As you can tell from my family name, Bachiu, I was not born a Mennonite. I became one later in life, at least in part because of the Anabaptist position on pacifism. I listened to sermons and read articles that supported the position. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” And that is what pacificists are – peacemakers. We aren’t doormats that can be abused and misused by anyone who chooses to. We are peacemakers, we are non-violent resistors. I found comfort further in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said we are to turn the other cheek when we have been struck on the right. I was encouraged by stories like the one about Dirk Willems, a Dutch martyred Anabaptist who is most famous for escaping from prison but then turning back to rescue his pursuer—who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems—to then be recaptured, tortured and killed for his faith. But of late I have been forced to rethink my position.

While it is noble and courageous to turn the other cheek when I have been slapped, is it equally noble and courageous to ignore when my neighbour has had his face slapped. I have been convicted by the famous quotation from Martin Niemoller about the Nazis in the Second World War – “First they came for the Jews, but I did nothing because I’m not a Jew. Then they came for the socialists, but I did nothing because I’m not a socialist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I did nothing because I’m not a Catholic. Finally, they came for me, but by then there was no one left to help me.” I have always been troubled by the passage in Ecclesiastes 3 that tells us there is a time for peace but also a time for war. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has suddenly made me re-examine my pacifism.

I was further troubled by listening to an interview with Rev. Ivan Rusyn the president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Ukraine as he discussed his pacifism. If you are interested in listening to this interview, it’s almost an hour long, you can click this link.

I hate war. I grew up in the 60s and listened to the protest music of that time. Buffy Sainte Marie’s Universal Soldier is till one of my all-time favourites. But what about now? What about Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? Can I ignore the men, women and children who are dying by just saying “I’m praying for you? God will look after you.” Is there more that I can do? Is there more that Canada and the rest of the world can do? Neville Chamberlain, then Prime Minister of Great Britain tried to pacify Adolph Hitler and signed a treaty with him to keep the world at peace. We know what the result was of Chamberlain trying to buy off the German dictator – WWII. As I have thought and prayed, I see my position evolving. While I still hate war I am coming to the place where I have to admit that there is indeed a time for war. But when is that? I have been helped by early theologian and church father Augustine of Hippo who propagated the theory of Just War. There is danger in accepting this position as human beings always seem to be looking for a loophole, a way of circumventing the intent of a doctrine to justify our own selfish ends. I want to briefly look at this theory and then pose a question.

Here are the seven criteria for Just War.

1) Just cause – The reasons for going to war need to be just, and can’t be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong. In addition, innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.

2) Comparative justice – While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other.

3) Legitimate authority – Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war.

4) Right intention – Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.

5) Probability of success – Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.

6) Last resort – Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.

7) Proportionality – The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.

It goes on to delineate how such a war should waged including not targeting civilians. I am now much closer to this position than I am to my former pacifist one. I submit these thoughts for your scrutiny and correction. Please send me your thoughts and comments.

Now for my question. I want us to think about wars of our recent past and I would like you to let me know if you think they have been just then I want to mention another situation that didn’t result in military action and ask if it should have. Was World War II a just war? What about the invasion of Iraq? I have read Romeo D’Allaire’s book Shake Hands with The Devil and I would like to ask, “Should the United Nations have intervened militarily on behalf of the endangered Tutsis?”

Some troubling questions but God has promised He would never leave us nor forsake us. In the midst of these troubling time, Keep the Son in Your Eyes.

2 thoughts on “Pacifism

  1. Wayne McLaren

    Pacifism sounds good and it sounds good on the surface. If a person enters my house and is goin t do harm to my wife, I will use whatever forse necessary to stop the aggression. I don’t see how a true pasifist can be a policeman, and I sure want them. Putin is a big intruder to do harm. The only diference is it is on a bigger scale the intruder in my house. My uncle went to fight in WWII, He went with the intent of stopping Hitlers agression. His intent was to take over the world. My uncle’s intention wasn’t to go kill Germans, but did. Noviolent resistene is going to stop Putin. So do pacofists let others do whats nessary to stop him. If the agression is against me personally because of my faith them I am a pasifist.

  2. Len Post author

    Wayne, thank you for your very thoughtful comments. Rev. Rusyn said it very well when he said that it is easy to be a pacifist when your country isn’t under attack. As I said in my post, I am moving much more toward the Augustinian Just War Theory. Because of the sinfulness of humanity unfortunately there is indeed a time for war. See you Tuesday.


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