Pacifism’s Utopian Heart

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

Does the modern antiwar movement share its ideological roots with Marxism? The Editors at the John Jay Institute (JJI) seem to think so. “[Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia] later influenced the vision of Karl Marx in the 19th century,” they write in their introduction to Joseph Loconte’s essay, “The Ghosts of Appeasement.”

The editors also trace elements of Christian Utopianism through the Diggers, Quakers, Shakers, Social Gospellers, and “the Christian pacifists on the eve of World War II.”

“At its heart, utopianism is the denial of radical evil. It is a naive vision of social and political life that ignores the realities of history and human nature,” writes Professor Joseph Loconte for JJI. The Pepperdine University Visiting Professor expressed his concern that “despite some good intentions, the utopians have absorbed a number of sub-Christian views about human nature and [the] mission of the Church in a fallen world.”

Such attitudes lead to moral relativism, he argues, prompting strong anti-Americanism from figures such as Jim Wallis, Arthur Schlessinger, Jr., and Stanley Hauerwass (Duke University). “These thinkers join a chorus of voices who compare the United States to imperial Rome and Nazi Germany. This is how utopians talk—outraged utopians, that is,” he writes.

Loconte advocates a vibrant Christian Realist doctrine in line with the tradition of Reinhold Niebuhr marked by three elements:

· determined to measure “the moral gulf between flawed democracies and fascist aggressors”

· “pursues economic and social justice, but not by denying the existence of radical evil”

· “argues that you cannot win ‘hearts and minds’ without defeating the ideology of Islamic fascism on the battlefield.”

Reinhold Niebuhr was an influential 20th century Protestant theologian who contributed to modern just-war theory. A prodigious writer, he authored such works as The Irony of American History, The Nature and Destiny of Man, and The Structure of Nations and Empires.

The direct opposite of Christian Realism can be found in pacifism, which Loconte argues has swept across both the left and right, from Pat Buchanan and Jerry Falwell to Jim Wallis and the Sojourners. Under [Buchanan and Falwell’s] vision, Islam is viewed as a club in God’s hands to deliver spiritual discipline. This is the right-wing version of contemporary utopianism.” He later criticizes the post-9-11 manifesto “Confessing Christ in a World of Violence,” written by Jim Wallis and Sojourners, and supported by “scores of theology professors, ethicists and church leaders.”

The manifesto declares that Christians have a strong edict to oppose the war, no matter the consequences. It insinuates that the Bush Administration has adopted a “theology of war” in order to rid the world of perceived evil, a position it equates with “political ideology exacerbated by the politics of fear.” They write,

“Standing in the shadow of the Cross, Christians have a responsibility to count the cost, speak out for the victims, and explore every alternative before a nation goes to war. We are committed to international cooperation rather than unilateral policies. We reject the false teaching that a war on terrorism takes precedence over ethical and legal norms. Some things ought never be done—torture, the deliberate bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction—regardless of the consequences.”

Pacifism, argues Loconte, ignores Islamic fascism’s threat to civilization and human rights in favor of a “theology of love.” “In other words, it is a theology of love divorced from the Biblical demands of justice—which means it is not a theology of love at all, but a posture of pious indifference toward suffering and evil,” he writes. He later continues, “By denying these facts, by rejecting the reality of radical evil, by confusing the roles of church and state, the utopians are succumbing to an old temptation: They’ve allowed their hatred of war to blot out all other virtues.”

Others might not be so optimistic about the viability of Christian Realism in modern foreign policy circles. “[Realists] look at religion, if at all, as a drive to power—which it certainly is, but that’s by no means the whole story,” said Georgetown Professor Thomas Farr at a recent event. He said, “I’m trying to put a symposium together at Georgetown in which I bring to bear a neoconservative…a liberal internationalist…I’m having a heck of a time getting a realist and I want them to look at the issue of ‘why have we ignored [religious freedom]?’” He added, “It’s kind of saying ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ and you can expect that people would be a little hesitant to come on a panel and explain this.”

Bethany Stotts is a Staff Writer at Accuracy in Academia.