Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts on an Anniversary

Today is an important anniversary of a most remarkable moment in our modern era.

100 years ago today, Mohandas Gandhi initiated the first organized non-violence movement in history. Gandhi stood up against the most powerful empire on earth - and won - by simply refusing to fight their way. He refused to accept their terms: hatred, deception, pain, violence. He chose to absorb suffering rather than inflict it.

It took a Hindu to teach Christianity its own political strategy.

Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Gandhi and changed America. He wrote:

"We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.

But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.

One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

King understood, as many of us are beginning to understand, that there are two basic forces behind every action a person takes, two root causes of how we choose to live our lives. They are Love and Fear. Fear is behind hate, violence, self-preservation, and retribution. Love is behind suffering, forgiveness, grace, and faith.

People of faith call Love God, because we read in our scriptures that God is love, and those who abide in Love abide in God and God in them. But whether or not you call it God, you can still choose to live your life from a place of Love. The only thing that will save our world is for those of us who haven't given up hope to begin choosing to live from Love rather than Fear.

How would this look?

We would be patient. We would be kind. We would not be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. We would not insist on our own way. We would not be irritable or resentful. We would not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoice in truth. We would bear all things...endure all things.

We would keep no record of wrongs.

Which brings me to the other anniversary we recall today, the other day in our modern era that changed the world. But that day five years ago set us on a course of Fear rather than love, and has only led the world to greater confusion, pain, apathy, cynicism, and suffering.

The Mahatma knew better than many of our Christian leaders how to respond to attack. How to react to violence and pain. How to deal with the shock and dismay and horror of such an event.

He responded with Love.

We have tried Fear for five years and things are not any better.

May I humbly suggest we try Loving our enemies.

100 years ago today, the world changed when one man made such a suggestion. It changed when William Wilberforce chose Love and abolished slavery in the greatest empire on earth. It changed when King marched and went to jail and was beaten and refused, refused, refused to fight back with anything but Love. It changed when women went on hunger strike in jail and won the vote.

I know it offends our sense of justice and dignity. I know it seems naive. But it has worked. We have historical proof. When people absorb the world's suffering instead of lashing out with it, others have no choice but to marvel at the great power of Love. And then they change too.

But the only way to have the strength to do this is to stand together and to draw upon our higher power, whatever we may call it. Do not try to do it alone. You will end up cynical or disillusioned or angry. But if you draw upon the Higher Love, you will find reserves of strength and grace and even joy that you never knew possible.

We can all make a difference. We can vote. We can write. We can stand vigil. We can read and study and become informed. We can buy fair trade goods. We can turn off the air conditioner. We can drive less. We can ask Starbucks if our latte is made with fair trade coffee, and if not, why not? (can you imagine if we got Starbucks changed!) We can shop at Costco instead of WalMart. We can patronize unionized hotels. We can visit those in prison to let them know they are not forgotten. We can support our local farmers, buying their produce.

Sure, it may cost us more money to live this way. You know what? We can afford it. And the world cannot afford for us not to.

But the most important thing we can do, regardless of how we shop or eat or spend our time, is for each one of us to decide in our hearts that we will live from Love and not Fear. That we will support those in power who choose the way of Love over Fear. That we will not let them scare us any more. That we will not allow our own desire for safety, health, and happiness to override our compassion for other people just like us. We must choose the way of Love or our world will continue falling apart.

Each of us will find our own path to Love, and our own way to express it in the world. But let me urge you to draw upon Love from a higher power, and from those around you. Jim Wallis says that the two great hungers in our world today are for justice and spirituality. I believe he is right. And we must have the two together for either to work properly.

So I encourage you, as you ponder the way your life changed five years ago today, to ponder also the way the world changed 100 years ago today. To consider whether there may be another way to move forward. To consider the way of Love.

It still hurts. And we may not ever forget, and we probably should not. But we can choose how we react. And we have seen that Fear does not make things any better, for ourselves personally or for our nation or for the world.

But I have a secret to share with you. It is very good news.

Perfect Love casts out Fear.


AK said...

I've spent the past 3 years studying the strategies and effectiveness of Gandhi, King and many other nonviolent activists. While not all were motivated by what you deem as love they all were far more successful than the current fear based appraoch. But more than mere practicality, there is a moral obligation to look for strategies that reduce suffering. Approaches that teach a form of respect to the other have the possibility of undoing years of racial, cultural and ethic harms that are often considered intractable.
Also, Gordon Adams writes about what a hope based foreign policy would look like, you should look him up.

- a 4 east friend from wheaton -

Stasi said...

Love doesn't have to be noble or conscious, it's simply the opposite of fear. So if a person acts not from fear then they are acting from love. That's all I was saying. When suffering is taking into oneself (eg in a hunger strike or by refusing to be violent) then the most basic root of that action is love. If it were fear, self-preservation (which often leads to violence or at least violent thoughts) would win out.

Please pray for my friend Nate, a fellow Fuller student. His mom just died.

Stasi said...

Sorry, I meant "taken into oneself" (I hate sloppy writing).

Unknown said...

Good post on the 100th anniversary and so fitting for this day of memory for 5yrs ago. I posted about Gandhi too, I just thought we could learn something from him as opposed to the way we are responding to the situation now.

jw said...

Thank you for reminding us of Gandhi and then tying so much together.

Peace and love.
- - Jerry

Anonymous said...

It is now the 9/12. The pundits have spoken. Your humble post will not be picked up and reprinted for the masses........But it ought. Thank you, and thanks to your God for Her inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for writing this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking a larger truth than we usually hear on the airwaves. On both 9-11 and 9-13 (after the shootings at the Dawson campus in Montreal), I asked my college students to reflect on how they have changed since 9-11-01, and then how they connect God, faith and the outbreak of evil. What emerged was their desire to get beyond fear, to find a wider, stronger and more compassionate basis for dealing with danger and fear. There is once again a ripeness, a whiteness of the fields, for a harvest of good will. It is a gospel moment. "We will still love you" is the perfect refrain.

Mike L. said...

what the world needs now is love sweet love....

Actually what the world needs now is gifted liberal minded communicators, motivators, and leaders. It sounds to me like you are on your way. Please keep focused and keep growing because the world needs you.