how does one confront the violence in the world? as we look at the evil that is prepetrated by an organization like isis, can we defeat such an army without resorting to the use of force? were we wrong to confront the murderous regime of hitler by going to war against germany and its allies? had we followed the teaching of jesus and adopted a policy of non-violence, what would have been the result? should we have refused to intervene during the war in the balkans as the serbian army massacred muslims in bosnia?
i search for answers but do not find them. as i reflect on the life of jesus, especially on his final hours as he surrendered to the power of the religious authorities and the romans, walking without protest to his agonizing death, i see a man who faced that death with quiet dignity, supreme bravery, and unflinching confidence that something noble would arise from his crucifixion. even as he was arrested, he taught that those who live by the sword will die by the sword and healed an injury caused by one of his followers. was it only his own belief in his resurrection that propelled him on the path of surrender to his enemies, or did he have confidence that his martyrdom would inspire his followers to spread his teachings of peace, good will to all, and love for one's enemies throughout the known world?
if we live by his teachings as we face the violence of armies of zealots who are so convinced of the rightness of their causes that they murder all those who refuse to yield to them and to embrace their ideology, can such ideologies be defeated by the power of love? when ethnic and religious minorities are executed by those with whom they disagree, can non-violence ultimately triumph? there are those who point to the proliferation of christianity in the roman world as evidence that pacifism can overcome, but one wonders if chrisitanity would ultimately have been replaced by some other religion if it had not been adopted as the state religion of the roman empire, thus transforming what had been a peaceful religion to the religion under whose banner the armies of constantine marched.
i want to believe that turning the other cheek would work on a global scale, but i'm not so sure that arms in the hands of organized groups of fanatics can be overcome by the power of a loving pacifism. or can love conquer all? may we look in our hearts for the answer to the question of how to confront movements like isis and al-qaeda. may we not use force thoughtlessly. may we live as people of peace in a world that turns to violence all too easily. shalom.