Tag Archives: nonviolence

preach loudly and carry a good book! #AnaBlacktivism #TheNewPacifism

new pacifism awh

I have always had a problem with the oft-used phrase, “Speak softly but carry a big stick,” but for the life of me could only point to why the “big stick” part was wrong. I oppose War preparedness, empire-building, and “pre-emptive strikes” because I believe in Jesus, and His way of nonviolence. As a child being raised in the Black Baptist and Methodist/Holiness traditions, church services were centered on the preached Word. The Word was not only the written words of the Bible, but also God’s writing onto our daily lives, and us writing back in response during worship. Dialogue with God was to be loud and joyous. Unfortunately, many Christians who claim the label Anabaptist/NeoAnabaptist from the dominant culture have rejected part of the tradition dating back to the first Anabaptists. The Radical Reformers were argumentative and persistent in their writings, probably in the views of some Emergent Church leaders, “uncivil” or “lacking grace.” J. Denny Weaver and Gerald Mast argue in the introduction of their Defenseless Christianity, “Mild speech could be a luxury for those in charge or having the most weapons”: Stay civil and grace-filled, but always find a way to remind those on the margins you got the power! You’re still in charge of the Church’s future! “Defenseless Christianity” in Mast’s and Weaver’s view was and always has been “a contentious, quarrelsome discursive community” much like ancient Israel was (as evidenced by the disagreements we see in the Hebrew Bible).

One of the risks of the Word-centered approach that I am all too familiar with is the cult of personality. I can understand the appeal of Eucharist-oriented worship services; there’s little room for one individual (the pastor usually) to get all of the glory. Yet such approaches can be just as hierarchal and authoritarian. The other risk of having a vision where contesting worldviews is the norm is that the “free” market of ideas can get co-opted, especially given the fact that what often passes as the postmodern is often a reflection of late capitalism. What winds up happening is that many religious ideas are appropriated by the nation-state at the expense of others. Holiday celebrations. Public displays of the Ten Commandments. The Bible being interpreted heretically and taught in public schools. You name it. The Anabaptist commitment to the Separation of Church and State presupposes a freedom to defend the community’s right to practice a non-competitive religion. An AnaBlacktivist and more biblical view of free speech would be one that enables communities and individuals to speak out on behalf of the defenseless and marginalized.

So, I say, in the spirit of Defenseless Christianity, preach loudly, and carry a good book!

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Synchroblog Returns! #TheNewPacifism: The Cost of Peace

new pacifism awh
(banner provided by my friend Alan Hooker, who you can find blogging at here; feel free to use the banner if you participate in the Synchroblog, the link to the googledrive file can be found here: banner)

Back by popular demand, after last year’s success (and by success I mean the creation of a new dialogue), we are bringing back the The New Pacifism Synchroblog, and this year’s theme is The Cost Of Peace. In light of this year’s events, from the Protests in Ferguson to the actual riots during a Pumpkin festival, to the terrorizing menace ISIS, it’s time to do some theological reflection on what would be a New Pacifist response to these issues. Part of this year’s theme is inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, and his distinction between cheap grace and costly grace. Likewise, in a similar vein as one of my mentors, Keri Day wrote about concerning Ferguson (for Syndicate Theology), when we speak of cheap peace, we

“refer to a temporary calm that comes from sweeping the hard truths of injustice underneath our societal rug so that such hard truths are out of sight and out of mind. It is a peace that is cheap because it costs us nothing. It bypasses the hard work that comes with truth telling and correcting deep systemic injustices. When there are calls for cheap peace, one must ask, “For whose benefit?” Does avoiding hard truths help to protect the marginalized and suffering or does it protect an abusive and oppressive system?”

What does a refusal of cheap peace look like in the face of ISIS? The xenophobic and racist Ebola crisis? The failure to push through immigration reform by the Obama administration and Congress? What are the possibilities and limits of joining Christian peacemaking efforts with a focus on intersectionality? With these questions in mind, I am now proposing this 2014 New Pacifism Synchroblog on The Cost of Peace. Tell us how your own view of peacemaking has developed or what you what the New Pacifism has to offer in today’s world. Here’s how to participate:

1. You can write your own blog post, telling us your own views on pacifism. The post can be written, it can be an assortment of GIF’s, pictures, a video, a video blog (vlog), a short quote. Don’t be afraid. Take a side, Pick a side, any side.*

2. Please link back to this original post so your readers and other readers can find your post to be collected in two weeks. Synchroblog collection ends December 9th, 2014 at 11:59PM Central Standard Time, USA.

3. Share your views on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag: #TheNewPacifism. I will try to collect as many facebook statuses and tweets using the #TheNewPacifism hashtag and Storify it in the final New Pacifism Synchroblog post.

4. Interact, engage people who you agree and disagree with. Show love and encourage one another peaceably, and above all, don’t be a troll!

*Side note if you don’t have a blog or social network or don’t want to share, but would like to participate, please use the PJ contact page to make a submission:

Contact Political Jesus

Meanwhile, if you want to go back and look at last year’s synchroblog goodness, check it out here!:

#TheNewPacifism Synchroblog & Storify

My own planned posts for this year’s Synchroblog include:

1. I plan to do an AnaBlacktivist update on a Series I once did for co-blogger Craig’s former blog, once entitled The God Of Peace, under a new title (to be determined)

part 1: ground rules; part 2: revelation (the Hebrew Bible); part 3: the Revealer (Christ Jesus); part 4: revolution (the chosen community of the Revealer, and nonviolence) ; part 5: resisting daily (concrete political & ethical proposals/practices)

2. Further reflections AnaBlacktivism, Christology, doing contextual Christology and ethics.

3.A Post on Micah 4, Jonah 4, and ISIS on forgiveness, repentance, costly grace and costly peace.

4. A post on Becoming An Unsettled Killjoy during Thanksgiving.

5. 1-2 posts on “My Peace I Leave With You”: Eschatology, the New Creation, and The Sabbath which will have implications for economic justice.

I plan to make all of my contributions to #TheNewPacifism to be my NaNoWriMo project for this year as well.

Nonviolence For When Life Happens #TheNewPacifism

As far as I can remember, I have been a lifelong pacifist, at least since I was in second grade. It was then that the first War On Iraq interrupted my morning cartoons to bring the U.S. American audience updates. Upset with the generals that were wasting my time, taking away “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes” and what was once known as the “World Wrestling Federation,” war just never sat well with me. In college, I was an outspoken critic of the second Iraq War, and even gave speeches in Political Science classes on how aggressive imperialist foreign policies were incompatible with conservative notions of “humble” approaches to international relations. I will admit that for a time during my senior year, I do not recall why, I assumed that ideas such as Bill Clinton’s realism + multilateralism were more politically expedient than my “unrealistic” pacifist idealism.

It was in seminary that I was introduced to Peace Theologies, that I began to take the politics of Jesus seriously; rather than an irrelevant autocrat stuck in the sky, Christ became an ever-present Teacher. Where there had once been a disconnect between my pacifist Christianity and my moderate politics, I experienced what can be described as a radical conversion, a recognition of not only Jesus’ “spiritual” authority, but also His Lordship when it comes to the public sphere as well. Christian witness is always political because it was designed from the earliest churches to be public. Because this testimony should be first and foremost Christ-centered and Spirit-led, the idea of a Free Church is necessary for the congregation of the faithful to work out their faithfulness with trembling. This is why for many nonviolent Christians, the separation of church and state is of utmost importance. The neat thing about being a Christian pacifist is that it is an ongoing process. I mean, we are all persons in process anyhow, and my understanding of what it means to be nonviolent has grown considerably.

Recently, Rachel Held Evans (a writer who I have learned a lot from) reiterated her sentiments from a 2011 on the War On Libya, about being a “terrible pacifist.” Actually, I think the post is an example in taking steps of being a TERRIFIC pacifist. I especially liked the list on how Rachel (and really, how we can all) become better pacifists: “I can meditate on the teachings of Jesus”; “I can pray for our nation’s enemies”; “I can educate myself on foreign policy”; “I can study the imaginative work of peaceful activists like Mother Teresa and [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King Jr.” For me, pacifism starts as a process of discernment, raising questions, and not trusting nationalistic propaganda we are fed by the media. Christian pacifism starts with the teachings of the Jewish rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ sermons, sayings, and ministry are dismissed by mainline and evangelical Christians, much to the shame of the Church. The only way forward to a peaceable religion is to take Jesus seriously, The Word at His word. And not only should we as Christians study well-known peace activists from the last century, but also go back and read the anti-war arguments of the first Christians, the Church mothers and fathers, and ingest these teachings as beneficial for today’s world.

Recently, a fellow MennoNerd, Ted Grimsrud gave Evans some constructive feedback from her facebook page post on ISIS, war, and pacifism: Is Pacifism For when life happens?”. I have so many points of agreement with Grimsrud’s thoughtful and thought-provoking post that I do think it really challenges what we consider to be “realism.” Grimsrud accurately points to European imperialism as the cause of the First World War, and the Second World War, and thus finds the question of “What about Hitler?” to be suspicious.

“I’ll just say here that one big “option” specifically for the British would have been to abandon their empire. The conflict between Britain and Germany actually was mostly initiated by the British through their treaty with Poland that required them to go to war if Germany tried to take Poland by force. This treaty did not originate in Britain’s commitment to humane, democratic values (ask Indians and Kenyans during the colonial era about those values), but in the fear that the on-going viability of the Empire required it. Germany did not attack Britain because the Nazis wanted to conquer Britain and make the British Empire part of the Third Reich. The Nazis hoped the British would be their allies in a fight against the Soviet Union, and only attacked Britain through the air (with no intention of trying a ground invasion) to buy time until they turned east for the Soviet war.”

It is this kind of power analysis that is required (in my opinion) to practice pacifism. Unfortunately, many persons do not apply this same power analysis when examining situations of interpersonal violence such as domestic abuse. The possibilities that Grimsmud offered for these potential situations are limited by a lack of power analysis, the very same observations on power that were applied on the national scale of Great Britain versus Germany. More important than “developing skills at de-escalating conflict, learning better to detect danger signs that could prevent the violence from happening,” how about the Church teaching men that sexual and gender violence are not okay? Placing the onus on the individual without doing the preventative work of educating perpetrators comes awfully close to victim-blaming. In cases such as this, as a last resort, IMO, non-lethal, and if possible non-injurous forms of self-defense should be employed in case of an attack. Such a commitment to nonviolence means having a vulnerable space for victims, while retaining the Imago Dei in both the abuser and the abused. For advocates of Christian nonviolence, the sanctity of life, and the biblical idea that the human body is a temple of the Most High God takes priority over abstract notions of what it means to be pacifist.

For more posts similar to this, I would recommend checking out our #TheNewPacifism Synchroblog from last year, as we plan to bring it back next month, so stay tuned!