I received an emphatic response, pro and con, to my last blog post about war and the justified use of violence. Of all the negative comments, the following, from my Irish Presbyterian friend Kevin, was best:
I feel this post badly mis-represents Hauerwas. It certainly does not engage with Christological non-violence in terms that proponents could recognise. For one thing, the claim that pacifism is secretly pragmatic is somewhat undercut by reference to one of Hauerwas’ most famous aphorisms:
“Christians are not nonviolent because we believe our nonviolence is a strategy to rid the world of war, but rather because faithful followers of Christ in a world of war cannot imagine being anything else than nonviolent.”
I used to ask Christians who present the argument as you have the following question:
If Just War Theory is the appropriate Biblical pattern for Christian living, then what war that has been fought satisfied the criteria?
But in the midst of the never-ending War on Terror, I realise the question that needs to be asked is:
What war fails to satisfy Just War criteria?
The former President of Yemen spent last night hiding in the back of a food truck after a drone attack he got caught up in killed three people. The conversation that American Christians has about who they are allowed to kill in the name of God appears absurd to your Christians brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world.
Here’s my preliminary response. First, if my post fails to “engage with Christological non-violence in terms that proponents could recognise,” he’s going to have to tell me what “Christological non-violence” means, and tell me what I’m missing. The word “Christology,” by the way, is a showy, overused seminary word that pertains to the ways in which Jesus is both God and man at the same time.
In this context, I’m guessing he means that because Jesus was non-violent, and, when given the opportunity in his passion to respond with violence, chose not to, we should therefore, in all cases, eschew violence. Indeed, as I said in my original post, Hauerwas’s pacifism is premised upon the idea (unless I’m badly mistaken) that God is perfect non-coercive love. Although he’s often called a “high-church Anabaptist,” Hauerwas isn’t like an old-fashioned Anabaptist whose pacifism says, “We believe strongly that vengeance is God’s to repay, and we look forward to it.” From Hauerwas’s perspective, there is no vengeance, no violence, on God’s part.
How he reconciles this with scripture I have no idea.
I never said that Hauerwas was pragmatic about his pacifism, only that the blogger I quoted was: Remember, he’s the one who said that there is a peaceful solution, if only we’ll have the time and patience to find it.
As for Hauerwas’s comment that “faithful followers of Christ in a world of war cannot imagine being anything else than nonviolent,” I can only wonder what world he’s living in.
And this gets to the heart of my objection to Kevin’s complaint. As I said in my comment back to him,
Kevin points to murderous drones killing civilians or whatever. Fine. But if you’re going to be principled about it, defend the principle in the hard cases, too. Here’s why a police sniper isn’t allowed to stop the man who’s spree-killing children at an elementary school. Here’s why soldiers can’t forcibly liberate Auschwitz. Good Lord, here’s why I can’t use force to stop the man who’s raping my wife or molesting my child. Reductio ad absurdum? Reductio ad Hitlerum? Sorry. It’s his principle, not mine. Do we make exceptions?
According to Hauerwas’s principle, any act of violence is proscribed—not just this or that heinous act of indiscriminate killing in warfare—because, after all, how can any of us faithful Christians imagine forcibly stopping someone who is harming our own children—or other people’s children? We must oppose not only our military in all circumstances, but also police protection, the violent defense of our families, and self-defense (obviously). As Hauerwas has said before, “What’s the worst that’s going to happen? We get killed? We’re Christians! Who cares?”
It’s easy for him to say! Even if we share his pacifist convictions, let’s confess that we in the industrialized West are unlikely to find our convictions put to the test. Why? In part because we’re freeloading (except for our taxes) off the umbrella of protection afforded by our national and local defense systems. Our stable systems of government are ultimately enforced through violence, or at least its threat.
As I also indicated in my comments, if this article fairly represents his comments in a recent debate, “maybe Hauerwas disagrees with himself, too.”
Police force that’s short of killing is now “an open question.” Really? It wasn’t an open question back when I was reading him in seminary. Is he really starting to budge on non-lethal violence? On what principle? And how does that principle, whatever it is, not apply to protecting lives outside of one’s country—if it were possible?