Food Not Bombs: Why I'm A Pacifist

How does violence begin? 

 

Is it passed through the genes of our parents? Is it a part of nature itself? 

 

I believe poverty is the world's largest form of violence. When you can't feed yourself or your loved ones it eats at your soul. If you can't keep your family safe, provide them with basic necessities, food, water, clothing, and shelter no matter what you do. It's easy to become violent.

Violence begets violence.  

If pacifism has rankings Jesus was the ninja warrior champion. Yes my terrified red blooded republican friends, Jesus actually inspired other great proponents of non-violence like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. 

There's this incredible portion of Jesus' infamous sermon on the mount where he says,

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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

I love that he starts out saying, "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 the one who is evil." From an early age, I could sense that if someone hits you, then you should hit them back or you will be seen as weak and vulnerable. Even if you're terrified you have to fight in order to be taken seriously. But Jesus very explicitly is giving a new teaching. 

But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

To fully understand what brilliance is taking place here, you must immerse yourself in the early first century Near East. In the ancient Near East, there is no toilet paper. So... you would use your left hand to take care of particular bodily functions. Which is why your right hand was used for everything else (sorry left-handed peeps). When someone slaps you it's a way to degrade you, in essence when someone slapped you they were declaring their superiority over you.

Now, a slap only occurs with an open hand, so if someone slaps you with their right hand on your left cheek and then you turn to them the other cheek you put them in a precarious position. They can either walk away, OR they can choose to hit you. Again they would never use their left hand, so they are forced to punch you. A punch is reserved for someone who is your equal. Jesus is saying, "When someone slaps you and degrades you, turn the other cheek—because you are beneath no one."

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic let him have your cloak as well. 

In the Near East, everyone wore two pieces of clothing a cloak and a tunic. The outer garment would typically be like a coat and was used as a pillow or a blanket at night. Under Jewish law if someone owed you a debt you could take their tunic until they made good on their payment of the debt.

During the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were under Roman occupation. This meant they were taxed by the Roman Empire AND the local Jewish government. Their taxes were twice as much as they were previously. Needless to say there were quite a few people in debt at the time, so this scenario was fairly common.

Back to the part Jesus says, "And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic let him have your cloak as well." If you take off your out garment, and then you take off your inner garment... you'd be naked. Which is an interesting state of being in this culture, because it's not the person who's standing there naked who is shamed, but the person(s) who see their nakedness that are shamed. So, if you take off your tunic and then you take off your cloak and extend it towards your debtor they have to make a choice. Give you back your tunic or take your cloak and be shamed for seeing you naked. 

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Under Roman law, a soldier of the Empire can force a conquered individual to carry their pack (weighing roughly 80-100lbs) 1 mile. If they were to force the individual to carry the pack any further than a mile it would be considered cruel and they would be subject to severe discipline. So when Jesus says tells his listeners to go two miles, he's telling them to take back their personhood. To demand to be seen as equal. 

Can you imagine the Roman soldier after you pass 1 mile? He's freaking out because if anyone catches on to what's going down he's going to be flogged for this mistreatment. The man carrying the pack now has all of the power. 

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Why? Because poverty is the first form of violence. 

I believe with absolute conviction that every man, woman, and child is valuable. The most wealthy influential and powerful are of no more value than the lowest of low. When a person commits violence towards someone else it's a value statement. 

I'm a pacifist because I believe in the heart of every person there is good. I believe everyone deserves saving. And I know that even the hardest of hearts can be transformed by love.