A Persistent Peace
Interview with John Dear
By John Malkin
I submit that the only thing you can say for sure about Jesus is that he was nonviolent. That was his whole message and he practiced it perfectly. Gandhi said that Jesus was the most active practitioner of nonviolence in the history of the world. And then Gandhi goes on to lament that the only people on the whole earth who don’t know that Jesus was nonviolent are Christians.
John Dear SJ
JM: I’ve enjoyed reading A Persistent Peace. I appreciate you documenting what you’ve been experiencing in your “experiments with truth,” as you say, taking the title of Gandhi’s autobiography. You have been practicing civil disobedience, taking the teachings of Jesus and living them directly and dealing with the consequences of other people’s responses to those actions. Some of those responses have been very supportive. It’s wonderful to read about your connections with Dan and Philip Berrigan, Cesar Chavez and Mother Theresa.
I’d like to hear about your willingness to be arrested and go to jail, to engage in civil disobedience. You write that, “The arrival of dawn comes at a high price. It requires good people to break bad laws.” You mention Thoreau, who of course made now-famous statements about being in jail and the importance of that. A friend of years, Ed DeBerri, said to you, “Jail is a requirement for membership in the Christian tradition.” And in your autobiography you remind us that Jesus himself was arrested for his actions. Some social change activists argue about the benefit of breaking laws and going to jail, that maybe our energy is better spent out of jail. Tell me about your experiments with breaking bad laws.
John Dear: That’s why I wrote my autobiography, A Persistent Peace. I’m still learning and reflecting on all of these experiences I’ve had. As I say, I never intended any of this. But I’m coming to the conclusion that peacemaking, like the spiritual life, or like life itself, is simply a journey. And living here in the United States has to mean resistance to the culture of war and injustice, greed and nuclear weapons and so forth.
In the book, in a nutshell, I tell how I was a wild college kid at Duke. I left the Church, I didn’t believe in God and one day I came to my senses. I thought, “I’ll give my whole life to God and I’ll be a pious Jesuit.” My parents were appalled and begged me not to and I waited for awhile. I was going to hitchhike through Israel, to make a little pilgrimage to see where Jesus lived and Israel invaded Lebanon in the summer of 1982. I was there during that war. I saw all of these jets swoop down over the Sea of Galilee and go on and bomb and kill people, in the place where Jesus said love your enemies and where he taught the Sermon on the Mount.
So, I entered the Jesuits immediately and thought, “That’s what it means to be a Christian.” That was my great revelation. To be a Christian is to practice the Sermon on the Mount, to be a people of nonviolence, to love our enemies. To be peacemakers and receive the blessing of God. There I was – a young Jesuit kid – and I write off to Daniel Berrigan, a great hero with his brother Philip, these icons of the peace movement. Eventually I met Dan and he said, “This is just part of the job description, John. If you’re going to follow Jesus – he got killed. That’s the job description; making trouble for peace.” That’s what he told me the first night I met him. He was very encouraging.
As I tell the story in the book, and I never told the story before, I immediately went and got arrested at The Pentagon. I tried to get a few friends to join me and they wouldn’t. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I was twenty-two years old and the novice master told me that he was kicking me out of the order, but it was a very strange series of circumstances and another higher-up let me stay. And that began a journey of scores and scores of arrests, all over the country, up through my Plowshares action with Philip Berrigan where we hammered on a nuclear weapon in North Carolina in 1993 and faced twenty-three years in prison and did eight months in a jail cell.
I’m just now coming off of six months under a very strict federal probation here in New Mexico. The lines that you quoted, I took from Dan. He said that, “Really if you study the movements” – and I’ve gone back and studied them – “in the end the change happens when good people broke bad laws and accepted the consequences, whether you look at the abolitionists, the suffragists, labor movements, civil rights movements or the anti-war movement.” I would unpack that in Christian theological language and say, “When you take up the cross as resistance to injustice, to empire, and risk resurrection.” That’s a great mystery.
I’ve been experimenting with civil disobedience for years and now I’m way beyond the question of what difference does it make or does it have results or are you successful? I’ve tried so many different ways to work for peace; writing letters, prayer services, I’ve written 25 books, spoken to millions of people, press conferences, met with every politician I could. Gandhi says, “After you’ve tried everything you can nonviolently, you have to cross the line and break the laws which legalize mass murder in your name. And accept the consequences.” It’s through the dynamic of, as King said, “unearned suffering love,” that the redemptive disarmament process begins. This is the strange dynamic of the cross as nonviolent resistance.
I’ll never forget being in prison in a tiny cell with Philip Berrigan and the walls were closing in on me. It was horrible. There was nothing romantic about it. Yet more happened when I was in that tiny cell with Phil Berrigan for eight months than all of the other millions of things I’ve done for peace combined. That is a very strange spiritual mystical, political dynamic. There is a sort of inverse proportionality; the more you try to do for peace and justice, the less happens. It is very American to think we’re in control, we’re going to end the war. The more you let go and walk in faith, hope and trust and take a leap, a risk of nonviolence for the truth of our common humanity, the more can happen because then the God of peace can work through you. That’s something I’m still trying to investigate with friends in the peace movement.
JM: You mentioned that you’re just coming out of six months of probation. What’s that about?
John Dear: The book’s been years in the making and I only mentioned in the last sentence that about two years ago friends and I helped organize the Declaration of Peace, which was a campaign in Sept. 2006. It’s hard to remember that time when there was no hope that there was going to be any change. There were over 350 local civil disobedience actions at local congressional reps offices. It got no national publicity, but it got local media coverage everywhere in the country and we think it helped the movement toward a democratic congress.
Nine of us went in to the federal building in Santa Fe New Mexico and we were going to go up to the third floor into the office of Senator Pete Dominici, one of the great war-makers of history, who funds Los Alamos and nuclear weapons and is a great friend of George Bush and so forth… We wanted to give him our petition, the Declaration of Peace, saying, “We want you to work to end this evil war on the people of Iraq right now. We stepped into the elevator and the police charged us and wouldn’t let us go up. But they weren’t going to arrest us. We said, “We’re here to see our Senator! And we’re not leaving.” That was ten in the morning. We were standing in the lobby of this big building of the whole government for New Mexico and I had brought with us the names of ten thousand Iraqi civilians killed and every U.S. soldier killed. We started to read them out loud really slowly and really loudly, in the lobby of the federal building. The doors were open in the elevator. We did this for seven hours. They literally brought in every police officer for Santa Fe County, the entire SWAT team, the FBI, the head of Homeland Security for the whole State. They arrested us all with federal charges. They were, I think, deliberately going after me because of our work here to close Los Alamos. We were in court for a whole year and found guilty of a federal misdemeanor in the end and everybody was sentenced. I was sentenced last, in January, and expected to get six months in prison but I had a very strict federal probation and I’m just ending it. It was a small gesture to speak against the war in Iraq.
JM: You were talking about this paradox of letting go of trying to change things and that’s when change happens. That brings to mind an interesting story in your book, an experience in court. During the Plowshares trial the judge was asking, “Who drove the car to the Air Force base?”
John Dear: We were facing twenty years in prison for two federal charges; destruction of government property and conspiracy to commit a felony crime. Each carries ten years. We disrupted our first trial. There were four of us, including Philip Berrigan, and we were in rural county jails in North Carolina, where I’m from originally. All of our friends were there, the place was packed and there was enormous publicity about it. They gave us four separate trials. This was Philip Berrigan’s trial in April, 1994 in North Carolina.
Phil called me as a witness and I was brought into the courtroom in chains, in an orange jumpsuit and here’s the jury and a very mean judge. All the jury works at the Air Force base where we were and the prosecutor works with the Air Force, too. They were trying to get our key support person who was sitting in the front row. They wanted to arrest him, too. They’re always trying to round up people who are involved in extreme nonviolent resistance or maybe leaders. He started shouting at me after I testified about Phil, “Who drove you that day to the Seymour Johnson Air force base?” I refused to name anybody saying, “I take responsibility for my own actions.” The judge started yelling and he ordered the jury out and he said, “If you don’t answer this, you will get two more years in prison because of contempt of court.” He said, “I’m ordering that in a minute unless you answer.” I said, “Okay. I’ll answer.” They were all shocked. They bring back the jury and the prosecutor yells at me, “Tell us under oath who drove the car.” I said, “Well, thank you for pushing me to the truth of our action. The truth is that we were driven to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base by the Holy Spirit.” The judge started yelling and hammering his gavel and the prosecutor was yelling. He orders me out and strikes the testimony from the record and dismisses the court for the day. It was a great moment. It was like the Acts of the Apostles.
I have never recovered since. My life is filled with stories like that. I’m sure you know that when you work for peace and justice you do civil disobedience actions, as King and Gandhi said, so that you can go into the courtroom and engage the law and try to change unjust laws, or laws which legalize unfathomable evil. It’s a chance to speak the truth, witness to peace and practice nonviolence. I’ve found that it is very hard and very painful, as I wrote in the book, but in my language it was full of blessings.
JM: I’m sensing that along with changing laws, you would like to see the Church changed as well. You write that, “The key to a transformed church will be its renunciation of the just war theory.” It’s interesting that the U.S. generally calls itself “Christian” and the President of the U.S. calls himself “Christian” and “compassionate” and a lot of Christians take what is popularly called a “conservative” political point of view which means supporting on-going wars of the U.S. government, while at the same time opposing abortion. This dichotomy is confusing.
John Dear: These are very deep questions and why I wrote my book, to offer another example of what it means to be a Christian. For the record, I don’t believe you can be a Christian, a follower of the nonviolent Jesus, and support war in any form. Or, for that matter, greed that leads to global poverty, nuclear weapons or any form of injustice, racism, sexism or global warming. The Church, or the churches, are the communities of gospel nonviolence. They’re supposed to be the people who follow the nonviolent Jesus. Therefore, people who love their enemies, who are peacemakers, who follow Christ going into empire and resisting it unto death and responding nonviolently. The question is really, “Who is this Jesus? Was he violent or nonviolent?” I submit that the only thing you can say for sure about Jesus is that he was nonviolent. That was his whole message and he practiced it perfectly. Gandhi said that Jesus was the most active practitioner of nonviolence in the history of the world. And then Gandhi goes on to lament that the only people on the whole earth who don’t know that Jesus was nonviolent are Christians. It’s incredible!
You’re asking, “Why is it so bad today – these Christians are so stupid!” There is a reason for it and it’s our history, our complete rejection of the gospel of Jesus. You could use big words like betrayal and denial. Those are gospel story words. But in a nutshell, my take is that for the first three centuries under the Roman Empire, they were faithful. Anyone who was a follower of Jesus, when you got baptized, you could no longer be a part of the Roman Army, you couldn’t say Caesar was God. Therefore you were martyred. That’s why people were so scared to be baptized and they usually waited until the day they died. Most of the early Christians were martyred. Then, the Emperor becomes Christian and he says, “Okay, you can all kill.” Everybody’s relieved. They throw out the Sermon on the Mount, turn to the Pagan Cicero, who supports killing.
That leads to Augustine who starts coming up with conditions that you can follow where you don’t have to do what Jesus said anymore and you can kill and you’re justified. Then we eventually come up to the Just War Theory. Then, Christians are having holy wars – crusades – to kill millions of people for Jesus. And today at Los Alamos, the Catholic priest blesses all of the Catholics who are building the nuclear bombs and supports them. There’s not much difference there. It’s a seventeen hundred years of totally rejecting the nonviolence of Jesus.
What Martin Luther King said, and I have studied his every word and befriended his friends, “This is actually the most exciting moment to be alive because, with the help of Gandhi, we’re going to be the first people – we’re forced to because we’re at the brink of destruction – we’re going to lead humanity back to the nonviolence of Jesus.” People are waking up now and the churches are waking up as they collapse in so many ways. Many church leaders, if you really want to know, have been bought out by the right wing Republicans to support the culture of war under the name of being pro-life. It’s all very well documented in places like the National Catholic Reporter.
I’m with Cardinal Bernardin and Dr. King and others in supporting the consistent ethic of nonviolence. If you’re for life, you can’t support the killing of a single child in Baghdad or Afghanistan or a single person on death row. Or killing anywhere. And you can’t support racism, sexism or patriarchy or greed or poverty. Everything has to change. We’re talking about a whole new visionary attitude of nonviolence toward life. We’re going to be nonviolent toward everyone and it has to be consistent. We can’t pick or choose issues. Once you get into that realm, you’re really moving into complete resistance to the culture, which is bringing death to so many people at all different stages of life. A real question is how far can you be a participant in this culture? My passion is to learn from Dr. King, Gandhi and Dorothy Day and so many great people; how do we become people of nonviolence? How do we help many more convert to gospel nonviolence? How can it continue to grow and spread in the grassroots movements of peace and justice? To practice creative nonviolence to transform this culture. And welcome a new culture of nonviolence. That’s our hope and our work.
JM: You’ve traveled to Central America many times, including to El Salvador during the height of the U.S.-backed war there. I hear regularly among activists here the idea that it’s a privileged-white-male point of view to advocate nonviolence as the best strategy for everyone, including people who are living in conditions like in El Salvador, suffering under military violence. I know that protective use of force may be used in certain situations, as Gandhi taught.
But is nonviolence always the best strategy for people who are suffering under U.S. imperialism, colonialism, warfare?
John Dear: You’re presuming that I’m preaching nonviolence around the world. I am preaching nonviolence in the United States and first and foremost to Christians, because we’re the problem. As you say, often it’s white, male, Christians and Catholics who are the ones who need to be converted. But I’ve traveled the world to learn and listen. When I was real young, twenty-three and twenty-four, I went and lived in El Salvador with the Jesuits who were later assassinated and worked in a refugee camp. My hope at the time was to move there and just to leave the United States because it is so evil. I wasn’t saying anything to them, although I’m totally and completely convinced that nonviolence is our only hope. But the shocking thing was that the Jesuits there were telling me – the ones who were later killed – “Hey, you know, you have to go back and work in the United States and spread the peace movement and stop them from killing us and killing the poor around the world. That’s your work and it’s much harder than ours. Down here they’re just going to kill us. Up there they’re going to ignore you. But you’re the only ones who can do this!” If you see what I mean?
I was there living in a refugee camp and the U.S. was bombing us and the U.S.-backed death squads would come into the camp and I would go out and talk to them. My presence, because I was a white North American, meant that they wouldn’t open fire and kill people. That’s what happened. It was very scary and I learned a lot about myself in Salvador.
My experience was that those people are incredibly nonviolent. They’re so poor, they don’t have anything. That’s been my experience around the world. I led a delegation of Nobel Prize winners to Iraq and to see the nonviolence, hospitality and kindness of the people of Baghdad was just amazing. I lived for a year in Northern Ireland as part of the Jesuit course. It happened to be the time that led up to the Good Friday peace agreement. Just as my life has unfolded with all of these miracles, within days I was meeting with Gerry Adams and others of the IRA. They had heard about me through friends and all and I wasn’t going in with any big message. I was encouraging them. I was there to do my Jesuit course of studies, but one thing led to another and they said, “You’re an ex-con?” This is the IRA. “You’re a priest and you were facing 20 years in prison and you hammered on a nuclear weapon?” I’ll never forget having lunch with Bobby Sands’ cellmate, who was on the blanket for five years. He watched Bobby Sands die. He looked me in the eye and said, “I could never do what you did.” (laughter) I was shocked! Because I could never do what he did!
What happened was because I have resisted in the States and still espouse nonviolence. A space opened for many people in Northern Ireland to hear me out on nonviolence. Gerry Adams started reading my books, including my systematic theology of nonviolence during the Good Friday peace agreement. But it was because I’ve spent time in prison, this is very confusing to him. I’m saying I’m willing to lay down my life too. I’m just not going to use the means you’re going to use. I don’t believe in killing anybody. There’s no cause however noble for which I will ever support the taking of a single human life. That’s the bottom line of nonviolence. I’m just sick and tired of violence. It doesn’t work. I don’t believe in a Just War of the right or the left, of the Sandinistas or Ronald Reagan. Look at the power of nonviolence when it was tried by Gandhi and Dr. King and so many other movements.
I wasn’t going to preach this anywhere. I was always going to learn and listen. A year and a half ago I spent a month in Columbia investigating the massacre of peasants there funded by the United States, the terrible things going on there. Again, I was there to learn more about what our country is doing. It’s here in the United States where my personal work is and I think all of us. We have to convert one another to this wisdom of nonviolence. Everything’s got to change. We have to disarm and close these institutions of violence, like Livermore Labs and Los Alamos and The Pentagon. Just transform everything and spend that money on feeding the poor and relieving diseases around the world. That’s our work.
JM: Tell me about the day when seventy-five soldiers were at your door in New Mexico.
John Dear: That’s the conclusion of my autobiography. I had been the head of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and stepped down and September 11 happened. I went down to volunteer and the Red Cross asked me to coordinate the Chaplains working at the family assistance center. I did that and I was organizing against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan with the peace movement in New York. It was an incredible time, very difficult. Very hard all around, especially to be at ground zero. There was a lot of publicity about me in the New York Times because I was speaking out. The Jesuits called me in and kicked me out of New York. I wrote about that in the book. They did a lot of things that I didn’t write about, but that one I wrote about. They said, “You have to leave and you have three months. You can go anywhere you want. Or we will stop you completely from doing this work.” So I moved to New Mexico, where I am now. This was 2002.
New Mexico is the poorest state in the country, according to the 2000 census. Number one in military spending, number one in nuclear weapons and on and on. The worst education system, number one in drunk driving, number one in domestic violence and suicide. It’s an incredible place. Beautiful. And Los Alamos has poisoned the land. And there are more millionaires at Los Alamos per capita than any other place on the planet. And Bush has poured infinite new amounts of billions of dollars to build a whole new generation of nuclear weapons.
My hope was to take a small parish among very disenfranchised people just to serve them and recover from all I’d been through in New York. Ended up the Church gave me five parishes and four missions, over a hundred and fifty miles and I was working non-stop. The war started and I had to speak out. I was speaking out all over the place against Bush before it started and the injustice of it all, the lies of the war. I’d been to Iraq and met many people. We almost spent an evening with Saddam Hussein and I did spend three hours with Tariq Aziz. I knew it was all a lie and that innocent, good people would die.
But this didn’t go over in New Mexico. It’s a very militarized place. Of course The Pentagon recruits from the poorest people in the country and if you really want to know where they are, it’s Hispanics in the desert parts of the country, because they have nothing. My parishioners went to Albuquerque once in their lives. There was no healthcare, no jobs, no opportunities for anything. These kids were being recruited. The high school students who were in my parish were getting five letters a week. One of my parishes, a richer one, kicked me out.
One day in November, 2004, after the war was well underway and there was so much hostility against me, I woke up at six in the morning at the rectory, in the middle of the little village where I was living, in the middle of the dessert. And it’s not the beautiful New Mexico part, this is the bleak middle-of-nowhere Northeastern corner. I heard all of these soldiers marching down the street and they were leaving for Iraq the following week. It was the National Guard for Northeastern New Mexico, the 515 Battalion. They were chanting things like swing your gun from left to right / you can kill those guys all night. Stuff like that. It was horrible. The whole town woke up because they were yelling it. I was appalled. I got up and I was having coffee and I was praying about it, feeling very sad. This went on for an hour. They were marching down my street, around the corner by the church, the alley behind the church than up next to the post office then back right up by my front door. Then all of a sudden at 7 o’clock it got really loud.I didn’t know what was going on. I looked out the little rectory window and there they were, seventy-five soldiers right at my front door, shouting at the top of their lungs kill, kill, kill. They were looking up at me, under orders from their Guard leadership. They were chanting the battalion slogan which is one bullet / one kill. But they hadn’t been trained so it came out kill, kill, kill. These were just poor kids.
I was living in Guatemala at one time and was hiding – I can’t go into it – I saw soldiers go down the street and terrorize people like that. It all came back to me like that. I just thought, “This is like Chile under Pinochet!” This hasn’t happened in a 150 years. This is the wild west. Not just marching on a priest, but a U.S. military unit marching on a private American citizen. That goes against everything in the constitution.
I’m looking out there and I’m thinking, “If you really want to know, what’s it really like to be a priest among the very poor in New Mexico? You do funerals. Everyday.” I knew a priest who did four funerals a day. For a month. Think about that. Because the poor die. The poor just die. They have nothing. You get sick and you’re dead. So, we’re there just grieving all the time. I’m looking out the window and going, “I don’t want to do their funerals.”
My job as a pastor, as a good shepherd, is to protect them from the forces of death, which means I have to do something. So, I put on my coat and walked out in the middle of the street and said, “Excuse me.” I put my hand up. They all got quiet. They were all shocked and I launched into this big speech. I said, “In the name of the God of peace, I order you to quit the military. I order you, in the name of the nonviolent Jesus not to kill anyone and not to be killed because God does not bless war. No war is justified. God thinks all war is evil and we’re called to love our enemies, not to kill anybody. So, stop all of this nonsense and go home and God bless you.” There was this dead silence at 7 am in this small town for about five seconds as they looked at me. I didn’t know if they were going to beat me up or kill me. They all burst out laughing and then they were dismissed.
Later I met Governor Richardson and he said – the news went around the world about what happened – he said that he had threatened to fire the top twelve people, the heads of the National Guard, if they ever did anything remotely like that again. I was pleased about that, but I didn’t follow up in any way.
All those kids, sure enough, were off in Iraq for four years. But none of them were killed. I was reflecting on that. It’s the climax of my story, my autobiography. We all have to speak out and love one another so that we try to stop one another from going of to kill or be killed. We have to speak out and denounce war, nuclear weapons and injustice. And announce the hope of nonviolence and the coming of the new world without war or poverty or nuclear weapons or global warming. A whole new world of nonviolence. That’s our work.
John Malkin: You described to me previously some of your experiences being in jail with Phil Berrigan, saying that you had something like a claustrophobic feeling, which is understandable. But you also said that you had profound spiritual experiences there and I’m wondering what kind of spiritual growth or clarity you experienced in jail and did you sense that those experiences came as a result of being in jail?
John Dear: That’s a profound question. I’m still trying to figure it all out. On December 7, 1993 – fifteen years ago – Phil Berrigan and two friends and I went onto the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and hammered on an F-15 nuclear capable fighter bomber, which has nuclear weapons and was on alert to bomb Bosnia. Ours was about the 50th of the Plowshares disarmament actions. We were convicted of two felony charges; destruction of government property and conspiracy to commit a felony crime. I faced twenty years in prison for that.
As I wrote in my autobiography, A Persistent Peace, and in other books, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I fully expected to get five years in prison. In the end I did about eight and a half months in a tiny North Carolina jail cell and then the judge at my sentencing put me under house arrest in Washington D.C. for nearly a year. And then I was on probation. Now, I’m still very monitored.
My experience in the peace movement is that everybody who’s been to jail has had a different experience. I actually never made it to a prison where you can get into a lawn, go outside and walk around a courtyard or something like that. Some of the minimum security prisons have no walls and it’s like a small community college.
We were in tiny North Carolina jails and I was put in a cell with Phil and I never left the cell for eight months. It’s like being locked into a bathroom and the guards coming and saying, “So, we’ll let you out next August.” It’s just incredible. We didn’t know that we were even going to get out in August. We didn’t know how long we were going to be in that cell. It was the tiny, rural, boondocks of North Carolina and there was a lot of publicity about us in all the papers. The New York Times and 20/20 came down to interview Phil and the warden, who took an interest in us, was afraid of putting us in the general population, so he kept us locked up. That’s what I meant about claustrophobic. I was in a little tiny cell, about eight feet by eight feet and there’s a bottom bunk and a top bunk and there’s just cold concrete and then it got hot, you know. It was summer. There was an open toilet and food came through the slot in the door.
Sometimes we were brought into a little hallway and Bruce, the other guy in our group, would join us. So, not knowing what was going to happen and not even being able to walk. I don’t know how even to describe it. But it very quickly had it’s affects on us. It was a kind of a low-grade torture, I think. It was horrible. I don’t like to romanticize going to jail or prison for peace and justice. It’s very, very hard. Gandhi’s experience was very different.
On the other hand, I went in there trying to be as fully aware of what was going to happen as possible, having done a lot of training and years of preparation and a lot of prayer to sustain it. And it was very hard to pray in jail because Phil and I were right there together. I’m a Jesuit priest and I get a lot of solitude, privacy and silence and I didn’t have any of that. That was the hardest thing.
But, what happened was, we were up at 6 AM and we’d spend two or three hours reading the Gospel of Mark. We’d read about five or ten verses and talk about it for two or three hours. I learned more in that eight months than in four years of graduate theological studies at Berkeley, where I have two Master’s Degrees and have written a systematic theology. That was very powerful – the scriptures just took on a whole different meaning.
Then, as a Catholic priest, we took a little Wonder Bread from breakfast and broke bread. On Mondays we had a little plastic cup of grape juice, which we hid in the toilet and it ferments over time. We broke the bread and passed the cup and we had Christian Eucharist. It felt like God was right there in the cell with us, in our suffering, in our pain, loneliness and claustrophobia. Through all of that, there were moments of profound, mystical peace. And deep consolation and joy, which makes sense; if this work is the will of God – to work for an end to war and nuclear weapons and greed and empire and to do it through radical, active, creative nonviolence that sacrifices one’s freedom, maybe even one’s life, nonviolently – then God will touch you. It seems to me. That’s what the lives of saints and mystics tell us. That was my experience. But I don’t know how to name it! And I’ve been talking about it since 1993 in books and lectures.
That’s why I say it was very, very painful and it was a profound mystical experience. And I think it was very human, as well. The human experience includes suffering and we were sharing a very small taste of the suffering of the people in prison and of the poor.
There’s a lot of talk in the Jesuits about how to be in solidarity with the poor of the world, especially the white male. I’m a rich priest and all of that – just coming from this culture – compared to people around the world. Well, going to prison or jail is one to know this suffering because I had nothing and it was pretty scary. We had lost our freedom. That’s probably the closest you can do in this society. It was a spiritual journey of downward mobility and trying to be aware of living a kind of 24/7 prayer for the disarmament of the world. And it was very consoling.
JM: I think that you have also broken Wonder Bread with Nelson Mandela while incarcerated. Tell me about your experience with Nelson Mandela.
Dear: No, I think you must have mistaken for somebody else. I don’t know Nelson Mandela.
JM: I’m always interested in the balance between surrender and taking action. In some ways, spiritual practice can have a lot to do with letting go and surrender. We may practice letting go of ego by relaxing clinging to concepts and beliefs and self-interest and cultivate an embracing of suffering, as you have been describing. And in some ways political action has to do with actively creating change in the world. I’m wondering how you differentiate between what you have the power to change and what is beyond your control to change, when to push forward and when to relax and let go?
Dear: What a great question! I think in the end, for me, it’s a journey. I would’ve known all the answers when I was twenty-one. I’m almost fifty now and I’m beginning to realize that I don’t know much. Writing my autobiography, I had a real revelation; to include that it wasn’t any particular action that was so important in my life. It’s the journey and remaining faithful to it.
So along any journey, there are different rhythms or different turns where there are more pro-active experiences and some times or periods where it would be more of a letting go, to use your word.
If I may, just speaking as a Christian and as a Catholic priest – that’s just where I come from – my work for peace and justice is an explicit attempt, in a very modest, humble way, to follow the nonviolent Jesus. The whole journey for me is about God and being human and living a life of peace and walking toward a new world of peace and the God of peace. The journey is about being at peace with everyone.
Well, then, if that’s the focus of the journey, which I want it to be, well then, whether it’s action or letting go – my jumping into the fray or surrendering to the spirit, God is still the focus. In the end, in either case – I got this from Gandhi and my own Jesuit community and especially Daniel Berrigan – God is at the beginning and the middle and the end of every action or non-action, if you will, for peace. And I don’t even really know what I mean; that’s why I talk about it as a journey. It’s a matter of prayer and discernment; community, meditation, faith, risk and timing and what’s happening in the world. And having my eyes open to the signs of the times. It may be some particular action, like a particular assignment that I accept, like right now I’m working on a project. I literally spent the weekend working for next year’s public action at Los Alamos. We’re bringing in some Nobel Peace Prize winners calling for the disarmament of Los Alamos. That just seems to be what I should be doing right now. I’m going to stand up publicly in New Mexico and make a big stink about it, saying, we have to get rid of nuclear weapons. And that’s going to get me in trouble and not go over well, but it seems to be what I should be doing. It’s God’s work. It’s God who is disarming all of us and speaking through the community of peace.
Likewise, there are times of more reflection, prayer and retreat, not just every day, but seasons where I reflect after acting. For example, it was quite convenient to be under house arrest under my Plowshares action. I was under house arrest for ten months in Washington D.C., 1994 to 1995. I spent most of that time writing a book, going through my journals about my time in jail. I used the time to reflect, let go of control, to pray over what I had been through. I don’t know exactly what you mean by surrender. I guess for me in some way, the word surrender is everything. Life is letting go and surrendering every aspect of my life. I want to, like you and everyone, just go completely to the God of peace and God’s reign of peace. That’s why I became a Jesuit. I still have that desire. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. The only way to stay faithful to it is through prayer, friends, community and periodic public action. It just comes down to discernment and staying nonviolent and doing what I feel I’m being led to as the next step, following the light for the next step. I find that in the end, it’s enough to go on. That’s why my book, A Persistent Peace, reads like a kind of great adventure story. I never would have predicted any of this when I was a kid. I’ve been through so much and there’ve been so many different experiences and I take that all as a blessing. That’s why I want to stay faithful to it as a journey. That’s about as far as I’ve got, John!
JM: Thank you for your thoughtful answers. Speaking of letting go, in reading A Persistent Peace, I think that you were really into music as a young person and sort of let that go. Going down the path dedicated to peace and justice was quite unexpected.
Dear: Well, yeah. I was in college and I was going to be a lawyer like my friends or a newspaper publisher like my Dad, but I really wanted to be a rock star. I was a very serious musician. I minored in music at Duke University in the late 70’s and was in a wild fraternity. I started a prominent singing group at Duke which continues today and was in recording studios with musicians, writing and recording my own songs. It was all very exciting and crazy, very teenage actually now when I look back on it. But I love music.
When I entered the Jesuits, I thought I had to renounce everything. Actually, this is ridiculous but I was a dopey kid. I didn’t think you could be a Christian, a peacemaker, a person for peace and justice, and be a musician. It was just one of my thoughts. It was all or nothing and I had to leave all of that behind. And I did. And then I entered the Jesuits. I was black and white, if you will, about a lot of things in life. I was young and arrogant and self-righteous and threw myself into the peace and justice movement. I was very passionate about peace and nonviolence and made a lot of mistakes, the worst being this self-righteousness. It was very odd, as I write in my book, that one of my heroes was Jackson Browne. There I was sitting in jail in 1989 in Los Angeles for a day with this huge crowd after the Jesuits, my friends, were assassinated in El Salvador. Martin Sheen had called me and invited me to come and be part of that protest. We were going around the room in jail and there was Jackson Browne and he said – I never forgot this and I reminded him of it recently – he said, “This is my church.” In other words, he was saying, “Spiritual life for me is risking, standing up publicly for peace and justice.” I was saying the same thing, too. So, I was wrong.
Just as a little footnote, when I got out of jail for the Plowshares action, I decided I wanted to mellow out. I didn’t want to be self-righteous anymore. I don’t want to be arrogant and self-righteous. It’s a Jesuit curse or joke to be arrogant. I want to become humble and powerless and more loving, compassionate and nonviolent. I’m trying, in these last ten years, to open up to celebrate life with the same intensity that I resist the culture of death. I want to be about life. So, I brought music back into my life. I go to concerts and I listen to music and I’ve befriended musicians because that’s one of the things that has fed me the most. Now I have all of these musician friends, some quite well known, who are very prominent people of peace and justice, who are teaching me many things. And maybe I’m helping them, too. So it’s kind of all come full circle, that thing about the journey… since you asked about music.
JM: Is it possible that we’ll be hearing music…
Dear: No! (laughter)
JM: (laughter) No CD release coming up from John Dear?
Dear: No! No! No! (laughter) I might have had something when I was a kid but I haven’t played the piano or the guitar in so long. There’s so much great music out there now, too. Locally and around the country, there are such fantastic musicians for peace and justice, so many great groups. Particularly inspiring is what Bono and U2 have done to use music for social change. And so many others like Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen.
I was reading recently how Gandhi said that art, music, literature and poetry are critical if we are going to create a culture of nonviolence. And they need to be in every movement. Certainly music was at the heart of the civil rights movement. We need to take all of that to help give us soul again and deepen our spiritual lives.
JM: Yes. That’s wonderful to hear about you bringing music back into your life. You are so dedicated to living in a peaceful way, in a nonviolent way, in the way that Jesus lived by confronting militarism and warfare. It seems to me that among people who call themselves Christians, there are quite a few different ideas of who Jesus was and what his life and teachings mean today. One idea is that to be Christian is to live that life of compassion and nonviolence and that it can be practiced by us as human beings and maybe even must be practiced. Then there are other Christians who might say that Jesus was something other than human and that his actions were something like miracles that are really not possible to live up to or even move towards as humans. It seems to me an important thing about this second view is that it limits possibilities for action and social change. I’m wondering what you think about these different ways of viewing Jesus?
Dear: Well, thank you. This is such a deep and significant question for me. What does it mean to be a Christian? I deal with it everyday because I’ve dedicated my life to peace and justice, but to do it as a Christian. Basically, I’ve just come home from traveling the nation for two and a half months. I spoke to ten thousand people and said, “If you’re going to follow this guy, you have to be a person of peace, nonviolence and love.” Everywhere I’ve gone people have confronted me, as you said, with, “No, that’s not necessarily it.” Everyday I get emails from all kinds of people saying, “You’re wrong!” For example, tonight, I got an email from a Deacon, somewhere in the United States. I’ll leave it at that. He’s been in the military all his life. He asked me twenty questions in this infinitely long essay about why we need to kill and the church needs to be leading the charge for Jesus.
Then I got an email from a guy working in the Pentagon; “Oh, thank you Father John for all that you’re doing. We love you and you’re really following Jesus. And I’m following Jesus, too, as I work at the Pentagon.” And I wrote them back and said, “No! You both have to quit!” Oh, I got excited and dropped the phone…
There’s a million ways to look at what it means to be a Christian. We’re all caught up in the culture of war. This has been going on for 2000 years from the Roman Empire to Nazi Germany to Pinochet, Somoza and Marcos. All of these great Christians and all their Generals, killing and oppressing for Jesus.
Here’s my bottom line; it all comes down to the four Gospels. I don’t say the New Testament. I was thinking recently that Saint Paul wrote all those letters, or at least the ones that are authentic, before the Gospels were written. He never had the Gospels and he doesn’t ever quote, for example, from the Sermon on the Mount. He may never have known those teachings. So, I keep harping on the four Gospels of Jesus and they’re very particular. They’re a story and they’re not a story of a really holy person who went and sat under a tree for forty years and everybody gathered around him and felt better and went off and loved. Yes, there were times when he clearly sat down and everybody was healed in his presence, but this guy was trouble everywhere he went. He connected with all the wrong people and said all the wrong things. He denounced injustice and hung out with the marginalized, the poor. He touched lepers. He supported women. And then he turned and marched into Jerusalem and he went right to the source of the matter, where the religious authorities are working with the empire to steal all the money from the people in the name of God at Passover. He turned over the tables of these money changers. I think he did dozens of acts of civil disobedience.
If you march into Jerusalem, the outskirts of a brutal empire, and you do that dramatic act of nonviolent civil disobedience – he doesn’t hit anybody, hurt anybody or kill anybody – if you do that, you’re going to be arrested, tortured and executed within twenty-four hours. That’s clearly what happened to him according to the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Well, I just don’t see how anyone can claim anywhere, at anytime in history, to be a follower of this guy and to be supporting empire, oppression, war, or violence; injustice of any kind. I think Jesus is actively, radically, nonviolent and he’s confrontational, daring and even revolutionary.
The Christian challenge is to enter the story, to continue the story. That’s what the resurrection is about, I think. We carry on the story and it’s so hard that we don’t want to do it and we’ve come up with all these different theologies. The actual technical term for what you were talking about is high Christology; that Jesus was God and therefore we don’t have to do what he did. Or that he was the only one and he did it once. Well, that idea was a heresy in the early Church. Jesus is also fully human and he wants us to follow him and he says this is the way it is. This is the program, this is the job description. I want to try to do it and it’s darn hard to follow the nonviolent Jesus and that path of peace and justice and to resist empire.
Even if everybody else – all the other Christians of the world – start to completely support war, I’m going to say that Jesus called us to peace. That is what the story is about and that’s what we have to get back to and reclaim. Does that make sense?
JM: Yes, it does make sense. It’s interesting because Christianity is like everything else, where there are so many different interpretations. Nonviolence is another idea that means vastly different things to different people. An interesting problem is that in the political Left in this country, there is a lot of anti-religious sentiment. From my point of view, on one level, this allows for a separation of morality from social action and politics. And I don’t know where positive social action comes from except for radical compassion; the desire to address suffering in the world, to lessen suffering, stop oppression, to make peace and justice. I appreciate your willingness to talk about these realms and more than that, to stand firm when, as you were describing, a lot of people are saying that you’re doing something wrong or not-Christian.
John Dear: That was beautiful what you talked about there, the reasons why we do what we do. Well, it’s only natural that everyone in every segment of society – you call it the Left, whatever that is, in the United States – that would reject religion by in large because these organized religions have gone along, by and large, with the culture of war and greed and injustice and not fulfilled their prophetic roles as the voice for the voiceless, the peacemaking community and the community that calls us back to what it means to be human, to be nonviolent. None of that surprises me. I just keep thinking that for anyone who claims to be Christian, you have to go back to the story and look at the life of Jesus and try to do what he did.
I’ve been giving retreats around the country on the Sermon on the Mount because after I wrote this book on Gandhi I realized that Gandhi read from the Sermon on the Mount everyday for forty-five years, which is astonishing to me. He said it was the greatest teachings on nonviolence in the history of the world and “I want to be a person of nonviolence, so I have to read that everyday.” That’s the catechism. That’s the How to Be a Person of Nonviolence in a World of Violence Handbook. And it ends, Matthew 7, with Jesus saying this lament, which Gandhi quoted in his private letters for over forty years; Why do you Christians say to Jesus in your prayers, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what he wants? He’s not looking for any of that! He wants us to love our enemies, bring justice for the poor and peace and compassion. He wants us to forgive everyone and not judge anyone and welcome a new world without war and poverty or nuclear weapons. He was very clear about that – that’s the spiritual life. That’s what it means to be human, that’s what the peace and justice movement should be.
My critique would be, not just about the Left rejecting religion, or going into the spiritual roots of whatever spiritual tradition people come from – I think everyone should do that because that will deepen our political work – but, my critique is that we’re very poor on nonviolence. We’re not nonviolent people. Why should we deserve a country that abolishes nuclear weapons or ends all the wars when we ourselves are not making nonviolence the standard of our lives? I think that the peace and justice movements and all of the groups have got to take Gandhi and Dr. King much more seriously and really go deep into personal and interpersonal nonviolence and the spiritual roots of nonviolence. This is necessary if we want a world without war.
JM: You’re mentioning Gandhi. Among other things, he was very firm about being vegetarian. I recall in his autobiography there was a time when one of his children was ill and doctors recommended a meat broth and he was against that. He said that, “The life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.” You have written a very concise, lovely booklet about Christianity and vegetarianism. In it you write that, “If Jesus lived in our culture of violence, he would do everything he could to confront the structures of death and call for a new culture of peace and life…” And that, “As Christians, we must side with the poor and oppressed peoples of the world and with the animals.” I think that you’ve been vegetarian since the early eighties and I’m wondering if you would say a little about this connection between Christianity and vegetarianism. What is it about Jesus’ life and actions that supports vegetarianism?
Dear: First of all, I’m very interested in connecting everything. I think that everything is connected. Every aspect of life and nonviolence and how you live and what you do and how you spend these precious eighty years on earth, or whatever we’ve got. All the issues are connected; poverty and war and racism and sexism. Name anything else; torture, children, the death penalty, nuclear weapons, creation and creatures. It’s all one. We’re supposed to be at peace with everyone, with ourselves, with all creatures, all of creation, all of the universe and the God of peace – isn’t that wonderful?
Well, as a kid at the age of twenty-one, when I entered the Jesuits, I started studying everything, reading the Gospels and learning that Jesus is, in his words, hungering and thirsting for justice. He says at the end of Matthew, “Whatever you do, the least of these you do to me.” If you did not feed the hungry, if you didn’t shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, you didn’t do that to me. If you did, you did it to me. So, he identifies with the poorest of the poor. It’s an incredible statement!
Life for the Christian, and to be human, I think, is to be siding with the poor of the earth and stopping all of this suffering. And then you realize that war and nuclear weapons not only makes people hungry, sick and imprisoned, it kills us all and vaporizes us! So, you’ve got to work to end war and nuclear weapons.
I read Francis Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet and she argued in 1982 that if people became vegetarian, we could help end world hunger. The grain that is being grown in Brazil is being shipped to the United States to feed the cattle who are slaughtered for your McDonald’s hamburgers. So, she said, “Don’t eat the McDonald’s hamburgers.” Not just because it’s healthier, obviously. Not just because you don’t want to be killing these beautiful creatures, all of this wide variety of life. But, you want to stop starvation and let the people in Brazil have their own grain. Well, we’ve learned a lot more since 1982 of course.
I was with Thich Nhat Hanh, the great Buddhist teacher, last year on retreat and he was saying, “I do not believe that anyone is an environmentalist in the United States. I don’t think that you care for the earth, if you eat meat.” Because of the carbon and so forth and so on, eating meat is part of the destruction of the environment. The U.N. is saying that as well. So, all of these issues are connected.
I became a vegetarian because I was thinking that what I eat is directly affecting starvation on the planet. So that’s that. I’ve been on this journey and learning so much more about how that is part of the life of nonviolence. How you eat, how you treat your body, what you listen to and look at and so forth. And how we relate to creatures, as well as being nonviolent to people. Now we’re learning so much about the earth itself, about global warming. Of course, things are much worse now then they were twenty-five years ago. The U.N. says that 900 million people are starving to death today. That’s just absolutely unbelievable. 40,000 people die of starvation everyday. I’m just saying that Jesus would say that… well, he hardly ever ate at all anyway. He was probably starving like Saint Francis and you can get signs of that in the Gospel. He was homeless and he was in and out of trouble and in hiding. He had an underground movement under this vicious empire and he knew his days were numbered. Clearly, today, he would be doing the same thing.
We could argue about Passover and lamb. Okay, we could talk about that and that’s totally fine. But what would he be doing today? He would be going even farther and deeper, if that’s possible. Things have just exploded so much about eating meat and what that’s doing to the earth and how that affects the poor and what it’s doing to our own health. That little booklet is quite good. It’s put out by PETA, called Christianity and Vegetarianism.
But I think that being a vegetarian is just the beginning of the life of nonviolence. Having nonviolence in your relationships is vital. Nonviolence is also about being involved in public active work for peace and justice and going deep into inner contemplative nonviolence. It’s all of these things. And of course it is how we actually relate to the land and sky and earth; our personal relationships with creation. The journey is continuing for me, too. I’m still making more and more connections.
JM: I would love to hear more specific details about your view of Jesus’ life as a nonviolent social change figure and someone who lived nonviolently. Clearly, that is a model for you and you believe that Jesus espoused nonviolence. Yet, as we talked about earlier, there are a lot of people who think Jesus stands for something different. I’m wondering if there are parts of Jesus’ life or particular actions that illustrate his commitment to nonviolence and going against the status quo?
Dear: That’s such a rich question for me and at the heart of my life. Thank you for asking that. I always quote what Gandhi said; “Jesus is the most active person of nonviolence in the history of the world.” And later he said, “The only people that don’t know that he’s nonviolent are Christians.”
What’s astonishing to me, and why I can’t even get too depressed over the Church and all of the horrible problems in all of the Churches, is that his nonviolence is spectacular. He seems to be able to do everything! Even if you put aside questions of faith and mystery and divinity, as a human being I think he’s the greatest person who ever lived, hands down. And the way the Gospels are framed, portraying him as a radical nonviolent resister, they make him out like he can do anything. But he’s not super-human. He’s deeply, profoundly human. That’s precisely the point; he’s the most perfect human in an inhuman world. In fact, contrary to the Church people and to the rest of us, he doesn’t want to play God. He wants to be human. We instead want to be God and play God instead of being human.
What I mean when I say all of that is that I can’t get a handle on him! Every time I read the Gospels I’m blown away because I discover another angle on it. For example, you could reflect profoundly about his contemplative nonviolence, his struggle in the desert, with temptations. These are the basic human temptations to violence. Turning stones into bread, that’s like when an activist wants some results; “You say you’re really a peacemaker, then do something! Or throw yourself off the temple and we’ll see if God’s going to protect you!” These are all temptations to violence and he goes to the end in perfect nonviolence. In the mythic story of the transfiguration he becomes perfect light. And then the people who are so sick, they come up and they just touch him and they feel better. Now, that’s a very mysterious thing to me about nonviolence, right there. It’s like the rest of us have the Pentagon inside us; we’re addicted to violence in America and it’s in all of us. We’re brainwashed and trained to consume violence and war. The spiritual journey is to let God disarm us and get all of that demonic violence outside of us and just move more and more toward inner nonviolence.
Well, Jesus never gave in to any violence. So that if you see my image of him, you just touch him and you feel better because he’s perfectly nonviolent. There’s not a trace of nonviolence in him. That makes sense to me – that’s what healing is about. Healing is about being freed of our violence and the metaphors of violence.
Then, we could talk about Jesus as a teacher. That’s what I mean when Gandhi said that these are the most spectacular teachings of nonviolence ever. No one in recorded history had ever said love you enemies before. I think it’s the most astonishing, political, revolutionary teaching ever. But then he goes on to say – and this is the description of the nature of God – you love your enemies because God loves God’s enemies. These are spectacular teachings. To study his actual teachings about human life, nature, God, the mystery of reality, in this framework and hermeneutic of nonviolence, is very profound. And then we can become teachers ourselves. We could look at him as a prophet. By prophet I mean someone who listens to the voice of the God of peace and just says to the culture of war what the God of peace wants; Put down the sword. Love your enemies. That’s the tradition from Isaiah and Jeremiah. And then it was fulfilled in our own time with Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero. Our call is to be prophetic people as peacemakers in the United States. We must push Obama to end all the wars and all nuclear weapons and end torture in Guantanamo, to go all the way to abolish poverty.
And then, as an activist, I just find Jesus challenging every injustice, every law which legalizes injustice and institutions. I actually wrote a whole book on his actions of civil disobedience, but it definitely culminates in his action in the temple on Passover. He is clearly executed within days from that. That’s because you can’t have this spiritual leader turning over the tables of the moneychangers. The empire can’t tolerate that.
That’s a kind of Gandhian, radical, nonviolent action where your life is at stake. Jesus was killed and eventually Gandhi was killed, too. That is infinitely mysterious to me. I could go on and on. How we transformed the Passover and the myth of the Eucharist – I don’t know how to describe it, that’s why I say “myth” – if you would look at it with the framework of nonviolence; it goes completely against the culture of nonviolence. “This is my body, broken for you.” He gives bread and wine as a way to remember. “This is my blood, shed for you.”
He could have said. “Give me your bodies, broken for me.” That’s what George Bush would say. Or Hitler. Or they might say, “Go and shed their blood for me.” But he said, “My body for you, my blood for you. I’m laying down my life nonviolently.” That’s the teaching. Or, “I want to be your food and drink. What more can I do to give myself to you?” It’s just perfect unconditional nonviolent love.
As he dies on the cross, he forgives the people who execute him. That’s the ultimate nonviolence. We don’t forgive somebody in the fifth grade who was mean to us, or a relative. We nurse resentments and grudges in the United States. We’re experts, all of us. Our country hasn’t dealt with anything from our history we are so full of resentment. But Jesus forgives even his murderers. First and foremost at the core of nonviolence is willingness to forgive.
There are so many ways to look at his nonviolence and for me it’s the only way to look at Jesus. Everyday I read the Gospels and I’m astonished again. And I’m inspired to go forward because of his astonishing example and his teachings. I figure, there’s nobody like that. I want to be like that and that’s what we’re all called to be. And it makes life much more exciting and interesting and then we begin to realize that this is what the spiritual life is about, too.
Those are some general categories and I’ve written about this in my books Jesus the Rebel, The Questions of Jesus, Transfiguration and The God of Peace, which is kind of my theology of nonviolence. And I’m going to be talking about this for the rest of my life. I wish more and more people would write and reflect upon and talk about not only what Jesus would have us to do, but what nonviolence means and how we can become nonviolent like him. The only way to do that is to go back and read the story through the lens of nonviolence. Then when you read it, it becomes like a Robert Ludlum thriller and you can’t put it down! It takes on so much more meaning, given what we’re up against today, and gives us the courage to go forward and try to say, “Let’s do what we can. Why not be as bold and daring as Jesus and Gandhi were? We not only want the Iraq war to end. We want all wars to end! We want all poverty and starvation, nuclear weapons, executions, global warming. We want all of it to end. And we want to begin to create a new culture of nonviolence.” That’s what Jesus does for me in all of his stories and I hope many more people will join the journey of nonviolence.
JM: John Dear, thank you for your thoughtfulness in this discussion. I appreciate being able to speak with you again. I am grateful for your boldness, which has served as a pathway for many of us to follow in cultivating nonviolence and obstructing injustice.
A Persistent Peace