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by Niyi Adeogun
MOTION STATEMENT

Followers of Jesus can practice creative nonviolence that cultivates holistic and redemptive transformation. 

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by Mondo Scott

LESSONS ON NONVIOLENCE FROM NATIVE AMERICA

Mariah Humphries

Mariah Humphries is a Mvskoke, Christian, writer, and educator. Navigating the tension between native and white American culture, she brings native awareness to non-Native spaces. With over twenty years of ministry service, she also focuses on racial reconciliation within the American Church.

In 2016, we witnessed an unprecedented event: hundreds of Tribal Nations coming alongside one Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux — unified — in order to protect the sacred tenets of North American Tribal Nations: water and land. 

“You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites.” Numbers 35:33-34 (NRSV)

Native’s came on foot and by horse. They came singing a song of protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline — the desecration of a foundational belief, that land and water are ours to care for and ours to protect.  

To the common eye, it was a protest labeled under the partisan topic of climate change. For the Sioux, it was a fight for ancestors, current livelihood and for future generations. Water is life and this land is ours to preserve. Recognizing the need, broader Indian Country heard the cry and knew the battle was deeper than capitalist Canada and the United States. They came to raise the collective Native voice.

This was more than a protest for Native America. This was a demonstration of Nativeness to the world. They came to take a stand and they came in peace.  

From historical representation to current imagery, the Native American is often portrayed as an enemy of progression and people. It is vital to correct this perception in order to recognize that Native Americans strive to respect life and practice peace. With historical actions such as counting coup and actively being a relative to others, Native Americans have practiced this nonviolent priority. To understand these peaceful actions, we must understand how we arrived at the perception of the violent Native. 

Rethinking Native Americans

Within the U.S. alone, there are over 570 federally recognized tribes. Within this mosaic of Indigenous beauty are hundreds of languages, cultures, religions, and there is also a complicated history with the inhabitants of the United States. We are often perceived as the enemy, the savage, but Natives are innately a peaceful people and work diligently toward a peaceful resolve.

Does a peaceful Native sound like a dichotomy? Throughout history, we have been told the tales of the Native American. Although our historical books suppress the complete story, we have heard how kind the Wampanoag were to the Pilgrim. We have all seen, and possibly been forced to act out, the friendly Native at the Thanksgiving table. 

Just as the narrative changes from the Pilgrim to colonization and into settlerism, the story of the Native changes as well. The tone shifts from friendly welcoming people to missiology focus and into the savage of our American history books. 

There was a perceived innocence of the Pilgrim when they came to this land. As Separatists, they were escaping a religious form of oppression and landed here, traumatized and desired acceptance  —  similar to others who have been victimized. The narrative portrays the Native as welcomer to the newcomers. 

As time goes on migrants evolve from religiously persecuted to the conqueror. Not only does the stance of victim dissolve, but the mindset of rightful ownership becomes the tone of the colonizer. The Native people became portrayed as savages that required taming. White superiority further takes root as settlers covet the flourishing land and the narrative shifts yet again in portrayal of the Native. We became the enemy that was keeping Euro-centric civilization from happening. We became the barrier to someone else’s profitable life. We were the issue, so we became the violent enemy.

Think of mascots, chants, symbols, visions of the Native — this skewed reality keeps us held captive in a biased plane of war and the warrior, with a weapon in hand. Yet, at the heart of the Native American is a desire to be seen and respected as an Indigenous people to this land. At the foundation of our existence is peace rather than violence. 

Much like the Satyagraha with Gandhi and Civil Rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Native Americans have similar elements to these peaceful communities and movements of the mid 20th century. Traditionally, we maintain a nonviolent mindset in the midst of chaos or violence. 

As a Mvskoke woman and pursuer of racial reconciliation in the U.S., I implement these traditional ways into my life. I want to be a herkv-háyv, peacemaker, and actively mapohícetv, listen. Being a peacemaker and listening does not make us weak, as Native people, rather it is a practice of strength. Much like reconciliation is practiced today, we show respect for the opposer yet stay true to our traditional values, and also biblical values.  

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (NRSV)

Counting Coup

Historically, one of the highest honors for a Native American warrior is approaching opposition and remaining as close to them as possible, with no violent intention. For the individual, Native Americans call this “counting coup.” Lived out by our High Plains relatives, counting coup means to be close enough to kill your enemy but you refrain from causing them harm or death. 

We see this displayed in modern Native culture in the midst of conflict. In July of 2020, as the President of the United States made his way to Mount Rushmore for a controversial fourth of July celebration, Native Americans protested, as they have for generations, against the defamation of Mount Rushmore. Rushmore is part of the Black Hills, a sacred site meaning “the Heart of Everything That Is,” by the Lakota Sioux. 

Amidst the protest of the President’s visit, a Native American man counted coup in the middle of the route to Mount Rushmore. As the protestors ceremoniously sang and prayed, he displayed nonviolent protest toward a law enforcement officer on guard. As he moved, arms gliding in the air in a beautiful ceremony, he reached down and tapped feathers on the officer’s leg. Close enough but not harming, knowing he could strike or receive violence in return — he was counting coup. 

Sherri Mitchell, JD (Weh'na Ha'mu Kwasset), Penobscot, describes Native people’s desire for peace, from the standpoint of counting coup, as “I’m close enough that I could choose to hurt you, if that were my intention. It is not my intention to hurt you. I honor your right to live and I ask that you honor my right to live as well.” There is a respect for life, both quality of and literal, while showing resistance to an opposing stance. 

Being Relatives

Native nonviolent conflict resolution also extends beyond our own citizenship. We are active neighbors to our non-Native relatives. 

The summer of 2020 was a time of unrest in the United States. Following the murder of George Floyd, protests were displayed in every major city and Native Americans came out in support of our Black relatives. “We join the many voices against police brutality, racism and inequity. Their voices and their messages are ours and are important and must be heard,” Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill said in a statement. “We will continue to peacefully raise our voices and express our opposition.” 

We mobilize for protests. The Native ability to mobilize for anti-violent protest, shows our collective strength. We protest by running, riding, marching, praying, dancing and singing. We are a creative people and our activism shows the variety of ways we engage in anti-violent protest or resolution. We know there is strength and quality in the collective voice, so we bring other Natives to the table to speak to specific aspects of an issue — lawyers, environmentalists, doctors and sociologists. 

Patience in nonviolent resolution is a cultural practice for Native America. The struggle of our people has been our reality for centuries, so we know it will take time. Even in our activism, we display longevity in our strategy. While others compete with opposition, we desire cooperation. We are assertive but not aggressive. We actively listen to others, with respect and with the desire to learn. Being patient does not mean that we are passive. 

As a Mvskoke, the presumption that Native Americans are wired for violence as a first step, harms the collective culture and as well as the individual pursuit to eradicate injustice. We experience this assumption played out in a variety of ways within the broader society, and it is imperative to change the narrative — for Native Americans as a whole and for our individual work toward justice. 

Conclusion

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Romans 14:19 (NRSV)

I am hopeful. Our country’s history does not have to be our future and I am continually encouraged by those who live out steps of peace as we work toward justice. 

Although counting coup is a practice reserved for specific individuals within the Native American community, the foundational principle is practical for non-Native people as well. When we find ourselves in opposition, there should be respect for others as a creation of God and engage peacefully in both action and word. 

We are all relatives to one another. Being a relative means to support one another and come alongside one another in their time of need. This is a biblical view of the kingdom of God. We see Jesus teaching us to love your neighbor as yourself, throughout the Gospels.

How do these practices of counting coup and being a good relative play out in a practical sense?

  1. Respect

Respect one another as a creation of God, with a purpose in the will of God. We are not called to only respect one another in agreement, we are to respect through disagreement as well. We know our words and actions can hurt, and we may even have reasons to hurt one another, but God calls us to pursue peace — no matter how hard it is. 

  1. Pray

For those who are followers of Christ, taking time to stop and communicate with God can settle our emotions and center our focus on Godliness. This helps us to enter a time of controversy without being focused on our thoughts and actions, but God’s heart and desire for us. 

  1. Listen

Do not just listen in order to respond. Pursue the practice of listening so you can learn a different perspective or stance. When we actively listen to one another’s issues, it is much easier to approach with respect, and perhaps empathy. Listening does not mean we ignore truth and avoid standing on truth, it simply means to take the time to slow down in order to understand before engaging. 

I want to conclude now with the words of Bernice King, “Seek out your brothers and sisters of other cultures and join together in building alliances to put an end to all forms of racial discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice. There are people of good will of all races, religions, and nations who will join you in common quest for the betterment of society.”

In 2016, we witnessed an unprecedented event: hundreds of Tribal Nations coming alongside one Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux — unified — in order to protect the sacred tenets of North American Tribal Nations: water and land. 

“You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites.” Numbers 35:33-34 (NRSV)

Native’s came on foot and by horse. They came singing a song of protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline — the desecration of a foundational belief, that land and water are ours to care for and ours to protect.  

To the common eye, it was a protest labeled under the partisan topic of climate change. For the Sioux, it was a fight for ancestors, current livelihood and for future generations. Water is life and this land is ours to preserve. Recognizing the need, broader Indian Country heard the cry and knew the battle was deeper than capitalist Canada and the United States. They came to raise the collective Native voice.

This was more than a protest for Native America. This was a demonstration of Nativeness to the world. They came to take a stand and they came in peace.  

From historical representation to current imagery, the Native American is often portrayed as an enemy of progression and people. It is vital to correct this perception in order to recognize that Native Americans strive to respect life and practice peace. With historical actions such as counting coup and actively being a relative to others, Native Americans have practiced this nonviolent priority. To understand these peaceful actions, we must understand how we arrived at the perception of the violent Native. 

Rethinking Native Americans

Within the U.S. alone, there are over 570 federally recognized tribes. Within this mosaic of Indigenous beauty are hundreds of languages, cultures, religions, and there is also a complicated history with the inhabitants of the United States. We are often perceived as the enemy, the savage, but Natives are innately a peaceful people and work diligently toward a peaceful resolve.

From historical representation to current imagery, the Native American is often portrayed as an enemy of progression and people. It is vital to correct this perception in order to recognize that Native Americans strive to respect life and practice peace.

Does a peaceful Native sound like a dichotomy? Throughout history, we have been told the tales of the Native American. Although our historical books suppress the complete story, we have heard how kind the Wampanoag were to the Pilgrim. We have all seen, and possibly been forced to act out, the friendly Native at the Thanksgiving table. 

Just as the narrative changes from the Pilgrim to colonization and into settlerism, the story of the Native changes as well. The tone shifts from friendly welcoming people to missiology focus and into the savage of our American history books. 

There was a perceived innocence of the Pilgrim when they came to this land. As Separatists, they were escaping a religious form of oppression and landed here, traumatized and desired acceptance  —  similar to others who have been victimized. The narrative portrays the Native as welcomer to the newcomers. 

As time goes on migrants evolve from religiously persecuted to the conqueror. Not only does the stance of victim dissolve, but the mindset of rightful ownership becomes the tone of the colonizer. The Native people became portrayed as savages that required taming. White superiority further takes root as settlers covet the flourishing land and the narrative shifts yet again in portrayal of the Native. We became the enemy that was keeping Euro-centric civilization from happening. We became the barrier to someone else’s profitable life. We were the issue, so we became the violent enemy.

Think of mascots, chants, symbols, visions of the Native — this skewed reality keeps us held captive in a biased plane of war and the warrior, with a weapon in hand. Yet, at the heart of the Native American is a desire to be seen and respected as an Indigenous people to this land. At the foundation of our existence is peace rather than violence. 

Much like the Satyagraha with Gandhi and Civil Rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Native Americans have similar elements to these peaceful communities and movements of the mid 20th century. Traditionally, we maintain a nonviolent mindset in the midst of chaos or violence. 

Being a peacemaker and listening does not make us weak, as Native people, rather it is a practice of strength.

As a Mvskoke woman and pursuer of racial reconciliation in the U.S., I implement these traditional ways into my life. I want to be a herkv-háyv, peacemaker, and actively mapohícetv, listen. Being a peacemaker and listening does not make us weak, as Native people, rather it is a practice of strength. Much like reconciliation is practiced today, we show respect for the opposer yet stay true to our traditional values, and also biblical values.  

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (NRSV)

Counting Coup

Historically, one of the highest honors for a Native American warrior is approaching opposition and remaining as close to them as possible, with no violent intention. For the individual, Native Americans call this “counting coup.” Lived out by our High Plains relatives, counting coup means to be close enough to kill your enemy but you refrain from causing them harm or death. 

We see this displayed in modern Native culture in the midst of conflict. In July of 2020, as the President of the United States made his way to Mount Rushmore for a controversial fourth of July celebration, Native Americans protested, as they have for generations, against the defamation of Mount Rushmore. Rushmore is part of the Black Hills, a sacred site meaning “the Heart of Everything That Is,” by the Lakota Sioux. 

Lived out by our High Plains relatives, counting coup means to be close enough to kill your enemy but you refrain from causing them harm or death.

Amidst the protest of the President’s visit, a Native American man counted coup in the middle of the route to Mount Rushmore. As the protestors ceremoniously sang and prayed, he displayed nonviolent protest toward a law enforcement officer on guard. As he moved, arms gliding in the air in a beautiful ceremony, he reached down and tapped feathers on the officer’s leg. Close enough but not harming, knowing he could strike or receive violence in return — he was counting coup. 

Sherri Mitchell, JD (Weh'na Ha'mu Kwasset), Penobscot, describes Native people’s desire for peace, from the standpoint of counting coup, as “I’m close enough that I could choose to hurt you, if that were my intention. It is not my intention to hurt you. I honor your right to live and I ask that you honor my right to live as well.” There is a respect for life, both quality of and literal, while showing resistance to an opposing stance. 

Being Relatives

Native nonviolent conflict resolution also extends beyond our own citizenship. We are active neighbors to our non-Native relatives. 

The Native ability to mobilize for anti-violent protest, shows our collective strength. We protest by running, riding, marching, praying, dancing and singing. We are a creative people and our activism shows the variety of ways we engage in anti-violent protest or resolution.

The summer of 2020 was a time of unrest in the United States. Following the murder of George Floyd, protests were displayed in every major city and Native Americans came out in support of our Black relatives. “We join the many voices against police brutality, racism and inequity. Their voices and their messages are ours and are important and must be heard,” Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill said in a statement. “We will continue to peacefully raise our voices and express our opposition.” 

We mobilize for protests. The Native ability to mobilize for anti-violent protest, shows our collective strength. We protest by running, riding, marching, praying, dancing and singing. We are a creative people and our activism shows the variety of ways we engage in anti-violent protest or resolution. We know there is strength and quality in the collective voice, so we bring other Natives to the table to speak to specific aspects of an issue — lawyers, environmentalists, doctors and sociologists. 

Patience in nonviolent resolution is a cultural practice for Native America. The struggle of our people has been our reality for centuries, so we know it will take time. Even in our activism, we display longevity in our strategy. While others compete with opposition, we desire cooperation. We are assertive but not aggressive. We actively listen to others, with respect and with the desire to learn. Being patient does not mean that we are passive. 

As a Mvskoke, the presumption that Native Americans are wired for violence as a first step, harms the collective culture and as well as the individual pursuit to eradicate injustice. We experience this assumption played out in a variety of ways within the broader society, and it is imperative to change the narrative — for Native Americans as a whole and for our individual work toward justice. 

Conclusion

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Romans 14:19 (NRSV)

I am hopeful. Our country’s history does not have to be our future and I am continually encouraged by those who live out steps of peace as we work toward justice. 

When we find ourselves in opposition, there should be respect for others as a creation of God and engage peacefully in both action and word.

Although counting coup is a practice reserved for specific individuals within the Native American community, the foundational principle is practical for non-Native people as well. When we find ourselves in opposition, there should be respect for others as a creation of God and engage peacefully in both action and word. 

We are all relatives to one another. Being a relative means to support one another and come alongside one another in their time of need. This is a biblical view of the kingdom of God. We see Jesus teaching us to love your neighbor as yourself, throughout the Gospels.

How do these practices of counting coup and being a good relative play out in a practical sense?

  1. Respect

Respect one another as a creation of God, with a purpose in the will of God. We are not called to only respect one another in agreement, we are to respect through disagreement as well. We know our words and actions can hurt, and we may even have reasons to hurt one another, but God calls us to pursue peace — no matter how hard it is. 

  1. Pray

For those who are followers of Christ, taking time to stop and communicate with God can settle our emotions and center our focus on Godliness. This helps us to enter a time of controversy without being focused on our thoughts and actions, but God’s heart and desire for us. 

  1. Listen

Do not just listen in order to respond. Pursue the practice of listening so you can learn a different perspective or stance. When we actively listen to one another’s issues, it is much easier to approach with respect, and perhaps empathy. Listening does not mean we ignore truth and avoid standing on truth, it simply means to take the time to slow down in order to understand before engaging. 

I want to conclude now with the words of Bernice King, “Seek out your brothers and sisters of other cultures and join together in building alliances to put an end to all forms of racial discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice. There are people of good will of all races, religions, and nations who will join you in common quest for the betterment of society.”

From historical representation to current imagery, the Native American is often portrayed as an enemy of progression and people. It is vital to correct this perception in order to recognize that Native Americans strive to respect life and practice peace.
Being a peacemaker and listening does not make us weak, as Native people, rather it is a practice of strength.
Lived out by our High Plains relatives, counting coup means to be close enough to kill your enemy but you refrain from causing them harm or death.
The Native ability to mobilize for anti-violent protest, shows our collective strength. We protest by running, riding, marching, praying, dancing and singing. We are a creative people and our activism shows the variety of ways we engage in anti-violent protest or resolution.
When we find ourselves in opposition, there should be respect for others as a creation of God and engage peacefully in both action and word.
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by Mondo Scott

WHAT I LEARNED TURNING MY HATE MAIL INTO ORIGAMI

Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans was an American Christian columnist, blogger and author. Her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood was a New York Times bestseller in e-book non-fiction, and Searching for Sunday was a New York Times bestseller nonfiction paperback.

Editor’s Note: 

While this post was first published by the late Rachel Held Evans several years ago, we found its themes of redemption, forgiveness, and nonviolence in action to be just as relevant to our current moment. Evans demonstrated a practical way to slow down, reflect, and practice healthy self-soothing in the face of anger and hostility. She chose to respond with beauty and humility, to meditate upon the created works of both God and people. And she created tangible reminders of the shared humanity between her and those who might see themselves as her enemies, reminders of how we all need prayer and compassion and forgiveness. This is a powerful example of effective, healing nonviolence in our everyday lives.


For Lent this year, I wanted to learn a new creative skill that would enable me to turn something ugly into something beautiful, so I resolved on Ash Wednesday to turn some of my hate mail into origami. 

“it felt a little awkward at first, but as I moved my fingers across those painful words, folding them into one another to make wings, then a neck, then a crooked little beak, healing tears fell, and I let my fingers pray.”

As I wrote back in February, “it felt a little awkward at first, but as I moved my fingers across those painful words, folding them into one another to make wings, then a neck, then a crooked little beak, healing tears fell, and I let my fingers pray.”  

I’ve been making origami off and on for forty days now, letting my fingers pray out little swans and sailboats and flowers and foxes, and I’ve learned some things: about reverse folds and crimp folds, about trial and error, about patience, about retracing steps and following directions, about forgiveness, about letting go, about redirecting some of my anxious and self-focused energy into purposeful acts of creativity and healing, about building bridges, about asking for help. 

That last one—asking for help—turned out to be the most instructive part of them all. 

The consummate contemplative, I had originally imagined this Lenten practice to be a solitary one. It would be all quiet, meditative, poetic, and introspective. 

But it was my friend, Melissa, who mailed me the origami books. 

It was my brother-in-law, Tim, who helped me make my first sailboat. 

It was my friend, Monika, who sat at my kitchen table and made blackout poems out of the most hateful letters, spending Holy Saturday—our special day—forming crooked little pelicans, ducks, and penguins out of scraps of paper.  

origami-post-2.jpg

It was a reader’s idea to work some beautiful, affirming words into the process too, inspiring me to scribble the prayer of Teresa of Avila and the fruit of the Spirit onto the colored origami paper. 

It was my sister who made the jumping frog while we waited for Easter dinner. 

It was Dan who managed to make the perfect origami crane in a matter of fifteen minutes….

origami-post-3.jpg

…while I only managed to make this: 

origami-post-4.jpg

It was the author of one of those letters who emailed an apology, upon learning about my Lenten practice. 

It was that email that inspired me to issue a few apologies of my own, to be just a little quicker to listen, slower to speak, and slower to get angry. 

What I learned turning my hate mail into origami is that we’re meant to remake this world together. We’re meant to hurt together, heal together, forgive together, and create together. Far from being quiet and meditative and poetic and introspective, this practice turned out to be full of laughter, cluttered tables, shared grumbles of frustration, and shared exclamations of delight—“That totally looks like a flamingo!” 

And in a sense, even the people who continue to hate me and call me names are a part of this beautiful process. Their words, carelessly spoken, spent the last 40 days in my home— getting creased and folded, worked over, brushed aside to make room for dinner, stepped on by a toddler, read by my sister, stained with coffee, shoved into a closet when guests arrive, blacked out, thrown away, turned into poems, and folded into sailboats and cranes and pigeons that now sit smiling at me from my office window.  

Because I am a real human being, living a very real life, with a very real capacity to be hurt, to be loved, to heal, and to forgive.  

And so are my enemies. 

What I learned turning my hate mail into origami is that we’re meant to remake this world together. We’re meant to hurt together, heal together, forgive together, and create together.

And something tells me we would all be a little more careful, a little more gentle, if we knew how long our words linger in one another’s lives, if we imagined those words sitting on one another’s kitchen tables, shaped like foxes. 

Something tells me we would all be a bit slower to speak if we knew just how long it takes to work those ugly, heavy words into something beautiful, something that can float or fly away.

origami-post-5.jpg

This article has been used with permission from Rachel Held Evans’s literary agent, Rachelle Gardner. The original article can be viewed on Rachel Held Evans’s website: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/what-i-learned-turning-my-hate-mail-into-origami

Editor’s Note: 

While this post was first published by the late Rachel Held Evans several years ago, we found its themes of redemption, forgiveness, and nonviolence in action to be just as relevant to our current moment. Evans demonstrated a practical way to slow down, reflect, and practice healthy self-soothing in the face of anger and hostility. She chose to respond with beauty and humility, to meditate upon the created works of both God and people. And she created tangible reminders of the shared humanity between her and those who might see themselves as her enemies, reminders of how we all need prayer and compassion and forgiveness. This is a powerful example of effective, healing nonviolence in our everyday lives.


For Lent this year, I wanted to learn a new creative skill that would enable me to turn something ugly into something beautiful, so I resolved on Ash Wednesday to turn some of my hate mail into origami. 

As I wrote back in February, “it felt a little awkward at first, but as I moved my fingers across those painful words, folding them into one another to make wings, then a neck, then a crooked little beak, healing tears fell, and I let my fingers pray.”  

I’ve been making origami off and on for forty days now, letting my fingers pray out little swans and sailboats and flowers and foxes, and I’ve learned some things: about reverse folds and crimp folds, about trial and error, about patience, about retracing steps and following directions, about forgiveness, about letting go, about redirecting some of my anxious and self-focused energy into purposeful acts of creativity and healing, about building bridges, about asking for help. 

That last one—asking for help—turned out to be the most instructive part of them all. 

The consummate contemplative, I had originally imagined this Lenten practice to be a solitary one. It would be all quiet, meditative, poetic, and introspective. 

But it was my friend, Melissa, who mailed me the origami books. 

It was my brother-in-law, Tim, who helped me make my first sailboat. 

It was my friend, Monika, who sat at my kitchen table and made blackout poems out of the most hateful letters, spending Holy Saturday—our special day—forming crooked little pelicans, ducks, and penguins out of scraps of paper.  

It was a reader’s idea to work some beautiful, affirming words into the process too, inspiring me to scribble the prayer of Teresa of Avila and the fruit of the Spirit onto the colored origami paper. 

It was my sister who made the jumping frog while we waited for Easter dinner. 

It was Dan who managed to make the perfect origami crane in a matter of fifteen minutes….

…while I only managed to make this: 

origami-post-4.jpg

It was the author of one of those letters who emailed an apology, upon learning about my Lenten practice. 

It was that email that inspired me to issue a few apologies of my own, to be just a little quicker to listen, slower to speak, and slower to get angry. 

What I learned turning my hate mail into origami is that we’re meant to remake this world together. We’re meant to hurt together, heal together, forgive together, and create together. Far from being quiet and meditative and poetic and introspective, this practice turned out to be full of laughter, cluttered tables, shared grumbles of frustration, and shared exclamations of delight—“That totally looks like a flamingo!” 

And in a sense, even the people who continue to hate me and call me names are a part of this beautiful process. Their words, carelessly spoken, spent the last 40 days in my home— getting creased and folded, worked over, brushed aside to make room for dinner, stepped on by a toddler, read by my sister, stained with coffee, shoved into a closet when guests arrive, blacked out, thrown away, turned into poems, and folded into sailboats and cranes and pigeons that now sit smiling at me from my office window.  

Because I am a real human being, living a very real life, with a very real capacity to be hurt, to be loved, to heal, and to forgive.  

And so are my enemies. 

And something tells me we would all be a little more careful, a little more gentle, if we knew how long our words linger in one another’s lives, if we imagined those words sitting on one another’s kitchen tables, shaped like foxes. 

Something tells me we would all be a bit slower to speak if we knew just how long it takes to work those ugly, heavy words into something beautiful, something that can float or fly away.

origami-post-5.jpg

This article has been used with permission from Rachel Held Evans’s literary agent, Rachelle Gardner. The original article can be viewed on Rachel Held Evans’s website: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/what-i-learned-turning-my-hate-mail-into-origami


“it felt a little awkward at first, but as I moved my fingers across those painful words, folding them into one another to make wings, then a neck, then a crooked little beak, healing tears fell, and I let my fingers pray.”
What I learned turning my hate mail into origami is that we’re meant to remake this world together. We’re meant to hurt together, heal together, forgive together, and create together.
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My Open Letter to the Church

Jean Nangwala

Jean Nangwala is a singer, speaker, creator and survivor-advocate. She was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. Her passion for social justice stems from her personal experience of injustice and witnessing the same inequality across the globe.

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by Mondo Scott

NONVIOLENCE IN A GEN Z WORLD: AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. DREW G.I. HART

Nya Abernathy

Nya Abernathy is a public educator and curriculum designer focusing on social-emotional health and unity-oriented peacemaking at her company, The Dignity Effect. Her overarching goal is to guide people with grace, accountability, and hope into relational wellbeing that is anchored in dignity.

Drew Hart

Drew Hart is an assistant professor of theology at Messiah University and has 10 years of pastoral experience. He is the Program Director of Messiah University's Thriving Together: Congregations for Racial Justice program and co-host of Inverse Podcast. Hart is the author of Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (2016) and Who Will Be A Witness?: Igniting Activism for God's Justice, Love, and Deliverance (2020). He was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, the 2019 W.E.B. Du Bois Award in Harrisburg, PA, and was Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Drew and his family live in Harrisburg, PA. (Twitter & Instagram @DruHart).

Nya Abernathy, Founder of the Dignity Effect, sat down virtually with Pastor Dr. Drew G. I. Hart, author of Who Will Be A Witness? and Trouble I've Seen, for an exclusive interview with Pax to discuss the nonviolent ways of Jesus and what that means for us, and particularly for youth, in today’s context.


Nya: Christians sometimes use the concept of "take up your cross" to passively submit to or ignore bullying. How does the concept of “take up your cross” get misconstrued in ways that promote passivity in people experiencing bullying?

Drew: It's important for people to pay attention to what Jesus is inviting us into when he uses the language “take up your cross.” I think that it's easily misconstrued because what Jesus is actually talking about is a voluntary act; it's not involuntary. He's actually talking about a voluntary act in which someone accepts the consequences of intentionally disrupting systems of injustice. That’s what it means to take up one's cross. 

This is different than just being involuntarily crucified because you've been selected by the system, by a bully, or marked because of your race, your gender, your sexuality, and then targeted. Those are two different things. 

What Jesus does is he willingly confronts systems of injustice and accepts the consequences of that. It's very revolutionary in that sense, but it's not asking for people to just be picked on and targeted simply because of who they are. It's important for us to think about Jesus' language of the cross and not use it in ways that miss the fact that your life has value. Also, Jesus chose life over death multiple times throughout his life. He chooses not to die multiple times prior to his crucifixion, so death is not the goal. We should not conflate the language of “take up your cross” with an excuse to just submit passively to bullying. 

Nya: Can you tell us some of the similarities and differences between Christian discipleship, pacifism, and nonviolent resistance?

Drew: It's really important that we don’t conflate Christian discipleship with other systems that are very similar to Christian discipleship but are not always saying the exact same thing, even if they're related to one another. For example, you have pacifism, which is often framed as rules-based. It is too often operating out of a system of rules that suggests there must be the absence of violence in all areas of life. That's about not utilizing violence as the focus. 

You also have nonviolent resistance and nonviolent action, something that I am committed to myself, as a method for social change in the world that refuses to use violence in the process of transforming systems of injustice. 

However, neither of them are exactly one with what Jesus is teaching and emphasizing, so we shouldn't conflate them. What we see in the gospel stories is a way of life based on Jesus' life and teachings related to, but not the same as, pacifism and nonviolent resistance. 


Nya: How can we wisely and practically follow Jesus’ teachings about nonviolence today?

Drew: Some people see in the Sermon on the Mount [Matt. 5-7] a call to be a doormat and to let people do whatever they want to you. But, in fact, when you actually read carefully, it's almost the exact opposite. 

Jesus is teaching to an oppressed people who often would have been seen as having no agency and no way of responding to the insults and injuries that were happening to them. He's actually providing them with creative, peacemaking agency when it seems like no agency exists. So, for example, the whole idea to “turn the other cheek” [Matt. 5:39] is actually a situation where you would have been back-slapped as an inferior person in that society. To turn the other cheek is actually to be smacked as an equal, in the other direction. 

So, the idea is that even in this place, where someone who's a slave seems to have no agency, they do have agency in the moment. To go the extra mile [Matt. 5:41] is to actually break the rules of the Roman government. In terms of the Roman Empire, a Roman soldier was only allowed to force you to take his luggage one mile and no further. All of a sudden now you keep going the second mile, and now you're in control instead of the soldier. 

It’s the same thing with stripping down naked and giving your cloak away [Matt. 5:40]; it exposes the evil of the greed of the person that's taking every last bit from poor people. 

These are not things that Jesus is now expecting in all contexts at all times. It’s not even about doing those exact same things; it's about agency. It's about peacemaking and initiatives that are creative in our context. I think those are the kind of things that are really helpful for us as we seek to be peacemakers in our own society in creative ways that actually make sense for our own time. 


Nya: What tools can you give youth who are seeking to follow Jesus even as they are experiencing bullying in school or a social context?

Drew: In thinking about youth who might be bullied in their own context, especially young people of color, I want to honor how they can respond while being faithful as peacemakers in the way of Jesus. I have an acronym that I think might be helpful for them to carry with them: RAAP.

R stands for Rejecting Retaliation, or an invitation to heal. Reject hatred. This is an invitation for us to remember that we can choose healing over mirroring the actual actions of oppressors and bullies. That we have a choice to make and that we don't have to reproduce the very thing that's coming toward us. We can reject retaliation and hatred as Jesus invites us to.

A is Active Peacemaking, or an invitation to break cycles of violence. This invites us to engage in efforts that actually break cycles of violence. In particular, when we think about bullying, we can actually practice creative conflict transformation practices. [See resources list below.] I think that young people ought to be set in situations where they're practicing conflict transformation. They can practice thinking about how they're going to respond in the moment because no one's going to come up with it on the fly. There's lots of programs out there that are accessible to help with this. You can practice and develop skills and habits for conflict transformation.

A is for Affirm Their Humanity, or an invitation to honor Imago Dei. You don’t have to like everybody, especially folks that are doing you wrong. When Jesus talks about loving your enemies, it's not about sentimentality. It is an invitation to see their humanity and to see them as people made in the image of God. Everyone is more complex than the wrongs and harms that they cause, so how do we begin to affirm humanity—even of those that are doing wrong in the moment?

The first three—Reject Retaliation, Active Peacemaking, and Affirm Their Humanity—is actually focused externally toward the person that's doing wrong. But the last one is about the person being wronged.

P is for Protect Your Body, or an invitation to embrace belovedness. Protect your body because you are beloved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God actually took on human flesh, and in doing so, taking on a body, he affirmed the value of human bodies. I think that it's a mistake to believe that to be peacemakers your body now doesn't matter at all, or that it has no worth and no value. In fact, if you're being targeted precisely because there's a hierarchy, whether it be race or class or gender or whatever it is, that is a system which is already saying your body doesn't matter. God is not going to reaffirm that! God is challenging that. It's actually really important when you're being targeted, and you’re not voluntarily clashing with injustice, to be protecting your body because God values your body very much. 


Nya Abernathy, Founder of the Dignity Effect, sat down virtually with Pastor Dr. Drew G. I. Hart, author of Who Will Be A Witness? and Trouble I've Seen, for an exclusive interview with Pax to discuss the nonviolent ways of Jesus and what that means for us, and particularly for youth, in today’s context.


Nya: Christians sometimes use the concept of "take up your cross" to passively submit to or ignore bullying. How does the concept of “take up your cross” get misconstrued in ways that promote passivity in people experiencing bullying?

Drew: It's important for people to pay attention to what Jesus is inviting us into when he uses the language “take up your cross.” I think that it's easily misconstrued because what Jesus is actually talking about is a voluntary act; it's not involuntary. He's actually talking about a voluntary act in which someone accepts the consequences of intentionally disrupting systems of injustice. That’s what it means to take up one's cross. 

This is different than just being involuntarily crucified because you've been selected by the system, by a bully, or marked because of your race, your gender, your sexuality, and then targeted. Those are two different things. 

What Jesus does is he willingly confronts systems of injustice and accepts the consequences of that. It's very revolutionary in that sense, but it's not asking for people to just be picked on and targeted simply because of who they are. It's important for us to think about Jesus' language of the cross and not use it in ways that miss the fact that your life has value. Also, Jesus chose life over death multiple times throughout his life. He chooses not to die multiple times prior to his crucifixion, so death is not the goal. We should not conflate the language of “take up your cross” with an excuse to just submit passively to bullying. 

Nya: Can you tell us some of the similarities and differences between Christian discipleship, pacifism, and nonviolent resistance?

Drew: It's really important that we don’t conflate Christian discipleship with other systems that are very similar to Christian discipleship but are not always saying the exact same thing, even if they're related to one another. For example, you have pacifism, which is often framed as rules-based. It is too often operating out of a system of rules that suggests there must be the absence of violence in all areas of life. That's about not utilizing violence as the focus. 

You also have nonviolent resistance and nonviolent action, something that I am committed to myself, as a method for social change in the world that refuses to use violence in the process of transforming systems of injustice. 

However, neither of them are exactly one with what Jesus is teaching and emphasizing, so we shouldn't conflate them. What we see in the gospel stories is a way of life based on Jesus' life and teachings related to, but not the same as, pacifism and nonviolent resistance. 


Nya: How can we wisely and practically follow Jesus’ teachings about nonviolence today?

Drew: Some people see in the Sermon on the Mount [Matt. 5-7] a call to be a doormat and to let people do whatever they want to you. But, in fact, when you actually read carefully, it's almost the exact opposite. 

Jesus is teaching to an oppressed people who often would have been seen as having no agency and no way of responding to the insults and injuries that were happening to them. He's actually providing them with creative, peacemaking agency when it seems like no agency exists. So, for example, the whole idea to “turn the other cheek” [Matt. 5:39] is actually a situation where you would have been back-slapped as an inferior person in that society. To turn the other cheek is actually to be smacked as an equal, in the other direction. 

So, the idea is that even in this place, where someone who's a slave seems to have no agency, they do have agency in the moment. To go the extra mile [Matt. 5:41] is to actually break the rules of the Roman government. In terms of the Roman Empire, a Roman soldier was only allowed to force you to take his luggage one mile and no further. All of a sudden now you keep going the second mile, and now you're in control instead of the soldier. 

It’s the same thing with stripping down naked and giving your cloak away [Matt. 5:40]; it exposes the evil of the greed of the person that's taking every last bit from poor people. 

These are not things that Jesus is now expecting in all contexts at all times. It’s not even about doing those exact same things; it's about agency. It's about peacemaking and initiatives that are creative in our context. I think those are the kind of things that are really helpful for us as we seek to be peacemakers in our own society in creative ways that actually make sense for our own time. 


Nya: What tools can you give youth who are seeking to follow Jesus even as they are experiencing bullying in school or a social context?

Drew: In thinking about youth who might be bullied in their own context, especially young people of color, I want to honor how they can respond while being faithful as peacemakers in the way of Jesus. I have an acronym that I think might be helpful for them to carry with them: RAAP.

R stands for Rejecting Retaliation, or an invitation to heal. Reject hatred. This is an invitation for us to remember that we can choose healing over mirroring the actual actions of oppressors and bullies. That we have a choice to make and that we don't have to reproduce the very thing that's coming toward us. We can reject retaliation and hatred as Jesus invites us to.

A is Active Peacemaking, or an invitation to break cycles of violence. This invites us to engage in efforts that actually break cycles of violence. In particular, when we think about bullying, we can actually practice creative conflict transformation practices. [See resources list below.] I think that young people ought to be set in situations where they're practicing conflict transformation. They can practice thinking about how they're going to respond in the moment because no one's going to come up with it on the fly. There's lots of programs out there that are accessible to help with this. You can practice and develop skills and habits for conflict transformation.

A is for Affirm Their Humanity, or an invitation to honor Imago Dei. You don’t have to like everybody, especially folks that are doing you wrong. When Jesus talks about loving your enemies, it's not about sentimentality. It is an invitation to see their humanity and to see them as people made in the image of God. Everyone is more complex than the wrongs and harms that they cause, so how do we begin to affirm humanity—even of those that are doing wrong in the moment?

The first three—Reject Retaliation, Active Peacemaking, and Affirm Their Humanity—is actually focused externally toward the person that's doing wrong. But the last one is about the person being wronged.

P is for Protect Your Body, or an invitation to embrace belovedness. Protect your body because you are beloved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God actually took on human flesh, and in doing so, taking on a body, he affirmed the value of human bodies. I think that it's a mistake to believe that to be peacemakers your body now doesn't matter at all, or that it has no worth and no value. In fact, if you're being targeted precisely because there's a hierarchy, whether it be race or class or gender or whatever it is, that is a system which is already saying your body doesn't matter. God is not going to reaffirm that! God is challenging that. It's actually really important when you're being targeted, and you’re not voluntarily clashing with injustice, to be protecting your body because God values your body very much. ‍

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Excessive Force

Mondo Scott

Mondo Scott is the Creative Director at Pax. His other creative side hustles include design, photography and mentoring urban youth in the digital arts at AMP Los Angeles, where he serves on the Board of Directors. He also serves on the Pastoral team at Ecclesia Hollywood in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife Salena and daughter Selah.

Fred Sprinkle

Fred Sprinkle is an LA-based director and motion designer. He’s got an eye for the big-picture, a knack for problem-solving, and over a decade of experience leading teams and working freelance. And yes, Sprinkle is is real last name. See more of his work at https://windvanefilms.com/

On August 4th, 2020 at 4:13 pm, I received a text from my friend Fred Sprinkle. It simply read, “I’ve got a rough draft video to show you.” I replied, “Sweet! I would love to see it.” Without really knowing anything else, I was eager to see this “rough draft” because Fred was a very talented filmmaker and I was excited to see what he was working on. Not to mention, I felt honored that he was asking for my creative feedback. As soon as I heard a new notification ring in my email, I immediately opened it up. I was already a big fan of Fred’s work and loved the stories that he was telling through film, but as I began to watch this new project, I knew this was very different from his past work. I was instantly drawn in and felt the weight of this project.

At the time, our country was dealing with the awful realities of George Floyd’s public murder at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer, kneeling on his neck for over 9 minutes; 8 minutes of which were recorded on a cell phone. We all saw it. In Fred’s video, I was yet again watching a video of another brown body being mistreated and harmed by police violence, using the same tactic used on George Floyd. I found myself thinking, “Why have I not heard this story? Why isn't the news talking about this?” I then realized the urgency of the moment. This project was an act of creative solidarity with this victim of police violence and was an act to share this story with the public. 

As Pax’s directional team was creating and configuring this StoryArc on Nonviolence, I remembered this project and realized that Fred’s desire to use his creative craft in order to help advocate for the man that he didn't even know was proof of how followers of Jesus can practice creative nonviolence that cultivates holistic and redemptive transformation in our world. This project was the vehicle Fred used to expose the real injustices and threats coming from a broken legal system, which ultimately led to the freedom of a man named Jesús. Through Fred’s visual storytelling, he invites us to resist the personal and systemic urges to use excessive force against others and reimagine how a contemplative nonviolent posture might be a way in which Jesus wants to bring his healing work of Justice, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

To learn more about Chris Hoke and his work with Underground Ministries, visit undergroundministries.org

Pax StoryArc
Motion Resources

Thank you for journeying with us on this pathway towards a Jesus-Centered practice of Nonviolence. Before you leave, check out these additional resources that will equip and empower you as a disciple of Jesus. Each resource is designed around the practices of listen, learn, and live. Our desire is for you to take these guides, spiritual practices, and tools with you as you begin living like Jesus as peacemakers in our world.
FREE DOWNLOAD

From Silencing to Uplifting the Survivor’s Voice

by Nikole Lim and
Jean Nangwala 
View in Marketplace
FREE DOWNLOAD

In My Neighbor's Shoes

by Terence Lester and Kayla White
View in Marketplace
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