Real life stories

This thread describes real relationships and communities that follow the way of the healer. There is failure, and messy ambiguity, and hope.

We encourage you to submit a post telling us about a marriage, a family, a congregation, an organization, a community or an international situation you are aware of where the way of the healer is being attempted.

About the way of the healer

The root task of government is to meet our fears--to give us security, to keep social order, to deal with our enemies. We are testing a different way to meet those same needs, one not based
As a healer you gamble that even a terrible person has a trustworthy side, and you engage, betting that you can invoke that side. From Description: the healer at war.

We say a relationship or community is healthy when the people involved want a relationship even if they deeply disagree; they listen to each other, are respectful, voice their point of view, ask for what they want, gamble that the other is trustworthy, negotiate, don't avoid conflict, don't walk out, and don't use coercion. From Description: the healthy community.

A healer speaks to an enemy as if that enemy represented the very best that humanity can aspire to. From Description: the healer at war.

We negotiate. We live by asking. We ask, ask, and ask again. From Description: the healthy community.
on coercion (law) or violence (arms) or territory (state). We're provisionally calling it "relationship healing" or just healing.

A good mother wants a relationship with her grown children even if they have turned out very differently than she hoped. A healer wants and knows how to have a healthy relationship with people who are very different, even opponents.

The healer's strategy is to turn an enemy into a trustworthy opponent within a healthy relationship. They may remain adamantly divided, but they have a respectful relationship where their difference can be productive. This site reflects on ideas and experience in the tactics of healing.

Healing and coercion both carry risks. Arguably healing is riskier in the short term, while coercion is riskier in the long term--that's one of
Regardless of the way you follow—Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, whatever—-if you want to join with those from other ways who believe we can profit from our differences to improve all our ways of healing the world, then we need your story and your texts, we need you to help us learn to live together even when we remain very different.
the things we want to test. Arguably both healing and coercion are called for, in different situations--that's one of the things we'd like to clarify.

This site is for those living in a conflict situation, great or small, who have lost faith in coercion and control, and are willing to take some risks gambling that their enemies potentially have a good side.


The Description of the way of the healer is written in terms of how humans should relate to each other, as a working document among different religious and secular traditions.


We encourage you to submit a post describing

a marriage, family, congregation, organization, community, movement or government where the way of the healer is being attempted,

the texts and stories of your particular tradition--secular or religious--to teach, expand or critique the way of the healer,

an application of the way of the healer to some current social problem.

John Fairfield founded, with much encouragement and critique by Larry Alderfer Fisher. Posts explaining where they are coming from are here.


A list of organizations that advocate and use the way of the healer.

Submit a post

Please help elaborate and critique the way of the healer by commenting on existing posts, or by submitting a post of your own.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How then shall we live?

Larry Alderfer Fisher (Mennonite Anabaptist Christian)

To everyone here today and to all of your friends back home, I extend an invitation to join me on a journey.  A journey to define, in your own language and from within your own tradition, the phrase, The Way of the Healer.  This journey is not for the faint of heart.  It will take us outside of our comfort zones.  It will ask us to seriously consider that there is within our enemies inherent good.  It will go on to suggest that we can transform our enemies into Trustworthy Opponents.  It will ask us to embrace a way of peace that is so radical that leaders from all walks of life, including religious leaders, will try to stamp it out.  And perhaps hardest of all, it will compel us to examine critically long established, fundamental doctrines and creeds from our own faith stories.  It will ask us to search for long buried truths from within our faith traditions. Come along on this journey at your peril.
The Way of the Healer is not an attempt to reform Christianity, or Islam or Hinduism, for this is not about religion per se.  It is not about syncretizing all religions into one big happy family. And for sure it is not about conversion from one religion to another, jumping from the frying pan into the fire if you will.  It is rather about the question, how then shall we live? 
So I begin with the simple Christian prayer that is profoundly disturbing, Thy Kingdom Come.  The so called Good News that Jesus brought to us was that God is calling us and yes empowering us, to establish a kingdom here on earth, right now.  This kingdom goes against common sense.  It is completely upside down (you may recall that the subject of the paper I presented here in 2009 was The Upside Down Kingdom). The upside down part is what has thrown the vast majority of the followers of Jesus off track for 2,000 years.  Jesus describes an ethic which defies logic and seems to lead to self annihilation.
So instead of obeying the call of Jesus, Christians have for the most part put a different paradigm in its place, the doctrine of personal salvation.  How convenient to put all the focus on me, my relationship with Jesus, my plea for health and wealth and my secure seat on the glory train when I die, sidestepping the question, how then shall we live?  Turning the other cheek and going the second mile have been reduced to allegory and in their place we have put a more realistic ethic that provides for just wars and a tidy retirement plan.  The really gross distortion in all of this is that it has been used to put up a wall between the insiders who talk the talk and the outsiders who are damned to hell.
So I have again established that Christians are a pretty sorry lot.  But I turn to you and ask you the question: what are you doing to promote God’s Kingdom here on earth?  What do you call God’s Kingdom in your language?  In your religious tradition? What are you doing to walk in the way of the healer?  What is that, you say, this way of the healer?  Just more Jesus talk from an arrogant Christian?  The old colonial Jesus dressed in post colonial garb? 
The answer is no.  This is a radical departure from what you have heard in the past.  This is about discovering within all of our traditions a way to hear God and follow God’s call.  Let us turn now to begin to translate this way of the healer talk into a language we can all agree on.  You may in the end decide the way is too hard, or too foreign or too mystical, or just plain wrong.  But let’s at least agree on just what it is.
 The Way of the Healer is just that, a way of life, a very challenging and rewarding way of life that is based on obedience to a straight forward ethic, love your neighbor as yourself.  Point number one, live as though you meant the prayer, Thy Kingdom Come.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And by the way, your neighbor may not look like you, or dress like you, or pray like you.  They may not speak your language and they may even be saying harsh things about your religion.  But they are still your neighbor.
Point number two is about healing relationships.  It would be nice if we could skip this point and get on with being neighborly, but the fact is that there is conflict in this world and we have no choice but to confront this issue or we will be stuck behind walls that limit just how far the neighborhood extends.  Conflict between husband and wife, male and female, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, Democrats and Republicans, gay and straight, rich and poor… the list is endless.  But when we bring up conflict we are not just talking about disagreement, we are talking about violence, from child abuse in the home to genocide against millions.
I am a pacifist and I was given a head start on this because I was raised as an Anabaptist Mennonite.  But let me hasten to add that pacifism is not to be confused with “passive-ism”.  We are not just talking about turning the other cheek (non-resistance).  We are talking about aggressively confronting violence in a way that challenges injustice.  We do so in a loving way, always seeking to see the God in the Other.  This entails risk in a very real sense and it invites others to call us fools or worse.
Moving from this state of violence to the healed relationship where conflict is acceptable but a violent response is not acceptable, is a very big step.  However, simply eliminating violence is not enough.  We need to embrace conflict as an unavoidable part of living and transform our differences into an understanding healthy relationship.  We can see light in the heart of our enemy and call it out.
Point number three is about serving our neighbor, feeding their children, sharing a warm blanket, washing their feet.  Not so that we might gather more sheep together for the train ride to glory, or hasten our path to Nirvana, but simply because we want to be in relationship with the Other.  Here we will forge a very strong link between service and living in community.  Community is a multifaceted concept that includes how we relate to our kin and close neighbors as well as how we relate to the Other, including distant friends and distant enemies.
Our mission then is to serve God by serving others.  For how can we love our neighbor and ignore hunger, thirst, abuse, and abject poverty?  How can we desire to be in a healthy whole relationship with our neighbor who is spiritually in need and not reach out?  Service can take on many forms and I invite you to join in on the conversation about how to form diverse communities that reach across cultural divides.  First and foremost serving means that we are moving toward a harmonious relationship with God.  This implies healing within ourselves first, followed by peace with those around us. 
And that brings us to our last point, proclamation.  Yes we are commanded to go and teach and make disciples.  To be obedient to God means that we share the Good News about what it means to work towards the goal, Thy Kingdom Come.  Isn’t that why we have all come to this gathering, to proclaim?  But if we all proclaim and no one is listening to the other, then what comes from it but a lot of noise?
 Ah, you say, but you are here, talking to us about The Way of the Healer.  How do you interpret the “The” in the phrase The Way of the Healer?  Or more commonly the question is posed, how do you interpret the Bible passage which says, “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father but by me.”  The verse Christians use to place themselves above and apart.  Here is my answer. 
I can be a Jesus follower and follow what I am calling here, The Way of the Healer.  And I can invite my Muslim (or Hindu or Buddhist) brothers and sisters to follow this path (in a language that they propose and that makes sense to them) without first renouncing their way of knowing God.  I can learn from their experience, from their language, what it means to them to love their neighbor, to renounce violence as an instrument of power, to promote God’s kingdom here on earth.  I can learn from them how they deal with legalism and religiosity and abuse of power within their tradition and maybe come to a better understanding of how to deal with such things in the Christian context.  I can learn from them what it means to invest in an ethical way according to Sharia law, a lesson almost forgotten in the world of Wall Street in my country.
In short, you can be a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or even one who does not follow any religion and still follow The Way of the Healer.  You will have to reject false doctrines found in your tradition just as I have done in mine.  (can there be any doctrine more false or more contradictory than a “just war”?)  Are you willing to ferret out the false doctrines that stand in the way of God’s Kingdom and gently set them aside?  Are you willing to stand up against religious powers when they are aligned against peace and justice?  If so, welcome to the quest.  We can figure this out together and with God’s help, apart.
We are faced then with the task of developing inclusive languages that describe The Way of the Healer in terms that speak to peoples of all faiths and cultural traditions.  We will need your help to do this.  After all it is your language.  We will be richly blessed if you do.  You in turn may benefit from the questions we ask and we may stimulate in you new ways of thinking about violence and justice and relating to enemies and defining who is your neighbor.  Only in this sharing relationship can we offer the Good News in a way that builds God’s Kingdom and tears down the barriers that we use so well to set ourselves above and apart.  And so we must listen as well as proclaim.
There is then, only one healing way.  The goal is to find that way, proclaim it in our particular language arising from our faith experience, and then live it.  If anyone thinks that Christians or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists have a monopoly on how to live this healing way, they are blind to the sin of this world and the realities of our greed, our reliance on security provided by earthly powers, and even our family squabbles . 
Are you ready to join this quest?  Do you have language that describes loving your neighbor, healing relationships with your enemies, serving in community and proclaiming far and wide that God’s blessing is available to us here and now?  Are you asking the question, how then shall we live?  Do you believe that God’s Kingdom is coming? 
If you answer yes to these questions, then we have a lot to talk about.  Not with a goal to convert  yours to mine or mine to yours, but rather  with a goal to finding our way together.  Come and enter into this thing called the healed relationship.  Let’s embrace our differences and wrestle with each other.  Let’s wrestle too with God and claim the power that is offered to us.  This quest is not easy.  It is full of risk. We need to lean on each other if we are to stay the course and complete the journey. 
To peoples of all faiths I suggest ask this final question.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if we are all challenged to live in obedience to the healing way, because we are confronted by someone outside of our faith tradition; a Hindu priest, a Sufi Muslim, some holy woman of God we meet on the road, or even, wonder of wonders, by a follower of Jesus?  How exciting to contemplate.  How wonderful to anticipate such an encounter.  I have been so challenged by Brian McLaren who is calling to us within the Christian tradition to leave the modern version of Christianity behind and forge a new understanding of the very old message of Jesus; an understanding that I am calling here today The Way of the Healer. 

You are welcome to join me in this quest.

This post was derived from a paper given at the 2nd International conference on Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh on 27-29 November 2010.

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