Monday, September 28, 2015

BookPastor >> "Nonviolent Action" (Ron Sider)

Can we solve world problems without resorting to violence? This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 11th, 2015.


TITLE: Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried
AUTHOR: Ronald J. Sider
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015, (208 pages).

Must the opposite of violence be a violent counter strike? Is war necessarily a tit-for-tat exchange of bullets and missiles? Can alternative methods like peaceful response be feasible, even possible in the first place? These questions are answered with pacifist conviction by renowned author and professor, Ron Sider, whose previous book, "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" had gripped the hearts of evangelicals many years ago. What that book had done to many Christians in terms of their wealth and giving responsibilities, this latest book will push the limits with regards to peaceful offerings and intentional "nonviolent action." Underlying any "just war" or "pacifist" theory is a philosophy of justification whether war is the key response in the first place. What about peace as the underlying action? For any entrance into war does not mean the consequences are limited on a military scale. There are other damages inflicted on all sides, morally financially, ethically, physically, mentally, and many more as the years go by. Soldiers who survived the wars may end up having scars for life. Unable to get back to the normal life, many become marginalized in society. Such effects must not be underestimated. Rather than to a backward thrust, like the consequences of war as a main justification, Sider in this book leads from the front. He issues a clarion call for all to use nonviolence as THE way forward. Our vocabulary for action must extend beyond war and weapons, violence and vehemence.

He begins with well-known examples of nonviolent actions through the centuries. During the time of Pharaoh, the Hebrew midwives responded to violence through civil disobedience, which saved the life of Moses. Pope Leo I responded to the vicious acts of Attila the Hun with a cross and a papal crown. In central America, peasants and common people overcame the violence of dictators through general strikes. India's Mahatma Gandhi led peaceful protests that rallied millions of citizens to do the same.  America's Martin Luther King Jr did the same with peaceful rallies against racism in the 50-60s. Philippines' "People Power" movement toppled the Marcos regime not with tanks but with people, not with violence but with peace. From America to Asia, Africa to Central America, Europe to the Middle East, examples abound with regards to the practice of nonviolent action that deserves to be taken more seriously. With stories after stories of how peaceful actions lead to the bloodless overthrow of regimes, changes of political forces, and new waves of hope, Sider consistently asserts that there is a better way instead of physical violence and military options. He proposes peacemaker teams that comprise representatives from all sectors. He admonishes the Christian public, especially the "just war" proponents for forgetting that war must always be a last resort. For peaceful actions are more successful than many had thought. Giving statistics and stories to back up his arguments for peace, the next step is to increase the common space for all to work with together. It there is ever to be a war, it must be a war against war.

Peace is a given. Christians are called to be peacemakers in the first place. In fact, the biggest tragedy for many policy makers is not to give peace a bigger piece of the pie. It is the lack of willingness to persevere in non-violent actions that has led to an ease in pushing the war option. Contrary to what some readers may think, Sider is not some hermit calling for people to retreat back into their caves. Rather, he is calling people to arm themselves with determination to fight, with the weapons of love, the passion for peace. He wants more Christians to fight fear with faith, war with peace, and hatred with love. For most of the decisions to go to war, the problem is not only in the decision, but the lack of will in pursuing the peace option. Negotiations can be very complicated. What about violent terrorists that refuse to listen to rationale arguments? What about fanatics who have abandoned reason altogether? What about the warped and wanton evil that are happening around the world that demand a strong response? Will peace be the answer for that?

Personally, I believe Sider's point is not perfect. For there will be cases that war and violence may be the only way to end wars, like the Atomic bomb that accelerated the end of WWII in the Asia Pacific. Ethical problems will continue to rear their heads with regards to some violence in order to bring about peace. While peace should be the primary "weapon" of choice, to abandon the military option would be foolhardy, in an increasingly dangerous and violent world. Like the case of a lion. Without teeth, the lion is easy prey for hyenas.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Brazos Press and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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