Why I Crossed the Line at Beale

Beale demonstrators outside federal courthouse

Beale demonstrators outside federal courthouse

At church the other day, someone asked me about my upcoming trial, and she ended up putting me on the church’s prayer chain.  I love my church.  People are praying for me, even those who have no idea why I would cross the line onto federal property at Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest.  They are praying for me “because she did what she thought was right.”

The least I can do is explain why I would do such a thing.

First, I strongly oppose using unmanned drones to kill people half a world  away.  It is my government that has put together a “kill list” and is engaging in targeted assassinations with my tax dollars, and in my name.  I have explained in past blogs about drone warfare  the reasons that have motivated me to take strong action:  the fact that it violates international law, the widespread deaths of civilians, rescue workers being targeted with secondary strikes, the threat of a drone arms race, surveillance drones being used not just in other countries but also here in the United States, the tax dollars wasted on these programs, the use of drones as part of a larger U.S. goal of dominating the earth from space, and the “blowback” effect from drone strikes causing retaliation to be visited upon my grandchildren and their grandchildren for generations.

I cannot close my ears to the cries of the victims of U.S. drone attacks without going into denial.

I cannot harden my heart against them without losing a part of my humanity.

Second, I have dedicated my life to preaching, teaching, and living the good news of peace, justice, and healing for all creation.  This is the mission that Jesus announced in Luke 4 by reading from the prophet Isaiah:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This is the mission that engages me, whether I’m teaching Sunday School, writing a book or article, speaking before a large assembly, or organizing an action.  This is the calling that energizes my ministry:  sharing the grace, love, hope, and liberating action of God.

Still, why did I go so far as to risk arrest?  Why not just stay with the writing, speaking, teaching, and organizing?  Why not stop there?  Because I can do all of these things without directly confronting the system, without risking its sanctions.  Engaging in nonviolent direct action is one way that I can exercise my spiritual authority, moral responsibility, and freedom as a human being, whether I convince other people or stand alone.  This is one way that I can refuse to be complicit, one way that I can say “No, I won’t stand for this, not in my name.”

Third, as I outlined in my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell, we are going down the road toward a living hell on earth.  Drones are just one aspect of that hellish future.  I’m convinced that we must be willing to take strong stands, speak out clearly, risk our comforts, and take nonviolent actions that directly challenge the system, because the stakes are so very high.  Fortunately, many people around the world are waking up and taking action to address the dangers we face.

As I face trial on April 15 with four other kindred spirits, supported by hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, I feel calm, centered, and happy. I feel connected to Jesus, who confronted empire in his day.  The possibility of peace, justice, and healing for all creation is, indeed, good news.  It is also within reach, if we human beings, with God’s help, refuse to be complicit and become willing to take a stand.

Read a Sacramento Bee article on the arraignment here.

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