The Way of Nonviolent Resistance

In the pages of Sojourners we often speak of the awakening that is occurring in many sectors of the church's life. Almost everywhere we see Christians becoming more hungry for justice, more intent upon peace.

We are rediscovering the biblical message in fresh ways. As the historical crisis we face becomes ever more clear, so do biblical passages about the oppression of the poor, the arrogance of power, and the idolatry of military might. The vision of justice and peace we so desperately need is rooted not in secular ideologies but in the Bible.

As that vision has become clearer to us, a central question has emerged: how shall we pursue that vision? By what means shall we labor for justice and seek peace? Does the gospel tell us only where we should go, or does it also give us insight into the way we should get there?

In Western democracies the electoral process is always considered the primary way of effecting social change. But the limitations of the electoral process are many. Powerful vested interests, both economic and political, dominate and usually control the system, which most often becomes more a way of frustrating change than facilitating it.

Electoral options should not be rejected out of hand but can be pursued to the limits of their possibilities. However, serious social change will usually require much more than traditional political methods. History has shown that strong grassroots social movements are usually required to move entrenched systems. This is especially true when the injustice being attacked is deeply rooted, or when the habits and assumptions being challenged are embedded in both the structures and the mindset of a society.

It is out of our experience of these realities that many of us have been increasingly drawn to a path that is at the same time a method of social change and a way of life. That path is nonviolent resistance.

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