Why I'd Choose Certain Muslim Extremists over Certain Impotent Christians
In the context of social action or political activism, what Gandhi means by "impotent" is that individuals and even communities become weak, ineffective or altogether useless due to inactivity.
Perhaps in-action settles in by way of a slow burn, or a long fade.
Maybe it's the result of disinterest, disillusionment, apathy, cynicism, resignation or escapism.
No matter, Gandhi might say, violence is preferred.
At least in the context of social action or political activism, violence is a declarative movement in a very particular direction.
So, yes, dear Christian, here is where your feathers might get a wee-bit rankled.
(You can blame Gandhi.)
Because Gandhi made me think: If I ever found myself in a room packed with all kinds of Muslims from diverse geographies and disparate cultures; and if the room was also filled with every sort of Christian from sea to shining sea (and other seas); and if I was being asked to initiate an activist group to work strategically on one or two of humanity's most globally urgent social problems...
I would choose the angriest Muslims first.
That's right: I would ask Muslim extremists to join the Social Change Dream Team despite the reality that these are the very individuals for whom violence is an essential and divinely ordained agent of change in the struggle.
Again, if you need a scapegoat, Gandhi is there for you.
To be precise, I would choose certain Muslim extremists as over against certain impotent Christians—especially those Christians whose, uh, primary political activity or preferred social action is raging on Twitter or fuming on Facebook.
Or staying huddled among the pious masses on Sundays.
Or teaching their kids how to have Jesus in their heart without actively showing them how to resist the real-world forces of oppression and injustice; how to struggle (fight) for human flourishing and the common good.
I will admit: Gandhi's perspective initially caught me off-guard.
He prefers either a violent person or a nonviolent person—both of whom are active in a very particular direction—rather than someone who chooses neither violence nor nonviolence and is content to act in no particular direction.
No doubt from his learned experience in South Africa and British India, Gandhi is asserting that it really is harder to awaken the inactive—those who are disinterested, disillusioned, apathetic, cynical, resigned or escapist—than to transform the active (even the violent).
Courage, passion, will—or the lack thereof—are at the heart of this distinction.
Which means, however strange to the ears, there might just be more hope for the Muslim extremist than for the impotent Christian.