Nonviolence 2019

Martin Luther King, Jr memorial

As we approach the holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, my thoughts turn to the concept of nonviolence that was the core of his life, ministry and actions.

Paul N. Alexander, This is why I love the Che Guevara Jesus poster

The Jesus of Matthew’s story taught his followers to “love your enemies.” But this was definitely not an invitation to passivity or non-action. “Turning the other cheek” is often misunderstood as a passive response to abuse, but it’s not. Passivity is walking away and ignoring the problem. Violence is hitting back or ripping out the attacker’s jugular vein. Jesus taught a third way that was strong and that stayed present to the conflict. Jesus taught to remain engaged in the situation by offering the cheek of dignity, equality, and respect. When violently insulted, one’s natural reactions are fight or flight – violence or passivity — but Jesus taught to stand one’s ground and offer an alternative future.

Paul N. Alexander, This is why I love the Che Guevara Jesus poster

On May 5, 1963, thousands of children marched in the streets of Birmingham and did not turn away when attacked by fire hoses and police dogs.

“It was one of the most fantastic events of the Birmingham story,” King later said. “I saw there, I felt there, for the first time, the pride and power of nonviolence.”

One way to do that is to commit ourselves, 50 years later, to the Birmingham pledge of nonviolence and try, as Dr. King urged those young marchers, to make active nonviolence a way of life, so that we will be nonviolent but resist state violence in all its forms, and pursue a vision of transformation that seems, for the moment, impossible.

The Birmingham Pledge of Nonviolence
I hereby pledge myself — my person and body — to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following 10 commandments:

1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men and women might be free.
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men and women might be free.
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10. Follow the directions of the movement.

There are, thankfully, so many examples of nonviolent acts. I’ll conclude with a couple of more recent examples. In 2013 the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and The Other 98 Percent organized a national campaign to resist the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Over 97,000 people signed the Keystone Pledge of Resistance:

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”


RAN activists spent the summer of 2013 traveling to 25 cities across the United States to train 400 Action Leaders, who then organized and trained 4,000 local people about nonviolence and who organized local direct actions to protest the pipeline. Eventually President Obama denied the Keystone pipeline permit, but President Trump later approved it. But continued court actions have continued to stop the construction of the pipeline.

More recently the water protectors at Standing Rock and supporters around the world prayed and nonviolently resisted the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Although oil is now flowing through that pipeline, there continue to be challenges related to the abuse of eminent domain to take the land for the pipeline, and the Iowa Public Utilities Board is demanding the pipeline owners, Energy Transfer Partners, prove they have the agreed upon insurance to cover the costs of cleaning up a spill from the pipeline. The recent First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March along the path of the pipeline through central Iowa called attention to the eminent domain court case.

Nonviolence is one of the Principles of the Sunrise Movement that is working for a Green New Deal.

We are nonviolent in word and deed. Remaining nonviolent allows us to win the hearts of the public and welcomes the most people to participate. We need maximum participation in order to achieve our goals. –Sunrise Movement Principle

The following video I created in 2014 for a presentation at the Kheprw Institute (KI) in Indianapolis is about nonviolence, the Keystone pipeline, and ends with an audio clip of Rev Martin Luther King, Jr, talking about nonviolence.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, civil disobedience, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Green New Deal, integral nonviolence, Keystone Pledge of Resistance, Kheprw Institute, Sunrise Movement, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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