In my last post, I ended with some fashion advice to young women given by Constance Markievicz, which included the purchase of a firearm. In this post, I want to suggest what might be done in our day and age in lieu of such a purchase. The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change are based on Matin Luther King’s (MLK) nonviolent campaigns and his profound belief in love in action. They should be read in conjunction with the Principles of Non-Violence and outline the soundest basis for real and lasting change in human communities.
MLK was a deeply thoughtful man and knew the importance of research. "You must become an expert on your opponent’s position", he advised. In order to bring change, it is vital that we first understand what needs to be changed. In my last post, I offered a brief analysis of gender politics in the Church as a contribution to this first step. Research is to be understood in the broadest terms and involves deep listening to the people on the ground, those most effected by the injustice we seek to overcome.
"It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue."
MLK was not a lone voice crying in the wilderness; he knew all too well the power of community and solidarity. In building relationships, he strengthened the opposition to segregation and institutional racism and also gained the strength to continue the struggle when beaten down and imprisoned.
As Christians, we must resist the notion: 'Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.' Apart from anything else, it is biblically inaccurate - Daniel wasn't alone, but had his companions, Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego! Prophetic discipleship calls us into community, to know the power of fellowship and to use that power to bring real change.
"Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice."
"Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent."
How often do I hear Christians say that to engage with other Chrisitians they disagree with is tantamount to endorsing their views? The present cancel culture does nothing, in my view, but create martyrs for the cause we oppose. Learning to negotiate, to seek progress, to achieve the attainable whilst holding on to a vision of the ultimately desirable is key to the work of justice.
Barbara Castle, one of my political heroes, was good at the pithy one-liner. In 1943, she made her first speech to the Labour party conference, accusing the then leadership - accurately - of preparing to compromise and delay the implementation of the Beveridge report on the welfare state. "We want jam today, not jam tomorrow," she warned.
We negotiate for jam today and work for more jam tomorrow.