What do you do with those who ask what to do with a bully?

I recently heard again a speaker raise as a central ethical question for pacifists the issue, as the speaker put it, of what do you do about a bully? This is one version of a standard question, usually asked by those who reject pacifism, of how a pacifist proposes to deal with the evil-doer (the background assumption generally being that only violence can effectively take care of the problem).

Now, I am a bit disconcerted to hear this question raised by a Mennonite who professes to be a pacifist (it is important to state right off that I am good friends with this speaker, I respect him greatly, and know that he is indeed a deeply committed pacifist Christian—but in some ways this all heightens my concern with his question).

As part of the question the speaker stated that the story of the Good Samaritan is a great story for Mennonites in that it valorizes service, picking up the pieces after violent deeds, and going the second mile in helping victims out. But, what if the Good Samaritan had come along in the midst of the mugging? If this Samaritan were a pacifist, what would he do? Again, the implication here is that the only choices would seem to be to attack the attacker violently in order to stop the mugging or to stand by helplessly. Continue reading “What do you do with those who ask what to do with a bully?”