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Readings in NonViolent Action (Jesus of Nazareth)

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Date: Mon Dec 17 2001 - 12:52:28 EST

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Good People,

This message contains our final Reading in NonViolent Action. It is a
short one and probably the one with which we think we are the most
familiar.  But maybe not -- here about Jesus of Nazareth for the first

Many of us have problems seeing Jesus as the "mystical savior of the
world."  This reading is not to deny the truths in any other Faith,
but tries to use the traditions with which many of us are familiar. Keep
in mind what Karl Marx felt about religion, "the opiate of the masses."

What do you think of a recent Conference where there was a brief
presentation on NonViolence which mentioned the examples of Gandhi and
Jesus Christ -- at the end someone found it necessary to say, "You
should drop the Jesus talk and be more of a humanist!"  Certainly
words to ponder...   

A Fresh Look at the Bible

Many of us are probably "lapse" Christians. We have given up on the
Bible and its fairy tales and the images of Heaven as "ice cream" and
Hell as "fire." Take the time to rediscover the richness of your
Faith. If you don't do anything else, please read the short Book of
Jonah (you know, the guy that got swallowed by the whale). Give that
writer of 3000 years ago some credit. Look for the themes expressed in
that story and you will be amazed. Try the Book of Job, certainly all
of us can appreciate the suffering he went through and the agonizing
question we all ask, "Why?"

Look at the Bible (or the writings of any Faith) for what they
undoubtedly are: A history of how different people felt their God
interacted with humanity. The lessons which were important through the
generations. Repeating themes they felt were a call from their
creator. A collection of stories of how people responded to that

Going back to the need for Faith.  Think about those old Bible
stories, little old David going out to slay mighty Goliath, a blinded
Samson pulling down the temple, the Jewish people forced to wander in
the desert for 40 years because they refused to believe they could
live in the good land God had promised them...

Perhaps one of the most powerful themes in Scripture: that somehow,
before we can see the strength of God manifest, we need to ourselves
act in a manner that is convinced of that power. Abraham, before he
can become the Father of all Israel, has to be ready to kill his only

Jesus the Christ

Was he the only Son of God?  Did he rise from the dead?  Those are
questions of personal Faith.  But was he a REAL person?  Undoubtedly
yes.  It is surprising how many people actually think Jesus of
Nazareth is a myth.  He is a real historical person.  We have mention
of him not only in the works of Jewish historians of the time, but
also the Romans.  They don't say much -- he was a religious leader and
he was crucified.  You can also take comfort that some of the "counter
culture" sayings we have from him are also genuine.

How about just seeing him as a man. We don't know about you, but
that makes us feel even more uncomfortable about our excuses for not
getting something done. Can you believe his life and goals when
expressed in just human terms?

In his 30's, he gives up his regular life to go out and campaign to
try to convince people: "God loves us as children, we are all brothers
and sisters, and we all need to LOVE each other."  The power of just
one person who really believes.

Living a life of Faith, Love, and Sacrifice

Remember perhaps the most powerful words of Jesus, who started "The Our
Father" with the word "Abba" (Jewish for Papa, a child's term for their
father). Transforming the mighty God of Israel to a loving parent!
(Too bad Jesus couldn't have been more of a humanist...)

Can we change this amazingly corrupt and entrenched system of Family
Law in this country?  Not likely.  But we just have to remember that
Papa, God, can certainly help us and carry the day. We just have to
take those first few steps, let go of the chair, and trust he'll help

Jesus was willing to leave everything behind, because he really did
have Faith. It must have been fairly obvious when you met him, or just
saw what he did. The part that really scares some is he must of known
the "government" was going to come for him and kill him. He could have
run away, tried to fight another day...

But he even sacrificed his life, without anger or vengeance. Why do we
remember him after 2000 years, forgive us for saying this, "but he
practiced what he preached."  Just listen to the following words from
the Sermon on the Mount, they are words you have probably heard

"But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the
other; and if anyone would take your coat, give him your cloak as
well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."
(Matthew 5:39)

What is Jesus talking about as our response to injustice? So many
people see these words as just a call to "quiet acceptance", but that
is not there at all. The focus is not even on forgiveness, but on
action. We are to act in a physical sense, and to act immediately on
the person who has confronted us. Commanded to magnify their action
voluntarily and bringing it on ourselves - what a revolutionary
concept! Are we called to be gluttons for punishment? No.

As we embrace this idea, let us add one more circumstance to the
preceding passage:

"...and if someone should take your child; then..." What?

How do we magnify that great a wrong and bring it upon
ourselves. Maybe the answer would have been, "then offer them your
freedom as well."

Because it will help your "oppressor" see the error of what they have
done. How? They will be forced to ask and answer the question, "why
has this person done this?" Perhaps not even at that moment, but they
will be forced to examine their actions and our response. Does it work
immediately, not always - but we have done our duty as strongly as
possible by treating our "oppressor" with love and concern to the
point of bringing more misery on ourselves.

"Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may
be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise
on the just and on the unjust, and sends rain on the just and unjust."
(Matthew 5:44)

And, just in case, we were the ones really in the wrong - and perhaps
deserved a slap on the cheek - we just offered them the chance to give
us another, no harm done to anyone but us!

Other Methods 

Please, there will be a lot of work required to bring
about reform.  Some of you are more comfortable with traditional
methods of lobbying and quiet marches, working inside the system,
working through the courts and in the community.  Those are all quite
valid.  But we also hope you will appreciate the positive addition the
principles of NonViolent Action can make to any Civil Rights movement.
You will be in good company!

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