The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised some interesting questions for Christian pacifists.
I think that all Christians, including myself, like to think that we are pacifists; that we abhor violence and war to such an extent that we would never take up arms or support those who do.
That is the comfortable position afforded those who are not under direct attack. When we, ourselves, are facing that kind of attack or when we witness innocent people who are (such as in Ukraine), that position is sorely tested.
To be sure, being opposed to war is never a bad thing. The trouble is that, in this case, there isn’t really a war between Russia and Ukraine because Ukraine has no ambitions in Russia. It is a country singularly dedicated to defending itself against an unprovoked invasion. It is a country in which civilians are being specifically targeted at hospitals, apartments, and schools. Russia is not facing any attacks. So there aren’t two “warring parties.” There is a sadistic bully and an under-matched victim.
From a faith perspective, then, is it reasonable to call for non-violence? When it comes to the invaders, the answer is obviously yes; although they will not heed this call. But what about those defending their homes and country? Can I, as a Christian, call for them to disarm and be non-violent? I don’t think I can because it is not my place to pass judgment on what they deem to be the acceptable way to defend themselves.
And what about the international community? I have found it amazing that titles play such a pivotal role in all of this. That is, because Ukraine does not bear the title of a “NATO member,” it receives comparatively little military support.
There are those who think this is a good thing and those who think it is a bad thing. Those who are grateful that Ukraine is not a NATO member see this as a natural pressure valve to avoid a direct conflict with a nuclearized Russia. Others feel that the lack of this title renders Ukraine in an untenable situation while allowing the world to be bystanders who watch as thousands are slaughtered; held in this position out of fear of the weapons of mass destruction that the deranged bully holds.
Clearly, there is no easy, clear, or faithfully obvious way forward.
Pacifism will always be essential because without it, warmongers have no counterbalance. The difficult reality is, however, that history teaches us that fascism, totalitarianism, and terrorism practiced by the likes of Hitler and Putin are not stopped by pacifism.
Consequently, while walking a very careful line, more must be done to support and defend Ukraine; not only because of what it stands for but because of what we stand for.
The peace and silence of a destroyed Ukraine is no peace at all. It only gives license for more of the same.
See you in church,