Religious Freedom to Oppose Nuclear Weapons
May 20th, 2021
At trial in October, 2019, in front of Judge Lisa Wood, Patrick O’Neill prayed in his opening statement, “I am happy that the grace of God has brought us together.”
Seven co-defendants of the Kings Bay Plowshares were charged and convicted of conspiracy, destruction of naval property, depredation of government property, and trespass. We walked onto a United States Naval base where the Trident Nuclear submarine fleet keeps nuclear warheads and missiles on hair trigger alert, an affront to God and man.
“God looked at the world and found that it was good.” (Gen. 1:12)
On the 50th anniversary of the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 2018, we went to Kings Bay to perform a sacramental, prophetic act of denuclearization. Our direct, nonviolent act of resistance to the nuclear arsenal was grounded in our deeply held religious beliefs that we are in intimate relationship with God and each other. The existence of these nuclear weapons violates our basic belief that we are called to protect life. We came to the naval base to testify to the Christ who calls us to self-sacrifice for the love of our Creator and for our brothers and sisters.
We brought the words of the language of faith to the U.S. federal court in opposition to the language of empire and imperial domination. In time, this testimony to the Christ will also include expert, legal testimony that is currently blocked by the judicial system.
As a corporal work of mercy, we carried the body of Christ with us and in us to both sites of criminal sin represented in the military base and the courtroom that defends the war crimes.
Any act for nuclear abolition that is peaceful is an act for the kingdom of God, and standing against the kingdoms of empire.
We are attempting to show that we stand with the friends of God and with the prophets. The disregard for God, humanity and the rule of law as it relates to nuclear weapon — this is what we desire to end.
When I poured blood on the threshold and door of the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic Administrative Building, we declared we will not spill the blood of countless innocents to support the personal gain of a few. We understand that we are all part of one another in the Mystical Body of Christ. Harm to even one person is harm to all of humanity.
“So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (Mt. 18:14)
Patrick and all of us were happy to testify to the Christ in U.S. federal court because the Kings Bay Plowshares defendants wished to bring together the military, the judge, prosecutors, jurors, and the public to address the question of who or what gives us any authority to threaten to blow up the world, or even a small part of it.
We envision a new social order where the basic material needs of the people are being met with the resources that belong to all of us. Spending needlessly on weapons of mass destruction has stolen the wealth from the people and workers and handed it to the weapons industry and the corporate elite.
We want to say “No!” in the face of the wall of silence that protects the perpetual war of the state.
We willingly put on the chains of Christ, to repent for the creation of the nuclear bombs.
We practice the spiritual works of mercy by instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, consoling the afflicted, and bearing wrongs patiently by going to prison.
The Christian of the 21st century must evolve in the application of Christ’s teachings in our own times. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.” (Lk 6:43-44)
We put on Christic Personhood, or put off the old, false self in order to put on the new Christ by being willing to serve others, willing to sacrifice personal comfort and gain, willing to do penance for the sins of the world.
It is an individual lifelong process of various phases, this study of the Body of Christ, to receive new eyes and ears, to use our voices in a fearless way, to hold banners and pray at the nuclear warhead bunkers.
Catholic action comes through work and study in community with each other. We become freed up in prison to help minister to the human needs there, to share in the injustice and suffering at the hands of the profiteering state.
It is up to us to bring the knowledge and insight of the shared understanding of the Good News of love.
Through action, visiting the military bases, the courts, the prisons, speaking truth to power, we inspire one another to keep up the peace work, keep the efforts alive, keep holding each other close while under punishment.
It is the work of “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:10). Christ’s resurrection is a nuclear-free world. We will bring this about with our hands, feet, hearts, and mind. We will bring the will of God to fruition.
Thanks goes to Jeannine Hill-Fletcher, Theology professor at Fordham University, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, Pope Francis, and all the cloud of witnesses, angels and saints who have gone before us.