The Better Side of Pacifism, As Seen in a New Movie

blog10-17-featurePacifism can be understood in various ways. In one way it is the refusal to engage in any violent or armed conflict. In this sense, it is a refusal to take part in a certain kind of battle. This sort of pacifism has little appeal and comes off as unrealistic at best and cowardly at worst.

But there is another understanding of pacifism: actively resisting evil in a nonviolent way. With this sort of pacifism one does engage in the battle, but paradoxically. Clearly, Jesus engaged in His final showdown with Satan in this manner. He refused to enter Satan’s world and use his tactics. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. Pride cannot drive out pride; only humility can do that. The Lord engaged in the battle and won the victory by being the Lord; He was victorious on His terms, not Satan’s.

There are certain people gifted to engage in battle in this way and we usually recognize their genius only later. We also revere soldiers and police of the more traditional sort, who at the risk of their own lives go forth to defend against the violent assaults of a dangerous foe. The point is to engage in the battle, to resist evil and stop its advance.

I have not seen the movie promoted in this trailer, but of all the trailers I have seen, this one does the best job of exemplifying the better understanding of pacifism: active resistance to evil.

4 Replies to “The Better Side of Pacifism, As Seen in a New Movie”

  1. “Peace is not pacifism; it does not mask a base and slothful concept of life, but it proclaims the highest and most universal values of life: truth, justice, freedom, love.”
    – Paul VI, First World Day of Peace

    “Even if dictatorship and totalitarianism temporarily suppress the complaint of exploited and oppressed human beings, the just person clings to the conviction that nothing can justify this violation of the rights of man; he has the courage to intercede for others who suffer and he refuses to surrender in the face of injustice, to compromise with it; and likewise, however paradoxical it may appear, the person who deeply desires peace rejects any kind of pacifism which is cowardice or the simple preservation of tranquillity. In fact those who are tempted to impose their domination will always encounter the resistance of intelligent and courageous men and women, prepared to defend freedom in order to promote justice.”
    – John Paul II, XVII World Day of Peace

    “The Eucharistic root of the Christian’s work for peace will keep him safe from two grave temptations in this respect. That of utopic pacifism, on the one hand, and that of a type of Realpolitik on the other, which considers war inevitable.”
    – XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

  2. It took me 2+ decades to understand that accepting anything from the enemy -including the rules of engagement- meant I’d already lost.

    As you say, God wins on His own terms, and we need to follow His example and His rules if we want to negate evil rather than contribute to the cycle of hatred and violence.

    Viva Cristo Rey!

  3. For those who are skeptical of the power of nonviolent resistance, I would encourage you to pay attention to the research which has emerged in the last decade showing that organized non-violent resistance is far more effective than armed resistance in combating violence and injustice. You might start by listening to a talk by professor Erica Chenowith who has studied this topic extensively:
    long version:
    short version:

    This research must certainly factor into our evaluation of whether the jus ad bellum criteria for just war have been fulfilled. One of those criteria is that war must be a last resort (that all non-violent means of resolving the conflict have been exhausted). Chenowith and others show that there are often more non-violent means of responding to injustice, violence, and repression than we tend to assume.

    Remember the witness of some of the remarkable non-violent saints who refused to bear arms any longer as a result of their Christian faith. St. Martin of Tours, pray for us! St. Marcellus, pray for us! St. Maximilian, pray for us!

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