Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Every time I write a post about my (mostly sadly ineffectual) stabs at being a peace-maker, I hear from at least one person who says, "Oh okay, so if you saw a defenseless creature being harmed you'd just stand there. You'd just let someone be killed without having the cojones to use lethal force yourself."

I've thought about this a lot, trying to imagine the scenario such people have in mind. I don't and wouldn't own a gun so I wouldn't be in a position to use lethal force in any case (as a 62-year-old, 118-pound woman, my bare-hands, brute-force strength for sure wouldn't do the trick).
But if I did own a gun, what are the chances that at the exact moment someone stood to be, say shot at, beaten to death, or raped, there I would be: alert, unencumbered, sidearm at the ready? I'm no statistician, but I imagine pretty slim.
In fact for all the zillions of guns out there, how often do we hear of a bystander being at the exact right place at the exact right time, shooting down a would-be assailant, and riding off into the sunset?

In my case, never. Instead, we hear about chaos. We hear about kids getting hold of guns and accidentally (or increasingly intentionally) shooting each other, themselves, their parents, or strangers. We hear about the carnage at Columbine, Newtown, Charleston.
As anyone who’s ever been locked into a long-standing feud with, say, a family member knows, violence gives us temporary relief/release and then we need more. It's like porn: in order to satisfy, the violence needs to become more corrupt, more perverse, more intense.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Violence is a formula: violence begets more violence. We don't know how or where the violence is going to break out, but as sure as e=mc2 it is going to break out somewhere.

The beauty of following Christ is that we are freed from the formula.

The follower of Christ acts from love, knowing that at least is within his power, then cedes control and leaves the results to God. We say to our drug addict kid, “I love you but you’re not welcome in the house when you’ve been using”—and if our kid then hates us, so be it. We quit our high-paying job to follow a creative vocation, knowing that if we have to live in poverty for a while, or possibly forever, Christ will make our lives rich and full anyway. The follower of Christ doesn't play God by dropping an atom bomb on tens of thousands of civilians with the rationale that killing those people will save a bunch of other people. How do we know that if we refrained from dropping the bomb and looked for a non-violent solution, no-one else would have had to die?

That is wild-card. We don't know what will happen. They might kill us and they might not. But even if they do--this is the glory, mystery and wonder of the Resurrection--our deaths will bear unimaginable fruit.

Christ put himself in mortal peril without exercising violence toward anyone else. He put himself in the line of fire unarmed. He told the truth. He didn’t mince words. He was never, ever a doormat. But he also never returned violence, whether emotional or physical, with violence.

That’s an extreme sport. That is a feat to challenge the bravest, the baddest, the most stout-hearted among us.

So no, we don't just stand there. We commit our entire strength, heart, mind and soul to living a life of inner peace. Instead of cataloguing the other person’s defects, we look at our own. We examine our resentments, secrets, shame, guilt, fears. We take those things to our spiritual directors and to Confession. We see the ways we’re enmeshed with certain people; the way we’re terrified to say no, make boundaries, truly live. We see the predictable ways we respond to certain triggers. We ask for help in changing our patterns of behavior and thinking

We commit ourselves to a life of unceasing prayer, knowing that prayer is dangerous. We risk ourselves to what prayer might call us to: changing our careers, moving, risking poverty, scorn, disapproval.

For most of us, the risk is played out on the daily battleground of our families, co-workers and friends--but that is its own kind of martyrdom. We, too, will be nailed to the Cross. But "Be not afraid," says Christ. Store up your treasure in heaven. Regard the lilies of the field. My kingdom is not of this world.

Whether or not the people around us change, we change. Christianity is not a fairy tale. It leads us to work we’re passionate about, relationships that make us feel safe, a schedule unburdened by the desperation to make a mark, lord it over, win.

In the midst of our suffering, we will begin to experience the wild-card genius of love.



  1. Nicely put, Heather. I may ask my wife to read this. We recently requested membership in the Quaker meeting we attend. Part of that process is a clearness committee, and Helena has found herself unsure of her stance on nonviolence. Is violence never acceptable? How about if her children we being threatened? I am not a peaceful man. Yesterday, I seriously thought about stabbing one of my dogs with a bread knife. Well, "seriously thought" might be the wrong phrase. It was more an emotional reflex, a primitive lashing out, an inability to deal with the situation at hand and so wishing to obliterate it and everything else. Not a good policy to follow, if you ask me. I didn't stab the dog, but acknowledge violence as part of my nature, a part I want to process into something better.

    1. Hey Peter! Well, this is just it. For one thing, anger and violence ENERGIZE us--temporarily...and we like to be energized...so I, for one, get lost in these hypothetical situations (what if my godchild were attacked?) instead of examining the terrible violence I'm already exercising in my everyday life. I mean I have been willing to annihilate people for cutting me off in traffic! I rejoice when something painful happens to people I don't like, or at the failure of those of whom I'm professionally jealous. I think that's what Christ is inviting us to examine when he says, for instance, You have heard it said Thou shalt not kill but I say to you don't even call people jerks. You have to look at your orientation of heart. You have to look inside...And this is a lifetime of constant work, constant moral inventory, examination of conscience, and then asking for the character defects to be removed. Cause I can see and know this about myself but I am still totally powerless to do anything about it! But it seems the more I long for inner peace, the more I am willing to take the actions to at least move toward it...

      I hope your dog's okay. I have had the same urge with the resident cat...

  2. Thanks for the post and the comment Heather. Having lived in places where close friends were killed for their beliefs, without lifting a hand as they went down, I have witnessed the high cost of living out nonviolence. Returning to the US and spending my days in a homeless shelter I find myself having to start over with my own addiction to anger. How to put that to death? It is all too easy to talk about and oh so hard walk out in the everyday.

  3. Great post! I have so much to work on! Yesterday I wanted to chase down and run over a "jerk" on a motorcycle who suddenly came up alongside my car while I was in the process of changing lanes! I swerved and his life was spared! But then I was so ticked I wanted to wring his neck! SoCal drivers! I include myself! P.S. I read Shirt of Flame and loved it! Just finished Parched and liked that as well although it made me sad, until the last chapter. :)

  4. I started reading "Redeemed" last night on my kindle. I'm on page 44 and have highlighted almost the entirety and filled my journal with over half of those pages. You know, people love to read about themselves, at least I do, and this book is about me. Down to hanging around with racetrack touts! Most people don't even know what a tout is and I grew up with them. This book is the book I never wrote! Thank you for being such a good listener, to God that is. I often pray to God to bring me a kindred spirit and most times he brings them via books. Maybe I don't communicate well enough in person to even discover that He has brought one to me in the flesh. Who knows! Our lives are so different and yet so alike; it's uncanny. Maybe we are all more alike than we can comprehend. But the story about being a lawyer and how un-you (I make up words...lol) that was and how somebody told you that you didn't deserve an education blah blah is so much my story too. I went to school and became a registered nurse only to dread the beginning of every shift. I wanted to help people but I just couldn't wrap my mind around all the "politics" of medicine as it is played out in the real world. I left that job and thought I should try to write. I went home and had more kids and raised them and never wrote except in my journal. I guess I really am lazy. Either that or a coward.
    Thanks again Heather and keep cranking out my books! :)


I WELCOME your comments!!!