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March 24, 2006



OMG, I <<< SOOOO >>>> want that book!!! Thanks for passing it along. I haven't seen it before. I'm gonna see if my library has it.

Col Steve

Hugo - The rescue was good news indeed.

I found the CPT initial news release rather interesting in light of the recent discussions in your blog and elsewhere on civility and your specific comment earlier on Tom Fox - "He resisted to his death the culture that requires we choose one side or another."

In the entire 725+ word statement, not once did CPT mention (let alone show one expression of thanks) the fact that coalition soldiers freed the 3 members. CPT did find space though to write:

We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq

call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families.

I not surprised you at least acknowledged those who did the rescuing, given your earlier statement - "As a pacifist, I still find it possible to honor those who carry weapons to the world's most dangerous places."

Apparently, your pacifism is a little more inclusive than CPT.

I haven't read the book you note. CPT has an answer for when someone takes their members hostage. I'm curious if the book helps answering what to do when people they apparently disdain help them out.

Oh yes, I did read CPT's follow-up: "we have not adequately thanked the people involved with freeing them" (the laughable adverb insertion aside). To copy your early words - I suspect, though I admit I have no evidence for this - that CPT would * never * have added the afterthought note of gratitude if not for the backlash in the blogsphere and other circle.


It's a hard tension for me, Col. Steve. On the one hand, I have my strong and abiding pacifist principles, rooted in my understanding of the Gospel. On the other hand, I know so many good men and women who serve in the armed forces, who see themselves as peacemakers every bit as much as CPT does. I know that many of these good men and women in the service pray as pacifists do, for God's will to be done and for the courage to do the right thing.

In the end, I can offer thanks without worrying that I am compromising my commitment to radical non-violence. I acknowledge that those for whose safety I prayed were rescued by armed soldiers (though, from a theological standpoint, they were rescued by Providence of whom the soldiers were agents). I pray for the soldiers, and I accept that there is a great and awe-inspiring mystery here: that some who serve Christ renounce killing in His name, and others who serve Christ kill with reluctance to protect His lambs. I pray for all of them, and honor those whose understanding of Scripture is different than my own.


Hugo, you are the first commentator I've read who seems to get what the Christian Peacemaker Teams are all about. Much of what I've read or seen on tv and radio has more or less said "See?! Those whacko peaceniks thought they could make nice with the terrorists and got what was coming to them. Maybe now they'll come to their senses." See for example
or http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/calthomas/2006/03/14/189678.html

You are the first person outside my Friends Meeting to state openly that these guys knew exactly what risks they were taking and did it anyway because they understood what it really means to be a christian and put it on the line. Thank you.

Given the way the rescue played out, it almost seems as though the captors found a way to "release them without actually releasing them" ie, sending word where they could be found and then leaving them unguarded. This might have happened either because the captives successfully reached out to touch the hearts of their captors, or the captors feared they might. In any case, the captors clearly decided at some point, "we can't kill these guys." It might be that this story ended, or will end, like the movie "End of the Spear"


Could you give a little clarification please? About a month ago, you made the comment that it wasn't prudent to go to some neighborhoods late at night...correct me if I misunderstood; but how can you endorse(praise them for their deeds) pacifists knowingly going into a war zone. I guess it is one thing to be a pacifist and demonstrate in as benign a manor possible. It is quite another for one to put themselves directly in harms way to give cause for others to inflict injury; though I hardly believe Christ wants his lambs to place their lives recklessly in harms way.

One day I might read that Yoder fellow.

The Gonzman

Not being a pacifist myself... I can understand the choice to not defend oneself. I cannot understand for the life of me standing by and watching the helpless get victimized, or looking down on those who do lift a finger to help them.


Gonz; I'm Quaker, and I can assure you there's no ministry of "watching the helpless get victimized, or looking down on those who do lift a finger to help them". Quakes have had a long history of yelling, petitioning, being civilly disobedient, dying, going to jail, etc., etc: MCC is all over the world, doing and not just "watching the helpless get victimized". My grandfather helped get Russian refugees to safety in WWII. Pacifism is not about non-action.

I also really feel there's no "looking down" on those who end up in violence. That would be a little anti-pacifist, at least in my learning. Every person has to deal with the "what would you do?" question; every person had the capacity for violence. And, for me, at least, there are places where my first instinct is to be physical.

One of my favorite Quaker stories: A Quaker farmer hears, late at night, a burglar break in. He creeps down to the living room, carrying his hunting rifle. When there, he aims his rifle and says calmly, "Friend. You are standing where I am about to shoot." I have no idea if this is apocryphal or not, but it well highlights the tension in the committed pacifist.

I have some martial arts training, my husband has more; martial arts are often about the skills necessary to help someone stand down. Or to defend in a controlled way. I'm all over the alternative to violence programs: but if someone was attacking my kids, you'd betcha I'd get in between, and not stand by spouting platitudes. Now, there may not be lots of Quakers doing Karate, but I bet I'm not the only one; martial arts are a fabulous way to learn to master violent responses and become constructive with those energies. (When taught by a certain type of sensei.)

Col Steve

Well said, Hugo.


Let's be clear on one thing, folks.

Pacifist is a word from the Latin "Pax Facere" = to make peace. It is active; pacifists "get in the way" and and risk their lives for others. They are following the gospel of Matthew.

Pacifist has nothing to do with the word "passive", which comes from the Latin root "passus sum" (to suffer).


I think that when people ask the question about responding to hypothetical threats to loved ones, there's always an assumption that you're limited to a couple of choices (like a game options--"Will you take 'Cowering' for $100 or 'Attack with Lethal Force' for $500?"). We seem to have a similar mindset in our foreign relations.

I think that pacifists like Gandhi and Tom Fox have a freedom that people with "kill or cower" mentality have a difficulty grasping. They attack with brute compassion. They're neither "with us nor against us." Or more likely they're both.

I think it's a complex issue, and I'm still trying to work out all the nuances in my own pacifism. My current stance is inspired and complicated by reading Reinhold Niebuhr and watching The Mission (w/De Niro and Jeremy Irons). I'm not sure if choosing pacifism is the right moral choice for every individual in every situation, but I have to choose pacifism, or violate my conscience.

The Gonzman

My big disconnect is what seems to be a denial that the "Kill or cower" situation ever exists.

Here in Indiana, where I live, we have no "duty to flee" law. If I am woken up in the middle of the night, and find someone in my house, I can not only shoot them, I can sue their estate for the cleanup costs. Even if a snap the light on, see the intruder is unarmed, and blow them away, all I have to do is give a basic statement andask for a lawyer - I'll sleep in my own bed that night.

In the case such as that, though, while I can use legal loopholes to avoid punishment - morally, it's still murder.

If, however, I walk into that room and snap on the light, and have the burglar covered, and he's armed and bringing it to bear - different situation. And if I'm shot, I have dependants who can in turn be shot. This intruder has already demonstrated a preparedness, therefore willingness, to do violence to keep from being apprehended/identified.

I have an instant to choose - and if I choose wrong, someone besides me is subject to mortal danger. Might there be another way? Maybe. Hesistation, and a wrong choice, though... I'd rather have an intruder's blood on my hands than be possibly standing at my son's grave asking why I hesitated.

I'm Quaker, and I can assure you there's no ministry of "watching the helpless get victimized, or looking down on those who do lift a finger to help them". Quakes have had a long history of yelling, petitioning, being civilly disobedient, dying, going to jail, etc., etc.

Neat, but if I were the one getting victimized, I wouldn't want people yelling, petitioning or even being civilly disobedient on my behalf. I'd want the cops to intervene, using no more force than necessary, but prepared to use whatever force they do need. A pacifist police force may be slightly better than no police force at all, but not by much.


Xrlq, Gonz; you have to pick those things for which you're willing to die. There's no denial of the kill or cower situation, nor is there denial of intervention, in pacifism. Rather, there are a set of priorities that you're willing to sacrifice your life for. What would happen if you had a police force that were willing to stand and die between you and the attacker? Think of the Underground Railway, or of Ghandi.

Also, I don't know many pacifists that are utterly against the use of restraining devices. A pacifist police force might decide on the use of guns that shoot nets or gluey substances that stop without harm.

Pacifism is not about ignoring injustice and abuse and doing nothing about it. It's about the radical belief that "turning the other cheek" is a better way to stand down conflict and prevent injustice. In major conflict, it's going to have to be people willing to make the sacrifice to do so - much like we ask our soldiers do now.


Tom Fox got a vigil in Toronto, Canada.

Here he gets called a traitor, a "peacenik", a hippie, hopelessly ideal, and a coward.

It's nice that the US is so inclusive and diverse that we embrace our citizens with different opinions.

There are a lot of things I'm willing to advocate for. I'm willing to die for even fewer things. I'm not entirely sure that there's anything I'm willing to kill for (and honestly, I never want to find out).

The Gonzman

Tolerance is about not prohibiting things you disagree with or find odious. You cannot, by definition, "tolerate" something you agree with or find unobjectionable.


Gonz, what was that post addressed to? You're the only one using the word tolerance/tolerate.

The Gonzman

The idea that not holding vigils for people, by disagreeing with them, and sticking to that disagreement even if they get themselves killed, is something to be ashamed of.

You know, had I been in command of Theatre operations in Iraq, I would not even have rescued Tom Fox, or any of them, unless ordered to, and in any case I would have instructed the task force that went in there that unless they could gurantee no casualties they were to abort the operation. Not because I hate or dislike Tom Fox, & Co, but for the simple reason that they knew their job was dangerous when they took it.

I do not embrace people with a different opinion just "for the sake of." I'd have been on the sides of the Nazi's who wanted to march in Skokie, but frankly, I wouldn't cross the street to urinate on one of them if they were on fire. Other dierging opinions get varying degrees of respect from me. I do not support the war on drugs, but neither do I think it gives people license to use and be free of social judgement. I don't want a crackhead for my brain surgeon. I don't want a pothead flying me to Dallas.

Going into a hostle environment like that is not the act of a coward, but a hopeless idealist? Yeah - I'm with that. I don't think there was any hope of success, and as for his death having meaning - only to the choir he was preaching to. It only reinforced for me that even if American, a Christian, goes in there under peaceful auspices, he's still going to get his throat cut; despite protestations to the contrary by them, that is what they are all about. A waste of a life, an extension of an olive branch to a band of murderous thugs who would only pretend interest in it so you would hold your arm out long enough for them to get their sword and cut it off - bad faith from the get go.

If I said "Make TOm Fox and his kind illegal, criminalize them, lock them up" - yeah. That's intolerant. But I am not going to mourn or stand at vigils for someone who I wrote off the minute he went over there, I said, "An American? There's a muder waiting to happen."



Do you see any effectiveness of pacifist tactics in ending the factional violence in Iraq? The US is finding itself out on a limb with what seems to be an endless insurgency. Aside from the simplistic "US withdraws" formula, can you see a mass use of non-violence in ending, say, terrorism?


Alexander, pacifism is not a position I've chosen because I'm a student of Realpolitik. I'm a pacifist because I'm a Christian. As a Christian, I know how the Great Story ends: Jesus wins. So my concern is less with efficacy and more with ethics.

If we were all pacifists, however, the chances that terrorists would be as angry towards us seem slim.

The Gonzman

Hugo, with all respect, that would be because we were all dead or wearing the collar of Dhimmitude.

When Jesus told us "If you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one" it was because our personal freedom was more important than the clothes on our back. And I know what my answer to Patrick Henry's question is - the same as his.


Ah, the famous bit about the "sword" -- a mistranslation, most say, of what would more likely be some sort of small staff designed to beat off wild animals. But that would really be thread drift!

Robert Hayes

Pacifism is a lovely philosophical approach. I find it very attractive.

It is also clearly suicidal when practiced by any but a small group. And perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind. But Christians are not a small group; we're the bulk of the populace, in this country anyway.

In a war situation (a shooting war with total mobilization like WWI or WWII, not a psychological war like the one we're in right now), I find myself forced into agreement with Orwell: pacifists on our side have pretty much the same effect as soldiers on the other side.


I'm not sure why it would be thread drift to consider Jesus' attitude toward violence in a thread about pacifism in a Christian/feminist blog. So let me dare to go to that place...

Every reference to a sword in the Septuagint that I saw in a cursory search uses the same root word, including the place in the book of John where Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus. He certainly did not use a staff for that. The fact is, Peter carried a lethal weapon around with him wherever he went, apparently, and possibly a concealed one at that. This was after being under the direct tutelage of the Great Teacher for more than three years. And apparently he wasn't the only one carrying (Luke 22:38). This says a lot abot the relative nature of the pacifism he taught, if it can be called that at all, IMHO.


Stanton, here's a decent Mennonite reflection on the sword:


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