Lesson 10: Nonviolent Revolution

A lot of us were hoping human civilization was finally getting violence under control. The civil rights movement staged a largely non-violent revolution under Martin Luther King in the US. Decolonization was achieved under Gandhi with little bloodshed in India. Articles were published reporting non-violent revolutions achieved their goals more frequently than wars if people were organized and committed.

It seemed we might be breaking through a  past where murder and capital punishment were expected as a normal part of human society. Throughout history, people had welcomed autocrats after republican rule resulted in chaos. We hoped the democratic experiment had finally learned how to manage law and order.

The assumption was if non-violence was given a chance, people would be transformed. One of our illustrations was a confrontation that allegedly took place when a nun tried to bring a black person into a whites-only southern church. The story went they were met at the door by ushers who refused them entrance. When the nun persisted, supposedly, the usher threw a tomato on her white cassock. She takes the tomato off and hands it back to the usher, who once again throws it unto her robe.  This back and forth continues until the usher breaks down crying and gives in.

I’m not sure we can make that assumption any longer. Many seem to take the NRA slogan as wisdom.  They think the pragmatic approach is not to waste time but to immediately move to lethal force.

Our hopes are also dashed when we hear the response to school shootings is not to seek gun control of any kind but to buy more and more guns. And sadly, those are often AR-15 assault rifles.

But perhaps the saddest part of all this is the role played by religious groups. You would hope these would support non-violent efforts using Jesus’ teachings and example.  Instead, we hear Christian groups calling for a more masculine faith which means aggressively fighting to force your positions on the rest of society. Some even call for using violence to throw agents of Satan from leadership in our government and economy.

My lament is not that I was naive about human nature. It has more to do with my group not being committed enough to organize better.

The earliest  Christian groups insisted being nonviolent might call on the community to be faithful unto death. Recognizing this possibility, contemporary nonviolent groups were extremely disciplined, knowing change might mean suffering.

In the old days, I was at Yale Divinity School, where Dr. King found many of his recruits. We constantly got letters announcing the next march and warning if we did not show up, the black power people would take over. Certainly, one way to see the waning of non-violent groups is that the good guys seem to have gotten tired of doing good before the bad guys got tired of doing bad.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1 Enlightened Reply

Trackback  •  Comments RSS

  1. paul wildman says:

    Thx Fritz For me a lament that so much promise in the land of Uncle Sam offered by Non-Violence. yet much seems not to have been substantiated. Sadly at this time for the US we have unlimited money printing, open carry in many States, tent cities emerging, and looting causing shops inc. Walmart to close.

    This squandering has to varying extents also been seen in other Western nations inc. Australia and Canada.

    We each need to pray, and act, to help this promise of MLK live in our hearts and lives>

    ciao paul


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.