Protest, Performance, and Religious Identity in the Nuclear Age
By (author) Kristen Tobey
Publication date:28 July 2016
Length of book:184 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
In September 1980, eight Catholic activists made their way into a Pennsylvania General Electric plant housing parts for nuclear missiles. Evading security guards, these activists pounded on missile nose cones with hammers and then covered the cones in their own blood. This act of nonviolent resistance was their answer to calls for prophetic witness in the Old Testament: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.”
Plowshares explores the closely interwoven religious and social significance of the group’s use of performance to achieve its goals. It looks at the group’s acts of civil disobedience, such as that undertaken at the GE plant in 1980, and the Plowshares’ behavior at the legal trials that result from these protests. Interpreting the Bible as a mandate to enact God’s kingdom through political resistance, the Plowshares work toward “symbolic disarmament,” with the aim of eradicating nuclear weapons.
Plowshares activists continue to carry out such “divine obediences” against facilities where equipment used in the production or deployment of nuclear weapons is manufactured or stored. Whether one agrees or disagrees with their actions, this volume helps us better understand their motivations, logic, identity, and ultimate goal.
—Greg Johnson, author of Sacred Claims: Repatriation and Living Tradition