Contributed by W. Michael Biklin, retired United Methodist Pastor,
Member of Musserville and San Pablo United Methodist Churches
In a previous column, violence was identified as pervasive in our culture. We are surrounded by it. We also identified that the almost universal response to violence and evil appears to be violence disguised as self-defense. There is a plethora of opportunities to practice violent forms of self-defense.
What would happen if we offered workshops, courses, and opportunities to practice non-violent forms of self-defense?
In practice sessions, identify various scenarios that call for some sort of non-violent intervention or response to the presence of evil and/or violence. Brainstorm creative non-violent ways to confront and respond to evil and/or violence or to diffuse and disarm situations. Practice those non-violent responses. Practice, practice, practice.
Practice is the process used in various self-defense classes. Provide these workshops at churches, at the Y, at the library, at schools, at Scouts, at community college, in churches.
This does work at a practical level, however; our society does not encourage this, nor provide opportunity for people to practice these kinds of skills. We can change that. An article in the Washington Post tells of a man who non-violently broke up a street fight in Atlantic City, NJ.
Will these non-violent tactics all be successful? Of course not. Nor are all violent self-defense tactics successful, and usually people get hurt and/or killed.
Non-violent confrontation with evil also works on larger society, national, and global arenas. As the Nazis were systematically eliminating Jews from society to concentration camps, and for millions, extermination throughout Europe, the Danes chose, as a nation, to protect the Jews. With the Nazis already in Denmark, the king of Denmark, a Christian, chose to ride through the Jewish neighborhoods, on his horse, in his royal robe with the Star of David sewn on it, standing in solidarity with his Jewish citizens, reportedly saying, “I am the king of all my people.” Right under the Nazis presence, the non-Jewish citizens of Denmark smuggled their Jewish neighbors out of the country to Sweden. When the Nazis began their program of removing the Jews to concentration camps, there were no Jews to be found. Very few lives were lost. After the war, most of those Jews returned home to their neighbors who had saved their lives. This is documented in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and in an award-winning book, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry.
Martin Luther King Jr., using non-violence resistance to the evil of racism and segregation, insisted that the evil-doer(s) be confronted non-violently as human beings.
Mahatma Gandhi led India non-violently to independence.
Now is the time to develop this non-violent alternative to addressing evil.