Tag Archives: nonviolence

Overheard Rumblings

I found myself at the airport very early this morning, as my friend Sarah says before God was awake.

It was quiet as I went through security, so as I put my bags on the xray belt I heard a TSA agent, apparently originally from Poland, tell a coworker that she needs to get her family Polish passports because under Trump it will get harder to travel on an American passport.

As I sat having a cup of coffee to wake up, I heard two young business folks talking about the appointments of Trump and debating whether his actions and cabinet appointments would be good for business or hurt the economy and people who won’t realize what is happening until it is too late.

We are a preoccupied nation. We are rumbling and concerned, no matter what side of the spectrum we are on. Many of those who voted for President Trump were motivated by their own rumblings and concerns about being left behind. Many who did not vote for him now find themselves alert to what devastation may come as a result of his policies.

What to do with all this agitated energy? I highly recommend reading this article where Tich Naht Han and other zen masters give advice on coping with Trump.

Brothet Phap Dung points to the Buddhist teaching of interdependence: that people we perceive as our greatest enemies can be our greatest teachers, because they show aspects of ourselves that we find unpalatable and give us the chance to heal.
“We have the wrong perception that we are separate from the other,” he said. “So in a way Trump is a product of a certain way of being in this world so it is very easy to have him as a scapegoat. But if we look closely, we have elements of Trump in us and it is helpful to have time to reflect on that.”

Resistance as the Way of Love

Today’s Gospel from Matthew is certainly timely (Matt 5:38-48).

Go read it.

Love your enemies. Resist evil itself, not evildoers. The way of Jesus is not easy my friends, but it is transformative. It can transform our own hearts, our web of relationships, and our world. 

The first reading from Levitivus is also challenging and timely (Lev 19: 1-2, 17-18).

“Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love

Nonviolence

Resistance

The way

Jesus

Resistance and Relationship

When I was studying theological ethics at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, one of my main research areas was the ethics and spirituality of Christian nonviolent resistance.

Resistance of course now is a trending hashtag on Twitter. I was invited to share some of my thoughts and research about the urgent need for an ethic of resistance grounded in relationship in a guest blog post for NETWORK Lobby (the folks behind Nuns on the Bus).

Whatever comes next, it is crucial that we develop an ethic of resistance that is grounded in human dignity and right relationship. Otherwise, we face the danger of recreating and repeating negative cycles of violent and dehumanizing language and actions. …

In fact, we would all do well to read up on the history of resistance to social sin. Resistance is not futile, but neither is it easy. The Christian tradition of resistance begins with Jesus, and think of where his path of resistance led.  Jesus resisted dehumanizing social norms, created a wide web of relationship, and engaged in liberating action for the oppressed.  In the centuries since, Christians have followed in his footsteps and resisted social sin and injustice.  

Read the rest over on the NETWORK blog.

Franz Jägerstätter – Courage to Resist Nonviolently

Today is the feast day of Franz Jägerstätter who was beatified by the Catholic Church in 2007. I learned a bit about his life, witness, and sacrifice for peace during my graduate studies as part of my research into nonviolent resistance. Here is an excerpt of a paper I wrote about nonviolent resistance to the Holocaust:

FranzAlthough one might consider his 2007 beatification to have shifted his “ordinary” status, Franz Jägerstätter lived a rather ordinary and simple life. His primary occupations were husband, father, and farmer.  His marriage to Franziska, a very devout Christian, was happy and deepened his own commitment to his Catholic faith. He was a volunteer parish sacristan and later became a lay tertiary Franciscan. Equipped with only a seventh-grade education, he was nevertheless widely read—periodicals, devotionals, papal encyclicals, lives of the saints, and scripture.

Jägerstätter had a vivid dream in 1938, two months prior to the arrival of Hitler’s army in his native Austria. It was a dream upon which he later reflected and acted.

“Suddenly, I saw a beautiful train, which was going around a mountain. Grown-ups and children were streaming toward it and could hardly be held back. I would rather not say how few adults did not get on the train. Then suddenly a voice said to me: ‘This train is going to Hell’ … And now I realize that it embodies National Socialism, as it descends upon us with all its many organizations.”

“From the very beginning,” notes his biographer Erna Putz, Jägerstätter “refused all cooperation” with the Nazi regime, even refusing government payments for raising children or crop damage.  He was the only person in his village to vote “No” to the April 1938 German annexation of Austria, even though the annexation vote had been endorsed by Austrian Cardinal Innitzer. Conscription soon became the fate of able bodied Austrian men, now German citizens.

Jägerstätter was no exception.  He received six months of army training in 1941, during which time he realized that he could not in good conscience serve in the Nazi military. As a devout Catholic, he discussed his decision with his priest, who told him in confession that such a decision would be akin to suicide, and even with his local Bishop, who advised him to think of his duty to his family. His resolve was unchanged. He wrote: “Does it still bear witness to Christian love of the neighbor if I commit an act, which I truly regard as evil and very unjust, and yet I continue to commit the act because otherwise I would suffer either physical or economic harm?”

When Jägerstätter was called to active duty in 1943, he declared his refusal to participate. He was beheaded on August 9, 1943. Faced with evil, and commanded to participate in that evil, he responded by seizing the moral initiative, refusing to submit, and being willing both to suffer rather than retaliate and to undergo the penalty of breaking an unjust law.

Margaret Anna Fridays: Our Manner of Speech

Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)
Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack)

Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day. Happily, thanks to public domain and the many internet book projects, much of her writing is now available online.  She was a woman of her time and yet, ahead of her time in many ways. In this quote, for example, she writes about what we would today call nonviolent communication.

We are too apt to think because speech is momentary, that it is therefore insignificant;  and there are not a few who excuse themselves for offending others causelessly and grievously on the plea that they have only said a few words, or that they did not mean all they said.  But in truth, words are exterior signs of what passes in our hearts;  and whatever our manner of speech may be, it indicates that which is within, that which is real, that which is, as a rule, under our own control, else there were no such thing as human responsibility, and, as a necessary consequence, no ground for the eternal judgment. – M.F. Cusack, Book of the Blessed Ones, 1874