The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Why Damon Linker Is Wrong To Say That Christianity Demands Pacifism

Posted on | April 1, 2014 | 39 Comments

by Smitty

Now, as a retired veteran, I’ll come under accusation of rationalizing my actions. Fair enough. But there is a simple explanation for why, according to Linker’s subtitle, “In the teachings of Christ, there is no endorsement of a just war”: Christianity is about the individual; war is about nations.

Thus, what we have here is a fallacy of composition. To claim that, because Christians should subdue their own flesh, and therefore should not go around kicking other’s flesh translates into pacifism is simply wrongheaded. It also ignores the whole Word of God. Read the Book of Judges, for example. (There was once a day when judges walked the earth who didn’t need their flesh kicked, John Roberts.)

Pacifism is a luxury. Forgive those who wrong you. Pray for them. But just because Christ was crucified, and the disciples (traditionally) tended toward horrid demises is does not make it a requirement for you to seek to be a doormat. The Holy Spirit may call you in some special way to take one for the team, as when a soldier lays it down for the comrades.

Nor am I tacitly endorsing Team America: World Police here. Like it or not, the U.S. is coming to a critical point in our post-WWII maintenance of a pax Americana. We can only “borrow it forward” so much more. If Damon Linker could articulate a consistent foreign policy with lower costs, that would be great. But basing military policy on pacifism is neither Christian nor wise.


39 Responses to “Why Damon Linker Is Wrong To Say That Christianity Demands Pacifism”

  1. ariyadesai01
    April 1st, 2014 @ 8:55 am

    RT @smitty_one_each: Why Damon Linker Is Wrong To Say That Christianity Demands Pacifism #TCOT

  2. RS
    April 1st, 2014 @ 9:19 am

    I always find it rather amusing when someone with no evident personal theology decides to lecture me on what being a Christian means. It’ like the head of FIFA lecturing us on the proper application of the Infield Fly Rule.

    That said, as you indicate, a complete reading of the Bible indicates that violence is sometimes necessary in order to combat Evil, until such time as the Evil is eradicated or those perpetrating Evil have repented. In the latter case, forgiveness and mercy become the order of the day. As for Matthew 5:39, one needs to remember that the Gospel of Matthew was a) directed to the Jews and b) describes Christ as their King. But He was a new King; not political, but spiritual. His references to lawsuits, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, etc. demonstrate that His power and rule are not based upon The Law, but upon Grace–the bestowing of Mercy where it is unwarranted under the Law. Christ showed Mercy and Grace to all who sought it, and so should we as Christians. But for those who do not repent and seek Grace, there is only the Judgment of the Law. And fundamentally, that’s what forms the basis of the Christian view of war.

  3. Kirby McCain
    April 1st, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    An old school mate got a bug on her computer and asked on FB why someone would create viruses, trojans and such. I could explore the possible whys. But let me just say, it’s because there are people like this that we have cops and armies.

  4. Linda
    April 1st, 2014 @ 9:51 am

    Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus was amazed at the faith of the centurion. He did not require that the centurion lay down his sword and cease being a warrior, in order to receive the requested healing. That’s always been pretty telling to me.

  5. Finrod Felagund
    April 1st, 2014 @ 9:53 am

    CS Lewis wrote an excellent essay “Why I Am Not A Pacifist”, which he delivered to a pacifist society. Everything I’d like to say about the subject he already said, and better.

  6. Anamika
    April 1st, 2014 @ 10:00 am

    Pacifism works best when both sides in a conflict are willing to handle their differences in a peaceful manner. When dealing with an adversary that engages in jihad, it is arguably a policy which does not serve the interests of the public.

  7. Kirby McCain
    April 1st, 2014 @ 10:08 am

    Not everyone is called to be a soldier. In order that people can raise families, engage in peaceful commerce, and worship in the way they choose; men and women capable of great violence must be vigilant and ready. I had a black DI at Benning who was badass incarnate. He explained all this to us one day. Then he looked us all in the eye and said, “Gentlemen, those who can must.”

  8. RS
    April 1st, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    Those who espouse Pacifism as a personal Ethic tend to do so in places where there are a lot of cops.

  9. Esther Williams
    April 1st, 2014 @ 10:16 am

    There is no justice in surrendering to evil

  10. ThomasD
    April 1st, 2014 @ 10:28 am

    Linker offers no basis for his argument other than some nebulous assertions of what he thinks Jesus meant. No quotes, no verses, no nothing.

    It is devoid of serious effort, so devoid of serious consideration. A slogan masquerading as a thesis.

  11. Anamika
    April 1st, 2014 @ 10:53 am

    And we are left wondering how easy it is to be an armchair pacifist — I’m also left puzzling as to whether there’s such a thing as arm-chair war-mongers.

  12. darthlevin
    April 1st, 2014 @ 11:02 am

    To expand on “just war”, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2302-2317

  13. Anamika
    April 1st, 2014 @ 11:11 am

    Surely you aren’t suggesting people critical of violence should travel to war torn countries before having non-violent opinions?

  14. Chris M
    April 1st, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Richard Hays are the guiding writers of the Christian Pacifist Left. The big spokesmen for this movement are Jim Walis and Tony Campolo and their organization, Sojourners. They used to be called “Red-Letter Christians.” I did a lot of research on them under that name, but a lot of the information is now unavailable. I’m not sure why.

  15. Do Christians have to be Pacifists? | Batshit Crazy News
    April 1st, 2014 @ 11:27 am

    […] Smitty gives the response to Damon Linker […]

  16. RS
    April 1st, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    Don’t be absurd. I’m saying that evangelical pacifists are allowed to practice their pacifism because there are people with guns keeping the wolves at bay. Pacifism is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, multiple millenia of human experience demonstrates it is also a pipe dream.

  17. Neo
    April 1st, 2014 @ 11:50 am

    Christianity may be about the individual, but the Church is about community.

  18. Anamika
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

    How easy is it to be ‘nonviolent’ inside a monastery, or living in a remote cabin…..

    Living nonviolently living in an inner city, where your person and possessions and family are threatened daily, now, that’s quite something else.

    I’d certainly suggest that they be willing to imagine living in the midst of war, to put themselves in the place of just one of those many people profiled on the news who are living in the midst of that hell, and to be willing to question whether their nonviolent stance could endure in the midst of such extended and intense trauma.

  19. Art Deco
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

    Damon Linker posed as a Catholic for four years in order to secure and maintain employment at the Institute on Religion and Public Life while collecting material for a maladroit expose of the organization. He evidently forgot part of act is an understanding that Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium are the sources of truth (and, of course, that interpretation of Sacred Scripture is not a paint-by-numbers enterprise).

  20. PCachu
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

    I’d say President Drone Strike has provided a quick answer to that little stumper.

  21. Anamika
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

    It’s easy to wonder what the discussions here might be like if we were being kept awake at night for fear of bombs falling thru the roofs, or if several of us had recently lost limbs or homes or our entire families in a bombing.

    Yes, there are rare exceptions. There are a precious few who have actually lived first hand thru the ravages of war and never felt an ounce of aggression or hostility. I’m not talking to them.

  22. David R. Graham
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

    A lengthy and unusual discussion of ethics and war:

    Smitty is right, pacifism is not Christian. Allowance for it can and is made in law, but on humanist not Christian grounds. Pacifists tend to be aggressive, both soft and hard. Quakers, Unitarians. Christianity is Eternal Life, not law or ideology.

  23. pabarge
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

    In the teachings of Christ, there is no endorsement of a just war

    This comes up with a fairly regular periodicity. Ignore it.

    After all, when FDR knew that Jews were being carried to the concentration camps in trains, he bombed no trains or train tracks. Or concentration camps.

    I got your endorsement, right here, pal. Hanging.

  24. pabarge
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

    …expose of the organization…

    … as if the Catholic Church requires poseurs to out it. Silly. Catholics do an adequate job of that themselves.

    95 Theses, baby. 95 Theses.

  25. maniakmedic
    April 1st, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

    I share your amusement on being told what I believe.

    I fully admit I’m a jump-into-the-fray type of person. I don’t understand or come anywhere close to performing well in diplomatic situations. I am a hammer. But I also understand that sometimes diplomacy is warranted, and in such situations I do my best to let the diplomats take the lead. However, I remain ready to jump in and be a hammer because, unlike most diplomatic types, I know there are people who pretend to care about diplomacy, but only because they can use it to get one over on us. There are people in the world, like the Joker, who just want to watch the world burn. And no amount of diplomacy will dissuade those people. That takes a hammer.

    Jesus never condemned hammers. The Bible is full of righteous warriors who were tasked by God to lay waste to their enemies because their enemies wouldn’t repent of their sins or were poised to wipe out God’s people. They were given chances to cool it and decided not to. So the hammers went in.

    No, I’m not a diplomat. But I think I’m in pretty good company, historically speaking.

  26. DaveO
    April 1st, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

    Luke 22:36: Jesus Christ said: “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (
    So Xt was advising his followers to arm themselves. The Christ of the Bible is quite different from the Christ of Progressive imagination.

  27. Adjoran
    April 1st, 2014 @ 4:27 pm


    Available here:

  28. Adjoran
    April 1st, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

    Pacifism is a luxury won by the blood of patriots. How fortunate for us that our forebears in Colonial times, or during the World Wars, or the many conflicts since, did not indulge themselves in such niceties when defending our freedoms.

    “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – George Orwell

  29. Adjoran
    April 1st, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    And I envy them.

  30. Adjoran
    April 1st, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

    Liberal atheists always seem to know more about Christianity than all those great minds who devoted their lives to the study of scriptures and philosophy over the centuries.

    At least, to hear the liberal atheists tell it.

  31. Rob Crawford
    April 1st, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

    For some people, time never passes.

  32. Rob Crawford
    April 1st, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

    I find it curious that the type of person who will lecture Christians about the “requirement” to be a pacifist will almost certainly tell us the “Islam means peace” but won’t lecture MUSLIMS about how THEIR faith requires THEM to be pacifists.

    it’s rather as if they want Christians to disarm for some reason. As if they have some plans for Christians…

  33. Esther Williams
    April 1st, 2014 @ 5:28 pm

    Linker strikes me as a liberation theologist more than anything else.

  34. Esther Williams
    April 1st, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

    Why would it be the responsibility of Americans to defend Jews in Germany?

  35. Quartermaster
    April 1st, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

    When it comes to Biblical Theology, however, he’s clueless.

  36. Bob Belvedere
    April 1st, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

    Especially, 2309.

  37. Art Deco
    April 1st, 2014 @ 9:56 pm

    He was undertaking an expose of the Institute, not the Church.

  38. Art Deco
    April 1st, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

    How ’bout a poseur trying to make a living. More David Brock than Leonardo Boff.

  39. Rob Crawford
    April 2nd, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

    Never said he was a Muslim, just that his type will blather about “Islam means peace” but never tell Muslims their faith requires them to be pacifists.

    In short, he’s a coward.