The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 12

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"The Call to Risk Action…"

Do you remember the story from File #11 of a young women who dove into the river to rescue and revive a drowning boy? It was just one of the parables told to make Gandhi’s point. Let’s pick up the story where we left it.

Once Upon a Time (Part 2.)
The river provided an endless flow of victims. Soon, dozens of brave rescuers were in the water and the riverbank was crowded with volunteers building fires, sharing food and blankets, reviving and restoring those who had nearly drowned.

Our Sheroe spent the next few hours rushing in and out of the water, rescuing and reviving the innocent victims. Exhausted, she finally stopped long enough to ask herself the obvious question, "Why are so many people drowning?"

Feeling rather embarrassed that it had taken her so long to ask the obvious question, our Sheroe put on her hiking boots and began a search up river. Rounding a bend, she was surprised to find a group of men and women, boys and girls throwing people into the rushing waters. It didn’t take long to discover that this strange community genuinely believed that the world would be a better place if certain of their number were drowned.

Our Sheroe tried to explain the tragic consequences of their belief. The Drowners wouldn’t listen. She reasoned. She demanded. She threatened. She begged. It seemed that nothing could convince them to stop this dangerous and deadly practice. So our Sheroe returned to the river bank, warned volunteers that they would be there "for the long haul," and dove back into the icy waters.

The Moral of the Story…
Gandhi would praise the young woman for helping those who suffered. But he would also remind her (and us) that helping those who suffer is not enough. The second stage of doing justice is to help end the suffering at its source. Deitrich Bonhoeffer, the young German pastor who was hanged by the Nazis for his role in the resistance, said it this way.

"…Our role is NOT just to bandage the victims pulled out from under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself…
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dr. King warns us that we have just three ways to respond to the sources of injustice (in this case, the Drowners).

1. We can ACQUIESCE, hoping that the Drowners will realize the truth on their own (or through someone else’s intervention) and stop the drownings.

2. We can respond with VIOLENCE, (of the heart, the tongue, or fist) hating the Drowners, screaming back at them, wishing or even causing their death.

3. Or we can work to end the drownings by changing the minds and the hearts of the Drowners through RELENTLESS NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE (SOULFORCE).

If we acquiesce (sit silently by), we may lose everything. If we respond with violence, it will simply lead to more violence and never result in reconciliation. Nonviolent Soulforce provides us a reasonable (though difficult and demanding) option of response.

But the rules or principles of soulforce as taught by Gandhi and King are not well known in our community. We’ve reviewed the basic rules in Files #1-11. In brief, they are these:

(How Gandhi and King would have us think.)

"…to see my adversary as a VICTIM OF UNTRUTH as I have been."

"…to bring TRUTH to my adversary and to hear her TRUTH as well."

"…to be guided by LOVE (NONVIOLENCE) exclusively."

"…to accept VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING without retaliation or complaint as a means of convincing my adversary of my sincerity."

"…to seek RECONCILIATION with (not victory over) my adversary.

The brief summary of the "Basic Soulforce Assumptions" (see above) is the way Gandhi and King would have us THINK. We’ve spent Files 1-11 on thinking. Now it’s time to ACT.

(How Gandhi and King would have us act.)
A Soulforce "check list" for ACT-ivists

I. …commit and recommit ourselves to the Soulforce principles of nonviolence;

II. …research the case against our adversary carefully, in print, audio, and video;

III. …negotiate with our adversary first: amicably, relentlessly, but if this fails;

IV. …educate the media, our allies, and the allies of our adversary;

V. …recruit and train allies for direct action;

VI. …confront our adversary with direct action to move negotiations forward;

VII. …negotiate a third position that will satisfy us both;

VIII. …reconcile with our adversary, the ultimate goal of Soul Force.

You can apply this LIST to any creating change effort.
Here’s how I apply it to Jerry.

I. COMMIT: Gandhi and King warn us that giving up on our adversary is an act of violence. I am committed to applying the Soulforce principles to my life, to Jerry’s life, and to the lives of Robertson, Dobson, John Paul II, and the other primary sources of misinformation.

II. RESEARCH: We have collected nine years of Jerry’s rhetoric in print, audio and video. You read one of the letters in File #7. Here’s a quote from File #14. Where do you think this kind of rhetoric leads?

"There is no middle ground. For Christians, there can be no peaceful coexistence with those Sodomites whom God has given over to a reprobate mind." Jerry Falwell

The national discourse has been polluted. We have traced that flow of toxic waste to its source. We have compiled the UNTRUTH and we have reason to believe that the UNTRUTH leads directly and indirectly to suffering and death. Now we must stop the flow.

III. NEGOTIATE: Last year, Jerry agreed to see me if I "wouldn’t tell the media." Until now, that visit has been a secret. Now, however, you need to know that I spent a full morning reviewing the evidence with Jerry, his lawyer son, and his closest associate, Mark DeMos. He has ignored that evidence and renewed his anti-homosexual campaign. We tried to reach him quietly, behind the scenes. Now, it’s time for DIRECT PUBLIC ACTION.

IV. EDUCATE: We need to take our case against Jerry’s rhetoric to the nation. (Guided by the Spirit of Soulforce) we must expose the UNTRUTH and confront it with TRUTH. Until people see and hear the toxic rhetoric, they will not know why Jerry is not just "the village idiot" but one of the most dangerous men in America.

V. RECRUIT: We need to recruit and train a Soulforce Network of friends who are willing to take on Jerry and the other sources of UNTRUTH. This Journey into Soulforce is a start.

VI.CONFRONT: I’m hoping that TOGETHER during Files # 13-16 we will plan together the DIRECT PUBLIC ACTIONS that will help Jerry take seriously the tragic consequences of his rhetoric and get him to seriously negotiate and end to it.

VII.NEGOTIATE: In File #13 we will look closely at the Soulforce Rules for Negotiation that Gandhi used in India and that King used in the U.S. In File #14-15 we will examine their Soulforce Rules for Direct Action (that lead our adversary to negotiate with us seriously.)

VIII. RECONCILE: Our goal is not to triumph over Jerry nor to silence or censor him, but to create a world (in King’s words "a beloved community") where we all can live in peace.

The Soulforce Principles convince me that Jerry Falwell is my brother. We are children of the same Creator. Jerry is not an EVIL man, but because he is a victim of misinformation, he is doing great EVIL to himself and to millions of others. Most have given up on changing Jerry’s mind and heart. I am convinced that it is a tragic mistake to give up on Jerry and on these other primary sources of misinformation.

Until we stop the "drowners" we’ll never be able to end this endless cycle of rescue and renewal. Until we stop these "arsonists" we’ll never put out the fires of intolerance they ignite in Washington D.C. and in cities and towns around the world. And, until we try, we’ll never know the power of Soulforce in our lives and in the lives of those looking on.

Please forward and discuss your answers with your Partner on this Journey…

1. Although I support our local, state, and national lobby organizations* that struggle to put out the anti-homosexual fires in the Congress and the courts, the Statehouse and the school board, I agree with Mel that someone has to take on the arsonists like Jerry Falwell whose rhetoric ignites those fires and provides the fuel to keep them burning.

2. I believe that Jerry Falwell is my brother, a child of God, who is a victim of misinformation as I have been. I agree with Mel that he is probably sincere but like the father who had his son lobotomized (because he believed sincerely in the process) Jerry is sincerely wrong to condemn God’s bisexual, transgendered, lesbian, and gay children? I agree that Jerry’s followers are also victims and by liberating Jerry we help liberate Them.

3. I agree that giving up on Jerry is a mistake and that if we take him on seriously, guided by the Soulforce Rules of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance, we have a chance to change his mind and heart. In the process of confronting Jerry’s rhetoric, we will also have a chance to change the minds and hearts of millions of others through the media. More important, by taking a personal stand, I will find my own spirit refreshed and renewed.

4. Even though my schedule is already full to overflowing, I am going to read the last four Files in this Journey SERIOUSLY and if the DIRECT ACTION that we decide on TOGETHER seems feasible I will probably help in some way to see it accomplished.


Love and Peace to you all,

Link here for a List of our National Activist Organizations and how to contact them.

NEXT: Step 13

Mel White and Gary Nixon, Partners in Soulforce, Inc.
P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652.
Fax: (949) 455-0959