Pilgrimage Through a Burning World

Pilgrimage Through a Burning World


by Ken Butigan

“Look at the desert today,” Thomas Merton wrote in the early 1950s. “It is the birthplace of a new and terrible creation, the testing-ground of the power by which people seek to un-create what God has blessed.”

This book is a compelling and insightful account of how the Nevada Desert Experience—the nonviolent protest against nuclear testing that has been ongoing since the 1980s—has created a unique spiritual practice combining religious ritual and political action.

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.

“Ken Butigan captures moving first-person accounts of contemporary acts of faith and conscience of people who were involved in the Nevada Desert Experience. In view of the current SDI procurement, this is an important and provocative book.” — Martin Sheen

“The Cold War may be over, but the nuclear threat still looms large. Ken Butigan’s reflections on the Nevada Test Site protests document an important new chapter in the history of nonviolent social action.  Through a series of anthropological and theological speculations—coupled with photographs and first-person accounts—Butigan argues that this unique desert pilgrimage/social action reflects a new post-nuclear asceticism capable of bringing traditional spiritual longings into dialogue with contemporary political realities.” — Robert Inchausti, author of Thomas Merton’s American Prophecy

Read John Dear’s book review of Pilgrimage Through a Burning World here.

Paperback, 234 pages

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