The Risk of the Cross: Living Gospel Nonviolence in the Nuclear Age

by Arthur Laffin

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.


This is written in wake of the violence going on in Chicago at this moment – August 2020. We are still dealing with the last wave of violence. We certainly need to put God in this equation. To live Gospel nonviolence is an effort put forth by each one of us. We need to make the difference by accepting the cross to transform our lives and supporting each other in what this means communally. For the first edition in 1981, Daniel Berrigan SJ states: “Studied in community, pondered, attended to, Mark’s gospel led to this book The Risk of the Cross unsheathes the sword of the Spirit which both wounds and heals. It allows St. Mark to speak for himself, to speak for Jesus, to judge the Church. This is the wisdom of the authors –not to get in the way of the Author, just as Mark allows us to hear from Jesus: starkly, simply, luminously,” In the second edition,2020,”..nearly forty years later, this new revised version is still greatly needed, because few talk about the cross as a way to understand our discipleship, as a way to understand our movement work for justice and disarmament. This guidebook can help us reflect on the gospel of Jesus and what it means to follow Him—by practicing his meticulous nonviolence and carrying the cross through lifelong nonviolent resistance to the culture of violence, war and environmental destruction.”


Laffin states that the Eucharist is a new covenant of non-violence. If he were a military general, he would have said, “Go break their bodies for me. Go shed their blood for me.” Instead, in the Eucharist, we are invited to share his way of nonviolence: “My body broken for you. My blood shed for you. Do this!” The reader should know that the intention of the discussion articles in this book is not to offer an intensive exegetical examination of Mark’s gospel but rather to ascertain how the gospel calls us to be faithful disciples in a time of unprecedented peril. There is a recognition of two central themes that are in the background throughout reading Mark’s gospel ‘repentance’ and ‘resistance’. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman Empire, Jesu declared “”The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) This repentance implies not only a conversion of heart but a turning away from the empire. Jesus then calls his disciples to follow him, to proclaim the reign of God, and to nonviolently resist the forces of evil and death. Living in the US, an empire responsible for so much needless death and suffering in our world today, we need to heed Jesus’ proclamation now more than ever.


The author goes on to state: “The crises of our time reveal how broken and unsustainable the established order is and present an opportunity for a global paradigm shift toward a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. We can no longer accept as ‘normal” those established institutions and structures founded on racism, greed oppression, violence and injustice that are destroying humanity and the planet. Now is the time to act in solidarity with people worldwide working for non-violent social transformation. In encouraging you, the reader, to read the text, I would encourage you to get a group together to read it and share the transformational ideas embedded in every sentence. To close with a direction from Martin Luther King: “Our holy hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism.” At the core of this text are five small-group sessions focusing on Jesus’ call to discipleship in Mark’s gospel-all linked to appendices containing information and inspiration to help faith communities embrace the way of gospel nonviolence and to take action to avert nuclear annihilation and crate a disarmed world.

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