Over the last few weeks I’ve had to deal with so many critiques of Christian pacifism that I decided to level one myself. Anytime I get very defensive, to the point of making fun of my critics, I figure it’s a good time to level a criticism at myself or, at the very least, my bestest best friends. Well, actually, I should say, I’m not critiquing Christian nonviolence as much as I am ripping on some of those good friends of mine who love to employ the language of nonviolence and why that makes me wanna shin-kick ’em in the rib cage. You see, the problem I’m having with so many of the good Christian ‘practitioners’ of nonviolence I know these days is that it appears (note, I said, appears) to require so little from you.
For instance, for the vast majority of your life (and most certainly mine), it’s a conviction that is too easily held and requires no actual activity, sacrifice, and/or genuine conviction. (Oh, wait, you mean it required you being a pacifist to know that you’re supposed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the poor? That’s terrible.)
While decrying violence, many of my good Christian buddies persist in making light of the fact that their entire way of existing on this planet is rooted in systemic violence. I think by poking fun at the subject, it’s their way of not really dealing with it. But this sort of violence is not indirect. It’s not metaphorical. It’s three times a day. How delightful it is to hear about how ‘nonviolence is the answer’ from people shoving pigs and cows down their throats, gorging their bodies on other bodies, and, yet, I’m supposed to take their “nonviolent witness” seriously. The kicker is, most of these same people are always complaining about how Christians don’t want to be “challenged” by their peace witness, yet many of these same pacifists refuse to be challenged by their own direct complicity with the systemic violence perpetuated on animals. You want people to listen to you and to be challenged by your ‘nonviolence’, yet you refuse to be challenged on the issue of violence to animals. How do I make sense of the fact that so many people were wetting their beds with excitement for Volume I of The Peaceable Kingdom Series (A Faith Not Worth Fighting For—to which I’m grateful for those spoiled sheets, of course), yet those same people won’t even consider checking out Volume II (A Faith Embracing All Creatures)? I fear all we did with the first volume was speak to the choir–those who wanted us to simply reinforce what they already wanted to believe (and feeling so punk rock and self-righteous about it). Yet, don’t even mention how their nonviolence extends to the rest of creation. No, they don’t want that kind of challenge, because that kind of challenge would actually require them to live significantly different lives.
Screw that, right?
And, I guess, that’s part of the reason I don’t really care for flesh-eating pacifists: it rarely demands anything of them. If they were to extend their nonviolent so-called “eschatological witness” to other bodies other than human ones, then they would actually have to, daily, ante up. (My favorite is hearing pacifists say, “Eating meat is natural” while completely oblivious to the fact that their very eschatological convictions are the basis for overriding their violent nature toward other humans. Such an eschatology is weak and entirely self-serving.) However, just like most Christians in our culture, they simply hold convictions that require next to nothing from them. Congratulations. It’s a hell of an achievement to talk so much and to do so little. After all, it takes a lot of real discipline to Facebook post how awesome you are for constantly critiquing the empire (you are the empire), ranting about how serious you are about being a real disciple of Jesus, and, occasionally (for a few of you) writing a book or two, and/or even lecturing the circuit letting everyone know how radical you are because you’re a, oh my gosh, here it comes . . . a pacifist.
Dude (and, most definitely, dudette), you’re not radical. You’re not even interesting. Your so-called convictions are borderline useless (except in the sense that they can brand you, making it easier to be marketable for your publisher). Those convictions of yours, for the most part, do nothing. That is, they do not do any ‘thing’ (I know, I know . . . everything anti-utilitarian is so in vogue these days–it’s like a litmus test of contemporary Christian ethics: “Does it not do anything? Good! It must be Christian!”). I don’t care what protest you attended last week, it’s banal. It’s not even banal, it’s self-serving and buttresses the very object of your protest. Stop congratulating yourself. Instead, do something compelling. Practice nonviolence in a tangible manner. Stop feeding on other bodies to satiate your own taste-buds, then, maybe . . . just maybe, all of your inane rhetoric about nonviolence will have some merit. (Or, at the very least, stop calling yourself a practitioner of nonviolence–just go with ‘pacifist’ and leave it at that. “Wait, are you saying, eating meat is the only way to tangibly practice nonviolence?” Of course not, and you’re a putz for asking/deflecting.)
To be fair, a shot at the other side is necessary. I can barely tolerate most of my animal-loving friends (and that certainly includes myself). The self-righteousness that goes into their own rhetoric as to why they are vegetarian/vegan often makes me want to devour a cow–which is why I rarely preach this sort of thing. But, to their credit, at least they have a lifestyle change that displays their convictions. That is, I can see their convictions. As for the rest of you, enjoy searching the Bible to proof-text your predisposed predilection of violence to other creatures. I wish you the best as you lie down tonight to say your prayers with a belly full of someone else’s carcass. After all, that’s what you have decided animals are for: to be excreted out of your anus. And in doing so, you have named animals exactly what you think they should be named: you have named them “shit”.
Now, that’s a rich theological account of creation, isn’t it?
(Not to mention the most ‘effed up eschatology a Christian pacifist could ever possibly entertain.)
PS: You know I love all of you flesh-eating bastards, right? I was just being polemical in order to get a rise out of you. Did it work? Are you aroused? If so, that’s weird. Stop it. Now, carefully drop your defensive posture and please listen to the sweet Miss Molly in the above photo: isn’t she precious? And sagacious, too.
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.