Jesuit imagines a world of non-violence
Published: Monday, October 24, 2005
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Rev. John Dear, S.J., knows of a capitalist-free world without international debt, starvation, nuclear weapons, militaries, the CIA, NSA, or even the Pentagon; one rife with Kyoto Protocol signatories, full employment, and free healthcare and education, and it's only a few billion hearts away.
The world-traveling Jesuit and peace activist implored more than 75 BC students Thursday to "put down [their] swords" and become loving, nonviolent activists. "We're doomed otherwise," he said.
Dear is an activist, lecturer, and author of several books, including The God of Peace: Toward a Theology of Nonviolence.
He gave four suggestions for becoming a non-violent activist: "Be a contemplative of non-violence" and pray; "Stand up publicly, hold vigils, start making a stink and shut down this ROTC program" that trains "students how to kill;" "Be a student and teacher of non-violence;" and "Be a prophet of non-violence: Announce the good news of peace and denounce injustice."
"The choice is no longer violence or non-violence: It's nonviolence or nonexistence," he added, invoking Martin Luther King, Jr., one of his inspirations along with Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Jesus Christ.
Dear delivered a litany of Jesus adages to highlight the historical weight of his non-violent message: "Love your enemies" and "Turn the other cheek."
Dear described his philosophy of practicing non-violence and boundless "active love" as heart-born and ecumenical, one that spans across the religious spectrum and denounces the universal sins of greed and violence.
"Every human being is a child of the God of peace," he said, although humanity has "[developed] a spirituality of violence and war that tells us that God blesses war."
He used the U.S. government as a microcosm: It's involved in "35 wars," he said, and spends billions on "post-nuclear laser beam warfare despite [its] 25,000 nuclear weapons."
With "an arsenal that's willing to destroy the planet," an intimate involvement in the killings of thousands worldwide, and a remissness toward poverty and starvation, Dear said the U.S. government is "far worse than Hitler," who, according to Dear, encountered defeat in Bulgaria, Denmark, and Norway with active non-violent movements later mirrored in the Montgomery bus boycott and King's non-violent directive in Birmingham.
"The means are the ends," he said, "and that's why I agree with Dr. King."
Asked to account for Black Nationalist movements initiated by Malcolm X and Stokley Carmichael, Dear said, "Stokley Carmichael and the Black Panthers actually broke the [Civil Rights] movement."
Dear's distaste for speaking the language of the oppressor (violence), spurns from his distaste for an "empire (the United States) based on oil and weapons," he said, one that must "have wars" to continue its existence, "and wars require the blood of children."
Violence only begets more violence, he continually said, discrediting the 210,000 dead after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a means for peace.
Dear has developed his philosophy since his days at Georgetown University. There he saw a system fueled by money and "teaching students how to kill and massacre people in this program called ROTC."
Perturbed by U.S. foreign policy in Latin America throughout the '80s, Dear and "a couple of young, gringo Jesuits" went to El Salvador in 1985.
At the University of Central America, he saw an institution committed to "[promoting] the reign of God" and was "shocked" by its sincerity.
Assassins trained at the School of the Americas, though, according to Dear, eviscerated the brains of the Jesuits promoting this potent non-violent philosophy to send a message: "This is what happens when you think about the world."
Despite this chilling deterrent, Dear persevered and has committed his life "to confronting structures and institutions of nonviolence."
In 1993, Dear was arrested at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., where he sought to "beat swords in plowshares" by hammering on an F15 nuclear fighter bomber.
"Change comes when good people break bad laws," said Dear.
He said that the eight months he spent in a tiny prison cell afterwards gave him time to contemplate the peaceful potential of the world.
Dear has been arrested more than 75 times for acts of civil disobedience and protest.