Tikkun Magazine

Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2006 

Don't Give Up

By Rev. John Dear

One of the casualties of this culture of violence, injustice and war is the loss of our imagination. People across the country cannot even imagine a world without conflict, poverty or nuclear weapons. But that is our job. We are like our ancestors, the Abolitionists, who came along and announced a breathtaking new vision: a world without slavery, the equality of everyone on earth. We are their heirs, New Abolitionists, announcing a new world of nonviolence.

You may have heard the true story of church activists who met in a church basement in East Berlin in the dismal days of the early 1980s around the ridiculous topic, "What Will It Be Like 1,000 Years From Now When the Berlin Wall Finally Comes Down—and—What Do We Have To Do Now To Help That Great Day Happen?" They were dismissed as idealistic fools. But their meeting was exciting and energized them, so they decided to meet again, and more people showed up, and they kept meeting, and soon, people were meeting in church basements across East Germany, and within a few years, in November 1989, we watched in astonishment on TV as hundreds of thousands of people marched every day throughout East Germany and the unthinkable happened, the newly imaginable happened, the Berlin Wall came down peacefully.

Everyone thought it was a miracle, but it was a grassroots movement that had been built and grew over time. My take on all this is that we have to do our thing here—organizing and building a national, global, grassroots movement around such an impossible dream, daring to announce it boldly, even give our lives for it. For me, the key to such a hopeful movement, a new Network of Spiritual Progressives, the end of the war on Iraq, the disarmament of the United States, the transformation of our world, even our journey to the God of peace is—nonviolence.

Everything comes down to violence or nonviolence. Violence is the great heresy, the great idolatry, the great mortal sin of our times that is destroying us. So I say we have to become people of active, creative nonviolence, everyone of us, everywhere, to become teachers and champions and heralds and apostles of creative nonviolence.

How do we keep building such a diverse, inclusive active movement for peace and justice? We have to keep reflecting on that question, learning from history, experimenting with nonviolent action, but here are some thoughts. First, we have to practice nonviolence in every level of our personal lives. We need to be nonviolent to ourselves, our spouses, our children, our parents, our neighbors, everyone in our local communities, everyone in our religious communities, everyone everywhere. That means looking deep within to renounce every trace of violence within us, to pursue a deep, interior inner nonviolence.

Second, if we really are a spiritual movement for peace and justice, we need to really seek the God of peace and justice, regardless of whether others are pursuing God sincerely or not.

Third, if we go deeper into nonviolence and the search for God, Gandhi says, we will come to a greater awareness of truth and discover the common ground of our shared humanity—that every human being on the planet is equal, that we are all children of the God of peace. And so we will treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Fourth, as people of nonviolence who uphold the unity of the human family, we practice universal love—an unconditional, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, non-retaliatory, sacrificial, welcoming, compassionate love toward everyone everywhere for the rest of our lives.

Fifth, because we seek God and practice nonviolent love, we respect all religious traditions.

Sixth, we take sides, just as the God of peace, justice and nonviolence takes side. We side with peace, justice and nonviolence. And because God sides with the poor and oppressed and disenfranchised in order to embrace and liberate us all, we too side with the poor and oppressed and disenfranchised.

As we keep breaking down these barriers, bridge these divides and reach out to join hands with one another, we can stand up together and speak out together. We can denounce every form of violence and injustice and announce a great new vision of peace and justice.

Rev. John Dear is a Catholic priest, peace activist, and the author of twenty books including most recently, "You Will Be My Witnesses" (Orbis) and "The Questions of Jesus" (Doubleday).


We are the realists. Unsustainable environmental practices, religion based on fear, law without justice, medicine without healing, new weapons and new wars—that is what is unrealistic! We can offer a better alternative than Armageddon.

Nuclear weapons represent the first horse out of the barn of technology running faster than the reins of law and morality. The bombs used on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were equal to 12 and 15 kilotons of TNT, respectively. Those weapons are only the size of the trigger devices on the hydronuclear weapons deployed now, which are in the megaton range. If the people of the world knew the level of risk they were living under, they would simply not tolerate it. It is insane.

It is our job to create sane alternative public institutions in which those values that integrate us as human beings can be manifest. Then we will learn a new technology, a technology that can melt the human heart.

—JONATHAN GRANOFF, President, Global Security Institute

Source Citation

Dear, John. 2006. Don't Give Up. Tikkun 21(5): 43

tags: Nonviolent Activism, NSP, Spiritual Progressive Analysis