On the Need for Non-Violent Resistance: A Statement of Commitment from the Faith Matters Network

These past several months have illustrated our unfathomable entrenchment in an ethos of violence. As community leaders who hold fast to an imagination deeply rooted in hope for the radical flourishing of all things, we intentionally sit in the rupture of what is happening in our country, and globally, and lean into the discomfort of it all. But, because of our deep sense of hope, we know that our work in community, organizing for radical social change, contributes to our becoming unified in light of our differences. 

We know that violence in this country pre-dates Ferguson, Charleston, Orlando, Baltimore, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. We know that the logic of white supremacy in which we are all socialized damages each one of our moral imaginations. Given the history of violence that is supported by the logic of dominance, we now experience an overwhelming reality of anti-black & anti-brown racism (often seen as domestic terrorism) that continues to materialize in police violence, and we see that communities are also responding with violence against the State. While no violence enacted on an individual, people group, or community is condoned by Faith Matters Network, we write the following statement to express both our deep concern with the ways in which the logic of dominance has cemented our moral imaginations in an imagination of violence against one another and we denounce such violence against both the margins of the margins and the dominant sector of society. 

In an effort to shift the ways in which we relate, we utilize story as the mode of transformation that in turn shapes our moral imagination into one that privileges the flourishing of all creation. For this reason, we submit a comprehensive statement in favor of a militant pacifism that is rooted in the tradition of non-violence, not in the logics that are reproducing multi-system oppressions resulting in the current ethos of violence. 

A militant pacifism is an orientation to a thoughtful and intentional non-violence; it is not a passivity. It is, in fact, a profound resistance to what is happening in our nation and globally and a preferential option for the margins of the margins.  We are not suggesting that communities of color silence their frustrations nor do we encourage communities of color to respond to violence with violence. 

We look to the stories of Jesus (& other religious and activist leaders of our time) who demanded individuals and communities to use power in intentional ways and leveraged intentional acts of anger as a way to speak power to truth. It is in that spirit that we submit this statement - to denounce the overwhelming realities of violence that are death-bringing and to leverage the power of hope in the face of such hegemonic structures that are killing us all. Our current reality now is that if we do not halt the violence against one another, we likely will not survive one another. 

We do not need to repeat to you that black and brown bodies are disproportionately affected by the Police State or by multi-system oppressions that further marginalize people of color. What we want to offer is our deep solidarity with communities who are suffering as a result of the State making life not only  unlivable but also making a livable life untenable. We lay claim to the practice of nonviolence through that of militant pacifism. We see this in the new orientation of a militant pacifism that takes the history of non-violence seriously and also leverages the erased agency of the margins of the margins as an agency that has power to make substantial changes to our current maelstrom. 

While pacifism has a history of peace, we lay claim to that history as being important for our work - that we should seek to be at peace with all creation, and we realize that the structures that the logic of dominance has erected cannot advocate for peace. For that reason, we firmly plant our commitments to the militancy of pacifism, which we see as a deeply rooted activist oriented faith that calls for the dominant to relinquish their dominance and work for a more equitable future for us all. We see this work as deeply rooted in the history of peacemaking, but the militancy is a demand for there to be peace and equity in light of the supremacy of the dominant sectors of society. We must find ways to bridge with radical difference and find ways to be unified in light of our differences. This is a feature of the militancy of our call for a militant pacifism.  

Finally, we believe that a militant pacifism is a new contour of non-violence that demands a new moral horizon that is rooted in the politics of radical difference. We know that the never-receding horizon of difference presents its own challenges for creating lasting change, but we believe that change is materialized in the active story telling of our histories of violence and ongoing work to nurture communities into their resilience to flourish by unhinging ourselves from an ethos of violence.

Written by Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza on behalf of the Faith Matters Network Team, July 2016