Ron Mock on Pacifism, War, and Terrorism
Date: September 17th, 2012

In light of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and with an eye towards more recent assaults on US diplomatic missions overseas, we explore the topic of Christian pacifism in the face of war and terrorism with Prof. Ron Mock, associate professor of political science at George Fox University and the director of GFU’s Center for Peace & Justice.  Our interview begins, though, with Tony posing a questions he has asked several other guests in the past:  As a Christian, would you have fought in the American War of Independence in the 1770s?  We offer up this question early in the podcast as a means of exploring the dimensions of Prof. Mock’s own pacifism.  In the process of this discussion, Ron talks about his background growing up in the Church of God and why he joined the Religious Society of Friends (i.e., Quakers).  The conversation then returns to whether or not Ron sees the War of Independence as a just war and what the colonists could have done differently at that time.  We then fast forward to the contemporary era and Tony asks Ron where he was on the morning of September 11, 2001 and how he reacted to the news of those terrorist attacks.  We use this discussion to set the table for our discussion of pacifism by realizing that there is a natural, perhaps innate, tendency for humans to react to such events with anger and a desire to strike back.  This leads Ron, who is a self-identified pacifist, to offer up an intriguing critique of pacifism wherein he notes that pacifists have rarely struggled with the dual Christian mandate of loving both your enemy and your neighbor.  Sometimes, as we note with a couple hypothetical scenarios, can be difficult.  If an enemy is attacking your neighbor, can you sit by idly or be so forgiving of the aggressor that you neglect your duty to the victim?  This prompts us to look at the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who during World War II faced a difficult choice as a Christian pacifist.  We then turn to the issue of terrorism in the contemporary world and Prof. Mock offers us his five-part definition of terrorism as a means for understanding how to respond to this threat.  He proceeds to offer a critique of contemporary US foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in particular the use of unmanned drones.  Ron is concerned with the process that many militaries (or terrorists) have to dehumanize their enemies and drone attacks only augment this problem even more.  He then offers up his solution from a pacifist perspective on how to deal with such threats.  Recorded: September 14, 2012.


 Prof. Ron Mock’s biography at George Fox University.

Loving Without Giving In: Christian Responses to Terrorism and Tyranny, by Ron Mock.

When the Rain Returns: Toward Justice and Reconciliation in Israel and Palestine, by Ron Mock


Should Christians Have Fought in the US War of Independence?

Sean Everton on Dark Networks.

Eli Berman on Religious Terrorism.

Monica Toft on Religion, Violence and Civil War.

Christian Novetzke on Kung Fu Fighting and Eastern Religions.

4 Responses to “Ron Mock on Pacifism, War, and Terrorism”

  1. […] Gill has posted the interview at the Research on Religion site. You can access it here.  The podcast lasts 72 minutes.  I hope you enjoy it. This entry was posted in Political […]

  2. Tate says:

    I was a bit baffled by Prof. Mock. He is a pacifist yet believes it is perfectly fine to implement democracy by force? It seems that he has quite a different definition of pacifism, one where murder is wrong…unless it is done by the State. I think he should have spent more time talking about the State, as he claims a monopoly on violence is legitimate prima facie; that since it exists it is legitimate. I think Christians ought to spend more time thinking about the legitimacy of the state rather than simply let Hobbes do their thinking for them.

    He condemns the drone wars and rightfully so! And he appears correct in saying that people will only resort to terrorism when they feel there is no other recourse. Of course, I’m not sure what means of redress of grievances parents of bombed children in Pakistan have when a US president thousands of miles away authorizes such war crimes and rules over a large populace that is frankly apathetic. But how is their situation different than the victims of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan? What recourse do they have against an occupying army?

    It seems that Prof. Mock’s objectivity is soiled by his being American. There are many people who would disagree with his assertion that the US is a well-working polis, and the fact that it has military bases in over 100 countries, constantly infringes on the sovereignty of others, has an unsustainable level of debt, the largest prison population by far, etc. would seem to be evidence in their favor. If they were to be in charge of an even larger leviathan state and said, “Wow! Look at those Americans! We need to liberate them from their oppressors!” and then decided to invade and set up what they viewed to be a superior system of governance, would he approve? Or is it only acceptable when the US government does it?

  3. […] Ron Mock on Pacifism, War, and Terrorism. […]

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