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nonviolence

Nonviolence does not protect demonstrators from violence. It also does not always succeed. Nonviolence requires—despite what those who advocate violence contend—deep reserves of physical and moral courage. State violence is defeated through the refusal to be afraid, even after violence is used by the state to stamp out protests, and through continuing acts of nonviolent resistance. The goal is to show that violence will not work. But like hundreds of protesters in Tiananmen, many in the first generation of rebels may perish in the process. The generation that begins a revolt often does not live to see its conclusion. Chris Hedges

For the first three centuries of the church, Christians understood that forgoing the use of violence and expressing God’s self-sacrificial love was central to discipleship. However, this mindset changed after the Church acquired power in the fourth century. Entire theological systems have been developed to support the use of coercive power. However, contrary to that teaching, the New Testament is as clear as can be that Kingdom people are called to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificing himself for enemies rather than resorting to violence to resist or to conquer them. Is Non-Violence a Key to Christian Discipleship?

War is not the only – nor, would I argue, the greatest single – form of violence in the world. If we were to take a much wider and necessary lens to the subject of violence, I propose that we consider three primary forms through which it comes: Poverty, sexism, and racism/ethnicism. Because war is special; it is declared; it is relatively infrequent; it is targeted. Yet poverty, racism, and misogyny are underlying and ignored facets of reality and the violence they wage are enfleshed and lived out every moment and in myriad and dynamic ways. Those who do not believe that poverty is the basest of evils have never had the privilege of meeting poverty and its hunger, want, need, constant fear and worry. Nothing else kills as many people per day. Nothing else cuts the lives of children shorter, reduces men, women and children to mere numbers, consumable goods and numbers. Pacifists who consider war to be a great violence because of sheer lives killed are like anti-abortionists who only care about the life before birth, but not about the quality of life – not about abuse, neglect, health and well-being, or, well, poverty. They focus on lives being killed rather than lives being stolen and impacted. Christian Pacifism’s Unintentional Martyrs

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is the center not of Jesus’ teaching but of the law which he fulfills and transcends. So the answer for the Christian to the “what if…?” question is this: I seek to deal with the aggressor as God in Christ has dealt with me – or as I would wish to be dealt with. John Howard Yoder

This it is quite fitting to describe the use of violence as the outworking of an idolatry. If I take the life of another, I am saying that I am devoted to another value, one other than the neighbor himself, and other than Jesus Christ Himself, to which I sacrifice my neighbor. John Howard Yoder

Every argument which would permit the taking of life is in one way or another based on calculations of rights and merits. I prefer the life of those nearest me to that of the foreigner; or the life of the innocent to that of the troublemaker, because – naturally, as everyone else does – my love is conditional, qualified, natural. John Howard Yoder

Christians are told (12:19) never to exercise vengeance but to leave it to God and to wrath. Then the authorities are recognized (13:4) as executing the particular function which the Christian was to leave to God. It is inconceivable that these two verses, using such similar language, should be meant to be read independently of one another. This makes it clear that the function exercised by government is not the function to be exercised by Christians. However able an infinite God may be to work at the same time through the sufferings of his believing disciples who return good for evil and through the wrathful violence of the authorities who punish evil for evil, such behavior is for men not complementary but in disjunction… it is a most likely interpretation that the “vengeance” or “wrath” that is recognized as being within providential control is the same as that which Christians are told not to exercise. John Howard Yoder

In September 1962, when King was addressing a convention, a 200-pound white man, the 24-year-old American Nazi Party member Roy James, jumped onto the stage and struck the clergyman in the face. King responded with a level of courage that made a lifelong impression on many of those in the audience. One of them, storied educator and activist Septima Clark, described how King dropped his hands “like a newborn baby” and spoke calmly to his attacker. King made no effort to protect himself even as he was knocked backwards by further blows. Later, after his aides had pulled the assailant away, he talked to the young man behind the stage and insisted that he would not press charges. How a Great Man Put Down His Guns: Martin Luther King’s Path to Nonviolence

Those of us who care about justice and work to put an end to oppression non-violently find it difficult to constantly be told by the major pacifist theologians safe in their academic positions that we are the ones sinning by standing up for justice. But the force of love that accompanies the breaking-in of the Kingdom of God in this world is not content with letting the suffering of others continue. I have to believe that letting that love push into the world and overcome the darkness is the call of Christ. I am committed deeply to peace, but because of that overwhelming force of love, I must also be committed to justice. Julie Clawson

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