Resist Not Evil – Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You
The greatest weakness or fatal flaw of our civilization is not the banking system or the two-party political system. The greatest flaw is our rejection of these commandments of Christ “resist not evil,” and “love thy enemy.” I know I must follow this teaching and that it must come first in all of my dealings with my fellow man.
Opening Paragraphs of chapter 10, Tolstoys The Kingdom of God is Within You
True Christianity destroys the state. So it was understood at its very commencement; it was for that cause that Christ was crucified. So it has always been understood by people who were not under the necessity of justifying a Christian government. Only from the time that the heads of government assumed an external and nominal Christianity, men began to invent all the impossible, cunningly devised theories by means of which Christianity can be reconciled with government. But no honest and serious-minded man of our day can help seeing the incompatibility of true Christianity–the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and love–with government, with its pomp, acts of violence, executions, and wars. The profession of true Christianity not only excludes the possibility of recognizing government, but even destroys its very foundations.
But if it is so, and we are right in saying that Christianity is incompatible with government, then the question naturally presents itself: which is more necessary to the good of humanity, in which way is men’s happiness best to be secured, by maintaining the organization of government or by destroying it and replacing it by Christianity?
Some people maintain that government is more necessary for humanity, that the destruction of the state organization would involve the destruction of all that humanity has gained, that the state has been and still is the only form in which humanity can develop. The evil which we see among peoples living under a government organization they attribute not to that type of society, but to its abuses, which, they say, can be corrected without destroying it, and thus humanity, without discarding the state organization, can develop and attain a high degree of happiness. And men of this way of thinking bring forward in support of their views arguments which they think irrefutable drawn from history, philosophy, and even religion. But there are men who hold on the contrary that, as there was a time when humanity lived without government, such an organization is temporary, and that a time must come when men need a new organization, and that that time has come now. And men of this way of thinking also bring forward in support of their views arguments which they think irrefutable from philosophy, history, and religion.
Volumes may be written in defense of the former view (and volumes indeed have long ago been written and more will still be written on that side), but much also can be written against it (and much also, and most brilliantly, has been written–though more recently –on this side).
And it cannot be proved, as the champions of the state maintain, that the destruction of government involves a social chaos, mutual spoliation and murder, the destruction of all social institutions, and the return of mankind to barbarism. Nor can it be proved as the opponents of government maintain that men have already become so wise and good that they will not spoil or murder one another, but will prefer peaceful associations to hostilities; that of their own accord, unaided by the state, they will make all the arrangements that they need, and that therefore government, far from being any aid, under show of guarding men exerts a pernicious and brutalizing influence over them. It is impossible to prove either of these contentions by abstract reasoning. Still less possible is it to prove them by experiment, since the whole matter turns on the question, ought we to try the experiment? The question whether or not the time has come to make an end of government would be unanswerable, except that there exists another living means of settling it beyond dispute. …. from Chapter 10, the Kingdom of God is Within You
All men who happen to be in authority assert that their authority is necessary to keep the bad from oppressing the good, assuming that they themselves are the good PAR EXCELLENCE, who protect other good people from the bad.
But ruling means using force, and using force means doing to him to whom force is used, what he does not like and what he who uses the force would certainly not like done to himself. Consequently ruling means doing to others what we would not they should do unto us, that is, doing wrong.
To submit means to prefer suffering to using force. And to prefer suffering to using force means to be good, or at least less wicked than those who do unto others what they would not like themselves.
And therefore, in all probability, not the better but the worse have always ruled and are ruling now. There may be bad men among those who are ruled, but it cannot be that those who are better have generally ruled those who are worse.
It might be possible to suppose this with the inexact heathen definition of good; but with the clear Christian definition of good and evil, it is impossible to imagine it.
If the more or less good, and the more or less bad cannot be distinguished in the heathen world, the Christian conception of good and evil has so clearly defined the characteristics of the good and the wicked, that it is impossible to confound them. According to Christ’s teaching the good are those who are meek and long-suffering, do not resist evil by force, forgive injuries, and love their enemies; those are wicked who exalt themselves, oppress, strive, and use force. Therefore by Christ’s teaching there can be no doubt whether the good are to be found among rulers or ruled, and whether the wicked are among the ruled or the rulers. Indeed it is absurd even to speak of Christians ruling.
Non-Christians, that is those who find the aim of their lives in earthly happiness, must always rule Christians, the aim of whose lives is the renunciation of such earthly happiness.
This difference has always existed and has become more and more defined as the Christian religion has been more widely diffused and more correctly understood.
The more widely true Christianity was diffused and the more it penetrated men’s conscience, the more impossible it was for Christians to be rulers, and the easier it became for non-Christians to rule them.
We are standing on the threshold of the murderous war of social revolution, terrific in its miseries, beside which, as those who are preparing it tell us, the horrors of 1793 will be child’s play. And can we talk of the danger threatening us from the warriors of Dahomey, the Zulus, and such, who live so far away and are not dreaming of attacking us, and from some thousands of swindlers, thieves, and murderers, brutalized and corrupted by ourselves, whose number is in no way lessened by all our sentences, prisons, and executions?
Moreover this dread of the suppression of the visible protection of the policeman is essentially a sentiment of townspeople, that is, of people who are living in abnormal and artificial conditions. People living in natural conditions of life, not in towns, but in the midst of nature, and carrying on the struggle with nature, live without this protection and know how little force can protect us from the real dangers with which we are surrounded. There is something sickly in this dread, which is essentially dependent on the artificial conditions in which many of us live and have been brought up.
A doctor, a specialist in insanity, told a story that one summer day when he was leaving the asylum, the lunatics accompanied him to the street door. “Come for a walk in the town with me?” the doctor suggested to them. The lunatics agreed, and a small band followed the doctor. But the further they proceeded along the street where healthy people were freely moving about, the more timid they became, and they pressed closer and closer to the doctor, hindering him from walking. At last they all began to beg him to take them back to the asylum, to their meaningless but customary way of life, to their keepers, to blows, strait waistcoats, and solitary cells.
This is just how men of to-day huddle in terror and draw back to their irrational manner of life, their factories, law courts, prisons, executions, and wars, when Christianity calls them to liberty, to the free, rational life of the future coming age.
People ask, “How will our security be guaranteed when the existing organization is suppressed? What precisely will the new organization be that is to replace it? So long as we do not know precisely how our life will be organized, we will not stir a step forward.”
An explorer going to an unknown country might as well ask for a detailed map of the country before he would start.
If a man, before he passed from one stage to another, could know his future life in full detail, he would have nothing to live for. It is the same with the life of humanity. If it had a programme of the life which awaited it before entering a new stage, it would be the surest sign that it was not living, nor advancing, but simply rotating in the same place.
The conditions of the new order of life cannot be known by us because we have to create them by our own labors. That is all that life is, to learn the unknown, and to adapt our actions to this new knowledge.
That is the life of each individual man, and that is the life of human societies and of humanity.
The weakness of the use of violence lies in the fact that all the arguments brought forward by oppressors in their own defense can with even better reason be advanced against them. They plead the danger of violence—most often imagined in the future—but they are all the while continuing to practice actual violence themselves. “You say that men used to pillage and murder in the past, and that you are afraid that they will pillage and murder one another if your power were no more. That may happen—or it may not happen. But the fact that you ruin thousands of men in prisons, fortresses, galleys, and exile, break up millions of families and ruin millions of men, physically as well as morally, in the army, that fact is not an imaginary but a real act of violence, which, according to your own argument, one ought to oppose by violence. And so you are yourselves these wicked men against whom, according to your own argument, it is absolutely necessary to use violence,” the oppressed are sure to say to their oppressors. And non-Christian men always do say, and think and act on this reasoning. If the oppressed are more wicked than their oppressors, they attack them and try to overthrow them; and in favorable circumstances they succeed in overthrowing them, or what is more common, they rise into the ranks of the oppressors and assist in their acts of violence.
So that the very violence which the champions of government hold up as a terror—pretending that except for its oppressive power the wicked would oppress the good—has really always existed and will exist in human society. And therefore the suppression of state violence cannot in any case be the cause of increased oppression of the good by the wicked.
If state violence ceased, there would be acts of violence perhaps on the part of different people, other than those who had done deeds of violence before. But the total amount of violence could not in any case be increased by the mere fact of power passing from one set of men to another.
What would happen if force were not used against hostile nations and the criminal elements of society we do not know. But we do know by prolonged experience that neither enemies nor criminals have been successfully suppressed by force.
And indeed how could nations be subjugated by violence who are led by their whole education, their traditions, and even their religion to see the loftiest virtue in warring with their oppressors and fighting for freedom? And how are we to suppress by force acts committed in the midst of our society which are regarded as crimes by the government and as daring exploits by the people?
To exterminate such nations and such criminals by violence is possible, and indeed is done, but to subdue them is impossible.
The sole guide which directs men and nations has always been and is the unseen, intangible, underlying force, the resultant of all the spiritual forces of a certain people, or of all humanity, which finds its outward expression in public opinion.
The use of violence only weakens this force, hinders it and corrupts it, and tries to replace it by another which far from being conducive to the progress of humanity, is detrimental to it.
To bring under the sway of Christianity all the savage nations outside the pale of the Christian world—all the Zulus, Mandchoos, and Chinese, whom many regard as savages—and the savages who live in our midst, there is only ONE MEANS. That means is the propagation among these nations of the Christian ideal of society, which can only be realized by a Christian life, Christian actions, and Christian examples. And meanwhile, though this is the ONE ONLY MEANS of gaining a hold over the people who have remained non-Christian, the men of our day set to work in the directly opposite fashion to attain this result.
To bring under the sway of Christianity savage nations who do not attack us and whom we have therefore no excuse for oppressing, we ought before all things to leave them in peace, and in case we need or wish to enter into closer relations with them, we ought only to influence them by Christian manners and Christian teaching, setting them the example of the Christian virtues of patience, meekness, endurance, purity, brotherhood, and love. Instead of that we begin by establishing among them new markets for our commerce, with the sole aim of our own profit; then we appropriate their lands, i. e., rob them; then we sell them spirits, tobacco, and opium, i. e., corrupt them; then we establish our morals among them, teach them the use of violence and new methods of destruction, i, e., we teach them nothing but the animal law of strife, below which man cannot sink, and we do all we can to conceal from them all that is Christian in us. After this we send some dozens of missionaries prating to them of the hypocritical absurdities of the Church, and then quote the failure of our efforts to turn the heathen to Christianity as an incontrovertible proof of the impossibility of applying the truths of Christianity in practical life.
It is just the same with the so-called criminals living in our midst. To bring these people under the sway of Christianity there is one only means, that is, the Christian social ideal, which can only be realized among them by true Christian teaching and supported by a true example of the Christian life. And to preach this Christian truth and to support it by Christian example we set up among them prisons, guillotines, gallows, preparations for murder; we diffuse among the common herd idolatrous superstitions to stupefy them; we sell them spirits, tobacco, and opium to brutalize them; we even organize legalized prostitution; we give land to those who do not need it; we make a display of senseless luxury in the midst of suffering poverty; we destroy the possibility of anything like a Christian public opinion, and studiously try to suppress what Christian public opinion is existing. And then, after having ourselves assiduously corrupted men, we shut them up like wild beasts in places from which they cannot escape, and where they become still more brutalized, or else we kill them. And these very men whom we have corrupted and brutalized by every means, we bring forward as a proof that one cannot deal with criminals except by brute force.
We are just like ignorant doctors who put a man, recovering from illness by the force of nature, into the most unfavorable conditions of hygiene, and dose him with the most deleterious drugs, and then assert triumphantly that their hygiene and their drugs saved his life, when the patient would have been well long before if they had left him alone.
Violence, which is held up as the means of supporting the Christian organization of life, not only fails to produce that effect, it even hinders the social organization of life from being what it might and ought to be. The social organization is as good as it is not as a result of force, but in spite of it.
And therefore the champions of the existing order are mistaken in arguing that since, even with the aid of force, the bad and non-Christian elements of humanity can hardly be kept from attacking us, the abolition of the use of force and the substitution of public opinion for it would leave humanity quite unprotected.
They are mistaken, because force does not protect humanity, but, on the contrary, deprives it of the only possible means of really protecting itself, that is, the establishment and diffusion of a Christian public opinion. Only by the suppression of violence will a Christian public opinion cease to be corrupted, and be enabled to be diffused without hindrance, and men will then turn their efforts in the spiritual direction by which alone they can advance.
“But how are we to cast off the visible tangible protection of an armed policeman, and trust to something so intangible as public opinion? Does it yet exist? Moreover, the condition of things in which we are living now, we know, good or bad; we know its shortcomings and are used to it, we know what to do, and how to behave under present conditions. But what will happen when we give it up and trust ourselves to something invisible and intangible, and altogether unknown?”
The unknown world on which they are entering in renouncing their habitual ways of life appears itself as dreadful to them. It is all very well to dread the unknown when our habitual position is sound and secure. But our position is so far from being secure that we know, beyond all doubt, that we are standing on the brink of a precipice. If we must be afraid let us be afraid of what is really alarming, and not what we imagine as alarming.
Fearing to make the effort to detach ourselves from our perilous position because the future is not fully clear to us, we are like passengers in a foundering ship who, through being afraid to trust themselves to the boat which would carry them to the shore, shut themselves up in the cabin and refuse to come out of it; or like sheep, who, terrified by their barn being on fire, huddle in a corner and do not go out of the wide-open door.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was addressing the National Investment Center for senior housing and Care conference in
Chicago on Thursday and said that, “I recently tried to refinance my mortgage and I was unsuccessful in doing so.” He went on to explain that
lenders “may have gone a little bit too far on mortgage credit conditions” according to the Bloomberg report:
Read the The Kingdom of God is Within You