Category Archives: Nonviolence

Peace Day

In 1981 the United Nations declared by unanimous resolution that September 21 be recognized as The International Day of Peace. This is a “globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” (see: internationaldayofpeace.org).

Why is “building a Culture of Peace” so hard for us?

Every reasonably intelligent person will say that they want peace and yet a Culture of Peace eludes us. At this point many a reasonably intelligent person will also reflexively qualify their desire for Peace with some form of the following: “…but we can’t have Peace as long as they…”. So the work to establish a Culture of Peace stalls.

“Who do you think you are?” is usually expressed as the indignant rejection of an insult but if we consider it as a serious question for ourselves to answer, it may shed some light on why it’s so difficult for us to establish that Culture of Peace.

Maybe we think we are inherently a violent and warlike species. Maybe we think it’s “in our genes” and that “we can’t help it.” Maybe we believe that, despite our best efforts, we are killers from a long line of killers.

That is the Old Story.

This is the story of us, locked into a world of toxic competition in which some must “lose” in life in order for others to “win.” It’s the concept that supports capitalism as we know it and keeps us in seemingly endless wars.

But is this who we really are?

There is a New Story (see: mettacenter.org) of humanity that is emerging. This story paints a very different picture of who we are. It shows us that, at our core, we are actually good rather than evil. We are inclined to cooperate and help each other succeed in life. We see this truth emerge again and again when some sort of disaster strikes (remember how people treated each other right after 9/11?) and our differences are quickly put aside. For however brief a time, we see each other clearly. We see each other as fellow human beings instead of as members of some artificial category.

Creating a Culture of Peace becomes not only possible but natural when we start to remember who we really are and start letting go of the false narratives that hold us prisoner.

As a means to reaching this end there is the concept of the two hands of Real Peace. One hand is closed and says “I oppose your injustice and destructiveness” while the other hand is open and says: “I’m open to you as a person.” This is a realistic practice. We can affirm the humanity of every person without exception while standing firmly against all systems that oppress any person anywhere.

This Real Peace rests on the foundation of our relationships with each other. These relationships form the bonds of our inter-connected nature. That is where our real security begins and how it thrives. It is not our neighbor’s fear of us that makes us feel safe. We feel safe with each other because, in some way, we see each our neighbor as family. Security is the result of knowing that what happens to any family member happens to all family members. We have defined “family” in an exceedingly narrow way for far too long. That needs to change and change fast.

Building a Culture of Peace does not mean that we will live in a conflict-free world. There will be conflict well into the future as long as human beings are involved with each other. What it does mean is that we solve our problems without resorting to violence. It means we recognize that the problem is the problem and not that people are the problem. It means that we give up the illogical belief that hurting others, or ourselves, is a viable way to resolve conflicts.

Building a Culture of Peace is both realistic and natural for the human family when we understand who we are in relationship to each other. We hold ourselves back from this realization by continuing to cling to our artificial categories of identification. We imagine that we are members of a particular nation, religion, political party, profession or class. No such category gets close to the depth of who we really are as beings. That would be like going for your regular medical check-up and having your doctor assess your health by examining the clothes you’re wearing. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

If we want to establish a Culture of Peace in human society we will need to establish that culture within ourselves as part of the process. We need to heal the injuries sustained by our fragile humanness by claiming the truth of our own sacredness. Not only our own but the sacredness of everyone else as well. There is no one who isn’t. This sacredness is by no means limited to human beings. It encompasses all of creation.

We get to the heart of the matter when we recognize the sacredness of All. There we will find the Culture of Peace.

Fr. George Zabelka

Don’t miss the latest CAM podcast: Episode 50!

I know, I know — it’s almost three hours long! But it is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this episode provides a great “behind the scenes” oral history that you won’t hear elsewhere; not to mention it acts as a great testimony to the way God works in human lives and human history, carrying out his plans in ways we can’t even see or could ever possibly plan.

God had a plan for George’s life. Find out more about:

  • What he did as a Catholic chaplain in 1945 at Tinian Island
  • Why he “blessed the bombs” of the 509th composite group, the group that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan
  • How belligerent Fr. Zabelka was when he first showed up at Fr. McCarthy’s retreats in the mid-70s. (“Are you telling me Jesus wouldn’t enjoy a good boxing match?!”)
  • His eventual conversion.
  • How his story came to be known around the world, despite Catholic media having no interest in it whatsoever.
  • How his story helped to spark the movement on the part of the U.S. bishops that eventually led to the writing and publishing of their 1983 pastoral “The Challenge of Peace” (which was a really big deal back in its day)
  • Why Zabelka is “considered a saint” in some circles of Japanese Christianity

To me, the story of George is unimaginably important. The story of why there are hardly any Catholics who know about George is equally important. It’s a great story, one about conversation, repentance, peace. Why were so few media outlets in the United States, both American and Catholic, so disinterested in telling it?

Don’t forget to watch the documentary about George as well, “The Reluctant Prophet”:

Fr George Zabelka, The Reluctant Prophet from GNV Team on Vimeo.

The Nonviolent Eucharist

Here are some supplemental materials that go with the podcast, Episode 38: The Nonviolent Eucharist with Fr. McCarthy. Please share with your priest or bishop.

************************************************************************READ FIRST: The Nonviolent Eucharist: A Pastoral Approach, by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

What would Christianity or the Church mean for the Christian if Jesus’ Way or teachings were made subject to, or were measured for correctness by whether Plato, Hugh Hefner, or the local emperor happen to agree with them? Since for the Christian Jesus is the Word of God, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Self-revelation of God: “The one who sees me sees the Father” (JN 14:9), since for the Christian He is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (JN 14:6), it is senseless to maintain that the Christian life can ultimately be modeled on anyone or anything except Jesus. Even the saints must be measured against Jesus and His teachings to determine what in their lives is worthy of Christian honor and what is not.

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READ SECOND: The Nonviolent Eucharist: A Scholarly Approach

The Nonviolent Love of Jesus for both friends and enemies is historically at the heart of His passion and death. It must therefore be communicated as being ineradicably at the heart of the Eucharist…The passion narrative is about the Lamb of God, who goes to His death rejecting violence, loving enemies, returning good for evil, praying for His persecutors-yet conquers and reigns eternal…The sacrifice of Christ is not about salvation through mere physiological pain. It is about salvation through the Nonviolent Suffering Love of Jesus toward all and for all, even lethal enemies. It is about revealing the true nature of Divine love, the true and authentic Face of God. As the United States Catholic Bishops teach in their Pastoral, The Challenge of Peace (1983):

In all of his suffering, as in all of his life and ministry, Jesus refused to defend himself with force or with violence. He endured violence and cruelty so that Gods love might be fully manifest and the world might be reconciled to the One from whom it had become estranged.

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These resources can also be found at the following websites:

https://www.centerforchristiannonviolence.org/resources/the-nonviolent-eucharist

http://www.emmanuelcharlesmccarthy.org/?s=nonviolent+eucharist

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The Child of Fear

It seems that all too frequently we see eruptions of hatred in our world. We see episode after episode of hatred boiling over into violence. We see this on the international stage, locally, and everywhere in between. It has become an un-ending parade of horrors that we are compelled to witness. Our schools and places of worship have been consistently targeted. People who have been marginalized within our society have also been targeted although they often don’t get the same level of media recognition.

Hatred is the child of fear. When it grows large enough, hatred gives birth to violence.

There is nothing new about hatred boiling over into violence. Tragically, this has played out in human history from our very beginning. Here we are, now in the 21st century, still hating and killing each other.

In one respect, fear is the beginning of our evolution. Our ancient ancestors survived, in no small part, due to their ability to experience fear. As they learned how to balance their fear by applying their intelligence to dangerous situations they learned how to be careful. As our ancestors developed the habit of cautiousness, our existence as their descendants became assured.

Long ago we humans learned to fear whoever seemed “different” in some way. Long ago this was literally a matter of life or death. It’s not so hard to understand the power of such primal learning. Once upon a time it was highly adaptive and beneficial. Such conditioning runs deep in us even now.

Hating can be understood as going on the offensive in order to protect and defend against some perceived threat. Attack “them” first and make “them” think twice about attacking ”us.” Assuming, of course, that “they” are actually planning to attack.

Haters are afraid.

They fear annihilation. They fear degradation and humiliation. They fear being displaced, replaced, and having their culture erased.

This is an intensely painful fear!

How can such pain-fueled hatred be met?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that you “fight fire with fire” and respond with exactly the same kind of energy and if at all possible, do so with even greater force. The main problem with this conventional wisdom is that it’s really unwise It is the inside-out, upside down logic that wants us to believe that someone with cancer is going to be saved by having more cancer cells injected into their body. If your doctor told you that was your treatment plan you would probably seek a second opinion.

Instead, we need to go further down the rabbit hole. It’s not enough to see that hatred emerges from fear. We are speaking here of a fear that is the result of not recognizing the difference between fact and fiction. We need to understand where that fear comes from. When we go deeper we find this fear is product of ignorance.

In human terms, this ignorance is the belief that someone or some group is actually not good enough and therefore undeserving of equal treatment or even existence. Such beliefs are based on irrational judgements of perceived danger: “They are threatening our way of life.” “They are going to take over and we will be at their mercy.” “There’s not enough for all of us so someone will not get what they need.” Will it be “us” or “them” that is deemed unworthy? Ignorance says that someone doesn’t deserve to stay in the lifeboat and everyone in the boat looks at everybody else while silently thinking “It’s not gonna be me that gets kicked out!”

What are the people in the lifeboat ignorant of? What don’t they know? More to the point, what are they believing that is not true?

Here’s the Big Lie:

The tragically-believed lie says that we are all separate from each other and the rest of Creation. The Big Lie is that we are separate from the Ultimate Mystery that created us. This ignorance of our true inter-connectedness and interdependency keeps us stuck in an Illusion of Separateness and trapped in the Fear of the Different Other.

The liberating truth is that each of us is profoundly inter-connected. We are intimately part of each other and all of Creation. All of Creation is likewise part of each of us.

We all come from the same creative energy, the same Sacred Source. In traditional religious language, we are all part of the body of Christ. If you prefer a more secular narrative, we all come from the same recycled stardust. As far as we can tell, biodiversity appears to be the modus operandi of the Ultimate Mystery that all of us have emerged from and continue to be a part of. Diversity, not uniformity, seems to be the way of the universe. It is interesting to note, however, that uniformity seems to be the clear and consistent preference of all authoritarian groups throughout human history.

What drives a segment of the human population to embrace a social system that requires everyone to “follow the leader” in order to avoid being severely punished? What is the incentive for people to stop thinking and being responsible for themselves and allow “those in charge” to think and decide for them?

In a sense, this can be seen as a choice made out of frustration with the democratic process-how nothing ever seems to “get done” to improve things. In another sense, this choice can be understood as an evasion of personal responsibility insofar as it is a consent to let the powerful make decisions without interference from those without power. In return the powerless are promised to be looked after and protected by the reigning elite. It’s the old deal of trading away freedom in exchange for security.

If we know what a bad deal this is how do we keep agreeing to it? What motivates a person to sign on the dotted line?

A conspiracy of ignorance and fear.

Our “old programming” for irrational fear has never been deleted. It remains dormant within us just waiting for an injection of energy into its system. Unfortunately, there are groups who want to cultivate fear in as many people as possible. The reason for this is simple: People are much easier to control when they are scared.

We are presently caught in a riptide of fear-based hatred in our society. This is the consequence of a culture that has been structured according to a primitive fear of the Different Other. The violence that is the natural progression of hatred is the response to a misperceived threat. This misperception is part of the “old programming” that remains within us such that different-ness is misunderstood as danger. Since this fear is embedded in our culture we must recognize that it is systemic in nature and systemic problems must be met with systemic solutions.

We need to recognize this fear as a remnant of our ancestral survival. It is now time for the old way of survival to step back and make room for living as we were meant to live as human beings, as Sacred Children of the Ultimate Mystery. While we recognize the old way as an early human adaptation, we must now firmly assert its obsolescence. This primitive fear has served its purpose and now our evolutionary journey needs to continue toward a rational compassion that excludes no one. This attitude of compassion rests on the scientific foundation of the inter-relatedness of all life on this planet. The reality is that we are all part of the same family. Perceived differences are superficial and obscure our unity only by a veil of ignorance.

The work of our time is to remove the veil of ignorance that interferes with the expression of natural compassion for all. We seek to open the way for an appreciation and expression of the healthy diversity of the human family. The challenge we face today is to love courageously in response to all forms of hatred and any violence that emerges from that hatred. We do our best to love the person infected with hatred and refuse the temptation to retaliate with violence when the hate-infected person lashes out. It is extremely difficult work but it is absolutely necessary because we are all in this together. We cannot escape our inter-connectedness. Either we will all go down together or together we will all rise up and be who we really are: People of Courageous Love.

We Are Family

Why are some people so opposed to refugees coming into our country? Why do some see them as a threat and believe that it is acceptable to treat them as somehow less than fully human?

These questions point to a source of major suffering in our world now.

There is something of a mythology associated with the perceived threat posed by frightened, desperate people entering our country.

The deeper problem, though, is that we are clinging to a far too limited and frankly obsolete understanding of what a family is. It is this narrow vision of what makes a family that is keeping us stuck in fear of whoever we perceive as “different” and conflating “different” with dangerous.

We need to radically expand what we mean by the word “family.” Our definition of what makes a family has been far too narrow for far too long. There has been a strong tendency to think of family in terms of those who are our blood relatives as well as those who we are related to through marriages. This has been our means of determining who “we” are and who “they” are.

Although a traditional extended family is more expansive and inclusive than the traditional nuclear family of biological parents and their children, it still leaves us with a perspective that invites us to see everyone else as non-family. In others words: not one of us. As soon as we recognize someone as “one of us” or “not one of us” we quickly decide how we will treat that person based on which category we place them in. We human beings have a long history of social programming that predisposes us to give preferential treatment to those we see as “one of us” and a heightened sense of suspicion toward everyone else.

There are, of course, additional dimensions of the “one of us” family paradigm. We may identify with our professional colleagues as our “work family.” We can also attribute a family-like affiliation to various other kinds of groups that we have at some time been a part of: schools, sports teams, the military, political parties, clubs, fraternities, sororities, etc.

So there are some added circles of inclusion with respect to who we regard as family but even so, there are always those “others” who are outside those circles who do not get included in any way as part of “us.”

Have we reached the limit of expanding our definition of family or is there still somewhere else to go with it?

Although it may seem that we have reached a dead end with respect to how we understand the meaning of family, we have actually come to a closed door rather than a solid wall. This door can be opened and we can step through it and enter what lies beyond it.

Stepping through this door requires the proverbial leap of faith. This step is the acceptance of the idea that everyone and everything is our family. There is no one and nothing that isn’t a family member. There is no human being anywhere on this planet that isn’t your brother or sister. There is no animal or plant that isn’t a relative. The land, the water, and the air are members of the same family to which we all belong.

This is actually quite realistic and practical when we remember that a central truth common to all families is that every family shares a common point of origin. They all start somewhere at a particular time. Maybe this is why lovers reminisce about where and when they first met. It matters.

Human beings all share a common point of origin on our little blue planet. We have been referring to her as Mother Earth for a very long time. This is where we all started. We human beings all share 99.9% of the same DNA. That’s how much we are all more alike than different from each other. If we allow our vision to be a bit more expansive, our home planet and our home solar system all originated from the same recycled stardust. On a cosmic level we all come from the same raw material.

So much changes when we realize that we are all part of the same family.

We realize that “othering” a family member just doesn’t work. We cannot escape our relatedness. Competing with and defeating a family member just doesn’t feel right. Competition somehow becomes less interesting while cooperation becomes very interesting.

We realize that generosity and compassion are sensible and natural. Giving something good to a family member becomes an act of giving to oneself. Receiving from a family member is a gift back to the giver.

We have no need to be afraid of refugees. It is they who come to us afraid and needing our help. They are our brothers and sisters.

We are all children of the Ultimate Mystery. We are all members of the same family.

Self-defense?

They encountered their next victim – a priest – on Meriburr Lane at approximately 10:10 p.m.

‘A priest. You heard that right,’ Chief Acevedo told reporters, according to KTRK.

The priest said he was on his knees, praying for his life, when one of the suspects pulled the trigger twice.

“For whatever miraculous reason, the gun didn’t fire,” Chief Acevedo said.

https://defensemaven.io/bluelivesmatter/news/teen-who-shot-houston-cop-was-released-without-paying-bail-after-carjacking-lTdMxdJ8bEqAQYN4zpv1zg/?fbclid=IwAR1eSolSnZmv-xtRqzlNdcasMzgGjJQeKS9UlpYhr2sOEN7wl8AaQKxUBXg