With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
I’M GLAD YOU’RE GOING WITH US.
You are about to begin a seventeen-step Journey into Soulforce. To get ready for the "Journey…" it will help you to understand exactly why we’re going.
I. WE’RE GOING ON THIS JOURNEY TO HELP END THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL RHETORIC THAT LEADS TO SUFFERING AND DEATH.
My first goal for this "Journey…" is to see if NONVIOLENCE offers us a new/old way to end the tragic anti-homosexual campaign by religious leaders who are sincerely wrong about God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children.
My second goal is far more specific. I want to see if we can apply that new/old way to the anti-homosexual rhetoric of Jerry Falwell. Abraham Heschel once said, "Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed." The words of Jerry Falwell lead to suffering and death. We must help end the toxic rhetoric nonviolently. Here’s an example.
[Homosexuals] "…have a godless, humanistic scheme for our nation – a plan which will destroy America’s traditional moral values…Complete elimination of God and Christianity from American society is being designed right now…[Join with me] "…in a Declaration of War against the forces of Satan that have gripped our nation."
With the Tinky Winky Wars, Jerry Falwell is, once again, the primary anti-homosexual spokesperson in the country. And though you can apply these Soulforce principles ANYWHERE, it is a lot more productive to study them together with the very real goal of putting them into specific practice on a mutual "adversary" before the study ends.
II. WE’RE GOING ON THIS JOURNEY TO SEE OUR OWN SPIRITS REVIVED AND RENEWED
If you read Gandhi closely, you will find that almost immediately he began using "soul force" to describe his method of nonviolence. Why?
Because the people who signed on, who agreed to pursue truth nonviolently were being transformed by the process themselves. Even when they failed at reaching their goals for society (or for Jerry), they were being personally renewed and empowered by trying. By becoming nonviolent activists, their own souls were reborn and made forceful. I’m hoping that happens to you and me as well.
For the past three years I’ve studied Gandhi and King (and the people who informed their journey into "soul force" all the way back to Jesus, the Jewish Prophets, and the teachers of nonviolence from every faith tradition.) My own life has been radically changed by what I’ve learned.
I promise you that I will do my very best to share what I’ve learned with you in just sixteen short steps (about four print pages each).
III. WE’RE GOING ON THIS JOURNEY TO SEE IF NONVIOLENCE OFFERS US AN OLD/NEW WAY TO ACCOMPLISH OUR TWO GOALS (RENEW OUR SPIRITS AND TRANSFORM OUR WORLD)
Gandhi was our century’s primary pioneer in using nonviolence to transform society and renew individual spirit. Determined to distinguish his version of nonviolence from "passive resistance" he called it Satyagraha, literally "the force of truth" or "truth force." Seeing what "truth force" accomplished in his life and in the lives of his co-workers, Gandhi eventually called Satyagraha "soul force."
Gandhi was afraid that "passive resistance" sounded too much like cowardice and inaction. "Soul force" is not a call to be "nice to our enemies." It doesn’t ask us to defend Jerry Falwell or our other adversaries. It doesn’t scold us for being angry at them. "Soul force" shows us a way to confront them more effectively.
IV. WE’RE GOING ON THIS JOURNEY TO HELP CREATE A NETWORK OF SOULFORCE FRIENDS DETERMINED TO APPLY NONVIOLENCE TO THE LIBERATION OF SEXUAL MINORITIES
Gandhi created a powerful and courageous force determined to use the tools of nonviolence to transform society. I’m hoping that we can mobilize a powerful and courageous force to transform Jerry Falwell and those who believe (and are thus victims of) his Untruth. We’re going on that "Journey…" now. We’re not just going to learn the Soulforce principles. We’re going to apply them as we go.
Those who followed Gandhi’s rules or principles of nonviolence were called Satyagrahis (SAT-Y-A-GRA-HEES) or "Truth Enforcers". This seventeen-step "Journey…" has one goal, to help us all become more effective "Enforcers of the Truth" and to do it NOW.
WILL YOU PROMISE ME THIS?
First, will you take each step seriously? Read it. Mark it. Underline it. Write your answer to each question in the space provided.
Second, will you ask someone to join us on the "Journey…" only with you as his or her guide? I’ve never learned anything until I tried to teach it. Copy these pages before you begin to mark them. Give (email) a copy to a "Journey Partner". Agree to read and discuss one step per day, or one per week, or step every Wednesday and Sunday. Then stick with your plan. Experience the "Journey into Soulforce" together.
WRITE HERE THE NAMES AND PHONE NUMBERS OF POTENTIAL PARTNERS
Call until you get a Journey Partner signed on. Then read Step 1 together.
Third, I will be suggesting other Soulforce resources for you to consider. This seventeen step "Journey…" will be similar to dipping your toe into the sea. I’m looking for scuba divers who will join me in a real adventure. Will you pledge an hour or two a week to dive deeper into this magnificent new world?
By the way, don’t be discouraged by the suggestions that follow. Just reading and discussing the steps with your Journey Partner will be enough.
SIDE TRIPS TO TAKE DURING THE JOURNEY
In the next few weeks, instead of going to the movies, rent GANDHI from your local video library or borrow from your local public library. View and discuss it with your "Journey Partner".
Richard Attenborough’s Film "GANDHI" Video by RCA-Columbia Pictures (Winner 9 Academy Awards, 2 video tapes, 187 Minutes)
While you are at your video source, check to see if they have the following PBS series on hand. If they don’t, urge them to buy it. If you want to add a deeply moving series to your own collection, buy it yourself. Try to watch one video each week for the next six weeks.
PBS’ Home Video Series:
"EYES ON THE PRIZE- America’s Civil Rights Years"
Part 1: Awakenings (1954-1956),
Part 2: Fighting Back (1957-1962),
Part 3: Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961),
Part 4: No Easy Walk (1961-1963),
Part 5: Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964),
Part 6: Bridge to Freedom (1965)
TRAVEL BOOKS TO CONSIDER
You don’t have to read any extra books if you don’t have time. But these are the primary sources. If you read even one of them in eight weeks, you will be glad you did. You might go to a used (or a new) bookstore to add Gandhi and King to your personal library or see if your local library has or can obtain a copy for you.
- Gandhi, M.K., My Experiment with Truth: An Autobiography, Beacon, Boston, 1956
- Gandhi, M.K., Satyagraha in South Africa, Navajivan, Ahmedabad 14, India, 1928
- King, Jr., Martin Luther, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Edited by Clayborne Carson, IPM/Time Warner, New York, 1998.
- Washington, James M., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., HarperCollins, New York, 1986.
The following two books have been a tremendous help to me in understanding how "soul force" was taught and applied during the African-American struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.
- Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1988 (Pulitzer Prize).
- Branch, Taylor, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1998
The following book is the most amazing story of the Rev. Dr. Jim Lawson, Dr. King’s almost forgotten aide who taught "soul force" to the young black activists who led the "sit-ins" and the "freedom rides" and were in their courageous actions the real force behind ending segregation.
If you only buy one book (besides the Gandhi/King bios) buy this one. You’ll be meeting Dr. Lawson on our journey. He is now a distinguished United Methodist clergyman in Los Angeles who risked his ordination recently by co-celebrating a lesbian Holy Union in Sacramento. He is also co-chair of our Soulforce Direct Action to bring truth to Pat Robertson and the Fox Family Channel.
Halberstam, David, The Children, Random House, New York, 1998.
The following are wonderful books that simplify and apply Gandhi’s teachings but are not easy to find. (For you grad student types only.)
- Bondurant, Joan V., Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1965.
- Dhawan, Gopinath, The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, India, 1962
- Erikson, Erik H., Gandhi’s Truth: On The Origins of Militant Nonviolence, Norton & Co., New York, 1969
- Jones, E. Stanley, Mahatma Gandhi: A [Christian] Interpretation, Abingdon, NY, 1958
The biographies of these men and women also inspire and inform our "Journey.."
- Young, Andrew; An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America, HarperCollins, New York, 1996
- Lewis, John (Congressman), Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, Simon&Schuster, 1998.
- Dorothy Day, (The founder of the Catholic Workers Community), The Long Loneliness, NY, Harper & Row, 1981 or Loaves and Fishes, San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1983.
Although much of the published writing on Soulforce is by men, we must always remember the women who have lived and died doing "soul force" in our time. That their stories haven’t been widely told is another example of the injustice women have suffered through the centuries and to this day.
We are in this together, woman or man, hetero or homo, bi or trans, old or young, every race, every color, every creed, every nationality, able bodied or differently abled. The world is crying out for a force mightier than violence. I think we’ve found it. Welcome to the "Journey into Soulforce." Bon Voyage!
NEXT: Step 1
Mel White and Gary Nixon, Partners in Soulforce, Inc.
P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652.
Fax: (949) 455-0959