~ from the Glynn County Detention Center: The Wind Blows Where It Wills, by nuclear resister Mark Colville

The Wind Blows Where It Wills
by Mark Colville
June, 2019
Glynn County Detention Center
Settling into a semi-quiet space to put pen to paper, I’m preoccupied with news of a trial that is proceeding in federal court in Tucson, Arizona. A man named Scott Warren is facing up to twenty years in prison on charges of “felony harboring” and conspiracy. His crime: leaving fresh water in the desert for refugees who cross the border, hundreds of whom have died there from thirst and exposure. The latest tweets from the courtroom indicate that the jury will not be permitted to hear eyewitness accounts of humanitarian supplies being destroyed by border patrol personnel. Mr. Warren’s primary defense – that his actions were motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs – has likewise been silenced.*
In Minnesota, meanwhile, a small group of self described “catholic workers and farmers” were moved recently to shut down the dangerous flow of tar sands oil through that states indigenous nations and public lands, by literally going to one of the pipelines valve and turning it off. Tar sands oil production, possibly the dirtiest process known to the fossil fuel extraction industry, has been described by prominent environmental scientists as a death sentence for the Earth’s climate. (this oil is not even intended for domestic consumption; it is being exported for corporate profit.). “The 4-Necessity Valve Turners” – Brenna Cussen-Anglada, Daniel Yildirim, Allyson Polman, and Michelle Naar-Obed – also await trial on two felony charges.
“The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes
from or where it goes; so it is
with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
– John 3:8

What to make of this? It sounds as if Jesus might be dropping a bit of obscure rabbinical wisdom here on Nicodemus, a respected administrator of Mosaic law whose apparent fear of the political climate obliges him to wait for the cover of darkness before seeking Jesus’ counsel. Ironically, it is the brute politics of our own day that can help bring Jesus’ words into sharper focus.Here’s my take: the more we come to dwell in the Spirit, the less we find our “location” in the world to be tied to the usual determinants of occupation, social status, gender, family background, nationality or race. In an awakened spiritual life, there is a constant pull toward relationships that cross borders, cut through fences, upset protocols, and nullify terms of separation and privilege. In other words, God stubbornly refuses to remain inside the lines that we humans and our institutions draw; so when you come to a place where everyone seems puzzled about where you came from and where you’re going, then maybe you’re finally getting somewhere!

There is a maniacal ethos that has taken hold in the land; creation groans under its violence. To stand, and to stand up, where death asserts its logic and extorts our allegiance-this has become the most expedient spiritual practice of our time. Personally, that is a geography I’ve rarely been able to access without being carried there by a community.

​On April 4, 2018, I joined six other North American Catholics who entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, and committed an act of symbolic nuclear disarmament, addressing the most toxic and omnicidal weapons ever built. Hours later, having enacted the ancient prophecy of Isaiah 2:4 – “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” – we peacefully awaited arrest and were subsequently charged with numerous crimes. Still awaiting trial more than a year later, we’ve all spent months under maximum security conditions in the local county jail, where three of us have chosen to remain.

Nuclearism is a demonic, murderous, poisonous enterprise, operating beyond the reach of the law and the consent of the human community. It craves secrecy. It breeds impunity. By enslaving the human psyche to the idolatry of power, nuclearism underwrites all of the other forms of state-inflicted mayhem on the planet, from the border, to the jail, to the drone base, to the sweatshop, to the oil pipeline, to the toxic waste dump, to the permanent war economy.

In 2017, Pope Francis clarified the official teaching of the Catholic Church on nuclear weapons, when he declared that not only the threat of their use, but their very possession is a moral evil that must be firmly condemned. With nuclear weapons, the national security state claims the right to ultimate sovereignty over life and death, and the assertion of that right renders belief in the resurrection of Christ seditious and treasonous. The Kings Bay Plowshares Seven came together in order to confront the reality of what it means to live a resurrection-centered faith under the shadow of nuclear empire. In holding ourselves accountable to that reality we have now collided head on with a legal system that has lost its capacity to function independently from the Pentagon.

As federal court looms – that most desolate of places – I have increasingly come to anticipate what awaits us there as a spiritual confrontation. The New Testament is rife with imagery of non violent struggle against evil, a battle that is joined on both cosmic and earthly planes. Among the most powerful of these images is that of the Holy Spirit as the Advocate, the One who prosecutes the principalities and powers of this world by calling out their evil from darkness into light. In discerning how best to embrace the challenge before us now, it is certainly an inspiration to consider oneself availed of an opportunity to be a witness for that prosecution.

Jesus Himself repeatedly warned those who would follow Him that that the prospect of being hauled into imperial courts for judgement inevitable, and that a planned self defense at those moments would be unnecessary. Of course, our case has involved countless hours of preliminary arguments over protocol, procedure, and admissibility of evidence. The government is going to extreme lengths to ensure that the blatant criminality of its nuclear insanity will be deemed irrelevant, and therefore barred from consideration by a jury. Our push-back on this has been vigorous and comprehensive, but it appears we would need a miracle to drain the vast ocean of judicial complicity in which governmental and corporate impunity swims.

Watching it all unfold, I’m sometimes reminded of an episode in The Acts of the Apostles (chapter 23), where Paul, once again finds himself standing accused before the Sanhedrin. As the various political factions are beginning to weigh in on what should be his fate, Paul takes a moment to read the room, then calmly steps forward and says; “I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” Not surprisingly, it all goes down hill quickly from there.

Hope is the spiritual force that carried us to Kings Bay, and, in my view, the only defense for our action there. Soon it will become clear whether or not hope is admissible evidence in the Brunswick Federal court. We are on trial for refusing to the cede the authority to the US government to kill everything. To do so is to betray Christ again, and again, and again. The task at hand now is simply to repeat that refusal-again and again and again-and let the wind blow where it will.

* Scott Warren’s trial ended in a hung jury. Federal prosecutors have announced their intention to retry the case.