Monday, September 21, 2015

Violence Prevention

Can confrontational communion survive competition with violence? Our current nation states are in thrall to the idea that the only effective rejoinder to violence is violence. Were there a nation that had a different vision, a nation that was a "beloved community" based on confrontational communion, what's to prevent its violent neighbors from taking over? I want to point out three possible reasons why they would or could not, and discuss the last of the three.

The classical reason is profit. Confrontational communion is highly synergistic, efficient, productive. The violent group might wish, for profit, to trade with the beloved community, and be persuaded that violent takeover would destroy the productivity.

A second possibility is what The Healer Messiah calls ignition--that the leadership of the violent group, aware of the synergy that is strong in every society including theirs, could be brought to recognize the superior path of the beloved community, and be inspired to emulate it within their own society.

But ignition risks the cross. It risks that the leadership of the violent group refuses to dare the loss of control inherent in confrontational communion. The beloved community must have a way to avoid the dangerous case of being in direct competition with a violent group who wants to control them. The beloved community must have a way of reducing the probability of the emergence of dominant violent leadership in other nations. The beloved community must have a way of reducing other people's pathological dependency on violence.

This third possibility is what I want to dwell on today--call it violence prevention. The beloved community can act now, to prevent the future emergence of powerful violent people who have a need to be in control.

The traumatized often become traumatizers. Those who have been on the receiving end of the power of violence often live lives defined by the limits that were imposed on them during the time of their trauma. Their lives are permanently trapped in a future they did not chose, they did not want, that was imposed on them. They have reason to believe in the power of violence. Some of them, in their determination never to be outgunned again, spend their lives accumulating the means of violence. They have a deep-seated need to be in control, and become dominators.

I think this is the reason Jesus so emphasizes concern with the poor, the marginalized, the powerless, the oppressed. Relief work, such as helping refugee Syrian children deal with the trauma they have experienced, is not just a moral virtue. It is a strategic necessity for the beloved community.

To the degree that we can heal the trauma of violence, to the degree that we can demonstrate to the traumatized that the world is also a place that loves them, that is willing to share with them, that does not need to be controlled in order to keep from attacking them, to that degree we diminish the future emergence of societies where large numbers of people have the need for dominant control wired so deeply into their psyches that they cannot respond to ignition, or even to friendship, without seeing their traumatizers eyes in every face. In sum, we must show them the face of God, for they have seen the face of hell.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Southern Cross

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...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...

The Southern Cross banner and flag acknowledge the failure of America to deal justly with black Americans since the founding of this country, the historical and ongoing trauma experienced by the African American community, and our determination to rectify the situation.

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© John Fairfield at

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I'll go after the drones, you go after the vests, OK?

We, the faithful of our different traditions, must unite against a danger dominating each of our traditions.

Our different belief traditions often compete. Muslims versus Christians, Hindus versus Sikhs, secularism versus belief, and many more. Debates, missionary efforts and political opposition contribute to a logic of competition.

That's not the work we must be doing, that's not the battlefield.

The real danger is faith in violence and coercive control as the fundamental guarantors of our security.

I see that faith in the actions of terrorists, and I see that faith in some actions of many governments. I don't care if they're using drones or suicide vests, their faith that their group's identity, dignity and security can ultimately only be defended by coercion is, if you'll excuse my Christian language, an idol, a false god to which we sacrifice our children.

We do need to defend ourselves against coercion. But not with coercion, nor with appeasement.

Worse: these worshipers of coercion claim orthodoxy. They are often characterized in the media as strict, fundamental, and somehow the most orthodox and extremely faithful interpreters of their tradition. Wrong: they are unfaithful, and nowhere near as extreme as us faithful. They have not understood their tradition deeply. They include respected imams, pastors, rabbis, priests and other religious leaders who justify violence and the projection of military power.

These people are not evil, usually they just don't see any realistic alternative. Just like us, they honestly and genuinely want to protect the weak from the strong, the oppressed from the oppressors. They hunger for justice. And within limited conditions, the rule of law works--the presence of police with overwhelming coercive force can protect the public. But the rule of law only works within groups having a public consensus. It doesn't work between groups where there is no consensus.

Our planet has vast and bitter experience with the costs of violent struggle between groups, but people continue in it for lack of an alternative. They see only the choice between control, coercion and dominance on the one hand, or deception, appeasement and avoidance on the other. Fight or flight. And sometimes fighting, or fleeing, is appropriate. But what they don't realize is that their tradition, any of our traditions, offers a way for conflicting groups to utterly transform their relationship to each other, an alternative devoid of fight or flight, through which there is real, earthly security, and that is applicable in very dangerous situations. Nothing is guaranteed, but this alternative offers better chances of justice than what can be attained if we're limited to fight or flight alone.

Our job, the job of those of us who have learned from our traditions how to transform enemies into trustworthy opponents within a just relationship, is tconvince people that this alternative is real, and to show them how and when to use it. The only way our riven planet will be healed is if those who have faith in coercion are offered better security.

As an American Christian I don't have the standing, the language, the stories, or the cultural knowledge to speak to Middle Eastern terrorists. But I do to American Christian supporters of military control. In our interfaith alliance, each of us will be tasked to do our intrafaith work, to speak to those within our own tradition who put their faith in coercion. If you're a Middle Eastern Muslim: I'll go after the drones, you go after the vests, and let's support each other, OK?

This is an interfaith call to arms! The faithful of all traditions must collaborate to show how conflicting groups can create productive and just relationships to each other, preserving their identity without coercion or appeasement. We must combine the wisdom of our different traditions, to study and evaluate and above all use it. We must support and learn from each other. And each of us must speak to our own, to teach them how to be faithful, and live.

Contact me, We need each other.

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photo credit: Teledyne Ryan UAV Drone RPV Firebee via photopin (license)