Jesuit priest John Dear is a simple man. For someone bearing the intellectual acumen flowing from many rigorous years of Jesuit formation, he articulates a theology reduced to the most basic of propositions. To be a follower of Jesus, Dear reminds us, requires a life that weaves together the sacred strands of prayer, poverty, and resistance.
John Dear has been expressing his passionate faith in this basic creed for many years now, through his seven books, numerous articles, and countless talks, workshops, and retreats. The most recent installment is his journal from within North Carolina jails, Peace Behind Bars: A Peacemaking Priests Journal From Jail. If one picks up this volume with the hope of finding a new theological statement, one might be disappointed. Dears latest writing is not a treatise, but a deeply personal, prayerful record of one mans journey into the heart of darkness.
On Pearl Harbor day 1993, Dear, along with Philip Berrigan, Lynn Fredricksson, and Bruce Friedrich, entered Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina in obedience to the biblical mandate to beat swords into plowshares. All four were veterans of nonviolent direct action. For Dear, though, the commitment to the unknowable outcome of a Plowshares action transformed this event into a shattering experience. Once the brilliance and exhilaration of the action itself have passed, Dear contemplates the prospect of up to 20 years in jail. The challenge before me is not only to survive, but to use this incarceration as an opportunity of grace and spiritual growth.