Nuns and Big Guns
I had the good fortune of visiting a tiny town in Washington state called Poulsbo. It’s a charming country town with an old-fashioned bakery where cherry pie sells for $.99 a slice. I went there to interview a 70-something-year-old nun and her partner, Sue. The directions they gave were something like, “turn left at the gun shop and it’s right next to the power plant.” What I saw there was amazing, inspiring, and heroic, filled with a spirit of hope about the impact an ordinary person can have in this life, a sort of a modern story of David and Goliath, but with a female lead.
Jackie Hudson is a Catholic nun who I met in a federal prison while visiting a friend. She is part of a famous case in Colorado, convicted with two other nuns of breaking into a missile site and pouring out their blood in the shape of a cross as a protest for peace. They also hammered gently on a nuclear warhead as a reference to the passage in Isaiah, “and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares.” (Isaiah 2:4)
A convicted felon, Jackie is the most lighthearted and fun nun you could ever hope to meet. She’s been arrested somewhere between 35 and 50 times. Her life’s work is anti-nuclear protest and yet she loves life. She and her partner Sue envisioned and built a center for peace that they call Ground Zero. Just across their property line is the third largest nuclear facility in the world. Only a cyclone fence separates the living room of their center and the nuclear site. This is the home of the Trident nuclear submarine base, strategically positioned so that submarines twice the size of football fields and loaded with nuclear missiles can navigate down the peninsula’s deep waterways.
Their lives are a testament to faith and the hope of ordinary people and the small acts that can change the world. I find it so beautiful that ordinary human beings with no power and no money would set up a house and a Center for Peace in their retirement years right next to nuclear warheads. For me, this is a deeply spiritual act. They are living their convictions. No matter what the outcome, these modern day David’s are doing what is just, what is right, and making their lives a stance for peace. What could be more spiritual than that?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK, Jr. – The quote at the end of Jackie’s email.