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Nonresistance (or non-resistance) is "the practice or principle of not resisting authority, even when it is unjustly exercised".[1] At its core is discouragement of, even opposition to, physical resistance to an enemy. It is considered as a form of principled nonviolence or pacifism which rejects all physical violence, whether exercised on individual, group, state or international levels. Practitioners of nonresistance may refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. Nonresistance is often associated with particular religious groups.

Sometimes non-resistance has been seen as compatible with, even part of, movements advocating social change. An often-cited example is the movement led by Mohandas Gandhi in the struggle for Indian Independence. While it is true that in particular instances (e.g., when threatened with arrest) practitioners in such movements might follow the line of non-resistance, such movements are more accurately described as cases of nonviolent resistance or civil resistance.

History


Perhaps the oldest recorded statement of nonresistance philosophy is that of Socrates around 399 BC. An influential ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenian democracy for teaching his students to question authority and think for themselves. Socrates accepted his fate on reasons of morality and justice, rather than accept help from his supporters to flee Athens and escape execution.

The term nonresistance was later used to refer to the Established Church during the religious troubles in England following the English Civil War and Protestant Succession. In the Anabaptist churches, the term is defined in contrast with pacifism. Advocates of non-resistance view pacifism as a more liberal theology since it advocates only physical nonviolence and allows its followers to actively oppose an enemy. In the 20th century, there have been differences of opinion between and within Amish and Mennonite churches, as they disagreed on the ethics of nonresistance and pacifism.

Nonresistance played a prominent role in the abolitionist movement in the nineteenth-century United States.[2]

Leo Tolstoy,[3] Adin Ballou[4], and Mahathma Gandhi[5] were notable advocates of nonresistance. However, there were variations between them. Gandhi's Satyagraha movement was based on a belief in resistance that was active but at the same time nonviolent, and he did not believe in using non-resistance (or even nonviolent resistance) in circumstances where a failure to oppose an adversary effectively amounted to cowardice. 'I do believe,' he wrote, 'that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.'"[6]

Christian theology


Christian nonresistance is based on a reading of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus says:

Members of the Anabaptist (Mennonite, Amish, Hutterite and Schwarzenau Brethren/German Baptist) denominations and other peace churches like the Quakers have interpreted this passage to mean that people should do nothing to physically resist an enemy. According to this belief, only God has the right to execute punishments. Nonresistant Christians note that sacrificial love of Jesus resulted in his submission to crucifixion rather than vengeance. A main application of this theology for Anabaptist groups is to teach conscientious objection of military conscription to their youth.

To illustrate how nonresistance works in practice, Alexandre Christoyannopoulos offers the following Christian anarchist response to terrorism:

Author James R. Graham wrote, "The Christian is not a pacifist, he is a non-participationist."[8]

In addition to conscientious objection, nonresistant practices of Old Order Mennonites, Amish, and Conservative Mennonites include rejection of the following civil practices: sue at law, lobby the government, hold government office, use the force of the law to maintain their "rights".

See also


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