Acting in Faith: Ain't Gonna Study War No More
“Sooner or later, all the peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan was published in August. The co-authors studied nonviolent movements and campaigns worldwide and conclude that nonviolent efforts are twice as likely as armed resistance to achieve the intended results. They found that people from diverse parts of society were more likely to join nonviolent resistance movements and that when nonviolent movements overthrow oppressive regimes, those that take power are far more likely to establish democracies and to protect human rights. Erica Chenoweth undertook the investigation that is the basis for the book in part to prove her assumption that armed conflict is more effective. She was surprised and won over by the results of the study and is now a proponent of nonviolent resistance. You can read an interview with her recently published in AFSC’s publication Street Spirit.
Having such statistical and case study evidence of the effectiveness of nonviolent strategy – really a study of effective peacemaking – is gratifying and helpful in terms of learning what works and having evidence on which to base the development of nonviolent campaign strategies and approaches. For me the book is an affirmation of what AFSC and Quakers have known from experience: the power of love to transform both ourselves and our communities. And still, I would contend, the source of the approach matters, the condition of one’s heart in waging peace can make a difference in one’s commitment to the discipline of nonviolence, and one’s effectiveness. Practicing powerful love takes discipline and courage, and it can make all the difference.
In the Light,
Recent Posts on Acting in Faith
Silas Wanjala recently interviewed George Lakey and heard some compelling stories about Lakey’s childhood and experience practicing strategic nonviolent resistance for much of his life. This interview is the first in a series of interviews with Quaker activists. I define activist in the broadest sense – those working to help to mend and heal the world, to create justice and peace from many vantage points.
How can active nonviolence bring about the change we seek? What are models of successful uses of nonviolence? What about strategy, how does that inform our organizing? How do we love our enemy while recognizing that opposition is real? What role does creativity play in effective nonviolent campaigns? These and many other questions were addressed in a series AFSC co-sponsored at Friends Center on Revolutionary Nonviolence. Activist David Solnit was one of the presenters and provided a framework for building movements.
All over the world, in thirteen countries and in more than thirty-five United States towns and cities, the American Friends Service Committee invites people to explore “what love can do” from within the walls of their confinement, however that manifests. And through that act they also explore how to become free and overcome the constrictions of injustice.
Meeting/Church Newsletter Notice: Testimonies Booklet and Study Advice
AFSC has prepared some study advice for the booklet to be used by high school and adult religious education programs. The suggestions include longer term programs which invite members to tell their stories of their experience with the testimonies, as well as one off occasions to consider a specific testimony. We’d love to hear about meetings/churches that make use of these resources and how they are received.
FGC Gathering Workshops led by AFSC Staff
AFSC staff will be offering four workshops this year at the FGC Gathering. Early registration has opened and will close at midnight on April 15th. Everyone who registers early has equal chance to be admitted to their first choice workshop. The workshops led by AFSC staff include:
- Shan Cretin and Lucy Duncan will be co-leading Spirit Led Activism.
- Keith Harvey and Martha Yager will be co-leading Living into our Quaker Values in these Times.
- Tony Heriza and Lori Khamala will be co-leading Telling Stories of Spirit and Struggle.
- Stephen McNeil is leading Bayard Rustin: Angelic Troublemaker.
We hope to see many of you there!
More Strategic Nonviolence Resources
Here are a few additional resources on Strategic Nonviolence that we recommend:
Quaker Steve Chase on Creative Maladjustment – a lecture to the American Psychological Association which advocates for activism as a tool to heal hearts and communities.
George Lakey’s The Sword that Heals – which is a response to Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology.
The online interactive training tool/game People Power, which was created to prepare people for nonviolent campaigns.
The online journal Waging Nonviolence which includes weekly posts by George Lakey and other experts on strategic nonviolence.