Passivity is not Pacifism

Perhaps peace is not, after all, something you work for, or “fight for.”  It is indeed “fighting for peace” that starts all the wars. What, after all, are the pretexts of all these Cold War crises, but “fighting for peace”?  Peace is something you have or you do not have. If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least *some* peace in the world. Then you share your peace with everyone, and everyone will be at peace. Of course I realize that arguments like this can be used as a pretext for passivity, for indifferent acceptance of every iniquity. Quietism leads to war as surely as anything does. But I am not speaking of quietism, because quietism is not peace, nor is it the way to peace.

– Thomas Merton,   Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander  

Indeed somehow each time a war is begun some believe it is the path to peace or the war to end all wars.  St. Paul wrote: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

And yet with Merton, I am troubled by the fact that evil is a real force in the world that must be reckoned with.  It cannot be ignored.  Those intent on war will not be stopped by the threat of war, nor by the activities of pacifists.  Pacifism is not passivity.  One has to choose to wage peace, peace will not happen by doing nothing, unless one thinks death and burial gives peace to the pacifist.  The violent, the terrorist, the tyrant are not moved by pacifism.  Jesus’ descent into Hades was not the act of a pacifist, but of a conqueror.  Liberation and salvation are active concepts demanding energy be expended.   Death, the final enemy, is overthrown, trampled down, and destroyed  by Christ not ignored, lulled to sleep or pacified .  We are neither to compromise with evil and death nor form an alliance with it.  We are not instructed by Christ to live at peace with evil or death but to overcome them.    This is why pacifism cannot mean passivity.

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