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A Guide to Christian Resistance 

by John Pairman Brown 

One morning John Pairman Brown woke up to 
discover that he was living in occupied territory. 
After extensive discussion with Establishment 
types and revolutionaries around the world, he 
wrote The Liberated Zone for men and women 
who "see a resistance movement going on in their 
neighborhood and would like to make the scene." 

John Pairman Brown writes as a theologian to 
call our attention to the global crisis of violence 
that has made us aliens in our own country. "Our 
awareness of violence comes from quite particular 
things: sewage in streams, TV commercials, get- 
ting fired, 'guns and sharp swords in the hands of 
young children."' 

To become naturalized citizens in a free world, 
says Brown, we must resist the many forms of 
exploitation and violence: nuclear proliferation, 
the population explosion, technology, colonialism 
in Viet Nam and in the ghetto. These forces have 
attacked and disrupted our social and biological 

In the context of politics, religion, semantics, 
biology, and history. Brown defines the nature of 
occupied territory and the steps we can take to 
establish a liberated zone of love, a "hopeful 
nucleus of church reunion, social renewal, and 
environmental restoration, both here and on a 
planetary scale." 











Richmond, Virginia 

Scripture quotations from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible are 
copyrighted 1946 and 1952. 

Standard Book Number: 8042-0823-9 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 69-14679 

@ John Pairman Brown 1969 

Printed in the United States of America 

For Chuck Jones, 

who lived with the writing, 

and for all his buddies. 


The big difference Gutenberg made is 
that now, when a writer sees his words in the 
unfamiliar type of galley proof, he wants to 
explain about his new thing that he's done. 
What the reader finds in his hands is people's 
theology, in as close to our American tongue 
as I could put it. By theology I mean the 
most important things a man has to say — a 
man who stands where things are happening. 
And what's happening today is that people, 
for better or worse, are taking matters over 
from an Establishment into their own con- 
trol, and don't propose to relinquish them. 

Some theology is international, written 
by men in whatever tongue was convenient: 
Aquinas, Calvin, Tillich. We shouldn't let 
ourselves forget that Jesus and Paul really 
had no mother tongue either. Still it's easier 
to admire the author who expresses the aspi- 
rations of his people in its own idiom. If we 
ask for a more or less systematic work, con- 
ceived in the rhythms of the English language, 
and concerned with the actual problems of its 
own time, after we've said Richard Hooker 
in Britain and Reinhold Niebuhr in America, 
we hesitate before naming others. And these 
men give us not people's theology but official 
theology; they were the advisers, at one or 
two removes, to princes. 

So I send off my book as a counter- 
Establishment theology, in our provincial di- 
alect, called out by the Viet Nam war: a 
transposition of Hooker or Niebuhr into a 
minor key. This is not self-deprecating. In 
the history of Israel, the career of Jesus, the 
course of the Church, we see the apostolic 

8 Preface 

succession of love flowing along the same electric cable as imperial 
history, but with a 90-degree difference of phase. Minor is the right 
thing to be. It's the unique key to wisdom, which the authorities of 
Mordor can take away only from those who cooperate with them. 

These chapters represent the first (or background) semester of 
what I meant to cover with my seminarians at the Associated 
Theological Schools in Berkeley. Each chapter has its own history, 
and the whole is something of a mosaic. If there are cracks in the 
mortar, I hope it's because the individual squares were hard and 
well-cut. On pages 17-19 I outline the argument of the whole; here 
I record previous states of each part. 

Chapter I, which traces out the contemporary crisis of vi- 
olence, is a late report to Tom Hayes and the Episcopal Peace Fel- 
lowship, who helped me go round the world via Prague and Hanoi 
in fall of 1967 — as well as to my patient SDS traveling companions. 
It records the failure of an expatriate at readjusting to the managed 
American environment; and revises downward the honor which 
Gibson Winter and Harvey Cox pay to the metropolis as bearer of 
the future. With the kind permission of Prof. F. J. Trembley of 
Lehigh University I've used his unpublished paper "Environmental 

Chapter II summarizes the understanding of ancient history, as 
providing both the cause and the cure of violence, which I worked 
out with my students at the American University of Beirut from 
1958 to 1965. Traces appear of scholarly hobbies: Phoenician cul- 
ture, the common Mediterranean vocabulary, the reconstruction of 
the Synoptic tradition. Prof. George Field of Berkeley has helped 
with cosmology, and K. A. Wittfogel's Oriental Despotism with 
the meaning of irrigation-control in ancient society. I conclude with 
an attempt to define the importance of Jesus' innovations in strictly 
historical terms. 

Chapter III, on revolutionary nonviolence, is the expansion of 
a paper done in February 1967 for the Department of Christian 
Social Relations in the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. 
My best thanks are due to the Rev. Herschel Halbert for making 
me write down these views, which are not necessarily to be associ- 
ated with him or the Council. The reader will have available for 

Preface 9 

comparison, as I did not, the full text of James W. Douglass' The 
Non-Violent Cross. 

Chapter IV refines a study of the way divine names are used 
which Tve read at various philosophy coUoquia. I propose that the 
linguistic analysts and the death-of-God people should sit down 
and read the ancient texts which are our only clue to the intended 
meaning of language about the Gods. They'll find, I think, that all 
along they've been doing the same thing as classical scholars, and 
that each can learn from the other. Insistence on historical method 
leads to an actual contemporary translation of the noun "God." 

Chapter V radicalizes my essays on Church renewal and re- 
union which have appeared in The Christian Century, Malcolm 
Boyd's The Underground Church, and elsewhere. The National 
Council of Churches and the Consultation on Church Union are 
asked to recognize that the era of Constantine is finished, and that 
their assigned job — replacing violence by reconciliation — is actually 
being done by the Civil Rights Movement, the American Friends 
Service Committee, the National Mobilization to End the War in 
Vietnam, Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, the Re- 
sistance, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. 

I have the Rev. Deaconess Esther Davis, Lynda Barbour, and 
my much put-upon wife to thank for a rush job of typing. At one 
point I had some personal possessiveness about this text; I was 
cured of it by my kind editors, who through applying intelligence 
to the MS have liberated the argument to speak for itself. It's some 
kind of an augury that the work of a maverick Yankee Episcopalian 
can come out from an official Southern Presbyterian press. 

I'm aware of having produced a mostly impersonal and ideo- 
logical study of historical movements. An earlier book was personal 
and disengaged. I'm pushing ahead now to do something which will 
be both personal and committed: spelling out the individual con- 
sistency which is the necessary interior of any social change for the 
better. But putting books into print is just a by-product of the main 
job: helping people get built together in communities where history 
and nature, the cathedral and the forest, will once again begin to 
make the same kind of sense. So a number of these observations al- 
ready rest on my work at the Free Church of Berkeley, with (be- 

10 Preface 

sides many others) Tony Nugent, Glee Bishop, and Dick and Joy 
York, whose courage earlier made the writing of these pages pos- 
sible. And if a group somewhere wants to organize itself along 
anything like the lines here suggested, Til be glad to come on and 
consult with them up to the limits of my energy and skill. 


November 2, 1968 

All Souls' and third anniversary 

of Norman Morrison's death by fire 


/. The Escalation of Violence 13 

1. Introduction 13 

2. Violence against the biological environment 19 

3. Violence by proliferation 25 

4. Violence in the human family: the oppressed 29 

5. Violence against our tradition 36 

6. The Establishment as the scene of violence 39 

7. Violence and freedom 44 

//. The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the A ncient World 49 

1 . Knowledge of the human past as centered in the word 49 

2. The ancient Near East and its writing 57 

3. The birth of freedom in the city-state 61 

4. The corruption and transcendence of freedom 65 

5. The New Testament: archive of the dispossessed 71 

///. Revolutionary Nonviolence 87 

1. The demands of justice and love 87 

2. False and true police power 92 

3. The bankruptcy of world war 101 

4. The myth of the end of the world 107 

5. Violence in a people's revolution 112 

6. The scene of our actual power 123 

IV. Speaking About God 131 

1. The grammar of wisdom 131 

2. The presence of divine names in ancient texts 139 

3. God and the Gods as source of innovation 146 

4. Nonviolence as guarantee of the resurrection 150 

v. Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 161 

1. The true form of community 161 

2. The breakdown of the Church Establishment 165 

3. The secular Peace and Liberation Movement 174 

4. A liberated Church in America 179 

5. The functions of a renewed Church 188 

6. Resistance and revolution 196 

For Nature herself will be liberated 

out of enslavement to corruption, 

into the glorious freedom 
of the sons of God. 

Paul, to the Romans 8:21* 

* Unless otherwise indicated. Scripture quotations are the author's translations. 



1. Introduction 

(a) On living in occupied territory 

This book is written for men and women 
who, Mke its author, woke up one morning 
to discover they were Hving in occupied ter- 
ritory; who see a resistance movement going 
on in their neighborhood and would hke to 
make the scene. 

TTie crisis is global, and the ulceration 
which has surfaced here might break out 
wherever human beings misuse potentially 
unlimited power. Still Americans have 
unique guilt and opportunity. And not all of 
them are accustomed to thinking under- 

Is this language literal or metaphorical? 
The New Testament raises the same prob- 
lem; are its evil Principles supernatural enti- 
ties or Roman imperial officials? Asking the 
question that way obscures the actual data — 
a pervasive demonic exploitation exercised 
through the institutions of an established 
State. By adopting the terminology of peo- 
ple's revolution I claim it as the valid politi- 
cal language for our time, and go back to an 


old tradition of using political language for a more-than-political 
declaration of independence. 

The student hasn't enrolled in a course of lectures, but a semi- 
nar — the product of extensive discussion with both Establishment 
types and revolutionaries around the world. I'm not conscious here 
of altering the analysis in a previous book, The Displaced Person '5 
Almanac, except so far as the crisis has become more acute, and 
our involvement deeper. The refugee and the guerrilla are intended 
to be passive and active symbols for the same character. As the 
world judges, the same man can't be both victim and revolutionary. 
But the new mode of living which is folly to Greeks and scandal 
to Jews can only be grasped by such pairs of complementary im- 

The demonic powers which have infiltrated our society are 
entrenched in ourselves. A Christian Resistance is one on its guard 
against dangers from its home territory. I saw no reason not to 
name it after its historical origin. And so these pages are intended 
as a practical manual for my brothers and sisters in setting up a free 
Church around them. 

Unlike other animals, we're learning to recognize the signs of 
order and disorder in nature. In our own society they are harder 
to identify. Only a Jagerstatter saw that something stunk in Hitler's 
Germany, only a Luther guessed that a Reformation was in the 
womb. In America of the sixties, the mass media have trained us 
to expect that if something is decaying or coming to birth they'll 
be the first to tell us about it. But out here on the frontier of the 
liberated areas, we Western types must learn to roll our own. 

Our Vietnamese opponents possess a reputation for being sus- 
picious. They certainly have the duty of suspecting political agree- 
ments brought by Westerners for their signature. But in fact no 
nation known to me is further from applying any principle of guilt 
by association. I can't think what people at war before has opened 
its heart to citizens of the aggressor power — and not merely revolu- 
tionaries boring from within, but uninfluential academic pacifists. 
So it happened that, during an involuntary period of leisure, like 
many others I had the shattering experience of receiving hospitality 
at the hands of the enemy, which has colored everything I've writ- 
ten here. If being given free access to Hanoi was propaganda, I wish 

The Escalation of Violence 15 

the United States would start propagandizing, on a scale propor- 
tionate to her resources, among her Socialist sisters. 

When 1 began writing a year ago, 1 still found it necessary to 
persuade myself that something had gone wrong, to trace each 
tendril on the grapevine of dissent. Since then photographs of burn- 
ing Washington, of counter-insurgency in Chicago have gone 
around the world. I send the typescript to the press, knowing that 
before it appears in print an American president will have been 
inaugurated over the protest of American youth; but also that what- 
ever action he takes on this unbelievable war, its damage to 
America will already have been done. We will know and the world 
will not forget that ours was a society whose institutions could offer 
no effective resistance to genocide until it had been going on for 

We must fix it firmly in our minds that saving face will not be 
a change of heart. The war wasn't an accident or a temporary 
aberration. The counter-insurgency policy was fixed; the napalm, 
CBU's, Huey Hogs, black boxes, etc., were stockpiled or lined up 
in a development schedule; men stood ready to be slotted in at their 
controls. It might have happened anywhere. In fact it is happening 
and will continue to happen in many places. Viet Nam was the first 
place somebody stood up and said No to us. Our first order of 
business is digging down to the frame of mind in ourselves that 
acquiesced in the ghetto and foreign adventures. 1 attempt here to 
draw up a rough sketch map of the terrain. 

(b) The fixed ground of our alienation 

If radiation were killing our kids before our eyes or our enemy 
were offering only nonviolent resistance, we'd have no doubt we 
were on the wrong course. But it would be too late to change. If 
we hope to act constructively, we can't ask for a clearer situation 
than the one we're in. When I was little I had the idea that newspa- 
per stories were about a different kind of people from us — unlucky 
or important ones. But to pretend that we live in a neutral zone 
where we can watch other people raise moral questions is finking 
out. It won't do any longer to be recruited into prefabricated slots 
— the only kind the alumni secretary knows how to record. 

Every road, if you follow it to the end, leads into the middle 


of the city. Mysteriously, most of us don't follow any road; we need 
to be waked up into manhood. The situation is more critical than 
we reaHze until we investigate: the police are more brutal, the 
pollution of the Great Lakes has gone further. At the same time, 
things are more hopeful than we dared believe; without the newspa- 
pers having taken cognizance of it, a fluid liberated zone has been 
demarcated in the heart of occupied territory. For better or worse, 
things are more highly colored than we imagined them in our 
fallout shelter against history. All we have to do is go out and look. 
Nobody can do it for us. 

Students have always put down the authorities, one way or 
another, in their persuasion that limitless possibilities lie ahead. 
Senior citizens, now as formerly, follow the road map to Retirement 
Mesa, and watch the shape of their death rise up like the Rockies 
across the plains. It's the middle-aged who're most conscious of 
living in revolutionary times, that the rules are being changed while 
they're playing. Such times used to be occasional, as in the six- 
teenth century, when a long overdue parcel of changes cracked the 
brittle institutions, and Catholic grandparents were stranded and 
useless bringing up Protestant grandchildren. But now we're stuck 
in the final phase of terrestrial evolution where a man dies in a very 
diff"erent climate from the one he was born in. By a Newton's Law 
of scientific discovery, the uniform force of curiosity produces a 
constant acceleration in the level of knowledge. 1 remember as a 
four-year-old looking at the front page of Lindbergh's Atlantic 
crossing spread out on the floor. Now my kids anticipate watching 
the first moon explorers on live space TV. 

Summer cottages on Martha's Vineyard used to have out front 
a spherical mirror called a gazebo in which you could see nearly 
the whole universe. Recently they've all gotten smashed; we need 
a new model. This book is for people who've seen clearly that 
they're getting an unreliable picture — so clearly that no plausible 
TV commentator will ever be able to wrap them up again. 

If you go back to the town where you were brought up and 
can't find it anymore, or don't fit in there now, you're alienated, 
a foreigner in the one place you thought you belonged. Not merely 
has it changed, so have you, and it's not easy to find a more suitable 
place. This uncertainty is the Gibraltar we build on. 

The Escalation of Violence 17 

If having gotten lost is alienation, a name for getting straight- 
ened out would be naturalization: i\\Q process (if any) by which we 
could work ourselves back into someplace we belong, an appropri- 
ate environment. The metaphor here comes in the first place from 
international law, where naturalization is a transfer of citizenship. 
We're driven to metaphor because we're not certain of the correct 
route; if we knew the route we'd already be taking it. The things 
that concern us most intimately can be defined only in the sense 
that the cowboy defines the steer by tossing a lasso at it. 

The country you were born in is the most obvious label to 
describe where you belong. We grew up possessing citizenship in 
something called the United States of America. But in many ways 
it's become just a scene of exploitation, and the law it's so proud 
of only marks it as the inheritor of earlier imperialism. 

By naturalization I mean, further, the process of regaining 
conditions of life clearly indicated by global biology; for exploita- 
tion is also directed against our past and against our natural envi- 
ronment. So far as we fail to find a citizenship, a historic continuity, 
a home on the planet, it's our right and duty to organize committees 
and send in our representatives to the Administration, however 
unsympathetic — demanding the right to take out first papers in an 
authentic society, to rediscover our tradition, to renew the ecologi- 
cal order. 

Our awareness of alienation isn't generalized; it comes from 
quite particular things: sewage in streams, TV commercials, getting 
fired, black angry faces, 

. . . guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children. 

It's always connected with some kind of violence, with going 
against the grain of something. Most things are like wood; their 
parts are laid down in a definite direction; they have grain. It's 
violence to force people into jobs they don't want and won't be 
happy in. Violence is marked by inexpertness and impatience, as 
when children use screwdrivers for levers and bend them. Some- 
body is responsible for the alienation; it may be us. America hasn't 
got a monopoly on violence; but it's centered here, more dangerous, 
more accessible — and our responsibility. 


The rest of this chapter analyzes the fixed starting point: our 
awareness of violence. Our inventiveness has escalated violence 
against the biological environment through pollution, overuse, in- 
dustry; so far, the conservation movement hasn't achieved priority 
in our imaginations. The danger is at its most intense in the forms 
of proliferation: population explosion and nuclear explosion. In 
America also is centered a violence against oppressed populations; 
we've become the inheritors of colonialism at home and abroad. 
The counter-violence of liberation movements generated in our 
time at least has justice on its side. The technology which makes 
these kinds of violence possible becomes in its automation and 
mass-culture itself a violence against our tradition. The scene of this 
violence is an interlocking set of institutions which I call the Estab- 
lishment. Our cue is to start counter-institutions operating inside 
it, where we can get our personal futures back in our own hands. 
The great sign of hope is the jelling of individuals into a Resistance. 
Violence came into being in the ancient world through freedom — 
and violence in turn elicited a new emergent out of freedom. The 
toxin generates its antitoxin. 

In the succeeding chapters I've tried to compact stepping- 
stones, one at a time, in the four-dimensional chaos out of which 
is hatching the First World Revolution. Chapter II attempts to 
make ancient history, and in particular the Gospels, again available 
to us. Our rediscovery of imperialism makes the Roman Empire 
living history and renders the work of Jesus intelligible as a re- 
sponse to that exploitative society. Chapter III vindicates his revo- 
lutionary nonviolence as the appropriate response to our situation. 
His symbolism of the end of the world is seen as pointing in a 
genuine way to the meaning of technology. Chapter IV endeavors 
to put language about God at our disposal again as the natural way 
to describe the emergence of radical novelty in history. 

Chapter V faces up to the fact that the tradition of the radical 
Jesus comes down to us in an Establishment Church. The contem- 
porary Movement for peace and liberation is seen as the authentic 
bearer of the Spirit for our times, standing in a complementary 
relation to the Church. Church renewal and solidarity with the 
Movement are the key to each other. We see the beginnings of a 

The Escalation of Violence 19 

liberated Church in America, carrying out resistance against the 
Establishment (including the official Church), above all in the area 
of conscription. For the purposes of our realistic action, that Liber- 
ated Zone is the most hopeful nucleus of Church reunion, social 
renewal, and environmental restoration, both here and on a plane- 
tary scale. 

Of course it's presumptuous to think about these subjects. 
Even more presumptuous, for us inheritors of violence is not to 
think about them. 

2. Violence against the biological environment 
(a) Air and water pollution 

When the air makes our eyes hurt or gives us asthma, we feel 
out of place. Something has gone wrong to produce the famous 
stink of Secaucus, N.J. — or the red vapor swirling around the flood- 
lit shrubbery of Pasadena homes, like nitrous oxide in a retort. 
Ancient people thought the atmosphere was alive; certainly in our 
lungs it makes the difference between a live man and a dead one. 

The atmosphere might be called the lungs of the biosphere — 
the mantle of life enveloping this planet. The proportions of oxygen 
and carbon dioxide regulate the balance between animals and 
plants, oxygen consumers and oxygen producers. Organic life and 
the air are interdependent results of planetary evolution. 

Combustion of fossil fuels has perhaps increased carbon diox- 
ide in the air 10 percent in this century. By a "greenhouse effect" 
this may warm the air enough to melt the polar icecaps one day 
and raise the sea level several hundred feet. Near our cancerously 
growing cities combustion adds other foreign products. The Lon- 
don fog, condensing around carbon particles from fireplaces, in bad 
weeks causes more deaths of heart and lung patients than acute 
poisonous fogs like the one of Donora, Pennsylvania, in 1948. The 
Los Angeles smog is a California novelty — a complex gas photo- 
synthesized along the sunny freeways into greater toxicity, and 
mixed with the colloidal particles spun off from braking tires. 

European history persuades us the city was meant to be the 
environment of "civilized" man. Our discomfort in Southern Cali- 
fornia proves we don't belong in these cities anyway; we're alien- 


ated from our environment. Medicine can only treat the symptoms. 
Air-conditioning purifies small volumes at the cost of burning fuel 
somewhere else to make electricity, and so polluting the air further. 
The problem isn't bad air but too many people. The atmosphere 
happened to be the commodity in shortest supply which gave out 
first — land could be cannibalized from orange groves, and water 
from the entire Southwest. (In Bombay, food gives out first; in 
Manhattan, space.) The foreseen heavier smog promises to increase 
the danger in unforeseeable ways; we know (even if we can't com- 
pute it) that a big enough concentration would make life impossible. 

This is a spectacular local problem. But we can easily imagine 
ways to pollute the atmosphere overall — at once or through centu- 
ries — where the pollution could no longer be reversed by drying 
up the source. In a few years the atmosphere did throw off Kraka- 
toa's explosion. This doesn't mean that, in the millions of years we 
should look forward to, it can keep absorbing a stream of the same 

Likewise there is little clean water left in America; industrial 
and animal wastes of all sorts are constantly being dumped into 
rivers, lakes, bays. If the atmosphere is our respiration, we can think 
of our waters as the circulatory system in an organism of fixed 
magnitude, a living spaceship. Two billion years of evolution have 
elaborately adjusted the habitat and its living occupants to each 
other. The compositions of seawater and soil are interrelated, the 
bee and the orchid that imitate it, forests and rainfall. We give the 
name ecology to the science which studies plants, animals, and the 
environment as an organic whole. Our economists haven't yet 
learned from the ecologists that a constantly expanding economy 
is unsuitable for a sphere of finite area. 

(b) The environmental crises 

The rapid spread of our species and its technology around the 
planet has produced in our century a whole series of environmental 
crises. Our treatment of air and water is only one feature of a 
massive physical interference with the environment; reversible, if 
caught in time. Thermal pollution near cities and factories destroys 
much of the original aquatic life. Perhaps two percent of continen- 
tal United States has been waterproofed; the effects on water runoff 

The Escalation of Violence 21 

and heating of the earth are as yet uncertain. Noise is also an 
environmental pollutant; the proposed supersonic transport will 
create regular sonic booms along its path, destroying our quiet, and 
with unknown long-term effects on other creatures. 

A second type of environmental damage is exploitation: use 
of natural resources faster than they can be regenerated. Critical 
here is our use of phosphate fertilizers to maintain high population 
levels. Large-scale agriculture, sewage disposal, biodegradable de- 
tergents, all release phosphorus to streams and eventually to the 
sea-bottom, where it can be recovered only by dredging — or by 
waiting for the seabeds to rise. We continue to cut forests (including 
irreplaceable virgin stands) faster than they regrow. And it takes 
longer to restore soil than forest. 

Most serious of all are long-lived solid pollutants. The sea bobs 
with indestructible objects — plastic bags, light bulbs, detergent bot- 
tles, rubber sandals, cork floats, ship timbers, orange crates — which 
the sorting action of currents concentrates on particular beaches. 
We must imagine the entire environment likewise filled with stable 
alien molecules. Oil slicks spread over coastal waters from wrecks 
like the Torrey Canyon, poisoning the water with phenolic com- 
pounds, keeping oxygen out of it, bogging down birds' feathers. 
DDT and other pesticides are extremely stable, their long-range 
effects are unknown; air and water currents, complex food chains 
have scattered them all over the earth — in the fat of Antarctic 
penguins, for example. Toxic lead salts show up in the Antarctic 
ice and everywhere else; they come apparently from anti-knock 
compounds in gasoline. Degradable only by time are radioactive 
fission products from nuclear explosions, with a wide spectrum of 
half-lives. All these items are being added to our habitat faster than 
they can be subtracted by natural processes. 

(c) History of the environmental crisis 

Why has environmental deterioration come to a head in Los 
Angeles? It's the frontier's end; beyond lie the crowded billions of 
China, Indonesia, India. Cultural innovations have spread east and 
west from their origin in the Levant, multiplying as they went, until 
after five millennia they met and recoiled in the Pacific theater of 
World War II. Technology hasn't any place to turn but in on itself. 


Before the European's coming, the North American continent was 
so inaccessible that it lagged far behind Eurasia in its version of the 
Neolithic. The agricultural civilizations of Central America offered 
more resistance to colonizing than did the nomadic red men of the 
North, sparse like all predators. There wasn't any native culture 
here able to withstand the explosive bloom of technology. 

Perhaps untidy man is descended from tree-dwelling primates, 
with a gravity system of garbage disposal and no need for the cat's 
instinctive cleanliness. Our Lady Macbeth compulsion is overcom- 
pensation — we keep washing our natural and artificial skins at the 
expense of filling the whole water table with detergent. Partly in 
an illusion of invisibility we think the environment will never notice 
us; partly with our lack of gentleness we will to impose our junk 
on the globe. 

It's hard to learn that the solution to an old problem is a new 
one. Shall we fill the water table with desalinated seawater? We will 
build atomic power plants to supply the energy. Shall we seal the 
radioactive waste in concrete in the ocean? Let's not be surprised 
if some element turns out unexpectedly corrosive. Or rocket it off 
into space? There are the combustion products back in the air again. 
Shall we have big one-crop farms for efficiency? This encourages 
the crop's natural pest. We spray the fields with pesticide, which 
kills the birds that were helping us by eating them — and also breeds 
more resistant strains of the pest. A bigger dose will be needed next 

A system of finite size can't put up with this escalation. In 
general the biosphere knows more than we do; many regulations 
are built into it we haven't learned. We know we can't rebuild the 
human body on a new basis; but the ecological balance is even more 
complicated — among many other things it includes us. In evolu- 
tion's earlier course, as animals overgrazed some critical com- 
modity they put a ceiling on their population, and so maintained 
the balance. Man is the animal that for a time can observe each 
scarcity or local pollution and patch it up; but only at the cost of 
introducing a bigger dislocation somewhere else. Our intelligence 
can merely delay judgment. We laugh at the primitive mind of the 
prophet who knows nothing more destructive than the sword; but 

The Escalation of Violence 23 

his theorem is still valid, "All those who take the sword shall perish 
by the sword" (Matt. 26:52). 

The impartiality of Nemesis induces us to give our bodies the 
same treatment as the rest of our environment. After everybody 
else had known it for a long time, finally the medical profession 
gathered statistics and announced what cigarettes were doing to 
our aerating apparatus. The thalidomide fiasco won't be forgotten 
for the seventy years its little victims (growing bigger) go around 
with prosthetic appliances, freely donated. Our self-congratulation 
grows thinner as we mobilize plastic surgeons to deal with the 
human detritus which was once southeast Asia's brown-eyed ba- 
bies. Our chemicals are both a symptom and an attempted cure for 
the malaise of our alienation — gin, cigarettes, pot, aspirin, tranquil- 
izers, LSD, barbiturates. 

(d) The dynamic character of the disturbed balance 

The stability envisaged by the ecologist is a doubly dynamic 
balance. To physical disturbances external or internal — a glacial or 
tropic age, a volcanic eruption — the system responds with damped 
rather than unstable oscillations. Imposed on this periodicity is the 
one-way track of evolution. 

Human presence in the north temperate zone had set up a 
precarious new ecological balance. The Great Plains may have been 
created from forests by the wandering hunter, already a fire-animal. 
The farms of America and Europe have driven predators toward 
the less cultivable arctics and tropics. I have collected elsewhere 
historic records for the replacement of vast pine and oak forests 
in the Mediterranean by the grain, olive, fig, vine — and wasteland. 
Although we're far from knowing the long-term effect of these 
changes, they can provisionally be called legitimate adaptations to 
man, especially where Black Forests still stretch their fingers into 
hopfields and vineyards. But the Lebanon's mythopoeic eroded 
slopes today are no substitute for the great forest of cedar and 
Cilician fir which survived at least one pluvial period. And the gross 
dislocations mentioned previously make every kind of adjustment 
difficult or impossible. 

Still man wasn't meant to fit invisibly into a hypothetical cli- 


max vegetation sheltering all its original fauna; the logic of his 
development was bound to make a big difference. It's remarkable 
that old records should see this so clearly: "Be fruitful and multiply, 
fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over the animals" (Gen. 
1:28). The myth of the garden which the species Adam was to till 
and keep looks to the future, not the past. Eden is the name of the 
earth as it should become in view of the radical novelty we repre- 
sent. In arid deforested Greece, the mythology of nymphs and 
dryads isn't the country as it was, but as it was meant to be. 

(e) Man's role in guiding planetary development 

The successive phases of evolution and history, while they 
degrade solar energy, keep producing greater complexities of or- 
ganization, of psychic energy. Viewing time's one-way arrow, our 
language inevitably speaks of the process by analogy with human 
will. Human purposiveness is a fairly advanced illustration of a 
general principle, because it's one result of the process. But it is not 
the most advanced, for evolution won't stop tomorrow. No human 
will conceived the idea of human society, or set in motion the 
exponential accumulation of science. 

Man shouldn't have to coexist with the saber-toothed tiger, the 
malarial mosquito, the tapeworm. But big predators are more easily 
exterminated. It was too bad that the wild ox (the "unicorn" of the 
King James Bible) and the Siberian mammoth had to go. If the lion 
or the polar bear, the kangaroo or the hippo, should also fall by the 
way, something of us will die; they stand for complexes of energy 
built into the childhood of the race or our childhood. Just as the 
individual's embryonic development recapitulates the whole devel- 
opment of life, society maintains living vestiges of all its earlier 
phases. Whatever new is developed, we can't dispense with some- 
thing like the parish, the guild, the city-state, the neolithic farm- 
stead. On the deepest level, each of us has a solitary Paleolithic man 
inside him that needs the wilderness to hunt and fish or take pic- 
tures in. Besides providing that psychic space for us, the wilderness 
is a balance wheel to iron out our mistakes. And we also have a 
duty to the moose and carnivores, which need a lot of room and 
have their own claim to existence. 

The Escalation of Violence 25 

Although in the long run these are the most critical problems 
that face us, they never have to be solved by tomorrow morning; 
and so something else always takes priority. The authorities con- 
cerned put the problems in manila folders, and hire scientists and 
lobbyists to slap restrictions on somebody else. We outsiders know 
that a lot of things should be done right away, until our natural 
reactions have been masked by chamber-of-commerce camouflage. 
If we shall ever learn to use care and feeling where we cultivate 
intensively, to leave wilderness areas alone, we must acquire a piety 
toward the natural order: a whole new content to our religion or 
philosophy or whatever the thing is that we have. 

3. Violence by proliferation 

(a) The population explosion as ethnic competition 

Every symptom in our degradation of nature has one root: too 
many people. As our planning breaks through the upper limit on 
the population of every non-intelligent species, we dominate the 
environment by our technological presence. Potentially the biggest 
threat is radioactive fission products of medium half-life — fallout 
from aerial explosions or waste from reactors. By analogy with 
biological proliferation, we can speak of proliferation of atomic 
weapons from big countries to medium ones to little ones, with 
growing danger of slip-ups. We may sum up as global proliferation 
the massive threat to the environment presented by explosions of 
physical atoms and of the atoms of society. 

The Hindu father with a numerous starving progeny has no 
vision of a balanced earth. We who do, still imagine the dominant 
strain in that harmonious mankind as persons physically like our- 
selves. This genetic competition won't ever produce a stabilized 
planetary population. Australians and Americans have assumed a 
white man's burden to increase and multiply over a continent at 
the expense of the aborigines. French Canucks speak of la ven- 
geance de la creche, defeating with the cradle those who defeated 
them with the sword. The Palestinian refugees multiply faster than 
the U.N. can resettle them, and trust the world's conscience to feed 
them, in the blind faith that one day they'll be numerous enough 


to spill back over their own frontiers. Harlem and Puerto Rican 
Manhattan keep spreading through simple acceptance of a minimal 
standard of living. 

Genetic aggression is the remaining counter-imperialist 
weapon of the oppressed world. American demographers are cur- 
rently recommending the Loop or other inter-uterine devices to 
Asiatic and Latin American governments. Black nationalists see 
this as another form of genocide: "You give white women a pill to 
have quadruplets, and black women a pill to make them sterile." 
In fact, the governments implanting the Loop want to raise the 
standard of living and start industrializing like us. And we can deal 
better with industrial competition than with peasant fertility. So 
population planning, though critically necessary, has been cor- 
rupted into another tool of neo-colonialism. It's not so much a 
horde of people as a yellow horde we're afraid of. The remedy 
which we provide at home by individual appointment to families 
is prescribed overseas by shotgun to entire provinces. We must 
reform our imaginations and stop the war before we can ask its 
victims to give up their ultimate weapon — even though it's as dan- 
gerous in the long run as ours. 

The strength of a species lies in its plasticity, in the range of 
latent variations in its genetic pool. It's too late for the giraffe to 
take on a new habitat. We presume that in man also mixture of 
genetic strains gives strength; we know the converse is true — in- 
breeding in small communities brings out recessive defects like 
Appalachian feeble-mindedness and the hemophilia of European 
royalty. We're surer of the social analogy, that the most interesting 
societies — ancient Greece, Elizabethan England — have been the 
product of many cultures. We should always have available tradi- 
tional hardy communities of farmers or fishermen to introduce 
fresh cultural strength into an effete society, and probably actual 
genetic strength. In any case we can count on the miscegenated 
toughs educated in the school of the street, the fittest survivors of 
the ghetto jungle. 

(b) Proliferation of nuclear explosions 

Beside the few million dollars allocated to population control 

The Escalation of Violence 27 

is a better-funded answer to human proliferation, the proliferation 
of atomic bombs outward from Los Alamos. A sheet called "Cali- 
fornia Living" shows a gang of typical American kids sitting on 
some defused nuclear devices in the patio of the Los Alamos mu- 
seum. The exhibits have an attractive bulging pod-shape and are 
painted white. 1 don't know how many of our California Japanese 
families have made a vacation pilgrimage there. (The patriotic ac- 
quiescence of the Japanese to temporary detention in 1941 is a 
source of quiet local pride: "Isn't it too bad we had to do to them 
what we did; but didn't they take it well?") No other nation would 
use quite this chummy prose on the subject: 

In the weapons display is "Fat Man," a chunky bomb with 
a menacing snout. It is the favorite of young bomb climbers. 

When "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 
6. 1945, it took a toll of 78,150 dead; 37,425 injured; 13,983 
missing. It is one of the smallest bombs and has a core no 
bigger than a portable typewriter. 

In the face of our willingness to take the unknown risks of 
underground nuclear blasts for releasing natural gas, of atomic 
power plants blowing up (which nearly happened near Detroit in 
October, 1966), of atomic ships sinking, of our deterrent force 
actually being used, the ribbon loops up in this portable typewriter 
and jams on the reels. We retain freedom of speech to state in 
America that the frame of mind which accepts these paragraphs 
leads to genocide. One would have gotten into trouble for saying 
so in Nazi Germany — which just goes to show that our Establish- 
ment has neutralized freedom better than theirs. That little fellow 
with the Marine haircut sitting on Fat Man has strontium 90 in his 
baby teeth. I happen to know, because the mummy of some kids 
like him takes the teeth that the spiders take from under the pillows 
and sends them off to a laboratory. Will somebody please explain 
to me what all our mummys and daddys can be thinking about? 

(c) Proliferation as self-defeating 

The increase of our species overloads the ecological pyramid 


and weakens the whole structure underneath us. Nuclear war may 
render the biological habitat uninhabitable, or reduce it to a dis- 
torted and degenerate level. However unreasoning and blind the 
population explosion, it's at least a form of life. More blast and 
radiation is an American kind of answer to more human bodies. 
We're forced to meet the Orient on their ground, fighting with a 
disproportionately black army — conscripted native troops. The 
Chinese nuclear tests show they plan to meet us on owr ground. 

The twin forms of proliferation are monstrous offspring of the 
pride which ancient books, Eastern and Western, see as the well- 
spring of our troubles. Each is the arrogant claim to impose our will 
on the planet. The central message of past wisdom is the inevitable 
destruction of such arrogance by an agency variously described as 
God, the Gods, the nature of things, human nature. Today for the 
first time the sequences of cause and eff"ect by which judgment will 
be executed in history's tribunal are plain to everybody. The tradi- 
tion is ambiguous how far those relatively guiltless will escape; for 
all we know the planet will be the innocent bystander that gets it 
in the neck. 

Natural processes had to reduce background radiation very 
low before we could come along. In a state of nature, any child can 
see how many muskrat belong in each brook, how many deer can 
feed in a field. Statistics is our most American science. We have 
too much of everything to count; we ourselves at somewhere over 
200 million are way overcrowded already. Our works should be as 
organic to the landscape as the beaver-dam. Our real problem isn't 
mismanagement of our surroundings but of ourselves. The historic 
task of our age is to throw away Frodo's ring of power. 

Conservationists have said that people are more important 
than trees; but judging from ease of replacement we may say, trees 
are more important than people. On our planetary space-voyage 
without destination we've got to be good stewards of the built-in 
resources for the absentee dispatcher. In our alleged "mastery over 
nature," we, who can't make one hair black, have used up irrecover- 
ably certain minerals, lakes, species to build our current unsatisfac- 
tory society. Our cue is to slow down and rethink goals. Legislation 
is necessary, but it'll be both tyrannical and ineffective unless it 

The Escalation of Violence 29 

represents personal convictions. On a free planet, population plan- 
ning must spring from family planning; long-term conservation 
must rely on kids who love birds and frogs. Conformity to our 
nature can only be defined by a word that hasn't been spoken in 
the West for hundreds of years now: moderation. 

4. Violence in the human family: the oppressed 
(a) The United States as inheritor of colonialism 

No upheaval in the subhuman order — the extinction of the 
dinosaurs, earthquake or glaciation, the chain of animals preying 
on each other — prepares us for the San Andreas fault running 
across human society. Any myth or ideology must come to terms 
with the fact that most, but not quite all, human beings fall far short 
of humanity. (How we can say so is a further puzzle.) The level 
of technology that's made damage to nature grossly visible in our 
generation has equally magnified mutual antagonisms. We live in 
a very special time when all the world's chickens are coming home 
to roost. The geography of escalating violence to man closely paral- 
lels violence to nature. Both follow the diffusionist pattern of tech- 
nology, spreading from a single point of discovery. 

North America, the least advanced continent in 1600, is most 
advanced today. East of the Levant, early trade routes produced 
Mesopotamian-style cultures in the river valleys of the Indus, the 
Yangtze, the Hwang. Tenacious backward imperial civilizations 
developed, resistant to technology precisely because of their mon- 
soon-soaked fertile plains, mild winters, endlessly repeating vil- 
lages. The introduction of Western medicine by humanitarian 
missionaries, especially in India, aggravated or began the Malthu- 
sian cycle of famine and overpopulation. Enormous economic and 
political forces then worked to prevent the industrialization of 
lands once colonized. The British Raj in India, whatever its merits, 
principally bore in upon the ruled their incapacity for self-govern- 
ment. As political colonialism was replaced by a more powerful 
economic colonialism — the fly-whisk giving way to the Coke bottle 
—the role of the oppressed was unchanged. Carl Oglesby's data and 
rhetoric in his chapters of Containment and Change present an 


overwhelming case that what we call the Free World is the area 
of American business enterprise, which relegates the colonial world 
to exporting raw materials and importing manufactured items. Our 
industrialism presupposes that we've inherited the role of colonial 
power; hence it's unavailable for the poor nations that we theoreti- 
cally offer it to. 

"The poor you have always with you" (Mark 14:7), but both 
relatively and absolutely they are worse off than ever before — and 
sorted out in space by the ever-widening gap between the industrial 
and non-industrial countries. We may take affluent California and 
the impoverished Orient as emblematic, facing each other across 
the misnamed Pacific. Not merely are the countries of the Far East 
poor, they've been dislocated and corrupted by us. At the same 
time we've necessarily corrupted ourselves, in a deeper way. If any 
ideology or religion wants us to take its claim of moral concern 
seriously, it will begin by condemning the injustice done by the rich 
to the poor. 

(b) Viet Nam as focus of colonialism 

The name of injustice — the violence exercised by the strong 
on the weak — today is colonialism. In any future we can imagine, 
a necessary (if not sufficient) condition of justice will be anti-coloni- 
alism. Africa and South America have as yet no big brothers to back 
them up, so the first action was joined across the Pacific. Japan 
wasn't really an Oriental country; she made the mistake of being 
an industrial nation, challenging us on our own ground, opening 
a way for us to declare war on her; and so world opinion let us 
overwhelm her with the cornucopia of our power. But the true 
representative of the Orient couldn't make these mistakes. We 
failed to note the wisdom of the British in withdrawing from Asia, 
the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu, their extrication from 
Algeria. We let ourselves be trapped into defending our prestige 
or our investments where we couldn't declare war; where we had 
to appear as the aggressor, grant the enemy a sanctuary from land 
invasion, keep up a paper-thin pretense of avoiding civilian targets. 

And so it has happened that Viet Nam. the home of a culture 
underground for two millennia and now physically driven under- 

The Escalation of Violence 31 

ground, a place Americans had barely heard of and had certainly 
not expected to visit as enemy or friends, has become the center 
of world history in our time: the place where the tide of colonialism 
is turning. It might have seemed the most vulnerable part of South- 
east Asia to the West — the only nation with a Roman script, deeply 
Catholicized, with a strong impress of French colonial administra- 
tion. More recently it has taken on Marxism; but it has adapted 
each of those things to its native spirit. The heroine of the national 
epic "Kieu," constantly getting put to service in the green pavilion 
to rescue her father from debtors' prison, ends her days in a platonic 
relationship with her original lover. Her autumnal fidelity has been 
transformed into a single-minded resistance, sparing neither itself 
nor its enemy, which can be recognized as the vanguard of the 
revolutionary world. 

Viet Nam and America can never ignore each other again, the 
rings of our destinies are interlocked. You have a special knowledge 
of the first kid that stood up to your bullying and licked you. Our 
enemy is one of the remoter societies from us in diet, physique, 
culture, and way of thinking; our minds are rapidly being expanded. 
The reality of that encounter is a glass we can see ourselves in: 

Mirror mirror on the wall 
Who is hated most of all? 

It would be unfair if only the imaginative or the drafted could 
receive that knowledge by meeting the other side face to face. But 
the universe is not unfair; nobody is condemned without a chance 
to cross-examine his accusers. From the day we landed here, the 
truths about ourselves we're being taught in Asia have been availa- 
ble at home. 

(c) The ghetto as colonial enclave 

Look at the map of the American city, so familiar and instruc- 
tive. As its center gets dilapidated, the office-managers move out 
to the suburbs, taking first their churches with them, then their 
offices. Rent and tax policies prevent the fall of land values which 
would let the city buy its heart back for parks or civic centers. It 


becomes profitable for landlords to subdivide and rent to immi- 
grants from Europe or Asia, Latin America, and above all from the 
black rural South. This invading guerrilla band drives out remaining 
middle-class amenities; it's controlled by a few strategic points in 
the hands of the colonialists — city hall, precinct stations, courts, 
clinics, welfare. To link the command posts in the occupied subur- 
ban territory, a circular freeway is drawn around the center, with 
emplacements of supermarkets, gas stations, discount houses, bowl- 
ing alleys, redemption centers, liquor stores, drive-ins. Outside is 
a no-man's-land, a green belt, and then the landscaped martini- 
strewn hills. This circle is a hangman's noose constricting an ever 
larger population into the central ghetto. If the city began as a 
seaport like Newark or Oakland, part of the noose is replaced by 
the shoreline, fenced off and polluted by freeways or rotting docks. 

On either side of the frontier we're made to feel out of place. 
Up on the hill, the sprinkled lawns and power-clipped hedges fence 
off each two-car family, which boycotts its neighbors and drives off 
a safe distance for school, office, club, nightclub. Down on the 
flatlands we find the community we missed higher up, but in an 
atmosphere of resignation, bitterness, or grim social climbing. The 
hill people keep the tuition high in the private colleges, and the 
standard exacting in the better state universities; they appropriate 
funds away from the ghetto schools. Only their own kids can pass 
the symbolic hurdle of education that gives the degree that awards 
the advertising job that cheats the public that pays the salary that 
maintains the house on the hill. The City Zoning Commission chart 
is the field map of a relentless class warfare. 

In the idealistic days of the Civil Rights Movement we had 
the impression we were building an integrated society. Driving past 
the charred storefronts of Springfield Avenue in Newark one sees 
that, whatever we accomplished, it wasn't that. With talent, hard 
work, luck, and willingness to fink out, the elite of a colonialized 
people can pass over to their oppressors. But that doesn't change 
where the bulk of their community is at. There must be a black 
community before it can shake hands with the white community. 

Our conviction about the basic decency of our motives is a 
kind of front lawn kept for show: every day we look out the window 

The Escalation of Violence 33 

and see more crabgrass and say, "Someday we must root it all out." 
But one morning we'll look out and discover there isn't any lawn 
there anymore, no background of basic decency, just crabgrass. 

in this century there was still a little band of free Indians in 
Oregon, sustained by their knowledge that their land was their own 
and their cause just. With the last of them, Ishi, whose true name 
was never learned, there died some piece of wisdom about living 
on this continent. Buffy Sainte Marie has written their National 
Anthem after the fact: 

My country 'tis of thy people we're dying. 

When we brought the African here to work in the red man's place, 
we gave him a better title to the land than we held ourselves. 

We're trying to boost the black man up to our level so we can 
stucco and paint over the crack in the Great Society and present 
a solid front to the world. The Greeks in a mythical genealogy said 
that folly begat repletion, repletion begat arrogance, and arrogance 
begat Nemesis — getting what you deserve. In the wisdom of their 
pre-scientific world view they didn't localize justice outside or in- 
side us, they just said it was there. Freud sees an accurate mech- 
anism finding a symbolic outlet for the hatred whose direct 
expression is blocked. Nobody likes to meet Truth or Judgment, 
which shufile onto history's minstrel show in blackface. 

This nation was founded by religious refugees who'd learned 
only too much from their persecutors. What led the seventeenth- 
century Puritans into moral error, unable to read their Bibles 
beyond the book of Joshua? Englishmen were conscious of surfing 
on the wave of a cultural dynamism: they were producing a su- 
preme world-literature; they'd passed through the cataclysm of the 
Reformation (even so not thorough enough); in Newton for the first 
time they were describing the actual workings of the universe; 
dimly ahead they could see rising up the Industrial Revolution, the 
British Empire. And so they closed the book, unwilling to read any 
further and find out that the only way to fulfill their destiny was 
to become servants of the wretched of the earth. 

The reward of having climbed higher in the evolutionary scale 
or the historic process is that ever more difficult decisions are 


presented to us, with corresponding punishments for failure. "You 
only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will 
visit upon you all your iniquities." The Fall of Man today is local- 
ized in colonialism. The Eskimo and the Tahitian hadn't really 
come out from Eden when we first saw them. Did they really need 
the Gospel? They did after having been visited by the planter, the 
rumrunner, the colonial administrator. We'd like to believe in an 
even higher virtue than their innocence, with the power of self- 
defense; we know we haven't got it. 

(d) The scope of the exploitation 

The black here welcomes anything useful white men can do 
with their own people; but he knows that any gift we make to him 
we've also got the power to recall. Freedom that's granted isn't 
freedom, because it can also be rescinded. The only real freedom 
is the kind that's been won, made a personal possession. 

Our initial move toward reality is listening to what black faces 
are saying. I saw clearly from the Middle East, when the late 
Malcolm X had his big success there, that the tide of African 
nationalism was rising and falling — mostly rising — in rhythm with 
the freedom movement here. There was some kind of hot line 
between Selma and Khartoum. Every time a sheriff got out the tear 
gas, dogs, and cattle-prods, pictures went on front pages all around 
the world. 

When the Afro-American first met with people from the Na- 
tional Liberation Front of South Viet Nam — it was at Bratislava — 
what he said to them was this: 

We the black people have only suffered under one imperi- 
alist power, unlike you; but we also are colonialized. It is not 
our job to give our brothers in arms advice, but to help; to 
disrupt American society by any means necessary. We support 
the liberation struggle wholeheartedly. The United States has 
been unapproachable and unteachable; our choice is to destroy 
it or face genocide. 

We've got a revolution on our hands. Watts, Hunter's Point, Jersey 

The Escalation of Violence 35 

City, are a little bit of overseas, an enclave of colonialism where 
we can be imperialists at home. They resist being co-opted because 
they have a message for their brothers; they've got to retain integ- 
rity not only for themselves but for three other continents as well. 
The British, French, Dutch, could divest themselves of their im- 
perial possessions; we brought ours home and we're stuck with 

The infection has come to fever crisis in our own times for the 
same reason as the ravaging of the planet; the circle of the nations 
has been closed up; we see facing us across the Pacific the accusing 
victims we thought we'd left behind across the Atlantic. To keep 
the expansion booming that Fortress America relies on, we must 
export our products to the poor world, but not our technology. And 
we haven't merely accepted our historical role, we've accepted it 
gladly. Carl Oglesby shows how deeply we've gotten into the eco- 
nomics and politics of countries like Brazil. The suggestion hasn't 
been made that they should play the same role in our affairs. 

Our treatment of the red man, the black man, the yellow man, 
the poor man, has been gratuitously contemptuous; for anybody 
that believes Freud or fears God it bears the unmistakable pock- 
marks of guilt. For what crime or sin? Not simply wealth; not 
simply that we're on the growing edge of scientific development — 
although both helped push us over the cliff. History and geography 
put us in the position where it was easy to exploit nature, first on 
this continent, then globally; easy to exploit what the Germans call 
the nature-peoples. After we tried exploitation and observed its 
advantages, we decided we liked it; we chose to continue it. Guilt 
lies in having chosen to accept guilt. 

The violence we're doing isn't against a harmony between 
classes or nations that's ever been fully realized in history. But the 
contrasts are sharper today than ever before. Our technological 
wealth (itself based on shortsighted exploitation of nature) spot- 
lights the injustice of unequal distribution. We can't bring ourselves 
to look for a genuine way of beginning redress. And so we defend 
the injustice, attributing our affluence to the merits of our economic 
system, our religion, our character, our ancestry, our tradition. 

Does a self-knowledge still coexist somewhere with all this 


self-deception? Perhaps in our better mind we know that all men 
are in principle citizens of a single commonwealth. How did we get 
the United Nations into our pocket — edging it into Manhattan safe 
from lobbying by unauthorized liberation fronts, keeping the big- 
gest country on earth out of it? The U.N. is nowhere near good 
enough for a permanent fatherland. But if we became willing to 
accept the burden of our guilt, in some metaphorical or actual sense 
we'd be transferring our loyalties to a universal citizenship. Our cue 
is to find a way of applying for naturalization — taking out papers 
in the commonwealth, whatever it may be, where our true citizen- 
ship lies. 

5. Violence against our tradition 
(a) The manipulative society 

When I flew in from Beirut in the summer of '65 after seven 
years overseas, I went through a severe reentry shock. All at once 
I was supposed to deal with direct distance dialing, zipcodes. Mar- 
shall McLuhan, marinas, automobile seat belts, flowpens, the Jeff"er- 
son Airplane, individual parent-teacher conferences. Dean Rusk, 
games people play, Captain Kangaroo, credit cards, the death of 
the Twentieth Century Limited, nuclear power plants, carrying my 
draft card, programmed learning, Walter Cronkite, pop art, electric 
toothbrushes, defensiveness, and ignorance. I failed — that instruc- 
tive failure which everybody deserves to have once. 

Most of all the man from Mars or Peace Corps returnee is 
stumped by the required expertise at conformity. He must expose 
himself to sensitivity training at a leadership skills institute, and 
next day admire the academic know-how of the people at defense 
think tanks. One month Hawaiian cocktails are all the thing; the 
next, it's traditional native Mexican delicacies. He's got to read 
consumer magazines: "There are all these wonderful things in the 
stores and you can't afford to pass them up, but you have to know 
what you're buying and where to get it." His kids are subjected to 
inkblots in school and vulgarized set theory andopen interpersonal 
relations, while all the time he knows his kids' friends' folks voted 
against open housing. 

The Escalation of Violence 37 

As our small-town childhood, the comforting apolitical sub- 
jects we studied, have gone the way of the trolley car, the Bay ferry, 
the Boston local, and the Grange social, the vacuum is filled by 
what we may classify as advertising. The conspicuous features 
of our public life were devised to be reported: news conferences, 
prizefights. Congressional hearings, political conventions, policy 
speeches. Airstrikes over underdeveloped countries are conducted 
for the benefit of plucky TV cameramen; they're envisaged as spec- 
taculars to dramatize our retaliatory capacity. (But then the police- 
man must be invited to school — where we never saw him — and lay 
down ground rules when to copy the violence of the silver screen 
and when not.) 

Manipulation is king. Our universities are begetting associated 
research institutes that simulate counter-insurgency and recovery 
from nuclear attack. The automation and flow control of our facto- 
ries, banks, post offices, airports are making us superfluous append- 
ages to our master Social Security punch card somewhere. 
University graduates are channeled into the bags where somebody 
wants them by the carrot of projected salary curve, the club of 
induction, the trap of psychological testing. Our clergy are assured 
in their pastoral charges that the spirit of prophecy lies in enabling 
their congregations to do what they'd wanted to do all along. The 
shape of what is called contemporary literature is determined by 
the need of highspeed presses for a regular sequence of best sellers. 

We all need to have some leverage on the future through the 
monuments of our own past. But the word has gone out that Eliza- 
bethan English is irrelevant for our generation. This brought 
an eight-year-old I know to tears, who adores the tongue in 
which Robin Hood and hobbits converse. She's sitting there in 
church with her thumb in the Epistle when a diff"erent book gets 
opened up. It doesn't sound like Epistles and the minister keeps 
stumbling. "It is not the function of the Church to teach children 
the language of Shakespeare." Nor anybody else's function; and 
after Shakespeare, Milton in high school will enter the same 
oblivion as high school Latin, college Greek, and seminary Hebrew. 

Language is the normal way of organizing our experience, and 
our frustration with Time and Life also attests violence against 


natural order. Their columns are written in an itchy fiddling with 
the mother tongue, not the spoken idiom of any class of society, 
but a gravelly conglomerate of nonce phrases from the mortician, 
the ad man, the film critic, the interior decorator, the TV inter- 
viewer. Although this patois may save space, and in addition be 
considered distinctive, it's mainly functional; an idiom is required 
in which the burning of a village can naturally be described as 

In the unreality of our consumer society, the dishwasher and 
disposal only liberate the lady of the house for more hairdos and 
discussion groups. By its non-functionality it generates inner con- 
tradictions, today's adaptations are tomorrow's maladjustments. 
Patriotic rationing is replaced by knowing consumption. The busi- 
nessman's inner punctuality is turned against his body in the time- 
change of jet travel. Our imagined tranquility when the last child 
marries is punctured by the recreation adviser at the Florida retire- 
ment community. The zenith of America is the wilderness casino 
of Lake Tahoe, erecting its neon signs against the frosty stars, 
parasitic on an ostentatious society, discharging its garbage into the 
crystal waters and breeding algae — an elaborate non-culture, non- 
community, non-environment. 

There aren't any more neutral academic topics. Experts on 
southeast Asian linguistics, elementary particles, corporation soci- 
ology, urban crime, Protestant theology, suddenly have to decide 
whether they'll accept research grants from a tax-exempt founda- 
tion (laundering CIA dollars), or get shoved over the edge. Nobody 
is being left alone. Junior high school principals are begging the 
student body officers to sit on committees and prop up the system. 
Nothing is sacred to leisure or scholarship; all is up for grabs. A 
cultural totalitarianism has set in. But what this means is, the 
Judgment is at hand. Nothing is secular; every area is subject to 
moral claims. 

It's the teen-agers who see through it, because they're the ones 
that have to enter it from outside. Brought up in those tough plastic 
bags up on the hill, with every lesson in playing the game of afflu- 
ence, they're breaking through and becoming dropouts or activists. 
Neither the drug scene nor the street scene necessarily shows the 

The Escalation of Violence 39 

way to a renewed society. But at least they're a finger pointing at 
the reality of violence here and overseas, a clumsy lunge beyond 
alienation. American society is being rejected by the most interest- 
ing of its youth. A cry has gone out for restoring contact with the 
past, the tradition embodied in the torch-race of the generations. 

(b) The hope of naturalization 

In my father and my son I see another me occupying a different 
segment on time's arrow. Our best clue to the mystery of time is 
the family drama, the history of Oedipus or Lear or Faulkner's 
dynasties. But without wealth or fanaticism I can't invent a self- 
perpetuating family tradition. There will always be tension between 
father and son, as between man and man, so long as we're compet- 
ing for air to breathe and a place in the sun. But once it existed 
within a common culture; there were presuppositions about what 
families did with their work-hours and play-hours. The speedup in 
the rate of innovation, which as we saw has alienated man from 
nature and from his brother, has also alienated man from his father. 

The poets and spiritual leaders whom we trust are learned men; 
they've gone to school with the masters of tradition, the old books 
of our race. But we can't afford to take the truth at second hand 
from them. If a plant has been uprooted nothing will do but to put 
it back in its earth again. We possess a proper biological environ- 
ment; it isn't infinitely plastic, it changes only by its own laws, 
which we can partly understand. We have a proper social environ- 
ment, and the polarization of rich and poor does violence to both. 
Beneath both biology and society is the stream of awareness by 
which we grasp what it means to be a biological and political ani- 
mal: the tradition which constitutes our cultural environment. 

6. The Establishment as the scene of violence 

(a) Establishment as supra-personal will 

We all have the will to violence. We also need the camouflage 
of seeming to do something else, which is provided by the alleged 
aims of the institution we operate in. Under the same umbrella we 
find the power to implement our private vindictiveness, which 


would otherwise be impotent. The institution has its own momen- 
tum; at the end of a war we do things we'd have blushed for at the 
beginning — the logic of our commitments requires it. 

Did we sign up for the institution without reading the fine 
print? Or did we figure correctly that we could use it as an extension 
of our personality, lend ourselves to its purposes? It couldn't organ- 
ize isolated wills into something bigger than any of them, and 
provide a pretext for their violence, unless it were performing an 
apparently necessary function. The claim to absolute legitimacy by 
a hereditary monarch, a party, a Church, a research institute, a 
permanently democratic government, authorizes it to commit big- 
ger crimes than more casual institutions. Industry has the self- 
evident legitimacy of making money, supported by the claim of 
conforming to a correct economic system. An army has the evident 
legitimacy of power — perhaps too evident, so that it adds the sym- 
bolic legitimacy of bunting, civil ritual, the claim to be a school of 

A Great Power presupposes cooperation among its institutions 
— the bureaucratic apparatus, heavy industry, the armed forces, the 
mass media, the Church or party, the universities, the financial 
managers. No matter how revolutionary, it will raise up a ruling 
class whose sons climb the parallel ladders; no matter how conserv- 
ative, new blood will break into power. The ladders intersect. 
Retired Air Force generals show up on the boards of aerospace 
industries; talented administrators shuttle between the university, 
tax-exempt foundations, and advisory levels of government. 

This monolithic political-industrial-military- intellectual-prop- 
agandist complex is what I call an Establishment. Its interlocking 
sectors hold all effective power; they seem not so much to rule the 
society as to be the society. // escalates violence; nobody else has 
the resources. Its industry and wars pollute the environment; its 
elite perpetuate colonialist policies; //^ media supplant a traditional 
culture by something more useful; /V^ extra-legal agencies claim the 
bodies of our young men. No person or group forms its policy. 
Some purposiveness both more and less than human has taken it 
over; we may call it the scene of violence. 

in different ways both the American liberal and revolutionary 

The Escalation of Violence 41 

avoid the fact that exploitation is done through the institutions of 
their own society. The liberal, who won't see how far the damage 
has gone, pretends the general violence is a bundle of distinct 
problems, each of which will yield to reason. The revolutionary, 
who refuses to see how far he still benefits, pretends this isn't his 
society, that by some easily-defined change in administration the 
corruption will disappear. Violence also coexists with much appar- 
ent personal freedom — for the white middle class. Our Establish- 
ment is a new phenomenon in scale: it is so big and powerful that 
until recently it hasn't felt threatened by freedom, which just fills 
up the holes between one big violence and another, like sand in a 
bag of marbles. 

Its subtlest strength is its claim to weakness: it needs our 
support to avoid anarchy. This is like the law of gravity pleading 
for our ratification. In any foreseeable future here we'll want less 
centralized government, not more. Few further results are to be 
expected from bringing Federal pressure to bear on Southern 
whites. If the Establishment is so inflexible that it has to mobilize 
all its resources behind every disastrous policy, that's its problem 
— we may not be able to assist. 

(b) The Establishment generates a Resistance 

We're kidding ourselves if we think we can look around and 
find a large-scale organization of society overwhelmingly better 
than ours. If we fly to a socialist country we won't escape conscrip- 
tion. In fact there will be fewer avenues for conscientious objection 
(but partly because fewer consciences need object to what their 
military is doing). Students in New York or Paris legitimately pro- 
test they can't make decisions aff^ecting their own future,- the brief 
1968 springtime in Prague showed the same unrest. The United 
States and Russia have converged to a similar balance between state 
control and private enterprise. To reduce the violence-level would 
take, not a shift in methods of control, but a radical alteration in 
the kind of enterprise we are running. 

It's difficult to believe or explain how we went so far wrong. 
Even if everybody in Washington or Moscow were infallible com- 
puters, the system is too big for them to control even on their own 


terms. And we're not a different species from our leaders. Any 
possible liberation of American society would have to include 
agrarian revival, decentralization. And this isn't going to be 
planned; it will happen if at all by forces out of our control. 

Establishment liberals call the cry for peace and liberation 
anarchistic because they can't see the extent of the danger. Actual 
contact with the realities of violence around the globe — war, 
deforestation, fallout, the ghetto, starvation, revolt — has persuaded 
this observer that our Establishment is culpably wrong; it has taken 
pains to shut its eyes. The problem isn't in maintaining what is 
called law and order here, but in fending off world collapse. People 
ought to be resigning from high place in Government, Church, 
industry; they aren't. Of all people, it's often the retired generals 
who are both realistic and secure enough to see the truth. 

The force of sanity in our society isn't some movement for 
conservation or return to traditional wisdom. In phases it's been 
positive — the civil rights movement to pass and enforce certain 
legislation, community organizing to build a base of the dispos- 
sessed on the foundation of self-interest. But on balance it's been 
negative, a loose-jointed and formidable resistance, sometimes non- 
violent, sometimes destructive, always ignored at our peril; saying 
No in Berkeley to academic bureaucracy. No in Detroit to a hope- 
less future, No in the Haight-Ashbury to a hypocritical moralism. 
No at the Pentagon to extermination. We straight middle-class 
types would have predicted and preferred that the cry against ex- 
ploitation take a different form; but since we were silent, our cue 
is to accept thankfully what Providence has provided. (If the Attor- 
ney General thinks there's a nation-wide conspiracy, 1 wish he'd 
give us its address so we could go and get orders from it.) 

The massive sign of strength is a movement for peace and 
freedom, born in a thousand places and envisaging a whole spec- 
trum of opponents — an apparently indissoluble combination of 
neurosis and Gandhiism. The great peace demonstrations of 1967 
had a deliberately non-exclusionist policy; every group was invited 
to help formulate the call and come do its thing. Many of its leaders 
think it must stay oriented around particular issues, non-ideologi- 
cal, pluralistic. I believe that phase is coming to an end; as it finishes 

The Escalation of Violence 43 

organizing its primary constituency, an institutional shape emerges 
willy-nilly, and our task is to build all the flexibility and safeguards 
into its institutions we can. 

(c) Initial thoughts on resistance 

Where can we act responsibly in this critical and unprece- 
dented situation? The "responsible citizen" is said to support the 
State's current goals even while he looks for others it might con- 
ceivably adopt. But it's beyond the powers of the State we know 
to envisage, much less begin, an end to violence; the key goals of 
the State are precisely what we can't support. In the Third World 
of Latin America, Asia, parts of Africa, revolution to create a new 
State makes good sense or the only sense. In America, even the 
formation of an effective third party seems beyond our strength; 
if revolution happens it'll be the work of black militants who mayn't 
be responsive to outside suggestions about their aims or methods. 
To save the planet, the oppressed, our own souls, the first priority 
is to set up a solid wall of resistance against violence at each of the 
critical points; otherwise the damage will go on until automatic 
reaction sets in. If there's a positive reconstruction it'll happen in 
unsuspected ways as a result of our having held the line. We aren't 
clever or pure enough to look into the future; the job where we are 
is to man the dykes against the tides of Leviathan. 

Responsible citizenship has come to a dead end. The exploita- 
tive society is setting aside token national parks, devising token 
medical relief for napalmed children. King's assassination solidified 
the Poor People's Campaign; the reader will be able to judge 
whether it has forced more than a token response. We go through 
symbolic motions of political participation in hope of a better day. 
The State has taken on the dream-role of the mad doctor with the 
poisoned hypodermic who catches up with us as our legs refuse to 
function. If we as individuals don't take responsibility for ultimate 
problems — not remote but desperately at hand — nobody will. Of 
course, since our individuality is a network of personal relations, 
that means operating inside the network. We will work most eff"ec- 
tively within groups which embody maximum agreement among 
the convictions of their members. A conviction is something we've 


worked out inside an alert and sympathetic group, and tested in 

We can't replace the State and its violence by a better-ordered 
society. We can't find some special air uncontaminated by its poi- 
sons, consumer goods uncorrupted by its planned obsolescence, a 
police force (local or global) free of its brutality. And if we tried 
we couldn't guarantee that our replacement would not in its turn 
become an Establishment. In the dilemma of revolutionary coun- 
ter-violence, our cue is to operate in a different realm: to work 
through groups which refuse to be the State and symbolically repre- 
sent a better order of things — resisting her encroachments, putting 
constant pressure on her, opening up avenues of change in the right 
direction. We have a better chance of building permanent principles 
of self-reform into such a counter-Establishment. 

Wherever violence has gone so far as to corrupt the unescapa- 
ble framework of nature and society, we suffer along with all the 
rest. But its root is a violence each man does to himself, and here 
our power is unalienable. Not symbolically but actually anybody 
can reverse violence in that realm by standing up and confessing 
himself a man, by saying with a Dave Harris, "Hell no — I won't 
go." Nonviolence on this level won't mend nature or society unless 
it spreads — but its characteristic is to spread, and anyway it is what 
it is. 

7. Violence and freedom 

(a) The self-negation of violence 

Until recently, violence against society had not been accom- 
panied by violence against nature. Hitler represents a transitional 
phase, not to be repeated, where the inhuman policies of the present 
were still worked out with the means of the past. On the political 
scene, his refinements of violence were directed against his own 
citizens (and neighbors he claimed for his own). He did no worse 
to England than she to him; and even Coventry and Dresden only 
set the stage for our appearance. With us in charge, the miniatur- 
ized Viet Nam police action was assumed without question to call 
for defoliants, and the trees are dying around Saigon airport just 

The Escalation of Violence 45 

from leakage. On America's tombstone we shall order the words, 
Only you can prevent forests. 

In our new age, violence will always end in violence against 
biology, which gives us a better reason not to make excuses for it. 
I guess we don't need any external criterion to see the odiousness 
of what Hitler stood for. But why. with so many external criteria, 
do we fail to see the odiousness of what we stand for? When black 
Ron Lockmann was court-martialed for refusing to go to Viet Nam, 
it turned out that one of the judges had been at Nuremberg; he 
disqualified himself from sitting. It's not so easy to disqualify the 
principle of Nuremberg, that we have the responsibility to disobey 
unjust orders. We must have conducted those proceedings to 
siphon off" a few scapegoats and absolve the rest of Germany, so 
that we could cooperate with her against Russia. Who guessed then 
the deadly seriousness of the trial? That, like Oedipus, we pro- 
nounced our own banishment from decent society should reinforce 
our belief in spiritual realities. 

It's not that our motives are wholly other than before; but 
they've got so much more power at their disposal that they seem 
diff"erent in kind. Looking out over the flotsam of Hiroshima or 
Harlem we may say. "So this is what we intended all along by 
claiming sovereignty." As population rises we have guided more 
and more brains into technology, which patches up the air, in- 
creases protein production, and crams in more billions of mouths. 
But sooner or later we'll outreach ourselves; in some area the fabrics 
of nature and society will begin to rip simultaneously. Our powers 
to mend will start to fail just where the need is greatest; our complex 
interdependence will begin to break down. Even now some essen- 
tial element somewhere not taken account of in all our calculations 
is approaching the point of exhaustion. 

(b) Violence the product of freedom 

Our alienation isn't the protest of a detached observer against 
violence done to a balanced system; rather it's the system itself 
finding a voice, complaining about what it suff"ers and assents to. 
Then if violence has its root in us we can do something about it. 
Recognition of our role is the beginning of an end to our alienation. 


A community where we could start to turn from our violence would 
be the scene of naturalization. Our primary loyalty would be trans- 
ferred from where it lies now, in the State, to the group (actual or 
potential) which we recognized as the place we belonged. 

We talk about "unthinking violence." but I doubt if such a 
thing exists. Consider the areas we have discussed. 

(1) No merely natural species can do violence to the environ- 
ment. Whenever we catch sight of it, it has already multiplied right 
up to whatever limiting factor prevents it from going further. Vio- 
lence begins when you see what has put the ceiling over you, and 
you deliberately supply the scarce item, so that you rise up to the 
next ceiling, and the next. This requires thought. 

(2) The oppression of the poor was taken for granted in the 
monolithic ancient Near Eastern imperial city; neither they nor 
their rulers imagined that things might ever be different. Violence 
could only come out of a new situation where a better way of 
treating the poor was imagined and rejected by the powerful, who 
continued to oppress them — but now out of principle, or with a bad 
conscience, or with the self-persuasion they were doing the best 
they could. 

(3) When classical literatures were being created, every writer 
treated the language as a businessman today treats the economic 
system. It was the context he operated in; by mastering it he made 
his claim to recognition. Only in an age like ours, which through 
conscious historical study makes an example of older literature, can 
it be manipulated for propaganda or ostentation. 

Thus the idea of violence or exploitation assumes that a natural 
pattern already exists, and that we take the initiative of choosing 
more or less consciously to ignore it in favor of something else. 
Violence presupposes freedom. 

(c) Freedom as the principle of evolution 

The present is the hardest place to recognize freedom. A young 
man of poor family does well in high school, gets accepted at 
college, wins scholarships, impresses the interviewer from the de- 
fense industry. Freedom? From his point of view it is. But our 
society needs a lot of people like him. and takes pains to provide 

The Escalation of Violence 47 

them. Undeniable freedom or initiative would consist in discover- 
ing an actual new line of action and choosing to take it. How can 
we tell if a line of action is really new, or a superficial variation on 
an old theme? The criterion lies in the future, in how the action 
turns out. Therefore the place to recognize freedom is the past, 
whose future is the present where we're now living. 

Now freedom implies something positive: the existence of a 
fork in the road, even though our knowledge of a man's character 
makes us morally certain he'll take the wrong way. And when we 
go back to the freedom which made the wrong choice, a surprise 
awaits us: we discover another realm where the right choice was 
made/ The literary young person finds out with intoxication some- 
thing his elders hadn't prepared him for: old books contain a deeper 
intensity of expression than he believed possible. As he grows up, 
a further discovery is to be made: safe in the past from overthrow 
by any deathbed folly are revelations of an excellence superior to 
anything we see around us. No theory could have proved this in 
advance; it wasn't what the analogy of the sciences would have led 
us to expect; it just happens to be a fact of experience. 

When freedom appears, it has simultaneous effects in two dif- 
ferent realms. In one it turns unthinking routine exploitation into 
conscious violence; in another it produces a fundamentally new 
level of self-awareness. We recognize freedom in the emergence of 
some radical novelty into history. The novelty is proved such only 
by lapse of time, which shows that it can't be dismissed as conform- 
ity to a previously existing pattern. Of course the innovator was 
often deeply aware of being the bearer of the future — with an im- 
mediacy which we who look back can't share. But he also had to 
face the possibility that he might be wrong. 

What does it mean to live in a universe where a radical novelty 
can come into history? At whatever point we approach the human 
situation we're driven back to this question. Everything around us 
was once a radical novelty; before then it didn't exist at all. What 
we mean by history is something new happening. Biological and 
historical evolution are successive phases of a single process, a 
sequence of radical novelties. Vegetation was still spreading over 
the fresh volcanic crater of Lake Nemi when the first King of the 


Wood killed his predecessor. The order in which things appeared 
is built functionally into the present as the way they interlock. 
Freedom is one of the novelties which have emerged; as it persists 
in the present, it's the new name for the principle of novelty. For 
it means that we are now responsible for the emergence of novelties 
in the future. 

Man has introduced levels of complexity and order into the 
universe which could only be actualized in a creature like himself; 
he has also introduced levels of disorder impossible without his 
freedom. Can we recognize in the present some radical new reasser- 
tion of freedom, comparable in intensity to our alienation? Our 
analysis suggests that it should be here, but also that it should be 
here (or in any similar turning point of history) in hidden form. For 
its emergence can only be recognized by the eye of moral insight; 
when it can be recognized by its success, it isn't a novelty any 
longer. To crack open this riddle in the present, we have to go back 
to the time and place where human freedom first broke through. 

I propose as the fundamental turning point the transition from 
the ancient Near Eastern empires to the free city-state, in both its 
Hellenic and Hebrew form. The classical city-state was the ostensi- 
ble pattern for the founders of the American commonwealth. Our 
contemporary religions in both West and East look for illumination 
to the same age. Tragedians and novelists go nowhere else for the 
mythical patterns to serve as the dramatic precedents of their cur- 
rent tales. We shall expect to find that past built as a fundamental 
layer into our present; when we think about it, we're thinking about 
ourselves. As we look back there, the irrelevant information we 
possess about the more recent past drops away; we discover what 
is in fact essential information. 






1. Knowledge of the human past 
as centered in the word 

(a) The unity and complexity of man 
in his universe 

We gave the provisional name "free- 
dom" to human nature when operating on its 
proper principles. But no name by itself car- 
ries us very deep. We must look for freedom 
in the monuments of the past. But we also 
need to set our understanding of man's world 
and his past against its true background of 
the larger world and deeper past. The writer 
or artist must produce a work complex 
enough to simulate the cross-rips in the tidal 
waters of being. 

Nature uses very grand stage settings, 
but there's an intelligible proportion between 
our stature and cosmology. Physical laws en- 
sure that a stable star can't be enormously 
different in size or heat from our sun. Liquid 


water and life are only possible within a certain range of tempera- 
tures — that is, of planetary distances from a star. Distance by itself 
determines the length of one primary cycle, the year. Aristarchus 
of Samos already knew these dimensions. Our own generation has 
discovered the size of the elementary particles, and conjectured the 
size of the universe. An intelligent creature needs a brain big 
enough to contain some minimum number of nerve cells, small 
enough to be held up against the gravity of a standard planet. All 
these ratios are built into the original ground plan. 

Theory and observation together suggest that the universe is 
finite and (accurate to a few powers often) contains the equivalent 
of 10*° protons. (Eddington's theory — sensational and suspect — 
identifies the number precisely as 3/2 x 136 x 2^^\) These building 
blocks are grouped in ascending structures: 

1 gram = 10-' protons 

1 star = 10^' grams = 10^^ protons 

1 galaxy =10^" stars = 10^^ grams = 10^'^ protons 

The universe 10'- galaxies = 10- stars = 10^*^ grams =:: 10^° protons 

If, as seems likely, the universe has been expanding at nearly the 
speed of light, and its age is ten billion (10'°) years, its size is 10'" 
light-years. Most likely it's a hypersphere of finite volume — a three- 
dimensional orange-peel of curved space twisted round to meet 
itself with no edges. To visualize the spacing of the galaxies we may 
roughly think of it as a cube 10'° light-years in each dimension. 
Since the galaxies average a million (10*) light-years apart, they 
stack neatly into this cube with ten thousand on a side. 

Man is frequently called a little universe or microcosm; we feel 
our brains in some sense can encompass the universe. These general 
sentiments may be made more precise. A big man contains 10^ 
grams 10^' protons. The earth's population is approaching ten 
billion (10'°), or 10" protons. Our individuals are the stars of a 
small galaxy. If every heavy particle built today into a human being 
weighed as much as our whole species, the mass of our species 
would about equal the mass of the universe; we're the square root 
of the cosmos. A man has perhaps ten billion nerve cells — like our 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 51 

species, he's a galaxy of tiny points of light. The combinations of 
those cells taken eight at a time would serve to label all the heavy 
particles in the universe. 

Of course these numbers don't get at the unique contents in 
each irrecoverable instant of our time — whether in our aloneness, 
in company, or looking at the cosmos. When we asked about free- 
dom, we were looking for nothing less than man himself. To deal 
with the reality of our instants we need a symbolic record of the 
happening. Our moment differs from the moment of the animals 
by its potentiality of generating a permanent record of itself. 

(b) Modes of our knowledge of the past 

Contemporary reality is stratified: the contents of my filing 
cabinet are a cross section through time — so is a Near Eastern tell 
or the Grand Canyon. TTie coin-die of the past leaves its stamp on 
the present in various ways. 

Unaltered deposits of the past. Unchanged fragments of the 
past — an old Quaker marriage certificate, a Syracusan decadrachm 
of Arethusa — may come down nearly intact to us, atom for atom. 
The painted buffaloes and lions of Lascaux open up both the mon- 
strous animal world of the Paleolithic and the archaic mentality 
that recorded it. Eusebius the Church historian held in his hand 
the limestone fossil fish of the Lebanon and triumphantly saw proof 
of Noah's flood. Uranium atoms are a deposit from the original 
compacting of the earth; their relative abundance (as with the other 
elements) can be deduced from the sequence of stellar evolution. 

Traveling radiation. Most persistent of all are the oldest and 
least tangible documents of the past — wave trains of radiation. The 
cosmic hypersphere probably expands from some tight beginning 
to a maximum and then contracts again. It takes the entire lifetime 
of the universe for a light ray traveling around a cosmic great circle 
(which expands and contracts under it during the journey) to reach 
its starting point again. If our units of space and time are correctly 
chosen so that the velocity of light is unity, the lifetime of the 
universe equals its average circumference. The wave trains from 
quasi-stellar sources ("quasars") or other archaic stellar objects 
may illustrate a time much closer than ours to the beginning of 


expansion; that is, they proceed from a place at a considerable 
angular distance from us around a circumference. Since radiation 
can't be prevented from traveling, the information it conveys about 
a different time is necessarily also about a different place. Einstein 
showed that you can't talk about simultaneity of distant events; 
further, you can't have certain types of information about the same 
place at different epochs. 

Living communities from the past. We partly understand how 
an atom maintains itself for millions of years, locked in its crystal; 
or how a wave train persists, propagated along its geodesic. A 
colony of horseshoe crabs is just as old, continued in existence by 
the equally powerful conservatism of self-replacement, which we 
also partly understand. In the presence of a redwood forest, 
younger than the crab community, but more massive and more in 
tune with us, we feel powerfully how an archaic organization of the 
environment perpetuates itself. Naturally occurring viruses are ei- 
ther survivors or degenerate throwbacks to the original molecules 
around which the complex unknown chemistry of the primordial 
sea jelled into life. 

The continuity of consciousness. Along the main sequence of 
evolution we carry monuments of the past around with us in a 
different way. Our biological development as individuals — begun 
with the stirring of desire in persons like ourselves — carries us back 
to as simple a mode of organization as the earliest one-celled crea- 
ture. Our physical life is correlated with the strangely simple state 
of affairs called consciousness, something which was always possi- 
ble in the universe, since it has become actual in us. "Unconscious- 
ness," coma, the sleep of the fertilized ovum, are only cyclic 
fluctuations in its level. Our part of the world has two sides of its 
current coin, which Teilhard de Chardin calls the Outside and the 
Inside: man as the observer with his instruments sees him, and man 
as he sees himself when observation turns inward. Since we can 
carry back our personal histories as centers of organization indefi- 
nitely deep into the past, our part of the world illustrates every part; 
every organization of matter and energy must likewise be dual, with 
some analogues to matter and consciousness, outside and inside. 

Primitive man, a Lucretius or Darwin in embryo, correctly saw 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 53 

in the fluid of the womb, as in the water of irrigation-farming, 
testimony to the emergence of man from the sea. A true instinct 
led him likewise to locate Gods — centers of cosmic organization — 
in the animal, vegetable, mineral, aqueous, aerial, stellar worlds. 
There may be some law of conservation of psychic energy focusing 
billions of rudimentary insides onto the glowing point of our con- 
sciousness. It came as a great surprise that radioactive decay (which 
at first the Curies found only in radium) was a universal property 
of nuclei. We can say more: the duality of the universe, at present 
accessible only in ourselves, must be its most archaic and pervasive 
property. The fact of consciousness is my key (basically detached 
from the temporal sequence) to the remote inner sensibility of the 
beehive or the boiling star. It carries us back to the remotest scene 
of all, out of which were precipitated the elementary particles and 
quanta of radiation, as well as the pulsing space-time manifold 
which envelops them. 

(c) Elusiveness of human consciousness in the present 

We come closest to catching the psyche in our butterfly net 
through its relations with other people. The child is licked into 
humanity by its mother's smiles. During seven years one may have 
known a lover's body in which the average atom has been once 
replaced— "this fountain of flesh," Durrell calls it. What is the 
principle of organization that holds the fountain together, the river 
we can't step twice in? We're the sum of all that we've known, the 
area of intersection of innumerable ellipses. The philosopher 
analyzing perception and knowledge sees consciousness as a baf- 
fling simplicity. But in my friend or lover, the consciousness which 
I can't see generates the character which I can — and it instead has 
a baffling complexity, inconsistency of successes and failures. If by 
an effort I try to look at my own self as an outside observer might, 
dimly I perceive the simplicity and complexity interlocking. 

But when I try to fix my mind on my consciousness, after a 
second or so 1 realize I'm seeing something else through it; once 
again the butterfly has escaped. "Consciousness" is the most ab- 
stract way of talking about what goes on in my Inside: it's only the 
invisible atmosphere through which are blown the cumulus of per- 


ception, desire, will to power, appetite, curiosity . . . Some of these 
functions I share more or less with the animals; all (so far as I can 
tell) have a special color in me. What is that color? My conscious- 
ness interlocks with the organization of society around me. My 
parents were midwife to my self-awareness, and perhaps human 
society existed prior to individual self-awareness. My conscious- 
ness is inseparable from my knowledge of the dimensions of this 
valley, this planet. Ask the universe where it's aware of its own 
shape and history, and at that time and place you'll find a man. 
I hardly dare ask what kind of a universe it can be in which 
one reaches out for the blueberry on the bush, for the desired 
object . . . 

In the neighborhood of human society, the universe's whole 
mode of organization is radically changed. How shall we describe 
the change? If we try to paint a picture of the strictly contemporary 
world, or write a poem about it, we'll get only mosaic cubes set in 
a plaster of frustration, anger, desire: 

These fragments I have shored against my ruins. 

As the representations of our world become more up-to-date and 
transitory^ — a billboard in the corner of our eye, a murder on the 
television, a cry from the street, a bad trip — we're pushed back into 
the ungraspable inner chaos we were trying to comprehend. We've 
been moving in the wrong direction. Art has mirrored life so faith- 
fully that it ends up becoming life, presenting one more problem 
for itself. We can take that swirling inside world for granted as the 
raw data of experience to be unlocked; what we still need is a key 
made of different materials from the data. 

(d) Books as central records of the past 

Let's go to the opposite extreme and look for the symbolic 
records of experience which are least contemporary. We can be 
surest of their permanence by fixing our eye on a past time where 
more ephemeral records have collapsed — mud walls have fallen 
and new ones been built on them, marble statues have fed the 
limekiln, archives have been dispersed, private letters disintegrated 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 55 

in soil or rain, genetic stocks intermingled, languages confounded. 
Not so far in the past as to go behind the essential features of 
humanity: the aurochs of Lascaux is mute, it doesn't yet tell us 
enough, we have to project its society backwards from a better-lit 
period. We should turn to the precise page where the clear outlines 
of our society in its most essential features first show up. 

Music is what speaks most directly to many of us, the very 
language of the psyche. For just that reason it eludes our analysis, 
hard to quote, slippery to interpret. Also it fails us behind the 
Middle Ages; the music of the Greeks exists mainly as praise of 
it in their books. The plastic arts cover the whole span of humanity, 
but are ambiguous where only they testify. Malraux saw in the 
Nineveh reliefs of the dying lion a pathos absent everywhere else 
from Assyrian literature and history. I'm not that confident of my 
eye. Fragments of evidence suggest that the Etruscans were hagrid- 
den with superstition; D. H. Lawrence, on the basis of their art, 
wants to make them blissful pagans. I can't prove my belief that 
he's wrong. Do the bull frescoes from the Minoan palace of Knos- 
sos represent a sophisticated ritual bullfight or a human sacrifice? 
Where art for the first time, in the archaic kouroi of Attica, clearly 
represents the free man we know, it so happens that its meaning 
is also defined by contemporary literature; perhaps things couldn't 
have been otherwise. 

What we want to know about the first free men is their under- 
standing of their own society, families, rituals, science, legends — 
in their own words. Here our search comes to an end; the clue to 
man's past is ancient literary texts. An old book is an unaltered 
symbolic deposit of the past, preserved through the continuity of 
consciousness. All the early books had in the first place an oral 
existence. We can imagine the storyteller repeating the legends of 
Genesis around the campfire; Plato shows us Ion the Homeric 
reciter; when Herodotus wanted to "publish" a book of the Histo- 
ries, he rented a stoa and went out to recite it. Not exactly from 
memory. Our earliest literature is on a knife-edge between oral and 
written; its technique is oral, but its self-awareness and ambition 
show that the author was relying also on the permanence of writing. 
The written text is a mnemonic device to assist the reciter of a text 


already in principle memorized. The real scene of the text is a 
sequence of sounds — as heard in the theater, at the festival, in the 
classroom, on the tape, in the temple. 

A sequence of sounds exercises leverage on us through its 
immensely distant fulcrum in the past, the sea of language that both 
speaker and hearer swim in. It defines our loyalty to a political idea, 
freezes the topography of the ocean, assures us of a lover, reconciles 
or fails to reconcile us to our death. It's not exactly the sounds as 
such, but the universal ability to classify ranges of variation under 
thirty or forty categories — the "phonemes" of linguistic theory — 
that allows so much information, so many overtones, to be trans- 
mitted so economically. A real book has a density which provides 
some kind of equivalent to the crosscurrents of society, the com- 
plexity of the nervous system; and at the same time a unity of 
conception expressing awareness of an organic consciousness. 
Nothing is more transitory than an utterance as it damps out; but 
by virtue of individual memories (and writing, the communal mem- 
ory), nothing is more permanent. Two worm-eaten and faulty 
manuscripts correct each others' gaps and errors, beat back time's 
malignant napalm. The phonetic script turns out to be the central 
symbolic form through which we organize our society, the planet, 
more than the planet. Ancient history (apart from a few uninscribed 
monuments) is the sum total of the written record, as interpreted 
by intelligence. For some periods, like those covered by Thucydi- 
des and Luke, the basic job of interpretation comes to us already 
done by ancient intelligence; their text in some sense outranks the 
events it purports to describe, as an historical event of a higher 
category in its own right. 

Our survey of the past, and our kinds of knowledge about it, 
led us to ancient books as the scene for the birth of freedom — the 
basic item in the humanity we know. In an impressionistic survey 
of ancient history I will suggest that ideographic scripts of the 
ancient Near East were forgotten in antiquity because they were 
products of a monolithic sleeping society; that our freedom 
emerged in the geographical, social, psychic novelty of the city- 
state, recorded by harmonious texts in alphabetic script; that no 
sooner did freedom appear than it was corrupted by civil war and 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 57 

exploitation — but only to be transcended by the emergence of an 
international nonviolent ideology; and that this ideology is the 
special property of the dispossessed, and the New Testament is 
their central record. Upon the first basic level of freedom Jesus 
builds the final second level of love. 

2. The ancient Near East and its writing 
(a) Phonetic and ideographic scripts 

I make a distinction between ancient texts that come down to 
us in the fully phonetic script of the alphabet (Hebrew, Greek, 
Latin) and the older scripts that are partly ideographic (Egyptian 
hieroglyphic and the developments of cuneiform). Knowledge of 
the ideographic scripts had already disappeared in late antiquity. 
Egypt and Babylonia lost their self-awareness, and died except so 
far as they were continued by their daughters — Israel, Hellas, 
Persia, Islam. But the phonetic scripts are preserved to us by a chain 
of oral and learned tradition which has worn thin here and there, 
but never broken. The societies which produced alphabetic texts 
have influenced later societies, including us, not only because like 
Egypt and Assyria they were a link in the succession of cultures, 
but because their texts have been used all along in education. 

The complexity of ancient Near Eastern scripts made them a 
scribal monopoly; they were forgotten when a learned caste didn't 
consider their preservation important enough to keep itself alive. 
The simplicity of the alphabet marks a democratization of litera- 
ture; non-professionals could hand it on. Also the alphabet, by 
carefully noting phonetic features, both preserved the music of 
utterance and encouraged writers further in the habit of paying 
attention to it. 

The meaning of all the ancient Near Eastern texts has had to 
be recovered inductively in modern times. But can poetry which 
has once died be revived? We're moved at reading a version of the 
Gilgamesh epic done by a sensitive contemporary; is his pathos 
really there in the Sumerian? Were those texts composed with the 
careful attention to music and connotations that we know from 
modern poetry, the daughter of Greek and Hebrew? Are we sure 


that the Book of the Dead was meant to be read aloud at all? 

Egyptian and Babylonian scribes still knew something of their 
writing for a few generations after Alexander. Why did they let it 
go? Perhaps their old languages had already been replaced by Cop- 
tic and Aramaic, and their script was only a vestigial technique. 
Then when (if ever) had the texts been living oral poetry? The old 
religious documents didn't generate reform movements. From be- 
hind the veil which no conceivable archaeological discovery could 
pierce, we conjecture that the priestly class lost interest in the texts 
because they'd never contained a vital spiritual impulse in the first 
place. Contrast the Jews, dispersed at several removes from their 
homeland, who brought their books along in the face of persecu- 
tion, took pains to preserve a memory of the original tongue, and 
translated it into their new vernaculars. 

A modern who learns the language of Homer or Samuel feels 
that they go at least as deep into motives and social realities as 
books of his own language and century. How can he be sure he is 
not fooling himself? The original pronunciation is defined by 
beautifully phonetic scripts; we can reconstruct it as closely as the 
sound of Shakespeare. We have an unbroken chain of commenta- 
tors. Our spiritual experience is continuous with theirs — precisely 
because the texts were preserved. We understand their world be- 
cause it's part of ours, as London abuts on Neolithic farms. We 
haven't got any of these links to the Near Eastern texts in truly 
dead languages. 

(b) The ancient Near East as monolithic society 

The earliest city-cultures appeared in river-valleys, relying not 
on rain but irrigation. One reason is that, before manuring was 
understood, a permanent agriculture which could feed on imperial 
capital required steady replacements of minerals by river-mud. The 
critical necessity, water, is the key to social structure. The annual 
rise of the river was the theme equally of engineering and religion. 
The priests who guaranteed the water by their prayers were col- 
leagues of the civil servants who diverted it onto the fields. 

In those valleys, there was no natural acropolis on which an 
independent community could defend itself against imperial ar- 
mies; no springs that the defenders of a mound could drink from; 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 59 

no rain-watered fields to live by in defiance of irrigators. A palace 
cow/7 changed neither the bureaucratic system nor its functionaries. 
Only once a king. Ikhnaton, formed his own religious notions in 
the teeth of the hierarchy — and still in the end the hierarchy won 
out. There wasn't any proud nomadic community to produce an 
independent thinker; no cult or social institution from which he 
could get a notion of justice higher than the king's; no simple script 
accessible to Everyman that his words might be preserved in. A 
monolithic society: its bread only what the officials licensed, its 
religion only what the priests did, its law only what the king said. 
The first urban cultures had taken so big a step that it paralyzed 
further initiative. National Geographic reconstructions of Nineveh 
or Karnak look like a more spacious Rome or Cleveland with eccen- 
tric architecture and dress. Herodotus, who records his three-day 
hike into metropolitan Babylon, might not have been surprised by 
Tokyo. But the ancient city hasn't got any soul: nobody's playing 
Mozart behind the closed shutters, there aren't any Pentecostal 
congregations, no hippies practicing Zen, no Communist cells, no 
universities, no eccentric inventors. We must imagine a world with- 
out a free man. Big Brother had to anathematize the nursery rhyme: 

Oranges and lemons. 

Say the bells of St. Clement's. 

But that world hadn't ever heard it in the first place. 

(c) Roots of freedom in the ancient Near East 

Opposition to arbitrary authority hadn't yet been invented. 
The workshops made slow technical progress, but nobody thought 
to sit down and describe the universe. It was religion that motivated 
the first observation of eclipses, while the great Babylonian astron- 
omers like Kidenas were of the Hellenistic age, and probably 
touched with Greek rationalism. The ironic detachment of Protago- 
ras' one preserved fragment would have been unthinkable: "Many 
things prevent us from acquiring accurate information about the 
Gods; among them, the shortness of man's life and the intrinsic 
difficulty of the subject." 

A scientist friend reports he'd always taken for granted that 


Homer and the Old Testament were only the first stumbling steps 
towards real literature, as unsatisfactory as Aristotle's science in 
comparison with modern products. How could we affirm what an- 
tecedently we'd consider most likely? — there aren't any antece- 
dents to judge by. But it makes us stop and think when the 
instantaneous eye (trained of course by modern guides) still prefers 
Greek sculpture of men and women to other sculpture. The struggle 
of the naked athlete at Olympia or Sparta — as recorded in the 
statues, praised by Pindar, postulated in the myth of Eden — is a 
sign of every excellence, "They do it to obtain a corruptible crown, 
but we an incorruptible." Herodotus modestly is inclined to derive 
Greek arts from Egypt or Babylon, but still sees that his country- 
men have done something new — even though they may never quite 
have understood what it was. The texts of Egypt and Babylon only 
came into Greek hands after Alexander, through the Hellenizing 
priests Berossos of Bel and Manetho; by then the Greeks no longer 
realized the originality of their own achievements. 

Greek and Hebrew literature represent the same men and 
women as the sculpture, likewise stripped of fetishistic disguises. 
The Greeks felt sculptors to be mere artisans beside the true maker, 
the poet; while the Hebrews thought representation of the human 
figure in any form a blasphemous encroachment on the primacy of 
the word. They saw the man we see — and for the first time. Had 
he always been there? But the essence of man isn't merely being 
somewhere; it is creating a mirror of what he is. Horace says there 
were great men before Agamemnon, but forgotten because they 
lacked a sacred bard. Greatness is impossible without a sacred bard; 
they go together. Between them they constitute a new threshhold 
in historical evolution; that is to say, in evolution, the unrolling of 
the world-book. 

Every new growth has its roots in what preceded it: life in 
pre-life, consciousness in the primates. We must look for the roots 
of freedom in pre-freedom. Where do the old empires dispatch their 
ambassadors into a potentially more open society? Above all in 
commerce. The Near Eastern cultures, although their social struc- 
ture was fossilized, continued to develop technology: domestica- 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 61 

tion, agriculture, metallurgy, mechanics, pre-science. Beyond their 
frontiers, the empires encouraged the growth of weaker states 
against the threats posed by each other or by the barbarians. In the 
second millennium B.C. we see Bronze Age cities outside the em- 
pires and not dependent on irrigation. At Syrian Ugarit, Hittite 
Boghazkoy, Cretan Knossos, cracks appear in the monolith. 
Around these in turn are buffer states — nomadic, or mercantile out 
of oasis cities, or maritime from fortified ports. Technology spread 
from Egypt and Mesopotamia through these frontier states, becom- 
ing cruder as it went, but still revolutionary enough to produce a 
demand for its products among the Mediterranean barbarians. The 
future lay with the traders: Arameans of Syria, Canaanites (includ- 
ing the Hebrews), Cypriotes and Cretans, the people of Anatolia 
and the Aegean; and then a second generation, Siceliotes, Etrus- 
cans and Latins, the Phoenician and Greek colonies. 

3. The birth of freedom in the city-state 

(a) The citadel as mother of law 

How can we describe what it was like when the human race 
woke up from sleep? The determination to make decisions affecting 
one's own future; a willingness to be quiet before nature or society 
and describe it the way it really is; an awareness of new powers of 
creativity; a fresh look at what had been said of the Gods. Actually, 
since the new freedom is part of where we stand today, the problem 
is to understand the sleep of the ancient empires. Our violence, as 
we saw, is a conscious will to exploitation, different from their 
habitual petrified injustice. 

The decisive step towards self-awareness could only have been 
taken in a small independent community, what the Greeks called 
the polis, or city-state — where Jerusalem qualifies equally well as 
a city-state also. It had to be in touch with older civilizations, but 
free from outside imperial control, and small enough that a local 
tyrant couldn't hide behind court ceremonial. These conditions 
were best satisfied either on an island or an easily defensible acropo- 
lis with a natural spring and rain-watered fields. Apparently by 


1000 B.C., manuring and crop rotation were practiced widely 
enough that exhaustion of the soil wasn't a serious problem. 

Port-cities for the products of the ancient Near East sprang 
up on the northern Mediterranean coasts, which are drowned 
mountain-spurs running into the sea. Especially in periods of 
Mesopotamian weakness these were relatively safe from conquest 
by land. The fortified acropolis protected a few acres of ground on 
which there ruled a law above the will of a tyrant. "The people," 
said Heraclitus, "must fight for its law as for its wall." And if the 
wall is lost, all is lost; when "Yahweh determined to lay in ruins 
the wall of the daughter of Zion . . . her king and princes are among 
the nations, there is no law" (Lam. 2:8-9). 

(b) Iron and the democratic militia 

The necessary condition for effective defense of the acropolis 
was given by the discovery of iron. Another advantage of Canaan 
was that "its stones are iron." When Odysseus put out Polyphemus' 
eye with the red-hot stake, it sizzled "as when a bronze-worker [!] 
dips a huge double-axe or adze in cold water, hissing loudly; and 
so tempers it, for this is the strength of iron." "Tempers" {pharmas- 
sori) suggests a secret technique. The Philistines at first kept a 
monopoly of biacksmithing, and made the Hebrews come down to 
sharpen their farm tools. So Porsenna the Etruscan — also a foreign 
exploiting aristocrat related to the Philistines — imposed the condi- 
tion on the Romans of using iron only in agriculture. But soon the 
subject locals made the novelty their own, and "beat your plow- 
shares into swords" (Joel 3:10) became the signal for revolt. 

Since iron is so much more abundant than copper, not to 
mention tin, once the secret of its metallurgy had been found, many 
more men could be armed. The old single combat of an Achilles 
or Goliath in unwieldy bronze armor was superseded by heavy- 
armed infantry trained to fight in formation, the phalanx. As soon 
as ordinary citizens were made the eff"ective military striking arm, 
they dominated the state, since the citizen militia and the voting 
assembly were for all practical purposes the same body. Thus dur- 
ing the Peloponnesian War, when the aristocrats of Mytilene 
against their better judgment armed the lower class, it immediately 
went over to the Athenians. In a siege (until Assyria developed new 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 63 

techniques) iron seems to have given an advantage to the defense; 
the Greeks took years to capture cities defended by a few hundred 
men. Thus the introduction of iron, contemporary with a power 
vacuum in the Middle East 1200-800 B.C., in two ways had a 
democratizing effect. 

(c) The poet as heir of primitive tribal freedom 

It's fashionable to contrast what is called "the Hebrew world- 
view" with another thing called "the Greek world-view." For our 
purpose the similarities are more important than the differences. 
Through movements of people, commerce, institutions, and ideas 
Greek and Hebrew culture developed in parallel — two foci of a 
single new emergent. The absence of science and philosophy in 
Israel is accounted for by the fact that her free state was destroyed 
before its evolution came full term, and so rational thought was 
born elsewhere. Greek polytheism and secularism are important 
but not critical peculiarities, which still do have real equivalents in 
the Canaanite world. Classical and Hebrew civilization are comple- 
mentary products of a single spiritual impulse; each is the other's 
best illustration. 

The Hebrews idealized a period when their nomadic ancestors 
enjoyed complete if primitive democracy. They had before them 
the example of the Bedouin, independent by virtue of his flocks. 
Greek legends go back behind the Homeric age (with its well- 
marked class structure of aristocratic warriors and inferior masses) 
to a period of dynastic migrations, less clearly defined than in 
Hebrew tradition, with substantial equality. The technology of the 
city was essential for the invention of freedom; so also was the 
memory of that early independence, whether real or imaginary. 
Awareness of relations with the ancient Near East is expressed in 
strikingly parallel traditions of emigration; an Abraham and a Cad- 
mus came from the misty east, a Moses and a Danaus (mythical 
contemporaries) from Egypt. The Hebrews, more radical, envisage 
the emigration as a general strike; aristocratic Homer is still putting 
down the uncouth community organizer, Thersites. But in both 
societies the sacred prophet or bard who recites the traditional 
account of origins enjoyed substantial immunity from the king or 
tyrant; he was an enclave of tribal freedom within the city-state. 


(d) Freedom and justice in proletarian literature 

The origin of the Phoenician alphabet isn't yet understood. 
The fact that the notion of poetic utterance was discovered simul- 
taneously in Greece and Israel has barely yet been seen as a prob- 
lem. But it can hardly be an accident that the first use of the 
alphabet was to record supreme epics of Bronze Age heroes. The 
introduction of writing was remembered in parallel stories. David 
sends a letter to Joab by the hand of Uriah (who is either afraid 
to break the seal or illiterate) commanding the bearer's death. So 
in the Iliad, Proetus sends Bellerophon (surely illiterate) to Lycia, 
"and gave him baneful signs, scratching [grapsas, 'writing'] many 
destructive things in a folding tablet." Both have woman trouble: 
Bellerophon like Joseph refuses to lie with Proetus' wife and is 
accused by her; Uriah refuses to lie with his own wife and so 
condones her adultery with the king. Uriah is a "Hittite" of Canaan, 
so here again we may suspect an Anatolian original. 

Early poetry was a vocation for the handicapped, a blind Ho- 
mer or female Deborah, just as smithery was for the lame Hephaes- 
tus. It was also appropriate that free literary composition should 
be the work of the liberated citizen-militiaman or his leader: the 
verse of a David, Archilochus, or Aeschylus; the prose of a Thucyd- 
ides or Nehemiah. 

As soon as we look outside the acropolis to the circle of 
agricultural villages which it protects and exploits, we see a new 
inequality starting to spring up. In the eighth century B.C. we dis- 
cern in both Greece and Palestine a crisis in land-tenure producing 
a new class of the poor: originally free farmers who by inefficiency 
or bad luck went into debt and had to sell themselves, their land, 
or both, to a class of landlords. We know this because at almost 
the same time they found a voice in the peasant spokesmen Amos 
and Hesiod: the first fully realized individuals in world history. It 
is the Greek who writes, "Make straight your judgments, you gift- 
eating princes," but it might as well have been the Hebrew. Their 
poetry, almost the first expression of freedom, proves that freedom 
has already been corrupted. 

Both Amos and Hesiod probably lived in an age of literacy. 
The copiousness of Homeric and Hebrew epic reflects oral style; 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 65 

the gnomic terseness of the proletarian poets reflects the parsimony 
of the scribe for whom every line of papyrus was precious. At least 
they were liberated to tell an unpopular truth like it was, secure 
in the knowledge that what they had spoken from their hearts 
would be preserved by their followers through "Phoenician scratch- 
ings," Phoinikeia grammata. 

The farmer-prophet is a radical break from the anonymous 
courtly singer of epic — doubly so from the scribal functionary of 
Ugarit or Knossos. He gives its voice to a class that previously had 
been silent. Both poets talk as if the injustice they condemn was 
comparatively recent. Both see a principle of justice implicit in the 
operations of society and the universe. When Anaximander said 
that things "give each other justice and recompense for injustice 
according to the order of time," we might have wondered whether 
he meant the elements of nature or human society. Like us, he sees 
the balance as being dynamic, whether cyclic or evolutionary. 

The essence of freedom is the power of going behind conven- 
tions, and seeing principles of order which are superior to human 
society and guide its evolution. In Chapter IV we'll look at a central 
feature of the new free society — divine figures and names — and see 
how they express man's awareness of the new thing which he 
himself represents, a recently emergent novelty fitting a pre-exist- 
ent pattern. None of these analyses proves that it was necessary 
for freedom to emerge at this particular time and place. It's not for 
us to prescribe beforehand what new thing the universe will next 
produce. But looking back we can see how environmental condi- 
tions — the Mediterranean city-state — both made the novelty possi- 
ble and gave it a particular coloration. 

4. The corruption and transcendence of freedom 

(a) The self-destruction of the polis 

The splendor of freedom makes us men, driving a four-horse 
chariot at Olympia in an overflow of symbolic energy, celebrating 
the victory through choral verse. The same freedom makes violence 
possible; before too long the Syracusan tyrants monopolized the 
competition with their stud-farms. The city-state was necessarily 
ephemeral. Her novelties were adopted by the imperial powers: 


Assyria and Persia took over alphabetic Aramaic for everything but 
ceremonial texts. The advantage of a citizen militia was nullified 
by conscription and the invention of siege tactics. A succession of 
Mesopotamian powers — Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia — washed 
up against the world of the polis, and captured the Syrian states, 
including finally Jerusalem. 

Here Greece and Israel diverge; the wave didn't reach Athens 
until two generations later, and was enough weakened by distance 
that she could resist. In a great burst of energy, Greece (led by the 
Syracusan tyrants) secured her independence for another century 
and a half; in the same summer of 480 B.C., Pindar noted, she 
defeated the Iranian barbarian at Salamis and the allied Car- 
thaginian at Himera. In the time gained she worked the logic of 
the polis out to the end. Her literature shifted from epic and lyric 
to forms not guessed at in Israel: drama, rhetoric, scientific prose 
— first history, then philosophy, then natural science. But in the end 
she also succumbed to a home-grown imperialism from Macedon. 

What went wrong with the polis? When the city-states became 
liberated from the ancient Near East, the first thing they did was 
fight with each other. Our earliest stories are communiques of that 
war: allied Achaeans against Troy, David against Philistines and 
Arameans of Damascus, the growing brutal imperialism of Athens, 
the bloodletting of the Peloponnesian War. Nebuchadnezzar and 
Philip pushed over states that had reduced each other to shells, and 
had almost never stood side by side against the common enemy. 

Freedom and violence are twins, from one womb, and the Iliad 
is a poem of both liberation and force. Antecedently we might have 
said that the polis needed only to defend itself. But we're also told 
that the best defense is a good offense. Is any offense good? Doesn't 
it always overreach itself and fall on its face? The polis consistently 
pushed its luck too far. In closely related myths, the Hebrews and 
Greeks affirmed that anybody who tries to climb the heavens is 
going to get bashed by a power built into the nature of things — 
Nemesis, the envy of the Gods, the wrath of God. 

Hesiod sees a decline step by step from the Golden Age to the 
Age of War, connected with the discovery of iron, and at just about 
the right interval before his own time. The Hebrews apparently 
project the origin of violence further, onto the first appearance of 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 67 

man. But by Adam they meant free man, for he wasn't all that many 
generations before their age, even though the lifetimes were ex- 
tended to provide a framework for secular history. Eden and the 
Golden Age are a vision of the possibilities for liberated man, 
hopefully the mutation we belong to. Greek tragedy remembers a 
family tree only a few generations behind the new city, and sees 
the roots of defiant conscious sin as a compulsive repetition of 
taboos and bloodguilt from the dark past. 

Freedom could have grown up, or at least did grow up, only 
behind the walls of the polis. But those walls could only be pro- 
tected by violence, or at least were only so protected. Nothing is 
easier than to follow the history of that violence from Athens to 
Saigon. Thucydides is the political philosopher of the human race; 
Machiavelli and Hobbes are his translators. There's nothing in the 
mutual suspicions of Washington and Peking which he didn't ana- 
lyze long ago. The freedom to assert naked man led thinkers to look 
freely at naked nature — that is, to invent science. Beyond a certain 
point, science both produces technology and uses technology to 
advance itself. Then technology becomes autonomous; it was the 
instrument of violence against society in the ancient world, and 
against nature as well, in the modern. 

(b) Forms of the transcendence of freedom 

Violence and its accompanying alienation seems an all but 
constitutive feature of society. At this point it might be just a play 
on words to say that the solution was nonviolence. It would be more 
than that only if something actually emerged in our society or lives 
which could be so described. But the city-state has a surprise for 
us; out of that original garden a second bulb starts to bloom. In the 
death-agonies of the polis various attitudes were possible. Aristotle 
calmly analyzed what it had been, even as he tutored the pupil who 
rendered it permanently obsolete. A Demosthenes or Nehemiah 
tried to patch up its walls when the time for all that had passed. 
In Plato and Lamentations we read an elegy over its death. 

But the poets, with a firmer hold on reality, asked for the 
meaning of the event, and some of their contemporaries began to 
work it out in the field of history. Did the death of the polis mean 
the death of the free man which it had created? No, as it happened. 


once freedom — like the atomic bomb — had been invented, it 
couldn't be suppressed. The alphabet couldn't be undiscovered; 
people persisted in thinking their own thoughts and writing them 
down. Walls, swords, laws, militia, had originally been needed to 
make free thought possible. The overwhelming discovery of the 
fifth century B.C. was that, once freedom had appeared, it could 
defend itself by new means appropriate to its own nature. Freedom 
in its original form became obsolete — because it passed into a radi- 
cally new thing. At the heart of the corrupted city-state, inflicting 
and suffering violence, was born the image of the free man who 
affirms his freedom without needing the defense which always turns 
into offense. 

In its first phase the new thing is poetry. At the time of max- 
imum Athenian imperial expansion, Aeschylus set motionless on 
the stage the figure of Prometheus, of the race of the Gods, suffering 
for men. He undergoes the Persian punishment of crucifixion — 
later taken over by the Romans from the Seleucid kings of Syria 
when they annexed the Near East. (The risen Christ quotes Aes- 
chylus to Paul, "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks;" Acts 
26:14.) Psalm 22, the lament of a forsaken one with pierced hands 
and feet, represents a similar idealized figure. The Servant poems 
in Deutero-Isaiah, of the very early Persian period, interpret this 
suffering: the Servant is Israel; in its dispersion it has the chance 
of bringing the knowledge of God to the nations. The destruction 
of Jerusalem is seen as both deserved and providential; Judah must 
stop being a nation before it can become an international com- 
munity. Prometheus is blackmailing Zeus by his knowledge that a 
certain woman will bear a son greater than his father; the Servant 
has been entrusted with a mission. Both have been let in on a secret: 
the principle they represent will prevail without the need of propa- 
ganda or counter-violence. 

(c) The appearance of international communities 

The myth is partially realized in the last years of the city-state. 
In Greece the best representative of the new way is Socrates the 
hippie with his obnoxious questions at public gatherings. When the 
State in exasperation finally imprisoned and sentenced him, it also 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 69 

opened a way to escape; he insisted on staying. Jeremiah shows 
non-resistance to the invader and shares the lot of his people in 
exile. Israel as a whole, which did things the hard way, fought for 
her law until the end; but Athens after the war was glad to tear 
down her walls (the cause of so much suffering) to the music of 
flute-girls. Out of the death of the city, out of the humiliation of 
the mythical servant or historical pacifist, a new phenomenon 
emerges into history: the international community built upon a 

Plato didn't fully understand Socrates, but through him Socra- 
tes lived on in a new idea, the Academy — a community of scholars 
devoted to a humane literature (beginning with Homer, in spite of 
Plato's misgivings). The free university, committed only to the 
truth, so far has weathered persecution; it relies as its adequate 
defense on the conviction that some people will always respect 
truth enough to be ashamed of suppressing it altogether. Jeremiah 
helped found what Deutero-Isaiah is talking about, the Synagogue, 
another people of a book. Only under the Maccabees and in the 
modern state of Israel was it in a position to defend itself by force. 
Normally it just relied on its determination to keep its treasure, the 
sacred book and its language, alive in the face of persecutions. 

These international associations of free men could only have 
reached maturity behind city walls. But after they grew up there 
was never quite the same need for the polls again. Nationalism 
(including Zionism) today is outmoded in the West, the need that 
originally justified it doesn't exist any longer. (In their cultural lag, 
Asia, Africa, Latin America are coming to the discovery of freedom 
through nationalism in a new setting. Our role is to help them 
through their necessary evolution.) From different beginnings. 
Synagogue and Academy approached a common task: preserving 
a canonical literature among the many nations that don't speak its 

Was it necessary for man to go ahead and commit the violence 
his freedom made possible? Lower species have built into them the 
impetus to do everything they can; the first conscious animal seems 
to repeat their pattern on his level. The Athenians at Melos justified 
their war-crimes by saying: "Of the Gods we believe, and of men 


we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they exercise 
power wherever they can." But they used this principle sophisti- 
cally. We may explain how a respectable engineer can go on manu- 
facturing napalm by pointing to a widespread pattern of business 
irresponsibility; but this isn't open as an excuse for the man himself. 

(d) The poor as privileged inheritors of freedom 

The myths of the Servant and Prometheus have the power of 
generating fresh life in each age. The first institutions that rose out 
of them — Synagogue and Academy — have more obvious limita- 
tions. Each is a spiritual aristocracy presupposing a long training, 
mostly literary; they're not for everybody. This limitation fits the 
general upper-class bias of Greek literature; it goes more against 
the grain of Israelite culture. But neither institution is comfortable 
with the agrarian protest of the early poets. What was needed was 
that the ideology of the aristocratic literary institution should be 
made available to the illiterate dispossessed: an alliance of the 
intelligentsia with the proletariat in the service of a nonviolent 

After those original people's poets, the defense of the poor 
passed from their own number to concerned but paternalistic offi- 
cials, Solon the magistrate and Jeremiah the priest. Then the poor 
lost any spokesman, the canon of prophecy was closed. As the 
Eastern cities passed under the Hellenistic empires and then to 
Rome, slavery expanded and an urban proletariat appeared. Effec- 
tive Roman control of the Mediterranean can be pegged at 146 B.C., 
when she razed to the ground her two commercial rivals, Carthage 
and Corinth. In 133 B.C. there was a wave of proletarian unrest: 
a slave-revolt in the Sicilian plantations, a sympathy-strike in the 
slave-market at Delos, the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus. The 
Gracchi were true Marxists, aristocrats taking up the popular cause; 
but the party struggle they began deteriorated into empty platforms 
for ambitious generals. There were two more slave revolts before 
the solidifying of Empire, in 104-1 B.C. in Sicily, and in 73 B.C. at 
Capua under Spartacus. Thereafter the only revolts of the internal 
oppressed were the uprisings of Jewish militants in a.d. 68-70 and 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 71 

As a result the Synagogue went conformist, and a disillusioned 
Rabbi wrote: "Pray for the peace of the Empire; if it were not for 
fear of it, each would have swallowed up his neighbor alive." The 
Academy became an ornament of the bureaucrat's education. Slav- 
ery came to terms with the Establishment when Epictetus em- 
braced Stoicism; Hadrian was glad to find his subjects accepting 
the inevitable. As life in the Imperial state grew ever more arid, 
the burden of the future came to rest on those liberated by their 
position at the bottom of the heap from compulsion to cooperate. 
In corners of the Empire there hung on pockets of a self-conscious 
agrarian dispossessed, true inheritors of Hesiod and Amos. The 
normative statement of their position is the Gospels, which Toyn- 
bee calls "the epic cycle of the Hellenistic internal proletariat." 
They were written at a turning point of history — in fact the turning 
point — when free man is willing to dispense radically with the walls 
and weapons he relied on before. We all understand that Newton, 
Darwin, and Einstein grasped original insights which will stay valid 
until the end of time. I propose that Jesus identified himself, both 
intellectually and also personally, with a new principle that his age 
was ready for — one that exhausts the meaning of freedom by using 
it to the end. 

5. The New Testament: archive of the dispossessed 
(a) The New Testament as a Roman book 

Our analysis has led us in front of an old book and asks us to 
take it seriously. Now that we've gotten so far, let us empty our- 
selves of preconceptions and make ourselves open for it to speak. 
What's it about? If we answer quickly that it's about the power of 
the Spirit, or the Kingdom of God, or forgiveness, or the Resurrec- 
tion, we show that we haven't heard the question; we've picked up 
one item of its symbolic vocabulary as if it were a self-explanatory 
item of ordinary speech. Its title (better translated "New Cove- 
nant") marks it as revolutionary. In its own usage that phrase 
defines the symbolic action of the dispossessed community, "This 
cup is the new covenant in my blood" (1 Cor. 11:25). Only later 
on was the name of the action given as title to the archive which 


interpreted that action; thus it becomes a label of both sacrament 
and word. 

A dossier of documents is suitably called a covenant or charter. 
It announces a revolutionary transaction arising from the historic 
situation of its writers. Anybody with something of permanent 
value to say must say it through his own circumstances; his limita- 
tions are the necessary form of his universality. "Strike through the 
mask," said Ahab. The riddle of the universe assumes one form 
only for each of us; we deal with it there or nowhere — but if we 
deal with it there we deal with it everywhere. 

The New Testament, like other books, affirms something about 
the situation, which constitutes its background, and which it can't 
define explicitly. If an author takes pains to fill us in on certain 
historical facts, that's part of the story he's telling; his background 
is the story presupposed at the point where his story begins. Is the 
situation of the New Testament the fulfillment of prophecy? No, 
that would project the situation into the past; fulfillment is a formal 
(partly artificial) technique to point up the meaning of the present. 
Is the situation a waiting for the Kingdom of God? No, that would 
project it too simply into the future, which for the writers symbol- 
izes the depth of the present. The language of the New Testament 
is Greek because of what Alexander did, but its situation isn't the 
fact that the Near East has become Greek. Neither is the situation 
the Jewish homeland, or dispersion, because its drive is to move 
out towards a new constituency. 

The New Testament is supremely well-written under pressure 
of an intense urgency. The shifting grammatical forms, oral frag- 
ments, tag-ends of phrases, wavering syntax, have the bite and 
rhythm of life, the compelling tone of men unaccustomed to com- 
position who've been entrusted with something desperately impor- 
tant. If we. want a single adjective for the situation, we must say 
that the New Testament is a Roman book, a response to the radi- 
cally new state of aff"airs produced by the founding of the Empire 
in 27 B.C. The book which comes nearest to having the same situa- 
tion is the Aeneid, although it says something quite different about 
it. The situation of the New Testament is the problem presented 
to the individual and the voluntary community by a state which 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 73 

arrogates all meaning for itself, the problem of alienation from 
natural roots produced by Establishment violence. Vergil, with sub- 
tle doubts, on the whole accepts the Empire's self-evaluation. The 
revolutionary or "New" side of the New Testament announces 
resistance to Empire; the "Testament" part defines the nature of 
that resistance. 

The surface layer of Romanization is Latin words that have 
been naturalized into New Testament Greek, and often also into 
an underlying Aramaic. The following list could be expanded from 
early Christian literature: mile, libra ("pound"), modius ("bushel- 
basket"), denarius, assarius ("penny"), quadrans ("farthing"), lin- 
teum ("towel"), sudarium ("face-cloth"), /7oe^M/a ("cloak"), macel- 
lum ("market"), census, colony, sicarius ("assassin"), libertinus 
("freedman"), custody, flagellate, speculator ("executioner"), title 
(on the Cross), centurion, praetorium, legion, triumph. That so 
much of this vocabulary needs no translation shows how far the 
Romans have imposed on us also; its exploitative imperialist stamp, 
at once metric, economic, political, and military needs no underlin- 
ing. And it's only a superficial stratum of Roman influence, since 
the Greek cities had long before invented chaste Attic equivalents 
for the really important official vocabulary of proconsul and the 

Palestine was occupied territory. Against the alleged threat of 
infiltration from the desert by raiding bands or Parthian armies, a 
foreign military usurper had called in the Western imperialist 
power. Its professional troops were quartered on the countryside 
by a puppet administration whose dynastic rivalries show how little 
popular base it enjoyed, and which was frequently bypassed by the 
commanding general. The native prelate had to apply in person on 
holy days for his vestments, which were locked up in a fortified 
consulate and issued only to the approved tenant of his office. The 
liberal intellectuals, ostensibly modernizing traditional customs 
and religion for relevance to contemporary needs, were in fact a 
conservative force; the colonial power, by granting them modest 
perquisites, had detached them from any revolutionary movement. 
Those obsessive figures of popular literature, the absentee land- 
lords, were obviously (along with their resident stewards) reliable 


supporters of the regime which suppressed insurrection. Undoubt- 
edly they found ways to recoup from day laborer and consumer the 
protection money they paid — an inflation of 500 percent per cen- 
tury is recorded. No one but the foreign non-coms can have been 
the regular clients of the prostitutes omnipresent in our sources. 
The roster of colonial agents is completed by the locally recruited 
orderlies of the foreign officers, and the universally unpopular out- 
casts who collected taxes for corporations capitalized overseas. 

(b) Jesus and the Galilean Resistance 

The explicit pages of Josephus, and the writing between the 
lines of the Gospels, show that the rural North was the breeding 
ground of a fanatical patriotic Resistance under Messianic claim- 
ants. The massive uprising sparked off by Nero's approaching fall 
in A.D. 68 implies a long line of predecessors. Several of the Apos- 
tles were named by their fathers after Maccabean freedom fighters: 
two Simons, two Mattathiases, two Judases, at least one John. One 
is explicitly a "Zealot," two are "sons of thunder" who would like 
to call down fire from the sky. All are looking for an anointed king, 
legitimated by descent from David; one Simon thought to have 
found him, and is disaff"ected when told that this one won't triumph 
as the world judges. So at a desert caucus the proposal is made to 
"take him by force and make him king" — the drafting of a reluctant 
Presidential candidate. A famous saying of the proletarian organ- 
izer Tiberius Gracchus is put on his lips: "The beasts that inhabit 
Italy have their den, but those who fight and die for Italy wander 
homeless and unsettled with their wives and children." Galilee is 
the impregnable stronghold of a National Liberation Front, the 
water that its fish swim in — impregnable because the counter-insur- 
gency forces could never locate any resistance to put down. The 
Twelve Apostles were born Viet Cong. The liberation movement 
had a less stable urban base; if we changed the scene a little we 
could define the rebels put down by Titus the law-and-order Man 
as Black Power militants. 

Jesus isn't identical with Galilee; but the New Testament be- 
trays its Resistance origins by engaging in polemic with the claims 
of the Emperor, sometimes openly, at all places covertly. Beelzebul 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 75 

"Lord of the Mansion" and other demonic powers are seen to have 
infiltrated the power-structure; "My name is Legion." Paul for- 
mally recognizes Caesar's authority, but slips into revealing his 
conviction that the Lord of glory was crucified by the "magistrates 
(archontes) of this eon" (1 Cor. 2:8). 

Conversely imperial titles are heaped on Jesus; for generations 
before him official cult had praised the Emperor as "Savior," spo- 
ken of the evangel of his birth, welcomed his Advent {parousia) 
into the provinces. John knows that Domitian wished to be called 
"Lord and God" and pointedly transfers the phrase to Jesus. The 
Emperor spared Italians the indignity of having a king {rex) over 
them, but was addressed as basileus in the Greek East — or by an 
Achaemenid Persian title, "King of Kings." "Christ" itself was the 
native regal title, disavowed by Jesus in his lifetime, and bestowed 
on him by the Hellenistic Church. 

We'll do well not to try to prove that Jesus had to be born in 
a certain time and place. But since we know that in fact he was born, 
we'll understand him better — or transfer the mystery in him to 
where it belongs — by studying that time and place. His geograph- 
ical base was the Galilean insurgency, its members rejected as a 
profane miscegenated caste by both the clergy and the liberal intel- 
lectuals ("Pharisees"). The Fourth Gospel must be theoretical 
reconstruction in having Jesus make all those trips to the occupied 
capital, for the erratic urban mob can't ever have stood firmly 
behind the rustic folksinger of nonviolence. In large part the poten- 
tially guerrilla countryside had been organized by an ascetical re- 
former, thought to be a relative of Jesus, John "the Baptizer." Both 
his origins in the South and his attitudes link him with the Essene 
monks of Qumran, who also were "preparing the way of Yahweh 
in the wilderness." 

Neither Jesus nor the Palestinian Church disavowed those 
origins, for they took as their symbol of initiation John's washing 
of rebirth. Jesus uses the metaphor of baptism in his own words 
while not urging the act on his followers; after his death, however, 
the Twelve do urge it. The obvious conclusion is that they, and the 
rest of his following, came to him through John's baptism. For Jesus 
then the community of John is Israel; it's what he starts from, and 


in part disagrees with. Besides his decisive break with violence, he 
breaks also with John's asceticism. He must have regarded the shift 
as important, while recognizing that it wasn't any more acceptable 
to the cynical uncommitted. "John came, not eating and drinking, 
and they said, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and 
drinking, and they said 'A glutton and winebibber, the friend of 
whores and collaborators.' " 

(c) The new community as Liberated Zone of love 

New Testament scholars, in an excess of Establishment 
scrupulosity, make difficulties about the authenticity of many items 
in the Gospels. Our present line undercuts these doubts: the Roman 
background of the New Testament stands absolutely firm. These 
documents bear on their face the genuineness of what they claim 
to be: the record of a counter-Establishment community of the 
dispossessed. Equally clear is the question the New Testament is 
asking in its Roman situation: How can authentic community exist 
and spread in an exploitative society? 

If we take the Gospel at face value, there won't be any doubt 
how to answer this question. New Testament scholars hesitate to 
take the Gospel at face value — because it's a deposit of oral tradi- 
tion and legend, because they're afraid to. It's true we haven't got 
the same kind of history here that we've got about Cicero; but who 
ever wanted to throw in his lot with Cicero? Academic historiogra- 
phy is set up to define the records of official literary persons as valid, 
and the records of popular nonliterary persons as invalid. This 
accurately reflects Establishment defensiveness in the face of revo- 
lutionary threats. Rather than doubt the validity of the attitude 
toward exploitation ascribed to Jesus, we should doubt the validity 
of our own attitude to exploitation. 

We may say very simply that if Jesus followed the right kind 
of course, the knowledge that we possess about him must be the 
right kind of knowledge. He trusted that a popular oral tradition 
wouldn't falsify anything of critical importance that he stood for — 
but rather was the best or only way to preserve it. This gives us 
a new clue which things are of critical importance. We love the 
memories of men like Socrates and Francis who take pains not to 
impose themselves on the future, but throw themselves on its 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 77 

mercy. (We can't feel the same way about Dante, who invented a 
rhyme scheme from which no verse could be lost without detec- 
tion.) Love written down is legend. And in combination with other 
kinds of evidence, legend is our best or only proof that a special 
kind of man has lived. 

Old Khrushchev, hitting the table with his shoe, knew what 
manner of man Jesus was: "If someone hits you Christians on one 
cheek, you turn the other cheek; if someone hits us Russians on 
one cheek, we hit his cheek so hard we knock his teeth out." The 
beautiful outsiders who are boycotting the Church for not being like 
Jesus have a clear picture what he was like. One rejects the Church 
of Jesus for pretending to follow him; the other rejects it for not 
following him. Both see it as it is, and know him as he was. 

What he was may be thought of as a permanent sortie from 
the citadel of freedom, the Liberated Zone of love. Jesus doesn't 
propose that something new should happen in the future; he an- 
nounces that it is currently happening in the midst of men. He calls 
the attention of his audience to the fact that, without their having 
noticed it, a new flower has grown out of their soil. Actually he has 
several audiences, and an appropriate message for each. For hostile 
questioners from the authorities he has the barbed answers of con- 
troversy: "I came not to call righteous but sinners"; "He is not the 
God of the dead but of the living." For the curious he has the 
parables, where he appears to divest himself of his own principles, 
and shows that the new way follows even from the convictions of 
the children of this age. For the committed, those who become his 
movement, or rather whose movement he becomes, he tells it like 
it is. 

We've seen how he accepts and transforms his geographical 
base of organized fanatic revolutionaries. His ideological base is 
liberal Pharisaism, the thing which he starts from and rejects the 
most decisively — because he knew it was the stance that his move- 
ment would most likely fall back into again. His personal base is 
the women and pietists whom he radicalizes at the same time he 
humanizes the ascetics, strips their violence from the insurgents, 
and deflates the intellectuals. Each element is turned upside down, 
the last becomes first, the least becomes greatest. 

He turns inside out a community already existent. In what was 


remembered as his initial manifesto he redefines that community: 
for he found it at once (1) hesitant about its role, and (2) hasty in 
action. We're so familiar with the text that we need an effort of 
imagination to recapture the original mixed emotions he elicited, 
for he was pushing his hearers in two directions at once. 

(d) The tree and its fruits 

(1) "Blessed are you poor; for yours is the kingdom of God." 
They were hesitant about their role. The dispossessed community 
needed to be given a name, to be held up to its own best insights. 
They'd been taught to look for a coming state of affairs when the 
Liberated Zone of God's sovereignty would be plainly operative. 
Normally in Judaism — above all in Jesus' Viet Cong circles — it was 
assumed that the Kingdom would be brought in by a legitimate 
descendant of David, a royal Messiah (and with violence). But the 
early chapters of Luke point to a community of pious among the 
dispossessed which was groping to see itself as the bearer of the 
Kingdom (and without violence). The Magnificat, which probably 
belongs to Elizabeth, mother of the Baptizer, takes up the song of 
Hannah: "He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich 
he hath sent empty away." 

Jesus states it as a fact in the Beatitudes that the hungry are 
filled with good things. What made it a fact? That he said it with 
antecedent authority? But our evidence (or the evidence of his first 
hearers) for his authority springs from what he was. And it's a man's 
words which define what he is — since our words crown the whole 
symbolic language of gesture and bearing. Or was it a fact in the 
sense that Jesus found the blessedness of the poor already existent? 
But it wouldn't have existed effectually without him (or somebody 
like him) to define and guide it. Our language breaks down when 
we try to explain how a new thing is born. We may say: Jesus found 
the Messianic community existing potentially among the dispos- 
sessed, and by recognizing it as such made it actual. 

What made him so sure the right kind of community was 
there? He had the history of Israel going for him, where inheritance, 
contrary to precedent, went through the younger son, the harlot, 
the foreigner of goodwill. The figure of the Servant of Yahweh 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 79 

defined a dogma that truth would be internationalized through a 
suffering community. The circles symbolized by Mary, Elizabeth. 
Simeon. Anna. Zacharias. had been brooding over the prophecy. 

Political revolutionaries saw a promise to the poor in contem- 
porary history. Toynbee shows that the idea of a proletarian revolu- 
tion led by converted aristocrats was in the wind — Agis and 
Cleomenes in Sparta, the Gracchi in Rome. Marx's analysis of 
ancient history wasn't arbitrary; he takes as normative the catego- 
ries and vocabulary in which the ancient historians had previously 
analyzed it. 

Detroit or Hanoi or Guatemala are examples of how a sub- 
merged community may suddenly become conscious of its identity 
and power. Various things may precipitate the revolution — some- 
times when an imperialist power feels a touch of guilt and grants 
paternalistic concessions. That consciousness is abroad in the world 
today, as it was in the first century, and in the radical Protestant 
reformers of the sixteenth. Jesus' political friends turn out to have 
been wrong; they would necessarily be obliterated by the Imperial 
armies. Jesus makes a virtue — the only virtue — out of that neces- 
sity. The revolutionaries, including the Twelve Apostles, were go- 
ing about things in the wrong way. But before Jesus can say so, he 
has to reassure the dispossessed as radically as possible that they 
are the bearers of the sovereignty, that the new emergent has sur- 
faced in them; they are the new (in some sense final) bud on the 

(2) "But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies." 
He's not saying this to the rich — who have just been denounced 
and evidently aren't on the scene — but to the present poor. And 
he tells them that they'd been hasty in action, they'd jumped to 
conclusions about the way their Messianic role would be exercised. 
The normal Messiah, after (one may presume) assuring his hearers 
that they're destined for a key role in God's plan, then issues the 
call for the sword. "Baby, get yourself a gun." The Apostles began 
to fink out, whether they realized it or not, when finally they came 
to see that he meant what he said about the sword. That doesn't 
alter the fact that he maintains solidarity to the death with their 
cry against injustice, and they knew it. And in the end it turned 


out that they'd heard him too well to go back to violence, and one 
by one after his death they sheepishly returned. 

The new imperative, Love your enemies, doesn't really go 
beyond the Beatitude, Blessed are you poor. For how could he be 
so sure they were blessed? Because he had the insight — the final 
discovery by the cosmos of the principles defining its own existence 
— that the true pattern of life was the nonviolence which the poor 
were already practicing. Some were practicing it only for the time 
being, in frustrated impotence to take the sword; others because 
they'd begun to see it was the right thing. Jesus must have been 
the child of some community, or there wouldn't have been anybody 
to hear him; he truly calls the community his mother, and teaches 
it the true meaning of what he learned from it. Their blessedness 
lies in the fact that even as they listen to him they become what 
in principle they already were. The Kingdom of God is self-realiz- 
ing; it consists in people recognizing that it's already happened. As 
the human community is the universe become conscious of itself, 
Jesus is the human community become conscious of itself. Their 
consciousness consists in taking on their shoulders the new kind 
of freedom born from the death of the polis. But they didn't so 
much take it on their shoulders as have it put on them, and it's more 
than a higher freedom. Better to say: they accepted from history 
the burden of love. 

Who or what is Jesus himself in relation to the community of 
the dispossessed, which he has asked to see itself as bearer of the 
Kingdom? His person is unimportant beside his message: "Why do 
you call me Sir, Sir, and don't do the things that I say?" Still of 
course it's he that says it and not somebody else. If there's one thing 
that emerges with complete certainty from the Gospels, it's a mas- 
sive consistency in Jesus' character. Everything fits together — 
without the strain we feel in St. Paul or ourselves. His actions 
illustrate his words — as they should, since words are symbolic ac- 
tions. But who else has spoken without an element of self-condem- 
nation? All the rest of us are Oedipus. Jesus has some claim to be 
an authority on words; more exactly, he is word. The man himself, 
in both action and suffering (which add up to refusing to be the 
Messiah), is what he advocates. The Mediator is the message. 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 81 

Still in his truthfulness he must also deal with the fact that the 
new way has come through him and not through somebody else. 
"If I by the finger of God cast out demons, then no doubt the 
kingdom of God has come upon you"; "You have heard that it was 
said to them of old time. . . ; but I say unto you . . ."; "Whoever 
confesses me before men, the son of man will confess him before 
the angels of God." He's passed through to the other side both of 
pride and humility. The new principle of humanity — or rather the 
principle by which humanity is to be constituted for the first time 
— has been incarnated in him. In the end the principle takes prece- 
dence; his person is unimportant beside his message, precisely be- 
cause the message is one of non-self-assertion. "I am in the midst 
of you as one that serveth"; "The Son of Man hath not where to 
lay his head." The more he points to his own role as representative 
of new humanity, the more he recedes into the background. "As 
the lightning shines from one horizon to the other, so shall the son 
of man be in his day; but first he must suffer many things and be 
rejected by this generation" (Luke 17:24-25). 

When he talks about the "son of man," he doesn't mean clearly 
either himself or the community; but rather the community as 
reconstituted around the principle which he illustrates. Even Cae- 
sar felt obscurely that it was inexpedient to be called "King." The 
kings of the nations lord it over them; their great ones are called 
benefactors, but in the community the greatest are those who wait 
on table. He who humbles himself shall be exalted; Jesus states this 
as a general principle, which the Church then sees illustrated in him 
above all. 

(e) Initial problems with the new way 

After the execution of Jesus, an activist theoretician discov- 
ered another class of oppressed poor in the miscegenated ghettos 
of the Mediterranean port-cities. Paul's letters translate the rural 
metaphors of Jesus into the idiom of those stevedores, semi- 
reformed prostitutes, marginal businessmen, small-scale artisans, 
unstable enthusiasts, slaves and freedmen, tavern-keepers, petty 
collaborators, faithful human beings. The center of gravity has 
shifted in the New Testament Epistles, but still to our surprise we 


hear the very words of Jesus worked into the apostle's exhortation: 
"If you suflfer on account of righteousness you are happy" (1 Peter 
3:14); "Bless your persecutors and don't curse them" (Rom. 12:14). 
For three centuries, persecution kept the Christian Church willy- 
nilly loyal to nonviolence. But at subsequent periods of Church 
history, at least two objections have been felt to Jesus' program: 
(1) that he did not practice it himself; and (2) that it's impracticable. 

(1) Is the person who doesn't see things our way the enemy 
we're meant to love? Jesus doesn't seem very loving to one group 
at least of those who disagree with him: the Pharisees. Two other 
groups present easier problems. Some on our side openly advocate 
violence to overthrow injustice. In a sense the Galilean Resistance 
is his enemy, for it betrays him; but he expresses solidarity with 
its struggle for justice, while trying to humanize it. There are those 
on the other side who openly exercise violence to maintain injustice 
in power: the Romans. These are the enemy, properly speaking, 
that his sayings apply to. 

The Pharisees are those on our side who tacitly benefit from 
injustice. We agree that Jesus ought to have denounced them as 
he did; the problem is in finding a way to love them. They aren't 
exactly the enemy. "And therefore they don't deserve to be loved? 
What is this advantage that our enemy has over our friends?" The 
advantage of not purporting to speak for us; we don't have to reject 
the claim that he's representing our viewpoint. Loyalties and group 
memberships are illegitimate extensions of our personality; through 
them we can push other people around by our agents without 
having to take the blame ourselves. We should take pains to dissoci- 
ate ourselves from injustice allegedly done on our behalf; with the 
actual enemy the situation doesn't arise. When analyzed through 
to the end, the notion of "enemy" is contradictory; Jesus is such 
a thorough philosopher that he can't bear the dilemma, and so deals 
the enemy out of existence. 

People ostensibly on our side who represent injustice are also 
people in their own right. If we can pass beyond ideology, there's 
a clear alternative of their becoming actual enemies or actual 
friends. The presence of Jesus polarizes people into making deci- 
sions. He takes maximum risk himself in getting as close as possible 


The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 83 

to the other person's position, maintaining solidarity with error. In 
the story of the Prodigal Son he assumes all the criticisms of the 
Galilean outcasts to be true — and shows that even so they deserve 
forgiveness. He presumes that from every point of view there's 
some road leading to the truth. 

He's more severe on the class than on individuals. To make 
a distinction between a man and his erroneous views, the ancient 
world had something more powerful than we do; it had demons. 
It could retain respect for a man who is in the wrong more easily 
than we can; it could say he was serving the wrong master, whereas 
we doubt if there are any masters to serve. So the apostle can 
maintain that the Emperor holds his power from God, and still 
recognize that our battle is against spiritual wickedness in high 
places. Behind the man Caesar and his providential office is his 
Genius, a demonic power which has subverted the Government. 
The Beast of the Apocalypse issuing Social Security numbers and 
draft cards to those who recognize its authority symbolizes this 
reality concretely. If we agree that the Beatitudes define the human 
ideal, how can we retain respect for our fellow human beings (our- 
selves included) unless we can find a way to say that they're gripped 
by some demonic possession — alcoholism, fetishism, lust for 
power, self-justification? 

It's easier when the demon attacks the oppressed and makes 
them outcast; they're still accessible to our compassion. But what 
shall we do when such a one holds supreme power? He's cut off" 
from us; the demon's got him where it wants him. The top and 
bottom of society. Presidency and Bowery, are subject to the same 
compulsions: the great advantage of the poor, which helps make 
them blessed, is that they can't provide the demon enough power 
to shut off" a healer's access. 

(2) It's been said that society can't be conducted on the basis 
suggested by the words of Jesus, and that we shouldn't pretend it 
can. But history has put the shoe on the other foot. For it seems 
now that society can't be conducted much longer on the basis of 
our current level of violence, and the Church shouldn't pretend that 
it can. People who try to follow neither doctrine treat what Jesus 
says about violence and hatred as if it were the same as what he 


says about using the courts or saving money. If "take no thought 
for the morrow," "sell what you have and give to the poor," can 
be understood metaphorically, then why shouldn't "turn the other 
cheek," "love your enemies" be taken in the same way? 

We know that prudence and an income aren't intrinsically bad, 
as are hatred and killing. Therefore the first kind of saying must 
be interpreted along different lines from the second — though I sup- 
pose as seriously. Since we die tomorrow, we're not supposed to 
be anxious about it, but do the best we can today. Food and security 
are those items which we shouldn't necessarily claim for ourselves, 
but which (being good) we're expected to provide for others. But 
violence isn't something we give up so that others may enjoy it in 
our place. 

(f) The birth of Aphrodite 

To one side of us the Gospel comes as something external and 
threatening. To another side (hopefully dominant) it comes as a 
fresh breath out of our own life, an almost forgotten morning of 
our own childhood. In this world of violence we find ourselves 
chucked into, the noisy reassertion of the polls in the bigger and 
less responsible form of the Nation doesn't seem to offer any way 
out. Over against all the voices assuring us that the Gospel says 
something more complicated and compromised than it appears to, 
we'd like to affirm that its way is what it says, and that it's our way 
— the Ariadne's thread of nonviolence which alone offers to lead 
us out of the maze, turning our back at every point on the Minotaur 
of conscious bestiality. 

The wreath promised at close of day for having held to the 
right course is simply survival: for the planet, for society, for our- 
selves. The initiative lies with us. Jesus suggests, and our heart 
seconds his motion, that the key which will unlock the collectivities 
must first unlock us. More truly than any president of General 
Motors, we may say, "If it's good for us, it's good for the nation." 

In the next chapter we'll try to ask if the Gospel is something 
more than a grammatical fiction, if nonviolence really exists. It 
appears that our philosophers have been doing bad metaphysics, 
and our political scientists, bad community organization. The true 

The Emergence of Freedom and Love in the Ancient World 85 

contents of our psyche isn't consciousness: either in its origins, 
since it came from our mother; or in its goal, since it was intended 
to reach out for the desired object. The true principle of our social 
organization isn't freedom, which can only oscillate between de- 
fense and attack, isolation and imperialism. The message which 
comes in from alphabetic texts, from the farthest reaches of time 
and space (mediated through our self-awareness), unifying all liter- 
ary forms, dissolving the threat from the astronomic dimension of 
things, resolving the dilemma of society, is simply love. 

Since Greek religion hasn't got any priestly guardians of or- 
thodoxy, we're entitled to pick and choose among its themes. And 
1 guess if we thought about it most of us probably would choose 
the birth of Aphrodite, purified of gross Phoenician motifs, per- 
fected by Botticelli's innocent version of the naked figure on her 
scallop-shell in the foam. The Gospel purports to offer us nothing 
less than we ask for, the birth of love; before we let the realists 
whittle the gift down to their size, we might first see how it looks 
when we open the package. 


1. The demands of justice and love 
(a) Identification with the oppressed 

The historical fact that Jesus identified 
himself with the oppressed also makes a 
claim on us. Establishment political theory 
takes membership in "our" society as simply 
a given fact; but the claim of the poor, how- 
ever little we respond to it in practice, has 
higher priority. We already suffer along with 
them at pauperization of the environment, 
both biological and spiritual. Solidarity de- 
mands conversion, so far as we're now iden- 
tified with the exploitative society. We must 
begin to think not "our violence" but "their 
violence," not "their suffering" but "our 

How shall we work effectively against 
current violence, without starting a new 
chain of violence? Many who've gotten this 
far consider the dilemma insoluble, and set- 
tle for either ineffectiveness or counter-vio- 
lence. We have to reject both alternatives. 

Establishment nonviolence. Respectable 
pacifism is novocaine to deaden our aware- 
ness of complicity; it's the Establishment's 
ultimate technique for castrating our resist- 
ance. When 1 cash in monthly dividends 
from past violence how can 1 be called nonvi- 

Revolutionary counter-violence. The cry 


of the oppressed for forcible revolution is a necessary feature of the 
cry for justice. But if we refugees from the Establishment echo it 
uncritically, we won't be serving either morality or the future. The 
adherence of intellectuals should at once vindicate and transform 
the struggle of the poor. We can't just set colored people in the 
chairs of power now occupied by the colorless, to make the same 
mistakes all over again. History has moved and they've got to do 
better than we did. 

The third way, recommended by the Gospel and our necessi- 
ties, is revolutionary nonviolence. Ethics refuses to accept a choice 
between two evils as exhausting the possibilities. Novelties come 
into being by openness to a creative alternative. Of course at the 
same time nothing is more risky; this waiting is only the thickness 
of a razor blade from the shiftlessness that sinks back into conven- 

(b) The demands of justice on its two levels 

Solidarity with the victims of injustice implies some idea what 
justice would be like. 

The level of absolute individual rights. Justice is the state of 
affairs where every man has his place in the sun, and every woman 
and their kids too; and shelter if the sun gets too hot and against 
rain. Clothes for use and to define a respected position in society. 
Foods in season and some out of season, frozen or imported. A bed 
to sleep and make love in. Symbolic ancestral possessions (not 
necessarily money or land) and things of one's own; a place to keep 
them and the kids' toys. A skill if possible of one's own choice, and 
a job to use it at. A clean beach to swim from, mountains to climb 
in. A dignified way of getting the doctor. Freedom not to have the 
kids arbitrarily interfered with. Freedom to travel, freedom to as- 
semble with people of the same background or a different one, 
freedom to read, listen, look. Freedom to sound off and make a fool 
of yourself — or maybe a wise man. Freedom to go on speaking the 
language your mother taught you. 

The package presupposes justice towards tame animals, the 
right of most wild animals and plants to exist — the sympathetic 
management of the planet. Absolute justice won't be realized until 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 89 

the Garden of Eden sets in — all the more important then to start 
working towards it. The item most critically lacking at any mo- 
ment, food or freedom, will be what justice demands; but people 
must set their own priorities. 

It's our duty to insist on all these things for our neighbor. Our 
own discovery of the Gospel puts matters in a different light for 
us (potentially for him too). If we now enjoy these freedoms, by 
a higher principle than justice we (like other revolutionaries) may 
renounce them for ourselves to guarantee them for him. But no one 
is in a position to make that renunciation for somebody else, except 
by setting the example. 

The level of relative rights. It would be wrong to say that justice 
was giving every man his place in the sun. If some administrators 
give him that place, they can take it away again. But it must be 
arranged that the right goods and services are produced, that people 
don't make more new people than the planet has convenient niches 
for, that people don't need to fear aggression. The second level of 
justice is the relative right to existence of institutions which defend 
the absolute rights. 

The language that defines our freedom binds us into primary 
communities — the people around us who speak our mother tongue. 
Any threat to that community attacks us as individuals. The myth 
of Babel sees different languages as the typical failure in communi- 
cation which generates hostility. The myth of Pentecost envisages 
the hope of breaking down that barrier through simultaneous trans- 
lation technique. If something important has already been said in 
our language, or if we can say it ourselves, the linguistic community 
is guaranteed by its own proper means. 

Relying on the wrong sort of guarantee is the scene of corrup- 
tion. In our suspicion of our neighbor (often well-justified, always 
self-fulfilling) we seek out or cling to collectivities — a Church, a 
cultural group, a city, a nation, a legal system — as embodying our 
primary rights. But no polis or Establishment is entitled to claim 
identity with our rights, even when people have invested their life 
in it. 

If the institution is big and faraway, it must be stable enough 
to base my plans on, but also flexible enough that under social 


change it won't go on enforcing what would then be injustice. 
That's difficult. So all arrangements should be guaranteed on as 
local a level as possible. Locals are best acquainted with their own 
situation. Only rare people are wiser than their neighbor at recog- 
nizing his needs. Wherever possible people are to make decisions 
affecting their own future. The closer to home a system of self- 
defense, the more modest its claims will be, for it sees its own 
temptations. The justice of an institution varies inversely with its 
claim to justice. 

(c) The demands of love in an unjust society 

For the man who has everything, Jesus makes only one gift 
suggestion, "Sell what you have and give to the poor": identifica- 
tion with the oppressed. Otherwise his message is to the oppressed 
— who now of course ideally include the former rich man. In a 
unified world with some prosperous communities, the poor are 
victims of injustice simply by existing. There's always an area 
where men could start restoring justice if they wanted to badly 

It's always phony when big people accuse little people of 
crime. The powerful can't be victims of injustice; they haven't got 
any enemy except Death. The rich who hold power by keeping the 
poor ignorant and divided do have another enemy, whose name is 
Revolution. They must make their own judgment whether it's 
inevitable. We should help them make the decision to start unload- 
ing their cargo of injustice. Otherwise we can only say, "Woe to 
you rich, for you already have your reward." Their placid exercise 
of injustice has weakened their psyche, and the revolutionary poor 
rush into the psychic vacuum. 

The only war worth taking sides on is the refusal of the op- 
pressed to accept further exploitation. If we're in their shoes, for 
the first time we can locate an actual enemy and think about loving 
him; that is, the Gospel becomes applicable. When a big power 
fights a little power, one party has an enemy; the other party has 
only a victim. If the revolution succeeds, as it eventually will, the 
roles may be changed. That doesn't affect the current state of 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 91 

affairs, but it explains why Jesus forbids military identification. 

Jesus, who takes the cry against injustice for granted, finds a 
new basis for solidarity among family and friends in a higher 
solidarity with the enemy. But even in his name we can't ask the 
apathetic peon to love the man sitting in the hacienda, until he's 
realized that he's got an enemy and revolution is possible. Only 
then will it be a real decision, and not a formula, for him to trans- 
form the revolution into nonviolence. Since in some sense it's al- 
ways possible to love the enemy, the revolution as Jesus transforms 
it can always be carried out. Love is more practicable than justice. 
This is why he can be so sure that the poor are already bearers of 
the Kingdom. 

Love of the enemy is recognition of the fact that the evil 
doesn't lie in him but in demonically controlled structures. As we, 
with no special merits or insight, have gone over from the occupied 
territory into the liberated zone, so can he. He's hostile to us 
because we reinforce the reality-principle in him which tells him 
the truth about the Establishment he belongs to. As he constantly 
stands before a fork in the road, our job is to keep recommending 
the right way. 

The emerging nations are only approaching the stage where 
the Greek city-state discovered itself, and we've got to let them 
evolve from the point they've reached. We can't disavow our his- 
tory either; we've passed beyond that point. We're most securely 
anchored in the two terminal points of evolution — nature and the 
Gospel. So long as the biological environment holds up, we needn't 
fear for the Gospel from violence (the background it was born in) 
but only from compromise. 

This chapter works out the basic alternatives which persuade 
me that the only way to work for peace is peace. The coercion 
available to a Great Power today — ostensibly in the service of 
justice — is deployed on two levels, with a big gap in between. We'll 
fight either against a little opponent, with limited means, exercising 
what we may call police power; or against an opponent we choose 
to consider as equal, with unlimited means, in what is still called 


by the old name "war." The policy of force is then shown to be 
bankrupt by a clear dilemma. That doesn't mean that the State (a 
passive agent under demonic momentum) will necessarily drop the 
policy; but that as individuals we must find another line of construc- 
tive action. 

A war against a small opponent, like other exercises of police 
power, will turn out in the end to have been neo-colonialist. It will 
be unjust and undermine our society; therefore it won't work. True 
police power works best where it's least needed. On the other hand, 
a war against an equal opponent involves the unavoidable risk of 
damaging the biological environment. Nothing can justify this risk; 
for the Gospel is available in seed-form around the world. This 
prudential nonviolence seems different from the New Testament 
motive of eschatology. But in fact the apocalyptic vision was a true 
prophecy of the threat in technology. The hard case of nonviolence 
—the one where Jesus originally recommended it — is in a just 
people's revolution. Our cue is to show the revolutionary here or 
overseas that he'll eventually win, and should start off on a better 
foot than we did. This message is our permanent service. The scene 
of our effectiveness isn't the police power of the State, but the 
voluntary community of love. 

2. False and true police power 
(a) The levels of police power 

My New Hampshire college town had a paid three-man police 
force which directed traffic and issued bicycle licenses on Saturday 
mornings. Every October the students decided to raid the movie 
theater; once the police were reputed to have thrown a tear-gas 
bomb. I suppose anybody with sterling locked the house up when 
they went out, but we didn't know anybody like that. Every tran- 
sient was spotted the day he hit town. A couple of summer drifters 
slept in shacks beside their rowboats on the river. 

Our local uptight Puritanism — the serpent in this granite Eden 
—produced neuroses, and drunkenness after Repeal. Even in Nash- 
ua and Manchester the Canucks and Irish were only a marginally 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 93 

oppressed class — our situation was pretty different from the South. 
How far was our relative harmony parasitic on the original institu- 
tion of slavery, funneling profits to the industrial North? We didn't 
see too much of them. Only when the black ghetto starts spreading 
up through Lawrence and Lowell will we know we've joined the 
twentieth century. 

Our current suburb regulates itself by a similar vigilante code 
of morals. My neighbors work off anti-social impulses in their cars 
and hire traffic cops to protect them from their own frustrations. 
What are all those other police — that we get taxed for — doing? 
Some petty racketeers in bookmaking, pushing, prostitution, pro- 
tection, are picked up; the big boys are in the Mafia, whose base 
is its infiltration of the police. But, in Manhattan or Oakland, the 
main stream of arrests and sentences is directed at blacks and Latin 
Americans, ghetto minorities rapidly becoming majorities. En- 
forced unemployment and poverty channel their lives into a certain 
disorder, defined as crime by the white ruling class. The actual basic 
function of our police is to keep a subject urban population under 
control, to protect the white suburbs from the ghetto. Since the 
ghetto has not yet invaded Laurel Terrace, the threat exists at 
present only as a guilty sense that the suburb deserves to be threat- 
ened. The size of the police force, both relative and absolute, is in 
proportion to the injustice and guilt. The more police a city swears 
in, the closer it stands to revolution. 

America has sworn herself in as global policeman, and daily 
the phrase proves more apt. On every level, the police force is 
composed of ethnic minorities one grade higher than the popula- 
tion controlled: Irish cops in the black ghetto, black GI's in Asian 
villages. Brutality grows by reciprocal feedback: if riot control gre- 
nades are good enough for our own people, they're good enough 
for the gooks. The presence of the occupying forces with their riot 
guns, armored vehicles, incapacitating agents, dogs, helicopters, 
search-and-destroy missions, isn't a signal for pacification, but a 
signal that resentment is high enough to give the militant real 
support. The theory of police power is having force and to spare, 
doled out in measured increments to disorder or rebellion. But in 


Viet Nam we see the birth of a colonial consciousness and its 
simultaneous refutation— instant empire. 

(b) Police power as mirror of exploitation at home 

A California billboard reads, "Support your local police." Back 
home where the police are hired by the town meeting, we felt they 
should support us. When we see legislators, some known to us as 
individuals, hard at work in state capitols defining new crimes, 
authorizing new enforcement agencies, we have the illusion that 
somebody somewhere is giving a mandate for change. But two iron 
principles can't be touched: 

Whatever the ruling class needs to do must be legal. Divorce, 
stock-speculation, exploitation of natural products overseas, drink- 
ing at cocktail parties, gambling at resorts, real-estate deals, profes- 
sional privilege of doctors and lawyers and clergy, building 
fortunes, safety of home jewelry, sending kids to private schools — 
the privilege of buying these rights must be carefully guaranteed. 
It's very serious to break the united front by embezzlement, 
manipulating the market, infringing suburban zoning regulations, 
talking to reporters. Even more embarrassing is to be caught in a 
specifically lower-class offense like smoking grass. Still, if possible, 
things are covered up, the offender is reeducated and brought back 
in; at worst he can buy lawyers and mitigating circumstances. 

Any shortcuts for an oppressed class to bypass the officially 
designated hard road up must be illegal Threats to property, values, 
law and order, routine, are put down with whatever force is neces- 
sary. Likewise whatever the authorities decree might lead to such 
a threat: drinking on the street, gambling in back alleys, cheap 
weapons, shoplifting, nonpayment of rent, drugs, treating a police- 
man or judge as an equal, deceiving a social worker, beating a wife, 
borrowing cars. The trickle of converts who make it to the top by 
upper-class rules can be accepted. 

A society gets the police it deserves. If it hasn't got a deeply 
oppressed class — England before black immigration — it can oper- 
ate with a minimal police force. They told us in school the police 
stood above class interests. But you can't obscure the fact of a ruling 
class which sits on the bench, makes the laws, and hires the police. 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 95 

The county jail and the county mental hospital aren't all that differ- 
ent as one drives by. They illustrate the same mentality: out of 
sight, out of mind. The only long-run program to reduce brutality 
is deciding to get along without them, inventing flexible decentral- 
ized ways to deal with alleged incompetents and alleged criminals. 
Much of the clientele would evaporate as actual exploitation was 

(c) Colonialism as police power 

The massive oppressed populations of Africa and Asia are 
by-products of opening local cultures to world trade. In Latin 
America they're the result of intermarriage with the colonists. In 
the United States, a slave community was the open-eyed decision 
of a ruling class. It would be one step ahead to humanize the 
systems of exploitation already with us. But although exploration 
is at an end, social change can beget a new proletariat. In the three 
years since I have come to California I've seen a new community 
and style of life emerge in the hippies, with roots in the bohemians 
of the forties and the beatniks of the fifties, but more intense and 
clearly marked. If the mutation turns out to be persistent, it'll be 
persecuted by the Man even more than now. For present or future 
subject populations, the only acceptable goal is dropping out from 
colonial society into autonomous status. 

There's certainly need for an impartial police power to regulate 
conflicts between roughly equal forces — Turkish and Greek Cypri- 
otes, Israelis and Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis. (But where the 
United Nations fails, the United States is the last place to look for 
impartiality — or the secret of civil tranquility.) 

The anarchy resulting from insufficient police power isn't an 
inner fault but a colonial heritage. The Belgians subverted tribalism 
in the Congo by using it as a slave-preserve; they kept local leaders 
from rising above elementary-school level; they sold off" the mineral 
resources; and then as if to prove how indispensable they were, they 
pulled out. The organs of society were destroyed and prevented 
from regenerating. A single-minded ruling class can create condi- 
tions to justify its trusteeship after the fact. 

We point correctly to Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden as states 


with minimum police power. None has an oppressed minority, all 
are products of the same political tradition — whose fragility is 
clearer than it was. We might have added the Netherlands or Bel- 
gium, until we remember how they acted in Indonesia, the Congo, 
South Africa. All Europe is capable of the same things; behind 
every quaint Guildhall fagade lies a permanent possibility of the 
same naked coercion. 

A Great Power has now so much hardware that a small nation 
can only challenge it in a plainly just cause. Then world opinion 
will keep violence below some fixed level (however high), and the 
liberation army can live off the country. We'll hardly see a small 
outlaw state again; open aggression against a Great Power is too 
easily put down. The Japanese in World War II gave us a good run 
for our money, but the outcome was never seriously in doubt; and 
they wouldn't have attacked us at all if we'd had atomic bombs at 
the beginning. Their initial attack forfeited neutral support — even 
though with surgical exactness against a military base, and in the 
end we mounted terrorist raids against civilian populations. A se- 
cret attack on a Great Power by a paranoid small state with a few 
atomic bombs could do a lot of damage, but would be suicidal. 

Will the United States someday go around the world putting 
down oligarchic racist regimes in the name of justice? Who could 
trust her wielding a power so wildly out of character? Her interven- 
tions will use only the current pretext: the little guy is a stooge for 
another Great Power. But little guys aren't content any longer to 
be stooges; the virus of self-determination has gotten loose. The 
Establishment line of a Communist conspiracy subverts even the 
goals it was meant to serve. 

Somebody in Washington must realize we're a principal factor 
pushing the Socialist world together. Why do we go on threatening 
then? Because we feel threatened. Not by the balance of nuclear 
terror, but because only socialism offers an end to corruption and 
land-monopoly. If Russia or China has a minority as submerged or 
alienated as ours, the secret is well kept. Before the Soviet invasion 
of Czechoslovakia in 1968 they had no troops or bases outside their 
own territory. It's we who combine the data into a theory of aggres- 
sion; we can't imagine any motivation other than our own. The 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 97 

paranoid creates an actual persecution of himself; the principal 
force working for a Communist conspiracy is our conviction of its 

The problem is not whether police power should be eliminated, 
but whether it can be brought within tolerable limits. We were 
never meant to take the request about supporting local police seri- 
ously; the functional meaning of the motto is white supremacy — a 
plea to close ranks against the restless native population. Police 
power will be respected precisely where it becomes humanized — 
and unnecessary. Our job is to find some way actually in our power 
of destroying the roles of master and slave. 

(d) The demonic state as problematical entity 

Neither medicine nor history should reduce itself to pa- 
thology. Of course the effects of malfunctioning in the liver or 
thyroid point roughly to the purpose of normal functioning — which 
is harder to identify or describe in societies, since all are in part 
diseased. But we must believe that our description of society works 
best when people are finding fulfillment through life in community. 
Let us go on taking the New Testament seriously where many 
interpreters desert it. The form of society that it sees as transparent 
and worth analysis is the ongoing community of love. If we've 
begun to trust it, as a working principle we should be clearest where 
it's clearest, and regard as problematical the areas where it's silent 
or ambiguous. And for the New Testament, the basic problematical 
area is the State and its police power, symbolized by the demonic 
forces that don't bear looking into too closely. 

We're told, perhaps with irony, that Caesar has a realm where 
certain things belong to him. If we don't pay the tax (itself an 
ambiguous item) he'll come and get it anyway. There's another 
realm, not ambiguous, that he hasn't got any access to; and it's 
taken for granted he'll keep asking for things from it that don't 
belong to him. We'll always have to deal with him in his own area; 
but in that other realm he's already deposed. The New Testament 
consistently maintains this ambiguity of feeling about the State. 

Roman soldiers were in Palestine by right of conquest, which 
made them the only police there. The Roman Empire, unlike mod- 


ern states, had no rival of the same kind; it looked as the United 
Nations would if it swallowed up most national sovereignties and 
made absolute claims for itself. Palestine saw that caravans in and 
out of Damascus were no longer attacked by Arab raiders from the 
desert — "broken up [Strabo says] through the law and order due 
to the Romans, and the security maintained by the soldiers quar- 
tered in Syria." But nobody asked the Palestinians for their prefer- 
ence, and it's not proved that Rome kept better order than the early 
Seleucids or Maccabees. 

When Jesus welcomes a centurion beside a Samaritan or tax 
collector as an outsider capable of goodwill, it's less tolerance than 
treasonable collaboration. (No wonder John Baptist, conversely, 
fell afoul of the puppet government; imagine Venerable Tri Quang 
admonishing Green Berets "not to rob anybody by violence or 
denunciation, and to be content with their wages.") Marxists have 
correctly understood, and from their viewpoint correctly com- 
plained, that Jesus counsels cooperation with this arbitrary, unjust, 
and illegal power. As part of our program of winning over the 
enemy, he says we should cooperate with the draft — remembering 
that it only involved forced labor and not training in killing, for 
Caesar was more careful than Johnson about putting weapons in 
the hands of oppressed populations. 

Paul and other writers of Epistles tell their hearers to accept 
the criminal law, pay taxes, pray for the Emperor as guarantor of 
peace — Zealot resistance, however futile, was still a live option. So 
was a slave revolt, and slaves are supposed to be patient when 
unjustly beaten, like Jesus. The master is the local embodiment of 
Caesar. We want at least to hear slavery condemned as wrong; but 
the New Testament assumes we've read the Law and the Prophets 
and know that already. The new way could only have arisen in an 
environment where armed revolt, however just, wasn't going to 
succeed. Our problem is to reaffirm that way where armed revolt 
not only deserves to succeed but very likely will — in the hills of 
Guatemala, Mozambique, Laos, in the flats of Newark. 

We're rightly off"ended by two-bit dictators, a Duvalier or Sala- 
zar, who don't care if the world knows what they're like. Much 
more should we reject trillion-dollar exploiters who hide their real- 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 99 

ity behind a lie. The Stalin purge and the Hitler terror taught us 
once again that evil is real. We learned the lesson in large part 
through Reinhold Niebuhr, who wanted to localize it and believe 
America still somehow exempt. And so we explained away our 
treatment of the red man as a temporary fanaticism, our treatment 
of the Negro by economics, Hiroshima by pressure of war, degrada- 
tion of the environment by ignorance, exploitation of Latin 
America by — I don't know what. How, we said, could a nation have 
fallen prey to demonic powers where citizens retained freedom to 
stand up and say so? How indeed? Rhetoric about "imperialism" 
and other old-fashioned words falls way short of a derailment so 
radically new in history we can't find any name for it. 

The early Church explained the opposition to herself by saying 
that individuals have been taken over by small demonic powers, 
and institutions by big ones. Those beings aren't simply politicians, 
but they operate through politicians. When God "triumphs" over 
the Principalities and Powers (Aesopic language for Proconsuls and 
Emperors), he's giving them a taste of their own Imperial medicine. 

The scene of demonic power is human society in those numer- 
ous places where it's broken down. Jesus and the Apostles weren't 
superstitious; they did not see malevolence working through nature 
or through neutral structures. "Satan" and "Beelzebul" are names 
for warped institutions. The interlocking of the authorities — Ro- 
man and Jewish, religious and secular, human and trans-human — 
isn't analyzed, just presupposed. The New Testament sees a Syndi- 
cate arrayed against us. The State is the last place to look for either 
our understanding of community or our program of positive 

(e) True police power as environmental regulation 

The normal mode of justice is for separate communities to 
govern their own affairs, and negotiate like Greek city-states 
through ambassadors. Traditionally dependent groups, women and 
high school students, have set up their own organizations within 
the peace movement, and incidentally lobbied for their rights. The 
prickliness of black militants comes from claiming to be ambassa- 
dors of a community that isn't yet recognized. Self-policing of a 


homogeneous community with no oppressed class doesn't present 
much of a problem. The real problem is to maintain resistance in 
a big community against doing violence to a little one. Anyway, 
it's not solved by relabeling aggression as police power. The legiti- 
mate realm of police power is to protect the really helpless — ^juve- 
nile law, far from shielding kids without families, has indefinite 
power to push them around. Police power should protect us against 
things (by sanitation, inoculation, disaster relieO; and things against 
us (by preservation of the environment). 

Rich families can preserve wilderness tracts, herds of threat- 
ened animals; they're subject to pressure by taxation, but not by 
politics like managers of national parks. The richest American to- 
day can't remove much more than a Gardiners Island from circula- 
tion. All the serious problems involve a watershed, a continent, the 
globe. Biologists must persuade politicians, which can only happen 
in a climate of public opinion for conservation. The civil rights 
experience in turn suggests that law helps create public opinion. 
Somehow we must break into the ascending cycle. 

When one sees virgin stands of redwood going under the chain 
saw, one is tempted to bribe the legislators. But unethical means 
are self-defeating. What we need is the animism of Mediterranean 
or primitive peoples, an instinctive ecology; the cedar of Lebanon 
exists as the sacred groves of the Maronite patriarch. It's hard to 
imagine cultivating that instinct when we can't keep rats or napalm 
off babies. Actually human populations can be regenerated a lot 
faster than biological communities. The whole English countryside 
was created quicker than it takes to grow a single redwood — much 
less a forest. 

As soon as you put on your boots and get out in the country, 
police power and nonviolence and intelligence and mysticism 
become the same thing. How important is it to keep the Alaska 
grizzly alive? How big a breeding population is needed? How many 
hundred square miles will it occupy? How can we fit other things 
into its requirements? From time to time it's been an imperial 
despotism that saw these questions best. For three thousand years 
the Lebanese forest was harvested and preserved by successive 
naval powers that wanted it for timber — Egypt, Tyre, Assyria, Bab- 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 101 

ylon, Persia, the Seieucids, Rome. It was the land-based Arabs who 
let it go. We should hope a really free society could do better. There 
will be plenty of things for a genuine police power to do after it 
gets over its current hang-up on squirting poison at living things. 

3. The bankruptcy of world war 
(a) Hiroshima made all the difference 

Since every nation tries to get a big brother behind it, every 
fight has in it the seeds of the new thing called "war." What Head 
of State is 85 percent sure that this or that provocation will fail to 
spiral into pushing the red button? Modern war normally uses the 
means available: functionally specialized explosives and anti-per- 
sonnel devices, chemical and biological poisons, incendiarism, 
manned and unmanned carriers, reactions creating blast and radi- 
oactivity. If an industrial Power out of deference to public opinion 
or tactical needs denies itself certain means, it feels the more lic- 
ensed to cut loose with the others. Modern war is characterized, 
as we all know, by its impersonality; its indiscriminacy, threatening 
whole populations; the uprooting of communities into refugee 
camps; the danger of permanently damaging the environment 
which winner and loser alike must share. (Its impersonality and 
threat to the environment it shares with the other new thing called 

After Hiroshima we'd half-expected that any new war would 
be nuclear. When somebody devised a counter-insurgency equally 
odious on its scale, we congratulated him on his self-restraint. Viet 
Nam is our Spain, the trial market for new merchandise in the kind 
of war we'd expected not to fight. But in the poker game of bluff 
and counter-bluff now occupying the global rumpusroom. the ac- 
tual cards are nuclear. Beside that threat, the world should be glad 
to run the risk of domination by Russia or China — or by the United 
States for that matter. No alleged justice or ideology could out- 
weigh the massive violence to nature and society. 

But nobody for a moment has given serious thought to cutting 
back on the production of old bombs or the invention of new ones. 
Industrial powers could never have been excluded from the "se- 


cret" let out of the bag at Hiroshima, that the thing could be done 
with brains and money. And every month since 1945 all sides have 
been analyzing World War III by a theory originally developed for 
games and economic behavior. Its paradoxes are all the policy 
we've got. For a nation to provide adequate shelters is reckoned 
the most aggressive possible act. Everything stands on making the 
deterrent force invulnerable against a preemptive strike. Parallel to 
the Distant Early Warning line, the cruising Polaris subs and the 
airborne alert, the Minutemen in their silos, there is now envisaged 
a screen of anti-missile missiles. Speculative theories are elaborated 
about the likely psychological reaction of a 50 percent surviving 

This non-policy is open to two objections on its own terms: 

( 1 ) The courses of action it proposes aren V demonstrably feasi- 
ble. The planners, with billions per annum in their pocket, are still 
only one among the forces affecting U.S. policy; their recommenda- 
tions are subject to unpredictable compromise, which may knock 
out the proposed bluff or threat. Presumably they'll try to work the 
decisions of Congress and the Joint Chiefs of Staff into their projec- 
tions. But we who are standing out there in the cold have no 
assurance that events and theory will converge rather than continu- 
ing to move further apart. This objection, a necessary evil in a farm 
program, is fatal in a life-and-death program. 

(2) The planners can never know as much as the theory re- 
quires. The other side does its best to keep pulling surprises. We, 
the two hundred million recipients, can't be guaranteed to act ac- 
cording to predictions. The planners can't stipulate for the peace 
movement not to rise above a certain level of militancy; it was born 
without their permission. Even if they run a network of hot lines 
between every world capital, an essential feature of the problem 
is that somebody may push a panic button somewhere. "All these 
uncertainties have been programmed into the computer." But the 
future, being the future, will always introduce some new factor not 
taken account of in all their analyses. 

We know that Hermann Kahn and his colleagues have taken 
maximum precautions to continue along their present line. This 
may prove their big miscalculation, blocking them from a change 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 103 

of options which their own principles should require. Thus, out of 
the desperation which they themselves have helped induce, revolt 
among a submerged population here, in sympathy with our victims 
overseas, is destroying precisely the America which the planners 
set out to defend. 

(b) World War II as seed of our dilemma 

The situation ushered in by nuclear energy is novel and unex- 
ampled. Our best guides are the various past situations when a 
radical novelty came into history. World War II might seem the 
least helpful parallel of all: it was the end of the old order, we're 
the beginning of the new. But it lay on the route which led to our 
present position. In the thirties and forties we were told by the 
realists. Christian and secular, that the only moral course was to 
resist Hitler with military power. Not as person but what he stood 
for. If you must have a personalized enemy, it can only be the 
demonic power. Did our military power in fact effectively resist it? 
Our military resistance to Hitler didn't so much prevent genocide 
as bring it on, since extermination camps were a product of the war. 
He gave advance notice as he talked himself into them; if our real 
intention was to save the European Jews, we took the course least 
well adapted to do so. At neither time when we could have taken 
them in as quota-free immigrants — before and after the war — did 
we show any interest. Rather we forced them to the Middle East, 
where their resettlement created exactly as many new refugees. 

We not only pushed Hitler into genocide, we pushed ourselves 
into genocide. We adopted on the same scale, and as a permanent 
policy, the treatment of civilian populations which he invented. We 
rushed into Hiroshima mainly to avoid being indebted for Soviet 
assistance in the Pacific. Communiques from Washington contain 
the same misrepresentations about deeds, the same rhetoric about 
excellence of motives, which we fought the war to end. By fighting 
the demon with his own weapons, you can demolish the structure 
he's temporarily living in — at the expense of transferring him to 
your own address. The demon himself is immortal. Who could 
imagine a clearer illustration that you become what you fight? 

One is put to shame by the insight of men like Al Hassler and 


Dave Dellinger, who in World War II, not knowing that nuclear 
energy was in the works, still affirmed that nothing constructive 
could come out of armed conflict, and went to jail rather than 
cooperate with the Selective Service System. Of course, so far as 
pacifism in the thirties thought it could get political agreement on 
appeasement or convert the enemy to love, it was unrealistic; it 
hadn't reckoned which things were in its power. So far as it retained 
the benefits of upper-class status or imperialism, seeing no connec- 
tion with the labor movement or the new nationalism or Negro 
dignity, it was inconsistent; it hadn't worked out its position 
through to the end. 

World War II was the war in which at the time it was hardest 
to see the true path. Looking back to the early twenties, we know 
that the victors could have begun a program of reconciliation with 
Germany to prevent precisely what happened. They didn't. Look- 
ing back to the late thirties, we see that demonism in Germany had 
then gone beyond healing, and that elemental nationalism in Eng- 
land was bound to resist her. Going to jail was the most construc- 
tive course; but few of us had the power of technological prediction, 
or faith in God, to see this. 

Viet Nam is the war in which at the time it's easiest to see the 
true path. It's a gift of Providence to Christianity and nonviolence. 
So far Vietnamese nationalists haven't been dehumanized, because 
they understand their own strength. Still our technology has forced 
them into a severity of reprisal which will make it hard to swing 
the whole nation behind them. This is the tragedy we must try to 

World War III is being prepared for all around us. When it 
comes, the true way to follow will be clearer than in World War 
II, less clear than in Viet Nam. Now is the time to be maximizing 
possibilities of reconciliation. As it comes closer, our range of ac- 
tion will become more and more restricted. But we already know 
the true way. The needs of the biological environment, simple 
survival of peasant communities around the world, are the polestar 
which always orients us. Men of goodwill know this; the urgency 
is to guide their sentiment into action. 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 105 

(c) A more excellent way 

The little band of resisters in World War II were led by intui- 
tion to see that the course of action was "right" which history now 
vindicates as expedient. If I judge that any serious war may well 
bring in the nuclear capacity of the Great Powers, from this prag- 
matic judgment I reach the conclusion — as absolute as any conclu- 
sion can be — that large-scale war won't do any more. 

We've got to go beyond the balance of fear, and fear is over- 
come only by confidence. After our best political analysis, we've 
got to affirm that people will only move towards confidence by 
starting to trust each other, before the full evidence for their relia- 
bility has been processed in the computers. What's most needed 
is groups known to be consistently working for international good- 
will, agencies like the American Friends Service Committee, which 
can be slandered neither by a Pentagon nor by the most fanatical 
insurgent. Any such group should meet the following conditions: 

(1) Its commitment to social welfare and nonviolent recon- 
ciliation is so clearly defined, and deeply ingrained, that no illiterate 
anywhere can suspect it of other motives. 

(2) It has an attractive ideology, so that people who see it in 
action are induced to do the same thing out of the same motives. 

(3) It has so stable a family and institutional base, that it will 
obviously still be operating from the same principles ten years, a 
generation, a hundred years, from now. 

(4) It spreads its presence out fairly, so that no one part of the 
world gets ahead of another. 

Since nobody can invent social movements out of whole cloth, 
this is the description of an international religion — not quite 
fulfilled by any one currently operative. It's a Buddhism less ascetic 
than now and more concerned in theory with social justice. It's a 
Quakerism which has recovered Fox's passionate sense of mission, 
bringing the poor to share its motivation and vision. It's a Commu- 
nism converted to nonviolence, a Castroism become altruistic. It's 
a Christian mission cut away from its paralyzing Establishment in 
Western colonial powers and the just-war theory. 

Whatever international confidence we now enjoy rests on in- 


dividuals and groups which begin to meet these conditions. The 
ideal already exists in the hearts of learned and simple around the 
world; one who has taken this burden on himself is recognized even 
when he doesn't carry any placard. Anybody who's begun to find 
himself in the role of such an ambassador will testify that its most 
transforming tendency is on himself. 

The thing is to take the present alignment of forces as simply 
given, and then subtract from it uniformly all the way around. 
Imagine thousands of American hostages spread out in the villages 
of North Viet Nam, Cuba, Bolivia, Guatemala; thousands of Rus- 
sian students spending a year of study in the States. Since we can't 
count on influencing the arms race, or national politics, or the 
police power which upholds both, our cue is to de-emphasize and 
desanctify them, making other forms of endeavor more exciting, 
leaving them to wither on the vine. An all-out eff"ort is indicated 
to divert men and money from destructive jobs to constructive 
ones. The cutting edge which proves our seriousness to others and 
ourselves is resolute non-cooperation with military conscription. 

A realistic middle-term hope would be to help catalyze a Rus- 
sian peace movement — not so urgent as ours currently, but in the 
end indispensable. The preconditions are there in the broad spec- 
trum of Orthodox spirituality, the pacifist novel, the liberalization 
of Soviet society. We would need an international cadre fluent in 
Russian; committed to the peace and freedom movement in the 
United States, Latin America, and Asia; and well-versed in Marx- 
ism. A Russian peace movement, no doubt after many setbacks, 
would give our peoples a real link on terms of equality; our leaders 
would have a common cause for complaint, for detente. Useful 
communication on a new level would have begun. 

Any institution, however informal, which begins to meet these 
conditions is of course also liable to Establishment. Not even Quak- 
ers can count on breeding true to type. We must pin our hopes on 
a dynamic shifting reform movement (its exact place only visible 
to a contemporary by moral insight) at the heart of a society paying 
lip service to justice. Those better acquainted with Buddhism must 
make any adjustments necessary in my description. For Western- 
ers, I hope I've shown that this current need is precisely what Jesus 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 107 

intended to meet. But if Christianity is to serve any such function, 
it must come to terms with its symbolism. The New Testament 
validates its nonviolence above all through a myth of the end of 
the world. We must come to terms with this myth through our own 

4. The myth of the end of the world 

(a) New Testament ethics and eschatology 

Once violence has begun, it's hard to stop short of maximum 
capability. But we daren't use it because we're capable of too much; 
our inventiveness has priced violence out of the planetary market. 
We don't know what necessary feature will go first under heavy 
enough assault by war or pollution: the will to survive and re- 
produce; the structure of a manageable society; an undamaged 
genetic pool; or some maximum tolerable radiation level in the 
environment. When we imagine the pathology of breakdown, as 
society is reduced to an ever more primitive level, the inseparability 
of culture from environment becomes clearer. The culture of south- 
eastern Asia is the rice paddies of the delta; destruction of the fields 
is both physical and spiritual genocide. We're reduced to hoping 
simply that there will be time for shame and world opinion to 
overthrow the violent one before the final whistle. 

We found the bankruptcy of violence affirmed in the New 
Testament long ago — but not apparently for quite these reasons. 
It sees both the nonviolence of the poor, and the exploitation prac- 
ticed by the powerful, as necessarily their own reward. The an- 
nouncement of that necessity alters the previous state of aff"airs, for 
it polarizes society; the son of man comes to bring division. The 
scene of this division is a time of troubles, which is symbolized as 
a double change of the whole environment. The physical order 
breaks down because of the sins of the violent; but also in some 
realm the earth is restored for the inheritance of the poor. The 
breakdown appears as a new flood, a universal conflagration: "As 
it was in the days of Noah ... as it was in the days of Lot ... so 
will it be on the day when the son of man is revealed." 

The Hebrew, who sees a transcendent agency as having once 


organized a universe out of tidal chaos, faces up to the possibility 
that justice may bring everything back to original status: "I looked 
on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void." Late Judaism elabo- 
rated this apocalyptic theme for its own sake, apart from the histori- 
cal and ethical concerns which originally motivated it. With Jesus, 
the arrival of the last days, "eschatology," becomes the central 
symbolism for a radical intensification of moral concern. Different 
reports of his teaching, as well as its echoes in other books, are 
unequal in the accuracy with which they grasp the novelty; but the 
spectrum of variations points to an incandescent source. 

If we've dated Paul's letters in the right order, he comes more 
and more to see the Last Things as daily occurrence in the com- 
munity of love: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things 
which are above" (Col. 3:12); "the night is far spent, the day is at 
hand" (Rom. 13:12). This was a necessary reaction against the 
literal symbolism in the young Paul (the Thessalonian correspond- 
ence), and in the unsatisfactory discourse that Mark attributes to 
Jesus at the Temple. But something essential is lost in Paul's "real- 
ized eschatology." The effect of Jesus' symbolism is to place before 
us the destruction of the whole environment, natural and social, 
not as an hypothesis, but as a possible deserved event; and then 
have us reconsider who and what we are. Eschatology is necessary 
to his ethics. 

(b) The problem of New Testament eschatology 

One of the best post-nuclear apocalypses is Bob Dylan's "It's 
a Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." "Hard rain" combines fallout and 
flood, destruction by fire and water. It works as a timeless lament 
over the fall of an exploitative society; it's made more pointed when 
we learn that it was generated by the Cuban missile crisis. Dylan's 
symbols have maximum availability. Jesus couldn't have been a 
worse poet than Dylan. But the fossilization of his poetry into 
dogma has raised Cyclopean walls against recovering its original 
freshness. Theological scholastics vacillate between the poles of a 

(1) Jesus and his earlier followers were under the misappre- 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 109 

hension that the world would literally end in their generation; later 
New Testament writings struggle to escape from what they see to 
be an error. 

(2) Jesus uses this symbolism as the most forcible way to speak 
about timeless truths; Paul misunderstood him at first, but in later 
letters returns to the original meaning. 

Both sides of the dilemma do injustice to poetry. The myth 
of the end of the world marks an intrinsic connection between our 
natural environment and the social environment where individual 
sin and redemption happen. It also looks ahead to the end of this 
or that world-empire, and to the birth of a servant society within 
its fall. Its force rests on the fact that it points to something real 
coming. The myth of the end of the world points to the fact of the 
end of the world. That future truly casts its shadow before it; the 
exhaustion of fresh water in this spring or lake is an early phase 
of ultimate environmental breakdown, however many million years 

The Bible sees the earth as the planned environment of man, 
whose job is to till and keep it. In the covenant with Noah, God 
almost promises an indefinite continuance of the earth. In that case 
it might seem sufficient recompense for our death if we were con- 
tinued without end through the seed of our loins. In a society where 
a man's individuality is defined through his family, this is a real 
immortality. But if the earth won't continue indefinitely, another 
kind of recompense must be found. The myth of the end of the 
world is a diflftculty for the Jew; why did he invent it? 

(c) Technology as the fulfillment of eschatology 

The biblical writers saw that man was given radical power and 
responsibility. By individual decisions he could maintain or corrupt 
himself as a center of organization. By collective decisions in- 
dividually ratified, he could maintain or corrupt his society as a 
center of organization. In the continuity which the Bible sees be- 
tween nature and history, it also has to say, "By the collective 
decision of humanity, ratified by individuals, it can maintain or 
corrupt the created order as a center of organization." It saw man 


as so organic in nature, and sin as so deep-rooted in man, that it 
correctly guessed nature couldn't remain permanently immune to 
the effects of sin. 

The prophet in his historical analysis says that catastrophe 
happens because a principle labeled as the noun Yahweh makes it 
happen, in recompense for individual and corporate sin. Faced with 
the sins of an individual nation, God hasn't got any recourse but 
to raise up an Assyrian against its citadel — while perhaps reserving 
the human seedcorn of the future. Faced with the sins of the human 
race, God hasn't got any recourse but to raise up his power, previ- 
ously creative, and destroy the environment. 

When the Hebrew says that something will be done by God 
as ultimate cause, he doesn't exclude the possibility that it'll happen 
through an historical human agency; on the contrary, he normally 
implies it. When the prophet envisages God destroying the nation, 
he sees Assyria as the rod of his anger. Amos lists among intolerable 
things atrocities in warfare (violation of sepulture, killing pregnant 
women) and entrenched class injustice at home (selling the poor 
into debt-slavery). With our Greek mode of historical analysis we 
see that these things set one little Syrian state against another, class 
against class, so that Assyria could pick them off one at a time. 
Evidently then the prophet, who gives us all our data, saw it too 
in his Hebrew mode of historical analysis. He also found it impor- 
tant to name the principle by which injustice brings self-destruc- 
tion, and make that noun the subject of verbs. We easily believe 
that Jesus saw the coming destruction of the Temple, and could 
have told us it would be Roman hands that were laid on the stones. 

Each ancient generation ran the physical environment down- 
hill, but so insensibly that few noticed it. At first, calamities of the 
environment are projected into the past; the stories of Noah and 
Lot received final form a little before Amos. The prophet has the 
primordial Sea rising up like the Nile and once again destroying 
the works of man. As the canon of legend was closed, destruction 
of the environment could only be projected onto the future as a 
myth of the end of the world — where cosmic justice and proto- 
science also demanded it. 

The biblical writers didn't know how the planet's fabric could 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 1 1 1 

be destroyed by human agency. But if such a means should appear, 
it would fit Hebrew modes of speaking to say that God used a 
human agency to vindicate his justice. The appearance of tech- 
nology in our own days resolves the problem created by the myth 
of the end of the world. It finally roots eschatology back in its soil 
of prophecy. In fact, technology isn't merely a vindication but a 
result of prophetism; it's one more manifestation of the freedom 
which prophecy both recorded and created. 

The Hebrew Bible operates on a level where science, history, 
and existential concern haven't yet been crystallized into independ- 
ent disciplines. The first chapters of Genesis are at once a specula- 
tive version of planetary origins, a reconstruction of the stages in 
human society, and a symbolic account of the birth of freedom and 
sin in Everyman. (Hesiod does the same things, not so well.) Today 
we've come to see that in this unrolling universe, science and his- 
tory and religion are partly arbitrary slices at different angles across 
the roastbeef of reality. The independent discipline of each has 
become so powerful that it's easy to overlook their essential areas 
of overlap. Therefore those early unitary myths are a permanent 
necessity of our continuing education. 

(d) The final dimension of prophecy 

The political prophet, besides pointing out the realities of the 
present, genuinely grasps the inevitable near future when he sees 
as already operative the forces which will necessarily produce it. 
If I see a bomb falling from a plane I know that a particular se- 
quence will follow. He also grasps the distant future to the extent 
that it repeats features of the present. The myth of the end of the 
world is a true anticipation of technology. Through it the eschato- 
logical prophet genuinely grasps, not the repetitive, but the novel 
features of the distant future. 

The Old Testament myth of creation is a true proto-science: 
its interest in the ocean, clay, sexuality, consciousness, is a correct 
insight into the essential features of past evolution. The New Testa- 
ment myth of the end of the world is a true foreshadowing of 
demonic technology; it sees the destruction of the physical environ- 
ment as a direct consequence of social violence. In the Apocalypse 


of John, the rivers and fountains of water become blood when the 
angel pours in the bowl of God's anger — because men shed the 
blood of saints and prophets. As the creation-myth pierces back to 
the beginning, the prophetic myth pierces through to the end; 
together (in contrast to Greek cyclic theories) they block out the 
evolutionary parabola of the planet. 

The End also vindicates the blessedness of those now ex- 
ploited, at a Messianic banquet whose scene is a new earth under 
a new sky. Adam was supposed to keep the garden of the earth, 
using his police power for ecological management; Paul identifies 
him as Christ, pattern of restored humanity. Destruction and fulfill- 
ment of the environment are held together in tension. Although 
it's said to be God who does all this, the style of biblical thought 
requires man to be his agent. Jesus validates ethics by eschatology; 
ours is the first generation where the truth of his words has emerged 
from faith into history. 

We saw that our new powers had rendered world war obsolete. 
Jesus said that violence belonged to the old Age. We thought he 
meant this in some mystical sense; the self-destruction of violence 
took place in the soul of the possessor. But his images state that 
what once was whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed 
from rooftops; the secret murder in a man's heart will be spread 
across burning continents. What we thought our expedient nuclear 
pacifism is identical with the expedient pacifism of Jesus, which 
announces woes on the self-deceiving violent. Prophecy gives up 
its secrets in these last times. 

We tell ourselves that not every war leads to world war. But 
the Bible states that the remotest possible consequences of every- 
thing will really happen. A principle of radical accuracy is built into 
history. If every war leads in principle to world war, only nonvio- 
lence will do. 

5. Violence in a people's revolution 
(a) The just-war theory revisited 

Establishment Churches can't be pacifist, or they'd destroy 
that usefulness to the State which defines them. Therefore, to keep 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 113 

up a decent token respect for the Gospel, they must hold in theory 
that some wars are just and some aren't. This necessity is a hot 
potato. Without protest until recently, they let the American State 
pass conscientious-objection laws which recognized only objectors 
to all war. In fact, that was the only kind of objector the Churches 
produced until Viet Nam; the young men got their views from 
Quakers or similar groups and ignored the official position of their 
own Churches, much to the relief of Church and State. This 
clandestine recognition of pacifism canonized a double-standard 
morality: Gospel precepts were relegated to a few idealists, while 
the bulk of Christians made the world's necessary compromises. 

When the Viet Nam draft resisters moved from absolutism to 
the just-war theory, the Churches had to face up to the demands 
of justice. Traditional pacifism, which needn't make any application 
of morality to politics, often reduces to what I call Establishment 
nonviolence. The necessary first step from it was selective con- 
scientious objection, which makes a judgment on a particular war. 
The just-war theory is a transitional ally of the Law and the Proph- 
ets, which speaks the message of justice to the Establishment. But 
we must go one stage beyond that theory (three stages beyond the 
Establishment Churches) to the Gospel, which speaks the message 
of nonviolence to the Revolution. We must make an unremitting 
application of morality to i?// political situations, present and future. 

The Churches recognize in practice what their theologians 
missed in theory: the traditional marks of the just war reduce to 
a single criterion; a just war is one fought by my side. It might seem 
then as if the Churches relegated the possibility of unjust wars to 
theory only. Not at all, there are just as many of them; an unjust 
war is one fought by the other side. I know a Catholic who holds 
the just- war theory, but maintains there isn't any point of view from 
which the Viet Nam war could be considered just. Did he consider 
the point of view of the Vietnamese? Could he justify not having 
become a Viet Cong partisan? The actual process of moral reflection 
isn't directed at the details of an existing war, but at choosing the 
right side. 

A revolutionary is a patriot who changed sides when he discov- 
ered where justice lay. An Establishment is a partial revolution 


which has succeeded and forgotten its origins. The EstabHshment 
patriot and the revolutionary agree in having a side. The just-war 
theory reduces to the same truism for each. With a difference, 
although both give their conduct the benefit of the same doubts, 
the cause of the revolutionary happens to be objectively just. But 
as soon as he begins to think out of partisanship rather than objec- 
tivity, his logic is assimilated to the patriot's. 

How could a war fought by my side fail to be just? It's declared 
by a legitimate authority: namely, the one that after careful 
thought I stayed with. It's being fought for di just cause: namely, 
the policy I've always supported, that I've helped form. In self- 
defense: I know my side doesn't have any imperial ambitions; it 
wants only security for its legitimate interests, small or great; it 
certainly doesn't want to police the faceless enemy on his own soil. 
As a last resort: I don't want to get shot at; I instructed my govern- 
ment to try first every way short of war. With moderate means : 
I know our own humanitarian motives, and I respect world opinion; 
so I instruct my generals to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties, 
to use the minimum force necessary, to work toward the quickest 
solution. With means proportionate to the goals: we who're doing 
the fighting are hardheaded about manpower and resources; we 
won't throw good money after bad. For limited goals : we've got 
better things to do than go out and conquer the world. With reason- 
able hope of success : even in a case of ultimate self-defense or grave 
danger, I know that my generals won't go into action without some 
plan, however desperate. 

This universal logic of the just-war theory takes a special form 
in each generation. It was self-evident to Augustine that the decay- 
ing Empire and newly established Church deserved to be fought 
for against pagan barbarians; to the Crusaders that the Holy Places 
deserved defense against Islam; to the counter-Reformation that 
the wars of the Conquistadores would bring the greatest of benefits 
— baptism for the heathen; to Soviet revolutionaries that maintain- 
ing secure frontiers was a happy prerequisite for future world Com- 
munism. The reader may fill in the wars he knows best. Prof. 
Ramsey, who discusses how nuclear war may be made just, illus- 
trates the flexibility of Christian doctrine for contemporary rele- 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 115 

The criteria of the just war don't emerge from the Gospel by 
any process of subtraction or accommodation; rather from the two 
facts that I have a side, and that I esteem myself a person of normal 
consistency. If I, being the reasonable man that I am, can continue 
living on this side, I know in advance that whatever it does will 
agree with my principles. The Gospel asks us to reject both facts. 
We learn from it what our hearts confirm: we're full of inconsist- 
ency. We also learn that the justice of even the right side is relative; 
finally our only side can be humanity. 

Certainly at Gethsemane all criteria of the just war were met. 
Several times Jesus had been proclaimed a legitimate leader. He 
had the justest of causes: to teach the new way of reconciliation 
to followers who still missed the point. The situation was self- 
defense (and defense of his friends) against an illegal mob, as a last 
resort when months or years of teaching and going underground 
had failed. He had the limited goal of getting back home and 
starting again, with good prospect of success; the moderate means 
of a quick scuffle in the dark in which no adversary might even be 
seriously wounded. But as soon as blood is shed, he gives up all 

I'd always assumed this was the Gospel itself, defined by the 
Sermon on the Mount and illustrated by the Cross. "If my kingdom 
were of this world, my servants would fight" (John 18:30). Rein- 
hold Niebuhr agrees with this view of what Jesus was, and clearly 
states that it's a delusion to think we can use him as a model for 
society. Then why have so many people thought it important to 
call themselves his followers? Perhaps we feel the need for some 
doctrine to tell us that what we're doing is wrong. Islam, which 
explicitly states the doctrine we all follow — that our side is superior 
and deserves to be propagated by the sword — hasn't had anything 
like the same success; we can't forgive the Prophet for having let 
the cat out of the bag. 

(b) Solidarity with a people's revolution 

Around the Third World, a venal oligarchy of landowners and 
military is the local agent of colonialism, political or economic. 
Almost any liberation movement, whatever its excesses of cruelty 
or dogmatism, has the balance of justice on its side. The solid core 


of truth in Marxism lines Russia up with the liberation movements; 
our need for guaranteed overseas markets lines us up against them. 
If they weren't Socialist in the beginning, the logic of their situation 
pushes them into it. If a local liberation movement doesn't exist, 
it should. The only serious candidate for a just war today is the 
people's war of liberation. 

When we read in the papers about some new guerrilla move- 
ment or program of land-reform, it's already too late. The world- 
wide Church has been in Latin America for hundreds of years, 
consistently on the side of injustice. Our fathers could have said 
something and didn't. The language of every oppressed people in 
the world is studied in our universities; U.S. corporations have big 
investments in them. Those knowledgeable persons, whom I've let 
speak for me by default, have only by exception considered the real 
interests of the target areas. The locals gave justice-loving people 
elsewhere plenty of opportunity to stop doing nothing before they 
took matters into their own hands. 

How far should we affirm our solidarity with a violent cause? 
We must first be clear what isn't violence. In any case it'll be 
necessary to expropriate industries and assets, to redistribute land. 
The current owners won't volunteer; coercion must be exercised 
by law or arms. The revolutionaries must come to power by the 
ballot or military coup d'etat. Before then they'll need a political 
organization, legal or illegal. Nothing so far necessarily implies 
violence against persons. 

If the coup d'etat involves executing fifty officers, as world 
history goes this is a small piece of violence, without apologizing 
for it, we may be thankful for having gotten off so cheap. The 
revolutions of Nasser in Egypt, of Castro in Cuba, in their different 
degrees of completeness were less painful than the country had a 
right to expect. And the less the liberation forces allow themselves 
to be co-opted by a military junta, the more guerrilla warfare and 
reprisals we're likely to see. If Big Brother comes in to protect 
freedom, every liberation movement can become a Viet Nam. 

We know the landlords will resist, perhaps to the death. They 
aren't interested in surviving the system of privilege which has 
defined their class. Unless the revolution has some radical religious 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 117 

ideology behind it, it must be prepared to use violence; otherwise 
it doesn't mean business. But if it doesn't mean business it'll be 
co-opted by the ruling class as soon as it appears — or rather, it'll 
always have been their stooge. Then, unless a local religious tradi- 
tion of nonviolence has been radicalized into social concern, a 
necessary condition for a just revolutionary movement is its willing- 
ness to use violence. 

(c) The role of the American overseas 

Identification isn't a question of abstract advocacy, but of what 
we can properly and effectively do. If both sides are currently 
engaging in some form of violence, no position is completely pure 
— least of all detachment, which means passively supporting the 
status quo. Our initial act must be to dissociate ourselves from 
active injustice (which presumably accounts for some of our afflu- 
ence) and go over to our natural allies. 

But finding the right side still doesn't take us very far. If this 
really is one world, and we've been benefiting at the expense of 
other parts, each of us has a duty to get out of America for a while 
and find out what's going on over there. To get in touch with one 
revolutionary is to get in touch with all. But few people in America 
are working to create conditions for honest residence overseas — 
many more are advertising counter-insurgency helicopters for 
Latin American governments. 

We'll do harm rather than good, most of all to ourselves, if we 
get on the plane owing advance loyalty to the State Department, 
or to a corporation which is extracting oil, tin, bananas. One will 
live in a Little America overseas whose attitudes are reinforced by 
the only foreigners one meets — collaborationists who tell us what 
we want to hear. Missionaries have a dual commitment: to the 
exiled American military, embassy, business community; and to the 
privileged pro-American group of early converts, now often busi- 
nessmen also. American educational enterprises overseas are 
heavily financed by the State Department; foreign students are 
channeled through scholarship aid into such specialties (like teach- 
ing elementary English) as we deem appropriate. 

Once the American has found some halfway credible format 


for his residence, he must keep enough in the good graces of Wash- 
ington and the local regime to stay on. The two years of Peace 
Corps is enough time to acquire some immunity to dysentery and 
pick up some language. A man's successor won't build on his foun- 
dations, since society is a network of personal contacts. If you stay 
on though, one day you'll be invited to a wedding or funeral at the 
house of your student or associate. He may come to trust you 
enough to get angry at your income. You may discover what politi- 
cal party he really belongs to. Actual conversation has begun. The 
tables are now turned; our credibility overseas rests on our political 
record at home. 

As we put down roots, we need to find a local form of ideology 
for our concerns. Christianity on the scene may be fossilized and 
corrupt or new and eccentric or missionary-dominated. In any case 
we can try and interpret it to the local revolutionaries and vice 
versa. If we're in a Buddhist land we can start to do what the 
Churches should have done long before — enter into dialogue with 

Do we go overseas expecting to receive more than we give? 
For at least we'll discover what it's like to live in a country that's 
not top dog. At the same time we're not to fall into the arrogance 
of certainty that Americans will provide the leadership. We slip 
back into wanting milkshakes, and hesitate before the investment 
of mastering a new language. There's an even bigger job of rebuild- 
ing back home which it's owrduty to carry out. The real agents of 
reconciliation may come from some unexpected source, a small 
neutralist power; we'll do well to recognize them when they show 

(d) Nonviolence in a people's revolution 

We cling to the just-war theory for our side, out of a defect 
in self-confidence; unless we hit the enemy (we feel) we'll simply 
be wiped out. But looking back we may guess that our side was the 
winning one all along, and our militarism was the defect in our 
success, not its cause. The liberation movements possess the future 
precisely because their cause is just. This isn't our cue to let the 
inevitable take its course — rather to help base their victory on the 
best foundations. In one sense, because of their political lag, they're 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 119 

not our contemporaries; they can't skip stages altogether, and need 
their own revolution. But they're our contemporaries in the sense 
that they can build nuclear devices if they really want to; so their 
revolution must take some new shape. 

It often seems as though the Church can only break loose from 
her Establishment ties by allying herself to the revolution without 
qualification, letting it be the judge of its own methods. This conclu- 
sion, which imposes itself above all on observers of the Latin 
American scene like Richard Shaull, does only credit to their con- 
cern for justice and for Church renewal. But the revolutionary is 
also capable of injustice. The more necessary the revolution, the 
more directly the new society will emerge from it. The time to build 
more justice into the new society is at the revolution. The revolu- 
tionary is indignant at the connivance of the Established Church 
with injustice; he knows that she's supposed to bring moral judg- 
ment into politics. If priests or doctors are willing to share their 
glutinous rice and the chance of napalm, they needn't compromise 
their witness by asking them to throw grenades also. It's an even 
bigger coup for them to retain their nonviolent presence than to 
win foreign partisans. 

We must reckon with the possibility that the new peoples 
won't merely run their own affairs, but also get into the driver's seat. 
A great burst of cultural and technological energy might set a Great 
Power in South America, southeast Asia, Africa, India, after a few 
centuries. The arguments against militarism which we found appli- 
cable to us today will also work for them. The nature of the biologi- 
cal environment, the threats of radiation and pollution, won't have 
changed. If it's self-deception to say, "Revolution today, nonvio- 
lence tomorrow," then they shouldn't believe it any more than we. 
It's one more colonial insult to assume that they're in a pre-modern 
phase where violence is less dangerous than for us. To treat other 
people as our equals is to consider them capable of our strength 
and our weakness. It's uncharitable and risky to hold them up to 
the standard of going through the same cycle of mistakes that we 
did. Everything we know about history suggests that we're entering 
a new period which will either do better or worse than the past. 
Frantz Fanon feels that violence, besides being a political necessity, 
may be required to restore the self-respect of colonialized peoples. 


But he also says: 

If we want to turn Africa into a new Europe . . . then let 
us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans. They will 
know how to do it better than the most gifted among us. But 
if we want humanity to advance a step further, if we want to 
bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has 
shown us, then we must invent and we must make discoveries. 

If the Buddhists in Viet Nam couldn't get up an effective 
nonviolent movement, much less will we. Our Establishment pa- 
cifists haven't any difficulty staying on good terms with the ex- 
ploitative State and benefiting from its violence. It should involve 
less mental split for us to acquire identification with a just revolu- 
tion, and leave the insurgents to do their thing while we do ours. 
They will in any case. The one creative option actually in our power 
is to humanize their use of force by our presence. 

(e) Black Power and white support 

Overseas we can be under an illusion of playing a role in the 
liberation. Actually we're likely to be told that our adherence, while 
highly valued, isn't the key factor; they'll liberate themselves by 
their own efforts. Our task is to remake our own society. When we 
do get home, we're brought up short to see how little we can do 
to free somebody else on this scene either. 

The militancy of young black leaders in putting down their 
former white supporters should be an intellectual and moral relief. 
1 used to think that the future ecclesiastical historian, looking back 
to twentieth-century America for a bona fide Church, would settle 
on black Christianity. Actually the Negro Church was too good to 
be true; it turns out not to have given a correct report of its mem- 
bers' actual feelings. 

At the Chicago "Black Nation" conference of November 
1967, my informant Jane Barney reports a consensus that Black 

must work to erase the mark of slavery at its deepest levels, 
nurture pride and self-esteem, and affirm (as does the Old 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 121 

Testament) violence for justice — distinguishing this from all 
the violence, hidden and overt, slow and sudden, legalized and 
lawless, which over the centuries has worked to perpetuate 
injustice and is now the oppressive force negatively shaping 
the black community. 

This is what black Christians ought to hold today, living in the 
climate created by Reinhold Niebuhr where white Christians were 
told to resist injustice by force. "Violence is as American as cherry 
pie." We applauded the principles of the nonviolent black leaders, 
praised them for seeing what had been hidden from the white 
Church. But it was all wrong for a big Negro community to follow 
on continuously from slavery into nonviolence, without ever hav- 
ing been offered revolution. Cesar Chavez, fasting as witness 
against violence to his strikers, shows deeper insight into the real 

Never again can we let ourselves get in the position of recom- 
mending nonviolence for somebody else — especially when we'd be 
the ones threatened by his revolution. So long as we keep a foothold 
in the bastion of that American Christianity which has become the 
opiate of the middle classes, we've got no business running other 
people's lives for them. Programs which siphon off the most docile 
30 percent of the black community are just going to make matters 
worse. We're in no position to object that we can't draw a map of 
the Black Nation. Neither can the black, but he knows it's got to 
come. As his situation in America is unique, the solution will have 
to be also. We whites are in no position to say that the partition 
of India and Pakistan is an inadmissible precedent. 

It shook the white man up, as it was meant to, when the SNCC 
militants talked about buying guns. The subservience of the Pull- 
man porter ought to have shaken us up long before and didn't. Our 
reward for failing to read resentment between the lines of servility 
is the chance to read self-respect between the lines of belligerency. 
He has been a master all along at reading contempt between the 
lines of paternalism. Nonviolence is something we can offer to 
others only so far as we illustrate it ourselves; and the nonviolent 
man is the man clothed in armor who can appear on the same 
platform with the advocate of violence, not be hurt by it, and keep 


communications open. If his presence there is misunderstood and 
he's hurt, his self-understanding in the role of reconciliation hasn't 
gone very deep. When the fighting begins, we may legitimately 
bring medicine, legal aid, food, or observe the police — remember- 
ing both what love demands and where justice lies. 

As students of history we can help give the black man the 
confidence of the Vietnamese. His fascination with shooting may 
reflect a fear that his revolution isn't going to go oflf. We can give 
him reason to believe it will — the United States someday will 
become or contain a black nation, as under John Kennedy in some 
sense it became an Irish nation. If the black is likely to win, it's not 
too early for him to start thinking about the burdens of power and 
plan to do better than we did. 

If his revolution assumes a nonviolent form, it'll have to be an 
indigenous one. For three hundred years we have provided the 
blacks with a nonviolent ideology which we didn't have any use 
for ourselves. That role is obviously finished. Our integration the- 
ory is finished too unless they choose to return to it. Now that the 
old ways of solidarity between us have been shown to be unreal, 
both sides must think and work creatively to find a genuine 
solidarity. It exists already in the peace movement, which enjoys 
an actual common concern. It's important and touching that some 
black militants have married white girls. 

We must say we don't want to exercise violence ourselves on 
behalf of the black man; we can work in some parts of his struggle 
but not in others. That doesn't mean we're deciding which his 
legitimate leaders are. Only he can do that for himself, and we must 
abide by his decisions — and not say we think he's making a mistake, 
for the majority of his people are wherever they are, irrespective 
of what we think. 

As motivation we won't allow ourselves to forget that he's got 
something of critical importance to teach us which we can't learn 
from anybody else — in any case the thing which the master has to 
learn from the slave. Already his music has given us our heart back 
again. European eflficiency, individualism, dynamism, have shown 
us how to dominate the planet and each other. African spontaneity. 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 123 

solidarity, adaptability, may be the key to living with it and with 
each other. 

6. The scene of our actual power 

(a) Summary: the obsolescence of war 

Somewhere between the war that's so big as to threaten the 
planet, and the war that's so little as to be clearly colonialist, can't 
we find some war with evenly matched adversaries which will meet 
our standards and be pronounced just? But the cue for a third party 
isn't to justify a war but to reconcile it; for h^^ won't find ourselves 
a party to the proposed just conflict. And this small equal war 
presumes that no Great Power will become involved. Karl Barth 
took as type-class of just war the self-defense of Switzerland against 
an invader. If that happened, we'd be as indignant as he — that is, 
the Great Powers would get involved. Does he wish to risk nuclear 
war for the sake of Switzerland? And what's the national meaning 
of Switzerland if not reconciliation? Only the locals know how to 
live off" her mountains; after a time of troubles they would insensibly 
take over again. 

What is this desire to find a just war somewhere sometime? 
Plenty of wars will still be fought, as the world goes, without need- 
ing our approval. Whenever we find reasons to approve some war, 
our own military Establishment will always be first in line to step 
into the slot we've made. When it's finished, we'll be faced with 
the same problems as before, in more intractable form — after hav- 
ing once again placed a moratorium on the Gospel. Barth also says 
that, apart from the exceptions, the whole orientation of the Chur- 
ches, of humanity, should be towards peace. But so long as the 
exceptions are there in the textbooks, they're the only thing the 
Army chaplains and Secretaries of State will ever see. 

It's been said that nonviolence isn't possible for us, it's a pre- 
tense to virtue greater than we've got. But what the morning paper 
says is that violence isn't possible for us anymore; it's escalated 
itself out of our league. As the fabric of life in our cities decays, 
the last problem we need worry about is providing for their defense 


against a foreign invader. Our war setup isn't maintained by any 
human agency at all, but by the self-perpetuating power of an 
institution sucking in functionaries. We've been freed from the 
compulsiveness of having to support something that is useless and 

The State claims to know what its thing is. I say that our thing 
is to help raise up a class of people for whom radical reconciliation 
across all barriers is an individual concern, a family tradition, an 
institutional witness, who decide on a profession and take a job on 
the basis of its usefulness. What's indicated isn't a public relations 
campaign inventing a phony image of ourselves, but actual goodwill 
embodied in the travel back and forth of persons, groups, money, 
the arts of peace. 

The problem of violence is like the problem of dirt — putting 
something different in its place. "If you wish peace, prepare for 
peace. " Constructive permanent communities are propagated in 
the same way as biological organisms: old ones making young ones. 
The discoveries of freedom and love are unrepeatable events, but 
nearly all their consequences still remain to be drawn. The ideal 
construction called Church History, generated by the portrait of 
a holy family, rests on the correct instinct that the better way is 
a golden thread running back to the origins of humanity. The revo- 
lution inaugurated by the Suffering Servant and Prometheus, like 
any other technique or language, is only learned by watching some- 
body else do it. 

The time won't recur when good men will need to declare 
another closed season on reconciliation, and once again have re- 
course to modern war. If we were faced with invasion by intelligent 
non-human beings, we'd have to make a decision as to whether they 
were our kind. For human beings the decision has already been 
made; they're the ones we're never entitled to give up on. Modern 
war can never again be the lesser of two evils. If it breaks out 
anyway, and one side has a substantial claim to justice, we'll say 
so, and not let an identification with the unjust side stand by 
default. In any case we'll continue resistance to violence which 
supports injustice and reconciliation from wherever we are. Recon- 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 125 

ciliation is a road that never ends. It may lead to martyrdom along 
the way, but we've always affirmed that martyrdom isn't a dead end 
either, but rather the thing we're built on. 

In saying that violence is hereafter ruled out, we've only taken 
the necessary but negative first step. Ahead lies the endless road 
of working it out in practice. "Nonviolence" isn't the solution of 
any problem; it's the discovery that no solution can be found along 
a certain road, which liberates us to look for one in the only area 
where it can be found. If we fail the first time we try again. 

"But any society, including the one you make this protest in, 
needs minimal security; destroy it, and you destroy your own base 
of operations. You're a parasite on the State." — It's not providing 
security: not overseas; nor here, if all over the world people are 
coming to hate us. Our security lies in the goodwill that the peace 
movement can retain. The Government is a parasite on us. 

"Should we not shackle the madman on the loose, even at the 
risk of hurting him?" — If we can, has he been identified? 

"You propose to lay our country open to an unprincipled 
enemy." — Today /Vis the unprincipled enemy. We take the Gov- 
ernment for granted, and try to create a counter-organization of 
society that will do the critical jobs the Government is failing at. 

"Suppose little yellow men with fixed bayonets were coming 
at your mother or your sister." — Where in the world is this happen- 
ing? This implausible scenario is guilty projection of the more famil- 
iar scene where big white men with fixed bayonets are coming at 
the mother and prostituting the daughter. 

"Somebody must take thought for the government." — This 
is an illusion it tries to foster. Actually the Government takes 
thought for itself by an automatic momentum; this is the fact we 
need a counterweight for. 

"If moderates don't control the Government the extremists 
will." — The extremists control it already. We keep trying the long 
shot of getting the moderates in, but we don't pin our hopes to it. 

"You don't allow any place for people working inside the 
system for something short of perfection." — Such people always 
overestimate the amount of good they can do and underestimate 


the amount of compromise they make. Compromise will take care 
of itself; we don't need to worry about it. The only way to start a 
better way going is to start. 

(b) On not being an Establishment jester 

It's easy to get put inside a ball of cotton candy. The Establish- 
ment understands very well the symbolic power of morality over 
us — and how easily we can be gotten to settle for the name only. 
So it institutionalizes prophecy, provides hats of its own design for 
us to wear. All around us are Establishment jesters. Old ladies may 
carry picket signs; student papers may print editorials; the clergy 
may preach about peace on Christmas Eve; academicians may 
knock the Establishment (preferably not in their own field); overage 
generals may go soft in the head after retirement; Senators may talk 
about U.S. imperialism — provided they campaign on pork barrel 

It takes some time getting used to the role; a longer time to 
realize that one is being had. Then when we tumble to the fact that 
we're going through a farce, that the real decisions are being made 
somewhere else by guys who discounted us long ago, we've put too 
big an investment of time and credibility into the role. Once again 
criticism has been encapsulated, and the exploitation machine lum- 
bers on. We learn to say our piece so that it can be dismissed as 
non-serious. We wait until we rise high enough that our criticism 
will be really effective — that is, never. Former Government officials 
would like us to believe that their resignation last year sprang from 
disagreement with policy. Why didn't they say so at the time? 
Because they were too busy negotiating their termination settle- 

The politician must have an actual constituency whose inter- 
ests he serves. The nonviolent methods of Gandhi and Nehru really 
fitted local needs. If the United States ever gets a President with 
a genuine concern for world opinion, for minorities here, he'll have 
to be a black man — moderate enough to capture the white liberals, 
just radical enough that the black militants will vote for him from 
lack of anybody better. 

The Government insists on responsible participation in the 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 127 

electoral process to channel as much of our energies as possible into 
it. The electoral process is its system, which it believes it can 
control. But it gives the show away by operating in quite a different 
manner itself. The most effective Federal agencies are immune to 
the elective process, not subject to judicial review, exempt from 
criticism: the military and its Chiefs of Staff, the Federal Bureau 
of Investigation and its director, the Selective Service System and 
its director, the Central Intelligence Agency . . . The President can't 
control these outfits; he just knows the guys on top and works with 
them. Government is actually conducted by a network of personal 

(c) The reality of Establishment power as our cue 

Behind the elaborate subterfuge of role-playing stands a group 
of actual men — wielding power, manipulating each other by influ- 
ence, blackmail, horse trading, threat, bribes, contracts, mutual 
interest, intermarriage, joint membership. The power behind the 
Establishment is people. They know each other's connections too 
well to be afraid that somebody will rock the boat. If a maverick 
makes his way up, they'll either move over a little for him or break 
him: that's what the institution is set up for. But he can't make his 
way up unless he plays the game by the rules. The system can only 
be drastically modified if an actual new power-base makes the 

If we're convinced that an actual demonic violence has infil- 
trated the Establishment, we know we can't fight it from inside. But 
society is bigger than the State. The ultimate weapon of the State 
is its propaganda about its own importance. When we lift off the 
propaganda, we find the reality: a group of men operating it with 
ruthlessness, perhaps brilliance, for their own purposes — which are 
fatally unexamined and short-sighted. We can learn from them. 
Any radical threat to the Establishment must be of the same nature: 
a counter-organization of persons. 

There's only one system of political and economic power, and 
they monopolize it. We must move into the unoccupied territory. 
Where they operate by mutual personal interest, we must operate 
by mutual acceptance of ideology. Where they persuade by black- 


mail and bribery, we must persuade by argument and participation. 
Where they control by manipulation of the media, we must control 
by actual representation of the oppressed. The only effective 
counter-organization to an exploitative Establishment is a volun- 
tary community of principle. 

The Soviet Union isn't all that different from the United States. 
Their rulers and ours are in some kind of collusion which they call 
detente, and are developing parallel bureaucracies. Especially 
they're agreed that there's an important difference between us and 
them constituted by our economic sysems. It's a defensive smoke- 
screen to ask which large-scale economic system will best promote 
primary individual rights. The real issue is whether any large-scale 
economic system will do this. As we become less and less impressed 
with the difference between Capitalism and Communism, we cry 
for a system which isn't administered from a long ways away but 
is really responsive to our local wishes. We haven't the power in 
our hands to plan a massive reshaping of society for the better; 
neither, quite obviously, do they. We can set up fragments of a 
counter-organization to reshape it locally: farmer co-ops, consumer 
co-ops, free universities, free Churches, volunteer orchestras, baby- 
sitting centers, rent strikes, tutoring bureaus — community organi- 
zation. This mayn't take us very far but at least it's ours. At the 
same time we'll try and find a prophetic and creative way of dealing 
with the gross violence done by the system at the center. 

The great thing is not to take the Establishment at its own 
estimate. Its showy electoral process isn't the scene of decision, the 
alleged competitive economic system isn't the scene of control, the 
mass media aren't the scene of thought. Instead we turn to the 
reality of the Establishment, a community of persons. We turn its 
ideology upside down, following the clues given by the Gospel, and 
begin working for renewal wherever it's possible. Positive avenues 
of rebuilding at first are scarce. For the moment the principal job 
is the resisting of violence. Voluntary organization through true 
community of interest is the only permanent scene where we can 
do either. 

If we try to start a new voluntary community from scratch we 
get into the bag of definition, ambition, publicity. Better if we can 

Revolutionary Nonviolence 129 

find a community already existing, however corrupt or fossilized, 
with the desired ideology built in. History provides us with a ready- 
made community which was the original point of emergence for 
reconciliation: the Church. Besides the organizational problem of 
liberating it into conformity with its own definition, history pro- 
vides us with a theoretical problem in utilizing it: the language in 
which it defines its own nature. The heart of that language, and of 
our linguistic problem, is the divine names in ancient books. In the 
next chapter I suggest that they're the best label we could ask for 
to paste on our own current understanding of things. 



1. The grammar of wisdom 

(a) The analysis of language 

A living language may be learned by an 
adult just so far as he can become a leader 
in the society that speaks it. From even the 
rare authors who learned English as adults 
something is lacking. In Conrad we miss the 
rhythms that a child gets from its mother; 
Nabokov is too absorbed in that prattle. The 
deeper we're dyed in our mother's language, 
with all its excellences and limitations, the 
more human we are. 

Grammar is a real science because its 
subject is inexhaustible. We keep going back 
to old texts for fresh light. Not so with even 
the greatest mathematical work, a Phncipia: 
later generations can translate it into an im- 
proved symbolism with increase of elegance, 
and leave nothing unaccounted for. But 
where mathematics is our servant, words are 
our masters. Humpty Dumpty was kidding 
himself; when we use a word it doesn V mean 
just what we choose it to mean, neither more 
nor less. If I write "lion," "emerald," "con- 
sul," it means what //chooses to mean. Gold 
goes beyond the conventional realms of the 
physicist or the banker; its permanence 
makes it a universal symbol of the eternal 
realm, and if "gold" loses that sense, the 


word has simply failed in its duty of bringing the whole thing before 
us. I'm at liberty to assemble a critical mass of plutonium or of 
words; what happens then depends on the nature of things, not on 
my wishes. 

Grammar is both a theory analyzing what another man's lan- 
guage does, and the applied technique by which we learn to do what 
owr circumstances call for. Since a literary text is the deposit of a 
whole society, the tent of grammar has to stretch over the whole 
three-ring circus. It must be a science, like physics or biology, 
which begins to grasp a real developing whole. And we're not 
entitled to select our own data, stepping on the bugs that don't fit 
the classification; we have to accept things as they come. 

(b) The death of "God" 

Nobody can expand his mind to all contemporary forms of 
expression. My habits of thinking square prevent me from writing 
hippie. If I train myself to switch out of one medium into another, 
I lose the rare strength in a Thucydides or Milton of bending all 
matter to one uniquely appropriate style. Actual choices have to 
be made — some for us before we're born. Much less can we neces- 
sarily count on handling features of past language. "Thou art" is 
hardly available any longer. We who are just losing our last subjunc- 
tives to modal auxiliaries, our last case-endings, wonder how it 
would feel to think in subjunctive and optative, or in eight cases. 
English (we say) breaks down into simple undeclinable parts the 
notion which Greek or Arabic expresses by a single complex verb- 
form. But how far is translation really possible? When English 
develops two words, literal "sky" and figurative "heaven," it can't 
do justice to languages with only one word always possessing both 
connotations. It's not the case that words have a "literal" meaning 
which is the mother of metaphor. If anything, the opposite; the sky 
was the abode of Gods before it was an element, and a pretty 
abstract one, of cosmology. 

Another feature of old texts is apparently even more foreign 
to our own usage, and resistant to paraphrase: the presence of divine 
names, our constant awareness in the texts of God or the Gods. 
We can't expurgate them or edit them out. Greek tragedy remained 

Speaking About God 133 

a cult performance dedicated to Dionysus; the Gods often appear 
as actors, and regularly in the ostensible beliefs of the chorus. 
Hebrew prophecy is words attributed to God in first person or 
describing his action in third person; Hebrew psalms are addressed 
to him in second person. 

The divine names are special proper nouns with (in each lan- 
guage) a peculiar syntax which suitably distinguishes them from 
ordinary proper nouns. Some are like personal names of individuals 
with a well-marked character: Apollo, Aphrodite, Astarte. Greek 
rheos is both a common noun to label the class these names belong 
to, and also serves in ho theos, "the God," to define any one of 
them when he's monopolizing our attention. Most Phoenician di- 
vine names are really courtesy titles: Adonis "Lord," Baal "Mas- 
ter," Baalat "Mistress." I don't know if the Gods so addressed had 
real personal names also like Tammuz or Eshmun; maybe they were 
less distinctly conceived. The unimaginative Romans, before falling 
under Greek influence, thought of their Gods as associated in col- 
leges, like the priests who served them: Manes "spirits of the dead," 
Lares and Penates "household Gods," and just plain di "Gods." 
Greek formal civic religion also invokes them collectively, theoi. 
Hebrew E/ohim, though ostensibly a masculine plural, takes a sin- 
gular adjective and verb when it's a Hebrew divine name. But it's 
also the only plural "Gods" that Hebrew possesses. The other 
principal Hebrew divine name, conventionally written Yahweh, 
came to be so sacred that its true pronunciation was lost. Modern 
tongues are so far influenced by Israel or Aristotle that they've only 
got one divine name, like English God. It has to serve both as a 
proper name of the only God now permitted us, and as a class-name 
(with a small "g" which I raise out of courtesy) for talking about 
societies more richly endowed. 

Nobody can keep in his mind at once the whole spectrum of 
novelties which have entered history. The Greeks spread their 
divine sponsors out in space, allotting each God his own sanctuary 
or aspect of life. The Hebrews operated similarly but in time, re- 
placing each old name or concept as it was rendered irrelevant by 
history. They began with old Canaanite names. El Elyon ("Most 
High EI") and El Shaddai; then on to Elohim, Yahweh of hosts. 


"The Holy One of Israel," and "our Father in Heaven." Mysteri- 
ously the end of the evolution is the old Indo-European name, 
Jupiter the sky-father. And we still apply Greco-Roman terms, 
"theology" and "divinity," to the Hebrew tradition. 

Language, which grew up along with social structure as its 
mirror, is a geological deposit of our whole history. Archaic modes 
of feeling and thinking, above all in the use of the divine names, 
persist fossilized into the present; they're concentrated at the two 
ends of the social spectrum, among the least and the most educated. 
On the one hand they appear as unreflective credos ("In God we 
trust"), curses ("damn it"), exclamations {mon Dieu). Their appeal 
is intentionally illegitimate, to claim for patriotism, anger, or the 
like a sanction in the past which both speaker and hearer recognize 
as unfair: "For Christ's sake get out of my way." 

Elsewhere the divine names are stranded in the self-conscious 
usage of philosophy and theology. Academic persons who speak 
about God live by taking in each other's washing; they defend or 
attack a proposition invented by somebody else. Anybody who 
suggested a radically new proposition about God would be a rarer 
bird than an academic — a prophet. Somebody that could invent 
new divine names and express important truths through them 
would be more than a prophet, perhaps mad; who follows William 

A contemporary school of theologians, adopting a phrase of 
Nietzsche, says that God is dead. By this they seem to mean that 
Greek and Hebrew divine language, as it's been translated for us 
in English dress, is no longer available for sensitive contemporaries 
to express their actual concerns. Some want to agree with what the 
New Testament says, but feel that they have to say it a different 
way, and that they can. Some disagree with it and want to say 
something different. All agree that we can't simply appropriate for 
our own use its notions in its language. So far as they're simply 
recording the current scene they make good sense: most religious 
language at most times, especially the present time, is phony. But 
they may be saying, not that they can't learn to speak with the 
tradition, but that they won't. 

Still in fact, if I find that Aeschylus or Isaiah is the author who 

Speaking About God 135 

best lights up my own condition, Apollo or Yahweh has already 
established a beachhead in my mind, neither as curse nor as meta- 
physics, but in something like his original function. "You should 
say rather that the old names correspond to realities recognized in 
our language; but to speak of Apollo or Yahweh yourself is ironical 
or archaizing." Irony and archaism necessarily enter our language 
whenever we talk about subjects that concern us most; we make 
wry comparisons with the beliefs of other people, analogies to the 
past. Language can't even be merely straight on the subject of life 
or death: 

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Initially we may say that the divine names are used precisely to 
mark both a continuity and a break with what the past considered 
important. "God is dead" marks the break right enough, but not 
the continuity; it hasn't yet identified the name in our language of 
the things once affirmed, or trusted itself to go and look for it. 

(c) Where poets go to school 

What philosophers and theologians say today about God can 
be traced back (either in agreement or disagreement) to scholasti- 
cism and the Christian fathers; thence to the New Testament and 
Hebrew poetry on one hand, and to Aristotle and Greek poetry on 
the other. But there the genealogical tree stops; Greek and Hebrew 
culture seem to have some actual source of information about the 
Gods inaccessible to us. It's true the names were taken over by the 
Greeks from Anatolian myth and elsewhere, by the Hebrews from 
Canaanite cult. But what they say about those names isn't a fossil 
embedded in their language; it expresses a massive originality. How 
did the ancient poets learn what to say about the Gods? Not from 
tradition as with us. Their testimony embarrasses us in its 
unanimity: // was the Gods who taught them! Their witness isn't 
any less or more a literary affectation than when Blake or Milton 
or Dante or Vergil also claims to be inspired. 

We learn to use the names of the Gods, like other nouns and 
parts of speech, from our mother, our brothers and sisters, older 


kids in the street, visiting adults. Their language isn't on one level; 
it has strata of reminiscence which the child learns to use appropri- 
ately, like other strata. As we learn to read, and as our reading goes 
wider, the sequence of signs transmits to our inner ear oral recita- 
tions by the dead poet superimposed on maternal rhythms. Then 
when we read the poetry of a language different from our mother's, 
in translation or the original, we begin to learn a second interna- 
tional language, whether as readers or as poets in our own right: 
the language of symbol. So painters start from the point reached 
by other painters, and scientists from t!.e current state of knowl- 
edge. Poets are as learned as possible; they never willingly cut 
themselves off from the dimension of meaning generated by a con- 
tinuous reference to past poets. 

The poet doesn't operate with words alone as his units. The 
vocabulary of Homer includes nouns with fixed epithets, half lines, 
traditional groups of verses. The Hebrew poet works with phrases 
which we read now in Canaanite texts of 1400 B.C. from Ugarit; 
the scheme of parallel elements in half-verses is fixed by usage, it 
recurs from prophet to prophet. The poet works inside an old 
comprehensive set of linguistic conventions, not devised by him- 
self, which have always been used for the same purposes. He's been 
taught that skill in that medium is the key to a realm of primary 

Ancient texts aren't exactly the product of human intelligence 
working on given materials; rather they're the given materials 
which constitute a culture. The ancient poets looked on their craft 
as the scientist does on his, whatever each knows about its history: 
as a concentrated summary of important truths which no one man 
could have worked out by himself. In fact, modern science and 
modern poetry are two things that have come out from that once 
indivisible enterprise. 

The ancient texts which introduce God, or the Gods, regularly 
state that they go beyond us. As the heavens are higher than the 
earth, so are Yahweh's ways higher than our ways; the races of men 
and of Gods are one and the same, but the brazen sky lies between. 
"How can the poet's human language claim to control something 
which he sees only dimly?" The language isn't his, it belongs to the 

Speaking About God 137 

Gods. "But language is simply one way of representing our experi- 
ence in human society." Among the things we experience in human 
society are the systems of organized energy once called Gods. For 
the Greeks (as Walter Otto says), "Dionysus" was the name of a 
shared experience cutting across all the recognized forms of politi- 
cal life, involving drunkenness, madness, ecstasy, identification 
with animals and with nature, inspiration, dismemberment. Poetry, 
and our deepest experiences which it records, are the invasion of 
society and personality by what we best describe as an outside 

The poets testify that what they sing isn't their creation, but 
comes from some source other than their personality. No gram- 
matical programming can exhaust a language, because each poet 
is the scene of innovation. He picks up, blowing in the wind, scraps 
of lines, hints of the future, laborers' sayings, observations of na- 
ture; and more by receptivity than willpower lets them put them- 
selves in a suitable order. We know he didn't invent the language, 
the vocabulary, the idioms. No more did he invent the poem; it 
wouldn't strike home to people unless all those items were in their 
experience also. In strict law all copyright should be vested in the 
Muse. In the poet is crystallized the precise utterance for which 
history was supersaturated. Thus the text comes at us with an 
advance claim on our trust. It says what we already know and more; 
or what we already knew without realizing it. From that initial trust 
we take on credit expressions that seem opaque or freaky; if later 
on they too light up, we realize we've found a guide to our experi- 
ence. Wisdom has touched our ear. 

(d) Approaching ancient texts 

We approach contemporary texts out of our own experience. 
We approach ancient texts out of history, acquiring as much as 
possible of the information available to contemporaries. After 
we've informed ourselves as best we can, the clue to those texts 
is a grammar of wisdom. The way a Greek or Hebrew expressed 
himself is the original mode of defining what it means to be a man. 
And the heart of the definition is the fact of expressing oneself; man 
is a mirror-making animal. There isn't any general agreement that 


more modern forms of words have rendered the old obsolete. The 
burden of proof is on the person who claims the ancient texts have 
been superseded; they come with a general presumption in their 
favor. In particular, we're to presuppose until the opposite is proved 
that the divine names are performing an important function. 

Linguistic analysts start from modern philosophy rather than 
from ancient texts; and not even from actual books of modern 
philosophy, but from artificial sentences expressing what the ana- 
lyst thinks the philosophers ought to say. "God is an omniscient 
omnipotent being." This doesn't have the rhythm of a language 
actually spoken, nor the allusiveness of the poet. But those features 
of old texts are essential to any kind of speaking about God. By 
inspecting the meaning (or lack of meaning) in sentences like this, 
we haven't yet gotten close to the actual language about God which 
has moved people to action. 

If those writers saw the world of human experience for the first 
time, it's worth a try to project ourselves into their mind — in par- 
ticular, not stiffening the divine names into a dogmatic scheme of 
our own which we father on them. It's my experience that all poetry 
which moves me is talking about the same thing: 

There is one story and one story only 
That will prove worth your telling . . . 

What's the most accurate way of saying that thing? We're suspi- 
cious when a novelist intrudes his personal Communism or Catholi- 
cism, because we're sure that current forms of those beliefs are 
cruder instruments than his own perceptions. A form of belief 
which would lead the author to truths he'd otherwise have missed 
seems scarcely possible to us, but is taken for granted by the ancient 

The philologist can expound the ancient texts containing the 
divine names. Priests can give contemporary renditions of those 
texts treated as liturgy. Uneducated persons and philosophers use 
the names vestigially in their own language. But a living use of the 
divine names is possible today only for poets operating in their own 
right inside the old grammar of wisdom. Unlike other features of 

Speaking About God 139 

language, use of the divine names can't ever be merely conven- 
tional; they only exist inside creative discourse. Thus every man 
has the potentiality of becoming a poet himself, using words prop- 
erly to go with his actions. 

We've seen that the problem which the philosopher calls "the 
existence of God" is more correctly the function of the divine 
names in ancient texts. We will discover that the center of their 
use is to affirm the emergence of radical novelties into history. As 
poets or prophets in our own right, we're entitled and required to 
follow their style; and in particular to affirm that God is responsible 
for the loving revolution in Jesus — ^just as the New Testament 
affirms it. The affirmation of love is hollow without joy — which in 
turn requires a victory over death. But nonviolence is precisely the 
thing which death can't touch; the joyfulness implied by its attribu- 
tion to God is self-vindicating. 

2. The presence of divine names in ancient texts 

(a) The claim of the Gods on us 

Literary criticism of ancient texts — as carried out both by the 
classical scholar and the biblical theologian — informs us of the 
function of the divine names. The ancient poets agree in regarding 
the words which have passed through them as revelation. The role 
of the biblical text in the Church of course continues this self- 
estimate of the poets; equally so the role of classical literature in 
Western education. 

The Church and the Synagogue used to take the Hebrew Bible 
at face value, seeing the law of Moses as primary, the prophets as 
secondary exegesis. With our historical methods, we reverse the 
roles: the prophets from Amos on made an original response to a 
crisis of violence which was then projected back onto the mythical 
lawgiver. (New Testament scholars naturally but wrongly tried to 
make the same reversal. It's true that we have Paul's letters in 
earlier form than the Gospels. But, where Moses is a blank for us, 
it's Jesus who represents the original spiritual impulse which Paul 
interprets and adapts.) During the Renaissance, Latin literature and 
sculpture were seen as normative, and things Greek as stiff primi- 


tive forerunners. The radical originality of the Greeks was first 
appreciated by nineteenth-century German scholarship and ar- 
chaeology. Not until World War II did we get English translations 
of Greek drama able to stand beside the King James Bible. Far from 
the classical world being superseded, not until our generation could 
it have the same effect on contemporaries as the English Bible on 

If Greek and Hebrew societies are really two foci of a single 
movement, then the culture of the city-state, divine names and all, 
presents us with more of an ultimatum than we thought. We've got 
to take or leave the whole package. We thought we could discard 
biblical religion while retaining Greek literary values. But then our 
reading of the Bible as literature made the same kind of claims for 
it. The Gods have their hooks in us deeper than we recognized. 

Neither body of texts separates people into insiders who ac- 
cept it and outsiders who don't. Precisely the claim of Athens and 
Jerusalem to be schools of humanity is the fact that they arrange 
pre-enrollment for alleged outsiders. At the same time, important 
information about our place in the cosmos may be obtained from 
American Indian or African oral literature, Hindu or Chinese 
books. We have an urgent duty to immerse ourselves deeply enough 
in those cultures that we can begin to make a comparison. The 
historical parts of this book are intended to make some sense out 
of our tradition. 

(b) The Gods as makers and sustainers 

Ancient man — our one primary source of information — sees 
the Gods as both ^rar/mg things, and maintaining what they once 
started. The act by which Adam was created brings each of us 
Adams also into being. The Hebrew God preserves the world from 
being dissolved by waves of chaos just as he first created it. The 
Greek Gods still preside over the element which they originally 
received by lot. On the acropolis of every city-state stood the 
protecting temple of the God under whose auspices it was founded. 
The legend of the past act — dragon-combat, shaping of man, ex- 
odus, city-planning — is read as libretto of the dramatic liturgy 

Speaking About God 141 

through which its impetus is celebrated and maintained in the 

This double view of the divine activity corresponds to how 
things actually are. The absolute novelties of past evolution are 
deployed in the present as the relative novelty of birth and develop- 
ment in each individual. Who taught my children their duty of 
having an Easter egg hunt? Recapitulation, biological and histori- 
cal, is the Time-machine which brings the evolutionary content of 
the past living before our eyes. History is swung around at right 
angles into geological and social strata; time is spatialized in organic 

The sciences, natural and social, train us in the habit of seeing 
those past emergents built into the present. But eventually freedom 
must push us out of contemplation into action. Nature and society 
take thought for reproducing the whole sequence of past evolution 
in us. Our job is to affirm the action by which the radical novelty 
of the future surfaces, claiming the kinship with the Gods that 
constitute our humanity. The divine power is more itself when it 
starts something than when it's just maintaining it. We see the 
finger of the Gods at the precise point where the cotyledons of the 
future break through our soil. 

(c) Some texts with the divine names 

A. Isaiah 43:18-19 (r.s.v.): 

Remember not the former things, 

nor consider the things of old. 
Behold, I am doing a new thing; 

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? 
I will make a way in the wilderness 

and rivers in the desert. 

B. Pindar, Olympian iii.1-5 (trans. Richmond Lattimore): 

My claim is to sing bright Akragas and please the Tyndaridai, 

the lovers of strangers, 
and their sister Helen with the splendid hair. 


shaping the hymn of Olympic triumph for TTieron, the speed 
of his horses 

with feet never weary. So the Muse was near as I found a fire- 
new style 

to set in the Dorian cast the speech 
of acclamation . . . 

C. Paul, to the Galatians 4:3-7: 

So we also, when we were children, were enslaved under 
the elemental principles {or, ABC's) of the cosmos. But 
when the fulness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born 
of a woman, born under the Law, so that he might buy back 
those who were under the law, so that we might receive 
adoption. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of 
his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, "Father." So you are 
no more a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through 

D. Blake, Jerusalem folio 77: 

England! awake! awake! awake! 

Jerusalem thy Sister calls! 
Why wilt thou sleep the sleep of death 

And close her from thy ancient walls? 

Thy hills and valleys felt her feet 

Gently upon their bosoms move: 
Thy gates beheld sweet Zion's ways: 

Then was a time of joy and love. 

And now the time returns again: 

Our souls exult, and London's towers 
Receive the Lamb of God to dwell 

In England's green and pleasant bowers. 

The sacred bards move with assurance, as in their own house, 
in a spiritual geography peopled with figures not exactly human: 

Speaking About God 143 

Jerusalem, Olympia, England; Helen, the Muse, Yahweh, the 
Son of God. That landscape or seascape with figures is stirring into 
action: the God is bringing something new into being. 

Our poets are all speaking about the mystery of time. The 
movements of peoples: the matter of Britain, the calling of Israel, 
the possibility of Athens. Our texts at their most mythical see 
realities far better than the cyclic theory which Aristotle imposes 
on his elegant biological observations. Men living in a time of rapid 
social change have the best clue to the nature of things in general, 
if they'll use it. 

All these poets were in fact conscious of history being on the 
march. Deutero-Isaiah and Pindar were nearly contemporaries; 
they worked under the influence of Persian expansion, and the 
blossoming of the city-state into the new thing we've discussed. The 
Hebrew envisages the return from exile, the refounding of Israel; 
the Greek celebrates the victories of Sicilian lords over barbarism. 
Paul has been so overwhelmed by the novelty of Jesus, that he's 
pushed into this shattering myth which affronts us still by its 
audacity and humorlessness. Blake, in the face of Deism and the 
Industrial Revolution, and in touch with the Wesleyan revival, sees 
on the horizon the Romantic movement — and a renewal of Eng- 
land for which he's the best witness. All these texts are the best 
evidence that a new spirituality has happened; by "Romanticism" 
we mean primarily a body of poetry. 

These are about the simplest texts I could find. Yahweh else- 
where performs .nore extensive actions than our prophet speaks of 
here, many of which (like the genocide of the Canaanites) we 
rightly choose not to swallow. All together they cover the whole 
trajectory of global history and individual life. Pindar, in spite of 
his complicated technique, takes the Gods straighter than Greek 
drama or Job, with their oblique viewpoint and ambiguities. Paul's 
imitators make us forget that no primary thinker has expressed 
thoughts remotely like his; we have only a fragment of the myth 
here. Dante and Milton are thought bigger poets than Blake — but 
less original; his passages show a very rare simplicity in inventing 
a new myth out of old materials. The manifest power of these texts 


needs no defense; it'll take the linguistic analysts a long time to 
describe what's happening in them. 

(d) Convention and novelty in the use of divine names 

In Greek literature, epic is a precocious Enlightenment, where 
the Gods appear as a sideshow, and the poet's serious business is 
men. (Perhaps Homer, a Mycenaean refugee, found that his Gods 
got weaker away from their native soil — ^just as Naaman the Syrian 
did.) Serious discourse about the Gods is localized in the mainland 
farmer Hesiod, the orthodox lyricists Sappho and Pindar, and the 
dramatists on their home ground of Attica. In tragedy the Gods 
are not so much Olympian as of the earth, earthy. Comedy is the 
most ambivalent of media, and the ingenious fun that Aristophanes 
makes of the Gods has a more serious look than Homer's. There 
are doubtless elements of literary convention also in the use of the 
Gods by Aeschylus or Sophocles — that's why they don't offend us. 
But the same could then be said of T. S. Eliot. If divine names 
everywhere represent a literary convention, a "literary convention" 
is just the way books are written, we are then freed to analyze the 
function of the words as we find them. 

The alternatives of conventional belief and unbelief seem 
strongly inappropriate in the face of these texts. One feels recogni- 
tion and hope: a catch in the throat that after so many disappoint- 
ments, a more exciting thing than we felt any right to wish for is 
on its way. The proper content of the living present must be some 
overwhelming novelty. 

Even in these relatively simple texts, the divine persons and 
places are shadowed with ambiguity. Blake is talking about the 
arrival of Mediterranean culture in Britain. It would have been very 
impertinent to ask Blake if he really believed the Hebrews came 
originally from "Albion"; and his answer would have been imperti- 
nent. How seriously does Pindar take the apparently external char- 
acter of his lady Muse? The manner in which Yahweh goes about 
road-building isn't very clearly conceived. And has Paul worked 
out the details of the trans-historical affair in which the Father 
sends the Son? 

Speaking About God 145 

We could as well have gathered antithetical visions of ap- 
proaching evil. Here even more we'd find that the affirmations can't 
ever be straight — they have a necessary sardonic quality. We won't 
get a clear answer either if we ask whether Pindar believes in the 
dragon Typhon or not. He certainly believes in the existence of 
barbarian disorder which the dragon symbolizes. Likewise if we ask 
whether Deutero-Isaiah believes in Leviathan (same dragon!), or 
whether he's just using it as a Canaanite literary allusion. Observe 
the characteristic irony that Jesus applies to Beelzebul, who exists 
primarily in somebody else's world of belief rather than in ours. 
That doesn't mean we don't need him. If he didn't exist he'd have 
to be invented — with the peculiar attributes of non-being which in 
fact invest him. 

Traditionally philosophers have asked: Are sentences like 
those of our texts meaningful? Do the divine names in them have 
some equivalent in reality? If meaningful, are these sentences also 
true? But actually we should ask: What are the sentences doing? 
What function do the divine names serve in them? By muting the 
divine symbolism we could translate Greek tragedy into a realistic 
novel or play. Thucydides did precisely this; he paraphrased its 
brooding horror into actual history. It might seem to reflect on the 
status of the Gods if they can be translated away: equally, however, 
it reflects on the enterprise of Thucydides if his rationalism is only 
a literary choice. A literary choice must be a more serious decision 
than we thought. 

Which literary choice is more normal, more effective? In King 
Lear, redemption is generated out of blindness, war, thunderstorms 
— not all that diff"erent from saying that Yahweh generates redemp- 
tion from the cloud over Sinai. But Shakespeare's technique is more 
difficult to pull off", more sophisticated. The divine names have a 
more long-standing claim as label for the reality. Yahweh and Zeus 
work well precisely because they have a long handle in the past. 
Scholars know that "Zeus" is an Indo-European name for the sky; 
Isaiah will have us think back to the legend in which the name 
"Yahweh" was revealed to Moses. All these elements of associa- 
tion, archaism, ambiguity, are necessary for the normal functioning 


of the divine names. Unambiguous language hasn't enough tensile 
strength to bear the load of the Gods. 

3. God and the Gods as source of innovation 
(a) Deciding to use the divine names 

The divine names appear normally as subjects of verbs, which 
express the emergence of radical novelty in the living present, 
continuous with remote beginnings. Yahweh is plausibly inter- 
preted as an archaic causative participle of the verb to be, "he who 
brings to pass." This is why the divine names aren't among the 
features of language which get old and unusable, like "thou art" 
and "if it be." Their function requires them to be self-renewing — 
they define the self-renewing of the universe. 

This function of divine names in ancient texts corresponds to 
the shape we found in ancient history. We saw the meaning of the 
city-state as the birth of twins — freedom and violence. From the 
death of the city-state came the transformation of freedom into love 
— the emergence of a liberated community which didn't need to 
be protected any longer by the defenses around its birth. The an- 
cients saw the meaning of their own history just as clearly as we 
do, or better. And the best way they could explain the possibility 
of that history was to say that the Gods did it. 

Yahweh, in a long series of events, is seen as creating the 
universe, the society of man, the nation Israel, the city Jerusalem. 
Then, partly in punishment for sin, partly in fulfillment of destiny, 
he breaks down the walls and leads the people out into the world 
under the banner of his Servant. Each time the action is seen as 
a narrow escape from drowning, a passage through watery chaos. 
The Gods lead out the Achaean armies against Troy, and induce 
a poet to record the campaign. Pindar sees them as presiding each 
over his own international temple — Zeus at Olympia, Apollo at 
Delphi — and supervising the destinies of individual states. Aes- 
chylus has the intervention of Athena break the chain of bloodguilt. 
In Prometheus and Oedipus a divine figure suffering outside the city 
wall is the instrument of redemption for society. Socrates gave the 

Speaking About God 147 

credit for his "wisdom" to his daimonion. We saw how earher 
history rolled itself up into a ball in the life of Jesus, the supreme 
emergent. We need now only observe that Paul, the Evangelists, 
and (with all ambiguities) Jesus himself agree in holding God re- 
sponsible for the revolution he embodies. 

Are we justified in using the divine names to talk about the 
things that matter most? (Paul affirms that we're justified by using 
them.) The element of linguistic convention in their use does not 
go beyond the original linguistic convention involved in using lan- 
guage at all. It's not true that metaphor, irony, association, form 
a decorative level of language imposed on a more basic literal level. 
The farther back we go in the Western tradition, the more allusive 
and sacred the texts become. A purely secular use of language — 
what we may call prose — is the most sophisticated and fragile of 
civilized achievements. 

I can't dissociate myself from the words used by the past. As 
our embryology recapitulates biological evolution, we may add that 
our psychological development recapitulates history. Today my per- 
sonal development and our common history have reached the same 
point, and for a few years will proceed along together, until I 
slacken and the torch is picked up by somebody else. We bypass 
stages in our development at our own risk, and only if we can find 
an adequate substitute. Marxism is thought an heir to the Gods; 
but Jesus reached his position precisely by repudiating revolution- 
ary violence. The Johnson era should have discredited the belief 
in automatic progress for all time — while at the same time vindicat- 
ing the power of moral concern to change the actual course of 

In Chapter 111 we decided that, not as moral ideal but as 
enlightened prudence, the revolutionary nonviolence of Jesus was 
indicated by our own circumstances as the course to follow. We're 
now at the point where we see every reason to affirm the things 
he stood for in his own words: to make the language of divine 
names our language. At first this won't seem to affect anything but 
the style of our affirmations. The grammar of wisdom teaches us 
to use the divine names in the same way as our best models. In that 


case there won't be any occasion to talk about the attributes of God 
in himself, as distinct from his innovating activity in history; that 
would be inappropriate syntax. 

But the style of our affirmations makes all the difference. We 
can only use the divine names in the spirit of prophecy. The tradi- 
tional syntax also forbids our involving the divine names in a 
prosaic context. Religion, Tillich says, is our ultimate concern. 
Religious language is talk about our ultimate concern. If it doesn't 
sound like ultimate concern it's not religion. And that involves 
using such words as really bring the heart of a man before his 
neighbor. This is the level on which the divine names operate. So 
they turn out not to be fossil dinosaurs, but permanently youthful 
Giants, even if for the most part today asleep or on a journey. We 
haven't got any other poetry but existing poetry to work with; we'll 
use the language which has been given us, or none. Of course, it 
must be with our own innovations, but still within the tradition. Our 
liberation is to reach out for the only tool which will do the job. 
The divine names are the only language available to say the thing 
that has to be said. We had better grasp the nettle. 

(b) The activity of God 

God is revolution, a revolution which goes beyond the most 
characteristic revolutions we know in not letting itself become 
contaminated with the thing it's revolting against. Actually, in say- 
ing this I'm still talking about the divine names — the "attributes of 
God in himself" — not quite yet about the living reality. What I 
should have said was: God makes revolution. I use "revolution" 
as Jesus used "Kingdom of God," because these are the political 
terms which move contemporaries most deeply, and man is a politi- 
cal animal. Radicals and reactionaries are alike proud to be called 
sons and daughters of the American Revolution. 

This formula simply generalizes "In the beginning God created 
the heavens and the earth . . ." The fact that cosmic evolution takes 
place at all is a revolutionary emergence out of the nonbeing which 
is all we could imagine by ourselves. We can now go back through 
our previous analysis, picking up the successive phases of historic 
change and talking about them in the language we're newly privi- 
leged to speak. The ultimate version of revolution is the radical 

Speaking About God 149 

nonviolence of Jesus. It hasn't got anything common with the sys- 
tem of violence it overthrows. 

The Civil Rights revolution, the Peace revolution, the inarticu- 
late cry for a Conservation revolution — these massive facts of our 
time (we've now learned to say) are the work of God. As usual, 
he's picked the outcast to shame and if possible convert the elder 
brother. Perhaps both alleged outsiders and alleged insiders will 
become suspicious at this point. Does this equivalence between the 
best ancient and the best modern language lead the outsider into 
the bag of affirming a supernatural being, or the insider into the 
desert of secularism by false identifications? There's absolutely no 
basis for dividing people into outsiders and insiders. People who see 
clearly and act responsibly must somehow all be affirming one and 
the same world. What keeps us from speaking about that world in 
the same way must be the shortness of our life, the difficulty of the 
matter, sin, and a bad educational system. But if we're ever to have 
reconciliation with our enemies we've got to find a way of getting 
along with our friends. I'm trying to suggest how people who're 
moved by the same books and respond to the same needs can speak 
in the same language — which after all was meant to be a bridge. 

(c) The finality of the revolution in Jesus 

Orthodoxy has always held that the new thing in Jesus was 
the final revelation. But how can the pattern of successively emer- 
gent novelties, which up until now has been labeled "time," ever 
come to a halt? Can God modify his habit of making revolution? 
The new principle represented by Jesus lends itself to such general 
formulation (namely, the way he originally expressed it) that it's 
hard to see how it could ever be superseded. It refuses to carve out 
a domain other than the domain of the Cross, which is always open. 
He allows every truly natural growth — lilies, ravens, children, la- 
borers — to flourish in the ecological niche where God has placed 
them. When the violence of competition for niches enters, he holds 
up the mirror of truth to both parties and asks them to reexamine 
their motives. It turns out to be those closest to himself, the poor, 
who, if anybody, shove over and let violence work itself out. In a 
universe of apparently fixed volume and finite resources, what other 
means of permanently resolving territorial disputes can there be? 


By making this means available, he brings a whole new dimension 
of psychic space into the universe, which the poor then inherit. 
What novelty could be looked for after this? 

Jesus is the turning point of history. The subsequent revolu- 
tions we may look forward to will be the application of nonviolence 
to new areas. A large field — ^just about everywhere — still remains 
to be won over. The revolution we can expect in our own time is 
the transformation of a worldwide Established Church (the state 
Churches of Western powers and their missions overseas) into 
something which hasn't ever existed before: a worldwide Church 
on the model of the primitive one, everywhere associating itself 
with the hopes of the poor. 

This analysis perhaps makes it again possible for us to talk 
about the presence of God in history. If we live our lives inside the 
rhythm of history, as we should, his presence spills over into them 
too. But how can we go on affirming his activity so far as we're 
concerned, when our date with history is scrubbed by death? To 
finish the rehabilitation of language about God, we still must find 
a way to affirm the old formula that in him death has been over- 

4. Nonviolence as guarantee of the resurrection 
(a) Coming to terms with our death 

Our awareness of violence in every form is intensified by 
death. We can't with a quiet mind turn over to our children an 
environment which we've run somewhat more downhill, or set 
them in an unjust social arrangement, whether as masters or slaves. 
At just the point when they become fully engaged in the struggle 
against injustice, they let us slip away into the undignified senior- 
citizen arrangements of our broken society. Under the best of cir- 
cumstances death is the final act of violence against our personality. 
Today the general crisis of violence is internalized as the fear of 
death in well-known particular symbolic forms. 

Language about God isn't a present indicative statement that 
something is going on. The presence of the divine names makes it 
subjunctive, investing it with the affirmation that everything in 

Speaking About God 151 

some manner should be seen as good. The past revolutions 
recapitulated in us, the present one which in our freedom we help 
bring to light, should let us rest easy in the conviction that we're 
at home in the cosmos which generated us. But the crushing legacy 
of violence won't let us. We can't claim full citizenship in the 
cosmos by birthright; naturalization is required. To take language 
about God seriously, we must come to terms with the violence 
summed up in our death. 

The Greeks (a clear-sighted people whose ideology fitted their 
feelings) never became reconciled to dying. So their Gods are 
bugged by death too: they're not all-powerful to preserve us from 
it, they also are subject to humiliation. For a long time the Hebrews 
could avoid facing up to death, because they maintained a tradi- 
tional society where men lived vicariously in their children. When 
it broke down, Yahweh had to be granted increased power — it was 
too late to take on Greek realism. That increased power is the 
raising of the dead, which is first affirmed for the martyred Mac- 
cabean freedom fighters. But at that point the Jews didn't fully 
believe in the Resurrection — a fanatical extra which couldn't gener- 
ate the required spirituality. So Jesus came into a world doubly 
hung up on death, in the symbolic form of hysterical incapacities 
seen as demonic powers. 

Since Jesus and Paul lived in a crisis of violence like ours, the 
boundlessness of their affirmations about God forced them to hold 
radically that the death at the heart of violence had been overcome. 
They didn't have any choice but to make the inherited image of 
resurrection central. The plastic character of New Testament sym- 
bolism was bound to produce narratives of an actual resurrection- 
event, whether it happened or not. Paul or Luke could hardly have 
fathered on the primitive Christian communities a belief they didn't 
share. We may take the New Testament at face value: the deposit 
of a brotherhood which had passed beyond fear of death. 

Jesus emphasizes the conditions for appropriating the victory 
over death; they constitute the style of life which we've called 
revolutionary nonviolence. Now this original mode of thought and 
conduct is the one actual new thing which has entered the picture, 
to change the clear-sighted pessimism of the Greek city, the unreal 


fanaticism of the Maccabees, into the aflRrmation of joy in the 
primitive Church. So we conclude that the will to practice nonvio- 
lent reconciling love must somehow lie at the base of hope in the 

Perhaps it seemed as if the question, "But does God really 
exist?" was dispensed with by grammatical tricks. When we leave 
the realm of public history behind, and ask how the question really 
comes at us, it always reduces to one existential translation: "Have 
I still grounds for hope in face of the certainty of my death?" For 
resurrection is always seen as the action of God alone. 

(b) Our solidarity with the human race 

If once we're persuaded on some level that the nonviolent 
revolution is the right way, we immediately know we fall short of 
it. It's easy enough to see the things out there arrayed against us: 
affluence; the military Establishment; the easy natural relations 
between the Church Establishment and the government; the ease 
with which awkward moralists can be edged out of the way, their 
powerlessness in not having any second string to their bow; our 
tendency to be pushed into ineffectual corners; our propensity to 
become casualties. All this, we tell ourselves, could be brushed 
aside if we had such a voice as Paul or Luther or John Wesley or 
Martin Luther King. But we know in our hearts that we don't. It's 
not merely that sin has intervened; also we think science has inter- 
vened. We feel we know too much about the conditions needed to 
support consciousness. That is, we haven't enough effectual confi- 
dence in God to appropriate what we've been told about his victory 
over death. The only way is to ask more seriously, more scientifi- 
cally, what it means to be a man. 

Death dissolves both our physical organism and the center of 
consciousness which it sustained — or perhaps, which sustained it. 
We saw that consciousness must have some equivalent in every 
arrangement of matter: when I die, the general principle I represent 
won't be lost from the universe. But what about the particular 
center of consciousness I represent? We're surer than we should 
be that we understand what we mean by talking about "my" in- 

Speaking About God 153 

dividuality. Even when I'm stranded on a Polynesian island or 
rocketed into space, my consciousness keeps a connection with 
both the biology of the species and human society. 

(1) With the biology of the species. How does the amoeba feel 
about undergoing binary fission? Probably uncomfortable. Still, if 
we can project down to its rudimentary level of consciousness, it's 
basically immortal. Its consciousness can't be very individualized, 
since it can split in two without sinking to an enormously more 
primitive level. I was once on precisely its level. In the human 
family tree, consciousness rises to the level which I trust my readers 
are now enjoying, then sinks to the amoebic level of more-than- 
sleep in the sperm and the ovum. In the chain of our begetting, 
biological life is continuous, perhaps most intense of all in the 
sperm and the ovum. And the T^rc/ of consciousness is continuous 
— but with sudden drops to near-zero intensity when our con- 
sciousness humbles itself to the expulsion of living seed. Sexual 
intercourse is a kind of radical simplification or death — perhaps this 
may help reconcile us to death. 

(2) IVith society. Society isn't maintained by biological de- 
scent but by cultural descent: the new mode of genetics which 
characterizes the universe when it's not merely arranged as biology 
but also as history. Babies deprived of their mother or a mother- 
substitute for a long period have lost some essential item of sociali- 
zation in their makeup which can't be replaced. Other people are 
a fundamental necessary feature of our consciousness; this isn't 
moralizing but bare description. We're so conscious of our con- 
sciousness when we're alone — reading or writing or walking in the 
woods — we forget it's dependent on other people. And then we 
complain about being orphans in the universe, that it pays no atten- 
tion to us when we die! But our illusion of independence and our 
outrage at being abandoned are the inside and outside of a pseudo- 

The same illusion of autonomy leads to social contract theo- 
ries. But in fact men don't get together and create society; it's the 
womb within which individual consciousness arose as a focus of 
group-relations. Language is the symbolic area where man acts 


most like himself. And linguistic utterance, we know, is the meet- 
ing-place of two or more consciousnesses — which then exist only 
by their participation in this and other kinds of overlap. 

(c) What survives death 

Most Christians who believe in survival of anything believe in 
Plato's immortality. But it won't work. It's a distortion of the New 
Testament, which occurred because in the first centuries of the 
Church some Platonic philosophers became Christians. They read 
about the resurrection of the body, couldn't understand it, and 
explained it in their own terms. If we start taking away from our- 
selves everything we owe to our bodies, we end up with nothing. 
The same thing happens if we take away what we owe to other 
people. Robinson Crusoe isn't simply operating off memories of 
other people: their connections with him are still operative in his 
personality — unless that's what we mean by "memory." We ha- 
ven't got any such thing as Plato's soul, a simple indestructible bit 
of divine essence; rather the consciousness of each of us is the 
center of a network of connections. 

But by the same token, we haven't got any such thing as the 
old-fashioned psychologist's self, a simple destructible bit of a 
peculiar substance. So far as one person is genuinely the bond of 
unity between others, he doesn't die completely or right away. 
Much more so are poets, physicists, musicians, judges — servants 
of an ongoing discipline — perpetuated by their consciousness being 
taken up into an eternal body of knowledge. Even more so when 
we come to participation in the kind of principle that a man is 
radically identified with, not merely as father or teacher or artist, 
but just as himself. Beyond the physical organism, the thing which 
we know^'xW die at our death is our little peculiarities or eccentrici- 
ties. How important are they? Important to us we say. Should they 
be? Which things should we feel badly over the death of? We don't 
feel badly over the death of an individual lion; it's the species lion 
we've got a psychic stake in. I once said I felt badly about the death 
of the brontosaurus, but I don't think I do now; I'm satisfied with 
knowing they once lived, and the time for all that is gone. 

We sometimes say the most important part of us is what can 

Speaking About God 155 

be transmitted or shared. What about Socrates can die? James Bevel 

I was in Cleveland when someone came running up and said, 
"We just got a call, A. J. [Muste] is dead." And 1 said, "Whoever 
is starting rumors about A. J. being dead must also have started that 
rumor about God." 

I met A. J. up in the office a night or so after he came back 
from Hanoi. Now, most of us have excuses: you know, "I'm tired, 
I'm old, I can't do it right now, how about tomorrow?" But that 
old man stayed up almost the whole night writing up a call for the 
Spring Mobilization. He was working, involved, giving everything 
he had, to say to the people of the world, "You are brothers." And 
most of us half his age get worried we're going to get old and starve 
to death. That's why most of us don't get anything done; we're 
sitting around scheming how we're going to get more money, more 
clothes in our closets, thinking we're going to be naked tomorrow 

You see, he understood, and Gandhi understood, and Jesus 
understood — that all men should be brothers; that they should live 
together in peace. A. J. went around trying to remove the barriers 
that separate men. When he was in Hanoi he had the courage to 
say to Ho Chi Minh, as he said to Johnson in America, "You know 
something? I've got good news; you guys are brothers. And you 
shouldn't go around murdering children. That won't solve your 
problems." . . . We say A. J. is dead and the tragedy is that most 
of us don't understand the process of life. We say that A. J. is dead 
but anybody who was caught up in the process of bringing people 
together can never die. A. J.'s not dead. People working; people 
creating; people trying to get people together so we can end the 
war: that's A. J. He isn't dead. 

Perhaps somebody so much committed to a principle seems 
inhuman. Even though A. J. liked baseball very well, he's threaten- 
ing to the outsider. Is this impersonality or more than personality? 
We may actually have to make up our minds. Anyway, we can say 
A. J. was a saint: somebody who translates the style of Jesus into 


his own style. Jesus invented the character which considers itself 
unimportant. He certainly was a poet; but he turned his poems over 
to the memory of his friends, unconcerned with whether they pre- 
served the exact text or original language. By trusting his friends 
to convey a fair impression of him, he transferred his personality 
to their safekeeping. By being all of a piece he systematically 
shrugged off peculiarities. Nothing about a person like that can die. 
The words and actions, the new principle of nonviolent revolution, 
the new style which he invented and illustrated, are adequately and 
completely built into his followers. So Paul says we're in Christ to 
the extent that we've put off the old man, the wrong principle. 

(d) Resurrection as inevitable myth of love 

Jesus replaces the counter-productive principle of hanging 
onto what doesn't matter and must die with the permanence of 
love. When I find friends, I'm not so certain as I once was whether 
we're a group of individuals or a collectivity. Totalitarianism is so 
wicked precisely because it's the perversion of a true pattern. Paul 
sees the little communities which he calls the Church as represent- 
ing in embryo the only possible principle of unity in the human 
race. People have given up their old self-defeating self-affirmation 
for a new solidarity in coinherence — the context for the only real 
individualism possible. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall 
all be made alive. 

Our habitual categories break down before the novelty of 
Jesus. Not a myth, like the Saviors of the Oriental religions in the 
Roman Empire, but a clearly-marked historical person. Nor an 
abstraction, some idealized proletarian hero. And there wasn't any 
cult of personality around him: "Why do you call me good?" All 
the necessary materials to realize the intended nature of humanity 
were lying around in Palestinian society. By a radical effort of 
non-self-affirmation he became the catalyst which let them combine 
into the definitive compound. Rather than call him the true vine, 
a second Dionysus, I prefer to see in him the colorlessness and 
tastelessness of water, stating with Pindar that water is best. 

He discovered the means built into the human psyche, and 
implicit in the structure of the universe, by which everything impor- 

Speaking About God 157 

tant about us is automatically removed to a realm exempt from 
death. Nonviolent reconciliation is precisely the thing pointed to 
in the symbolism of the Resurrection. Nonviolence always has the 
last word. There's no way of getting round it. It's not idealism or 
moral advice, but a description, as accurate as possible, of how 
things actually work. The sting of death is sin. When the alienation 
between man and man (and between man and nature too) labeled 
"sin" is overcome, the sting of death is simultaneously withdrawn. 

This result is an unexpected dividend from our reaffirmation 
of the divine names. We suggested in Chapter III that nonviolence 
was a matter of common sense. We now see that, precisely from 
the standpoint of orthodox Christianity (the religion which pro- 
duced the just-war theory!), nonviolence isn't an exceptional in- 
dividual vocation, but the sole and indispensable requirement for 
claiming the conquest of death as our own. That doesn't mean it's 
easy to maintain this confidence in the face of pain, betrayal, sepa- 
ration. But those sufferings are the burden of life; it's death we're 
trying to deal with. 

So far, our view of resurrection has presupposed the continua- 
tion of the human species. The patriarchs thought of themselves 
as living in their actual descendants, the seed of their loins. "Israel" 
is both the name of a man and of the deathless body of his descend- 
ants; so with Greek eponymous ancestors like Ion, the begetter of 
the lonians. If like Joseph you've dangled numerous grandsons on 
your knee, nearly everything important about you is secure. But 
this traditional way of thinking doesn't survive the expanded need 
for individual self-fulfillment. At the same time it gives hostages 
to fortune, on whose behalf we're tempted to violence. Liberation 
from reliance on this sort of immortality comes by leaving up to 
Providence who our children are to be — those known or unknown 
to us who've been influenced by our dream. 

If the human race, or life on this planet, comes to an end, such 
an understanding of resurrection fails also. Teilhard de Chardin was 
committed to this explanation; he made it an act of faith that the 
planet couldn't fail until the consummation of humanity (whatever 
it might be) had been realized. But humanity is an actualization on 
this planet of something which is a possibility of the space-time 


continuum everywhere. There's so much apparent wastage in na- 
ture — in the end perhaps not really wastage at all — that we must 
face the chance that a younger planet of Gentiles somewhere else 
will take over from us if we the elder brother prove unworthy. 

All analogy suggests we're not totally cut off from them. Ph.D. 
theses are today being written on techniques of interstellar com- 
munication. We're told that the whole cosmos travails and groans 
together. There's a general principle by which we have as much 
contact with other intelligent societies as we need. Columbus was 
sent out because it became important for Europe to have America. 
The same technology which threatens to destroy the environment 
here will reveal whether somebody is doing better elsewhere. A 
necessary job of expanding our imagination is being carried out by 
science fiction — which however hasn't yet struck its taproot deep 
enough through the soil of language to have hit the life-giving water 
table of the past. 

So far as humanity, or intelligent consciousness anywhere, 
goes on in time, love is guarantee of the resurrection, pointing to 
the one means by which we can be surest of permanence parallel 
to the vector of time. If it fails, all other reliances will have failed 
long before. We've learned not to look for fulfillment through ter- 
ritorial expansion along the three dimensions of space surrounding 
us. But fulfillment along the time-arrow may itself only be symbolic 
of fulfillment in a direction at right angles both to the three space- 
dimensions and to time — along a fifth dimension so to speak. In 
some moods our poetry affirms that the final scene of permanence 
is a quintessential moment where the space-time continuum is as 
the mathematician sees it, embedded as a geometric object in a 
manifold of higher dimensionality: 

To see a World in a grain of sand 
And a Heaven in a wild flower. 
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand 
And eternity in an hour. 

If love is the right thing for us in the moment seen as ephemeral, 
much more so in the moment seen as eternal. 

Speaking About God 159 

This is as far as I can go, or farther, in guessing where survival 
is. Actually as we know we're not supposed in our analytic geome- 
try so much to give the space-time coordinates of fulfillment as its 
moral coordinates. Paul next to affirms that the Resurrection has 
already happened, "So you must consider yourselves dead to sin 
and alive to God in Christ Jesus." And elsewhere, "We know that 
we have passed out of death into life, because we love the breth- 
ren." The new kind of relationship with our friends is precisely 
what it means to have overcome death; you can't get a razor blade 
in between them. 

God is responsible for revolution, the principle of innovation. 
But innovation got turned in on itself by the discovery of love, so 
that we don't need to expect any more novelties of the same sort. 
The principle of self-unfolding in the universe is that everything 
should become its own nature. At first the emergence was done at 
the cost of some other possibility. The definition of Jesus is that 
he develops not at somebody else's expense but his own. He's the 
true Adam; in him human nature is defined as that which prefers 
other to self. But this is the nature of being generally. He is our 

As well as I could I've affirmed the historical development of 
the ancient world, and appropriated its language for ourselves. But 
the work of Jesus hasn't only come down to us in books bearing 
his name, and in men and women bearing his name who once read 
them. It's also come down in a Church bearing his name, more or 
less illegitimately; and in a wide spectrum of activities for justice 
and reconciliation which don't bear his name, but are done more 
or less in his spirit, and which for want of a better name we may 
call the Movement. If in the face of the crisis of violence we wish 
to affirm his way, this doesn't yet determine what attitude we 
should take up to the Church and the Movement. It will be hard 
to disentangle them from their involvement in the Establishment 
and in the violent revolution against it. To this problem we now 





1. The true form of community 

(a) The difficulty and strength 
of community 

Establishment power is a network of 
personal relations — but distorted to do the 
wrong job. We turn it upside down to restore 
the ongoing community of love — the least 
problematical institution. That doesn't mean 
we can always find it locally realized. Espe- 
cially in California, enthusiasts are unwilling 
to take on the professional competence or 
the sacrifices which would make community 
practical; they fool around with sexual, psy- 
chological, economic experiments. A small 
intense community gets people so close 
together that the destructive forces in them 
are free to interact, and then blows itself 
apart like a nuclear device by implosion. 
Community for the sake of community is 
disastrous. It must exist for the sake of a job 
to be done, which acts as energy-field to neu- 
tralize the forces of repulsion. 

That overriding purpose transforms dis- 
likes and frictions by generating an esprit de 
corps where we feel the real strength of our 


association as the world outside correctly sees it. It's rare for several 
independent people to surmount the high initial threshold of com- 
munity. But when they do, it locks them together in hyperstability; 
the community, like the spiral protein molecules of the gene, organ- 
izes the living matter it meets into its own pattern. Hence the 
tenacity in the nonviolent liberation movements of Danilo Dolci, 
organizing Sicilian peasants into work-ins, of Gandhi, Cesar 
Chavez, Martin Luther King. Or we may think of the ecumenical 
Protestant monasticism of Taize; the men who are rebuilding the 
stones and community of lona; the East Harlem Protestant Parish. 
We hold our breath when such a nascent community steps out 
from the wings of history onto its tightrope. We know that some 
typical failing, or excess of some virtue, can bring it into either 
collapse or Establishment fossilization. Still while it's soaring there 
on its risky course we understand it. Most societies at most times 
fall a long ways short of the true pattern: but we can only say so 
because sometimes we get a standard of comparison, a community 
for the time being liberated from the demonic powers. We under- 
stand it because its operation is transparent; we hold our breath 
because we expect communities to be opaque. 

(b) The early Churches as continuous with Jesus 

The work of Jesus achieved the goal of ancient history: discov- 
ering the true form of community. He didn't have any name for 
it himself. Paul gave the name ekk/esia, "Church," to any local 
group claiming that form. Discovering community, like discovering 
the airplane, involved actually building one. Jesus wasn't merely 
a prophet but also a competent community organizer, doing the 
best that could be done with the human materials available — -no 
worse than ours. Unless the Church of the apostles and martyrs 
legitimately realized his vision of society, he was kidding himself 
about his organizing role. 

Therefore we needn't expect our work to produce a solider 
community than the early Church. We'll expect the first response 
to be an intense Congregationalism based on critical local issues. 
A network of local communities will form where a national issue 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 163 

like the draft strikes home locally and an ideological response has 
been hammered out to it. 

The original Church unity wasn't inherited from the Twelve 
Apostles but achieved in local congregations through organically 
developed forms of liturgy and ministry. Only afterwards did unity 
come to be felt between Churches in different cities, partly as 
natural growth, partly as takeover by the Roman administrative 
setup. The original impulse of the organizer can fade out in a few 
generations. And once the picture of origins preserved in the mem- 
ory of institutional forms gets clouded, only a book can revive it. 
The Bible sits in judgment on the Church. 

(c) The urgency of affirming community 

There won't ever be an ideal State; there aren't even ideal 
principles for it. As soon as we've introduced one reform for justice 
we'll want to introduce another, until everything in the State deny- 
ing true community has been disassembled. But we're willing to 
leave the State alone whenever any plausible change will likely be 
for the worse. In some countries we'd support a left-wing military 
dictator with a popular base, as the best available guarantee of 
stability and hopeful change. In a country fighting a colonial power 
we might put up with considerable restrictions on personal liberty, 
to assure the higher value of cultural survival — even though it's still 
only provisional too. 

When an area has been deforested, a sequence of transitional 
shrubs and trees springs up, preparing the way for the climax forest, 
the natural cover. The Church is the sole natural climax canopy 
of human ecology: of course that doesn't prove it'll actually grow 
up everywhere someday. We can't acquiesce in compromise with 
the institutional Church as we do with the State. The definition of 
the Church is a zone overlapping the State where no compromise 
is necessary. One State is enough. The Saints didn't go to all that 
trouble just to make a little tyranny inside the big one. If somebody 
has found an area inside the Church where compromise seems 
necessary, it's really a part of the State which is calling itself Church 
illegitimately. My style may be to work inside a faulty traditional 


Church for reform, or to cooperate with people who for good rea- 
sons can't hear the name of Jesus. But whatever I change or don't 
change, I'll be doing the thing that in my best judgment means 
actually affirming true community. Also of course I'll remember 
that the situation may change, or my judgment improve, so that 
I'm pushed into affirming community some other way. 

Circumstances may prevent a man from realizing that he's 
doing this. But then, however formally correct his affirmation of 
community, it's not done in the full light of understanding and is 
liable to corruption. There's some lack of clarity or honesty in the 
program of an incognito secular Church which prevents me from 
speaking out my understanding of what I'm doing. If the Church 
is good enough for us, it's good enough for the people we're cooper- 
ating with. Other people aren't all that more stupid than I to be 
treated like kids forever. The whole point of Jesus' work is his 
openness; the only Messianic secret he holds back is that he isn't 
the Messiah. 

If we can imagine Gandhi, Francis, King even more perceptive 
or committed, they would have been even more effective. We 
needn't choose between mass organization and intensive work with 
a small group. The deeper the personal relations in the group, the 
better based the mass organization. The Church is a natural out- 
come of the Twelve Apostles — both in their virtues and in their 

Church history since Constantine has been the rise and decline 
of an Establishment — the infiltration of the Church by the State. 
In America the decline has taken the form of segregation and 
denominationalism, which in capsule form illustrate a worldwide 
failure to deal with the crisis of violence. In recompense there has 
risen up in America a secular movement for peace and liberation, 
which is the bearer of the Spirit for our time — but stands in need 
of the explicit ideology of the Church. The form which cooperation 
of Christians has taken in the Movement is the key to renewal and 
reunion of the Churches; it's to begin as nascent local congrega- 
tions, which then develop organs of cooperation as a nationwide 
movement. This renewed ecumenical peace and liberation com- 
munity is a nucleus which potentially can melt the denominations 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 165 

together from below — that is, become the real Church here. 
America (as she claims) has a potential Messianic role, providen- 
tially prepared for by the missionary movement of the last century 
and the imperialism of this one. It could provide the shape of a 
restored worldwide peace Church, capable for the first time of 
entering into dialogue with Buddhism or other religions of nonvio- 
lence, and creating a planetary zone of resistance and reconciliation 
transcending the demonic State. 

2. The breakdown of the Church Establishment 

(a) The takeover of the historic Church 

Nothing else in history quite prepares us for what has hap- 
pened since the time of Jesus: the takeover of the Church which 
bears his name by a series of national and international Establish- 
ments. The bankruptcy of this development in America today is 
certified when the Churches are revealed as helpless or compromised 
before every symptom in the crisis of violence. 

The environment. It's been outdoorsmen like Sierra Club mem- 
bers who've led the fight for national parks; doctors and scientists 
who've pressed for action on air and water pollution. 

Radioactivity. The American Churches couldn't produce any 
consensus that the atom-bombing of Japan was wrong. The Chur- 
ches haven't come up with any program to cut down on testing — 
much less on the whole war-machine it's part of. 

Population planning. The Roman Church continues to man 
the ideological barricades here; but no Church makes it an effective 
item of spirituality to leave the earth less cluttered than we found 

Neo-colonialism. The Churches, which claimed to be the na- 
tion's conscience, have contributed less to the anti-war movement 
than any group except the labor unions. The impregnable position 
of the military chaplains has riveted anti-communism tighter onto 
the Churches than onto any other segment of the educated com- 

Racism. The Churches have talked big, even appropriated 
money, but done little. Where enlightened communities have made 


the token step of school integration, no means exists by which 
congregations could be bussed around to integrate Sunday morn- 
ing. In unenlightened communities, the Churches are the command 
bunkers of segregation. 

The tradition. Among clergy and educated laymen, under- 
standing of the Bible and biblical languages has been going down 
— both absolutely, and much more so relative to the progress of 
scholarship. At the same time, old forms of language, liturgy, music 
(even when of obvious symbolic or aesthetic value) are being found 
irrelevant and tacitly dropped. 

The Establishment, infiltrating the Church apparatus from 
above, has controlled the clergy, liturgy, teaching materials, action 
programs. As the pews were drained of the dissatisfied, the takeover 
was accepted by default. The structure of Massachusetts Congrega- 
tionalism would have been the ideal way to start off" a Christian 
society — if only it hadn't been devoted to exploitation. America 
would be a diff"erent place if Rhode Island or Philadelphia had set 
the tone instead. 

So far as the ostensible Church shares in the character of the 
State, it falls in the same problematical category. To the extent that 
it's a scene of power and coercion — with endowments to wield, 
positions to fill, strings to pull, compromises to maintain — we can't 
fully understand it. As was the case with the university, the Church 
won such success that it presented the State with both the threat 
of a different principle, and the opportunity of a ready-made institu- 
tion to be taken over. The only resistance has come from individu- 

People who think in categories derived from generalization are 
all at sea in dealing with the church. Dogmatists of the inside 
(Church historians) treat everything that has called itself Chris- 
tianity as if it were an intelligible self-contained whole continuous 
with the New Testament. Dogmatists of the outside (anti-clericals, 
Marxists) accept the category "Church History" by turning it up- 
side down. But distinctions can be made. In Europe. Russia, Latin 
America, the takeover of the Church has the form of an Established 
Church subordinate to the State. In Asia and Africa it has the form 
of a missionary colonialism. In the United States it has the twin 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 167 

forms of denominationa/ism (from European immigration) and seg- 
regation (an indigenous colonialism): our history has made us into 
a model of the worldwide problem. 

(b) The fall of the Church under Constantine 

The martyrs who resisted the Imperial cult — Ignatius, Poly- 
carp, Justin, and the rest — now have their cu\t, celebrated for mil- 
lennia: a link with the apostolic Church and Jesus. Unseen realities 
were still accessible to that Church, hovering in the clouds like the 
four Beasts in the mosaic of Santa Pudenziana. But it was operating 
out of instinct, not knowledge. It kept up its identification with the 
poor — but increasingly as objects of charity rather than as organiza- 
tional base. It correctly understood the soldier's oath as sacrifice 
to the Genius of the Emperor — but didn't see violence or power 
as a central problem. Its quick submission to Establishment after 
the conversion of Constantine shows that inner defenses had 
broken down. The persecutions undermined the Church of Jesus 
in an unforeseen way, by making it forget that success was the big 

In its urban ghetto, moving towards neo-Platonic or Oriental 
dualism, it lost the Hebrew feeling for the natural order, and so 
couldn't deal with the myth of the end of the world. It lost also 
Paul's dialectic and Jesus' paradoxes; it no longer saw man as 
ambiguous. In its simple-minded perfectionism, it watered down 
its principles far enough so that hopefully they could be obeyed to 
the letter. The continuance of sin inside itself remained a serious 
problem to it. 

Being in the right led the Church into the ultimate mistake of 
incaution. It never imagined the State would listen to it — much less 
be controlled by one of its own number. But Constantine, a 
uniquely fortunate military usurper, judged correctly that its sym- 
bols had won hearts and minds; it was a suitable tool of empire. 
What had been founded as counter-Establishment — reproducing 
the prevailing organization with opposite principle — was taken up, 
through its own merits, as the heart of Establishment. 

It's easy to suggest that the rulers of the Church, while wel- 
coming Constantine's adherence, should have urged his baptism 


more strongly and stood against his crimes. It's easy to see why 
they didn't. After the great persecutions of Diocletian, Constan- 
tine's victory was the providential release they'd been hoping for. 
Their lack of historical viewpoint made it easier for them to forget 
the Church of the martyrs, to misread the Gospels or leave them 

We interpreted the Fall of Man as the birth of conscious vio- 
lence in the city-state — which still produced the splendors of Greek 
culture and Hebrew literature. We may look at the Establishment 
of the Church as a second fall — which still, as a by-product, gener- 
ated European civilization. But history builds all crimes and errors 
along with the good into an intelligible pattern. The ecclesiastical 
jungle surrounds a secret fountain of youth; people keep getting the 
point concealed with such loving care. 

The providential item in the fall of the Church was acquiring 
access to the top of society. Church historians, impressed like the 
rest of us with money and power, get so excited by this that they 
conclude Establishment was simply the right thing. We've seen too 
many prisons built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of reli- 
gion, just to jump on the bandwagon. Was the fall necessary for the 
civilization? We don't have to decide. Our cue is simply to affirm 
the merits of the past while trying to avoid its errors — and never 
give up on the effort to separate them. 

(c) The medieval Establishment 

The medieval Church is the blurred mirror where we see the 
departing Teutonic and Celtic Gods — our own paganism. Europe 
is filled with holy places and things: the Ruthwell Rood with its Old 
English verse, the white sands of lona, the battlemented cathedral 
of Prague, the sweetness of Bede's History, stones soaked with 
centuries of plainsong, of damp, of colored lights; Christmas and 
Easter and St. John's Eve and Halloween. At the English Reforma- 
tion the processions became black-and-white, but the sacred lan- 
guage took on a new depth. The European parish behind us there, 
through its magic isolation, achieved an unparalleled union of peas- 
ant society into a whole culture. 

But the compromises of the Church with the State kept going 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 169 

further — beginning with Augustine's theory of the just war. And 
as the Church spread further into Europe, and the collaboration of 
Pope and Emperor was ever more presupposed, its God moved 
closer to the tribal Yahweh. The parts of the Hebrew Bible un- 
touched with the spirit of prophecy — the coronation of Solomon, 
the wars of Joshua — became more and more congenial. This re- 
Semitizing of medieval Christianity was strengthened by contro- 
versy with Islam, which as usual drove both parties into the same 
camp. The Crusades are a reflex of the jihad, a sacred war — and 
the Inquisition is their appropriate interior. 

Again, contemporary with all this was the Francis who went 
to Church one day, heard the Gospel and applied it to himself. We 
don't look for him to have opposed Papal supremacy or the Cru- 
sades. But neither would we have looked for him to affirm the things 
he did: his happy coexistence with the created order, the realism 
in which he accepted the impress of the Cross, the fidelity of his 
identification with the poor. 

(d) The two phases of the Reformation 

Francis subverted the Establishment without either of them 
recognizing it. But Luther in his Tractateon Christian liberty broke 
halfway through the dead hand of the Establishment to radical 
personal liberation. We all know how he discovered that the 
Church is always liable to corruption and in need of reformation — 
identifying his own situation under Catholic legalism with Paul's 
situation under Pharisaic legalism. He represents a permanent prin- 
ciple of renewal which may have to be repeated until the end of 

But Luther couldn't break through to radical j'oc/cr/ liberation. 
Like his contemporaries, he didn't read history with enough sympa- 
thy to see that primitive Christianity had been a counter-Establish- 
ment to the State. He was as dependent on entrenched aristocracy 
as his opponents; his condemnation of the Peasants' Revolt is a 
crusade, not a just war. He could get as far back as Paul, but not 
to Jesus. 

At the same time as Luther's successful but partial renewal 
inside the Establishment, there was an arrested but radical reforma- 


tion outside, in the sects. Protestant radicalism today is best repre- 
sented by a distinguished anomaly of somewhat later origin, the 
Religious Society of Friends. It's bobbed up from proletarian 
George Fox to the Philadelphia aristocracy, keeping its primitive 
principles intact. The sects saw what Luther had overlooked, that 
by the Gospel the poor were designated as bearers of the future — 
a truth most clearly grasped in our own time by Marxists and 

The official Reformation of the Churches, new and old. in- 
volved a deeper surrender to the new States. The sectarian Refor- 
mation, potentially more thoroughgoing, was abortive and 
fragmented — as shown by its break with Catholic tradition, its 
weakness in effective concern for all society, its splintering. The 
Quakers lost sight of the primitive sacraments in a petrified liturgy, 
and dropped them. They've also lost Fox's spirit of active mission 
for his vision of the community of love. But precisely by not having 
to compete as one denomination among others, they were liberated 
to affirm the true form of community — a little out of the main- 
stream. Their vocation was for our own decades: to preserve intact 
certain essential truths until they could serve as the principles of 
renewal in the traditional Churches. 

(e) The colonial missionary movement and segregation 

A map of the nineteenth-century missionary Churches has the 
same colors as the map of colonialism. The missionaries operated 
inside a paternalistic framework which for them was unbreakable. 
Lanternari has shown that a forerunner of anti-colonialism is the 
evolution of missionary work into indigenous syncretistic Churches 
with local Messiahs, which in turn become the seedbed of revolu- 

Colonized people overseas have grasped the principle of mak- 
ing decisions about their own future; rejecting the imperialist 
colonialism of Britain, the Low Countries, Spain: the cultural 
colonialism of France; the political colonialism of Russia; and now 
the economic colonialism of America. The missionary effort was 
an apparently inseparable mixture of religious imperialism and the 
Gospel; but nationalism is effecting the separation. The fault of the 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 171 

new Churches from now on won't be subservience; their divisions 
will cut across the Great Schism and the Reformation. The Chur- 
ches of America and Europe have exhausted what they had to say 
to the Third World. If anybody, it's the new Churches which have 
something to teach us about the possibilities of man's existence on 
his soil. 

We've seen the American black community as colonial en- 
clave; its religious evolution follows the overseas pattern. Mostly 
the blacks are in their own denominations. Even in denominations 
theoretically integrated, the past year has seen the emergence of 
black caucuses — as in every other integrated group. "Black Chris- 
tianity," like Black Islam, contains mythical elements. The dogma 
of a black Jesus, even if conjectural ethnography, affirms powerfully 
the historic identification of Jesus with the poor. 

(0 Denominationalism as the heart of breakdown 

Although the role of the black as former slave is unique, the 
melting pot in general is coming unstuck. Thus the working-class 
emigrants from eastern Europe in our central states are drawing 
back into their ethnic shell before the threat of black social mobility 
up towards them. Their splintered Orthodox Churches (with a 
largely sociological function) have never moved towards union 
with American Protestantism. 

Emigration has made denominationalism in the U.S. a mi- 
crocosm of world Christianity; except that (as Richard Niebuhr 
observed) European Churches became sects in America, and the 
sects became Churches. Middle-class immigrants from the Estab- 
lished Churches settled where they landed and became sectarian 
enclaves. The frontier was composed of sectarian fugitives both 
from Europe and the urban east coast; and it deposited an Estab- 
lished Church behind it, as the lip of the mollusk secretes the shell. 
The new frontier Churches were defenseless against Establishment, 
selecting its least attractive aspects. The European State Churches 
here gained more: legal disestablishment allowed them to keep 
traditional symbols, while radical Reformation insights became 
available to individuals. 

The comparability of middle-class denominations had two re- 


suits: it finally discredited the Constantinian Establishment; it al- 
lowed catholic and radical elements (catalyzed by a secular 
movement) to approach synthesis. As official bodies, the Establish- 
ment denominations can admit only a limited guilt for the crisis 
of violence — which comes out as a genteel cry for inner renewal 
and outer reunion. But the cry is hollow while their Establishment 
status forbids renewal on the issue of the actual exploitation, and 
reunion on the basis of such a renewal. 

The suburban Churches can't bear the historic perfection of 
Gregorian chant, Latin, Lutheran chorales, Cranmer's English; and 
leap to the conclusion that these things are dividing them. So they 
drop those archaic monuments in favor of faddish improvisations, 
which reflect neither permanent meanings nor the current crisis. 
At the same time convictions — even among Catholics — about old 
theories of ministry, traditional forms of Church order, are melting 
into nothing. Actually what separates the middle-class denom- 
inations isn't what they once disagreed about, but the immobile 
meaningless thing they now agree on: the expensive staff which 
maintains white-elephant Churches, occupies ever-expanding 
headquarters, administers ambiguous charities, connives at war and 
exploitation, in general perpetuates itself. 

As substantive issues evaporate, the respectable denomina- 
tions are driven to find a formula of reunion — for the sake of ad- 
ministrative efficiency and public image. The Consultation on 
Church Union (COCU) is engineered by a club of graduates from 
the same seminaries, where acceptable Uncle Tom wings of Negro 
denominations are given token place. This top-level reunion is 
discovered to be a safe liberal issue, and everybody is told not to 
rock the boat. If consummated, it will simply widen the gap be- 
tween the middle-class Churches and the poor black and poor white 
Churches. But accidentally it's let slip a secret; change is no longer 

(g) The cry for radical renewal 

The pressure of guilt in the face of unacknowledged crisis is 
polarizing the middle-class denominations. Conservatives keep get- 
ting shoved further into the Establishment bag. People who hear 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 173 

the cry for renewal and justice find their true allies among their 
counterparts in other denominations rather than in the under- 
ground part of their own, and are extruded into makeshift radical 
groupings. The same thing is happening in every other sector of 
American society — the university, the professions, young people, 
housewives. Out of the prophetic tradition preserved in fossilized 
institutions, the crisis of violence has generated a radical movement 
for justice and liberation. 

More and more groups are being squeezed out from a narrow- 
ing consensus into subject status. The lot of the blacks has worsened 
both relatively and absolutely; the Latin American ghetto of New 
York has grown up since World War II, others have deteriorated. 
Young people unwilling to start up the affluence ladder can't find 
any middle ground, but are forced into hippie dropoutism. Critics 
or dissidents in one area must spread into other areas until their 
alienation is complete. The only solution is then to affirm that they 
are the America they want to stand for — the revolutionary posture. 

To purge the guilt of suburban Churches, clergy are en- 
couraged to invent radical new ministries — with failure built in to 
satisfy the conservatives. The clergy must cut themselves off from 
their Church base to win credibility among their new constituents. 
Then they're drained by service, they lose contact with the liturgy, 
and they never had been given the insight into the Bible to find 
something called God when men failed them. The system extrudes 
these irritants by getting them to discredit themselves. No hand 
is stretched out to help them when they end up casualties. It is this 
casualty list that must be built into a community. 

As middle-class Christians become radicalized, their friend- 
ships sink through the levels of society to the dispossessed: blacks, 
students, deviates, draft-resisters, hippies. A radically ecumenical 
Church of intellectuals and the proletariat is emerging which sees 
the Establishment as colonial police power. As Asia and Africa pick 
up Western technology, America is being colonialized. So far as 
the Establishment Church loses its claim to be called any kind of 
Christianity, the religious scene here becomes identical with that 
in the Third World: a minority persecuted Church in coalition with 


3. The secular Peace and Liberation Movement 
(a) The American movement of the sixties 

Dissent and resistance today aren't a temporary phase in a 
single generation, but a response across all age-groups to the actual 
rhythm of events. Hiroshima came to Ben Spock as a mature 
professional; to men of my generation by the act of our comrades 
in arms; to my students in the monthly air-raid drill of their child- 
hood, crouched under their little desks. Simultaneously for us all, 
the non-employment of nuclear devices in Viet Nam crystallized 
the meaning of Hiroshima — and of exploitation at home. As each 
of us surfaces from those underground years of puzzled alienation. 
we see others on the same path. While we correct each other's 
inadequacies, each rests on the inner strength of having made his 
own discoveries. We've become a movement. 

The indigenous base of any revolution is the main block of the 
people being pushed around. Draft-eligible males are a semi-perma- 
nent exploited group. Tom Hayden, a founder of Students for a 
Democratic Society, also acts as ambassador at large of the shadow 
government to revolutions overseas. Some of us are trying to politi- 
cize the white hippie ghetto. In the Poor People's Campaign, as in 
the California Peace and Freedom Party, a strong push is being 
made to include American Indians and Latin Americans in a black- 
and-brown caucus — along with just plain poor whites. After all this 
has been said, the base of any radical change here will still be the 
black community. 

The American movement became self-conscious in the Selma 
march under the leadership — never unquestioned — of Martin Lu- 
ther King. Neither there nor in the anti-war movement did he quite 
hit on the creative risky step which would have put him in full 
control like Gandhi. But his assassination (April 4, 1968) marks 
a new phase. I asked one of my students what he found at Selma: 
"The primitive Church." The integrated fellowship of those days 
wasn't a temporary tactic leading up to something else; it was the 
very thing we were intending to affirm, a moment in the freedom 
song of the human spirit. 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 175 

Soon after Selma in 1965, the consciences aroused there took 
on the burden of opposition to the war — the most moving episode 
of American history for a hundred years. Its greatest effectiveness 
lay at the points of maximum commitment and risk. The individual 
focus was personal non-cooperation with the draft resistance: first 
by young men like my friend Malcolm Dundas; then by their sup- 
porters like Robert McAfee Brown and William Sloane Coffin, 
those with the Berrigans who purified the draft board files by blood 
and fire, those who with Joan Baez were shipped off to Santa Rita 
Rehabilitation Center. The collective focus culminated in the con- 
frontation at the Pentagon (October 21, 1967). In the face of this 
tremendous moral effort, Lyndon Johnson was forced to try and 
salvage things by refusing renomination and ending the bombing 
of Hanoi (March 30, 1968). The protest at Chicago in August of 
1968 didn't have anything new to teach Americans about the war 
— only about themselves. 

(b) The ideology of the Movement 

So far as it's dealing with causes and not just symptoms, the 
Movement claims to be building a new society in America. Old 
institutions are being dismantled in the fundamental way of sub- 
tracting actual men and women from them, and building them into 
new institutions of parallel function and different structure. On a 
broad front ranging from anarchism to humanism to revolutionary 
socialism, the Movement is doing its best to affirm the true form 
of community. 

Richard Shaull, in an unpublished paper, has drawn out the 
case for assent to revolution at whatever violence-level proves 
necessary. He assumes that conditions of living have changed 
through generations; that an ever-increasing "rationalization of 
economics" opens before us; that we're set on a one-way "desacrali- 
zation" of nature and of old social patterns; that we're permanently 
committed to the new sensibility of the McLuhan era. He sees the 
thing wrong with existing institutions to be not so much their 
violence (as I do) but simply their being old. Since we must come 
to terms with innovation, whatever assists the breakdown of the 
old bears its legitimacy on its face. 


I see certain old forests, old books, old men, as intrinsically 
sacred. Much of what is called "rationalizing economics" seems 
actually to be flying in the face of inescapable ecological laws. Our 
psyche or community isn't endlessly plastic, and instant informa- 
tion does them violence. The very justice and success of revolution 
in Russia and America has made them so big a threat to the planet. 
The ambiguity of history indicates that it's impossible and unwise 
to set up unified plans for national or global economics; rather, we 
must demand decentralized planning, coordinate resistance against 

Some revolutionaries see the changeover from a peasant to an 
industrial economy in Russia and China as a precedent for the rest 
of Asia, Africa, Latin America. But Russia and China are much 
bigger than the Third World countries, and were never colonial- 
ized. Even less do those revolutions offer a plausible precedent for 
what might happen in America, since they bear little resemblance 
to the British, French, or American Revolutions, or our Civil War. 

This debate about violence belongs inside the Movement, 
where it's resolved into an internal discussion between Christianity 
and Marxism — on a more fundamental level than the academic 
debate begun by Garaudy. The most articulate spokesmen for non- 
violence in the Movement, like Barbara Deming, don't come at it 
from a specifically Christian viewpoint. But, as they're the first to 
admit, they stand in the direct tradition of Gandhi and Muste. 
Their saint is the Quaker confessor in flames, Norman Morrison; 
we're touched to see his portrait on a postage stamp from Hanoi. 
The natural role of Christians in the Movement is to speak for 
nonviolence: finding an alternative to joining the Viet Cong or 
Black Panthers. 

The Marxist wing of the Movement has been strongly modified 
toward people's revolution. Its writers are Regis Debray and Frantz 
Fanon, self-conscious ideologists of liberation. Its hero is Ernesto 
Che Guevara, murdered in Bolivia. The two wings can close ranks 
on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Camillo Torres, ministers of Christ who 
chose the underground. 

The current focus of the Movement is less on ideology than 
on jobs to be done; but a man who's grown gray in its service is 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 177 

likely to be holding on by virtue of some clear commitment as a 
Catholic, a Quaker, a Communist. As they work for specific goals 
by coalition with groups of differing ideology, the nonviolent wield 
a disproportionate influence, since nonviolence can always be 
agreed on by a coalition at least as tactics. Establishment pacifists 
shy away from coalition as compromising the purity of their wit- 
ness. But radical pacifists realize no witness is required in the pure 
society of their fellows, and are only seen in the councils of the 

(c) The Peace Movement as bearer of the Spirit 

The situation of the Peace Movement channeled it into nonvi- 
olent protest and resistance. It could only associate itself with the 
urban black rebellion as sympathetic outsiders, "concerned hon- 
kies." Overwhelming police force has pushed even militant blacks 
into advocating violence only for self-defense. 

The Movement runs parallel to the Galilean Resistance. Both 
echo the prophetic cry for justice and self-determination. In their 
political mood each has looked for a military liberator Messiah: a 
John of Gischala, fortifying the Jerusalem ghetto against the Ro- 
man armies, an Eldridge Cleaver. But both, in spite of dark expecta- 
tions, are led by preponderance of Establishment power into 
symbolic nonviolent resistance. And both have a non-political 
mood in which they see the true Liberated Zone as precisely the 
act of loving resistance, where the dissenting community is cast in 
a revised Messianic role. Somebody has said that Marxism with its 
cry for justice and its secular eschatology is a Christian heresy. We 
may say that the Peace and Liberation Movement is a Christian 

Of course // can't say so. The divine language of the New 
Testament has been pre-empted by an Establishment Church and 
is unavailable. And it shouldn't say so. The Messiah, incognito to 
himself, must be recognized by the faithful community. 

As soon as we locate the objective marks of the early Church 
—its poverty, comradeship, increase under persecution, ideals of 
integrity — we see they're things not merely illustrated by the 
Movement, but ^^5/ illustrated by it in our time. People once found 


elements of Christianity in the trade-union movement. Looking 
back we now see, by its very success, how far it was the self- 
assertion of a single class. In the current Movement, the goals are 
more far-reaching, the means necessarily more risky, the coalition 
more extensive. Like the early Church, it builds on the disenfran- 
chised; it's oriented toward specific issues of personal liberation; 
it emphasizes commitment and local autonomy. Its traveling com- 
munity organizers have to win the confidence of local groups hon- 
estly — by holding themselves up to an even higher standard. As we 
try to define its historic role, we're bound to say: The Peace and 
Liberation Movement is the bearer of the Spirit to our age. 

That's not to say the Movement will remain so forever. It fell 
into that historic role almost without ideology, under the push of 
circumstance. Another turn of events could modify its nonviolence 
which so strikingly commends the Gospel, but which it adopted 
tactically. The Church has to seize the hour and call the new thing 
by its right name, or it will lose the hour. 

(d) The Church as servant of the Movement 

If an ideology can show that history isn't dead but lives on in 
us, we have grounds to feel that we shan't die either, but live on 
in the future. There was an independent discovery of Western 
truths in the Buddhist tradition. On the strength of it we hold out 
our hands to our alleged enemies as to brothers. But even in Berke- 
ley, Buddhism is a pretty exotic import. If ever the Church is to 
discover whether Gautama is a mask of the Christ or something 
else, we'll first have to regroup around the primitive Church. 

The Movement correctly sees Christians as capable of being 
shamed, perhaps converted. If someday outsiders no longer note 
the Church's hypocrisy, it'll mean that they no longer see a contrast 
between practice and message — the message will have become 
inaudible. The Movement can't cover up the fact that (due in large 
part to its influence) there's growing up, cutting across all denomi- 
national lines, a Church inside the Church which bears a resem- 
blance to the Movement and to her own founder. Remembering 
that out of Jefferson and Adams came the foreign policy of Lyndon 
Johnson, that out of Marxism came Stalin, that out of Jesus came 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 179 

the Renaissance popes and Francis Cardinal Spellman, we can't be 
too careful about sending a community into the future with the 
right marching orders. 

This is one planet, one race of men. Everything bears in itself 
the mark of a single origin. Our asymmetric molecules are all right- 
handed, as they came out in the first crystallization of life; all 
quadrupeds have the same skeletal structure. A philosopher can 
only be described as a man doing in his own time what Socrates 
did in his. And so a man of reconciliation can only be described 
as one doing in his time what Jesus did in his. The Church of Jesus 
is the unique permanent carrier of love. 

The human race can only become the unity which in principle 
it is, if each solemnly takes off his old clothes, spattered with blood 
and dirt, and undertakes to go a new way. And the new way is to 
sit down and break bread together, each deferring to his neighbor. 
So the Church of Jesus is constituted by those two actions of 
washing and eating, with a form of words referring to his example. 
If there is only one trail up the mountain, and it's been clogged by 
briers and fallen trees and washouts, the only thing is for the Outing 
Club to go and open it up again. 

4. A liberated Church in America 

(a) The failure of renewal in the denominations 

Up until now, renewal has been non-congregational: in peace 
fellowships; groups for racial justice, ecumenical study, liturgical 
e.xperiment; ministries to the disenfranchised — teen-agers, stu- 
dents, prostitutes, the colored, the unemployed, migrants, immi- 
grants. The obstacle to renewed congregations is denominational 
jealousy. The Churches, slipping back from their prosperity in the 
Eisenhower years, have a long nose for competition. While they 
cling to old forms of liturgy and government with determination 
and without conviction, they decree a noninstitutional structure for 
the special ministries which they send out on their short tethers. 

A campus theologian whom I deeply respect urged me to go 
on working inside the denominations and existing ecumenical 
structures as long as I conscientiously could. I asked him what he 


would recommend, beyond the transitory forms of campus Chris- 
tianity, if students at his university should become interested in the 
Gospel. He recommended campus Christianity because h was tran- 
sitory. He couldn't for their sakes wish them in his denomination, 
or its competitors. But in a long-term revolution we must have 
institutions that define our permanent commitment. Our duty isn't 
sentimental adherence to the old for as long as possible, but helping 
some institution to emerge that represents our true feelings, that 
we can recommend without apology. 

What the denominational office does is on balance an obstacle 
to renewal. 

(1) Faith and morals. Most official statements are not a guide 
or support but something we have to explain away. Rome does 
better than most on social issues, worse than most on personal ones. 
The National Council of Churches comes at us with less canonical 
authority than our denomination, less moral authority than our own 

(2) Literature. The denominationally sponsored liturgy, hym- 
nal, educational materials, devotional manuals, catechism, calendar 
of saints, rule of discipline, don't say any longer the things we need 
to have said. Each renewed community is putting together its own 
materials — in union with other groups elsewhere and not with the 

(3) Organization. The denomination publishes a list of author- 
ized congregations and clergy with whom we're supposed to agree, 
be in full "communion," cooperate on joint projects; others are at 
most recognized by some exception or charity. But now we find 
ourselves the best or only judge of our comrades — the people who 
share our commitments. 

(4) Clergy. The theoretical control by the denominations du- 
plicating seminary standards channels timid seminarians into con- 
servatism, and sets up arbitrary hurdles for the liberated. 
Seminarians who are academically superior and psychologically 
independent go into teaching, the Peace Corps, non-parochial 

(5) Testimony. We ask that anybody who calls himself our 


Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 181 

moral leader should have resisted the war and what it stands for. 
Denominational leadership by its nature is incapable of taking this 
kind of risk. Now that the Gospel finally has come once again to 
mean standing over against the State, we must look elsewhere for 

The hierarchies in practice have given up the traditional claims 
of their denominations as written into confessions or liturgy. They 
simply control existing bodies of people which represent money 
and influence. The labels which tag those institutions mean as little 
to members as to leaders. The community organizer is glad to 
operate through middle-class institutions which have lost their soul, 
holding in his hands that key to their guilt. But we who're per- 
suaded that the charter of the Church defines where jve stand can't 
manipulate it from the outside. If the Church or some bit of it makes 
a claim for herself, we have to consider it seriously and then accept 
or reject it; we can't pretend to ignore it. 

The last recourse of the denominations to hold our loyalty is 
to confess that they're in transition; we must be patient until they 
decide what they are. But they've been doing this for too long now. 
Nobody can be satisfied forever with an institution which proclaims 
his principles in theory but ignores them in practice, tolerates his 
private adherence to them, and prevents him from working them 
out in community. 

The Churches, like the other institutions of our unified society, 
evolved into a shape where they were vulnerable to demonic inva- 
sion. The situation is a responsibility vacuum. No denomination 
today takes seriously the claim which all once made, to represent 
the true form of the Church. Therefore none can speak responsibly, 
either here or in relaying the pronouncements of an overseas head- 
quarters. But neither have they found a way to delegate responsibil- 
ity to the National Council of Churches or anything else. It's this 
vacuum, swept and garnished, that the demons have moved into. 
The crisis of violence concentrated in this war, which has shown up 
so many other institutions of our society, has also radically discred- 
ited the denominations of American Christianity and their top-level 


(b) Saying Yes and No to the denominations 

If Church history did no more than reflect political history, we 
should still expect a major reorientation of the Church scene in 
response to the crisis of violence. And what if it's the Church that 
goes farthest in defining an age's meaning, for better or worse? The 
surprise God still has up his sleeve may be an intensification of its 
possibilities. Nothing in principle forbids new modes of ecumenism, 
styles of sanctity, levels of dialogue with other ideologies. We can 
also imagine an Establishment Church even more deeply identified 
with a war machine than before. 

Many outsiders are ready to take a renewed Christianity as 
seriously as Christians are willing to take it. They accept Marxism 
wherever it's useful. We claim that Marxism is a fragmentary, 
secularized Christianity. We dare point to the Gospel as a symbol- 
ism of hope, free from Utopian illusions, which recognizes that 
every movement for truth — beginning with itself — can be cor- 
rupted into a bearer of evil. 

But first the Church crisis has to be resolved in its twin forms 
of Establishment takeover and denominationalism — heresy and 
schism. The situation would be different if America had a mono- 
lithic Established Church, whether "Catholic" or "Protestant." But 
the fragmentation of American Christianity is one of the facts in 
which history has embodied our hope. We must learn to be dialecti- 
cal, to say both Yes and No to the Church structures we've actually 

Saying Yes to the Churches. The formal claim of each denomi- 
nation to be the true descendant of primitive Christianity for our 
time, however little believed, still serves a useful purpose for it. 
Because if we drop denominational principles, we're put in the 
position of seeming to drop primitive Christianity also. We must 
say Yes to the thing it professes while pointing out the inconsisten- 
cies in its profession. 

We must also say Yes to their monopoly on an ecclesiastical 
Establishment: we don't want any part of it. We must resist the 
temptation to set up a counter-Establishment outside; that would 
mean that they had converted us. Rather we must set up a counter- 
Establishment inside. 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 183 

Above all we must say Yes to the things we've gotten from 
the existing Church. We're its sons; from its Bible, its prayer book, 
its baccalaureates, we learned the principles by which it could be 
judged and renewed. 

The strength of reform sentiment in the Church comes from 
academic and professional middle-class homes. Likewise for the 
Movement — it's a secularized version of the cry for Church reform. 
Reconciliation means not giving up on people and groups — includ- 
ing the Establishment. We built everything into the Liberated Zone 
that will let itself be built. 

It's as hard staying in touch with the past as with a spaceship 
or a star. The velocity of light surprises us; so short a distance in 
time corresponds to so great a distance in space. The hypocrisy and 
compromise of the Church Establishment are noisy channels 
through which the saints of the past communicate necessary infor- 
mation to us. 

There's a masochist in each of us, hoping the Establishment 
will come down on us like a ton of bricks, so we can prove how 
obnoxious it is. We all have programmed into us a track for failure. 
We should be encouraged to bypass it; the cosmos has arranged 
plenty of routes for failure without our picking one out for our- 

Saying No to the Churches. The denominations measure their 
success by budgets and statistics, sacraments of an affluent society. 
We must take those security-blankets away from them, while 
affirming that we're carrying out the real goals for which they once 
came into being. We may make it easy for creative groupings inside 
them to shift allegiance — but put the burden of proof on them to 
show that they stand for something important enough to warrant 

The Establishment surely must be asking something of every 
person which he has the power to refuse. Of young men it asks their 
bodies. Of the middle class it asks taxes, and we should go on 
thinking about imaginative schemes for tax-refusal. But of every- 
body the Establishment expects assent, as expressed by adherence 
to symbolic institutions. Johnson felt it important to attend Church, 
even at some risk of hearing the truth. The Churches are heaped 
with draft-exemptions, tax-exemptions, social security benefits. 


military chaplaincies. The acquiescence of Churches in the war 
kept dissent fragmented, persuaded the Administration it could 
weather the storm. Refusal of this assent by Church people would 
powerfully shake the Establishment's self-esteem. 

I don't propose resignation from the Church or from the reality 
behind the denominations, but resignation from the Establishment. 
We look for the resignation of people in Government, the military, 
draft boards, defense industries. But we're no less involved in the 
Establishment than they are. The Churches are no purer, benefit 
just as much. These people are waiting for us as their self-pro- 
claimed moral leaders to set the example. 

The Church isn't threatened by people dropping into secular- 
ism or some other denomination; this affirms the denominational 
principle all over again. But it would be threatened by people drop- 
ping out into ecumenism — by the possibility of reunion on radical 
principles. As the cry for top-level reunion grows louder, the con- 
servative lay lawyers prolong our opportunity by blocking even 
those paper schemes. We must use our time to pre-empt the claim 
that Church reunion has taken place in the Peace and Liberation 

Those who've rejected the corruption of the Churches are 
afraid it will happen all over again if reunion comes. Of course it 
will. It will begin weakly in a radical reunion; it will be built in from 
the beginning in a top-level reunion. But if we're convinced that 
reunion is in the cards, we should opt for the best kind we can get. 
We have the chance of forestalling corruption just so far as we can 
work in the principles of nonexploitation and participatory democ- 

The dilemma about saying Yes and No to the Establishment 
is resolved when we see that the Establishment isn't the key to the 
problem. Our cue is to find the creative thing to do in face of the 
critical need, and let the Establishment decide whether this is sub- 
version or renewal. We can go on recognizing as our brothers 
whoever affirms what we affirm, whether they're continuing Catho- 
lic priests or Quakers. We recognize our sister liberated congrega- 
tions, Churches, fellowships, without formal standards of recog- 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 185 

nition. The standards will only be needed when trust starts to 

Likewise we're not to make up our minds in advance that some 
large conservative Establishment Church is going to be left in 
schism outside. We'll try to liberate people and groups to work 
constructively in her. We'll welcome flexibility of arrangements 
which to her will seem intolerably ambiguous. And we'll remember 
that we're the part of her which has entered into effective reunion. 
We still have a foot in the old camp. As we stand there, seeming 
to say Yes and No simultaneously to the Church, we're really 
calling its attention to more important things which it's been ignor- 
ing: the cry of suffering humanity, the call of the Spirit. 

(c) The Movement as catalyst of Church renewal 

Once again the Church has fallen into its regular apostasy: 
identifying itself with the errors of the society it was supposed to 
transform. The problem of the thirteenth century was success and 
ennui. An order of renewal inside the existing Church recaptured 
a spirituality of the poor on their land — at the expense of palliating 
deeper-seated corruptions. The problem of the sixteenth century 
was new wine in old wineskins: ever more inelastic solutions 
were being offered for new discoveries, geographical, intellectual, 
social. The resolution was a breakaway; even though the Reformers 
weren't careful enough to avoid divisions, and failed to grasp the 
historical Jesus. 

The twentieth century combines these problems: ennui with 
the American way of life, the meaninglessness of denominational- 
ism beside new social structures. And it adds to them an unparal- 
leled crisis of violence. What conceivable renewal will do for this 

There the reunion-spinners sit in the cobwebs of their 
ecumenical workshops, calling for a grass-roots base. I say that the 
Church has already found a sidewalk base. We're on the only possi- 
ble ground if we can recognize as our own some movement which 
is already capturing the best spirits in the Churches; if we give it 
its true name, guide it on the path it's started to walk, save it from 
the mistakes it would like to make. As soon as we say this, we 


realize that we know it; it's called, simply enough, the Movement. 
Because people have put the Kingdom and justice first, those things 
which once seemed to separate us have vanished. Nothing is want- 
ing to reunion with our Christian brothers but our recognition of 

We haven't got a mission to call the Movement into a Church 
whose unity is prefabricated. If it moves towards the Church, it will 
indeed find a potentially unifying ideology there. But it will find 
renewed Christianity as fragmented as itself — and along the same 
lines: student Christians and student radicals, black Christians and 
black radicals, pacifist or revolutionary Christians and pacifist or 
revolutionary radicals, God-is-dead Christians and secular radicals. 
Because the Movement and the Church are two fountains from a 
single pipe; their overlapping is the decisive thing which determines 
the form of our renewal. 

Unlike Hitler's Germany, our best people aren't emigrating but 
staying on. The Resistance — including what's been called the 
Christian Resistance — won't disband after the Viet Nam war until 
the people in prison have received amnesty; until arrangements are 
made for the resisters to go and do reparation for their country in 
Viet Nam (and Laos and Thailand and Cambodia); until the defec- 
tive heart of America has been replaced by a transplant. Staughton 
Lynd has said that the summer in Mississippi working on civil 
rights has expanded into a lifetime family vocation. 

We'd said all along that reunion wouldn't be the work of men 
but of the Spirit; little did we know what we were letting ourselves 
in for! We've lost interest in the old stale chewing-gum debates as 
our self-affirmation crystallizes around the freedom to say, "We 
must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Up until now, apart 
from the trauma of the Civil War, we've been just playing at keeping 
house on this continent. Now the honeymoon is over. For the first 
time we can talk seriously about the Church in America. 

We must put aside resentment at the complicity and cruelty 
of the Establishment, pushing through to the other side of our 
impotence. Because revolution is in the air, the Liberated Zone is 
at hand. Decisive novelties in history must pass over a high thresh- 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 187 

old of reserve. Their fuel is the hidden backlog of disgust and 
resolve in millions of individuals. But after so many false alarms 
and pseudo-Messiahs people are wary; they're waiting for the un- 
mistakable trumpet of the Spirit. 

The Vietnamese affirm that the forms of their new societies are 
hammered out through resistance to oppression. Every leader in 
Hanoi received his baptism in a French jail; the political structure 
of the National Liberation Front was formed in answer to us. And 
so we may say that Lyndon Johnson was the prime organizer of 
the liberated Church in America. 

The Movement is the midwife of renewal. All along it's been 
the Church outside the Church, doing what Jesus did, being what 
he was. As soon as we recognize it without reserve — bringing to 
it our own historical understanding — the Church will start moving 
into the depth and kind of unified renewal which was in the books 
for our time. The standards which show the failure of the denomi- 
nations point to the emergence of the right thing somewhere else. 
What has been heralded as the death of God was actually the death 
of the Churches. L'Eglise est morte. Vive rEglise! 

It's not the case that a little group of perfectionists in each 
denomination is being siphoned off to form a new sect, nor that a 
new alternative style of ecumenical ministry is being offered in each 
denomination. Separatism and tolerance are just two different ways 
of being put on the shelf. Our new principle of unity lies in the 
necessary jobs which the denominations by their Establishment 
status are precluded from doing. 

Existing structures are on the right track if they can accept 
allegiance on a provisional basis from the gadflies on the rump of 
the sleepy animal. The clergy are under no call to give up their 
ministry, or anything else good and true which they (like other 
Christians) have received. Rather they'll say they're fulfilling those 
things. If the denomination wants to excommunicate or depose 
them, that's its business. It can hardly render them less effective 
than they are now. We'll continue to affirm the real values of our 
denomination — facets of the truth in Jesus — in the status of renewal 
and reunion. We can't rule out the possibility that living renewal 


might thaw out frozen structures from beneath; that it might infil- 
trate formal schemes of reunion struggling down from above and 
give them actual content. 

Church reform has always taken shape from the struggle to 
deal with current crises. So renewal and reunion in America can 
only come out of our struggle to deal with the crisis of violence, 
where the Viet Nam war in its time has been central. But the best 
of our Christian leaders are already fully engaged, fully united in 
that struggle. Therefore renewal has already set in. 

At the right time of history, a liberated Church in America has 
been born out of the Movement for peace and justice. 

5. The functions of a renewed Church 
(a) The liberated Church as community 

Renewal crystallizes a group of people around work on a par- 
ticular concern, whether local or national. The community — which 
we may call a local congregation — becomes our proper environ- 
ment for various functions. 

In our personal crises: getting into college, sex, draft-resist- 
ance, getting married, getting a job, getting fired, divorce, bank- 
ruptcy, mental breakdown, dealing with kids, success, death of 
parents, moving, sickness, retirement, dying. It surrounds us with 
sympathetic persons who, for the moment, have a different crisis 
from ours. It makes available to us jointly symbolic forms ("sac- 
raments") which define for each crisis the shape of the nonviolent 
revolution — the mind of Christ. 

On our individual Job. It provides a framework of action and 
teaching where its members transform the neutral technique of 
their professions into a sign of the new way. It shows that certain 
professions — arms manufacture, the military, many police jobs, 
many government jobs, most advertising — are impossible for the 
honest man; and that all must be preserved from manipulation. It 
defines new professions — community organization, overseas ser- 
vice — which will carry out its principles. 

In education, service, action. It operates on behalf of its princi- 
ples to educate the community outside, to provide medical or social 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 189 

services which have slipped through the meshes of the Establish- 
ment, to affect politics, to dramatize injustice by direct action. 

The community solidifies in two critical areas: the rural ghetto; 
and the city, where an urban ghetto and concerned intellectuals 
overlap. Typical rural ghettos are the South, California's migrant 
farmers, Indian reservations, the Spanish Southwest, poor white 
Appalachia. The leader of the poor, a Tijerina or Chavez, may 
spring direct from the soil. But in any case he must make alliance 
with the city — for warm bodies, money, organization, ideology, 

The black or Spanish urban ghettos have now mostly devel- 
oped indigenous leadership. But they also need alliances, however 
tense, with the concerned white community to influence politics, 
for money, for solidarity in anti-war action. Such unity as the Peace 
Movement possesses comes from national organizations with au- 
tonomous urban branches. The apostolic Church was an urban 
movement; so was Marxism until it went guerrilla. 

The organizer builds on an oppressed group, or on the psychic 
exploitation felt by its sympathizers. Students around the world 
have chosen exploited status. As the Church shares its origin with 
the university, it can look for joint liberation. In its nascent congre- 
gations, the way people work together determines the shape of 
renewal and the meaning of reunion. 

(b) The forms of a liberated Church 

Reunion presupposes the emergence of a common mind in 
various areas. This common mind is already taking shape through 
cooperation of Christians in the Movement. 

Doctrine. Christian leaders in the Movement lack the liberal 
or sectarian features of American Christianity. The Movement's 
turning away from exploitation supports the teaching of Jesus more 
firmly than denominational creeds and disciplines do. Our return 
to Jesus rests on a thoroughly historical understanding of his role 
in a revolutionary situation. The Movement is the best place today 
to appreciate Hebrew social prophecy; the community organizer 
has a unique insight into Epistles and Acts. 


The ministry. The old controversies about orders have been 
solved by unquestioning mutual recognition; the good faith of any- 
body ordained for a Christian community is taken for granted. 
Nobody would claim to be a Christian in the Peace Movement 
unless he really was; it brings no status or rewards. We learned this 
first from the politics of coalition; every overworked underpaid 
leader of an actual base of people represents them legitimately. 

The denominational seminaries are discovering they've got 
nothing unique to teach, and so are merging — while still in theory 
preparing clergy for the denominations. This has produced an intol- 
erable split of academic from personal convictions. For after full 
ecumenical training, students can't stay loyal to the denominations 
until decades from now the word comes down from on high that 
reunion has happened. 

What's happening to the ministry could be termed either guer- 
rilla subversion or normal growth inside the Establishment. It's still 
in missionary status — like the new Churches of Africa and Asia, 
before they won an indigenous ministry. (They still haven't reached 
the stage of indigenous theological seminaries with locally recruited 
professors.) In spite of these holdovers from colonialism, the new 
Churches could strain out from the traditional curriculum the 
things of local value — they're closer to the apostolic Church than 
their teachers. When young men go to an American seminary to 
serve in a radically reunited congregation, this will serve notice that 
denominationalism has become the foreign missionary body. 

Spirituality. Nowhere else are secular people so willing as in 
the Movement to work with Christians as leaders or followers, to 
take our symbolic forms seriously. In the urgency of coalition effort 
the barriers to listening have fallen. The Movement is the primary 
missionary field of the Church. 

The Movement has had a line of saints and martyrs in whose 
strength it does its work: Peter Maurin, A. J. Muste, Norman 
Morrison, Jonathan Daniels. The personal lives of its rank and file 
are in much disorder. They accept this as a revolutionary necessity, 
but still welcome concern. We chaplains to the Movement spend 
a lot of time in pastoral work with new twists: visiting courts and 
prisons, marriage counseling, activating dropouts, draft counseling. 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 191 

Denominational weddings are going out even for Catholics. 
Even when the family breaks up, the generation gap has been 
bridged. The hippie kids who used to sneak out of Sunday school 
now sneak out of high school to join their elders at demonstrations 
and do their own mind-blowing thing. Some teen-age girls are 
important political figures with a bona fide constituency. You can 
hear seventeen-year-old kids lecturing gray-haired Quakers on 
nonviolent tactics. 

The liturgy. The heart of the nascent groupings in the Move- 
ment is the Lord's Supper, celebrated any time but Sunday, any- 
where but in Churches. Traditional differences in its understanding 
have evaporated through concelebration and freedom to improvise 
— within the definition of its meaning provided by the action con- 
text. On some occasions members of the Society of Friends, discov- 
ering new allies, have wished to join in the Eucharist. 

Conversion. One feature of primitive Christianity has found an 
equivalent, but not yet renewal, on the contemporary scene: mak- 
ing a fresh start. The draft-card turn-in has exactly the format and 
meaning of the Baptist revival meeting: renouncing the world, the 
flesh, and the Devil; washing off the number of the Beast. Our 
theologians realize that infant baptism has become meaningless, 
and are moving toward a Baptist theory of adult initiation. The 
rebaptism of Reformation radicals had an unfortunate suggestion 
of perfectionism. Conditional baptism \s indicated in the numerous 
cases where nothing definite can be said about the manner or inten- 
tions of infant baptism. We need a push to give proper symbolic 
form to the day-by-day dedication that already exists in the Move- 

(c) A new Congregationalism 

The form of renewal we're led to is what my student and 
colleague Dick York, in characteristic hippie style, calls a Free 
Church — but with unexpected overtones of the radical Reforma- 
tion. Traditional Protestantism has been much concerned about 
maintaining local orthodoxy through higher structures. But we 
don't feel a synod or national organization will have fir«>^ orthodoxy 
that doesn't percolate up from the bottom. What was the Reforma- 


tion afraid of? — Deviation from an ideological and disciplinary 
scheme. But the only thing we have to fear is apostasy, finking out, 
which can't be predicted or hidden. Since the motive of renewal 
is a job of rebuilding to be done, the fears which produced the need 
for central organization are gone. 

The older "community Churches" are similar in form to the 
nascent autonomous congregations, but different in substance. 
They're products of liberalism, aiming at maximum inclusiveness 
on the basis of minimum agreement, formed out of the denomina- 
tions as a least common denominator. They're bound hand and foot 
to a geographic suburb, and haven't got any prophetic voice. 

Since there's no intention of forming a new denomination, our 
current denominational ties (however illogical) deserve to be kept 
up on Alinsky's principle of despoiling the Egyptians. The Viet 
Cong use the supply-lines of the opposition, sending their kids to 
school overseas on government grants, picking up U.S. medical 
equipment on the Saigon docks. In our loving guerrilla tactics 
against the Establishment we do it the favor of intruding militants 
or hippies into diocesan conventions. We should put so much real- 
ity into our projects that the denominations, against their better 
judgment, will compete to support them. 

If the liberated Church were inside the Establishment, it would 
be co-opted; if it were outside, it would be ignoring the claim of 
the denominations to represent the spirit of Jesus. It's a new shoot 
springing from the redwood stump. We need a sanctuary inside the 
Establishment where we're safe from both control and expulsion. 
We do this by plugging into the scene where the Church is con- 
scious of guilt: guilt at not doing the ghetto job; at not telling the 
truth even as she sees it, let alone as it stands in the Gospel; at 
segregation and disunion. The middle-class silent fragmented 
Church is self-condemned. So whatever can claim legitimately to 
be a classless witnessing united Church has its hooks in the Estab- 
lishment; it has proved its right to existence aboveground. 

Nothing has been more important for liberation than the mas- 
sive renewal inside the Roman Catholic Church — the only one 
being led from overseas. An outsider doesn't know which things 
its members can get away with and which they can't, but they do. 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 193 

which is all that counts. They've played some of the most creative 
risky roles in the Movement: Fr. James Groppi in the Milwaukee 
open-housing campaign; the Berrigan brothers, prisoners for Christ. 
The terms on which they can cooperate with us are our best check 
on getting too far away from base. 

We put workers among alcoholics, ex-cons, grape-pickers — 
with the tacit presumption that our ecumenical representatives will 
do good social service but above all things not preach the Gospel. 
What will happen when the beneficiaries call our bluff and ask this 
detached clergyman to build them into a congregation? 

In most areas of life sanctions limit our freedom. We're free 
not to go out and fight wars, but we may get jailed for it. We're 
free to study whatever we please, but we may not get a diploma 
or jobs for it. The Church is where we hold the future in our own 
hands. None of the rewards it offers are tickets to be turned in for 
goods and services somewhere else: money, a passport, a social 
security card, a draft card. The realm of the Church is the things 
which can be had simply by affirming them: self-fulfillment through 
life in community. 

Any group of people that wants to form a Christian fellowship 
is able to; there's no need to ask somebody else's permission. They 
won't separate themselves from their brothers, inside or outside the 
Church, any more than they need to: rather they'll let others do 
the separating. The whole point of Christian fellowship is solidarity 
with those who disapprove of us. Whenever fellowship fails, as it 
may well, the failure lies in us and not in something else. But if 
we've tried honestly, it hasn't really failed. 

The blasphemy in the Church Establishment is that the one 
liberated phase of society has been co-opted by the forms of the 
State. In fact the State stumbled accidentally on the true principle 
of Church unity: tolerance. Christians should make a radical claim 
to the freedom of association theoretically guaranteed by the State 
and practiced by the Movement. This unqualified freedom lies at 
the heart of our restricted political freedom. We can do what we 

We don't reject existing Churches for being enmeshed in a 
meaningless denominationalism; we hold out something better, and 


aren't oflFended if they don't accept it the first time. EngHshmen 
touched by the EvangeHcal revival of the late eighteenth century 
couldn't stay permanently in Deist Tory parishes. They took over 
an old parish or built a new one, and preached the word of God 
as they heard it to new classes of people that were ready to listen. 
Only by that route did renewal make its way back to the old 

Likewise, men touched by the Catholic liturgical revival of the 
past century and a quarter couldn't go on indefinitely being passive 
spectators of corrupt sacerdotal performances. They found a place 
where they could work out their new understanding — often among 
the new or old slums where Methodists or Evangelicals had paved 
the way. The renewal of our times presupposes everything valid in 
the earlier ones, but cuts far deeper. And it will take over the old 
Churches only along the same route. 

Why should congregations ever again voluntarily submit to 
distant control by governing bodies, which in turn are tied to the 
policy of an exploitative State? At all times a double motion is 
required of us. We must gather ourselves apart sufficiently so that 
we can see for ourselves, and show to the world, what we are. After 
we've done that will be time enough to redisperse, and become once 
again the new leaven bubbling up through the vast soggy doughy 
mass. Our final push will be to find ways of working which carry 
out both motions at once. 

(d) Speaking to the Church Establishment 

In the 1830's and 40's the Churches overwhelmingly took up 
no stand on slavery at all. Today somebody who said that slavery 
under that name v^as the will of God would be called a heretic. If 
the Church is really the conscience of mankind, it would be nice 
for her to say what was needed when it was needed. The stridency 
of Abolitionism is said to have made Emancipation more difficult; 
I don't know that the Churches sitting on their hands made it any 

Our spiritual ancestors couldn't make up their minds until 
History had acted, pushed by men with actual convictions; then 
they saw which way the wind had blown. Not everybody criticizes 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 195 

them for this. The silence of Protestant Episcopal Bishops during 
the Civil War made it possible for the dioceses of North and South 
to be reunited afterwards, when most Protestant denominations 
split. What price was unity bought for? Slavery has now bloomed 
into a hundred flowers of discrimination and harassment. And once 
again, in the councils of the Church, unity (of those already inside) 
and gradualism are the overriding considerations. 

Gradualism, as soon as you think about it, insults both the 
morals and the intelligence of the people you're trying to drag 
along. They aren't given credit for openness to the evidence which 
has convinced you. They must be bullied or cajoled a little bit every 
year, every decade. 

Until recently, the Church Establishment recognized the right 
of a minority to have a special concern for nonviolence or justice 
— provided it stayed a minority. The minority professed to regard 
the majority as wrong but sincere. No dialogue was going on. Both 
sides assumed that some other issue — unity of the denomination — 
was more important. But the equilibrium will fall if the minority 
starts winning converts, or if it comes to decide that morality takes 
precedence over a united front. 

Both things have happened. We don't ask the Establishment's 
permission to hold a higher private morality; we don't claim to be 
better, but to see more clearly. We don't say we agree with the 
Establishment on fundamentals; right now the fundamental thing 
is what we disagree on. But we won't pull out, because we can't 
let the Church of Jesus abdicate its function as bridge between his 
scattered communities and the world. 

When somebody addresses himself in print to the President 
of the United States, we all know it's rhetoric with a different 
audience in mind. But our Church leaders can't have made the same 
paralyzing commitments as an American President, or gotten im- 
prisoned in the same parallelogram of forces. They still remember 
how they first became servants of the Gospel — the only commit- 
ment they're bound to. Today they're faced with the chance that 
it may apply to them in a more detailed way than they thought 

Our religious leaders talk about existential concern. I turn to 


them and ask if we Americans in the sixties aren't men and women 
waked out of sleep with a choice we've got to make for ourselves, 
which no prior commitment can preempt. In these years we've seen 
growing up around us, inside the Churches and even more outside, 
but always under the authority of Jesus, groups where the demons 
of violence and exploitation have been exorcised. We can't pass the 
buck of deciding whether the philosophy of nuclear deterrence 
ends up in a world at peace — or else in a global poker game which 
hasn't got any breaking-up time, or breaks up with shooting irons. 

No future age can be counted on for higher motivation than 
ours to do the necessary things. It's alleged that if we set up the 
right situation by force, the next generation will accept it with love. 
But our resentment will mold the attitudes of the next generation 
— which in any case can discover resentment for itself. The direct 
approach is the only approach there is. The only way to stop vio- 
lence is to stop; love is the only way to make love. 

If we see demons being cast out, it doesn't matter whose name 
it's done in; because it can only be done in the way of reconciliation 
whose name we know. When we see the dark powers being over- 
come, we know that nothing but the finger of God can be at work. 
In that case once again — and now in a radically new historic con- 
junction — we have to say that the Kingdom of God has come upon 

6. Resistance and revolution 

(a) Claiming our own lives: draft refusal 

We press for renewal inside the Church because otherwise it 
will die, and we love what it stands for. We resist the State because 
if allowed to go unchecked it will do unforeseeable damage. Since 
the State is problematical, we can't ever be sure what effects our 
action will have on her. We therefore adopt a reasonable attack on 
a critical problem, without knowing what it will lead to. But in the 
community of love, we have full confidence that no honest work 
is without effect, even though we don't know where that effect will 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 197 

Resistance to violence against the environment is largely sym- 
bolic — waiting for the day when a genuine police power will begin 
to clean up pollution. Resistance to violence against our psyche or 
tradition is the realm of spirituality and education; this is going on. 
Resistance to exploitation of the poor at home is an obvious critical 
duty. Each exploited class will take thought for itself, and we 
should ally ourselves with the clearest cases of need. 

There remains resistance to exploitation abroad. Economic 
imperialism is elusive. It is no less dangerous on that account, but 
not quite so immediate a danger as the military imperialism which 
provides its sanction. The Viet Nam adventure has shown that 
hardware by itself is useless; only men will do. 

The essence of Government policy is the ability to throw men 
in quickly where they're needed— perhaps in several countries at 
once. Quick call-up is impossible with a professional volunteer 
army, which must compete on the labor market. The Government 
realizes this. Therefore it's committed to keeping at least a token 
conscription in effect. This necessity is our opportunity. If many 
exemptions are granted, the injustice of the system becomes obvi- 
ous. If many induction notices go out, the memory of Viet Nam 
will keep the resistance alive. The Government, much as it might 
like to, can't carry out its policies in complete independence of the 
citizen body. 

Thus in any easily predictable future, the weak point of U.S. 
imperialist policy is the draft. In no predictable future is there any 
likelihood or danger of abolishing the U.S. military Establishment. 
The realistic goals are to make it harder for the United States to 
undertake counter-insurgency measures, and to create some area 
in our own society free of militarism, resuming control of our own 
lives. Thus the most constructive middle-term goal is mounting a 
campaign to destroy the Selective Service System. 

The only alternative to a drafted army is a professional volun- 
teer army at competitive salaries. This will bring its own dangers. 
It would be left without the leaven of good guys at tension with 
their own consciences. The police forces in our urban ghettos — a 
professional volunteer army of occupation — give us some idea what 


it would be like. But in fact those good guys aren't leavening it very 
much right now. We may gladly take up a new Administration's 
pledge to end the draft, which the generals must repudiate. 

Denying the military an available manpower pool is the first 
step in altering neo-imperialist foreign policy. If by a big effort 
conscription were ended, the military would try to obtain the same 
results by improved weapons techniques and large-scale recruiting. 
The next realistic political task would be to put a ceiling on weapons 
development and recruitment: to deny money and men. Denying 
money calls for a campaign on the Congressional budget. Denying 
men would call for using student power and faculty power to break 
Government contracts with universities, and using resistance or- 
ganization to convert men away from military careers and military 
engineering. These are long-term programs for limited goals. 
They'll be meaningful only as part of a constructive Quaker-style 
effort to work for peace and reconciliation. 

It's very obvious that liberal Establishment organizations 
aren't going to mount the campaign against Selective Service. Our 
attack wouldn't have any spearhead if the Spirit had not already 
shown thousands of young men that cooperation with the draft was 
a denial of their manhood. (Here I rely on analyses by Bruce Nelson 
and Phil Farnham.) They're our moral leaders, and our beautifully 
simple course is to accept the clear-cut issue which History has 
made available. There's some possibility of redeeming the demonic 
State from its destructive course: by interposing our bodies. 
Whether we look at the needs of the planet, the Third World, our 
fellow-countrymen, our own souls — and all these are bound up in 
each other — the central moral issue of our time is limiting the 
State's power to do harm. Concretely, in the immediate future, this 
means draft resistance: aiding and abetting the young men who 
openly refuse cooperation with the Selective Service System. 

Here is the precise point at which the Peace Movement is 
radicalizing the Church. There's no way the Church Establishment 
can encapsulate draft resistance, pretend that this is a project of 
its own devising. But neither, in view of the elegant parallel with 
the Church of the martyrs, can the hierarchies simply disavow draft 
resistance. This is the issue which forces the Established Church 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 199 

to say Yes and No to itself. For some time to come it will be the 
touchstone which will keep Christian radicals on the path of 
renewal and reunion — towards the global revolution in which, we 
now see, we're beginning to serve. 

(b) The First World Revolution 

TTie official story that America is a free democracy supporting 
free democracies is implemented in the streets. Our true political 
principles are being fulfilled by unexpected means in a second 
American revolution. And, since for the moment America stands 
on the growing edge of world history, we see also a turning point 
in colonialism. Our main institutional link to the Middle Ages and 
antiquity is the Church; and in the reshaping of our society, the 
Church is assuming a radically new form, suitable for export. 

The conditions for these novelties were set (not to go further 
back) by the Industrial Revolution, which gave Western nations an 
internal and an external proletariat: the workers at home, and the 
colonial producers of raw materials and markets overseas. Exploita- 
tion of individuals and societies was accomplished by exploitation 
of nature. This factory imperialism provoked two reactions, which 
for a while it was able to co-opt. The Methodist revival and the 
missionary movement, at first opposed by the British Established 
Church, soon were seen as its best ally in keeping exploited popula- 
tions content. Marx certainly regarded evangelical Christianity as 
an agent of capitalism, and in its place set proletarian revolution. 
In turn the scene of its biggest success takes the form of another 
imperialism, the Soviet, now putting down baby-steps to self-deter- 
mination in Budapest, now in Prague. 

But as exploitation of man and nature reaches the point of 
breakdown, there is a spontaneous rebellion, which humanizes and 
unifies the two earlier reactions. Socialist revolutions become 
smaller, more nationalistic, the work of a people living on its own 
land. A renewed Church reverts to the social conditions under 
which it was born. The convergence of Christianity and Marxism 
twists together two strands temporarily frayed from the same 

The worldwide Establishment has gotten together and set up 


the United Nations as its house organ. America and Russia do their 
best to manage it in their joint interests. If it acquired more political 
power, it would solve some current problems and raise new ones. 
Neither it nor the Great Powers are any kind of guarantee against 
the exploitation of peoples. The United Nations is our best guaran- 
tee against violence towards the planetary environment, prolifera- 
tion of people and bombs. We should support it for that purpose, 
but not expect it to do what it won't. 

There's always some truth in it when a people takes a Mes- 
sianic role on itself. Its government and propaganda are likely to 
play the part of antichrist; but somewhere inside it the right thing 
is to be found. The Roman Empire, Roman law, Vergil, distort but 
also transmit the reality expressed in the birth of Jesus. Anglo- 
American imperialism today is antichrist for much of the world; 
but the mythology of Milton and Blake, of the American frontier, 
point to a fulfillment still future. Our criticism of America can be 
so devastating precisely because her Messianic option is still open. 
Russian political Messianism has been more creative, and her nov- 
elists have expressed a radical Christian humanism more directly 
than in Europe. 

Imperialism produced oppressed populations with common 
interests around the world. The two missionary faiths, Christianity 
and Marxism, organized the exploited peoples — once as imperial 
stooges, increasingly today in their own right. The people's revolu- 
tion normally takes violent form for justice; where it's nonviolent, 
it's equivalent to the Church. There is indeed an international 
Socialist conspiracy: the bloc of liberation fronts with substantial 
justice on their side. I've sketched the beginnings of an under- 
ground ecumenical peace Church. Whatever their faults and com- 
promises, we may say that people's revolution and the people's 
Church are the political and spiritual organs of a renewed 
humanity. At the right time of history, we see the dawning outlines 
of global community organization against Establishment violence: 
the First World Revolution. 

For twenty centuries, the geographical spread of the Church, 
bringing paper reconciliation, has been accompanied by a progres- 
sive Establishment takeover, a collapse of resistance. Now the cir- 

Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 201 

cle of the nations has been filled up; the first phase of the work is 
done. We're on the next upward sweep of the cycle and it's time 
for resistance to resume. As the political revolution sets up a Liber- 
ated Zone free of imperial control, the Church bears what the New 
Testament calls the "Kingdom of Heaven," and I translate as a 
transcendent Liberated Zone: an area in principle free from all 
exploitation. Both revolution and Church engage in resistance; but 
the Church's resistance cuts deeper, for it's turned also against the 
possibilities of exploitation in the revolution and in herself. The 
successive emergents of freedom and love have seeded the polis 
and the Church around the world. There's never yet been a form 
of the Church which was both apostolical and worldwide. But it's 
what we've been taught to expect by the New Testament, out of 
which (they say) there's fresh light yet to break. We see rising in 
the East what for the first time can properly be called Church 
history. The world is coming to a beginning. 

Neither freedom nor love was an exclusive Western invention. 
There's no one figure which concentrates the discovery of freedom; 
but our tradition has held that the principle of love was concen- 
trated in Jesus. The thing which he represents appears also in other 
traditions. Thomas Merton found Venerable Nhat Hanh — poet, 
ascetic, monk, lover of peace — far closer to himself than the bulk 
of his fellow Catholics were. If Jesus in fact represents the perfec- 
tion of human nature, we'd expect that all peoples would have some 
intuition of the same excellence. As the Church spread across pa- 
gan Europe, it incorporated into its calendar a symbolic scheme of 
insights into the natural order. A pagan could have said that his 
religion had incorporated Jewish understanding of history into its 
pattern. A whole series of dialogues is called for with Buddhism, 
Judaism, Islam, Confucianism, in which we must trust that both 
sides will come out fulfilled. The precondition is that world Chris- 
tianity should first regroup around the primitive Church. Constan- 
tine is losing and the radical Jesus is winning. 

In the New Testament myth of the end of the world, as God 
does his new thing, there emerge new blessings and new woes, 
greater promises and threats than previously. This symbolism refers 
to our very own age, where the emergence of a worldwide re- 


deemed humanity coexists with the threat of the world's end by 
fire. Neither people's revolution nor people's Church has much 
control over violence done by the demonically guided Great Pow- 
ers of this age to the environment. At most the just revolutions can 
help create a spirituality of family planning and piety towards na- 
ture — which would still have to be carried out through the United 
Nations. But when war or fallout have done their worst, it's they 
who'll be most acceptable to come in and start picking up the 
pieces. Thus during the Viet Nam war, air traffic into Hanoi was 
maintained by an International Control Commission staffed by rep- 
resentative weaker nations: India, Poland, Canada. And the Ameri- 
cans who went in and out on it were Quakers, pacifists, blacks, 
students, professors, women, revolutionaries. 

When a family moves into a new city, they live out of suitcases 
and snap at each other until they put their house and garden in 
order and settle in. Only then can they begin some constructive 
vocation and family life. The human race has reached this point 
only in peaceful enclaves like Scandinavia and Canada — both noted 
for forest management. Ahead lie endless possibilities of guiding 
planetary evolution and our numbers. Only then will we be able 
to open up the luggage we've brought along — languages, science, 
the arts, space travel — and for the first time find out its use. I have 
a dream that the tormented shores of southeast Asia, South Africa 
—every seabeach in its summer — have become a second Mediter- 
ranean splashing with comely brown bodies, while temples of a 
thousand architectures rise from each city on its hill. 

The threads of cable, roads, radio, airlines binding the planet 
together — still mostly for propaganda or manipulation — are the 
filaments of a self-spun cocoon. As it matures, we see a series of 
unrelated changes in what still looks like a caterpillar. But at God's 
right time, the slender thorax, the antennae, the unexpanded wings 
take on an organic unity, and it's the stiffening cast of the chrysalis 
which is seen as the anomaly. We haven't got any way of telling 
what form the demonic forces of exploitation will next take. But 
we can say that for the first time the radical unity of the human 
race in love, the immortal butterfly of Earth, is free to take wing 
as soon as it's passionately affirmed. 


Church Renewal and the Peace Movement 203 

(c) Life in the Liberated Zone 

The Liberated Zone is brought into existence through our 
action in history. But in a way hard to describe we're contemporar- 
ies of all who've realized it in the past; and by anticipation we share 
the perfection it's moving toward. A tourist guide to that country 
would be the most valuable thing we could lay our hands on. 

As soon as we say that, we realize we've all along had it in our 

Still it needs to be adapted for the people of different back- 
grounds who'll be taking up residence there. The present manual 
only sketches the principal international means of travel to the 
Liberated Zone; gives a few practical hints about luggage, clothing, 
and health precautions; notes the customs formalities; and includes 
a brief historical sketch. I can see that a handbook of quite different 
content is required for those planning an extended stay. Actually 
every long-term resident is his own best source for local customs. 
But I've taken the liberty of setting down some general observa- 
tions, which I hope to publish elsewhere before too long. In particu- 
lar I'll try to suggest helpful lines of conduct for persons involved 
in border incidents — still more frequent than we could wish. Per- 
haps any readers who've found the present volume useful will also 
want to be on the lookout for its successor; even though the author's 
claim rests less on any encyclopedic knowledge of the country, than 
on simple admiration for the character of the inhabitants, the tradi- 
tions of their national life, and the charm of the unspoiled land- 


With the publication of The Liberated Zone 
John Pairman Brown surfaces as a major spokes- 
man for what Time has called "the most radical 
movement in U.S. Christendom." He is liturgist for 
the Free Church of Berkeley, California, and 
supports his family of five by free-lance editorial 
work. Previously he Professor of Christian 
Ethics and New Testament at the Church Divinity 
School of the Pacific. 

Before moving to California he taught at the 
General Theological Seminary, Hobart College, 
and the American University of Beirut. In October 
1967 he carried out a mission to Catholic and 
Protestant leaders in Hanoi. A graduate of Dart- 
rr;Outh College, he received his Th.D. from Union 
Theological Seminary in New York. 

He has written articles for The Christian Cen- 
tury, Journal of Biblical Literature, and Nevj 
Testament Studies, and has recently contributed 
an essay to The Underground Church edited by 
Malcolm Boyd. 


Student Presence in Political Conflict 

edited by Bruce Douglass 

Students can make an innpact on domestic and foreign affairs far beyond their 
numbers. Fifteen articles by authorities on student politics from all over the 
world— including Philip G. Altbach, Kenneth E. Boiilding, William Lee Miller, 
and Milan Opocensky— provide guidelines for political involvement by students. 

John D. Perry, Jr. 

"John D. Perry, Jr., has produced a 'how to' book in the best sense."— The 
Christian Century 

''The Coffee House Ministry is not only a rather inspiring story of the 
movement, but also a handbook on how to e.")uip, finance, and manage such an 
establishment."— Saft/rc/a/ Review 


Japan's Militant Buddhists 

Noah S. Brannen 

Noah S. Prannen "has done a remarkable job of combining first-hand interviews 
and close contacts with members of 36ka Gakkai with a broader survey of the 
historical background, religious and philosophical bn'iefs, organizational tech- 
niques, and political activities of this important movement to give a picture that 
is both broadly comprehensive and alive with tpecific detail."— Edwin 0. 

Leon Howell 

Mississippi Negroes have two choices: rural poverty or the big city ghetto. With 
the support of the Delta Ministry, nearly a hundred dispossessed plantation 
workers r-'sde a third choice: they occupied the vacant buildings of Greenville 
Air Force Base. Leon Howell describes their pilgrimage around the Delta after 
they were evicted from the base and their founding of a hopeful new 
community. Freedom City. 


Rirhmond, Virginia