The 10 Commandments of Christian Nonviolence

The freedom struggle of the American south was built upon the firm foundation of Christian nonviolence. Here are the ten commandments of nonviolence that formed the basis of the pledge that Dr. King and others committed to as they engaged in courageous confrontation, wise and strategic organizing, and gentle, fierce service to a larger vision of equal justice under law and democracy that reflected the Beloved Community.

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

Daniel Berrigan: Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

Daniel Berrigan (by Rose Berger)
Daniel Berrigan (by Rose Berger)

I’ve had the joy of reviewing Dan Berrigan’s generative and joyful life this past week. On Friday, I’ll take the 3:00 a.m. train from D.C. to New York to celebrate his resurrection. Below is a list by Dan that has inspired me since I first found it in the mid-1980s.

Daniel Berrigan: Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

1. Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).

2. Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?

3. Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.

4. About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5. On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6. Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7. About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”

8. When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.

9. Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.
10. Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.

Excerpted from Ten Commandments for the Long Haul by Daniel Berrigan, SJ, (Abingdon Press, 1981)

Daniel Berrigan: Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

Daniel Berrigan by Rose Marie Berger
Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).

2) Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?

3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.

4) About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5) On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”

8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.

9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.

10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.

From Ten Commandments for the Long Haul by Daniel Berrigan, SJ