published Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Cook: The illegal peacemaker

If You Go:

What: John Dear

When: Sunday, 7 p.m.

Where: Grace Episcopal Church on Belvoir Avenue

For more than three decades, the activist-priest John Dear has been traveling the world, teaching nonviolence.

He's spoken thousands of times to perhaps a million people, and written or edited more than two dozen books on peacemaking. In 2008, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dear's been arrested more than 70 times in acts of civil disobedience: against drone use, nuclear weapons, military spending, the death penalty, anything that promotes violence.

(In December, Dear was dismissed from the Jesuit order after disobeying his superiors.)

Tonight, as part of his 38-city tour, Dear travels to Chattanooga -- recently named the most Bible-minded city in America -- to speak at Grace Episcopal Church. A few days ago, we spoke over the phone. What follows are excerpts from our interview, which felt like talking with a modern day abolitionist: willing to speak truth to power -- bravely, unapologetically, without concern for consequence -- while calling for an end to the evils around him.

On the futility of violence: "The gun doesn't work. There's 100 million people dead in the last century from war, and all the thousands killed by our handguns every year. It's not making us safer.

"People are realizing war doesn't work. We're bankrupting our country with these weapons and wars and serving corporate greed. And people are so unhappy around the country in their personal lives because we're all so violent.

"Violence never works. Violence in response to violence only leads to violence. Wars never bring peace. They only sow the seeds for future wars. Violence is very boring and stupid and anyone can just go and kill. It gets nowhere."

On the Christian church: "The churches have really failed. ... They should have long ago required that every Christian renounce war and practice nonviolence. ... Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, love your enemies and put down your sword. We do everything but that.

"Today it's all Christians at the Pentagon and at Los Alamos where they build nuclear weapons and at Oak Ridge. It's the majority of Christians planning the vaporization of people.

"What good is it if people say they've converting and following Jesus if you're still going along with the bombing of children in Iraq and Afghanhistan and supporting nuclear weapons?

"Please don't consider yourself a Christian if you support war, guns or nuclear weapons or killing in any form. You're not a Christian. You might be a good American ... but you're not a follower of the nonviolent Jesus."

On the power of nonviolence: "Nonviolence is infinitely creative, and it heals at every level. Personally, intra-personally, communally, nationally and globally. And we're just beginning to tap into the power of it.

"There have been 85 nonviolent revolutions in the last 40 years. ... Two-thirds of the human race in the last 25 years have been personally involved in grass-roots movements for peace and justice.

"Why is it we dismiss Gandhi and King and we just listen to these generals and people on Wall Street and our leaders who have no moral vision? Gandhi says that nonviolence is more powerful than all the weapons of the world combined.

"Everyone should be teaching peace and nonviolence. It should be a requirement for every schoolchild in every grade for everyone on the planet."

On the theology of nonviolence: "Love your enemies and you're really sons and daughters of the God who lets the sun rise on the good and bad and the rain fall on the just and unjust. There is the most political statement in the Bible. Love your enemies. That is the end of the nation-state system. That's the measure of your discipleship.

"God is nonviolent. God is a god of universal love, unlike the movie 'Noah.'

"At the heart of the Jesus story is in the garden of Gethsemane. As they come to arrest him, Peter goes to kill to protect. Jesus says to put down the sword. Those are the last words of Jesus to the church. The last thing they ever heard from him before he was killed, and we have still disobeyed it for 2,000 years."

What it means to be a Christian: "If you want to consider yourself a Christian, you have to renounce violence. Get rid of your guns. Stop supporting executions. Leave the military. Don't let your kids join the military, resist violence of all types and start teaching the Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi read the Sermon on the Mount every evening for 43 years. He's not even Christian.

"The Gospel doesn't make sense if Jesus is violent. All churches should be closed if they support violence and war."

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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sangaree said...

Chattanooga -- recently named the most Bible-minded city in America

Chattanooga maybe the most Bible-minded city in America but it is far from adhering to the teachings of Christ or being Christ-like, which should equal to being tolerant. But the city does put on an impressive show. And that's where it all ends.

April 6, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.
RShultz210 said...

Mr. Cook:

SO, this defrocked Jesuit says if you don’t believe in non-violence you’re not a Christian? How dare he tell me that without having seen me or said a word to me? He ignores certain facts about Jesus that make him sound like a phony pacifist hypocrite. We all know the law laid out in Matthew 5:44 which tells us to love our enemies and do good to them. However when a Canaanite woman approached Jesus begging for him to heal her daughter, he refused:(Matthew 15:21-28) (Paraphrased) - Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." It is only after she replies to the effect that “yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” that Jesus decides to heal her daughter, which you would expect would NOT be necessary if Jesus follows his own law to love your enemies. It appears he isn't all-loving after all, but only prefers "the lost sheep of Israel" (the Jews). Then he says "OK since your faith is so great I’ll heal your daughter," because he realized that he was wrong. I don’t think the good ex-father realizes Jesus committed His share of violence too. Like making a whip out of the curtain cords of the Temple and whipping the money changers to chase them out, and destroying their tables and scattering their money all over the floor screaming at them that they had defiled His Father’s house. If that’s not violence then I don’t know what is. I have a problem with pacifists. Pacifism is a shifty doctrine that allows people to enjoy protection against violence that comes by virtue of membership in a society while being unwilling to defend this protection for everyone when the necessity arises. This is the worst form of hypocrisy. I suspect from his comments about Christians that what father Dear has not learned about Christians is that they have NOT turned away from Jesus or the Church. They have simply learned a lesson that, in his case, hasn't sunk in. They've learned that we don't live in Jesus’ time and, in this time, those who live by the sword get SHOT by those who don't. There are a LOT more people in the world today who are not Christian, and are willing to use violence to get what they want. And Christians who wish to survive have learned these people are not in the least bit impressed by Scripture, but only by force. Sad though it may be, it is reality, and it is time that Father Dear be exposed to a good dose of it before he continues his criticism of other Christians.

Regards, Richard W. Shultz

April 6, 2014 at 4:06 p.m.
conservative said...

Here is all you need to know about Grace Episcopal Church where this kook who calls himself a Christian is going to speak:

Their "priest" is a woman named Susan J. Butler who has blessed a Homosexual/sodomite couple in a service. I have not yet determined if she is a Lesbian.

Their "church" is in debt as of last year and they are begging for money. They have fundraisers such as selling dinners. Contributions are down. They are paying some of their employees minimum wage. This is easy to understand when your members are not Christian.

Non Christians just don't let loose of their money.

More of their misery at link below.

http://www.saygrace.net/vestry/vestry_minutes_september_2013.pdf

April 6, 2014 at 4:08 p.m.
conservative said...

Mr. Cook often gives his personal views by quoting someone else who holds his views. He just doesn't seem to have the nerve to give his Liberal views firsthand.

Activist "priest" John Dear doesn't know the God of the Bible from a hole in the ground.

Mr. Cook quotes Mr. Dear:

"If you want to consider yourself a Christian, you have to renounce violence....."

The man doesn't have a clue how one becomes a Christian. Christians are not violent people unless they are protecting families and others.

I wonder if Mr. Dear and Mr. Cook would stand by and not interfere if someone were intent on harming their loved ones, or another.

Why doesn't Mr. Cook and this "church" arrange for Mr. Dear to visit the areas where the shootings and killings are taking place?

Preaching to non violent Christians about violence is stupidity.

April 6, 2014 at 4:33 p.m.

Mr. Conservative's religion sure doesn't make him happy and joyful. I feel sorry for any family he has though with his attitude about life he probably doesn't have one.

He appears to want a religious North Korea with himself as dictator with thought police to enforce his fiats.

I bet the priest is much happier and a much better Christian than Mr. Conservative. He hates everything and everybody. What a sad man.

I wonder if Mr. Conservative "prayed his gay away" since he seems determined to find homosexuals everywhere he looks. Does he have mirrors in his house?

April 6, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.
RShultz210 said...

You know allahsyoungerbrother, you seem to me to be sadder than conservative is or ever has been. You spend all of your time composing poorly thought out insults rather than useful or coherent comments. Conservative certainly has some strong opinions, but certainly no stronger than some others who comment here. I believe homosexuality to be abnormal and immoral, but I limit my comments to that simple statement and I don't go out of my way to insult those who practice that lifestyle. It is not my place to judge them or to hate them. I don't believe they should be allowed to legally marry, but I would not deny them anything else. Does this opinion make you believe that I wish to have a "religious North Korea"? Or that I am "sad" in some way?

April 6, 2014 at 6:44 p.m.

Not sad, you're just creepy, very paranoid and anxious to prove you're a real man by shooting someone.

There's much more to fear from your and Mr. Conservative's brand of Christianity than from gay people.

April 6, 2014 at 6:56 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Mr. Shultz and conservative raise some very good points as to how Christians who are accepting of violence, spiritual arrogance, bigotry, guns, and war can easily justify their points of view by quoting from Jesus Christ. If one is to believe in a real, flesh-and-blood Jesus (I do not), the fact is that he said totally contradictory things on almost every issue. Mr. Shultz and con-man can easily justify their bellicose attitudes as being "Christian" based on the words or actions of this mythological super-hero. For he did indeed say thing that support their view - at least, so says the Bible. Likewise, the peace loving, turn-the-other-cheek brand of Christians can justify their beliefs based on the words and actions of this mythological super-hero. Because he did indeed say things that support non-violence, compassion, and brotherly love. So everybody wins! Jesus is whatever his believers want him to be.

The point is that if somebody said such blatant contradictory things something is amiss. Either he never really existed in the first place, or he was a nut, babbling spiritual nonsense and saying things that he thought would appeal to the most number of people...like a politician! It is not necessary to idolize some long-dead ancient man-god in order to justify our beliefs. So why do you Christians keep doing it? I can understand why the fundamentalists do it - because their belief in Jesus as the son of God is necessary to their supposed salvation. But you New Age, peace loving Christians, why do you feel the need to base the goodness of love, peace, and compassion on this Jesus person? Do you still cling to the silly, worn-out creed of original sin and the childish notion of eternal life for creed-believing sheep? Don't you realize that peace and non-violence and brotherly love are inherently good and they don't need some saint or "messiah" (mythical or real) from 2000 years ago telling you what is good or bad, moral or immoral? Those things are good, just because they are! What's more, even if Jesus were real and said those things he said, his words and preachments were not exactly novel and spiritually ground-breaking. The notion of brotherly love, compassion, and the Golden Rule had been written and spoken of in the pagan religions long before JC supposedly came on the scene.

April 6, 2014 at 10:37 p.m.

Mr. Rickaroo, I have found that a majority of Christians have never read the Bible, know little about what it contains, the contradictions within every Bible version from the earliest manuscripts to the latest translations, know little to nothing about how the Bible was put together, and rely on someone else to tell them what it says and the storyteller always makes it to his/her benefit, not for the sake of brotherly love but to control people's thoughts and actions.

Nearly everything in the Bible was taken from earlier stories from the world's creation story to giant floods, messiahs, and prophecies. Nothing new, just names, places, and events changed to suit the new storytelling.

It's hard to describe Third World countries beliefs as uncilvilized when such ignorance is prevelant in western Bible religions who claim it as factually true. It's a shame that America, with all it's scientific breakthroughs, still has a backwards, primitive belief in Bible accuracy as divine revelation.

April 6, 2014 at 11:11 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

I agree with you completely, ayb. Most Christians are only familiar with those parts of the Bible that their preacher speaks of in their Sunday sermons. And for those theologians, Christian apologists, and Biblical "scholars" who have actually studied the Bible in its entirety and wrestled with the many contradictions, historical inaccuracies, and scientific incongruities, they have managed to twist themselves into pretzels trying to make sense out of obvious nonsense. The only way that the Bible makes any sense at all is to view it for what it is: a compilation of ancient myths that originated from primitive people whose only knowledge of the world and the cosmos came from their wild imaginings of the invisible spirits that they thought ruled their world.

It is indeed a shame that so much of America, for all its advances in science and technology, still clings to primitive superstitions and beliefs that reasonable people of even modest intelligence should have abandoned long ago.

April 6, 2014 at 11:31 p.m.
nednetterville said...

RSchultz210 asks, "How dare he tell me that without having seen me or said a word to me?"

It doesn't take daring or knowing you, but rather a knowledge of Christ to know that any person using violence for whatever reason dishonors the Christ in Christian.

Conservative: "Here is all you need to know about Grace Episcopal Church..."

The invective in your comment is all one needs to know about you.

Rickaroo: "The point is that if somebody said such blatant contradictory things..."

I've read the canon and non-canon gospels. Because what Jesus said and did was reported by different people, there are bound to be contradictions in the reports, not necessarily in Jesus. My impression is that Jesus was consistently nonviolent, and consistent in the principles of righteous living he taught and preached. Some calls for nonviolence were original to him.

Rickaroo: "Do you still cling to the silly, worn-out creed...etc."

I don't, nor did Jesus. However, if I were to enumerate the inconsistencies I've found among nonbelievers' beliefs, I'd need more space than is available on the web to point them out. If I knew enough about your own past, I'm sure I could find inconsistencies there too.

Ricaroo, you suggest, "It is indeed a shame that so much of America...etc."

Atheism is also obviously a superstition without scientific foundation. Unfortunately, many pseudo-scientist take atheism as an article of faith, like religious fundamentalists in that regard. Many atheist believe the State can perform miracles, as in the atheist economist Lord Keynes' claim that State spending has the power "to turn stones into bread." Such atheists worship at the alter of the State and their religion is best described as Statolatry. The modern superstition of atheism among modestly intelligent people seems to me as unreasonable and shameful as those ancient superstitions you decry.

allahsyoungerbrother said, "It's a shame that America...still has a backwards, primitive belief...etc."

Your assertion of what America believes is a straw man. America is not a sentient being that believes in anything. You sound as silly as I would if I said Islam believes in wantonly murdering as many people as one can load into three modern airliners.

Rickaroo says, "The only way that the Bible makes any sense at all is to view it for what it is: a compilation of ancient myths that originated from primitive people whose only knowledge of the world and the cosmos came from their wild imaginings of the invisible spirits that they thought ruled their world."

This seems a rather silly assertion from someone who evidently thinks himself modestly intelligent. The wisdom of those "primitive" people you disparage, such as Aristotle, Euclid, etc., established the foundation on which all of the modern science you appear to admire was errected.

April 7, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.

"Atheism is also obviously a superstition without scientific foundation."

Atheism is a non-belief in deities.

"Because what Jesus said and did was reported by different people, there are bound to be contradictions in the reports, not necessarily in Jesus."

Glad you see contradictions in the Bible. Anybody who reads the Bible will see glaring contradictions throughout the Bible.

"Unfortunately, many pseudo-scientist take atheism as an article of faith, like religious fundamentalists in that regard."

Atheists look for evidence of deities, not faith in atheism. Present evidence of deities and atheists will look at the evidence. So far, there's no evidence.

"Many atheist believe the State can perform miracles, as in the atheist economist Lord Keynes' claim that State spending has the power "to turn stones into bread."

Confusing athiests with political positions is common among many. Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Thomas Jefferson and many others were agnostics and atheists. None of these three would you call supporters of the State nor worshipped Statology.

""It's a shame that America...still has a backwards, primitive belief...etc."

I should have correctly said, "Many in America still have a backwards, primitive belief in Bible accuracy as divine revelation." Point taken and corrected.

"The wisdom of those "primitive" people you disparage, such as Aristotle, Euclid, etc., established the foundation on which all of the modern science you appear to admire was errected (sp)."

I did not disparage Aristotle or Euclid, nor Plato, or any other of the great thinkers and philosophers of old. But they were wrong about many things. However, they did doubt and doubt leads to new ideas, not the closed-mindedness of religious fundamentalists.

Newton was right about many things, but his theories were supplanted by better theories. Newton's theory of the "finger of God" was proved false. Newton's search for a "Bible Code" was false.

Science moves forward by discovering what is false. Great scientists have found that by discovering what is false, the nearer one approaches the truth.

Religious fundamentalists' claim of complete truth is not scientific and is primitive. Where religious fundamentalism flourishes, doubt is heretical and leads to persecutions. America's greatness was in not being a Christian nation, or Jewish nation, but a country where freedom of doubt was encouraged.

I will say that you are miles above Mr. Conservative and Mr. Orr in your understanding of a non-literal BIble. One can be a practicing disciple of some of the teachings of Jesus without belief in gods and the supernatural. Many in the liberal churches, synagogues, and mosques do just that and practice humanism rather than deity worship.

Here's an excellent presentation in four short videos about humanism -- all without the need or use for deities.

https://humanism.org.uk/thatshumanism/#rightorwrong

April 7, 2014 at 6:51 p.m.
nednetterville said...

"Atheists look for evidence of deities, not faith in atheism. Present evidence of deities and atheists will look at the evidence. So far, there's no evidence."

I have all the evidence I need to prove to me the existence of God, and feel no need to prove God's existence to others. I think Newton was wasting his time. The spiritual realm is not susceptible to material measurements nor empirical testing. From a scientific standpoint, belief in God is as valid as non-belief. There is no evidence that God does not exist.

"But they were wrong about many things."

Obviously, just as you and I and today's scientists are wrong about many things, as time will reveal; and just as the ancient Euclid failed to comprehend elliptic or hyperbolic geometry, so the ancient Moses knowledge and understanding of God was vastly improved upon by the not-so-ancient Jesus.

"Science moves forward by discovering what is false. Great scientists have found that by discovering what is false, the nearer one approaches the truth."

Science often makes huge errors that miss the truth by a mile, perhaps because of over reliance by some on Popper's falsification epistemology and radical empiricism, which neglected or failed to understand the scientific value of a priori knowledge and reasoning particularly as pertaining to mathematics, logic and praxeology. It seems to me the so-called "scientific method" was responsible for the utter stupidity of developing and building A-bombs and H-bombs sufficiently powerful to deplete the earth's supply of humans, which rather detracts from America's greatness since our scientists designed those bombs.

I'll look at those videos, for you too seem miles above the two you mentioned in your understanding of a non-literal bible.

What is painfully obvious to me is that if science is to find truth it needs to be informed by something more than the so-called scientific method, whether it be the wisdom of Jesus or, if it grasps the value of nonviolence, humanism."

Ricaroo asked, "But you New Age, peace loving Christians, why do you feel the need to base the goodness of love, peace, and compassion on this Jesus person?"

I am not New Age nor even Christian, but I can assure you that there is nothing new about the goodness, love, peace and compassion that Jesus taught and lived. Since no one before Jesus nor since proclaimed these virtues consistently, it seems only logical and fair to recognize and credit his role in developing the virtue of nonviolence.

April 10, 2014 at 4:55 p.m.
nednetterville said...

ayb, watched those video. I certainly concur with almost all of what they contain. KIM that I am not a Christian, and certainly don't pretend to speak for Christians nor anyone else who may believe in God. From those videos it would seem that humanism has also been informed by the wisdom of Jesus. keep the faith, Ned

April 11, 2014 at 10:34 a.m.
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