Stories of Heroic Nonviolence (or No Hero with a Gun)

Many of the responses to the Sandy Hook shootings, with their suggestions of armed guards and defensive weapons, played upon a common theme in the stories we tell about heroes.  Heroes in the American mind don’t die, they kill, or if they do die they do so while killing the bad guys.  This is comic book fair and it is also the vision put forward in most our movies and television shows.  When NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he was merely stating the common outline of our hero movies.

It is no wonder then that mass shootings result in higher levels of gun ownership.  A public ruled by a mix of fear and heroic fantasies prepare to answer violence with the script Hollywood has given them.

Those of us who seek to follow in the way of the Christ’s teaching and example, putting away the gun and answering violence with love, need an alternative.  What we need are better stories, stories in which violence is shown for what it is and the way of Christian nonviolence is the truly heroic act.  I’ve been trying to think over those stories and I can’t name many in film or television.  The most profound example I can think of is in the movie The Mission where Jeremy Iron’s character, Father Gabriel, leads a group of South American Indian converts to their slaughter while singing hymns to God.  Father Gabriel and the Indians face their death bravely and their killers with love, following in the way worthy Christ.

What are other stories of heroic nonviolence?  Stories in which people bravely refuse to kill, even when they could find every justification to do so?  We need to collect these stories, show them and produce them in order to move away from this John Wayne mythology of a hero with a gun.

About Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer and Episcopal seminarian sojourning from his native Arkansas in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of This is My Body: From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey Into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit, and Deeper Faith (Convergent/Random House 2015).