From: Communion:The Monthly Newsletter of Catholics for Marriage
Equality In California. Volume I, Issue 10 / October 2010
"Dialog a Key Component of Non-Violence"
Almost 50 years ago, I was introduced to the concept of nonviolence
and have considered myself a student of nonviolence ever since. That
introduction came from the Berrigans and the Catholic Worker (CW)
movement. My commitment to nonviolence has remained pretty much the
same over the ensuing years.
Phil Berrigan was an amazing man and taught me much about courage and
commitment, but he was also someone who, I suspect, never even
considered that he had anything to learn from anyone who thought
differently from him.
Perhaps some of that attitude comes to Catholics because we've been
taught that we have the one “true” faith, and anyone who doesn't
follow it is a heretic. While I did return to the Church almost 25
years ago, my reasons were due to my love of liturgy and the faith
community that I found, as opposed to it claiming to be the “one true
Just a little over ten years ago, I became involved with Soulforce, an
interfaith organization committed to nonviolence as a way of winning
freedom from religious and political oppression for lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people. Rev. Mel White,
who had been a conservative evangelical minister, studied Gandhi and
King and began to bring their teachings of nonviolence to the LGBT
One of the principle concepts was that our adversaries are not the
enemy, ignorance is. Our adversaries may even have truths to teach us.
This I must confess was something very difficult for me to accept.
George Bush and Jerry Falwell have truths to teach me? No way!
And while, I honestly have to say, I still struggle with that concept,
I've found that by keeping myself open to the possibility, I've
reached much deeper levels of dialogue than I would’ve thought
possible, and have often found common ground.
Just recently on an interfaith e-list, I found myself arguing
continually with a former fundamentalist, who always seemed to post
her beliefs as fact and it drove me crazy. I pointed that out to her
several times and while over the years, she still occasionally does
that, she now more often, states things as her beliefs and we have
been able to find that common ground, and actually have exciting
dialogues that seem to energize the e-list.
I am always inspired by reading the reports of various CW nonviolent
peace actions. But I have to admit that as inspiring as they are, I
wonder if we were to acknowledge the possibility that there may be
some truth that our adversaries have that might shine a light into our
comprehension, we might more easily find common ground with them.
As I've watched the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) struggle around
the issues of full inclusion of LGBTs in their denomination over the
last 20 years, I've been wondering if the reason they've made so much
progress has anything to do with the fact that their denomination was
formed in resistance to Catholic dogma. I found myself wondering if
perhaps they find resistance and dialogue less threatening and
therefore they were able to listen and move forward.
I may be way off base on this, and surely would enjoy dialoging with
others about my perceptions. But it felt important to me to begin to
create a space for dialog on this particular aspect of nonviolence
that has certainly changed my life. For after being a part of
Soulforce for over ten years, it seems more and more to me that the
core principle of nonviolence is that recognition, that we are ALL
children of God, and as such, we all have part of God's truth within
us and it is in the sharing of our understandings that common ground
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