Monday, June 30, 2008

Turn the Other Cheek (thoughts from Walter Wink's book, Jesus and Nonviolence)

Jesus says not to resist an evil person. Walter Wink says this is often taken to mean that we should passively not resist evil, but this is simply not the case. He sites the original word used here is the word antihistemi, which in its noun form means violent rebellion, armed revolt and sharp dissention. Thus we should understand Jesus to be saying do not resist evil in kind-violence for violence.

Jesus in Matthew 5 gives three examples of how to resist nonviolently. The one I would like to point out is when somebody strikes you (5:38). The implication here is not of attack, but of a slap intending to humiliate and belittle. To strike the right cheek would imply a slap not a punch. Thus the image is one of a master slapping his slave, a husband smacking his wife, or an adult and a child – a stronger person putting a weaker person in their place (as one would only punch an equal).

Jesus tells his listeners to respond neither by cowering nor by fighting back but instead to stand up and turn your other cheek. What this does is destroys the oppressor’s ability to humiliate. Wink notes that the slap is holding up the caste system and its institutional inequality. Regardless of what happens next, the powerful person has lost his ability to dehumanize, and has been forced to view the subordinate as and equal.

We find from this example is that Jesus is teaching his people to subvert the nature power of his day. Note that it is undermining the powers that be. It is promoting the dignity of the oppressed. It is not promoting violently rebelling but it is promoting rebelling against the powers.

We should also note that Jesus is giving us an example of how to respond. It is a living and breathing solution to a problem. It should never be seen as a hard and fast rule. Wink notes that both pacifists and those who reject pacifism alike tend to read this passage as such.

Finally the point of turning the other cheek is not to take power from those in power, but to bring about equality. This is Wink’s point about Jesus’ third way. We should not think that nonviolence is the point, but it is a tool by which we bring about loving equality among men. It is this loving equality that will come when we love our enemies.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Lie

I think we should understand that there is a very prevalent myth out there. This myth is being communicated to us from every angle to the point we do not even realize that there is a message or an agenda there. The fact of the matter this myth is so big that once you see it for what it really is (namely a lie) you instantly view society completely differently.

This myth is that violence can be redemptive and you see this everywhere.

We see it in cartoons. Perhaps you’ve watched Popeye before. Every episode Popeye must beat up his arch nemesis in order to protect his beloved.

We see it in movies. Perhaps you’ve watched Star Wars. The Jedi must fight the Dark Lords in order to protect all that which is good.

We hear it in the patriotic themes of our country. Perhaps you’ve heard somebody talk about how it is through Military means that freedom has come to us.

We see it in our instincts. Perhaps you’ve been cut off when driving. You most likely were told by everything inside you to move to ramming speed, swerve around this foul offender, and promptly flip him the bird before bumping his car off the road. (and don’t tell me you haven’t fantasized about doing this!)

The problem is that we’ve been fed a lie. Violence is not the answer.

Think about it what happens when you bump the other driver off the road? Well you get sued. And then that would make you angry. Then your relationship with this other driver would be not one of love but of bitterness. You see violence escalates-it always progresses. It does not bring about resolution.

Well you say to me, when a bad man is killed justice has been served, as he can no longer do bad things. Well is there? What about his brothers, his friends, or his supporters? How will they feel about you as you killed him? Will this situation be resolved? I think not! If they are good friends, family, or followers they will respond back. They will fight to preserve the bad man’s honor.

This is the problem. Violence only brings more hurt and pain. It does not bring healing. It does not bring resolution. Thus when we see in movies, cartoons, and patriotism the theme that violence will bring about a peaceful resolution; we must know we have been lied to.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Quest for Peace

We’re all on a quest to find peace.

I think we all feel the world is not right. Somewhere deep inside, even when everything looks all right, we feel that something is wrong. If you don’t believe me listen to the radio. From John Mayor to U2 we are constantly hearing and connecting with songs telling us there is something more. It is only people who are disconnected from the world that seem to think all is well.

It is this sense of insecurity that drives many people.

I think that insecurity is a good word to describe this. We hate it when we are insulted. We fight to protect our image. We feel intimidated by others who may pose a threat to our position. Basically, at every level we’re insecure.

Maybe the problem is we all feel like we’re in a competition. Maybe we understand our own limitations. Or maybe it is we’re unsatisfied with the way the world is. Whatever the problem is we understand there is a problem and we act from this sense.

Thus we are all on a quest to find peace. Whether we try and find peace by making enough money, gaining power, or finding security in popularity, its really all the same.

This upward ladder climbing that is the western world is nothing more than an elaborate search for peace. The problem is that through the ways that we struggle we are only feeding the flames or our insecurity.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Peace to You

this is a blog designed to be a forum through which i can express my thoughts on peace and being a peacemaker. I have found that far too often, I long for peace.

I recently read a quote from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. it goes like this:

"Nonviolence...does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding...The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness...

"The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love...To retaliate in kind would do nothing buy intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives."

I love this quote because to me it captures the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The Christian is one who seeks redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of the church is the creation of the beloved community (i.e. the Kingdom of God). Jesus set the example as he cut off the chain of hate, and the Christian is to follow that pattern.

I hope you enjoy this blog and the thoughts that are written here!