The Energy Continues

A little while ago, I wrote about The ‘Energy’ of Violence, in which I suggested that violence can never be fully and truly defeated by violence; it takes something much more powerful.

In response to this, my friend labalienne reminded us that the sort of argument I advanced in my original post must take into consideration the violence against women that, scandalously, so often gets brushed aside.

In response to labalienne’s excellent response, I’d like to offer three points:

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge that I was wrong.

My first instinct, when confronted with this point, was a kind of self-defence, arguing that this wasn’t what I was talking about and that I would never advocate a kind of ‘passive-ism’ that accepts but does not confront and expose such violence.

Such for my ‘mansplaining’.

My first response *should* have been unconditional listening.

The point that labalienne makes is all too real, and all too often ignored. Us men so often respond with #notallmen (or #notmyblogpost, it seems), without necessarily allowing the gravity of the point to sink in. This is real, and it’s disgusting, and we—I—need to listen to the voices of women far more attentively.

Secondly, I feel it’s necessary to post the links to the series of articles written by Julia Baird in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the topic of the theology of ‘submission’ and ‘headship’ in Christian marriage and domestic violence (labalienne linked to the first of these in her post, but the second two were not yet written):

  1. “Submission is a fraught mixed message for the church”
  2. “Doctrine of headship a distortion of the gospel message of mutual love and respect”
  3. “Church cannot afford to walk past domestic abuse”

Thirdly, and finally, I want to make a point that I should have in the original post.

I’m white. I’m very, very white.

Violence in our world disproportionately affects people of colour (and especially women of colour), and is all too often inflicted by white men—by people like me.

What we don’t need is for people like me to stand up and talk like we’ve figured out all the ‘solutions’. In my post, the examples I was thinking of as I wrote included a poor Jewish rabbi (Jesus of Nazareth), masses of Indians standing up to the might of the British Empire (Gandhi and his followers), the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., and the nonviolence outlined by (post-prison) Nelson Mandela.*

My job is not to suggest (or appear to suggest) that I have the answers to these things, but to point to those who have experienced such violence and who have overcome not through responding with violence of their own, but with something more powerful. I also need to acknowledge the very real bodily pain and suffering that they experienced, and those who lost their lives in the process (and I thank labalienne, again, for reminding me of this point).

I’d like to keep this conversation going, and I hope the points above are helpful.


* Yes, I am aware (and somewhat disappointed) that all the main examples that were in my mind (Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, Mandela) were male.


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Josh Dowton

Student of history/theology/nonviolence/permaculture/missional thinking. Large of limb, red of hair. Semper in excretia sumus, solum profundum variat.

2 thoughts on “The Energy Continues”

  1. Leymah Gbowee & Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with the women’s peace movement they led in Liberia, Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams, peace activist from Northern Ireland (Nobel Prize winners ’76), Mother Teresa of Calcutta, these women came to mind immediately when reading your list. And I appreciate that you acknowledge your list was composed of only men, but they weren’t white, that’s good for a white guy 😉

    “If we cannot recognize the truth, then it cannot liberate us from untruth. To know the truth is to prepare for it; for it is not mainly reflection and theory. Truth is divine action entering our lives and creating the human action of liberation.” James Cone

    When I reflect on my faith, experiencing the mystical dimensions have been and are truly liberating. Being called to blind obedience and acceptance of the hierarchy, I find oppressive and doesn’t move me to action. But the experience of life in the Holy Spirit transcends authority and the law. This is what has made me free from the results of violence in my life and helps me see the abusers need as the same as mine. Unless truth accompanied as Cone says ‘by divine action’ we aren’t creating permanent change in copious amounts of violence against women.

    Howard Thurman asks those on a spiritual journey towards societal change to be mindful that we aren’t conformed to patterns we would impose on others but to be “modeled and shaped in accordance to the inner-most transformation that is going on in our spirits.” In love, letting love guide, creates community with all aspects of life, which is not easy in a culture of domination, we have to practice that which connects education with spirituality or our inner world. I think in these places we will hear alternatives to ‘dominant culture’.

    Bell Hooks sums up what I have been trying to express. In her book Teaching Community says “ we bear witness not just with our intellectual work but with ourselves, our lives. Surely the crisis of these times demands that we give our all. To me, this “all” includes our habits of being, the way we live. It is both political practice and spiritual sacrament, a life of resistance. How can we speak of change, of hope, and love if we court death? All of the work we do, no matter how brilliant or revolutionary in thought or action, loses power and meaning if we lack integrity of being.”

  2. What does it mean to listen? Rosie Batty says that no one would listen to her before her son died, but after Luke was killed, everyone wanted to hear her story. I find that intriguing and rather shameful. As someone who has spent time listening to the diverse experiences of women, I know that it is challenging to develop an inner, open space that can accompany an ‘other’ in attentive and compassionate ways. To ask oneself, ‘whose voice can’t I hear and why?’ is a powerful question. Josh I have experienced you as a listener in this conversation, thank you.

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