PACIFISM AND RECKLESSNESS (Simon Moyle)
[In Holy Week 2010 I was part of a group of four people who nonviolently shut down the secretive Swan Island base, a forward intelligence base for Australian SAS soldiers and ASIS agents (see http://bit.ly/a7wE3U for a report).
This is part of a post responding to subsequent accusations that obstructive actions against the war are ‘reckless’ and that pacifism is ‘idealistic’.]
If we want to talk about recklessness, let's talk about recklessness. Recklessness is invading and occupying a country against international law (there is very good reason to believe that the current occupation of Afghanistan is illegal under international law and it is currently being looked at in the UK). Recklessness is killing thousands of civilian men women and children in two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to even bring Iraq into the equation), both from starvation and direct killing (2,412 killed directly last year alone), for 8 years without public outcry.
Recklessness is millions of IDPs (internally displaced persons), constantly terrorised by the possibility that at any moment unmanned Predator drones could silently drop their deadly payload of Hellfire missiles on their house. Recklessness is militarily propping up an unrepresentative, corrupt, inept government for 8 years. Recklessness is inflaming and fuelling an internal civil war in a country you don't understand even after 8 years. Recklessness is spending almost a trillion dollars doing this to one of the poorest countries on the planet when that money could have gone to building peace.
And more than that, recklessness is being silent, ignorant, and inert in the face of all of this, particularly when your country is actively involved.
When the Camden 28 destroyed draft files during the Vietnam war, one of the defendants Father Mike Doyle said in his opening statement at the trial: "The terrible question that we will try to put before you, that lies before all of us, is simply this: who went too far? Did the military go too far by entering Vietnam and continuing in the war there for 12 years or more? Did the Camden 28 go too far in trying to stop it? Or did the FBI go too far in giving help to the defendants to make it possible in August of '71? And what does too far mean when the killing has started and you want to stop it? If we are going to be wrong or judged to be wrong, then I say it is surely more honourable to go too far to stop killing than to go too far to continue it." Amen.
Secondly, this is not about idealism, it's about faith. Faith being what we trust in to save us. Is our trust in the military to kill our enemies or in Jesus' way of loving our enemies? Do we trust in money, or democracy, or technology to save us, or in Jesus' way of radical trust in God? This is not idealism, it's the heart of the gospel, a simple matter of obedience (made more complicated by living in a world which says that money or militarism or technology or whatever else can save us - which we are too often seduced by). Christian faith is not about believing the right things - as Jesus says, even the demons believe the `right' things - but about whether we follow our Lord to the death ("if any would follow me they must deny themselves, take up their cross..."). It's those who do the will of God ("on earth as it is in heaven").
In Mark's gospel the temple cleansing (which inspired this action) is sandwiched between the cursing of the fig tree - the temple state economic system – which people religiously trusted in to be able to save them. When Jesus announces the end of that system (and prophetically sees it "wither at the roots"), and then symbolically plays out an end of that system by cleansing the temple, he reorients the life of his followers around himself as the temple. The church is to BE that body, the body of Christ, playing out Christ's life over and over again, only now we do it in the light of the resurrection.
Today there is a compelling analogy (as with all empires) between the temple state economic system and our faith in what Brueggemann calls 'technological therapeutic consumer militarism'. These things have become an objects of faith, in which we trust to save us. The Bible names this as idolatry.
So while I recognise how difficult this is in a world where the cross of Christ is "foolishness" and "weakness", I cannot see it as mere high minded idealism to be brushed away as impractical. It's pure and simple faithfulness (which I fail at time and time again but thanks to the grace of God also take up time and time again). "Belief in Jesus" is not about mere intellectual assent to a set of propositions, it's about how your life concretely demonstrates that Jesus through the cross has triumphed over death and the systems which perpetuate it.
Well that's the Christianity I'm trying to live anyway - Christianity that is truly, concretely good news to the poor and the oppressed, and to a world wallowing in a lack of imagination. The world desperately needs the church to be true to its Lord so it can see that another way is not just possible or necessary, but is already here.
Grace and peace,