Thoughts on Principle Three of Nonviolence

“What are evil, injustice and oppression?”

These questions were raised in a recent Courageous Conversation gathering.

If one defines racism as the attitudes, practices and policies that subject a group of people, based on their race, to be deemed inferior to another race, then racism is evil, unjust and oppressive.

Racism is contrary to the Great Commandment, which calls God’s beloved children to “love God with all their heart, mind, body and soul; and to love their neighbor as they love themselves.” These two commandments are cited by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34.

According to Wikipedia, “These two commandments are paraphrases taken from the Old Testament and are commonly seen as important to Jewish and Christian ethics.” Love in this context is agape, which embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and serves regardless of circumstances―love that values, respects and seeks the well being of the other. Perhaps one of the clearest examples of agape is the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37.

Per Wikipedia,  “Agape is considered to be the love originating from God for humankind. Cf. Matt 3:17, Mark 10:21. In the New Testament, it refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man. The word is not limited for religious use; agape can extend to sub-divine beings. The notion of agape has been examined as to traditions, whether Christian or other world religions, religious ethics and science.”

Another standard of this attitude and practice is called the “golden rule”―do to others as you want them to do to you (considered a summary of the Torah and an ethical code in Islam).  Both in thought and in deed, racism seems contradictory to these two standards of human behavior and interaction.

So this brings me to Principle Three of Nonviolence: “Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.”

Practicing Principle Three is one of the true challenges for members of the “Beloved Community.” It is not easy to separate “evil thoughts” and “evil actions” from the “evil doer.” But we MUST!

Thank you for your commitment and efforts to create the “beloved community” in Georgetown.

Ron Swain
Courageous Conversations Convener

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