Essays by Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP
To: Judge Ardie Bland of the Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court
From: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP (Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests), of Lexington, Ky.
1. If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, would that change your opinion (about nuclear weapons)?
If North Korea, China, or one of the Mideast countries dropped a nuclear bomb on a U.S. city tomorrow, I would not change my mind about the immorality of nuclear weapons produced by the United States.
The production of nuclear weapons by any country is insanity and evil.
It is not a life-giving action, but rather one that delivers horrific death and destruction. Could the dead be brought back to life? What restitution is there for losing a child, a sister or brother, a parent, relative or friend? There is nothing that can replace a human being. I know…I lost my mother when I was 16 and the oldest of four. I also lost my younger son when he was 18. We know from experience that the death of a loved one causes grief beyond measure and it takes a long time before those left behind can gather their soul and breathe without feeling their heart aflame in the fires of hell. In fact, one never recovers completely. Instead, we learn to transform our suffering and loss into doing good in the world to bring about the Kin-dom.
Bringing about the Kin-dom, not Kingdom. Jesus in the Gospels is not about hierarchy or relationships of a domination/subordination paradigm. Rather, he calls us to friendship – which implies equality between each man and each woman. Everyone is invited to the table.
It is very interesting that the Christian tradition proclaims that Jesus had to die for our sins – that he suffered and died for our salvation. Today many of us reject this theology. Instead, we believe Jesus was killed by a brutal and oppressive Roman government that occupied his country, along with a handful of religious leaders. There was no need for such a bloody death. However, instead of looking at the source of Jesus’ murder and examining how governments treat human beings today, our religious leaders concocted a doctrine of salvation that requires bloodletting of the Innocent One. The motto, however, that many of us take from Jesus’ torture and death is “No More Crucifixions!” In other words, stop the imperialism and religious collusion in the torture and murder of human beings, be they by drones, nuclear weapons, economic disparity, or doctrines that oppress the marginalized and cause their suffering, such as those against gender, race, homosexuality, etc.
At the root of the belief system in our peace movement is that killing begets further killing, violence begets violence. Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” The production of nuclear weapons by any government is idolatrous of our Loving God. We have committed such atrocities against our brothers and sisters in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today that legacy still haunts our world community.
2. If Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first in World War II, would your opinion change?
I don’t see any reason why my opinion would change if Germany or Japan had used nuclear weapons first during World War II. The result would be the same: Terrible suffering of children, their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. The loss of their homes/shelter, pets, their communities and ways of life, destruction of nature, water supplies, contamination of the air.
Our response must always be to stop the manufacture of these weapons and to work for peace and cooperation among people. We are all connected. We come from the same source: our Loving God. We as human beings are united in our DNA, our souls and spirit. We come from a Loving Source, a God who wants abundance and all good things for us. So much suffering comes to us already through natural causes.
Why, we must all ask, do we spend so much of our energy, time and money — from hard-earned taxpayers’ money — to see it squandered in an out-of-control addiction to out-manufacture and out-number nuclear weapons in comparison to other countries? It will never be enough. Our need for so-called security is insatiable. Why do so many of us profess a religious belief in a Loving God and then behave and make decisions which totally deny such beliefs?
We see that power-over was practiced by the Romans against the Jews and others. Eventually, an oppressive ruler and his military imprisoned, tortured and sadistically put to death on a cross a nonviolent man who offered hope and liberation and empowerment to the people. His spirit and their faith cured them of their illness. What was this Jesus of Nazareth doing but pointing out the insanity of a domination/subordination paradigm throughout the society in which he lived: through Roman laws enforced brutally by their military; by religious authorities who were often hypocritical and used religious faith to cover up enormous profits from tithing, etc.; from a societal structure that placed females in the same category as dogs – where girls and women had little or no voice within the family, religious tradition, and society in general; where those who were not of a certain faith, tribe or color, were marginalized and oppressed.
What would Jesus do if he walked beside us in the flesh today? Do you think he would support the manufacture of nuclear weapons by any country? Our Loving God – Holy Unfathomable Mystery – created the glory of the Universe and Holy Mother Earth that originated without the borders of countries. Our task is simple and direct: to cherish one another and all life, to work for justice and the integrity of all creation.
3. What would you say to those who say, “If we (the USA) do not have the big stick, that is, if we get rid of our nuclear weapons, and other countries develop nuclear weapons, then we do not have the opportunity to fight back”?
I think that in the formulation of question #3, an important institution was not mentioned. That is the United Nations. I am a member of St. Joan’s International Alliance, the oldest Catholic feminist group in the world and a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), established in London in 1911 as a women’s suffragist group. For three years, 2007-2009, I was one of several St. Joan representatives who participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women. At these gatherings, I met women from all over the world and listened to their stories of oppression, lack of their voices being heard, and much suffering. From my experience I learned more about the UN and believe it could become healthier and increasingly, an instrument for cooperation. Our world community could benefit greatly if the United Nations would be held up and supported more by the U.S. as an example to other countries. I believe it would be healthy for our sisters and brothers and our planet if the role of the UN became more predominant, especially in promoting nonviolent resolutions of conflict in our world. The UN could become a training place for diplomats so that mediation would be used to resolve problems rather than through the military or the use or propagation of nuclear weapons. The UN could help promote nonviolence and require that all countries eliminate the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons and the waste of our people’s labor-taxes on the ever-expanding military budget. However, in order for any such thinking to become a reality, we must also deal with the realization that weapons manufacturers make huge profits from governments/companies selling weapons of all kinds throughout the world, including drones. We have also come to consciousness of the realization that the CIA instigates some political upheavals and that the truth is twisted or covered up in order to benefit and protect the wealthy and their interests and for our continued build-up and use of more and more weapons and the military. A fear-based populace gives away rights and checks and balances that are the foundation of democratic rule. The powerful and wealthy in the US and multi-national corporations want the USA to retain its “big stick” of continued nuclear weapons production. At the root is the almighty dollar and keeping things as they are. This mindset eats away at our humanity and depresses people, leading them to violence. Our people’s most basic needs are not being met, but yet we continue to keep pouring more and more money into nuclear weapons production and other military weapons of destruction.
4. You defendants say you are Christians and one is a Buddhist. Father (Carl) Kabat says you disobey a law that is ungodly. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for slavery and the Crusades killed millions?
Fr. Carl Kabat says we disobey a law that is ungodly, which is true. To answer the rest of the questions you raise in #4, this is what I would say to someone who believes there is no God. What is necessary, I believe, is to expand our definition of Holy Mystery. To do so, I am using a treasured booklet called Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit written by Elizabeth A. Johnson, a gifted nun, feminist theologian, author of many outstanding works and professor of theology at Fordham University in New York. This particular work is part of the Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality sponsored by the Center for Spirituality, Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.
Elizabeth Johnson and other notable pioneer thinkers such as Matthew Fox (The Coming of the Cosmic Christ), Diarmuid O’Murchu (Quantum Theology), Thomas Berry (The Dream of the Earth) and Sally McFague (Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age) have written about the connection between the exploitation of the earth and the marginalization of women. “Both of these predicaments,” says Johnson, “are intrinsically related to forgetting the Creator Spirit who pervades the world in the dance of life.” The true identity of women and the earth are obscured within a patriarchal sexist system. “Both are commonly excluded from the sphere of the sacred; both are routinely taken for granted and ignored, used and discarded, even battered and ‘raped,’ while nevertheless they do not cease to give birth or sustain life.” (p. 2-3) Moreover, women and the earth, says Johnson, are connected to the Creator Spirit, “giver of life, who is similarly ignored in western religious consciousness as a result of restricting the sacred to a transcendent, monarchical deity outside of nature.” (p. 3) Western thought, including theology, has been determined according to the values of patriarchy.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution is able to use a term such as ungodly which could not be defined in jurisprudence. The courts are “tainted” when they use Bibles, Korans, etc. Yet, human life and spirit come from somewhere, including Nature (which we must nurture and protect), from community (which is antithetical to oppression) and from acts of resistance (which draw attention to behaviors which annihilate fruitful and life-giving Mother Earth and her children and Father Sky and his breath of life). Any law that justifies nuclear weapons is unjust and must be resisted. We need, as Johnson says, “a vision of wholeness of a flourishing human community on a thriving earth” where “what has been disparaged is uplifted.” (p. 3)
5. How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue their religion is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices?
Our country is not the only one that behaves in an immoral, insane and evil manner. Governments of other countries do, too. Unfortunately, the same is also true for religion and religious leaders. We need only to look into history to see how religious leaders have caused death and destruction, especially those professing Christianity. So it is no surprise to hear in question 5 that the intent of another religion “is to crush others into dust with nuclear devices.”
They are demonizing Americans as we Christians have in the past demonized pagans, Muslims, Jews, women called witches, the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc., etc. It seems that we humans – especially if we practice a religion – have a propensity to scapegoat others of different faith traditions, no faith at all, people of different races, people who look different from us, people of different lifestyles. The fighting may also be about gaining resources, including more territory.
Why do we, as humans, behave this way? Fear and anger would be emotions that come into play: Fear of being dominated, of being forced to change one’s ways of living, fear of being killed or losing one’s family, community and traditions.
Question 5 sounds like it may have come from leaders in Iran who are using powerful rhetoric against the U.S. – which has a growing reputation as a military and economic bully in the world – to get its way.
The people who live in Iran are Muslims. We know that Christians have been persecuting Muslims for hundreds of years. More recently, the United States has caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani people and the destruction of their property and land.
What we need are more people-to-people encounters not only for peace and justice activists but with ordinary Americans as well. Despite current rhetoric, the United States is the only country that has dropped nuclear weapons on the people of another nation. The use of weapons of mass destruction on Japan was a war crime. Japan had already been defeated.
As U.S. citizens, since our government has used nuclear weapons in the past, it is our responsibility to make sure that our government never uses nuclear weapons again. Just as importantly, we must abolish nuclear weapons. As our Hibakusha (nuclear bomb victims) say, “NEVER AGAIN!” Governments all over the world need to invite the Hibakusha to their countries to speak to adults and children in the schools. At the community level, people need to rally and advocate for nuclear-free zones. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
6. Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of Christianity in the USA and the world?
Over time, some Christian faith traditions have upheld racism, slavery, apartheid, the inferiority and the inequality of women (sexism), as well as homophobia and classism. There is no “God’s law” per se. Yet, we have the 10 Commandments. Joseph Smith spoke to God, and according to him, God supported bigamy. In Saudi Arabia, women can be flogged for committing adultery. In Jesus’ time, men could divorce women on a whim or for not producing males. Religious leaders have often colluded with the government and military when it was to their advantage. Most religions are male-dominated, and that’s an underlying indication why they are unhealthy.
In Catholicism, Pope John Paul II said that Jesus did not ordain women, so women can never be priests. We know that Jesus did not ordain anyone. The Vatican says that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride, so women – who biologically are not males as Jesus was – cannot be ordained priests. From Elizabeth Johnson we learn that the Christomorphic sense is beyond gender. In other words, it does not matter if you are a woman or man, behaving like Christ to each other is what is important.
It is the I-Thou practice brought to light by Martin Buber. It is the mindfulness that Thich Nhat Hanh teaches. It is the brotherly (and sisterly) love of which the Quakers speak. It is the love of your neighbor at the heart of Christianity. It is also the reverence in which the prophets Mohammed, Abraham and Jesus are held by Muslims.
For obvious reasons, we cannot bring God’s law into the courtroom. However, through religion many have learned morality. For a law, in my opinion, to be upheld in a courtroom, whether it’s trespassing or something much more serious, the law must be moral and therefore just. Unfortunately, in this society, an unbiased observer would quickly recognize that a rich person has a better opportunity under law to receive due process than a poor person. So just as there is inequality in society, injustice can prevail in a court of law. For me, though, it is easy to recognize the many injustices in this society, and I will continue to resist them and argue in a court of law why I must resist.
I appeared before you, Judge Ardie Bland, because there were many influences in my life: the beauty in Nature, the teachings of Jesus, experiencing motherhood and the death of a child, teaching children from around the world who had lived through war, violence and economic disparity, as well as learning of war from my uncle who survived it with PTSD.