As a child in private school, I was subjected to a crash course in
what they called “Creative Conflict.” The Creative Conflict
program was designed to prevent the sort of violence that we find
in the Bible, and help children to work out their differences in a
productive manner. In reality, this meant that I, the class nerd, was
forbidden to defend myself in the event of a beat-down from one of
the class bullies since, according to Creative Conflict, hitting back
is never the answer.
The one thing that I remember the most clearly—aside from being
punched in the head—was the video component of the training, which featured several children that acted out a number of conflict oriented role-playing scenarios in a playground. Every scenario ended with the same mantra, repeated over and over again:
“We’ve got to take responsibility for our actions—just like Dr.
In retrospect, I’m wondering what they meant by that. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. was indeed a great mean that challenged the
powers that be, that spoke out against racism and waged a
nonviolent war on economic injustice. And he did indeed take
responsibility for his bold actions. But for Dr. King, taking
responsibility meant taking a bullet in the neck. Actually, it sounds
a lot like the passive martyrdom that the Creative Conflict program
was promoting in the schoolyard.
Turn the other cheek. Don’t hit back. Take responsibility for your
actions, just like Dr. King did in 1968. Just like Jesus did, when He
was nailed to a cross.
God help us, that puts our backs to the wall. But personally, I take
some issue with the Creative Conflict agenda. Because in a
metaphorical sense, I think that we can hit back. I think that we
should hit back. That’s what fighting injustice is all about.
It’s why Jesus got Himself arrested for disturbing the peace.
But waging a war against what we perceive to be unjust is never as
simple as it sounds. For when we stare long into the abyss, the
abyss stares back into us. When battling monsters, we risk
becoming monsters. And when fighting against hatred, we too
begin to hate. And our souls wither away, poisoned.
I encourage everyone to take a stand for what you
believe in, and against what you think is wrong. But first, a word
of caution: remember that your so-called “enemies” are people too;
beautiful, frail, flawed human beings just like you, no matter how
inhuman they may seem.
Jesus didn’t hate the people who crucified Him. To respond with
hatred to those that provoke our anger is to wage a battle without
honor or humanity. It isn’t right.
But again: just because we can’t respond with hatred doesn’t mean
that we can’t respond at all. We’re called to turn the other cheek,
but not to turn a blind eye to injustice. Jesus and King taught us
that much. We aren’t here just to exist; we’re here to find a way to
co-exist. That means that we can’t go around hating people, but it
also means that we can’t just ignore them when they do something wrong. They need to be held accountable for their hatred and
The difficulty lies in fighting hatred without sinking into its depths.
It lies in standing up to oppression without becoming oppressors.
In the words of the Creative Conflict seminar, it lies in attacking
the problem instead of the person who caused it.
We can’t do this alone.
Only by the grace of God can we even hope to walk the tightrope
between good and evil.
What I’m talking about here is peace. I don’t have all the answers.
But we can’t just stand by and watch while it withers away to its
Rev. Seth Ethan Carey
(Excerpt from And the Fig Tree Withered, Aug. 2017)