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by Philip Berrigan, 2002
for Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center


The Lord then said: "What have you done! Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the earth! (Gen. 4:10)

Jesus said: "But now, you are trying to kill me...You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because  he is  a liar and the father of lies. (Jn 8:40-44)

Like many, I've found the Bible a storehouse of wisdom and life. It occurs to me that the Bible possesses focal points that measure our lives, upon which to rest faith and conviction. One of these focal points would be the fierce justice of the Hebrew prophets. Another would be what the Gospel calls "the law and the prophets" - "Love your neighbor as you love yourself!" Eclipsing all would be the new commandment of the new covenant - "Love one another as I have loved you!" - that Jesus issued the night before his death, and in the words of the Eucharist, sealed that covenant with his blood.

Prohibitions also qualify as focal points - most of the 10 commandments are prohibitions. The most elusive and fundamental is: "Thou shalt not kill!" Jacques Ellul, in his book, Violence, calls this commandment elementary to Judeo-Christian spirituality. He asserted that without strict adherence to this commandment - love, justice, freedom were impossible. In brief, the disciple must renounce killing categorically, and further, prevent others from killing, especially state terrorists.

Let me return briefly to the quote from Genesis: God telling Cain: "your brother's blood cries out to me from the earth!" By murdering Abel, Cain committed the first great interhuman crime. Adam and Eve had proved disobedient and rebellious, but they had not shed blood. Together, our first parents and Cain broke the two great commandments: love of God and love of neighbor. More than that - Cain began the ecological despoliation of the earth. "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the earth!" This is something we don't fully understand, but when murder is rampant upon the earth, we butcher the ecosphere, and indeed, the cosmos also. Murderers can't do else but hack at the earth, and therefore, at their own bones and sinews. Hence, mass murder, and consequentially global warming, melting icecaps, floods, droughts, earth quakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, heatwaves, rising oceans, etc.

But one must turn to the 8th chapter of John's Gospel for Jesus to teach us the dimensions of killing. In a fierce controversy with the rulers, Jesus connects lying and murder and states that both amount to devil worship. God is his father; their's is the devil. "Satan was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character because he is a liar and the father of lies." (Jn. 8:40-44)

They are trying to kill him, and this lethal intention enslaves them to lying and demonism. You will recall that our life struggle is not with one another, but with the demons, the principalities and powers. You will also recall the temptations of Christ, (cf. Luke 4:5-7) that God has turned the world over to the demons, simply to enhance our fidelity and freedom. How then do we demythologize and render impotent the demons in our lives? By banishing any taint of killing and any complicity in the killing of others. As the Buddhist formula goes: "I will not kill and I will prevent others from killing!"

We are a society of killers, and our killing fields are now global. We are a gun people - little guns and big guns, and our guns are driving us mad. Daily, official killers strut before my consciousness, a national landscape teeming with killers, all of whom wear a price tag or are victims of neurosis, or worse. They parade from the White House, Pentagon, Congress, Department of Energy, Supreme Court, Warmaking Corporations, Veterans' Groups, National Guards, Militias. God loves these killers - so must we. Should we pray daily for them? Yes, the Sermon on the Mount enjoins that (Mt. 5:44). They persecute us; they are our enemies; they lie to us, betray us, and, with their wars and weapons, take measures to kill us. But we commend them to God and toil for their conversion, while resisting their killing. For they kill with our authority; they kill with our silence and money; they kill in our name.

Let me repeat - they are killing us. I recall Lord Bertrand Russell, renowned philosopher and mathematician, Peer of the Realm, writing from Brixton Jail in London after civil disobedience at the War Ministry: "Kennedy and Khrushchev,  Macmillan and Gaitskell, DeGaulle and Adenauer (all members of the nuclear club) are taking measure to kill us all."

Another example, the Warsaw Ghetto, citied by Dr. Rosalie Bertell in her book, No Immediate Danger.  After the Nazis conquered Poland and invaded the USSR, they herded hundreds of thousands of Jews into the Warsaw Ghetto. There, they granted empty concessions while keeping a stranglehold on food (a starvation diet) and communications with the outside world. Weakened and beguiled, the people believed them, even believed the promise of resettlement on liberated Soviet land. Meanwhile, the Nazis feverishly completed the death camps and began the selections, usually 10,000 in number. One man was suspicious, escaped from the Ghetto, followed the tracks and discovered the camps and mass murder. When he returned to the Ghetto and told of his experience, people went into denial and disbelief. False hope remained widespread until Jan.'43 when the Jewish Combat Organization fought back for the first time. In April '43, SS attempts to deport more Jews to the death camps encountered armed resistance. In reprisal, the Nazis fired the Ghetto, blew up sewers and machine gunned women, children and old people. 65,000 Jews died. A handful escaped and survived to tell of this savage attempt at genocide.

Bertell's point is clear. The world is now an enormous ghetto, where people repeat the credulity of the Jews - thinking our leaders wish us well, tell us the truth, fabricate, deploy, and use nuclear weapons to protect us. They ask some to design them, others to build them, others to explode them, everyone to pay for them - everyone to maintain a hushed silence, a trust usually reserved for God alone. The reality is what Chomsky calls "the manufacture of consent."

Meanwhile, they trash every commandment of God, launch a new war every year, loot the treasury, neglect education, health and the environment and pillage the earth, under a blanket of annihilatory weapons.

It appears to me that Lord Russell was prophetic: "The American pharaohs are taking measures to kill us all!" Dr. Bertell too is right: the world is a ghetto, with only a tiny fraction aware of the proximity of nuclear war, and even less of the relentless saturation of the planet with ionizing radiation. Even friends and relatives stricken by the cancer epidemic are invariably  unaware.

(Even if we were to agree with Dr. Bertell's estimate - 30.5 million victims from 57 years of nuclearism, that would leave the U.S. with roughly 250,000 victims annually, i.e., for each of 57 years. I think her figure cautiously low - scientists say that Chernobyl alone claimed nine million victims). Whatever the case, 250,000 annually is an incomprehensible crime.

At this point, let us try to understand how 57 years of nuclearism has degraded the earth into a toxic cesspool. The nuclear club has staged 1,900 atmospheric and underground tests, over 1/2 of them conducted by the U.S. These tests generate terrific heat which plummets tons of radioactive garbage into the stratosphere, the west/east winds distribute it and then it sifts down into soil, air, and water.

Since World War II, there have been four nuclear wars, all conducted by the U.S., the latest in Afghanistan; the last three wars employed Depleted Uranium weapons. I should mention the one ton D.U. earth and rock penetrating bombs that we exploded in the Indus Mountains, separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, trying to kill Al Quaida fighters. Snows from the Indus Mountains water most of Pakistan's agricultural lands, inevitably poisoning it with a mammoth residue of radiation. Pentagon spin doctors refuse to admit that D.U. shells and bombs are nuclear weapons. One should ask the vicitms - Iraqis, Yugoslavians, Afghans, American, NATO and British troops, and now, Pakistanis. No one can escape it - it has a half life of 4.5 billion years. See how our peerless leaders love us - how they kill us, with the best of motivation always.

The U.S. possesses 103 functional nuclear power plants, producing electricity "too cheap to meter. " These energetically poison air, soil, water, and vegetation in their immediate radius. No one, moreover, knows what to do with their waste - Yucca Mountain is an expensive and hazardous boondoggle.

To continue - the Department of Energy has shamelessly admitted that 103 of its 149 nuclear weapons complexes are so irradiated that they can't be cleaned up. Eventually, DOE will declare them national sacrifice zones, and cordone them off from the public. Add to all that, the 7 - 8 million tons of exposed uranium tailings scattered around the planet, vulnerable to the elements, and so, sifting into air, soil, and water.

It's a wonder that not more of us are not sick or dying. Ionizing radiation enervates the human gene pool, and it weakens our immune systems It is directly responsible for global cancer epidemics, and a new and bewildering host of allergies. It is indirectly responsible for HIV-AIDS, now spreading pell-mell from Africa to China and Russia.

A word about intention, for it's our idolatrous intention to possess the bomb and to explode it in certain circumstances that imperils us. Richard McSorley, a Jesuit priest and friend, wrote this about the bomb: "It is the taproot of violence!" He meant the intention to possess the bomb and use it breeds every other violence: guns on the street, war, political ambiguity and cowardice, charades of religion, public paralysis, ravaging of the earth. It trashes the moral order, creating disorder and lunacies of every kind. It declares war on God, God's people and God's creation. It plunges the U.S. and the world into moral, social, and political madness.

What shall we do in fidelity to God and in justice to one another? We renounce killing - killing on the street, killing in war, killing of the unborn, of the elderly. We embrace God's "Thou shalt not kill!" with all our hearts, prayer, action. Furthermore, we prevent the government from killing - no money for the American killing machine, no silence before its crimes - nothing but inspired nonviolent resistance. What if every Jew and Christian said and meant: "Not in my name!"

We can discuss factors of non cooperation and direct action leading to a national strike. The soft underbelly of what Dorothy Day called "the filthy rotten system" is the economy. The economy is also the underpinning of the nuclear strike force and the conventional killing machine, which, you may agree, must eventually be dismantled. Foremost in the movement to disarm nuclear weapons is Plowshares - Plowshares on three continents - symbolic yet real disarmament of First Strike nuclear weapons, all 78 in number. I for one envision a national strike spearheaded by a voluntary slash in consumerism, and by  direct action, especially civil resistance, especially Plowshares. We have much to ponder, pray over and discuss. Thanks for your good hearts.