Once the 2009 PLC retreat planning committee chose the theme, “Resisting With Our Lives,” we knew we’d want Shelley Douglass to share with us her experience and understanding of how spirituality relates to nonviolence within the everyday-ness of a life lived to promote social justice.
Shelley Douglass lives with her husband Jim Douglass at Mary’s House Catholic Worker in Birmingham, Alabama, offering hospitality to homeless families and acting for nonviolence and peace.
Many of us know the Douglasses through their early organizing work to form the Pacific Northwest region of the original Pacific Life Community. Marianne Arbogast writes in the “By Whose Authority?”-themed March 2000 issue of ‘The Witness’ the following opening to her article, “Offering a gospel-based, personal challenge to wrongful authority“:
Within the faith-based peace movement, the voices of Jim and Shelley Douglass carry a great deal of authority. Co-founders of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, next to the Trident nuclear submarine base near Seattle, Wash., the Douglasses helped build a community of resistance that spanned 250 towns and cities along the railroad tracks traveled by the “White Train” which transported nuclear weapons to the base. Living in a house so close to the tracks that it shook with each passing train, they vigiled at the base, engaged their neighbors who worked there in serious and respectful dialogue and went to jail repeatedly for praying on the forbidden side of the fence. Through their writing and speaking–Jim Douglass has written four books on the theology of nonviolence and, with Shelley Douglass, co-authored a fifth–they have offered support and guidance to many whose consciences have put them in conflict with the authority of the state.
Read on in this article from ‘The Witness’ to learn more about Shelley’s background, life influences, and her distinction between power and authority.
In 1988, Jim and Shelley Douglass wrote in their book, Dear Gandhi, What Now?,
“In response to this concern, nine people came together to form Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Ground Zero, a piece of land sharing 330 feet of barbed-wire fence with the Trident base, gave us the opportunity to have a continuous nonviolent presence in the county, and to form friendships with those whose work we resisted. We made the down payment on the Ground Zero property in 1977, committing ourselves to a long-term presence in this Navy-dominated area. We wanted to experiment with Gandhi’s idea that the enemy has a piece of the truth, and with the religious teaching of love for the enemy. We wanted to learn to walk the fine line between hating the sin and loving the sinner, recognizing that we, too, were complicit in violence and thus also sinners.”
More of this history can be found in this section of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action website.
Finally, here we see some of Shelley’s day-to-day work: speaking up to protect life as profoundly changable through mercy. In the Birmingham News, November 18, 2007, in her article named, “Don’t write off a life, no matter how easy it might be to do so,” Shelley concludes,
Human beings cannot erase the evil they have done, but with God’s help they can overcome the evil in themselves and in others with good. We should not allow our own hard-heartedness to blind us to God’s mercy.
Join Shelley Douglass and others February 27 through March 1, 2009 for the Pacific Life Community Annual Retreat, “Resisting With Our Lives,” to share more about how to prevent our own hard-heartedness.