These quotes express what some great minds have contemplated and learned about non-violence. These quotes aren't just sayings by idealists, but ideas from great people, most of which endured enormous horrors. I think you'll find these quotes insightful, as they bring to life some of the ideas and implications of violence and pacifism that may seem a bit more esoteric. I hope to grow this list as I come across good quotes.
At 19 I found my standards of conduct obsolete, my ideals shattered. I had lost all faith in institutional religion. My church had authorized me to break the sixth commandment in the name of patriotism. 'Blessed are the Peacemakers'? No! Not in 1917. Blessed are the War Winners. Blessed are the Munition Makers. Twice blessed, for they lined their pockets and kept their skins in tact at the same time. These were the thoughts that I couldn't dismiss from my mind during those dreadful months. I wouldn't have stuck a label on myself then, but I know now what I had become. It's a word that is distasteful to many: Pacifist.
I still believed in God, though I was being assailed by doubts. I prayed daily. Prayed that he would stop the war going on, and end the misery it caused. Soon it became obvious that He wasn't going to, for the longer it went on the worse the horrors of it became. I had been taught 'God is love'. Rubbish! I couldn't help thinking. If He loved us, if He were omnipotent He could put a stop to it to-day. But then, I thought, perhaps He isn't omnipotent.
Eventually I worked it out, - at least for myself. God was all right. It was we who were wrong. Why the hell should he care what happened to us lot? We had brought this War Evil into existence, not God. The reason Evil and Ugliness were triumphing over Goodness and Beauty, why Pity and Compassion were considered weakness, and Ruthlessness and Cruelty regarded as noble, - the reason for all this was the wickedness in ourselves and not the indifference of God. That was why the more murders you committed, the bigger the Hero you became. That was what made your superior officer slap you on the back and say, 'Splendid, old chap! Jolly good shooting!' when your shells had destroyed in minutes the beauty which craftsmen had toiled lifetimes to create.
My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil. Between the two positions, there is a world of difference. Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love. . . .
Non-violence means avoiding not only external physical violence, but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
...How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection? Coretta and I talked the matter over for several days and finally agreed that arms were no solution. We decided then to get rid of the one weapon we owned. We tried to satisfy our friends by having floodlights mounted around the house, and hiring unarmed watchmen around the clock. I also promised that I would not travel around the city alone.
I was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house. When I decided that I couldn't keep a gun, I came face-to-face with the question of death and I dealt with it. From that point on, I no longer needed a gun nor have I been afraid. Had we become distracted by the question of my safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors.
I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defence, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy’s slaughter.
(Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, Chapter 5: “A New Departure”)
To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenseless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way.
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
(A young German girl's final words before being beheaded due to her nonviolent protests and pamphlets under the Nazi Regime)
All Christians are commanded to love their enemies… Tell me, how can a Christian defend Scripturally retaliation, rebellion, war, striking, slaying, torturing, stealing, robbing and plundering and burning cities and conquering countries?
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
2. Biblical Teaching
3. Biblical Examples
4. Early Church Teaching
5. Real Life Examples
6. Pacifism Applied
7. Evaluating the Christian Alternative to Pacifism
8. Pacifism Quotes to Ponder
10. Questions for Just-War Adherents