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Their caricatures of me aren’t me.

Language is powerful, and so, when we find ourselves with enemies, we use their own language against them. Oppressive people do this to me often.

They tell me I must tolerate their hateful, abusive religious beliefs.

They tell me that speaking out against their slurs is taking away their free speech. 

They say I must coexist by remaining friends with people who actively work to take away the rights of my other friends.

They call me a bad pacifist when I get angry (even if I do not act out in violence). They tell me that to be anti-war, I must stop fighting altogether.

They say that if I love someone, I should forgive them and give them chance after chance, regardless of whether or not they change.

But I won’t give up these concepts that easily. I am not the “anything goes” liberal that they try to caricature me as. I am gifted with discernment. I have a clear picture of what I know is right and wrong, and I use these words and concepts within the context of that picture.

I am not tolerant of injustice.

I don’t respect free speech when it’s hate speech.

I won’t coexist with bigots and misogynists.

Just because I am anti-war does not mean that I will not non-violently fight back in society’s wars on women and other oppressed groups.

It is not love to allow someone to continue to abuse or oppress me or others.

By twisting my words, they try to paint me as “wishy-washy,” “limp-wristed,” too weak or cowardly to take a stance against evil. But I think they do that because, deep down, they know I’m not too weak or too cowardly. I think they hide behind my own words because they know their caricatures of me aren’t me.

 


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How Kittums, Smeagol, and Princess Buttercup taught me to love

Please read this article by Ben DeVries on Kurt Williams blog. It has a wonderful, beautiful point, and adorable animals. You can’t lose. Read it!

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2011/09/14/the-nonviolence-of-the-kingdom-towards-animals-ben-devries/ 

This post of mine is a response of sorts.

I’m an animal lover.

There’s no denying it.

If you don’t believe me, check out my Facebook page. Chances are, my profile picture currently has at least one cat in it. I love animals.

It’s actually weird for me to say that.

I used to hate animals. I used to think they were smelly, and kind of stupid and they gave me allergies.

Come to think of it, I used to hate people.

But God used three cats to change my heart. To teach me how to love.

How to love animals AND people.

In high school, I had some bitterness issues. No…that’s a nice way of putting it, but it’s not really accurate. I’ll be honest, I was hateful, cynical, and cruel. I wrote bitter, nasty things on the internet. I beat up my siblings when they bothered me. I said horrible things about my friends behind their backs.

The world had hurt me, and I was going to hurt it back.

And, sadly, I probably did a pretty good job of that.

Then, one day, a stray cat showed up on my parents’ porch and never left.

I tried not to love Kittums (….a bit of a cruel name for that poor animal, but it just stuck). But I couldn’t help it. She was ferocious. Fearless. She’d walk around on our neighbor’s roof like she owned it. She’d attack your leg in the middle of the night when you got up to go to the bathroom.

But then she’d curl up in your lap and look up at you with those big, beautiful green eyes that say, “Love me!”

So I found room in my tightly closed, heavily fortified heart to love one cat.

“Just one…” I said.

And then, Kittums became a mommy.

She decided to have her babies in the ceiling of our basement. I guess she thought they’d be safe up there. But she was wrong.

One little guy managed to find his way out of the ceiling. He fell about ten feet and landed on his head.

I saw it happen, my stomach dropped in sickening horror.

I hadn’t even met it and I loved it already.

Smeagol somehow survived that fall. We named him Smeagol because, well…because he looked like this when he was first born:

Smeagol needed a little extra care. He was a little slow and sometimes he walked into walls. And then backed up. And walked into walls again. And then backed up…

So I decided there was room in my heart for one more, and Smeagol became my baby.

And then there was Princess Buttercup, the other kitten that we kept. She was a princess alright. She constantly wanted attention, she loved to eat Cheese-Its and Cheetos, and she had the smelliest farts ever.

here she is with her head stuck in a Cheetos bag...

 

I didn’t realize I loved her until she ran away and didn’t come back.

I remember crying after finding out that she still wasn’t back after a month and thinking, “What’s happened to me? I’m crying over a damn cat!”

By the time Princess Buttercup showed up at our doorstep again, half starved to death and as needy and smelly as ever, I knew how to love.

Three adorable cats had somehow snuck their way into my heart and unlocked it from the inside.

The change from who I was then to who I am now has been drastic. I can’t even describe the difference in words.

If I could take a basket and put my old hatred and bitterness in it and then hand it to you…

…and then take it away…

You’d understand.

But I can’t, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say I can’t describe this in words.

Love and compassion, for animals and humans, comes easily and naturally to me now. I’m a pacifist. I haven’t gotten in physical fights with my siblings in years. I’ve stopped cutting people down with my words (though, I’ll be honest, this one’s still a struggle sometimes). I can’t even bring myself to kill spiders anymore (my 3 year old cousin and I like to think of them as “small, eight-legged kitties.” Spiders need love too!).

I know how to love. I know how to love like I was made to love.

I guess if God can knock down the walls of Jericho with some marching and some trumpets then he can knock down the walls of Sarah Moon’s heart with a few adorable kittens.

Say, “Aww.” You know you want to.

 So, readers, how has God used animals to change your life? Let’s spend some time thanking God for making animals! Oh, and if you want to see more ADORABLE pictures of kitties, take a look at my facebook page! 


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Tension redeemed: Pacifism

Inconceivable! (Image from obscureprotest.com)

War, war, what is it good for?

…I don’t really know.

I’m opening up my series on tension and doubt (read the intro here) with the subject of pacifism. I consider myself a pacifist, but I can’t answer all the questions people ask me when they find out that I am a supporter of non-violence.

So, here’s what I know:

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”

Killing a person isn’t very loving.

Violence almost always leads to more violence. 

Paul told us to “overcome evil with good.”

Until Constantine, the early Christians were mostly pacifists.

Love wins.

But, here’s what I don’t know:

Is there such thing as a “just war?” Though I’m a pacifist, I must admit, the criteria for “just war” seems pretty reasonable- all nonviolent efforts must be exhausted, innocent lives must be at stake, the goal of the war must be to bring peace. Sometimes I wonder, is belief in a “just war” a sign of one’s doubt of the power of love? Or is “just war” really necessary to defend innocent lives in a fallen world? Does love sometimes have to be tough to the point of violence? I don’t know.

If God controls governments, does that make it okay for governments to go to war? God set up governments to punish the wicked and reward the good. Does that include war? And if so, does that mean Christians should be okay with war? I don’t know.

Why does God command the Israelites to go to war in the Old Testament? I’ll admit, it’s difficult for me to reconcile in my mind the violent Old Testament stories with the peaceful love of Jesus. I could write a whole post on that topic (and I probably will for this series). God tells the Israelites, not just to kill, but to completely wipe out their enemies in the Old Testament, then he turns around and says, “Love your enemies,” in the New Testament. Why? I don’t know.

Should a Christian who feels “called to protect” join the military? I’ll be honest- I can’t even fathom how a Christian could join the military without feeling guilty. But Christians do it all the time. And many say that it is God’s calling for them. They don’t do it out of hatred or a desire to kill. That would obviously be wrong. They do it out of love for their families and their home. Can I argue with that? Can I really speak for another person and say that he/she is not really doing God’s will by joining the military? And how can I complain when the only reason I can even be a pacifist without suffering persecution is because others have fought for my rights? I don’t know.

And most importantly…

If someone broke into my house and tried to kill my cat and rape my grandmother, would I really react non-violently? I wrote about pacifism last week and one commenter brought up an excellent point. She said, “pacifism is an exercise in academics.” None of us really know how we would respond in every situation. I know how I’d want to respond: I’d want to distract the attacker and sacrifice myself so my cat and grandmother could escape. I’d want to disarm my attacker, or throw him/her off guard with a crazy act of love.

But I also know how I have reacted in the past.

I grew up in Sunday School. I heard about Jesus telling us to “turn the other cheek.” And I always thought I would. But when I got into an abusive relationship at age 16, I eventually got tired of turning the other cheek. I gave up on non-violence for awhile. I fought back. That usually only worsened the violence and made my abuser angrier, but that’s what I did.

I’d like to think that I learned my lesson from that relationship- that violence leads to more violence. But have I? Would I really be able to respond non-violently in every situation? I don’t know.

There you have it, folks. My doubts and questions about pacifism, exposed for you all to read. I don’t know everything.

But I do know that no matter how much dissonance I have in my mind because of this topic, one day everything will resolve. One day we’ll beat our swords into plowshares and live in peace. Somehow, someway, no matter how much apathy or violence tries to get in the way, love wins.


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Two wrongs don’t make a right…or do they?

When children repay violence with violence, we say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

When governments repay violence with violence, we say, “Justice was served.”

I know most people reading this already have verses popping into their heads- maybe from Numbers 35, or even Romans 13. I know several people are already drumming up off-the-wall scenarios to question me with in the comments, and others are probably going to say something about Hitler.

But let’s put all these verses and scenarios aside for a moment (feel free to leave them in the comments, but please hear me out first!) and think about that little phrase that we all heard over and over again as children: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Do we really believe that? Or do we believe that two wrongs make justice?

Some people in this world do terrible things. And it’s easy to think to ourselves, “If anyone deserves death, it’s the murderers or the child abusers or the terrorists or…”

But do two wrongs make a right?

Does killing to show killers that killing is wrong work?

Do wars really lead to peace?

Or do we really believe in the redeeming grace of Jesus that turns murders into missionaries, and soldiers into saints?

Two wrongs don’t make a right. But one wrong- the undeserved execution of Jesus Christ- has the power to make everything right.

Do we really believe that? And if we did, would we be so quick to stand behind our government’s cheap, human version of justice?

I wonder…


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Love by leaving

How do you love a boyfriend that abuses you? How do you treat an abusive girlfriend like Jesus would treat her? How do you forgive a person without letting him/her hurt you again?

Ever since I broke up with my abusive first boyfriend five years ago, I’ve been searching for answers to this question.

If I had treated him better…

If I had stayed with him longer…

If I hadn’t responded with violence at the end (our break up involved me punching him in the face out of self-defense)…

….would he have changed?

Does loving like Jesus loved mean letting people walk all over us? I used to think so.

But I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve been reading the book Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. If you’ve read other books by Shane Claiborne, you’ll know that he is radically committed to following Christ’s teachings of love, mercy, and peace. He is anti-violence, anti-war, and pro-“enemy love.”

But in Jesus for President, he reminds us that Jesus was not pro-passivity. He didn’t want us to “let people sadistically step all over us (p. 92).”

No violence or hatred.

No passiveness.

Jesus taught a “third way.”

As Claiborne and Haw explain, when Jesus preached on “turning the other cheek” in Matthew 5, he was not supporting passiveness. Because of  cultural law, the Jews of that time would only use their right hand to hit someone. Turning the other cheek would prevent attackers from backslapping you as one would an inferior. Your attacker would have to “look [you] in the eye” and fight you as an equal. Jesus did not want people fighting back or cowering in fear. He wanted them to look attackers in the eye and say, as Claiborne and Haw state, “I am a human being, made in the image of God, and you cannot destroy that.” (p. 92)

Of course, our culture is different. Turning the other cheek won’t produce the same effect today. But we can still stand up for our “sacred humanity” (p. 93). By leaving abusive relationships- by showing our abusers that “I am enough!” we can remind them whose image we are made in.

When we walk away from those relationships, our abusers see our strength. They are forced to look at us, not as inferiors, nor as objects, but as equals. As fellow humans. We escape the situation, and at the same time, we force our attackers to see things from a different perspective.

(By the way, this isn’t always easy. I used violence because I couldn’t find any other way out of my situation. I’m a pacifist committed to non-violence, and my saying this is probably hypocritical. But, if you feel that there is no other way out of your situation and you punch your abuser in the face like I did, I will not judge you. In fact, I might secretly cheer for you in my head. There, I said it. Excuse my imperfections. You may not have to use violence, but you may have to get authorities involved. And you will almost certainly need help from friends and family. It’s not easy. Don’t do it alone)

It’s not loving to provide your abuser with an opportunity to continue his violent lifestyle. Violence kills the image of God in us.

So leave abusive relationships and give your abuser a chance to start over. Give your abuser a chance to see the image of God in you, but also in himself/herself. Love abusers by letting them start fresh- by giving them a chance to change.

As Jesus for President states, “Even those who have committed great violence can have the image of God come to life again within them as they hear the whisper of love.”

Love by ending the violence. Love by leaving.

**By the way, read Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. It’s awesome!