Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Jesus and nonviolence - pt. 3

Chapter 5 in Walter Wink's little book 'Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way' is pretty long. He moves beyond the simply pragmatic reasons for the use of nonviolence in political and social struggles, and gives six reasons which "For the Christian... are deeper and finally [the] ultimate grounds for opting for Jesus' way." They are:

1. The Love of Enemies.
2. The Means Are Commensurate With the New Order.
3. Respect for the Rule of Law.
4. Rooting Out the Violence.
5. Not A Law But A Gift.
6. The Way of the Cross.

Number 1 is pretty heavy. He starts off with a piece from an MLK speech on p. 58 about the need to love our enemies. He then lays out some pretty darn good stuff...
It cannot be stressed too much: love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of oppression is not enough, for all too often the means used have brought in their wake new injustices and oppressions. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God. The enemy too believes he or she is in the right, and fears us because we represent a threat against his or her values, lifestyle, or affluence. When we demonize our enemies, calling them names and identifying them with absolute evil, we deny that they have that of God within them that makes transformation possible. Instead, we play God. We write them out of the Book of Life. We conclude that our enemy has drifted beyond the redemptive hand of God.

Whew. That could stand to be reiterated in a few thousand churches. He goes on with the provocation...
I submit that the ultimate religious question today is no longer the Reformation's "How can I find a gracious God?" It is instead, "How can I find God in my enemy?"... What has formerly been a purely private affair - justification by faith through grace - has now, in our age, grown to embrace the world... There is, in fact, no other way to God for our time but through the enemy, for loving the enemy has become the key both to human survival in the age of terror and to personal transformation. Either we find the God who causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, or we may have no more sunrises.

Just in case you missed it, go back and read that paragraph again...

He continues...
It is our very inability to love our enemies that throws us into the arms of grace. What law was for Luther, the enemy has become for us. It is precisely here, in the midst of persecution, that many will find themselves overtaken by the miraculous power of divine forgiveness. God's forgiving love can burst like a flare even in the night of our grief and hatred, and free us to love. It is in just such times as these, when forgiveness seems impossible, that the power of God most mightily manifests itself.

This was by far the longest section, and there's much more I could include. Three random sentences help to keep perspective:
We are not just fighting for our rights... but for the good of the whole society (58. Rev. James Bevel).

Faith in God means believing that ANYONE can be transformed, regardless of the past.

In the final analysis, then, love of enemies is trusting God for the miracle of divine forgiveness.

On 71...
In John Swomley's words, violence is "not conducive for teaching the respect for persons on which democracy depends."
By contrast, nonviolent revolution is not a program for seizing power. It is, says Gandhi, a program for transforming relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power.

And on. 72...
Violence simply is not radical enough, since it generally changes only the rulers but not the rules. What use is a revolution that fails to address the fundamental problem: the existence of domination in all its forms, and the myth of redemptive violence that perpetuates it?

on 73...
Violent revolutionaries are involved in a contradiction that jeopardizes the very order they wish to establish. They plan to gain power by the very means that they will declare illegal when they gain power. But they will have established a precedent that legitimates the use of violence by those who disagree with them and wish to replace them.

He also points out on 75-76 that Romans 13:1-7 - about not resisting the authorities God has established - isn't referring to all forms of resistance to an unjust regime, but only to 'armed' resistance.

Part four is integral. It deals with "rooting out the violence within our own souls." He sums it up on p. 78: "It means abandoning one of the greatest and oldest lies: that the world is made up of good people and bad people." (There is good and evil within us all).

He points out that this is "something we are not required to do, but enabled to do."
It is not something we do in order to secure our own righteousness before God. It is rather something that we are made capable of when we know that the power of God is greater than the powers of death.

The cross was not just Jesus' identification with the victims of oppression; it was, as Rob Robertson remarks, also his way of dealing with these evils.

The cross means that death is not the greatest evil one can suffer.

And I've heard this before, but it still amazes me... "More Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the previous years since the founding of the church COMBINED."

This was one of those "hard but good" chapters. Section one especially blew me away. And I was reminded again of the fact that this isn't only applicable in the political realm. We could apply this to our view of terrorists, or school bullies, or people we work with... anyone we consider an "enemy."

What do you think about his assertion in section one: "...love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith"? Pretty wild, huh?


JAH said...

Finally getting caught back up in the "blogosphere". This is great stuff. In our Sunday School class we have been studying freedom and I have been (re)learning that freedom in Christ is not the same thing that we think of as freedom in the social perspective. Freedom in Christ, in the book of Galations, talks about being free to serve one another - and I would have to conclude that means everyone, not just those we consider our friends. Freedom isn't about personal rights - it is about a responsibility to serve our fellow man, even those we would consider an enemy. Maybe it is in the service that we find our common ground. Maybe it is in the service that we find our friends.

Jim said...

Great stuff! You posted this the same day as this, which says some of the same things in a different way (I think you'll like it).

dan h. said...

Good point, dear.

Great clip, Jim. Thanks!