A Child Is Born In Bukavu

A Christmas message, by today’s guest poster, mormongandhi.

A child is born in Bukavu

A child is born in Bukavu, and sadness fills his mother’s heart… Bukavu is not the city of David. It is a town in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. War has been ravaging the country for years. Ever since Kabila invaded the former Zaire with military support from the US. It is a war that no one speaks of – but it has cost the lives of millions of people and caused unimaginable suffering.

The child’s mother is a young girl, a daughter of the area. This young girl is named Maria.  Maria was a girl like most any other girl in her town. She walked miles for water, she helped her mother with the cooking and she also tilled the land. She learnt how to read in primary school, but ever since the war her parents no longer could afford to pay her school fees. Maria was a believer in the Christian gospel – and went like all other young girls her age to church on Sunday.

Church was a mud hut with a roof made out of straw. There on Sundays, the kids would gather to learn about God. The preacher, an older man with glasses and graying hair, would always talk about God’s love for humanity – and that God once, long time ago, had come to the world as a male child to save humanity. In church, she had also learned some words of English. She knew that when you greeted someone, you had to say: “Good morning, class”. 

The morning breaks

That was then. Prior to the attacks… One day, as the morning broke and shadows gathered, foreign soldiers drove into town. The houses were set on fire. The adults were gathered on the square and the older men were executed one by one. This is how Maria lost her father – and she and her mother witnessed it. The soldiers held their heads for them to watch. Maria was afraid. After having seen the murder of her father, they also separated her from her mother. She was chosen from among the young girls to follow a group of soldiers. One of them stripped her of her clothes and forced himself on her – he, subject to the commanders’ orders.

Now she held this young child in her arms. Her heart was filled with sadness, and she knew that her firstborn child would have given her joy under other circumstances. Some months after the soldiers left, Maria was chased away. The villagers who were left behind were ashamed of her and of the other girls who had become pregnant. These girls were a constant reminder of the day when the men in the village had been powerless – confronted with the threat and the fear of a gun. “Do not ever come back”, were the last words she heard as she was running for her life into the deep woods. 

Maria sings to her little child a song she learned many years ago: “Lullaby, lullaby, my little one. Lullaby, my child so dear. Thy precious life has just begun. Thy mother holds thee near”. And yet, she knows the words do not ring true. True, all life is precious. But not one soul will ever value the life of this child. Born of a violent union, unwanted by his mother, into a world where people willingly march to the sound of guns. What future can she promise him? What life can this child possibly hope to have? Even though she loves him, he is a constant reminder of what happened to her, and like the villagers who once chased her away she cannot find peace when she looks into his eyes. 

Its ranks are filled with soldiers, united, bold and strong…

Victory, victory… The guys were singing and shouting, drunken by their thirst for blood and proud of their conquest. Bukavu had been encircled, trapped, taken, raped and ravaged. The soldiers executed the orders of their commander and had in turn executed the elders of Bukavu – one by one. Herodes was the commander’s name. His boys feared him.

They were now men. They had proven it – to themselves and to him who had led them into victory. Joseph, one of the soldiers, the one who raped Maria, was nonetheless feeling some unease. In following orders, Joseph had forced himself upon this young girl. The others had told him that having sex with a virgin was going to save him from the disease that was making him weak, this pandemic they called AIDS. But more importantly, the others respected him now. He had become one of them: their partner in crime.

You are the man! We saw you, Joseph. You did it. You made her cry – you and your gun. You made her scream. The words were both making him feel proud and good about himself, but for one reason, unknown to him, they were also haunting him. Could he look at a woman again without thinking of the pain he had caused to this young girl – whose name he would never know? In order to survive – either you dominate or you are dominated, Herodes used to say. To rule, you have to systematically brake down the bonds that bind communities together. They need to fear you or fear will overtake you…

I am trying to be like Jesus

War does not bring out the best in us – it brings out the worst in us. True, some acts are acts of courage – but aren’t those heroic acts always associated with saving lives, and not with taking them? Fear begets fear. It is the opposite of love. Misery begets misery. It is the opposite of joy. Violence begets violence. It is the opposite of peace.

The nativity story told the world of a little baby boy, born to Mary, a girl chosen among other girls to be the mother of a Savior, rejected by men and yet, many are they who believe he is their safe ticket to heaven. The story from Bukavu is the story of a little baby boy, born to Maria, a girl chosen among other girls to be the victim of a soldier, so he could gain accept in the eyes of his comrades, so he could become a man, taking by force what he believed was a safe ticket to health.

Jesus taught us that he was not Herodes. “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”  Jesus was nonviolent. Not exactly what you would associate with being a King. He was God. He was love, both long-suffering and kind. That is why he came to earth as a man and not as a woman: not because God favors men, but because the concept of what it means to be a Man on earth is so contrary to what it means to being God in heaven – who Mormons believe is male. Be kind, as a child, he said to them, and loving as a hen gathers her chickens:

“O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you. Yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not. O ye house of Israel, whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart”. 

Love one another

It was necessary for Jesus to come to earth in the form and shape of a male – to represent God as his firstborn son, the first among all great men, a king of kings. “Little children, a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”.

The divine irony is the fact that Jesus exhibits throughout his life traits that we call feminine: peaceful, loving, kind, sharing, meek, forgiving, gentle, and caring. He helped the poor and he healed the sick. We crucified him, because he was a threat to men everywhere. He challenged the very idea of what it means to be a man: strong, violent, forceful, greedy, noisy, arrogant and proud. He challenged the way we think about achieving peace, not by dominating others before they dominate us, but by showing us a better way to freedom – paved with love and with sacrifice.

In short, this was the message Jesus gave to the modern House of Israel, to the modern sons of Jacob: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”  He showed all men an alternative masculinity – that of the nonviolent male who sides with the poor and the downtrodden. Come, follow me, the Savior said. 

For an alternative and nonviolent study of the Book of Mormon, mormongandhi is regularly publishing a study chapter on mormon nonviolence (latter day satyagraha) at http://mormongandhi.com. Each chapter follows the set-up of the Institute Study Manual of the LDS Church. In addition, you can share your thoughts and insights on the nonviolent readings of the Book of Mormon with other “peaceable followers of Christ” (Moroni 7:3) at the discussion forum (http://peaceablefollowers.wordpress.com) created in parallel to the “latter day satyagraha” site.

mormongandhi currently lives in Oslo, Norway. He has a BA in peace and development studies from Bradford University in the UK, where he studied religious peacebuilding, as well as a master’s in peace operations from GMU in Washington D.C.

mormongandhi is looking for alternative and more peaceful ways of thinking and living. He calls himself an advocate for nonviolence in the Restoration movement.

Comments

comments

39 comments for “A Child Is Born In Bukavu

  1. December 15, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Ahh,George Mason’s ICAR program, an interesting development since they could not have a sociology department. It has become so much more than that.

    So, are there action points to this essay, beyond nonviolence?

  2. December 15, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Yes, started in the ICAR program and went on to the POPP program (Peace Operations Policy in Public Policy Dept), but am very familiar with the crowd that went at ICAR. Did you study there yourself?

    Action points: more an invitation to discuss topics on the theme of mormon nonviolence at peaceable followers forum and participate in the ongoing “nonviolent study” of the Book of Mormon. Latter day satyagraha (the original website) is a counter-reaction to what I call the military logic found in the LDS faith.

    Since this is my first essay at mormonmatters.org, it is mainly introducing to a wider audience topics that are being discussed otherwise in articles @ latter day satyagraha: nonviolence (jesus), conflictology (war in heaven), liberation theology (saviors on mount zion), alternative masculinities (even as I am), civil disobedience (kingdom of God or nothing).

  3. December 15, 2009 at 7:36 am

    and looking at your background, it seems like I would have a lot to learn from you… 🙂

  4. brjones
    December 15, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Reading this account really brings home to me the logic and mercy of god’s plan. Clearly god doesn’t have time to help people like Maria because his attention is focused on helping the lady in last month’s testimony meeting to avoid buying the wrong couch.

    Thanks for the perspective, mormonghandi. As uncomfortable as it is to read, there’s probably no better time of the year to have our attention brought around to such things.

  5. December 15, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Mormongandhi,
    thank you for your post. I support what you are doing. There is no other way, in my opinion, then to take up our cross and follow Christ in the path of non-resistance. We as a nation have rejected Christ and taken his name in vain in supposing that He endorses what I consider wholesale murder under the banner of patriotism. After Viet Nam I was not surprised that our nation could indulge in collective self-deceit and abandoning of our principles in invading and killings tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to have many if not most of the members of our faith, including leaders, to be so easily deceived or willingly complicit in endorsing what I consider murder–that I not been able to comprehend. Christ came to demonstrate that the “end never justifies ungodly means.” We, like the “den of thieves” (militant zealots and not common robbers”) inhabit the temple and point our finger of scorns at pacifist. We tell ourselves that then “end (our security) justifies the means” and thereby, become the very evil we deplore. Worse, our endorsement of our foreign wars is the height of being the “hypocritical nation.”

  6. December 15, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Mormongandhi,
    There is a group of LDS that support your position fully. We can be found at themormonworker.org. Here is one of my posts as to the 12th article of faith. http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/the-12th-article-of-faith-not-to-be-used-as-an-excuse-for-murder/#more-408 In GD it has been used to “justify” the use of force–but it is a misreading or worse perversion in my opinion.

  7. Thomas
    December 15, 2009 at 11:10 am

    “War does not bring out the best in us – it brings out the worst in us. True, some acts are acts of courage – but aren’t those heroic acts always associated with saving lives, and not with taking them?”

    No.

    I cannot have unreserved admiration for a man who was naive enough to suggest that European Jews and others attempt a strategy of nonresistance against the Nazis. (Instances of satyagraha working against anyone but English-speaking democracies are rare or nonexistent.) Nor do I believe that the just-war doctrine can be read out of Christian/Mormon scripture and tradition without actively suppressing a multitude of inconvenient texts. President Monson was not evil for serving in the Navy in World War II (a war whose casus belli was no more or less straightforward than the impetus to the American war in Afghanistan.) Nor do my friends and relatives in the military go around raping people. Projecting the conduct of savages onto all warriors is just as bigoted as projecting the conduct of inner-city gangbangers onto all minorities.

  8. December 15, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Thomas,
    agreed. To defend oneself or others is just. It is an honorable law. It is terrestrial to use an analogy. To be an active pacifist and/or be an anti-nephi lehites is a higher law–a mystery/enigma to those of us not born again. The telestial law is simple—pre-emptive wars–go get them before they get you. Just war is “justified” but DC 98 points or invites us to a higher law–a law that involves faith that He means what he says, ie, he will protect us if we do it his way. I accept DC 98 on it’s face. However, we have chosen to ignore what DC 98 invites us to do with a warning–which is essentially do it my way or you are on your own and even deserve what happens to you. The early saints ignored DC 98 five years after it was given and formed a Danite band (80 men and some apostles with blood on their minds) and made a pre-emptive strike on Gallatin and Crooked River after Sidney’s “Salt Sermon” using the word “extermination” before Boggs even considered using the same word. They attacked, murdered, pillaged, drove out, and stole the goods of the innocent civilians there–took to the Bishop’s storehouse). They were doing it for “security” purposes. They rejected DC 98 and in so doing brought upon themselves their own doom. Thomas Marsh and Orson Hyde understandably signed affidavits condemning that war of aggression and Thomas was chased off and excommunicated for telling the truth–not milk strippings. I accept DC 98, but reject but like Marsh firmly believe that we have rejected it in our endorsing our recent wars. We deserve no better fate unless we repent of what we have done. Nope, we won’t repent, we will not admit guilt or being mistaken—but like blacks and the priesthood just let time pass and hope everyone forgets.

  9. brjones
    December 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    “Christ came to demonstrate that the “end never justifies ungodly means.””

    I don’t mean to be rude or combative, but are you serious? Are we talking about the same jesus who not only condoned, but commanded “wholesale murder” and slavery of women and children as the god of the Old Testament? Isn’t this the same jesus who’s angel commanded nephi to murder laban in order to obtain a book that he wanted? Isn’t this the same jesus who either commanded or turned a blind eye to, depending on how you look at it, his early American prophets to lie en masse to the world, including their families and the church, about their polygamous activities? Is this the same jesus whose prophet brigham young stated that anything that god commands is righteous, even if it is a sin in any other context? I’m not sure how you come to the conclusion that jesus represented the position that the end never justifies ungodly means, unless you concede that anything that god commands is godly, in which case the statement loses virtually all meaning because anything can be justified by saying that god commanded it. I would agree that jesus and essentially all religions stand for that proposition.

  10. December 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I am, admittedly, not a pacifist. I would probably take a life to preserve my own and I admittedly value my own life more than those of others — and certainly those of my enemies (not that I have too many 🙂 ).

    That being said, if it is Christ whom we claim to follow and who we claim embodies everything that we should aspire to become, and if we wish to truly follow him, then I think that involves living the higher law of nonviolence. To those who believe Christ to be the perfect example, he lived and died in nothing but pacifist fashion.

  11. Thomas
    December 15, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    #8 Ron: Recall that the pacifism of the Anti-Nephi Lehies was exercised in the specific context of its being part of the process by which people who had actually committed murder were seeking divine forgiveness. And ironically, as it turned out, the pacifism of the ANL wasn’t exactly perfect. Pure pacifism, I believe, would require that not only must the ANL refuse to fight themselves (which they originally did, and got repeatedly massacred), but also that they should refuse to accept the armed protection of others. Which the ANL did, accepting the land of Jershon, protected by Nephite warriors who apparently did engage in combat on the ANL’s behalf.

    In short, I don’t believe that there is a strict parallel between telestial-terrestrial-celestial laws, and aggressive warfare-defensive warfare-pacifism. Pacifism is not a “celestial” law, superior to just war, ina ll circumstances, and D&C 98 doesn’t teach pacifism. It teaches that the Saints should “renounce war and proclaim peace,” but then goes on to state the grounds on which forcible resistance is justified. The law of D&C 98 is forebearance, not pacifism. Verse 16 doesn’t exist in a doctrinal vacuum. As with all things, whether a nonviolent approach to aggression is required by celestial law depends on the circumstances.

    In the specific circumstance of Christ’s life, a nonviolent submission to the aggression of the violence of the Jewish authorities (under color of willfully abused law) must have been obedience to some principle of celestial law, since it was necessary for the Atonement to occur. But the imitation of Christ to which the faithful are called is not necessarily an imitation of the particulars of his life, but rather of his character. We don’t all have to take up carpentry, celibacy (at least as far as can be discerned from the scriptural record; I suppose Jesus could have married and been widowed before age 30), or mendicant preaching in order to imitate Christ.

    It is entirely possible for a teacher and a policeman to have identically righteous, Christlike character, notwithstanding that this character is expressed in the particular circumstances of each vocation. In fact, it would not be at all “Christlike” if the policeman (who “beareth not the sword in vain,” according to the New Testament), if he came upon the teacher being raped, decided not to use force in her defense. “Where e’er thou art, act well thy part.” A person whose moral responsibilities include the use of appropriate force, acts unrighteously when he is not diligent in discharging those responsibilities.

    I have no problem with Joseph — the man to whom D&C 98 had been given — blazing away down the Carthage Jail stairwell with a pepperbox revolver. That action may well have saved John Taylor’s and Willard Richards’ lives. To paraphrase a talk that I have my own issues with, is it conceivable that Joseph, knowing that he was about to enter eternity, would have set aside the celestial law? HE WOULD NOT DO THAT!!!

  12. December 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    “Over 1/3 of the Book of Mormon (177 pages) is about war. There are 54 chapter of wars; 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters of visions and prophecies; 71 chapters of doctrine and exhortation; 21 chapters of Christ ministry.” Information Pages by Bruce Barton, IP-26.

    I don’t find much to respect when it comes to abridging the Book of Mormon (if indeed this is what your group is doing). If a church member believes in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon why would they edit out approximately a 1/3 of it to suit their worldly views?

    I’ve been in the military and seen how American’s soldiers conduct themselves. Honorable is the word I use to describe them (95%+). I wouldn’t use that word to describe our politicians; at least most of them since WWII. If it was your intent to make a comparison of the soldiers in the Congo to the American soldier, then you are a misguided lot.

  13. December 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    brjones,

    Your comments are right on and not rude or combative in the least to me. IMO God did not command those things. Men have taken Christ’s name in vain and that He said or commanded such things —-or they believed Christ did. I agree with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:7) Isaiah and others that even animal sacrifice was man’s invention and God held his nose and put up with it as a way to exercise blood lust without killing each other. As for Nephi and Laban—the BOM starts with Nephi adopting the words Caiphas used ironically to justify the murder of Christ, “it is better that one man perish than…” for such and such end or rationalization, and then Nephi replicates the very sword which is used as a symbol of power. Such patterns or beliefs always end ultimately in self-destruction. We are invited to “be more wise” but instead mimic the very pattern that the Nephites in the end embrace that led to their end. I simply do not believe that God always commands what we say he commands–especially when it comes to violence. That is a God in our own image. Abraham became as the Gods knowing “good from evil himself” when he rejected the voice of religion of his day, that he believed told him he must kill his son when he put down the knife and said “I will not do it” The narrative we tell ourselves is nonsense IMO and also has been from the beginning of time. So are the examples you so skillfully cited.

  14. December 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    #13 Ron Madson

    Wow, is all I can say. If I understand correctly what you’ve written you’re a prime example of why the Lord calls prophets. Uninspired men and women are the reason therw are so many churches as described in 2 Nephi 28:3-4. Are you trying to start a new church?

  15. December 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Hmmm… I think that this discussion went off on other tangents unintended by this post – and some of you have perhaps put too much into the story. I am sorry if some think that the story was meant to liken US soldiers with soldiers from any other nation or country. I think however it is naive to believe that US soldiers are in some way better or more enlightened than any other soldier. The soldiers in DRC do probably not have as much discipline and drilled to have as much honor as US soldiers, but most organized militaries tend to have honorable men and women serving. Honorable is probably what most soldiers are – in a way. The largest part don’t kill or rape, or even torture. Most of them handle guns however. You can’t judge the whole bunch based on a couple of bad apples, as they say.

    I also served two years in the military, and would protest at the idea that I was ungodly or immoral. But are we not all sinners? I think that, with hindsight, that I was conditioned my whole life to believe that the military was an honorable and even a moral place to be – and the LDS church has some part to play in this. To my horror, however, I did realize that not all soldiers had a reflected reasoning for being there, and I make the assumption that this tension between being raised to “be like Jesus” and to “be like Captain Moroni” and a serviceman in a modern army is a fruitful tension, which tends to make for good people in general.

    I mention mormon liberation theology in an earlier comment: I think that recent development in mormonism are showing a sign of the LDS church moving towards liberation theology, i.e. GBH’s conference address on war and peace in 2003. “Sometimes nations have an obligation to fight oppression, tyranny and for freedom” (or something like that). This is not a new principle, it is just a new emphasis in a new international context.

    Now that being said, this post was about violent masculinities vs. nonviolent alternatives – and not about blaming the military for all the ills in the world (I have done so in other articles on my site and would welcome some of the above comments there instead). However, there were a couple of points I wanted to make:

    1. Jesus demonstrated feminine traits: see description above, and seemed to encourage other men to follow suit.

    2. In that sense, he challenged men everywhere to live according according to a concept I would call “redemptive masculinity”. This latter concept was developed by a group of churches in Eastern Africa to provide a counter-culture to sexual violence against women, which in the case of DRC rises to unbelievable proportions: 250’000 women are believed raped or have suffered from sexual violent abuse over the last few years in that region alone. Some stories are perhaps too graphic and horrible to render here, but there are realities nonetheless for hundreds of thousands of women in areas of conflict.

    3. Most governments around the world have agreed on several UN Security Resolutions to combat the systematic use of sexual violence as a tool of war.

    4. For that reason, churches – who tend to define the relations of power between men and women – must also take responsibility, both in those countries and also where ever sexual violence is an issue, to create alternative nonviolent masculinities for men.

    5. Men should stop their insecurity lead to the lack of security for women.

    6. All of you, stop being so US-centric and even mormon-centric! The world is vast and the problems many. It’s not all about US soldiers or about Afghanistan or Iraq. Violence is unfortunately a reality all over the world, both in organized forms through navies and armies fighting for gold and silver, and in non-organized forms like domestic violence, gender-based violence, urban violence, gun violence, criminal violence, etc. Men are again most often the perpetrators, but not all men are. In fact, the majority of men are nonviolent – but our earthly understanding of what it means to be a man needs in many contexts a re-interpretation. Perhaps not a new church, but rather a new vision/outlook.

    in peace,

    mormongandhi

  16. Yossarian
    December 15, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    This discussion is too humorous

    BRJones, you wrote

    “Are we talking about the same jesus who not only condoned, but commanded “wholesale murder” and slavery of women and children as the god of the Old Testament? Isn’t this the same jesus who’s angel commanded nephi to murder laban in order to obtain a book that he wanted? Isn’t this the same jesus who either commanded or turned a blind eye to, depending on how you look at it, his early American prophets to lie en masse to the world, including their families and the church, about their polygamous activities? Is this the same jesus whose prophet brigham young stated that anything that god commands is righteous, even if it is a sin in any other context?”

    FYI, maybe its not the same Jesus, maybe it was that jesus people only invoke when they want to cover up the crimes they commit with appeals to God.

    Thomas

    you wrote

    “In the specific circumstance of Christ’s life, a nonviolent submission to the aggression of the violence of the Jewish authorities (under color of willfully abused law) must have been obedience to some principle of celestial law, since it was necessary for the Atonement to occur. But the imitation of Christ to which the faithful are called is not necessarily an imitation of the particulars of his life, but rather of his character. We don’t all have to take up carpentry, celibacy (at least as far as can be discerned from the scriptural record; I suppose Jesus could have married and been widowed before age 30), or mendicant preaching in order to imitate Christ.”

    First, since the at-one-ment is more than some magic act that required Jesus check off boxes so he could be sufficiently pure for God to inflict pain, suffering, and death in some substitutionary manner but part of reconciling and bringing all of God’s children into oneness, you may want to consider that a lack of aggression is part of that healing as well as part of the command for all of us to participate in the atonement daily in healing our own fragmented relationships even with enemies.

    Secondly, While I agree carpentry, celibacy, etc have nothing to do with imitating Christ, you cant fool us with your rhetorical slight of hand in conveniently dismissing the fact that jesus defined the character of a son of God as one who turn the other cheek, loves their enemies and blesses everyone, the just and unjust. Therefore, be ye perfect. Perfection in that he did ask for. So yeah lets follow his character. He repeatedly told us, take up your cross, love your enemies, those you use the sword will perish by it, my kingdom is not after the manner of this world because if it was we would use weapons, etc and then he went out and actually lived it. It was his character. He lived that sermon right to the end.

    And jared, you wrote

    “Over 1/3 of the Book of Mormon (177 pages) is about war. There are 54 chapter of wars; 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters of visions and prophecies; 71 chapters of doctrine and exhortation; 21 chapters of Christ ministry.” Information Pages by Bruce Barton, IP-26.

    I don’t find much to respect when it comes to abridging the Book of Mormon (if indeed this is what your group is doing). If a church member believes in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon why would they edit out approximately a 1/3 of it to suit their worldly views?”

    Newsflash, maybe they left in there so you could learn from it, not emulate it. The Book is a warning you know. Mormon did end his portion, Mormon 7, by saying, hey idiots, dont do what we did, actually follow Christ, and lay down your weapons of war unless God commands it.

  17. brjones
    December 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    #16 – For the record, I don’t actually believe these things, but according to LDS doctrine, as I’m sure you know, Jesus and Jehovah of the Old Testament are the same person. And if you accept that someone might have been invoking Jesus’s name with respect to the other things I mentioned, that leaves you in a very precarious place as a believing member of the church. That said, objectively speaking I don’t disagree with your point.

  18. Thomas
    December 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    #16, you critically identified Christ’s character as reflecting “a lack of aggression.” Exactly.

    Your error is in calling it “aggression” when I defend myself against someone who has initiated aggression against me.

    I’ve been intrigued by Rene Girard’s interpretation of the Atonement as breaking the cycle of mimetic desire and scapegoating “founding murder.” I don’t think that requires zero-tolerance pacifism, any more than imitating Christ requires celibacy. The Atonement was a specific act, which was the perfect righteous course in one specific circumstance. You can argue for extrapolating that example in that circumstance to all circumstances — but if you do so, you have to explain away quite a bit of Scripture, both OT, NT, and Restoration, that justifies defensive force.

    Mormon 7, btw, is addressed to the Lamanites. It is they who are specifically told not to go on the warpath unless God specifically commands it. Compare D&C 134:11 — “We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.”

    Nothing in that last bit about waiting for a case-specific, explicit divine Authorization to Use Military Force. And anyway, the “except they be commanded” part is satisfied by the general commandment of Alma 43:47: “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” (Emphasis added.)

    The point is that you can be a pacifist Mormon, but you need to be a cafeteria Mormon to do so. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, mind you.

  19. Thomas
    December 15, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    #15, that was a thoughtful post. However, I honestly don’t believe that over-feminizing men is either realistic or desirable.

    By all means, kill off the natural (simian) man’s tendency to seek dominance and practice aggression. No more alpha-male status seeking and cutthroat competition. (N.B., this is food for thought in a hierarchical, authoritarian Church.)

    “In fact, the majority of men are nonviolent – but our earthly understanding of what it means to be a man needs in many contexts a re-interpretation.”

    I would argue that what is required is less a wholesale reinterpretation of what manhood needs, but rather the persuasion of the violent minority of men to get with the program and adopt the majority view. I see no connection whatsoever between the predictably savage behavior of savages, and the restrained resort to defensive force, whether in war, law enforcement, or litigation (which is basically warfare without actually letting off the guns that ultimately rest in the background).

    God or evolution created in the male of the species an instinct for confrontation and competition. We can either try to eliminate it (good luck with that!) or channel it into honorable defense and football. I have far less of a problem with “muscular Christianity,” even unto (defensive) conflict, than I do with even apparently nonviolent aggression. Aggression is the problem, not violence per se. And I do absolutely believe that it was aggression,, in all of its guises, that Christ came to put under his feet.

  20. December 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Thomas,
    I am on board with #19. Like Faithful Dissident I am not a pure pacifist. I read an article some time ago that chronicled 36 variations of pacifism from “Nuclear Pacifists” (okay to use anything but nukes) to strict pacifists (roll over and never resist) and all kinds in between. I would probably shoot the bastards that were coming to get me if I were in Carthage, but then again I do not hold myself out as a CHristian martyr in the mold of Christ nor those that followed him to the cross. Honorable defense and football. I’m addicted to sports, and I am a litigator, and actually believe there is a divine purpose in having gyms in the heart of churches…But who I am and my natural tendencies cannot allow me to interpret a God in my own image or pretend He did not mean what He said.

  21. December 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    1. “our […] understanding of what it means to be a man needs in many contexts a re-interpretation”, 19# if you put the emphasis on “in many contexts”, an example would be that Scandinavia and DRC have very different cultural interpretations of gender roles of men and of women in society. I am for more egalitarian approaches and would welcome more men learning from women, rather than the opposite – where we see that women have to behave like alpha-males in order to be heard/accepted/respected in male-dominated environments (business, churches, military, etc.). So why not feminize men?

    2. I would agree with the “divine purpose” for gyms in churches… If we are the body of Christ, we might as well build it to perfection – physically, spiritually and mentally.

    3. Non-aggression vs. nonviolence – (hmm..) I will have to dwell on that idea for a few days and let it sink in. I like where it is taking me… Nonetheless, I think that that is what I mean by nonviolence – but I will do the mental exercise of uncovering the difference. If you could expand a bit more on that to help me on the way, Thomas, it would be much appreciated.

    mormongandhi

  22. Yossarian
    December 15, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Thomas

    Im glad you brought up Girard since I think he is very helpful in understanding the atonement and Christ’s character. As to zero-tolerance pacifism, what do you mean by that?

    Im going to have to disagree on Mormon 7. The Lamanite part is just a nice chapter heading that is not scripture and was one man’s interpretation. The text says this is a warning to the remnant of his seed that are spared. By this time, lamanites and nephites have intermarried extensively and they are largely political terms which is why Mormon goes out of his way to state he is an actual descendant of Nephi as opposed to others. When you say it is for the lamanites, you are engaging in the same rhetoric that got them into the whole mess to begin with, having -ites. I can only assume that you are doing what a Nephite might do in the war chapters by suggesting mormon 7 only applies to the more loathsome lamanites and not us chosen nephites. That is part of the whole problem and why Samuel the Lamanite comes along to deconstruct that whole fallen narrative.

    Its the same nonsense that occurred in 1st century palestine. If you are in the covenant you are called to be a light unto the world, not to reflect that light back on yourself all the while proclaiming yourself good and wholesome while the other guy, the lamanite, roman, sinner, etc is evil.

    And btw, D&C 134 us not revelation, just Oliver Cowdery’s musing on govt that were sustained while Joseph was away in Canada.

    One could take your statement

    The point is that you can be a pacifist Mormon, but you need to be a cafeteria Mormon to do so. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, mind you.

    and write it just as easily

    The point is that you can be a non pacifist Christian, but you need to be a cafeteria Christian to do so. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, mind you.

  23. December 15, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    #16 Yossarian said: “Newsflash, maybe they left in there so you could learn from it, not emulate it. The Book is a warning you know. Mormon did end his portion, Mormon 7, by saying, hey idiots, dont do what we did, actually follow Christ, and lay down your weapons of war unless God commands it.”

    Question: Who is Mormon speaking to in the verse below: the Nephites, Lamanites, or Gentiles?

    “Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.” Mormon 7:4

    When did the Nephites’ violate the ideal expressed in this verse?

  24. Heather M
    December 15, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    My last post in this thread got eaten and isn’t up somehow. I’ll have to see if I can debug what happened to it.

  25. December 15, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Hmm, looks like someone else was using this computer before I did. The “Heather M” post should read Stephen M (Ethesis). Sorry about that.

  26. Thomas
    December 15, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    #22: See Mormon 7:1: “And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak:”

    That “remnant” would be the Lamanites. Who else was left?

    I don’t see how you can get from viewing Mormon 7 as being addressed to the Lamanites (which it clearly is), to concluding that the Lamanites are “evil.” Mormon 7 is a special instruction to a specific group of people, much like the Word of Wisdom is directed at the Saints and not the world.

    “And btw, D&C 134 us not revelation, just Oliver Cowdery’s musing on govt that were sustained while Joseph was away in Canada.”

    Of course if we’re going to sift through Scripture and throw out the “epistles of straw” that don’t support our positions, that pretty much annihilates the whole point of looking to scripture for authority, as opposed to just making the best logical argument we can from the basic premise of a just and merciful God. Which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but of course that will lead to all kind of disagreements.

    By “zero-tolerance pacifism,” I mean absolute pacifism — the refusal to resort to force under any circumstances, even in response to force initiated by aggressors. Only a Sith deals in absolutes!

  27. December 15, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    mormongandhi, I’m not finding my post in the spam filter either. That is strange. I’m am aware of ICAR from my hobby cf http://adrr.com/ and a number of related things. Had a really long post, but that was before I realized how sick I was, got sent home from work and got some rest. Now I don’t remember the rest of it, other than Nibley wrote a great deal and talked a lot about his experiences in WWII. He was very much with you in being against militarism.

    I do note that if you read the actual statement the president of the church made, rather than read into it, you will find that it is not as narrow in meaning as many think.

    I think this post developed nicely, especially in your comments, I look forward to your next post.

  28. Yossarian
    December 15, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Jared asked

    Question: Who is Mormon speaking to in the verse below: the Nephites, Lamanites, or Gentiles?

    And Thomas then correctly answered

    Mormon 7:1: “And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak:”

    with the addition of

    That “remnant” would be the Lamanites. Who else was left? I don’t see how you can get from viewing Mormon 7 as being addressed to the Lamanites (which it clearly is), to concluding that the Lamanites are “evil.” Mormon 7 is a special instruction to a specific group of people, much like the Word of Wisdom is directed at the Saints and not the world.

    There are a few significant issues here. One of course is who the allegation that no one else is left alive but Lamanites. I dont think its that clear at all. Secondly, can someone give me a definition of Lamanites please? Because Im pretty sure that the text tells us the Lamanite/Nephite division post 4 nephi is strictly between those that followed Christ and those that didnt rather than some ethnicity. What does Lamanite even mean at this point in the history? And furthermore, by the time Mormon is writing his epistle its pretty clear no one is really following Christ in either camp. As Mormon says of his own people, You have “departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!”

    But the much larger issue is why people insist that the only remnant is Lamanites and that this summary of what Mormon thought was the purpose of the entire book (Moroni tells us his father wrote the intent of the book) only applies to Lamanites. When you say that Mormon 7 only applies to a specific group like the WoW you only have a small number of options really. Either the Lamanites are more righteous and only they can live this higher law or the rest of us are so much better that we dont need it.

    And since you asked jared, I think the verse below might give us at least one example of when the Nephites delighted in murder. Are you suggesting that somehow this injunction to engage in violence only with God’s command applies narrowly? Narrowly to one group of people? And why might it apply narrowly do you think? After all this is a remnant who wont read it for likely a thousand years plus. Is there something wrong with this group genetically?

    Then again, if we want to get textual we could parse 7:1 and ask what the word “this” refers to as in this people, the previous people being discussed was the Nephites. Then of course we could examine the word remnant, meaning a small left over, used biblically to describe what is left of a community following a catastrophe (e.g., Noah’s family after the flood, Gen 6:5-8:22 ; Lot’s family after the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen. 19 those who remained in the land after the deportations of 597 b.c., Ezra 9:8 ; Jer 24:8 ; 52:15 ; those left behind under Gedaliah, Jeremiah 40:6 Jeremiah 40:11 Jeremiah 40:15). On second thought, I think the textual evidence may even be pointing to the small number of survivors who were part of the Nephite political affiliation, Mormon 6 does say there were a few. read remnant, that survived.

    Mormon 3:14-15

    And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth.

  29. December 16, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Thank you all for your very interesting and well-thought arguments through the above discussion. I would like to come with the definition of violence as the anti-thesis of peace, as done above “violence begets violence. it is the opposite of peace”. See also http://mormongandhi.com/2009/05/01/the-war-in-heaven-mormon-conflictology/

    The reason I do so, is because violence has been so far in many comments understood as “direct violence” or physical violence. I have thought the non-aggression and non-violence part over night and come to the following conclusion:

    Violence has many sides: King Benjamin says it nicely, “Finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit [violence]; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts (ATTITUDES – ), and your words (CONDITIONS -), and your deeds (BEHAVIOR -), and observe the commandments of God (BEHAVIOR +), and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord (CONDITIONS +), even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember (ATTITUDES +), and perish not”.

    In the above scripture I see King Benjamin making the difference between peaceful Attitudes, Behaviors and Conditions and violent Attitudes, Behaviors and Conditions. This is what we call in Peace Studies a Galtungian definition of violence using the “conflict ABC triangle”. I provide examples of direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence from the Book of Mormon in my follow-up article to “the war in heaven – mormon conflictology”.

    Attitudes = cultural violence/peace
    Behavior = direct violence/peace
    Conditions = structural violence/peace

    nonviolence or peace, if you will is therefore the opposite of cultural and structural violence as well as direct violence. Defining violence narrowly as aggression and to say that the plan of Salvation was to do away with aggression “my doctrine is that such things should be done away”, is to not take into account cultural violence (having -ites #22) and structural violence (inequality between men and women for example). Cultural violence makes structural violence and direct violence feel good or right and legitimizes violence in all its divers ways and means.

    I would welcome therefore a debate on nonviolence from a wider definition of what violence means and that nonviolence is equated with peace.

    mormongandhi

  30. December 16, 2009 at 1:51 am

    Here’s an excerpt from the LDS church video: Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, a Message of Peace for Latter-day Saints in the Military Service – Part 3, Like unto Moroni, by Elder Lance B. Wickman of the First Quorum of the Seventy (called 01 April 2000). The whole video can be watched @ http://mormongandhi.com/video-a-message-of-peace-for-lds-in-the-military-service/

    “The work of death. What a descriptive phrase. Only a soldier can fully appreciate the depth and the breadth of meaning in that phrase. Consider for instance this statement found in Alma 43:37 “and the work of death commenced on both sides. But it was more dreadful on the part of the lamanites because their bodies were unprotected”. Only one who knew what he was talking about could write such words. The work of death. Dreadful. Those words were written by someone who has been there. The combat soldier knows exquisitely the awful loathsome nature of the battlefield experience. The fear, the horrors, the bloodshed, the share exhaustion. There is nothing glorious about it. It really is a work, the work of death. A soldier does that work, because he has to, because it is his duty, not because he wants to, or because he derives any satisfaction from the experience.

    I disagree with the last sentence, because to me it seems to take away from the individual his personal responsibility for participating in that “work of death” and and therefore strip him or her of their free agency. We stop becoming free agents in a way when we subject ourselves to participation the adversary’s plan. See Moses 6:15 – And the children of men were numerous upon all the face of the land. And in those days Satan had great dominion among men, and raged in their hearts; and from thenceforth came wars and bloodshed; and a man’s hand was against his own brother, in administering death, because of secret works, seeking for power.

  31. December 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    There is a quote from the fiction writer Larry Niven that is appropriate here: “There are indeed many soldiers in heaven — just none who took pleasure in their work.”

  32. Thomas
    December 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    #28: “Either the Lamanites are more righteous and only they can live this higher law or the rest of us are so much better that we dont need it.”

    Or, Joseph bought into the nineteenth-century American thinking of American Indians as bloodthirsty savages (formed, to be fair, by plenty of for-real massacres, including my wife’s ancestors, fortunately after they procreated), and assigned them the same conditions for forgiveness as the Anti-Nephi Lehies had.

    “Are you suggesting that somehow this injunction to engage in violence only with God’s command applies narrowly? Narrowly to one group of people? And why might it apply narrowly do you think? After all this is a remnant who wont read it for likely a thousand years plus. Is there something wrong with this group genetically?”

    Are you serious? This is the same book that records God cursing the whole race with dark and loathsome skins because Laman and Lemuel didn’t get along with their insufferably righteous little brother. Are you trying to say the Book of Mormon couldn’t possibly apply a different standard to the Lamanite descendants — because that would be racist? Since when does the Book of Mormon give a rip about seeming racist? The word hadn’t even been invented yet.

    “Secondly, can someone give me a definition of Lamanites please? Because Im pretty sure that the text tells us the Lamanite/Nephite division post 4 nephi is strictly between those that followed Christ and those that didnt rather than some ethnicity. What does Lamanite even mean at this point in the history?”

    Regardless of whether the “remnant” consisted of genetic Lamanites or Nephites or a mixture, it’s clear that Mormon 7 is addressed to the remnant of the Hebrew colonists of the Americas — Lehi’s, Ishmael’s, and the Mulekite party’s descendants. I simply see no way by which, in good faith and using rational methods of interpretation, it can be understood as applying to the Gentiles. Expresio unius est exclusio alterius, and all that. Look at verse 8: “Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you. The Gentiles are clearly distinguished from the people to whom Mormon 7 is addressed.

    In any event, Alma 43:47 appears to be a continuing divine command authorizing forceful defense of one’s own family, even absent a case-specific revelation.

  33. Thomas
    December 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    #29 — Oh, I absolutely agree that aggression can take forms other than direct physical violence. Christ’s gospel is to do away with all forms of unrighteous dominion. Where I may part company with “peace studies” (in my amateur’s understanding of the field) is where they may suggest that all forms of “violence” are morally equivalent. I continue to believe that it is not violence itself that is the problem, but rather our willingness to initiate violence. And that includes the initiation of all kinds of coercion without consent, not just gunplay.

    Of course, that creates the problem of the “he started it!” nonsense we hear from our kids. But the difficulty in operating a standard is no excuse for not doing our best to follow it, if it can be workable at all.

  34. December 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    33# you mean immorally equivalent? 🙂

  35. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    December 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I guess it’s pretty easy to be a pacifist when you live in Norway.

  36. Yossarian
    December 17, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Thomas #32

    you are right. We could take the option that Joseph put himself into the text. As to the racism in the book. There is a perfectly acceptable way of reading the text that can accept that God is not a racist and does not change peoples skin with magic and that any racism is nephite racism. Certainly Samuel the Lamanite’s speech points towards the reality that the Nephite narrative may not have been on the up and up with God.

    Lets assume that Mormon 7 does not apply to the Gentiles, why does that matter in your view? Do you feel that the push towards non-violence shouldnt apply to others? What of the clear non-violent message of the sermon on the mount?

    I also have no problem accepting Alma 43:47 as authorizing forceful defense of one’s own family, even absent a case-specific revelation while at the same time realizing that Christ had not come yet to explain in person God’s will, nature, and desire for his children. But even leaving that aside, if the world actually adopted a policy of only defending ones self and family that would be a great progress from where we are. There is hardly any conflict in the world that reflects the nephite idea of only defensive wars in your own lands, after you have been attacked multiple times.

  37. December 17, 2009 at 9:59 am

    #35, fair point. and yet, I did serve two years in the military. On the other hand, I don’t think it is pretty easy to be a pacifist if you are mormon – and that’s why I think we need to continue to advocate for it as a valid religious response and mormon interpretation of God’s will in relation to conflict 🙂

  38. Thomas
    December 17, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    “There is a perfectly acceptable way of reading the text that can accept that God is not a racist and does not change peoples skin with magic and that any racism is nephite racism. Certainly Samuel the Lamanite’s speech points towards the reality that the Nephite narrative may not have been on the up and up with God.”

    The Nephites were certainly not as righteous as they thought themselves to be, but the “God blackened the Lamanites’ skins” doctrine is a direct quote from His White-Hatted Holiness Nephi himself, complete with a “Thus saith the Lord” attached:

    And he had caused the acursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be aloathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. And cursed shall be the seed of him that amixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.

    (2 Nephi 5:21-23.)

    Once you start second-guessing Nephi, of all people, and the reliability of his prophetic voice, you pretty much lose the whole authority of the Book of Mormon as a reliable guide to God’s will. In which case the passages that seem to support pacifism are equally questionable.

    “Lets assume that Mormon 7 does not apply to the Gentiles, why does that matter in your view? Do you feel that the push towards non-violence shouldnt apply to others? What of the clear non-violent message of the sermon on the mount?”

    The push towards non-aggression applies to everyone. In light of other scriptures, I continue to be persuaded that Scripture, taken as a whole, does not teach absolute non-violence, though it certainly does demand the cultivation of a presumption in favor of peace.

    Maybe my attitude towards defensive violence comes from my practicing a profession that involves (cloaked) violence: litigation. Ultimately, the law is an exercise of a state’s monopoly on violence. If a court renders a judgment, and you don’t obey, you will be compelled to do so, by force and violence if your resistance makes it necessary. The alternative is that the wrong prevails — that people get away with murder, theft, fraud, etc. Gandhi and King &c can succeed when their tactics of nonviolence are directed against people who cherish a self-image that they are democratic and just, and whose leaders are accountable to their people. Gandhi’s suggestion that satyagraha be used against Hitler was just bone-jarringly naive.

    “if the world actually adopted a policy of only defending ones self and family that would be a great progress from where we are.”

    But the world isn’t going to do so, and you and I both know that. So what is the point in our adopting a policy of absolute non-violence, when others aren’t even going to adopt a policy of non-aggression? I’m happy to take that first step, and do my best to help my society conform to it. But I’m not going to take the second step until the other guy matches me in taking the first; otherwise, it’s a great big Christmas present to the most ruthless, and I can’t believe that a just God desires that.

  39. December 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

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