John Dear spoke about his new book, They Will Inherit the Earth, at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in El Dorado Hills, CA, near Sacramento, on March 7th. The pastor, Rev. Trudy Frazen, wrote this reflection afterwards. Find a tour stop near you here.
It is the long-held belief that the evangelist John lived a relatively long life. He was one of the few of Jesus’ original followers that died of “natural causes.” Many of Jesus’ followers died violent deaths.
After Father John’s talk and the book-signing, we were wrapping up and chatting and I mentioned that I had been a little concerned about John’s safety.
I even went as far as to say that I had contacted a member of our church who practices karate, to see if he was planning on attending, just in case someone were to attack Father John.
John mentioned guns, and I said quite thoughtlessly, “Oh, well, of course if they come with guns, the guns win.”
It took about an hour of quiet time before I realized the gravity of what I had said.
To be sure, I had thought about karate in terms of someone who was trained to quell physical violence without doing harm.
But I wondered if having invited someone to guard our speaker had been a good idea. Even more so, the statement about the guns was a glaring example of how we in our culture have been conditioned to believe that “guns win.”
Guns killed Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, but they most certainly did not win.
As I listened to Father John speak, I remembered the first time I began to think about becoming a person of nonviolence. Years ago, I viewed the film, “Friendly Persuasion,” about a family struggling to live a nonviolent life at the time of the Civil War. Each person was confronted with violence and each person acquiesced and became violent, to their own dismay.
Yet at the end of the film I felt God’s “friendly Persuasion” asking me to continue to make the conscious choice again and again for nonviolence, despite setbacks and disappointments.
Again and again my prayer is that God will to reveal to me the moments when I acquiesce and begin to believe once again that “guns win.”
I certainly do hope and pray that Father John Dear lives a long life as did his namesake.
But for all those whose lives were ended because they dared to make that conscious choice for active, creative, daring nonviolence, again and again, “gratitude” just doesn’t seem like a big enough word.