Stories of Nonviolence: Purpose Driven Life and Crystal Meth

In 2005, Brian Nichols, a fugitive who had murdered three people while escaping from a courthouse was on the loose in the Atlanta area. You might have heard about this on the nightly news or possibly how it ended. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

asyley-smith-pic-largeIt was later learned that around 2:00 a.m. on March 12 Nichols approached a woman named Ashley Smith in the parking lot of the Bridgewater Apartments. He pointed a gun at her and said “If you do what I say, I won’t kill you”. He forced her inside her apartment and reportedly told her that he was a wanted man. Nichols forced her into the bathroom and tied her up with an electrical cord and duct tape. He placed a hand towel over her head while he took a shower (so that she wouldn’t have to watch him). She was sitting on a stool with the towel around her eyes when she told him about her five-year-old daughter Paige and how she was supposed to visit her that day. Thinking she may never see her daughter again, she tried to reason with him.

Smith was held hostage for several hours in her apartment, during which time Nichols requested marijuana, but Smith told him she only had “ice” (methamphetamine). In her book Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero, Smith revealed that she “had been struggling with a methamphetamine addiction when she was taken hostage,” and the last time she used meth “was 36 hours before Nichols held a gun to her and entered her home.” Nichols wanted her to use the drug with him, but she refused.”[13] Instead, she chose to read to him from the Bible and Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. She tried to convince Nichols to turn himself in by sharing with him how her husband “had died in her arms four years earlier after being stabbed during a brawl.”[14] Smith also writes that she asked Nichols “if he wanted to see the danger of drugs and lifted up her tank top several inches to reveal a five-inch scar down the center of her torso — the aftermath of a car wreck caused by drug-induced psychosis. She says she let go of the steering wheel when she heard a voice saying, ‘Let go and let God.’”[14] When news of his crimes was reported on television, Nichols looked to the ceiling and asked the Lord to forgive him. Nichols said he needed to get the stolen truck away from the apartments so he told Smith to follow him in her car while he drove Agent Wilhelm’s pickup truck away from the apartment complex. She asked whether she could bring her cell phone and he said she could but she never placed a call for help. She picked him up after he dropped off the truck and drove back to her home with him, she said. Her decision had a purpose: She feared that he would kill more people if she did not do what he said. She had taken it upon herself to end the manhunt. After they returned to her apartment Smith cooked breakfast for Nichols. She began to ask him if she could leave to go see her daughter and he finally agreed. When Nichols let Smith leave her apartment that morning to visit her daughter, Smith placed a call to 9-1-1 at 9:50 a.m.

I’m not encouraging the use of Meth or the Purpose Driven Life to desuade your attackers, but it’s another example of a person reacting to a dangerous situation nonviolently.

Thrift Store Bandits

thrift-store-sign-by-pixeljonesI went on a bit of a shopping spree Monday. Yes, I like to go shopping every once in a while, particularly when I have a good sized list of things to be on the look out for at the thrift stores. Every holiday our local thrift, Unique, has a 50% sale on everything, and their prices are already really low. I like to buy pretty much everything I possibly can second-hand, so thrift stores, craigslist and ebay are my go to places for shopping. And, I try to be pro-active, thinking of things we might be on the lookout for in the future so I can keep my eyes out before it’s too late and we end up buying it new (gardening tools for instance).

Here’s a brief rundown of Monday’s purchases for $50: 5 kids bicycles, 3 wide brim hats, 4 pairs of shorts, 2 t-shirts, 3 sets of curtains (pottery barn), 1 floor rug, 1 pair of sandals, 1 set of sheets, 3 kids aprons, a giant bed canopy/tent for the kids and a stove top popcorn popper. (nice huh?)

Anyways, on to the point of this post. I had this idea a while back and I want to finally try and bring it to fruition, and wanted to encourage others to as well. This is the basic idea. I usually have a list of about ten items that I’m hoping to find at the thrift store, but don’t come across them on multiple trips. And they just stay on the list. In talking with others most people inevitably have this problem. Either it’s a hot item and doesn’t seem to stay on the shelf for long, or its rare and you only stumble across it every so often. And when it’s just you going every so often there’s a far smaller chance you’ll ever get those items your looking for. Solution: The Thrift Store Bandits.

Imagine if you had a group of people in your neighborhood (or just a collection of friends) who all had your list of items that you were looking for. I might hit up the thrift store once a month, but so do three of my other friends and together that’s four trips to thrift stores (sometimes different ones) with eyes peeled for that random item your looking for (maybe a coffee grinder). Brilliant huh?

All it takes is a collective list that  you circulate amongst neighbors or close friends (ideally people you see on a frequent basis). I even went ahead and set one up using the same website I use for For those who live near me and want to participate just go here. If you live anywhere else (maybe Nashville), just let me know and I’ll start a page for you. After that you or anyone else can edit and add their name and list to it.

Now, next time your heading to the thrift store you just have to print off your local bandits page and keep your eyes out for the items on your friends list. When you find something for them, purchase it and drop it off. How easy is that?

YouTubesday: Heroic CEO’s and P.H.A.T.W.A.

(If You are reading this post via email the videos will not show up. If any of the titles are interesting to you please visit the site and view them here, just click on the link above)

This guy is a great example of ethical business dealings, especially at the top. It’s a five minute or so interview of a CEO who didn’t take his billions and run when a fire at his factory caused the place to go bankrupt.

This is a great music video by an Arab-Canadian hip-hop artist. Sorry I couldn’t find the lyrics anywhere, you’ll just have to listen close.

YouTubesday: Beatboxing and Feminism

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A Feminism Survey: Men on the Street

This girl has amazing beatboxing skillz, she recently won the world beatboxing competition.

So, apparently there’s this cool webshow with Amy Poehler called Smart Girls at the party. Here’s one where they interview a 7 year old feminist:

Can Christians Support and Participate in War?

ploughshare In 2005, my senior year at Wheaton College, in my ‘Christian Thought’ class, I participated in a debate on the topic: “Christians can Support and Participate in War.”

I was on the CON side, in line with my still being formed beliefs on what a Christian stance regarding war should be. I like resurrecting old writings and so I figured I’d share my opening statements from this debate I had in my college class. I’m not sure if I would hold so strongly to some of my points any more, but as this was a debate amongst Christians who believe the Bible is authoritative, I think these are still decent opening statements. I figure, as this Stories of Nonviolence series continues, there will inevitably be questions regarding the topic and I want to put this post as sort of the discussion point for the topic. Here are my opening lines:

Christian men and women, we have entered the battlefield. The true test has come: Will you follow the instructions of your commanding officer or act on your own judgment of the situation? It could be that from your view in the trenches His commands will result in the terrible death of many and even the triumph of the enemy over you. Will you, instead, respond in the way you discern is most in line with what He would have commanded if placed in your situation?

This debate is not a debate of effectiveness. It is irrelevant whether one side or the other would have been more or less effective of a response, whether in Nazi Germany or Saddam in Iraq. We must rest solely in the faith that following the commands of our God, who has revealed himself in Scripture, will result ultimately in the greatest good.

We believe that the scripture is inerrant and infallible; it is here that our debate lies. Whether His Word calls for us to take up arms is what we are here to debate, not whether this human action or that will result in the loss of less lives.

As Christians we are not to waver our beliefs based on the most current events. It is not because of Christianity’s rationality, reasonability and logical that we hold it to be true; we follow Scripture because we confess Christ as Lord.

Our Discussion is to be based on the Bible. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc. 12:13)

We also are not advocating that we do nothing. Pacifism does not equal passiveness. The same God that has told us to “love our enemies” has also told us to “do justly.” We hold each of those commands to be true and relevant, but we do not think they come in conflict with one another. We are here to say that war is not an option open to Christians. What options are open is extremely important, but it is not the discussion we are to have here. In fact, my earnest hope is that you will see what I believe to be true in the scripture, that is, that war is not an option, and will begin to think about and discuss what options there are.

We are in the trenches, and are loyalty is being tested. Do you believe that your commanding officer, the Sovereign God of the universe has in mind the best interest of you, your ally and your enemy? You would do good to follow His commands.


“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” I Cor. 1:25

Stories of Nonviolence: A Soft Answer

I return this week to an individual story, this one has been around for a while, from Terry Dobson a fourth degree black belt:


The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedge rows.

At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer’s clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.

Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.

I was young then, some 20 years ago, and in pretty good shape. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I like to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.

"Aikido," my teacher had said again and again, "is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it."

I listened to his words. I tried hard I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chimpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.

This is it! I said to myself, getting to my feet. People are in danger and if I don’t do something fast, they will probably get hurt.

Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized a chance to focus his rage. "Aha!" He roared. "A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!"

I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.

"All right! He hollered. "You’re gonna get a lesson." He gathered himself for a rush at me. A split second before he could move, someone shouted "Hey!" It was earsplitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it – as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he suddenly stumbled upon it. "Hey!"

I wheeled to my left; the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.

"C’mere," the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. "C’mere and talk with me." He waved his hand lightly. The big man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, "Why the hell should I talk to you?" The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.

The old man continued to beam at the laborer.

"What’cha been drinkin’?" he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest. "I been drinkin’ sake," the laborer bellowed back, "and it’s none of your business!" Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.

"Ok, that’s wonderful," the old man said, "absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she’s 76, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree had done better than I expected, though especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!" He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling.

As he struggled to follow the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. "Yeah," he said. "I love persimmons too…" His voice trailed off.

"Yes," said the old man, smiling, "and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife."

"No," replied the laborer. "My wife died." Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. "I don’t got no wife, I don’t got no home, I don’t got no job. I am so ashamed of myself." Tears rolled dow n his cheeks; a spasm of despair rippled through his body.

Now it was my turn. Standing there in well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.

Then the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. "My, my," he said, "that is a difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it."

I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.

As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.


By Terry Dobson, from What Would You Do?

A Discussion Of Means, Not Ends

meanssomething I’ve started a series on stories of Nonviolence, basically sharing real life stories that I’ve heard over the past few years that tell of creative nonviolent responses to crime and violence. The reason I began these posts was that in my conversations over the last several years it seems quite rare that people have ever heard of actual creative nonviolent responses, aside from maybe the Civil Rights movement in the USA.

My posts last week talked about Nonviolent movements against the Nazi’s during World War II and was taken from a book called The Powers That Be, by Walter Wink. I hadn’t given the jump from personal actions to nations and states much thought before I posted. But, having received a couple comments from readers who both know their history and politics better then I do, I wanted to take a moment to clarify my position on nonviolence, particularly my stance from a faith perspective.

As a follower of the teachings of Christ, the discussion of war and pacifism is not a discussion of ends. We are not to choose are course of action based on what we think the possible or hypothetical ends of an action are (there are probably situations where you can do this, but I don’t believe this is one of them). Certainly if I was not a Christian, not some one who believed in the teachings in scripture and the person of Jesus Christ , I would more then likely primarily consider the ends to choose my course. For myself though, I believe that the means are more important then the ends we might conceive of. That, ultimately the end does matter, but what is important is that we are moral and just in our means or will never have a truly moral and just end.

We see numerous examples in the Bible where a choice was made based on means (as they saw God had called them to) rather then the ends that seemed likely. Daniel in the Lions den, Moses going to Pharaoh, Abraham venturing out, Stephen who was stoned, Jesus being crucified, and Paul going to prison. The most clear example probably is Rack, Shack and Benny (care of VeggieTales), when they refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s God. The ends seemed quite obvious even to them: They’d be burned up in the furnace. But they knew clearly they needed to follow what God had clearly called them to regardless of the outcome; and we were all quite surprised at the outcome.

This is my point: If pacifism is what God clearly calls us to in the Bible, then we must follow it, regardless of how irrational it might be from our worldly (and even historical) perspective. My purpose behind sharing stories of nonviolence on this blog is not to prove nonviolence as a viable means to a ‘successful’ end, though I think that will be shown in many of the stories. Rather, my point is simply to tell these stories so that the concept of nonviolence movies from an abstract fantasy to a more concrete possible reality in others minds.

All this is to really say this, Wink could be wrong on his assessment of the ‘success’ of nonviolence against Nazi Germany. It could be argued based on our history and ones outlook on human nature that nonviolence is simply not a viable alternative to violence, but that will not alter my opinion on it being what followers of Jesus Christ are supposed to do.

(This post was adapted from one I wrote a while back, that has an interesting comment thread worth checking out). [photo credit]

Story of Nonviolence: Resisting the Nazis

Nazi Postcard (Front) by PUL.Nazi Germany is often mentioned when I have conversations regarding nonviolence, particularly related to it on the international level regarding war. I’m going to again quote The Powers That Be, by Walter Wink, at length. This is a great and brief summary of the nonviolent action that effectively resisted the Nazis:

The brutalities of the Nazis stand for many people as the ultimate refutation of nonviolence. Surely, they reason, only violence could have stopped Hitler. The facts indicate just the opposite. Nonviolence did work whenever it was tried against the Nazis. Bulgaria’s Orthodox Biship Kiril told Nazi authorities that if they attempted to deport Bulgarian Jews to concentration camps, he himself would lead a campaign of civil disobedience, lying down on the railroad tracks in front of the trains. Thousands of Bulgarian Jews and non-Jews resisted all collaboration with Nazi decrees. They marched in mass street demonstrations and sent a flood of letters and telegrams to authorities protesting all anti-Jewish measures. Bulgarian clergy and laity hid Jews. Christian ministers accepted large numbers of Jewish “converts”, making it clear that this was a trick to evade arrest and that they would not consider the vows binding. Ron Sider and Richard K. Talor comment, “Because of these and other nonmilitary measures, all of Bulgaria’s Jewish citizens were saved from the Nazi death camps.”

Finland saved all but six of its Jewish citizens from death camps through nonmilitary means. Of 7,000 Danish Jews, 6,500 escaped to Sweden, aided by virtually the entire population and tips from within the German occupation force itself. Almost all the rest were hidden safely for the balance of the war. Denmark’s resistance was so effective that Adolf Eichmann had to admit that the action against the Jews of Denmark had been a failure.

The Norwegian underground helped spirit 900 Jews to safety in Sweden, but another 756 were killed, all but 20 in Nazi death camps. German wives of Jews demonstrated in Berlin on behalf of their husbands in the midst of war, and secured their release for its duration. In Italy, a large percentage of Jews survived because officials and citizens sabotaged efforts to them over to the Germans.

During the Nazi occupation of Holland, a general strike by all rail workers practically paralyzed traffic from November 1944 until liberation in May 1945–this despite extreme privation to the people, who held out all winter without heat and with dwindling food supplies. Similar resistance in Norway prevented Vidkun Quisling, Hitler’s representative, from imposing a fascist “corporative state” on the country.

The tragedy is that even though nonviolence did work when used against the Nazis, it was used too seldom. The Jews themselves did not use it, but continued to rely in the main on the passive nonresistance that had carried them through so many pogroms in the past. And the churches as a whole were too docile or anti-Semitic, and too ignorant of the nonviolent message of the gospel, to act effectively to resist the Nazis. –The Powers That Be, Walter Wink, p.151-153

[photo credit] [quote typing credit]

Child Marketers: Exploiting Children Like It’s Their Job

“They even follow them into the bathroom. I interviewed a number of people who sat and watched children take baths and showers, watched how they interact with shampoo and soap and health and beauty products as that category is called, in order to go back and write a report for their clients on what to do with the packaging. It’s creepy. It’s just absolutely creepy the way children are being dissected and put under the microscope by marketers.” –Juliet Schor, referring to Child Marketers, in Consuming Kids

It’s no secret that your kids are being marketed to, you and I can point to ways we ourselves were marketed to, but it hasn’t caused the concern or action it probably should. It really is more then innocent marketing, our children are being exploited for profit without interest or concern for their overall well-being, simply for the bottom-line. This should bother us.

An estimated $15 billion dollars is spent each year marketing to children under the age of 18 in the United States. Given that there are only 74 million kids in that age group, that means corporations are spending roughly $200 per child in advertising. You’d better believe they aren’t blowing $200 on your child without knowing they are going to make far more then that back. And if your one of those invincible, unfettered-type who haven’t let advertising affect your purchasing, then that means they are making double their money off the kid down the street.

This isn’t the same as marketing to adults. Most children under the age of 10 don’t understand persuasion. They don’t understand that the smiling kids on the commercial are paid actors following an elaborate script with the soul purpose of making them want a product. They don’t understand that when they’re told by their favorite character that this junk food is fun or tasty or cool that it’s a deceptive scheme, not an honest opinion. We know when we see a celebrity or athlete promote a product that it’s an advertisement (that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective), but children don’t. Imagine you discovered that everything your trusted mentor (maybe a pastor) had ever said to you was in an attempt to get you to purchase certain items. You’d be shocked and appalled wouldn’t you?

This is something we as parents need to be proactive about. We need to be aware of the influence marketing and advertising has on our children and how we can combat it. We also need to be aware of how we can be advocates against this exploitation in our schools and daycares as well as in the media. The blame and ‘responsibility’ is often put on the parents, but the marketers and corporations bear responsibility too.

“It’s akin to a owner of a large fleet of trucks announcing that ‘our fleet of trucks from now on is going to be barreling down the road, especially where children are, at 150 miles an hour. Parents watch out. It’s your job to take care that your children don’t get hurt.’ No one would argue, in that case, that the owner of the fleet of trucks doesn’t bare any responsibility at all.” –Enola Aird, Consuming Kids