Mennonite teachings tend to promote complete nonviolence, stating or implying that all else is wrong. Officially, we live by nonviolence alone, but in reality, we live about the same as others. The more dangerous or violent circumstances become, the more pragmatic we become.
Most of us think practical steps should be taken to protect people from theft, rape, murder, etc., and policing is our society’s primary direct response to such situations. We understand that it’s indispensable and we appreciate it. We call 911 if required. We blend our nonviolent ideals with pragmatism as we strive for balanced and effective solutions.
We compromise, and thus live in contradiction to “proper” Mennonitism. We each deal with this fact in our own way, but we don’t work to resolve it as a church. In my experience, Mennonites avoid discussing policing. Perhaps this is due to a fear of disunity, but if we take on the issues in a positive manner, I think it can be done in a constructive way.
Policing usually needs many improvements and often major ones, but we can’t do without it, so we should want the best type possible. The main solution to bad policing is good policing, not no policing, which would be disastrous.
As Mennonites, we make many contributions to society, but church-attending Mennonite cops are rare. We leave this dirty, dangerous work to others.
If, instead, we supported good policing as a church and became more involved in it as individuals, we could help improve it. We could promote less violent methods. Plus, peaceful people can make good cops; they’re eager to minimize uses of force and bring calmness to bad situations.
Support for and participation in policing would make our criticisms of bad policing and our promotion of alternatives more credible. It would make our position more responsible and more comprehensive. Our ideas about peace and security should be holistic and realistic.
Howard Boldt lives near Osler, Saskatchewan.