Jesus and Nonviolence - chapter five, part two

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.

Chapter five continued:

3. Respect for the Rule of Law

"Jesus' Third Way preserves respect for the rule of law even in the act of resisting oppressive laws."

Violent revolutions force their participants into a contradiction that threatens their goals.  

"They plan to gain power by the very means they will declare illegal when they gain power."

In contrast, nonviolent civil disobedience shows high regard for the rule of law in that it is "voluntary submission to the due penalty of the law that discourages frivolous violations."  

In Wink's view, Romans 13:1-7 requires us to be submitted to rulers and authorities, but not necessarily obedient to them.  He uses Jesus as an example of this.  Jesus broke laws that He felt were contradictory to God's will, but He then submitted Himself to the penalties of those laws in His death.  

"We too should, following Jesus, refuse ever to obey an unjust law.  But by understanding its recoil against us, we affirm our willingness to suffer on behalf of a higher law that we are determined to see transform the law of the land.  We are lawful in our legality.  It is only because we submit to the priniciple of law that we demand that unjust laws be made just in the first place."

4. Rooting Out Violence

"Jesus' Third Way requires us to root out the violence within our own souls.  To resist something, we must meet it with counterforce.   If we resist violence with violence, we simply mirror its evil.  We become what we resist."

Wink then talks about unmasking our self-righteousness.  

" is easy to fall into us/them thinking, to forget our own complicity in our past complacency toward the evil we now so tardily (always, it seems, tardily) oppose."

Engaging evil requires us to deal with our own spiritual need.  When we point to someone else's evil, we suddenly find that there is evil echoing within our own hearts.

"I would like to become nonviolent from the heart, but there is a killer, a torturer, a coward and a dictator in me...Something there is in me that does not want to be redeemed, or see others freed as well.  I believe this fact is universal.  Christian theology calls it the fall or original sin.  Judaism knows it as the evil impulse....People who engage in nonviolent protest without at least some awareness of this cesspool of violence within them can actually jeapordize the lives of their compatriots...The hardest moment comes when our own internal oppressor meets the outside reality that it supports.  It is not out there, but in me, that the oppressor must die."

Jesus' Way, Wink tells us, has a built in solution:  "it lands many of its practitioners in jail."  The apostle Paul, Gandhi, Martin Luther King did much of their thinking and writing in jail.

"Strange, wry providence, that prison should have been, for so many, not the unfortunate price of protest, but the gracious, fiery crucible that as one black labor organizer told us, "killed my fear and made me all the more determined to struggle for liberation, to death if necessary" - not said with bravado, but with a quiet, serene smile."


The final part of chapter five coming this week.

You can find our discussion on

chapter five: part one, here,

chapter four,

chapter three,

 chapter two

 and chapter one.