The state of Ohio recently recognized Nonviolence Week and there were a series of local events to encourage awareness and understanding.
Tragically, despite the efforts, there were incidents of violence in Youngstown, even impacting my own family. I challenged myself and members of my family that while we may be angered by these senseless acts, we will sin not.
That is why I contend, after reflecting and examining nonviolence, the goal is an ongoing work. We must put into daily practice behaviors that promote mutual respect.
The late Congressman John Lewis displayed the essence of nonviolence from the time he was attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Bloody Sunday as a teen. He was among the 600 peaceful protesters beaten by law enforcement officers for crossing the bridge on March 7, 1965. The circumstances behind the civil rights march remain significant.
The trek was in response to police brutality. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, was killed by James Bonard Fowler, a state trooper in Alabama.
Guided by his faith it appears as if he embodied the prophetic words of Micah 6:8 “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Selected as the youngest speaker at the historic March on Washington, Lewis would ultimately become regarded as one of the most revered statesmen to serve in Washington, D.C.
Despite battling cancer at that moment, at a gathering to commemorate the tragic events of Bloody Sunday, Lewis forcefully and passionately challenged every American on March 1 to “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.” as he stood at the foot of the historical Selma bridge in Selma. He changed the lexicon of America by introducing the concept “Good Trouble”
Lewis was influenced by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who embraced and modeled the “Six Principles of Nonviolence.” Ironically, it was a violent act that ended Dr. King's life because it was he who shared his fundamental tenets, vision and philosophy of nonviolence in “Stride Toward Freedom,” his first publication.
The six principles, which remain relevant today, include:
1.) Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
2.) Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
3.) Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil, not people.
4.) Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
5.) Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
6.) Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
However, nonviolence requires the intentional application of these ideals. To build upon the principles, the “Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change” was created to advance Dr. King’s nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action. We must be actively engaged in the endeavor and pursuit of peace. These practices serve as a guide to pursue social and interpersonal change.
1.) Information gathering: To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem.
2.) Education: It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support.
3.) Personal commitment: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
4.) Discussion/negotiation: Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
5.) Direct action: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
6.) Reconciliation: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the ‘Beloved Community.’
Lewis demonstratively forged principles and fostered practices of nonviolence which advanced relationships. He admonished us not to be a silent witness in the face of injustice and to speak truth to power. He simply said, “If you see something, say something!” He championed the right to vote and reminded us that “Your vote matters. If it didn’t, why would some people keep trying to take it away?”
The congressman is an example that God can use you as a teen addressing the nation or as a mature citizen at the podium representing the nation.
As we continue to advance the principles of peace and nonviolence, I must also emphasize that domestic violence in all of its forms is unacceptable. You should only lift your hands to God to bless and not harm your companion.
I Corinthians 13, often recited in marriage ceremonies, actually was written to the Church on how to be effective in its outreach and witness. Yet the power of this letter can be extended to all of our interactions, after all, love is what love does!
Facing impending death while in prison, Apostle Paul sought to encourage the faith and mentor for ministry a young man with a powerful letter. He pens with great conviction, despite his current situation in II Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” God continues to provide effective tools to combat and address the challenges before us. God has equipped and empowered us in the call of a greater cause.
So we have our marching orders which require us to think globally and respond locally. Now, go forth to make some “Good trouble, necessary trouble” while always keeping the faith.
— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren.
— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise