John Howard Yoder makes an interesting point in his quite critical book on the variety of Christian pacifisms, Nevertheless:
The invocation of violence to support any cause is also implicitly a messianism. Any national sense of mission claims implicitly to be a saving community. One cannot avoid either messianism or the claim to chosen peoplehood by setting Jesus or his methods aside. One only casts the aura of election around lesser causes. (p. 138)
This gets at a crucial Christological point, at least as it bears on the proper interpretation of Yoder’s theology of nonviolence. For Yoder there it is never a question of whether a messianic ethic is possible, rather it is simply a matter of what sort of messianism one participates in. For him, the use of lethal violence to accomplish any goal is inherently messianic given the sacrificial nature of taking life. As such, given the nonviolent politics of Jesus, any other such messianisms must be seen as ultimately idolatrous. Interpreting Yoder’s engagement with the just war tradition without understanding the importance of this messianic theological framework is only going to end in over-eager misinterpretations of Yoder’s thought.