Many would argue that non-violence is not a practical subject to be explored in the church’s life. Since the days of Constantine, the church has supported empire, the concept of the just war and the right of citizens to defend themselves against aggressors. Violence appears to be an integral part of the universe, and personal violence necessary, in some instances, to affirm self esteem in the face of continuing injustice and oppression.
Nevertheless, an alternative to this ethic must now be taken seriously, or we risk widespread catastrophe. Since its inception, the Anglican church has been automatically aligned with the powers of the state. The armed forces, as instruments of defence, has not hesitated to play an aggressive role in the expansion of commercial interests. The church, understanding herself to be the triumphalistic saviour of humanity, has been equally quick to lend its support to these crusades and wars of aggression in an evolving feudal, industrial and post-industrial society.
The world we live in now will not tolerate religious exclusivism, unbridled economic greed, and the unrestrained right of nations and corporations to pursue private ambitions at the expense of the worldwide eco-community. Families and societies decaying from within because of economic injustice and a lack of personal values and respect, have become increasingly hopeless and violent.
What is the non-violent answer? The rejection of the use of force to achieve social and political goals. It involves refusal to harm another being. It also involves “truth force” or dialogue. Since the truth is too big to be grasped by one individual, we must be prepared to listen to each other. Non-violence means caring about “restorative justice” between one’s enemies and oneself. It means concern for both the welfare of one’s opponent as well as oneself.
We are all interconnected; to love oneself is to love everyone.
Walter Wink, theologian, notes that “in 1989, approximately 1.5 billion people experienced non-violent revolution; add to that the countries of Korea, the Philippines, South Africa, and India and you have, in the last century, 65% of the world’s population who have benefited from what many insist is an impractical style of life.
The Rev. R. G. Cross lives in Virgil, Ont.“