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The Three Steps of Nonviolence

Posted by Erin Bechtol
07.07.17

by Rev. John Dear

For me, the great question as a Christian is: “How do we follow the nonviolent Jesus more faithfully in this culture of violence and war?” I think about this question morning, noon and night. And I always come back to the basic three steps—contemplative, active and prophetic nonviolence.

More than ever, in the age of Trump, we have to dig deeper spiritual roots and that means practicing contemplative nonviolence. We have to take time for quiet meditation with the God of peace every day, and to allow the God of peace to disarm, heal and transform us. We Christians try to read some of the Gospels daily, to sit in the presence of the nonviolent Jesus, and to learn nonviolence from the Master.

It’s hard to change the world; we can barely change ourselves. But God can change us and the world if we allow the God of peace to touch us, disarm us, heal us, and send us out as instruments of God’s peace.

As contemplative peacemakers, we try to live in daily relationship with the nonviolent Jesus, and be followers of him, not live in relationship with our TV or with Trump. Meditation, daily Gospel-reading, studying nonviolence and the great peacemakers—these are helpful tools to deepen our relationship with Jesus, and deepen our own inner nonviolence.

Really, in this awful historic moment, we need to become mystics of peace and nonviolence, people completely focused on Jesus and the God of peace, people filled with the Holy Spirit of peace and nonviolence. If we allow God to touch us and undergo an inner revolution of nonviolence, perhaps we might have a gift to offer when we go public with our work of nonviolence.

Second, we need to be public activists of nonviolence. It does not serve anyone to sit around and complain about Trump or the Republicans or the Democrats. We need to take action, and not just private action but public action for justice, disarmament and peace.

Summertime is a good time to reflect on our public lives as active peacemakers, to investigate the quality of our loving kindness and peaceableness behind our activism, as well as the boldness and daring-do of our work.

I encourage everyone to organize some public event/action or demonstration for the Campaign Nonviolence National Week of Action, Sept. 16-24. We already have over 400 events scheduled covering all fifty states, but we’re hoping for 1000 events. If there is not an event in your city, organize one. Get twenty people out on the street corner with signs, hold a vigil, connect the dots, call the media, and take a stand. If you are already doing that, take up the “Nonviolent Cities Project” and start organizing to make your local community a “Nonviolent City.”

My friend Bill McKibben said recently, that given the global crisis we face, “weekends are for protests.” I agree. We need to be out in the streets, demanding change, organizing for change, advocating for change, and agitating for change. And we want to do this public action with the best spirit of nonviolence we can muster. We want to be as meticulous in our nonviolence as Gandhi himself.

Third, we need to be prophets of nonviolence, that is, we need to speak out publicly. The airwaves are being drowned by Trump and his media acolytes. It’s not that we have to match his anger or rhetoric; not at all. But we can speak out publicly and lend our voice to the grassroots movement calling for an end to war, racism, nuclear weapons, poverty, corporate greed and environmental destruction, and for a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

In effect, like the nonviolent Jesus, we are announcing the coming of God’s reign of peace and nonviolence, here and now, right in our midst, despite what we hear on TV or Twitter.

Write letters, talk to your media and politicians, bring in speakers, and raise questions in your church and with your church leaders. Together through the global grassroots movement of nonviolence, we can become a prophetic people who speak out for the God of peace to this culture of war and violence.

This summer, I hope we can reflect how we can continue our journey as Gospel peacemakers by taking some new steps forward. That means, going deeper within, reaching out to new friends in your community, and daring more and more to stand up with a word of peace and hope.

Don’t afraid to be bold! Let’s not give in to fear, but practice fearlessness and herald a bold vision of a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

This is what it means for me to follow the nonviolent Jesus these days. We may get pushed back, dismissed, ostracized or harassed for our stand, but he endured far worse and remained meticulously nonviolent, loving and faithful. He set the example, and we want to follow him.

Thank you one and all for doing your part. Onward!

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