Our country is a unique place. I will not settle for the binaries of this country existing in a completely hopeless situation or the utopian nation of the world. Our country has a diverse population of persons who are united by a common existence as Americans, a common desire to live in freedom, and pursue their unique dreams. In the presence of such existence, desires, and pursuits are the differences which contribute to the tensions which put our communities into periodic turmoil.
In a world in which we believe we have made our lives closer through Instagram pictures and Snapchat we appear to be drifting further apart. In a world in which we believe we have friends who span a variety of spheres through Facebook we reveal through our memes, videos, and messages a level of disdain we have for the other. It is a strange thing to see someone provide posts about the love of God then follow those posts up with vitriol about a political candidate, revel in a video about two persons assaulting each other, or reveal racist thought. Technology may have brought us closer together in terms of information but reveals the important necessity for us to function as true brothers and sisters in humanity.
I say “brothers and sisters” because we all share a common nature as persons made in the image of God. God creates humanity in his image and the image humans reflects is his son Jesus Christ. At the deepest level of our existence we possess a shared nature which reflects eternality. We are a family. Families are not created by random acts but through intentionality. We are a family of individuals who are divinely threaded together by a transcendent being and this offers us a solid reason for existence. Yet despite the ontological reality of our being, we persist in assaulting one another because of our differences. We manifest in word and sadly in deed violent behavior which diminishes and at times extinguishes the life of another “Christ.”
In Chicago, two males and two females bind and assault another human being live on Facebook because of his ethnicity.
In South Carolina, Dylan Roof states in his killing of nine human beings, “I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did…I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”
On social media, an Arkansas teacher celebrates our current President and his wife leaving the White House by stating, “glad to see that nasty chimp and her spider monkey hubby gone for good.” Our future President is labeled as the destroyer of the nation. Even the former CEO of PacketSled was bold enough to state on social media, “I am going to kill the president. Elect. Nope, getting a snipe rifle and perching myself where it counts. Find a bedroom in the whitehouse that suits you motherfucker. I’ll find you.”
I can go on about how we speak about those who have entered the country illegally, refugees needing a safe place to live, and those of different sexual orientation, and faiths. We are demonstrating a schizophrenic behavior. We-per some- are a Christian nation yet we decimate in violent words the dignity of people. We speak of justice and fairness yet threaten death on those who are our political opponents. We speak about lives mattering but we are willing to seek viral popularity with physical violence at the expense of another’s life.
I invoke the pronoun “we” because as one person uses violence-verbal and physical-against another our society is negatively impacted. As I stated above, we are divinely united by our image bearing. We understand our personhood in relationship to another person, ultimately grasping our full personhood in relationship to God. When I pursue the affirmation of another human being his or her life is improved and by extension your life as well. But when I pursue violence I begin the slow death of myself, my neighbor, and society. As Shakespeare stated, “violent delights have violent ends.”
Reconciliation as the Outcome of Nonviolence
Jesus stated a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Martin L. King spoke aptly that to achieve peaceful ends we are to possess peaceful means. I firmly believe deep within each of us is the desire to exist in harmony with our neighbors. I believe this harmony exists because of the image we poorly reflect. A broken mirror still offers reflection. In our shattered state, Christ’s divine harmony through the agency of nonviolence can bring about reconciliation. Reconciliation is making friendship with someone who stands at odds with another. I could choose violence to realize harmony in my life yet the end of such activity will be my own undoing. But when I choose to act peacefully and I choose to affirm the personhood of my opponent the opportunity for a peaceful and beneficial outcome has greater possibility. We possess the seed to produce peace in our lives and the lives of others.
Love as the Power within Nonviolence
The only type of love which can nourish nonviolent behavior is the love which transforms a human heart bringing together the shattered pieces of our souls. Friendly love or sexual love will not suffice. We need a love which transcends our human experience and simultaneously touches our lives in the most profound ways. This type of love provides the power to a man or woman to speak peace and embrace his or her enemy. It is the type of love in which God himself embraced his own enemies and calls others to do the same. A type of love which told Peter to put away his sword and James and John to withhold calling down the judgment of God on an unreceptive town. It is the type of love which calls on a small group of persons to honor a ruler who viewed himself as the son of God. This type of love has power.
It is my firm hope in 2017 we would pursue a nonviolent posture for sake of ourselves, our neighbors, and our society.