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a prayer for those within empire

Last weekend I ran an event for TEAR Australia called “Come Out, My People!”: Learning to Journey Out of Empire. It featured, among others, my friends Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson speaking about the reality of empire in the Bible and in the world. They spoke about the need to discern God’s call to come out of empire and embody an alternative way of life.

This is a prayer I composed for the evening. It is a prayer for those of us living in the midst of empire who are trying to follow God’s call out of it. All present prayed it together, and I thought it may help others who are trying to live in God’s shalom amid the brutality of empire.

MCA

———-

Brueghel Tower of BabelCreator and Sustainer God,
we cry out to you from Babylon,
from empire built upon the land of people both like us and different to us,
from empire made possible by the murders and injustices of past and present.

We recognize that you have called us out of empire.
Out of a spirituality of domination and oppression.
Out of a story of exclusion and competition that leads to violence.
Out of the worship of false gods that demand our praise and obedience.

You have called us to be part of a radical alternative to empire.
Called to a spirituality of shalom and justice.
Called to the biblical story of embrace and welcome that leads to peace.
Called to the worship of the God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

And you have sent us into empire, in the world.
To witness to another way of justice, mercy and faithfulness.
To transform the slave economy that violates the bodies of both rich and poor and the earth itself.
To take the time necessary in a speed-addicted world to be friends, lovers, parents, carers, gardeners, advocates and peacemakers.

Creator God, our refuge and strength,
we confess we are complicit in the evils of our age.
Breathe on us as we commit ourselves to the way of Christ individually and as a community
to live in your story for the world;
to take up the heavy cross that we cannot bear alone;
to struggle for peace and justice;
to seek fullness of life for all creation;
to pray for your kingdom come.

Amen.

Matt Anslow, July 2013

“what would you do if someone broke into your home…?”: responding to a common objection to nonviolence

On life.remixed I’ve often addressed questions and concerns about peace and violence. Recently I interviewed a friend and anti-war activist, Simon Moyle, and there was much in the way of fruitful (and passionate) discussion in the aftermath.

One of the most common objections to nonviolence is a question which normally goes something like, “What would you do if, say, someone broke into your home with a gun to kill your wife/partner/child?”

The challenger often uses this question as a way of demonstrating that the pacifist’s conviction about violence is inconsistent, and that the existence of violence is necessary. It is often posed in such a way that if the pacifist cannot give a satisfactory answer then violence is apparently vindicated, even in terms of warfare, despite the fact that the analogy between personal and collective violence is flawed.

Theologian John Howard Yoder suggests that the question suffers from a number of debilitating assumptions that are almost always unconscious to the challenger. Yoder posits that since there is no such thing as a self-interpreting situation we must understand the questioner’s assumptions before we can even try to answer the question. Read the rest of this entry

“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

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.

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.

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

lest we forget, best we regret

As we remember the sacrifice of fallen soldiers past, let us also remember that their deaths should not have been.

This year Anzac Day falls almost exactly on Easter. Both celebrations, in their own way, have attained an iconic status. However the buying of chocolate eggs, going on a long weekend holiday, playing two-up, buying a badge and getting drunk seem to be inadequate ways of remembering and reflecting on both events… Read the rest of this entry

just war, or just plain war?

“I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”
– George W. Bush

“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”
– Ann Coulter

“A good butt-whipping and then a prayer is a wonderful remedy.”
– Fob James, Former Governor of Alabama

“AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharoah’s chariotters.”
– Jerry Falwell

“There is only one way to get rid of nuclear weapons… use them.”
– Rush Limbaugh

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
– Jesus in Luke 23:34

By all accounts, the life of Jesus paints a picture whereby the terms justice and violence fit together about as well as two corner pieces of a puzzle or two pieces of hook velcro. Yet Christians have, throughout history, engaged in horrifically violent activities.

It really does boggle the mind how the life of Jesus can be so ignored by people who claim to follow him. Despite the fact that the Sermon on the Mount is an incredibly non-violent manifesto, many Christians today still insist that violence is the way forward in our world.

Imagine it… violence bringing peace…
Read the rest of this entry

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