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Posts Tagged ‘Pacifism’

If you are going to accuse me of anything on the basis of this post’s title, let it be lack of originality (a charge I would gladly accept, as I think originality is overrated): I have chosen to construct my title out of those of not one, but two previously existing works — namely, Clint Eastwood’s recent blockbuster film “American Sniper” and popular Christian apologist C.S. Lewis’ 1940 essay “Why I am not a Pacifist.”

First, the movie.  I won’t go into great detail, other than to say that it is based on the true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) — hailed as the deadliest shooter in American military history — his experiences in the Iraq War, and his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return home.

Ben ReedAt the beginning of the film, me meet a young Chris Kyle (Cole Konis), who fights a group of bullies in defense of his younger brother.  Chris’ father, Wayne (Ben Reed), tells his young sons that there are three kinds of people in the world.  Most people, he says, are sheep — that is, people who “prefer to think that evil doesn’t exist in the world.”  And then there are the wolves, who prey on the weak and thrive on violence.  Finally, there are the sheepdogs, the strong who defend the vulnerable against the wolves.

Wayne, a Christian father raising a Christian family, intends for his sons to be the latter.  His goal in this instance is to make sure that Chris was acting as a sheepdog rather than as a wolf.

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“C.s.lewis3”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:C.s.lewis3.JPG#/media/File:C.s.lewis3.JPG

It is with that in mind that I cite the following passage from Lewis’ essay (which is published along with a number of others in “The Weight of Glory“):

The relevant intuition [used in support of pacifism] seems to be that (…) helping is good and harming bad.  (…) [T]hat intuition can lead to no action unless it is limited in some way or other.  You cannot do simply good to simply Man; you must do this or that good to this or that man.  (…) [W]hen B is up to mischief against A, you must either do nothing (which disobeys intuition) or you must help one against the other.

Between these two citations — the scene from “American Sniper” and the snippet from “Why I am not a Pacifist” — we can gain a pretty decent understanding of how a Christian can choose to go to war, or use force in any instance.

americansniperposterIt is not my intention to get into a discussion of whether the Iraq War meets Just War criteria, nor whether sniping, as a practice, constitutes a form of just warfare.  But a lot of people tend to make this automatic, knee-jerk assumption that to fight in a war or use any kind of force is ipso facto incompatible with being a faithful Christian.

But, as Lewis and the elder Kyle suggest, part of one’s Christian duty is to defend the weak.  And sometimes, this requires force — on individual, communal, and sometimes even national and international levels.  To be sure, such force should always be as minimal as possible, restraint must be preferred to killing, and the death of a “wolf” should be avoided whenever reasonably possible.  But if we want to issue a wholesale condemnation of all warfare, it should give us pause that the weight of reason, history, and even Christian tradition itself is against us.

Needless to say, I am only scratching the surface of Lewis’ essay.  But since my main intention is a treatment of Eastwood’s film, I think I’ll just encourage you to read it yourself and leave it at that.

As for the movie, more to come.

Photo of C.S. Lewis from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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I recently had the privilege of talking with Ronald F. Maxwell — director of the Civil War epics “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals” — and Bill Kauffman — author of such books as “Dispatches From the Muckdog Gazette” and “Bye Bye, Miss American Empire” — about their collaboration on the upcoming Civil War era film “Copperhead.”

As I’ve mentioned before, I write for my community’s local newspaper, “The Batavian,” on a per diem basis.  And since Kauffman is a local author, this was kind of a big deal for us.

Kauffman and Maxwell wrote and directed this film, respectively.  Set in in an Upstate New York hamlet in the Spring of 1862, “Copperhead” explores life on the home front during the Civil War.  It chronicles the plight of Abner Beech (Billy Campbell), a farmer who takes a stand against the war and, in so doing, attracts the ire of his community.

Here is the link to the article, which offers (through the insights of Maxwell and Kauffman) a nice inside look at the movie:

http://www.thebatavian.com/dan-crofts/screenwriter-bill-kauffman-and-film-director-ron-maxwell-discuss-copperhead/37808

The film is set to be released June 28.  For more information and to find out how you can bring the film to your local theater, go to http://www.copperheadthemovie.com.

Note: Let me stress that my work for “The Batavian” is in no way related to “Into the Dance,” which is a merely personal blog.

Image obtained through a Google image search

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