The Harder Way of Love After creation itself, the first story the ancient Word tells is about violence: the primal siblings and a murder. Cain kills Abel in an argument over God’s favor. And so the long story of violence and human instinct unfolds. If anything, the story reminds us that the seeds of violence lie within us, and from them we construct a world with institutions of violence, war, and punitive retribution. Something deep in us yearns for power and influence. Something in us wishes to dominate—even in order to achieve the “good.” We do not learn it. It is us. Violence backs up the disparities that lie between us, protecting power and resources. We use it to feel strong and important in a world full of want, desire, and domination. We justify it by invoking God on our side. Even those who eschew outright violence are complicit— violent structures shore up our consumption, access to comfort, and educational opportunities. Our hands are not clean. Yet intertwined with this impulse is the capacity to embrace miracle, love, and grace. These too, lie in us. Our life task, then, is to reshape our instincts away from violence and toward a life of nonviolence. We must nurture our ability to respond in love even when love is not our first impulse.
Nonviolence is a discipline of love toward the making of peace. The rabbi Jesus says that this is the path that leads to God.
Here we begin to name our demons of domination and violence, and to cast them out. You will find the testimonies of those who went to war for country and God, found they could no longer carry a gun, and began living uncompromisingly toward other solutions. Here also are accounts of amazing possibility: Women who join hands and oust a repressive president. People who embrace love when that choice demands more courage and risk than war. This is a new form of power. In it, we glimpse the great unraveling of violence. A cross on a hillside and an empty tomb tell us the story is forever changed. Love spreads like wildfire, hand to hand, prayer to prayer. Violence cannot intimidate it. The forces of domination are restless and afraid. Each word, each action, offers us the choice to love more deeply, in spite of everything. Let us spend our lives learning this new path.
—the editors 2
The way of nonviolence Volume 4, Number 3 // Summer 2012
the harder way of love
CONSP!RE editors "The first story the Word tells is about violence."
reBorn on the Fourth of July
Logan Mehl-Laituri “Nothing in U.S. culture adequately prepares a person for war.”
12 Redeeming Meekness
Noel Moules “I have never liked the word pacifist, and I equally dislike the word nonviolence.”
31 The Last Taboo
Hilary Scarsella “Why is violence against women so prevalent— even in Christian communities where violence is explicitly rejected?”
34 Love Changes Things
Sara Beining “Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not merely to refuse to engage in violence.”
36 A Recovering Nonviolent Fundamentalist
Nicola Torbett “In an attempt to live out nonviolence, I have been a purist about justice struggles.”
15 The Grace of the World
Ragan Sutterfield “Christianity tells of a world created out of love, in which peace is the default and violence a tragic interruption.”
40 Moral Imagination
Jeremy Courtney “Followers of Jesus should always prefer nonviolence.”
Power of Dissent
Chris Baker-Evens “Authorities only have power if people follow their commands.”
19 Get the Women Together
Rachel Moffett Lesher “The women of Liberia discovered a new source of strength: each other.”
22 The God-Fearer
Zach Cornelius “Cornelius had an encounter with God and a radical conversion which put him at odds with his commanders.”
24 Army of Love
Joe Gibson “Nonviolence must be trained for in the same way that the military trains its soldiers.”
28 To Trust Our Eyes Again
Adam L. Darragh “Pacifist and just warrior alike can lament this: the suffering of war is not part of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed.”
POETRY 11 Out/In
39 A Lullaby for Bullets
DEPARTMENTS 42 Reviews 44
Breathing Together: No Cheap Forgiveness
Chris Schumerth probes the depth of forgiveness needed to redeem violence.
46 Notes from Scattered Pilgrims
News and announcements from our coconspiring communities.
Find more stories, resources for nonviolence, and this issue’s study guide at www.conspiremagazine.com.
Reborn on the Fourth of July Logan Mehl-Laituri
hat gun still working? Light those cars up, light �em up!” Specialist Baker, our gunner, let loose, turning the exteriors of a few white trucks into dimpled golf balls. It was June 2004, and my infantry platoon was in Najaf, Iraq, providing security for a long convoy of heavy tactical trucks—many more than we could reasonably protect. My heart raced with morbid anticipation. My eyes darted left and right, eagerly searching for an excuse to fire my weapon. Down an alley, a small group of people scurried for cover, trying to avoid the Americans and their guns. I lifted my rifle to eye level. My attention rested on one man in particular, who kept peering back at us despite the danger. Was that a radio in his hand, or was he just biting his nails? My index finger dropped from the magazine well down onto the curved metal trigger of my M-4 as I considered the actionability of this particular target. How had I gotten to this point?
Nothing in American culture adequately prepares a person for armed service: not movies, not books, not family heritage and certainly not basic training. Tim O’Brien, in The Things They Carried, says you can tell a story about war is true “by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” There is nothing glamorous about combat.
Military training entails desensitizing. You level every target that pops up until the process is automatic. Soldiers are trained to fire by reflex instead of by conscious thought. This is distinct from many law enforcement agencies, where trainees are taught to fire only if a target poses a credible threat. It hardens the hearts of service members and discourages moral clarity. In Ezekiel 36:26, God promises to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. The training process is akin to replacing our hearts of flesh with hearts of stone. And it’s not only soldiers. American media
is replete with romantic depictions of battle, suggesting that combat is a place we can find honor, glory, revenge—or worse, enter-
tainment. It conditions us to disregard the incredible moral challenges that come with war. By the time I found myself in that ambush in Najaf, my heart had done a great deal of hardening. The military did logistical preparation well, but not moral prep work. The “kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” mentality won the day. Six months earlier, I’d stood on the tarmac at Hawaii’s Hickam Airfield, looking at the plane that would fly us to Kuwait. We knew
about weapons of mass destruction. We knew about Saddam Hussein and the grave threat he represented. But nobody seemed to put much thought into how we would deal with the death we would encounter—our own or our enemy’s. So I made it up as I went along. I committed preemptive suicide: I wrote a number of goodbye letters to loved ones, to be opened upon my death. In the documentary The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends, a veteran of Iraq described combat: “You take an nineteen-year-old kid, give him a rifle and tell him ‘You want to go home to your girlfriend? Go destroy that city.’ ” This viscerally conveys the moral disarray of war. U.S. culture taught me that death in combat was supposed to be honorable. It was supposed to tug our heartstrings and embolden us to fight on with the good and noble cause. Instead, my heart was clawed and dragged by nagging doubt and horrific memories. God wasn’t done with me though. Back home after my first deployment,
I was attending church regularly and taking my faith seriously. I was opening myself to the movement of the Spirit. I began living more fully into the life of Christ, not merely confirming him but conforming my life to his. I discovered slowly that I needed to either reimagine my professional trajectory (blowing stuff up as a forward observer for the artillery) or stop calling myself a Christian. Being a Christian soldier meant I was to ultimately obey God, rather than the officers above me. Ultimately I applied for a Conscientious Objector (CO) status that would allow me to return to Iraq with my company, but not carry a weapon. My request to return with my battery was denied, and I was discharged honorably against my wishes. To watch my friends deploy without me a month before being kicked out of my infantry company was indescribably painful. Nearly a dozen did not come home. My grief and survivor’s guilt were like nothing I had ever experienced. Just before my unit returned to Iraq without me, I was baptized. My
baptism would be the first day of the rest of my life--a new life lived sacrificially, but a deeper sacrifice than when I donned the uniform of a soldier. The road to redemption is never easy. My experience of it has been like the road to Jericho, where a good Samaritan came upon a man who had been beaten and left for dead. I constantly felt beat up, either by my own self-doubt or by others who
PTSD Shadow by Nicolas Lampert
unconsciously villainized or venerated me for my service. Service members are villainized by the “Left” for their complicity in organized violence, and are venerated by the “Right” for their willingness to serve. Both reactions can be equally destructive. During my own processing, I met a number of other COs—most (if not all) of whom were also Christians.
They directed me to resources. They walked alongside me without judgment or condemnation. I thought: What if nobody had to walk the road alone? An idea eventually crystallized in my mind of a kind of guild for fellow centurions wrestling between faith and service, and Centurion’s Guild was born. Tired of false dichotomies and uncritical assumptions about war and peace, we focused on responding pastorally to others like us who were trying to serve God and country, in that order. We must all think more deeply about Christian faith and military service; about how our identities as both citizens and Christians sometimes conflict with or complement one another. We need to peel the two apart long enough to discern where church ends and state begins, and when our duty to God trumps our obedience to country. It is not simple. To this day, the sights and smells of war haunt my dreams. My compatriots and I have the highest rate of suicide of any demographic in our nation’s history (seventeen a day). Many of us remain in exile even upon our return. We wander restlessly through a moral wasteland, our character fragmented and fragile. A friend of mine is always reminding me that “people are always just waiting on marching orders.” They just want to be told what to do. But
marching orders are not what people need. There are no easy answers, and what works for one community doesn’t necessarily work for another. What is needed is new energy, a way for churches to join the movement of the Spirit. I will probably never settle on precisely what I think about church and state, and that’s OK. The longer the pendulum swings, the closer I come to center, the more I inhabit the middle ground between patriot and pacifist. We need to be aware of how ambition can come close to idolatry; how our actions aren’t necessarily what’s important, but rather how (and whether) they point to God. God save us from assuming that our hands and feet are God. We are each made in the image of God. Our commission is to remind others of our shared brokenness and our likeness to God. We see and embrace Jesus within us and within others. The stones fall from our hands. We are reborn. These reflections are excerpted and adapted from Reborn on the Fourth of July, by Logan Mehl-Laituri, (www.ivpress.com, 240 pp., $15.00). The book is a compelling, first-person account of Logan’s journey into questions of faith, war, violence, and peacemaking. We thank InterVarsity and Likewise Books, a coconspirator, for sponsoring this issue of CONSP!RE and for raising, in other venues, the rich and deep questions around violence, war, death, and faith.
I walked out into a Holy War but I didn’t know what I was fighting for I was fighting for the Holy One of which I am a brother a plaintiff and a son fighting for what I believe fighting to be free free from what is right in front of me and I still can’t see I walked out and in doing so right back in Palmer Wooten
Power of Dissent Chris Baker-Evens
train people in nonviolent action, helping them see the world and possibilities for change differently. To begin to embrace nonviolence requires that we understand power in a new way. We use power every day—sometimes for good, and sometimes in ways that hurt others. Nonviolent action is a positive and resilient force we use daily in homes, schools, workplaces, and governments. Its fundamental premise is that a power resides within people that is strong enough to stand up to guns, police, tanks, and dictators simply because all these things rely on people’s obedience. When people give their consent, and accept the legitimacy of a person, or a company or government, then that person, company, or government has power over them. But if they don’t, then these things have no power (or soon won’t). There are three fundamental ways to wield nonviolent power—protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention. A common parent-child interaction models them. Demand that a child clean up, and the response is often: “No! Not yet!” You’re bigger and cloaked in authority. You might try raising your voice or standing over the child. The child can’t overpower you, so she uses other weapons. First, protest
and persuasion: “Just give me five more minutes.” If these fail, the child might resort to noncooperation; to not doing what is asked. Noncooperation is a powerful tool of nonviolent action. If the child uses this tactic, there really is nothing you can do, short of direct force or violence. Sometimes, we try to make the child afraid of us. (Later I feel sad about the fact that I’ve actually wanted my own child to be afraid of me!) Finally, the child may stand between you and the toys, preventing you from cleaning up. This is nonviolent intervention. Jesus often used nonviolent action to demonstrate how power works. For example, he went into the Jerusalem Temple casting out the sellers and buyers, overturning the tables of the money changers. After this episode of nonviolent interposition, the chief priests and the scribes were afraid (Mark 11:18). Why? Nonviolence helps us
understand that authorities only have power if people willingly follow their commands and instructions. At that moment, the people around Jesus were no longer willing to give their obedience to the priests and scribes. These religious leaders had
outrage at unbearable or unfavorlost their power. This is why they were afraid. able conditions. Conflict develops Why was the sale of animals in group identity by clarifying who’s in the Temple worth Jesus’ time, energy and who’s out. Groups and societies and anger? The temple was to be a with greater diversity often experiplace of prayer, and Isaiah tells us that ence more conflict, but are also more God desires all people, not just Israelresilient during conflict than societies ites, to pray there (Isa. 56:6-8). Where with less diversity. these animals were sold was the area Conflict can be a sign of a secure designated as the place foreigners and relationship, a way of saying, “I care other unclean people prayed. If this about this relationship enough that area was filled with animals for sale, I’m willing to say these things so we how could foreigners, the poor, and can support each other more fully.” unclean people pray? The market was a way to exclude undesirable people from entering the holy place of the Temple. Not only was Jesus getting into a conflict around discrimination here. He was educating his disciples, and Photograph of a British tank in France during WWI now us, that Conflict can be the crucible where conflict can happen without violence. ideas are tested and refined so that This is important. Often Christians the best guide us, and weaker ones face a significant barrier to engagare discarded. ing in nonviolent action. We believe Recently, I was stuck. I had three that peaceful people don’t fight, don’t days to finish a lesson plan and was at argue, and don’t get into conflict. a loss how to do it. I knew the conPeaceful people speak truth, hope, tent I wanted to address, but couldn’t love and seek common ground rather than focusing on division. find the right experiential activity to Yet conflict opens the door for introduce it. I spoke to my wife about change. Lewis Coser, author of The my troubles. Instead of sympathy, I Functions of Social Conflict, reminds found myself defending the concepts us that conflict provides a way to I planned for my lesson. As I walked challenge the status quo and express away from the conflict, offended and
disheartened, a new idea began to grow, and the plan wrote itself. The argument clarified my thinking. Conflict liberated my creativity. Similarly, nonviolent conflict illuminates injustice, whether hidden or highly visible, exposing its support structures and bringing it front and center. Every authority, dictator, workplace bully, and politician has what nonviolent strategist Gene Sharp terms “pillars of consent.� Sharp identifies six pillars: authority structures, cultural beliefs, access to human resources, knowledge and skills, material resources, and the ability to enforce sanctions against those who oppose the status quo. Effective nonviolent conflict targets these pillars. Once people
decide to remove their consent from an unjust system, their task is to find actions that undermine specific pillars of power.
When this is done effectively, we know it. PR machines kick into gear. Pepper spray comes out. Opponents ignore you or attack you. While repression is scary, it often backfires on the authority figures and enhances campaign participation. If protesters can remain steady in the face of repression, refusing to retaliate violently, their opponents’ consent-based power will be further undermined. Destabilizing pillars of power has been used effectively in the U.S. civil rights movement, the nonviolent overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, the Arab Spring, Occupy, and in
thousands of less well-known cases of nonviolent conflict. Recent studies confirm what many people have intuited to be true for years. Violent revolutions succeed in overthrowing dictatorial and authoritarian regimes about 25 percent of the time. In comparison, nonviolent revolutions succeed roughly 50 percent of the time. Nonviolent revolutions are also more likely to engender more equitable and democratic social, economic, and political structures, rather than perpetuating systems of violence and injustice. What can we do to take a step towards conflict? Focus on what you can already do! Can you write a letter? Write to the editor of a newspaper or your congressperson. Have you ever fought with a sibling, friend, colleague or spouse? Then you have initial qualifications for social conflict! Find others who share your concern about an issue. It’s likely they’ve done the research and can help you orient to effective collective action. Seek allies who are willing to push themselves, and you, outside your comfort zones. Nonviolence helps us understand that authorities only have power when people willingly follow their commands. Authorities spend significant resources on risk-management policies to ensure the population is controlled and remains unaware of its significant power. There is nothing more alarming to a dictator, bully, or Machiavellian business than this: empowered people willing to engage in targeted conflict against these pillars of support. Our consent to injustice is a choice we make every day.
The Last Taboo Hilary Scarsella
ccounts of violence against women are notoriously underreported. Even so, statistics report that in the United States approximately one in three girls under the age of eighteen is sexually abused, and one in five women between twenty and twenty-four is sexually assaulted or raped. The risk of sexual violence remains high for women until thirtyfive, and many continue to experience sexual violence after that age. Practically, this means that in a church of two hundred, where half the attendants are female, thirtythree women and girls will be sexually abused before age eighteen. Twenty will experience sexual assault or rape between ages twenty and twenty-four. Several more will experience some sort of sexual violence after that age. Conservatively, if we assume that half the women who were raped in their early twenties were also abused during childhood and that only five in one hundred women are abused after age twenty-four, this is a church with forty-eight female survivors of sexual violence--nearly half the women of the community. A logical corollary is that at least several men in the community have likely perpetrated sexual violence. It would be a mistake to exempt radical Christian communities from these statistics. A Quaker study found rates of violence against women to be
Violence and Peace Mixed Together by Angellisa Ocasio
highest among men who considered themselves peace activists. Unfortunately, this isnâ€™t hard for me to believe. Leaders in the field like Marie M. Fortune and Carolyn Holderread Heggen have shown conclusively that sexual violence is at least as much a problem in Christian communities as it is elsewhere, and whenever I speak about sexual violence in radical church settings I am approached afterward by those who privately share their own experiences of abuse. Iâ€™m not out to make the radical church look bad, nor am I suggesting that peace communities are more to blame for violence against women than society at large. I am saying that,
as Christians who care about the impact of violence, it should concern us deeply that this form of violence is to some degree interwoven into our communities. Why, in communities where general violence is rejected and resisted, is violence against women still prevalent? Walking with women striving to heal from the wounds of sexual violence, I’ve observed some possible answers: The taboo that prohibits conversation about abuse is alive and well. Within radical Christian circles there is awareness of this taboo, and there is sometimes talk about the taboo itself. But often, even those of us most conscious of the issue don’t know how to talk plainly about sexual violence. The act of not talking about it functions to deny its existence in our communities. By our silence, we participate in creating an atmosphere that denies women’s experiences of violence, and we avoid the opportunity to question why it is happening and how we might respond. Survivors of sexual abuse (and all women who have experienced gendered violence) carry important insights about the nature of violence, how it works, the ways it persists, and the reasons it can exist among us without our knowing it. Survivors have something to teach us about the way to break cycles of violence. They have learned to heal from violence, create peace, and survive. Certain elements of traditional peace theologies actually exacerbate
violence against women. As I spend time with women who have experienced abuse, it is increasingly clear that some of what traps women in abusive relationships is connected to theological beliefs about what it means to live faithfully. For example, when we say that Christians need to “love their enemies” and do not carefully define what we mean by “love,” a woman experiencing abuse often understands this
message to mean that she must “be nice” to her perpetrator. If a woman believes she must be nice and avoid making her perpetrator feel bad, she has no way out of the relationship because any attempt to leave will surely make the perpetrator feel hurt and angry. Even talking about loving enemies in terms of showing enemies hospitality and striving to see the humanity of the enemy can be fairly unhelpful to women experiencing gendered violence, because these ways of loving enemies put victims in the position of serving their perpetrators. For the command to “love one’s enemies” to be transformative for
those experiencing sexual violence, we must also routinely talk about loving one’s enemies as expressing righteous anger and rejecting injustice. We must be able to see Jesus turning over tables at the Temple as an act of love for those who were gathered. When righteous indignation is associated with love just as easily as acting with kindness is associated with love, we will begin to discern what circumstances call for one or the other. Women experiencing abuse will not feel the need to choose between either following the Christian call to love their enemies or breaking the cycle of violence that entraps them. They will be able to do both at once. When we regularly refer to self-sacrificing love (especially “Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross”) as the highest form of Christian love, the problem is exacerbated. To a woman experiencing violence, this message can imply that, just as Jesus gave up his body to be harmed and maimed, she is also called to allow her body to be harmed, to “sacrifice” herself, and to accept suffering as Jesus did. If enduring suffering in itself is regarded as a sign of true Christian love, there is little hope for women suffering from abuse to find freedom and healing, because these can come only after a woman refuses to accept further suffering and prioritizes her own safety and wellbeing. The refusal to suffer and the prioritization of one’s own needs are not often a part of the story we tell about what it means to follow Jesus’ way of
nonviolence. And yet, certain cycles of violence cannot be broken without them. It is true that as Christians, we should be ready to sometimes risk personal safety and security. Holding too tightly to a need for personal safety can hinder one’s ability to live faithfully, and it can contribute to the systems of violence that spiral around in the world. But the opposite is also true: Having too little regard for one’s own personal safety can hinder one’s ability to live faithfully and can uphold certain systems of violence with equally devastating results. I do not want to imply that the ways we commonly talk about nonviolence or love of enemies are entirely wrong, or that we should cease such teachings altogether. Rather, paying attention to what breaks the cycles of violence perpetrated against women reveals that there is room for the message of resisting violence to be strengthened. While there are
times when loving enemies means offering hospitality, there are times when loving enemies means not letting them through the door. Our
task, perhaps, is one of discernment. I hope that Christian communities will continue to make ways to talk about violence against women more freely so that sisters and brothers among us who have been most directly harmed can find healing. As we do this, our collective resistance to all forms of violence will grow ever stronger.
A Recovering Nonviolent Fundamentalist Nichola Torbett
ntil recently, I have been what a friend calls a “nonviolence fundamentalist.” Inspired by the movements of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, I carry a deep, intuitive conviction that our means of social change must be consonant with our ultimate end goal. If we seek the reign of love rather than a shift in oppressors, we must get there without straying from love. I believe this is the message of the gospel. Jesus of Nazareth maintained all the way to the cross and beyond his commitment to love, manifested in nonviolence. He initiated a reign of love that is somehow both “at hand” now and yet not fully here, and as a disciple of Jesus today, I am called to live by its tenets, no matter the cost. In an attempt to live out the discipleship of nonviolence, I have been a bit of a purist about which justice struggles I choose to be part of, participating only in those which are predicated on a strong commitment to nonviolence. As a result, there have been many movements with which I have not engaged; and others which I have critiqued. These include many led by low-income communities of color. As woman with white-skin privilege and middle-class connections, I must repent of that now. Living in inner-city Oakland and working alongside powerful, righteous activists and
movement intellectuals of color has shifted my perspective. I now identify more fully with people who are disenfranchised by race, poverty, social class, lack of access to education, constant threat of violence and humiliation, and more. These suffer the worst effects of violent and exploitative social and economic systems. I see the police brutality. I see the barriers to employment in the devastated economies of poor neighborhoods. I see the exploitation of immigrants and the difficulty of navigating the remaining shreds of the social safety net. I see the near futility of trying to thrive under these circumstances.
Here lies the hard truth: Social and economic systems do violence in my name and for my benefit.
My tax dollars support violence— mostly against people of color—in other countries and in the inner cities here at home. My savings, whether I like it or not, are invested by my bank in endeavors that exploit workers and destroy the planet. Even my presence in my neighborhood makes it seem “safer” to potential gentrifiers, who buy property and raise rents, forcing my neighbors out. So long as these systems are in place, I cannot claim to be nonviolent. I repent of the ways that I have hidden behind a lot of talk about non-
violence while allowing violence to be committed in my name. What I have been practicing is not nonviolence or pacifism, but passivity. While I wait around for the perfect campaign so that I can intervene with tactics amenable to me, people continue to suffer. There is a chilling point in each of the gospels at which Jesus turns and begins to walk steadily toward Jerusalem, the center of his culture’s violence, knowing full well what awaits him there. If I really want to practice nonviolence, I have to get in the way of the machine that is brutalizing living beings all over the planet and actively lay down my own life. I repent, too, of my lack of solidarity with those on the margins, my failure to participate in liberation movements that offend my middleclass sensibilities. I have to confess that rhetoric like “f*ck the po’lice” and “eat the rich” has been more offensive to me than police brutality and the social and economic devastation of whole communities. Why is that? Might it have something to do with my own social position? Certainly, some of my gut-level aversion is about doubting the effectiveness of name-calling and property-destruction tactics. But if
I am frank, I also carry the enculturated, aspirational middle-class desire to be ingratiated to people in power. For example, last fall, I was at an Occupy Oakland general assembly, and people began dismantling a fence the city had erected to keep us off the grassy area of City Hall Plaza. They had brutally evicted Occupiers the previous day. I urged against the move, fearing that taking the fence down would bring on the police again. That risk was real, but I also have to admit that my objections also came out of fear and a kind of obsequious politeness that I really want to lose, or at least be able to violate when it
Photo by David Cea
serves justice. Nonviolence is not the same as niceness. It’s also not the same as endless empathy. I know from my own early experience with violence that when a human being is undergoing violation, they would rather be rescued by a violent person than one who wrings her hands trying to empathize with the attacker. Unfortunately, I have
been more of the latter for most of my life, vis-Ă -vis the communities that are currently being violated all over this country and all over the world. For that, I repent. Because I confess Jesus Christ as Lord, I am constrained by the gospel to practice nonviolence. But to be honest, I have begun to think about nonviolence differently, in two ways. First, I accept that true, active nonviolence may, in extreme circumstances and as a last resort, involve the use of force. To be nonviolent, such force must be used in loveâ€”without fear or malice. This is no easy trick. Second, I recognize that although I myself may shoulder the yoke of nonviolence, I no longer believe that this gives me the right to critique those who choose otherwise. This is especially true of those who are more acutely affected than I am by some form of oppression, much less one from which I benefit. Critique in that instance is hypocrisy.
I am coming to believe that social change often comes as a result of a diversity of tactics.
The success of the civil rights movement may have required both the nonviolent resistance led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and the forceful insistence on self-determination articulated by Malcolm X. That the dominant culture celebrates Martin more than Malcolm may have much more to do with what is acceptable to mainstream white, middle-class Americans than any measure of their relative effectiveness. I may have opinions about which tactics are the most appropriate for any given situation, and I can certainly voice those, but I must be clear that I am speaking about tactics, not about morality. In the end, nonviolence serves love; it is not synonymous with it. I am quite certain I will fail at this, over and over. God have mercy on me and all of us.
News from our Conspiring Communities Consp!re is sustained by communities. Here they share what’s happening, from new kids to a new world; from the mundane to the inspiring. For contact information and description of each community’s mission and activities, go to www.conspiremagazine.com. Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN) A three-week January course will take students to the Anabaptist seminary in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to explore peace and justice issues from a Latin American perspective. Students will explore the biblical theme of shalom and the experience of the church in Central America. More info on our website (www.ambs.edu; search “Guatemala”). Chicago Catholic Worker (Chicago, IL): We hosted the 10th Annual Midwest Catholic Worker Faith & Resistance Retreat here last May, culminating in a public action (a “Week Without Capitalism”) in response to the NATO summit. The week included nonviolent civil disobedience as well as crafts, food, and experiments in gift economy. Over one hundred people sang, danced, and served breakfast to commuters in front of the Obama campaign headquarters in a symbolic invitation to discuss community-based alternatives to violence. Our focus this summer is the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm in Monee, Illinois, and hospitality and roundtable discussions in Chicago. DC Area Community of Communities (Washington, DC): The Quebec House said goodbye to long-time housemates David and Janelle, and a new community is forming in the far Northeast part of the city. We are working to build a stronger network of communities in the area, and continue to look for a volunteer to work on our website in order to better engage with one another in this city (www.dc.newmonastics.org). Community of Faith (Fallbrook, CA): We are finishing our public “Conversations on the Bible” series on the Decalogue and preparing a fall weekend event to introduce people to radical Christianity called “The Sacred Revolution.” Details at www.TheSacredRevolution.com (www.life-reimagined.com). Georgetown College Campus Ministry (Georgetown, KY): We are sad to say goodbye to Ashley and Nick Babladelis, praying blessings on their transition to New Jersey. We welcome ElBonita Hawkins to our community! (http://wordpress.georgetowncollege.edu/campusministry).
Hyaets Community (Charlotte, NC): We’ve been welcoming summer interns who assist with our neighborhood programs and live in community for about ten weeks. We are also helping to organize the Jesus Radicals conference in Charlotte this August, which promises to be energetic and engaging (www.hyaets.org). Mulberry House (Springfield, OH): Our neighborhood is bustling with activity. We are excited to hear that an empty warehouse across the street from our house is being renovated to make twenty-six apartments for homeless families (www.mulberrycommunity.com). Nehemiah House (Springfield, MA): We’ve had four new babies born over the past five months: Micah, Gabriella, and twins Lilly and Hannah. (That’s one way to expand community! ) Our art ministry, Springfield Pulse, has been busy with shows. Current one features artists who create pieces made from recycled materials and paints. Keep us in prayer as we conspire to buy the building we lease for our studio (www.nehemiah-ministries.com). Relational Tithe (Oakland, CA): Recent years have seen a rise in collaborative consumption, from car sharing (www.zipcar.com), to product swaps (market.swap.com), to passing on unneeded items (www.freecycle.org). For seven years, some of us have experimented in worldwide collaborative giving, sharing $500,000 relationally with people in need. Looking to widen the pool, we have been creating tools to facilitate collaborative giving and are excited to invite others to explore this idea. Visit us at commonchange.org, call us at (510) 323-2349, or email us at email@example.com (www.relationaltithe.com). Rutba House/School for Conversion (Durham, NC): Violence in our neighborhood has come home as we’ve welcomed a friend shot and paralyzed in the neighborhood last year. We’re praying against the violence of drugs and of the “war” being waged against them. We’re working with community organizations in Walltown to develop a system for reporting of racial profiling. Small steps, we hope, in a long-term effort to abolish the prison-industrial complex and establish restorative justice on our streets and in our world.
Creative World (August 10-12) is a grassroots camping festival in Mission, British Columbia celebrating biblical themes of creativity and creation, art and social justice. The weekend features inspiring main-stage speakers and more than twenty art, justice, and faith workshops with people like Tom Sine, Joyce Rees, Jonathan Wilson, Brad Jersak, Cheryl Bear, Bob Ekblad, and Pete Rollins, as well as socially conscious musicians like Derek Webb, The Friendly Folk and Compassion Gorilla. This is a family-friendly camping event with fun things for the kids as well as speakers, workshops, and music for all ages.
www.creativeworldfestival.org or www.facebook.com/CWFestival
Servants Vancouver (Vancouver, BC): Some of us have been working hard on the Creative World festival August 10-12, 2012 outside of Vancouver. We had a great time last year with Shane Claiborne, and welcome CONSP!RE friends this year. See the announcement on page 47 and check out www.creativeworldfestival.org. The Simple Way (Philadelphia, PA): Summer is in full swing. We continue to be involved in the lives of the kids on our block, playing in fire hydrants, visiting museums, and sending them off to summer camp in the Poconos. We welcomed back our artistin-residence, Beth Rhodes, and look to fill more spaces in our Village House Residency program. For more information visit our website (www.thesimpleway.org).
More conspiring communities: Alterna (LaGrange, GA) www.alternacommunity.com Alternative Seminary (Philadelphia, PA) www.alternativeseminary.net Anthony’s Plot (Winston-Salem, NC) www.anthonysplot.org Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN) www.ambs.edu Camden Community Houses (Camden, NJ) Carpenter’s Church (Lubbock, TX) www.carpenterschurchlubbock.org Centurion’s Guild (Honolulu, HI) firstname.lastname@example.org Church of the Sojourners (San Francisco, CA) www.churchofthesojourners.org Come Together (Canton, TX) www.cometogethertrading.com dathouse (Indianapolis, IN) www.dathouse.wordpress.com DC Area Community of Communities (Washington, DC) www.dc.newmonastics.org Detroit Villages (Detroit, MI) www.detroitvillages.org East Central Ministries (Albuquerque, NM) www.eastcentralministries.org Faith and Deeds (Santa Rosa, CA) First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights (Pittsburgh, PA) www.chup.org Justus (Sioux Lookout, Ontario) Likewise Books (Westmont, IL) www.ivpress.com MOVEyouth (Rutherford, NSW, Australia) www.moveyouthrutherford.blogspot.com Mercy Station (Anderson, AL) Missio Dei Community (St. Petersburg, FL) www.themissiodei.com More Than Thursdays (Oakland, CA) www.thursdaymatters.blogspot.com Reba Place/Shalom Mission Communities (Evanston, IL) www.rebaplacefellowship.org ReIMAGINE! (San Francisco, CA) www.reimagine.org Sacramento Conspirators (Sacramento, CA) Salado United Methodist Church (Salado, TX) www.saladoumc.org San Rafael First UMC (San Rafael, CA) www.sanrafaelfirstumc.org Solomon’s Porch (Minneapolis, MN) www.solomonsporch.com The Book Parlor (Spokane, WA) www.TheBookParlor.com Tierra Nueva (Sagit Valley, WA) www.tierra-nueva.org The GAPS Community (Downey, CA) www.downeymoravian.org The Vine (Haverhill, MA) www.thevinehaverhill.com