Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/26 Post

Just a quick comment on "Jesus is Lord."

This came up in my comparative religion class at Middle Tennessee State. We were discussing the Koran, and a very devout and fundamentalist Christian student responded to the question, "How do we know which Holy Scripture is the true Holy Scripture" with the following:

"Since Jesus is Lord and Savior the Old Testament is true because it predicts the coming of Jesus, and the New Testament is true because it affirms that Jesus is Lord, but the Koran is false because it does not affirm Jesus is Lord."

This is the kind of hubris that breaks my heart and feeds the darkest ignorance. I know for a fact that I could have gotten the same kind of response from Muslims and Jews, so this isn't about Christianity. It is about the way we approach religion and spirituality.

I am grateful to have a friend like you with whom to talk about these things.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's 11/25 Post

Well, when you put that way (nicely phrased, by the way), I do not think we disagree on the outcome of transformation by God. You wrote: "This is what I take transformation to be about: not a willed surrender to a fixed way of being, but a surrender of the will as a prelude to a new and unprecedented way of being more fully filled with God and godliness. This transformation cannot be an act of the conditioned will, and must be the result of grace--the surrender of the will to God by God." We agree. Once again, we've bumped up against the limits of written conversation. Thanks for unpacking the matter.

As for Christians and anti-Semitism, I hope I did not overstate the case. The mindset the two of us bring to interpreting scriptures remains a minority mindset at the present time. I dare hope it is growing in influence and that it will be the majority mindset in the near future.

Humility coupled with love is the ultimate value for a God-oriented person. It's a safeguard (not infallible, but useful) against using texts to coerce others to accept our own agendas.

Yes, if we accept the idea that we must assign different values to various portions of scripture, we also must recognize that anyone can elevate a given text according to his or her personal perspective.

Classic convictions of our respective faith traditions may help guide us. For example, the earliest Christian confession of faith is "Jesus is Lord." That core confession draws us to pay attention first to the stories of Jesus, to try to understand and love and follow Jesus. This tends to lead us to judge other scriptures on the basis of Jesus. Christians who start with Revelation, violence-supportive Hebrew scriptures, or even the writings of Paul miss the mark. Jesus, from a Christian perspective, is the Great Corrective or Standard. It is possible to read Christian history as the story of how we Christians forget this is so, only to rediscover it.

Enjoy Thanksgiving. We'll pick up with the conversation next week.

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/24 Post

I was surprised to hear that you think we differ regarding “transformation by the power of God.” This must be due to the way I word things, because I do indeed believe in this transformative power. Here is how I understand the matter.

Basing my understanding of God on Exodus 3:14 where God reveals the Name Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, I shall be what I shall be, I take creativity to be an essential attribute of God.

God is forever surprising Him/Her/Itself by manifesting new and unprecedented ways of being. I think this is why God uses the process of evolution: evolution is nothing if not the on-going experiment with new and surprising life forms. I think the aim of evolution is the eventual manifestation of a level of consciousness that not can be surprised, but knows what surprise it, and sees it all around. On this planet at this time that life form is human. We are the way God gets the world to say, “Wow!”

We participate in the creativity of God when we, too, step out of our conditioned selves to be in the world in new and unique ways. This is what I take transformation to be about: not a willed surrender to a fixed way of being, but a surrender of the will as a prelude to a new and unprecedented way of being more fully filled with God and godliness. This transformation cannot be an act of the conditioned will, and must be the result of grace—the surrender of the will to God by God.

I am certainly pleased to hear that anti-Semitism is on the wane in Christianity, and also intrigued by your notion that we can assign different values to different texts in the Bible. I agree with both points, and find the second vital to salvaging biblical religion from god-sanctioned violence. The problem is that anyone can elevate any text at the expense of any other.

For example, I value those teachings of the Bible, Jewish and Christian, that speak to universal justice and compassion, and devalue those that do not. But I know Christians who value the Book of Revelation over the Sermon on the Mount, and posit a very violent Christianity that seems absolutely at odds with Jesus as I read him. And I know Jews who read the entire Torah in light of God’s promise of the Holy Land, and use that promise to excuse terrible injustice against Palestinians. And then there is the historical case of Baptists (for example) splitting over slavery in pre-Civil War times. Some cited Scripture to prove slavery is God-sanctioned and other quoted different Scripture to prove it is not. So we are left with people using Scripture and God to promote their own agendas.

This is why, for me, the ultimate value in religion and theology is “humility.” A classic Jewish commentary on Micah 6:8 (“walk humbly with your God) asks why does the Torah say “your God” rather than simply “God.” The answer is that each of us has our own idea of “God” whose purpose is to serve our egoic desires. It is this “God” with whom we have to walk humbly, recognizing that “my god” isn’t God, but only my understanding of God. You are right that we “cannot rid ourselves of theology,” but we can recognize it for what it is: me creating god in my own image for my own ends.

Last thought: focusing on the stories of Jesus. I couldn’t agree more. The stories about Jesus and the stories/parables Jesus tells are timeless and vital to anyone seeking to explore the deepest/highest aspects of spiritual transformation. I would couple these with the Islamic stories of Mullah Nasrudin, Hasidic tales, the Taoist stories written by Chuang Tzu, and a few others to create a world story bible of universal wisdom.

I will have to mull that project over for a while. In the meantime, Mike, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and deeply transformative Advent.

Mike: Response to Rami's 11/19 Post

Actually, I think we're very nearly agreed about our capacity to separate feelings from actions. Confrontation versus controlling, raising questions, learning to see new possibilities, the opportunity for new feelings to develop, the realization that all life is interdependent--we're on the same page. We differ, I think, in that I harbor an additional hope: transformation by the power of God. The difference, of course, roots in our individual understanding of God.

Anti-Semitism is the core sin of the Christian movement. You're right. It's embedded in the background perspective of Christianity's scriptures, and Christians (across the centuries)bear responsiblity for failing to deal with the matter. Refreshingly, many Christian scholars now take the historical context of the New Testament's development seriously. The "Emergent Church" movement does as well. Over the next few decades, I expect such a perspective to become the majority viewpoint among American Christians.

Our discussion of "the dark side" of God seems to have two different threads. On the one hand, the bible stories you mention depict God as the source of various evils, always in the service of some so-called larger purpose. If we read the Bible as a flat text, that is with all parts having the same value and validity, we have no choice but to assign responsibility to God.

The alternative is to assign greater and corrective value to some texts. Many of us in Christianity insist on evaluating all biblical texts in light of what we think we know of God as revealed in Jesus. On that basis, we reject any theology that requires God to endorse genocide, murder, and the like.

All of which to leads to another point, one you put well: "...God and theology are not the same thing." You're right.

We cannot rid ourselves of theology. So long as we think and feel, we will construct theologies. That being said, Christians would do well to focus on the stories of Jesus. When we do so, we find most classic theologies challenged at many points. The example you cite (the significance of the cross) is a prime example. When I take Jesus seriously, I see in the cross and resurrection a declaration of God's boundless love for all people, a love which cannot ultimately be defeated. When we see, admit and accept this love, we are increasingly free to attempt to practice such love ourselves.

We've covered a great deal of ground in a few short paragraphs. If there's more to be said, have at it. Otherwise I'll plunge into the next text.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/18 Post

It looks that we will never agree on our capacity to separate feelings from actions. I suspect you mean something far more profound than I do in this regard. Just imagine how much worse the world would be if people acted on every feeling that arose in their psyches. It is bad enough as it is. Nevertheless, I am very much in favor of “confronting our feelings” rather than controlling them. To confront our feelings inevitably leads to questioning them, and questioning them leaves open the possibility that they are inappropriate or that if we based our behavior on them our behavior would be inappropriate. This requires a high level of self-awareness.

And with that level of awareness comes the opportunity for new feelings. When we operate from the reptilian brain we are all about sex, war, and food. Regardless of what or whom we meet we are going to mate with it, battle it, or eat it. But this is a low level of human functioning. The higher mammalian brain calls us to love, altruism, caring, and compassion. When this brain dominates our feelings are elevated. And when we operate form the highest brain justice and righteousness also come into play. As we move from lower to higher brain functioning we expand our sense of “neighbor” and community.

I think there is an even higher “soul sense” that biologists cannot find that lifts us into the realization that all life is interdependent, and that to love my neighbor as my self is to realize that my neighbor includes all life, sentient and otherwise. I believe that Jesus and other God-realized prophets call us to this level of spiritual awakening.

Just a quick comment on Christian anti-Semitism. The Gospels, like all books sacred or otherwise, have an agenda, and, given the history of their time, part of that agenda was to paint the Jews as the enemies of Jesus even to the extent of blaming them rather than the Romans for his murder. The fact that this kind of thinking continues is an indictment of Christian education; a reluctance to read their sacred texts in the context of history. This is changing with the scholarship of people like Marcus Borg, Bishop Spong, and Dominic Crossan, but it is a slow process.

To be a Christian and an anti-Semite is to attack Jesus’ mother, brothers, the apostles and Jesus himself. But for too many Christians the realization that Jesus was a Jew and that his religion was Judaism is a shock, and perhaps too much to bear.

The notion that God has a dark side is difficult for many people to understand, let alone accept. Even your reference to Paul sidesteps the issue, though I am in full agreement with your notion that both rah and tov must die in the resurrected self.

Few of us doubt that people have a dark side, but that is only half of what I am saying. God has a dark side. It comes out in the Book of Job, in the Flood story, in God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate God’s power, and in all the acts of God-sanctioned murder and genocide in the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Revelation.

In my classes at MTSU when the subject of God’s love comes up students want to argue that God is love and that love is absolute. But then what do we do with the notion that if not for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross God would condemn all humankind once again? And what do we make of the notion of God condemning the vast majority of humanity (and most Christians by some accounts) to eternal damnation. I would never do such a thing. Can it be that I am more loving than God?

I doubt it. What I offer my students is the notion that God and theology are not the same thing. If God is love, religions are not. Religions and theologies reflect the agendas and biases of their all too human creators. I don’t believe Jesus called us to religion, but to God, and the God he spoke of in his parables is not the damning brutal God of so many theologians.

My opinion is this: we have too many priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, and swamis and not enough God.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's 11/13 Post

Interesting, isn't it, how we are driven toward certain questions, whether we're dealing with the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, or the body of the Sermon on the Mount? At least three resurface in your post: the matter of feelings, Jesus' creative use of existing themes in the Judaism of his time, and the light and dark sides of God.

Let's start with feelings. As I've noted at other times, I deeply appreciate the possible distinction between how we feel and how we act. We can choose to act lovingly toward enemies, regardless of our feelings. Doing so, though, still requires that we recognize and confront our feelings and judge hatred (and its kin)wanting. Over the long haul, I'm not convinced we can maintain a separation between feelings and actions. Jesus, in my opinion,recognized this reality. In "good Jewish fashion," he began with actions, but it seems clear from the tone and content of the Sermon of the Mount that he also dared hope feelings could be transformed as well.

Both of us probably could provide (or find)testimonies from those who have experienced such transformation. To my mind, such accounts matter. They strongly suggest our feelings can change, or be changed. Jesus' vision moves beyond the question of controlling our feelings. He seems to call us to yearn for new and better ones. This particular topic gets caught up in the larger Christian dream of a life made new by God.

As to Jesus' creative use of Jewish themes, I think we are in full agreement. The very idea makes some Christians uncomfortable. A few probably harbor a bit of antisemitism. Most, though, are guilty only of muddled thinking, the kind that insists Jesus's perspective and teachings must stand alone, divorced from historical setting or precedent. Such thinking ignores the implications of the Incarnation, to put it gently.

The light and dark sides of God--now there's a matter that has deep roots in Jewish history and interesting outbreaks in Christianity's story. We've played with Yetzer haTov and Yetzer haRah in previous posts. Christian scholars began to wrestle with the topic as they became better acquainted with rabbinic writings. Some Christians speak in terms how light must always cast a shadow. Personally, I think the concept lies in back of the Apostle Paul's confession that he does not always do what he wills to do, not to mention his insistance that the "fleshly person" must die that the "spiritual person" might live.

We may be close to a functional agreement on what to do with our two natures. You write, "Maybe we can understand Jesus' command to be perfect to be a call to recognize our dual nature and place rah in the service of tov, just as God softens His judgment with His compassion." From my perspective, rah and tov both must die in favor of a "resurrected" and unified self, characterized by grace and strength and genuine wisdom, by a new life devoted to the worship and service of God.

These, of course, are deep matters. I am not certain I've yet found the language to express them well. Ah, yes...that's one of the purposes behind our conversation!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/13 Post

There is no doubt that this is a challenging teaching. Let me go into it slowly, beginning with the notion of “hate”.

As you said, Mike, the Hebrew Bible doesn’t enjoin us to hate our enemies, but I doubt Jesus has the Bible in mind here. He is living under brutal Roman oppression, and may well be addressing the hatred Jews have of their Roman occupiers. Translating his teaching into our time would be as if Jesus were calling us to love the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

And then there is the question of Luke 14:26, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” And John 12: 25, “Those who love their life, lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” In these passages Jesus seems to be obligating his followers to hatred. How are we to understand this?

Then there is the notion of “love”. Is Jesus talking about feeling loving toward our enemies? Or, in good Jewish fashion, is he talking about acting lovingly toward them? For example, Exodus 23:4 commands that if you find your enemy’s ox or donkey you have to return the animal to him or her regardless of how you feel about the person. Since we cannot control our feelings— indeed by the time we recognize that we have feelings that might need controlling we have already felt them— there is no point in commanding certain feelings. But we can control our behavior. Hence Proverbs 25:21, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”

But I may be too narrow in my thinking. Proverbs 24:17-18 does seem to speak to feelings: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles,” so maybe there is a way to control our feelings even if I can’t find one.

And then there is “pray for those who persecute you.” This, too, is found in the Torah Jesus learned. Moses prays for Pharaoh five times (see Exodus 8:24-27, for example); Job prayed for his enemies (Job 42:9), David prayed for Saul (I Samuel 24:12), and Jeremiah urges the Hebrew people to pray for the Babylonians (Jeremiah 29:7).

My point here is simply that Jesus is not inventing a new way of living, but rather gathering threads from his Jewish culture to weave a new Judaism bearing his special emphasis.

It is Jesus’ last admonition—“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”—that I find the most challenging. You are taking this to be “mature” or “complete,” by which I guess you mean something like “be consistent in your loving actions toward your enemies, as God is consistent when He shines the sun upon the good and the evil alike.”

If this is what Jesus means, then I think we can all work toward this level of moral consistency. But what if he does mean something more? What if, as you say, “perfect” means “complete,” and “complete” means “whole,” and “whole” means inclusive of opposites?

God seems to have a light and dark side. He can be loving and wrathful. The mere fact that there is a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden suggests that there must be some evil to know. Where could that come from if not God? God is the source of all reality, and reality is comprised of opposites: up and down, in and out, right and wrong, good and evil, mercy and judgment, etc.

Being made in the image and likeness of God, we, too, have these opposites embedded in us. To be perfect, whole, complete, is to recognize what Judaism calls our Yetzer haTov and Yetzer haRah, our innate capacity for good and evil respectively. According to the rabbis both capacities are necessary for human life and flourishing. Evil, rooted in concern for the self, is the yeast that motivates us to marry, raise a family, and run a business. It is called “evil” because if taken to extremes, that is if left untempered by our capacity for good, it can lead to terrible abuses in marriage, family rearing, and business practices.

Similarly the capacity for good is rooted in selflessness, and, unless balanced by the capacity for self-focus, leads to loss of self and failure to achieve anything of value to regarding oneself or one’s community. To be a successful human each inclination must be yoked to the other. In effect, the Yetzer haRah is the energy for doing, and the Yetzer haTov is the direction that insures our doing is for the good.

Maybe we can understand Jesus’ command to be perfect to be a call to recognize our dual nature and place rah in service of tov, just as God softens His judgment with His compassion.

Mike: Matthew 5:43-47

"You have head that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-47) (NRSV)

The test of true religion is how we act toward those who hate or harm us, or whom we have been taught to treat as enemies.

"You shall love your neighbor" is drawn from Leviticus 19:18. "Hate your enemy" presents a problem. To the best of my knowledge, this specific language is not found in the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, any number of passages acknowledge the existence of such feelings. Going beyond texts, I think it reasonable to conclude many a parent taught their children to observe both maxims. Frankly, it's human nature.

Which, of course, is Jesus' point: "What more are you doing than others? For someone of the Christian tradition, the injunction to love and pray for even enemies narrows our options. At the very least, if we take Jesus seriously we're forced to examine our typical reactions.

Rami, I took this matter seriously even as a child. The rural school I attended featured serious divisions among the students. To be frank,all students had friends and enemies. Your enemies could (and usually did) hurt you, not only in terms of shunning and teasing but sometimes to the point of physical violence. Naturally, we were tempted to buy into the system, choose our side, and go to war.

I wanted to do so, but each time I started down that road I stumbled over this teaching of Jesus. Sometimes I got up, shook the dust from my sneakers, and plunged into the fray. More often, though, I chose not to hurt "my enemies." Worse, I felt compelled to try to help at least some of them in the ways available to me: a kind word, a bit of help with homework, choosing them for a sports team, and the like. To put it mildly, such behavior was not well received by my "friends." I wish I could honestly say that all the teachings of Jesus took hold so strongly during my youth!

Looking back, I now know I was being granted a taste of the loneliness which comes to any of us who depart from the norm.

The scripture passage teaches that those who follow Jesus' injunction may "be perfect" even as God is perfect. A better translation might be "mature" or perhaps even "complete." Love in action, without regard for the categories of friend and enemy, completes a follower of Jesus. In our better moments we remember this is so. Too often, we forget.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/10 Post

This is what makes our dialogue so much fun! We agree just enough to be able to speak meaningfully to one another, and disagree just enough to be able to learn constructively from one another. I agree with everything you said. So let's move on!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's November 4 Post

We, indeed, are in substantial agreement. As for your suggested additions and revisions, here's a brief response.

1. Agreed. Let's expand the maxim to include all creation.

2. I chose the term "flirt" with considerable intention. The sexual/relational connotations rest on insights from some of the prophets.

3. We differ a bit on the matter of pacifism. Insofar as I can tell, pacifism (which is a logical component of nonviolence)is the ideal of Jesus. When we take up weapons, we fall short of the ideal. I forsee no possibility of the ideal being realized at the corporate level, though individuals may on occasion attain it. The ideal, though, pushes us to make violence a last resort rather than a preemptive or first response.

4. We agree.

5. We agree.

6. Upon reflection, I think you are correct! The one caution I would urge is that we be careful not to indulge in self-righteousness when evaluating other's response to evil.

7. We agree.

8. We agree.

As for the remainder of your interesting post, as you know we hold different assumptions. From my perspective, all scriptures must be read and evaluated in light of what we believe we know about Jesus. When it comes to the Hebrew Bible texts you mention, my assumption drives me to at least two conclusions. First, the teachings and actions of Jesus make it impossible for me to maintain that God sanctions such violence. Second, I tend to think much of the Bible is a record of how humans apprehend or misapprehend God. God, to my way of thinking, gets a great deal of bad press, taking the blame for decisions made by humans, all of whom were conditioned by the culture(s) of their day.

Both of us, I think, argue that violence is part of the human heritage, ingrained in us both by genetics and culture. Controlling our violence is commendable. Transforming our natures, or from my perspective experiencing such transformation in partnership with God, remains a legitimate hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/3 Post

I don't have a complimentary list, Mike, and I find yours very helpful. So let me just work with that.

1. That which dehumanizes you or others is evil. This is a fine definition as far as it goes, but I would like to go beyond the anthropocentric and that anything that debases life is evil. Now we can include human acts of animal cruelty and environmental degradation as acts of evil as well.

2. Do not flirt with such evil or pretend it can be accommodated or tamed. I love your choice of verb. To “flirt” has a sexual connotation that may indeed be apropos, though we would have to flesh it out (yes, pun intended).

3. Never take up the weapons of evil to resist evil. Are weapons used in defense of oneself and one’s people evil? I admit to not being a pacifist, so this idea is a difficult one for me to accept.

4. Accept the necessity of personal suffering. There is a cost for resisting evil. If we are not willing to pay it, we cannot succeed.

5. Embrace humility. Humility is the antidote to pride, and pride is the fuel of much evil. I love the prophet Micah’s insight: “walk humbly with your God, (Micah 6:8). Why “your God” rather than just “God”? Because, so say the rabbis, each of us has our own idea of God and none of us has the whole of God, so Micah is telling us to be humble about our faith and our certainty.

6. Do not presume to judge how others respond to evil; be content to live out your vision. I have no problem with making judgments, and I believe there are evil responses to evil (torturing of prisoners, even terrorists, being one example). So I would argue that if we have a standard for resisting evil we should use it to measure the quality of other resistant movements as well.

7. Do not, in your mind or deeds or words, dehumanize your oppressors--treat them as you wish they treated others. This is one application of your first principle, and I wholeheartedly agree. There is an interesting documentary on the dehumanizing propaganda of the Japanese, Germans, and Americans during WWII. The Nazis dehumanized whole groups: Jews, Gypsies, Americans; the Americans did the same with its racist anti-Japanese cartoons; but the Japanese themselves limited their attacks to the Allied leadership and not all Americans or Europeans. Dehumanizing groups is the first step to annihilating them.

8. Make nonviolent resistance to evil a life's work. I agree. One who is only occasionally nonviolent is not nonviolent at all. Nonviolence isn’t a tactic.

• • •

So we are in substantial agreement regarding your list, but let’s not stop here. We are assuming that nonviolence is indeed the ideal, but why make that assumption? Especially when dealing with a sacred text that has God sanctioning the most horrendous acts of genocide.

God seems to have no problem with violence as long as it is done at His behest. God’s destruction of all land-based life outside the Ark (Genesis 6-9); God’s promise to drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites (Joshua 3:10); God’s sanctioning the murder of all the men, women, children, and animals of Jericho (Joshua 6:21); God’s command to commit genocide against the people of Amalek (1 Samuel 15;1-3); and the murder of all nonbelievers in the Book of Revelation make it clear that God is not a God of nonviolence. Can Jesus’ single teaching that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword (Matthew 26:52) turn the tide against the Murderous God of the Bible?

Since I believe the Bible is of human origin, reflecting the best and worst of what we humans are capable, I would argue (nonviolently of course) that violence is part of our DNA, and that seeking to impose nonviolence on instinctually violent creatures such as ourselves is itself an act of violence.

The question for me is this: Can we transform ourselves rather than simply control ourselves when it comes to violence? Can we literally change our minds and hence our responses? Can we, to use New Testament terminology, put on the mind of Christ, (1 Corinthians 2:5; 2:16)?

I think we can. When we cultivate a capacity for contemplative self-observation; when we can look at our capacity for violence without reacting; then we can be free from this instinct and be in the world in a new way.

Short of this truly revolutionary step, I think we can rely on the Golden Rule and refrain from doing unto others what is abhorrent to ourselves.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mike: Reply to Rami's 10/21 Posting

Your post put me to thinking about guidelines for those who embrace a "nonviolent way to resist an unjust system of oppression." I think, as you might imagine, that one resists not only systems but individuals. Here's a first draft of my list.

1. That which dehumanizes you or others is evil. No so-called necessity, philosophical or political difference, or vision of society can justify dehumanization.

2. Do not flirt with such evil or pretend it can be accommodated or tamed. Many have tried such approaches and failed. Inevitably, those who do so wind up supporting or ignoring evil for the sake of some supposed long-term good.

3. Never take up the weapons of evil to resist evil. Do no violence. Remember that the weapons we use may ultimately define or redefine us.

4. Accept the necessity of personal suffering. You may be hit, arrested, imprisoned, exiled, or killed. Suffering is the price you pay for nonviolent resistance to evil.

5. Embrace humility. Nothing is stranger than a pride-filled nonviolent prophet.

6. Do not presume to judge how others respond to evil; be content to live out your vision.

7. Do not, in your mind or deeds or words, dehumanize your oppressors--treat them as you wish they treated others.

8. Make nonviolent resistance to evil a life's work--occasional nonviolence accomplishes little.

Well, it's a start. Do you have a list?