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Put Down Your Sword: Answering the Gospel Call to Creative Nonviolence

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John Dear

Father John Dear’s latest collection of essays, journal entries, and reflections on creative nonviolence is a thought-provoking call to reject war and become people of nonviolence. Dear is an internationally respected peacemaker, teacher, writer, Jesuit priest, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

His work contains a variety of writing styles and content, including a recount of his own experiences of protest and arrest, reflections on the nonviolent teachings of Jesus, and journal entries from Gandhi’s India and the war-ravaged countryside of Colombia. He concludes by introducing some of his friends and teachers, peacemakers past and present, and by imagining a world of peace.

The MB Confession of Faith states we are committed to love and nonresistance, and that “violence and warfare are contrary to the gospel of Christ.” But what does this mean, and how is it manifested in our lives? Dear provides some ideas: disarming our own hearts, reclaiming our imaginations to envision a world without war or violence, and engaging in creative protest and civil disobedience.

Dear’s own history of creative protest and subsequent arrests may make us uncomfortable. His radical actions, such as calling for nuclear disarmament while clothed in sackcloth and ashes, may cause us some uneasiness. “You cannot love your enemies as you design the means to vaporize them,” he writes.

But the real efficacy of this protest, he says, was not in changing society but in breaking the hearts of the protesters themselves and inspiring collective repentance for their own sins of violence.

This message of personal disarmament is a key theme. Peace begins with me. The implications are political and expansive, yet the genesis of change is found in individual repentance. Dear’s challenge – to followers of the nonviolent Jesus to repent of violence, allow God to disarm our hearts and become contemplatives, prophets, and apostles of peace – makes it worth the read.

—Kate Dewhurst is associate pastor for peace and justice at The Agora, Halifax.

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