Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Living as a Minority: Trade No One Evil for Evil

Retaliation is always justified in the mind of the retaliator. Insult or injury was given, so insult or injury must be returned. But as Mahatma Ghandi once said, "trading an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." For a minority, though, because we have fewer eyes, we go blind faster. And blind rage is the ultimate prison for the human soul.

I marvel at my heroes and heroines for their self-control in the face of persecution-- for their smiles at hate-filled faces, their kind words spoken into the high-decibel screaming of the culture they were born into. There are a few synthetic strands in their learning and their teaching, and the power of self-control is one of them.

To exert such self-control, one must know who one is; one must be able to stay within the bounds of what one can stand, and one must at the same time not cease to reach out to the offender, no matter how they respond.

The only way for a minority to win at the zero-sum games of worldly power is not to play-- and if one is forced to play, not to play by the world's rules. Jesus Christ taught this first and best (Thoreau, Ghandi, and King were only good students). Asymmetrical response throws off the plan of the aggressor, and forces thought to occur before violence can continue. Self-control defends that silent space/time for the aggressor to fully appreciate the humanity of his/her victim, and the true moral character of the action. Turn the other cheek is not simply a way of giving a new target-- by refraining from retaliation, the person who is the target gains the moral upper hand. To hit again, the aggressor must own the aggression.

This doesn't stop aggression-- Christ was crucified, after all. But in God's time, the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of a renewed Church.

We are willing to speak for Christ, but we are not willing to bleed for Him. We are willing to give of ourselves in His service, but we are unwilling to give ourselves wholly to His service. Jesus does not need new members of His Church-- He needs witnesses to His glory. The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word, "witness." That is what Jesus Christ is asking us to be.

My heroes and heroines were raised to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. The harsh majority could not strip them of the noble dignity with which He clothed them. Victor Frankl wrote that everything can be taken from a man except one thing: his response to the insult or injury. That cannot be coerced or controlled. There is nothing in being a minority that can strip from us our ability to witness to Jesus Christ.

Nothing will stop me from declaring His praise, from preaching repentance as preparation for His coming Kingdom, or from loving every person as He has loved me. No one ever will stop me, as long as there is breath in my body.

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