After the "God and Guns" panel in February, a group of small group coordinators wanted to continue the conversation by creating the “Is Jesus a Pacifist?” panel. The panel was more theology based than “God and Guns.” During the panel, audience members texted questions to a number projected behind the panelists. The panelists were sophomore Andrew Langbehn, Provost Carol Simon and Director of Church Engagement Terry McGonigal. Langbehn served in the military for six and a half years and since then his position on pacifism has evolved. He went into the military in 2008. In the military he had an identity crisis, but Christ became his identity which changed his perspective, Langbehn said.
“As a Christian I had to look hard at what I was participating in and see if that was for the interest of America or actually for the global human interest,” Langbehn said.
Langbehn accepted principles of Just War theory without knowing it when faced with operations and tasks, he said.
Just War theory was a practice used by early Christians to determine whether a war was just. Some principles of the theory included determining if military involvement was necessary to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people and if nothing else could solve conflict.
He had to come to terms with whether he was trying to put an end to the violence or furthering the violence, Langbehn said.
“In my position I would say use the just war theory,” Langbehn said. “And principles of that to approach situations, to approach wars.”
Simon agreed with Langbehn’s use of the Just War theory but said she doubts someone can know if they are using it correctly.
Just War theory was developed as a way for Christian leaders to know when and how they should seek military solutions to conflict, Simon said. In most times, however, people had no choice whether or not to participate in the military.
“As a Christian I find the view of that I will call modern military pacifism compelling,” Simon said. “As an ordinary citizen I have no way of knowing if officials have tried every other way.”
McGonigal recalled his discussion with a friend of his who is a military chaplain who had been involved in multiple combat situations. There is a lot of violence in the Bible and some justifies violence, McGonigal said. The military chaplain said that Christians who think in the way that the culture has given them is frustrating because it creates a binary thinking, McGonigal said.
In Joshua 5, before the people of Israel escape oppression in Egypt, Joshua is leading the people across. When he sees someone holding a sword, Joshua asks “are you with us or against us or are you for us?”, McGonigal said. The person responds with “Neither. I am the commander of the army of the lord”.
“Joshua came with a binary,” McGonigal said. “Are you with us or against us?”
Sophomore Clare Newell found the perspectives from the panelists on the relationship between violence, pacifism and Jesus interesting.
“The stories and personal anecdotes from what they’ve learned from other people was really interesting,” Newell said. “Particularly, I liked the story McGonigal shared of how Mennonites define pacifism a little bit differently.”
Sophomore Eric Espinoza said his biggest takeaway was that there were lots of references to violence in the Bible.
“We’re talking a lot [in Nonviolent Defense] about how love fosters movements for change. If you go based on love, you can change a person’s heart. The idea that Jesus Christ faced so much and suffered is interesting. He could have defended himself but he didn’t, he didn't avoid it because he knew in order to teach his people [his oppressors] he needed to endure torment.”
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