Time To Commit To Nonviolence

Time To Commit To Nonviolence October 31, 2022

I am a violent person who believes nonviolence is necessary. I do not claim to be a nonviolent person. It would not be a true statement. But I have worked on becoming nonviolent for some time now. And the more I work toward it, the clearer my understanding becomes. The empires of the world are built on violence. Violence is the enemy of freedom. Therefore, to be truly free requires a commitment to nonviolence. There is no freedom of thought or action involved when we decide violence is the last answer to our problems.

Nonviolence: The Total Option

Americans learn to solve problems by violence. We are taught the American Revolution was a violent action that set us on a new path. We are taught that all of America’s wars brought us to the point of dominance in the world. Some wars are deemed unnecessary. But the lesson is clear. War is a necessary final option to preserve our freedoms.

Life requires us to be prepared for violence. We must get the bullies off our backs. Homeowners and adult family members must prepare to act violently to protect property and children. These are examples of violence we learn are acceptable. If acceptable, they are justifiable. And therefore we are justified in using violence in righteous causes.

Nonviolence needs to become the total option. The perpetuators of conspiracy theories convince their listeners of three things. The evil people leading our government are stealing the rights of the citizens, molesting children, and destroying property. Since it is a conspiracy, there is no prosecution for the actions. People indoctrinated in the “justifiable causes” for violence decide to visit violence on the enemies. No political assassin ever believed they were doing wrong.

But, What About?

There is one teaching of Jesus both liberal and conservative Christians tend to agree does not mean what it says. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) A lot of people play make-believe with this verse. “But, what about…?” There are many scenarios we imagine. Conflict is the essence of drama. There is no easier description of a conflict than violent actions such as murder. The most exciting drama is murder and revenge.

The scenarios we imagine are already ones we were given. There is no reality in them. We do not realize this. They are myths and illusions. Perhaps, there is no better illustration of this than John Wilkes Boothe jumping to the stage after having shot Abraham Lincoln. The actor turned tragic assassin shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis.” Many people believe these words were originally uttered by Marcus Brutus after he assassinated Julius Caesar. Others argue Boothe starred in a production of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar the previous year and was inspired by that performance. The phrase is not in the play. There is no record of Brutus ever saying, “Thus to all tyrants.” The earliest use of the phrase is found around 1770. It is the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Boothe believed a myth and acted upon it.

Growing Into Nonviolence

I am a person of violence seeking to become one of nonviolence. The peace churches have been right all along. Violence is always disastrous. It is time for all followers of Jesus to realize this. Committing to nonviolence means growing into it. Utah Phillips claims nonviolence is an every day commitment. He compares it to one-day-at-a-time approaches of recovering from substance abuse. It means changing some behaviors. We may need to end our consumption of violent entertainment. We should emphasize the suspension of disbelief is happening. It may require us to think more of how we speak about situations.

People claim our political polarization is the problem. It is not the polarization as much as it is how we talk about it. Should we speak as though we will kill all of our opponents? Making threats must be condemned. Churches need to emphasize that violence is not an allowable form of discourse. Violence and the threat of it against clergy should be stopped. People physically attacking another person should always be condemned. Stop asking who provoked it. The action is never justifiable. We should really reconsider church life to be life among the community of peace-making disciples.

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