For and Against Pacifism
Length: 778 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)
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Pacifism subscribes to the idea of peace being the best goal and they
best means of achieving peace is always through peaceful methods. So
pacifists reject the use if physical force, even in the defence, and
maintain war is always wrong.
When it comes to pacifism there are arguments both for and against its
wide spread use. Arguments for include the teachings of Jesus, which
show that he taught about love our neighbours as ourselves and that we
should turn our cheek to violence against us. This is shown in Matthew
26:52 Jesus instructs Peter to drop his sword and not fight the Roman
guard and says 'all who live by the sword, will die by the sword.' And
again in Luke 6:7 where he instructed 'if someone strikes your cheek,
turn to him the other also.' These show Jesus was very much a pacifist
himself and as we are taught to follow Jesus example we should also
adopt pacifist views.
Another argument in favour of pacifism is that of the Hebrew idea of
Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word, which can be translated to mean
peace. However the idea behind shalom is much more than peace. It
embraces wholeness, a complete well-being, and a lively harmony. It is
about trust, openness, caring and justice. Shalom is a gift from God
and was brought to earth by Jesus.
Different Christian organisations have taken what the Bible teaches
about pacifism and interpreted it to be part of what their faith
teaches. For example Jehovah's witnesses refuse military service as a
matter if conscience, as their belief is that God demands pacifism
from them as his followers, regardless of any hostility they may face
or cost it may bring to them in other words their lives being taken.
They believe the state do not have the authority to go against God and
make anyone kill another human being. Then there is the Society of
Friends or the Quakers who believe under no circumstances must force
be used by armed forces, there should be no war weapons of any kind
and violence should never be met with violence. They say God has given
everybody an inner light to live by, and the inner light will help us
see the true reality of the situations we find ourselves in.
Finally properly the best arguments for the idea of pacifisms are
examples of when it has been used and has worked to chance an
injustice. There are two main examples of this Martin Luther King the
civil rights leader who in the fifties and sixties used peaceful
methods to gain full civil rights for American Negro. The second
example is that of the Hindu, Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi who through
peaceful methods fought to overcome British rule in India. Both these
men however did lose their life.
Arguments against it come from such people as Jeff McMahan, the Roman
Catholic Church and the just war theory.
Then there are the arguments against pacifism the first of these comes
from Jeff McMahan who insists that pacifism is difficult to maintain.
He believes this to be the case as it takes away the decision of a
victim whether a violent response is just. Pacifism expects a person
to stay non-violent in every situation. Which can be very difficult if
you are faced with violence against you. So another problem which
arises from this is that pacifism treats every situation as the same
whereas in fact situations are very different and unique.
The argument against pacifism put forward by the Roman Catholic
Church. They say that it is your duty to try and stop sin or wickness
if it arises using whatever means necessary to overcome it. And if
fail to do your duty and act against it you are indirectly promoting
it and this cannot be morally right.
The main argument against pacifism comes in the shape of the just war
theory which is a theory devised by Christians as to decide whether
war is justifiable or not. It sets out rules on how a war can be just.
These include war must be declared by legitimate authority, war is
only to be fought to confront a real and certain danger, war should
only be fought for the advancement of good or avoidance of evil, war
must be a last resort with all peaceful methods used to try and
resolve the problem first. The just war theory does have many things
in common with pacifism such as the fact it believes all peaceful
methods should be tried to avoid conflict first also in the way it
believes war is the last resort. So the main argument it puts against
pacifism is that there are occasions where all peaceful means of
trying to resolve the conflict have been exhausted and war is the only
way of over turning the evil so should be fought according to the rest
of the criteria put forward in the just war. Pacifism fails to
recognise the fact that peaceful methods will not always work and
gives no help in what to do if peaceful methods fail.
So in conclusion pacifism is a very good idea and if it could be put
in to total practice in a society, we would live in a much-improved
society. However for it to be able to exist you need a society where
every evil or conflict can overcome by using peaceful means. Seen, as
we don't live in a society like that it would be very difficult to
live by pacifisms principles, about the best means of achieving peace
is always through peaceful methods, making conflict inevitable as it
is the only way of dealing with many of the evils in today's society.
So as it has been said "to secure peace, is to prepare for war". Also
how realistic is it to be able to stay peaceful when you are faced
violence either against you or you property. I know if I found my self
in a situation where I was faced with violence I would feel that
meeting violence with violence was justifiable. So basically I
pacifism is a great idea but putting it into practice in the type of
society we live in today just wouldn't we are faced with to many evils
that wont be removed by peaceful means.