This 90-page book attempts "a revolutionary new approach to theology for a revolutionary situation." Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, attempts a new interpretation of Jesus'' teaching on violence. The first book of this trilogy was The Powers and the third is a fuller treatment of this little volume called Engaging the Powers.
Generations have been influenced by the King James translation of Matthew 5:39: "Resist not evil." The translators commissioned by King James obviously did not want the king''s subjects resisting governmental authority. When they translated "antistenai" as "resist not," "they were doing something more than rendering Greek into English. They were translating nonviolent resistance into docility" (p. 13). In the three illustrations that follow we have oppression to which retaliation would be hopeless. In each case Jesus suggested creative responses that put the oppressor on the defensive-much the way Martin Luther King''s enemies and Gandhi''s foes were put in difficult and losing situations.
According to Wink, "Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His third alternative is not even touched by those options."
JESUS'' THIRD WAY
- Seize the moral initiative.
- Find a creative alternative to violence.
- Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person.
- Meet force with ridicule or humor.
- Break the cycle of humiliation.
- Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position.
- Expose the injustice of the system.
- Take control of the power dynamic.
- Shame the oppressor into repentance.
- Stand your ground.
- Make the powers make decisions for which they are not prepared.
- Recognize your own power.
- Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate.
- Force the oppressor to see you in a new light.
- Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective.
- Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws.
- Die to fear of the old order and its rules.
According to the author, "Even if nonviolent action does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor, it does affect those committed to nonviolence." This small book continues with chapters entitled, "The Pragmatic Case for Jesus'' Third Way in South Africa," "The Theological Case for Jesus'' Third Way in South Africa," and "Visions of the Future." Illustrations of aggressive nonviolence come from Scripture, India, World War II, and the civil rights era. The book closes with voices of hope from South Africa: "In South Africa we found the greatest hope among blacks. ''I''ve never seen hope displayed as it is today,'' said one black community organizer. ''Whenever people go out they know some will die, but it doesn''t stop them.'' " The author adds, "Many whites we spoke with felt only despair. Significantly, those who did not were, in every case, actively related to the black community."
- The theory of aggressive nonviolence is obviously not original with Walter Wink. These concepts were worked out by Gandhi, King, Alan Boesak, and Bishop Tutu. But they are presented here with clarity and brevity.
- How to deal with oppressive force is an issue to be faced by every human being alive-if not for ourselves, for brothers and sisters facing death and dehumanization around the world. We cannot be fully human without developing global and personalized strategies of resistance.
- Young people have a natural tendency to identify with the "underdog." The media enjoy dramatic problems. Youth need also to grapple with solutions.
- Oppressed victims looking to the church should find more than injunctions to passivity. Passivity in Christian spectators is especially offensive.
- This book is a valuable guide for Lenten forums, adult education, youth groups, and family discussions.
Dean Borgman cCYS