Category Archives: Conflict and Nonviolence

“there’s always hope!”: pete seeger on hope for peace

From Fr. John Dear in his book Put Down Your Sword:

For years, one of my friends, the legendary folksinger Pete Seeger, has questioned friends and audiences who feel hopeless. “In the early 1970s,” he asks, “did you ever expect to see President Nixon resign because of Watergate?”

“No,” people answer.

“Did you ever expect to see the Pentagon leave Vietnam the way it did?”

“No, we didn’t,” everyone answers.

“In the 1980s, did you expect to see the Berlin Wall come down so peacefully?” Pete asks.

“No, never,” they respond.

“In the 1990s, did you expect to see Nelson Mandela released from prison, apartheid abolished, and Mandela become president of South Africa?”

“Never in a million years.”

“Did you ever expect the two warring sides of Northern Ireland to sign a peace agreement on Good Friday?”

“Never.”

“If you can’t predict those things,” Pete concludes, “don’t be so confident that there’s no hope! There’s always hope!”

We do not know what the future will bring. We cannot see where the road is leading. We know the sufferings, wars, and injustices tearing us apart, but we do not know the outcome. And so we cannot presume that there is no hope of a new world of peace.

We only know our mission, our vocation, our duty is to proclaim God’s reign of peace and resist the anti-reign of war.

We know that the God of peace is alive and active among the struggling people of the world. We know that if we repent of our violence and take up God’s way of nonviolence, the world can be transformed into a haven of harmony for everyone. We know that if we stay on the road to peace, one day we will enter God’s house of peace and meet the God of peace face-to-face.

The key, then, is to remain faithful to the journey of peace, to take the next step on the path of nonviolence, to join hands with one another and walk forward with hope.

I regularly need to be reminded…

MCA

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art and envisioning a new world

In the last few weeks I’ve been studying early Jewish apocalypticism. Perhaps the best known apocalypse is an early Christian text, the Book of Revelation, with a close second being a Jewish apocalypse, the Book of Daniel.

One of the things I have been convinced of is, in simple terms, the intention of apocalyptic authors to shift the symbolic universe of their readers. In short this means changing the lens through which readers view things, helping them imagine a better world. In terms of the early Jewish apocalyptic texts this looked like composing a transcendent narrative that inspired hope and resistance in the face of oppressive foreign empires.

This has got me thinking (again) about the place of other forms of art in encouraging resistance to evil and inspiring social change.

In order to remain committed to change in the world people need constant inspiration – without it their ability to envision a better world diminishes. Art has a transcendent, even mysterious, potential to energise us by critiquing the current reality, or imagining a new one.

Father John Dear (whose book Put Down Your Sword I have been reading devotionally for some time) says this: Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 3)

Welcome to the third and final instalment of my interview with antiwar activist Simon Moyle. Perhaps you would like to begin by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

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So far in our discussion Simon you have mentioned and quoted Gandhi, and that raises a worthwhile question. Everyone has heard of people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., 20th Century icons who brought about significant social change and who were influenced by the nonviolent teachings of Jesus Christ.
But to most people these figures seem legendary, almost superhuman; what have their legacies got to do with us, in our lives?

Hagiography has a lot to answer for in setting up Gandhi and MLK Jr. as unattainable ideals. You really need to read their stories to learn their struggles and failures. MLK was a notorious philanderer and adulterer who spent much of his life in depression and self-doubt. I mean, the civil rights movement was often a mess of egos, backstabbing and embarrassing failure. Gandhi was often a terrible father and husband – his eldest son ended up dying young and homeless. To some people these failings invalidate their work and witness – but to me it humanises them, makes their example more compelling. If they were able to achieve everything they achieved despite their brokenness, perhaps I have something to offer too.

We also have to realise that MLK and Gandhi alone – just like Hitler alone – couldn’t really achieve much at all. They were made to look good by the people who surrounded them – the ones who did the hard yards out of the public eye, going to gaol, being beaten. Certainly those people no doubt learned from the Gandhis and MLKs and looked up to them but did just as heroic things without the glory. Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of this interview with nonviolence trainer Simon Moyle. If you haven’t already it might be worth reading Part 1.

If you are new to the life.remixed blog you might want to subscribe to receive articles like this regularly. You can sign up via RSS Feed, or by using the email subscribe function in the column to the right, near the top.

People often cite Hitler as an example of a historical case where violence was necessary to end greater suffering. Is this true; was violence necessary to stop a person like Hitler? Could there have been another way?

Hitler is too convenient a scapegoat I reckon. Now certainly, Hitler had some truly horrific ideas and did some terrible things. But Hitler was just one person. Average height, average weight, normal intelligence (some would say abnormal, but you know what I mean, he wasn’t a supergenius). How is it that one man carries the weight for an entire regime, and the evil it unleashed?

Well partly because we like to have a simple scapegoat, because once we begin to unravel the myth of Hitler as the solely responsible evil agent it asks some uncomfortable questions about ourselves. Because let’s face it, Hitler alone could not have been a murderous regime, started a war and killed six million Jews. He needed a whole bunch of people to help him. He also needed a whole bunch of people to stand passively by and do nothing to resist him. Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 1)

On life.remixed I have written often on issues of peace and violence from a theological and biblical perspective. The result has been a robust ongoing conversation as life.remixed readers have wrestled with articulating Christian responses to war and violence.

This has raised a variety of questions, some of which I have received many, many times throughout the life of this blog. To help respond to some of these questions I recently sought out a friend and nonviolence trainer, Simon Moyle.

Simon is an ordained Baptist Minister in Melbourne, nonviolence trainer with Pace e Bene Australia, husband, and father of three children. He is an antiwar activist and writer. You can read some of his work at New Matilda, Eureka Street, ABC Religion, The Drum and Waging Nonviolence.

This is the first of what will be a three part interview. Enjoy!

Simon, you are a peace activist who has been especially active in resisting Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan. How did you get involved in peace activism? Read the rest of this entry

the anti-beatitudes

All Christians must, at some point, do serious business with the Sermon on the Mount.

It is the penultimate discourse of Jesus, his magnum opus within the Gospels. If there was a handbook on Christian living, the Sermon on the Mount would probably be it.

One topic major topic present in the Sermon on the Mount is that of peace and nonviolence. This is, unfortunately, one of the aspects of the Sermon that Christians often ignore. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. called the Sermon on the Mount the greatest manifesto of nonviolence ever written, yet so many Christians feel free to support war and violence.

When you open Matthew 5 to experience Jesus’ stunning sermon you are first greeted with the Beatitudes. These eight statements are a blueprint for the values of the kingdom of God as preached by Jesus (cf. Matt 4:17). These values are taught by Jesus over-against the dominating values of his day; violence, greed, pride etc.

Things have not changed in our time. The values of our culture are antithetical to the Beatitudes taught by Jesus. This is perhaps nowhere more obvious that in our penchant for war and violence. Read the rest of this entry

how does God’s kingdom relate to ruling powers?

How should Christians relate to ruling powers?

Depending on your interpretation of different sections of the Bible you might say the different authors push for:

  • Submission (the conclusion many people come to when reading Romans 13, for example, or perhaps Ezra-Nehemiah)
  • Prophetic critique and nonviolent resistance (as found in much of the prophetic literature or Revelation)
  • A middle option
  • A blend

But what are we meant to do in our contemporary world as Christians? Should we simply do what we understand early Christians to have done in relation to ruling powers?

That is to say, how do we anticipate God’s transformative kingdom on earth, now, in the midst of a world of ruling powers that very often act contrary to God’s purposes? Read the rest of this entry

old testament violence: is God really genocidal?

On this blog I have written a good number of posts on violence in the Bible, arguing for a robust theology and practice of nonviolence based primarily on the ethics of Jesus.

The number one question I have received in response to these posts has been, “But what about violence in the Old Testament?”

This is an important question, for it is not simply about whether the Bible advocates violence – it is about whether or not God himself is violent. Read the rest of this entry

luke 22:36 & self-defence: did jesus teach us to buy swords?

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38)

Recently I conversed with a friend who, speaking about violence, defended their acceptance of violent self-defence by referencing Luke 22:36. Here Jesus seems to tell his disciples to buy swords for the purpose of protection.

The problem with this kind of interpretation is that it perpetuates an all-too-common method of Bible reading whereby verses are unapologetically ripped from their narrative context. The understanding of Luke 22:36 as a text that advocates any form of violence is a good example. Let’s look at the text… Read the rest of this entry

Q&R: jesus and violence in the book of revelation

A life.remixed reader writes (in the comments section of my post Who Would Jesus Whip?):

Hey Matt,
Thanks for this post. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate your perspective on a number of issues, particularly this one, as your view is quite different to mine.
My question (not a trick one I should point out) is how you reconcile the image of the non-violent Jesus of the Gospels with the recurrently violent image of Him portrayed in Revelation?
Here is an example of what I’m talking about…

Revelation 19:11
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” (NIV)

My point is that if Jesus’ character is one of non-violent resistance, must that not consistently be His character throughout the ages? Are you arguing that He is specifically calling us to model His non-violent attitude demonstrated in the Gospels but ignore (or at least disregard for the moment) His violent responses in other parts of the Bible (in a Deuteronomy 32:35 sense)?

This certainly gets back to your point about what constitutes violence. I definitely read a correlation between Jesus’ violence and His perfect justice…an aspect that we certainly lack.
This may be a subject for another post, but would love to know your thoughts. Read the rest of this entry

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