From Murderer to Patron Saint of Nonviolence

By Nolan McBride

Hello, and welcome to the first post in what I am currently calling Dunker Punks in History. If you have any better ideas for what to call this, please comment below. In my personal walk with Christ, I have found that reading about and studying the lives of those who have gone before us and learning from their example has strengthened my own faith. In this column, I hope to share the stories of Dunker Punks, whether members of the Church of the Brethren or the larger Church, with all of you. Some of these figures will be well known while others you may have never heard of before. All are known for their love for God and their desire to live as he would have them live.

st moses the ethiopianAs I write this article on August 28, our Orthodox brothers and sisters around the world are celebrating the feast day of the fourth century monk St. Moses the Black, also known as St. Moses the Ethiopian. Originally the slave of an Egyptian master, as a young man St. Moses was the last person you would expect to become a saint. His master dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He eventually came to lead a band of seventy thieves who roamed the Nile river valley spreading fear and violence in their wake.

On one occasion, a barking dog kept him from completing a robbery. Seeking revenge on the dog’s owner, he swam across the Nile to attack the man, a shepherd. He was seen crossing the river with a sword in his teeth, and the shepherd hid himself in the sand. Angry about being unable to find his intended target, Moses killed some of the best animals, swam with them back across the Nile, butchered his stolen livestock, and feasted. After selling the extra meat and skins to buy wine, he walked fifty miles to rejoin his band.

Accounts differ as to what caused Moses to repent and become a monk. My personal favorite version says that while of the run from local authorities, Moses sought refuge among a community of monks in the desert of Scete, nearby Alexandria. Deeply moved after witnessing their dedication, peace, and contentment, Moses gave up his old ways and joined the community.

It is said that group of thieves attacked Moses’s monastic cell, not knowing who he was and intending to rob him. The former robber overpowered his attackers and slung them across his back. Taking them to the church and dumping them on the sanctuary floor, he told his fellow monks he did not think it would be Christian to harm them and asked their advice for what to do. Discovering just who it was they had tried to rob, the thieves repented and became monks themselves.

Moses’s transition into a Christian life did not happen overnight. He struggled with the demands of monastic life, and he became discouraged by the fact that he could not live up to his ideal of the perfect monk. He met with the abbot of his monastery, St. Isidore, who took him to the roof to watch the sunrise together. As the watched, Isidore told Moses “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”

Later on, Abba Moses (as he was then known, Abba being an intimate term meaning father or daddy) was called upon to settle a dispute about an offense committed by one of the monks. He refused but was prodded into coming. So he tied, depending on the version of the story, either a basket of sand or a jug of water with a hole in it, letting its contents trail out behind him. When asked why he did this he replied “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” At his words, the monk was forgiven and restored to the community.

At the end of his life, another group of bandits came to attack Moses’s community. He advised his brothers to flee, but refused to leave himself, saying, “I have been expecting this day to come for many years past, so that might be fulfilled the command of our Redeemer, who said, ‘Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” He and the seven monks who stayed with him welcomed the bandits with open arms to their community and were murdered for it. Because of this, in the modern day he has come to be seen as the patron saint of nonviolence. Even today his witness lives on, both in his homeland and around the world.


Nolan_McBrideNolan McBride is a History and Religion major at Manchester University. He loves music, theater, and learning about Christian traditions around the world. He enjoys swimming and singing and is still sore about his family’s namesake, St. Brigid of Kildare, losing to St. Francis of Assisi in the last Lent Madness competition. You can follow him on twitter at @nmcbride35, and find him on Facebook.

Advertisements

What Global Divestment Day Has To Do With Nonviolence

Today is Global Divestment Day, when organizations and activists all over the world shed light on how invested capital (especially the invested capital of organizations with large endowments like universities) fuels the industries that do the most damage to the Earth and environment through activities that fuel climate change.

The idea of divestment is nothing new. Basically, its the idea that investments have a lot to do with the success and failure of large industries, so investors should reward socially responsible companies by investing in them, and compel socially irresponsible companies to change their practices by divesting (un-investing) in them.

If investors invest in a dangerous or destructive industry (for instance, the oil industry) then that industry will have the resources to continue operating and damaging the environment. Conversely, if many large investors divest (remove their invested money) from these industries, then they wont have the resources to continue operating.

It should come as no surprise that in Capitalism, capital is the key to success.

As Christians and as Dunker Punks we have an undeniable, irrefutable call to nonviolence. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says clearly:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5: 43-48

So what does this have to do with divestment? What does nonviolence have to do with divestment?

Here’s what I think: If Jesus commands us to love our enemies, to take active steps to show them kindness, good grace, and love, and to refrain from hurting them, what does that mean for those who aren’t our enemies but we don’t often really think of as our neighbors? How should we treat someone in Bangladesh or New Orleans that we don’t know and never will know?

Here’s a bit of common sense for you: If Christ says we should love our enemies, that should automatically mean we love everyone else. Everyone, from Bangladesh, to New Orleans, to Syria is our neighbor. In Luke, Jesus explains how to love:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:27-36

When Jesus says “do good to those who hate you” and “do to others what you would have them do to you,” he’s commissioning a structural, preemptive approach to nonviolence. He’s saying treat people well even before as situation has turned violent. It’s not enough to avoid retaliation. You have to dismantle hatred with love before it is allowed to reach violence (of course, if it does reach violence you have to continue with nonviolence). Nonviolence is not simply not being violent, it is altering structures and behaviors that are in-and-of-themselves violent.

In other words, its not enough to avoid hurting people directly. If you are part of a structure, system, or behavior that hurts people, you are being violent. That’s what the Christian call to nonviolence should be most concerned with: altering structures, systems, and behaviors that are violent.

This is where it comes back to divestment. Divestment is one way to look at our economic structure (capitalism) and alter it to be less violent.

The Global Humanitarian Forum and other think tanks estimate that 300,000 people die each year already from events and effects associated with climate change, with the possibility of as many as 500,000 per year by 2030.

More conservative estimates, like those from the World Health Organization place current deaths at about 150,000 per year and estimate that by 2030, the number will be about 400,000 a year.

So right now, by the most conservative estimates, more people die each year than belong to the Church of the Brethren in the United States. This isn’t just a question of maybe people will die in the future because of climate change, but people are already dying right now. And, there are things we can do to curb this that we don’t. To me, that is every bit as violent as war or terrorism or gun violence.

We cannot call ourselves nonviolent if we do nothing to resist climate change.

That’s why divestment is an act of nonviolence. It’s taking steps to change systems and structures and behaviors that right now are violent. So as nonviolent Christians I think divestment is a great way to practice nonviolent social change. It’s not just about resisting the urge to retaliate against our enemies, its much more that that.

So Dunker Punks, encourage the systems that you’re a part of to divest! If your parents have investments that profit from climate change or environmental destruction, challenge that. If you’re in college, organize your classmates to pressure your schools to divest. If you’re an adult and you belong to a trust or retirement plan or you have your own investments that profit from climate change, make the tough decision to divest from that. If you reflect on the teachings of Jesus, ask yourself where your own financial wellbeing ranks next to the call for radical nonviolence.

Encourage the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Benefit Trust to advance and make good on its commitment to socially responsible investing by adopting more restrictive language about investing in companies that profit from climate change. The current guiding langue says that the BBT will avoid investing in, “Companies that are egregious or consistent violators of environmental regulations” (Sec. 1, Subsec. H, Item d). This is good, and I want to make it very clear that I am very proud of how the COB and BBT show leadership with socially responsible investing, but I don’t think our Christian understanding of climate change should be dependent on the US Government’s definition and regulations. If the US Government isn’t doing enough to combat climate change, certainly a historic peace church can show a better effort.

Continue to lovingly help the members of our faith community recognize and understand the scientific reality that humans cause climate change and have the ability to change their behavior to stop climate change. More importantly, help them understand how fighting Climate Change through divestment and other measures relates to nonviolence. This isn’t just an issue of following scientific consensus, this is an issue of following Christ. This isn’t just about protecting the environment, this is about protecting people. It’s an issue of life.

I hope that the Church of the Brethren becomes a leader in mobilizing nonviolent action to combat climate change. This is a topic that should be at the very center of who we are as a denomination and nonviolent faith tradition right now. In 1935, when the continued threat of worldwide violent conflict was the greatest threat of violence in the world, Annual Conference declared “All War is Sin.”

Now, 80 years later, the greatest, most violent threat facing the world isn’t global conflict, isn’t war, isn’t terrorism, but is climate change. It’s time to say, “Climate Change is Sin.”


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA DistrictEmmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

Happy International Day of Nonviolence!

Today, October 2nd, is Gandhi’s birthday.

In honor of Gandhi, October 2nd is the International Day of Nonviolence!

You may be wondering, “Why do we need an International Day of Nonviolence? Wasn’t the International Day of Peace like less than two weeks ago?”

It’s a good question. And I’m glad you hypothetically asked it.

We need both because we need to be able to see the big and small picture. The International Day of Peace is a great day to come together and join in collective prayer and work with shared dreams of a world where there is no fighting between tribes and nations. It’s an important reminder that, especially in our globalized, interconnected world, it is very much our business what happens to our neighbors in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Nigeria, and across the world.

The International Day of Nonviolence is a reminder that it has to start with us. Gandhi did amazing things, and his work continues to effect billions of people, but it all started with him. You might think that Gandhi was born a humble peacemaker, unifying the people of India and marching to sea since the moment he could walk and talk. This isn’t the case. Gandhi was born and raised in privilege, and for the first twenty years of his life, he didn’t question the organization of Indian society very much. It wasn’t until Gandhi spent time as a lawyer in South Africa, where he witnessed and experienced various expressions of prejudice that he began to question his own place of privilege and who might be negatively effected by his own high status.

It wasn’t until Gandhi experienced the disadvantage of prejudice that he began to address his own prejudice and the systemic prejudices that advantaged him.

Gandhi went on to touch millions of people in his life of work, but it all started with him changing himself. His change effected a nation, but it was very personal. You and I will probably never touch millions of people with our expressions of nonviolence, but we can learn from Gandhi’s life that changing millions of people isn’t the goal. The goal is changing ourselves. And whether an entire nation is watching, or just our friends and family, changing ourselves begins to change others as well.

So today, in honor of Gandhi’s birthday, think of how you can change yourself to be less violent in your personal interactions. This may mean physical violence. No more driving aggressively, solving problems with use or threats of force, or beating up your brother (sorry Ethan).

It may also mean no more emotional violence. No more using cruel words or hurtful humor. No more saying you hate your enemies, and speaking to them in that way.

Or, it could be spiritual violence. No more using your religious beliefs or the bible as a weapon against those who don’t believe the same thing as you. Evangelize through Christ-shaped love. Make disciples by being disciples.

Solve problems with creativity and meekness. Answer hate with love. Answer violence with nonviolence.

Whatever you do, use October 2nd as a day to change yourself to be less violent, and as always, remember to continue that change on Oct 3rd and beyond.

Happy International Day of Nonviolence, everybody! Happy birthday, Gandhi!

Think Big. Be Small.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

DunkerPunks: Changing the World, One Smelly Foot at a Time

The way that we change the world is not through power but by washing feet.

– Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd was the first plenary session speaker at the Missio Alliance conference that I’ve mentioned before. He said a lot of great things that stuck with me for various reasons, but nothing that he said stuck with me as much as the quote above.

The way that we change the world is not through power, but by washing feet.

I like this for a number of reasons.

First, the Obvious Reason:

We talk a lot on DunkerPunks.com and in the Church of the Brethren about peace and nonviolence. We study the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings and accounts of Jesus, and it’s clear to us that Jesus preached and practiced nonviolence, so we must do the same. Building peace and practicing nonviolence fit into the larger picture of following Jesus.

Second, I Love the Humility of It:

There’s something about humility and the practice of mutual submission that is incredible at diffusing power. Something to remember about Jesus: yes, he came from humble beginnings, but as an adult he was a rabbi. As far as Jewish society goes, this is about as good as you can get. To be a rabbi meant you were the best of the best of the best. You were the smartest of the smartest of the smart. And if you were a good, inspiring rabbi (like Jesus), you could develop a large and loyal following. As a rabbi, Jesus could have been incredibly powerful.

Also, keep in mind what the people of Jesus time were looking for when it came to a Messiah: They imagined a warrior king, a politically powerful revolutionary, someone mighty. And they got Jesus.

Jesus had a way of turning power on it’s head. He was in every position to be incredibly powerful. He could have led a violent revolution against the Roman Empire. He could have incited his followers to pick up weapons and attack. They would have done it. Peter did do it. He attacked a Roman soldier, cutting off his ear, and what did Jesus do? He put the ear back on the soldier’s head.

Jesus could have used his power, but instead he girded himself and washed his disciple’s feet. Including the feet of those who would betray him and reject him. I love the humility of it.

Third, I Love the Smallness of It:

I realize that Boyd was speaking metaphorically, but let’s think literally for a second.

A question for those of you who have ever washed feet before: How many people’s feet can you wash at once?

The answer is obvious: one. Often, people frame nonviolence as simply not being violent. That’s not the case. That’s not was Jesus preached. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

This is so eloquent and so packed that you can expand it in a number of directions to demonstrate how nonviolence is active. I’m sure I will in the future, but for now I’ll just expand in one direction.

All three of the actions Jesus describes are interactions between two people. The formula is the same for each: a person in power abuses a person with less power. The person with less power submits to the abuse nonviolently, and then responds not with violence or with inaction, but by subverting the power by actively submitting even further. No longer does the abuser feel powerful, but cruel. No longer does the less powerful person appear inferior, but gracious and human. No longer does the power dynamic seem righteous, but unjust.

And it all happens on the tiny plane between two people. When we practice nonviolence, we get caught up in imagining that we’ll be nonviolent one day, and the world will be saved the next day. It doesn’t work that way. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t expand from the top down, reaching from heaven and enveloping the whole world. It spreads from the bottom out, like a mustard plant.

Every time you look someone in the eye and show them the love of Christ, you are planting the mustard seeds of the Kingdom.

Every time you wash someone’s feet, you are showing them what it means to worship a God of love.

And that’s how we change the world. One smelly foot at a time.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Not Playing Around: 1000+ Letters for Nigeria

nigeria

Do you remember the 276 school girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram? Does #BringOurGirlsBack ring a bell? Many of those girls belong to the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. The EYN is suffering terribly at the violence of Boko Haram.

Yet, what makes their story so inspiring to me is not the bad, but the good that exists despite the bad. The Church of the Brethren (including the EYN) is one of three historic peace churches. While we in the United States never face a real threat to our love of peace, the EYN is confronted with that challenge everyday. In spite of all the evil, hatred, and violence that the EYN has endured, they choose to respond with courage, love, and nonviolence.

Midway through August, the Church of the Brethren observed a week of prayer and fasting in solidarity of the EYN.

I believe that fasting has the potential to be so powerful because it recognizes that when we make space in our lives for Jesus, his love can shine through us in some pretty amazing ways.

I decided that I wouldn’t just fast for that week, but I would extend my fast for an entire year by salvaging hours of my time that I waste playing computer games to do something better with that time.

I am going to use that time to write three letters every day about the EYN for the next year.

From today, September 1st, 2014 every day until September 1st, 2015, I will write and mail three letters to public figures.

This includes:

  • Elected Officials
  • Other Government Officials
  • Philanthropists
  • Media
  • Celebrities
  • Religious Leaders
  • Anyone who will listen

I will share with them the story of the EYN, and I will ask them to get involved however they can. This may mean sharing the story of the EYN on their social media and programs, donating to the EYN compassion fund, or setting aside aid money for the EYN.I want to emphasize the role that their creativity can play in making a difference.

I also want to emphasize that the only way to honor the EYN’s commitment to peace and nonviolence, is to explore and support solutions that also emphasize peace and nonviolence. From government officials, the only aid I will seek is humanitarian, nonmilitary aid.

I cannot do this alone.

The cost of sending over 1000 letters is well above $500.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Contribute to help me pay for stamps and envelopes
  2. Send me donations of stamps and envelopes
  3. Write letters of your own
  4. Pray
  5. Share my campaign and the EYN’s story with others
  6. Contribute to the EYN compassion fund

Contribute monetary donations at http://www.gofundme.com/dszfc8

(GoFundMe.com is a completely safe and secure website. It is among the most reputable and successful crowd funding platforms. If you have questions or concerns about donating through Go Fund Me, please visit http://www.gofundme.com/questions/)

All donations will go directly to purchasing stamps or envelopes, except for the Go Fund Me service fee. Any funds left over after 365 days of letter will be donated to the EYN compassion fund.

Send donations of stamps and envelopes to:

Emmett Eldred
Carnegie Mellon University
SMC # 2046
Pittsburgh, PA 15289

Write letters of your own!

Fill out this pledge form to commit to writing one letter a month or more on behalf of the EYN. If I can write three letters a day, you can write a few letters too!

Click here to donate directly to the EYN Compassion Fund.

The EYN gives me hope. They inspire me. So I’m not going to stop talking until I get people to listen. Join me. Support me. Pray for me and for the EYN.

Good Question

Today this question popped up in our survey:

Hello, #DunkerPunks! Bill from @OnEarthPeace here. How can we help?

-Bill Scheurer, Illinois/Wisconsin District

Great question Bill! And I hope your question inspires other Dunker Punks to ask the same question of themselves. We have two broad answers: We want you to listen, and we want you to speak up! First of all, listen. By reading dunkerpunks.com and keeping your ears open to any other sources that promote the movements of Dunker Punks in the Church of the Brethren and other peace builders, you will find opportunities to pray, encourage, support, and get involved! Today, dunkerpunks.com got a submission about a fledgling movement called Muna Daya, started by several Church of the Brethren youth who felt moved at National Youth Conference to do something about the situation in Nigeria. Since then, we’ve started working with these youth to see what we can do to support their mission, and maybe you can too. You see, the more you listen and search for faithful servants who are passionate about following Jesus in radical, innovative ways, the more opportunities you will find to help. The other answer we have for you is something you’ve already done today: Speak Up! By reaching out to dunkerpunks.com, you’ve shown what true Dunker Punks do: step out from the crowd and get involved. Don’t wait for someone else to do something, do something yourself! Of course, we know that all of you at On Earth Peace have a lot of experience with stepping out, speaking up, and doing something, but our hope is that everyone else reading this will feel compelled to do the same. And since you’ve stepped up, we want to give you a few specific things you can do as well. First of all, we hope that you connect with Muna Daya and any other groups that you see featured on dunkerpunks.com. See what you can do to help them. Second, we’ll give you a few questions, because we want to step out too. How do you think we can work together to build peace? How can we help you? Let us know at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com. We look forward to working with you more in the future! To see how other Dunker Punks have responded to God’s call to step forward, check out our responses page! Help support dunkerpunks.com as we move to work more closely with On Earth Peace by offering words of prayer and support on facebook or twitter. If you’ve taken a step forward to be a radical follower of Jesus, and you want to work with dunkerpunks.com, or if you want prayers, support, and assistance from the Dunker Punk community, let us know in the form below!