~ from SCI Dallas (PA), by Norm Lowry

by Norman Lowry

Our world cannot survive without a sense of meaning, in particular one that will lead us to the depths of love. —Unknown

Freedom is the highest of my basic needs. I need freedom more than I need to breathe or to survive. Where most seem to see freedom as being a prize at the end of some great and often violent struggle, I see freedom as being the end of life’s greatest struggle: it is wonder with God, humanity and creation, based in absolute nonviolence; an actual state of being untangled from violence.

Our world is bathed in violence. If we’re honest, mostly we’ve lived by the belief that, as great evil violence exists, great righteous violence is necessary to overcome it. I mean, someone has to protect us from predators and terrorists, right? And so we choose violence as our method.

Violence surely exists, and we tell ourselves that violence offends our sense of public morality. Yet how can this be? What morality, or what kind of morality, is really being offended? Maybe if we were concerned about actual harm done (to both the offended and the offender), we would have cause to believe that our choice of violence has anything to do with morality. Yet there are few for whom this seems to be the case.

Mostly when violence occurs we think of ourselves, as if our peace of mind were most important. We cry to change laws, asking others to give up their rights, that we might feel safer. We cry for the perceived offender to be stripped of rights and even of life itself, for the sake of our peace of mind. This is not an issue of morality, but of structure, and there is a vast difference.

By definition, morality implies virtue, according to principles of right and wrong. Structure regards the components of our lives and the manner in which they are arranged. If our concern were morality, violence would never be our option—even if and when a really bad person uses violence on or against us. But because we have convinced ourselves that violence is a necessary tool with which to thwart violence inflicted on us, we keep it in our toolbox, along with its ever-expanding arsenal of weaponry. Thus, violence is a chosen component of the very structure of our lives.

Two great and parallel societal problems regarding how we view and deal with violence lie in our religious and nationalistic dogma. Overwhelmingly, we seem to believe what some venerated expert tells us to believe. The stuff in my chosen religious book, the Bible, is way to weird, wonderful and important to allow some expert to tell me what it means, without me also doing my own homework. The same goes for what I believe about America. The God I know, love and serve (out of mutually-shared intimacy) is absolutely nonviolent—has never been violent, will never be violent, and has never asked or commanded anyone to be or do anything violent. America’s violences have never set anyone free and have never kept anyone free, period! Simply put, we do not employ or cosign violence until we have sacrificed our morality; our very humanity.

The nature of freedom, as a state of being untangled from violence, is simple: First, it is uncomplicated: as violence equals unforgiveness, nonviolence equals forgiveness. Second, it is unconfused: not a mixture of judgmentalism, fear and hostility, but all about intimacy in human relationships. Third, it is unbound: all entanglements in contention, discrimination and violence become nonexistent.

Freedom for me is wonder with God, humanity and creation, based in absolute nonviolence; an actual state of being untangled from violence.



by Norm Lowry

Will what I am choosing draw me closer to or push me further from the people I need? — William Glasser

Largely, our society exists by imposing its will on others via external control psychology, a belief that the superior individual or leadership body can impose its will on another. The fault in its nature is that no one can be forced to submit, even under threat or torture, unless they choose to do so.

My life exists by imposing my will on no one, as I choose to direct my life via internal control psychology, a belief that only and needfully accepts that I, alone, can directly control all I think and do and indirectly control all my feelings and physiology. Thus, my life is lived according to my choices and sense of personal responsibility.

In order to accept and achieve healthy and mature balance in taking responsibility for our choices, we must consider both urgency and rewards. Urgency by definition regards “impelling force, influence and /or impulse” and makes way for choices “demanding immediate attention.” Likewise, rewards regard “yielding of benefits or a sense of satisfaction” (Webster’s). To give proper weight to my choices, I daily engage in self-evaluation, by asking myself: (1) What did I choose to do?, (2) What was I thinking?, (3) How did my choice affect me?, (4) What effect did my choice have on others?, (5) Did my choice draw me closer to or push me further from the people I need?, and (6) What changes, if any, am I willing to make?

Because I know who I am at a deep level, my choice making is a matter I take most seriously. My choices are based in my purposefully quantified and time-tested list of my life’s basic needs. Overarching them all is my life’s basis—my need for, and intimacy with, our Creator—a real person I’ve known for 57+ of my 63 years. From 1-5 and rated on a scale of 1-10, my basic needs are: 1) Freedom (10)—All about wonder with God, humanity and creation, based in absolute nonviolence—an actual state of being untangled from violence, 2) Love and belonging (9)—all about deep communion; intimacy in community, 3) Fun (9)— Most highly about learning and teaching though there are lesser funs, 4) Power and control (8)—All about servanthood, 5) Survival (7)—Relative, as its importance lies in actual and honest thriving.

Also because I know who I am at a deep level, I’m living my best life, today! I’m at peace, content and reasonably happy. In six months, I’ll be 64. Both 64 and 65 are scheduled to occur like my last seven birthdays, in prison. But don’t cry for me. Out of a sense of grave urgency, I made some nonviolent choices to live out my faith, by standing in the way of our society’s extreme love of violence, racism, bigotry and poverty-production. My rewards—I have a clean conscience and I get to love 2000+ of the most wonderful, yet irregular people our society and its churches ever tried to throw away. I throw no one away! I love them, warts and all. This is my choice….

Note: The essence of the contrast between “external” and “internal” control psychology is derived from Dr. William Glasser’s “choice therapy/reality therapy,” my chosen counseling theory and practicum.


LOVE: “Making it Easier for People to be Good”

by Norm Lowry

Most of us need to have the status quo shaken now and then, leaving us off balance and askew, feeling alienated for a while from our usual unquestioned loyalties. In this uncomfortable space, we can finally recognize the much larger kingdom of God….This pattern of temporary falling apart precedes every transition to a new level of faith, hope and love. If one is not prepared to live in temporary chaos and hold the necessary anxiety that chaos entails one never moves into a bigger world. —Richard Rohr

In our society we talk a lot about love. Most of us think about love in terms of power; as “the capacity or ability to accomplish something” (Webster’s). We want to get. We want to be forceful and effective in our capacity to change things to make life work in our favor. We want to be satisfied and fulfilled in love. We think these things and desire for them to be true, yet demographically, our society is one of the world’s least satisfied and happy. So what’s at issue? The answer is simple, though not necessarily easy. Love is certainly about power, also a basic need. But is love power to get or power to give?

To me, love is about power as servanthood. It’s about giving with no attachment to getting. It’s about force as a self-giving energy and effectiveness as an cooperative stance weighted on behalf of others. It’s about believing as we did as children, before we were disappointed or wounded, that self-giving love “is the secret of the past of all life, the sina qua non, and our survival as a race depends on learning that is the secret of our future” (John Stoner). Simply put, love is about “making it easier for people to be good.”

From the Bible’s Jesus, I’ve learned my life’s greatest lessons about love. My top three love lessons are from Matthew 5 (THE MESSAGE).

First, live and love “at the end of your rope.” The love we’re all looking for is only to be found at the end of ourselves. Think of all the relationships you’ve had. The ones we remember most are the ones that cost us most. Jesus reminds us of the blessings of this costly love, “with less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

Second, live and love “content with just who you are—no more, no less.” The love we’re all looking for is filled with simple humility, as modeled by birds and wildflowers. Birds trust for provision and wildflowers’ inherent beauty flows from a loving parent-God who sees to all the birds and flowers, most of whom no human eyes will ever see. Jesus reminds us of the blessings of this humble love that exists only in “the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought or sold.”

Third, live and love to “get your inside world—your mind heart—put right.” The love we’re all looking for is embedded in deeply sound tradition. It doesn’t purpose violence. It doesn’t take undue advantage. It loves its enemies. It thinks the best even of the worst. It grows up. Jesus reminds us of the blessings of this bright love that will “see God in the outside world.”

I Corinthians 14:1 (THE MESSAGE) says, “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does.” This is how we learn to live so deeply that we thrive only in “making it easier for people to be good” (Dorothy Day).



by Norm Lowry

We are actually free to choose the way of love which Jesus has shown us. — John Stoner

Last evening while sitting in my prison dayroom thinking about how to best write about Jesus, a fellow inmate, Derrick, came and said, “Hey Norm, thanks for writing a letter to me. What’s it say?”

“Dear Derrick, I love you! You’re a free man! What are you going to do with your freedom?”

Derrick laughed nervously. I had just broken a couple of sacred rules: Never say “I love you” to another inmate and never talk about freedom to a man not scheduled for near release. Derrick smiled and said, “You’re weird, Norm,” and walked away.

At first glance, most folks don’t much care for the Jesus I know and love. He didn’t come to cosign any existing religion or to start a new one. Nor did he come to placate any governance other than that of his nonviolent dad, our Creator. Saying “No” to church and state, for the sake of God’s nonviolent love, got Jesus arrested and executed, as a traitor to both church and state.

The nonviolence of Jesus is quite obvious in the Bible’s New Testament. His call to love both neighbor and enemy was a call to defeat evil with the greater power of love. But most folks start getting nervous when it comes to comparing the nonviolent Son to his supposedly violent Creator-God Dad, in the Old Testament. In Bible college, my venerated professors said this was due to the “dispensational” (changing) nature of our supposedly unchangeable God. This pretty much sounded like a large crock of “skubula” (Greek, for crap), to me. People change but the God and Jesus I intimately know never change.

Beside going to Bible college, I’ve read the Bible in just about every English translation there is (many of them multiple times), and I’ve read 12-1500 supporting God books. In spite of the opinions of all the respected church leaders and writers, I still see the Bible in terms of the nonviolent God of love creating all things and calling them all good. Along the way, the humans decided to reclassify all these good things, according to good and bad—a conundrum not of God’s doing. Their resulting confusion resulted in good desire becoming rivalry—becoming violence—becoming murder; a complete platform from which to challenge our nonviolent Creator-God (or so they thought).

Well, the humans took charge of the dialog and soon had God changing his mind and calling good, bad. Now there were just too many bad humans. So God had to repent and destroy the world (except for a few marginally good humans and animals), and the humans had God right where they wanted him (or did they?) The dialog continued and illicit religion joined with illicit state, for the purpose of dominating humanity, in the name of an illicit and violent God. Enter Jesus….

Jesus lovingly kept the dialog straight and held the preachers, teachers and his own followers to the same nonviolent standard of love. When they spoke truth, Jesus called them godly. When they slanted the truth in their favor or lied, Jesus called them “snakes,” “reptilian sneaks,” and “devils” (THE MESSAGE).

That Jesus’ Dad was God and his mom was human has become a never-ending discussion of godness vs. humanity. But to what end? Jesus referred to the prophets who taught that “the human one [Jesus] is the son of God precisely because he is the son of man made in the image of God, and is thus not different from God but like God” (John Stoner). This is pivotal yet largely despised by preachers and teachers of both his and our day, as it affirmed the godness of all people and nullified all lists of exclusions. Jesus took away the illicit church’s and state’s ability to control and/or manipulate others, save by escalating violence, which was by some strange dynamic—the grim result of rejecting Jesus’ way of nonviolence— set loose to rampage by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Yet compassion, the gift of our nonviolent Creator-God, was also released to escalate by Jesus’ death and resurrection. And, as taught by Jesus, nonviolent love will prevail against violence, with its lack of love. Jesus’ kingdom is emerging through nonviolent transformation, as opposed to the illicit church’s lie of evil violence being disposed of by righteous violence.

Does our society ever persecute Jesus’s followers for their nonviolent love? Come and visit me some day and we can discuss the why of my imprisonment. “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”