Judge asks...we answer!

The new "National Security Campus" in KC, Mo., where employees will make radar devices, fuses, tritium containers, nuclear weapon "triggers," and other parts for nuclear weapons--photo by Chris Zebuyak

Kansas City, Mo., Judge Ardie Bland, on Dec. 13, 2013, found nine nuclear weapon resisters guilty of trespass. He then dished out essay questions as a sentence. Applause in the courtroom prefaced weeks of scribbles by defendants. Lawyer Henry Stoever submitted the essays to Judge Bland Jan. 22.

Word spread about the sentence. Lawyer Bill Quigley of Loyola University in New Orleans commented, “Wonderful news. … A just sentence, who would have thought?” Defendant Father Bill “Bix” Bichsel, in a note with his essays, wrote the judge, “Through your conscientious judgments, you are guiding your court to be a sanctuary of justice-dealing for all people. Thank you for your judgment.”

Reflecting on the leadership of Father Carl Kabat, defendant Betsy Keenan wrote, “Father Carl has lived through many remarkable experiences in his commitment to a God who desires peace so that the human family might flourish. This nuclear weapons facility in Kansas City is a thorn in his side that will hardly let him rest, it seems.” Defendant Georgia Walker wrote, “The countries which possess nuclear weapons are holding the whole world hostage with the fear and trembling that these weapons could destroy the entire planet through evil intent or careless accident. This is a great injustice which must be resisted with every ounce of courage that we can muster!”

The essay homework sparked a fire in Ron Faust, who was not a defendant Dec. 13 but wrote a house-of-mirrors poem to greet the essays. Wanna write? Yes! Send your essays/poems/yearnings to janepstoever@yahoo.com. You just might make it to this web page.


The Essays

Essays by Jim Hannah

Essays by Cele Breen, SCL

Essays by Georgia Walker

Essays by Bix Bichsel, SJ

Essays by Betsy Keenan

Essays by Carl Kabat, OMI

Essays by Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP

Essays by Jerry Zawada, OFM

Essays by Lauren Logan

Essays by Jane Stoever

Poem, "Do No Harm," by Ron Faust


Essays Jim Hannah

Betsy Keenan dances with Cassandra Dixon July 13 at the entry to KC’s new nuke-parts plant, with the oxymoron for a name: National Security Campus. Photo by Bryan Lloyd

What if another nation nuked us? Would your mind change about nukes?

Asked whether their opposition to nuclear weapons would change if another nation were to bomb the United States, or if Axis nations had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, all nine nuclear weapon resisters questioned Dec. 13 by Judge Ardie Bland responded, with various degrees of intensity, NO!

A senior peace activist in the group, Father Carl Kabat, OMI, cited a variety of voices from his Catholic tradition to bolster his assertion that “the bombs we dropped on Japan during World War II were a crime against God/the Holy One and merit unequivocal condemnation.” From this perspective, the U.S. bombings were immoral, and if Japan or any other country made a nuclear attack on the U.S., that would be equally immoral.

While acknowledging that such an attack would impact her emotionally, defendant Betsy Keenan said she believed her opinion would not change. Challenging the question itself, she wrote: “The ‘what if’ game leads us down the paths of uncertainty and fear, the reason we have nuclear weapons in the first place. Instead, we should recognize evil and insanity … and do our best to resist them. We should counter evil with love, and fear with hope.”

Father Bill “Bix” Bichsel, S.J., responded, “If any country initiated a nuclear weapon attack on an American city, I pray to God I would not in any way agree to a counter attack. Violence calls out the endless cycle of violence.” Noting that in his childhood he favored the atomic bombing of Japan, Father Bichsel wrote, “in my last 45 years, I’ve gone to following the nonviolence of Jesus, hopefully, and certainly to resisting the use of any type of destructive weapon.”

Lauren Logan had a similar response from a Buddhist perspective. “First,” she wrote, “It’s not a question of ‘Who drops the bomb?’ It’s a question of ‘Why drop the bomb?’ Or even more so, ‘Why does the bomb exist?’ … The bomb itself works to destroy everything—good, evil, or indifferent—that’s within its reach. … To drop a nuclear bomb means literally to kill all life for political gain.”

Since hypothetical situations were being posed, Jerry Zawada, OFM, offered his own: If three nuclear bombs were dropped on the U.S. by three nations, “and we retaliated with three of our own, and a firestorm erupted globally with nuclear contamination encircling the world—who would then be the victor? And to what purpose?”

Jane Stoever wrote of her emotions and those of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings: “We are heartsick. So much damage was caused by U.S. nuclear attacks in 1945, and so much damage is caused by ongoing production/maintenance of nuclear weapons.”  She cited news reports that 400 persons in Kansas City alone have died or become ill from working at the Bannister Federal Complex during its 65-year history of parts production for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. “For the safety of the entire world,” she said, “we need to abolish nuclear weapons.”

“The production of nuclear weapons by any country is insanity and evil,” wrote Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP. “Our response must always be to stop the manufacture of these weapons and to work for peace and cooperation among people. We are all connected. We come from the same source: our Loving God.” She closed with her own question: “What would Jesus do if he walked beside us in the flesh today? Do you think he would support the manufacture of nuclear weapons by any country?”

Cele Breen, SCL, wrote that her initial reaction to a nuclear attack on the U.S.. would include shock, horror, frustration, and certainly anger. “I can only hope and pray that in time and with the help of others around me that my anger would be a source of energy for good. I know this can happen. I have been influenced in this hope by hearing the children of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … sent by their ancestors to plead with the world to never let this happen again.”

Georgia Walker similarly wrote that a nuclear attack on the U.S. “would intensify my efforts to work for the abolition of all nuclear armaments.” This because revenge only leads to more revenge, because all humanity would lose in a nuclear exchange, and because “war is simply murder writ large. … Vaporizing humans and all living things with an atomic bomb is an act of moral depravity no matter which country does it or for what reasons it is executed. A crime is a crime.”


Essays by Cele Breen, SCL

Cele Breen, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, Kan., under arrest July 13, 2013 -- photo by Chris Zebuyak

To: Judge Ardie Bland, Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court

From: Mary Cele Breen, SCL, of the Holy Family Catholic Worker Community, Kansas City, Mo.

1.     If North Korea, China or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion?

If this was to happen, and I survived, I would be even more strongly opposed to nuclear weapons than I am now.

I’m sure that I would be shocked, horrified, stunned, angry, frustrated and deeply disappointed. If my experience of 9/11 is any clue, I would probably be like a walking zombie for a while. Even as I write this I can’t even imagine how massive and horrible the destruction would be. The pictures I’ve seen of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are almost beyond my capacity to take in the reality. And we know that the nuclear bombs in use now (and that we are helping to produce here in Kansas City) are many times more powerful and therefore more destructive than those used in World War II.

I would certainly be angry. I can only hope and pray that in time and with the help of others around me that my anger would be a source of energy for good. I know this can happen. I have been influenced in this hope by hearing the children of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They speak quietly but as if they are on a mission, sent by their ancestors to plead with the world to never let this happen again.

I would also be both frustrated and deeply disappointed that as human beings we are so slow to learn and so quick to forget. This is why our little protests are so necessary. We need to get people’s attention.

2.     If Germany or Japan had used Nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

I can only answer this question based on my experience of WW II as it happened but with the added complication of the initial strike coming from our “enemy.”  I’m presuming the question means the bomb landed in the U.S.

Since I turned nine years of age right after World War II, I have to think that I would have grown up hating the Germans and the Japanese even more if one of them had dropped the atomic bomb first. I’m sure that we in the U.S. would have retaliated with greater force or in a more widespread manner.  I’m also sure that I would have been convinced that we did the right thing.

I say this because, as it was, I grew up thinking that it was somehow necessary or a smart thing for us to drop the bombs because it ended the war and fewer lives were lost.  As a child I remember seeing the small square signs in the front window of homes that showed that someone from that family was fighting in the war. If that person were killed, I think the symbol was replaced with a gold one. I also remember feeling so bad for the mothers of my friends whose husbands were away fighting in the war, and I didn’t know how they managed. Add to that, my brother was in the navy. So to end the war as soon as possible made sense.

I was way into adulthood before I began to learn the real destructive force of nuclear weapons. I had no idea about radiation and what it did to people and to the earth, nor how far the damage spread. So, if that bomb had landed here in our country, I presume that I would have learned this a lot sooner. It is possible that my initial hatred of our enemy might have been stronger. It is also possible and I think probable that I would have been even more opposed to nuclear weapons as I grew up because I would have seen the effects firsthand.

3.     What would you say to those who say, we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back?

Let me start by not answering the question. If we were attacked by another nation using nuclear weapons and we fought back using our “big stick” of nuclear weapons, we might soon be engaged in a nuclear disaster that could destroy a major part of the planet. I have already referred to the fact that our present bombs are so much more powerful than the ones we used In Japan. The whole notion of “fighting back” when it comes to these very destructive weapons strikes me as madness.

Back to this question, I would want to ask the people who think that we need a big stick if there are alternatives to fighting back, to war, and to getting even or really proving our superiority. We are a great nation, we have many talented people, and we have numerous resources. Are we not capable of using our richness in finding ways to settle conflicts?

After the terrible attacks of 9-11, I know there were some suggestions of pursuing responses other than air raids and soldiers on the ground. What a challenging opportunity that would have been. We are keen on seeing ourselves as the greatest nation on the earth. Imagine – if we could’ve absorbed the blow, not retaliated in kind but found ways to bring about justice for those acts of violence.

I realize that many brush these ideas off as weak, pie-in-the-sky dreams. I was recently encouraged in continuing to think positively about alternatives to violence and war for our country and our world by remembering what Nelson Mandela did in South Africa. He did not act out of revenge and hatred and retaliate. Instead he forgave, he healed, and he moved a nation toward healing their human rights abuses. It is not a perfect situation, but it is healthy.

4.     You defendants say you are Christians and one is Buddhist. Father Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

My response would be first to admit to the person that my language in this conversation will likely be inadequate. I would ask for patience. I would explain that I was born into and raised in a Catholic family, was educated in Catholic schools, and worked in Catholic settings all my adult life. In addition, I have been a member of a religious community of women for 60 years. I am like a tea bag that has been steeping in Catholicism for 77 years! However, in the last 50 years I’ve also had experiences that opened up my horizons significantly – not perfectly – that taught and continue to teach me a great deal.

One thing I learned was that using God language is not the only way to have conversations about important things. So I would invite my conversation partner to explore with me things that we could both affirm about what promotes life in this universe: human, animal, plant, ocean, air and river – all life! Maybe we could even talk about how nuclear weapons fit into this affirmation of life.

In regard to Fr. Kabat’s statement, perhaps my partner and I could agree to find a new word or make one up. Instead of “ungodly,” we might choose “unlifely.”  Although it is ungainly, it makes a point.

In regard to the second question above: 1st we believers often forget that our statements about what God wants or stands for are human attempts at expressing the divine. We believe in revelation but our expressions are limited, time-bound, and culturally shrouded. 2nd there is no magic that keeps people from sometimes being misled.

5.     How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices?

This question is the most challenging of all in terms of a response. Even after thinking about it at length, I am at a loss as to how to respond. I am “out of my depth” for sure. Here’s my best effort.

It seems to refer to what I would call an extremist group. As I imagine this conversation I realize that it will take discipline to avoid an argument and maybe not even then. I think that I would start by stating some of my assumptions given the brief information I have. In acknowledging or correcting my assumptions, perhaps other avenues for discussion might arise. One assumption as an example:

Your God is also the God of creation, I presume, responsible for the beauty of the earth and the universe, and the marvelous intricacies of the human person. The destruction of human persons and the earth through the use of nuclear weapons appears to be a paradox.

I have to admit that even this approach seems futile. As someone from the U.S., the only nation to have used these weapons against another nation, I feel that challenging my own nation, my own government is the only proper approach.

6.     Who determines what God’s Law is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

These last three questions are all asking “the God Question” in some way. Who speaks for God? Who knows the mind of God? Who interprets God’s plan or will for people?  I am not a student of World Religions, but certainly, from the earliest record of Hebrew history up to the present, this has been a thorny and persistent question.

At times, patriarchs, prophets and kings have stepped up to the plate, often at their own peril. Others, both the prominent and the pauper and many in between, have attempted to speak for God or to define the law of God.

My personal answer to this question is rooted in the Catholic/Christian tradition. I look upon it as both an ideal but also a practical guide.  It comes from a tradition that is both amazing and flawed.

We seek God’s way or will or law by consulting many sources. We see how God has dealt with people throughout history especially in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. We look at how faithful people have applied that to different situations throughout history. Sometimes these are expressed in precepts or specific teachings. At any given time we try to look at all sides of a question or situation and see traces of how God might be dealing with us now. Finally we consult with the faithful people trying to live good lives today.

This isn’t fool proof. It is not at all exact. And because human beings are limited and sometimes are capable of fooling themselves royally, it doesn’t always work. History is replete with sorry examples.

On the other hand, we humans do some great things.

Back to Essays List


Essays by Georgia Walker

Georgia Walker, on left, helps to hold a banner July 13, 2013, before stepping onto the road leading to KC's new NNSA plant. Photo by Chris Zebuyak.

To:  Judge Ardie Bland of Municipal Court, Kansas City, Mo.           

From:  Georgia Walker of Kansas City, Mo.

1.     If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion?

This question seems to suggest that my opposition to nuclear weapons might be altered if another country utilized a nuclear weapon against a city in the United States.  In that case, might I be persuaded to seek revenge against the aggressor nation in retaliation by sending a nuclear attack back against the citizens in that country?  Emphatically, I would answer that I would not change my opposition to nuclear arms.  On the contrary, it would intensify my efforts to work for the abolition of all nuclear armaments for several very definite reasons.

First, despite all of the American cultural messages that attempt to persuade us that we can win peace and safety by responding to violent actions by engaging in further violence, I am quite sure that revenge of this type never works.  As Gandhi asserted, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…just leaves us all blind and toothless.”  Revenge does not lead to a resolution of problems and disagreements.  It leads to an escalation of more violence.  Whatever the cause of the deep-seated hatred, animosity, desperation and break in human relationships that led to the initial act of violence, a violent response will not resolve the situation or eliminate the bitterness that fueled the violent aggression in the first place.  My faith tradition as a Christian compels me to search for creative ways to respond nonviolently to such acts.  The futile unsuccessful attempt to reduce the violent acts of “terrorists” in the so-called “war on terrorism” should demonstrate the simple truth that responding to violence with further violence simply does not work…it leads to the production of more enemies with an even greater level of determination to hurt us back.  The cycle of violence only continues to intensify and spiral beyond all expectations.

Second, by virtue of the technology of the modern media the mere fact that all of the world would immediately witness in real time the unspeakable human tragedy and devastation that would be caused by the use of a nuclear weapon on a city would surely cause me to intensify my resolve to eliminate this threat of mass destruction.  A cataclysmic event of such destruction would completely eclipse the capacity of emergency responders and institutions to effectively handle the scale of human suffering and misery that would be produced.  Nuclear bombs are now capable of causing far more damage than the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  Furthermore, we now know that the spread of radiation around the world would produce long-lasting detrimental effects on the environment and genetically affect generations of human survivors.  Any use of atomic weapons could have a deleterious effect on the populations of both the aggressor nation and the victim nation.  Surely, we would be even more resolved to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction when confronted by the results of their utilization!

Third, I would continue to believe that it is morally wrong to utilize weapons of mass destruction to murder innocent civilian populations.  There really is no such thing as a “just war” or a “good war” for the “right reasons.” War is simply murder writ large.  A nuclear war would cause so much destruction and human misery that it should be unthinkable.  In a world of hatred, bitterness and resentment and violent “solutions,” it is only love and creative nonviolent responses that will have any hope of healing and mending the broken human relationships between people and nations which find themselves at odds with one another.  Witnessing the murder of people, creatures and creation itself would increase my resolve to oppose the continued presence of nuclear weapons on our planet. 

2.     If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

Fortunately for the world, the United States (the so-called “good guys”) is the only aggressor nation that has ever utilized the atomic bomb.  For this unnecessary and inexcusable act, every American should feel shame and regret.   This question seems to suggest that if the “bad guys” had used nuclear weapons first then we would have been justified in retaliating with our nuclear arsenal.  My opposition to nuclear weapons would not have been diminished if any other country had been the first to use them.  The point is that using devastating weapons of mass destruction against any country is a crime not because of who perpetrated the act but because of what the act accomplished.  Vaporizing humans and all living things with an atomic bomb is an act of moral depravity no matter which country does it or for what reasons it is executed.  A crime is a crime.

A recent documentary video called “The Ultimate Wish: Ending the Nuclear Age” movingly illustrates the intrinsic immorality of using weapons of mass destruction, no matter who uses them.  The video is the story of Nagasaki survivors of the 1945 atomic bomb and Fukushima evacuees from the meltdown of the nuclear power plants in 2011.   In one particularly dramatic portion of the video, a Japanese survivor of Nagasaki discusses her experiences with a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz.  It becomes very apparent in their interaction that sharing the horrors of experiencing and surviving such events has much less to do with the “who committed the act” and everything to do with the galvanizing effect that such experiences had on their resolve to spend the rest of their lives trying to convince the world that such horrors should never happen again.  I too would commit myself to a focus preventing the consequences of such acts rather than being preoccupied with determining whether it can ever be justified for one nation/group to pursue such violent aggression on another nation/group. In my opinion, the use of weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons can never be a justified action no matter who utilizes them.  Nuclear holocaust has the potential to destroy all life in its wake and the very foundations for life itself.  The special legacy of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been to send an urgent message to humankind to abolish all nuclear weapons forever…no matter which country or group currently possess them.

As the members of the only nation to experience the direct effects of an atomic bomb, the Japanese provide us with an outstanding model for the response to the use of nuclear arms.  According to Article 9 of Japan’s Peace Constitution, “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”  Before his death in 1951, Dr. Takashi Nagai, a medical doctor in Nagasaki who was a Hibakusha (survivor), said:  “Nuclear war is not at all beautiful or interesting.  It is the most disappointing, most brutal and most complete form of destruction.  Only ashes and bones remain: nothing touches the heart…Whether it be a fight, a struggle or a war, all that remains afterward is regret…Nuclear war ended in Nagasaki:  Nagasaki is the period:  Peace starts from Nagasaki!”

My Catholic faith tradition asserts that not only should nations not use or produce nuclear weapons, but that it is absolutely essential that nations and human communities should make all efforts to rid the world of the evil that they represent.  I would like to think that my own response to such brutality would be as gracious, forgiving and insightful as the Hibakusha of Japan.  My opinion would not be different even if Japan or Germany had been first users.

3.      What would you say to those who say, “If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?

The question appears to advance the argument that it is necessary for the nations which possess nuclear weapons to keep them so as to create a structural deterrent for any nation to actually use their nuclear weapons.  Of course, this is based on the global policy and strategy known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)…the strategy that fully recognizes that no nation or group can actually “win” a thermonuclear war and that all life would be harmed by the use.  Therefore, no “rational” and “logical” party would want to risk such a catastrophic event.  Supporters of the “big stick” would be inclined to say that the policy strategy has worked thus far and that we should continue to support it and the continued expenditure of exorbitant sums of resources to maintain our nuclear arsenal.  I would take an opposing point of view.

When the Cold War ended between the United States and the Soviet Union, some of the worry about nuclear weapons began to decrease.  However, many did begin to wonder why if we were no longer in this arms race, why we were still keeping our nuclear weapons on high alert.  A documentary called “The Forgotten Bomb” sought to explain why the posture of MAD still exists.  Through the historical analysis of the development of this instrument of warfare and the evolution of the political and legal implications of nuclear weapons, Bud Ryan, the filmmaker, demonstrates the psychological and cultural reasons that are deeply embedded in the American psyche.  Operating out of deep-seated fear of the immense powers of destruction that we unleashed on the world, we find ourselves trapped in the pursuit to stay in the superior position in the arms race.  A cultural set of myths has been developed to support this pursuit of global superiority.  Both the psychological and cultural dimensions serve to reinforce the maintenance of the very profitable “military-industrial complex” that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us of in his Farewell Address at the end of his presidency.

From the earliest years of the nuclear age, the United States has pursued a bifurcated strategy.  On the one hand we have consistently engaged in diplomatic efforts and agreements to eliminate nuclear weapons.  On the other hand we have spent billions of dollars building up our nuclear arsenal with no end in sight.  In a 1963 address to the students and faculty of American University, President John F. Kennedy claimed that “peace is basically a human right--the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation--the right to breathe air as nature provided it--the right of future generations to a healthy existence…not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war…not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave…I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living.”  In his presidency he began to resist the power and influence of the military-industrial complex to pursue continued development of disastrous nuclear weapons and expenditures.  

There is an emerging organization called “World Beyond War” which describes itself as a “global movement to end all war.”  Their major assertion is that “we can either eliminate all nuclear weapons or we can watch them proliferate. There's no middle way. We can either have no nuclear weapons states, or we can have many. This is not a moral or a logical point, but a practical observation backed up by solid research…as long as some states have nuclear weapons others will desire them, and the more that have them the more easily they will spread to others still…If nuclear weapons continue to exist, there will very likely be a nuclear catastrophe, and the more the weapons have proliferated, the sooner it will come. Hundreds of incidents have nearly destroyed our world through accident, confusion, misunderstanding, and extremely irrational machismo. When you add in the quite real and increasing possibility of non-state terrorists acquiring and using nuclear weapons, the danger grows dramatically--and is only increased by the policies of nuclear states that react to terrorism in ways that seem designed to recruit more terrorists.”

Furthermore, they assert, “On the other side of the equation, possessing nuclear weapons does absolutely nothing to keep us safe, so that there is really no trade-off involved in eliminating them. They do not deter terrorist attacks by non-state actors in any way. Nor do they add an iota to a military's ability to deter nations from attacking, given the United States' ability to destroy anything anywhere at any time with non-nuclear weapons. Nukes also don't win wars, and the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China have all lost wars against non-nuclear powers while possessing nukes. Nor, in the event of global nuclear war, can any outrageous quantity of weaponry protect a nation in any way from apocalypse.”

So I would recommend that the advocates of the “big stick” approach should do some reading of the documents of the international coalition of non-nuclear states which are begging the United States and other nuclear states to begin working on serious plans to ban the existence of the bomb.  The countries which possess nuclear weapons are holding the whole world hostage with the fear and trembling that these weapons could destroy the entire planet through evil intent or careless accident.  This is a great injustice which must be resisted with every ounce of courage that we can muster!

4.     You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

In reality, there is no way that I can answer for the millions of casualties and injustices that have been perpetrated in the name of God.  The God that I know and strive to follow is a God of love who wants only the best for all of us and all of creation.  Most of the defendants who appeared before you in this case operate on the basis of that same understanding of God.  There are several underlying questions here, really.  First, how is conscience formed? Second, how does one determine whether one’s conscience matches one’s understanding of God?  Third, what is the relationship between individual conscience and the law?

First of all, I agree with Victor Hugo that “conscience is God present in each human.”  That is, we each are born with the divine spark of God within us.  That is not to say that we always recognize our own divinity or act in accordance with that divine spark.  However, we at all times have the capacity to grow and develop an awareness of that goodness within us.  Some call it our heart or our innermost truth or our innate nature as creatures created in the image of God.  Although we do not all share the same religion or faith or awareness of the divine within us…we all develop a moral compass or sense of what is morally right and wrong.  Pope Francis I recently said in a gathering of people of diverse faiths:  “Since many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church and others are non-believers, from the bottom of my heart I give this silent blessing to each and every one of you, respecting the conscience that is within each one of you but knowing that each one of you is a child of God.”  As children of God, we all share in the possession of a conscience, the only guide we have to follow in order to be true to ourselves.

But secondly, as Karl Jung asserted: “Through pride, we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.” It is up to each individual to listen to that voice.  Our journey to grow and develop our conscience cannot possibly be effective without some testing and discerning with others in a community of believers and/or non-believers.  I must discern the soundness of the truth as I understand it in reference to documents that purport to be the “word of God,” the scholarly writers who have interpreted that word and a shared community who discern the movement of God in our lives together and strive to live out of their faith together.

Third and most importantly to this case and this assignment, I take my inspiration on this subject from other great practitioners of civil disobedience.  Henry David Thoreau asserted that “only the individual is the final judge of right and wrong for his/her own life… since only individuals act, only individuals can act justly or unjustly.”  We each have to make that final decision for ourselves.  Mahatma Gandhi argued that “there is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience…it supersedes all other courts.”  It is a moral imperative to act in the final analysis according to one’s own conscience.  Martin Luther King also argued for the primacy of individual conscience over the law.  He said: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” So I would recommend that persons refer to what others of many faiths have said about conscience and how to develop and test it and how to live in accordance with it in their daily life.

5.     How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices?

A question such as this one seems to suggest that there are actually major world religions that call for the systematic elimination of people who worship a God different from theirs.  Most scholars who have comparatively studied the religious documents of all the world’s major religions seem to refute this.  Comparing the world views and written holy documents of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Baha’i reveals an inherent common thread of a preference for peace and toleration for humans of diverse faiths. I personally do not accept the view that any of those major religions promote the idea of annihilating those who worship a God different from their own. 

However, most of these great religions have developed radical and fundamentalist sub-groups which have advanced movements of hatred and intolerance of difference that have used their religion in extremist ways to foster destructive and intolerant behaviors.    Unfortunately, attitudes and prejudices develop which would lump all members of a given religion together in the same stereotypes so that beliefs in response to the actions of religious and political extremists begin to be applied to all members of their given religion.  Since the events of September 11, 2001, it has become commonplace for individuals and organizations to rise up and promote xenophobic attitudes and behaviors directed against Muslims and Arabs.  Many of the Christian leaders of fundamentalist Christian denominations are embarrassingly complicit with promoting outright falsehoods about the Islamic faith tradition and its practitioners.  I personally reject the idea that we can hold all the members of a religious tradition responsible for the small minority of extremists who have committed heinous criminal acts in the name of their religion.  I also reject the Christian political extremists that promote hatred, misunderstandings and intolerance of Muslims or any other religion.

Ronaldo Cruz, the Director for Institutional Advancement at Pax Christi USA, asserted that “as the national Catholic Peace movement, Pax Christi believes in the freedom of religion and in countering systematic and perpetual deep spiritual and social brokenness.  Catholic Social Teaching tells us that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society…and we claim that attacks on Muslims is behavior which is contrary to our Christian values…Pax Christi USA stands in solidarity with interfaith organizations committed to constitutional and civil rights for all people, no matter what faith tradition they claim.” 

With Pax Christi, I would proclaim to those who narrowly condemn others because of their faith preference that they should take responsibility for seeking the truth about persons of other faiths and refuse to accept stereotypical and ill-informed proclamations of those among us who are the intolerant and bigoted persons who espouse such vile misinformation.  My own faith tradition would not permit me to stereotypically view all Muslims or all of the adherents of any given religion as a threat to the peace and security of my country or world.  I do not think that there is anything inherently violent about Muslims and we have yet to see them developing or testing nuclear bombs.  If a country such as Iran would develop their capacity to produce a nuclear weapon to protect themselves from their hostile enemies, they would be joining the exclusive list of those countries possessing nuclear weapons and holding the whole world hostage, as our own country has done for almost 70 years.  Just as I abhor the nuclear arsenal of my own country, I would hope that Iran does not join the infamous nuclear club.

6.     Who determines what God’s Law is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

I cannot possibly answer for all of the bad things which have been perpetrated in the name of God in the USA and in the world.  However, my faith tradition does contain a clear proclamation of the foundation of God’s law.  In Scripture we are told the following clear message about God’s law:

Matthew 22:36-40 (New International Version)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In my mind this is a very clear measuring stick for me to utilize to judge whether a law, a practice, or a belief reflects God’s law or not.  Of course this judgment would not be done without consultation with a community of believers with whom I share faith.  In their 2011 Ecumenical Call to Just Peace, the World Council of Churches invites Christians of every stripe, flavor and denomination to commit themselves to what they have called the “Way of Just Peace.”  Churches and believers are called to be peacemakers, unifiers and countercultural advocates of acceptance and inclusion.

According to the call to become advocates of “Just Peace,” churches become builders of a culture of peace as they engage, cooperate and learn from one another.  Members, families, parishes and communities will all be involved.  The tasks include learning to prevent conflicts and transform them; to protect and empower those who are marginalized; to affirm the role of women in resolving conflict and building peace and include them in all initiatives; to support and participate in nonviolence movements for justice and human rights; and to give peace education its rightful place in churches and schools.  A culture of peace requires churches and other faith and community groups to challenge violence wherever it happens: this concerns structural and habitual violence as well as the violence that pervades media entertainment, games and music.  Cultures of peace are realized when all, especially women and children, are safe from sexual violence and protected from armed conflict, when deadly weapons are banned and removed from communities, and domestic violence is addressed and stopped.”

If all Christians became engaged in this movement, we would have all the tools we would need to advance peace in our world.  We would be operating within the clear framework of God’s Law, as we understand it.  According to Lisa Schirch who has written Strategic Peacebuilding: A Vision and Framework for Peace with Justice, “Strategic peacebuilding supports the development of relationships at all levels of society: between individuals and within families; communities; organizations; businesses; governments; and cultural, religious, economic and political institutions and movements.  Relationships are a form of power or social capital.  When people connect and form relationships they are more likely to cooperate together to constructively address conflict.” Within the context of respectful relationships with one another, even those with the greatest disparities of beliefs could come to the table to build peace and respect. 

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Essays by Bix Bichsel, SJ

William "Bix" Bichsel, SJ, celebrating shared Eucharist (Mass) on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday at the Bangor Trident nuclear weapons base in Silverdale, Wash. -- Photo by Leonard Eiger

Dear Judge Ardie Bland,

Please find my limited responses to your questions.  Through your conscientious judgments you are guiding your court to be a sanctuary of justice-dealing for all people.

Thank you for your judgment.

In Peace,

William J. “Bix” Bichsel, S.J., of Tacoma, Wash.

1.  If North Korea, China or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion?

If any country initiated a nuclear weapon attack on an American city, I pray to God I would not in any way agree to a counter attack.  Violence calls out the endless cycle of violence.  By the practice of non-violence I would hope to be strengthened in my commitment to non-retaliation and healing wounds rather than inflicting them.

If any nuclear weapon is used to attack or retaliate against another nation, I believe there would be a multitude of exchanges among varying nations so that human survival would be imperiled. If I survived a nuclear weapon exchange I hope I would work to alleviate some of the pain and work to build a healing human society.                          

I’ve never been through a terrifying, flesh-eating destruction such as an atomic bombing or a war like those suffered in Europe or parts of Asia or Africa. I hope, though, that even if I had been through that, I could still hang onto my principles on nonviolence that I’ve tried to live throughout most of my life.

If a catastrophe such as an explosion of another bomb happens, we’ll know our work for peace has fallen short. Our works of peace are more sporadic than the works of war; they don’t come with the same type of flow. We have to make our peace-making more consistent, more constant.

I want to emphasize, if just one bomb is dropped, that would be a tremendous catastrophe for the human race. It’s like “the primacy of one,” to prevent one bomb from being set off.

Also, there could be a nuclear accident that would be very devastating, a situation not intended by any nation. But these toxic death machines are among us and can lead to disaster.

A deliberate drop by any nation would mean our civilization would be imperiled. Even one drop spells deep peril for our human race. Global peacemaking has to be as constant as war-making.

2.  If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

I was 14 when Pearl Harbor was bombed and was taught and propagandized that the Japanese were cunning and vicious.   Though I didn’t know what an atom bomb was, I rejoiced at age 17 that the U.S. had dropped the bomb and defeated Japan. I feel that if Germany or Japan had dropped “the bomb” first, I would have been filled with that time’s spirit of revenge and retaliation and would have wanted to see the weapon used against any foe.

However, over the years, the life and teachings of Jesus to put away the sword, to forgive and to love one another, have hopefully taken root in me so that I will not return violence for violence. The followers of Jesus’ teaching, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and others, have taught me by their lives that the Kingdom of Peace is possible and that if nonviolence is not accepted, then the global village is headed towards nonexistence.

My opinion has changed since my youth to now. From being wildly in favor of using any kind of weapon to defeat Japan, now in my last 45 years I’ve gone to following the nonviolence of Jesus, hopefully, and certainly to resisting the use of any type of destructive weapon.

For the last 35 years, we (people from the Ground Zero Center of Nonviolence, a group of activists in the Pacific Northwest, especially around the Puget Sound area, and people from our Tacoma Catholic Worker/Guadalupe House) have worked against the Trident submarine base here at Bangor, Wash. There are eight Tridents here now, reputed to be the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the US, with one-fourth of the nation’s strategic nuclear weapons stored here at the Trident base. Each Trident is equipped with 24 missiles, each missile carrying from four to eight independently targeted nuclear warheads, each warhead being from 6 to 30 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. (The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a 12-14 megaton destructive power.) The new W88 warhead has 425 megatons of explosive power. We’ve demonstrated and gone to prison because of these issues.

I’d like to say a word about my family and my youth. I was born in Tacoma in 1928 and grew up here with five brothers and a sister during the Depression. My Dad was a locomotive engineer for Northern Pacific Railroad. He was elected national chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, serving as chair from 1942 until his death in 1957. When he died, my brother Dick was elected to chair the union. Later, Northern Pacific merged with the Great Northern to form Burlington Northern. I mention my labor background purposely, to show our family’s commitment to workers.

My brothers and I had a paper route to the part of Tacoma where the Japanese lived, before the war started. They were very punctual about paying for the paper every week. Every Saturday, my brother and I would walk past the Japanese day school on Tacoma Ave. The parents and older people would go there to learn English; it was a social center.  I remember the Saturday that it was all boarded up. I didn’t question it, but I had a strange feeling about it—all of a sudden to have these good people labeled as vicious. I thought, “My government knows what is best.” Over the years, I went through a whole conversion; what Jesus taught began to make an impact on my life.

ROTC was mandatory in the 1930s and 1940s at our Jesuit high school. The Army-issue ROTC uniforms were wool, and one of the Jesuit principals thought we would have better clothing if we were in ROTC. I flunked ROTC the first two years at my high school, not because of anti-militarism, but because of anti-authoritarianism or just being incorrigible. You usually get a stripe for your left arm sleeve after six weeks, showing that you’ve been promoted from a buck private to a private. But I never received any stripe. After two and a half years, they let me drop out of ROTC.

After I entered the Jesuits in 1946, and started teaching history in the 1950s, I began to question more: what have we been doing? I taught U.S. history and European history, as well as English and Latin.

The house I live in now is called Jean’s House of Peace, part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker. It belonged to a Japanese lady, Jean Shimoishi, who lived here 55 years. She had lived in the internment camp for the Japanese in World War II in Minidako, Idaho, for three years, from 1942 to 1945, with her husband, her parents, and her young daughter. They lived in cabins, two families to a cabin, with no insulation, only bare boards. They used outside latrines and had a separate building for a dining hall. The concentration camps were surrounded by barbed wire, chain-link fences, and towers with armed guards. Many persons there had been born in the U.S. and were therefore U.S. citizens. Jean died in 1999, the most gentle, loving person. In the house I live in, she took care of her parents, grandparents, and her son who died here; the daughter is still living in Lincoln, Neb.

Jean’s House represents an interfaith reverence for peace. We have lots of peace meetings here. We have a big mural of Martin Luther King in front. On the south side, we have our Native American mural, with Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce and Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Tribe and Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin-Mohawk. The US Army chased Joseph and his whole tribe out of Oregon through Idaho and Montana. He outmaneuvered them, but with his old people, they became surrounded on all sides 30 miles from Canada, where they sought to go for asylum. He said, “From where the sun now sets, I will fight no more forever.”

3.  What would you say to those who say, “If the U.S. does not have a big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we don’t have the opportunity to fight back”?

The superpower status of the U.S. rests on its nuclear weapons superiority in the world. It has the most advanced and enhanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems on planet earth. If the U.S. would take the first honest step towards total nuclear weapons abolition, other nations would follow. The majority of the people in the world do not want to kill each other, nor do they want the nuclear weapons threat to continue! In the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the abolition would be a process in which possibly the U.S. could call a worldwide convention of all nations to set a firm date when abolition will be completed. The nuclear nations would have to submit plans and timetables of their abolition process, inspections protocols, ending enrichment of uranium and taking existing weapons off ready-to-fire modes as preliminary actions.

Any nation that would refuse to join in the abolition would be subject to world-wide trade sanctions. If the U.S. would take these steps, it would not lose the opportunity to fight global annihilation, but would win back its humanity. Millions around the world are dying from lack of resources that could go for human needs rather than these death-dealing instruments.

The U.S. has military bases in more than 95 countries around the world (with 30 in Japan, counting Okinawa), bases surrounding the globe. Now the US wants a naval base on Jeju Island, a province of South Korea about 60 miles from the Korean peninsula, and the island residents don’t want the base. The island is about 350 miles from China. The governments of the U.S. and South Korea are working in collusion to create the base and have contracted with Samsung, a major construction corporation.

A base on Jeju Island would be a threat to east Asia and help to ring China with our bases. We already have bases in Japan and South Korea, but Jeju Island would more clearly threaten China. The naval base at Jeju Island would be a port for aircraft carriers and Aegis Destroyers that are part of our national missile defense system. Vessels armed with nuclear weapons could be served there. More than 35% of the base has been built; they’ve destroyed the coral reef already. Jeju Island is an island of peace, similar to our Hawaii. It was declared an international island of peace by the South Korean president in 2004.

People have been resisting the new naval base for seven years, every day. I went with Gilberto Perez, a Buddhist monk, to Jeju Island last fall to live and work with the people for two weeks in their resistance to the construction of the naval base. Each day, they block the two entrances leading to the construction site. Priests and nuns are actively working to oppose the construction, and the eucharist is offered there along with the resistance. The peace activists block the entries. About 50 women police and 50 male police are stationed nearby, and when big rigs come to the site, the police carry the people away from the entrances. When the police leave, the people reassemble in front of the gates.

In South Korea, about 15 nuns’ orders send two sisters a week from each order to go do the resistance; some have been arrested. And I’m so proud of the Jesuits who’ve been working in the resistance there for three years; four have spent time in prison. Many other Jesuits, including those in Korea, support the work there and come join the priests and others on the island in the resistance.

In this question from the judge, he asked what we would say to those who believe we’d lose the opportunity to fight back against a nuclear attack if we had no nuclear weapons. But we would not lose the opportunity to fight against nuclear bondage. I believe if the U.S. took the first step toward a nuclear-weapons-free world, other nations would follow. There’s a deep cry among the people of the world that they need the resources for their families instead of for weapons. They need funding for health care, nutrition, employment, housing. They want these desperately and are not getting them. I believe so strongly that if we took the first step, there is the will to stop killing each other. It doesn’t mean we won’t have differences, but we could work them out around the table and not in trenches. Martin Luther King said it is no longer a question of violence or nonviolence but a question of nonviolence or nonexistence. That’s what’s staring us in the face if we continue on the path we’re on.

Gandhi said, “Nonviolence, when it becomes active, travels w extraordinary velocity, and then it becomes a miracle!”

When we consider the civil rights movement, look at what that achieved thru nonviolence. And look at the farmworkers’ movement with Cesar Chavez; it’s brought about such change, with farmworkers being able to form unions. We cannot be hopeless. We cannot think disparagingly of nonviolence. It puts us on the level of being brothers and sisters. Jesus was inspired by Isaiah with a vision of people climbing a mountain, beating swords into plowshares. In Chapter 9 of Isaiah: a people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! The prince of peace has broken the rod that kept the people oppressed and has thrown all the battle gear into the fire, and it has burned. Jesus kept alive the vision of Isaiah that the people so longingly cherished.

It’s a process. The first thing we have to do, and hopefully the U.S. would take the lead, is to set a worldwide convention to call for elimination of all nuclear weapons by a given date. All weapons don’t disappear immediately. Each nation with nuclear weapons or fissile material for such weapons would have to submit a plan for how to get rid of its weapons, set up inspection teams, pledge that it will make no first strike with its weapons, and take its nuclear weapons off ready-to-fire, alert status. Sadly, one-fourth of the US strategic nuclear weapons—those that are available to be exploded—are on alert status. Clearly, we have to have international control of the mining of uranium and must outlaw enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons. Further, the U.S. Senate needs to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Taking these steps, we have a chance to win back our humanity.

4.  You defendants say you are Christians and one is Buddhist.  Fr. Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God?  Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

Whether a person believes in God or not, there are secular codes of human conduct such as the Declaration of Human Rights which mesh and agree with the tenets of varying religious traditions. These rights and a body of international law form a juridical and humanitarian basis for the judging and safeguarding of humanity and human conduct.

For someone who does not agree with the existence of God, we can understand their denial of God because with the state of the world, there has been so much slaughter, so much of it caused by Christians. The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history—and Christians stand at the head of the ranks of the violent. We give people reason to believe there is no God. We need to follow Jesus: lay down your arms, forgive one another, love one another. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say give us this day our daily bread. We mean nobody should be without bread. We say forgive us our trespasses. We mean nobody should be without forgiveness.

Concerning the old doctrine of the just war theory, A.J. Muste said, “The just war theory is just war.” We are called to the nonviolence of Jesus, where we do not return evil for evil, blow for blow, insult for insult. We should not wonder how people would say there is no God. The thing that makes a difference in people’s lives is if they see somebody acting out of love. We need the evidence of those following in the footsteps of Jesus. All religious traditions have the sense that we are all connected one to another and honor that. Unless we actively live that out, people will not be led to believe in God.

5.  How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices? 

To crush others into dust as a tenet of religion is really an act of violence which directly contributes to the breakdown and erosion of the human family. It seems that the commitment of those living nonviolent lives would encourage them to stay in human contact with advocates of such violence in hopes that such violence would cease.

There is always a danger of transferring our own notions of justice or our own concepts of justice onto a supreme being, where we tend to identify our own feelings of retaliation with a higher being to justify our actions. However, we also have universal signs of the presence of a higher power or a creator. Most religious traditions would agree some universal signs of the presence of God exist in places where there is sharing, where murder is outlawed, where lying is to be avoided, where the hungry are fed, and where people reach out to one another over ethnic/racial barriers—these are signs of God’s presence.

6.  Who determines what God’s law is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

In an individual’s case the person’s conscience determines what is God’s Law for that person. I believe that all religions that profess belief in God also have codes of human conduct that enunciate what God’s Law is for that particular religion.

A truth commission carried out by each religion that professes belief in God may be a way to come to some idea of what the will of God is perceived to be.

Secular organizations such as the UN that have drafted the Declaration of Human Rights—they give evidence of a higher power.

Where there is forgiving, a ban against murders and lying, feeding those in need, giving shelter, a reaching out to one another over our racial and ethnic barriers, these are signs most religions support as signs of God’s presence.

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Essays by Betsy Keenan

Betsy Keenan, center, carries a sign and talks with her Catholic Worker colleague Chrissy Kirchhoeffer as they walk toward the courthouse Dec. 13 for the trial of Betsy and eight other nuclear weapon resisters. Photo by Jim Hannah

To:  Judge Ardie Bland

From: Elizabeth Keenan of the Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm, Maloy, Iowa

Question #1.   If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion?

If I had the comfortable conviction that nuclear weapons will never be used, I would have had other things to do last July, rather than travel to Kansas City and take part in a symbolic protest. I have read and watched reports on nuclear explosions and other aerial bombings and the toll they have on cities. I do know that our lives would change, if a nuclear attack was to occur on our soil. Everyone's life would be affected whether in a large or small degree. Families would experience devastating losses, our environment would suffer terribly, and the agricultural, economic, environmental and health impacts of such an attack would alter our society forever.

I would hope and pray that people would come together to care for the sick and dying, that people would do their best to care for the environment and reach out to the suffering, and that many people would be converted to the cause of anti-nuclear weapons activism. That is my hope for the day after a nuclear attack, when we would all stand together and say, “Enough is enough!”                 

I can't imagine my feelings not changing in some way. How those feelings would change in particular cannot be predicted with any accuracy. I keep hoping that everyone will hold back from stepping to the brink of disaster, will use reason, and for all of my lifetime, though many horrible wars  have been carried out with many horrible weapons, new and old, from machetes to napalm, the “nuclear option” has been resisted.

In our nation and others, though, the bombs have multiplied, increased in size, and the materials for making them also have been increased. Some nuclear missiles, deployed in intercontinental ballistic missiles, with multiple warheads, have actually been decommissioned, but those dangerous materials remain, and increasingly in the “old nuclear powers” Russia and the US, these dangerous substances are in storage or shipped from place to place seeking secure containment. Transporting and updating the weapons, as is planned for Kansas City’s new facility, is more planning for the abhorrent and criminal use of these weapons of mass destruction, which we are so sensitive about other nations having. Each movement of each weapon makes it more likely that, even if no one “decides” to use them, a pure accident or some kind of sabotage will cause either an explosion or damaging contamination. Let us not forget, then, the threat of a nuclear accident, greater than the threat of a nuclear attack. We threaten other countries with our nuclear stockpiles, but we also threaten ourselves.

Our pride in our weapons, our resolve to convince the world that we are willing to use them, no matter the cost, have brought some other nations, or at least their leaders, to envy our position and emulate our mistakes. God have mercy on us! The “peaceful” use of nuclear power also has the potential for devastating consequences, as has been demonstrated in Japan at the Fukushima plant, in the aftermath of a natural disaster. I do not believe there is a rational solution, other than to stop depending on this technology for security or energy and apply the best science can do to try to contain the damage already done, and make a safer future.

My opinion, I believe, would not be changed by the event of an attack, though of course emotions would be affected by the experience. But the “what if?” game leads us down paths of uncertainty and fear, the reason we have nuclear weapons in the first place. Instead, we should recognize evil and insanity when it is present in our lives and do our best to resist them. We should counter evil with love and fear with hope.

Question #2.  If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

I believe the best way to answer this question is to look at public opinion in those two countries, on the subject of use of nuclear weapons and of warfare in general in the aftermath of World War II, to the present. Japan experienced the horror and devastation of the first two atomic devices, the only ones ever employed as part of an international conflict. I think that the closer one is in experience to the reality of these weapons of mass destruction, the greater the fear and resistance to seeing them used again. There is a decreasing effect of this reaction as the number of citizens remembering the war and its effects decrease and those born since, whose reaction to war is not so personal and emotional, become the majority. Most of the political parties in Japan seem to have held anti-war policies until around 1994, with the acceptance of a national defense force. But even to the present, though national sentiment is changing, there are still strong anti-nuclear feelings: “For the most part, the purest forms of pacifism continue to thrive at the local level, where it is both more relevant and more nimble in its formulations. Pacifism is a strong and persistent aspect of local identity in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities that advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons through initiatives like the Mayors for Peace initiative. The unique standing of these cities as the birthplace of atomic warfare provides them with significant moral authority to express pacifist sentiments and denounce the use of nuclear weapons.”-Daniel Clausen in East Asia Forum (October 24, 2013). Each year the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki issue public statements calling for an end to nuclear weapons, and at commemorations internationally these statements are reflected on, and people recommit to this work.

Germany surrendered to Allied forces before the atomic bombs were ever deployed, but Germany did undergo widespread destruction from aerial bombing by the US and British Air Forces, most notably the fire-bombing of Dresden, when 3.900 Tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped on the city, reported killing an estimated 20,000  people and destroying 16 sq kms. As in Hiroshima, the high heat and resultant firestorm incinerated many of the victims, and in the chaos of the aftermath, calculation of casualties was difficult. Like Japan, during the aftermath of WWII, Germany was not permitted by the international community to maintain military forces. The trials of Nazi war criminals established international legal precedent that following a legitimate authority’s orders in the commission of criminal acts did not remove personal responsibility. When citizens know that crimes against humanity are being prepared, they become complicit and liable to prosecution. Many anti-nuclear weapons groups cite the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, in which it found that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.”[33]

In the 1980s, when “tactical” nuclear weapons were deployed in Europe in the “Cold War,” with medium-range missiles sited in West Germany and targeted at East Germany, huge numbers of Germans objected, and many protested in the streets and countryside, calling for these weapons to  be dismantled. Up to a million people mobilized, who probably represented a majority sentiment that this was unacceptable. My husband and I joined in this movement, visiting Bonn and other German sites, where people were anxious to assure us their movement was not “anti-American,” as the press sometimes represented it, but against the location and use of nuclear weapons in their homeland.

I don’t believe use of these weapons would change my opposition.

Question #3.      What would you say to those who say, “If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?

Since I have a sarcastic streak, I would probably say, “O yes, this tactic is working so well for us! We spend roughly half our resources on war-related expenses, can’t afford to fund our education system adequately, aren’t investing in maintaining infrastructure we have, let alone improvements, and make new enemies every day, contributing to this spiral of insecurity and dependence on violence.”                 

I believe that the United States, if it wishes to live up to its own myth of moral superiority, needs to forsake the path of nuclear escalation that will bankrupt us, and eventually any nation that follows this blind and arrogant path.  To use the weapons is to cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem we depend upon for life. To build and possess them exposes us to the risk of accident or sabotage every day. This is a reckless policy! Believing that it provides security is delusional. It hasn’t prevented us from becoming involved in inconclusive, expensive and unpopular wars, or protected us from terrorism. The idea of American “exceptionalism”—that it is noble for us to do what we would label “rogue” behavior from a smaller nation—is ridiculous. We are as much blinded by our self-interest as any other individual or group, and should be as willing to submit to International Court and UN mandates, as we wish others to be. The attitude of “No one can stop us from doing what we want” is no guarantee of wisdom! Instead we use international organizations as a tool when it suits us, and ignore them if they wish to call our behavior to account.

We have major political problems of our own to solve here. The federal government is dysfunctional and incapable of the compromises necessary to govern such a large, varied population. Our prisons are full to bursting, with more incarcerations per capita than any other developed county. Our election process is so embroiled in big money that Jimmy Carter’s  Carter Center experts in election observation would not be able to certify our election process as “free and fair” (they only conduct operations where the government invites them!). Our civil liberties have been trashed in the name of the “War on Terror” with massive surveillance in the mode of Orwell’s 1984. Children are not safe in our schools because of widespread availability of many types of weapons, and inadequate mental health care.

In this “great” country of ours, some people are getting very rich from this sad state of affairs. The same group has a pretty firm hand on the news and entertainment sector as well. If the waste and corruption of war profiteering could be ended, perhaps we would be allowed to see that a “big stick” is not what the situation calls for at all! If energy and resources went to understanding local problems and conflicts and looking for resolutions that would increase security, opportunity and a safer future for all, we could begin to scale back the entire use of violence, which provokes violent reaction almost inevitably.

Listening is called for, understanding of different experiences and points of view. We probably need to put down the stick to begin.  Every parent and teacher should know that the most effective way to change behavior is to model it. If threatening neighbors and people with whom we are in economic competition or ideological dispute is wrong for Iran or for China, maybe it is wrong for the USA also.

Question #4.   You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

There are many people who are not convinced that any God exists, and some of them are also against nuclear weapons on logical and scientific grounds. One example is the thousands of doctors who belong to Physicians for Social Responsibility, a completely non-sectarian group that works against nuclear weapons and educates about their danger and unfeasibility, from a scientific and professional point of view. It is the US affiliate of an international group of physicians who specifically work against nuclear war, which received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. Many people whose world view is more influenced by their understanding of science than by any ideology or religion oppose nuclear weapons for the danger they pose to people and the environment, the cost and misuse of technical resources that could be much more effectively employed to serve human needs, and the unsolved problems of nuclear waste and radioactive by-products that continue to be an unsolved problem, after more than 60 years of accumulation.  Where politics are not involved, the logical analysis of the situation argues against nuclear weapons, without bringing subjective ethics into the picture.

Concerning the question of “what God believes,” I don’t think the question makes sense. If God is the ultimate, infinite power, God knows, and what God knows is what exists, and we who are finite beings are limited to trying to understand this reality, forming beliefs in the process. Christians use our sacred Scripture, “the Bible,” to help us interpret our experience and enter into dialog with each other  to help us know how to act in order to bring to reality the prayer Jesus taught, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In the most well-known instance of Christian theological reflection and non-violent civil disobedience in our country, Martin Luther King and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the student non-violent organizing committee discussed the issues of right and wrong, timing and focus in an ongoing process, weighing how to communicate, when to risk injury, when to wait, with the input of local activists and those who had traveled to act in solidarity with them. They prayed and sang and spent long hours in meetings, and in jail, and in walking though the southern countryside. Seeds for last summer’s action were planted over recent decades with the resistance to the nuclear warheads sited in missile silos in Missouri.

 It is dangerous to speak for God.  Father Carl Kabat has lived through many remarkable experiences in his commitment to a God who desires peace so that the human family might flourish. This nuclear weapons facility in Kansas City is a thorn in his side that will hardly let him rest, it seems. The laws that restrict and govern how and when you might enter someone else’s property are not our problem, rather the laws that took land, federal redevelopment grants and investment money from Kansas City, Mo., away from the citizen’s needs to build this dangerous facility to do evil work instead. Although Fr. Carl frames his argument in religious terms, a logical examination of the government processes and the political deals that took place raise doubts about the Kansas City plant.

Our work and discussion and reflection brought us together to witness to a better world, possible without nuclear weapons.  We chose the time and place to act, hoping for opportunities to raise these issues with more people, and so we have. Our action is small but we are not alone, and we hope and pray that God will lead us on.

Question #5. How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust?

When I speak to those who worship and believe in a way radically different from what I learned, and how I was raised, I try to understand the cultural context and the reasons a different approach proved meaningful for people. The experience of oppression and disrespect can trigger an angry reaction, trying to get even for evils suffered in the past. Deprivation and ignorance may result in a need to attach the evil to an outside entity and destroy it, to get free from a painful past. There are many symbols and rituals for such a cleansing and turning situations around to provide a positive direction.

When one feels a need to crush and annihilate an enemy, it is sometimes an impulse from a need to see justice or balance maintained in the world.

Since I believe people each have intrinsic value, being made in God’s image, my personal feeling is that God’s call to us is to heal and forgive, to nurture and care for one another, and that motives of revenge and destruction are contrary to the divine will as I understand it. In dialog with a person who feels that God wills faithful servants to crush others into the dust, I would argue that God created all people as brothers and sisters and wants us to live in harmony. In some aspects people seem to fit in to this plan, with our desire for happy, secure families and communities and caring. It is natural to protect children and the weak, but few of us extend our care as far as God would wish, to strangers and even to enemies, as Jesus taught us.  The Buddhist teaching would extend the care and nurture to every living thing, with respect for the part of life that is shared in the world as a whole.

Because we live in a world deformed by much inequality, insecurity and injustice, it is no wonder that violence wells up. But devoting a life to destruction rather than building bridges and working for justice hurts the individual whose soul is disfigured, not only by the evil done to the individual, but the evil actions the person chooses in response to it. By choosing to depend on nuclear weapons for our “security,” we as a country have accepted the premise that we have a right to prepare the means to incinerate our enemies—not as individuals, but whole cities and countries. It is no wonder that those under this threat strike back at us in violence by whatever means that they have available.

I have heard interviews with the parents of suicide bombers, often children of 13 or 14, who have lost a daughter or son and mourn the life, the future and possibility that was lost when their child came under the influence of a preacher who made them feel they could be a hero for their community by completing a suicide attack.  Most children that age do not have a real sense that they can die, but they yearn for a way out of the terrible situation their family is in, facing a very bleak future. Even an interview with an “unsuccessful” suicide bomber, a young man recovering from the incomplete detonation in the hospital, reflects how much such young people are taken advantage of. It breaks my heart that such dangerous opportunities are offered them, instead of reasonable guidance, and hope for ways to make the future better.

Question #6.   Who determines what “God’s Law” is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

In an overview of the history of Christianity, it was in the early centuries an underground movement, persecuted by the dominant Roman Empire. When an Emperor himself converted to Christianity (several hundred years after Jesus), it became safe to be a Christian, and the position of the Church in the society was dramatically different. While early converts believed it was not permissible for a Christian to be a soldier, when the soldier believed he was enforcing God’s law under a Christian government, some people’s consciences saw maintaining order as a service. Given the teaching of Jesus, not retaliating for injury, ”turning the other cheek” and loving one’s enemies, I believe it was clear that fighting in a war is always problematic for a follower of Jesus.

As Christianity spread out, the practices and beliefs were adopted by people in diverse conditions. From our Eurocentric viewpoint, the dominant strain of “Church” followed the model of the Roman Empire, and wielded influence from its center in Rome (mostly). While other structures of cultural organization collapsed, and travel, communication, literacy became rarer after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church maintained a powerful influence, in some cases positive in preserving history and study, mediating disputes, curbing abuses, but sometimes, in times of corruption, disgusting in self-indulgence and hypocrisy. In time many reformers appeared with plans to restore Christian purity, and reform or defy the old Church (Catholic) that was experienced as corrupt. This paralleled political and economic changes occurring, and the systems in conflict often saw Christians fighting other Christians of different sects. The development of new armaments made these conflicts increasingly disruptive, and many Europeans, sometimes whole minority communities, fled persecutions looking for different conditions in the “new world” across the Atlantic.

The history of religious freedom is entwined with political freedom in this country. The authors of our system, in the eighteenth century, understood the problems of an ”established” religion, as Christianity was linked with the political power in Europe and proclaimed the divine rights of kings over their subjects.  Some felt that an individual had inherent dignity and rights, and that government was legitimate because of the consent of the governed. The old system of class and feudal subservience was breaking down as movements of “enlightenment” and progress in the sciences brought challenges to the established order where royalty and church authority reinforced each other and used fear and superstition to keep people under control. Given their rebellion, the Founders felt a theoretical divine mandate didn’t outweigh the poor governance and abuse they received from the British crown. They felt justified in their rebellion, and many preferred science over faith.  To build a new nation, a system was needed that allowed variety of belief and worship, or no worship, as each man would see fit.

For myself, as a Roman Catholic in the 21st century, the worldwide nature of the church’s mission, and the efforts to define the role of Christians in the modern era, go beyond national boundaries. In light of widespread social change and catastrophic wars, a few principles have been clarified by the teachings of the church. Human beings are interdependent by nature, and not autonomous. Peace can only be reached when justice is served and everyone’s good is considered. “The arms race is a treacherous trap, and one which injures the poor to an intolerable degree.” (Documents of Vatican II; The Church Today)

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Essays by Carl Kabat, OMI

Clockwise from left: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Max Obuszewski, Brian Terrell, Carl Kabat, Jerry Zawada, at gathering before Dec. 13, 2013, trial in Kansas City, Mo. (photo courtesy of PeaceWorks-KC)

To: Judge Ardie Bland, Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court

From: Carl Kabat, OMI, of St. Louis, Mo.

Note: I gave you four pages when you were on the bench, and I have no idea if you read them or not. I include (quotations from) those pages along with these answers.

1.  If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion (about nuclear weapons)?

The simple answer is NO! The bombs we dropped on Japan during World War II were a crime against God/the Holy One and merit unequivocal condemnation.

I believe that only the Holy One/God has the right to take a human life. We are daughters and sons of the Holy One/God, but we do not have the right to take another human life. State murder and such are not the question here. As attempted followers of Jesus, the only response is to turn the other cheek. Fight, flight, or a nonviolent response are the three options, and to flee or offer a nonviolent response is all we can do.

You cannot indiscriminately kill babies, children, women, or old people. That is a crime against the Holy One/God and against humanity, and is to be condemned unreservedly.

“Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unhesitating condemnation.”—Vatican Council II

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world: my own government. I cannot be silent.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.”—Vatican Synod

“It is a sin to build a nuclear weapon.”—Richard McSorley, SJ

2.  If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

NO!

An eye for an eye makes everyone blind. I believe, as an attempted follower of Jesus, we do not have that option.

As I mentioned in question one, only two options are possible, flight or a nonviolent response.

In an unprecedented show of global public concern that included strong religious voices, 500 civil society representatives and 132 governments met March 2-5, 2013, in Oslo, Norway, to address the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons.

“We strongly affirm the responsibility of all governments to examine the impact of nuclear weapons on human health, the biosphere, and the means of life,” said the World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit in a statement delivered to governments by the coalition Religions for Peace. “People everywhere have been denied rigorous, public, evidence-based scrutiny of weapons which are too terrible for any use,” he added.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, told the forum, “It is obvious in a civilized world that nuclear weapons have no place. The way we are headed, we will glamorously destroy ourselves.”

At the end of the meetings in Oslo, the government of Mexico announced that it would host a follow-up conference in 2014 to build on this humanitarian initiative of the Norwegian government.

3.  What would you say to those who say, “If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?

First of all, fighting does not solve anything. Many say that Germany won (in World War II) since we now use the principles Germany stood for.

Even the experts say that nuclear weapons are useless since they can never be used.

Fighting is not something that the Holy One/God invented. Since the Holy One/God gave us free will, we can kill, steal, etc. We are responsible for the use of our free will.

Concerning the Kansas City Plant: 85 percent of (the parts of) the nuclear bombs that we (U.S. citizens) own were made in Kansas City, and 85 percent of (the parts of) all our future bombs will be made at this new factory in Kansas City (where we were July 13, 2013).

Judge Weeramantry’s Opinion (from 1996 at the World Court of Justice) is based on the proposition that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever. It violates the fundamental principles of international law, and represents the very negation of the humanitarian concerns which underlie the structure of humanitarian law. It offends conventional law and, in particular, the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925, and Article 23 (a) of the Hague Regulations of 1907. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons contradicts the fundamental principle of the dignity and worth of the human person on which all law depends. It endangers the human environment in a manner which threatens the entirety of life on the planet. The brutalities of the nuclear weapon multiplied a thousand-fold all the brutalities of war as known in the pre-nuclear era. The nuclear weapon caused death and destruction; induced cancers, leukemia, keloids and related afflictions; caused gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular, and related afflictions; continued, for decades after its use, to induce the health-related problems mentioned above; damaged the environmental rights of future generations; caused congenital deformities, mental retardation, and genetic damage; carried the potential to cause a nuclear winter; produced lethal levels of heat and blast; produced radiation and radioactive fallout … as no other weapons do.

The Weeramantry Opinion concludes with a reference to the appeal in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto to “remember your humanity and forget the rest,” without which the risk arises of universal death. In this context, the Opinion points out that international law is equipped with the necessary array of principles with which to respond, and that international law could contribute significantly towards rolling back the shadow of the mushroom cloud, and heralding the sunshine of the nuclear-free age.

4.  You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father (Carl) Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

Someone who believes that there is no God still has a conscience. Your conscience tells you that you cannot kill someone.

Your human mind, unless it is sick, tells you what is right or wrong.

Slavery and the crusades were not according to the Holy One/God’s will or desire. The Holy One/God allows us to use our free will for evil; otherwise, we would not be free. The Holy One/God created us as the Holy One/God is. We are free daughters and sons of the Holy One.

At a meeting in Kyoto, Japan, the European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace delegation made a statement including these points:

“Our delegation of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders represents Religions for Peace, the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition. Religions for Peace brings together representatives of the world’s religions globally, regionally, and nationally. ‘Different faiths—common action!’ is our mission, and we believe that peace is more than absence of war and threat of annihilation.

“Man’s continued existence on this planet is threatened with nuclear extinction. Never has there been such despair among men. Our deep conviction that the religions of the world have a real and important service to render to the cause of peace has brought us to Kyoto from the four corners of the earth.

“With humility we admit that religions through history have been misused by those in power, and that religious institutions have supported political actions that grossly violate human dignity. This is in contrast to the spiritual values being taught by our religions and that are shared by other worldviews and philosophies. Those values include sanctity of life, human dignity, respect and solidarity. … We believe that the threat and use of nuclear weapons are completely contrary to these values.

“Religions for Peace will continue working for the abolition of all nuclear weapons, and our delegation calls upon governments of this conference immediately to set in motion a process that will result in a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons.”

5.  How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices?

I know of no religion that crushes others into dust. A misinterpretation of that religion may be wrongly understood as such. The experts of any religion know that such is not true. Some of the adherents may think so, just as happened in the Old Testament as they worshipped the golden calf.

6.  Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

Very often, it is simple to determine what the Holy One/God wants. Sometimes, such is not true.

It requires prudent and deliberate judgment, and sometimes that judgment is wrong. It is then when one asks pardon and attempts to make up for the wrong. It is not easy, but in many instances, it is clear what should be done. The hard part is doing it.

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Essays by Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, talks with a local reporter before the Dec. 13, 2013, trial for opposing nuclear weapons. Photo by Jim Hannah

To: Judge Ardie Bland of the Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court                         

From: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP (Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests), of Lexington, Ky.

1.    If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion (about nuclear weapons)?

If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, I would not change my mind about the immorality of nuclear weapons produced by the United States.

The production of nuclear weapons by any country is insanity and evil.

It is not a life-giving action, but rather one that delivers horrific death and destruction. Could the dead be brought back to life? What restitution is there for losing a child, a sister or brother, a parent, relative or friend?  There is nothing that can replace a human being.  I know…I lost my mother when I was 16 and the oldest of four. I also lost my younger son when he was 18. We know from experience that the death of a loved one causes grief beyond measure and it takes a long time before those left behind can gather their soul and breathe without feeling their heart aflame in the fires of hell. In fact, one never recovers completely.  Instead, we learn to transform our suffering and loss into doing good in the world to bring about the Kin-dom.

Bringing about the Kin-dom, not Kingdom. Jesus in the Gospels is not about hierarchy or relationships of a domination/subordination paradigm. Rather, he calls us to friendship – which implies equality between each man and each woman.  Everyone is invited to the table.

It is very interesting that the Christian tradition proclaims that Jesus had to die for our sins – that he suffered and died for our salvation. Today many of us reject this theology.  Instead, we believe Jesus was killed by a brutal and oppressive Roman government that occupied his country, along with a handful of religious leaders. There was no need for such a bloody death. However, instead of looking at the source of Jesus’ murder and examining how governments treat human beings today, our religious leaders concocted a doctrine of salvation that requires bloodletting of the Innocent One. The motto, however, that many of us take from Jesus’ torture and death is “No More Crucifixions!”  In other words, stop the imperialism and religious collusion in the torture and murder of human beings, be they by drones, nuclear weapons, economic disparity, or doctrines that oppress the marginalized and cause their suffering, such as those against gender, race, homosexuality, etc.

At the root of the belief system in our peace movement is that killing begets further killing, violence begets violence. Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” The production of nuclear weapons by any government is idolatrous of our Loving God. We have committed such atrocities against our brothers and sisters in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today that legacy still haunts our world community.

2.    If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

I don’t see any reason why my opinion would change if Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first during World War II.  The result would be the same: Terrible suffering of children, their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. The loss of their homes/shelter, pets, their communities and ways of life, destruction of nature, water supplies, contamination of the air.

Our response must always be to stop the manufacture of these weapons and to work for peace and cooperation among people. We are all connected. We come from the same source: our Loving God.  We as human beings are united in our DNA, our souls and spirit.  We come from a Loving Source, a God who wants abundance and all good things for us. So much suffering comes to us already through natural causes.

Why, we must all ask, do we spend so much of our energy, time and money -- from hard-earned taxpayers’ money -- to see it squandered in an out-of-control addiction to out-manufacture and out-number nuclear weapons in comparison to other countries? It will never be enough. Our need for so-called security is insatiable. Why do so many of us profess a religious belief in a Loving God and then behave and make decisions which totally deny such beliefs?

We see that power-over was practiced by the Romans against the Jews and others. Eventually, an oppressive ruler and his military imprisoned, tortured and sadistically put to death on a cross a nonviolent man who offered hope and liberation and empowerment to the people. His spirit and their faith cured them of their illness. What was this Jesus of Nazareth doing but pointing out the insanity of a domination/subordination paradigm throughout the society in which he lived: through Roman laws enforced brutally by their military; by religious authorities who were often hypocritical and used religious faith to cover up enormous profits from tithing, etc.; from a societal structure that placed females in the same category as dogs – where girls and women had little or no voice within the family, religious tradition, and society in general; where those who were not of a certain faith, tribe or color, were marginalized and oppressed.

What would Jesus do if he walked beside us in the flesh today? Do you think he would support the manufacture of nuclear weapons by any country? Our Loving God – Holy Unfathomable Mystery – created the glory of the Universe and Holy Mother Earth that originated without the borders of countries. Our task is simple and direct: to cherish one another and all life, to work for justice and the integrity of all creation.

3.    What would you say to those who say, “If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?

I think that in the formulation of question #3, an important institution was not mentioned. That is the United Nations. I am a member of St. Joan’s International Alliance, the oldest Catholic feminist group in the world and a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), established in London in 1911 as a women’s suffragist group.  For three years, 2007-2009, I was one of several St. Joan representatives who participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women. At these gatherings, I met women from all over the world and listened to their stories of oppression, lack of their voices being heard, and much suffering.  From my experience I learned more about the UN and believe it could become healthier and increasingly, an instrument for cooperation. Our world community could benefit greatly if the United Nations would be held up and supported more by the U.S. as an example to other countries.  I believe it would be healthy for our sisters and brothers and our planet if the role of the UN became more predominant, especially in promoting nonviolent resolutions of conflict in our world. The UN could become a training place for diplomats so that mediation would be used to resolve problems rather than through the military or the use or propagation of nuclear weapons.  The UN could help promote nonviolence and require that all countries eliminate the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons and the waste of our people’s labor-taxes on the ever-expanding military budget.  However, in order for any such thinking to become a reality, we must also deal with the realization that weapons manufacturers make huge profits from governments/companies selling weapons of all kinds throughout the world, including drones. We have also come to consciousness of the realization that the CIA instigates some political upheavals and that the truth is twisted or covered up in order to benefit and protect the wealthy and their interests and for our continued build-up and use of more and more weapons and the military.  A fear-based populace gives away rights and checks and balances that are the foundation of democratic rule. The powerful and wealthy in the US and multi-national corporations want the USA to retain its “big stick” of continued nuclear weapons production. At the root is the almighty dollar and keeping things as they are. This mindset eats away at our humanity and depresses people, leading them to violence. Our people’s most basic needs are not being met, but yet we continue to keep pouring more and more money into nuclear weapons production and other military weapons of destruction.

4.    You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father (Carl) Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

Fr. Carl Kabat says we disobey a law that is ungodly, which is true. To answer the rest of the questions you raise in #4, this is what I would say to someone who believes there is no God. What is necessary, I believe, is to expand our definition of Holy Mystery.  To do so, I am using a treasured booklet called Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit written by Elizabeth A. Johnson, a gifted nun, feminist theologian, author of many outstanding works and professor of theology at Fordham University in New York. This particular work is part of the Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality sponsored by the Center for Spirituality, Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Elizabeth Johnson and other notable pioneer thinkers such as Matthew Fox  (The Coming of the Cosmic Christ), Diarmuid O’Murchu  (Quantum Theology), Thomas Berry (The Dream of the Earth) and Sally McFague (Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age) have written about the connection between the exploitation of the earth and the marginalization of women. “Both of these predicaments,” says Johnson, “are intrinsically related to forgetting the Creator Spirit who pervades the world in the dance of life.” The true identity of women and the earth are obscured within a patriarchal sexist system.  “Both are commonly excluded from the sphere of the sacred; both are routinely taken for granted and ignored, used and discarded, even battered and ‘raped,’ while nevertheless they do not cease to give birth or sustain life.” (p. 2-3) Moreover, women and the earth, says Johnson, are connected to the Creator Spirit, “giver of life, who is similarly ignored in western religious consciousness as a result of restricting the sacred to a transcendent, monarchical deity outside of nature.” (p. 3) Western thought, including theology, has been determined according to the values of patriarchy.

Neither the defense nor the prosecution is able to use a term such as ungodly which could not be defined in jurisprudence. The courts are “tainted” when they use Bibles, Korans, etc. Yet, human life and spirit come from somewhere, including Nature (which we must nurture and protect), from community (which is antithetical to oppression) and from acts of resistance (which draw attention to behaviors which annihilate fruitful and life-giving Mother Earth and her children and Father Sky and his breath of life).  Any law that justifies nuclear weapons is unjust and must be resisted. We need, as Johnson says, “a vision of wholeness of a flourishing human community on a thriving earth” where “what has been disparaged is uplifted.” (p. 3)

5.    How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices?

Our country is not the only one that behaves in an immoral, insane and evil manner.  Governments of other countries do, too. Unfortunately, the same is also true for religion and religious leaders.  We need only to look into history to see how religious leaders have caused death and destruction, especially those professing Christianity. So it is no surprise to hear in question 5 that the intent of another religion “is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices.”

They are demonizing Americans as we Christians have in the past demonized pagans, Muslims, Jews, women called witches, the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc., etc.  It seems that we humans – especially if we practice a religion – have a propensity to scapegoat others of different faith traditions, no faith at all, people of different races, people who look different from us, people of different lifestyles. The fighting may also be about gaining resources, including more territory.

Why do we, as humans, behave this way? Fear and anger would be emotions that come into play: Fear of being dominated, of being forced to change one’s ways of living, fear of being killed or losing one’s family, community and traditions.

Question 5 sounds like it may have come from leaders in Iran who are using powerful rhetoric against the U.S. – which has a growing reputation as a military and economic bully in the world – to get its way.

The people who live in Iran are Muslims.  We know that Christians have been persecuting Muslims for hundreds of years. More recently, the United States has caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani people and the destruction of their property and land.

What we need are more people-to-people encounters not only for peace and justice activists but with ordinary Americans as well. Despite current rhetoric, the United States is the only country that has dropped nuclear weapons on the people of another nation. The use of weapons of mass destruction on Japan was a war crime. Japan had already been defeated.

As U.S. citizens, since our government has used nuclear weapons in the past, it is our responsibility to make sure that our government never uses nuclear weapons again. Just as importantly, we must abolish nuclear weapons. As our Hibakusha (nuclear bomb victims) say, “NEVER AGAIN!” Governments all over the world need to invite the Hibakusha to their countries to speak to adults and children in the schools. At the community level, people need to rally and advocate for nuclear-free zones. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

6.     Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

Over time, some Christian faith traditions have upheld racism, slavery, apartheid, the inferiority and the inequality of women (sexism), as well as homophobia and classism. There is no “God’s law” per se. Yet, we have the 10 Commandments. Joseph Smith spoke to God, and according to him, God supported bigamy. In Saudi Arabia, women can be flogged for committing adultery. In Jesus’ time, men could divorce women on a whim or for not producing males. Religious leaders have often colluded with the government and military when it was to their advantage. Most religions are male-dominated, and that’s an underlying indication why they are unhealthy.

In Catholicism, Pope John Paul II said that Jesus did not ordain women, so women can never be priests. We know that Jesus did not ordain anyone. The Vatican says that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride, so women – who biologically are not males as Jesus was – cannot be ordained priests.  From Elizabeth Johnson we learn that the Christomorphic sense is beyond gender. In other words, it does not matter if you are a woman or man, behaving like Christ to each other is what is important.  

It is the I-Thou practice brought to light by Martin Buber. It is the mindfulness that Thich Nhat Hanh teaches. It is the brotherly (and sisterly) love of which the Quakers speak. It is the love of your neighbor at the heart of Christianity.  It is also the reverence in which the prophets Mohammed, Abraham and Jesus are held by Muslims.

For obvious reasons, we cannot bring God’s law into the courtroom. However, through religion many have learned morality. For a law, in my opinion, to be upheld in a courtroom, whether it’s trespassing or something much more serious, the law must be moral and therefore just. Unfortunately, in this society, an unbiased observer would quickly recognize that a rich person has a better opportunity under law to receive due process than a poor person. So just as there is inequality in society, injustice can prevail in a court of law. For me, though, it is easy to recognize the many injustices in this society, and I will continue to resist them and argue in a court of law why I must resist.

I appeared before you, Judge Ardie Bland, because there were many influences in my life: the beauty in Nature, the teachings of Jesus, experiencing motherhood and the death of a child, teaching children from around the world who had lived through war, violence and economic disparity, as well as learning of war from my uncle who survived it with PTSD.

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Essays by Jerry Zawada, OFM

Jerry Zawada, under arrest July 13, 2013, at KC's new nuclear weapons parts plant--photo by Chris Zebuyak

Dear Judge Ardie Bland,

Enclosed are my answers for the “homework” we’ve received from you. May all go well for you.

Sincerely,  

Fr. Jerome Zawada, OFM, of Burlington, Wis.

#1.  If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion?

Since we are dealing with "What if's?”, let's say three nuclear bombs were dropped on a U.S. city one time each (from North Korea, China and a Mideast country) - and we retaliated with three of our own, and a fire storm erupted globally with nuclear contamination encircling the world.  Who then would be the victor?  And to what purpose? 

On August 15, 1988, a friend and I were standing on a nuclear missile silo lid, praying for peace - one of the 150 nuclear ICBMs scattered in the farmlands of Missouri.  I pasted several dozen photos of my loved ones, including some of infants and children in my family.  I realized that if and when the bomb below my feet were launched over Russia and vaporized a school girl there, that bomb would have caused a Russian nuclear bomb to be exploded over my family.  Considering this gave me added motivation to stand my ground in opposing nuclear weapons.

A few months later, newspapers across the country reported that in our own manufacturing and storage of our nuclear weapons, we were in fact killing our citizens.  Contamination had been erupting from complexes located in Hanford, Washington, Fernald, Ohio, and Savannah River, South Carolina.  Since this was information I hadn't previously known (as most U.S. citizens had not), I understood then that the only way I could commemorate the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4 (the peacemaker founder of the order I belong to) was to celebrate mass atop another nuclear missile silo in Missouri.  

In following years, my reasons for opposing nuclear weapons were multiplied.  Billions of dollars urgently needed to alleviate poverty, illness, homelessness, environmental issues - not only here at home, but in places of critical need all over the world - were squandered as the coffers of huge corporations were filled.  

Because of these concerns, there is nothing - not even the use of an atomic weapon on a U.S. city - that would change my opinion.  

"The readiness to use nuclear weapons against other human beings - against people we do not know, whom we have never seen, and for whose guilt or innocence it is not for us to establish - and in doing so, to place in jeopardy the national structure upon which all civilization rests, as though the safety and perceived interests of our own generation are more important than everything that has ever taken place or could take place in civilization:  this is nothing less than a presumption, a blasphemy, an indignity of monstrous dimensions - offered to God."

George F. Kennan, from "The Nuclear Delusion:  Soviet - American Relations in the Atomic Age," New York, 1982, pp. 206-207

#2.  If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would that change your opinion?

The use of nuclear weapons by any nation, then or now, would only further convince me of the need to eliminate them from the earth.

Germany gave up its development of an atomic bomb in 1942.  Japan had no capacity to develop nuclear weapons during World War II.  After the end of the first World War (1918) and before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, if there had been a similar plan of reconstruction and hope for Germany (similar to the Marshall Plan following World War II), many opine that it would be unlikely that a "savior-figure Hitler" would have emerged to create the horrors of the second War.

In May of 2010, there was an international gathering in New York City for renewal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding nuclear weapons.  Among the thousands who witnessed the impassioned speech of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, I was privileged to be present.  Practically in tears he pleaded with all of us (especially from those States having the majority of nuclear weapons, i.e., the U.S. and Russia) to urge our governments to cease the manufacture and storage of nuclear weapons.

On May 11, 1970, a total of 190 parties had joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear weapons states.  On May 11, 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely.  According to the Treaty, "the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war."

On September 27, 2013, a Vatican official challenged the sincerity of the U.S. and other major nuclear powers’ disarmament efforts during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. He said, "Under the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty, states are enjoined to make 'good faith' efforts to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons.  Can we say there is 'good faith' when modernization programs of the nuclear weapons states continue despite their affirmations of eventual nuclear disarmament?"

So we can wonder: How is it that since the 2010 Renewal of the Nonproliferation Treaty, that the United States has updated and rebuilt these nuclear weapons complexes - Y-12 in Oakridge, Tennessee, the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico and the vast new nuclear weapons complex in Kansas City, Missouri? Plus there is the huge number of Trident missile warheads stored at the Navy sub base in Bangor, Washington, enough to blow up the whole world.

#3.  What would you say to those who say:  "If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back"?

"They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." Isaiah 2:4

"THE BIG STICK?!?"

With leaders like Presidents Kennedy and Mandela, along with many other examples, including people of wisdom and compassion from poor countries, there is no need for anyone to wield a "big stick," nor to carry even one nuclear weapon.

1)  From Sister Joan Chittister's article in the National Catholic Reporter (December 6-19, 2013)

“In his commencement speech at American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy (JFK) called for the most soul-changing conversion of heart at the height of the Cold War that the world had ever seen.

“He challenged those graduates, the political leaders of the future, to understand that ‘total war makes no sense in a world in which one single nuclear bomb was 10 times all the Allied air force in the Second World War.’

“He had the effrontery to call for peace and collaboration with the Soviet Union in a country sick of soul from the fear of communism.  Even then, the military budget of the U.S. had long before begun to sap American resources to the point of our own social ruination.  We need to understand that our own attitudes toward the meaning of peace in a newly global world are every bit as important as Russia’s. … In a world now threatened by nuclear pollution as well as nuclear annihilation, he called on those young people to realize that to confront an adversary with certain death was to force them to choose between humiliating retreat and total devastation in a war in which there would be lots of dead heroes but no winners.

“And then he called for the United States to work with the Soviet Union to help them achieve their ends so we might all achieve ours as well.  He called, in other words, for us, for the United States itself, to relinquish our national strategy of annihilation in order to pursue a strategy of peace.

“… And then five months later, they killed him. Who? Who knows? But one thing for sure: It was someone who valued domination and death more than life, more than conversion, more than humanity—their own or anyone else’s.”

2)  Nelson Mandela (B. July 18, 1918 - D. December 5, 2013)

As the first president of a post-apartheid South Africa, Mandela brought whites and blacks together in government.  He reached out to his fellow white citizens who were unsure of their place in the new society, and he was the steadfast advocate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, setting a model for peace building for generations.  He guided his country along the arc of history, a slow journey toward unity and justice.

In 1996, Mandela launched the country's "Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission," led by Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.  Rather than Nuremburg-style trials, Mandela's government fostered truth-telling and amnesty.  On one hand, that meant killers who confessed would not be prosecuted.  On the other hand it helped ensure that the seeds of more racial hatred would not be planted.

Mandela wrote on the last page of his memoir:  "When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both."

#4.  You defendants say you are Christians, and one is a Buddhist.  Father Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly (i.e. by challenging the proliferation of nuclear weapons).  How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God?  Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed some millions?

#5.  How do you respond to those who have a God different from you, when they argue their religion is to crush others into the dust?

My answers to both of these questions are the same, and arise from a conviction I have long adhered to.

I don't make those distinctions.  For me it has never been important if people believe in God as long as they follow their conscience.  One could still find nuclear weapons immoral without a belief in God.

Just because people talk about dogma or their faith in a certain way doesn’t mean that it has anything to do with God or belief in God.  That’s why we have to help one another in our different faiths – to understand that Love, Compassion and Justice are the things that have to govern.

Some laws, of course, have no basis in religion.  When they are immoral and unjust to begin with, they should be challenged from the outset.  

Attorney Bill Quigley, a friend, law professor and someone very much respected throughout the judicial world, has often said, "There is a difference between Laws and Justice.  Laws must be continuously reinterpreted and changed as understanding and circumstances progress, in order to ensure Justice (which is the objective)."  

With reference to nuclear weapons, Leonard Eiger (Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action) said, "Nuclear weapons are fundamentally immoral in as much as they are indiscriminate killers that, in addition to the instant deaths of upwards of millions of people (including civilians) continue to kill for generations.  Beyond that, they could quite likely bring an end to civilization as we know it or even an end to the human race.  This makes nuclear weapons absolutely unacceptable instruments for anything remotely resembling peace in our world."

I believe that much of the aberrations of religious beliefs - including sometimes for those who deny all beliefs - arise from the history of abuses of religion (at times, including from outsiders).

All religions carry baggage of abuse (within Christianity as an institution, as well).  It pays for us to make efforts to understand how these abuses have come about (and sometimes continue) and to take steps to enable others and ourselves to abolish those things that bring suffering and discrimination to innocent folks and to support each other as part of our human family.

#6.  Who determines what "God's law" is, given the history of the USA and the world?

For me, and for most people, I imagine, we come to accept and absorb God's Law not only through the printed Scripture and charismatic religious leaders - but especially through HOW these "divine teachings about law" are lived out by those same people and others.

In my lifetime thus far, being influenced by certain holy and courageous people throughout history, I find reason to believe that certain laws of Love, Justice, Compassion and Truth come from the heart of our Creator.

For the moment I point out a few among contemporaries who have profound impact on me (along with Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi), especially regarding God's Law:

1) Matahma Gandhi

2) Martin Luther King, Jr.

3) Pope Francis

4) The three "Transform Now Ploughshares" activists

1) Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated when I was 10 years old, but it was only when I reached adulthood that I got to understand and appreciate the exceptional gifts he has brought to our world:  nonviolence and his faithfulness to the credence of "Satyagraha" ("Truth Force"). In his agenda, there is not the remotest idea of injuring the opponent. "Satyagraha" postulates the conquest of the adversary "by suffering in one's own person."  

2) In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. broke with many of his supporters and colleagues by publicly speaking out against the Vietnam War.  He became increasingly critical of the structures of power in the United States, and he began to forge the bonds of a radical alliance that would unite poor people of all colors in the struggle for social changes.  "Truth crushed to earth will rise again.  How long? Not long!  Because no lie can live forever," he said. "Because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."  All the while he continued to grow in his commitment to nonviolence, not simply as a political tactic, but as a thoroughgoing principle of life.

3) Right from the beginning of his papacy in March, 2013, Pope Francis has reached out in many ways to a variety of people, without concern for his safety nor image.  He gives regard to the poorest of the poor and encourages the hierarchy to do likewise.  He presses his campaign for the downtrodden, speaking out against "trickle-down economics" and many abuses of "capitalism."  He said, "There is the need for the commitment of all to build a society that is truly more just and united - urging people to work for a world where everyone accepts each other's differences and where enemies recognize that we are one family."

4)  On July 28, 2012, the Transform Now Plowshares cut through four fences at the Y-12 nuclear complex in Oakridge, Tennessee.  They took personal responsibility to begin an act of disarmament, spray-painting biblical and peace slogans on the walls and hammering on the corner of the Highly Enriched Uranium Facility building, following the biblical mandate to "beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks."  These three friends - Sr. Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed - have been in jail since their May 2013 trial, and await sentencing on January 28, 2014.  Because of their nonviolent and courageous act of conscience, they have received acclamation from all over the world.  For me and for many others, their putting themselves personally in danger for the survival of us all represents the values embodied by the other heroes I've reflected upon.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Essays by Lauren Logan

Lauren Logan chats with a police officer July 13, 2013, after crossing the line at KC's new NNSA facility. Photo by Chris Zebuyak

To: Judge Ardie Bland

From: Lauren Logan of Independence, Mo.

1.    If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion (about nuclear weapons)?

Not at all.

First, it’s not an argument of “Who drops the bomb?” It’s an argument of “Why drop the bomb?” Or even more-so, “Why does the bomb exist?” If we live in a World where destruction of any person is of question, then we need to seriously re-evaluate our Worldly processes and come up with a better strategy of living.

It’s daunting to realize we find war relevant in the first place, but on top of that are willing to create and potentially utilize a bomb so powerful and deadly that its effects can be seen years after the initial detonation. The bomb itself works to destroy everything—good, evil or indifferent—that’s within its reach. This means when political powers decide to drop a bomb, it destroys the “enemy” as well as all of the civilians who have nothing to do with the politics; it destroys the animal lives that aren’t even involved in our politics, as well as destroying the plants, water reserves and other wildlife in the area that sustains the life sources in that area. To drop a nuclear bomb means to literally kill all life for political gain.

In my eyes, there is no politics that is more important than life itself.

Moreover, almost all militant moves made by any government are discussed first by the political “powers” that are, to my knowledge, made well aware of the moves in all debates had. One does not simply start a random war without an attempt to humanely and justly discuss the issue that is being had. I am aware that monetary gain has a lot to do with the wars that happen as well, so clearly an abolishment of the monetary system would aid in the abolishment of war and other massacres the political “powers” allow. If it is true that the political “powers” in question are not looking to have war and allow their citizens, who entrust their protection to their government officials, to have a say, then they would be more than willing to sit down and discuss the overall destruction of nuclear arms and other war-triggering items and ideas that are implemented at this current time and would implement new regulations to ensure that these items of destruction stay extinct as well as implement proper punishment for those who create and utilize nuclear arms and other war-triggering items and ideas after the decision to destroy these items has been universally made. It should be made clear that protesting against the creation and utilization of nuclear arms is not solely for the United States, but for all nations; the United States just so happens to be where our voice holds power.

With all this being said, if we were to properly handle the issue of nuclear arms strategically, responsibly, respectfully and tactfully, the problem stated in the question would not be an issue that would need a solution or an opinion. Because the United States is one of the most powerful nations in the World at this particular time, we most definitely set the bar for what is and isn’t acceptable in this World; we have numerous respectable allies (as well as a few enemies) who are, in my assumptions given my knowledge of the typical human being, more than willing to finally come to a peaceful consensus. True, it would most likely mean radical changes in our World’s political structuring, as the economics in place now thrive off of destruction, but it would be changes that should have been implemented decades ago; constructive changes for peace and world-wide solidarity.

2.    If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?

I guarantee some of my opinion would change. I would most likely oppose nuclear weapons from a more personal standpoint than a statistical, moral viewpoint. But as to whether I would support the harboring of nuclear weapons or not, I would most likely hold the same stance.

Regardless of where the bombs are dropped and whether it is something that affects me personally or is merely statistical and factual information that explains my reasoning, nuclear bombs are not to be supported. They are horrendous regardless of who takes the initial blow of the bomb itself, not to mention that, given enough time, the bomb affects the World. For one’s opinion to change because of such irrelevance as “where the bomb was dropped” would show that one neither knows the effects of a nuclear bomb nor cares about the overall effect of it.

When facing the question of nuclear warfare and the abolishment of this kind of war (of all kinds of war really, but for the sake of argument we’ll stay on the topic of nuclear war itself), we mustn’t think about only ourselves, but the betterment of everyone. It’s horrible to bomb one nation, not only because it’s a horrible thing to do to a small portion of people, but also because it’s emotionally, mentally and eventually physically detrimental to every human being on this planet. The idea that at any time a nation can be obliterated because of something as trivial as politics, religion or cultural differences is horrifying! We all subconsciously have this fear in the back of our minds that this could happen to us at any time, and it’s not a way to live at all. We should be able to live compassionately and abundantly. War doesn’t bring compassion. War doesn’t bring abundance. Nuclear war only brings destruction. A dying Planet doesn’t need any more potential for destruction.

The only difference that would come from Germany and/or Japan having nuclear bombs in World War II is who the victims would be. The destruction nuclear weapons cause is a hard fact, and that is what my opinion stands on.

3.    What would you say to those who say, “If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?

The way society’s mentality is trained today, they are more likely than not to see the negatives without the positives. When one worries that we must have “big guns” in order to intimidate any other country, one lives in fear of the World. Being as this is exactly what propaganda is designed to do in this country, it’s understandable that this would be the first thing to be asked.

Let’s shine a realistic light on this question, though; Out of the 196 countries that exist in the World, only nine have nuclear weapons that we know of. (South Africa had nuclear weapons and decided to voluntarily dismantle the bombs. They still exist and thrive.) There are countries that don’t even have a military, including Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia (in which a military never formed since the foundation of their country) and Costa Rica. These countries do not live in fear, nor have they been destroyed at any point because of their lack of weaponry. This goes to show that there are countries who have successfully managed to survive without any form of harmful weaponry or, in some instances, a militia altogether.

Now how is this possible if nuclear arms and strong military tactics are what we need to survive? Simple; unless it is a small country with resources that a bigger, militant country wants or one is a big bully (which the United States is at this point), there is no need to worry about any form of war or nuclear weaponry. War is a political tactic (a horrendous one) that only concerns those who choose to participate in it for whatever reason—money, resources, land, etc.  With that being said, we only need to worry about having the weaponry to fight back if we choose to engage in this form of politics.

Being against war is political; we need not worry about being attacked for deciding to take a peaceful stance, we need treaties and allies. We have the UN who would undoubtedly support us becoming peaceful, and being as our entire nation is depleted of any resources, there is nothing that our enemies would have to fight us over. It’s very possible to successfully take a non-violent stance and be protected, perhaps even be trend-setters for a new era of non-violence, but it takes citizens pushing for a new way of life and demanding the violence cease.

4.    You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father (Carl) Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?

I am the one Buddhist among the defendants and will have a difficult time answering this question seeing as, according to Buddhist belief, the matter of an existence of a God is up to the Buddhist. It doesn’t really matter if a God exists, according to Tibetan Buddhism, but that persons live their lives according to what they believe is good (the Dharma and Karma) and in an enlightened place to escape reincarnation.

With that being said, in my eyes it doesn’t matter what religion people hold but what they find moral in their conscience. It’s not a matter of religion but a matter of one’s own conscience with what is good and what is bad. This holds true in all aspects of life and, in my opinion, it’s appalling trying to use religion as an argument when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. When it comes to nuclear arms, it is a matter of politics versus moral standing. It’s a matter of doing what makes sense versus what doesn’t.

Helping each other out to get things we need to survive makes sense. Demanding something from someone and blowing them up when they won’t give it to us does not. Focusing our lives around things such as relationships, community, health, joy and freedom makes sense. Focusing our lives around things such as fear, hate, individuality, conformity, monetary wealth and just plain stuff does not.

Hugging someone makes sense. Hurting them does not.

These are points that we could mostly agree on: humanity and compassion are overall good; destruction and hate are overall bad. It should be these points alone that should answer this question for us. One does not need to believe in a God to know that nuclear war brings nothing but destruction to our Planet and the living organisms on it, just as one does not need to believe that nuclear war is detrimental in the most tremendous ways to believe in a God. Eve bit into the apple, according to the Christian and Catholic religious text, the Bible, giving humans the capability to see and think for themselves just as God could. So each person is capable of his or her own decisions.

Following blind orders (and to follow the Bible’s commandments and legislature in the name of faith and God is just the same as following orders) is what causes atrocities such as slavery, the Crusades, World Wars I and II, the Civil War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Holocaust and all other concentration camps, riots, police brutality, any genocide, starvation, and the overall success of societies under dictator rule. As long as persons have a brain, they should be able to logically draw a consensus on whether they believe nuclear war and other forms of mass destruction are justifiable and whether use of such tactics are within our moral standings.  If one is not protesting these things avidly, one is consenting with the action. This doesn’t have to do with God or any religious standing at all; it has to do with, quite bluntly, whether one is hideously cruel or not.

5.     How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices?

Any God who is for the destruction of his/her followers and their surroundings is a poor one to worship. It is not a natural part of our being to support any kind of violence that isn’t necessary for protection, and any such thought process may come from someone who is seriously ill and needs mental treatment. More than likely, this person has found a cult, and I would strongly push to find a way to get lifelong psychological help for that person as well for anyone who followed him or her.

These kinds of thought processes are not likely for the average person to have and should not be seen as such. Humans are typically very docile creatures who have compassion and are driven by natural democratic tendencies. That being said, most people, unless under the mind power of cult leaders and dictators, will not support or condone violence in any way.

6.    Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?

Given the history of Christianity (taking into account the many shady instances in history with the religion), as well as the history of the USA (which is also shady), and the World (which is growing evermore shady)? Not one of those three determines God’s Law. God determines His own law and sends it down to us. This law comes individually in your conscience.

We each have a different interpretation of who or what God really is, so to have only one person determines what his law would be is preposterous. His law is dictated by how we individually perceive it from our experiences and life lessons. There is not an exact answer to life or how it is lived; which is what makes it so beautiful; it’s not meant to be dictated but enjoyed, which is something most miss out on. It’s all about perception.

Now, does this mean that those who believe that they should be allowed to rape, murder or oppress should be allowed to? Never! This is why our lives, and the lives of all other living organisms, go through the process of democracy. It’s all about what is going to make everyone happy, healthy and as safe as possible without being a hindrance to anyone’s freedom. We have democracy in order to keep our conscience and mind in check with what is agreed to be correct. The decision should never fall on one person; the decision should never come from a book or legislation. We are all capable as intelligent beings to live in peace democratically under what would be conceived as “no law.” In short, we all determine our own laws with the help of our conscience and the natural order of democracy given the opportunity.

To me, God is the Sun. Religious Gods are a parable on how to best find happiness. There is no man in the sky telling me what to do, but there is a light source that provides me with everything I need to survive. To worship God is to worship the Earth. No one helped me come to this conclusion, no one told me if this was right or wrong, and I have not wanted to blow up the Earth since this theory came to fruition (actually, it has made me more aware of my Planet and those on it). My laws come from the Sun; if the earth provides it for me, then it is good. If what I’m doing harms the Earth or any living creature on it, then it is bad. This is my law and order.

Somehow, even with this unique belief, I’ve managed to find consensus on my viewpoint with 24 other people who were willing to stand up for the Earth, perhaps not for the same overall theory being similar, but because our own individual Laws, “God’s Law,” has shown us that what nuclear arms are, what war and violence is, is bad and should be abolished if we plan to survive another century.

It’s not the point of God or his law. It’s not politics or history or anything else that has brought me to the decision that nuclear war needs to be forever destroyed; it was listening to my conscience, something we all have, and realizing that anything that can be so detrimental to our World—regardless of whether other countries have oil, don’t agree with us or are threatening to take all our money—is bad! Killing people for imaginary profit is wrong. Opposing this point or quietly sitting by—allowing weapons of mass destruction to still exist, be manufactured and harbored for potential wars that are inevitable, while telling each other that this is okay, murder and destruction are all feasible solutions to falsified problems, and there is no better, more mature way to handle things—that’s a message my God simply can’t accept.

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Essays by Jane Stoever

Jane and Henry Stoever, before July 13, 2013, line-crossing at KC's new nuclear weapons parts production plant -- photo by Chris Zebuyak

To:  Judge Ardie Bland, Municipal Court, Kansas City, Mo.

From:  Jane Stoever of Overland Park, Kan.

The first question is, “If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion (about nuclear weapons)?”

If any country anywhere dropped a nuclear bomb on another country, the results would be cataclysmic and would make clear—for the safety of the entire world—the need to abolish nuclear weapons. So my answer to the question is no, the dropping of a nuclear bomb would not change my opinion about nuclear weapons.

Here in the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area, many people are aware not only of the immense environmental consequences of exploding a nuclear bomb, but also of the contaminants that have spewed into the air, ground, and waterways from using toxic elements to produce parts for nuclear weapons at the Kansas City Plant at Bannister Federal Complex.

The work at the KC Plant, begun in 1949 when the jet engine plant was converted to a nuclear weapons parts production plant, resulted in reports that employees at the complex died or have been seriously injured from contaminants from the KC Plant. A 4/13/2011 list from NBC Action News, Channel 41 in Kansas City, includes 154 persons whom family members said had died from exposure to the complex’s contaminants, and about 250 additional persons who said they were ill because of exposure to the contaminants. The list is online at http://media2.nbcactionnews.com/pdf/investigators/bannisteremployees_20110413.pdf.

NBC Action News, Channel 41 in Kansas City, on Jan. 9, 2014, covered the announcement by CenterPoint Properties that it stands by its estimate of $175 million as the cost of clearing Bannister Federal Complex of its contaminants. NBC Action News referred to its 2011 list as well as information that nearly 900 toxins have been found in the complex, including beryllium, asbestos, and plutonium. The Jan. 9 online story linked to a 2011 NBC Action News story on the toxins, http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/plutonium-and-more-than-100-other-new-toxins-identified-at-bannister-federal-complex- with the story focusing on plutonium.

The Jan. 9, 2013, Action News story is online at  http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/centerpoint-stands-behind-estimate-of-175-mil-to-demolish-federal-bannister-complex#ixzz2qI7ywfAI. In the telecast, Maurice (wrongly identified as Michael) Copeland, an employee at the KC Plant for 32 years, questioned whether $175 million would suffice to clean up the area. Copeland said he wants the government “to convince the people that you really did clean this place up and you’re going to have to monitor it for years.” NBC Action News reported that Copeland has watched as co-workers and family members battled illnesses such as sarcoidosis and various cancers.

I have worked with Copeland and know that, at one point, he attended funerals of his co-workers about every three weeks. In the effort to obtain compensation for those who become sick or have died from the contaminants, it has become clear to some of us in Kansas City that more people have died in the United States from the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We are heartsick. So much damage was caused by US nuclear attacks in 1945, and so much damage to US citizens is caused by ongoing production/maintenance of nuclear weapons.

The second question is, “If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?”

My answer to the question is no.

My husband, Henry Stoever, the lawyer for us defendants in the Dec. 13, 2013, trial, was born in Germany in December 1948. After the family’s move to the United States in March 1951, the family stayed in touch with relatives in Germany, became naturalized US citizens, and several times visited family in Germany. My husband throughout his life has had keen interest in Europe. His reading has led him to discover that a German scientist may have known steps to take to make an atomic bomb and instead took the country in another direction. The hypothetical question about the possible use of nuclear weapons first by Germany is a good one; just as good is the suggestion from history that a German may have prevented that.

Concerning Japan, history tells us that Japan had contacted the Vatican, Switzerland, and Russia to facilitate its surrender and end World War II. History also tells us that some 150 top US scientists in the Manhattan Project, developing the world’s first nuclear weapons, had mixed answers in a survey on whether the nation should explode its nuclear weaponry on a Japanese city. About 10% of the scientists said yes; about 10% said no. The other 80% were split, about half saying to conduct another bomb test in the United States and half saying to conduct such a test in Japan.

The very people who made the first nuclear weapons had misgivings about using them.

Truman Library materials indicate military leaders did not convey the survey results to Truman, a crucial failure of communication, and Truman approved dropping the explosions.

Taking words from the Bhagavad Gita, Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, said when the atom bomb was tested in New Mexico July 16, 1945, “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”

Many cities hold memorial services to recall the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When Kansas City’s annual observance lost steam, my husband gave it new energy through PeaceWorks. We gather for the ceremony at Loose Park. We ring a gong to mark each year since 1945. We float lanterns on the lagoon—hope in the darkness. We make peace cranes. We recommit ourselves to work for peace.

In 2008, Henry and I hosted four persons from the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, including a translator and Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor) Yoshiko Kajimoto. A tiny, delightful woman, Kajimoto-san told of the deaths and destruction in Hiroshima in 1945, when she was 14. She and a classmate had been at work in a suburban factory 1 ½ miles from the epicenter of the attack. They crawled out from under the wreckage and then carried classmates out of the building and away from the fires around them. Kajimoto-san saw people walking away from the city holding their arms out in front of themselves because flesh was hanging from their arms, melted. Carrying her classmates to safety, she inadvertently stepped on parts of dead bodies. “I don’t want anyone else ever to see what we had to see,” she told groups at Rockhurst University and the Community of Christ Temple in Independence. Later, during a videoconference between Avila University and Kajimoto-san in Hiroshima, a student asked her, “Do you feel revenge toward this country?” She replied, “Oh, no!” She said she just wanted an end to nuclear weapons.

Kajimoto-san, in working for peace, I’m trying to walk in your footsteps!

The third question is, “What would you say to those who say, ‘If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back’?”

We in the peace community are seeking multilateral, verifiable abolition of nuclear weapons. We are not calling for unilateral eradication of US nuclear arms. In my mind, this third question is a no-go. We need worldwide nuclear disarmament. Fortunately, scientists assure us they can detect whether countries have the capability to create nuclear devices, and scientists can confirm whether countries possess them and the delivery vehicles for using them.

The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Protocol is a statement meant to be attached to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The protocol contains such steps as the following:

The US Conference of Mayors voted unanimously in 2008 for the resolution “Support for

the Elimination of All Nuclear Weapons by the Year 2020,” and in 2013, the conference unanimously adopted the resolution “Calling for U.S. Leadership in Global Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and Redirection of Nuclear Weapons Spending to Domestic Needs.” The 2013 resolution won passage in July, on the heels of the declaration by President Barack Obama June 19 in Berlin: “So long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” and his announcement of his intention to seek further bilateral nuclear weapons reductions with Russia.

Ironically, the Obama administration has consistently pursued funding increases for nuclear weapons production. The Kansas City Plant, where non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons are made and procured, has benefitted from funding hikes. A few fiscal bits of info:

FY 2012: $500 million approved by Congress for the KC Plant

FY 2013 (continuing resolution): $535 million approved

FY 2014 (Obama’s proposed budget): $579 million, but funding was pulled back to the 2013 level through a continuing resolution that will come up for another vote in early 2014.

“Give us money like that for health care!” says Ann Suellentrop, a nurse, a member of the PeaceWorks Board, and the president of the national Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. “Money is flowing without a problem for maintaining the US nuclear weapons arsenal.”

PeaceWorks, Kansas City, has persisted in exposing the contaminants at the current KC Plant and the costs of both the current and new plants. We brought forth four petitions, each signed by about 5,000 city residents, to try to give voters a chance to “weigh in” concerning the city’s involvement in a financial scheme for the plant. In August 2011, at a City Hall hearing on one of our petitions, Christian Brother Louis Rodemann said, “Our cultural creed as a nation is an idolatrous faith in nuclear weapons. We propose to be fighting terrorism by our own terrorist, aggressive postures and behaviors. We squander trillions of dollars on national defense while the reality of dehumanizing poverty oppresses millions of our own citizens, and hundreds of millions around the world. At the end of the day, or when we take a deep breath to disengage from the frenzy of our lives, don’t we really see this all as insane, unjust, immoral?”

It would, in truth, be immoral to know as much as we know about nuclear weapons and not speak out against the nuclear weapons parts production occurring in our midst.

The fourth question is, “You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father (Carl) Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?”

I have had the joy of friends who were not Christian, friends who doubted whether there was a God. These people devoted their lives to peace, to solving conflicts without violence, to hope for a better world. One such atheist was Kris Cheatum, who with her husband, Lynn Cheatum, was a co-chair of the PeaceWorks-KC Board. Kris died suddenly from strokes at age 72. In her last 10 years, when I worked with her on peace efforts, she was full-time peace-working, taking care of her husband whose Alzheimer’s was intensifying, and managing to create the monthly newsletter for PeaceWorks. Her good humor saved her from bitterness about our country’s cruelty and ignorance. When she tabled at events, she would call to people she knew, “Come sign this petition!” or “Join PeaceWorks now!” A little lightning rod, Kris was remembered at her funeral as the heart of PeaceWorks. She made arrangements for eight of us to attend the 2010 Five-Year Review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the United Nations in New York City. She sent us. It was two months before her death, and she was the moving force for our journey. At weekly witnesses for peace, where we still hold “had enough war yet?” and “we must disarm” signs at 63rd Street and Ward Parkway, Kris would bring Lynn and keep a close eye on him, lest he step into the street. Afterwards, they kicked back with giant margaritas.

Kris’s faithfulness to peace action tells me that people throughout the world, whether they believe in God or not, yearn for peace, for understanding among peoples, for safety for communities, indeed, for Martin Luther King’s beloved community.

How do I respond to someone who believes there is no God? I respond with respect, with appreciation for their good will, with admiration for their good deeds. How do I say what God believes, when I must consider the harm done by persons quoting Scripture to justify their evil? I just try to live out, day by day, my personal belief in a loving God. At the same time, I am painfully aware of the failings of those who promote war and its weapons, whether those persons believe or don’t believe in God.

I worked for the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, letter-writing at the campaign headquarters and going door to door on election day. Obama pledged on April 5, 2009, in Prague, “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” and called nuclear stockpiles “the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War.” However, after his election, he proposed increases in funds for nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles (delivery by land, air, and sea). We now, as a nation, spend about $7 billion a year on production of nuclear weapons, and we spend about $30 billion a year on the delivery vehicles. It seems to me that Obama, though well-intentioned, yielded to military and industrial leaders determined to maintain Cold War weapons. Given the massive numbers of hungry people in the world, such expenses must be condemned. Persons of faith or without faith can understand the need to prioritize funding for meeting health/shelter/education needs instead of propping up weapon dinosaurs.

The fifth question is, “How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear weapons?”

One of our daughters, in her last year in law school, had a roommate in the Baha’i faith. The roommate posted a sign on a wall in their small apartment, giving lines from many faiths, all in tune with Christ’s words in Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The world around, good people love others and try to treat them as themselves.

The fifth question, in contrast to the Golden Rule, takes the negative. Indeed, all of us are capable of cruelty, whether with nuclear weapons or lies or threats. But many people, the world around, seek to do good to others. In conjunction with the 2010 Five-Year Review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York City, we attended a session at Riverside Episcopal Church at which speakers from nations without nuclear weapons said they were more secure than we. Nations including Switzerland have written agreements with some countries that do have nuclear weapons, pledging that the nuclear-armed nations will never use those bombs on the countries free of nuclear weapons. Representatives from Switzerland and other countries told us U.S. citizens, “We are safer than you!” Would that all nations could have that safety.

We know the United States has threatened Russia with possible use of nuclear weapons, and sometimes US threats are not made known for years. The very possession of nuclear weapons is a threat our country may use them, with horrific consequences for the environment and all its inhabitants. We must, in truth, acknowledge that the US, with the world’s most high-tech nuclear arsenal, is rightly seen in others’ eyes as threatening to crush them into dust.

Our Kansas City-area peacemakers shudder at the name posted at the new nuclear weapons plant: National Security Campus.

This false name suggests the new plant is a university. As a former high school and grade school English teacher, I take affront to this mockery of education. The plant exists both to threaten other countries and to enrich nuclear weapons developers such as Honeywell, the plant’s operator, and for the 14 secret investors that bought the Kansas City, Mo., municipal bonds (backed by the federal government) to finance the new plant. We understand the investors make a huge 5 percent annual yield on their “investment” in the facility that makes parts for nuclear weapons. The plant is a one-of-a-kind public-private venture. The private aspect involves the 14 investors; the public aspect includes the city’s municipal bonds and the ownership of the facility by the city’s independent agent, the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA). In an Oct. 7, 2010, KC Municipal Court trial, Kevin Breslin, the CenterPoint Properties lawyer who helped forge the development plan for the plant, said under cross-examination by my husband, Henry Stoever, “The actual facility title owner is the PIEA.”

We have here a shell game! The PIEA:

The last two factors call into question the PIEA’s separation from the city. The reality is: Kansas City is deeply embroiled in the creation and continuation of this new WMD production facility.

For the 24 of us who civilly resisted KC’s nuclear weapons parts plant on July 13, 2013, we took that action to confront our country’s entire nuclear weapons arsenal and to be a mighty grassroots force for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The sixth question is, “Who determines what ‘God’s law’ is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?”

The testimony of centuries of believers in God posits a loving God, a love-force beyond our imagining. Granted, human beings wreak havoc, too often in the name of God, sometimes in the name of Christ. Human beings’ inhumanity, however, does not annihilate God, does not eradicate God’s law of love.

This sixth question probably comes, in part, from defendants’ statements during the Dec. 13, 2013, trial in Kansas City’s Municipal Court to the effect that we followed God’s law in stepping on the road to KC’s new nuclear weapons parts plant. Our action stemmed from our belief in a God of love, not destruction. Many of us embrace the Catholic Worker practices of feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the poor, and opposing violence. God’s law of love compels us to bear witness against weapons of mass destruction.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” wrote to clergy who sought an end to demonstrations about equality, “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. … There are two types of laws: just and unjust. … One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”

Dorothy Day, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement in 1933, wrote in The Catholic Worker, a newspaper, in September 1945, “Our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgment on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said to them, ‘You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save.’ He said also, ‘What you do unto these the least of my brethren, you do unto me.’” (See p. 95, The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day.)

In my testimony at the trial, I said I volunteered at Holy Family Catholic Worker House, at 912 E. 31st St. in KC. I welcome the guests who come there for food and companionship. One morning two years ago, a man who had slept outside came into the house with snow on his jacket. Despite the warmth of the house, it took awhile for the snow on his shoulders to melt. That snow haunts me. Our society treats people as trash and venerates weapons.

The goodness of many down-and-out persons keeps pulling us volunteers back to the Catholic Worker. Benedictine Sister Barbara McCracken, who staffed Shalom Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Kan., in the 1970s and 1980s and now visits women in prison, wrote recently about her 50 years as a Benedictine, “I feel especially blessed for having met so many very holy people. Some of these are sisters; others would be considered the very least among us.”

It was over the toaster at Holy Family House where, perhaps four years ago, Christian Brother Louis Rodemann, who staffed the house, asked me to suggest to Henry, my husband, that we move from Overland Park, Kan., to midtown KC as part of the Holy Family community. Knowing the link between serving the poor and opposing the care and feeding of US nuclear weapons, I replied something like this to Louis: “Not a lot of people are working against the new nuclear weapons parts plant. It’s in our backyard. I have to focus on that.”

Since then, I’ve tried to balance family, peacework, and hospitality. The three merge. Together, as the years pass, they shape my effort to follow God’s law of love.

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Poem, "Do No Harm,"by Ron Faust

POETIC JUSTICE: Do No Harm

Nine defendants came before Judge Ardie Bland during a trial on December 13, 2013, for crossing the line at the National Nuclear Security Administration facility where they will build triggers for nuclear weapons in Kansas City, Mo. Judge Bland announced an unusual sentence, shocking the courtroom. "I want each one of you to write a one-page, single-spaced essay on each of the following six topics," Bland said. "Your responses will be attached to the court record, which is a public record. They will exist as long as Kansas City exists. My way will give you a chance to say what you want to say."  Ron Faust was an observer of the court proceedings and chose to respond to the questions in poetic form by imagining a House of Mirrors in the following six stanzas. 

 

STANZA I

It’s like we were going from room to room

                                    In a House of Mirrors,

            Looking at the distortions

                        But sometimes at our “selves,”

                                    turning dark and ugly

            we avert our eyes

An inquisitor enters the room

            Asking hypotheticals

                                    IF

                        An enemy drops a bomb

                        Would we feel different

                                    About nuclear weapons?

Wait.  Didn’t the US already drop two?

            It’s apocalyptic.

                        Absolutely destroying everything.

                        Now they are 100 times Hiroshima

            We can’t use them,

                        No need to build them

                                    After all, this is different than

                                                Popping BB guns

            Nuclear weapons are disproportionately

                                                Devastating

                        No matter who has them

                                                And

            Building more is part of the insanity

Because it makes us

even more insecure

                                                giving US a false sense

                                                of invulnerability

No, nuclear weapons are horrible nightmares

            Created in our fears

                        About what others might do to us

                                    And we are deceived by shadows

                                                Of old ways of thinking.

(During the trial on December 13, 2013, Judge Ardie Bland used the sentencing phase to pose the first question,  “If North Korea, China or one of the Middle Eastern countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion about nuclear weapons?”)



 

STANZA II

The inquisitor enters the next room

            With his question, “What then

if Germany or Japan had used

the nuclear option first?”

and the answer is still NO nukes,

            as we sense the destruction upon Japan,

and wonder if that was the only way to end it.

                                    Let’s retell the story,

It’s conceivable that the war could have ended

            With a negotiated settlement

                        But Truman’s decision to bomb

                                    Proceeded upon the basis

            For control and preeminence

                        In the post war era,

            And it worked. But

                        The genie was out of the bottle

And we now have the scary dilemma

            Of nuclear weapons proliferating.

Remember this, the US is the one

Who has used the bomb

Who is willing to enact first strikes

Who is perceived by the rest of the world

            As many countries’ greatest threat,

                        A rogue nation!

Which goes against our self perception

                                                As the “good guys,”

            That we can be a force for good

            But we also have to look in the mirror

                        And ask how our nuclear weapons

                                    Are taking us

                                                On a downward spiral

                                                Toward a destructive bent.

(During the trial on December 13, 2013, Judge Ardie Bland used the sentencing phase to pose the second question, “If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, do you think that would have changed your opinion?”)


 

STANZA III

As we go to another room

            And ask a question about the big stick

                        We touch on the notion of bullying.

You’ll recall that September 11, 2001

            Has had profound impact

                        On the American psyche.

The consequences of 911

            Have justified major decisions

                        In our pursuit of terrorism

We’ve changed the way we do

                                    Unjustified wars

airport security

vigilante distrust

incursions on our privacy

secrecy

classified documents

harshness on whistleblowers

                                    more fear everywhere

 The day of 911 has been its own weapon

            to keep people from crossing the line

                        and maintain the need for the nuclear

                                    to wipe out our enemies.

Our moral propriety is damaged.

When you think about it,

            Just three airplanes

                        Two twin towers

                                    And three thousand people --

             a small tradeoff against the elimination

                        Of entire cities and the human race

                                    Because of a nuclear winter

                                                Wasting vegetation

                                                And increased radiation

Makes you wonder how obsessed we get

            That revenge needs to exact punishment

                                    Many times over

                                                Drone attack after drone

            Killing innocent children

                        And intensifying fear

            By sneaking up on unsuspecting families

                        Who then are raising future terrorists.

Who look in the mirror

            And see the big stick

                        And a big bully who is not a pretty sight

            When all you can see in the background --

                        A nuclear weapon.

(During the trial on December 13, 2013, Judge Ardie Bland used the sentencing phase to pose the third question, “What would you say to those who say, ‘If we [the U.S.] do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back’?”



 

STANZA IV

We are moving through the House of Mirrors

            But the reflection is brighter

                        Although God talk by the inquisitor

            Shows that one question to a Buddhist

                                    Is nonsensical

Since a Buddhist doesn’t believe in God

but in a concept

            and an understanding of God

                        requires a more mature notion

            than what is reflected in these questions.

So let’s back up a bit

Since the question seems to imply

            Some kind of fierce warrior God

                        When God is used to justify the Crusades

                                    Or for that matter war.

There is a developmental understanding of God

from the tribal beginnings

                        To the Monarchial, king ruler traditions

                                    To the best of the prophets

Where we see a more gentle, forgiving and loving     God

            If the inquisitor believes in a judgmental God

                        Then we could understand

            Why the rule of law enters one’s reality

But of course God is bigger than this picture

            Even in the knowledge that

“the written code kills and the spirit gives life”

we can form an understanding that God believes in love or is love,

not just some kind of legal entity.

(During the trial on December 13, 2013, Judge Arte Bland used the sentencing phase to pose the fourth question, “You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist, how do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for example, when Christians used God to justify slavery and the Crusades?”)

 

STANZA V

We move into these various rooms

as progressions of our understanding and

            to experience the search for significance.

But a study of religion would recognize

            That fundamentalism of all faiths is anathema

                        To the faith journey

Because there is a tendency to make

                        Absolute answers as normative

                        To one sided approaches

                                    That refuse to raise questions

            And look at alternatives.

There are two sides to every issue

            And in a democratic society

                        We protect the rights of the minority

            And in this case

we are raising serious questions

 about the need for nuclear weapons

             and it’s a good thing too

                        before we blow ourselves up

                        because any other option might be

                                                too late.

A careful study of religion would show

                        A common principle

                                    “Do no harm”

            so that putting God on the side of

                                    crushing others

            is a distortion of a mature understanding

of religions and

                                    for that matter patriotism

when wars and nuclear weapons are over-the-top

excuses for fighting

in the name of religion and country

So that the point of protest is to “do no harm”

            By preventing the use of the nuclear option

            And reducing fear and revenge

By developing attitudes of peaceful non-violence.

(During the trial on December 13, 2013, Judge Ardie Bland used the sentencing phase to pose the fifth question, “How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue that their religion is to crush others into dust?”)

 

STANZA VI

                                                Exactly.

We stumbled into this room,

            And the question was immediately asked,

                        Who determines God’s law?

                                    Exactly the point!

And does this question betray a lack of understanding

about lower laws and a higher law?

                                                Because

Nations have used lower laws of trespassing

To defend potentially destructive weapons

And turn back protestors who follow

            A higher law of love.

Besides that,

            One can believe in values of love without professing a belief in God.

            One can find universal Biblical truths

In the values of Peace, Justice and Creation

One can find supporting evidence for enacting peace, justice and creation

by adopting a pursuit of openness, authenticity and love.

            One can study these values and come to the conclusion

that building nuclear weapons

                        Being the big bully

                        Possessing firearms

                        Wasting money on death machines

                        Supporting militarism

                        Spewing pollution for global warming

                        Defending greed

                        Distorting what is harmful

Lead us to a moral crisis

                                    And spiritual bankruptcy.

Therefore we are the ones who determine

“God’s higher law”

By what we stand for and against

                        Discerning life or death

As we reflect in the House of Mirrors

                        Will we leave this place better than

                                    How we found it?

(During the trial on December 13, 2013, Judge Ardie Bland used the sentencing phase to pose the sixth question, “Who determines what "God's law" is, given the history of the USA and the world?”)

 

Postscript to “Do No Harm”

What if we walked into a room

            Surrounded by mirrors

            And we caught a glimpse

                        Of something big, bad

and menacing

Our body might convulse

            And shake inside With a primal scream

                        Of feeling fear

                        To take flight or fight

Which introduces the inquisitor’s Question

            “What do you do when a bad guy

                        goes after a family member?”

Which is the nightmare of every fantasy

            That justifies the need for a gun

            or why we need a nuclear weapon.

Such a visceral reaction to self-defense

            Might explore every means to survive

            But it might miss some higher actions

            Of finding a space for non-violence.

Fear causes one to live in hypotheticals, and

            That exaggerates the potential threat

            That behaves in the worst possible way

                        From a guttural, instinctual reaction

                        Rather than from a place of peace.

So one makes choices

                                                To survive by fear

                                                Or to live in peace

                        Asking which way we would live?

And be able to face ourselves in the mirror,

            No matter what the risks

                        Whether we live long or short

                        Or whether someone has harmed us

                                    By using instruments of force.

We can still go out of this life

            Knowing that we tried To harm no one,

            And that is enough reward in itself

                        That we did not work for harm

                        Or hypocritical accolades

                        Or unusual tiers of revenge

But that we left a legacy much better by far.

(This piece about our choices of fear or peace is an add-on to the Poetic Justice pieces of the questions posed by the Judge to peacemakers in court on Dec. 13, 2013.) 1/10/14—by Ron Faust

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