Philip Berrigan’s courage to act on his pacifist beliefs in the face of grave consequences inspires me and fills me with awe. In her interview with him, [“Acts of Faith,” July 2003] Rachel Elliott asks, “How do you show love toward people who don’t share your convictions?” Berrigan answers that, although the Gospel requires love, he doesn’t really know how to express it.
Marshall Rosenberg (who was interviewed in the February 2003 issue of The Sun), has developed a process called Nonviolent Communication, which allows us to understand our enemies, if not love them. The first step is to stop labeling them. Words like killers, pigs, and racists only dehumanize people. Replace these labels with words that describe exactly what these people are doing that infuriates you. Next, ask yourself what needs they are trying to meet by their actions. For example, George W. Bush may honestly want to protect Americans. Safety is also a need of mine, but I strongly disagree with his national-security policy.
It is excruciatingly hard for me to understand a president whose actions constantly violate my ideals, but what’s the point of working for peace if one doesn’t try to bring peace into one’s own life? How else can we take steps toward loving our neighbors, much less enemies? And if I don’t try to understand George W. Bush, how can I expect him to understand me?