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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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jesus as Messiah, healer and host

John Fairfield (Mennonite Anabaptist Christian)

I see Jesus as Messiah, healer and host. I am impressed with how much of the New Testament is taken up by these three themes.

Messiah, ruler, lord of the social order, king. [For people from other traditions who are unfamiliar with the Jewish Messiah: the Messiah was to fulfill the promise of the line of the kings of Israel that descended from King David. That is, the Messiah will some day establish justice--real peace and justice--in this world, and rule it.] But upside down [Jesus said that whoever wanted to be chief must be servant of all. Mark 9] , not a rerun of David but something which can replace the need for soldier kings such as David. A king in whose kingdom there is no violence, no coercion. I take seriously that that kingdom should displace and is displacing (albeit on a slow evolutionary timescale) government by coercion.

The prime function of government is security--how to to deal with enemies. And Jesus is clear on that point [Jesus tells us to love our enemies, Luke 6].

The good news is that the Messiah is not a soldier, but a healer.
[The gospels are rife with stories of Jesus' healings.] Thus also the Church, the resurrected body of the Messiah. [The apostle Paul described the Church, the followers of Jesus, as being the body of the Messiah, and animated by his Spirit. Ephesians 4] We are, or should be, both healers and a healing community. But what is the nature of a healed community, a healed relationship, a restored, returned from exile, liberated from Egypt, living-in-the-promised-land relationship, life in the kingdom? In particular, is their any conflict in the healthy, perfect relationship? I think so. It is utterly without violence, and brimming with respect, but not without conflict.

If we have but a sacrificial notion of relationship, then we might think that it is wrong even to voice our desire, much less negotiate. We might imply to the poor and the oppressed that we have nothing to offer them but a cross to climb up on. [Jesus said we are to forgive those who hurt us, Matt 5, and he was crucified on a Roman cross.]

But the healing relationship is one which enshrines negotiation. The model for voicing our desire to each other is prayer. We negotiate with each other like we negotiate with God--it's a divine dialectic. That much respect. But that much insistence, Jesus was clear on "pray without ceasing" and "knock until they answer. [Luke 11]" The perfect relationship is a negotiating relationship--we argue, like Abraham with the Messenger sent to destroy Lot's city [Genesis 18], even with God, and also with each other.

The key to this is the belief that to be human means that we have within us the capacity to be an image of God [Genesis 1], to be a representative for God. Jesus said that the first law was that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and that the second law was that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, and said that the second is like unto the first [Matt. 22]. There is something of God in our neighbor. When asked for a definition of "neighbor" he responded with a story about a gracious enemy [Luke 10]. When Jacob met his brother and enemy Esau, who against his expectations did not kill him, he said it was like seeing the face of God. Humans can aspire to God's personality type--we are to love our enemies, so that we "may be the children of our Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." [Matt. 5] When I relate to an enemy, I want to speak to that persona, that potential representative, ambassador, messenger of God, and I want to treat my enemy with the same respect I would give to God whom my enemy can represent.

Faith is action taken on the assumption that God is there, even in our spouses/ siblings/ neighbors/ enemies, a presence that can be invoked. That is the counter-attack of the healer: to exorcise the enemy's fear, and invoke the good in the enemy [Jesus said only God is good. Luke 18] , to address Him there, and ask Him for justice. Enemies can be ambushed from within, by God, their true self, and be healed.

Or my enemy can refuse his true self, revolt against God, and put me on a cross. That is the risk taken by the healer. That is what we are called to risk, for that faith without which we will either fight or flee, and make the miracle of healing impossible.

And prayer, of course, is as much listening as speech. God in our friend or enemy sometimes has a message for us. We study listening.

So to "fight or flight" I'd add "or respectfully engage in negotiation", i.e., pray. It's that deep a reaction, and therefore hard. But within such a relationship there is comfort. I can live in a zone negotiated from the space of those about me, secure in a set of negotiable borders. Not secure that this turf is mine forever, but secure in the feeling that I can negotiate, survive, whatever boundary shifts my neighbor might ask. Freedom doesn't end at the tip of my neighbor's nose, it begins there. I feel a rush of freedom when I realize that I can trespass, step on my neighbor's toes, bump her nose, and our relationship can stand the test, we can weather our differences, we can forgive, we can profit and learn from our different points of view.. So I can relax and be me, and so can she. There are no red lights flashing in my psyche warning that the relationship is unsustainable.

Hence the Messiah, the Church, as host, as a place where enemies eat together. Jesus ate with prostitutes, Quislings, Pharisees and sinners, persons he saw as enemies of God [Luke 5], and told many parables of feasts. The Church is a table made in the presence of our enemies [Psalms 23]. We make a sacrament of eating together with those who are and remain the people we have the most difficulty understanding: Jew with Gentile [Colossians 3. Gentile means non-Jew], bond with free, rich with poor, homo with hetero, Christian with Muslim. Our unity is not based on our agreement--in the Church, the Gentiles remained Gentiles, and the Jews remained Jews [Acts 15]. Our unity is built on our commitment to live together even while we remain different and in tension. That is how we the Church should be known--by our desire to stay in relationship [John 13], not by our unanimity of opinion. It is our means of taking responsibility for the social order, for Lordship, for being the risen body of the Messiah.

Our hospitality theology is our way of relating and our attack and our committed life together. To cast out fear and invite into the committed community, invite to the feast, invite to the struggle, invite to the synergy. Life in us is a constant risk of our differences destroying us, a constant healing of the trespass of our differences, a constant profiting from our differences, a constant sacrament of our differences.

So, the way of the healer is my attempt to describe Jesus and the church--the healer and the healed and healing community--in religion-independent terms, in the hope that people from other traditions and religions recognize that description as something stemming from their own tradition. Is the title of this site, "the way of the healer", a covert reference to Jesus?  No, it is a very open and explicit reference to Jesus, in my eyes.  Am I trying to to convert people to Christianity? No, for I know people from other traditions who are better healers than I am, for reasons they find within their own tradition. No religion owns the way of the healer. Together we can learn better how to follow it. Please submit a post from your point of view.

This post is derived from a devotion given at a meeting of the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society at Eastern Mennonite University, September 7, 2010.

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