Practical nonviolence prevents bank robberies

On Friday, soon after reading Nate’s post on Questions about Pacifism I heard a story on NPR called Killing Bank Robberies with Kindness. Give the story a listen. Its a very practical application of nonviolent principles in the face of expected violence.

For many years bank tellers have been told to do nothing when faced with a prospective robbery. The main goal was to make sure no one gets hurt. The new “Safe Catch” technique described in the radio story above empowers bank tellers by allowing them to step out of the expected victim role. They enthusiastically greet the suspicious person and thereby invite them to step out of their role as aggressor. It sounds a lot like the nonviolent deescalation tactics we learned as part of Christian Peacemaker Training.

The impressive thing about this nonviolent technique is the results. The FBI agent interviewed testifies that they have had half the number of expected robberies (based on averages) in the first quarter of 2007 in the area where tellers have been taught this technique.

Sharing stories like this are an important way of countering the dominant myth of passive pacifism ignorantly perpetuated by articles like the “Pacifism: The Ultimate Immorality (This is SENSATIONAL!!!)” that Nate linked to. The third way between fight and flight is very real and very exciting. Let’s keep on reminding people of the possibility for transformation that the way of Jesus offers us.

Comments (5)

  1. Ben Anderson

    After reading the above post I really think we should discuss the difference between pacifism and non-violence. Is there a difference? Is it just a the same name for two different things? Or do we need to be more careful what we say we believe in and even more careful how we practice it. I believe there is a differens….and maybe this isn’t a new revolutionary conversation to many of you, but I have interest in this conversation because I don’t have the benefit of growing up in a Mennonite church that valued nonviolence or pacifism (somewhere along the way they lost that teaching) and I also don’t know what Christian peacemaker trainig is. But anyway I think this can be a beneficial discussion and I hope it is that for someone more than just me.

  2. jdaniel


    I think that’s a good idea. I encourage you to get the conversation started in a new post. I think pacifism and non-violence are different, despite their common threads. Another term, ‘non-resistance’, is often used in Anabaptist circles and could be added to the conversation.

    It’s interesting, you know, if you look at the “tags” on the right, PEACE and PACIFISM are not there (as of 4.25.07) – only NONVIOLENCE .

  3. TimN (Post author)

    This is an important question and deserves a much longer response, but briefly pacifism is a theology or philosophy whereas nonviolence can simply be a tactic (though it can also be a philosophy). For example, the FBI agent in the interview above is unlikely a pacifist but recognizes the value of a nonviolent tactic in a certain situation.

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