Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 4

Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 4

Active nonviolence calls (me) to renounce dualism, the “we-they” mentality. This divides us into “good people/bad people and allows us to demonize the adversary. It is the root of authoritarianism and exclusivist behavior. It generates racism and makes possible conflicts and wars.[1] 

Here are the ten tenants of A Spirituality of Nonviolence,[2] based on The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence.1

  1. I recognize the sacred in all people.
  2. I accept myself deeply.
  3. I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me.
  4. I renounce the ‘us-them’ mentality.
  5. I face my fear with love.
  6. I accept that New Creation is a community act, not a solo act.
  7. I am part of the whole creation, not master over.
  8. I am ready to suffer to help liberate the Divine in others.
  9. I will celebrate when the presence of God is accepted.
  10. I will slow down and plant seeds.

The fourth statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence is I renounce the “us-them” mentality. This statement encourages us to deeply examine our perception of ourselves as separate, independent beings. We are only separate in the shallowest and most illusory of understandings of the nature of the life in which we participate. Granted, our three-dimensional perceptual abilities appear to support the illusion that our individual natures and the well-defined boundaries between us and everything else in creation are real. That, combined with our ego-driven need to see ourselves as superior to most others, leads to a whole host of sins that often result in violence to ourselves and others, sin being that which separates our conscious awareness away from God or others. Our false perception of ourselves as independent from, superior to, or worthier than anyone or anything else is sinful because it separates us from consciously living in the truth that we are all children of God, co-equal parts of the body of Christ, along with everything else in creation – not better, not worse, not the same, but equally loved, accepted, needed, and deserving of respect and honor.

The larger life of which we are a part reaches infinitely farther than the three-dimensional limitations our physical senses are capable of perceiving. We know this from the scientific and experiential proof of realities we cannot directly perceive, from cell phone signals, to x-rays, to the unconscious movements that determine 90%+ of our thoughts and actions. Dimensions of life beyond our senses abound wherever we perceive nothingness. There is an invisible (to us) webbing that binds and connects us together, and we only perpetuate our ignorance by denying its reality.

It is understandable that we adopt an us-them mentality because seemingly everyone has been conditioned to act and behave as if they were separate beings. It is nearly impossible, however, to perceive our interconnectedness without first believing in its possibility, not unlike how it is difficult to perceive God’s existence until we first dare to believe in it. Once we so believe, however, we find supporting evidence all around us.

One of the consequences of the us-them mentality is the false belief that we can advance our life at the expense of another, as opposed to the truth that we can only advance our life in lasting, meaningful ways by advancing the lives of others. Because our lives are interconnected, we progress and regress together. Another consequence of the us-them mentality is that we blame others for our problems instead of looking within for causes and solutions. In the eerily humorous words attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”[3] Our egos like to blame others for our personal shortcomings because it makes them feel superior and not responsible for our troubles. Once we see that we are all us and that there is no them, our motivations and behaviors become more inclusive, generous, and other-focused. Not to mention less violent. To renounce the us-them mentality requires that we act as if our fates and those of others are inseparably tied. Doing harm to others – physically, mentally, or emotionally – harms us, too. Once we begin habitually acting as if this were true, the supporting evidence will abound.

This is the 30th in a series of Life Notes titled Guns, Mental Illness, and Jesus. The opinions expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of other individuals or organizations. To engage with me or to explore contemplative spiritual direction, contact me at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com.

[1] Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno, Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999, p. 18.

[2] www.cac.org, A Spirituality of Nonviolence, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE7pqKJ_aRo

[3] Theodore Roosevelt, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/26224-if-you-could-kick-the-person-in-the-pants-responsible. Accessed January 30, 2023.

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