Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 6

Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 6

To understand and accept that the New Creation, the building up of the Beloved Community is always carried forward with others. It is never a “solo act.”[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 sixth statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence2 is I accept that New Creation is a community act, not a solo act. Individuality is deeply ingrained in the Western mindset. We seek one individual to elevate as the face of a movement, thus creating an idol. We then worship that individual by showering them with wildly disproportional attention, rewards, and expectations. We hold individual achievement as the pinnacle of a well-lived, successful life. I witnessed this the night before I began writing this piece with the 2023 Super Bowl. I am a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes fan (who won this year’s Super Bowl and Most Valuable Player award, respectively), so I have nothing against them, personally, but this very current event reminds me of the problems our idolization of individuals creates. Yes, credit was given to other individual performers, like Coach Reid, Travis Kelce, the offensive line, the defense, etc., but the farther removed the attention strayed from the face of the franchise, Patrick Mahomes, the more generic the praise became. Certainly, there cannot be a championship for any individual without the supporting efforts of teammates, position coaches, and countless unnamed and modestly-paid staff who wash uniforms, cook meals, and tend the playing fields. While this should be obvious, we still elevate one person to hold up as the standard, to be the hero, to be emulated. The anonymous masses coalesce around the individual star, whose stardom is only possible because of the supporting cast. There are, however, no individual accomplishments (or screw-ups) because everything worthwhile is the result of a community effort.

Of course, the elevation of individuals is not limited to professional sports. It is rampant in music, politics, and even religion. Few individuals raised to such high pedestals remain there for long. The various media outlets fueling the rise to super-stardom make the fall quick and decisive. Even super-stars are subject to declining physical and mental abilities, as are we, not to mention having similar moral and ethical lapses. The public proclamation of individual greatness and the expectation of perfection it brings is not reality, nor does it expose that we work together for good or nothing good happens. When the face of a movement is exposed as a fallible human like everyone else, the masses often feel deceived. But the deception is attributable to the insatiable desire of the masses to find a person who personifies the perfection that eludes them personally and makes them feel superior to others by association. Such perfection, however, is only attainable in community.

As a Mahomes fan, I do not believe his goal is to become an idol held in higher regard than his teammates but to do the best he can with the capabilities he has in the context of his community, the Kansas City Chiefs. Behind the face of every meaningful movement or accomplishment is a community of characters without whom the face would be but one of many, which is a fairer reflection of reality anyway. Shaping and building a new, non-violent world will not be accomplished by a single hero but by a community committed to the work required. Our goal, therefore, should not be to become the Patrick Mahomes of non-violence – to manifest the New Creation single-handedly with our brilliance and super-human skill – but to faithfully perform the part we are best suited to perform and that is required for the collective work to be accomplished, however humble that part may appear. We do it not to become the face of anything, but because it needs to be done and because its accomplishment requires us to do our part within the community. Community work does not typically bring fame or fortune. But it does bring change. And change is what we need, not another soon-forgotten face.

This is the 32nd 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

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