Radical pacifism is alive and well in the United States. Behind a great deal of opposition to every war there are those who genuinely believe the New Testament obligates them to non-participation in armed conflict. I have great respect for such conviction, found particularly in the Anabaptist tradition. I once seriously considered this position myself, in my late teens, and have friends who truly hold this ethical stance out of loyalty to Christ as Lord.
But I have serious reservations about the more popular kinds of pacifism that stir up “antiwar” and “peace protests” in our present context. If these views had been dominant in the 1940s I am convinced that Nazism would have swept Europe. If they had been dominant in the 1950s and 1960s Communism would have prevailed in the world. Now that the threat to the West, and its freedoms, is militant Islam the stakes are just as high. The arguments for an antiwar stance range from a lingering commitment to unilateral disarmament all the way to naively embracing the lies that radical Islam wants peace with the West. Such pacifism seems to believe that the supreme value in life is life itself. Nothing is as sacred as life. This thinking is fatally flawed. And it is contrary to the moral stance of all civilization, especially that of Judeo-Christian culture. If life is the highest value of all then all other values are less important than a long life, a view increasingly held by self-centered Americans. Long life, by such reasoning, is better than a truly good life given in sacrifice. If there is no reality beyond this life then I suppose this thinking is acceptable but for a Christian there is much more than long life.
I thought about all this yesterday since we celebrated President’s Day, perhaps our most nondescript national holiday. (I frankly wish we would bring back Lincoln’s Day and Washington’s Day, both pushed aside by the social engineering of the 1970s!) Our first president, George Washington, understood this well when he wrote: “There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.” If we do not soon regain this kind of clear headed moral thinking we will not be able to preserve this land of liberty.