Gandhi’s Gift to Donald Trump

In the strange tale this week of the Trumps’ visit to India, they stopped by Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. Trump forgot to mention Gandhi in his speech and in the visitor’s book.

However, Kartikeya Sarabhai, a trustee of the ashram, didn’t forget who Donald Trump was. The ashram chose a very special gift for the Donald. Sarabhai said the ashram gave Trump and engraved copy of Gandhi’s “Talisman,” which he wrote in August 1947.

Gandhi wrote:

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”–One of the last notes left behind by Mohandas K. Gandhi

For more see, Mahatma Gandhi, Last Phase, Vol. II (1958), p. 65, and “Three wise monkeys” statue, book, “charkha” gifted to Donald Trump

Steven Charleston: Poems That Draw Out the Poison

I am so grateful to Steven Charleston, Episcopal bishop and Choctaw elder for his review of my collection, Bending the Arch: Poems. His serious wrestling with my work is a gift beyond compare. Please consider reading The Four Vision Quests of Jesus by Charleston as part of learning to be followers on the Jesus Road on Turtle Island.

Bishop Steven Charleston

Steven Charleston:

ROSE MARIE BERGER doesn’t know it yet, but through her tour-de-force poems in Bending the Arch, she has become a holy woman of many nations. Among my own people, she would be called one of the alikchi, a sacred healer, a doctor of the people, a woman who can restore balance to lives that have been shattered. She does this through the strong medicine of words.

Berger, poetry editor and a columnist for Sojourners, describes Bending the Arch as “ethnopoetic documentary poetry.” “Ethno” because it speaks with the accents of a dozen different cultures: European settlers, Chinese miners, Native American leaders. “Poetic” because it uses a cat’s cradle of language from different moments, people, and realities. “Documentary” because it covers a vast scope of America’s manifest destiny history, symbolized by the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which is depicted on its cover. All these are contained in layers of history, one on top of another, until the spiritual sediment of Berger’s meaning begins to become clear.

Consequently, you don’t read her poetry, you engage it. Bending the Arch is an encounter that requires something of the reader. It provokes. It reveals. It imagines. It asks for full attention, deep reflection, and emotional response. This poetry does not leave you alone but pulls you in, looking for more and more understanding as the layers of meaning begin to coalesce into a narrative of human triumph and tragedy. You cannot remain neutral to this experience: You must walk away or confront the reality. … — Steven Charleston

Read the full review in Sojourners (January 2020).

Eddie Glaude: The Danger of White Innocence

Eddie Glaude, the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, speaks to American culture, racism in 2019 and how President Trump is the “manifestation of the ugliness that’s inside us.”

This excerpt from MSNBC aired on Aug. 5, 2019. In a three minute speech, Glaude diagnoses what every American – especially those of primarily European descent – needs to hear if we are to move forward toward a multiracial democracy, rather than a white apartheid state. This clip is especially important for American Christians to watch together and discuss together. America’s secular Christian-ish civil religion upholds and promotes “white” innocence. However, the radical liberating message of Jesus unmasks false innocence, breaks down superiority based on a false construction of whiteness, and demands that followers of Jesus find their true face in Christ and recognize that face in one another. It both dismantles the lie and incarnates the truth.

Here is a draft list of resources for further study. Please send me your own suggestions, especially non-book resources.

Santa Biblia: The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes by Justo L Gonzalez. “Claiming that a particular perspective cannot be avoided, Justo Gonzalez proudly reads the Bible through Hispanic eyes. Gonzalez insists that theological contextualization is not divisive but that, because it challenges ‘mainline’ denominations to change, it is the only thing that will keep them from becoming ‘oldline’ demonimations. … With graceful ease born of his vast knowledge and deep engagement with Hispanics, Gonzalez asserts that a Hispanic biblical hermeneutic is relevant to all Christians precisely so as not to introduce divisions in the name of a hegemonic reading that distorts the Bible because it opposes those who are not in control.” — Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and The Heresy of White Christianity by Gloria H. Albrecht (CrossCurrents, Volume 64, Issue 3, September 2014)

The Cross and the Lynching Tree and Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian by James H. Cone. Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Richard Rohr: Knowing from the Bottom

Knowing From the Bottom From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation at the Center for Action and Contemplation (Sign up here to receive these daily):

The vast majority of people throughout history have been poor, disabled, or oppressed in some way (i.e., “on the bottom”) and would have read history in terms of a need for change, but most of history has been written and interpreted from the side of the winners. The unique exception is the revelation called the Bible, which is an alternative history from the side of the often enslaved, dominated, and oppressed people of Israel, culminating in the scapegoat figure of Jesus himself.

We see in the Gospels that it’s the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, and the foreigners who tend to follow Jesus. It is those on the inside and the top—the Roman occupiers, the chief priests and their conspirators—who crucify him. Shouldn’t that tell us something really important about perspective? Every viewpoint is a view from a point. We must be able to critique our own perspective if we are to see a fuller truth.

Continue reading “Richard Rohr: Knowing from the Bottom”

Rally: Communal Prayers for the Movement

“This is a prayer book for revolution–a revolution of love and compassion and justice,” Shane Claiborne writes in the foreword to Rally, a collection of activist prayers edited by Britney Winn Lee. The prayers in this collection are meant to be prayed in community.

My (in)famous Litany of the Saints is included, written while walking with a donkey in a cemetery. Pre-order now on evil Amazon. (The publication date is in August, but you know, order now and surprise yourself in the dog days!)

All Are Called to Climate Action

In a spirit of prayer, protest, and repentance, @melodyczhang led SojoAction and @YECAction in a die-in liturgy on #ClimateChange this weekend. #AllAreCalled to #ActonClimate! Thanks to YECA and SojoAction for this beautiful public liturgy and prayer.–Rose

For the millions of animals dead, the 25 people killed, and millions of acres of land burned from the Australian bushfires, we grieve. Lord have mercy.

For the 97 people and 6 firefighters killed last year fighting the deadliest wildfires ever recorded in California, we grieve. Lord have mercy.

For the 65 million displaced people who have fled their homelands and become climate migrants because of violence, humans rights abuse, and environmental disasters intensified by climate crisis, we pray. Lord have mercy.

For our brothers and sisters in Uganda and Kenya and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa whose livelihoods are in danger due to extended drought and flooding on their farms from climate change, we repent. Lord have mercy.

For the people and habitats affected by typhoons in the Philippines, which have intensified by 50% in the last 40 years, we pray for your protection and your mercy.

For neighborhoods near much higher rates of pollution & refineries that suffer alarming rates of cancer and asthma due to infrastructural racism, we grieve and repent for our indifference towards their health and well-being. Lord have mercy.

For island countries like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and other small island developing states who are at risk of going completely underwater in the next 50 years due to sea level rise, we grieve and repent for our shortsightedness. Lord have mercy.

For those who suffered from the bomb cyclone in the midwest and extensive flooding in Nebraska last year, we pray. Lord have mercy.

For our brothers and sisters who live in Syria and Yemen, where unprecedented crippling drought periods are destabilizing their sense of security and peace, we pray. Lord have mercy.

For communities in India who are slipping into food insecurity and malnutrition because of unstable planting and harvesting seasons from flash floods, we pray. Lord have mercy.

For the black and brown communities who were most adversely affected and are still recovering from the devastating Hurricane Katrina and similar intensified hurricanes all across the US, we pray. Lord have mercy.

For the countless species of marine life which are under threat due to the warming bubbles popping up in our oceans at present day, we pray. Lord have mercy. Amen.


Philadelphia street art (three tiles)

Im PEACH ment
for Father Daniel Berrigan

Chattering in blue light
imposters eat peaches

before a starving nation
the juice is fantastical

dripping as it does on Con
stitutions and posers

bib fronts, cons, and tie tacks
Swift and furious fall tiny blue

birds, crushed
like children’s toys and rusty moths

Everyone watches
honest thieves have codes of honor

predictable, sequential, and con
sequential but not these violent

top dogs
staring in a dark window

abandoned back of father’s hand
Children watch the screen

glass smudged with fat
These thieves gnaw others fleshy bits

on live tv
spit out the thrones, pits between teeth

In the middle, the three-legged dog
joyful, dancing, sideways step stepping

prance prance from dawn’s first gape
limping and leaping for the forgotten treat

See the game of bones
scattered like sheep’s knuckles

dumped on a pile
sweep the winnings up fast

wipe your chin, send warm condolences
Before, before

Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and poet. This poem is part of an unpublished collection.

Iran: Bombs and Bible-Thumping

I know we are all reeling from the capricious Trump actions against Iran over the past few days. But we also know what the work is we have to do. 

Below are four resources to help shape our messaging and action. It will be important for people to be in the streets at federal buildings and at their Congressional reps offices denouncing Trump’s action and demanding that Congress bring the Khanna-Gaetz Amendment to the floor for a stand-alone vote to cut any funding for war with Iran. (This passed with a bipartisan majority in June but was dropped from the final NDAA when it came out of committee.)

Trump is portraying his political assassination of Soleimani as “taking out a bad man” as if this were another rogue terrorist. It is not. Iran is a sovereign nation. Soleimani was the equivalent of our head of joint chief of staff and was a favorite to be the next president of Iran.

Trump’s calculation is that deadly chaos in the Middle East (with a concurrent national security crisis here at home) will maintain Republican lock-step in the Senate and unite his evangelical base with Manichean heresies about fighting evil and reheated apocalyptic fantasies for Christian Zionists on the restoration of Israel and the ushering in of the End Times. Trump’s “bombing and Bible-thumping” evangelical tour began last night at King Jesus International ministry in Miami.

We need your prayers, tweets, FB posts, videos, sermons, public talks, etc to amplify a focused response. We need our people to be knowledgable, strategic, and active. Please use your communication networks to educate and activate.–Rose Berger

1. Will We See Through the “Fog of War’ This Time? by Rose Marie Berger

2. Iran: Break the Cycle of Violence With a Just Peace Framework by Eli S. McCarthy

3. Blocking Trump’s War with Iran by the Authority of Faith and Congress by Jim Wallis

4. Call on Congress to bring the Khanna-Gaetz Amendment to the NDAA to the floor as a stand-alone bill to prohibit funding of a war with Iran by Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns

Alan Bean: Custodians of American civil religion?

Below I am excerpting an excellent article by Alan Bean reflecting on the unholy alliance between “aging white evangelicals” and Donald Trump and the changing American civil religion. Alan is executive director of Friends of Justice, an alliance of community members that advocates for criminal justice reform. He lives in Arlington, Texas.–Rose Berger

An excerpt from Last call for aging white evangelicals: The political marriage to Trump will collapse. What then? by Alan Bean (in Baptist News Global).

Alan Bean, Friends of Justice

>>Conservative evangelicals punch above their weight because they are custodians of American civil religion, a vision of America as God’s beacon in a dark world. Civil religion enjoyed bipartisan support during the Eisenhower years. For generations, American history and civics classes were exercises in self-congratulation.

For the past half century, however, our civil religion has been “deconstructed” by academics who see it as little more than a mask for white supremacy and the oppression of women and racial and sexual minorities. America, in this view, has a lot of explaining to do. College educated whites broke decisively for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the only white demographic to do so.

In response, aging white evangelicals have doubled down on the myth of American righteousness. In the hands of evangelical faux historians like David Barton, the old civil religion has become a great, sprawling story of God’s providential love for America with footnotes a mile long. Trump’s promise to make America great again dovetails perfectly with American civil religion in both its classic and expanded iterations.

In defending Trump, aging white evangelicals are fighting for their identity. The liberals have transformed a gleaming army of Christian soldiers into a rabble of bigots and fools. Evangelicals won’t take this demotion lying down, especially with Donald John Trump emerging as their champion. A civil religion designed to unify a nation now serves as a dividing line.

All this is quite by design. Trump’s political strategy comes straight out of professional wrestling. Half the crowd is hailing Trump as a Savior while everybody else is baying for his blood. The president has our attention, and that’s all he has ever wanted.

As the impeachment process so clearly reveals, the GOP is now the party of Trump. But the power behind the throne is a band of aging white evangelicals, the most powerful people on earth, and therefore the most to be pitied.

Like the biblical Samson, Trump will eventually bring the entire edifice of American conservatism crashing down around him. Some species of evangelical religion will ultimately rise from the rubble, but it will be greatly curtailed, politically irrelevant and, I pray, more recognizably Christian.

Sometimes it takes a cataclysm to advance the cause of Christ.–Alan Bean<<

An excerpt from Last call for aging white evangelicals: The political marriage to Trump will collapse. What then? by Alan Bean (in Baptist News Global).

A Word of Hope for 2020

Bishop Marc Stenger and Sr. Wamuyu Wachira, co-presidents of Pax Christi International


Pope Francis’ 52nd World Day of Peace message in the year 2019, invited us to reflect on the theme “Good politics is at the service of peace”. The Pope’s message was that politics, though essential to building human communities and institutions, can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole. This year, 2020 Pope Francis’s 53rd World Day of Peace theme is “Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion”. The reflection on this theme is captured in the following sections of his message (i) Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. (2) Peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity. (3) Peace, a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion. (4) Peace, a journey of ecological conversion.

In a world devastated by war and conflicts which often affect the marginalized and the vulnerable of our society, we are being invited to reflect on peace as the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. The virtue of hope inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem overwhelming. The Pope discusses the different forms of violence that are tearing humanity apart and their true significance. He points out: “Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood and [sisterhood]”.

The message of Pope Francis is a very strong message, a vocational message. This vocation is that of children of God, brothers and sisters. But the Pope underlines “our inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of … domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other”. He emphasizes the fact that “war is fueled by a perversion of relationship, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuse of power, by fear of others and seeing diversity as an obstacle”. On the contrary, in respecting, trusting others and seeing them as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, we can ‘break the spirit of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope’. …

Read the full letter from Pax Christi International’s co-presidents, Bishop Marc Stenger (France) and Sr. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira (Kenya)