"the power of the witness is not the power of the TV camera"

There's been a pretty good discussion going on this past week on the Jesus Radicals site, inspired (or provoked?) by the essay I submitted. Here are a few pieces of my replies that I think are worth saving:

Not all err in these ways, I agree. I'm only challenging a couple things here, not "nonviolent resistance" in general (which is understood and practiced by different people in many different ways). It's just that I'm seeing a lot of promoting of nonviolent force tactics and a lot of resistance to the biblical images and promises of God's powerful (and sometimes violent) actions to bring justice. And these seem to be coming out of the growing popularity of nonviolent resistance principles. That's what I'm responding to.

You're right that there are some similarities with the historical teaching of nonresistance in peace churches. I think there was a lot of truth in those traditions that is being pushed aside now. But much of the responsibility for that lies with the peace churches that lost touch with the true meaning and power of the teachings in their traditions. They had become empty religious practices, or excuses for staying clear of the political struggles, while the churches had found comfortable ways to co-exist with the violent powers in society. That is not what Jesus showed us to do. But there are truths (and inspiring examples) in those traditions that we shouldn't ignore.

The "popularity" I refer to is not just among pacifist Christians but also in the wider society. We don't have to search far in the news to see the influence of nonviolent resistance principles in our world. As an alternative to violent resistance, that's a good thing. But the popularity in society also influences our Christian enthusiasm for nonviolent resistance. It has been promoted among Christians as a much more relevant form of pacifism in our world today, and its political effectiveness has been trumpeted as proof of the truth of its principles. These are not the kind of things Jesus appealed to. The "proof" Jesus offered was the cross, not a falling dictator.

Your question about my response to the civil rights movement is a good one. The short answer is that I think you can distinguish between the Christlike witness seen there and the methods that got it seen on TV. I'm quite sure that many Blacks suffered fearlessly and demonstrated a powerful Christlike witness long before the civil rights movement (and still do). Those actions were not televised but they were just as powerful and just as important in God's work of changing hearts. The fact that nonviolent resistance methods got media attention for the witness of certain suffering Blacks does not make their witness any better or any more powerful. The power of the witness is not the power of the TV camera, but the power of Christ in it. That's what changes hearts.

So I can praise the witness seen in the civil right movement (or certain other nonviolent resistance actions) as Christlike and still challenge the use of the media and the use of political and economic power as un-Christlike, because it seeks to achieve its effects by the power of money and the power of the crowd.

This is getting too long, but I wanted just to say a word about your kids comment. You're right, I think some physical coercion is needed in parenting. I don't have kids yet, but that seems obvious. And appropriate, I think for the parent-child relationship, at least when the kids are young. From my experience growing up, though, and from what I've seen and heard from parents, it's important to gradually let go of the use of coercion with kids, as they are able to make their own voluntary choices. If we don't, they get bitter and rebellious. Because we were not meant to be subservient to the power of other human beings. "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."