This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Non-resistance to evil is not strength

Doctrinaire pacifists would have us believe that non-resistance is the way of sacrifice, the path of noble suffering. When Christians argue in favor of non-resistance, they make a great show of the early martyrs. Without doubt, the early martyrs are a phenomenal example of a commitment to righteousness, and this type of exceptional non-resistance can under certain conditions manifest itself as the highest witness of a spiritual commitment. We grant this, but we argue that this form of witness is an exception and should never be presented as normative. That is to say, this submissive style of non-resistance to evil, outside of the exceptional circumstances of martyrdom, is actually the easy way out. In fact, non-resistance as a day-to-day practice demands virtually nothing whatsoever of its disciples.

Again, we do not deny that in some rare cases the ‘turning of the cheek’ can signify the path of strength and discipline, as has been demonstrated in recent history by the Civil Rights Movement and elsewhere. But as a norm, and in most situations, it is far easier to ignore evil than to show resistance to it. Between non-resistance and deliberate, open resistance, it is far more often the latter option that demands sacrificial courage and various modes of selfless suffering, while the former presents an excuse for cowardice.

Especially if taken as a general principle of morality, non-resistance does not so much challenge us to overcome our impulses as it condones the natural tendency toward spinelessness. It congratulates us for doing nothing but minding our own business when evil manifests itself in our presence.

It would indeed take a great deal of self-discipline to face the lions in the coliseum for the sake of non-resistance; but again, an honest appraisal of general human experience will tell us that non-resistance typically involves endless small acts of indifference, and indifference is the absence of moral character.

Far from being a ‘moral discipline’, it is apparent that non-resistance comes easily—even naturally—to men possessing the weakest characters—and for the most part this weakness need not be encouraged at all. It is simply the absence of willful action, to which most of us are inclined already. Do we really need to point out that the proponents of non-resistance are painting a picture of courage that, in the end, takes the coward as the model? And if this is true, does it really need to be demonstrated that this will not so much build character as neutralize it?

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