Peacemaking, part 2: Peacemaking and Pacifism
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Peacemaking, part 2: Peacemaking and Pacifism

Some people believe in pacifism, even to the point of accepting injury or death rather than meting out violence toward others. Often, nonviolence is an effective strategy for change, but is it always a moral obligation? [See Gene Sharpe, The Politics of Nonviolent Action and Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works.]
Sometimes the use of force, even to the point of killing, seems justified. Most people would agree that we may protect ourselves from harm, particularly if have been attacked. Protection becomes an obligation when there are children entrusted to our care. More generally, though nonviolent methods are preferred, sometimes force is necessary to protect weak and vulnerable individuals from harm.
A principle argument against the use of force is that our motives might be suspect. We might justify the use of force in terms of defending innocent individuals, but perhaps we might really be motivated primarily by less altruistic considerations, such as the pursuit of status or wealth. Also, the innocence of victims is often difficult to discern. Are rebels in a colonized territory freedom fighters or terrorists? It often depends on who is asked.
Next essay, I will suggest a way to discern whether or not our motivations are altruistic or self-serving. 

Go on to: Peacemaking, part 3: A Proposal to Ensure Good Motives
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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