I would just like to say I think this thread is absolutely fascinating, and I think everyone has had interesting things to say. Too bad I got back so late. To return to my example of Ghandi-
Yes, he was shot dead. Do you think that mattered to him? He was a man who valued justice over his own life and livelihood- hence the hunger strikes. Just as Ron's interpretation of Jesus shows that not getting hit was never the end goal, Ghandi's end goal never had anything to do with his own well being. He attained his goals not through (physical and emotional) self-fulfillment, but by elevating himself above what he viewed as evils of the world- violence, selfishness, and the occupation of his homeland.
'E You do nothing (turning the other cheek or the Ghandi defence)'
Turning the other cheek is absolutely not an example of doing nothing. (Thanks Reb, for the interjection). Going on a hunger strike in defiance of an occupying power is an extremely powerful action, not an inaction. Turning the other cheeck is a conscious decision.
I'm thinking of a Mark Strand poem:
"In a field, I am the absence of field."
And of an Ani DiFranco song:
"When you hear me singing, listen to what I'm not saying
When you hear me playing guitar, listen to what I'm not playing
Don't ask me to put words to all the silences I wrote
Don't ask me to explain all the silences between notes"
Meaning? I guess, that what you see as inaction may very well, to me, be action. Roosevelt said to walk softly, but to carry a big stick... walking softly is also an action. And there is the option to walk soflty, and without the stick. The point being, laying down the stick is not necessarily a surrender.
And that, to me, is the essence, or the idea, of God. A love so great that, as Ron pointed out, one can transcend the human tendency to react, to rebuke, to fight fire with fire or take an eye for an eye. To take a common saying- killing them with kindness. But the idea is not to kill your enemy, but to kill their agression with tactics other than those they are using.
And, as I said before- it worked for Ghandi.
Now, let's be realistic- I am not Jesus Christ, and I'm not Ghandi, and when someone cuts me of in traffic I respond without kindness. But there are times when I try to step back, and try to remind myself to take the road of not saying something- the action of silence, of no response (hence the username, it was supposed to be a reminder... Call it God, or grace, or whatever you want, but I do see it as the moral high road.