It is Martin Luther King Day, and today at The Raven Foundation we honor his memory by recognizing those who, like Dr. King, were willing to put themselves at risk for their commitment to peace and justice. Last week, I reviewed the inspiring oral history Crossing The Line by Rosalie Riegle, and this past weekend I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Riegle and hearing more stories of courageous peacemakers. As part of a 2-part project to tell the stories of those who transgressed the law for the sake of peace, Dr. Riegle interviewed 173 nonviolent resisters. This time she was on the receiving end of the questions, and as we spoke her wisdom, passion for justice, humility and compassion radiated through her.
As we are mimetically bound to imitate one another, we should choose our role models wisely. Those of us who profess the Christian faith are committed to following the Prince of Peace, however imperfectly. But it helps to see this commitment to peacemaking, this strength to love, lived out boldly in so many different people. Particularly in our culture of violence, especially in the United States where the military accounts for more than half of the national budget and there are now more prisons than colleges, a counter-narrative showing those who take a bold stance for peace is especially needed to challenge our national addiction to war and dependency on enemies.
Although the audio may be a little difficult to hear, this video is worth listening to through the end. Rosalie and I discuss nonviolent activism from World War II through today and some of the philosophy and theology behind nonviolence. We also address some of the fears that hold people back from nonviolent action, how to support resisters, and how to prepare for direct nonviolent action.
Unfortunately, the audio was a little quiet when we discussed peacemaking in seemingly hopeless situations, attempting to answer the question “What about Hitler?” Rosalie read from Crossing The Line an excerpt from her interview with World War II resister Bill Lovel:
We didn’t have an answer to Hitler. Even though we disagreed with Hitler and with the persecution of the Jews, we didn’t have an answer to that crisis. … Since [my World War II days], I’ve come to see that one who calls himself a Christian pacifist realizes that he or she cannot be responsible for an adequate solution to every crisis and must finally agree — or decide — that he or she has failed. But you still go on and witness to love as the final purpose of God, over and against any evils of the time.
Love is the purpose of God in the final analysis. You fail in any particular moment in witness to that purpose, but you just keep on going. Why? In recognition that it was that kind of love for which Jesus died. And that kind of love for which all of us ought to be willing to die if the time comes. As a socialist and a pacifist, I will come continue to be active politically; as a Christian pacifist, if it comes to “up against the wall,” then I’ll have to go to jail again.” (35)
Rosalie also told the story of Jim Douglass, who is profiled for a Plowshares action in Doing Time For Peace. Two other interviews with him worth listening to can be found at the Beyond the Box podcast here and here.
At the end, we listed several organizations that support nonviolent resisters. They are:
The Nuclear Resister — This website keeps track of the prisons resisters go to, so that we may write to them, while providing a wealth of information about nonviolent resistance. Other useful organizations for nonviolence training include:
and the Catholic Worker Movement
Of course, another way to support nonviolent peacemaking is simply by getting to know the stories, and you can do that through Rosalie’s books. Not only Crossing The Line, but also Doing Time For Peace, Dorothy Day: Portraits From Those Who Knew Her, and Voices From Catholic Worker are all available on Amazon.com.
Rosalie, thank you so much for your own witness to peace and for making so many voices for peace heard!
*The music in this video has been donated courtesy of Jim Pampandrea (www.jimpamandrea.com).