He had an inner strength, he was in command of himself, he radiated an aura of…something, of a wisdom which transcends personal motive. I ran into him while walking down an outer corridor in the courtyard of an old church in Tucson. I spoke to him, he listened. I explained how much I wanted to help the cause of peace, how much I wanted to contribute, and I confessed, to this priest who had served time in prison for practicing civil disobedience, that my anger about what was happening in my country and about what my country was perpetuating in the world, stood in my way.
He looked at me for a timeless moment, it felt like Christ himself was looking into my eyes, then he said, “We can’t wait until we are changed to take action, we take the action and the action changes us.” Then another timeless moment and he was off. I stood there rather stunned, feeling something like what the woman at the well may’ve felt like. Someone had peered into my soul and given me a simple formula for my life, as an activist, to take my flaws and shortcomings and to do my best anyway. I had spoken with one of the heros of nonviolence, I had spoken to Fr. Steve Kelly.
He was arrested with Franciscan monk Fr. Louis Vitale, a sweet, jovial monastic who had also served time and who had been arrested many times. Fr. Vitale was living the life of St. Francis, just being an instrument of peace, bringing loving, peaceful, and joyous energy, wherever he found himself, I felt very privilaged to be in the presence of these humble, active, genuine peacemakers.
I remember Col Ann Wright was there that night and spoke at length with Fr. Vitale.
He wore his brown monastic robe, he had a white beard, a man in his seventies, he was facing prison in opposition to torture, and ultimately they were both found guilty and did indeed serve time, for praying on the grounds of Fort Huachuca, for trespassing.
One of the things both priest and monk spoke of was the need for prayer for the torturer as well as the tortured, and the travesty of our military teaching our young men and women how to torture.
Under Obama it is now extreme sleep deprivation under the secretly approved Appendix M to the Army Field Manual.
These are the real peacemakers, their true motive is peace; they don’t have a rhetoric that says peace is war, war is peace, disarm but prepare for attack; their message is simple and singular and they are willing to sacrifice themselves for it, peace.
Yesterday I posted an article about a documentary entitled Countdown to Zero, a film purportedly about reducing the world’s nuclear arms down to zero, yet as I watched the trailer I couldn’t help but feel that the underlying premise was also that we may have to get tough again in order to deal with loose nukes and rogue nations, the film seemed to have hidden messages, underlying motives, and an undercurrent of supporting violent action under certain circumstances, and keep in mind that pre-emptive strike is now an Obama policy, no longer simply the Bush doctrine.
Quantum Sunday has been posting a series on nonviolent Christians, people whose observation (a quantum principle) of the world’s violence causes them to respond with nonviolent action. They are quiet, peaceful, strong, and those whom I’ve met are very humorous and joy filled as well, they are light-hearted, courageous people; they are also strangely under-reported. While films like Countdown to Zero get big press, the arrests of these activists get little other than local news coverage, but thank goodness they do get that!
Yet the larger, mainstream corporate media seems to have a hands off policy on such activities. When priests and parishioners get arrested practicing civil disobedience it is news, however it is generally unreported news, save for possibly some local coverage. Certainly it is just as newsy as Lindsay Lohan getting arrested. The larger representatives for Christianity who the corporate media turn to, those who either support violence or who while they may dislike it will go along with it, are who the corporate media prop up as representatives of the Christian religion. The other big story the major networks will cover is priests gone bad, that they gladly cover, but priests and church members practicing civil disobedience and facing prison? Somehow, other than locally, that’s not a story.
If the nation’s Christian body, if Christians in general awakened to the Christian teachings of nonviolence, the military industrial complex would dissolve! So the corporate media (the military industrial complex) can’t give real coverage to nonviolent Christians practicing civil disobedience, it wouldn’t be profitable.
Instead, we have big money films, like Countdown to Zero interviewing Tony Blair, whom we know supports violence, about nuclear disarmament, while monks like Fr. Vitale and priests like Fr. Kelley, who was, yet again, arrested last year, this time for opposing the nation’s illegal nuclear arsenal, and whom we know is categorically nonviolent, escape the attention of the mainstream media, but I suspect he doesn’t escape the attention of God.
While we observe (quantum principle) the world and each other, perhaps Someone is observing us as well, and I for one applaud the activities of the peacemakers of Jona House, The Plowshares Movement, and others; and I suspect more people notice than they may think.
Fr. Kelly and fellow activists:
While researching, I found a compelling website about political prisoners: