Attack Forces of Evil, Not Persons Doing Evil

A chainlink fence acts as the background to the third principle of Kingian Nonviolence. 

Written by Matt Guynn, Director of Organizing

 

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day! MLK Day is an invitation to re-commit to nonviolence as a way of life. Honoring Dr. King invites each of us to commit to become practitioners of nonviolence, experimenters with soul force in the face of supremacy and violence. We honor Dr. King and the women and men who advanced civil and human rights fifty years ago when we turn our own eyes to the horizon, and set our own hands to the same work they chose in their times. I’d love to hear how you have made this commitment in your own life, or how you’d like to do so even more this year; please share your story with me at [email protected].

In 2022, OEP is lifting up Principle Three of Dr. King’s nonviolence approach, “Attack Forces of Evil, Not Persons Doing Evil.”  This can also be phrased as “nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.”  This is a call to discipline for all aspiring nonviolence practitioners.  

 

Principle 3 invites us to channel both righteous indignation and agape love to serve the cause of justice, reconciliation and freedom.  In general terms, is love or indignation more in your comfort zone?  Lots of us allow ourselves to become angry about people and situations in the world around of us. Lots of us try to follow Jesus' call to love enemies. Does one come more naturally to you? 

 

Dr. King marries these two and turns them into a powerful and disciplined practice of waging nonviolent conflict. We are invited to channel righteous indignation by strategically challenging policies and practices of dehumanization and injustice, the so-called forces of evil. This isn’t just “getting angry.” This is creative and focused. And we are invited to see those who practice evil as also victims of larger forces--as still humans capable of some measure of transformation themselves. Towards these apparent opponents we extend the possibility of agape love. This isn’t just “love.” This is love that resists. 

 

Those of us fed by the Christian tradition can hear beneath Principle Three the echo of Paul’s words: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” - Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)  Spiritual wickedness takes institutional form in brutal police “use of force” guidelines, in military adventurism and drone warfare, in gentrification that destroys historic communities, in corporate efforts to split worker power, in church policies that marginalize and exclude LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color. The practitioner of nonviolence learns to vigorously engage these policies and practices while also expressing agape love toward those who design and implement them. We wrestle “not against flesh and blood”--against humans. Them, we try to love. We wrestle with systems, policies, practices, and cultural patterns. 

 

In the next months, with Principle Three as a backdrop, On Earth Peace will significantly revamp our social change organizing work, increasing focus on specific campaigns and movements for change afoot in the country and world and upping our capacity for applying the discipline of Kingian Nonviolence with our constituency and partners. We are currently designing these changes and would love to get your input. If you would like to join the conversation, contact us at [email protected]


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