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~ A DEFENSE OF CHRISTIAN PACIFISM ~

A RESPONSE TO FATHER JOSIAH TRENHAM’S CRITICISM OF THE PACIFIST POSITION

By GEBRE MENFES KIDUS

Introduction
In defending Christian pacifism, I have sometimes been accused (and I believe unfairly so) of being disrespectful to Orthodox Priests who disagree with this philosophy. So I want to make it clear at the outset that I honor Father Josiah Trenham as an Orthodox Christian Priest, and therefore I will do my best to present this refutation in a respectful Christian manner. Sometimes bluntness is erroneously mistaken for rudeness, and I hope that those who read and hear this message will not fall prey to such a misunderstanding. Priests are fallible human beings with fallible human opinions. And as with all fallible human opinions, the personal views of Priests are also susceptible to examination and rebuttal. My own opinions certainly warrant equal scrutiny, and therefore I submit them to the correction and reproof of Orthodox Christian doctrine. I would also like to say that while I have profound disagreement with Father Josiah on this particular topic, I nevertheless appreciate his solid Orthodox teachings on many other subjects. Most of all, I truly appreciate his Orthodox Christian commitment to opposing the evil of abortion and affirming the life and dignity of the unborn child. I wish that more Orthodox Priests were as outspoken on this issue as he is.

Part I: Defining Pacifism and Dispelling a False Dichotomy
Father Josiah’s talk is titled: “Jesus: Peacemaker Not Pacifist” To begin with, it’s very important that we define the meaning of pacifism. There are actually various degrees and interpretations of

pacifism. Webster’s Dictionary defines pacifism as “the belief that it is wrong to use war or violence to settle disputes; opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; specifically a refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds; 2) an attitude or policy of nonresistance” There are many degrees of pacifism and various interpretations of its definition and application. So I will only speak for my own view of pacifism, which I define as “the Christian imperative to actively oppose injustice and evil always and only with nonviolent principles and methods.” The power of Christian pacifism derives from the fact that it is Christian. The Christian pacifist rejects the violent methods of the “god of this world,” i.e. Satan (II Corinthians 4:4) and relies upon the spiritual weapons issued to us by God Himself. As St. Paul writes in Ephesians 6 : “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girded with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” [Ephesians 6:10-18] You see, Christian pacifism is not a feckless idealism that imagines that injustice and evil will vanish if we simply wish it away. The Christian

pacifist is a soldier in this spiritual war, and he confronts evil with the militancy of prayer, love, and sacrificial nonviolent intervention. So the fundamental problem with Father Josiah’s argument is that his entire premise is based upon a straw man, a gross mischaracterization of the Christian pacifist position. Father Josiah presents pacifism as synonymous with apathy and cowardice. But there was certainly nothing apathetic or cowardly about the nonviolent sacrificial actions of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And there was nothing apathetic or cowardly about the pacifism of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – men who gave their very lives in the nonviolent struggle to confront and redress the great social injustices of their time. Father Josiah has made the same mistake that most people make when they reject pacifism. He has confused Christian pacifism with a mentality of apathetic indifference to sin, evil, injustice and oppression. And this is a very unfortunate misconception, a misconception that I hope to correct with this humble and sincere response. First let me address the title of Father Josiah’s talk: “Jesus: Peacemaker not Pacifist.” The title is problematic because it presents a false dichotomy between pacifism and peacemaking. Pacifism is the unconditional commitment to nonviolence, and one cannot violently make peace. Violence can no more establish peace than theft can establish honesty. The simple fact is that it is impossible to make peace with somebody that you kill. It’s fine to philosophize and theorize about strong armies protecting national peace. But the grim realities of such militant “protection” reveal that the ostensible peace which violence provides is really no peace at all. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “True peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice.” And nowhere is this truth more tragically evident than in the United States of America. We have the strongest military in the world, but it does nothing more than protect a superficial peace that obfuscates the violence of hunger, homelessness, poverty and abortion. Strong armies don’t provide and

protect the peace; they only preserve a façade of peace that makes the masses believe that their own manufactured violence is “law and order.”

Part II: A Point by Point Rebuttal
Now, let’s examine some of Father Josiah’s statements point by point: 1. Father Josiah asks, “Is there any spirit today that is unmolested by this nonsense of extreme pacifism?” With all due respect, I’m not sure what world Father Josiah is living in. When I look at our world, I see rampant violence and discord everywhere. The spirit of warfare, division, sin, and oppression permeates the globe. Rather than extreme pacifism, I see extreme violence. In fact, violence is so prevalent that even the unborn child in the womb is not safe. The one realm of earthly existence where peace should be certain – the mother’s womb – has become perhaps the least safe place of all. So to answer Father Josiah’s question… yes, the evil spirit of violence is all too prevalent and all too pervasive. I pray for the Spirit of pacifism to come quickly. But the Holy Spirit is not a molester; His peace is a choice that must be volitionally embraced. 2. Father Josiah says, “We live in a plague of pacifism.” Now, as I stated at the outset, I’m sure Father Josiah really means to say that we live in plague of cowardice. Surely he does not really mean that we live in a world plagued with peace and nonviolence. And surely he does not view peace as a “plague.” But again I point out that he is erroneously confusing Christian pacifism with apathetic indifference to injustice and evil. The reality is that we don’t live in a plague of pacifism; we live in a world plagued with violence. He goes on to say, “The Church has been plagued throughout her history with a false spirit of pacifism.”

That is a very troubling statement, because the Church honors and venerates countless Saints who submitted themselves to torture and martyrdom without violently defending themselves or others. Surely these Saints were not led by a “false spirit.” Surely they are not to be condemned as cowards because they refused to injure or slay their oppressors. God forbid that we should insinuate such a thing! 3. Father Josiah then states, “The pacifist believes that Christ conquered evil by submitting to evil on its own terms.” This may be the most egregious misrepresentation of Christian pacifism that I’ve ever heard. Christian pacifism is not apathetic and passive acceptance of evil. Our Lord’s sacrificial and atoning death on the Cross was the antithesis of submission to evil on its own terms. In fact, Christ confronted evil on His terms, not the devil’s. Our Lord refused to submit to the ideology of violence which dictates the retributive principle of “measure for measure.” He refused to meet hate with hate. He refused to confound the calumniators with calumny. He refused to fight political powers with political machinations. He refused to destroy the lives of others in order to preserve His own. By refusing to bow to evil, by refusing to acquiesce with evil, and by refusing to combat evil with the methods of evil, Our Lord provided salvation to all men and redeemed the entire world. The Christian pacifist simply seeks to follow Our Lord’s example to the best of our ability. The pacifist confronts evil directly and says: “I refuse to allow you to dictate the terms of engagement. Do to me what you will, but I will not respond in kind. I will meet your violence with peace and your hate with love. I will resist your temporal evil with the weapons of eternal good. And even as you seek to destroy my life, I will seek to win your soul.” As St. John Chrysostom said, “Our warfare is to make the dying live, not to make the living die.”

4. Father Josiah goes on to say: “The pacifist believes that Christ’s mandate to turn the other cheek means not resisting evil and allowing evil to do whatever it wants.” Once again, this statement could not be further from the truth. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not believe in allowing evil to do whatever it wanted. Instead, Dr. King was compelled by the teachings and example of Christ to confront evil head on and declare, “Thou shall not!” He preached, marched, agitated, and offered up his very life in resisting evil. But he resisted evil nonviolently, lovingly, and only with the weapons and power of the Holy Spirit. And his pacifist resistance not only helped to change unjust laws, but it also changed hearts and minds. 5. Father Josiah emphatically declares: “Unfortunately today, our Orthodox Churches are filled with pacifists. Filled!” In the six years since I have been a baptized Orthodox Christian, I have yet to meet another Orthodox Christian pacifist face to face. I have over 3,000 Facebook friends, most of whom are Orthodox Christians, and I would estimate that less than 5% of them are avowed pacifists. So I am simply baffled by Father Josiah’s statement here. I would love for him to tell me where these Orthodox Churches are that are filled with pacifists. I should like to send a letter of gratitude and encouragement to their priests and parishioners. For I continue to search for a solidarity of nonviolent Christian consciousness within my beloved Orthodox community. 6. Father Josiah also takes a thinly veiled swipe at the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, a wonderful ministry that embraces and promotes the Orthodox patristic concept of the “consistent Life ethic.” He remarks, “We have this or that so-called ‘Peace Fellowship’ claiming to represent the Church, censuring the godly use of force at all.”

This statement is both unfair and inaccurate. It is unfair because it insinuates that the Orthodox Peace Fellowship is not really a fellowship of peace, but only a “so-called” peace fellowship. I have no idea why Father Josiah feels the need to malign and impugn the Orthodox Peace Fellowship in this manner. And his statement is inaccurate because as I have already repeatedly stated – and will continue to reiterate throughout this refutation – Christian pacifism does not reject the godly use of force, but instead relies on the use of godly force. And the godly force that has been sanctioned for us as Christians is not the carnal force of violence, destruction, and killing. Godly force most certainly involves tremendous struggle, suffering, and self-sacrifice – but it does not involve the deliberate destruction of human beings created in God’s holy image. As the angel declared to Zechariah the Prophet, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit declares the Lord God Almighty.” [Zechariah 4:6] 7. Father Josiah also invokes the examples of Old Testament Saints as justification for the use of violence today. This is a common argument levied against the Christian pacifist. People will argue that since David killed Goliath, since the Israelites slaughtered pagan nations, and since Elijah slew the prophets of Baal, then violence is also acceptable for the Christian as well. But there are some serious fallacies with this argument. For example, if the violent actions of Old Testament Saints is our model for behavior today, then why not take up arms and slaughter abortionists? Certainly we could save countless innocent unborn lives if we did so. Why not burn witches at the stake and kill the false prophets of our own day and time? If the militancy of the Old Testament Saints is our standard, then we are most certainly failing miserably in our Christian duty. But of course the reality is that as Christians our standard and model of behavior is Christ Himself. We must ask how Our Lord responded to injustice and evil. We must ask how Our Lord responded to violence

and oppression. In the debate over to kill or not to kill, the paramount question for the Christian is simply this: “When Christ and His disciples walked upon the earth, facing violent opposition and witnessing tremendous oppression, did they respond with violence and killing?” And the clear and simple answer is a resounding and unequivocal no! We must understand that Christ came to fulfill the law and the prophets. (St. Matthew 5:17) St. Paul writes that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) Just as we no longer need to offer animal sacrifices to atone for our sins, likewise we no longer need to injure and kill. Christ has liberated us from reliance upon weapons of fleshly destruction. He has commissioned us with spiritual weapons that are imbued with eternal power. (Ephesians 6) Our souls are redeemed by Him, and therefore we do not need to preserve our earthly lives by any means necessary. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. (Isaiah 54:17) Though our bodies may be destroyed, nothing can destroy our souls. The Christian is not enslaved to the antiquated law of “an eye for an eye.” In St. John 13:34 Our Lord gives His disciples a new commandment: “A new command I give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” Christ is our Commander in Chief, and His orders are clear: “Put away your sword.” [St. Matthew 26:52] “Do not repay evil with evil.” [I Peter 3:9] “Turn the other cheek.” [St. Matthew 5:39] “Love your enemies and bless those that persecute you.” [St. Luke 6:28] 8. Father Josiah says, “Lots of Christians today see no place for the use of firmness or force in any sphere of life at all. Many say that you should never even spank your own children.”

I actually agree with Father Josiah’s statement here. There are many professing Christians today who unfortunately fail to stand up to evil, who fail to defend Christian truth, and who fail to discipline their children. But such failures are in no way reflective or indicative of the Christian pacifist position. The greatest Christian pacifist of the 20 th century – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – was a man who opposed evil, defended the Gospel, and by most accounts certainly disciplined his own children. 9. Father Josiah brings up the tragic situation of Christian persecution in Syria. He says that according pacifists, “evidently the only appropriate response when violently attacked by Muslim Jihadis is to run, hide, or die.” I will respond to this by first saying that there are never any easy answers in such horrific situations. Whether one espouses pacifism or some form of “just war” doctrine, the reality is that it’s all theory until we are actually confronted with such evil ourselves. It’s easy to advocate violent self-defense, and it’s easy to say “turn the other cheek.” But the nature of warfare and violence is chaotic, irrational, and unpredictable. All we can do is prayerfully prepare daily for the strength, courage, and grace to respond to violent aggression in the most Christian way possible. But I must point out that while our Christian brothers and sisters are being persecuted in Syria, Egypt, and other parts of the world, we also have brothers and sisters who are being slaughtered by the thousands, daily, right here in America. There is no greater or more unjust violence anywhere in the world than the murder of unborn innocents that occurs with impunity in our own nation. So I find it oddly inconsistent when Christians argue for justifiable violence but refuse to take up arms to defend the most defenseless members of the human race. To be quite blunt, I can’t think of anything more gutless or cowardly than demanding the right to violently defend oneself while refusing to

violently defend innocent unborn children. Of course, as a Christian pacifist, I strongly condemn the use of violence in the Pro-Life cause. I am simply pointing out what I perceive to be a glaring inconsistency and gross hypocrisy on the part of those who rationalize violence for themselves but eschew violence in defense of the unborn. When confronted with terrorism, aggression, and evil, Our Lord Jesus Christ did not run or hide. But He did die. And He did rise again. When confronted with terrorism, aggression, and evil, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not run or hide. But he did die. And as he eloquently stated, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” When confronted with the terrorism, aggression, and evil of legalized abortion, there are countless Pro-Life activists who do not run and hide. They intervene nonviolently to reach out to pregnant women in distress and to give voice to voiceless unborn children. They endure insult and injury, curses and calumnies, and oftentimes jail or imprisonment. So once again I will respectfully point out that Father Josiah has misrepresented the Christian pacifist position. We do not run; we do not hide; but we do indeed pray for the divine strength to meet hate with love, violence with peace, and death with dignity and grace. This is undoubtedly much easier said than done, but there is nothing easy or safe about the Cross. 10. Father Josiah states: “In the home, in the Church, and in the state there is a consistent drumbeat of nonresistance in the cloak of Christianity.” I think I’ve been quite clear by now that Christian pacifism is not synonymous with nonresistance. We always resist evil and injustice, but we do so only with nonviolent Christian methods. Let me also note that while the godless spirit of apathetic nonresistance may be infiltrating the home and the Church, the godless spirit of violence and killing permeates the state. From perpetual wars, to

endless executions, to the abortion of unborn babies – our government is thoroughly saturated with the demonic spirit of death and destruction. Not only does this American state not resist evil, but instead it militantly resists righteousness. Under a government that ostensibly exists to protect the good, the good constantly struggles to protect itself from the government. Perhaps Father Josiah and I have a fundamentally different view of the United States government. But that is a discussion for another day. 11. Father Josiah recounts an incident where a Pro-Life activist was violently assaulted by an enraged man who had taken a woman in to have an abortion. As the Pro-Life activist was repeatedly hit in the face, he kept saying, “There is forgiveness in Jesus. There is forgiveness in Jesus.” As he was attacked, there were other Pro-Life men who stood by watching and recorded the assault with their cell phone cameras. Father Josiah asserts that these men should have physically intervened to stop the attack. He describes a thoughtful, well planned and calculated response to such instances of aggression. But the organized defensive scenario he describes is simply not realistic. I spent three years as a Pro-Life sidewalk counselor, standing outside abortion clinics on a daily basis in order to deter women from the destructive and irrevocable decision of abortion. I can tell you that there is a spirit of darkness, hate, irrationality, and evil that pervades the atmosphere of an abortion clinic. There is nothing predictable or reasonable about what goes on there. The demonic presence is oppressively thick. I was a committed philosophical pacifist back then, as I am now. But there was one time when I failed miserably to live up to my pacifist convictions. A dear Pro-Life lady was attempting to offer post-abortive healing literature to a woman who was exiting the clinic when the woman’s boyfriend grabbed her by the arm and began to push her away. I instinctively ran down the sidewalk and shoved the man with

tremendous violence and force. And in my rage I cursed the man and raised my fist to hit him again. He ran away like a frightened rabbit. The police came. I was very fortunate that I wasn’t arrested. I felt tremendous guilt and shame. I had reacted violently, in anger, and there was nothing Christian about my actions. You see, it happened in an instant. Violence is not something that can be predictably tamed or methodically controlled. The very nature of violence is contrary to reason and order. I am fortunate that the man did not have a gun, because he may have shot me. And if I had been someone who believed in carrying a gun myself, then I may have shot him. So it’s easy for Father Josiah to lay out an ideal scenario for how such aggression should be dealt with. But these scenarios rarely jibe with reality. The Pro-Life victim Father Josiah mentions simply responded to his assailant by saying, “There is forgiveness in Jesus.” And in that particular response he demonstrated the power, truth, and nonviolent resolve of the Christian pacifist. I wish that I had been able to respond that way many years ago when I acted quite differently; but at the time I allowed my passions to overcome my Christian convictions. Violence always arises from the passions. And as Orthodox Christians we must constantly strive to subdue the passions so that our souls can experience the eternal love of God. During my years as a missionary to the unborn and their mothers, I experienced great failure and great success. I saw the depths of darkness, depravity, and despair; but I also saw many lives saved and many souls come to Christ. And as I reflect upon those difficult and tumultuous years of Pro-Life activism, I realize that the most powerful impact I had was when I was firm but humble, strong but loving, resilient but peaceful. Whenever I allowed my passions to dictate my words and actions, then I merely gave into the demonic spirit that was present. But when I remained prayerful, with my mind and heart

fixated on eternal realities, then my efforts always had a much greater impact. 12. Father Josiah states: “The courageous and lawful use of force and discipline in appropriate defense of the innocent and their property, in parenting by what Solomon calls ‘the rod,’ the use of pastoral discipline in the Church and the vigilant guarding of the Mysteries from those who are not canonically prepared to receive them, and the use in the military and law enforcement of the justifiable use of force and even warfare is absolutely biblical and Christian and loving.” The problem here is that Father Josiah intertwines legitimacy with illegitimacy. He links truth with error, although I’m sure he does so unintentionally. Once again I have to point out that the Christian pacifist is not opposed to force or discipline. As always, the issue is the type of force and the method of discipline. As a Christian pacifist I strive to defend the innocent, I strive to discipline my children, and I do my part in a lay capacity to affirm and protect the Sacramental Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. And I endeavor to do these things with vigilant nonviolence. In our home, we choose to spank our children, and some may disagree with that. But I find it absurd to equate spanking one’s children with the horrific violence that occurs in acts of war. I spank my children so that they may grow and develop as people and as Christians. That is discipline. But warfare destroys the development of lives and negates the opportunity for the killed to become Christians. War is not a Christian discipline; it is in my opinion a Christian heresy. It is easy to proclaim military violence as disciplinary and loving until you or your loved ones are on the wrong end of military violence. Then you would understand that there is nothing loving or Christian about it. 13. Father Josiah says, “The pacifistic spirit does not equal a peaceful spirit.”

Here is where I would like to take the opportunity to wholeheartedly agree with Father Josiah. It is quite possible for one to be intellectually and philosophically wed to nonviolence while remaining completely devoid of the authentic peace of Christ. This is why I always qualify my pacifism as Christian pacifism. Apart from Our Lord Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace – there will never be true peace. Even if wars ceased, poverty was eradicated, and abortion was outlawed, we still would not have peace apart from Christ Himself. We would perhaps have a world less violent (which would be wonderful), but we wouldn’t necessarily have a peaceful world. We must never confuse the absence of violence with the presence of peace. But the absence of violence is certainly a wonderful starting point. So I agree that not only is a Christ-less pacifist philosophy not synonymous with peace, but it is often quite antithetical to peace. Christian pacifism seeks to refrain from violence while actively working for peace. It is not rational to work for peace through violent methods, and it is not Christian to refrain from violence without actively laboring for justice and peace. 14. Father Josiah states: “These things go together: a soft heart, a great thirst for justice, and a courageous willingness to see it done.” Here again, I am in complete agreement with him. The heart that is molded by Christ is a soft but resilient heart, and gentle but determined heart, a loving and active heart. The disciples of Christ were courageous in their confrontation of paganism, idolatry, injustice and evil. And their courage was not the absence of fear but the willingness to preach the Gospel in spite of their fear. They willed to see the Gospel preached to all nations, and their witness cost them their lives. They were courageous, active, and willing – but they were always nonviolent. 15. Father Josiah says: “Christ has brought peace to us through His Cross. But we only have this peace in our hearts after Jesus uses His

strength to subdue us. He uses His firmness. His peace comes to us when we bow to Him as Lord and realize that He is the rightful governor of our lives and not we ourselves…. We see peace and strength together.” Amen, amen, and amen. Here is another point upon which I agree with Father Josiah. Our Orthodox theology teaches us that God honors our free will while also intervening to save us. This is one of the many holy paradoxes of our Christian Faith. We are autonomous human beings with the volitional capacity to choose good or evil, right or wrong, God or ourselves. And yet God works through His Holy Spirit to get our attention, to humble our arrogance, and to break through our hardened and obstinate hearts. But the choice is always ultimately up to us. And this only serves to affirm the Christian pacifist position. We are not God. We are not the Holy Spirit. We have no right to force others to comply and convert. Our duty is to pray, preach, love, and serve. Our duty is simply to be ambassadors for Christ. (II Corinthians 2:50) We compel with truthful witness and loving service; we don’t coerce with violence, manipulation, or militarism. Peace and strength do indeed go together. In fact, as Christian pacifists we see no separation or dichotomy between peace and strength. Peace is strength, and this truth is most powerfully proven by the Cross of Christ. 16. Father Josiah states: “The Lord also established peace between us – between man and man. He brought all men into a unity in Himself. He broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. He established His reign within us, which we call ‘His Kingdom.’ And the hallmark of that reign within the Christian heart is peace… And our mission as Christians is to take this peace out into the world.”

Yes, this is great Christian truth – to take the peace of the Gospel into all the world! And how can we bring peace while bringing the violence of bloodshed, death, and destruction? How can we prove that the peace of Christ reigns in our hearts if we engage the world with the methods of the world, fighting carnal powers with carnal weapons? St. Paul writes: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” [Romans 12:1-2] The apostle is clear: we must offer our own bodies as living sacrifices, not sacrifice the lives of others. Self-sacrifice is the true and proper worship – the antithesis of demonic paganism which exalts self-interest at the expense of the interests of others. The apostle is clear: we are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, which extols violence as an acceptable method of conflict resolution. The apostle is clear: we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which means abandoning the fleshly mindset of violent selfjustification. Christ indeed died for all men, for all the world, and therefore we are reconciled – man to God, and man to man. Therefore our enemies are merely our lost brethren who are suffering from lack of the knowledge of salvation. Our mission is to rescue their souls with the hope of the Gospel, not to negate their lives with weapons of destruction. The Christian Faith is the one authentic hope for human brotherhood and unity. And how can we achieve this brotherhood and unity if we pervert the Gospel and kill in Christ’s name?

17. Father Josiah says: “In His own human life Christ constantly resisted evil men in stern word and deed.” Yes, of course He did. And we must follow Our Lord’s example in being equally stern in word and deed. But there is a grave difference between being stern and being violent. The disciples were certainly stern in word and deed, but they did not kill. And we have no divine dispensation to live and act any differently than the apostles. We are called to be fishers of men (St. Matthew 4:19), and we cannot win souls for the Kingdom if we cut down the lives to whom those souls belong. 18. Father Josiah invokes Christ’s participation in the feast of Hanukah as evidence that He condoned violence, since Hanukah is the celebration of the Maccabees’ violent resistance to Greek polytheism and the imposition of Greek pagan life. Well, by that logic, Jesus also condoned drunkenness and prostitution since He ate and drank with prostitutes and drunkards. It is quite a stretch to infer from Our Lord’s company with soldiers, prostitutes, tax collectors, drunkards, and thieves that He condoned and blessed such activities. Jesus was a Jew, and therefore He participated in Jewish ceremonies and festivals. And yet as King of the Jews and Lord of all creation, Christ fulfilled all Old Testament laws, commandments, and customs. Everything in the Old Testament is to be understood in the light of Christ’s eternal Kingdom which has begun through the establishment of His Church. We are now citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), and Our Lord has taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” [St. Matthew 6:10] No more animal sacrifices. No more stoning of adulterers. No more putting disobedient children to death. No more slaughtering one’s enemy. No more violence and bloodshed. No more! No more! The blood of Christ has put an end to it! As He proclaimed with His dying breath, “It is finished!” [St. John 19:30]

19. Father Josiah says, “The Lord’s acquiescence at the end of His ministry to evil men and to devils was the most brilliant of all military strategies. He performed the ultimate Trojan horse. He allowed them to crucify Him so that He could crucify the power of sin and death… I have heard this argument countless times, that Christ’s ostensible nonviolence was merely a situational and pragmatic strategy that is not universally applicable for Christians today. But nothing could be further from the truth. If Our Lord’s life, teachings, and atonement were merely pragmatic actions, then why did His disciples emulate His example? Why is the New Testament full of instructions and teachings about how to take up our cross, deny ourselves, forgive our enemies, and renounce vengeance? And why does the last 2,000 years of human history bear witness to the fact that victories won with the implementation of love, truth, and nonviolence are much greater and far more lasting than temporal victories gained through violence and bloodshed? If Christ’s entire life, ministry, and atonement were merely temporary mortal strategies to be jettisoned upon His death, then surely He would have let His disciples know. Surely the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and Incarnate God would have left His followers clear instructions why we should not abide by His nonviolent example. Surely He would have spoken to the apostles through His Holy Spirit and let it be known that His crucifixion was not to be embraced as an example for us to follow. Surely the New Testament would be full of instructions on how to violently defend one’s nation, one’s family, and oneself. But this is not what we read. This is not the witness of the Word of God. Instead, the entire weight of the Gospels and New Testament epistles leads us in the total and unequivocal path of Christ. We are called to preach, to baptize, to heal, to serve, to take up our cross – and if need be – to die for others.

Father Josiah is mistaken when he states that Jesus acquiesced with evil at the end of His ministry. Our Lord never acquiesced with evil, and I believe that it’s blasphemous to assert such a thing. In sacrificing His life on the Cross, Our Lord opposed evil in the strongest way possible. His death was not a relinquishment of righteousness, it was not a concession to injustice, it was by no means an acceptance or acquiescence to the demands of hell. Instead, it was the militant, nonviolent, and spiritual defeat of sin and evil. I feel confident that Father Josiah and I actually agree on this point, but I find problems with his statement that “Jesus acquiesced to evil men and to devils at the end of His ministry.” Perhaps Father simply misspoke. 20. Father Josiah states: “The Prince of Peace is a warrior, and He establishes His peace within us by leading us in spiritual battle, by animating His own peace giving authority through the institutions which He created of the family, the Church, and the state. And to resist the use of authority in those realms under the cover of pacifism is to resist the means by which Our Lord promotes peace in this fallen world.” Our Lord is a warrior indeed, and to Him alone belongs the battle. Through the power of His Cross and with His army of angels, Christ will forever vanquish the devil and his minions. Father Josiah is absolutely correct that Christ leads us in spiritual battle. And the key word here is spiritual battle. We are Christian soldiers and Christ is our commanding officer. Our Lord has issued us spiritual weapons that are eternally efficacious. Therefore, to rely upon the feckless implements of carnal destruction is an unchristian and foolish endeavor. Why would we forsake heavenly power for earthly ammunition? Why would we trade the eternal power of the Holy Spirit for the ephemeral power of bullets and bombs? And while I agree with Father Josiah that Christ works in and through the family and the state (for in fact the omnipresent power of God is

working in all the world), it is specifically in and through His Church that our spiritual warfare will be won. The Church is the only organism that has the divine promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (St. Matthew 16:18) Satan may overcome states, nations, families, and governments – but he will not prevail against the Church. And the power of the Church abides in her Sacramental graces, not in carnal militaristic power. 21. Father Josiah concludes his talk by quoting from the 19th chapter of the Book of Revelation: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” [Revelation 19:11-16] “That is Jesus Christ,” Father Josiah says. And amen to that! That is Jesus Christ! And we are not Jesus Christ! We must come down from our own high horse and realize that Christ alone is worthy to ride the white horse of judgment and vengeance. We must subdue the vision of our passions and realize that Christ alone is worthy to have judgmental fire in His eyes. We must throw down our earthly crowns and hail the One who alone is worthy to wear the eternal diadem. We must preserve our own garments unstained with violence and acknowledge that God alone is worthy to wear vestures dipped in

blood. We must wait upon the vengeance of His heavenly armies. We must wait upon the retribution of His divine sword. We must wait upon the revelation of His rod of iron. We must acknowledge that Christ alone is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” and we are merely His servants. Let not the sheep usurp the rod of the Shepherd. Let not the subject wrest the scepter from the King. Let not the creature assume the authority of the Creator. Let God alone separate the wheat from the tares. I find it interesting that in quoting from Revelation, Father Josiah failed to quote Revelation 12:19: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Throughout the New Testament, Our Lord and His apostolic authors make it clear that violence, wrath, and divine retribution belong to God alone. When man presumes authority over life and death, he replicates the sin of Lucifer who attempted to ascend higher than God Himself. God alone retains the authority to create life and destroy life. And the entire impetus of the Christian Gospel is to preserve human lives and offer them the redeeming waters of salvation through Jesus Christ and His Church. Nothing interferes with this mission more than violence and killing. The simple fact is that we cannot lead men to salvation if we kill them. We cannot win souls while destroying bodies. We cannot offer the waters of redemption from a well that is poisoned with blood.

Conclusion
I believe that what Father Josiah is really condemning – and rightly so – is apathy and cowardice within the Church. And if that’s the case, then I will fully agree with him. The Church – the Body and Bride of Christ – is the most powerful spiritual, moral, and social force in the world. But instead of actively pursuing justice, confronting evil, and proclaiming

the Gospel to all the world, we sit passively on the sidelines as our culture descends further and further into inhumanity, barbarism, chaos and evil. We go about our daily lives unmoved and unaffected by the slaughter of unborn innocents that occurs in our own backyard. We tepidly respond to the greatest moral evil and the most important human rights issue of our time – legalized abortion – with little more than an occasional Pro-Life sermon, an annual march, and our impotent votes. It seems that the only thing we are not apathetic about is demanding the right to violently defend our own personal safety and welfare. And somehow I don’t think God is pleased or honored by such an attitude. So in conclusion, if Father Josiah Trenham wants to assert that Jesus and the Saints were not passive-ists, then I shall wholeheartedly agree with him. There was nothing passive about the life of Our Lord or the lives of the Saints. And there should not be anything passive about our lives as Christians. In fact, the monastic life is the most active life of all, as monks devote their entire existence to ascetic rigors and ceaseless prayer. And true prayer is hard work, I can assure you. But if Father Josiah really means to say that the life, teachings, and example of Our Lord Jesus Christ do not point to nonviolence, forgiveness, and unconditional love – without exception – then I must respectfully but forthrightly disagree with him. Let us not forget that Our Lord was rejected and condemned by the Zealots because they expected the Messiah to be a violent political revolutionary. But Our Lord’s revolutionary liberation was the salvation of the world – a salvation wrought by His ministry of healing, forgiveness, love, and atoning redemption on the Cross. Sadly, many professing Christians today reject the nonviolent teachings and example of Christ, just as the Zealots did back then. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Christians embrace the idols of patriotism, politics, war, and destruction. Rather than elevating the message of the Cross

we suppress it under the rubrics of Old Testament laws and human rationales. Rather than following Christ and heeding His words, we refashion Him into a god of our own making – a false god who tells us to preserve our own lives at the expense of others. We have inverted the Cross and manufactured it into a sword. In our zealousness for flag, country, and constitution, we have unwittingly crucified the message of the Gospel and blasphemed Our Savior. There are Muslim terrorists who in the name of the “religion of peace” fly planes into buildings and behead those that refuse to convert to Islam. And as they commit these violent atrocities they exclaim, “Allahu akbar!” (God is great!) They greet one another with the words, “Asalaam alaikum” (Peace be unto you.) But as Christians we are set apart from the world because we are disciples of Christ. We do not kill in the name of our God. We do not make converts with violent force. We forsake bloodshed and embrace the folly of the Cross. We do not murder those who reject the Gospel. We love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. And such love and blessings are not issued with the blade of the sword or the barrel of a gun. Finally, I would like to emphasize one very important point. Jesus Christ was born as a Lamb, but He will return as a Lion. His Judgment will be violent and His enemies will be cut down. God is a just God, and His recompense will be awful indeed. Therefore it is important that we don’t misappropriate His divine retribution. Whenever man presumes to use the sword to establish earthly justice and temporal peace, he invariably leaves a wake of innocent blood behind. So as Christians we must wait upon the Lord. “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” [Isaiah 40:31] We must have faith that injustice and evil will be divinely avenged in God’s perfect time. We must sheathe our swords – yea, break them –

so that Christ can turn our weapons of destruction into implements of healing. Our God is not a tame God, and His justice will be perfect and complete. So we place our faith in Him, trusting that no innocent soul will slip through His merciful grasp. The blood of the martyrs and the butchered bodies of unborn innocents are not unseen by the eyes of divinity. Christ shall come again… riding with a sword in His mouth… and His harvest will be both terrible and sweet. But if we usurp His sword, then we inevitably cut down the wheat with the tares and slaughter the sheep with the goats. Our Lord has therefore told us to wait upon His judgment. As the Psalmist declares, “The evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD shall inherit the earth.” [Psalm 37:9] And Our Lord echoed the Psalmist when He said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” [St. Matthew 5:5] So we wait for holy retribution, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling as St. Paul instructs. (Philippians 2:12) The Christian pacifist does not turn a blind eye to evil. He confronts evil directly but refuses to reap a harvest that belongs to God alone. The Christian pacifist walks through the fields of this world, carrying his cross not a scythe, bearing the Gospel not a gun. So was Jesus a pacifist? Well, no philosophical term or ideology is sufficient to define the Lord of all creation. Jesus transcends the limitations of human definition. He transcends patriotic, ethnic, and religious identity. He is Lord of all. And Christ is no less God than the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is the same God who drowned Pharaoh in the Red Sea, and the same God who will return on the clouds wielding a sword of divine justice. But when He walked the earth in His humble but glorious Incarnation, His commands were specific, clear, unambiguous and firm:

“Put away the sword. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Bless those that persecute you. And go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” As Orthodox Christians, we reject the heresy of iconoclasm. But if we dare not destroy icons made with wood and paint, then why would we dare to destroy living icons fashioned with the very breath of God? When confronted with evil the Christian pacifist does not say, “Evil, have your way.” Instead, the Christian pacifist stands nonviolently against evil and prays, “Have your way O Lord.” [Psalm 86:11; Psalm 25:4-5] Let us end by once again recalling the blessed words of St. John Chrysostom, “The Golden Mouth”: “Our warfare is to make the dead to live, not to make the living die.” (If anything I have written has been disrespectful or contrary to the Teachings and Traditions of the Orthodox Christian Faith, then may God forgive and correct me. I kiss Father Josiah’s hand and ask his prayers for this sinner. And I encourage the reader to pray for Father Josiah Trenham and for all of our Orthodox Priests who labor to shepherd us in the True Christian Faith. “Lord have mercy.” +++) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall inherit the earth.” [St. Matthew 5:9] ~ In peace let us pray to the Lord ~

+ GEBRE MENFES KIDUS +