“But what did you think you were doing in that draft board?” I always anticipate this question. And here is where you have to be patient with me as I guide you through my journey. I ask for your patience because almost everything I am going to say as I explain myself will seem wrong-headed, counter to how you’ve been educated, and fraught with consequences and challenges you might prefer not to face.
So, the simple answer to the draft raid question is that I was performing a healing and wholeness ritual (at that time I felt it as a holiness ritual). Yes, I know that it was a felonious act of “breaking and entering” with the destruction of government property. That was exactly how the prosecutor presented “the facts.” Nevertheless, I hold that the draft raid was my first dwelling peacefully at-home on the Living Earth, sensual preciousness ritual of Belovedness—although, again, I did not have those terms back then. In short, to understand why it was, for me, a healing, wholeness, and holiness ritual will give you a sense of how I think and interpret matters.
I participated in several quite successful draft board raids from February to July of 1970. As it is today, American society was steeped in a savage Warrior tradition—Earthfolk’s “Warrior’s Quest”—whose most popular icon, then, was John Wayne. The Catholic Church was likewise steeped in this Warrior’s Quest tradition, expressed as "Atonement theology," whose most popular religious icon was, and remains, the “milites Christi” or Soldier of Christ—and the Protestant “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and all that. When it came to forwarding reasons for me to kill you, each savage Warrior tradition provided plenty of intellectual, moral and spiritual ammo. You were my target either as an Enemy of the State or an Enemy of Christ. Personally, I first opposed the Call to kill you by getting the State to recognize my claim for Conscientious Objector status. This was an argument that the Christian tradition was, at its core, a religion of peace not war. I claimed that Jesus was a pacifistic leader who made a compelling distinction about what needed to be “rendered unto Caesar.” I claimed that the Christian tradition required that I “render unto God” what was His right and only His right, that is, to take a life. Eventually, I was granted my CO (Conscientious Objector) status. It is somewhat ironic that I completed my military obligation through two years of Alternative Service. I did not resist the Draft—I am not a “draft resister” nor a “draft evader.” I am a draft raider. (See trial documents, including appellate briefs of prosecution and defense on http://www.minnesota8.net)
Although, through my Alternative Service, I had avoided combat, I realized that I was still killing you. I was doing so through the actions of others, of those still being drafted and those waging war. (As explained in more detail in an unpublished memoir on the Minnesota 8 website, a returning in-country, Search and Destroy, burn ‘em, kill ‘em Marine brought the battlefield into my office ... and challenged me to do more than sit on the sidelines!) Somehow I had failed. How?
I realized that I had been, in a term of the day, “pacified” by the government. Somehow, instead of having an impact, I had been neutralized. I was perplexed. I had waged my nonviolent war against the violent war by a holy act of moral resistance. Or had I? Here is where I began to understand a term and reality which plays a significant role in the interpretations made on the Earthfolk site. I grasped that I had swallowed—hook, line and sinker —a story of misdirection.
A story of misdirection is one which appears, on the surface, to be saying “this” but actually conveys, below the surface or subliminally, a quite contrary “that.” The story of misdirection, in my case, was the Catholic Church’s claim that its Tradition contained the rituals which made the holiness of God present. In its own language, the Catholic Church calls these rituals “sacraments.” There are seven sacraments which “make holy” and “make God present” at distinct phases in one’s personal growth. These include sacraments for birth and dying, for atonement and reconciliation, at the moment of marrying, and for expressing a common bond with other believers. During my trial, the federal prosecutor mocked me by stating to the jury that, “Mr. Kroncke is trying to create the eighth sacrament!” More than either he or I knew at the time, he was right.
As draft age men came and went through my office at the Catholic student center at the University of Minnesota, called a Newman Center, I realized the depth of my failure. What had I achieved by obtaining a Conscientious Objector status other than protecting myself? Nothing I had done could protect these young men from going forth and hunting you down. When I told them about my CO status and my Alternative Service they expressed admiration and congratulated me on getting out of having to go to Vietnam, but it didn’t speak to their particular dilemma. Most would step back and say something to the effect that they wished that they were as educated and articulate as I was, but that they couldn’t do what I did. Somehow what I was doing as a Conscientious Objector was not morally or spiritually contagious!
In light of my religious background, I prayed, preached at endless Peace Masses, sang rousing anti-war hymns, and wrote letters to the editor. However, the war increasingly escalated and the body bags swelled and multiplied. Worse, despite statements against the war by the Catholic Bishops and other religious authorities, no one who exercised spiritual authority or power was effective or listened to by the government.
Here is how my thinking, but more notably my holiness experience, began to change. At this time I began to doubt that I had ever been in a holy place, despite my several years in the monastery and in numerous churches at Daily Mass. Here is when I began to see the breadth and depth of the story of spiritual misdirection which had fooled me.
In simple terms, the Church’s “seven sacraments” were empty. They were ceremonial performances but they were not truly sacramental, that is, they did not make present “God” or any healing, making whole or holy power. They misdirected me away from where the holy power which binds and makes whole (makes One) a society and a people actually resides. Consider that I could have stood on a street corner and desecrated the Bible (or any holy books of other spiritual traditions) and what would have happened? People might shout that I was a hate monger. Or that I was racist. Someone might come up and try to smack me. But what would the police do? Nothing.
Now, consider that I had taken out my draft card and burned it. That I had called to the crowd to do the same, and shouted for them to Resist! the draft. If I did that, the police and FBI would rush from the crowd with handcuffs and chains, twist my arms around my back, possibly throw me to the ground, even pull out their guns, and speedily whisk me off to sit in an iron cage. Which act, then, would have told you that I had made present the power which gives and takes life? Which act was truly holy and wholeness rendering, in that it expressed the deep beliefs and moral values of a people, here, a people at war? Beliefs and values which, once challenged—Resist!—put the protester’s life in harm’s way?
You deepen your understanding of the ritual character of the military draft when you realize that its Registration is the only universal act which every male, at 18 years of age, must do under penalty of imprisonment or exile. Certain individuals will receive deferments, such as paraplegics, the mentally impaired, and seminary students. (Yes, “Divinity” students!). What an 18 year old cannot do, however, is not register. The act of registering is, then, a “sacramental” ritual act which binds all males and makes each present to the other as a savage Warrior (and a potential intimate enemy). As you explore the Earthfolk vision, you will be asked to examine the many rituals of your current way of living (called worldviews and Big Stories). At present, I anticipate that your immediate response is more than likely, “I don’t have any rituals.” I accept that challenge, but just walk down the Earthfolk Pathways with an open mind.
Now you can begin to understand how the Earthfolk vision was seeded in my personal life. During the draft raid, I was conducting a ritual which sought to make present you as “not my intimate enemy.” I was attempting to make present your and my preciousness. I took your draft card and your 1-A files, which held your letter of “Greetings” from Uncle Sam, and destroyed them. By doing so I proclaimed and made present to you yourself as Beloved. I called you to step forward and refuse induction into the military, and by so doing proclaim that you accepted yourself as Beloved, and that you ceased to see other people as intimate enemy.
This is what I was doing back then, but I did not have the Earthfolk vision or its language to share with you. Back then, I could only speak through my Roman Catholic voice, and I talked about “allegiance to a higher power” and that, “It was necessary to break the law of the State to be faithful to the higher law of the Church.” I tried to speak with an American voice which spoke of a tradition of non-violent resistance to social evils, such as slavery. But, in the end, the Church leaders ignored me, issued orders to prevent me from preaching, and condemned me through their collective silence. In like manner, the Judge, in his Instructions to the Jury, stated, “Everything which Mr. Kroncke has said here for the last eight days you must consider to be irrelevant and immaterial.” I entered prison, vision-less and voiceless. I hit The Bottom.
You can see why I began to realize that the world wasn’t exactly operating the way I thought it should be! I had naively anticipated that the Church would support my theological defense. After all I had been a faithful son and dedicated theologian. More, I had expected some response from political leaders who, so I believed, would awaken to the truths Resisters were proclaiming, namely, that the Vietnam War was illegal since it had never been declared, and that the Selective Service System was unconstitutional. But since neither had taken hold, I had to ponder, How does the world work? Why is Democracy always at war? Where is God?