By Michael Gibson-Faith
“I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and, therefore, there must be a higher law than that of destruction.”–The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace
Nonviolence has gotten kind of a bad rap, but I believe with all my heart that nonviolence is the key to LGBT liberation. Although I don’t belong to any “faith tradition,” I have tremendous faith in the power of nonviolence and active love (the application of nonviolence) to overcome injustice and attack.
People often misunderstand the practice of nonviolence as a passive tactic, or think of it only in its historical context in the African-American civil rights movement. In fact, nonviolence is not at all passive; it requires great strength of will and action. To act for change without resorting to physical, psychological or verbal violence is the most difficult kind of activism. Instead of pushing to get one’s way, even at the expense of the other, the nonviolent LGBT activist works to achieve her goals by creating a solution in which both sides gain solutions that work to keep the dignity and deep humanity of the other at the heart of any action.
Although attacking the enemy can feel very satisfying, it never leads to a good result for both sides, and we always have to keep in mind that the LGBT movement’s highest goal is not to dominate society differently than our opponents. We don’t want to replace their system of domination and oppression with our own. No, we must aspire to a higher goal: to create a society that works for everyone.
Activism that is based on attack only adds to the amount of violence in the world. Martin Luther King said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence… Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” But King’s nonviolence wasn’t a “Kum-ba-ya, let’s all hold hands and let love save the world” kind of activism. Neither is nonviolent LGBT activism. We’re talking about a path that requires an extraordinary self-knowledge, self-control and persistence; this is where my faith for LGBT liberation laysin our ability to apply active love towards our oppressors and to oppressive systems.
In “Shirt of Flame: The Secret Gay Art of War” Ko Imani outlines how the LGBT community can claim equal rights, respect and recognition by basing our activism on love. He writes, “Individually and as a queer community, the time has come to make a bold and decisive commitment to the most congruent and effective means to create change that we can muster given our current knowledge.
“At this point in the evolution of queer culture, we have the choice, as a People and as an LGBT community, to claim for ourselves freedom’s promise of full, joyful and abundant life. No one else can do it for us, and no amount of parading and shouting will get us there. The only tool to end bigotry, to end hatred and violence, to end Fear — the only tool we can use to build the Beloved Community — is Love.”
Love is a universal spiritual quality; every major religion holds love up as an ideal. Many religious traditions say that “god is love.” LGBT people who are spiritual or religious must integrate our spirituality into our activism. We must commit ourselves to what “Shirt of Flame” calls “Collective Cultivation.”
I have faith in collective cultivation and active love/nonviolence to overcome the injustice facing not only our community, but many of the justice struggles. For me, I have faith that through developing compassion and incorporating love into my interactions and using active nonviolence that ultimately destruction will become a thing of the past.
Faith is a funny thing. Faith is believing in things unseen and without proof of its existence. Sometimes faith is far-fetched. However, I have hope that my faith is worth holding onto and working towards.