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Why Turn the Other Cheek?

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Nonviolence as taught by the ultimate spiritual jujitsu masters.

This article appeared in our October 2004 issue. Let me begin by reminding us of what we already know: that violence is the ethos of our time. Our whole world is in the grip of violence today. We are addicted to it. It is the last resort in conflicts, and increasingly the first. Violence is the real religion of America. There is an insidious belief — one I’ve heard expressed by people on the left and on the right, by religious liberals as well as religious conservatives, by Democrats as well as Republicans — that violence saves, that only violence can rescue us from the violence of our enemies. Violence undergirds children’s comics and cartoons, television shows and movies, civil religion, nationalism, and foreign policy, and it lies coiled like an ancient serpent at the root of the system of domination that has characterized human existence since time immemorial. I call this world-enveloping order the domination system. It is characterized by unequal economic relations, oppressive political relations, prejudiced race relations, and hierarchical power relations, and the whole system i …

Walter Wink is professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. His recent books include The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man; The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium; and (as editor) Peace Is the Way: Writings on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.


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