Commentary

Why Violence Always Fails

As people of faith, we would do well to take seriously Al Bostelmann’s call for a nonviolent response to the evils of this world (Metro Lutheran, February). Not incidentally, that is also the way of Jesus.

The day after the September 11 attacks on the U.S., I asked a young man how he would respond to Osama bin Laden. He replied, “I would go to him and say, ‘We need to talk.’”
Naïve? I don’t think so. That response is not as naïve as thinking an invasion of Iraq would stop bin Laden, a Saudi living in Afghanistan and who detested Sadam Hussein. Our invasion of Iraq has proved only that we are a violent nation bent on hegemony. Consider the cost. America’s dead number 2,200. American wounded number 16,000, only half of whom have been able to return to duty. The number of Iraqi dead is unknown, but they number in the tens of thousands.
The Bush administration says the cost of the war in Iraq is something over $200 billion. That’s disingenuous at best. The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, says the cost will be over a trillion dollars, which includes ongoing care of those of our troops who have been physically and emotionally wounded. Our children and grandchildren will foot that bill at the expense of medical care, good schools and affordable housing for the American people.

Let’s think about nonviolence as an alternative. One need not be a pacifist to be nonviolent (but many are).

* We all know Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, ‘Do not resist an evildoer … love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.’” (Matthew 6) As Christians, we follow the cross, not the flag.

* Isaiah (in chapter 11) said the time will come when the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion together.
n In Zechariah 4:6 we read, “Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

* A hip-hop group named Spearhead sings, “You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb the world to peace.”

* Ivan Karamazov said, “As long as one child in this universe suffers, I stand in protest.”

* Gandhi, a little man in a loincloth, used nonviolence to bring the British Empire to its knees and won freedom for the people of India. He said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” He also said, “Christians are the only people who don’t recognize that Jesus was nonviolent.”

* Vaclev Havel was nonviolently instrumental in abolishing Communism in the former Czechoslovakia.

* Lech Walesa was instrumental in abolishing Communism in Poland.

* Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu nonviolently brought down apartheid in South Africa.

* The despotic Marcos regime in the Philippines was removed nonviolently.

* When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey told him, “Jackie, you will be cursed, spit upon and the players on the other teams will try to cut you with their spikes.” Robinson replied, “Mr. Rickey, do you want someone tough enough to fight back?” Rickey replied, “No, Jackie, I want someone tough enough not to fight back.”

We who choose nonviolence do so because nonviolent approaches to conflict are not only more ethical but more effective. It’s a faith issue — faith that humans can change, faith in inclusiveness rather than exclusion, faith that love is stronger than death. We commit to harm, diminish, violate or destroy no one. We dare to be obedient to the one we call the Prince of Peace.

Dixen lives in Circle Pines, Minnesota.