Should Christians prefer non-violence?

Given a choice, ought we look first to peace or to war? To agreement or to strife? To freedom or compulsion?

The Christian libertarian will ask this question of his fellow Christians:

When the community has a problem to solve or has a worthy goal to reach, do we demand a solution which requires state compulsion? Or might we be willing to find a voluntary solution in place of a coercive solution?

Is there any Christian principle that favors state coercion over other courses? In the last post, we examined the concept of subsidiarity which favors life ordered at the lowest level possible. Subsidiarity means finding solutions at the individual and family levels first. Then come the church and other voluntary associations, including private enterprise. An ordered subsidiarity leaves no place for coercive government where the common good is served by individual and intermediary levels of society.

When issues are addressed at individual and intermediate levels there is no place for the initiation of force. Only the state presumes to use violence in its normal course of business—not only in response to aggression, which may well be legitimate—but simply to compel or prevent the conduct of others, as it may desire.

Respect for subsidiarity in society would require that all questions be addressed at the lowest possible level of society, none of which have a recognized right to use force as a tool for problem-solving. Is such a preference for non-violence reasonable? Most people would agree that nations—in their dealings with other nations—should seek peaceful solutions to their problems, condoning violence only as a last resort in the arena of international relations. If non-violence is preferable in dealing with nations, even hostile nations, how much more should coercion be avoided in dealing with our own neighbors here at home.

We, as Christian libertarians, propose voluntary, non-coercive solutions. We will argue that charity, mutual aid and lifting barriers to honest work are better solutions to poverty than the welfare state. We are suggest that drug abuse is a social problem, a mental health and spiritual problem, but not a criminal one. We will contend that any armed forces must be limited to self-defense, rather than messing around in other countries’ business.

As a moral issue, no Christian should choose violence when a voluntary solution is available. This does not make us libertines. It does not make us selfish individualists. We do not dissent from the doctrines or moral teachings of the Church. We do, however, respect our neighbor and afford him the dignity to live free; to let him think, worship, and act peaceably according to his own conscience.

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