Nonviolence: A Way Through

Athletes use visualization before they perform.  A gymnist sees herself executing her routine.  A golfer sees his put rolling into the hole.  Basketball players mentally trace the trajectory of their free throw into the basket.

This is not magic.  It is envisioning the accomplishment of a task they have practiced over and over.  And now, they prepare to do it one more time. 

This is how nonviolent participants operated in the civil rights era.  In Nashville, for example, Jim Lawson cast the vision and taught the principles of nonviolence for a year before the group took its first action.  They had seen the way through before they ever sought for it.

Some years later Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out the stanzas of “the dream,” describing what it would look like when the Beloved Community was a reality.  He painted a picture with words which then had to be lived out over and over in very specific ways.

And interestingly, those engaged in nonviolence had no guarantees that they would succeed in their lifetime.  The trajectory of “the dream” unfolded without being on a precise timeline.   In fact, they knew that it generally takes generations to enter the promised land.  It did so with the emancipation of slaves, the ability of women to vote, the freedom of India and South Africa from colonialism and apartheid, etc. 

Nonviolence is action based on a vision of making it through–if not today, then some day, because the quest has the backing of the Universe behind it.  Patience is not resignation, it is confidence that is willing to endure.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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