The more I delved into pacifism, the more I began to question humanity’s entire approach to punitive law enforcement. Yes, obviously it would be better to have “voluntary prisons” (yes there’s a sense in which that’s an oxymoron, but also an important sense in which it’s not) rather than the State version. However, I wonder if the very notion of punishing lawbreakers by physically segregating them from society is the best remedy. Obviously people have the right to tell a criminal to get off their land, I’m just wondering whether that perpetuates the cycles of crime in general and violence in particular. In short, I wonder if the very existence of prisons actually breeds more crime, all things considered.
(I realize people will be quick to say, “You idiot! Your pacifist utopia would be overrun by bank robbers and serial killers!” But then again, right-wing warhawks also told Ron Paul fans with supreme confidence that the U.S. would be overrun by Muslims if we followed his naive foreign policy. So I don’t expect libertarian non-pacifists to be persuaded in one fell swoop, but I hope you recognize why your objections don’t bowl me over, either. Before you jump on me, consider: Without prisons or other violent law enforcement, the State couldn’t exist. So you wouldn’t have taxes, the Drug War, etc., or at least you would have very neutered versions of all those things.)
Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that it sheds light for me on controversial Christian doctrine. Consider this passage from Romans 7: 1-6:
7 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
I’ll let those who have studied Christian doctrine hash it out in the comments; the interpretation of the above passages are very controversial, even within a given sect.
For the purposes of this post, however, I want to take the argument this way: It is plausible for me to conjecture that the ultimate motivation for sin is a psychological hole or weakness. For example, to understand why someone becomes a mass murderer, I don’t think the answer lies in society’s inadequate punishment for this behavior, the way we might explain a shortage of water bottles as due to improper incentives. Instead I would want to look at this person’s past and see if there are clues there.
More generally, I think we can explain an enormous amount of bad behavior as being ultimately due to fear.
Now then, suppose that the best way to get humans to stop sinning is NOT to threaten them with eternal torment, but instead to assure them that no matter what they do, the most holy and perfect Being in the universe loves them infinitely and is looking forward to spending eternity with them in paradise. When people truly relax and their fears melt away–because they know they lack the power to ruin their own salvation–then their natural inclination is to reflect God’s love on everyone around them. Yes, they could “be a serial killer and still get into heaven,” but why would they want to do that?