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11.30.2006

Training Trauma Healers

The post below about Ernest Toyi, of Makamba, Burundi, Central Africa is an excellent example of how much you can change things in the world with a small intervention.
I trained 43 trauma Healers like Ernest while I was there in 2003. David Niyonzima turned those 43 into 800 trained. Only a tiny percentage of them have worked with him at THARS, Trauma Healing and Reconciliation services of Burundi. Most of them have taken their training back to their communities, churches and schools. Ernest's story demonstrates how personal healing can translate into community service and better governance. Unhealed people do not govern well.

Here is a Reuters Country Profile for Burundi most of these numbers make sense to me. The numbers I find terrifying are the prediction of population growth from 7.5 million to 28 million, this in a country the size of Maryland (or Lane county for you Oregonians). The corruption scale does not surprise me at all. But the combination raises the likelihood of a return to warfare/genocide/massive health problems to a near certainty.

Burundi has recently had its debts cancelled. There is a chance. David Niyonzima believes that the cycle of violence can be stopped if enough people are healed, and put to work as healers.
I am going on December 27 to train a new crop of healers. I will also be teaching his present staff about compassion fatigue and resiliency - a critical need to prevent burnout.

My financial needs for this trip are all accounted for. But I am raising funds for THARS to facilitate the training of more people like Ernest. I can't tell you how good it feels to know that I was a piece of the transformation in his Life. Wouldn't you like a piece of that?

Please consider a donation. If you are in the US and would like your tax deduction please mail a check to Freedom Friends Church 2425 13th st NE, Salem, Oregon 97302. Make sure you label your donation THARS fund.

If you do not care about the deduction, or you are in another country with another currency, the paypal donation button on the left works. Click on it and it will walk you through the steps to use a credit card. ANY AMOUNT HELPS - You Can PAYPAL FIVE BUCKS!

The processing and currency exchange fees seem to be within normal parameters. All funds received by either methods will be taken by me to Burundi, where David will disperse them. His accounting procedures have a long track record of honesty. I will also personally watch over the use of these funds, and have at least one trusted Quaker on this end watch over my accounting. I will issue a report on the use of these funds when I get back.

Thank you for your help.
Peggy

11.27.2006

The Spiritual Discipline of Courage

Today's UPI column

So There I was...

teaching trauma healing to my first group of African Students. They were women and men, old and young, Catholic and Quaker, highly or barely educated. The one thing they had in common was a deep desire to learn how to bring healing from the horror that was all around them in a country that had survived ten years of war and genocide.

I had the latest theory and methods on treating Post-traumatic Stress disorder in my back pocket. I was an experienced teacher. And I had not one word of language in common with them. I was to teach six hours a day, five days a week for two weeks. I thought I was brave to come all this way and give it a try.

I was assigned a team of translators. I worked them so hard that I used them in tag team fashion. Kirundi is not a language conducive to psychobabble, so I was working at simplifying my language, and I tried to jettison the jargon unless it was critical. Yet my translator would often hold up a hand to stop me and there would be an animated discussion in Kirundi and sometimes French until they coined a new word – at which point my translator would say “Voila!” and we would proceed. We had one aid decamp assigned to write these words down and we generated a Kirundi glossary of psychological terms. I felt very successful.

Our second morning, there was what my Burundian friends euphemistically call “activity” outside the compound. All I heard was a small thump and a tapping noise – I thought someone was moving furniture and hanging pictures until I noticed that every one of my 14 students had a stiff body, glazed eyes and did not appear to be breathing. A few seconds of silence later my translator whispered “Mambo Sawa” (Kiswahili for things are ok) and as one, they shuddered and came back to the here and now. It turns out that the noise I heard was a hand grenade and some automatic rifle fire, at a not far enough distance. That was when I decided to administer a PTSD checklist to my students and found out that all my healers were in need of healing.

The third morning I was relaxing enough to start noticing details about individual students. Jerson had only one ear. At break I put my hand to his head and made universal female clucking sounds of sympathy. “Machete” said Jerson with a smile on his face.

Ernest had one hand in a large bandage. I noticed something else about Ernest. He often started taking notes in the space between my speaking and the translator’s. I suspected he had more English than he was letting on. I was sure of it when I made a lame attempt at a joke, and he laughed at the tag of my punch line, and all the other students looked at him and then looked expectantly at the translator for their funny.

At lunch I got him aside without and intermediary and said “Ernest, you are such a bright student – where did you get your English?”

He looked at me. Sized me up yet again. Made a decision. And then, out came the story of Ernest Toyi, Greatheart.

Ernest hailed from the town of Makamba, almost on the border of Tanzania. Several long, awful, bus rides from the capital. He was always a studious child, eager for learning. He got a start on English in secondary school, but the war interrupted his studies. His town was squarely in the middle of Rebel control. Life was hard.

The rebels were suspicious of education and extremely suspicious of outsiders. Ernest had a long-standing habit of attempting to speak with anyone who had English, in order to improve his own.

He came to the attention of the local leaders for doing just that, speaking English to someone from the outside. They hauled him in and interrogated him, when that produced nothing they tortured him by bending his thumbs back and burning him between his fingers with a cigarette. This also got them nothing, so they tossed him in the street and figured they had taught him a lesson.

Ernest bandaged his hand and a few days later he met with someone from the local Trauma Healing Center. They recognized promise in Ernest and recommended him for the classes that were about to be held in the capital. And so Ernest the Brave and his tortured hand left to go and learn from an English-speaking teacher in the enemy capital.

Ernest was my best student of that batch. He studied at night and asked me tough questions by day. He was curious, skeptical and eager. When we finished, the director of the Trauma Healing Organization asked me whom I thought he should hire for the Makamba center. I had no trouble nominating Ernest.

Ernest the Courageous went back to rebel-held Makamba. He worked to heal others. His courage, giftedness and diligence did not go unnoticed. When the war was over he ran for local office and was eventually elected Chief of Zone – something like Mayor of Makamba. I have every reason to hope and believe that they do not torture people there on the watch of Ernest Toyi.

Thus did I learn the Spiritual Discipline of Courage from one of its masters. Courage knows fear and walks right through it. Courage is friends with hard work. Courage has a purpose that reckless and thrill-seeking will never know. Courage does not step out from great riches to risk the tithe. Courage pays the price upfront with a promise made from faith and hope. Courage walks the path of righteousness and counts on the vouchsafe of God. Courage counts the coup before the battle begins, and accepts its own wounds as the proof of honor. Courage can never be foresworn.

I pray that someday, I be honored enough of God to be given the chance to be courageous. I pray that the teacher is worthy of her student.

11.25.2006

Testing - with request for regular readers

First timer visitors - please ignore the donation button to the left and the following requests.

Regular Readers
Update: test successful in Kroners, Pounds and Dollars - Thanks you Friends Alice, Alex and Kenneth - more info tomorrow

Thar be Good comments below

I want to keep talking about this

Proselyphobia

11.22.2006

SPG Science Wednesday

Friend and special correspondent to SPG, Alivia Biko
has embarked today upon new scientific frontiers.
early this morning Alivia swallowed a "pill camera" .
This tiny (but not tiny enough- we hear) camera will be traveling
through her digestive system for the next 12 hours sending a stream
of pictures to the recorder strapped to her belt.

a report on the device - the subject is NOT alivia


SPG has reason to believe that our superior science team will be able
to intercept alivia's feed (ha!) and post actual pictures here,

Stay tuned.



.

UPDATE 1:11 pm

Alivia is in my kitchen making stuffing for a turkey. She has a large blinking device strapped to her belly. She most definitely would not make it through airport security today! Because she has an apron on the protect the device she definitely looks like she has "something in the oven"!


Update 1:30 pm

the first belly cam pictures are in:






Hmm - the camera seems to have discovered something suspicious!

UPDATE 2 pm

The tiny sub/cam has dispatched tiny scientists to investigate the anomaly
















UPDATE 3pm



Fortunately the tiny scientists which seem to include Rachel Welch dicovered that the anaomaly is nothing more than the Brownie that Alivia sneeked in after the food cut-off time yesterday.

The tiny scientists were not amused






Special "Live" intreview segment

In the Comments section, Alivia Biko will now answer the following questions:

Alivia, What does it feel like having tiny scientists in you belly?

Do you object to the inclusion of Rachel Welch?

What do you think of the yellow dive suits?

UPDATE:

Time for the team to get out of there! Alivia's immune system seems to have noticed

the invasion. Run, tiny scientists! Run!


FINAL UPDATE 4pm.

Alivia has returned to the lab and turned in the recording pack.
This seems to have quelled the desire to shout warnings to Will Robinson.


The final and complete tape of her cam
can be seen here:

Now all Alivia has to do is clear the sub out of her system, clean it up and return ti to the lab for the next patient

GOOD JOB ALIVIA BIKO
PIONEER OF SCIENCE!

.

11.21.2006

Proselyphobia

So There I was...

Going door-to-door selling religion. Well, actually I wasn’t going door to door, I was sitting under a tree lying about going door-to-door.

I was at a youth camp of the Christian denomination of my childhood. Despite the fact that many of us were showing clear signs of spiritual doubt, confusion, and obvious natural and spiritual immaturity, the powers-that-be decided that they should send us out into the neighboring community as representatives of the faith.

I do not know what they were thinking.

As it was the only way to get to the Saturday night watermelon feed and hayride, I decided to play along. But when it came down to it – time to knock on a door and ask somebody if they wanted to meet Jesus – I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t have any Jesus to introduce them to. Even as a backslider I had more integrity than that.

But there was a form to fill out, reporting on the result at each house on my assignment. So I ditched my partner on the pretense that this would go quicker if we split up, and then I bought a soda, and sat down under a tree and made up responses. Lying to my youth leaders seemed like a better idea than lying to unbelievers.

I had another choice, of course; lie to nobody, and “come out” as the apostate I was, but that would have certainly gotten back to my mother, and I was not up to that.

I think this experience was the genesis of my proselyphobia.

Yes, That’s right, proselyphobia, - the fear of recruitment, especially religious recruitment. I have this fear and perhaps so do you. It is common among religious people, even people whose religion teaches that recruitment is critical and mandatory. It is equally common among people who think their faith is a good one among equals. It is common.

The problem for me is that I am called to be an evangelist.
It is an inconvenient phobia for me to have.

You see, these days I don’t think respectful religious recruitment is inherently bad. These days I have something real to share. I actually think that I carry the following wonderful truth around in my back pocket.

There is a God. This God loves you. You can have immediate, constant access to this God. This God will come and teach you. This God became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Because of Him you do not have to live in captivity to, or fear of, anything

I carry this around, I know it experientially, and I believe that people around me are literally dying for the want of it. They die from addiction, from loneliness, from despair, from idolatry. I think that what I carry around would save lives. And still, I am at times afraid to share what I have with them.

I think part of my fear comes from really, seriously, not wanting to be associated with people who have done, nasty, coercive, sometimes violent recruitment. The proselytizing that I they attempted to train me in as a youth was merely annoying in comparison, but I don’t want to be associated with that either.

But if you divided the whole world up into the team of believers and non-believers, I would have to choose the team that includes Johnny Cash, Joseph Shabalala, Bono, and Mother Theresa, even if I have to have Jim Dobson and the Spanish Inquisition on my side. The other team is just not my home.

I am pretty sure that the sub-group I hang out with now, the Quakers, would never, under any circumstances use violence to force people to convert. The worst behavior that I have witnessed among them is emotional manipulation designed to provoke a cathartic convincement, and even that has gone out of style. And even the most ardent promoters of using emotion to get at faith would admit that it is a useless endeavor unless the soul is ready for God. Yet this over-emotional approach has left many Friends proselyphobic.

At the other end of the Quaker spectrum, some Friends think that it is offensive to even say to somebody that you think they should consider a life of faith lived the way we live it. These same folks often have no trouble loudly proclaiming their political beliefs in the streets, but they would never carry a picket for Jesus or Quakerism. It would just seem gauche. So they talk about peace, and justice but not about God. And because they don’t like to promote what they have, they are hard to find sometimes.

I have parked my buggy between these two ends. I believe that people are free. That they are grown-ups, mostly. We live is a society teeming with ideas and experiences. I am not offended when someone offers an idea or an experience to me. Why should I be afraid to offer mine? If I offer to share the source of my hope, it is ok with me if you say “yes”, “no”, or “tell me more”.

When I meet a person who has a deep, practical working faith, I usually want to learn from them. I feel no need to try and talk them out of what is obviously workinng, however they name it. But the reality is that many people around me don’t seem to have that intimate connection to the Divine. And I do. And I know how I got it. And I don’t think that it is hard to get. Yet I often say little or nothing about what I know.

I know that I am afraid of false advertising. People promise stupid stuff in the name of religion, like “This faith path will solve all your problems, or automatically make you rich, or healthy.” This is a lie, but faith does have its benefits. You will never be truly alone. You can seek and find meaning. I have learned to talk about faith honestly, but still I hesitate.

I know that I am afraid of hypocrisy. I mean, I am a screw-up, always have been, always will be. Do you know how afraid I am of becoming a TV evangelist? I don’t even like people to take my picture, let alone videotape me. I have an uncanny ability to cause videotaping systems to malfunction. But actually, faith has made me less of a hypocrite, not more of one. There are parts of my life I can let you see and imitate. There are parts where you might want to find a better model, but I know one from the other. Yet at times I hesitate to share even the good parts.

I know that I am plagued by occasional deep doubt. What If I am a lot more delusional than I think I am? What If I have dedicated my life to the playing of a pretend game, and am encouraging others to join me? What if the present Christ is just an elaborate imaginary friend? These moments come, yes they do. But they never stay, because it takes much more energy to sustain the doubts than to sustain the belief. I always relax back into faith. I love better from faith. I laugh better from faith. Everything that is good about me is better from the place of faith. My doubts don’t disqualify my testimony; they make it stand out in clarity.

Like all phobias. proselyphobia does not evaporate in the face of logical argument. It can only be conquered by learning to relax in the face of that which you fear. I am working on my proselyphobia. I have made up my mind to speak what I know at every chance I get. I am learning to take responsibility only for my testimony, not the affect my testimony has on the world – that is God’s job, not mine. I am choosing to speak from my own experience, flawed example, though I am, or perhaps especially because I am a flawed example.

I am getting over it.

11.20.2006

HELP Needed - please reply

Silly Poor Gospel will be hitting the road on December 27, 2006

Peggy Senger Parsons will be posting both this blog and her

UPI Column So There I WAS from Bujumbura. Burundi.

I will be there until the end of February.


I will be working for Quaker Peacemaker David Niyonzima and his organizationTrauma Healing and Reconciliation Services of Burundi . I will be be training field level traumatologists (trauma healers). I will also be training his top level staff in relsiliency and compassion fatigue. The last time I was there in 2003 I trained 43 traumatologists - David turned those 43 into 800. Very few of those 800 work for THARS but they have been trained and released into their churches, clinics, schools and communities.


If all goes well I will also be traveling to Kigali, Rwanda and Goma in the DRC. I hope to see my previous students Augustin Habimana and his Quaker orphans. I also hope to see my student Benjamin Kasao who is doing trauma healing in Goma.

I will be bringing new material for psychological healing for rape survivors - a literal plague in Central Africa at the moment.



My Expenses for this trip are completely taken care of.

But I am going to be carrying a compassion fund to make a difference.

One of the fabulous things about sending money over there is how much it does, compared to here, $5 feeds an orphan for a month $30 pays a trauma healing for a month $100 funds an entire listening center for a month. A few Thousand dollars puts up a building.

Every dollar I take will be administered by David and his organization - they have a track record of rigorous, ethical accounting, a thing hard to come by in Africa. There will be no transit or overhead costs on this budget. 100% will go to the intended project.

Because I will be there in person, I will be able to assess the needs and will designate the funds for the most pressing concerns. I will be there long enough to see results and report.

If you are a US citizen you may have your tax deduction for this.

Freedom Friends Church has set up a fund for my travels.

Send contributions to

Freedom Friends Church

2425 13th Street SE, Salem Oregon 97302

Clearly designate the check as

Peggy's Africa compassion fund.

Unfortunately we cannot accept funds in any other currency than USdollars. (If one of my foreign readers would like to make a significant contribution in another currency please e-mail me directly and I will discuss with David how to channel those funds)

Let us See if the Quaker Blogosphere has any financial muscle, shall we?

Send a check and then Link to this post - together we have Thousands of hits a day!

You are so going to enjoy my Africa blogs if you know that you are part of it.

(the photos on this post were borrowed from the BBC - I will take and post my own i a few weeks)


11.19.2006

Something I learned today

Three Motorcycles
In a Garage
with the door wide open
but on a windless rainy day
running for 15 minutes

create enough carbon monoxide
to affect conciousness
in the time it takes
to turn off
Three motorcycles.

headache

.

11.18.2006

The chicken story continues

From SPG stringer Elie in Buja

bonjour
ca va?
as at home is ok eccapt the story of chiken it is not over.

wen papa was planting
he sey elie go and do a house of your chiken
then I went
I did the house then I finished
then papa sey elie, have you finished ?
then I seyd yes
then papa seyd if the chiken will get out
it mens you seyd
"papa kill the chiken and eat the chiken".
bay
god be wiht your familly
Elie


11.17.2006

The Last DQ Post

Marge let Isaac do her summing up. Marge is smart.
.
.
.
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF WHAT WE ARE,
AND WHAT OUR WORK IS IN THE WORLD
ISAAC PENINGTON
(abridged)

WE are a people whom God hath converted to himself; a people in whom God hath raised up the seed of his own life, and caused it to reign over the earthly part in ourselves; a people whom God hath divorced from the spirit of whoredom, and joined to his own Spirit. …
and by being turned to him, we have tasted of the truth, of the true wisdom, of the true power, of the true life, of the true righteousness, of the true redemption; and by receiving of this from God, and tasting and handling of it, we come to know that that which the world hath set up in the stead of it, is not the thing it-self. …

And here we have met with the call of God, the conversion to God, the regeneration in God, the justification, the sanctification, the wisdom, the redemption, the true life and power of God, which the world cannot so much as bear the name of. And what we are made of God in Christ, we know to be truth, and no lie; and when we testify of this to the world, in the measure of the life of God in us, we speak truth, and no lie; though the world, which knoweth not the truth, cannot hear our voice. ...

Now our work in the world is to hold forth the virtues of him that hath called us; to live like God;not to own any thing in the world which God doth not own; to forget our country, our kindred, our father's house, and to live like persons of another country, of another kindred, of another family; not to do any thing of ourselves, and which is pleasing to the old nature; but all our words, all our conversation, yea, every thought in us, is to become new. …

We are also to be witnesses for God, and to propagate his life in the world; to be instruments in his hand, to bring others out of death and captivity into true life and liberty. We are to fight against the powers of darkness everywhere, as the Lord calleth us forth. And this we are to do in his wisdom, according to his will, in his power, and in his love, sweetness, and meekness. ...

The Lord God is rough with the transgressor, and all along the scripture heweth and judgeth him; and if we come forth in the same Spirit, we shall find the same leadings where we meet with the same thing: for the Lord God will never be tender there; nor can that which comes from him, lives in him, is led by him, be tender there, where he is not.
Now the very root of this severity is good, and of God, and hath love and sweetness at the bottom of it; yea, in pity, love, and bowels do we use the sword. It is in pity to the poor captived creature, that that might be cut down which keeps it in bonds and captivity. And though we seem enemies to all sorts of men for the Lord's sake; yet we are not enemies, nor could do the least hurt to them any way; but are true friends to their souls, and bodies also: and our only controversy is with that which captives and makes them miserable; for we fight not at all with flesh and blood, but with the principality and power which led from God, and rule in it against God, to the poor creature's ruin and destruction.

Yea, if we had all the power of the earth in our hands, we could not set up our own way (if, after the manner of men, I may so call it) or so much as disturb others in their way thereby; but should wait in patience till God gave us an entrance by his power.

Now let not men run on in heats against us; but let them seriously consider whether we be of God or no: and let them consider not with the reason and understanding which are alienated from God; but with the witness which lies hid in the heart. There is one great palpable argument that we are of God, which is this: all the world is against us; the worldly part everywhere fights with us; the worldly part, in every sort and sect of men, opposeth us; the rage of men everywhere riseth up against us: but those that are so hot against us, if at any time they become but meek and calm, patiently considering our cause, and consulting thereupon with the testimony that they find in their own hearts concerning us, they soon become pacified, and see that we are no man's enemies, against no righteous law, not against relations, not against governments, not against any thing in the world that is good; but only against that which is evil and corrupt. …

on Being Soft

Part two - fear abatement
scroll down for part one -
seriously - read them in order

Relaxing the pelvic floor

Now some of you good breathers can rejoin us.

There is another really important reason to get real friendly with your pelvic floor muscles.

If you can control them, you can conquer fear and stress.
I am not kidding.

When we are afraid or ‘stressed out’ we clench – we tighten our core muscles,
especially those abdominal ones I have been talking about.

Right now, imagine a scary, startling or stressful event.
Take that sucked in – scared breath and hold it.
The fight or flight breath.
Feel that clench? Tight all through.
You do this reflexively.
And when you do it, it puts pressure on the Vegas nerve at the base of the spine, which sends messages to the brain to panic. And within a couple of seconds the brain starts pumping all the stress chemical that you might need if you were really in a life-threatening situation. This is a biological survival technique.

The problem is that this reaction is set off all the time in situation that do not actually call for adrenaline and cortical steroids. Some people live in this clenched state. Some people have to use drugs (Rx and not) or alcohol to relax this clench.
This is very bad for your health – your body and brain were not meant to live ‘stressed’.
You will crash at some point.

The good news is that if you make friends with your pelvic floor you can turn this reaction off at will. You can stop panic attacks, phobias, anxiety and most of the physical symptoms of stress. You can decide if the situation warrants a full fight or run for your life response, and if not, you can stay mindful, present and non-anxious in the face of nearly anything. It takes practice - years of practice, but you can do it.

Anytime you feel that clench, triggered by any source, you have a couple of seconds to intervene and stop the chemical flow.

Now, nuts and bolts. You should be able to have three settings to your pelvic floor muscles;
1 - clenched – contracted (for women you have been taught Kegels – if you can stop the flow of urine mid-stream - that’s it – good to be able to do this – practice every time)
2- neutral – relaxed, neither contracted or expanded
3- expanded – convex on the in-breath (for women – like pushing a baby or expelling something from the vagina - guys - think about expelling something else)

It is the expanded position on the in breath that pulls the muscles away from the Vegas nerve and turns off the panic response. Then you return to the neutral position rather than the clenched. You should live in the neutral position. It should feel SOFT, not strained.
When you have a soft belly and pelvic floor you will be more mindful, more aware, and have more access to all your higher faculties. All martial arts master know this discipline – body ready and useful, but soft and aware.

Clenched warriors may be dangerous, but they are also most likely to die.
Soft warriors step aside as death rushes at them.

Most of us will thankfully never face a ninja in a death duel.
But this mindful, soft technique is useful for so many other things.
It allows the trauma healer to be present to people who need to speak about horror without taking on the trauma secondarily. I would think it would be very useful to police detectives; to anyone who must spend time with others who are in a stressed state. I have learned that anything that I received softly will have no power to hurt me. I remember it when I open and e-mail I think I am not going to like, or when I pick up a phone call I do not wish to take.
I use it with anything that scares me.

Many of your poor breathers, live clenched.
You have learned to live on those chemicals.
You may have no awareness of any muscles below your belly-button.

If this is you, and especially if you have a history of trauma, I want you to know that you do not have to live like this. You may have to work a long time, and you are going to need help – but you can reset your default to 'soft'. You will need a class – yoga or tai chi – with a teacher who can teach the breathing techniques really well, and you will need a counselor or spiritual director who is comfortable helping you look at your trauma from a relaxed place.
Don’t give up until you find this combination.

The Final Step

Combine the belly breathing and the soft pelvic floor with any contemplative prayer discipline. The serenity prayer, wordless prayer, the rosary – doesn’t matter.

Learn to breath and pray soft.

Then learn to do it while you do other things.

Then do it all the time.

I am not kidding.

.

On Breathing

This post and the next are the core of the fear abatement section of the dangerous Quakers class. I learned this from J. Eric Gentry of Sarasota Florida.


Belly Breathing

I know it doesn’t make sense that you should need lessons on how to do something that you did automatically the first minute you entered this world, but the fact remains – most of us don’t breathe right.

After you quit smoking, learn moderation in everything else, and give yourself eight hours to sleep every night, the most important thing you can do for your health is learn to breathe. (ok – maybe you can start breathing WHILE you learn some of those other things)

The kind of breathing that I am talking about is called deep-belly breathing. It is not rocket science and it is not anything new. If you would like to find a coach to work on this I would suggest any good Yoga, Tai Chi or Vocal teacher. But you don’t need a spendy guru for this. Here are the basics.

What we are talking about here is misnamed, of course. You can’t breathe into your belly. You breathe into your lungs. What we are talking about is which muscle set you use to assist your lungs to expand - they aren't actually very strong on their own. What you want to do is use your belly and pelvic floor muscles to pull your diaphragm down to make room in the chest cavity.

The first step is to assess your breathing. Sit in a nice straight chair with your spine in a nice, natural, upright position – not unnaturally stretched, but not slouching. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen. Take a few deep breaths. If you are breathing right your lower belly will move out when you breath in, and your chest will not move much. If your shoulders rise at all, this is bad. See if you can move only your belly and have it expand as if the air was literally filling your gut not your lungs. If this is easy for you, and you breathe this way all the time, kudos! Skip to the last few paragraphs of this to add the info on pelvic floor muscles. If you have difficulty breathing this way I have a few tips for you.

Sitting on your chair – put your hands under your butt and feel your “sit bones” got them? Now on the front of your belly feel for your hipbones.

Close your eyes and feel these four points as a rectangle.
You have three sets of muscles that affect this area.
The abdominal muscles – those guys that hurt when you do sit-ups (do more sit-ups); the psoas muscles that run down your back and connect your hips to your thighs (you usually only feel these guys when you damage them) and the pelvic floor muscles (between your legs on both men and women).

Using these three sets of muscles expand that abdominal rectangle while taking in a deep breath. For some of you this is going to take practice. If you are doing it right your belly will expand low down (not at your waistband unless you wear your jeans very low like my daughters), and you will feel your pelvic floor expand –
more expansion at the crotch than at the waistband.

This explanation does not work for some people.


Lots of folks have spent decades ignoring this region of their body.

If that totally failed try this – a little bit more of visualization. Imagine there is a softball sitting right down at the bottom of your torso. Breathe and try and expand that softball to volleyball size. If you are a tiny person start with a baseball.

The next step is to learn to lengthen your breaths. Count in and out as you breathe – nice and slow. Try and work up to bigger numbers on both the in and the out take.

Practice for the next few days/weeks/months/years on belly breathing until it is natural,

When it takes effort to try and breath the old way you have mastered it.


11.14.2006

Dangerous Quakers Summary


Jesus was dangerous to the world order.
The early church was dangerous.
Early Friends were dangerous.
The Sermon on the Mount is a dangerous document.
Those who live it will be dangerous.
DQ’s upset conventional wisdom and replace it with Gospel Order.
DQ’s submit to Divine transformation.
Truth is the agent of transformation.
Transformation always expresses itself in action.
God’s peace is alignment with God’s purposes.
This alignment brings conflict with evil.
DQ’s are willing to face loss to be transformed.
DQ’s speak and live truth boldly.
DQ’s resist fear mongering and manipulation.
DQ’s resist isolation and polarization.
DQ’s can engage lovingly with “the other.”
DQ’s can stand in the midst of a creative, paradoxical tension.
DQ’s recognize truth in others.
DQ’s can even non-anxiously engage those promoting lies as truth.
DQ’s resist idolatry.
DQ’s understand and live in freedom.
DQ’s know God’s love intimately.
DQ’s understand the world’s need for what they have.
DQ’s do not live in captivity to fear or anger.
DQ’s accept that they may be called to prophetically speak the truth.
DQ’s work at bold humility.
DQ’s are grounded in God and practice spiritual disciplines.
DQ’s have a passion for justice.
DQ’s hold their expectations lightly.
DQ’s believe that God is among us and accessible to everyone.
DQ’s cooperate with God’s agenda.
God’s agenda is that every soul knows God’s love and lives freely in it.
Abbott/Parsons fall 2006

The Spiritual Discipline of Surrender

Today's UPI column

So there I was

… out in the back yard. I was twelve years old, it was springtime and I had just decided to become apostate.

One of the problems with this picture is that I was twelve, and knew what apostasy was: willing, full knowing revolution against God and God’s faith, a change of loyalty, defection. This was the choice of Lucifer, the fallen one.

Another problem was that it was precisely what I wanted.

At that age I looked a lot like Pippy Longstockings; skinny, straggly hair in two messy braids, tall for my age, pale and weak. But I had left that Sunday evening class that was supposed to be my preparation for baptism, and made a big decision.

No Thanks. I’ll work for any team but yours.

My rebellion was supported by three pillars, God’s people, God’s teaching and God.

Despite the fact that I had loving parents who walked their talk, they seemed to be an anomaly. The guy teaching my baptism class preached love, and beat his kids. The big deal youth preacher down at Moody Bible Institute thought that the most important thing we could do as young Christians was to smash all our rock music. There were people telling me that I should simultaneously worry about college and the end of the world, which was going to happen any minute. These people seemed bad or nuts – take your pick.

Doctrine-wise I had pick up this: “Hey little girl, the best person who ever lived was brutally murdered, and it was YOUR fault.” Nobody in our church ever debated whether to blame the Jews or the Romans, those nails were meant for your hands, the guy with the hammer is just part of the plan. This was a bit heavy for a child.

And then there was my personal observation of God. He apparently stood by while the world was in a severe mess. His supposed ‘cure’ on the cross did not seem to have had much affect. And I did not buy the notion that this was our fault for not accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, because many of the people who did profess this acceptance were doing a lot of the bad stuff. I was twelve, but I understood racism, and the Christians who supported it. I understood and even approved of free will, but didn’t like what God was doing with God’s will. I didn’t like how things were set up. I blamed God.

And so I stood there and looked at the sky and said this.

“I know you are there. I know you want me, but I refuse you. I want nothing to do with you, or your church. Go away and leave me alone. I will be just fine.”

And then I went in and put on my PJ’s, asked my mom for milk and cookies, read some Tolkein, and slept peacefully.

I may have been apostate, and courageous enough to tell God, but I wasn’t stupid enough to tell my mom. So I started my life of closet apostasy and hypocrisy. I did decline baptism.

I told my parents that I did not feel ready, and that surely they wouldn’t want me to be baptized until it felt right.
They looked worried, but they agreed.

I eventually taught Sunday School, because it was easier than sitting in Sunday School.

I was president of the Youth Group because somebody had to do it. I went to camp.
I sang because it pleased my mother.
I did precisely whatever pleased me the rest of the time.
And I counted the days until my escape.

I had some close scrapes running my own life, but I was making it.

Sure I was scared, hiding a lot, faking a lot, but it was only temporary.

At eighteen, by a narrow margin I achieved the velocity required to get out of the black hole suction of the near-by Christian College. I was accepted at a prestigious Liberal Arts School with no tests, texts, or lectures. It followed Mortimer Adler’s regimen of the Great Books. I read Sophocles in Greek. Did science with Archimedes and contemplated Plato and then worked my way through history. Nobody told you what to think, they just asked questions and put up with know-it-all eighteen year olds like me. All this in the lovely city of Santa Fe, New Mexico – 1500 miles from home – paid for, of course, by my mother.

Freedom.

I drank beer. I rode horses. I got myself a guy. It was great.

Until Sophomore year.

They only had three questions at the School. You applied them to every text; What is the author saying? Is it true? And if it is true, how does it change your life?

I should have smelled a trap.

Because sophomore year we read the Bible. Cover to Cover. And asking the questions were these two guys, our academic midwives and nursemaids. At one end of the Seminar Table was Michael Ossorgin, conceived in Russia born in Paris just after the revolution, graduate of the Sorbonne, Russian Orthodox Bishop – he chain-smoked and glowed with holiness – this worried me a bit. At the other end of the table was Robert Sacks, Jew, slight of frame and fettered by cerebral palsy, he occasionally shouted, and often laughed and was a planetary expert on the Book of Genesis. He scared me a bit. They were absolutely nothing like anything I had ever seen before, only they were like everything I knew was true.

The Old Testament wasn’t too bad. All those years of Sunday School helped me sound pretty smart – at least I thought so. Then we read the New Testament – in Greek - slowly. And there was that pesky Jesus, purported God. And those dirty questions. And the holy guys at the ends of the table.

In the beginning was the Word (reason, ratio, relationship, everything that ever made sense and everything that doesn’t.) And the Word was God. And this Word lights up everyone who ever came into the world. But so often they do not recognize it. But if they do recognize it they become completely alive. (paraphrase of John 1)

And I found that the truth wasn’t in the book, or in other people – glowing or not – and it wasn’t in the discussion or the dogma, or the reading, it was inside me, and I recognized it, and I began to live.

I walked out of the seminar hall into the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains and I looked at the sky and I said:

“I know you are there/here. I know you want me/have me. I surrender.”

And nothing changed and everything changed. But a conversation started that night that has never really stopped. I accepted Life on Life’s terms. God is God. The deal is what it is. Huge pieces of the deal hurt. A lot of the people are unmitigated screw-ups, including me. But I am awake, alive, connected, real. I fake less. I am scared less.

And I have to surrender every day.

It is not a one-time conversion sort of thing.
I am asked to accept things as they are, not as I would have them be.
It is the hard path to peace.
It is the hardest of all the disciplines, and the most important.

This is what I know.

If that riptide tugging at your knees is God, dive for the undertow and drown.




.

11.11.2006

Keith Urban Made It Through The Day

This one going out to my friend M. who, like me, made it through the day.

11.07.2006

Sweet Home Chicago

Today's UPI column
late here for the voting message - but I know you all did your job. Election days always make me homesick.

So There I was...

…poll watching in the 44th Ward of the City of Chicago, 1975. I was a youthful volunteer in the office of Alderman Richard Simpson, one of the two independent aldermen in the city run by Richard J. Daley, now known to history as Richard the First. I wasn’t old enough to vote but I was bright enough to poll watch. Poll watching was a tradition necessitated by corruption. The voting machines were those big mechanical monsters with the levers that clicked and the Las Vegas style side arm that swept your vote into the count with that satisfying "Ka-chunk.” At the end of the day a human had to open up the machine and look in the back and call out the numbers. Another human wrote the number down as they were called out, another human carried the book downtown, where more humans tallied the numbers from the books. And at each step of the way we assigned a human to watch the official human. Did he call out the number that was there? Did he write down the number that was called out? Did that book stop anywhere between the precinct and city hall? At each step corruption had its chance, and at each step we watched them. It worked pretty well as long as you had an army of volunteers.

This was quite an education for a young, optimistic kid interested in politics. City hall was a trip in those days. All the aldermen were men, and they were all white. Few of the staffers were female, and fewer still youngsters, but somehow I had the run of the place. The rooms of city hall were blue and brown with cigarette and cigar haze; the former tended to float above the latter. They had a thirty-gallon coffee urn, and they made the coffee on Monday and re-heated it all week. Friday coffee dissolved metal. You got tough or croaked. The guy I worked for lost every vote 48-2, but he knew he was right so it didn’t matter. Wrigley Field was in the 44th, and on a sunny, summer day (pre-lights at Wrigley) nobody cared if you took the afternoon off and took in a game. All in all it was a sweet deal.

I learned to take corruption as part of the package. There was a precinct in the city that was nothing but a mom and pop store and a cemetery, but that precinct turned out a large vote every time the Mayor was up for election. The bums loved Election Day; voting for whiskey kept them busy all day long. But I also learned that you could deal with corruption – you could witness to it – you could moderate it. Some days you could even talk to it and get stuff done.

The ironic truth was that while Dick Simpson may have needed poll watchers to get his votes counted, the Mayor never needed corruption to get his. Cook County Illinois may have stole the 1960 election for JFK, but the people of the City of Chicago loved Mayor Daley; he won by an honest landslide every time. The garbage got picked up, the snow got plowed, and everybody knew the rules.

My driver’s education teacher stood before our class and showed us how to fold a ten dollar bill behind our driver’s license in just the right way and then to present the whole wallet to the cop.
”Never, I mean NEVER, offer a cop a bribe,” He said.
“That’s wrong and it’s stupid – cops don’t like to have their integrity questioned. Put the bill behind your license like this – If he wants it, he will take it, if he doesn’t, he will take your license and hand you back the wallet. Nobody wants some snot nosed kid calling you crooked.”

I also learned about political delusion, a thing running rampant in our nation’s capital these days. Daley was getting old when I was there. He was fat. He was Irish. He smoked. He was red in the face all the time. It was only a matter of time until he fell over from a heart attack. And the city of seven million had absolutely no plan for succession. One day some alderman stood up in city council and said with great respect and humility,

“Meanin’ no disrespect to da mare, may he live to be a hunnert, but don’cha suppose we need ta, maybe, just in case, have a plan, you know, if, God forbid, something should happen ta him, a long, long time from now?”

Stunned silence ensued.

And then, Vito Marzullo, 25th ward, rose to his feet, and shouted at the top of his lungs;

“Our Mare, Richard J. Daley, mare of the great city of Chicago WILL NEVER DIE!”

And that ended that discussion.

Alderman Marzullo was, of course, incorrect in his assertion, Daley died a few years later, and it was a mess.

I have been thinking a lot about the oligarchy that was Chicago, and how much they loved voting. They loved it like they loved baseball. They loved it like they loved food and beer. Politics was the religion of the city as much as Catholicism. Looking back they were probably both corrupt, but back then nobody cared. People came from places where their grandparent’s votes and prayers weren’t counted.

I have been thinking about my friends in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They voted last week. For many citizens this is their very first taste of democracy. They are still waiting for results. The United Nations poll watchers report that despite incidents of violence and corruption the election proceeded with enough integrity that it should count. I am sure that they have relaxed their standards. But what people there are hoping for, dreaming for, is the kind of election that Chicago, America, takes for granted – that is one where the loser admits that he has lost, and does not immediately start an armed insurrection. Mr. Kabila and Mr. Bemba have both said they will respect the results, but they both have armies, and folks are worried. What the people of the Congo need is for the loser to lose, and then the winner to actually form a government that works, most of the time; well, some of the time would be a good start. They don’t have any snow to shovel, but they need some roads, and some police. Police who would only sometimes take the bribe would be a great start. At the moment, they only sometimes have police, and the police sometimes rape and kill. A democratically elected, predictable, stable, oligarchy would be a great improvement for my friends – like it was for Chicago in the 20th century.

I respectfully submit that we should send a delegation to help. Experience, a track record of
success, and karmic debt should determine the members. I nominate Fast Eddie Vrdolyak, Vito Marzullo and Dan Rostenkowski for point men.

Out of gratitude I am sure that the DRC would be glad to send us some great musicians, a thing Chicago also loves. Everybody benefits, everybody’s happy.

Now go out and vote! Once!

p.s. please do not write and tell me that Vito is dead. This I know. This has never yet stopped a Chicago politician.

11.06.2006

The Killers - All These Things That I Have Done -UK Version

From the Pastor's Pod

The Killers
All these things that I have done

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no no no no

Help me out
Yeah, you know you got to help me out
Yeah, oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out

I got soul, but I'm not a soldier...


My theology says that God doesn't have a back burner,
but Lord, some days it feels like I am on it!

11.05.2006

Peggy Senger Parsons and the Idol of Safety


Doesn't that sound like a great Indiana Jones movie?
Good thing I have the Hat!


Actually, its a message I caught and Beppe put it on the Podcast

http://beppe.wordpress.com/2006/11/03/podcast-60-peggy-senger-parsons-and-the-idol-of-safety/

11.04.2006

Miracle Chicken

More from my Burundian Friend Elie


bonjuor peggy

comment ca va.
am glad to right for you a e-mail.
as at home it's ok

we are waiting first for daniella then for you.
as at school it's fine .

peggy my chiken has a baby with no papa at home
we didint andarstend to have a baby with no her papa
then it's time to eat the chiken beucaus
at home we have to plant.


at home we liker to play soccer at kibenga ther is a big playgraund.
me and yoyo we have shuz of soccer bat now we dont play again

beucaus mama want to see as stading
when wa go to play mama will be very very angry

ok baba god bless you.

11.03.2006

More from Marge

All this great stuff is central, adjunct or tangental
to the wednesday night talks
for those of you visiting at a distance imagining what these talks are about
- I hope you are having fun!
Two plane tickets and a modest honorarium would get a four day retreat near you!

Marge Abbott - November, 2006
THE NATURE OF PERFECTION

MARGARET FELL
Our holy city, the new Jerusalem, is coming down from heaven. Her light will shine throughout the whole earth, even as a jasper-stone, clear as crystal, which brings freedom and liberty and perfect redemption to her whole seed. This is that woman and image of the eternal God that God has owned, does own, and will own for evermore."1

GEORGE FOX
Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed into the image of God by Christ Jesus, so that I saw I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me, and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue. . . . And the Lord showed me that such as were faithful to him in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell, in which the admirable works of the creation, and the virtues thereof, may be known, through the openings of that divine Word of wisdom and power by which they were made.

ARTHUR ROBERTS
Jesus summarized his teachings by saying, "Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt 5:47) Jesus' words are like a spotlight in the face, like a siren to the ear. We'd like to turn away, but we can't. Holiness haunts us. Deep within, beneath public posturing and conventional behavior we hear perfection's call as the voice of God.
. . .simple joy, moral goodness, radiant hope -- such manifestations of perfect love, alas, have been bypassed. But much has been lost, purity of heart doesn't sell on today's religious market. . . . Do you hunger for holiness, for righteousness, for justice? Jesus said you are blessed if you do, and that your hunger will be filled. Through conversion crisis, spiritual discipline, artistic creativity, moral conduct, and moments of ecstasy, the Holy Spirit of God knocks at the door of your heart. Let the Spirit enter. Open the door. Open the door!2

KENNETH BOULDING
What was the Quaker message? In a sense it was a call to a certain kind of perfection, a New Testament ethic, the love of enemies, rejoicing through suffering, a profound unwillingness to use threat even for supposedly good purposes, a passion for veracity even in minute particulars of language, a sense of the "Lord's power" that "rises over all" but still remains profoundly mysterious -- an uncertain visitation of grace, not under human control to be turned on and off at will, but also responsive to human need. (Friends Journal, 10/1/79)

WALPOLA RAHULA, What the Buddha Taught
When wisdom is developed and cultivated according to the Fourth Nobel Truth, it sees the secret of life, the reality of things as they are, all the forces which feverishly produce the continuity of samsara in illusion become calm and incapable of producing any more karma-formations, because there is no more illusion, no more 'thirst' for continuity. It is like a mental disease which is cured when the cause or the secret of the malady is discovered and seen by the patient. In almost all religions the summum bonum can be obtained only after death. But Nirvana can be realized in this very life; it is not necessary to wait till you die to 'attain' it.
He who has realized the Truth, Nirvana, is the happiest being in the world. He is free from all 'complexes' and obsessions, the worries and troubles that torment others. His mental health is perfect. He does not repent the past, nor does he brood over the future. He lives fully in the present. Therefore he appreciates and enjoys things in the purest sense without self-projections. He is joyful, exultant, enjoying the pure life, his faculties pleased, free from anxiety, serene and peaceful. As he is free from selfish desire, hatred, ignorance, conceit, pride, and all such 'defilements', he is pure and gentle, full of universal love, compassion, kindness, sympathy, understanding and tolerance. His service to others is of the purest, for he has no thought of self. (pp. 42,43)

ROBERT BARCLAY
He in whom this pure and holy birth occurs in all its fullness, finds that death and sin are crucified and removed from him, and his heart becomes united and obedient to truth. He is no longer able to obey any suggestions or temptations toward evil, but is freed from sin and the transgression of the law of God, and in that respect perfect. Yet there is still room for spiritual growth, and some possibility of sinning remains if the mind is not diligently and watchfully applied to heeding the Lord. (Romans 6.14; 8.13; 6.2, 18; and I John 3.6)

ROBERT BARCLAY (paraphrase)
Barclay's vision sees people transformed in Christ and freed of sin. Perfection starts with the "pure and holy birth," the spiritual state of obedience to God, in which death and sin are crucified. As best I can understand, Barclay means by this that once a person has experienced this spiritual rebirth that all one's actions are naturally taken with the guidance of the Inward Christ and thus that person no longer will sin. Barclay declares that those who know this new birth may become God's people and "come to share in the very being of God." None-the-less, even as each person turns to Christ and comes to live more fully guided by the Inward Teacher, he or she continually finds more understanding opening up within and perpetual room for daily growth in the spirit.
Thus perfection is both a state of knowing the fullness of the Light Within and a process of coming to live as fully as possible following in the footsteps of Jesus. It encompasses an inward state and outward actions. It does not mean a person can do no wrong, but it does mean we can be faithful to what we know.

BHAGAVAD GITA (Conclusion, verses 50-63)
Hear from me, in brief, O Son of Kunti, how, having attained perfection, he attains to the Brahman, that supreme consummation of wisdom. Endowed with a pure understanding, firmly restraining oneself, turning away from sound and other objects of sense and casting aside attraction and aversion. Dwelling in solitude, eating but little, controlling speech, body and mind, and ever engaged in meditation and concentration and taking refuge in dispassion. And casting aside self-sense, force, arrogance, desire, anger, possession, egoless and tranquil in mind, he becomes worthy of becoming one with Brahman. Having become one with Brahman, and being tranquil in spirit, he neither grieves nor desires. Regarding all beings as alike he attains supreme devotion to Me....The Lord abides in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, causing them to turn round by His power as if they were mounted on a machine. Flee unto Him for shelter with all thy being, O Bharata. By His grace shalt thou obtain supreme peace and eternal abode. Thus has wisdom more secret than all secrets, been declared to thee by Me. Having reflected on it fully do as thou chosest.

1 JOHN 2:3-6
Now by this we may be sure that we know [Jesus Christ], if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, "I have come to know him," but does not obey his commandments is a liar and in such a person the truth does not exist, but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, "I abide in him," ought to walk just as he walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

HEBREWS 10:14-18, (JEREMIAH 31:33-34):
For by a single offering God has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts . . . And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor . . . for they shall all know me." and adds: "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."

ROMANS (6.14) – "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace." (8.12-14) – "So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." (6.1,2) – "What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?" (6.17,18) – But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have becomes slaves of righteousness." I John 3.6 — "No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him."

JOHN 15:14-17
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another

HEBREWS 5:12-14, 6:1-3
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, still being an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God...

EPHESIANS 3:16-19
I pray that, according to the riches of all glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through God's Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with the fullness of God.

11.02.2006

More DQ homework

Boy, Marge Abbott is making this blog look smart!


Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus' Nonviolent Way by Walter Wink

[Dr Walter Wink is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. Previously, he was a parish minister and taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1989-1990 he was a Peace Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. This essay is posted with Dr Wink's permission.] Walter Wink's web site is: http://www.WalterWink.com

The new reality Jesus proclaimed was nonviolent. That much is clear, not just from the Sermon on the Mount, but his entire life and teaching and, above all, the way he faced his death. His was not merely a tactical or pragmatic nonviolence seized upon because nothing else would have worked against the Roman empire's near monopoly on violence. Rather, he saw nonviolence as a direct corollary of the nature of God and of the new reality emerging in the world from God. In a verse quoted more than any other from the New Testament during the church's first four centuries, Jesus taught that God loves everyone, and values all, even those who make themselves God's enemies. We are therefore to do likewise (Matt. 5:45; cf. Luke 6:35). The Reign of God, the peaceable Kingdom, is (despite the monarchical terms) an order in which the inequity, violence, and male supremacy characteristic of dominator societies are superseded. Thus nonviolence is not just a means to the Kingdom of God; it is a quality of the Kingdom itself. Those who live nonviolently are already manifesting the transformed reality of the divine order now, even under the conditions of what I call the Domination System.

The idea of nonviolent resistance was not new. The Hebrew midwives, the Greek tragedians, and Jainism. Buddhism, Hinduism, Lao-Tzu, and Judaism were all to various degrees conversant with nonviolence as a way of life and, in some cases, even as a tactic of social change. What was new was the early church's inference from Jesus' teaching that nonviolence is the only way, that war itself must be renounced. The idea of peace and the more general rejection of violence can be found before Christianity and in other cultures, says Peter Brock, but nowhere else do we find practical anti-militarism leading to the refusal of military service.

When, beginning with the emperor Constantine, the Christian church began receiving referential treatment by the empire that it had once so steadfastly opposed, war, which had once seemed so evil, now appeared to many to be a necessity for preserving and propagating the gospel. Christianity's weaponless victory over the Roman empire eventuated in the weaponless victory of the empire over the gospel. No defeat is so well-disguised as victory! In the year 303, Diocletian forbade any member of the Roman army to be a Christian. By the year 416, no one could be a member of the Roman army unless he was a Christian.

It fell to Augustine (d. 430) to make the accommodation of Christianity to its new status as a privileged religion in support of the state. Augustine believed, on the basis of Matt. 5:38-42, that Christians had no right to defend themselves from violence. But he identified a problem which no earlier theologian had faced: what Augustine regarded as the loving obligation to use violence if necessary to defend the innocent against evil. Drawing on Stoic just war principles, he articulated the position that was to dominate church teaching from that time right up to the present. Ever since, Christians on the left and on the right, in the East and in the West, have found it exceedingly easy to declare as "just" and divinely ordained any wars their governments desired to wage for purely national interests. As a consequence, the world regards Christians as among the most warlike factions on the face of the earth. And little wonder; two-thirds of the people killed in the last 500 years died at the hands of fellow-Christians in Europe, to say nothing of those whom Christians killed in the course of colonizing the rest of the world.

As Gandhi once quipped, "The only people on earth who do not see Christ and His teachings as nonviolent are Christians." The time has come to look again to the rock from which we were hewn. And the key text remains Jesus' statement about resisting evil.

38 You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. (Matt. 5:38-42 NRSV; see also Luke 6:29-30).

Christians have, on the whole, simply ignored this teaching. It has seemed impractical, masochistic, suicidal--an invitation to bullies and spouse-batterers to wipe up the floor with their supine Christian victims. Some who have tried to follow Jesus' words have understood it to mean non-resistance: let the oppressor perpetrate evil unopposed. Even scholars have swallowed the eat-humble-pie reading of this text: "It is better to surrender everything and go through life naked than to insist on one's legal rights," to cite only one of scores of these commentators from Augustine right up to the present. Interpreted thus, the passage has become the basis for systematic training in cowardice, as Christians are taught to acquiesce in evil.

Cowardice is scarcely a term one associates with Jesus. Either he failed to make himself clear, or we have misunderstood him. There is plenty of cause to believe the latter. Jesus is not forbidding self-defense here, only the use of violence. Nor is he legitimating the abandonment of nonviolence in order to defend the neighbor. He is rather showing us a way that can be used by individuals or large movements to intervene on behalf of justice for our neighbors--nonviolently.

The classical interpretation of Matt 5:38-42//Luke 6:29-30 suggests two, and only two, possibilities for action in the face of evil: fight or flight. Either we resist evil, or we do not resist it. Jesus seemingly says that we are not to resist it; so, it would appear, he commands us to be docile, inert, compliant, to abandon all desire for justice, to allow the oppressor to walk all over us. "Turn the other cheek" is taken to enjoin becoming a doormat for Jesus, to be trampled without protest. "Give your undergarment as well" has encouraged people to go limp in the face of injustice and hand over the last thing they own. "Going the second mile" has been turned into a platitude meaning nothing more than "extend yourself." Rather than encourage the oppressed to counteract their oppressors, these revolutionary statements have been transformed into injunctions to collude in one's own despoiling.

But that interpretation excluded a third alternative: active nonviolent resistance. The word translated "resist" is itself problematic; what translators have failed to note is how frequently anthistemi is used as a military term. Resistance implies "counteractive aggression," a response to hostilities initiated by someone else. Liddell-Scott defines anthistemi as to "set against esp. in battle, withstand." Ephesians 6:13 is exemplary of its military usage: "Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand [antistenai, literally, to draw up battle ranks against the enemy] in the evil day, and having done all, to stand [stenai, literally, to close ranks and continue to fight]." The term is used in the LXX primarily for armed resistance in military encounters (44 out of 71 times). Josephus uses anthistemi for violent struggle 15 out of 17 times, Philo 4 out of 10. Jesus' answer is set against the backdrop of the burning question of forcible resistance to Rome. In that context, "resistance" could have only one meaning: lethal violence.

Stasis, the noun form of stenai, means "a stand," in the military sense of facing off against an enemy. By extension it came to mean a "party formed for seditious purposes; sedition, revolt." The NRSV translates stasis in Mark 15:7 as "insurrection" (so also Luke 23:19, 25), in Acts 19:40 as "rioting," and in Acts 23:10 as "violent dissension."

In short, antistenai means more in Matt. 5:39a than simply to "stand against" or "resist." It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection. Jesus is not encouraging submission to evil; that would run counter to everything he did and said. He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition. Perhaps most importantly, he cautions us against being made over into the very evil we oppose by adopting its methods and spirit. He is saying, in effect, Do not mirror evil; do not become the very thing you hate. The best translation is the Scholars Version: "Don't react violently against the one who is evil."

In the three examples that follow in Matthew, Jesus illustrates what he means.

Turn the Other Cheek

"If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." Why the right cheek? A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek of the opponent. An open-handed slap would also strike the left cheek. To hit the right cheek with a fist would require using the left hand, but in that society the left hand was used only for unclean tasks. Even to gesture with the left hand at Qumran carried the penalty of ten days' penance. The only way one could naturally strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand. We are dealing here with insult, not a fistfight. The intention is clearly not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place. One normally did not strike a peer thus, and if one did the fine was exorbitant. The Mishnaic tractate Baba Qamma specifies the various fines for striking an equal: for slugging with a fist, 4 zuz (a zuz was a day's wage); for slapping, 200 zuz; but "if [he struck him] with the back of his hand he must pay him 400 zuz." But damages for indignity were not paid to slaves who are struck (8:1-7).

A backhand slap was the usual way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal. The only normal response would be cowering submission.


Part of the confusion surrounding these sayings arises from the failure to ask who Jesus' audience was. In all three of the examples in Matt. 5:39b-41, Jesus' listeners are not those who strike, initiate lawsuits, or impose forced labor, but their victims ("If anyone strikes you...wants to sue you...forces you to go one mile..."). There are among his hearers people who were subjected to these very indignities, forced to stifle outrage at their dehumanizing treatment by the hierarchical system of caste and class, race and gender, age and status, and as a result of imperial occupation.

Why then does he counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek? Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate. The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, "Try again. Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being just like you. Your status does not alter that fact. You cannot demean me."

Such a response would create enormous difficulties for the striker. Purely logistically, how would he hit the other cheek now turned to him? He cannot backhand it with his right hand (one only need try this to see the problem). If he hits with a fist, he makes the other his equal, acknowledging him as a peer. But the point of the back of the hand is to reinforce institutionalized inequality. Even if the superior orders the person flogged for such "cheeky" behavior (this is certainly no way to avoid conflict!), the point has been irrevocably made. He has been given notice that this underling is in fact a human being. In that world of honor and shaming, he has been rendered impotent to instill shame in a subordinate. He has been stripped of his power to dehumanize the other. As Gandhi taught, "The first principle of nonviolent action is that of noncooperation with everything humiliating."

Give the Undergarment

The second example Jesus gives is set in a court of law. Someone is being sued for his outer garment. Who would do that, and under what circumstances? The Hebrew Scriptures provide the clues. When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge; when the sun goes down, you shall restore to him the pledge that he may sleep in his cloak (himatio) and bless you....You shall not...take a widow's garment (himation) in pledge. (Deut. 24:10-13, 17; see also Exod. 22:25-27; Amos 2:7-8; Ezek.18:5-9.) Only the poorest of the poor would have nothing but a garment to give as collateral for a loan. Jewish law strictly required its return every evening at sunset. Matthew and Luke disagree whether it is the outer garment (Luke) or the undergarment (Matthew) that is being seized. But the Jewish practice of giving the outer garment as a pledge (it alone would be useful as a blanket for sleeping) makes it clear that Luke's order is correct, even though he does not preserve the legal setting. In all Greek usage, according to Liddell-Scott, himation is "always an outer garment...worn above the chiton," whereas the chiton is a "garment worn next to the skin." Consistent with this usage, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) reads himation in the passages just cited. S. Safrai and M. Stern describe normal Jewish dress: an outer garment or cloak of wool and an undergarment or tunic of linen. To avoid confusion I will simply refer to the "outer garment" and the "undergarment."

The situation Jesus speaks to is all too familiar to his hearers: the debtor has sunk ever deeper into poverty, the debt cannot be repaid, and his creditor has summoned him to court (krithenai) to exact repayment by legal means. Indebtedness was endemic in first century Palestine. Jesus' parables are full of debtors struggling to salvage their lives. Heavy debt was not, however, a natural calamity that had overtaken the incompetent. It was the direct consequence of Roman imperial policy. Emperors had taxed the wealthy so stringently to fund their wars that the rich began seeking non?liquid investments to secure their wealth. Land was best, but it was ancestrally owned and passed down over generations, and no peasant would voluntarily relinquish it. Exorbitant interest, however, could be used to drive landowners ever deeper into debt. And debt, coupled with the high taxation required by Herod Antipas to pay Rome tribute, created the economic leverage to pry Galilean peasants loose from their land. By the time of Jesus we see this process already far advanced: large estates owned by absentee landlords, managed by stewards, and worked by tenant farmers, day laborers, and slaves. It is no accident that the first act of the Jewish revolutionaries in 66 C.E. was to burn the Temple treasury, where the record of debts was kept.

It is to this situation that Jesus speaks. His hearers are the poor ("if any one would sue you"). They share a rankling hatred for a system that subjects them to humiliation by stripping them of their lands, their goods, finally even their outer garments.

Why then does Jesus counsel them to give over their undergarments as well? This would mean stripping off all their clothing and marching out of court stark naked! Imagine the guffaws this saying must have evoked. There stands the creditor, covered with shame, the poor debtor's outer garment in the one hand, his undergarment in the other. The tables have suddenly been turned on the creditor. The debtor had no hope of winning the case; the law was entirely in the creditor's favor. But the poor man has transcended this attempt to humiliate him. He has risen above shame. At the same time he has registered a stunning protest against the system that created his debt. He has said in effect, "You want my robe? Here, take everything! Now you've got all I have except my body. Is that what you'll take next?"

Nakedness was taboo in Judaism, and shame fell less on the naked party than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness (Gen 9:20-27). By stripping, the debtor has brought the creditor under the same prohibition that led to the curse of Canaan. And much as Isaiah had "walked naked and barefoot for three years" as a prophetic sign (Isa. 20:1-6), so the debtor parades his nakedness in prophetic protest against a system that has deliberately rendered him destitute. Imagine him leaving the court, naked: his friends and neighbors, aghast, inquire what happened. He explains. They join his growing procession, which now resembles a victory parade. The entire system by which debtors are oppressed has been publicly unmasked. The creditor is revealed to be not a legitimate moneylender but a party to the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness, destitution, and abasement. This unmasking is not simply punitive, therefore; it offers the creditor a chance to see, perhaps for the first time in his life, what his practices cause, and to repent.

The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity. Nothing depotentiates them faster than deft lampooning. By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not immediately possible. This message, far from being a counsel to perfection unattainable in this life, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed, and it is being lived out all over the world today by powerless people ready to take their history into their own hands.

Jesus provides here a hint of how to take on the entire system by unmasking its essential cruelty and burlesquing its pretensions to justice. Here is a poor man who will no longer be treated as a sponge to be squeezed dry by the rich. He accepts the laws as they stand, pushes them to absurdity, and reveals them for what they have become. He strips naked, walks out before his fellows, and leaves this creditor, and the whole economic edifice which he represents, stark naked.

Go the Second Mile

Jesus' third example, the one about going the second mile, is drawn from the relatively enlightened practice of limiting the amount of forced or impressed labor (angareia) that Roman soldiers could levy on subject peoples to a single mile. The term angareia is probably Persian, and became a loan?word in Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Josephus mentions it in reference to the Seleucid ruler, Demetrius who, in order to enlist Jewish support for his bid to be king, promised, among other things, that "the Jews' beasts of burden shall not be requisitioned (angareuesthai) for our army" (Ant. 13.52). We are more familiar with its use in the Passion Narrative, where the soldiers "compel" (angareuousin) Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus' cross (Mark 15:21//Matt. 27:32). Such forced service was a constant feature in Palestine from Persian to late Roman times, and whoever was found on the street could be compelled into service. Most cases of impressment involved the need of the postal service for animals and the need of soldiers for civilians to help carry their packs. The situation in Matthew is clearly the latter. It is not a matter of equisitioning animals but people themselves.

This forced labor was a source of bitter resentment by all Roman subjects. "Angareia is like death," complains one source. The sheer frequency, even into the late empire, of legislation proscribing the misuse of the angareia shows how regularly the practice was used and its regulations violated. An inscription of 49 C.E. from Egypt orders that Roman "soldiers of any degree when passing through the several districts are not to make any requisitions or to employ forced transport (angareia) unless they have the prefect's written authority" --a rescript clearly made necessary by soldiers abusing their privileges. Another decree from Egypt from 133-137 C.E. documents this abuse: "Many soldiers without written requisition are travelling about in the country, demanding ships, beasts of burden, and men, beyond anything authorized, sometimes seizing things by force...to the point of showing abuse and threats to private citizens, the result is that the military is associated with arrogance and injustice." In order to minimize resentment in the conquered lands, at least some effort was made by Rome to punish violators of the laws regarding impressment.

The Theodosian Code devotes an entire section to angareia. Among its ordinances are these: If any person while making a journey should consider that he may abstract an ox that is not assigned to the public post but dedicated to the plow, he shall be arrested with due force by the rural police...and he shall be haled before the judge [normally the governor] (8.5.1, 315 C.E.). By this interdict We forbid that any person should deem that they may request packanimals and supplementary posthorses. But if any person should rashly act so presumptuously, he shall be punished very severely (8.5.6, 354 C.E., ital. added). When any legion is proceeding to its destination, it shall not hereafter attempt to appropriate more than two posthorses (angariae), and only for the sake of any who are sick (8.5.11, 360 C.E.). Late as these regulations are, they reflect a situation that had changed little since the time of the Persians. Armies had to be moved through countries with dispatch. Some legionnaires bought their own slaves to help carry their packs of sixty to eighty?five pounds (not including weapons). The majority of the rank and file, however, had to depend on impressed civilians. There are vivid accounts of whole villages fleeing to avoid being forced to carry soldiers' baggage, and of richer towns prepared to pay large sums to escape having Roman soldiers billeted on them for winter.

With few exceptions, the commanding general of a legion personally administered justice in serious cases, and all other cases were left to the disciplinary control of his subordinates. Centurions had almost limitless authority in dealing with routine cases of discipline. This accounts for the curious fact that there is very little codified military law, and that late. Roman military historians are agreed, however, that military law changed very little in its essential character throughout the imperial period. No account survives to us today of the penalties to be meted out to soldiers for forcing a civilian to carry his pack more than the permitted mile, but there are at least hints. "If in winter quarters, in camp, or on the march, either an officer or a soldier does injury to a civilian, and does not fully repair the same, he shall pay the damage twofold." This is about as mild a penalty, however, as one can find. Josephus' comment is surely exaggerated, even if it states the popular impression: Roman military forces "have laws which punish with death not merely desertion of the ranks, but even a slight neglect of duty" (J.W. 3.102-8). Between these extremes there was deprivation of pay, a ration of barley instead of wheat, reduction in rank, dishonorable discharge, being forced to camp outside the fortifications, or to stand all day before the general's tent holding a clod in one's hands, or to stand barefoot in public places. But the most frequent punishment by far was flogging. The frequency with which decrees were issued to curb misuse of the angareia indicates how lax discipline on this point was. Perhaps the soldier might receive only a rebuke. But the point is that the soldier does not know what will happen.

It is in this context of Roman military occupation that Jesus speaks. He does not counsel revolt. One does not "befriend" the soldier, draw him aside and drive a knife into his ribs. Jesus was surely aware of the futility of armed insurrection against Roman imperial might; he certainly did nothing to encourage those whose hatred of Rome was near to flaming into violence. But why carry his pack a second mile? Is this not to rebound to the opposite extreme of aiding and abetting the enemy? Not at all. The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed. The rules are Caesar's, but how one responds to the rules is God's, and Caesar has no power over that.

Imagine then the soldier's surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack, and the civilian says, "Oh no, let me carry it another mile." Why would he want to do that? What is he up to? Normally, soldiers have to coerce people to carry their packs, but this Jew does so cheerfully, and will not stop! Is this a provocation? Is he insulting the legionnaire's strength? Being kind? Trying to get him disciplined for seeming to violate the rules of impressment? Will this civilian file a complaint? Create trouble?

From a situation of servile impressment, the oppressed have once more seized the initiative. They have taken back the power of choice. The soldier is thrown off balance by being deprived of the predictability of his victim's response. He has never dealt with such a problem before. Now he has been forced into making a decision for which nothing in his previous experience has prepared him. If he has enjoyed feeling superior to the vanquished, he will not enjoy it today. Imagine the situation of a Roman infantryman pleading with a Jew to give back his pack! The humor of this scene may have escaped us, but it could scarcely have been lost on Jesus' hearers, who must have been regaled at the prospect of thus discomfiting their oppressors. Jesus does not encourage Jews to walk a second mile in order to build up merit in heaven, or to exercise a supererogatory piety, or to kill the soldier with kindness. He is helping an oppressed people find a way to protest and neutralize an onerous practice despised throughout the empire. He is not giving a non-political message of spiritual world-transcendence. He is formulating a worldly spirituality in which the people at the bottom of society or under the thumb of imperial power learn to recover their humanity. One could easily misuse Jesus' advice vindictively; that is why it must not be separated from the command to love enemies integrally connected with it in both Matthew and Luke. But love is not averse to taking the law and using its oppressive momentum to throw the soldier into a region of uncertainty and anxiety where he has never been before. Such tactics can seldom be repeated. One can imagine that within days after the incidents that Jesus sought to provoke, the Powers That Be would pass new laws: penalties for nakedness in court, flogging for carrying a pack more than a mile! One must be creative, improvising new tactics to keep the opponent off balance.

To those whose lifelong pattern has been to cringe before their masters, Jesus offers a way to liberate themselves from servile actions and a servile mentality. And he asserts that they can do this before there is a revolution. There is no need to wait until Rome has been defeated, or peasants are landed and slaves freed. They can begin to behave with dignity and recovered humanity now, even under the unchanged conditions of the old order. Jesus' sense of divine immediacy has social implications. The reign of God is already breaking into the world, and it comes, not as an imposition from on high, but as the leaven slowly causing the dough to rise (Matt.13:33//Luke 13:20-21). Jesus' teaching on nonviolence is thus of a piece with his proclamation of the dawning of the reign of God.

In the conditions of first-century Palestine, a political revolution against the Romans could only be catastrophic, as the events of 66-73 C.E. would prove. Jesus does not propose armed revolution. But he does lay the foundations for a social revolution, as Richard A. Horsley has pointed out. And a social revolution becomes political when it reaches a critical threshold of acceptance; this in fact did happen to the Roman empire as the Christian church overcame it from below.

Nor were peasants and slaves in a position to transform the economic system by frontal assault. But they could begin to act from an already recovered dignity and freedom, and the ultimate consequences of such acts could only be revolutionary. To that end, Jesus spoke repeatedly of a voluntary remission of debts. It is entirely appropriate, then, that the saying on debts in Matt. 5:42//Luke 6:30//Gos. Thom. 95 has been added to this saying-block. Jesus counsels his hearers not just to practice alms and to lend money, even to bad-risks, but to lend without expecting interest or even the return of the principal. Such radical egalitarian sharing would be necessary to rescue impoverished Palestinian peasants from their plight; one need not posit an imminent end of history as the cause for such astonishing generosity. And yet none of this is new; Jesus is merely issuing a prophetic summons to Israel to observe the commandments pertaining to the sabbatical year enshrined in Torah, adapted to a new situation.

Such radical sharing would be necessary in order to restore true community. For the risky defiance of the Powers that Jesus advocates would inevitably issue in punitive economic sanctions and physical punishment against individuals. They would need economic support; Matthew's "Give to everyone who asks (aitounti--not necessarily begs) of you" may simply refer to this need for mutual sustenance. Staggering interest and taxes isolated peasants, who went under one by one. This was a standard tactic of imperial "divide and rule" strategy. Jesus' solution was neither utopian nor apocalyptic. It was simple realism. Nothing less could halt or reverse the economic decline of Jewish peasants than a complete suspension of usury and debt and a restoration of economic equality through outright grants, a pattern actually mplemented in the earliest Christian community, according to the Book of Acts.


Jesus' Third Way Jesus' alternative to both fight and flight can be graphically presented by a chart: Jesus' Third Way Seize the moral initiative Find a creative alternative to violence Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person Meet force with ridicule or humor Break the cycle of humiliation Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position Expose the injustice of the system Take control of the power dynamic Shame the oppressor into repentance Stand your ground Make the Powers make decisions for which they are not prepared Recognize your own power Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate Force the oppressor to see you in a new light Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws Die to fear of the old order and its rules Seek the oppressor's transformation


Flight Fight
Submission Armed revolt
Passivity Violent rebellion
Withdrawal Direct retaliation
Surrender Revenge


Gandhi insisted that no one join him who was not willing to take up arms to fight for independence. They could not freely renounce what they had not entertained. One cannot pass directly from "Flight" to "Jesus' Third Way." One needs to pass through the "Fight" stage, if only to discover one's own inner strength and capacity for violence. We need to learn to love justice and truth enough to die for them, by violence if nothing else. Jesus, in short, abhors both passivity and violence. He articulates, out of the history of his own people's struggles, a way by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored, the oppressor resisted without being emulated, and the enemy neutralized without being destroyed. Those who have lived by Jesus' words--Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, César Chavez, Adolpho Pérez Esquivel--point us to a new way of confronting evil whose potential for personal and social transformation we are only beginning to grasp today.

Beyond Just War and Pacifism

Just war theory was founded in part on a misinterpretation of "Resist not evil" (Matt. 5:39), which Augustine regarded as an absolute command to non-resistance of evil. No Christian, he argued, can take up arms in self-defense, therefore, but must submit passively even to death. Nor can Christians defend themselves against injustice, but must willingly collaborate in their own ruin. But what, asked Augustine, if my neighbors are being thus treated? Then the love commandment requires me to take up arms if necessary to defend them.

But Jesus did not teach non-resistance. Rather, he disavowed violent resistance in favor of nonviolent resistance. Of course Christians must resist evil! No decent human being could conceivably stand by and watch innocents suffer without trying to do, or at least wishing to do, something to save them. The question is simply one of means. Likewise Christians are not forbidden by Jesus to engage in self-defense. But they are to do so nonviolently. Jesus did not teach supine passivity in the face of evil. That was precisely what he was attempting to overcome!

Pacifism, in its Christian forms, was often based on the same misinterpretation of Jesus' teaching in Matt. 5:38-42. It too understood Jesus to be commanding non-resistance. Consequently, some pacifists refuse to engage in nonviolent direct action or civil disobedience, on the ground that such actions are coercive. Non-resistance, they believe, only licenses passive resistance. Hence the confusion between "pacifism" and "passivism" has not been completely unfounded.

Jesus' third way is coercive, insofar as it forces oppressors to make choices they would rather not make. But it is non-lethal, the great advantage of which is that, if we have chosen a mistaken course, our opponents are still alive to benefit from our apologies. The same exegesis that undermines the Scriptural ground from traditional just war theory also erodes the foundation of non-resistant pacifism. Jesus' teaching carries us beyond just war and pacifism, to a militant nonviolence that actualizes already in the present the ethos of God's domination-free future. Out of the heart of the prophetic tradition, Jesus engaged the Domination System in both its outer and spiritual manifestations. His teaching on nonviolence forms the charter for a way of being in the world that breaks the spiral of violence. Jesus here reveals a way to fight evil with all our power without being transformed into the very evil we fight. It is a way--the only way possible--of not becoming what we hate. "Do not counter evil in kind"--this insight is the distilled essence, stated with sublime simplicity, of the meaning of the cross. It is time the church stops limping between just war theory and nonresistant pacifism and follows Jesus on his nonviolent way.