Nonviolence and Results
Today — October 2nd — is the International Day of Nonviolence.
Civil rights and peace activist, Madge Micheels-Cyrus, reminds us that “Nonviolence doesn’t always work — but violence never does.”
This is an important tension to enter into intentionally. While the effectiveness of nonviolence to hold oppressive power figures to account and create social change can be verified statistically, as in the studies by Erica Chenoweth (see: https://youtu.be/YJSehRlU34w), results are not the focus or motivation of the nonviolent Christian peacemaker. Such a focus on results can not only lead to activist burnout, compassion fatigue, and disillusionment, despair, and paralysis, but it undermines the scandal of the cross that we, as cross-bearers, are called to embrace and embody.
As Miroslav Volf wrote in his seminal book, ‘Exclusion and Embrace,’ “The ultimate scandal of the cross is the all too frequent failure of self-donation to bear positive fruit.” A king who’s enthroned on a cross instead of a Roman solium and crowned with thorns instead of a jewel encrusted diadem, who sits on a donkey instead of a warhorse at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and proclaims Good News (i.e., the gospel) as liberation of the oppressed rather than a military victory, and who tells Pilate that his servants won’t fight to prevent his arrest because his kingdom does not operate in the same way as the kingdoms of this world (Jn. 18:36), is not a king who discovers success or results by the world’s standards … or by any standard other than that of the energies of the Triune Godhead breaking into the constraints of time and space to offer mercy, forgiveness, and compassion, wherein the Son uses our suffering as his own entry point into the created world that groans for healing.
But this is not a cross we prescribe for those who are already suffering their own crosses of injustice and oppression. Instead, along with Jürgen Moltmann in ‘The Crucified God,’ this is a cross of solidarity that those of us with socio-economic advantage take up voluntarily on behalf of, or in solidarity with, those who already bear the weight of the crosses that our advantages place on them.
Rather than seekers of elusive results that modernism distracts us with to ultimately destroy us and eventually render us useless, we are to be *witnesses* of the kingdom through our nonviolence as epitomized by the cross, or “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). And this should be enough. All else is a form of Pelagianism that places the burden on us and our own effort rather than leaving room for the Holy Spirit in a synergistic dance towards the day when swords will be transformed into ploughshares that we participate in already/not-yet.