Part of our mission statement says that we strive to practice peaceful, prophetic action. More than one person has thought this meant we handled snakes or predicted the future. This is not the case. By this we mean peaceful as in nonviolent, and prophetic as in speaking truth to power.
This past weekend our community offered a community wide ritual for some activists who were preparing to peacefully disagree with the use of torture by the U.S. military.
Part of the service included a reading of Walter Wink’s writing. Thanks to the Jesuit Volunteers for helping with the reading. Here it is:
Readings from Walter Wink From Engaging the Powers, Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination.
“The ultimate weakness of violence,” observed Martin Luther King, Jr., “is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.”
How often I have heard people say that the greatest violence they have ever personally encountered was from colleagues in the peace movement! Some of us engaged in struggles for social justice have been incredibly naïve about what has been happening in our own psyches. Our very identities are often defined by our resistance to evil. It is our way of feeling good about ourselves: If we are against evil, we must be good.
The impatience of some activists with prayer, meditation, and inner healing may itself represent an inchoate knowledge of what (we) might find if (we) looked within. For the struggle against evil can make us evil, and no amount of good intentions automatically prevents its happening.
(Loving our enemies and practicing non-violence is the alternative.) As we stop dividing the world into “us” and “them,” we can begin to see that the enemy is not monolithic; that some in the opposition feel conflict and guilt over their stance, and can be won by persuasion; that there is “that of God” in everyone that can be appealed to if opponents recognize we are not out to destroy them.
People can and do change, and their change can make a fundamental difference. Somewhere within our enemies is a profound longing to become synchronized with the divine Source of us both. And deep within them, that Source is trying to stir up the desire to be just.
Non-violence, at its best, seeks to activate the truth in people rather than to coerce them into our program. Nonviolent direct action can be misused merely to surface the worst in our opponents. We can, instead, help them grow toward the Light by being open to them, affirming their humanity, and praying for their transformation.