The present need some have to advocate non-violent action as a response to terrorist threats reminds me of the difficulty idealists of any persuasion face in transferring personal spirituality and moral values to the Real World that is complex, messy, and full of conflicting values and struggle.
Some retreat to their own inner world, espouse their idealism, dismiss the world as wrong and assume that somehow, some day all will come to see the light. Others go along with the majority and uncritically accept the status quo as the only way to go. Neither their spirituality nor their moral values are personally owned and their private life is very separate from their public life.
Others dismiss the world as wrong and try to impose their vision on it with vigor and much determination. Too frequently those at both ends of the spectrum dismiss the other as either idealists or pragmatists. How does one handle this situation of accepting the world uncritically or withdrawing form it really or figuratively?
“What would Jesus do?” may be an appropriate question here. Jesus would have us accept the other, affirm the other and would urge us to develop a relationship with the other. This is an especially important lesson for Christian peacemakers who want to advocate a non-violent response to war and the threat of war. How to accept the other who advocates war and violence as the response to real and presumed threat may be very difficult, and one could simply conclude that the other is very selfish, immoral and violent.
The challenge for the Christian peacemaker is to develop a strong and personal spirituality of non-violence while at the same time finding ways to understand that the other may have a different perspective on how to be spiritual and moral.
Both seek the same goal in different ways in a complex Real World. Because it is more difficult to encounter the other than it is to dismiss the other, we frequently opt to go on our own righteous way quoting some scripture which proves God is on our side. The thrill, indeed the responsibility, is to be engaged in the dialogue not to achieve the end. Espousing idealism alone is simple; encountering the other in community is very difficult.