exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 1)

On life.remixed I have written often on issues of peace and violence from a theological and biblical perspective. The result has been a robust ongoing conversation as life.remixed readers have wrestled with articulating Christian responses to war and violence.

This has raised a variety of questions, some of which I have received many, many times throughout the life of this blog. To help respond to some of these questions I recently sought out a friend and nonviolence trainer, Simon Moyle.

Simon is an ordained Baptist Minister in Melbourne, nonviolence trainer with Pace e Bene Australia, husband, and father of three children. He is an antiwar activist and writer. You can read some of his work at New Matilda, Eureka Street, ABC Religion, The Drum and Waging Nonviolence.

This is the first of what will be a three part interview. Enjoy!

Simon, you are a peace activist who has been especially active in resisting Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan. How did you get involved in peace activism?

I did my theological training in the early to mid 2000s. Having grown up in a well-off church in Melbourne’s bible belt, but always found something lacking in the Christianity I was taught, stuff that just didn’t add up, I was finally able to ask all the questions I wanted to ask and find some answers. One of the primary discoveries in this was looking at Christ through the lens of nonviolence. It was like the story of Jesus, which was previously blurry, suddenly came into focus.

So as my head sorted that stuff out, following Jesus suddenly became real, urgent and exciting rather than a rather dreary, restrictive, optional extra to ‘salvation’. To make a long story short I ended up getting involved because my head told me that this is what discipleship looks like; challenging the powers of death as Jesus did, through the power of love, and so participating in his story or “fitting our life into Jesus’ life” as Daniel Berrigan describes discipleship.

Even having discovered nonviolence I confess the last thing I wanted to do was peace work – it was too clichéd, and “world peace” is the quintessential unrealistic dream, associated with naïve, ditzy beauty queens. So I started out with Make Poverty History and Fair Trade, but soon realised that at the root of all of these problems – poverty, climate change, etc. – was domination. And the primary, visible, extreme form of domination is war. And if the antidote to domination is nonviolence, then I realised I’d better start teaching it. And once I started teaching it I realised I’d have no credibility unless I started doing it.

I remember after my first act of civil disobedience against war, I wrote to Fr. John Dear (who is a good friend, priest, and long time nonviolence activist) and explained how exciting and liberating it had been. His response was, “So you see! The gospel is true.” Those seven words summed up the whole experience for me, and still do.

So I must say, I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘peace activist’, at least when it implies something separate to discipleship and to the gospel. Insofar as we who follow Jesus are all agents of reconciliation and ambassadors of God’s love, I don’t think we can be anything else.

You say we cannot be anything but people of peace when we follow Jesus, but so many Christians support war and violence. I wonder if this is partly due to a lack of education, since it is often assumed by people that there are only two responses to violence, namely more violence or pacifism – fight or flight.
When people hear the term “nonviolence” they tend to associate it with pacifism. What is nonviolence? Is it the same as pacifism?

Nonviolence is neither passivity nor merely the absence of violence, but action which is nonviolent. In fact, if someone allows violence or oppression to go unchallenged, they are not being nonviolent. I would go so far as to say that violence is not the opposite of nonviolence, passivity is. Even Gandhi said it is better to be violent in the face of oppression than to be passive (but always added that he had never seen a situation where nonviolence would not yield results superior to that of violence), because passivity is born of fear, and nonviolence is about love which overcomes fear.

Nonviolence is love in flesh and bone, what Christ calls “complete love” – for God, self, the cosmos, neighbour and enemy – everything!

Gandhi called nonviolence satyagraha – a word meaning holding/grasping truth. Nonviolence requires embodying your truth to such an extent that you live it out rather than forcing it on others. If I want to convince someone of my truth, then forcing them by threat of violence to think like I do is counterproductive. Being willing to suffer for one’s truth demonstrates a strength of conviction that makes something more likely to be true than a truth which depends on causing others to suffer. The dynamics of violence are fairly simple; you make the other person suffer more than they are prepared to so that they back down (or vice versa). It doesn’t win them over, they’re unlikely to agree with you as a result, they’ve just conformed to your behaviour out of a desire to avoid suffering.

Nonviolence is not about defeating your opponent (creating a win-lose scenario) but winning your opponent over (creating a win-win). Of course, that requires an openness to your opponent’s truth as well – because perhaps it’s you that’s wrong, and you’ll never find that out if you’ve killed your opponent.

Nonviolence insists that the means are the ends in seed form – that, as Gandhi put it, “the means are to the ends as a seed is to a tree.” In the same way that if you plant an acorn you get an oak tree, if you want to create a world that is safe for all and in which we handle our differences with forthrightness and grace, then we have to act in ways consistent with that.

Nonviolence requires enormous training, discipline and strength, because it means acting in ways which don’t depend on the actions of our opponent. In this way, we refuse to mirror what we oppose, and begin to create the kind of world we want to see.

Many Christians support the theory of Just War, arguing that in some circumstances violence is necessary to end worse violence. What are your thoughts on Just War? Do you think warfare or violence is ever justified?

Most Christians who support the theory of Just War don’t actually know what the theory is, they merely cite it as justification for waging any war with which they personally agree, or at the very least think there must be circumstances where war is justified, and as a result say they believe in Just War Theory. Just War theory is actually quite specific and strict. There hasn’t been a war that conforms to the theory in living memory, yet it is continually evoked as justification for them.

There are three aspects to the Just War theory – one which describes conditions for beginning a war (Jus ad bellum), another is the rules for how that war should be conducted (Jus in bello), and finally conditions for ending a war (Just post bellum). For example, Jus Ad Bellum requires that there be Just Cause – that is, it cannot be used simply as punishment, but can only be used to rectify a wrong. That’s a very nuanced position, and certainly one that is rarely even contemplated let alone carried out.

Just War was a theory written at a time when you had armies which marched out to meet one another on a battlefield. Armies were easily distinguishable from civilians, and the weapons mostly involved hand to hand combat. That’s why you get the principle of ‘distinction’ in the Just War theory, which requires acts of war to only be directed towards enemy combatants. Such warmaking is impossible in practice today, given the types of weapons and warfare we employ. Wars are not conducted on battlefields anymore, they’re conducted in cities and towns, farms and villages, with weapons which are indiscriminate in their nature, which leave unexploded ordinance and pollution for up to thousands of years into the future.

Basically the Just War theory is the best friend of warmakers because it’s dragged out to raise questions in people’s minds and then abandoned as soon as war begins (or sooner). And by the time war begins, national fervour simply doesn’t allow serious questioning of the kind that could possibly stop it.

That’s why you get the World Council of Churches at their Ecumenical Peace Convocation last year declaring Just War Theory to be “obsolete” and calling for Just Peace theory to be implemented by the church.

If there were any structures set up to police or even evaluate wars according to the Just War theory (let alone the political will), then it might have some credibility. As it is – completely toothless – it’s worse than useless. What would it take to actually see to it that the strictures were applied, and there were sanctions when it was violated? What would it look like, for example, if the Catholic Church applied this theory in practice, and actually declared a war to be unjust? Would Catholic soldiers then have to conscientiously object? If people want to be serious about the Just War theory, that’s the kind of work that needs to be done.

Having said all that, I don’t think you can get to Just War theory from Jesus. But I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to talk about that later.

Modern history classes at school are focused on major wars in the 19th and 20th centuries. We seem to assume that major movements in history are almost always dominated by violence.
Can you tell us about major social change that occurred in recent centuries in which nonviolence was adopted?

As Walter Wink observed, “In 1989, thirteen nations comprising 1,695,000,000 people experienced nonviolent revolutions that succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations … If we add all the countries touched by major nonviolent actions in our century (Korea, the Philippines, South Africa … the independence movement in India …), the figure reaches 3,337,400,000, a staggering 65% of humanity! All this in the teeth of the assertion, endlessly repeated, that nonviolence doesn’t work in the ‘real’ world.” And this was before the Serbian movement that ousted Milosevic in 2000, the Colour Revolutions across Eastern Europe in the early 2000s, and the Arab Spring last year.

And they’re just the mass movements. That’s before you get into the millions of individual stories. Gandhi used to say that the reason people still exist on the earth is because everyday millions of people use nonviolence, without knowing it or naming it that way – people forgive, or are gracious, or stand up for themselves or others. If we really operated on an eye for an eye we’d all have killed one another by now.

But we often don’t recognise or remember these stories because of the way we’re socialised to value violence and domination over love and forgiveness. Our imagination is shaped not just by history books but by the films and television shows we watch, the games we play. Most of them reinforce the myth of redemptive violence – that it is violence which saves us, which makes us secure. Hence the need to tell the stories of nonviolence, which are often less spectacular, but give us the kind of world in which it is worth living.

How do you respond to those who might suggest that nonviolence is too idealistic and that force or violence is at least sometimes necessary?

Actually, the evidence suggests the opposite. It’s not nonviolence which is too idealistic, but violence. Over ten years ago, we invaded Afghanistan, bent on inflicting whatever violence would achieve our political aims there; yet it has been almost a total failure despite several strategy changes. It is much the same in Iraq. Our blind faith in violence to achieve stated objectives is total.

The events of 2011 alone should have been reason to shake our faith in violence. While the nonviolent movements of the Arab Spring were largely effective, the West was in its tenth year of the quagmire in Afghanistan and made a total mess of Libya.

Of course, if nonviolence “doesn’t work” (in the sense that it doesn’t achieve the aims we set out for it to achieve within a given timeframe) it’s not the strategy that is blamed, but nonviolence as a method. And usually we give it a much shorter timeframe to achieve the objectives than we would give violent tactics (if we give it a chance at all). On the other hand when violence “doesn’t work” we don’t tend to blame violence as a method, we blame the strategy employed, and simply seek out a different violent strategy. That’s a double standard that should make the kind of blind faith I’m talking about a bit more visible.

The same double standard is applied to loss of life. If people employing nonviolence are killed by the opponent, it is seen as evidence of its failure. But if people are killed in violent action, that is seen as a necessary sacrifice.

A recent study of the last century found that major nonviolent campaigns achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns, and that the nonviolent campaigns resulted in much less loss of life and vastly more democratic outcomes. So who are the idealists really?

That’s not to say that nonviolence always “works”. But then neither does violence. As Joan Baez often says, “Nonviolence is a flop. The only bigger flop is violence.”

Keep reading Part 2 of this interview with Simon…

Posted on January 23, 2012, in Conflict and Nonviolence, Q&R and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Simon, I’m interested in why you seem to be using Ghandi as your Christian example, when there is no indication that Ghandi actually embraced Christ, rather was a fully sold out Hindu?

    Within your framework of reference to Afghanistan, I am also interested in your thoughts about the 2 million refugee’s whom the Taliban had locked up against the Palastinian border and through the act of war, aid relief was brought in to help those there.

    • I think it’s more that Ghandi did a lot of groundwork to develop a modern systematic approach to nonviolent action, Craig? One could easily quote MLKJr, but given most of his approach was taken through a Ghandian lens why not just quote the primary source?

      There has always been a symbiotic relationship between secular philosophers and Christian theologians — why should Christians have to completely develop ideas independent of the world around them? With caveats, of course.

      As for your second point, well the rationale is pretty poor: ask yourself — could the same thing be achieved without having to go to war? I can’t see any reason why not.

    • Hey Craig – I’m not using Gandhi as a “Christian” example – just an example of nonviolence. Having said that, I think Gandhi understood and imitated Christ better than most Christians. He saw Christ as the greatest example in history, and learnt his nonviolence from Christ.

      I’m not sure what you mean by the second question – Afghanistan is nowhere near Palestine, let alone the border of the occupied Palestinian territories, and the Taliban are an Afghan (predominantly Pashtun) nationalist movement. Do you think that war is the only way to liberate refugees? War has created about 7 or 8 million Afghan refugees in the last 10 years. If it’s liberating refugees you’re after, war is a poor tool.

      Obviously the Taliban needed to be dealt with, but there were many many options other than the military one. It’s easy for those of us who have never experienced war in our own country to tout it as a great liberator. People in war torn countries know better.

      • Sorry, made a typo…meant Pakistan.

        What other options were available to help those 2 million refugees whom the Taliban were set on killing? Simply put Pakistan and Afghanistan refused aid to be freely brought over.

  2. Some great thoughts to ponder here Matt and Simon. Lot’s to process. Could you at some point please unpack what non – violence looks and smells like especially with regard to and in the face of evil being perpetrated upon us and around us.

    Could you also outline your thoughts on wether in your opinion (and any scriptural reference) if there is a place in society for Military Forces and in some respects the role for armed Police, and in practical terms how do these organisations and services embrace non violence?

    • Hello Brewster, I’m a nonviolence activist too. I’ve hung with Simon in a couple of different contexts and appreciate his efforts very much. For me, nonviolence smells like hope. It would be easy to despair these days amongst the bloodshed, disrespect, and machinery of exploitation – and I think much of the mainstream political agenda is to encourage passivity and offer distraction from both the problems which beset us, and the opportunities we have for love and happiness.

      I’ll be facing trial sometime in the next 12 months, along with my friend Graeme Dunstan, for disabling a “tiger” helicopter in Rockhampton last July. Part of the evidence for this trial is an interview I gave my local channel 7. I’m real glad the jury will see this evidence because it pretty clearly explains my intentions and reasons. Check it out:

      I understand the need for Police, and am old enough to remember when Australian police were unarmed (except for a truncheon). I envision a return. I envision the military being being transformed into a counter disaster force. I believe that just like the Commandment to love one another, the idea of disarmament is absolute and applies everywhere.

    • You might need to be a bit more specific with the first question Brewster, I’m not sure I understand what you mean. As for the second, it requires a rather more substantial answer than I’m prepared to devote the time to right now. Can I suggest waiting until all three are out, then if those questions aren’t answered we can explore them then?

  3. Thanks Matt.
    Sometimes I think I should stop reading blogs because I think about them for ages. So I have to Wednesday to think through this.
    I’m interested in this comment “Nonviolence is love in flesh and bone, what Christ calls “complete love” – for God, self, the cosmos, neighbour and enemy – everything”!
    I am all for Loving enimies and showing love, but in what ways could we have shown love to Saddam & Gaddafi etc to change them. Could we have helped people in Iraq more by trying to change Saddam’s heart through love or did we have to help them more by getting rid of him.

    • The next instalments might answer some of these questions Darren, or more likely inspire more questions! So I’ll hold off answering this till then.

  4. Hi all,

    I just had a mate who works for NSW police pose a question related to what Brewster and Bryan have been talking about. I thought I would post it here (with permission) for discussion.

    For obvious reasons he is not keen to be too open about his identity and the details together on the web.

    The scenario is based on a true story, though to anyone who was not there it may as well be hypothetical. If you have any questions for my friend, or require more details, I can relay them to him. Also, excuse the staccato sentences, he was speaking to me on Twitter and had to deal with the character limit.

    What are your thoughts on non-violence on a smaller scale? Eg a person with a knife is trying to stab your friend?

    Real example at work. Man with knife decides that he wants to stab 3 colleagues. Runs at them with knife overhead screaming. What’s your view on response?

    Angry about neighbour’s music. Wouldn’t turn it down. This guy decides to smash down neighbour’s door. Cops turned up. The guy charges at cops with knife overhead. Mental health certainly, but how do you non-violently stop a guy who’s 5 feet from you in that circumstance?

    He’s very lucky he got tasered. 5 years ago he would have been shot. In UK or NZ cop would have died.

    Looking forward to your thoughts.


    • I appreciate the circumstances referred to, and I can’t offer a quick and easy panacea, BUT

      (i) every circumstance arises out of particular conditions (who is this man, what has set him off, if he is mentally disturbed why has he not been supported in recovery, those sort of questions).

      Properly trained and equipped Police officers ought be able to disarm a man with a knife without killing or maiming, and without undue risk. Tasers are one form of (usually) non-lethal force, and there are others. I’ve met many police who are trained negotiators able to talk down a disturbed person much more often than not.

      I concede none of this is risk free, but is becoming more and more possible as we learn more about the formation of human behaviour.

      2/ Beyond the particular circumstances lies the social background. A society in which nonviolence is regularly practiced will see these kinds of incidents shrivel on the vine. People will be cared for and neighbourly. resources now directed to domination will be transferred to service. People will have hope.

      Simon made the point that one oughtn’t expect the impossible of nonviolence. People, once born, WILL be hurt. The question we all get to answer is “how casually, or how routinely, will I hurt others for my own apparent benefit?”. I think the goal of nonviolence is to practice behaviour that moves the answer towards “I won’t”.

      • I’m the person who posed the scenario to Matt regarding the knife wielding person.

        It seems to me that you’re coming at the scenario from the perspective of prevention (mental health assessments, diversion etc), which is great in an ideal world. The reality is that the mental health ‘industry’ is criminally under resourced, and in this particular scenario the gentleman in question had in fact been assessed as ‘healthy’ by a mental health crisis team a few weeks earlier after a similar incident.

        Again, in an ideal world, the neighbour would have been practicing the ‘golden rule’ and would have been sensitive to the noise he was making, but unfortunately the fallen world we inhabit seems full of people who don’t have much regard for the feelings of others.

        In terms of practical solutions to being faced with this situation, I appreciate your suggestions about negotiation techniques, however I can tell you that when the gentleman arrived on scene via an open door that was only a few metres away from the officers there was very little time for negotiation.

        The gentleman was screaming and holding a fairly large meat cleaver over his head, which he swung directly towards a colleague’s face. The fact that a taser was able to be drawn, activated, aimed, and fired (incapacitating the man) in the few seconds available, is actually phenomenal. The fact that no one was killed or seriously injured is amazing. Thank God.

        In any case, I am all for non-violent, non-confrontational solutions to real world problems. I just don’t know what they are, considering how often the people we come across in our line of work just don’t respond to negotiation.

        The reality is that the level of training (as well as the natural ability) required to negotiate with some people is so far beyond what the average police officer has time to engage in. If everyone concentrated all of their time and effort on this sort of training, then no other work would get done! Combine that with incredibly long work hours, followed by incredibly stressful moments of brutal violence offered by those we sometimes face, and I just don’t know that a perfect, reasoned response is always possible.

        I’m very willing to be talked around, but I also prefer to keep the real world in mind – heaven isn’t fully realised yet as far as I’m aware?

        • Yes, thank God. And thank the officers who get to do more and more of this shitty work, precisely because military spending ($11 Billion in 2011 for new weapons, and weapons maintenance) sucks resource away from social integrity.

        • Thanks A. I’m also interested in real world solutions to real world problems. Sounds like a doozy of a situation to be confronted by, it would’ve been terrifying.

          I think the nature of the police force means that you’re less likely to be able to use nonviolence successfully because the option to use violence is always there, and has institutional backing. Which means backing any nonviolent approach is physical threat, backed by enormous power. To have credibility, nonviolence requires a commitment, not just to be used as one tool among many, and requires vulnerability. It can be used as a first (or subsequent) resort, but it’s far less likely to be effective because the trust simply doesn’t (and cannot) exist without vulnerability.

          That’s how violence and nonviolence works – violence is intended to intimidate (which usually has the effect of either passivity or counterviolence – which is what you experienced from this guy). That has the effect of escalation – each party trying to outdo each other in violence so the other will back down. Nonviolence, on the other hand, deliberately removes threat in order to build the capacity for humanity. When people don’t feel threatened, they’re far less likely to attack anyone, and the escalation cycle is never engaged. Simply the presence of police is institutional threat (that’s the function of uniforms, for example). Which I think means that most often police function more as a problem in volatile situations than any kind of solution.

          That’s not to have a go at you, or your intentions, or the intentions of any police, which I take to be mostly good – but I think it’s a dynamic that either police are not aware of, (hence your experience that “the world we inhabit seems full of people who don’t have much regard for the feelings of others”) or are not trained to deal with. If police are not aware of it, it wouldn’t be surprising – this is a form of structural violence, and structural violence is often invisible to privileged people (but very visible to the poor and marginalised). Frankly I don’t think it’s fair to put police in this kind of situation.

          So structural violence promotes the more visible violence that those structures then need to deal with. It’s a vicious circle, and needs to be broken somewhere by someone, or it will simply be perpetuated.

          I suspect this scenario would have had better chance of being defused by ordinary people than police. Again, I don’t know that’s the case, but suspect it would be.

          I’m not saying nonviolence will always keep you safe. But you and I both know violence doesn’t either.

          And I don’t have all the answers. We all need each others’ creativity and collaboration to discover new frontiers of nonviolent action.

  5. Bryan, you appear to be a man whose serious about non violence, I get that and I can respect that. In that sense replying to me that non violence smells like “hope” is not the sort of practical solution I was looking or asking for. I’m seriously taking and listening what Simon and Matt are saying and being challenged and attempting to respond, I don’t consider what I believe is a platitude helpful. (Apologies if this seems harsh)

    I also want to respectfully take issue with you re your comment regarding disarming people who are threatening you. Can I ask if you have specialised training in disarming people from organisations like the Police? To the best of my knowledge and (I work in a related emergency service that often co-responds with specialist Police units) when threatened, Police use lethal force if threatened with lethal force. To the best of my knowledge they don’t shoot for knees and feet or hands, they shoot for the largest body mass and continue to do so till the threat is no more. Your comment in suggesting that Police “ought” suggests if they don’t there is a failing on their part that I find offensive if you haven’t sipped from the cup that they do.

    With these thoughts I want to ask again, in PRACTICAL terms what does non violence look like when one has to disarm in a life threatening situation.

    Finally, I do agree with everyones right to civil disobedience, what I don’t agree with, and you and I might have an issue here is outright vandalisim. In what universe did Christ encourage the harming and wilful damage of a government asset that may or may not be used to save someones life in an emergency.

    Look forward to hearing from you Simon?

    • Simon, help!

      A, Aikido. If you’re going to regularly confront drunk, crazy and abusive people, Aikido is a great discipline for developing the wherewithal to contain and disarm them. Please stop holding out that nonviolence can’t always work – of course it can’t. I would just say that violence, regularly employed, doesn’t work real well either, and long-term it makes things worse for everyone. (I notice the knife has now become a meat cleaver.)

      Brewster, before you carry on about the “vandalism” of “a government asset that may or may not be used to save someones life in an emergency”, why don’t you find out precisely what you’re talking about. The “Tiger” attack helicopter is an obscenity, with no right to exist. I set out some of the details here:


      If you want to see how a Tiger behaves, watch the video on http://www.collateralmurder.com where its cousin, the US Apache slaughters civilians with the 30mm machine cannon. This is the video Bradley manning has been imprisoned, tortured and charged with making publicly available (one of the documents he is alleged to have released).

      The “Tiger” can’t save anybody’s life. It’s designed to kill from on high. How dare any government steal from the poor to build such a thing ($34 million/piece)

      Darren, if we’re going to argue by fantasy analogy – what if Aliens descended upon Earth (in your back yard) and were going to torture everyone to death and eat the babies alive unless YOU humiliated your family submitted yourself to crucifiction… would you be prepared?

      How about we live in the real world, and deal with what’s in front of us. I live in a high-crime area, where we’ve had three stabbings (one fatal) in the past two years. Poverty, addiction, degradation are all around – and the path forward is clear, treating every single person with compassion, dignity and respect.

  6. Bryan… you stated in a previous post “I appreciate the circumstances referred to, and I can’t offer a quick and easy panacea, BUT”

    This is where as a an advocate of non violence you at first appearance have no credibility. For the people who are having violence perpertrated against them your words are…I have nothing to offer.

    If I as a person who works in ridiculously close proximity to those who perpertrate violence and have been assaulted in the course of my work over the years by those whom are intoxicated, have mental health issues, and those who are just pissed off. If I am to advocate Matt’s and Simons position I need real practical steps that are proven to work.

    Statements like “I have nothing to offer” don’t advance your cause to me, and I remain skeptical at best.

    Keep talking Simon, you have my interest.

    • stop misquoting me Brewster “I have nothing to offer” are your words, not mine. If all you want are quick and easy Panacea, i’m sure there’s a politician or corporation out there willing to give you one. The remedies I know about require time, effort, and some personal sacrifice.

  7. Matt another great true story to keep us all thinking. While trying to be a non violence person I think Bryan is living in a dream world. Is the protection of your own life violence?
    (I believe our treatment of mental illness is pathetic but that is another topic I’m very passionate about).
    In the situation told above, by the time they had asked a man coming at them with a knife to drop it he would of cover the 5ft (about 1.5m) he could of been stabbed. So he could of been stabbed and been non violent or protected himself.
    This also raises big issues in some countries on the protection of life. Eg If the police shoot a suicide bomber before they could detinate the bomb bad? Did the show violence to 1 to protect the masses, especially in the situations where not even negotiating will stop them.

  8. Bryan, my original quote of your statement was in full and was in the first line of my post. i.e “I appreciate the circumstances referred to, and I can’t offer a quick and easy panacea, BUT” And in subsequent references I paraphrased it. (I apologise for the paraphrasing).

    However the request is the same, I work in situations that turn ugly and occasionally violent. I, as stated previously am bloody serious about exploring non violence and I am asking serious questions and looking for real and practical proven solutions.

    So far you appear to be the person that is talking of hope, politicians and corporations and vandalisim of government assets. I thought I made it pretty clear from my first post of what I was seeking, you and I may be at an impasse.

    Best regards

  9. Bryan, I understand military machines, I understand what the Tiger attack helo is designed for as well. I have taken the time to read and observe some articles about you posted on the net. That all being said, helo’s even the tiger could be used as an asset in civilian emergencies / disasters as bushfires and floods on recon missions etc.

    You obviously feel outrage that the Australian government has purchased these for the protection and fighting ability of our armed forces, I get that. What I don’t get from your facebook page description of Christian devotee of Satyagraha is where Jesus advocates us to damage and render inoperable state owned assets. I may well be wrong, but thats not my understanding of Joel 3:10

    But I digress…

    I liked what Simon suggests in his post at 11:27, that non violence requires vulnerability and I understand that, when dealing with those of disturbed minds either by alcohol, drugs or mental illness and occassinally all three at once, it is often helpful to reduce your physical profile, adopt a slightly less authoriative approach etc etc. When that is not enough there is also the opportunity to remove oneself from the conflict, all these actions can assist in de-escalating difficult situations.

    However, when the rubber really meets the road, when someone lunges for you, and you’ve actually tried all the above and it hasn’t worked for whatever reason, what then?

    Do we remain truly vulnerable at that point?

  10. Within your framework of non violence how do you reconcile that with Jesus dealings with the centurion and solider’s and his words of advice to the soldiers were to be content with their pay.

    Paul said to also honour all in authority, how does your protests and destruction of property fall into the honouring of all in authority?:

  11. Simon, if I read you correctly, you’re suggesting the Police Force because of it’s institutional background and foundation can never truly embrace non violence as a principal and in a practical sense.

    In that regard would you discuss wether I can as a person be a Police Officer and still be true to my faith knowing that I am practicing violence in the course of my job if I was employed as a Police Officer.

    Would you also at your convenience discuss the same scenario supplanting the role of Police Officer with a member of the Military Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) and wether my faith in your opinion was compromised. Scriptures to support your point of view would be helpful for me please.

  12. Hi all,

    I am loving the fact that this has sparked some great discussion. It is worth noting at this point that sometimes comments can come in faster than people can respond to them. For that reason I recommend not composing multiple comments at one time, and perhaps saving some points for your next comment. This is for everyone’s benefit, since Simon and Bryan will not be able to respond to strings of complex questions.

    In responding to some of the points made here.

    I think that some of the demands being placed on advocates of nonviolence miss the point of what nonviolence is about. As Simon has said, it is not simply a tool in one’s toolbox – it is a way of life. Nonviolence is not simply a tactic or a strategy that one can employ for proven results. Nonviolence sometimes fails to achieve its goal, but violence fails more since it always results in a loss. Moreover nonviolence depends on the creativity and the conviction of the person – to seek practical steps to future (i.e. nonexistent) or hypothetical situations is also to be somewhat misunderstanding the nature of nonviolence. It is possible to look at the strategies used by past movements, and they are easily accessible. They are unfortunately not an aspect of our interview in the next two parts (though Simon mentions some stories to look into). My point – there are no definite “answers”.

    One of the things that also strikes me as concerning is the way in which Christian men (I am making an assumption), whom I otherwise have high respect, have in this issue tended to circumvent theological reflection, openly stating their rejection of Christ’s teachings. The amount of times in discussing this subject that I have raised the reality of Christ’s teachings, only to be met by “Yes, but in the real world…” This sentiment has appeared as a subtext here (“dream world” etc.) and I wonder what that says about us. Is Christ’s teaching on this issue irrelevant to our world? Is it more realistic to assert the duty of governments to go to war and to pass over Christ’s commands to his followers? Just questions worth reflecting on.

    Of course I do not mean this in a way that makes nonviolence out to be a form of legalism. I am violent every day – in my words, thoughts – and I need to work toward greater love for all people too. My commitment to nonviolence is a developing one, and as Simon has said, it takes training and discipline (pardon me if that statement appears in a later part of the interview, I forget).

    Brewster – you asked Bryan where Christ advocates damage of state property. There is of course no direct analogy or teaching, since the state in Jesus’ day looked very different to our own. However I would point to a story that is historically reliable since it is recorded in all four gospels – the cleansing of the Temple. Jesus seemingly does damage to the property of others in this episode, perhaps even letting their animals go free. This is a judgement and a protest of the violent and exploitative Temple economy in his day. Is it not then conceivable that some of may also be called to enact judgements against governments and their tools of war that result in the killing of innocents? It is one thing to say a helicopter can save lives, it is another to say it does. Remember, the Temple probably could have done some good. When we defend a government that spends tax payer dollars on war rather than public services I think we are on shaky ground. As I said in an article for TEAR (unreleased until Feb., source of info was the New Internationalist):

    It is often thought that warfare is a way of protecting our freedoms, and so we justify building up our military arsenals and diplomatic relations with military powers like the U.S. However in Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper it was stated that the nation faces no serious military threat, yet we increased our military budget by 50.2% between 2000-09 and will continue to increase it by 4-5% over the next 20 years. Such generosity has not extended to any other public service.

    Benno – for my take on Romans 13, check out http://liferemixed.net/2011/05/19/remixing-romans-13/.

    Also, Brewster, there is a question about serving in the armed forces in the next part of the interview.


  13. I’ll admit to being challenged here Matt, and some of it is refreshing, other aspects of it I find hard to cop (no pun intended), but still engaging at this stage….

    I actually have no argument with the story that a righteous and blameless Son of God threw out money collectors and those who desecrated his fathers house. Though In my current mindset, I find that a peculiarly long bow to draw against an example of wilful and wanton damage to an aircraft, which in and of itself is an act of violence?

    In the temple, the Son of God in my understanding had a righteous and blameless anger when representing his Father for the desecration of the temple. A military aerodrome in Rockhampton with government assets is not Gods temple, nor is Bryan my chritian brother and note (nor do I for that matter) have what I believe is righteous and blameless anger at any point.

  14. Brewster, somehow we got off on the wrong foot, and I apologise for that. Perhaps it’s because I stepped out of my familiar terrain and tried to answer questions about civilian policing that are really outside my experience and which you find unsatisfying. You are completely correct in one thing, which is that my anger is not blameless and I am but a sinner. My actions are open to scrutiny, criticism, and condemnation.

    However in my foolishness I challenge you about your attitude to property, in particular to property that serves what I see as the evil of war-making. I find it difficult to accept that you and others will find theoretical excuses for a machine whose only purpose is to kill. The Tiger “might” be used for something useful. It is designed and used to kill. Our war, Australia’s war in Afghanistan is an atrocity which I believe is an offence to God, and an insult to Christ’s commandment that we love one another.

    I’m no Bible scholar, I’m a crude kind of Catholic who falls back to the sermon on the mount and I ask myself HOW can I love my enemies and my neighbours?

    When I carry out my acts of interference with the war machine, I do so openly. I announce my intentions in advance. I stay to face the authorities, and I pay whatever secular penalties are imposed upon me. That’s my version of rendering unto Caeser while serving God. It may be wrong.

    But my experience has been that Police are among the most appreciative of the various audiences I confront. Compared to many of the daily horrors they get embroiled in, a little civil disobedience is pretty easy to cop. Likewise with Judges and Jurors. Likewise with many of the citizens in Rockhampton, some of whom join in the journey. The most important thing for me is to break the passivity whereby good people accept bloody war without question.

  15. I hear you Bryan, I see your heart. Let me outline my position so that you may understand where I am coming from.

    I prefer a non violent world over a violent one. That being said I have worked within the world of Emergency Service Provision for almost thirty years, and all too often I am involved in the patching up of people who resort to or inflict violence upon others.

    I have witnessed ad-nauseam the physical, emotional and mental trauma visited upon those who are at the receiving end of violence. As a result I am intensely interested in practical steps that might help me advocate for non violence.

    In that regard I also work alongside good men and women who place their bodies and lives on the line regularly to ensure that our society is a relatively free from violence. The counsel and practical solutions I am seeking speak to those I journey with both professionally and privately.

    On that point alone and as an aside, a colleague in the past week was assaulted whilst serving the community, and when seeking justice through the judicial system had their case thrown out of court!

    Back to the point, I fail to see a practical solution that assists a Police Officer to choose non lethal means when confronted with a life threatening situation. I don’t understand what you are advocating for a national army, navy, air force to do faced with an opposing force committed to perpetrating evil.

    What do I say to the good christian friend in Special Forces that is serving in foreign lands. I love you mate, I support you, pray for your safety and family, but God told me your wrong to serve in the armed forces? Am I to believe him that God led him to serve, but your opinion and conviction means that he has betrayed his faith?

    It’s not that I agree with war, I don’t, but I also don’t believe in wholesale slaughter of innocents. Just this week I was made aware of a work colleagues village / family has been literally obliterated in Africa whilst choosing not to respond to threats of violence against them. In saying that I see that innocents are slaughtered in war as well.

    I’m not convinced that either side is right here. At this point in time I m unhappy with the status quo, and remain unconvinced that you guys have the right solutions either.

    There’s my heart in this.

  16. I hear you Brewster. Let’s take this up again in part 2, or I’ll never finish my assigned task for today. I’m keen to hear what Simon says next.

  17. Hi Matt.
    Looking forward to part 2.
    As Simon said it will answer some of my earlier questions and most likely provoc many others.

    My comment on “Living in a dream world” was in relation to the below comment that came as a result of the story shared by the Police Officer.

    “Properly trained and equipped Police officers ought be able to disarm a man with a knife without killing or maiming, and without undue risk. Tasers are one form of (usually) non-lethal force, and there are others. I’ve met many police who are trained negotiators able to talk down a disturbed person much more often than not”.

    I have a christian brother in law who is a police officer and a christian sister who was a Nurse and both have worked with mental ill people. Some of the stories I have heard scare me for people in those jobs and when mentally ill people go into fits of rage they can take more than 1 or 2 people to hold them. Some can turn to self violence. So until they can be sudated by medicine do the police, asking the question I raised earlier, have the right to protect themselves. Simply asking a person to drop the knife when they are 5ft may not work. They have tazors and sprays to protect themselves. So if they tazor or spray to protect others, themselves and sometimes the person with the knife against themselves (not aim to kill) and then get the person off to the correct medical help be seen as a win/ win
    It’s interesting how they are trying to show a love to others. My brother in law has now moved into the PCYC section and does a fair bit of eduction trying to stop kids getting into violence. Including self violence.
    I also raised the question of shooting a suicide bomber to protect 70 people.

    And thanks for mentioning the use of language. I was also thinking violence is a lot more than guns and war.

    Love ya Mate

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