The Trial Date has been set for the Kings Bay Plowshares. If you are in Georgia, you might want to go support them! Don’t miss the interview we did with them on the podcast in August.
The following is an excerpt from James W. Douglass’s book “The Nonviolent Coming of God“:
“We have seen [the power of nonviolence] happen during the ‘Second Russian Revolution,’ August 19-20, 1991, in response to the attempted Soviet coup. The coup was overcome by hundreds of thousands of unarmed citizens. Some, as in resisters were martyred by the tanks. Hundreds, then thousands of other citizens encircled the Russian Parliament Building in Moscow as a civilian defense force shielding Boris Yeltsin and other elected leaders from an imminent military assault. All afternoon and evening on the second day of the coup, loudspeakers blared warnings to the people that tanks were rolling toward the building and planes filled with paratroopers were preparing for an airborne assault. Yet the people kept coming. In fact a further three-pronged assault was currently being mounted against them. It was to include K.G.B. agents who had infiltrated the crowd within the building, helicopters bearing shock troops, and elite units prepared to rush into the building from twenty-four subterranean entry points whose existence was unknown to Yeltsin supporters. A Tiananmen Square in Moscow was averted only by the moral force of the resistance and the noncooperation of soldiers who refused to murder their Russian brothers and sisters.
One exemplar of the moral force which prevailed over the coup was Father Aleksandr Boris, an Orthodox priest and member of the Moscow City Council. Father Boris prayed with the civilian defenders, baptized them for their nonviolent mission, then confronted their opponents in an equally prayerful way. He went from tank to tank, distributing 2,000 Bibles to the soldiers who were expected to assault the Parliament. Only one soldier refused a Bible. Father Borisov then gave another 2,000 Bibles to the people on the barricades. Finally he took part in a key meeting with Patriarch Alexis of the Russian Orthodox Church who then made a proclamation that any soldiers who fired on civilians would be excommunicated.
It was this moral force, embodied in the lives of thousands of willing martyrs (‘witnesses’) to the truth, which rendered the Soviet coup impotent.”
Don’t miss the latest podcasts.
Meet the Catholic activists involved in the Kings Bay Plowshare movement.
And I was delighted to have an interesting conversation with Fr. Brian McNavish about refugees, militarism, pacifism, Just War Theory, and more!
In three short months we’ve made it to 10 episodes! Thanks for listening and if you find the content compelling, please spread the word. You can also send suggestions for future guests to email@example.com.
The Strongman says “My way or no way” to the Different One. He demands conformity to his way “or else”. He sees and understands only in absolutes. Black or white. All or nothing. Total Good or Total Evil.
The Strongman always sees harmful characteristics in the Different One and refuses to acknowledge them in himself. The Strongman declares himself to be highly intelligent and rational. Whoever disagrees with him is obviously wrong. He projects his extremism onto the Different One who is thus framed as the threat to society that must be contained, converted, excluded or eliminated.
When anyone dares to challenge the virtues of his Empire, the Strongman wastes no time in attacking whoever has blasphemed in any way. The flag must be stood for and the anthem must be sung. No dissent is acceptable.
The Strongman thrives on the fear he cultivates in his followers as he presents himself as fearless in the face of the looming danger. He is the Only One who can stand up to the Approaching Evil and defeat it.
The Strongman craves uniformity that fits his vision of reality while at the same time he desperately needs someone to oppose him so that he has someone to fight with. He has no idea what to do if he has no one to attack.
The euphemism of the “strongman” has been around for a long time. It has been a way to refer to the leaders of nations who operate as ruthless dictators. It’s a code word for despot or tyrant.
It may be tempting to imagine that the individual Strongman is the only problem and that his elimination solves everything. If only it were so easy! The real problem is that the Strongman is only the most visible representative of an evil system. It is this system that supports his power. The reality of this system is more dangerous and more powerful precisely because of its comparative invisibility. We tend to see people not social systems yet social systems have the quality of magnifying whatever people put into them. They also tend to organize people into their framework.
The Strongman System poses a very real danger to many. There is not much real debate about whether or not to oppose it. This system and its figurehead must be opposed because of the extreme dehumanization it imposes on everyone, including its proponents. The Strongman System is inherently exploitative and sees human beings as well as the rest of the Natural World as mere resources to be taken and used for its own purposes. This is the system that strives to crush one’s spirit. It is anti-Love.
The real question is how to oppose the Strongman System.
One option is to “fight fire with fire” which amounts to being empowered by our own fear and hatred and attempt to use this energy against the Strongman System. This is a dangerous option because it defines the framework of opposition in terms that are extremely familiar to and comfortable for the Strongman System. It knows very well how to fight within this context. It has an enormous “home field advantage” and in all likelihood is eager to have the fight on these terms and on its “home turf.” Even if this approach “succeeds” it is dangerous because of the toxic levels of hatred and fear that those engaged in such an opposition group would be exposed to in the process. The real danger is in the replacement of the original Strongman System with a newer version of the same thing. We risk becoming the evil we are trying to overcome.
Love is the radical alternative to the dubious approach described above. Love is the means to the desired end that is not contradictory. We don’t get to a loving place by hating. We get there by loving. When we adhere to the principles of Love and act accordingly we are no longer on the opponent’s “home field” but instead we have determined the framework of the conflict. We force him to meet us on our turf and on our terms. He will not be comfortable. The Strongman System will bring its materialistic power to bear against the followers of Love. Those who follow Love will bring their spiritual power to bear against the Strongman System.
What does it really mean to love one’s oppressor?
Arguably the most difficult of all commandments to follow is the one where we are directed to Love Our Enemy. This is very counter-intuitive for most of us. We may find ourselves pleading “Oh God! Do I really have to?” hoping that we will receive some sort of divine dispensation. This directive offers no such loophole.
Perhaps first we should be clear about what this kind of love does not mean. It does not mean that you have to like the oppressor or condone his behavior. It is not affectionate love. It also does not mean that we must comply with the oppressive system that the strongman manages. It is not submissive.
So what does it mean?
I believe that this kind of love contains a crucial understanding of the deeper nature of who we are as well as the real identity of the Strongman. This love recognizes that the Strongman is, in fact, profoundly ill and spiritually lost. It is through this kind of love that we comprehend that the Strongman is trapped in a form of deep suffering. Love sees that the cruel oppression of the Strongman is the projection of his suffering onto those around him. This is his futile attempt at escaping his agony. This agony is likely compounded by a very deep sense of shame that prevents him from acknowledging to anyone how much internal pain he is experiencing. In understanding this, those who are oppressed can act from a sense of deep and powerful compassion. This loving compassion allows one to see how sick and lost the Strongman actually is and then to act accordingly toward him. This compassion is possible because of our recognition of him as one of us. He is our lost and suffering brother.
What might this type of action look like?
I think it looks a lot like the way a good doctor interacts with a sick patient. The doctor’s first goal is to “do no harm” which means not to cause any new damage or in any way to worsen the patient’s condition. That translates into nonviolent noncooperation with the dictates of any oppressive system. We don’t enable someone who is caught in the cycle of a destructive addictive process. At the same time, we take great care not to shame or humiliate the patient who is already suffering. If laws are unjust and dehumanizing then submission to these laws becomes a form of enabling the suffering addict-Strongman. Enabling is a violation of “do no harm.”
This kind of radical love seeks to very actively promote healing in the one who is sick and suffering. This healing process flows out of the awareness and acceptance of who we really are as beings.
There is an established view that we humans are an incredibly complex arrangement of sub-atomic particles that fit together in just the right way such that we live, learn and have awareness of ourselves and the world around us. In this paradigm we mysteriously transcend the inanimate and non-conscious nature of our sub-atomic particles to reach a state of animated life and consciousness.
There is an alternative perspective that states that our fundamental reality is consciousness itself and that energy and matter are secondary to that consciousness. This brings us into the realm of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s assertion that: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If this is in fact true, it has staggering implications for all of us. It says something crucial about who we really are. It points us all to our sacred identity as manifestations of the Source of Ultimate Love. It would mean that each of us is part of a vast spiritual family within which there can be no strangers. It would also mean that differences of culture, religion and nationality are largely superficial and insignificant and can no longer serve as excuses for conflicts.
In the language of traditional religion: Each of us, without any exceptions, is a Holy Child of God.
This is the basis and rationale for loving the Strongman. He is a Holy Child of God just like the rest of us. He is no exception. He has become trapped in his sickness because he has so detoured away from who he really is that he has become lost. We have a family responsibility to help him rediscover his true identity because we are his brothers and sisters. Giving him hatred will not help. Giving him punishment will not help. What will help him is this Radical Love. This Love says “We know who you are behind that mask. You can take it off now. It’s time to come home.”
“When in the 1950s I asked my (then orthodox and rigidly catechized) American Catholic students: ‘Are you an American who happens to be a Catholic, or are you a Catholic who happens to be an American?’ all of them chose the former.”
“When Germany invaded Russia, Hitler expected Catholics to support his ‘crusade’ against atheistic Bolshevism. No matter how wrong the ideas and the practices of Communism, Jaegerstaetter said, this was but another invasion wrought upon innocent people. There was nothing in the practices and doctrines of Nazism that was preferable to those of Communism.”
The following article is very relevant to our times even though it was written in 1992. It is reposted with the kind permission of the folks at the New Oxford Review — D.F.
The “God and Country” Trap
Christians and the Temptations of Nationalism
By John Lukacs
John Lukacs is Professor of History at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and a Contributing Editor of the NOR. His latest book is The Duel, 10 May-31 July 1940: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler.
This article is adapted with permission of Ticknor & Fields from his book The End of the Twentieth Century, forthcoming in early 1993.
The decline of religion, and of the influence of the churches, became more and more evident during the 18th century, at the end of which it seemed as if that decline were irreversible. (In 2,000 years of history, the prestige of the papacy was never as low as in 1799.) Then there came an unexpected Catholic and ultramontane revival; but the decline, by and large, went on during the 19th century, and continued during the 20th. Even some atheists and agnostics regretted this on occasion: Orwell once wrote that the greatest loss for Western civilization was the vanishing of the belief in the immortality of the soul. That is a difficult subject, because it is not as ascertainable how men and women (how, rather than how much) believed in the immortality of the soul 250 years ago. But Orwell was right when he wrote that faith and credulity are different things.
Most people (including intellectuals, theologians, ecclesiastical historians) think that the decline of religious belief has been due to the rise of the belief in science. That may have been true in the 19th century, but even then the evidence is not clear. The decline of religious belief did not necessarily correspond to the rise of belief in science. Samuel Butler’s vehement rejection of Darwin did not lead to the recovery of his religion. Henry Adams’s discovery of the Virgin did not lead to his rejection of his own mechanistic-deterministic view of history. Now, at the end of the 20th century, many people respect religion as well as science, together; but respect for the former is faint. This has something to do with the fact that we have declined to a stage lower than hypocrisy, the problem being no longer the difference between what people say and what they believe; now the difference seems to be between what people think they believe and what they really believe.
Actually, the great threat to religious faith in our time — more precisely, to the quality and meaning of faith — is nationalism. The democratization of the churches has led to that; but that is only secondary to the democratization of entire societies. The primary element is that the religion of the nation, the sentimental symbols of the nation, are more powerful than religious faith, especially when they are commingled. Nationalism, I repeat, is the only popular religio (religion: binding belief) in our times. That won’t last forever; but there it is. Continue reading
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 2017 documentary The Vietnam War is a brilliant antiwar film that humanizes the enemy and laments the brutal slaughter of roughly three million soldiers and civilians for absolutely nothing. It is also a ringing indictment of those American presidents who waged the war, consistently lied to the American public about how they were waging it, and sent tens of thousands of young American soldiers to fight knowing it could not be won. As such, it also offers an urgent warning about the nature of the wars we continue to wage.
Yet The Vietnam War has some blind spots…
by Mike Pakaluk
“But it might do us good to amplify the crèche scene, to include the whole Christmas reality – not (foolishly) buff naked men with washboard abs – but, in the background and among the shadows, a tall, wraith-like, and sinister figure, brandishing a sword. More than the greed of a Scrooge threatens the spirit of Christmas. He stands for the jealous State, and he threatens anyone who would dare honor this newborn child as ‘my liege and sovereign Lord.’”
Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!
The following was written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy:
This eight minute video presentation by Bishop Robert Barron is an example of the clever dismissal of Jesus’ teaching of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, which the average Catholic is subjected to ceaselessly in thousands of different ways by the violence justifying institutional Church through its senior personnel and its various avenues of communication. It is a example of the traditional ecclesiastical tactic of damning Gospel Nonviolence by faint praise, saying—in stark opposition to Jesus’ “new commandment”—that all sane minded, realistic Christians certainly do not want all Christians to be nonviolent, although it is nice to have a few Christians around who follow that Way in order to remind us what heaven will be like.
In this video Cardinal George and Bishop Barron have strayed a long way from what Jesus teaches in the Gospels. Their statements equating celibacy with Gospel Nonviolence are erroneous and meant to teach the majority of Christians to ignore Jesus’ teaching of nonviolence, while they give it a backhanded tribute.
To undo some of their obfuscation it must be stated without equivocation that celibacy is not the will of God as revealed by Jesus in the Gospels, but Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies is. Celibacy is an option within the will of God as revealed by Jesus. Violence and enmity— the quintessential components of every war—are explicitly rejected as options within the will of God as revealed by Jesus, who is God Incarnate. Contrary to Bishop Barron’s talk rejecting Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies in imitation of Jesus is not an option granted to any Christian by Jesus. The analogy of Barron and George comparing celibacy with Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence is an invalid, self-serving, misleading and anti-evangelical effort. It appears to be the work not of two learned Christians who do not know that Nonviolent Love is a teaching of Jesus applicable to all Christians at all times, but rather the work of two highly educated Christians who do not want to know and/or to admit it, and who want to proselytize others into following a non-existing just war Jesus as they follow a never existing just war Jesus—as if there were spiritual safety in numbers.
Their duplicitousness in proselytizing is chilling because while comparing nonviolence in the Church to celibacy in the Church and simultaneously effusively praising both, their statements in the minds of most Catholics, marginalize to the position of useful Catholic gadflies, those who proclaim Jesus’ teaching of Nonviolence Love of friends and enemies. Their statements are intended to obscure or undermine the fact that those who proclaim Gospel Nonviolence are proclaiming, not an optional Church discipline, but rather an essential dimension of God, of Divine Love, of that power, the only power, which in truth saves. As the Catholic Biblical scholar, the late Rev. John L. McKenzie, wrote in his book The Power and the Wisdom (Imprimatur, 1966), “The power which destroys all other powers is the power of love, the love of God revealed and active in Jesus Christ. God revealed in Jesus that He loves man and will deliver him through love and through nothing else… Jesus presents in His words and life not only a good way of doing things, not only an ideal to be executed whenever it is convenient, but the only way of doing what He did.”
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
P.S. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in following the Way of Nonviolence was not following Gandhi, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day as Robert Barron claims. He was following Jesus. There is an infinite difference between following the Creator and following another creature like yourself.