A Higher Loyalty

Civil disobedience is not a new issue for us at Sojourners. From our earliest days we have published articles about the Christian's relationship to the state and the biblical basis for civil disobedience, issued calls for nonviolent resistance to particular government policies, and covered the witness of Christians involved in civil disobedience. Because of the heightened consciousness of the nuclear threat and the strength of Christian response to it, more and more people in the churches are ready to consider civil disobedience as an option for registering their opposition to the nuclear arms race.

A central reality of the arms race is that, by United States domestic laws, it is perfectly legal. Many Christians have challenged nuclear weapons on the basis of moral or international law, but neither argument has been accepted in U.S. courts. Not only does the law of the land make clear that there is no illegality in the escalation of nuclear weapons, it also upholds the arms race by collecting and appropriating our tax dollars for nuclear weapons, shrouding decision-making regarding nuclear policy in a veil of secrecy, and keeping people outside the fences and boundaries of nuclear facilities.

A.J. Muste, a leading figure in resistance to America's wars from World War I to Vietnam, has said: "Non-conformity, Holy Disobedience, becomes a virtue, indeed a necessary and indispensable measure of spiritual self-preservation, in a day when the impulse to conform, to acquiesce, to go along, is used as an instrument to subject men [sic] to totalitarian rule and involve them in permanent war."

Increasing numbers of Christians are finding that a serious commitment to peacemaking will ultimately lead them to confront the question of civil disobedience. To say no to nuclear weapons means to say no to the habits, assumptions, and laws that make their existence possible.

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