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Occasionally, I’m asked if a peace church like ours that promotes non-violent enemy love should pause to commemorate Remembrance Day or if individual Christ-followers should wear poppies and participate in Remembrance Day events.

Pacifists, like anyone, have differing opinions – there is no one right answer. But my approach, and our approach at The Meeting House, has always been to use Remembrance Day as an opportunity to do just that – remember.

Memory can be a powerful motivator to work for peace. Even though we may have ideological differences with those who would fight in a war, and even though we may not honour their willingness to KILL for a cause, we still honour and respect their willingness to DIE for a cause. On that point we are in full alignment with others who participate in Remembrance Day events.

 

Remembrance Day is not fundamentally a pro-war occasion (no one looks at it that way) – it is about remembering and honouring those who have given their lives sacrificially. We as Christians, of all people, can identify with that concept while maintaining our conviction.

Do I wear a poppy? I’m happy to (until it falls off). But I also wear a button produced by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) – which, by the way, stays on much better- in order to remember is to work for peace. Amen.

Tags : Non-violencePeacePoppiesRemembrance Day

25 Comments

  1. Great post Bruxy – I just listened to the Meeting House Roundtable on Christian Pacifism last night as it happens and found it very illuminating, exploding a lot of misconceptions I had had about the peace position.

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for helping me clear this up with myself. My father was raised in Canada in the Mennonite culture and I attended a Mennonite Bible College. My mother was raised in the U.S. as a Southern Baptist and her father was in WW I. My mother was the dominant “trainer” of us kids and my dad kept his mouth shut. It wasn’t til I went to college that I heard about pacifism. I find it a serious dilemma. I grew up in both countries and too much of my upbringing was about “patriotism”.

  3. Thanks for posting this. For many years I’ve been wearing the poppy as a symbol of respect but have sometimes felt like a walking oxymoron. I’ve aligned with the pacifist view long before I knew there was a word for it (I’m glad I came across this church for many reasons, but this is one of them!), and have felt a sense of conflict around Remembrance Day. This blog has helped put those conflicts to rest.

  4. For me, Remembrance Day is just that… a day for me to pause and remember that retributive in the form of militarism doesn’t work. Millions of people are needlessly and senselessly killed. sadly, oft times at the support of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

  5. For me, Remembrance Day is just that… a day for me to pause and remember that retributive violence in the form of militarism doesn’t work. Millions of people are needlessly and senselessly killed. sadly, oft times at the support of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. It is so important for us to learn from our history. I like your emphasis on how pacifist does not mean passive, and that we must always be active in promoting love and unity.

    1. If you are reading this, thank an English teacher for teaching you to read. Why would I thank a soldier? Soldiers don’t bring peaceful and stable governemnts. Maybe thank the police and judiciary, maybe thank the government for not grabbing power.

  7. I commented on the posting of someone who put this link up but they deleted my comment. I merely stated that I am shocked that anyone would have to justify honoring and remembering those who paid the ultimate fight. There is a time to fight and a time to go to war for what you believe in. Pacifism is a luxury which was earned for those who want to practice it by those who fought and died for a democracy in which that is your choice among many choices.

    1. “thank your teacher for learning to read, and thank your veteran for the privilege of being able to read in English/French”

    2. Thanks for your comments Jennifer and we totally respect your position. As Anabaptists, believe that Jesus clearly taught that it is always ok to die for what you believe in, it’s just never ok to kill for them. We don’t see pacifism as a luxury but rather a clear command given even though it may impact the life we hope to maintain. The early church suffered many things under an oppressive government and always maintained the “love your enemy” ethic. We have a series on our web site called Inglorious Pastors if you want to engage the topic further. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/

  8. I struggle a bit with the total pacifist view. I mean I get it, love your enemy, but struggle with it. In a perfect world we would simply have peace and it would be a non issue. However the world isn’t perfect and I’m sure proclaiming pacifism would not have stopped the evil of the Nazi party. If good men where not willing to rise up and stop the insanity that was WW2 I don’t like to think what the outcome would be. There was not going to be a peaceful discussion that was going to stop the German war machine and slaughter of people in death camps. This is my struggle. I totally agree peace should be the first option. I fail to see how it was going to happen in WW2. For me Remembrance day means remembering the horrors of war so we don’t repeat it. And honoring those who where willing to fight for our freedoms and the peace I can can abide in currently.

    1. When referring to Nazi Germany it is important to remember that the vast majority of soldiers in Hitler’s army were Christians who believed in a just war and were fighting to defend their loved ones because their government told them they were in danger from other threatening governments. Nazi Germany is a reminder of the impact of Christians who choose not to follow the teachings of Jesus. Imagine how different World War 2 would be if all the Christians in all of the nations were working hard at peace rather than immediately turning to war to solve their issues. Humans are exceptionally creative and willing to invest billions and billions in war but choose not to be creative or invest the effort to work hard at peace. Jesus’ challenge is to be proactive at loving your enemies so you turn them into friends. I think it is still a message we need to hear today.

      1. I get what you’re saying. However there wasn’t any real idea of a German “defense” strategy when they invaded countries and started a war with blitzkrieg tactics. Read up on the Gleiwitz incident. Yes they felt “just” in what they where doing but it still wasn’t right. I’m grateful for the people who where willing to a stop to it the only way possible. I don’t believe the allied forces wanted to go to war. It wasn’t an easy decision. But really what choice was there? Germany had to be stopped.
        I truly wish the whole world was united in the teachings of Jesus. Unfortunately there is much fear and greed in the world. I am not against extolling peace or the virtues of Christ. But there have been times in history where talking peace doesn’t get through. Greed and fear take over.

      2. I think one of the saddest things about WWII was that there were many, many opportunities to stop the Nazis well before they became too powerful to stop without going to war – let us not forget they were a popularly elected government whose popularity was driven largely by promises to restore Germany’s national pride and avenge the ‘humiliation’ of having lost WWI. Imagine if you can what it would have been like if Germans en masse had taken the peace position rather than the just war position and had refused the Nazis the support that was a necessary precondition to their gaining power. I say this without in any way trying to demean the sacrifices of our veterans – I just wish that such a sacrifice had not become necessary.

  9. May I suggest we are discussing right answers but not getting the question right?
    If we don’t wrestle collectively with finding the right question to ask, that draws a collective ‘aha’ sigh from all of us, we will continue to have many answers, and division.
    Here’s my point, humbly offered and open to challenge, by loving hearts.
    Sin and death are conquered by people, one decision, and one life at a time, and finally by Jesus when He casts the devil into the bottomless pit. Until then, there will be many losses, in many wars, in a myriad of way, but each of us are responsible individually for choosing life, who is Jesus Christ, and thereby defeating death by attrition.
    But collectively, we can do better than simply take doctrinal or political positions for life, or against death, although they are necessary and important, and have proven effective to some degree.
    We must obey him in all things, teach others to obey his commandments and pray fervently everywhere for his kingdom to come, here and now.
    But we aren’t, all of us, doing that collectively, as he told us to.
    He didn’t tell that to just pacifists or conservatives or any one church or doctrinal group.
    We cant see the kingdom trees because the political forest is hiding them, and it’s way past time that we clear up our double vision.
    There is only one ‘us’, including the thousands of ‘them’ that make up the rest of the church.
    He didn’t tell each church or person to obey him in any way they thought is right, and be satisfied with their own smug obedience. We are our brothers keeper, and should realize that our brothers falling behind in maturity and understanding of the collective nature of Jesus body, holds us all back. The US Marines are wiser than the church. They never leave a man behind, dead or alive. They get this ‘brother’ thing Jesus demonstrated. We should shelve the admittedly important discussions of civil and political positioning, which is getting us nowhere anyway, until we have unity as a family. Otherwise, there is no ‘we’ and the term christian will continue to be synonymous with ‘irrelevant’ and ‘divisive’ beyond what it is expected to be when we are salt and light.
    We don’t have a soldiers attitude toward doing what our commander tells us.
    We allow ourselves collectively to argue and divide about what the General said, and we all carry the guilt and blame deserving of a court martial for negligence of duty.
    We blithely accept that Gods people are divided on just about every possible point of contention that humans can differ on, including, and most importantly on being his expression as one body. And our children are learning that this is how Gods family operates.
    We are forbidden to do this by scripture, and Jesus explicitly taught us that he that is not against us is for us, but we have allowed men of Belial to twist that beautiful inclusivity into ‘he that is not for us is against us’.
    The leaders among us must lead us back again and again to that simple imperative.
    If they don’t they aren’t leaders after Gods heart.
    We’re commanded to be united, and until we adopt a militant attitude against division for any reason other than repeated, un-repented of known sin, we are all in disobedience by omission or commission. Generals don’t tolerate ignorance or slothfulness as excuses for disorder in the ranks, much less losing battles and wars, and Jesus is much more honorable and deserving than any human General. We accept this inflexible doctrine in our army’s, schools, govts and banks but not among the church?
    Until we collectively drag ourselves and each other out of this miry bog of unbelief and excuses, we will continue to have our hands ripped off the steering wheel of our nations, by the godless, who are much better organized and united than the church.
    We must restore the main thing to being the main thing, and not allow ourselves to continue to be drawn into straw man arguments over good and important ideas; ideas that are the enemy of the best idea, which is that Jesus body is one, not just positionaly in him, but practicably in real life. We who understand this must be the minority who change the majority discourse from sorting out differences among Gods people, which is a never ending task, to being those who demonstrate and articulate a vision of Jesus, high and lifted up, and his train (wedding gown) filling the temple (us).
    That’s the missing jewel in our breastplate as kings and priests that is expressly and singularly attractive in the NT church narrative in scripture.
    If that ragtag bunch of Jews and Gentiles could transform into a force that turned the world right side up in a few generations, surely we can do the same?
    Do we dare to believe, and talk and act on this belief?
    Pacifism wont need to be explained or defended to the doubtful when we collectively deploy the Lord of Hosts who reigns over us as one army, and who comes to broken humanity as a gentle shepherd and to proud men as a judge. Lets quit this way of childish discourse we had handed to us by our well meaning but equally disobedient forefathers. Lets talk, pray, cry and wrestle with how to militantly love all men, beginning with the house of God, because that’s the only picture or doctrine the world will accept in lieu of the fun they are having partying and killing each other.
    Jesus didn’t give all so we could be good enough.
    blessings
    Greg

  10. Good post, Bruxy! Respect your approach as delineated/thought-out here. All fine and cool.

    With respect to some of the argumentation presented above, however, we’re in alignment with Rob and Greg, here.

    Let’s be real: God doesn’t look down from heaven and divide the pacifists from the non-pacifists and say to himself, “better Christian … immature Christian” (even though this recent Anabaptist movement is doing just that). The more we listen to Bruxy and his ilk (on this issue), we are sadly seeing these enthusiastic (but overly focused on side issues) teachers ‘drawing lines in the sand’ between their church and others while deigning to call their own scrawls ‘Jesus’ handwriting’. Is this approach Christ-like?

    http://flagrantregard.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/is-neo-pacifism-the-new-christianity-part-1/

    In the above post, we are pleading with The Meeting House and other ministers/churches to PLEASE consider your over-focus and consistent droning with respect to the neo-pacifism agenda as being counter-productive to our main goal as Christians which should always and ever be the elevating and promoting of the TRUE GOSPEL of faith in Jesus Christ; grace from the throne of God leading to eternal life via the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour.

    1. Re Flagrant Regard’s post: I’ve looked at your post, and you have seriously misrepresented Bruxy’s/The Meeting House’s position when you say “here’s the rub: those delivering this message of ‘non-violence-at-all-costs’ are stating, in no uncertain terms, that unless all Christians everywhere submit to pacifism, they are failing to fully comprehend or represent the life, character and principles of Christ.” And I would submit that misrepresenting someone’s position is always an indication of the weakness of one’s position.

      And while you refer to theological arrogance, IMHO, it is Flagrant Regard that manifests this error (I almost typed “Flagrant Disregard,” which seems more appropriate). One of the things I appreciate about the way Bruxy presents this issue (and Greg Boyd and Tony Campolo, whom you cite) is their irenic manner.

      People, even fellow Christ-followers, are entitled to disagree, but we should do so agreeably. On my scorecard, Flagrant Regard gets an “incomplete” there.

  11. Come on so-called Christians! Wake up! One of the Ten Commandments is Thou shalt not kill. To do anything contrary to God’s word is anti-Christ! Plain and simple! Humans should not be justifying war. If humans trusted in God and his intervention (think David & Goliath story) they wouldn’t simply view war as an ‘option’. The devil seeks to kill and destroy and we as humans should be remembering folks who were part of a killing-machine?? Even if a soldier doesn’t happen to personally kill, they’re part of the big picture which is ‘anti-Christ’ behavior. I DO NOT wear a poppy – I will NEVER wear a poppy again. To be a true Christian we should be standing up for ‘no violence’ period!

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