"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.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Explosive Nonviolence

"A lone CPTer stood for two hours at the central intersection of his hometown with a large sign 'Love Thy Enemy' and a photo of Tom Fox, a CPTer killed in Iraq in 2006. He explained, 'I have come to believe that witnessing for peace as a group of one is more effective than in larger groups. We can cover many more intersections or towns, we are more approachable, and the vulnerability of standing alone carries a message of clarity, conviction and courage.'" - Christian Peacemaker Teams

Standing alone does indeed bear up the message. The old hymn says that you must do it by yourself, that no one can do it for you. Just as Jesus stood completely alone, we must have the courage of our isolated convictions. The truth we believe cannot depend mainly on the agreement of others, but the power of our own sense of truth, wrong though we will sometimes be. The test comes comes in solitude, when no one agrees with us. In the words of another man of solitude, "One thing seems sure; the new man will not spring from Jove's forehead. The gods, the true gods of man's history, of his worship, do not work miracles of debased magic, on behalf of the morally indolent. No, such a man will get born because he has trodden the furnace, and died there." - Daniel Berrigan

Or as another great Catholic thinker put it, "To reach liberation I strain to move the wheel of bondage under one guise or the other, and the wheel I choose rolls into the flame of truth. Perhaps then, if my commitment can endure the fire, I realize a dimension of freedom." - James W. Douglass

"Lo, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt. … He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth" - Zechariah 9:9-10

"In a final attempt to humiliate Him, the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing. Were they aware that they could have power over His body, but not His mind? Even in death He was still greater than they.

Our clothes are part of our identity. Stripped of our clothing we can be seen as worthless in worldly terms.

In Guantanamo Bay prison the US strips prisoners of any clothing that makes them identifiable as an individual human being. All prisoners must wear the same shapeless, orange jump suit.

In Abu Ghraib (Iraq) the US guards stripped prisoners naked in order to shame and humiliate them.

Throughout the world prisoners are regularly 'strip searched' for no good purpose other than to humiliate them.

At the numerous military checkpoints all over the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli soldiers attempt to humiliate Palestinians by making them lift up, or sometimes remove their clothing. Any ‘security check’ deemed necessary could easily be carried out using a metal detector wand.

Despite the threat of these searches Palestinians continue to travel throughout their land. Here in Hebron Palestinians continue to come to the Ibrahimi mosque, to their shops in the Old City souq, and to live in their homes near the Israeli settlements, even with the risk of degrading searches at checkpoints. They stand firm and steadfastly refuse to be stripped of their dignity.

Just as we are called to accompany Christ on his road to crucifixion, so too we are called to accompany those who are stripped and humiliated by the powers of this world." - Christian Peacemaker Teams

May we have the courage of our nakedness.

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