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Life Arts    H2'ed 11/17/19

The Plowshares 7 Are Convicted for Following Jesus' Resistance to State Oppression

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Readings for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: MAL 3: 19-20A; PS 98: 509; 2 THES 3: 7-12; LK 21: 28; Lk 21: 5-19


At the end of last month, a federal grand jury in Georgia convicted seven Catholic peace activists on three felony counts and a misdemeanor charge for breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base on April 4, 2018. The activists included Liz McAlister (the widow of peace activist, Philip Berrigan) along with Martha Hennessy (the granddaughter of Catholic Worker founder, Dorothy Day).


Known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, the group entered the base armed with hammers, crime scene tape, and baby bottles containing their own blood. Once inside, they splashed their blood on the walls of the base's administration building. They also posted a formal indictment of the U.S. government charging it with crimes against peace. Kings Bay harbors at least six nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Each of them carries 20 Trident missiles.


The activists' defense was that they were following the prophet Isaiah's command to "beat swords into plowshares" (IS 2:4). However, at their trial, they were forbidden to cite their religious motivations. The judge disqualified their planned "necessity defense" which claims that their lawbreaking was required to prevent the far greater crime of a nuclear war. On their sentencing within 90 days, the activists will face more than 20 years in prison.


All of that fits in perfectly with the theme of this Sunday's liturgy of the word. It deals with the promise of God's new order (aka the Kingdom of God) and with the persecution of Jesus' followers that, according to the Master, must precede its institution. Jesus promised arrests, judicial silencings, jailings, and general persecution for those with the courage to follow his example as an opponent of empire and war.


See that theme for yourself by reviewing today's readings here. In any case, what follows are my "translations" of those selections. They describe the new order (or what scripture scholar, John Dominic Crossan calls "God's Great World Clean-up") as advocated by the Jewish prophetic tradition, by Jesus himself, and just recently by the Plowshares 7. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus outlines the inevitable consequences for any who, like the 7, act to hasten the Kingdom's eventual arrival:

MAL 3: 19-20A

Scorching times are coming
For the rulers
Of this world!
Root and branch
They will be destroyed
In purging fire
When God's Great Clean-up
Finally sets things right.

PS 98: 5-9

The Great Purge
Will at last establish
God's justice
On earth
Including environmental justice
For the entire planet,
With its seas and mountains.
Above all,
It will mean
Equity and justice
For the whole human race.
Everyone should
Be happy about that.

2 THES 3: 7-12

Long ago,
Some in Paul's community
Thought the Purge
Would take place
"Any day now."
So, they stopped working.
"Don't do that,"
Said Paul.
"Your faith
Shouldn't make you
A burden to others."


LK 21:28

However,
Just because
The Great Purgation
Has yet to occur,
Don't lose faith.
Know that it is
Still somehow
At hand

LK 21: 5-19

So, you're wondering,
Are you,
When exactly
The Great Clean-up
Will take place?
It will happen in three stages
First, there'll be
Wars, terror and insurrections
Along with natural disasters
That will leave
Religion in a shamble.
Secondly, all kinds of charlatans
Will show up
Claiming to speak for Jesus.
Thirdly, even family members
And religious authorities
Will blame believers for all of it.
They will hate, persecute and arrest them
For simply following the Master,
Handing them over
To civil authorities
Deeply fearful
Of the wisdom
Of their unassailable defenses.
Jesus' recommendations?
1. Reject false Christs.
2. Trust the Holy Spirit within.
3. Endure imprisonment.
4. Persevere!

All of that represents an extremely high bar, don't you agree? Following the martyr Jesus - the tortured one, the one imprisoned on death row, the victim of capital punishment - is never easy.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)
 

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Mike Rivage-Seul

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Please sign the petition.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 at 10:00:02 AM

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I intend to sign. Nelson G Wight, nels.wight@gmail.com

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 at 3:09:49 PM

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Praise and Glory be to Plowshares 7.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 at 3:10:57 PM

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Thanks, Nels. Like you, I so admire these people who put the rest of us to shame. Such examples of faith and courage!

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 at 3:16:17 PM

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Signed and shared to contacts.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 6:36:26 AM

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I signed the offsite petition in support of the dismissal of their charges. They sound like a noble group, although I don't concur with the predicted biblical diatribe presented here.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 4:25:40 AM

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Dear Steven, Thanks so much for signing the petition. The group is noble indeed. I'm sorry if the homily came across as a "diatribe." But on the other hand, if diatribe means a forceful attack on someone or something, I'm afraid that it is precisely what's needed at this point in history vis a vis what the biblical tradition calls the "Wisdom of the World." Evidently, the Plowshares Seven agrees. And so did the Berrigan brothers, Dorothy Day, Martin King, Malcolm, Gandhi -- along with Jesus and the entire prophetic tradition as found in Judeo-Christian scripture. On the other hand, I understand quite well how people like you and me can have strong allergic reactions to anything associated with a completely misunderstood and domesticated "Bible" and all the hypocrisy associated therewith. So, thank you for helping me rethink my own rhetoric and its undeniable liabilities.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 5:34:59 PM

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The state is going after political protesters with felonies, lumping them in with "terrorists". That is a sign of the decay of the Bill of Rights.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:59:10 PM

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