In this post, I’ll answer the question I posed in my last post, Is Hamas using Jesus’ jujitsu? But first, I’ll say more about how we can engage in the work of ending oppression and bringing peace.
Previously, I spoke about Jesus’ teaching. Here, I’ll expand on two things Walter Wink says should be our guiding principles:
One, it’s not just about freeing the oppressed; it’s also about freeing the oppressor.
Two, never adopt a strategy that you wouldn’t want your opponents to use against you.
Those principles are rooted in the conviction that no one is beyond the love of God. God wants everyone to be in loving relationships with Him and with one another.
Wink believes, with American activist and organizer Saul Alinsky, that success requires training, commitment, and organization. He commends Alinsky’s thirteen Rules for Radicals, and adds a fourteenth:
- Power is not only what you have but what your enemy thinks you have.
- Never go outside the experience of your people.
- Wherever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy.
- Make your enemies live up to their own book of rules.
- Ridicule is your most potent weapon.
- A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
- A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
- Keep the pressure on.
- The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
- The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
- If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through to its counter side.
- The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
- Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.
- Never adopt a strategy that you would not want your opponents to use against you.
Wink stresses that Jesus demands more, much more, than Alinsky, an avowed atheist. Wink writes:
Jesus was not content merely to empower the powerless, … and here his teachings fundamentally transcend Alinsky’s. Jesus’ sayings about nonretaliation are of one piece with his challenge to love our enemies. … Jesus did not advocate nonviolence merely as a technique for outwitting the enemy, but as a just means of opposing the enemy in such a way as to hold open the possibility of the enemy’s becoming just as well. Both sides must win. We are summoned to pray for our enemies’ transformation, and to respond to ill-treatment with a love that not only is godly but also, I am convinced, can only be found in God. (Page 45)
Reading Wink, I remembered I was first introduced to Alinsky by Princeton Professor Jeffrey Stout, author of the 2010 book “Blessed are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America.” In that book, he describes this outcome of hurricane Katrina in the USA:
Disastrous circumstances can make the antipolitical conception of pastoral responsibility seem foolish. Brod [an ‘Alinsky’ activist] remarked that in New Orleans after the storm indifference was no longer the most prominent sin. In Houston the influx of Katrina survivors had had a similar impact on pastors. One pastor there who was starting up a new congregation admitted: “We were wrong about something. We were wrong to think that the church didn’t have a role in politics. And it’s clear to us now how politics affects the life of the congregation and the mission of the congregation, and we are going to remedy that.” (Page 207; underlining added.)
The activist also told Stout churches had approached him and requested training in how to effectively press for political change.
Will the post-Katrina responses of pastors in New Orleans be observable worldwide post the October 7 attack? Or will it remain status quo?
I’ll now outline a famous case of oppression which was ended through community action, a case Wink includes in his suite of examples.
In the 1970’s, producers of infant milk formulas actively persuaded women to replace breast milk with formulas. This resulted in poor health and poor development of millions worldwide. Activists got to work to end the evil. They targeted the largest player, Nestle. This was unfair since other companies were equally guilty. But they did so because they reasoned others would follow when Nestle buckled. And buckle it did, though it took several years. Wink delights in pointing out that this Swiss giant with a vast workforce was made to buckle by a small outfit “operating out of an office the size of a large closet.”
Another example of action which Wink discusses is the role Christians played in the ousting of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. He notes that in the run-up to the ousting, churches trained thousands through “nonviolence seminars” taught by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The manner and extent to which churches should “engage” in politics is much debated. In 2020, Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Yusuf Ishak Institute published a paper titled “Christian Megachurches and Politics in the Philippines.” In this paragraph they note three key moments when the Catholic Church “intervened” in state affairs:
The most striking example of such intervention would be in 1986, when Cardinal Jaime Sin utilised the church-run Radio Veritas to mobilise the faithful to protest on the EDSA Highway, which toppled Marcos. This was repeated in 2001, when he backed another popular movement to oust Joseph Estrada. In September 2017, thousands of Christian churches of various denominations and traditions, including the Catholic Church, joined the rally in Luneta Park against Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs which they perceived as flagrant disobedience of God’s commandments.
Okay, enough about what to do and examples. Now I’ll answer the question: Is Hamas using Jesus’ jujitsu?
I say no, because Hamas doesn’t respect rule 14: Never adopt a strategy that you would not want your opponents to use against you.
I have two principal reasons for saying so. First, just as Israel wants to be a “Jewish state,” in which Jews are “more equal” than non-Jews, Hamas wants Palestine to be an “Islamic state,” in which Muslims are “more equal” than non-Muslims. Second, Hamas targets civilians – but it cries foul and “genocide” when Israel’s responses injure or kill civilians.
Peace be with you.
 If you’re new to Walter Wink, here’s a very good introduction to him. Actually, an obituary! In the National Catholic Reporter. Walter Wink, our best teacher of Christian nonviolence. And another one, Wink challenged ‘powers’ and taught nonviolence, in The [Protestant] Christian Century
 Wink designates them “principles for nonviolent community action.” Alinsky’s book: Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals.
 I’m surprised Stout doesn’t mention Wink.
 You can get a quick overview of the case by watching this 17-minute video, titled The Nestle Baby Formula Scandal: The Darkest Chapter in Corporate History. If you prefer reading to watching, here’s a good short article in the New Internationalist: Nestled in controversy (2010).
 You can test your understanding of the 14 principles by trying to describe how they apply in this case – or to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict.