Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Radical Nuns, Radical Acts

I've been hearing a lot about 3 nuclear protesters as their case moves to trial.  They broke into an Oak Ridge facility that  deals with depleted uranium; for more on the story, see this article in The Washington Post.  This story tells about not just the protesters, but also the security guard who lost his job because he didn't shoot them.

One of the protesters is an 82 year old nun, which might lead some to wonder about the tradition of social justice and protest in the Christian faith.  Michael Gerson has a great essay in The Washington Post that explores these ideas as he reviews the latest book, On God's Side, by Jim Wallis.

I've met some Christians who believe that we should be removed from the world.  Obviously, as someone with a blog title like this one, I disagree.

Gerson explains it this way:  "At one level, Christianity is deeply individualistic — promising a personal relationship to the Creator and imposing a set of individual moral responsibilities. But, as Wallis points out, Christianity is also inherently communitarian — the 'call to a relationship that changes all our other relationships.' The Golden Rule and the mandate to 'love your neighbor' challenge social systems based on tribe, class or race. Christian ethics has been the halting, inconsistent but continuing struggle to draw out the full implications of God’s image in every life."

When I was in undergraduate school in the 1980's, I met more radicals than I do now. I knew people who would have been willing to do anything--anything--to stop the nuclear-industrial complex. I wonder what's become of them. Are they still protesting nuclear weapons? Have they moved on to something else?

When I was younger, I knew more people who lived in intentional communities, like the Sojourners community of which Wallis is a part.  I wonder how many of those communities still exist?

One of the things which really appealed to me about one of the candidates for bishop was her service in Lutheran Volunteer Corps.  I liked that willingness to live out one's faith deeply.

Once I didn't use the AC during the summer--I didn't want to contribute to global warming. I was young and principled once. Now I am older, and I use the AC. I give money to groups who work in peaceful, non-confrontational ways to bring about a more just world. I write letters. I do some networking.

I know that I could do more, and when I hear about nuns breaking into nuclear facilities, I immediately feel inadequate. It's good to remember that there are other ways to work for justice.

The group of radicals didn't succeed in their goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. It's not even clear that they built much sympathy for their cause. And my brain can't move far away from that poor security guard who spared them but then sacrificed so much.

Still, as I move into comfortable middle age, it's also good to be reminded that I could be doing more, even if I don't want to turn off the AC. I don't have to turn off the AC, but I can take other steps towards a more peaceful future.  I can do a bit more than write letters.

On Sunday, I completed some sewing kits for Lutheran World Relief, kits which had been sitting unfinished on the shelf for years.  I boxed them up, and I will mail them this week.

It's not as radical an act as I might have once envisioned.  But perhaps that thread and cloth will help a person in the third world sew their way towards better opportunities.

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