Nonviolence as a lifestyle

Bro. Brian McLaughlin, SVD, recently shared his philosophy of living nonviolently every day

In a perfect world, we would always refill our plastic water bottles with tap water, walk or ride our bikes more often and recycle with diligence. We would care for the earth and all its living creatures. Above all – we would treat our fellow humans with love and respect. All life would be interconnected and revered.

An unlikely reality show?

Brother Brian McLauchlin, SVD, doesn’t think so. As the JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) Coordinator for the SVD Chicago Province, McLauchlin is dedicated to living and promoting nonviolence as a way of life. “By working for nonviolence, we create a better life for ourselves and others,” he says. “There are many ways we can honor all life – we need to look at the possibilities.” His presentation, “Nonviolence as a Lifestyle,” provided a forum and discussion for the Divine Word College Community on Tuesday, February 24, in the college lecture hall.

The school assembly was organized by the Divine Word College Peace and Justice Committee, chaired by Dr. Francis Clare Fischer, DWC professor. Members include Fr. Stephen Nguyen, SVD, and DWC students David Cao and Sr. Kristina Lajar, SSpS. “Beyond working hard for issues of nonviolence, Brother Brian takes it one step further, integrating it into every part of what he does and says,” Fischer explains.

Fr. Khien Luu, SVD and Dean of Students, came up with the initial idea of making McLauchlin’s presentation an all-school event for students, faculty and staff. “The talk was dynamic and exciting,” Luu says. “It is good for us to reflect on these issues and be aware of the effectiveness of nonviolence in our daily lives – to put our hearts into every action, living in harmony with others and with respect for God’s creation.” 

 “This is a style of life I’ve embraced,” McLauchlin says. But it was a calling – a process – that took years in the making. Teaching adult education in Washington, D.C. caused him to rethink the concept of competition in education and in life itself. “You can’t assign a grade to learning,” he says. “The underprivileged don’t get the same opportunities in education as privileged people do.” In demonstrating for nonviolent issues, McLauchlin experiences firsthand the resistance to change that many people have. “The creative power of justice is not primarily a tactic,” McLauchlin asserts, “but rather a way of living and being and expressing the truth of our souls in the world.”

In his audience interactive presentation, McLauchlin began with an experiment in people’s perception of violent issues, sparking a lively discussion ranging from the semantics of the word “violence” to the realm of moral responsibility and beyond. Acting as moderator, he fielded a barrage of viewpoints from the group, encouraging the audience to express themselves honestly. “We can only change our own thinking. We may not change others,” McLauchlin says.

Cultural violence sanctioned in today’s societies was explored and debated by participants. McLauchlin feels that “justifiable violence comes from a personal level.” This spurred further discussion on whether violence is innate – is life itself violent by nature? Is it “survival of the fittest?”  Are we born competitive beings, making violence inevitable?

In addition to his ministry for the past four years as JPIC Coordinator, McLauchlin serves at the 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago, and edits the group’s Publication for Peace and Justice. “The staff is composed of members of religious orders and lay representatives,” he says. “We work together on peace and justice issues and try to model a life of nonviolence, mutuality and cooperation.” Outlining a formal definition of violence and the six steps essential for a “Journey to Nonviolent Living,” McLauchlin sums it up by saying, “We must be interactional and conversational. This is a process we all walk together.”