Category Archives: Nonviolence

American Catholics should learn about Dorothy Day

Pope Francis speaking to the U.S. Congress:

“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Our good friend Tom McDonough is an expert on this subject. Read his book and, if you have the opportunity, go hear him speak at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC.

jefferson-mkt-nov-13

Who Owns Our Children?

The United States of America has quietly declared that its citizens’ children are Government Property.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a Bill (2017 NDAA) which seeks to establish, as law, several items pertinent to U.S. military operations. Among those provisions is the elimination of the exemption for women from Selective Service registration (a.k.a. draft registration). Since 1980, young men, upon turning 18, have been required to register with the Selective Service. Failure to do so carries various penalties: no driver’s license, no student loans, and no government employment. As a special bonus: non-compliance brings the possibility of being arrested and incarcerated for up to 5 years as well as possible fines up to $250,000.00.

If this Bill is fully approved, young women will also need to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. They will presumably face the same penalties if they choose not to comply.

“Selective Service” is one of many government-speak euphemisms that is essentially a fresh coat of paint on a condemned building. The old term for this euphemism is conscription. The dictionary definition of conscription is: “compulsory enrollment of persons especially for military service: draft”. The modern qualifier “selective” misleadingly implies that one is making a choice to serve. In truth the individual has no choice. Government does all the selecting.

Selective Service registration is unnecessary, coercive and dehumanizing.

Some have argued that registration is really not a big deal. We have not had an actual draft since 1973 when U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended and draft registration was discontinued for the remainder of that decade. Since then the U.S.military has maintained itself quite adequately with an all-volunteer force. It can be argued that registration is nothing than more than a bureaucratic dance between young Americans and the federal government. Kids fill out the paperwork at the Post Office or online and then forget about it. The sales pitch proclaims: “Men…You can handle this.” The implication here is that this task will not put too much physical or mental strain on them. The other parts of the marketing campaign appeal to the young person’s sense of morality (“It’s the right thing to do.”) and need for obedience to State Authority (“It’s the law.”).

If it is not really such a big deal, if it is really nothing more than filling out a simple form then why make an issue of it? Why not just comply with the law and not worry about it? On the other hand, if the actual draft is really a thing of the past, why not just get rid of it? Why not let it be a thing of the past?

The argument has been put forth that if the United States were ever attacked, the government and military would need a system in place to have efficient access to young Americans to be placed into military service. The premise, theoretically, is that not enough young people would volunteer to fight if our nation was threatened. This makes drafting the non-volunteers a necessity. It’s a matter of National Security.

Please notice how all such discussions are expected to be settled simply by declaring that one’s position is vital to National Security!

This argument in favor of maintaining draft registration is somewhat plausible except for the fact that it is wrong! It is wrong because the United States was attacked (we efficiently remember it as 9-11) and we subsequently went to war (and have stayed at war) in the Middle East. As a nation, we have remained actively engaged in warfare in multiple countries for well over a decade. Under these conditions, there has been no need whatsoever to return to an active military draft to recruit additional young people to wear the uniform and “fight for their country.” In fact, the number of young Americans volunteering for military service increased after 9-11 (just as it did after Pearl Harbor).
The U.S. Armed Services recruitment has come a long way from “Uncle Sam wants you!” to the sophisticated marketing techniques currently used to enlist new volunteers. Today’s military advertising is very slick, very Madison Avenue and very effective.

So with the failure of this rationale for maintaining draft registration, what are we left with to explain not only the requirement for young men to register but now also to include young women in this process? What remains is the subtle assertion (if you don’t look too closely or think about it too much) that our children are Government Property. This claim is the result of a highly coercive arrangement by which young people must “voluntarily” sign a government contract in which they agree to serve in the military should the time ever come when they are told to do so:

“In exchange for the State Privileges of driving a car and getting student loans (that I will have to pay back at an obscenely high interest rate when I get out of school and start working at my entry-level job), I_______________ , agree that, whenever I may be called upon to do so, I will serve as cannon fodder for the American Empire. I agree to go where I’m told, do what I’m told to do, kill whoever I’m told to kill, and willingly die painfully and prematurely as may be required.”

As a parent, I am obviously biased on this issue. I do not want my children risking their lives while they try to kill other parents’ children while those other parents’ kids are trying to kill my kids. The mouthpieces of government policy and their corporate media partners euphemistically refer to soldiers as “boots on the ground” as if they are chess pieces to be strategically manipulated to win “the game.” Those “boots” are filled with the barely-grown-up children of mothers and fathers everywhere. These young people are our children and yet we do not own them. They are not our property.

This system has very little to do with patriotism. It has a great deal to do with government exercising control over what it sees as its property. When the government of any nation treats its citizens as property to be managed and utilized it dehumanizes and commodifies the very people without whom there would be no nation. When people are dehumanized in this way it reduces the nation to the status of a mere machine. Citizens are reduced to consumers.

Any system, any corporate entity, that acts to reduce human beings to objects is wrong and deserves a response of nonviolent, noncooperation. Rather than including young women in the mandatory draft registration process as some expression of phony equality, the entire system should be eliminated for all American citizens.

As a society and as parents we bear the responsibility for our children until they are ready to bear that weight themselves. That is the cost of personal freedom. This freedom is not a privilege that our “adult” society bestows upon each new generation but rather it is the repayment of our debt to the generations that came before us and sacrificed for us. It is not the current generation of young people that owe something to the current generation of adults in this world but rather it is the current generation of adults that owe something to the generations of parents who preceded us. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren are our responsibility and not the property of any person or any government.

No one owns our children.

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Wow. I’m speechless after watching this trailer! I can’t believe a film about Gospel nonviolence will actually be on the big screen! This is what the world needs right now.

The extraordinary true story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, saved 75 men without firing a gun. Believing that the War was just but killing was nevertheless wrong, he was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon. As an army medic Doss single-handedly evacuated the wounded near enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers and was wounded by a grenade and hit by snipers. He was the first conscientious objector to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 

 

Oh, and as long as I’m on the topic of Mel Gibson, I simply must recommend a short story (well, it’s written like a screenplay but meant to be read as a story) called Surfing With Mel, written by the insanely talented Matthew Lickona. Do you have complicated feelings about Mel Gibson? Read this. It has so much heart and so much compassion at once, without fawning, promoting, or excusing.

mel

 

On April 11, 2012, TheWrap.com published a private letter from screenwriter Joe Eszterhas to director Mel Gibson. The letter chronicled, in alarming detail, their disastrous attempt to collaborate on a film version of the Biblical Book of Maccabees. The media flare-up that followed focused on Eszterhas’ characterization of Gibson as an angry, Jew-hating sociopath, but largely ignored the spiritual crisis at the story’s heart. Using the letter as a map, Surfing with Mel sets out to find some meaning within the madness, and winds up outlining a darkly satirical and deeply profane portrait of two men at war with each other, with their pasts, and with God.

About the Korrektiv Press series Lives of Famous Catholics: Writing in his journal about the celebrities of his day, the author John Cheever observed that “we have a hierarchy of demigods and heroes; they are a vital part of our lives and they should be a vital part of our literature.” We agree, which is why the Lives of Famous Catholics series seeks to explore the life of faith by the light of the famous.

The only question worth asking

John Dominic Crossan (b.1934) is an Irish-American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity and former Catholic priest, who has written twenty-eight books both scholarly and popular. Crossan is a major scholar in contemporary historical Jesus research. He earned his Doctor of Divinity in 1959 at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, the Irish national seminary. He then completed two more years of study in biblical languages at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. In 1965 Crossan began two additional years of study (in archaeology) at the Ecole Biblique in Jordanian East Jerusalem. In the fall of 1969 he joined the faculty of De Paul University, where he taught for twenty-six years until retiring in 1995. Crossan also served as president of the Chicago Society of Biblical Research in 1978–1979, and as president of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2012.

“Is the God of the Christian Bible violent or nonviolent? It is really the only question worth asking.”—John Dominic Crossan

This video is 16 minutes long.

Walking the Way of Nonviolence: Is the God of the Christian Bible Violent? from University Congregational UCC, S on Vimeo.

 

Merton on East and West

From the essay “Beyond East and West” by Thomas Merton:

“We are no longer living in a Christian world. The ages which we are pleased to call the ‘ages of Faith’ are certainly not ages of earthly paradise. But at least our forefathers officially recognized the favored the Christian ethic of love. They fought some very bloody and unChristian wars, and in doing so, they also committed great crimes which remain in history as a permanent scandal. However, certain definite limits were recognized. Today a non-Christian world still retains a few vestiges of Christian morality, a few formulas and cliches, which serve on appropriate occasions to adorn indignant editorials and speeches. But otherwise we witness deliberate campaigns to oppose and eliminate all education in Christian truth and morality. Not only non-Christians but even Christians themselves tend to dismiss the Gospel ethic on nonviolence and love as ‘sentimental’. As a matter of fact, the mere suggestion that Christ counseled nonviolent resistance to evil is enough to invite scathing ridicule. One Catholic writer declares in so many words that he will stick to natural law and abandon the Sermon on the Mount to ‘Protestant ministers and Jewish Rabbis.’ It is therefore a serious error to imagine that because the West was once largely Christian, the cause of the Western nations is now to be identified, without further qualification, with the cause of God.

 

Talking to Christians

My fellow Radicals and Subversives in Christ:  I am so very glad to be with you!

Why do I refer to you this way?  I know that those words may make some of you uncomfortable. I assure you that that is not my goal.

My point is simply this:  The One that we are privileged to follow was and is the greatest radical and subversive who has ever walked on the surface of planet Earth.

Did he support the socio-economic and political status quo of his time? Hardly. He taught and demonstrated a radical departure from the social and political systems established by human beings.  He actively subverted The System of Empire. In response to his radicalism and subversiveness, he was captured, convicted and tortured to death by that Empire.

Why was he a threat to The Establishment?  I suggest that his primary threat was in his challenge to their assertion that they were God. Jesus countered that only God is God and that no human political or military leader or system is any sort of god at all.  That posed a major threat to their power base.  Therefore “The System” moved to eliminate this threat.

What does this mean for us now?

We are called to follow Jesus. He didn’t ask us to adore him or worship him. He told us to follow him.  How can we interpret this directive?  We can follow his example behaviorally.  We can do our best to act as he did. We can follow his teachings and do our best to cultivate an internal attitude similar to his and practice corresponding external behavior.

I believe that following Jesus means following his path of Radical Love. What is radical about his kind of love?  At the Last Supper, he told his disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.”  This is his instruction as to how we are to love each other (and love ourselves).  He did not direct them (or us) to love any old way. He specifically tells them (and us) to follow his example and do it his way.

So what does it mean to love the way he taught and demonstrated?

He tells us to love those who hurt us. He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who have hit us already. He tells us to love our enemies.  Even as he is being tortured to death on the cross he expresses:  “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”  He provides a live demonstration even as he is dying. His way of loving is so counter-intuitive, so alien to us.   It would seem that he wants us to actively forgive and love everyone who hurts us.

When we use the words “radical” and “subversive” it’s important to ask:  A radical departure from what?  Attempting to subvert what existing system or situation?

I would argue that the radicalism and subversiveness of Jesus was and is this kind of “movement” away from the Violence of Lies and toward the Reality of True Love. It is the conscious subversion of the idolatry of worshiping The-State-as-if-it’s-God.

Does this mean that we are called to do likewise? I think it does. I think it means that we need to recognize the various ways that each of us is invited or coerced into deifying and worshiping phony gods in our everyday lives.

Who and what are these phony gods?

Who are the individuals that are promoted as heroes in the public eye? Who are those that are advertised as great and powerful that the rest of us are supposed to cheer for and adore? What are we repeatedly told to buy and buy into? What are we directed to glorify by those with materialistic power? What are the institutions and products that are endlessly marketed as “must have” if we are to be acceptable as human beings?

Who wants us to be afraid?

Phony gods.

If we choose to follow Christ, we commit to the path that is a radical departure from the System of Empire and the lies that sustain it. We commit to a path that is a radical movement toward the Unity of Real Love. We express and accept the “Yes!” to who and what we truly are: Manifestations of Love.

If we choose to make this claim, we can expect to be labelled as “subversive” by the world of phony gods. If we take this stand, we should expect The System of Empire to react with violence of some kind. That is consistent with its philosophy. We must be prepared for this reaction.

No empire likes to be told that its “new clothes” are an illusion!

My fellow radicals and subversives, we have choices to make.

We can choose to conform to the System of Empire and enjoy the materialistic comforts that come with it. This option requires behavioral obedience to The Establishment as well as psychological acceptance of its worldview. We must do and think and feel as we are told.

There is another choice.

We can choose to follow Christ’s Way.

This means letting go of the Temptation Traps of the human ego. These are traps like: “I want what I want when I want it” and “I”m more deserving than you” and “Us vs. Them”. It means accepting discomforts we may be unaccustomed to and suffering rejections and criticisms from both strangers and loved ones. It means embracing a lifestyle of all-inclusive compassion and forgiveness. It is a matter of choosing what is real instead of a hollow fantasy. It is a matter of choosing love over fear, freedom over slavery.

It is the choice of redemptive nonviolence over non-redemptive violence.

My fellow Radicals and Subversives in Christ, we have choices to make.

Daniel Berrigan, R.I.P.

Here are two obituaries for Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

OBITUARY: Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace,
passes away at age 94, NCR April 30, 2016
http://ncronline.org/news/people/daniel-berrigan-poet-peacemaker-dies-94

“Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94”
by DANIEL LEWIS, NY Times, APRIL 30, 2016
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/nyregion/daniel-j-berrigan-defiant-priest-who-preached-pacifism-dies-at-94.html?_r=0

And here is a statement written by Frida Kerrigan:

 

April 30, 2016

Daniel Berrigan, Uncle, Brother, Friend,

PRESENTE

A statement from the Family of Father Dan Berrigan, SJ

This afternoon around 2:30, a great soul left this earth. Close family missed the “time of death” by half an hour, but Dan was not alone, held and prayed out of this plane of existence by his friends. We – Liz McAlister, Kate, Jerry and Frida Berrigan, Carla and Marc Berrigan-Pittarelli—were blessed to be among friends—Patrick Walsh, Joe Cosgrove, Father Joe Towle and Maureen McCafferty—able to surround Daniel Berrigan’s body for the afternoon into the evening.

We were able to be with our memories of our Uncle, Friend and Brother in Law—birthdays and baptisms, weddings and wakes, funerals and Christmas dinners, long meals and longer walks, arrests and marches and court appearances.

It was a sacrament to be with Dan and feel his spirit move out of his body and into each of us and into the world. We see our fathers in him—Jerry Berrigan who died in July 2015 and Phil Berrigan who died in December 2002. We see our children in him—we think that little Madeline Vida Berrigan Sheehan-Gaumer (born February 2014) is his pre-incarnation with her dark skin, bright eyes and big ears.

We see the future in him – his commitment to making the world a little more human, a little more truthful.

We are bereft. We are so sad. We are aching and wrung out. Our bodies are tired as Dan’s was—after a hip fracture, repeated infections, prolonged frailty.  And we are so grateful: for the excellent and conscientious care Dan received at Murray Weigel, for his long life and considerable gifts, for his grace in each of our lives, for his courage and witness and prodigious vocabulary. Dan taught us that every person is a miracle, every person has a story, every person is worthy of respect.

And we are so aware of all he did and all he was and all he created in almost 95 years of life lived with enthusiasm, commitment, seriousness, and almost holy humor.

We talked this afternoon of Dan Berrigan’s uncanny sense of ceremony and ritual, his deep appreciation of the feminine, and his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He was not strategic, he was not opportunistic, but he understood solidarity—the power of showing
up for people and struggles and communities. We reflect back on his long life and we are in awe of the depth and breadth of his commitment to peace and justice—from the Palestinians’ struggle for land and recognition and justice; to the gay community’s fight for health care,
equal rights and humanity; to the fractured and polluted earth that is crying out for nuclear disarmament; to a deep commitment to the imprisoned, the poor, the homeless, the ill and infirm.

We are aware that no one person can pick up this heavy burden, but that there is enough work for each and every one of us. We can all move forward Dan Berrigan’s work for humanity. Dan told an interviewer: “Peacemaking is tough, unfinished, blood-ridden. Everything is worse now than when I started, but I’m at peace. We walk our hope and that’s the only way of keeping it going. We’ve got faith, we’ve got one another, we’ve got religious discipline…” We do have
it, all of it, thanks to Dan.

Dan was at peace. He was ready to relinquish his body. His spirit is free, it is alive in the world and it is waiting for you.