by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Author’s note: My friend Shane Claiborne, one of the most popular progressive evangelicals in the world, asked me to write about civil disobedience for his website, redletterchristians.org, which I recommend as a great source of inspiration. I share this essay as we enter Holy Week to encourage everyone on journeys with the nonviolent Jesus.
Twenty years ago, on Dec. 7, 1993, Philip Berrigan, Lynn Fredriksson, Bruce Friedrich and I walked on to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro, N.C., through thousands of soldiers to one of the 75 F-15E nuclear-capable fighter bombers on alert to bomb Bosnia, and each hammered on it. We were trying to fulfill Isaiah’s commandment to “beat swords into plowshares.” We were arrested, charged with two felony convictions each and faced 20 years in prison. I did about nine months in jail and a year and a half under house arrest. To this day, I’m still carefully monitored by the government, can’t vote, can’t visit prisoners and can’t travel to several countries. This, along with my arrest record, is normal for those of us who are spending our lives in nonviolent resistance to war, injustice and nuclear weapons.
A few years after I was released from jail, I was running an inner-city community center for disenfranchised women and children in Richmond, Va. A charismatic young priest whom I greatly admired confronted me.
“Are you crazy?” he asked. “Tell me really: Why did you do it?”…