There have been hundreds of thousands of acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history that have helped the cause of justice and peace. The Boston Tea Party, Thoreau's one night in jail, the suffragists who blocked the White House entrance, Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of the bus -- concerned people throughout our history have confronted injustice through civil disobedience as a way to change unjust laws. Indeed, one could argue that positive social change can only come "after good people break bad laws and accept the consequences." In recent years, thousands have been arrested for protesting the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the evil Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, mountaintop removal, and Wall Street corporate greed in the Occupy movement. Two weeks ago, thousands protested draconian laws in Montreal in the largest protest in Canadian history.
On the Road to Peace
On the Road to Peace is a column on nonviolence from Jesuit Fr. John Dear, a peace activist and the author of more than 20 books.
"Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."(Mt. 5:19) That's what Jesus announced in the Sermon on the Mount, right after the beatitudes and just before the six antitheses, which instruct us to resist evil nonviolently and to love our enemies. In light of that verse, Walter Wink must be considered one of the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I can think of no higher praise.
Walter died peacefully May 10 in his home in Sandisfield, Mass., at age 76, with his beloved wife, June, by his side. I first met Walter 20 years ago, but I'd been studying his books for years before that. He helped me at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and in recent years, we had lunch together each year in Santa Fe with our friends Sheila and Dennis Linn when they attended the annual conference of scientists and philosophers.
"NATO doesn't work anymore. Let's dismantle this arcane network of war makers whose fundamental purpose is the service of U.S. military interests and create a new global network for nonviolent conflict resolution, which serves the whole human race by leading us toward a new world of peace."
That's the message from the weekend, when thousands marched in Chicago against the largest meeting of NATO in its 63-year history.
We’ve all witnessed the worst of religion, how organized religion can hurt us, turn our leaders into cruel, power-hungry authorities, and bless war not peace. Yet many of us continue to plumb the depths of all that is good and positive in religion and spirituality in our search for the Divine, and this proves to be a great blessing. In this search for God and the common good, at some point, many of us have joined local, national and international interfaith programs and projects in our work for peace.
Fifty miles off the southern tip of South Korea lies Jeju Island, one of the world's most beautiful islands, known for its glorious rocky coast, coral reefs and sacred vista. But as far as the United States is concerned, its sole purpose is its strategic location next to China, Japan and Taiwan. The United States has asked South Korea to build a major naval base there for U.S. Aegis destroyers -- U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that carry cruise missiles. These missiles, kept on U.S. destroyers and submarines at the proposed Jeju Island naval base, could be used someday to destroy Chinese ICBMs.
But contrary to all expectations, a magnificent campaign of daily nonviolent resistance against the base has grown in the last five years. What's even more inspiring is that church leaders are at the forefront of the campaign. Everyone who cares about peace needs to know what is happening on Jeju Island.
Sr. Anne Montgomery is a legend in some peace movement circles. A member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, she has spent more than three years in prison for many civil disobedience actions against war, including seven Plowshares disarmament actions*; many years teaching in Harlem; and many years living with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Palestine-Israel.
"If you want to be hopeful, you have to do hopeful things." That's the advice of Daniel Berrigan. He's spent his life doing hopeful things for peace and justice, and has become a source of hope for many. As for me, I've tried to do hopeful things, but I find it usually just brings me to the edge of hope. Sometimes I can almost taste hope, but more often than not, it's just outside my reach. But that's OK. Hope, I'm learning, is a journey. Often, it demands the risk of coming close to despair. That's why hope requires steadfast action. For Easter people stuck in a Good Friday world, active hope is a necessity. It's a stubborn way of life. Hope is daily choice.
Ana Carrigan and Juliet Weber have just released Monseñor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero, an astonishing DVD documentary about martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Thirty-two years after his assassination, one would presume that there was no footage and that no such film would ever appear. But here he is, gentle and humble -- and larger than life. We see Romero walking among the villagers, listening to the grieving poor and denouncing injustice from the pulpit. After all these years, what a gift!
At an Easter service in Texas on Sunday, football star Tim Tebow called Easter "our Super Bowl." Well, sorry, Tim, but I think the resurrection of the nonviolent Jesus is beyond any football analogy. During my speaking tour about my new book Lazarus, Come Forth!, I've been talking about resurrection in terms of active nonviolence.
For me, it means death does not get the last word, that from now on, we do not cooperate with death and its analogies, that we are called to be people of loving nonviolence. Our task is to abolish poverty, war, executions, nuclear weapons and violence if we want to live in Christ's resurrection gift of peace. Going to the Super Bowl is easy compared to the Easter struggle for justice and disarmament.
This Easter, I found myself pondering Mark's account of the resurrection. His version -- the earliest and shortest of the four Gospel versions -- does not feature the risen Jesus. He never appears. Instead, a youth dressed in white -- the clothing of martyrs -- commands the women to tell the men to return to Galilee, where they will see the risen Jesus. They run away terrified.
On Good Friday, we stand with the nonviolent Jesus as he suffers torture and execution at the hands of the empire, yet remains centered in the God of love, forgiving and nonviolent to the end. Gandhi said that in his death, Jesus practiced perfect nonviolence. He teaches us not only how to suffer and die, but becomes a spiritual explosion of disarming love that is still transforming us all. This Holy Week, we might listen to the words of Jesus from the cross, as offered in the four Gospels, for clues about following him faithfully on the way of nonviolence in pursuit of justice and peace. Here are the famous seven last sayings of the crucified, nonviolent Jesus.