Why I am not Quite a Pacifist

Stories like this one are the reason I am not a pacifist: Was This Teen Mom Wrong to Kill Intruder?

A young Oklahoma mother shot and killed an intruder to protect her 3-month-old baby on New Year’s Eve, less than a week after the baby’s father died of cancer.

Sarah McKinley says that a week earlier a man named Justin Martin dropped by on the day of her husband’s funeral, claiming that he was a neighbor who wanted to say hello. The 18-year-old Oklahoma City area woman did not let him into her home that day.

On New Year’s Eve Martin returned with another man, Dustin Stewart, and this time was armed with a 12-inch hunting knife. The two soon began trying to break into McKinley’s home.

As one of the men was going from door to door outside her home trying to gain entry, McKinley called 911 and grabbed her 12-gauge shotgun.

McKinley told ABC News Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO that she quickly got her 12 gauge, went into her bedroom and got a pistol, put the bottle in the baby’s mouth and called 911.

“I’ve got two guns in my hand — is it okay to shoot him if he comes in this door?” the young mother asked the 911 dispatcher. “I’m here by myself with my infant baby, can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?”

The 911 dispatcher confirmed with McKinley that the doors to her home were locked as she asked again if it was okay to shoot the intruder if he were to come through her door.

“I can’t tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby,” the dispatcher told her. McKinley was on the phone with 911 for a total of 21 minutes.

When Martin kicked in the door and came after her with the knife, the teen mom shot and killed the 24-year-old. Police are calling the shooting justified.

I think this woman was fully justified in killing the intruder.

One of the questions I wrestle with, that I think goes right to the heart of following Jesus, is when is violence ever justified?  Jesus won the greatest victory ever won by laying down his life on a cross.  He called his followers to take up their crosses and follow him.  Thus, if Jesus did not use violence to defend himself than there is no way we should either.

Further, Christians have faith that there will be a resurrection someday, that this life is not all there is, and that what looks like a defeat can turn into a victory. I am challenged as I read about the early Christians who were so sure that Jesus was Lord and Savior that they were willing to die for it.  They figured that if God did not save their lives that was okay, as they had a greater life in the future.  Again, if we too believe this then what reason can there be for self-defense?

That said, I think the teen mom in the story was completely justified in using violence to defend herself and her baby.

It seems clear to me that Christians are given the choice to lay down our lives or defend ourselves.  If I am threatened, I can use force to defend myself or I can choose not to.

But I don’t see any evidence that I can make this choice for others.  In other words, I can choose to lay down my life rather than use violence on others.  I cannot choose to lay down the life of my wife or daughter.  If I am walking down the street and see a child being abused, I cannot choose not to use force if necessary to save that child.

I think God may call us to allow ourselves to suffer, as Jesus suffered.  I don’t see evidence that we can allow others to suffer.  If anything, I believe we are required to ease the suffering of others.

(For the record, I think when we talk about Christian nonviolence we need to remember that one aspect of it is that justice will come on the perpetrator.  God is a God of justice.  Christian nonviolence has always held to the hope that God will one day  punish evil.  They just do not believe it is their role to be God’s instrument in that.)

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