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Nonresistance (or non-resistance) discourages physical resistance to an enemy and is a subdivision of nonviolence. Strict practitioners of nonresistance refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. The teachings of Jesus Christ, especially the Sermon on the Mount, greatly influenced Leo Tolstoy. His work, notably the book The Kingdom of God Is Within You, was a key inspiration behind Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent resistance movement, who agreed that he was seeking to return good for evil:

"My nonresistance is active resistance in a different plane. Nonresistance to evil does not mean absence of any resistance whatsoever but it means not resisting evil with evil but with good. Resistance, therefore, is transferred to a higher and absolutely effective plane."

This understanding of nonresistance overlaps significantly with nonviolent resistance and most notably overlaps religious and world views.


The term nonresistance was used to refer to the Established Church during the religious troubles in Englandmarker following the English Civil War and Protestant Succession.

In Anabaptist churches the term has come to be defined in contrast with pacifism, which is seen by advocates of nonresistance as a more liberal theology because it allows adherents to work actively against their enemies as long as they remain physically nonviolent. In the 20th century there were some differences of opinion between and within Amish and Mennonite churches as they disagreed on the ethics of nonresistance and pacifism.

Leo Tolstoy, Adin Ballou and Mohandas Gandhi were notable advocates of nonresistance. However, Gandhi guarded against attracting to his Satyagraha movement those who feared themselves incapable of nonresistance due to lack of courage. 'I do believe,' he wrote, 'that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.'"

Christian theology

Christian nonresistance is based on a reading of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus says:

"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also... Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ...".

Members of denominations such as those from Anabaptist (Mennonite, Amish, Hutterite, and Brethren), as well as other peace churches, such as the Quakers, have interpreted this passage to mean Christians should do nothing to resist an evil person or enemy, other than to return good to those that hate them.

This theology sees that if punishment is to be carried out, it is to be done by God, not humans. Nonresistance Christians note the sacrificial love of Jesus showed in his submission to crucifixion, rather than returning evil for evil.

Living nonresistance

Ammon Hennacy related this story of an incident which occurred in the 1930s when he was a social worker in Milwaukee. He had gone to the home of a man who was on pain relief when the man pulled a knife on him:

He would prance around and swing his fist at me to frighten me and breathe down the back of my neck and tickle me with the point of his knife. I was not frightened for I had learned in solitary not to be afraid of anything. He threatened me on for nearly an hour. I did not answer back a word nor hang my head but looked him in the eye. Finally he came after me more energetically than before and said that I had to do something.

I got up and said "I will do something, but not what you think." I reached out my hand in a friendly manner saying "You are all right but you forget about it. I am not afraid of that false face you have on. I see the good man inside. If you want to knife me or knock me cold, go ahead. I won't hit you back; go ahead. I dare you!" But I didn't double dare him.

He shook my hand and with the other hand was making passes to hit me in the face. I did not say anything more. Slowly his grip loosened and he went to the door and opened it, pulled up the blind and put the knife away.

"What I don't see is why you don't hit back."
"That's just what I want you to see," I answered.
"Explain it." He demanded.

"What is your strongest weapon? It is your big fist with a big knife. What is my weakest weapon? It is a little fist without a knife. What is my strongest weapon? It is the fact that I do not get excited; I do not boil over; some people call it spiritual power. What is your weakest weapon? It is your getting excited and boiling over and your lack of spiritual power. I would be dumb if I used my weakest weapon, my small fist without a knife, against your strongest weapon, your large fist with a knife. I am smart, so I use my strongest weapon, my quiet spiritual power against your weakest weapon, your excited manner, and I won, didn't I?"

If I had told him, "Don't hit or knife this good Christian anarchist who returns good for evil," he would have laughed at me. When I showed no fear and dared him to do me up, it woke him up to the reality and took his mind off his meanness. The good was in him the same as it was in the warden and the District Attorney, but it had to be brought out by the warmth of love which I showed, and not by the blustering wind which provoked only more bluster.

"And when do I go to court?"
"You won't go to court. I don't believe in courts; you have learned your lesson."

When I left the house my knees were shaking from the strain although I had not wavered a bit all along.

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