Nonviolent direct action is about actively engaging the world. It intervenes when and where there is violence. The place and the moment that engagement happens with an issue is called the point of intervention.
There are several points of intervention that a nonviolent direct action campaign could focus on. Being intentional about where you choose to intervene matters. Find a more in-depth explanation of points of intervention at the end of this study guide.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-15.
Recite the Jesus prayer, following the rhythm of your breath.
"At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love." — Martin Luther King Jr.
It is out of love for our neighbors and our planet that we take action for what we believe is right. Nonviolence even offers us a way to show love to our opponents and enemies, while stopping the harm they are causing. Nonviolent direct action channels the power of the spirit through us — bringing creativity, the fruits of the spirit and power for us to do great acts with great love.
Pick one or two of the social issues discussed above that your group may intervene in.
Use this points of intervention worksheet to think about creative ways to intervene with each of these issues. For this exercise, don't worry about whether you would want to participate in these types of interventions, just brainstorm as many as you can.
One group participating in a nonviolent direct action campaign may choose to intervene differently at various points throughout the campaign. Being intentional about where to intervene can help conserve energy — by reducing the overwhelming sense that you need to be active everywhere and all the time — and it can build understanding among the general public, which sees the connection between the cause and the place where pressure is applied.
Small group/partner discussion questions:
Facilitator: Ask everyone to split into equal-sized groups (groups of three might be ideal). Going in order of the person with the longest hair to the person with the shortest hair, give each person gets one minute to answer each question — and make sure there are no interruptions! This is a moment for people to speak honestly and with vulnerability, even if what they are saying differs quite a bit from what the other people in their group think. Encourage everyone to be present with one another and to keep their answers as personal as possible, not making generalizations or judgments about what others are saying and doing.
- What do you love about what is happening in the world today?
- What breaks your heart about what is going on in the world today?
- What do you love about what is happening in your church and local community today?
- What breaks your heart about what is going on in your church and local community today?
- Where is conventional politics failing the people and the planet, in the context where you live?
Facilitator: Summarize what was said and transition to the next activity.
Thank your group members for their honesty. It is these very answers that motivate people to do nonviolent direct action. Each person, and the group they are a part of, might be able to take action to defend a piece what you love and/or heal what breaks your heart.
Large group discussion:
Invite everyone to share what social issues or specific cases came up in their small groups, without necessarily attributing names to specific ideas, because that could be sensitive. List the first 10 answers on a board.
Could you see your congregation taking action on any of these issues?
Close in prayer.
Points of intervention explained:
Point of production
Action at the point of production is foundational to the labor movement. Workers organize to impact the economic system that directly affect them, at the points where that system is most vulnerable. Strikes, picket lines, work slowdowns and factory takeovers are all point-of-production actions.
Point of destruction
A point of destruction is the place where harm or injustice occurs. It might be where resources are extracted (a strip mine) or where waste from the point of production is dumped (a landfill). By design, the point of destruction is almost always far from public attention — made invisible by remoteness, oppressive assumptions or ignorance — and tends to disproportionately impact already marginalized communities. Intervention at the point of destruction can halt an act of destruction in the moment, as well as dramatize the larger conflict.
Point of consumption
The point of consumption is where one might interact with a product or service that is linked to injustice. Point-of-consumption actions are the traditional arena of consumer boycotts and storefront demonstrations. The point of consumption is often the most visible point of intervention for actions targeting commercial entities. Point-of-consumption actions can also be a good way to draw the attention of corporations when lawmakers aren't listening.
Point of decision
The point of decision is where the power to act on a campaign's demands rests and is often the most self-evident point of intervention. Therefore, it is frequently employed. Whether it's in a slumlord's office, a corporate boardroom, a state capital or an international summit (see: Battle in Seattle), many successful campaigns have used some form of action at the point of decision to put pressure on key decision makers.
Point of assumption
Assumptions are the building blocks of ideology, the DNA of political belief systems. They operate best when they remain unexamined. If basic assumptions can be exposed as contrary to people's lived experience or core values, entire belief systems can be shifted. Actions that expose and target widely held assumptions (see: Billionaires for Bush and Barbie Liberation Organization) can, therefore, be very effective in shifting the discourse around an issue and opening up new political space. Point-of-assumption actions can take many different forms, such as exposing hypocrisy, reframing the issue, amplifying the voices of previously silenced characters in the story or offering an alternative vision (see: Prefigurative politics).
Point of opportunity
Sometimes calendar events present unique chances to draw attention to your cause. These can be religious or commemorative dates (see: Gezi Park iftar); national holidays (see: Santa Claus Army); or a scheduled visit or speech by a significant figure, such as a CEO or elected official (see: Disrupting Obama's town hall in Myanmar). Identifying a point of opportunity and timing your intervention accordingly could increase visibility and put additional pressure on decision makers.
Turning creative action into real change requires careful strategy. Identifying possible target points is a great first step in designing actions that connect to large campaigns and social change goals.
Originally published in Beautiful Trouble.