A Third Way: Creative Resistance

Perhaps because regimes around the world which lean towards totalitarianism are proliferating, recent works of art have raised the question: how to best resist unjust authority?

It’s not a new question: Jesus himself faced the dilemma of whether to resist or ignore the Roman oppression. Human evolution has conditioned us for fight or flight. Over the centuries, those have been the most common responses to injustice. According to scripture scholar Walter Wink, Jesus proposed an alternate, a third way: creative nonviolent resistance.

“Jesus reveals a way to fight evil with all our power without being transformed into the very evil we fight. It is a way — the only way possible — of not becoming what we hate… Jesus abhors both passivity and violence.”

In the excellent film “JoJo Rabbit” (poorly titled—at first I thought it was a cartoon), a mother and child see bodies hanging in the public square of their German village, overtaken by Nazis. When the little boy asks, “what did they do?” the mother replies, “they did what they could.” As, it turns out, she did too—hiding a Jewish girl in her attic, distributing anti-Nazi fliers. And she met the same fate.

In the novel The Ventriloquists, by E.R. Ramzipoor, the Belgian resistance to the Nazis is diabolically clever and based on fact: writers produce a parody of the daily newspaper filled with Nazi propaganda. They know they’ll hang for their satire, but on one day, 60,000 Belgians buy the hilarious paper and laugh at their oppressor. The writers consider it a small price to be imprisoned and killed for their effort. The leader reflects on what he likes about the group: “former shopkeepers and teachers and builders, people with nice furniture and reasonable salaries, who could have done nothing, could’ve kept their heads down and gone about their business. But they didn’t. Those who could have done nothing instead did everything.” Even the postmistress intercepts a shipment of yellow fabric, imprinted with stars ready to be cut out and forced on Jews to wear. Oddly enough, all the churches suddenly get yellow altar cloths, distributed quietly by the resistance.

The final example is the most dramatic: Franz Jaggerstatter, an Austrian farmer in “A Hidden Life,” beheaded (and later named a saint) for refusing to take the oath of loyalty to the Third Reich. Franz’ decision leaves his wife, three children and mother to fend for themselves making a brutally hard living, with the added difficulty of their villagers ostracizing them.  As Malick’s film unfolds, Franz’ wife suggests they escape, or he do medical service. Those seemed plausible alternatives, which his conscience will not allow. Under the circumstances, everyone might make a different decision. After all, few criticize the von Trapp family for escaping Austria to Switzerland and eventually the US.

Interesting questions for us to chew over, we whose government is relentlessly cruel to refugees, heedless of its irreparable damage to the environment, and so unethical it deserves impeachment. How do we resist bogus authority, in our own spheres, with our own forms of creativity?

Kathy will be speaking at:

St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church 2601 San Ramon Valley Blvd. San Ramon, CA 94583

TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 10:00-11:30 a.m, on:

“Will the Real Mary Magdalene Stand Up? Stand Back!”

And TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. on:

“Prayer In Chaos, Commotion and Clutter”

All are welcome. Free events require registration. To register, go to https://GIFT2020.EventBrite.com

 

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