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Father Steve Kelly’s Statement
Then, I met Steve. Steve invited me into deeper faith, and deeper resistance.
Steve invited me to join 4 plowshares actions, which included many of you here today. We prepared for these actions and their consequences, we grappled with learning more about the nukes and international law. We reflected on what it meant to be human, to be nonviolent while living in a warmaking state. We thought about fear and faith, and how hope grows as we do hopeful actions of disarmament.
Steve cuts fence and hammers swords into plowshares regardless of the consequences. He follows the commandments of his faith, to love one another, even as he risks the cross. He is guided by his conscience, and doesn’t let fear control him.
Steve remains right now in exile, in the margins of the Empire, for unmasking the idols of silver and gold, the idols of the nukes and warmaking implements.
We all have fears of being too old, too young, too weak, or thinking no one will listen, fear of not making any difference, Fear of losing our income, our place in the class system, our property…our 5 year plan. .
Steve doesn’t let these fears stand in the way of telling the truth. He talks to the court, not getting his instruction from the Empire, but from his conscience and faith: Going for the truth, amid the flood of lies and propaganda all around us. And Steve continues to invite us….
For the past 7 years I have been working and living at the Redwood City Catholic Worker house.. In rich Silicon Valley there is poverty and homelessness all around us.
(I have remained active by being part of a couple of street bands who play for demonstrations. One time I was able to play for Steve while he was in jail, as the TV panned our band at a demonstration for Black Lives Matter. )
But the nuclear weapons continue to be upgraded and deployed, and continue to be a threat to life on earth.
Of course, the nukes that we are resisting are not just in the US. In clear violation of international law, the US nukes are in 5 European countries.
Now, I want to bring this up, because the peace movement that I encountered in Germany was very exciting and hopeful. It is extremely energizing to be part of it. It’s important for us to know about it.
In 2017, John LaForge from nukewatch organized the first US delegation to Germany to participate in the International action/camp gathering against the 20 US nukes in Germany.
About 72 peace groups in Germany together agreed to nonviolently work to remove the nukes, and advocate for nuclear disarmament. They organized a camp that was set up outside of the air force base where the nukes are deployed. I was in the first US delegation, along with Steve Baggarly, who is speaking here today and Sr. Ardeth Platte, who is here with us in Spirit.
We were with people from Pax Christi, the Evangelical Lutheran church, WRL, FOR the Communist party, the Left Party, ICAN, and many others, all who agreed on nonviolent actions that included cutting fence and go-ins onto the base.
There were Catholic workers from the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and England, several of which had participated in Plowshares actions.
The question of “is it nonviolent to go on the base or cut fence” did not come up. And It was a given that the soldiers and police that we met were our brothers and sisters. The level of conversation is invigorating, joyful, and comes from a common desire for life, for resistance, for a world without nuclear weapons and war.
Working with an international group of people, despite language and faith differences, made clear to me that people around the world want justice and peace, despite what the governments and corporations want.
At the moment, 93 people are facing court and jail for the go-ins. Most sentences are about 30 days in jail, or 30 days pay. Many are in the process of appealing to the higher court, in the hopes of then getting the argument of the illegality of the weapons into the International Court of Justice in the Hague, or the European Court of Human Rights in Strausburg, France.
Steve remains in exile. on the margins of empire, and invites us all to join him. He isn’t the first to say, Follow me.
Steve Baggarly’s Presentation
In tomorrow’s gospel we read from Luke chapter 11; in it, Jesus tells the sign-seeking crowd that the only sign God will give is that of Jonah; as Jonah was a sign to Nineveh, Jesus would be a sign to them.
Jonah was a Jew tasked with going to the capital of an Assyrian empire notorious for brutally subjugating conquered peoples, which waged an ethnic cleansing campaign in occupied Israel, had overrun Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem.
Jonah was sent to Nineveh to bring God’s warning that if the Assyrians didn’t stop their violence it would lead them to destruction.
According to Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, each Trident submarine at Naval Submarine Station Kings Bay in St. Mary’s, Georgia, can carry nuclear ballistic missiles with the combined explosive power of 1,825 Hiroshima bombs. The Hiroshima bomb killed over 100,000 people in moments. Alone, the US fleet of 14 Trident submarines can kill every child, woman, and man on the planet and create nuclear winter, destroying the world’s ecosystems and ending life as we know it.
In 2018 the Plowshares movement came to Kings Bay. Steve and Patrick, along with Liz, Clare, Mark, Martha, and Carmen went to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home state, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, to symbolically disarm a base home to a weapons system which at any moment can usher in global annihilation. Their action in southeast Georgia exposes the mega-violence that our entire nation has in hand, and warns us that unless we stop, we could be destroyed. As Jonah was a sign to Nineveh, and Jesus was a sign confronting the powers of first century Roman Palestine, so have the Kings Bay Plowshares been a sign for 21st century United States of America.
Wednesday is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In his Nobel Prize Lecture, he said, “nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first…We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts…we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.”
As it happens, the Kings Bay Plowshares took direct action in the fullness of time. During the two and a half years Fr. Steve has been in jail and the others have alternated between jail and home detention, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the hands of its iconic Doomsday Clock to just 100 Seconds to Midnight. In its view the world is closer than it has ever been to existential catastrophe, as the US has ripped up nuclear arms treaties and doubled down on fossil fuel production, and increasingly nationalistic nuclear weapons states hurtle ahead in a renewed arms race.
Their attempt to incarnate Dr. King’s vision of “declaring eternal hostility to the triple evils of racism, militarism, and materialism,” comes at a time of national reckoning with white supremacy as well as devastating economic injustice, both of which have turned the pandemic from a crisis into a tragedy.
And theirs was the first Plowshares action since July of 2017 when 122 nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. All of the nuclear weapons states boycotted the treaty negotiations, but the rest of the world, led especially by women, and especially women from the global south, had had enough of the decisions of nine self-interested nuclear weapons wielding governments determining whether their children and grandchildren will have a planet to call home. Ninety days after 4 more countries ratify the treaty, it will go into force for those 50 countries, and nuclear weapons will join chemical and biological weapons and be illegal under International Law.
Patrick tells about visiting the parish priest in St. Mary’s with Carmen several weeks after their action. It ends up the priest had been getting some flak from his parishioners upset about the Catholic protesters at King’s Bay. For years the priest had seen Trident submarines going up and down the river to and from the base and had never given it a second thought. After a lengthy conversation, the priest admitted his understanding had grown and he felt new confidence to respond to his parishioners’ concerns. Certainly from then on he would be keenly aware that every sub gliding by is carrying the end of the world.
In the same Nobel Prize Lecture, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described nuclear weapons as both “genocidal and suicidal.” And so unlike Jonah, who sulked after Nineveh repented as his hated enemy had avoided its comeuppance, should this world in nuclear arms repent of the mass violence it has in hand, finally beating its swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, finally allowing people everywhere to live without fear and with their basic needs met, all of Jonah’s children will rejoice.
We thank you Kings Bay Plowshares for using your lives as signs of the urgency of nuclear disarmament.
Indigenous lives matter!Pacific Island lives matter!All life matters!If we politely applaud their efforts, but do not pick up the hammer of justice ourselves, we cannot overcome the racism that poisons and divides our society today. We cannot overcome the materialism that through its gross indulgence of the few, threatens the continued existence of our very planet through global warming. We cannot overcome the militarism that forges a swath of death and destruction for millions around the world, and swells the borders with refugees seeking only to survive.The time for prophetic witness is not over, for as Pope Francis proclaimed in his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”, published last Saturday, October 3, “ Truth,in fact, is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy. All three together are essential to building peace”. Prophetic witness is not fortunetelling; it is simply the commitment to speak truth to power in every aspect of our daily life. We are all called to be prophets. In the words of Pope Francis: “Never again war!”I would like to conclude with the Prayer to the Creator that Pope Francis used to end “Fratelli Tutti”:Lord, Father of our human family,you created all human beings equal in dignity:pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter,dialogue, justice and peace.
Move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world,a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth.May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,and shared dreams.Amen.
Good Afternoon– it’s good to be with all of you. It is really wonderful to situate my dad’s action in the context of community! It is what has kept me positive and gives me hope.
No one will ever mistake my dad for a man of few words — if you’ve spent any amount of time around my dad you know that he is a man of many words… He is a lover of words. He’s a journalist, a story teller, a voracious reader of the newspaper. Growing up he would commonly bring me along to listen to speakers speaking words– many of them Theologians. Some memorable ones including Stanley Hauerwaus, Liz McCalister & Phil Berrigan, Helen Prejean, Robert Thurman and Shane Claibourne. He also talks to anyone he ever meets– waiters and waitresses, people passing by on the street, famous people, homeless people, whoever, wherever.
And speaking of words, my dad takes THE Word— the scriptures that is, very seriously. John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning there was the Word and that the Word became flesh. I want to focus for a minute on that idea of enfleshing the Word. M. Shawn Copeland, a renowned Black liberationist theologian wrote in her book “Enfleshing Freedom,” that Eucharistic solidarity “is a virtue, a practice of cognitive and bodily commitments” teaches us “to imagine, to hope for, and to create new possibilities” and to “respond in acts of self-sacrifice—committing ourselves to the long labor of creation, the enfleshment of freedom”
Isn’t this exactly what the Kings Bay Plowshares did? They truly took the Word and turned it into a bodily commitment, and their self-sacrifice is why we’re here today. Yes, The Kings Bay 7 took the Word (Isaiah 2:4 to be exact) and embodied it. They took courageous steps towards freeing us from nuclear bondage when they enacted the words:
And [God] shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
They read these words and decided that they couldn’t leave the words sitting on a page. They decided that they had to take dramatic action to usher in the Kingdom of God. They decided that if they were going to really take it seriously, they had to make it a reality.
So we gather today and offer them our gratitude. We thank them for their sacrifices, and we hold them close as we remember that the moral arc of the universe and the labor of creation are both long.
We also come together today in gratitude for the ways that the Kings Bay Plowshares is a rallying cry for all of us and a reminder to all of us that disarmament and resistance is all of our work.
In closing, I’d like to go back to the beginning where I said my dad is a man of many words. Being a man of many words, he has some favorite words that he would recite to us and have us repeat many times growing up. Some quotes my siblings and I have all memorized. I’ll let those be the end of my remarks–
- Love is the only rational act- Morrie Schwartz
- Said in a tribute to a friend who had died- “the man simply exuded love- it wasn’t a valentine, it wasn’t a eulogy, it was almost a physical characteristic.
- And From Frank Cordaro who said we could summarize Jesus’ life and message in 4 phrases-
From the bottom up
So let us continue to live in love and nonviolence– practicing love unconditionally, rationally and embodied.
Francisco Risso’s Blessing