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August 11, 2014


Andrew Klager

Rob, this is the crux of the matter for me. We can try to convince people to embrace nonviolence until we're blue in the face, but unless they're ontologically ready to accept this teaching, it'll more likely fall on deaf ears. The most important thing to do, then, is put your effort into those ascetic disciplines that will transform you into a genuine peacemaker in the ontological sense---in your very being in essence, by partaking of the divine nature of the Prince of Peace. This is why the Church gives us, for example, fasting (requiring attentiveness, self-control, patience, humility, empathy for the poor and starving, etc.) and other similar ascetic disciplines (prayer rules, prostrating, Holy Communion, quietude in the form of hesychasm, etc.); they're practice for real life, and they affect true ontological transfiguration in the process.

St. John Chrysostom, for example, calls the final rung of the Beatific Ladder (i.e., becoming peacemakers, immediately before refusing to fight back when facing persecution) the "pinnacle of virtue," the prerequisite for which is "purity of heart," i.e., an ontological transformation or holiness, which appears as the rung immediately underneath in this Beatific sequence. Transfiguration is crucial.

I find that the "convincing people of nonviolence until we're blue in the face" routine is akin to the "doing *something*" of those who advocate for military intervention, the gut instinct *before* transfiguration (or at least any real progress in transfiguration to the point of *being* a peacemaker in the ontological sense). Even the convincing part is a knee-jerk reaction born out of frustration. We're an impatient bunch, but impatience is ultimately unsustainable and can make things worse.

Rob Grayson

Thank you, Andrew, for digging deeper than the trite "answers" that fill up our news feeds and screens. There's some really good food for thought here.

The one thing I've been really conscious of in recent days is that, notwithstanding the very real dire straits in which many northern Iraqis find themselves, unless at some point more people start to ontologically turn away from violence, the world is doomed to keep on in the same destructive cycle forever. Or, to put it the other way around, if the world is to become more peaceful, it's going to take more people becoming convinced in their bones of the futility of violence and being transformed into people who renounce violence and coercion in their own day-to-day lives.

I hope to blog a few thoughts on ISIS and nonviolence later, and will link to this post for anyone interested in further reading.

Andrew Klager

Thank you for your appreciative comments, Fr. Sean. I'm glad to have helped in a small way. I pray for peace, safety, and healing for you and those under your pastoral care. I can only imagine how difficult it must be. Peace.

Fr Sean Levine

Andrew, thank you for this. I was moved deeply by your words. As an Army Chaplain, I have seen (and continue to see) the ways in which the last roughly decade of war have wounded the souls of the men and women of the armed forces, their families and the communities from which they have come, and of this nation. While I serve war-fighters, I do so as a representative of a Kingdom whose King is the crucified Messiah as a one hoping to ease the suffering of those enlisted to do such terrible things. Many of them know down deep that those we call "enemy" are really our brothers and sisters, and that each act of killing, as you argue, is a blow struck to the very heart of God in whose image each person has been created. If they don't know it, they certainly feel it, and the tears I have seen shed show that they know it at a level deeper than mere cognition. Thank you for writing this: it has given much for those who read it to consider, both personally and in wider contexts. --Father Sean Levine (Chaplain, CPT, US Army)

Andrew Klager

Hi Robert --- Thank you for your kind comments; I really appreciate it.

In terms of re-blogging on MennoNerds, by all means, please do.

Thanks again!

Robert Martin


This is, by far, one of the BEST pieces on this subject I've read in years.

I am one of the administrators and co-ordinators for the MennoNerds blogging/social media collective. Ted Grimsrud shared this recently on our Facebook group but I would like to give it a more prominent place as well. We're currently doing a Synchro-blog among our member bloggers on this very subject. I'd like permission to reblog this article in its entirety on MennoNerds.com as part of that Synchro-Blog. I can't think of any way to cut and paste quotes from this which would preserve the full thrust of what you have to say. Of course, if you grant the permission, I'd give full attribution to the source and provide the link back here to the original article. But we have over 700 twitter followers who would pick up the article and 700 subscribers to our Facebook page where the article would show up as well. Additionally, there are 45 of us MennoNerd bloggers who I'm pretty confident would pick up this piece and share it around.

All I'd need is the permission.. I'm savvy enough to be able to reblog the article directly. But I strongly feel that this article and your ideas within it need the broadest audience possible.

Thank you for your time.

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