From a discussion today:
This strikes me as a good example of a common assumption these days: that we are complicit in the evil (or violence) of our social system simply because of where we were born or the color of our skin or our gender. So that the only way we can be "nonviolent" (or not evil?) is by bringing down the system. As you suggest, the idea is that it is not possible to be nonviolent in our current context. Thus I see it argued more and more often that it is meaningless to try to stick with more "innocent" methods, because innocence is meaningless while we are part of this horrible system, and what's most important is the destruction of the system, sometimes even "by any means necessary." Only then might it be possible to be nonviolent.Makes me think of Isaiah 42 from the other day, "to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness..."
The moral bondage implied by this theory of unavoidable complicity seems to me the obvious point where it diverges from the message of Jesus. Jesus offered freedom from bondage, and not a freedom only when the system had been brought down. He demonstrated that freedom (including the freedom to be nonviolent) in the midst of imperial domination. This strikes at the claim that our complicity is unavoidable, or that innocence is impossible in the midst of this system. For true freedom, what must be brought down is not the system but the lies, including the lie of unavoidable complicity. And Jesus offers us freedom from those lies.
That doesn't mean we won't continue to also challenge the lies that sustain oppression, sexism, racism, etc. Only that we can challenge them as Jesus did, from the position of the freedom of the kingdom of God, not as co-prisoners beating on the walls of the gulag we created. From the position of an alternative life, where we are not dominated by society or complicit in its evil, and don't have to resort to its methods. A position to offer hope to others that a different life exists. That's what Jesus showed us and offers us now.