Jesus and Nonviolence - chapter four


For the next six weeks, I'm going to work through Walter Wink's book, "Jesus and Nonviolence: a third way." I hope you will join me.

"Once we determine that Jesus' Third Way is not a perfectionistic avoidance of violence but a creative struggle to restore the humanity of all parties in a dispute, the legalism that has surrounded this issue becomes unnecessary.  We cannot sit in judgement over the responses of others to their oppression.  Gandhi continually reiterated that if a person could not act nonviolently in a situation, violence was preferable to submission.  "When there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence."  But Gandhi believed that a third way can always be found, if one is deeply committed to nonviolence."

For the next two pages, Wink gives statistics for violent and nonviolent conflicts over the world through recent history. One such example:

"Britain's Indian colony of three hundred million people was liberated nonviolently at a cost of about eight thousand lives...It took twenty-seven years (1919-46).  France's Algerian colony of about ten million was liberated in seven years (1955-61) by violence, but it cost almost one million lives."

Wink says the difference in these numbers is vitally important, for "the comparative degree of carnage is a moral issue."

"We need to be very clear that it is in the interest of the Powers to make people believe that nonviolence doesn't work.  To that end they create a double standard.  If a single case can be shown where nonviolence doesn't work, nonviolence as a whole can then be discredited.  No such rigorous standard is applied to violence, however, which regularly fails to achieve its goals."

In light of the imperfection of every method, however, we should be concerned with not just which method works better, but which method fails better.  Nonviolent conflicts end in much fewer casualties and less destruction.

Earlier in the chapter, Wink reminded us that Jesus' Third Way means "voluntarily taking on the violence of the Powers That Be."   And then he says, 

I do not believe that the churches can adequately atone for their past inaction simply by baptizing revolutionary violence under the pretext of just war theory.  No war today could be called just, given the inevitable level of casualties and atrocities.

"Why," he asks at the end, "do people so often seem to prefer violence, even when nonviolence can be shown to be effective?"

Next week, we move on to the Christian's particular reasons for nonviolence in chapter 5.  It's a long, important chapter and I may break it up so we can go through all the information.  Hope you'll join us. 

You can find our discussion on

chapter three, here,

 chapter two

 and chapter one.