Christians should be in jail, peace activist tells students

by Joshua J. McElwee

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His hands kept moving. As he leaned into the podium they just wouldn't stop. In one moment they were pointing to a student in the front row. In the next they were making fists near his chest. They flew back and forth with a weight about them. They had their own gravitational pull.

Maybe that's what was drawing hushed attention his way.

As Frank Cordaro talked, the undergraduate students at Avila University weren't just listening. They were absorbing.

With a title like "Following the Nonviolent Jesus: Why Christians Should Be In Jail," maybe that's to be expected.

Cordaro, who was speaking to an audience of undergraduate students, local activists, and religious at the Kansas City, Mo. university Sept. 23, covered the gamut of Christian history to support his unusual claim that more Christians should be in jail.

A peace activist and member of the Des Moines, Iowa Catholic Worker community, Cordaro said the history of the church, all the way back to the resurrection of Christ, is one of radical civil disobedience in the name of peace.

"The act of rising from the dead is an act of civil of civil disobedience," said Cordaro in his talk. "If you rise from the dead, you're breaking the law. When Jesus broke the seal on his tomb he openly defied the Roman authorities."

In his time with the students, Cordaro also urged them to "put [their] skin on the line" for all issues of life.

"Abortion is war as war is abortion," Cordaro said.

Cordaro's talk was his second of the day at the university, which is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Earlier in the afternoon he spoke to about 50 students during a lecture titled "Civil Disobedience: An American Tradition."

The activist was brought to the university with the help of the Kansas City Peace Planters, a group of activists who are resisting plans to build a new nuclear weapons facility in the city.

Currently a part of the Bannister Federal Complex, located about 13 miles south of the city’s downtown area, the Kansas City Plant is responsible for the production and assembly of approximately 85 percent of the nonnuclear components for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The plant is set to be relocated beginning in 2012 to a new facility farther south.

Eight activists were arrested Sept. 8 for blocking access to the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new building.

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