Cook: In God and the bomb

Cook: In God and the bomb

January 24th, 2014 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Megan Rice is a Catholic nun who turns 84 in a week. So committed to nonviolence, she wouldn't harm an attack dog, even if it was attacking her. From her jail cell, she writes letters in partial cursive that talk about the immeasurable love of God.

"The only solution is love," she wrote from the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.

To the U.S. government, she is an enemy of the state and a terrorist, not altogether different from Tim McVeigh, who felled the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, or Mohamed Atta, who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center.

This Tuesday, a federal judge in Knoxville will sentence Rice and two other Christian activists for their crimes; they could each receive 30 years in jail. For Rice, it would be a life sentence, all because she tried to wake up the world.

"I happily offer my life if needed to prevent the preparation, intention, use, storage [of] nuclear weapons," she wrote.

In the middle of a July night in 2012, Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli used bolt cutters to snip their way into one of the most secure places on the planet: the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, the place where the federal government makes nuclear bomb materials.

The three carried Bibles, crime scene tape, and two baby bottles of human blood. They crept past multiple layers of security: cameras, armed guards with shoot-to-kill instructions, attack dogs. Inside, they sprayed painted messages -- "Woe to an Empire of Blood" and "The Fruit of Justice is Peace" -- which someone would later call "Biblical graffiti."

They poured out the blood. Using household hammers, they began to beat on the Y-12 walls, hearkening the book of Isaiah, which prophesies a coming world where swords are beaten into plowshares and the weapons of war are turned into tools for life.

"Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother do not have an arsenal of any kind," Walli said during the trial.

But our government does: approximately 7,700 nuclear warheads in our current arsenal, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

(Russia has 8,500, then the U.S., then France, with 700).

They were arrested and first charged with federal trespassing, a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail.

But as Fran Quigley writes on Commondreams.org, the government continued to jack up the charges, from misdemeanor to felonies to the dreaded charge of sabotage.

The three Christian peace activists were charged with obstructing the national defense. During their trial, the judge forbade them from introducing any evidence that outlines the international treaties and laws that our nuclear weapons arsenal violates.

"We were fulfilling our right and duty according to the U.S.-signed Nuremberg Charter that if one knows of one's government committing a war crime, one has a right and a duty to take steps to stop that crime," Boertje-Obed wrote.

Last year, I wrote to them in jail. They wrote back multiple letters, penned on converted envelopes, postcards and the backs of unused legal documents.

On nearly every page, they mentioned God.

"I believe, as Dan Berrigan wrote, that one cannot worship or put one's trust in God and the Bomb," wrote Boertje-Obed.

Shouldn't the American church directly and loudly oppose the nuclear weapons that threaten the very existence of Creation and humanity? If God's children walk every corner of the earth, how in God's name can we lend our support to an American-created system of weaponry that could annihilate us all by sundown?

The antichrist is not some horned beast rising from the sea. It is the way we casually manufacture weapons of mass destruction. All of it done in common, everyday ways, between coffee breaks and congressional approval.

"The banality of evil," wrote philosopher Hannah Arendt.

Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed are conscientious objectors, just like Rosa Parks. Eight days after America celebrated a national holiday devoted to Martin Luther King Jr., that same government will sentence to jail three nonviolent Christian protesters, calling them saboteurs and terrorists.

"Jesus would say, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,'" Rice wrote.

On the night of their arrest, they sang hymns and prayed. When the first security personnel arrived, Rice bowed and spread her arms open wide.

There, in the belly of the American nuclear weapons complex, the three activists brought out a communion loaf.

They offered bread to the guard. It was an act that symbolized peace and hope.

He declined it.

Just like the American government.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.