Jesus and Nonviolence - chapter five, part three

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.

Part three:

5.  Not a Law But a Gift

"Jesus' Third Way is not a law, but a gift.  It establishes us in freedom, not necessity.  It is not something we are required to do, but enabled to do.   It is a "Thou mayest," not a "Thou must."  It is not something we do to secure our own righteousness before God.  It is rather something we are made capable of when we know that the power of God is greater than the powers of death."


But, even though we are committed to nonviolence, we may find ourselves in a situation where we find ourselves unable to use it, or find ourselves resorting to violence.

"Even then, however, it is not a question of justifying the violence.  I simply must, as Bonhoeffer did, take on myself the guilt and cast myself on the mercy of God.  But in a situation of extreme oppression, it is far better that we act violently than let our fear of sin and guilt paralyze us into no act at all."

Miguel D'Escoto, free Nicauraguan foreign minister and a Catholic priest, tells the story of the Nicauraguan revolution, where the Church was asked to get involved in helping people direct their energies in the growing restlessness of the country.

"Bishop, it is going to be terrible, there will be so many dead people, so much destruction and death.  Why don't we go into the streets?  You lead us, armed with the rosary in our hands and prayers on our lips and chants and songs in repudiation for what has been done to our people.  The worst that can happen to us is the best, to share with Christ the cross if they shoot us."

The Archbishop refused, not believing an uprising would occur.  It did, and a violent revolution began.

Miguel D'Escoto:  

"I have come to believe that creative nonviolence has to be a constitutive element of evangelization and of the proclamation of the gospel. But in Nicauragua nonviolence was never included in the process of evangelization.  The cancer of oppression and justice and crime was allowed to grow, and finally the people had to fight with the only means that people have found from of old: armed struggle.  Then the church arrogantly said violence was bad, nonviolence was the correct way.

I don't believe nonviolence is something you can arrive at rationally.  We can develop it as a spirituality and can obtain the grace necessary to practice it, but not as a result of reason.

We are called upon to be supernatural.  We reach that way of being, not as a result of nature, but of prayer.  But that spirituality and prayer and work with people's consciences has never been done.   We have no right to harvest what we have not sown."


6. The Way of the Cross

The cross is Jesus' way of dealing with evil.  

"The cross means that death is not the greatest evil one can suffer.  It means that I am free to act faithfully without undue regard for the outcome."

But the way of the cross is not natural to us.

"We do not come to these things by virtue of a sunny disposition but by conversion, practice, imagination, and risk.  Nonviolent training needs to become a regular and repetitive component of every change-oriented group's life; it is not a last minute strategy that can be donned at will like an asbestos suit."

And the way of the cross does not mean we will "win."  

"It is precisely because the outcome is in question, however, that we need to choose a way of living that already is a living of the outcome we desire.  The Reign of God is already arriving when we choose means consistent with its arrival."

The way of the cross deliberately evokes the violence of the system in order to defeat it.   The energy of evil's impact is absorbed in the bodies of the nonviolent.  That is how transformation of energy occurs.

"Daniel Berrigan observes that most people find it more sane to contemplate nuclear suicide than civil disobedience.  Millions march off willingly to wars, forfeited by blind trust in chance: the unexpressed hope that it will be their buddies who get it, not they themselves, and that they will kill the enemy and not be killed.  It takes far more courage to walk into a situation voluntarily, knowing that suffering is inevitable,  choosing to draw the poison of that violence with one's own body rather than perpetuating the downward spiral of hate.  But that is what we celebrate in every Eucharist as Jesus' way.  Will it not be ours as well?"


You can find our discussion on

chapter five: part two, here,

chapter five: part one

chapter four,

chapter three,

 chapter two

 and chapter one.