Saturday, March 04, 2017

Pacifism II

There are excellent comments under the previous post.  I am taking a slightly different direction and so am opening a new slot.

What Lewis did not say, but Jesus might, is that not answering physical violence with physical violence is only a special case of a more general rule of not returning evil for evil.  Another of his examples was of being made to carry a burden - of being oppressed. That more general command is repeated by both Peter and Paul.

We gravitate to this particular special case because it is dramatic, and comes up in situations of obvious crisis.  It is measurable and obvious. Yet there are many types of attack and many types of revenge.  Texan99 has trouble discerning how much of any pacifism might come from physical cowardice, but if we look at other types of evils put on us, such as impoverishment, injustice, humiliation, or insult, we might be better able to see how revenge-prone we are. A person who is "too Christian" to fight you but nonetheless slanders you out of your job over the next year has not in any way turned the other cheek.

In my experience, physical courage is not the same as moral courage, but they overlap.  While I have known moral cowards who like to get in fights, and physically timid people who nerve themselves up to endure for conscience sake, I find it more common to find the two in similar quantity. Additionally, the courage to face death and the courage to face pain are not quite the same.


Donna B. said...

It's not been easy for me in the past few years, but I've been pushed to face certain things about myself. Overall, I'm a coward. A passive-aggressive coward so I've certainly got my licks in here and there. However, I've never thought of myself as a pacifist.

I *think* but certainly do not know that moral courage is a form of pacifism. And perhaps cowardice. It's truly a conundrum. I'd like to think that, as a parent, I'd defend my child's life with all I have -- and then I think that all I might have is my death and I can only hope that's enough. Is it not a form of cowardice to give your life for a child when your child might be better off if you didn't make that sacrifice? Only if your child's life is immediately threatened do I think it completely reasonable.

Reverse the situation... your child sacrificing his life for yours. The immediacy doesn't even count here.

I also can't help but wonder if, for many people, pacifism is a euphemism for 'don't be a bully'.

Texan99 said...

To be clear, it's only my own physical cowardice I have trouble distinguishing from pacifism. I have no difficulty in separating the two ideas in other people of obvious physical courage; it's just that I have next to none myself. I've had a very soft life and very little testing. Most of the time it's easy for me to assume that there's some avenue to pursue that is superior to violence, but perhaps only because no one is subjecting me to violence. The idea of declining to respond to violence with violence is entirely theoretical for me, and I have no confidence in my ability to stick to such a resolution.