Breaking a window is violence?

Hitting someone with a club is violence. Funding projects that destroy local economies and ecosystems is violence. Displacing millions of people in order to ravage the countryside to extract resources and build useless consumer products is violence. Denying refugees right of return and bombing their villages when they defy the injustice is violence. Creating social structures that systematically stifle free expression and the ability to peacefully promote legitimate alternative points of view is violence. Maintaining an economic order in which the only way to hold off collapse is perpetual growth at the expense of a finite resource base, which cannibalizes itself in order to produce growth that is mostly based on the creation of new debt to finance paying off the old debt, while blaming people who bought into the system because they believed what it promised them for its failure is violence.

Breaking a window is a symbol of the shattered illusions of people who are sick and tired, and don’t want to take it anymore. Breaking a window is a message to the monsters whose livelihood depends on murder, displacement, and ecocide that the game is up and the ones who got us into this mess have forfeited their moral authority to be the ones who define a “new world order”. Breaking a window is liberation, a sign of life, not violence that destroys it.

Whether or not it’s tactically a good idea in circumstances such as the G-20 demonstrations is another matter entirely.

In response to this blog.


More quotes

This time from Robert Brimlow’s What About Hitler? Wrestling with Jesus’ Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World.

“The main difficulty in accepting the implications of our call to be peacemakers is our fear of death and dying, born of a weakness of faith.”


“The gospel is clear and simple, and I know what the response to the Hitler question must be. And I desperately want to avoid this conclusion. … We must repay evil with good; and we must be peacemakers. This may also mean as a result that the evildoers will kill us. Then, we shall also die. That’s it. There is nothing else…. We are called to live the kingdom as he proclaimed it and be his disciples, come what may.”

Early morning, April 4, a shot rings out in the Memphis sky…

As you’re probably aware, on this day 40 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Fewer people are aware of this speech he gave 41 years ago, today.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1967

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

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Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

This is one of King’s most important speeches and yet one of his most little-known. Delivered on April 4, 1967, exactly one year to the day before he was assassinated, this speech provides a scathing denunciation of the practices of the American government on the world stage, particularly in Vietnam. King extends his methodology of nonviolent action to the nation-state, famously saying “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

We have institutionalized King, making him into an icon of the supposedly American ideals of freedom and justice and neglected to remember his enormously potent critique of America’s very failure to live up to those ideals. He has been turned into some kind of fuzzy saint and placed high in the pantheon of “America’s greatsTM,” a would-be tool for those whose violence he denounced. It is imperative that we drink deeply from King’s critique of the violence of American society and extend it to the present-day situation, to the actions and even very nature of corporations as well as nation-states and revolutionaries, exploring the ways violence breeds violence and a violent reaction destroys our humanity just as surely as does oppression. We must inhabit his vision for reconciliation through loving our enemies. The following story, taken from Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be, demonstrates the depth and revolutionary power of King’s vision through the action of his comrades in the SCLC:

One evening, during the turbulent weeks when Selma, Alabama, was the focal point of the civil rights struggle in the American South, a large crowd of black and white activists was standing outside the Ebenezer Baptist Church, singing to pass the time. Suddenly a funeral home operator from Montgomery took the microphone. He reported that a group of black students demonstrating near the capitol just that afternoon had been surrounded by police on horseback, all escape barred, and cynically commanded to disperse or take the consequences. Then the mounted police waded into the students and beat them at will. Police prevented ambulances from reaching the injured for two hours. Our informant was the driver of one of those ambulances, and afterward he had driven straight to Selma to tell us about it.

The crowd outside the church seethed with rage. Cries went up: “Let’s march!” Behind us, across the street, stood, rank on rank, the Alabama state troopers and the local police forces of Sheriff Jim Clark. The situation was explosive. A young black minister stepped to the microphone and said, “It’s time we sang a song.” He opened with the line, “Do you love Martin King?” “Certainly, Lord!” the crowd responded. . . “Do you you love Martin King?” “Certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord!”

Right through the chain of command of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference he went, the crowd each time echoing, warming to the song, “Certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord!” Without warning he sang out, “Do you love Jim Clark?” The sheriff?! “Cer-certainly, Lord” came the stunned, halting reply. “Do you love Jim Clark?” “Certainly, Lord” – it was stronger this time. “Do you love Jim Clark?” Now the point had sunk in: “Certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord!”

The Rev. James Bevel then took the mike. We are not just fighting for our rights, he explained, but for the good of the whole society. “It’s not enough to defeat Jim Clark – do you hear me, Jim? – we want you converted. We cannot win by hating our oppressors. We have to love them into changing.”

And Jim Clark did change. Realizing he could not be reelected without the black vote, he began courting black voters and later confessed that he had been wrong in his bias against blacks.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. realized that the vision had to include more than just improving the status of oppressed people – that it includes loving the oppressors and consistently applying the critique of violence to areas beyond our immediate sphere. As globalization increasingly brings us into the living rooms of people in Sri Lanka, China, and Bangladesh (and vice versa), we must become aware of our relationships with them, with the ways our affluent lifestyles do violence to them, and ways we can oppose violence and purveyors of violence while yet showing the love of Christ which transforms the most wretched sinners into beautiful saints.

May we, like Dr. King prays, know the world in which we live and how to be ministers of reconciliation, agents of the Kingdom of God within it.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1967

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

Continue reading

Protests in Burma

Here is a little tid bit from democracy now about whats going on in Burma

Burmese Troops Shoot at Protesters
The military junta in Burma is intensifying its two-day crackdown on the most vocal popular uprising against its rule in nearly two decades. Up to eight people have been killed over the last two days. There are now late-breaking reports Burmese troops have opened fired on a crowd of thousands assembled in central Rangoon. Military forces have also raided several monasteries, arresting an estimated five hundred monks. On Wednesday, British ambassador Mark Canning described the scene on the streets.

    British ambassador Mark Canning:“There were a series of arrests over night of pro-democracy activists. A curfew has been announced from dusk to dawn starting this evening. And I think the question then was whether all these measures would intimidate people into not marching as they have been for the last eight days. And I think the answer is that it did not. There have been many thousands of people out on the streets again.”

Meanwhile the exiled Burmese opposition leader Sein Win called for more international pressure on the junta.

    Sein Win: “The military always don’t want to talk with others. This is their way, you know. They always did it like that, in 1988, and before ’88 also. They never negotiate. They look at this as a kind of military operation, this is not a military operation, it is a political demonstration.”
    It finally seems like the U.S. may back a decent cause with their military power.  I tend to be pessimistic about this, but I hope that those that do have this power can use it for the betterment of this nation.

An actual conversation I had the other day

Me: (sitting at a picnic table in the sun reading Dale Brown’s Biblical Pacifism)

He: Pacifist? You’re a pacifist? At a Christian music festival? (we were at Cornerstone)

Me: Yes, for the first 300 years of the church’s existence they were very nearly universally committed to nonviolence and opposed to Christians participating in the military.

He: How can you be a Christian and believe in peace?

I was so stunned I didn’t even really know how to reply. I mumbled something about being not of this world, owing allegiance to a higher kingdom than the nations of this world, but I was in such disbelief over the statement of this person who claims to be (and surely is in his own way) a follower of Jesus that my coherent thought process was quite interrupted.

I’ve seen a shift in the fest over the past few years, in the seminars especially but also in the attitudes of a number of festival-goers, away from individualism and into a longing for community; away from blind adherence to the principle of “whatever works for the Republican Party” to a more critical engagement of politics (or at least disillusionment with the Party); away from a mainstream “youth group” attitude into a deeper searching for the mystery of God and the intersection of the spiritual and our this-worldly existence. This conversation reminded me that, even though some paradigm shifts are occurring, we still have a long way to go in communicating the fact that the Gospel of Christ is the proclamation of shalom and freedom from the cycle of chaoskampf politics by which one group is constantly struggling for power over another, even as others resist that power – the fact that our faith is rooted in Genesis, where God creates the world out of primal goodness, not violence (as in Enuma Elish), and the restoration of God’s goodness through the resurrection power of Christ, and not only in Exodus which, while a powerful story of God’s liberation that is highly relevant in this time for those who are oppressed, is only a part of the story and not the whole.

I don’t have a lengthy argument here; I’m just going to let it rest at that for now. I’m going to be away from the Internet for about a month probably, I may or may not have access at times while I’m away but it’s unlikely. That won’t really change much for this blog since I’ve only posted a few times a month lately (and not at all in June), but now at least you know I have a reason for not posting much in July. I keep up the hope that at some point I’ll be able to commit more thoughts to writing here, but for now I bid you charis and shalom and pray that the God of peace will be with you over the coming weeks, especially as so many USAmericans celebrate what they misguidedly call “freedom” on Thursday.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t done it yet, to register for the Jesus Radicals conference in August! Nekeisha Alexis-Baker and I will be presenting the “Anarchism and Christianity: A Primer” session.

Shalom to you.

Interfaith war protesters arrested outside US Capitol

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can read this article at