Reconciliation and Conversion
The womb of our becoming
"We are living in a world of hurt. Pick any day to glance at the headlines in the news and you will immediately be reminded of our political vitriol and the violence that flows from it. What are the mindsets undergirding this violence? Hegemony (domination by authority or “Might makes right”), solipsism (egocentric individualism or “I alone matter”), and jingoism (bellicose nationalism or “The hell with you”) are among the most pernicious. These are the mindsets embedded in the leaders who run a large percentage of our governmental institutions and the followers who put them there.
The world spends over a trillion dollars each year on weapons of death, while a billion people are chronically malnourished. There are over 50,000 nuclear weapons across six nations. Estimates of the number of people killed through armed conflict world-wide throughout recorded history are as high as one billion. According to Chris Hedges, in the last 3,400 years, our world has been at peace (i.e., fewer than 1,000 deaths from armed conflict annually) only 268 years or 8% of the time.[i] The United States has been at peace for only 18 years since 1776, or 7.5% of the time. In other words, if you pick any day in our history, you would have over a 90% chance of finding the United States in a military battle somewhere in the world. Perhaps that is why much of the world sees the United States as the number one threat to world peace.
Regarding global violence, in 2017, Nicholas Kristof declared that it was the “very best year in the long history of humanity”[ii]. Apparently, in the long arc of history we are more enlightened and less warring than in past centuries. However, if we are to continue this evolutionary path toward enlightenment and away from violence, then we must learn how to resolve our conflicts nonviolently and alleviate the suffering we experience in our lives. In order to evolve, we must learn to reach across our differences in age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, politics and culture. We need to be able to hold the tension in the differences we encounter if we are ever to harness the richness of our diversity. “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence,” said Martin Luther King Jr. the night before he was assassinated, “it is between nonviolence or nonexistence.”[iii]
Our future rests on our ability to harness the generative potential that exists with our differences and the tensions they produce. We need to learn more than what NOT to do when we are in tension or conflict. We need to know what to do: to make wise choices; work with our better intentions; and apply the skills and discipline needed to address conflicts constructively. And when we stumble and fail and wound one another, which is inevitable, we need to know how to heal our wounds, reconcile our brokenness and become whole again.
We know that wounded people wound other people, if they have not done the soulwork to address their own wounds. To the degree that individuals do this inner work, they unburden the community in which they live from the pain they would otherwise inflict upon them. Without doing their soulwork, they are more likely to judge, shame and blame others for those parts of themselves they have suppressed and projected onto others. They are likely to disown and act out the pain from their unredeemed wounds and fail to recognize their own contributions to the interpersonal struggles within their own community.
The work of reconciliation and conversion is the crucible of transformation. When we reconcile with others, when we heal our own brokenness, our lives are transformed. When we do this in community, we transform community. The world cries out for communities that can show us how to reach across our differences, resolve conflicts, offer and receive forgiveness, and help us transform a world of hurt into a world where peace and love can flourish. Our hearts of stone can be made of flesh again, but not without a great deal of courage, discipline and skill to face the painful tensions, conflicts and chaos of transformation. This Chapter will address reasons why reconciliation and conversion need to be done as an entire community and provide examples of how to approach it."
An excerpt from Dr. Ted Dunn's, Graced Crossroads: Pathways to deep change and transformation.
[i] Chris Hedges, "What every person should know about war," New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/books/chapters/what-every-person-should-know-about-war.html.
[ii] Nicholas Kristof, "Why 2017 was the best year in human history," New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/2017-progress-illiteracy-poverty.html.
[iii] Martin Luther King Jr., "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence," Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project (1960), http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/Vol05Scans/13Apr1960_PilgrimagetoNonviolence.pdf.