A New Day Shines – The Tower, April 16 2010
Even a quick glance at news headlines unveils the prevalence of violence in the world today. Several major conflicts, accompanied by a dozen smaller ones and the violence of oppressive regimes, continue to afflict millions. Crushing poverty and disease made worse by the apathy of the developed world affect billions. The facts and statistics, the images and stories speak for themselves as testaments to the dominating power of violence.
These social ills remain important and pertinent to our lives and many of my columns deal with significant structural sins. Overwhelmed by the suffering, we are guilty of letting go and giving in to feelings of helplessness. Grandiose and abstract horrors of sin exceed comprehension and too often become lost in the monotony of daily routines. Lost too amidst life’s busyness is not only the examination of the external life around us, but of the
internal violence we hold and live out each day.
There is a solution to the world’s ills so simply stated yet entailing a lifetime of dedication. This solution is nonviolence seeking liberation.
Too often the term nonviolence becomes wrapped up in more abstract visions, though this time triumphant ones, but unapproachable nonetheless for so many. Figiures such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. take on iconic, almost superhuman, status along with their movements of liberation. We feel inadequate to live out lives of nonviolence, so we succumb to the status quo of violence because it requires far less of us. Radical Christian love becomes transformed into smiles and Hallmark moments; these are safe.
Yet, the multiplicity of nonviolent movements began with a conversion of the heart and mind towards a rejection of violence and a total embrace of love. The love that the nonviolent Jesus revolutionized the world with is the love of the powerless, the suffering, and the victim. It is a liberating love and one every person who adheres to the Gospel message must take seriously, but with joy in all they do. And do we must, as the core requirement of our faith we must love. As it says in Scripture, ” let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18).”
This conversion begins with each new day when we work and learn to shed the violence enshrouding our true selves. In the simplest form, we must learn to be present to all those around us, including those who challenge us. This requires us to meditate so we have a clear picture of the Violence holding us back and then act on this new knowledge to remove it.
This internal conversion to nonviolence that dictates our relationships with those around us day to day is so crucial because it must be present for any structural change, which is also required. Leonardo Boff writes, ”Evangelical conversion requires more than a change of heart; it also requires a liberation of social organizations insofar as it produces and reproduces sinful patterns of behavior.”
As Americans, we are enraptured by gruesome entertaimnent in the form of video games, movies, and televisions. Our emphasis on gun rights, choice, and an economy built on greed and war trumps the right to life of far too many. Seemingly harmless decisions in our own life in how we live daily, how we relate to others, and our purchasing and consumption habits all add up to the horrendous situation the world exists in.
The change of heart and mind to come into accordance with the Gospel liberates each of us who live it out to true happiness in our own lives, but it also allows us to fully carry out the rest of the Gospel that calls us to reject violence completely in every form, to take up the cross of the suffering and poor, and to love without reservation as the nonviolent Jesus did high on the cross.