I’ve had this post in me for months. Nearly a year actually. This post seeks to re-look at pacifism in light of what freedom, justice, peace, and solidarity are. This is in one way, the next logical step for my study in theological language: a series of definitions. This is to show that the real discussion around violence and non-violence is about how to properly understand the language that shapes us and the categories that constitute the discourse, rather than simply shouting louder or moralizing one’s desires.
Freedom: Christian freedom is the space and power provided by the Christian community (and God) to be and do the things your Christian community (and God) needs or asks of you. In short, freedom is not about choice, but the recognition that the subject is constituted by the community and the word freedom encapsulates the desires, goals, or telos that the community calls the member to seek. In Christianity, this is love because the community is formed by, and therefore called to, love. Importantly, this is not a tame love. This love will show itself throughout the rest of this post. It is not safe, but it is good.
Justice: Christian justice seeks to holistically set relationships aright. Justice is to take people and their problematic relationships — out of their imbalance, abuse, and brokenness — and to transform/heal people and their relationships that they may flourish. Justice is redemption work. It is reconciliation work.
Solidarity: Christian solidarity is not representative; rather, it is choosing to live with the marginalized and seeking to empower the voice of those who have been silenced. Solidarity is a partisan justice: justice that seeks the good for the hurt and hurt-er alike by propping up the victim while calling into question the victimizer (who is killing them-self as well).
Peace: Christian peace is living out and participating in the continuing redemption by God through grace and love. Peace is not the silencing of parties, instead it is altering the very logic or fabric of life as we know it. The outcome is that swords are turned into plowshares. We live peacefully and hope for true peace at the end of things where everything is made new.
I believe I am right when I say Love is the Movement (of Freedom, Justice, Reconciliation, and Solidarity) because love is the action that knits us back together in the face of rupture. Love exists in a separate economy, with grace, rather than an economy of bargain and the self. In fact, love must exist in its own way because it is clear that the status quo revels in death at its telos and its method. Love brings us out of the cycle of death and into a new way of relating to one another; love brings us into the freedom of the Christian community. Only in love, then, can justice, solidarity, and peace be realized because they exist in a different economy than self-serving power. Thus a crucial characteristic of this love is its universality. It is not selective. It is not exclusive. It demands nothing, but is for all. In this way, love is embodied as a pure gift. It is by its very definition: grace.
Also love inspires hope in the darkest of times. Despite the threat of death, love exposes the negative poverty of death. With love acting as love, rather than converting over to the economy of death, love stays true. With love as the key or method to true, holistic reconciliation, it must embody from where it comes: the kenotic, divine economy. Thus to live out the Christian freedom is to identify with Christ. To live the Christ love is to embody Christ.
So why say all this about subjects that seem to have little affect on why violence is problematic? Violence is problematic because it runs contrary to the Christological-biblical life I have just laid out. Simply, the Christian life is a life of change from one way of life to another, from one economy to another. The new hope we have — the Christological hope we live — is that the past does not have to rule the present, nor does the past have to command the future. Come what may, the Christian life is a work of love that seeks to mend people together, not enable people to make others disappear from sight. The Christian life seeks to make visible all who have been made invisible so that all may live well together.
Thus the Christian life has no room for the actions of violence and war because it has no room for the economy of death. In fact, the Christian life not only says that we will not make you die for our desires, but also that we shall seek to help you and die if necessary in the process because the Christian economy is the Christ love for all.