>Nonviolent Social Change

On the third installment of an essay on peace theology at Spectrum, someone commented:

How’s that “peaceful, non-violent” protest moving working in the other countries close to Egypt? Even China? How about the peaceful, non-violent protests of the unions in Wisconsin?

This was my response:

I’m not sure if [you mean] that they aren’t effective or that they’re not as nonviolent as we may presume. But I will say that I agree with Yoder that we need to be faithful to do what is right whether it succeeds in achieving our objectives (gets a hold on history) or gets us killed. I do believe that ultimately the way of Jesus (sacrifice and resurrection) is the only truly “effective” way (the final chapter of The Politics of Jesus, “The War of the Lamb,” has influenced this part of my thinking). The “failure” of nonviolence in the short-term doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do or that it won’t eventually be effective. Gene Sharp, Peter Ackerman, Jack Duvall and other historians have done a pretty thorough job of recording the effectiveness of nonviolence as a tool for social change around the world, well beyond Gandhi and King.

In his short book, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way, Walter Wink writes: “Nonviolent general strikes have overthrown at least seven Latin American dictators….In 1989-90 alone, fourteen nations underwent nonviolent revolutions, all of them successful except China….These revolutions involved 1.7 billion people. If we total all the nonviolent movements of the twentieth century, the figure comes to 3.4 billion people, and again, most were successful” (p. 2). So even though I value (or want to value) faithfulness over short-term effectiveness, we do see that Gandhi’s understanding of Jesus’ nonviolence has spread and proven effective in amazing ways.

In his peace reader, Peace through Strength, Colman McCarthy shares this quote by Ted Roszak: “I despair to see so many radicals turn to violence as a proof of their militancy and commitment. It is heart-breaking to see all the old mistakes being made all over again. The usual pattern seems to be that people give nonviolence two weeks to solve their problem…and then decide it has ‘failed.’ Then they go on with violence for the next hundred years…and it seems never to ‘fail’ and be rejected.”

Turning a corner… I don’t want to make peace about “something over there” instead of an issue for us here (as individuals, congregations, conferences…) or to make it global at the expense of local (go enditnow campaign), but some readers may be interested in these two short online films that consider peace from the perspective of those who wear the red hats, Christian Peacemaker Teams (www.cpt.org). I watched both this afternoon as part of the aforementioned project coming due.

Old Radicals (~8min, 2010) — http://www.docchallenge.org/2010-Finalists/old-radicals.html

Peacemakers in the Holy Land (~30min, 2006) — http://www.veoh.com/collection/PeppersprayProductionsindymediaPres/watch…

And maybe this is a good topic for input. What are your favorite Christian peace and justice films?

I would start with Pray the Devil back to Hell, Amazing Grace, and The Power of Forgiveness. Though a bit different from these, Return to El Salvador and The Ordinary Radicals also speak to me. I want to include Encounter Point, but it’s not directly Christian. Portions of A Force More Powerful are, so let’s add that to the starter list.

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