I was recently in discussion with a self-proclaimed “Christian pacifist” and asked the simple question: Do you lock your house at night? They immediately sniffed out my train of thought and got huffy. That’s different! they said. But is it? I mean, Why do pacifists lock their doors at night if not to keep bad people out. And if bad people happen to get in, then what? Watch helplessly as they steal, rape, or murder? It’s like refusing medical attention on the grounds that you’re Vegan. Despite your commitment to a “higher ideal,” at some point, invasive procedures may be necessary.
I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. Call me un-Christian, unenlightened, primitive, a warmonger. Whatever. But how does pacifism practically address — much less survive in — a violent world? How do sit-ins, peace marches, and negotiations work with criminals and assassins? At some point, car alarms, pepper spray and taser guns seem to be a reasonable accessory. Sure, it may not be the highest ideal. But if peace is to be perpetuated, ideals may need to take a back seat to pragmatism. If not, those ideals will go extinct.
Which is why most pacifists lock their doors at night.
There’s a violent contradiction (pardon the pun) at the heart of contemporary pacifism. It’s this:
Pacifists benefit from those who have fought and died for their right to be pacifists.
In the same way that animal activists can be cured by medicines developed through animal experimentation, pacifists can only perpetuate their doctrine as peace is maintained. And peace is often maintained as the result of war. At least, through rigorous self-defense.
There’s only one thing necessary for the eradication of pacifists… that they be consistent.
Surprisingly, many pacifists are. For instance, I was stunned to learn that, when asked about resistance to the Nazis, Gandhi believed the Jews should have prepared to sacrifice their collective lives in non-violence (see Gandhi’s original essay and THIS POST for a more in-depth discussion). His statements are both shocking and honorable: Shocking in the sense of their utter impotence against evil; honorable in the sense that he has followed his convictions to their logical — albeit, absurd — conclusion.
George Orwell, quite the anti-pacifist, once wrote, “If you are not prepared to take a life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way.” This is why Orwell viewed Gandhi’s solution as “collective suicide,” suggesting that he “did not understand the nature of totalitarianism.” Orwell writes:
…[Gandhi] believed in “arousing the world”, which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.
Thus, “a free press and the right of assembly” (i.e., freedom) is necessary for pacifism to prevail. For without that freedom, those of the “higher ideal” might simply “disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again.”
Which is why the consistent pacifist must be prepared to sacrifice far more lives than she saves.
But Jesus was a pacifist! you retort. This is a common argument, but can be misleading for several reasons. Mainly in that it conveniently overlooks certain biblical accounts or principles. For instance, Jesus told the Roman soldiers to be “content with [their] wages (Lk. 3:14) and acknowledged that “earthly kingdoms” have a right to use the sword (Jn. 18:36). He also brought great division among the people (Matt. 10:34-36) and even drove out the moneychangers with physical force. (For a more in-depth treatment see Did Jesus teach pacifism?)
Only the genuinely evil want war, but even Scripture says there is a time for it (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). The Prince of Peace has 12 legions of angels at His disposal (Matthew 26:53) and, before the credits roll, He uses them. According to the Bible, our age culminates, not in a celestial sit-in, but an all-out brawl (see, Armageddon). For all those advocates of non-violence and pacifism who claim Christ as their guru, seeing Him at the forefront of the army of God should be disheartening.
Diplomacy and demonstration have their place. But turning the other cheek does not necessarily mean offering our cheeks to be slapped, nor closing our eyes to those who also want our heads. We are to “Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die” (Prov. 24:11), and “rescue” sometimes calls for extreme measures. On the surface, non-violence may appear noble — even trendy. But in the end, it’s suicidal.
So as for me and my house, we shall lock our doors.