Friday, May 26, 2006

Lessons from Mahatma Gandhi

My wife and I just got through watching "Gandhi", and it really has got me thinking about violence, war, and pacifism. Bare with me, I am partially venting, but just partially. You are allowed to disagree here, and I would love to hear your reasons why.

It really amazes me how history can repeat it self so many times in the forms of war and how little we learn from it each time. Was there ever a war started for reasons outside of revenge for something? We always feel we have to "pay someone back" for the wrong they have inflicted, which of course brings them to the same reaction. It amazes me how much we have so bastardized the word "justice" that it looks just like "revenge". How can two things that should be so opposite become one in the same?

I use to believe there was a time for war, for defense or to protect those who don't have the ability to do so. But, in the last few years I have moved farther into pacifism. I don't understand how some many people who follow a savior who said to turn to your enemies your other cheek, the one who said love your enemies as yourself, the one showed us the ultimate example of how we are to be during our time on this earth, how can these same people be in support of war of any kind.

Don't get me wrong, we should absolutely fight for the rights of others, we should fight for social change, for justice, for the least of these, for the truth. As Christians we are called to fight for these things. Gandhi fought his whole life, he fought to his death. The results are a free India. But he never took a life. Why do we have this idea that to truly get make the world a better place for all people we have to kill people? How does taking life do anything but perpetuate the cycle of revenge that started with Cain and Able?

We are all made in the image of God, we all posses the ability to be creative, and I believe we are called to be creative in all that we do. War and violence are absolutely the least creative solutions for any problem. After much thought, I firmly believe that violence has absolutly no place.

Here are some quotes from Gandhi:

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"

And just to be safe, these are some things I DID NOT say in this post:
"You can not be a Christian if you are in the military"
"You can not be a Christian if you support war"
"Supporting our troops is the same as supporting war"
"George W. Bush is going to hell"
"Gandhi is perfect"


Brandon Hill said...

the film Gandhi is such a great film, it's no wonder it received the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.

war sucks.

Arthur said...

No comments are personal, just thoughts!

I am not for war, BUT as you said we all fight for what we believe. The fight happens in different ways. God fought for us that he even gave up his son to a cross in pure humiliation.

What are we fighting for should be the real question. Are we fighting for peace, for oil, or for power, for a better world or just a better America etc?

We live a life of warfare and if you don't believe this then are you really living?

The Bible itself has many stories of war . . . I am reminded of David and Goliath. Was David right to go out and take him on? Should he have just gone out and said peace be with you?

What would you suggest doing after 9/11? (going into Iraq was wrong in my opinion)

J.R. said...

These are good questions Chad. I Don't know if I have "the" answers but I can tell you my opinion on these things.

I do beleive we need to fight for things, but I don't beleive that "fighting" has to be through war or even violence. Look at Gandhi for example, he is the reason India is a nation, yet he never fought using violence, just what he though was right. I beleive that if you are fighting using violence and war all you are doing is perpetuating the cycle.

You say "we live a life of warfare" but spiritual warfare is not fought with violnce it is fought with truth. The casualities of this war are those we fail to reach with peace and truth.

The Bible does mention war, God calls nations into war. But Christ died to save the world from God's judgement. I don't beleive God has a war to fight any longer. "It is finished". Our judgement now comes at the end of our life on earth. Show me one place in the bible post crucifiction where God calls someone to raise a hand against another.

As for 9/11, we can say all day that it makes sense to retaliate, but that is not what the Bible calls us to do, infact it says the oposite, to turn the other cheak. Nobody wants to hear that, but as Christians I don't think we have any other choice.

~ jessica said...

JR, I think even as a nation we have no choice but to turn the other cheek, Christian or otherwise. I'm not even sure I believed retaliation was the answer while the Twin Towers were falling, but I certainly do not think it's the answer now.

With retaliation I think we perpetuate the image so many other countries have of the US. If we are going to claim to want democracy and peace for the world, we need to find a way to live it.

Your wife has so many times said that if people would just live what they believe, what an amazing place this country could be. And this world. I'm not sure what the answer is to the zealots who blow themselves up in the hope of taking a few innocents with them because of bigotry and centuries of hatred, but I believe she is right. If we could only learn to live what we claim to believe, how nice we could be to one another. And how much less frequently would anyone think retaliation was the answer.

flyseller said...

I truly do not believe that Christ would have us be completely non-violent in our stance against evil in the world.

Satan would like nothing more than for us to take that posture. He would win big and quickly if we didn't fight back.

Some time ago I was in Africa with a group of people from our church. Gary Bayer went on to a small village in the south of Sudan.

Upon his arrival the missionary he was visiting told an incredible story.

A few weeks prior a band of raiders from a neighboring tribe were poised to attack the village where he was living. The missionary knew that they were out in the darkness - he could hear them - but he did not know what to do. He wanted desperatly to protect the villagers and his family.

Finally in desperation he got all the lanterns in the village and had his friends and family light them and place them all around their encampment. Then he told all the men to get their swords, knives and sticks.

Next, he and his friends, went out to stand before the raiders. With knees knocking and hearts pounding they stood against all that the darkness was hiding.

The attack never came!

Some time later he met one of the raiders and asked why, when they had such superior numbers, they did not attack that night. The raiders reply was, "we were afraid for our lives. Never had we seen so many warriors, so many warriors dressed in flaming bright white robes."

The missionary was completely dumb founded. He had not seen the many warriors but the enemy surly had.

God works in mysterious ways...but it took a very anxious missionary and many villagers scared unto death, who choose to stand up to the raiders, praying all the while, before God could or would do His mighty work.

J.R. said...

This is an enteresting example, but it was a non-voilent "fight". I have no problem with that.

I don't beleive that Satan wins when we choose God's way no matter what it looks like. I do beleive Satan wins when we sink to his level and use his ways.

I would like someone to show me one place after the death of Christ in the bible where God commands a nation or an idividule into violence (I am talking about killing people here). God commanded violence in the OT as a means of His judgement, I don't beleive we live under that until our final judgement, Christ freed us from that. Killing when not brought by God is nothing more then murder.

I don't know if we will ever agree on this but thats okay, thanks for discussing with me.

Mamamax said...

Wow, I've been enjoying this exchange! Couldn't decide whose blog to respond to, yours or Michael's, because my thoughts are from his 1st response as well as your last.

I agree with you JR, no where is there a place post crucifixion that God commands us to kill people for any reason. Reconciling the OT with the NT is difficult. What do you keep and what was done away with in Christ’s death. For instance: isn’t tithing an OT directive? As well as keeping the Sabbath? I believe we have to use discernment through the Holy Spirit to decide.

You make a wonderful point in wanting to emulate Christ’s life and example. He did not defend himself when it came time to go to the cross and even stopped Peter! I’m not sure I know but here are a couple of things to think about.

1. Jesus used violence when he drove out the money changers and that was to defend others.
2. On the cross He used a weapon (his total surrender to death) that ultimately meant that Satan would be condemned to a lake of fire for eternity. He knew who his enemy was and choose to allow Rome and the Jews to kill him to accomplish his goal: annihilation of the enemy who has destroyed His creation, His people, His children. He defended His own. True He was non-violent in his treatment of the people but what was he in the spiritual realm? If He comes back as prophesied doesn’t He return as a conquering hero?

Thanks JR for sharing your thoughts. I really didn’t know how you came to your conclusions. I respect your reasons and reasoning. They challenge me to examine my own.


If you trust God to protect you and yours, as I do believe He does, why do you lock your doors? You see I struggle with this. If Michael’s home I don’t bother; if he is gone I lock up. Go figure. Guess I’m just human. 

J.R. said...

In reguards to the OT, NT difrences you have to keep in-mind what Christ actually did on the cross. He died to take our place, to face God's judgement on us for Himself, thus allowing us our lifetimes to decide to follow Him, to accept His free gift before the time we have to face God's judgement. In the old testimate God sends people and nations into war to carry out His judgement. He does not do that anymore because Christ has taken it all for us. God's judgement now comes at the end of our lives for those who have no accepted the free pass. In reguards to tythe, what Christ did on the cross didn't change that all of what we have belongs to Him.

Christ's "violence" in the temple was standing up for God, and I would not call turing over tables and driving people out the same kind of violence I am talking about here. He did not kill anyone.

Spiritual warfare is not the same.

Our pastor gave a great sermon on his subject this weekend, I will see if I can get that from him and send it to you guys. Thanks for your comments. I hope that my tone on here doesn't come across wrong, it's hard for me in writen word to have these discussions without sounding snipy

Monkeyfodder said...

Its great to hear all of your thoughts. I'll have to think for awhile and then I'll write some comments. I have been meaning to watch Gandhi.

Charlie said...

1. Gandhi is one of the best films I've ever seen. Each time I watch it I am challenged to be a better Christian. Surely Gandhi is an amazing example of what it is to live a Christ-like life.

2. I must disagree with flyseller's statement that Christ would not want us to be non-violent in response to the world and that Christian pacifism actually gives satan reason for joy.

To say that "Satan would win big" if Christians were non-violent is to measure sucess by the worlds terms of power and domination rather than by faithfulness to Christ. The martyrs in Revelation are praised for their steadfast obedience to God and for not resorting to the tools of the enemey, which include war and violence.

If we're going to talk about Christian ethics we have to take Jesus seriously, that means the sermon on the mount, it means looking at his own non-violent life in the face of Roman evil and oppression. These things are not inconsequential. Jesus is relevant! Saying that Satan wants Christians to be pacifists is like Republicans telling people that Osama bin Laden would vote for John Kerry, it skips past theology and even Jesus to get a gut reaction from people.