×

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Nonviolence: Weekly Summary

Sunday
Martin Luther King Jr. defined agape love as willingness to serve without the desire for reciprocation, willingness to suffer without the desire for retaliation, and willingness to reconcile without the desire for domination.
—Richard Rohr

Monday
For me, nonviolence is that quality that comes out of all the great world religions: the notion that the creative force of the universe is love, that God is love, and that love is all-encompassing.
—James Lawson

Tuesday
We went to the mosques on Friday at noon after prayers, to the markets on Saturday morning, to two churches every Sunday. We gave all our sisters the same message: Liberian women, awake for peace!
—Leymah Gbowee

Wednesday
I invite us to have a conversation together about what it means to follow the risen, nonviolent Jesus, who calls us to be peacemakers, put down the sword, and love everyone, even the enemies of our nation.
—John C. Wester

Thursday
This love ethic must be at the center of our whole life, or it cannot be effective or real in the crucial moments of conflict. We have to practice drawing our lives from this new Source, in thought, word, emotion, and deed, every day, or we will never be prepared for the major confrontations or the surprise humiliations that will come our way.
—Richard Rohr

Friday
“Spirit” refers to that which gives life. “Warriors” live a life of action and clear direction. We can bring warrior-spirit to the cause of peace and harmonious connection because it is about life and living, not power and aggression.  
—angel Kyodo williams

A Spirituality of Nonviolence

Franciscan peacemakers Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard have identified ten “commandments” for those seeking to live a spiritual life of nonviolence. They call it “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence”:

Active nonviolence calls us:

  1. To learn to recognize and respect “the sacred” in every person, including in ourselves, and in every piece of Creation. . . .
  2. To accept oneself deeply, “who I am” with all my gifts and richness, with all my limitations, errors, failings and weaknesses, and to realize that I am accepted by God. . . .
  3. To recognize that what I resent, and perhaps even detest, in another, comes from my difficulty in admitting that this same reality lives also in me. . . .
  4. To renounce dualism, the “we-they” mentality (Manicheism). This divides us into “good people/bad people” and allows us to demonize the adversary. It is the root of authoritarian and exclusivist behavior. It generates racism and makes possible conflicts and wars.
  5. To face fear and to deal with it not mainly with courage but with love.
  6. To understand and accept that the New Creation, the building up of the Beloved Community is always carried forward with others. It is never a “solo act.” . . .
  7. To see ourselves as a part of the whole creation to which we foster a relationship of love, not of mastery, remembering that the destruction of our planet is a profoundly spiritual problem, not simply a scientific or technological one. We are one.
  8. To be ready to suffer, perhaps even with joy, if we believe this will help liberate the Divine in others. This includes the acceptance of our place and moment in history with its trauma, with its ambiguities.
  9. To be capable of celebration, of joy, when the presence of God has been accepted, and when it has not been to help discover and recognize this fact.
  10. To slow down, to be patient, planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us. Slowly we will grow in love, compassion and the capacity to forgive.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:

Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness: A Ten Part Program in the Spirituality and Practice of Active Nonviolence, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno (Las Vegas, NV: Pace e Bene Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999), 18.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

Warriors for Peace

For those of us committed to nonviolence, what do we do with the warrior imagery in our religious traditions?  Zen priest and activist angel Kyodo williams writes about living with a nonviolent “warrior-spirit” inspired by the Buddha:

The man who became the Buddha was known as Gautama, and he was born into a warrior clan known as the Shakyas. . . .

But even before Gautama was born as a Shakya warrior, he had been a warrior of another kind. In previous lives, Gautama had been a bodhisattva. Bodhisattva means “awakening being” and refers to a person of any culture that is brave and willing to walk on the path of wakefulness. . . . They are awakening warriors that give up floating through life aimlessly and being concerned only with themselves. Awakening warriors live in a way that is of benefit to all, and their work is done here in this world. They see that we must all take responsibility for ending suffering, not just for our own individual freedom, but for that of others as well. What these awakening warriors realize is that in order to live harmoniously and with joy, they must take their natural place in the world.

Does this mean that in order to live with more joy and grace and less fear and anger we need to run out and take up arms or develop aggressiveness and a warlike stance? Not at all. What we want to do is embody the spirit of a warrior and bring that to function in our daily lives. “Spirit” refers to that which gives life. “Warriors” live a life of action and clear direction. We can bring warrior-spirit to the cause of peace and harmonious connection because it is about life and living, not power and aggression. . . . Warrior-spirit is a frame of mind that lets us make a habit of cultivating the qualities and skills that are already available to all of us. [1]

Valarie Kaur of the Revolutionary Love Project understands her Sikh warrior tradition through a nonviolent lens that asks “Who will you fight for?” on behalf of justice and peace.

What does it mean to be a warrior-sage for a new time? Who will you fight for? What will you risk? It begins with honoring the fight impulse in you. Think about what breaks your heart. Notice what it feels like to have your fists clench, your jaw close, your pulse quicken. Notice what it feels like to want to fight back. Honor that in yourself. You are alive and have something worth fighting for. Now comes the second moment: How will you channel that into something that delivers life instead of death? Breathe. Think. Then choose your sword and shield. You don’t have to know the answers. You just have to be ready for the moment when the world says: Now. [2]

References:

[1] angel Kyodo williams, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (New York: Viking Compass, 2000), 65–66.

[2] Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifest of Revolutionary Love (New York: One World, 2020), 97.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Story from Our Community:

I have been growing in my spirituality for awhile now. I find kind words, acceptance, and love in the Daily Meditations, and as a result, I have a better understanding of the incredible potential we all have as humans. These days, I think about love and acceptance more than ever. Thank you for guiding me to walk a peace-filled life journey. —Margaret T.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Nonviolence: A Continual Practice

In today’s meditation, Father Richard summarizes Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence:

  • Nonviolence is a way of strength and not a way for cowards. It is not a lack of power which allows us to be nonviolent, but in fact the discovery of a different kind of power. It is a choice, not a resignation; a spirituality, not just a tactic.
  • The goal of nonviolence is always winning the friendship and the understanding of the supposed opponent, not [their] humiliation or personal defeat. It must be done to eventually facilitate the process of reconciliation, and we ourselves must be willing to pay the price for that reconciliation. King based this on Jesus’ lifestyle and death and on Ephesians 2:13–22 and Romans 12:1–2.
  • The opponent must be seen not so much as an evil person, but as a symbol of a much greater systemic evil—of which they also are a victim! We must aim our efforts at that greater evil, which is harming all of us, rather than at the opponent.
  • There is a moral power in voluntarily suffering for others. We call it the “myth of redemptive suffering,” whereas almost all of history is based on the opposite, the “myth of redemptive violence.” The lie that almost everybody believes is that suffering can be stopped by increasing the opponent’s suffering. It works only in the short run. In the long run, that suffering is still out there and will somehow have to work its way out in the next generation or through the lives of the victims. A willingness to bear the pain has the power to transform and absorb the evil in the opponent, the nonviolent resister, and even the spectator. This is precisely what Jesus was doing on the cross. It changes all involved, and at least forces the powers that be to “show their true colors” publicly. And yes, the nonviolent resister is also changed through the action. It is called resurrection or enlightenment.
  • This love ethic must be at the center of our whole life, or it cannot be effective or real in the crucial moments of conflict. We have to practice drawing our lives from this new Source, in thought, word, emotion, and deed, every day, or we will never be prepared for the major confrontations or the surprise humiliations that will come our way.
  • Nonviolence relies on a kind of cosmic optimism which trusts that the universe/reality/God is finally and fully on the side of justice and truth. History does have a direction, meaning, and purpose. God is more fundamental than evil. Resurrection will have the final word, which is the very promise of the Jesus event. The eternal wind of the Spirit is with us. However, we should not be naïve; and we must understand that most people’s loyalties are with security, public image, and the comforts of the status quo.

References:

[1] Martin Luther King Jr., Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (New York: Harper and Row, 1958), 102–107.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence,” Oneing 10,no. 2, Nonviolence (Fall 2022): 48–50. Forthcoming at CAC Bookstore.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Story from Our Community:

I have been growing in my spirituality for awhile now. I find kind words, acceptance, and love in the Daily Meditations, and as a result, I have a better understanding of the incredible potential we all have as humans. These days, I think about love and acceptance more than ever. Thank you for guiding me to walk a peace-filled life journey. —Margaret T.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

God Is a Peacemaker

In New Mexico, where the CAC is located, there are two national nuclear laboratories. In a recent pastoral letter, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe called for a conversation toward nuclear disarmament. He rooted his invitation in Jesus’ teachings:

I invite us to reflect on how Jesus practiced nonviolence and how we can do the same in the United States.

When he began his public ministry, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). In part, he was saying the days of violence, injustice, war, and empire are coming to an end. We are invited to welcome God’s reign of peace and live in God’s universal love and nonviolence here and now.

In the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus commanded us to be peacemakers and to love our enemies, saying: “Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called the sons and daughters of God” (5:9). “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you: ‘offer no violent resistance to one who does evil’” (5:38–39). “You have heard it said, ‘Love your countrymen and hate your enemies.’ But I say love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, then you will be sons and daughters of the God who lets the sun rise on the good and the bad and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (5:43–45). In these teachings, Jesus says that God is a peacemaker, and since we are God’s sons and daughters, we are peacemakers too, not warmakers. He says that God practices universal nonviolent love, and since we are the sons and daughters of the God of universal nonviolent love, we practice universal nonviolent love, too. There are no exceptions, no justifications for warfare, and no “just war theory.”

Many would question these teachings as naïve, impractical, and idealistic. But as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote so well about this call to love our enemies, “Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.” [1] Dr. King also stated:

Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. [2]

Archbishop Wester continues:

I invite us to have a conversation together about what it means to follow the risen, nonviolent Jesus, who calls us to be peacemakers, put down the sword, and love everyone, even the enemies of our nation. Certainly, these commandments challenge us to face the violence that is being prepared in our name here in New Mexico, and to start the process of nuclear disarmament so that no one ever again calls down hellfire from the sky. As Dr. King concluded, “May we . . . hear and follow [Jesus’] words—before it is too late.” [3]

References:

[1] Martin Luther King Jr., A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2012), 46.

[2] King, Gift of Love, 45–46.

[3] King, Gift of Love, 55.

John C. Wester, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace,” Oneing 10, no. 2, Nonviolence (Fall 2022): 115, 116, 118–119. Forthcoming at CAC Bookstore.

“Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace” is an edited excerpt from the pastoral letter of the same name published by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on January 11, 2022. Used with permission. The full text may be found at https://archdiosf.org/living-in-the-light-of-christs-peace.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Story from Our Community:

Today I awoke to my first day of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I embarked on this journey in response to several years of many spiritual and worldly challenges. Along my walk, I encountered a message that will be with me throughout this journey and beyond: “yo estoy aqui, yo estoy aqui ahora,” or “I am here, I am here now.” I’m grateful that these words, and the words of the Daily Meditations, will accompany me in returning to peace within myself. —Dana G.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Women Working for Peace

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee founded a women’s nonviolent peace movement that helped stop the second Liberian civil war in 2003. One night she heard a clear spiritual call:

I had a dream.

I didn’t know where I was. Everything was dark. I couldn’t see a face, but I heard a voice, and it was talking to me—commanding me: “Gather the women to pray for peace!”. . .

In some ways, that dream [and] that moment, were the start of everything. We knelt down on the worn brown carpet and closed our eyes. “Dear God, thank you for sending us this vision,” said Sister Esther. “Give us your blessing, Lord, and offer us Your protection and guidance in helping us to understand what it means.”

My dream became the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative. In April 2002, about twenty Lutheran women from local churches gathered to follow the message I’d been sent, praying each Tuesday at noon in the small upstairs chapel of the St. Peter’s compound. Sometimes we fasted. Soon, other church women heard what we were doing and began to join us. “Jesus, help us. You are the true Prince of Peace, the only one who can grant us peace.” . . .

We lived in a closed, guarded box, and the most ordinary acts could bring down terrible punishment. . . . Nobody seemed willing to do anything. . . . Now, finally, we women were going to take action.

Gbowee describes the tireless efforts of organizing for peace in a country that had undergone immense suffering, violence, and corruption:

Three days a week for six months, the women of WIPNET [Women in Peacebuilding Network] went out to meet with the women of Monrovia; we went to the mosques on Friday at noon after prayers, to the markets on Saturday morning, to two churches every Sunday. . . . We gave all our sisters the same message: Liberian women, awake for peace! . . .

It wasn’t always easy. Women who have suffered for nearly as long as they can remember come to a point where they look down, not ahead. But as we kept working, women began to look up and listen. No one had spoken to them this way before.

We handed out flyers: WE ARE TIRED! WE ARE TIRED OF OUR CHILDREN BEING KILLED! WE ARE TIRED OF BEING RAPED! WOMEN, WAKE UP—YOU HAVE A VOICE IN THE PEACE PROCESS! . . .

As the women of WIPNET gathered together, my fear, depression and loneliness were finally, totally, wiped away. Others who felt the way I did stood beside me; I wasn’t alone anymore. And I knew in my heart that everything I had been through, every pain, had led me to this point: leading women to fight for peace was what I was meant to do with my life.

Reference:

Leymah Gbowee with Carol Mithers, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War: A Memoir (New York: Beast Books, 2011), 122–123, 126, 127, 129–130.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Story from Our Community:

Today I awoke to my first day of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I embarked on this journey in response to several years of many spiritual and worldly challenges. Along my walk, I encountered a message that will be with me throughout this journey and beyond: “yo estoy aqui, yo estoy aqui ahora,” or “I am here, I am here now.” I’m grateful that these words, and the words of the Daily Meditations, will accompany me in returning to peace within myself. —Dana G.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Nonviolence Is Power

Lifelong peace activist and priest John Dear curated the CAC’s forthcoming edition of Oneing on nonviolence, which features Dear’s interview with Methodist minister and activist James Lawson. After visiting followers of Gandhi in India to study nonviolent resistance in the 1950s, Lawson began training civil rights activists in the principles and tactics of nonviolence. His students helped desegregate lunch counters and became Freedom Riders who pushed to integrate interstate travel. In response to a question about how he defines nonviolence, Lawson offers:

It is hard to define nonviolence. I think it was Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) who first used the term. [1] He maintained, in his book Non-violence in Peace and War, that the term is his translation of the Jainist theory of ahimsa. Gandhi translated ahimsa as “Do no harm; do no injury.” Jainism was an ancient religion of India, begun around the time of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s one definition I cling to. It allows me to live, to function, to practice.

Gandhi also stated that nonviolence is love in action, compassion and truth in action. Of course, he coined the word satyagraha [often translated as truth force or soul force] to further explain tenacity in truth, in the soul, in God, and in struggle.

So, for me, nonviolence is that quality that comes out of all the great world religions: the notion that the creative force of the universe is love, that God is love, and that love is all-encompassing. Gandhi insisted—and I think this is Gandhi’s great contribution—that the creative force of the universe is the force that we humans must learn to exercise because that force is the only force that can cause the human race to do God’s will.

And nonviolence is power. It is not, as I was taught in college in 1947, just persuasion. Persuasion is a form of power. Aristotle wrote that power is the capacity to achieve purpose. It is a God-given gift of creation to human beings. Nonviolence has its deep roots in the long journey of the human family as people operated out of love and truth despite all that was raging around them.

As Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. also said, nonviolence is the science of how we create our own life in the image of God, how we create a world that practices justice, truth, and compassion.

Gene Sharp (1928–2018) was the first scholar to pull together the science and the methodology of nonviolence. So, I have a two-fold definition. First, the religions of the world reflect on love as truth and power, as the way the human race discovers how to carry out the will of eternity. Second, we’re still learning about nonviolence as the science of bringing about personal and social change and establishing a world where all life is honored.

References:

[1] M. K. Gandhi, Non-violence in Peace and War (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing, 1944), 131. In his 1936 meeting with Howard Thurman, Gandhi said, “‘Non-violence’ is a term I had to coin in order to bring out the root meaning of Ahimsa.”

John Dear, “Nonviolence Is Power: A Conversation with the Rev. James Lawson,” Oneing 10, no. 2, Nonviolence (Fall 2022): 24. Forthcoming at CAC Bookstore.

 Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Story from Our Community:

My husband and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the “winter” of my life, and after many years, I still have not found a church to attend regularly. . . Without the brick and mortar, my worship has turned to the natural beauty in which I find myself. The Daily Meditations have taught me to look at my life through a new lens in which everything belongs and God is all around me. I am grateful every day that the “winter” of my life has surprised me with so much beauty. And a deeper connection with God! —Carol W.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

A Nonviolent Love

Richard Rohr reflects on the spiritual foundations of nonviolence embodied and taught by Martin Luther King Jr.

Part of the genius of Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), inspired by the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi, was that he was able to show people that violence was not only immoral but also impractical and, finally, futile. In the long run, violence does not achieve its own stated purposes, because it only deepens the bitterness on both sides. It leaves both sides in an endless and impossible cycle that cannot be stopped by itself. Instead, some neutralizing force must be inserted from outside to stop the cycle of violence and point us in a new direction.

King would insist that true nonviolent practice is founded on spiritual seeing. . . . He took it as axiomatic that the attitudes of nonviolence were finally impossible without an infusion of agape love from God and our reliance upon that infusion. He defined agape love as willingness to serve without the desire for reciprocation, willingness to suffer without the desire for retaliation, and willingness to reconcile without the desire for domination. This is clearly a Divine love that the small self cannot achieve by itself.

We must live in and through Another to be truly nonviolent. [1]

At a 1960 lunch counter sit-in protesting segregation in Arlington, Virginia, Quaker peace activist David Hartsough discovered God’s power in the power of nonviolence: 

“Love your enemies . . . do good to those who hate you.” 

I was meditating on those words when I heard a voice behind me say, “Get out of this store in two seconds, or I’m going to stab this through your heart.” I glanced behind me at a man with the most terrible look of hatred I had ever seen. His eyes blazed, his jaw quivered, and his shaking hand held a switchblade—about half an inch from my heart. . . .

I turned around and tried my best to smile. Looking him in the eye, I said to him, “Friend, do what you believe is right, and I will still try to love you.” Both his jaw and his hand dropped. Miraculously, he turned away and walked out of the store.

That was the most powerful experience of my twenty years of life. It confirmed my belief in the power of love, the power of goodness, the power of God working through us to overcome hatred and violence. I had a profound sense that nonviolence really works. At that moment, nonviolence became much more than a philosophical idea or a tactic that had once made a difference in Gandhi’s India. It became the way I wanted to relate to other human beings, a way of life, a way of working for change.

My response had touched something in my accuser. He had seen me as an enemy. But through my response, I believe I became a human being to him. The humanity in each of us touched. [2]

References: 

[1] Richard Rohr, “Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence,” Oneing 10, no. 2, Nonviolence (Fall 2022): 47, 48. Forthcoming at CAC Bookstore.

[2] David Hartsough with Joyce Hollyday, Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2014), 19, 20. 

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.

Story from Our Community:

My husband and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the “winter” of my life, and after many years, I still have not found a church to attend regularly. . . Without the brick and mortar, my worship has turned to the natural beauty in which I find myself. The Daily Meditations have taught me to look at my life through a new lens in which everything belongs and God is all around me. I am grateful every day that the “winter” of my life has surprised me with so much beauty. And a deeper connection with God! —Carol W.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Nonviolence: Weekly Summary

Nonviolence

Summary: Sunday, August 18—Friday, August 23, 2019

The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself. (Sunday)

Mohandas Gandhi said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. —John Dear (Monday)

Love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God. —Walter Wink (Tuesday)

I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. —Pope Francis (Wednesday)

Nonviolent campaigns have greater participation, loyalty, resilience, innovation, and civic impact than violent ones. (Thursday)

Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation. —Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (Friday)

 

Practice: Write Your Own Psalm

On the whole we are not conscious of evolution, and we do not act as if our choices can influence the direction of evolution. . . . What will it take for us to realize that we are unfinished creatures who are in the process of being created? That our world is being created? That our church is being created? That Christ is being formed in us? . . . The good news of Jesus Christ is not so much what happens to us but what must be done by us. The choices we make for the future will create the future. We must reinvent ourselves in love. —Ilia Delio [1]

The psalms—like all great art—lead us to a truer image of ourselves, reality, and God. St. John Cassian (c. 360–c. 435) taught that the psalms carry in them “all the feelings of which human nature is capable.” [2] Poet Kathleen Norris writes of her experience singing the psalms three times a day as a guest in a Benedictine monastery:

To the modern reader the psalms can seem impenetrable: how in the world can we read, let alone pray, these angry and often violent poems from an ancient warrior culture? At a glance they seem overwhelmingly patriarchal, ill-tempered, moralistic, vengeful, and often seem to reflect precisely what is wrong with our world. And that’s the point, or part of it. As one reads the psalms, it becomes clear that the world they depict is not really so different from our own; the fourth-century monk Athanasius wrote that the psalms “become like a mirror to the person singing them.” [3] . . .

The psalms remind us that the way we judge each other, with harsh words and acts of vengeance, constitutes injustice, and they remind us that it is the powerless in society who are overwhelmed when injustice becomes institutionalized. . . .

In expressing all the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the psalms act as good psychologists. They defeat our tendency to try to be holy without being human first. [4]

As a contemplative practice, I invite you to write your own psalm. Begin by thinking about the longing in your own heart to create a future reinvented in love. You don’t need to be a writer, just willing to write your heartfelt thoughts as you would in a journal, knowing that the psalmist’s role is simply to express themselves to God.

You might read several psalms before you get started or choose a common theme from the biblical psalms to focus on: Joy (11, 18, 23, 27), Love (33, 62, 99, 103), Thanksgiving (30, 32, 65, 75), Justice (26, 52, 114), Healing (22, 38, 41).

The practice is simple. Write a free-form psalm based on the deep feeling or longing of your heart. Read it aloud when it is complete. Offer your psalm to God.

References:
[1] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 202-203.

[2] John Cassian, Conference, 10.10. See John Cassian: Conferences, trans. Colm Luibheid (Paulist Press: 1985), 133.

[3] Athanasius, Letter to Marcellinus, 12. See Athanasius: The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, trans. Robert C. Gregg (Paulist Press: 1980), 111.

[4] Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk (Riverhead Books: 1996), 92-94, 96.

This practice was inspired by Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006).

For Further Study:
Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press: 2011),  ericachenoweth.com/research/wcrw

John Dear, The Nonviolent Life (Pace e Bene Press: 2013)

Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence, ed. Marie Dennis (Orbis Books: 2018)

Pace e Bene’s Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions, September 14-22, 2019, paceebene.org

Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative entitled “Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World: Biblical, Theological, Ethical, Pastoral and Strategic Dimensions of Nonviolence,” nonviolencejustpeace.net

Pope Francis, “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Celebration of the Fiftieth World Day of Peace (January 1, 2017), w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_messaggio-l-giornata-mondiale-pace-2017.html

Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence Through the Journey of Centering Prayer (Franciscan Media: 2002)CD

Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Augsburg Fortress: 2003)

Image credit: The Sleeping Gypsy (detail), by Henri Rousseau, 1897, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation. —Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

A Universal Ethic of Nonviolence

Nonviolence

A Universal Ethic of Nonviolence
Friday, August 23, 2019

To create peaceful change, we must begin by remembering who we are in God. The following came out of a recent meeting of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative:

Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation.

The nonviolent life to which we are called is rooted in the life of God and in God’s longing for humanity. God is unconditional love that grounds, creates and maintains all life, rooted in the infinite goodness that the three Persons of the one God endlessly and inseparably share with one another and with all creation. This eternal communion is the ceaseless mutuality of ontological nonviolence in action, grounded in the foundational relationality of God. Our God of unconditional, self-giving love calls all humanity to this way of primordial nonviolence.

Jesus made visible the nonviolence of God, who created the universe not out of violence but out of love. Creation is good, as the Book of Genesis tells us, and human beings are made in the image of the God who declares this goodness. Nonviolence is the nature of creation and points us toward the “new creation”, where all will be reconciled.

Jesus lived and proclaimed this universal ethic of nonviolence: a paradigm of the fullness of life putting love into action, returning good for evil, rejecting violence and killing, and nurturing a just, peaceful, sustainable, and reconciled world. It springs from his foundational understanding of God and of the nonviolent life that God calls us to live: to make peace with one another; to resist the violence and injustice that threaten or destroy this peace; and to foster a world where the fullness of peace is the birthright of all. Jesus showed us how to live this way of faithful nonviolence, even in the midst of violence and oppression, by calling us to love our enemies, to not kill, to put down the sword, and to respond actively to the cry of the poor.

Nonviolence is the foundational, universal ethic for building a culture of peace, disarmament and development. A spiritual orientation, a way of life, and a practical tool, nonviolence confronts violence without using violence, creates constructive alternatives and calls us to share the fullness of life with one another on this fragile planet, what Pope Francis has called “our common home.”

Reference:
Adapted from a forthcoming document by Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative entitled “Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World: Biblical, Theological, Ethical, Pastoral and Strategic Dimensions of Nonviolence.” Learn more about the Nonviolence Initiative at nonviolencejustpeace.net.

Image credit: The Sleeping Gypsy (detail), by Henri Rousseau, 1897, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation. —Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

Nonviolence Works

Nonviolence

Nonviolence Works
Thursday, August 22, 2019

How is it that many Christians have managed to avoid what Jesus actually taught? We’ve evaded major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies. I never see the Beatitudes on courthouse lawns. Perhaps we think his teaching is nice in theory but impractical in real life. Perhaps we do not believe nonviolence can actually effect real change.

A few years ago, people from around the world came together in Rome to discuss the Catholic commitment to peace. Marie Dennis writes: “One person after another shared how violence in his or her own experience, failed, and how nonviolence overcame violence.” [1] As we saw yesterday, Pope Francis is helping reclaim Jesus’ teachings on peace. Dennis continues:

He is saying that nonviolence is effective in the real world of politics—in fact superior to and more effective than violence. The world never gets to peace through violence and war but only begets more violence and war. . . .

[One] active peacemaker the pope points to is Leymah Gbowee, the [2011] Nobel prize winner from Liberia. . . . She organized pray-ins and nonviolent protests that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia. . . . The contributions of such women as Gbowee in Liberia and Marguerite Barankitse in Burundi are showing the way to the eventual cessation of violence and the dawning of peace. . . . [2]

In their book Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan write about the effectiveness of nonviolence, drawing from examples in Iran, Palestine, the Philippines, and Burma. Based on in-depth research, they observe that nonviolent resistance is “nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.” [3] Nonviolent campaigns have greater participation, loyalty, resilience, innovation, and civic impact than violent ones. [4] While surprising, there’s plenty of evidence that the very thing we consider foolish confounds the wise and that the powerless confound the powerful (see 1 Corinthians 1:27).

One reason for our failure to understand Jesus’ clear teaching on nonviolence lies in the fact that the Gospel has primarily been expounded by a small elite group of educated European and North American men. The bias of white males is typically power and control. From this perspective nonviolence and love of enemies makes no sense whatsoever.

Because we Christians haven’t taken Jesus’ teaching and example seriously, much of the world refuses to take us seriously. “Christians love to talk of a new life,” critics say, “but the record shows that you are afraid to live in a new way—a way that is responsible, caring, and nonviolent. Even the common ‘pro-life movement’ is much more pro-birth than about caring for all life—black and brown lives, refugees, the poor, the sick, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, the environment.” In fact, many “pro-lifers” I know are the first in line to oppose any gun regulation.

I’m grateful that Christianity is finally becoming much more universal in its teaching, more effective in its action, and just more honest about Jesus.

References:
[1] Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence, ed. Marie Dennis (Orbis Books: 2018), 230-231. This book includes many of the papers prepared for the conference “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence” in Rome (April 2016). All the papers are available at nonviolencejustpeace.net.

[2] Ibid., 231-232, 237.

[3] Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press: 2011), 7. Learn more at ericachenoweth.com/research/wcrw.

[4] See ibid., 10.

Image credit: The Sleeping Gypsy (detail), by Henri Rousseau, 1897, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation. —Catholic Nonviolence Initiative
Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.


Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.