Richard Rohr: MLK Jr's Message About Violence

Thought I would share Fr. Richard Rohr's e-mail message for today...
Peter


What does Martin Luther King’s message tell me
about worldly systems and violence?

Jesus undercut the basis for all violent, exclusionary and punitive behavior. He became the forgiving victim, so we would stop creating victims ourselves. He became the falsely accused one, so we would be careful whom we accuse.

Any worldly system actually prefers violent partners to nonviolent ones; it gives them a clear target and a credible enemy. Empires are actually relieved to have terrorists to shoot at and Barabbas figures loose on the streets. Types like Jesus, Martin Luther King and Gandhi make difficult enemies for empires. They cannot be used or co-opted.

The powers that be know that nonviolent prophets are a much deeper problem because they refuse to buy into the very illusions that the whole empire is built on, especially the myth of redemptive violence. Like Jesus, they live instead a life of redemptive suffering.

Taken from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p 152

2 comments:

pastormack said...

"The powers that be know that nonviolent prophets are a much deeper problem because they refuse to buy into the very illusions that the whole empire is built on, especially the myth of redemptive violence."

I'm not sure this argument works. If China is included as a "power that [is]" it seems clear that tanks have no problem running over nonviolent prophets.

The truth is, there is nothing redemptive about a solely nonviolent approach to justice, just as there is nothing redemptive about a solely violent approach to establishing justice. Only Jesus Christ and a relationship with him is redemptive, incidentally.

The truth is, nonviolence is a tactic that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. We don't write books and have holidays for the "prophets" that get killed trying. Only societies that possess a modicum of respect for life and human rights will grant nonviolent protest any credence - and, generally, nonviolent protest works best when the tide of history is on the side of the protesters. For instance, there is a reason that war was necessary for the racial struggle in the 1860's and not in the 1960's.

Empires - or states - are not built on a false belief in redemptive violence. They are built on the assumption that statecraft involves force - sometimes violent, some times not, sometimes in the domestic sphere, and sometimes foreign sphere. For this assumption, there is little evidence, aside from the whole of human history.

Peter said...

pastormack,
I probably agree with you on most of this, in general.

But isn't it an assumption to suggest that because something doesn't bear immediate, pragmatic fruit, that it's not effective?

How can we know that the nonviolent protests by students in Tiananmen Square (viewed by millions, all over the world) didn't have an impact?

And I would also be careful about classifying some wars as "necessary." I think that given the climate and the tensions of particular forces of power, the Civil War (and World War II, for that matter) were "inevitable." Inevitable is different than "necessary," and I can't justify calling either of those necessary. Inevitable: certainly.

Still, I believe there are times when rising up in physical defiance is the only option, and the Markan testimony of Jesus seems to support this.

Thanks for weighing in!

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