As the nuclear arms race exploded in the 1980s, a group of U.S. religious pacifists used radical nonviolence to intervene. Armed with hammers, they broke into military facilities to pound on missiles and pour blood on bombers, enacting the prophet Isaiah’s vision: “Nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Calling themselves the Plowshares movement, these controversial activists received long prison sentences; nonetheless, their movement grew and expanded to Europe and Australia. In this book, Sharon Erickson Nepstad documents the emergence and international diffusion of this unique form of high-risk collective action. Drawing on in-depth interviews, original survey research, and archival data, Nepstad explains why some Plowshares groups have persisted over time while others have struggled or collapsed. Comparing the U.S. movement with less successful Plowshares groups overseas, Nepstad reveals how decisions about leadership, organization, retention, and cultural adaptations influence movements’ long-term trajectories.
1. Challenges and trajectories; 2. Historical development of the U.S. Plowshares Movement; 3. Tactical legitimation and the theology of resistance; 4. Sustaining commitment; 5. Death of a charismatic leader; 6. Intermittent resistance: the German, Dutch, and Australian Plowshares Movements; 7. Internal tensions and implosion: the Swedish Plowshares Movement; 8. Witnessing or winning? The British Plowshares Movement; 9. From failed attempts to persistent resistance: understanding divergent movement trajectories.
2009 Winner, Outstanding Book Award of the Peace, War, and Social Conflict Section, American Sociological Association
“This original and intensely compelling study breaks new ground in the study of the emergence and international spread of religious radical activism. A sophisticated exploration of how emotion, moral principles, and personal ties bring people into high-risk activism and what sustains them over time.”
-Kathleen Blee, University of Pittsburgh
“Starting in the United States, small groups of religious people attacked weapons of mass destruction with small hammers and their own blood. Sharon Nepstad tells the compelling story of how this movement spread around the world, adapting different forms depending upon the religious and political setting. She gives voice to these activists, but rather than simply turning then into heroes or cranks, she explains the roots of their sustained activism. She convincingly shows how a sort of religious faith, even the faith of atheists, allows people to continue their efforts despite significant shifts in political opportunity. This is a fascinating book, essential for anyone who wants to make sense of long term political commitment in hard times.”
-David S. Meyer, University of California at Irvine
“This is a wonderful read. Theoretically sophisticated, insightful in its conclusions about why some movements endure,Religion and War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement is also a fascinating account of people whose activism is, to many, enigmatic. In Nepstad's fine rendering, religious pacifists' determination to act without concern for the consequences, indeed, their eager contemplation of arrest and conviction, become not strange but admirable.”
-Francesca Polletta, University of California at Irvine
"As a whole, the book offers an in-depth examination of the US Plowshares movement throughout history and a comparative analysis of divergent pathways that the international Plowshare movements took. In addition, she extends her analysis by offering a compelling and theoretically informed discussion of movement trajectories over time." -Canadian Journal of Sociology
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'Established by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day in the early 1930s, The Catholic Worker Movement is a Christian movement dedicated to nonviolence and simple living. Over 130 Catholic Worker communities exist in the United States where "houses of hospitality" care for the homeless. The Joe Hill House of hospitality (which closed in 1968) in Salt Lake City, Utah featured an enormous twelve feet by fifteen foot mural of Jesus Christ and Joe Hill.
The Catholic Worker Movement has consistently protested against war and violence for over seven decades. Many of the leading figures in the movement have been both anarchists and pacifists.'
• Ciaron O'Reilly explains what the Catholic Worker Ploughshares do to US Military Planes parked in Ireland...
• Ciaron O'Reilly's Speech at Pine Gap US Spy Base (Australia)