Keith Pavlisheck of @theIRD Creates a Straw Man from a Straw Man


Keith Pavlisheck is a blogger with The Institute on Religion & Democracy.  Apparently, he also specializes in calling fellow believers names and having a sullen sense of superiority about it.

Shane Claiborne is a pacifist – and a church leader, writer and prolific national speaker.  He views Jesus self-sacrificing death on the cross as a model for the Christian – or “Christian nation” – to follow.  Not for the same reasons, of course, but when it comes to whether or not returning violence is the right course when violence has been perpetrated.  Pavlisheck – in this post on the IRD’s blog, Juicy Ecumenism – takes pains to emphasize one quote in particular:

“For Christ we can die, but we cannot kill.” 

Old-style juke boxes were awesome.  You inserted your coin and pushed a button.  At that point, the juke box whirred to life to find the exact record to play, laid it on the turntable, and proceeded to play exactly what it plays when that button is pushed.

In much the same way, Pavlisheck responded with the exact thing a neo-con says when a believer of conscience states their position:

The issue is not whether we should “kill for Christ” (that’s a straw man), or promote something called “redemptive violence” (another straw man–as if any responsible Christian proponent of just war believes in “redemptive violence”), but whether the civil authority can permissibly use lethal force to protect the innocent, promote the good, and punish the evil doer. The question is not whether individual Christians should be longsuffering and should turn the other cheek. The question is whether civil authority is obliged to turn to turn the cheek of innocent citizens toward their oppressor, rather than using their authority, including the threat and use of force, to defend them from assault, oppression and other forms of grave injustice. (verbatim from Juicy Ecumenism)

Here are the problems with this.

1. Most concerns of today’s pacifists arise in the wake of 12 of the bloodiest years in the history of our country.  The Iraq War is one that was begun under questionable circumstances and had cost the lives of thousands of American troops, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.  Were all those civilians part of the evil that we were said to have been retaliating against?  Is it crazy to have a group of pacifists question the logic or wisdom of a move like that?

2. Historic pacifism – such as that which existed during the war in Vietnam – can take a very ugly form.  It doesn’t – however, mean that the sentiment is wrong.  The question was whether a government has the right to fight a proxy war with such potential to destroy human life.  Millions dies and millions more were left behind to deal with life after such a devastating ordeal.  Does the government have the right to fight proxy wars that will harm or kill so many innocents?

3. Does the government have the prerogative to “fight them over there so we don’t fight them over here,” when we don’t even think they can get from there to here?  Pre-emptive war is an idea that the Christian – and the Christian nation – must wrestle with.  For the last 12 years, it seemed that the voices of reason were being drowned out by the cries for war from the likes of Mr. Pavlisheck.

No one way is ever going to be the answer, and no one side has a monopoly on right action.  Mr. Pavlisheck is attempting to demean a conscientious believer for having a belief that has a massive footprint within the history, tradition and orthodoxy of the faith.  As we seek the way forward, maybe Mr. Pavlisheck should humble himself, and not demean and attack others.

Shame, Mr. Pavlisheck.

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