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Pilgrimage through a Burning World

Spiritual Practice and Nonviolent Protest at the Nevada Test Site

Ken Butigan

Publication Year: 2003

For two decades the Nevada Desert Experience has organized nonviolent action at the Nevada Test Site as part of the global movement to end nuclear testing. Pilgrimage through a Burning World illuminates how the Franciscan-based group has crafted a contemporary desert spirituality that integrates religious ritual and political action to grapple with the challenges of an institutionalized and internalized nuclear world. Ken Butigan shows how the annual pilgrimage to the test site has contributed to the personal transformation of people “on both sides of the fence” at the test site and to the worldwide emergence of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

For over two decades the Nevada Desert Experience has organized nonviolent direct action at the Nevada Test Site as part of the global movement to end nuclear testing. Nevada Desert Experience (NDE), a Franciscan-based organization, consciously integrates religious ritual and political action at the gates of the United States government’s...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

I wish to acknowledge those associated with the Lenten Desert Experience and the Nevada Desert Experience who have been helpful with this project, including Anne Symens-Bucher, Michael Affleck, Louie Vitale, O.F.M., Duncan MacMurdy, Rosemary Lynch, O.S.F., Terry Symens, Ed Dunn, Julia Occhiogrosso, Daniel Ellsberg, David Buer...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-20

On the last night of the twentieth century, the Nevada desert sky is large and clear and rich with countless stars. Our passenger van rumbles northward along Interstate 95, the razor-thin ribbon of highway that traverses the seemingly endless desert of the Great Basin. Behind us...

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C H A P T E R 1

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pp. 21-43

“So this is how it feels,” Mary Ann Cejka thought, as she stared down at the handcuffs loosely fastened about her wrists. Writing about the act of nonviolent civil disobedience she took part in at the Nevada Test Site the first week of January, 1986, Ms. Cejka mused how, strangely, “I felt perfectly calm as I waited my turn to be frisked by a...

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C H A P T E R 2

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pp. 45-72

In 1981 Louis Vitale received a letter from the Minister-General in Rome calling on Franciscans throughout the world to sponsor creative projects to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis in 1982.1 Vitale—a friar who had a long history of peace and justice activism and at the time was the provincial of the Franciscan Friars’ St...

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C H A P T E R 3

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pp. 73-97

The six-week Lenten Desert Experience held in 1982 was conceived of as a one-time event. The power of those forty-seven days in the Nevada desert, however, moved some of the participants to begin considering a more consistent witness. In 1983 a shorter vigil was organized during the last two weeks of Lent. The following year, Lenten Desert...

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C H A P T E R 4

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pp. 99-127

For two decades, the Nevada Desert Experience has woven together religious symbols, spiritual rituals, and political action to create practices appropriate to the context: a nuclear test site preparing for nuclear war. In the following chapters, we explore three of these practices— the stations of the nuclear cross, faith-based nonviolent civil...

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C H A P T E R 5

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pp. 129-156

Contemporary practices of nonviolent action have been shaped within the context of a recent thoroughgoing rereading of Christian sources and history. From understanding the parables of Jesus as forms of “subversive speech,”2 to disclosing the radical inclusivity of the primitive community,3 to rediscovering the Second Testament’s preferential...

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C H A P T E R 6

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pp. 157-175

The “Nevada desert experience” does not take place for most participants in familiar territory. Leaving home, NDE participants journey by various routes to the Great Basin, keep vigil, engage in personal and corporate prayer and ritual, possibly serve time in jail, and then make their way home. For many, this process...

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Conclusion

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pp. 177-187

The Nevada Desert Experience has not been without its critics. Some have felt that its activity at the test site has been overly routinized and predictable. Others have argued that NDE has been content to organize “faithful witness” rather than to devise a serious political strategy. For example, one of the organization’s founders, Duncan...

Notes

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pp. 189-217

Bibliography

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pp. 219-227

Index

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pp. 229-234

Images

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pp. P1-P15


E-ISBN-13: 9780791486504
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457771
Print-ISBN-10: 079145777X

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 15 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2003