THE BLOG
04/18/2016 04:29 pm ET Updated Apr 19, 2017

Dear Faith Leaders: Teaching Nonviolence Must Be Your Main Role

To the Reverend and Rabbi, Iman and Guru, Monk and Minister, Priest and Pastor:

Your current legacy now has to be nonviolence. Your legacy has to be reconciliation, in which you see unity as the highest spiritual principle for humankind; that you see no other way out of the mess we've made of society and this planet other than to align with a transcendent principle that calls us to come together as a collective species. Do not ignore our different paths; note that though we may flow in different veins, there is one heart that we beat to and from and when that one heart stops, we all cease.

What we need is a collective consciousness where people wake up wondering how they can minimize the harm that is done to themselves and to the world. And as each pocket of society practices this, it will ricochet to the places that nonviolence is needed most. History shows us it must begin with the faith communities because of the unity and accountability that holds us to these ideals--not because of the specifics of religiosity, but because of the commitment to believe in what is yet unseen. And if we are united across religions, to do as little harm as possible, to call for a spiritual treatise, if we just for a moment agree to see if God is available in this pause, then we will see an unraveling of harm done. Pause on war. Pause on bans and maintaining borders. This is how the shift begins and no corporation, no special interest, no political party can oppose it because an ounce of clarity, courage and relentless truth can disarm a ton of fear, falsity and confusion. May the politics of our time remind us that no party, no candidate, no election, no leader will heal this land and its neighbors without deep intersectional, transcendent reconciliation that begins with inspired conversations and fearless acts in our communities.

This is not religious and it doesn't even have to be spiritual, but if we are believing that ideas and life are formed from the invisible then we are talking about the ethereal, the quantum level. We are talking about how ideas can transform the world for the better. This is for the logical, the practical, the earnest people who will look honestly at the evidence of how civilization was created , and table differing beliefs for one moment to deal with a present threat--our persistent and obsessive need to separate. But it is you, faith leaders, that must save this country, our politics, these financial juggernauts from weapons of immaturity. You cannot do it alone, this requires unity with the very people you've been told to oppose--leaders in other faith communities--but it is the grace of uniting that immediately elevates your--our--stance from suffering human-beings to divine children of God.

It is clear, unless you are actively working to undo the harms of violence at all levels, you hold space for violence to flourish. We have to find a way where we can see that just because people differ from us, does not make them wrong, in fact, we have to begin believing that we are saved because people have differing viewpoints. We are better off when people have different perspectives of the same situation; knowing that we each hold a piece of truth and when brought together we all gain more clarity, or that one wall opposing another wall knows that each play a part in holding the roof up. This is what we can begin to believe.

With some religious scars being age old, how do we do this. What even is nonviolence? Nonviolence does not dismiss violent acts, instead it bears witness to the humanity of the supposed oppressors by holding a vision of who we could be as a people, while revealing the truth about what has happened using our bodies as temporal but living temples of the highest virtues of the human spirit. Nonviolence cleanses the person's heart and mind from hateful thoughts, thus cleansings one's speech and actions. This purifies the mission and aims for a resolution not a victory. When Gandhi wanted to oppose the British Empire, he understood that his demonstration of grace with relentless representation of truth, that Indians deserved their liberation, was the most effective means to peace. He wasn't seeking to vanquish his oppressors, but eradicate the thought systems that were built up against his people and hypnotized Imperialists.

And most importantly, to the left and to the right, north and south, east and west, may you remember that when fear leads the charge it makes no room for freedom. When fear leads the charge, it's masked in anger and pride and contempt, and freedom suffocates. Why because freedom is expansive and fear is restrictive. When you lead, lead from the qualities of God. When you respond, respond with the qualities of God. When you decide, make a decision as if God already lived in the outcome. This is how we win together.

Footnote:

April 14, 2016, the Vatican hosted the first-of-its-kind conference on "just war" proposition long-held by the Catholic Church. The more than 80 participants released a statement Thursday: "suggesting that a 'just war' is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict."

Adding that, "the time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence."

"In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model. Neither passive nor weak, Jesus' nonviolence was the power of love in action."