"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
God Sanctions No Violence
"How is it possible to be a nonviolent Christian within a violent Christianity based on a violent Christian Bible? How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American empire facilitated by a violent Christian Bible?" - John Dominic Crossan.
In the words of Fr. John Dear: "The vision we seize, says Crossan, must be the one incarnated by the historical Jesus. And Jesus was nonviolent. On this matter both Crossan and I insist. 'It is not the violent but the nonviolent God who is revealed to Christian faith in Jesus of Nazareth and announced to Christian faith by Paul of Tarsus.'"
As most of us have known for several years, the Bush Administration authorized medieval torture techniques such as waterboarding - similar to dunking old women under water to see if they were evil witches (if they drowned, they were innocent). For reasons best known to the corporate media, they have now decided to pretend that the revelation of two secret Whitehouse memos admitting to the practice represents new information. The underlying strategy seems to be that this occasion can be used as were the previous revelations - to reinforce the notion that torture is not "cruel, inhuman and degrading." This is the hidden message that gets slipped through the hole of false moral outrage. The current phrase that covers this degradation of the image of God is "the corners of the law", where Bush presumably has established a beachhead against terror. Careful reading of the news stories reveals that only highly partisan players with an obvious political agenda believe that torture is illegal and immoral. Those who truly wish to protect us know that what they are doing is moral and we should trust them.
As Christians, we must discern the hidden messages within this corporate propaganda that would turn us away from our devotion to Jesus' message. The message they intend to communicate is that we must accept torture, to speak out against it is to endanger ourselves. Once we accept that our fellow images of God can be treated in this way, we pave the road to our own similar degradation.
The best antidote to these degenerate lies is to imitate the practice of the first Christians: "Here is a startling revelation of God in Jesus -- almost too good to be true. God is nonviolent. God worked through Jesus and his followers to subvert, nonviolently, the empire of Rome. And the young Christian communities took up the challenge. They were bands that emulated as best they could Jesus' nonviolent resistance against the Roman Empire." - John Dear.
Our mission as Christians today is to subvert the American Empire, but not through the self-defeating path of violence. The Empire is not disturbed by violent revolutionaries because that kind of violence is a reflection and a powerful justification for its own violence. The Empire thrives on violence of all kinds.
Jesus said, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the [Judeans]. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." (John 18:36)
Jesus is telling us that swords are not the instruments of his kingdom, but those of the "world", the "empire and the barbarism of civilization", that is killing him. In the words of John Crossan, Jesus meaning was "Your Roman empire, Pilate, is based on the injustice of violence, but my divine kingdom is based on the justice of nonviolence."
Our kingdom is not among the stars, but stares us straight in the bloody face of Jesus, who embodied the truth of nonviolence as he stood before Pilate. Heaven is a destination found in our hearts on this planet, not in a cloudy "heaven" that exists without our hands that have become the healing hands of God.
Nonviolence is far more than protesting and working for justice in the world, critical as these are. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: "Practicing nonviolence," he once said, "is first of all to become nonviolence … The essence of nonviolence is love. Out of love and the willingness to act selflessly, strategies, tactics and techniques for a nonviolent struggle arise naturally. Nonviolence is not a dogma; it is a process. Other struggles may be fueled by greed, fear or ignorance, but a nonviolent one cannot use such blind sources of energy, for they will destroy those involved and also the struggle itself. Nonviolent action, born of the awareness of suffering and nurtured by love, is the most effective way to confront adversity."
So become mindful of the peace that God wishes to grow in our hearts. Let that peace so shine from our lives that the torturers and their enablers in the media will feel holy shame rising in their hearts and at last put away the instruments that fill them with false strength and surrender to the power of God.