Why “First Things” still sucks
I love Stephen Webb. I do. I love that guy so much that I was like, “Steve, you’ve got to contribute to the second volume of The Peaceable Kingdom Series!” He’s a smart guy. He made the book better. But in this article, click right here, he makes assumptions about something called “pacifism” that a first year divinity student would find embarrassing (second year, if you chose Yale over Duke).
I mean, this article is bad. Really bad. Or, as a wonderfully sweet and smart colleague of both of ours (whom I will not implicate) put it: it’s obscene. I wish I could just leave it at that. Obscene. So wonderfully put. But, you know, I’m a rather violent pacifist (must be all that eschatology, I mean, idealism I’m drowning in), so I need to say a few other words.
[Oh, and before my wife kicks me in the face--don't worry Steve, I think she's a Jewish Realist, none of that pansy nonviolent crap here--let me say this: "Webb's understanding of evolution is barely on par with Pat Robertson's." Okay. You happy, love? She's nodding her head affirmatively. Good. She's happy. On we go.]
Actually, Steve, I’m against the kind of pacifism you decry as well. If it’s an ideal/idealistic, a theory, or shuns the notion that somehow we are unaware of the many acts of violence that make life on this planet possible, then yep: slam that stuff. But guess what? We’ve been slamming that stuff long before you. Nothing new there. Try to withhold the self-congratulatory applause. We ungrateful pacifists have long been treading those waters. So, since the countless books on the subject that I assume you’ve read in order to speak so authoritatively on the subject never seem to weigh in on your actual reflections, let me be clear: WHAT YOU CRITICIZE IS NOT WHAT ANABAPTISTS ARGUE. Jesus brother, have you actually ever read anything we’ve ever written on the subject? Or, did you think that old Reinie, who also never read us, somehow got it right 50 years ago?
Of course, I’m not terribly shocked that First Things published such a piss-poor account of Messianic nonviolence (which is little more than Niebuhrian upchuck in disguise). I mean, come on . . . you refer to us as ungrateful and that the only pacifists are martyrs? Those were, basically, his arguments. I’m guessing you’re next going to say, “The teachings of Jesus are all fine and good, but if you want to be politically relevant then you have to dismiss them.” Is that next? Granted, First Things hasn’t been worth reading since the summer of 2001. They’ve continually sucked up to power in order to prove that they think that September 11, 2001 was of more consequence than the resurrection of Jesus.
And, my oh my, how they continue to call Christians away to that false ‘realism’.
And what’s with this comment “Martyrs are the exception, not the rule, since their actions speak of Jesus Christ, not a social agenda.” What are you talking about? I’m baffled. The word martyr means ‘witness’. Are you saying that not all Christians are called to bear testimony to Jesus, only a select few of them? That any of us who imagine that the carrying of a cross, the dying to self, the turning of the cheek, the forgiveness of enemies, the refusal to fight back or just our simple hesitance to kill those creatures who are created in the image of God, despite what our nation-state dictates, is an attempt to force a social agenda on others? What are you talking about?
And just out of curiosity, does your version of the Bible contain the Gospel of Matthew?
Steve, I respect the heck out of you. Your work on animals has been nothing but inspiring to me. But you’re going to have to stop calling us ungrateful and guilty of moral righteousness, and at least criticize what we actually argue rather than some inane straw man we torched centuries ago. Look brother, we’re not pissed because we think we’re holier than you, or closer to Jesus, or because we’re beyond critique (there are some very serious criticisms of Christian nonviolence that cannot be ignored); we’re pissed because that was a shitty article to write and you should know better.