Wise As Serpents, Gentle As Doves? | Sojourners

Wise As Serpents, Gentle As Doves?

The promised new world order is predictably a disaster. Nonetheless, the very magnitude of the disaster, graphically symbolized by Bosnia and Somalia, has many Christians asking whether nonviolent means of conflict resolution and pacifism render us impotent and irrelevant.

The loose coalition that resisted U.S. interventionism is fracturing. The political landscape is hard to read as progressives such as Minnesota's Paul Wellstone advocate some form of military response to deter Serbian aggression and Jesse Jackson endorses the U.S. intervention into Somalia.

Divisions are common within the peace community. A secular peace organization in Minnesota invited a Yugoslavian expert and protester to brief its members on Bosnia and then withdrew the invitation when they learned the former pacifist favored bombing Serbian weapons arsenals.

It is also a time of deep soul-searching for Christian communities, including my own, for whom nonviolence is a defining feature. Some people reject recourse to violence under all circumstances while others see "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia as analogous to Hitler's death camps and/or the mass starvation in Somalia as unacceptable and avoidable through the prudent use of force.

Debates about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of military or humanitarian interventions are emotionally charged because they challenge both our political wisdom and the spiritual foundation of many of our communities. As we struggle to find our way, I would urge that we neither expect nor seek consensus as to what constitutes a faithful response to crises such as Bosnia and Somalia. I hope we can share our views and the process and outcome of our discernment passionately but with humility.

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