Pacifism and parenthood...
I’ve had this blog brewing for a while but just haven’t taken the time to flesh it out. It’s some thoughts from a while back but my first fathers day stirred them up again. So I thought I would finally share...
I was sitting down with a good friend and another fellow. The other guy happened to be a CCM musician; trendy, hipster, semi-famous, and of course wise! Somehow we got to talking; I had recently gotten married, he had recently had his second kid. We were talking about family stuff, the joys of being a father and challenges of being a husband, at least a first-year husband. At some point, the conversation shifted, and we began to talk about politics, faith, and then pacifism. And then the trendy Christian rocker stated, quite matter of fact, “Well I used to be a pacifist until I had kids.” Followed by a “you’ll understand someday.”
In case you didn’t know, I’m a pacifist. As I read the scriptures, especially the words of Jesus I think it’s fairly hard not to be. I mean if you're going to take the words of Jesus seriously, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Don’t resist an evil doer.” The list goes on… just read The Sermon on the Mount. Now I respect people who have differing opinions than me but for me it has been hard to read these word from the mouth of Jesus and then think about picking up a gun and or killing a person who I am supposed to see as my neighbor. Not to mention the reason given for violent action is often protecting the things I love; God, country, family, etc. That’s a hard move for me to make.
But like my trendy, wise, Christian rocker friend stated, “You’ll understand when you have kids.”
Well, now I have a kid. And to be honest, this interaction really stuck with me. I understand the difficulty with even the IDEA of being a pacifist, especially in our world. I really do. And when I’m honest, and people ask me if I'm a pacifist my response is, “Well, I want to be.” I say that because I know in reality I am bent toward violence and reaction. I understand that about myself. But I also feel like I understand that the most faithful // Faith-Full thing to do is to follow Jesus and that’s isn’t always easy or the way i am naturally bent.
Now I often tell people who roll their eyes at me for even suggesting the idea of pacifism, “non-violence isn’t necessarily non-action.” I think that is an important caveat to the conversation, but it is another conversation altogether.
As I reflect on my stance as a pacifist and my now status as a father I’m trying to decide if my wise rocker friend was correct. Does the love I have for my son negate my ideological position as a pacifist?
For the first few months of Jacks existence (Jack is my son) I would take him when he was crying into my office and play a few of his favorite tunes. The two songs that seemed to calm him the most were, 1) The Hope That Lies Within 2) Oh How He Loves - both recorded by The Glorious Unseen. (great album, you should get if you don’t have it). But I would blast these songs and sing them into my infant sons ear, and he would, miraculously, calm down. And almost every time I would sing these words,
“He is jealous for me (I would sing you) Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy When all of the sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affection are for me.
O, How He loves us so O how he loves us O, How He loves us so.”
…almost every time I would sing these words I would think about that comment, “You’ll understand once you have kids.” As I would sing those songs into Jacks little ears, telling him how much God loves him, I would realize how much I love him and how I would do anything for him and to protect him. And I would think, “was he right? Do I now understand?”
But in the midst of those thoughts, I would realize that my love for my son can’t be stronger than God’s love for my son OR God’s love for his son. And in the mystery of the Trinity, God’s love for God’s self which, more often than we are aware of, is turned in our direction and lavished upon us. This infinite and incomprehensible love that’s exists within God’s self and is poured out on humanity with undeserved regularity. This love that I can’t even fathom is directed from the heart of God to my son Jack every second of every moment and in the same way it was directed toward Jesus in every line we read of scripture, every space we ignore, every pause we skim over, and in every possible way we don’t even think of, God was in constant Love for his son. Even when his Son was hanging on a tree, bleeding and hurting, being killed by the enemy, LOVE WAS THERE. I don’t understand that but I pray God would fill me with the faith to embrace that moment of divine love that we witness in the crucificition of Jesus and I pray even harder as a father that God would gift me with even a small portion of the love I witness in that cosmic even of the cross for my son Jack.
And if I can receive that gift, even in part and as feebly as I am capable of, I believe I can continue to be faith-full to the words of Jesus, living the way of a hopeful, aspiring, would-be pacifist father. Which might be the only way any of us are capable of doing it anyway.
So was my friend right? I don’t think so. Not if I believe in the power of the resurrection and the hope that lies within! I don’t think he was.
Grace and peace from a would-be pacifist and an awestruck father!
PS :: if you would like a resource to further this conversation here is a REALLY good one!
This little book entitled :: What Would You DO is a great resource to help you think through the challenges and questions of being a pacifist. It's a great read from a few voices, put together by John Howard Yoder. Who is a stud and somebody you should read! Without a doubt! :: Politics of Jesus :: The Original Revolution :: Body Politics // TO NAME A FEW...