In a discussion about the film Selma, NPR's Linda Holmes notes that she grew up around Quakers, and she was interested in how the film showed the strategizing of use of non-violent tactics. She says, "Non-violence is not passive. Non-violence doesn't just mean you don't do anything. . . . There was a tremendous amount of strategy."
I plan to see the movie tomorrow, so today's blog post will not be about the movie. I wanted to think about non-violence, and how few of us are trained in non-violent tactics these days. And then I tried to remember how I was trained.
It wasn't in standard church youth groups. The most my youth groups did in non-violent training was to talk about peer pressure and how we could resist.
I got some non-violence training in Lutheran Student Movement retreats. But then we didn't go out and protest, so perhaps I'm remembering incorrectly. I remember a few events in the D.C. area where we went out to peacefully assemble and/or march, and leaders reminded us of what to do if the police showed up. I remember a retreat during that time when we were taught how to go limp and make our bodies heavy, should the police show up.
I've never thought about this before this morning, but the training I got in resisting peer pressure and resisting violence/arrest were remarkably similar in this one thing: I never really had to use that training, at least not in the ways that the trainers imagined. No one has ever tried to get me to take a drug. I am a white, middle-class (and now middle-aged) woman--I am allowed to assemble in peace.
Now that training has helped me in other ways, no doubt. I have always thought that if a rapist ever tried to drag me away, I know how to make myself even heavier than I am. Thankfully, that hasn't happened. But every day, I face peer pressure of some sort, but it's usually the pressure to join in the whining, the negativity, the suspicion of others in the work place. I'm not always successful in resisting that peer pressure, but at least I'm aware of it.
I think about church youth groups and how we might assume that once teenagers are older, they're safe from peer pressure. But the best churches know that believers will always be facing all sorts of peer pressures. They may seem not-so-dangerous, but they can be every bit as insidious as those shadowy peers offering me drugs that my church youth group leaders feared.
feeling the feelings…
6 months ago