Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Reverend David McFarland on Nonviolence

Reverend David McFarland
Today's guest blogger is the Reverend David McFarland, pastor of Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church in Pittsburgh.  He talks about the importance of taking individual personal responsibility.  

This blog is being published as part of the Blogging Carnival for Nonviolence, which is part of the International Week for Nonviolence. For more blogs, go here 

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From having been picked on as a kid in the school yard to having been held up at gunpoint as an adult, I know the explosive tendency to meet violence with violence. It seems deeply engrained in the human psyche. But in practicing non-violence, in practicing peace, I take another step away from my inner caveman and toward my inner saint. Practicing peace, I bring the world a little closer to peace. At least my own world. And that's something.

I'm in no position to stop Middle East violence. Or Russian. Or Asian. Or African. Or American, for that matter.

I'm in a somewhat better position to affect violence in my neighborhood: Reach out; Stand witness; Support my neighbor; Foster peace-making skills like anger management, impulse control, non-violent communication; Promote restorative (rather than retributive) justice in the school where my sons go; Let the kids down the street know that there are adults other than their relatives or pastors who care about them and want them to thrive...

What I'm best positioned for is to interrupt the violence within myself. In my heart. And in my actions.

Now, I’m a pretty peaceable guy. But there are times when non-violence eludes me. So I do my best to continue healing from the trauma of past violence and live into a future of peace for all, including myself. Peace is not only the goal, peace is the practice to get there, to that real peace of liberty and justice for all.

Practicing peace can happen each time I take a breath (ruach, spiritus). Breath has no agenda except for extending life for one more moment. Breath doesn’t breathe in some romanticized past nor even in some hoped-for future. Breath breathes in the present. When I am conscious of my breath, I’m conscious of every action I contemplate and conscious of every action I take. Practicing peace, I have my emotions; they don’t have me. I have my thoughts of anger or retribution or harm; they don’t have me.

Conscious of breath, I’m conscious that I am bigger than my thoughts and emotions and much much bigger than my anger.

Rev. Dr. King credited Gandhi with teaching him ahimsa, translated as “non-violence.” Gandhi, in turn, credited Unitarian gadfly Henry David Thoreau with teaching him how ahimsa works in practice. The Unitarian Universalist mission I serve developed from lives of people like Socrates, Siddhartha, Jesus, Thoreau, Gandhi, and King. Up to now, we've not declared ourselves a pacifist faith. But we are a peacemaking faith. When there is conflict, we breathe in the present. We try to listen deeply to what lives within us and to what our partners in conflict say or don't say, do or don't do. We try to listen most deeply to the promptings of the Spirit of Life that leads us, albeit in fits and starts, to the Peaceable Reign of God... beginning in our hearts, extending to our neighbors, reaching for the time when it lives throughout every nation, city, neighborhood, street, and home. God speed the day.  

Person by person, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath, we move the culture imperceptibly. After all, culture is just the accumulation of myriad thoughts and actions of a people. Our only choice is whether we breathe toward a culture of violence or breathe toward a culture of peace, of real peace, of communion, of the common good, of beloved community. 
Breathe to peace. For more blogs from the Blogging Carnival for Nonviolence, go here.  

The Rev. David V. McFarland is entering his tenth year serving Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church in Pittsburgh's North Side.  Their website is 

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rev. Dave graduated from UCLA and Harvard Divinity School and was ordained at The First Church in Boston. His first call was to an AIDS ministry at the Universalist Meetinghouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In Utah, Rev. Dave was minister of the Cache Valley Unitarian Universalists, where he met Dr. Tim Nuttle. 

They moved to Jena, Germany, where Rev. Dave began a Ph.D. in Applied Ethics at Friedrich Schiller Universit├Ąt (“Banking in Dignity: Applying the Ethic of Human Dignity at the World Bank in the Wolfensohn Years”). 

They were married in Jena before returning to the United States. In Pittsburgh, they added two sons to their family and now enjoy the challenges and other blessings of parenthood. Rev. Dave views his ministry as one of empowering committed Unitarian Universalists to build what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “The Beloved Community.” 

He describes Unitarian Universalists as “free-thinking mystics with hands who deal creatively with life as it is, and, working to transform life through the power of love, create life as it could be.” Rev. Dave says, “Some people say justice but really mean revenge. We say justice and mean love-writ-large.”

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