Before you get any crazy ideas about coming down to my house and robbing me while I sit by and watch, pacifism as a way of life is not passive. If attacked I will defend myself, up to a point. I recently learned a better word to describe the philosophy of pacifism; galassenheit.
Galassenheit is a German word that doesn’t have a direct English translation. The best definition I could find was in the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy - Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zerche. The authors define galassenheit as the attitude of yieldedness or submission to the will of God. It is lived out through yielding to one another, renouncing self defence and giving up the desire for justification or efforts at revenge.
Amish theology grew out of the Anabaptist movement of Southern Germany, Switzerland and Holland in the 16th century. I was raised Mennonite and today am a member of a Brethren in Christ congregation which both point back to the Anabaptists as their origin. Although the Amish are the most visible of the Anabaptist minority, with their traditional dress and distinctive lifestyle, they are not the only Anabaptists in the world today. The vast majority of us blend in to society undetected. We can be found in all walks of life, working in any profession, wearing the latest fashions, driving cars and even writing blogs.
I’ve talked a lot lately about Peace and Justice, Oppression and Reconciliation. In order to achieve these goals I think we need to better understand the theology of galassenheit and for that we need to turn our eyes and ears back to Jesus.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth - Jesus (Matthew 5:5)
Meek is another one of those words that we’ve forgotten the meaning of in the last few decades. Dictionary.com goes so far as to say that the word is obsolete and has been replaced in the common vernacular with words like gentle or kind and then goes on to give a further list of synonyms – forbearing, yielding, unassuming, pacific, calm, and soft.
Did you catch it? Right there in the list of synonyms; yielding and pacific - Sounds like galassenheit to me!
But how does a person like that inherit the earth? Further down in Matthew 5 Jesus gives us another hint.
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42)
Whenever I hear my fellow Christians talk about trying to maintain their way of life politically, religiously or lifestyle related I wonder if they understand meekness. Christians in the west have, since the time of Constantine, held a lot of power but Jesus does not teach his followers how to hold on to power. Instead he says that the meek, those who are yielding, will gain it all.
In other words, if you want power give it away! How many Church Leaders, Fortune 500 CEOs, Military Officers and Politicians would take that deal?
Let’s all work on our meekness and galassenheit today...