“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the ‘Jesusite’ blog that supports all those who are trying to make the world a more just and peaceful place. This article is taken from that excellent Christian/anarchist website Ekklesia.
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”
Being a pacifist on 11 November
In the last few weeks, I have been accused of cowardice, ingratitude, stupidity, disloyalty, insulting veterans, despising Britain, encouraging hatred and betraying my country. This is the norm for people who are publicly pacifist at this time of year.
Most of the accusations came in response to views expressed on my blog, particularly my conviction that we should remember all the victims of war on Remembrance Day and that we should honour them by working to bring an end to war.
Some accuse me of being ‘political’, as if politics were inherently dirty. Remembrance is alwayspolitical. To remember someone, or something, is to make a decision about what we should value. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ said Jesus. When we remember Jesus in bread and wine, we do more than simply call him to mind. Remembrance in Holy Communion affects our minds and hearts. It changes how we live. Remembrance means not only recalling an event, but doing something about it.
If we were honouring victims of road accidents, it would be considered appropriate to work to prevent road accidents in future. When it comes to war, this logic goes out of the window and we are encouraged to glorify armies rather than to challenge the mindset that presents violence as the ultimate solution to conflict.
Pacifism is not about insulting soldiers. Soldiers, civilians and conscientious objectors are all victims of war.
So what will I do this Remembrance Day? I am teaching in London this morning. This afternoon I will take some time to reflect on these issues and to pray for all people affected by war.
Action and contemplation go together; although I seek to resist war every day, I will make a special effort to do so today. I may write to my MP about the arms trade, send messages of support to conscientious objectors imprisoned in Israel or Korea, or activists in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Russia who are working against warmongering regimes. I will continue to liaise with others who are making plans for protests against militarism and the renewal of Trident.
On previous occasions I have marked this time of year by supporting Veterans for Peace in their march to the cenotaph, as well as praying at the cenotaph and at the memorial in Russell Square that honours the world’s conscientious objectors.
Today, I will respond to anyone who asks me about my white poppy, as I have been doing for the last fortnight, trying to explain my faith in peace as well as I can. I fear that I don’t always do this very well, but I would rather be a bad pacifist than a good militarist.
We face many temptations to trust in the idols of money, markets and military might. I am a pacifist because I believe in a higher power rather than these false gods.
To be a pacifist is not to be unrealistic or to deny the horrors of the world. It is the very recognition of evil that leads us to oppose war, believing that evil cannot be fought with evil. Pacifism is not about avoiding conflict. By declaring myself a pacifist I put myself in conflict with the dominant values of society. A pacifist seeks to engage in conflict nonviolently.
I’m often told that there will always be war. Two and a half centuries ago, opponents of the transatlantic slave trade were told the same thing about slavery. Women were told they would never have the vote. Black people in apartheid South Africa were told that nothing would change. Few things must cheer the Devil more than the common belief that injustice is inevitable.
In the Gospel we find a different message. Jesus stood up to those who had power. He showed people how to resist injustice without violence. A Roman soldier might force you to carry his pack for a mile. But carry his pack beyond the one-mile limit and the soldier could get into trouble. He’ll be running after you to snatch his pack back and for a moment the balance of power will be reversed. Jesus refused to use weapons to resist arrest, saying that those who turn to the sword will die by the sword.
Let’s love our neighbours as ourselves by working to prevent war and the poverty and destruction it brings in its wake. This is the way to honour the victims of war – military and civilian, young and old, rich and poor, of all nationalities, genders and religions. On this day and every day, we will remember them.
(c) Symon Hill is a Christian author and activist, an Ekklesia associate and a tutor for the Workers’ Educational Association. His latest book is The Upside-Down Bible: What Jesus really said about money, sex and violence, published by Darton, Longman and Todd.
The above blog post was first published by Premier Christianity magazine. Please seehttp://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/I-m-a-pacifist-here-s-how-I-ll-c….