Ben Witherington’s pacifist journey

Check out this fascinating autobiographical post from my colleague across the street at Asbury Seminary. Here’s a taste:

Actually reading the Gospels as a High School student required to read the Bible for my God and Country award, it began to dawn on me that: 1) the Sermon on the Mount was rather important when it came to Christian ethics, and 2) I came to the conclusion Jesus would not have agreed with Richard Nixon about the moral nature of the Vietnam war. Indeed, he would not have agreed with the idea that any of the wars fought by the U.S. in my lifetime were examples of ‘just wars’ or even ‘justifiable wars’.

Jesus, as it turns out was a hard core pacifist and he was serious as a heart attack about that non-resistance, turn the other cheek, take up your cross and be prepared to die at the hands of your enemies stuff. He was, to use an oxymoron, an adamant even a belligerent pacifist. ‘Those who live by the sword die by the sword’ was his warning, and when his disciples tried to take up swords for the sake of the Kingdom Jesus not only told them ‘enough of that’ but he then repaired the damage to the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus was in deadly earnest about being the Prince of Peace.

What makes the journey of a pacifist long and hard is because of course you are swimming upstream in America, and sometimes you are swimming against a torrential flood in the other direction. You get used to being called a coward, unpatriotic (and a few unmentionable things), and this is all the more likely to happen to you, because you feel like that deer in the Far Side cartoon (see above). The Amish in one sense, take the easy way out. It would be one thing to live in a conclave of like-minded pacifists. That would be easier (see the movie The Witness). It’s harder to be in the world whilst not being of the world. It’s harder to be a non-sectarian, non-monastic pacifist. It just is.


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