Jesuit speaker to bring message of nonviolence

Priest and Jesuit maverick the Rev. John Dear will bring his message of extreme peace and pacifism to Marquette Thursday.

"If we want to follow the nonviolent Jesus, we have to stand against war and injustice for the rest of our lives," Dear said. "We can never support any war or nuclear weapons ever again."

Dear has spent much of his life working for peace. As a result of some his peaceful protests, he has been arrested over 75 times, by his estimate.

"I'm a full-fledged ex-con," he said. "I'm a criminal. I'm as high up as criminals go, a judge once told me."

Dear said while he does many legal peace activities, such as prayer vigils, letter-writing campaigns and giving sermons, he has also participated in illegal activities.

"I've found that sooner or later you have to cross the line and break the laws which legalize mass murder," Dear said.

For instance, a prayer session Dear held on the grounds of a Nevada bomb testing site got him thrown in jail for a day, and peaceful demonstrations he's staged at the White House, the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol building have also gotten him in legal trouble.

"That doesn't go over well," he said. "They don't want to hear what we have to say."

Dear once faced 20 years in jail for hitting a fighter plane on a North Carolina military base with a hammer as part of a demonstration with the Plowshares movement, which encourages transforming military weapons into farming implements per the biblical reference in the book of Isaiah. He ended up serving eight months in jail, nine months under house arrest and three years probation.

"The government considers me a terrorist," Dear said, adding that he can no longer vote and is restricted in his travel.

Dear pointed out college students don't have to go to such extreme measures in the name of peace, but can start working for peace and justice in smaller ways.

"Joining a local peace group is important so you can find out what is happening locally and make friends with people who are also interested in peace and justice," Dear said. Studying the lives and works of famous peace activists such as Mohandas Gandhi, Dorothy Day or Martin Luther King Jr. is also important, he said.

The Office of University Ministry, which is one of the organizations sponsoring Dear's visit to campus, has brought Dear to campus before and isn't concerned about what some have called his controversial message, according to Assistant Director Gerry Fischer.

"I think that he really expresses the call of Christ to challenge what's going on the world," Fischer said. "It's a challenge to be nonviolent. And the way our culture is going right now, (nonviolence) really is a counter-cultural act.

"I feel comfortable allowing for him to speak," he said. "He's not speaking on our behalf, he's speaking on his conviction. If he raises some issues for us to consider, so be it."