Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Locust Effect: A Challenge to Christian Pacifism

The Locust Effect (Oxford, 2014) is one of the most important books of the twenty-first century. In this book, Gary A. Haugen demonstrates that, due to corrupt legal systems around the globe, billions of the world’s poor live outside the protection of the law. In heartbreaking detail, Haugen describes how the poor are routinely robbed, raped, tortured, enslaved, and murdered – without any recourse to justice. Furthermore, Haugen demonstrates that the international community has largely ignored this problem, choosing instead to focus on efforts to alleviate poverty. Haugen shows that all of these efforts will ultimately fail if the poor are denied basic protection from criminal violence.
Furthermore, as Haugen explains, protecting the poor requires the use of coercive force:
There is virtually no credible social science evidence to support the idea that violence in societies can be effectively addressed in the absence of the state exercising its monopoly on the legitimate use of coercive force through law enforcement. ... Wishful thinking should not lead us to pretend that we can substitute something else for the state’s power to physically restrain and punish acts of illegal violence. ... Hunger has many exacerbating factors—but it has one primary and indispensable solution: food. One must address dysentery and food distribution problems and the cultural preference for feeding boys over girls—but at the end of the day, you are going to have to have food. Likewise with violence, one must address the social factors that increase violence and the vulnerability of poor people, but at the end of the day, you are going to need the properly exercised coercive power of the state to physically restrain violence and provide a credible deterrent to those prepared to use violence to advance their interests. (121-23)
All of this constitutes a formidable challenge to Christian pacifism. When pacifism is set against the crude nationalistic militarism that has gained such a strong foothold among American evangelicals, the doctrine appears quite humane and enlightened. However, we are disingenuous if we refuse to acknowledge the inescapable conclusion that pacifism is not only incompatible with nationalistic militarism; it is also incompatible with the vision laid out in The Locust Effect. If the pacifists are correct, then Gary Haugen is wrong. If the pacifists are correct, then the campaign that Haugen is engaged in is contrary to the will of God. If the pacifists are correct, then Haugen’s attempt to secure protection for the poor through “coercive force” runs counter to the message of the gospel.

I find that very hard to believe.

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