Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mark Kurlansky's 25 lessons on nonviolence

I am reading the book, “Nonviolence: 25 Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea,” (Random House) and I am finding it very interesting and challenging.

The author, Mark Kurlansky, writes the book in narrative form teaching the 25 lessons as he goes along. His work involves studying nonviolence in several religious and cultural traditions throughout history.

The final paragraph of the 1st chapter reads:
"Though most religions shun warfare, and hold nonviolence as the only moral route toward political change, religion and its language have been co-opted by the violent people who have been governing societies. If someone were to come along who would not compromise, a rebel who insisted on taking the only moral path, rejecting violence in all its forms, such a person would seem so menacing that he would be killed, and after his death he would be canonized or deified, because a saint is less dangerous than a rebel. This has happened numerous times, but the first prominent example was a Jew named Jesus."
Here are the 25 lessons that he poses through the book. Let me know what you think or if there are any that jump out at you as insightful.

  1. There is no proactive word for nonviolence.
  2. Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them.
  3. Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
  4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings.
  5. A rebel can be defanged and co-opted by making him a saint after he is dead.
  6. Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.
  7. A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.
  8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
  9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
  10. The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
  11. The longer a war lasts, the less popular it becomes.
  12. The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it cannot conceive of power without force.
  13. It is often not the largest but the best organized and the most articulate group that prevails.
  14. All debate momentarily ends with an “enforced silence” once the first shots are fired.
  15. A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power but is used to consolidate the revolution itself.
  16. Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.
  17. Warfare produces peace activists. A group of veterans is a likely place to find peace activists.
  18. People motivated by fear to not act well.
  19. While it is perfectly feasible to convince a people faced with brutal repression to rise up in a suicidal attack on their oppressor, it is almost impossible to convince them to meet deadly violence with nonviolence resistance.
  20. Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.
  21. Once you start the business of killing, you just get “deeper and deeper,” without limits.
  22. Violence always comes with a supposedly rational explanation-which is only dismissed as irrational if the violence fails.
  23. Violence is a virus that infects and takes over.
  24. The miracle is that despite all of society’s promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values.
  25. The hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.

Any thoughts??

Saturday, July 14, 2007

They dared not ask...

(I credit my friend Jason Shambach for this post...he's the creative genius here)

John 21:12 has a very interesting comment. Here John writes: Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

This fits in with many other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. The usual pattern of these appearances of Jesus usually happened something like this: Jesus appears, he is not recognized, he says something and after he speaks everybody is like, “Oh that’s Jesus!”

Look it up. It usually happens in that manner. Nobody by first looking at Jesus seems to recognize him. Why not? They lived with the guy for 3 years-maybe longer. A few of the events happened outside so there was not a problem with the lighting. Why didn’t anybody recognize Jesus?

There are several traditional answers that theologians will give as an answer. But I would like to maybe look at it in a different way. What if the reason that people didn’t recognize Jesus when they saw him is because his face was so badly beaten?

There was a horrible accident my senior year of college. A van full of Taylor University students was driving between the two Taylor campuses on I-69 in northern Indiana when a semi crossed the median and smacked the van. Sadly only 1 or 2 of the students survived the wreck.

If you remember the story you’ll also remember that a couple months later as one of the girls who survived began to wake up, did not recognize the family that was around her. What had happened was because of the extent of her injuries and the bruises to her face, she was misidentified by everybody-even her parents. Her face was so badly beaten in she was unrecognizable.

What if this is the reason that nobody could recognize Jesus? His face was so badly mangled that he did not look like himself. My friend Jason put it this way-If we put the way Jesus actually looked on flannel-graph little children would scream. If this was the case it makes perfect sense that nobody would recognize him. Just like the girl in the accident he did not look like himself.

Why is this significant? Why does it matter that Jesus face looked like it was caught on fire then put out with a chain? I think it has everything to do with the incarnation. It has everything to do with the nature of what Jesus is doing here among humans. Intrinsic with salvation is Jesus being beaten.

Let’s think it this way. The incarnation-Jesus becoming a man-is also described as “the Humiliation of Jesus.” “The Humiliation of Jesus” is the way of talking about Jesus giving up what his divine characteristics in order to take upon himself humanity. It was so beneath the very nature of who he was that it was a humiliation. Think of a king giving up his palace to be with beggars-humiliation.

This is the posture of Jesus’ life. This is the posture of Jesus. Philippians 2 says he humbled himself. And because he was obedient in this, he was exalted. It was because he humbled himself and took the posture not of greatness but of a slave that he was glorified. He did not try and become the biggest and the best but he allowed himself to be beaten beyond recognition. This is the posture as Christians we need to model.

University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas in their vision statement says this: “…our efforts focus on engaging the culture in which we live and transforming it by lives incarnating the person of Jesus Christ.”

This is what Christians are about…incarnating the person of Jesus…living like he did…humbling ourselves…taking the very nature of a slave…not seeking equality.

What does incarnating the person of Jesus mean to you? How can we follow his posture?