I am a Christian, and I am emphatically and unapologetically pro-life.
Reading that statement, I know half of you are amped and uttering ‘amen’ to your computer screen, while the other half of you are beginning to work yourselves into an indignant furry. But give me a second, because my idea of pro-life might not quite jive with your preconceptions of the term.
I just had a baby a couple months ago, and the whole process of pregnancy and birth was absolutely amazing. So, when I say ‘pro-life,’ I do mean that it is important to protect and cherish the unborn. But that’s not all I mean.
As it turns out, life goes on after birth. Crazy right? But its true. And being pro-life means valuing that life for its entire duration, not just for the nine months it spends in utero.
To me, being pro-life means valuing and protecting all lives at all times.
To me, being pro-life means being a peace-lover and a pacifist.
But ‘pacifist,’ like ‘pro-life,’ is another one of those tricky words. What does it really mean to be a Christian pacifist?
Let me begin by telling you what it doesn’t mean.
Pacifism is not the act of being passive.
It is not letting evil do whatever it wants to whom ever it wants. It is not abandoning the weak, helpless or vulnerable in the face of oppression. Nor is it a way to avoid serving one’s country, protecting one’s neighbors, or even giving one’s life for a greater cause.
Pacifism is not passive. But is does require that we find creative and non-violent ways to engage.
Rather than joining the infantry, we can serve as doctors, nurses, chaplains, and mental health workers. Rather than using violent means to defend the defenseless, we can demonstrate, fundraise, sit in, or use economic sanctions and incentives. The possibilities for non-violent engagement are as limitless as our imaginations.
Now, before I explain what it is, let me tell you why it is.
I am a pacifist because of Jesus.
Because he valued every life he encountered – women, lepers, tax collectors and religious leaders alike.
Because his ministry was one of healing and restoration, not destruction and violence.
Because he taught his followers to turn the other cheek instead of taking an eye for an eye.
Because he modeled seeking a third way between the passive resignation of the pharisees and the religious violence of the zealots.
Because he left not room in his speech or actions for violence, and he didn’t tolerate it in his followers either (remember how he healed the soldier’s ear and rebuked Peter for cutting it off?).
I am a pacifist because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and to love our enemy. He called love the greatest command and even summarized all of scripture as an imperative to love God and love humanity.
I am a pacifist because we are called to live and love like him.
And I don’t believe we show love when we practice violence against our fellowmen.
So what is this art of Christian pacifism?
It is, of course, the refusal to wield weapons or to kill.
But it is also much more than that! It is a forsaking of all violence in all its forms. It is a refusal to cause physical harm and a refusal to participate social, cultural, psychological, emotional and relational violence.
But pacifism is not simply a rejection of violence either, it is also proactive.
In place of violence, we are to participate with God in the restoration of all creation. We are to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized in creative and non-violent ways. We are to seek and create peace wherever we go. Peace in our world, in our country, in our communities, our churches, our relationships, and peace in our own souls. And how do we make peace? By practicing love for our neighbors and our enemies alike, just as Jesus commanded us to.
And what is love?
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy or brag, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, nor is it irritable or resentful. It does not delight in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.
So you see, to be a pacifist is to be pro-life in the fullest sense of the word.
It is to protect lives by refusing to inflict physical, psychological or emotional harm, but it also to promote true and full life by modeling peace and love even when it is incredibly difficult to do so.
It is much harder to be pro-life than it is to be anti-war, but it is my calling as a daughter of Yahweh. Each day I ask myself what I can help restore, where I can bring peace. Many days I fail to love like Jesus, and many days I do employ various forms of violence against the people and the world around me. But every morning God graciously offers a new start and calls us once again to live and love like him.
Kaila Coon is a writer and a student of the Hebrew Bible. She completed her M.A. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Old Testament at Denver Seminary in May of 2012 and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Religious Studies from the University of Denver. You can read more of her writing at Old Testament 101.