone that day, a solution might be to write a nice card to that person the next day apologizing for your words.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old phrase, “What goes around comes around.” This is a bit of a karmic statement that many of us wouldn’t ascribe to. However, when you think about it, the intention behind this phrase is quite interesting. That phrase can be used two ways: (1) an admonition not to do something bad; or (2) a statement linking two bad scenarios together. I think it is also interesting to think of that phrase in a more positive way – not just in relationship to the negativity in life. Essentially we can recognize that by seeking after peace in our own lives we might influence other people enough to seek peace in their lives, which in turn hopefully leads to reciprocal peace.

I write all of this to say that we have the ability to create and make peace in the world around us. We might not be able to stop all violence, but when we work to find peace in our own lives, we might have a ripple effect. Peace starts with one. It starts with an intentional decision to make peace with the world around us in all relationships.

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