Dialog About Non-Violence

I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude to the GPNW Mission Center for tackling a very complex topic at its conference on November 6—Non-Violence.  For those of you who may not have been there, the conversation revolved around a resolution brought to the conference by Scott Amos, a member of the Portland, OR congregation.  The text of that resolution can be found HERE.  Ultimately the resolution did not pass.  It failed by a margin (I think) of 58% to 42%.  But I wish to lift up Scott and the rest of the Mission Center because of what I considered to be a real engagement on the topic.

Indeed, the topic of non-violence is a complicated one.  I’ve wrestled with it a lot, and I don’t think I have ever found a complete and satisfying solution.  The topic is so complicated that the world conference of 2018 chose to highlight it by offering world-wide perspectives.  That world conference referred a similar resolution to the first presidency for guidance to the church, and the church is still awaiting a response from the presidency.  I, for one, am anxious to hear that response.  I expect it to answer for us some (but probably not all) of the questions we wrestled with ourselves earlier this month:

  • Are there situations when violence is not objectional?  Like self defense or bringing a population to order or capital punishment?
  • Who can appropriately judge the difference between police violence and the necessary use of force?
  • Does violence done by the state look different between ethnic, social, or cultural groups?  It certainly looks different to members of different countries with different histories of state-sponsored terror.  We heard that at the 2018 World Conference.
  • At what point does a demonstration turn to a riot?  Is there such a thing as a justified riot?
  • Is there such a thing as a justified war?
  • And ultimately (at least for me), can there be peace without justice; and can there be justice without violence?

I am humbled in the face of these questions.  I try to use Jesus as a model to write my moral code, but it’s hard.  He’s such a dynamic figure.  I can’t imagine Jesus participating in a criminal execution.  He actively discourages such an act in John, chapter 8.  Yet he goes into the temple and drives out the merchants with a whip in John chapter 2.  Was that a riot?  Jesus repeatedly refuses to be the military Messiah the people expected him to be, yet he takes mercy on the Centurion in Matthew, chapter 5 (and Luke, chapter 7).

In other words, I am proud of our church for having this discussion.  And Scott Amos, I think we should keep talking about this.  We may not yet all agree, but I believe the strength of a community rests in the ability to ask hard questions and stay united . . . not in its ability to avoid, deflect, or otherwise disengage from the things that really matter.  Let us be grateful we have a community that continues to ask difficult and meaningful questions and rest that we sometimes leave the difficult answers in the hands of God.

2 thoughts on “Dialog About Non-Violence

  1. I am a Substance Use Disorders Counselor and A Peer Counselor. I have been doing anti-violence work for 30 years. I have always been proud of our faith and its stance on peace and justice. I have seen that stance continue to evolve and become more complex. In Community of Christ we are encouraged to continue our spiritual growth. We have grown in understanding and encouragement for members to seek out continuing education into the many ways we can take action against violence and injustice. Violence touches so many – violence to the environment, to each other as citizens and victims of crime, violence in policies and systems, and violence in families and interpersonal interactions. When violence touches us personally, it is traumatic and life shattering. I have been a voice legislatively as an advocate, as a professional, as a peer and as a person with lived experience. Violence causes us to question and reach for the support of those who are solid in their faith and seem to be weathering the storms of life. We reach for the support of our congregations and our closest relationships. Thank you for continuing to seek the ideals in the Doctrine and Covenants and to ask the questions in the mission prayer. I am humbled and grateful that we as a faith are encouraged to surrender to the Spirit. That we are encouraged to utilize prayer and discernment. That we operate in a very democratic fashion and that we have a vote as a member. Grant that I may stay willing to let the path unfold, the path of the disciple, where the Spirit leads us each day…towards the path of non-violence.

  2. Mary Dell
    Thanks so much for your testimony and your life’s work. You are an inspiration. And you expressed so well what we have to be thankful for in our faith movement. May I stay faithful to my journey on the path of discipleship….and alert to more I can do ..or not do..to promote climate health!

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