Maybe Violence Is Necessary Sometimes

For quite a while I’ve had the moral principle of non-violence being necessary for the way of the Christian. Taking cues from John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas I had come to the belief that violence cannot be redemptive. Violence breeds more violence and that we should turn the other cheek. Resist, yes. Resist with violence, no. Christ took the world’s violence upon himself on the cross and showed us a new path celebrating non-violent resistance.

I just finished reading Black Against Empire and Nelson Mandella’s autobiography. I think there is a flaw in the arguments for non-violence. Mandella said that he was all for non-violence as a tactic to gaining his freedom, but when he realized it wasn’t going to work, or it was going to cause more violence to be pointed at his people then he was willing to leave it behind. Non-violence was a tactic not a moral principle.

Which really makes me wonder. Can non-violence actually be more repressive than violence? What happens when the perpetrators take advantage of a non-violent struggle to inflict more violence? This certainly was the case in the civil rights movements and in apartheid South Africa. Is the answer to tell 13 million black people to non-violently deal with 3 million white people who were oppressing them, torturing them, stealing their country, splitting them up and forcing them into some of the most horrendous conditions humans have known? I’m no longer sure that is the best answer.

The one’s who are afraid of violence in these cases is the oppressor. Of course they want non-violent resistance! That way they can carry on in their violent ways killing and destroying anyone that lies in their path. Who are we to tell an entire population group to use non-violence to obtain what was taken from them in violence? Are 13 million black people supposed to hold to a moral that will lead to their own death?

I’m beginning to be inclined to think that any group of people who have gone through what blacks have gone through in the past century at the very least could garner the support of us white, wealthy folks to stand up for themselves until they achieved their freedom instead of us telling them how they should go about doing that so we don’t get hurt in the struggle. Non-violence can easily become a tool of the oppressor’s propaganda meant to paralyze and demoralize. In these cases, if those oppressed deem violence necessary, who are we to stand in their way?

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