As the name implies, the massive 14-part feature entitled “The Prophets of Oak Ridge” is a religion story from start to finish, drenched in biblical references, hymns and personal testimonies. This is the story of three anti-nuclear protestors — 83-year-old Sister Megan Gillespie Rice, 64-year-old Michael Robin Walli and 57-year-old Gregory Irwin Boertje-Obed. The story details their successful attempt to embarrass the U.S. government by breaking into the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in East Tennessee.
Now, if you look up the term hagiography in a dictionary, you will find something like this:
ha·gi·og·ra·phy … noun …
1: biography of saints or venerated persons
2: idealizing or idolizing biography
That’s exactly what we are dealing with here, in this feature that runs 9,000-plus words and is illustrated with cartoonish, yet powerfully iconic, drawings and photos.
Frankly, this is fine with me, seeing as how I am someone who has always been sympathetic to the views of the people who are often called “consistent” pro-lifers, the folks who are opposed to the death penalty, as well as to abortion, who worry about tobacco subsidies in the national budget as well as aid to Planned Parenthood. As I have said many times, my own views were changed by the famous Sojourners issue about abortion in 1980 (specifically the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s piece on legalized abortion as a form of institutionalized racism).
So this story was, for me, totally fascinating. Throw in the fact that I have happily lived in East Tennessee, and plan to return to the Volunteer State sooner or later, and this piece rang lots of bells.
So what is my concern about this one? Well, I do have one major question.
More on that later, after a few clips that establish the tone of the piece — right from the start.
Last summer, in the dead of night, three peace activists penetrated the exterior of Y-12 in Tennessee, supposedly one of the most secure nuclear-weapons facilities in the United States. A drifter, an 82-year-old nun and a house painter. They face trial next week on charges that fall under the sabotage section of the U.S. criminal code. And if they had been terrorists armed with explosives, intent on mass destruction? That nightmare scenario underlies the government’s response to the intrusion. This is the story of two competing worldviews, of conscience vs. court, of fantasy vs. reality, of history vs. the future.
And here is an early passage that establishes the angels vs. demons theme that runs through the whole piece.