Category Archives: Nonviolence

Befriending Strangers

How are we to deal with people who come to us from the homes they have left behind?

These people are strangers to us at first. He or she is the Unknown Person and at this point we know practically nothing about this Stranger. Maybe we know something of his or her homeland’s reputation or maybe all we know is what this person looks like to us. Until there is initial contact there is no real knowing of the person and no meaningful shift can begin toward “de-strangerizing” the Unknown Person. Before we can actually know the Stranger as a fellow human being it is all too easy to project our own fears onto that person.

Perhaps the most common thing to imagine, as well as perhaps the most understandable, is to see the Stranger as a threat. This is a bit of ancient survival programming we have inherited courtesy of our distant ancestors. We modern people might be tempted to Boo and Hiss at our primitive ancestors for burdening us with this innate fearfulness but let’s not. Instead let’s honor them because the truth is that without their survival skills we wouldn’t be here to reflect on this issue. We, their descendants, need to recognize that bit of ancient programming for what it is: A once-upon-a-time necessity. The mistake that we must avoid now is to use this relic of human programming as if it is today’s cutting edge technology.

One of our characteristics as human beings is our inherent capacity to transcend our primitive instincts. We are built to learn and grow from our mistakes and slowly evolve toward becoming more enlightened beings. As a species, we are a work-in-progress, thousands of years into a process that is still quite incomplete.

Growing up requires us to move beyond our primitive Fear-based orientation to life. We need to mature into a Love-based orientation to living in our world. Embracing a Love-based mode of being and interacting does not mean that we no longer get scared. We cannot simply delete the old programming. Like it or not, it is part of who we are. What it means is that we no longer have to be limited by fear as we live our lives. As we increasingly move into a more mature level of consciousness we have greater access to our intrinsic capacity for Love-based interactions with others.

None of this means that we suddenly throw all caution to the wind. It means that we move through our situations with appropriate care based on a rationality that naturally emerges from healthy love.

As we return to our hypothetical Stranger, we need to make contact with this as yet Unknown Person in order to have actual observations to take the place of our primitive fear-based fantasies. A meaningful question to consider is: How shall we choose to initiate contact with the Stranger?

The most reasonable way to make contact with Strangers is to welcome them as potential friends. Yes, we still need to be aware of possible dangers and observe proper caution as we start making contact but this choice represents the best way to utilize our own freedom for maximum advantage. If we initiate our encounter with the Stranger in a benevolent fashion the probability is that the Stranger will reciprocate. If we treat him or her as a threat it is likely that he or she will respond to our fear with fear of their own and start seeing us as a threat as well. This ultimately leads to preparation for the anticipated attack.

Perhaps our greatest “sin” is our willingness to de-humanize and demonize our fellow human beings. Under the right conditions it becomes tempting to reduce the Different Other to some sort of Offending Impediment to our way of life. Part of this temptation may also include a component of righteousness that can (and too often does) reach the level of the Arrogant Assumption that one is “doing God’s will” by de-humanizing the Different One. There is, however, something vitally important that needs to be recognized: It is entirely possible to escape from the prison of fearing and hating the Different One and emerge into what can legitimately be called a state of recovery. This involves an initial process of step-back-from Untruth and then a step of move-toward Truth. At first this recovery can be understood as a growing awareness and conscious rejection of the lies previously assumed to be truths: the mental-trap illusion of “Us vs. Them” and the associated false belief that there just isn’t enough of what we all need so someone will have to do without (“and it’s not gonna be us!”). It is also becomes a process of discovering what is actually true and consciously moving in that direction: every one of us is very human and we are not nearly so different or separate from each other as we once thought. There is also enough for all of us if we are willing to let go of our fear and the greed that emerges from it.

Our fear of the Stranger is solvable and it is solved by becoming aware of the Truth. The Truth, in this case, comes as the answer to the question of who we and the Stranger really are. In each case the answer is the same. Each of us, without exception, is a Sacred Child of the Ultimate Mystery. We all come from the same Original Source of Creation regardless of whether one prefers to think of this as the story of the cosmic “Big Bang”, the Genesis story or any of the countless creation stories human beings have been sharing with each other for thousands of years. If we can accept this perspective, the Stranger is nothing more than someone at a costume party who has not yet taken off their mask and allowed us to see their true face. It may help them to do so if we are willing to show them our true face first.

Finally, it is not so much a question of who the Stranger is but rather a question of who we are and what kind of people we want to be in relation to that Stranger. What are our intentions? Do we want them to be afraid or do we want them to feel welcome?

How would we want to be treated if we were the Strangers?

“Reclaiming” Jesus–Really?

Reclaiming Jesus Event Brings Its Message to the White House, National Catholic Review, May 25, 2018

***

RECLAIMING JESUS

but not

THE NONVIOLENT JESUS OF THE GOSPELS

by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

It is difficult, if not impossible, to figure out which Jesus is being reclaimed in the recent much-ballyhooed document, Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis (attached below). But, what is clear is the Jesus that the document presumes to reclaim is not the Jesus of the Gospels who was Nonviolent and who teaches a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies. Not once in the entire Reclaiming Jesus document is Jesus’ rejection of violence by word and by deed in the Gospels mentioned, although the document gives a list of things that must be reject based on Jesus teachings and His being Lord. Nor is it mentioned that His disciples are called to follow Him and reject violence. So the document communicates that a Christian, whether American or British, who has reclaimed Jesus as the document prescribes could join the American or British military and bomb the be-Jesus out of human beings designated “enemies” or designated “collateral damage” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

The idea governing Reclaiming Jesus and around which its authors state the entire document is composed and validated, is this: “Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession. It was central for the early church and needs to again become central to us. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar was not—nor any other political ruler since. If Jesus is Lord, no other authority is absolute.” Neither I nor any other Christian could reasonably disagree with this. It is in fact the theological basis for proclaiming and adhering to Gospel Nonviolence. The Gospels themselves in which Jesus teaches, lives and dies in the Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies—and which Gospels the Catholic Church teaches in its Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution Revelation (sec 18-19), “faithfully hand on what Jesus Chris, while living among men really did and taught for their eternal salvation” —are the historical root of Gospel Nonviolence. But the profession, Jesus is Lord, is the theological root of Gospel Nonviolence, because if Jesus’ authority in matters of Christian faith and morals is not absolute, then He is just another guy conjecturing about the manner in which life should be lived or how to be saved from eternal death.

The Reclaiming Jesus document goes on to say, “What we believe, i.e., Jesus is Lord, leads us to what we must reject. Our ‘Yes’ is the foundation for our ‘No.’“ It then goes on to list those matters that Christians must say, ‘No’ to and rejected on the basis of their, ‘Yes,’ to Jesus is Lord. The given list of what must be rejected because Jesus is Lord is this: “white nationalism and racism, misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women, language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God, the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life, any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule,  “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ.”

It should be noted, and noted well, that while their document states, “If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not,” these Christian peace activists from the U.S. and Britain and their document do not reject Christian participation in Caesar’s violence and war because Jesus is Lord. This is bizarre since the Lord Jesus’ rejection of violence in the Gospels is unambiguous. It is strange since the authors respective countries are two of the greatest purveyors of violence in the world historically and today. It is gravely disingenuous since the Christians in their societies did and do most of the violence done by each country. Reclaiming Jesus and proclaiming Jesus is Lord in such societies should at a minimum mean rejecting participation in the legal and illegal, romantic and sorted violence of these societies and their institutions that incarnationally follow the way and use the means of the violent Caesar rather then the Nonviolent Jesus. It should mean at least this because,

Jesus taught that violence belongs to the Reign of Satan, and that men must expel violence if they wish to liberate themselves from the Reign of Satan. If Jesus did not reject any type of violence for any purpose, then we know nothing of him. No reader of the New Testament, simple or sophisticated, can retain any doubt of Jesus’ position toward violence directed to persons, individual or collective, organized or free enterprise, he rejected it totally. Jesus in no way accepts violence as a means of controlling violence. 

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.” (Quoted section is from the Catholic Biblical scholar, Rev. John L. McKenzie.)

It is, however, not surprising that no mention is made of reclaiming the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels. Some of the authors of this document were formally on Barack Obama’s, aka Barack Obomba’s, spiritual consultation team. And, one the authors is the episcopal chaplain of the British royalty—a gene pool that has never existed, cannot exists and does not exists without gargantuan amounts of violence being employed to sustain it and to protect its unholy and promiscuous accumulation of luxury wealth in the face of thousands of human beings writhing in pain and unnecessarily perishing daily because they lack the few cents to procure the needed food or medicine. The hording of luxury wealth in a world where billions do not have the bare necessities need to live can only be defended and sustained by violence.

If a Christian were to truly desire to reclaim the Jesus of the Gospels—the only Jesus there ever was or will be— it takes no literary skill to say,

What cannot be done without violence cannot be done by a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus. A Christian cannot follow Jesus’ “new commandment ” to “Love one another as I have loved you,” and use violence to do good or to fight evil.”

But this is exactly the Jesus that this document and its peace activists authors do not want to reclaim, any more than the institutional Churches of Christianity want to reclaim Him. Both want a “Jesus” who endorses violence so they can carry out their plans to make the world a better place by using violence, whatever their plans may be.

So which Jesus is this Reclaiming Jesus document trying to reclaim? It is trying to reclaim—or more accurately trying to propagandize— a “Jesus” that never existed in history as a person—a violent liberal-Constantinian Jesus. But a violent liberal-Constantinian “Jesus” is no more the reality of the Person revealed and proclaimed in the Gospels than is a violent conservative-Constantinian Jesus. They are mirror images of each other in terms of the means they use to respond to evil and to promote the good. What each calls Christian love is saturated with violence—that is, with that phenomenon that “Jesus teaches belongs to the Reign of Satan.” It is Christians and their Churches that almost universally confess faith in a violence-endorsing “Jesus” that are the source of this time of crisis. The spiritually malformed Christians Trump, Obama, Clinton, Bush, Merkel, Blair, Putin, etc. are but blips on the screen of the crisis.

It is the institutional Christian Churches and their deceitful leaders, who gave them—hardwired nurtured them—and billions of other Christians into the mind-style of justified Christian killers and liars under the pretense of helping them put on the mind and truth of Jesus, who are the cause of the crisis. It is absurd to believe that implementing a new agenda for the betterment of humanity via a new version of a violence endorsing “Jesus” can solve this crisis. The violence-endorsing “Jesus” illusion is the crisis in the Church and in the world.

The Jesus that must be reclaimed to solve this crisis is the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels with His Way of Nonviolent Love, without exception, of friends and enemies. The Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels is Lord. Believe it or not. His authority is therefore absolute. Believe it or not. 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. Believe it or not. And, that Way unequivocally rejects violence, even when, indeed most especially when, ordered by Lord Caesar. Believe it or not.

Let this new evangelization program, as well as all new evangelization programs of all Churches, be in fact new and reclaim the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels from the deceitfully concocted and institutionally propagandized illusion of the violence justifying, endorsing, supporting Jesus, that has brought so much evil and misery into the world and prevented so much good from being done.

Letter to the American People

Here is Jim Douglass’s “Letter to the American People,” which is good to read today on the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one of only three journalists who attended the whole four week trial in 1999, which found that MLK was murdered as the result of a conspiracy that involved the U.S. government.

“What I experienced in that courtroom ranged from inspiration at the courage of the Kings, their lawyer-investigator William F. Pepper, and the witnesses, to amazement at the government’s carefully interwoven plot to kill Dr. King. The seriousness with which U.S. intelligence agencies planned the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. speaks eloquently of the threat Kingian nonviolence represented to the powers that be in the spring of 1968…Thirty-two years after Memphis, we know that the government that now honors Dr. King with a national holiday also killed him. As will once again become evident when the Justice Department releases the findings of its ‘limited re-investigation’ into King’s death, the government (as a footsoldier of corporate power) is continuing its cover-up – just as it continues to do in the closely related murders of John and Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X.”

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters

Jim Douglass

 

 

Speech Given at MLK 25th Anniversary

For the speech: click here Martin Luther King, Jr. Who is your God_-1

Friends,

I delivered at 6 P.M. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1993, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 6 P.M. at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. The talk was an attempt to reverse what had become a prominent trend when discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. over the previous decade, namely, the systematic minimizing, downplaying, ignoring and disparaging of the absolute centrality of nonviolence in his life and work. It was as if, even those devoted to him and his work, as well as those who desired him to be a patron saint of their peace and justice cause, wanted no part of the essential dimension that nonviolence held in all his programs and pursuits of peace and justice. In this amnesia inducing process, Dr. King’s historical memory was beginning to mirror the historical memory of Jesus, that is, he was becoming a person with a multitude of admirers and fans, most of whom wanted no part the nonviolent love of friends and enemies that was axial to his whole existence. However, Martin Luther King, Jr. without his total and unreserved commitment to nonviolence to the very end of his life is not Martin Luther King, Jr., any more than Jesus is Jesus without His total and unreserved commitment to nonviolence to the very end of His life.

My address at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, seemingly had no effect in stopping the systematic presentation of Dr. King with little or no reference to the all encompassing place nonviolence actually held in his life and in his social justice efforts. Yet, here are the words of Martin himself:

In recent months several people have said to me: ‘Since violence is the new cry, isn’t there a danger you will lose touch with the people and be out of step with the times if you don’t change your views on nonviolence?’ My answer is always the same. Occasionally in life one develops a conviction so precious and meaningful that he will stand on it till the end. That is what I have found in nonviolence.  I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely. I am just not going to kill anybody, whether it’s in Vietnam or hereThe  stage of history is replete with the chants and choruses of the conquerors who came killing in pursuit of peace.”

A violence endorsing Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is as absurd as a violence endorsing Jesus. Fundamental human integrity, decency and honesty insist that a truth for which Martin and Jesus daily and ultimately laid down their lives should not be calculatingly bracketed out of the memory of their lives by those who are the institutional gatekeepers for preserving the remembrance of them. But if the gatekeepers of their memory are self-serving deceivers via deliberate omission, then the individual person must speak clearly the truth, that nonviolence was pivotal to and irremovable from each of their lives. He or she may not have the bull horns that an institution has at it disposal. But he or she has power. The power of saying that 1+1= 2  to those who are trying to double cross humanity by saying 1+1= 5. They have the power of truth.

Take a moment and consider the attached reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr. from twenty-five years ago on this day. It might be helpful in clarifying the place of nonviolence in some life and death matters that are universal to humanity—including you and me.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

 

What would you do if…?

Oftentimes, when people ask me about my thoughts on abortion, they phrase it as a hypothetical situation. This is from a recent email that someone wrote to me:

To use an extreme example, a woman is raped, the doctor knows the
child will have severe down syndrome.  The state, whatever state, is
unlikely to care of the child.  Should that woman not be allowed to
have an abortion?

Or a single woman of no resources is to produce a child in an african
country with no reasonable expectation of adoptability and will be
prevented from having the education that might allow her to prosper.
Should that woman not be allowed to have an abortion?

Do not think that I am making fun of these questions, as they are fair and serious and should be taken seriously. Most importantly, they were asked with goodwill.

However, I can’t help but notice the same pattern of questioning when people in the Christian Just War / Just Defense camp ask me about what they call “pacifism.” This is a tongue-and-cheek video that does a good job of showing (though not explaining) what is wrong with logic that is based on hypotheticals: It’s not really logic at all.

Bishop Barron’s Clever Dismissal

The following was written by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy:

Friends,

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.

https://youtu.be/Y-0z2m_NtS8

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.

That Which Divides Us

That we are a divided people is not breaking news.

Our divisions are reflected back to us every day. We are consistently presented with the forced-choice of our social, political and religious identities. One belongs to a particular social class and not others. One is either a “conservative” or a “liberal”. One is a “Christian” or a “Jew” or a “Muslim” or a “Hindu” or a “Buddhist” or some other religious label. These are just a few of the ways we identify ourselves. Somehow it became very important to label ourselves and each other. Perhaps this helps us stay with the illusion of “knowing” who we are.

There is another form of division that transcends the “usual suspects” of the various labels already described. This is the division between the opposing agendas of materialism and spirituality. One of the central features of these differing agendas is the question of whether or not violence is deemed acceptable as a means of solving problems. This question also correlates with the contrasting views of separation and connection. Materialism emphasizes the separateness between each of us while realistic spirituality focuses on the connections we share with each other and our world.

The materialistic perspective attributes the highest priority to creating, selling and acquiring Things. This view asserts that the centrality of Things is what life is really all about. In this framework, people are a means to an end. This is sometimes known as “productivity”. If one is “productive” in the proper way then one is recognized as a valuable person. One is considered an “asset”.

The spiritual perspective embraces a very different orientation. It holds to the belief that it is not things that have significant value but rather it is Love and Life itself that is truly valuable. People are to be loved and things are to be used. This perspective is grounded in the belief that all life is inter-connected and inter-related rather than separate and in a state of competition.

This division becomes most apparent in terms of those who are willing to use violence to get what they want and those who refuse to resort to violence to achieve their goals. When a person, when life itself, is seen as a means to an end it becomes acceptable, even laudable, to control, exploit or destroy if that’s what it takes to reach a goal. Domination and destruction are contradictory to the goals of healthy spirituality.
When life is considered sacred it can no longer be objectified as simply a means to an end but instead is known and related to as part of the infinite manifestation of Love.

We can belong to the World of Things or the World of Love. We cannot avoid this choice.

Why focus on the contrast between violence and nonviolence? This framing points to the question of how human problems are to be solved. It is the desire to solve our problems that unites us while it is the methods for achieving those solutions that causes us to diverge into the contrasting problem-solving forms of violence (materialistic power) and nonviolence (spiritual power).

The exercising of Materialistic Power essentially says: “Comply or die.” This “death” may be quite literal or it may be metaphorical in terms of deprivation of needed resources or basic freedoms. It is the straightforward imposing of physical force or intimidation on a person or group to induce their obedience.

The exercising of Spiritual Power, on the other hand, presents a perplexing set of refusals and active responses. When operating from a sense Spiritual Power a person refuses to “fight fire with fire” with the oppressor, refuses to run away from threatened harm, refuses to disengage from the oppressor and refuses to comply with the oppression process. Essentially a person acting from this orientation says: “I won’t fight with you on your level. I won’t run away from you. I won’t end my relationship with you and I won’t obey your unethical manipulations.” The active response is at least as perplexing. While under siege from the oppression of Materialistic Power the active response from one grounded in Spiritual Power is an unwavering “I love you.”

Violence exists as a broad spectrum of attitudes and actions. Its trademark is in its seeking to dominate and diminish the Other who is always regarded as quite separate from the perpetrator of the violence. It seeks victory by destroying or controlling the Other who is defined as a threat of some sort. Its manifestation may take the form of a physical attack with weapons designed to amplify the intended destructive power of the attacker. It may also take the form of a more subtle, non-physical attack (e.g. character assassination) that can nevertheless produce devastating results.

Violence as a process can also be understood as a projection of a person’s pain and/or fear. If one has not dealt constructively with these experiences the temptation to disown them becomes very powerful: “I will hurt you so that you will have to deal with my pain and I won’t. It will become your pain. I will scare you so that you will have to deal with my fear and I won’t. It will become your fear.”

There are those who believe in the use of violence as the method of choice to solve a broad range of human problems. If the end result is sufficiently valued then the means are considered justified. Counted among these believers are women and men, young people and old people, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, liberals and conservatives and the full spectrum of religious labels. Those who accept this kind of problem-solving are represented across a wide range of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. There are law-makers and law-breakers, from the local level to the international stage, who subscribe to the idea that the end justifies the means and that this is how problems get solved.

There are also people from all of the groups just named who completely reject the notion that violence is an acceptable method for solving human problems. They maintain that the means to the desired end cannot be contrary in nature of that end: War cannot create Peace, Oppression cannot create Freedom, Hatred cannot create Love. This group holds that the Means and the End are inseparable.

Nonviolence can be best understood as the active expression and demonstration of love and not as the mere absence of destructive attitudes and actions. When we speak of love it is easy to go off on some wild goose chase as to what this really means. The love conveyed in active nonviolence is a kind of sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that consciously chooses to accept and endure real suffering for the sake of another, specifically for the sake of healing the perpetrator. This kind of love does not define the perpetrator as the “enemy” who must be destroyed or defeated. Instead, Sacrificial Love seeks to help the perpetrator become aware of the truth of his or her real inter-relatedness to the person or people he or she is hurting. In traditional language, it is the deep truth that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.

No less an intellect than Albert Einstein stated: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

If we give credence to Einstein’s claim about the nature of problem-solving it becomes logically impossible to believe that the problem of violence, whether this is a problem between nations, between individuals or within ourselves, can be solved through violent methods. The time has come to free ourselves from the mental prison that holds us in the insane belief that declares: “We have to kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong.”

It becomes necessary to change our way of thinking and understanding in order to solve our problems. It is necessary to shift our awareness and our perspective in order to successfully solve our problems. We cannot solve our problems with the same low-level thinking that got us into trouble in the first place. If our house is burning down we cannot save it with a flame-thrower!

The problem of violence within ourselves is a crucial one. As previously stated, if one does not successfully heal his or her inner violence and the injuries from it then one will be very likely to project this destructiveness onto someone else. It is necessary to establish this internal healing as the foundation to solving human problems on an interpersonal level as well as between various social groups.

No less a wisdom teacher than Jesus of Nazareth explained metaphorically that one must first take the wooden beam out of one’s own eye before attempting to remove the splinter out of another’s eye. (Luke 7:5)

If we are to take him at his word, this means that we need to start healing our own impairment and suffering in order to stop perpetuating violence against ourselves which is often invisible to the rest of the world but the individual (who, in this case, is both perpetrator and victim) is acutely aware of his or her own internal self-torture process (e.g. “I’m such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be good enough!”, “No one would want to be with me if they knew what I was really like.”, etc.). We need to attend to our own healing and make peace within ourselves before we start telling, coercing and demanding that the other person (or group or nation) act a certain way to put their house in order.

What divides us is a faulty perception of how separate we are from each other. This misperception supports the belief in the “win-lose” form of problem-solving in our lives. When all we see is our disconnectedness is becomes easy to assume that competition in the only way to achieve needed solutions.

We move from division to unity when we start to see that the truth of our existence is one of connection and belonging. What were once seen as major differences between one another can now be recognized as largely superficial. We begin to love more and more inclusively as we realize that any injuries we do to others we do to our selves and that the compassion we extend to others is also the compassion that we receive.

American Narcotic

America has a serious addiction problem.

I’m not talking about the usual suspects of alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine or marijuana. I’m not even talking about the epidemic of legal drug addiction to prescription medications. I’m speaking of our addiction to the use of deadly force to, at best, attempt at solving real problems and, at worst, feed our egos with delusions of righteousness, dominance and superiority. As a nation, we have so bought into the idea that using lethal force is good and right and necessary that it has become a kind of secular religion. Indeed, for many this is the foundation of our national “Greatness”. “Greatness” becomes defined as our capacity to be physically overpowering in order to get what we want. Many of us worship at the altar of Military Power and make unholy communion with Police Brutality. As a nation, we “entertain” ourselves by watching countless murders at the movies and on television. We perpetrate countless more in the multitude of video games we play.

Violence is the American Narcotic. Whether we are witnesses or perpetrators, it is our drug of choice.

A narcotic is usually understood as particular type of drug that induces and reinforces repetitive, destructive behavior. In other words, active addiction. The addiction process operates from a very primitive part of the human brain and bypasses the part of the brain that is associated with compassion and rational thinking. This primitive part of the brain is associated with what could be called the “small self” or the ego. This is the “I-Me-Mine” part of each of us. It is the part of my brain that believes that the universe revolves around me. “I am all-important and you don’t matter.” Not surprisingly, that is why people react with such disbelief when they see or hear of an addict acting as if they just don’t care about anyone else. In this case the difference is that the addiction to Narcotic Violence is not based on putting some type of substance in our bodies. It is an addiction to a particular type of experience.

Our national “brain” is impacted by State-sanctioned violence in the same way an individual addict’s brain is effected by their drug of choice. This has major implications for how we “think” and act as a nation. When our National Ego gets hurt we look for a way to self-medicate. So we do what we know best: We lash out. We identify an enemy and we attack them. We hurt them and we do a lot of damage to their world. We give ourselves a “rush” by re-asserting our dominance and our sense of righteous power. Then we feel better. This is our “brain” on drugs.

America is addicted to feeling righteous, powerful and dominant.

There is a memorable scene in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that illustrates this point very clearly. Indiana Jones, the American hero of the story, is confronted in a Middle Eastern marketplace by a man dressed in a dark robe.  The robed man laughs menacingly as he begins twirling a large sword in a threatening manner. Indy pauses briefly, looks mildly annoyed, and calmly pulls out his gun and kills the man with a single shot. There is enthusiastic applause when “our hero”, the character who is supposed to represent us “good-guy” Americans, commits murder without a hint of remorse or regret.

How did it come to this?

As a nation we were born in bloodshed.  Our very existence began with a revolution of violence that should not have succeeded and yet it did. We were Rocky Balboa knocking out Apollo Creed. Our national ancestors were the rebels that somehow defeated the far more powerful empire.

The irony is that America has become a much more powerful version of the very empire it once defeated.

Is God really on our side?

During the course of our nation’s history, we increasingly saw ourselves as the world’s best hope. How could it be otherwise?  How else could we have won our independence unless God was on our side?  Clearly ours must be a divinely-supported destiny.  When we believe that God is on our side we don’t question our authority and use of power. When the power of the State is beyond question the exercising of the power to intimidate, control and destroy is unrestricted.

Here begins our toxic mythology of so-called American Exceptionalism. This is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. This our narrative of how we are the “chosen ones” to lead the world to a better way of life. Sadly, it is also a mythology that has been built upon the oppression and exploitation of various disadvantaged groups throughout our history. It is a mythology that rests upon the genocide of Native Americans (ask Native Americans if they think “genocide” is too strong a term) at the hands of uninvited European immigrants. It stands upon the indefensible terrorism of kidnapping non-Europeans from other lands and selling them into slavery. It weighs heavily on the violence, both subtle and obvious, against women. This is by no means a complete list.

So begins our addiction to the American Narcotic, the American Way of Violence: “This is America and this is How We Solve Problems and Get Things Done.” When we see something as a Problem we declare “War” on it and quickly get into combat mode. We have declared a War on Poverty, a War on Cancer, a War on Drugs, and, of course, we now have the perpetual-motion machine known as the War on Terror (recently re-branded as the War on Radical Islam). It’s as if we only have one pair of glasses that we see through but instead of rose-colored glasses we keep putting on our War-Colored glasses.

As a nation, America has lived in a delusional bubble in which we think we “know better” and are entitled to more than anyone outside our bubble, anyone who isn’t one of US.

If we are truly to be a Great Nation, our greatness cannot be built on a foundation of oppression and exploitation. No pathological addiction can lead to greatness that is healthy or legitimate. Real Greatness can only be supported by a foundation of compassion and generosity that applies to everyone without exception. We have always had, and we still have, an abundance of the raw materials we need for this kind of foundation.

How do we, as the people who form this nation, recover from our dependency on the American Narcotic?

I believe we need to begin by recognizing and admitting that we have become an Addict Nation. Our denial needs to end. The delusional bubble that keeps us cycling through the lies of our superiority needs to pop. These are lies that we have absorbed and believed for far too long.

As Americans we need to openly admit that we are not smarter or better than anyone else in the world. We need to publicly reject the lie of American Exceptionalism. We need to to come clean and sincerely admit to the mistakes we have made as a nation and the suffering we have caused throughout our history.

We need to ask to be forgiven by all those who we have hurt by our dependency on the American Narcotic. We must be prepared to receive the anger of those we have caused to suffer so much. We need to accept the hatred and rejection of anyone who has been harmed by US.

We must continue to be very honest with ourselves. We need to be honest about our vulnerability to relapsing. There will be a strong temptation to escape back into our delusional bubble of superiority. Resisting this temptation won’t be easy because it means feeling our own pain and being aware of how much suffering we have caused others.

This is genuine humility and it is the price of real greatness.