HuffPo: Why These People of Faith Are Marching for Women This Weekend

Rose Marie Berger, 52

PHOTO: RICK REINHARD

Washington D.C., Senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine

Marching in Washington D.C. with Sojourners, Swamp Revolt, and members of the U.S. faith community

What is your faith background and what role did it play in your decision to join the march?

I am a Roman Catholic lay woman. My faith has motivated me to stand in solidarity with those who have been targeted by President Trump and his administration. Pope Francis said that the “life of a Christian ought to be courageous.” He warned Christians not to be “parked Christians,” who have found the church lot and then just safely stay there waiting for the end. I’m trying to be a courageous Catholic.

What is it about Trump that concerns you the most?

My neighbors in Washington D.C. who are immigrants tell me they are very afraid. They are harassed in the grocery store, in the taxi, on the bus. Our churches are organizing in immigrant communities in anticipation of increased ICE raids and the repeal of the DACA/DAPA executive action. I’m very concerned about what will happen to police accountability, training, and oversight under a new director of the Department of Justice. And I don’t want my nieces and nephews to learn behavior from a president who insults, bullies, harasses, and is vindictive.

Read more from HuffPost Religion on why people of faith  are planning to join the Women’s March on Washington and what concerned them most about Trump’s vision for America.

Pro-Life Christians Protest Death Penalty at Supreme Court

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Forty years after the first execution of Gary Gilmore under contemporary laws, 18 pro-life people of faith were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday — including Sojourners colleagues Lisa Sharon Harper and Peter Armstrong.

The group unfurled a 30-foot-long banner that read “STOP EXECUTIONS!” on the steps of the Court.  On the sidewalk, a crowd of over 80 supporters observed the action, carrying 40 posters (1 for each year) with the names of the other 1442 men and women executed since 1977.

They also carried roses in two colors, a reminder that they are remembering both families of the murdered and families of the executed as they stand together saying, as one banner did, “We Remember the Victims, But Not With More Killing.”

The group included several murder victim family members, a death row exoneree, family members of the incarcerated, pastors and religious leaders, and national leaders in the death penalty abolition movement. It was the largest act of civil disobedience against the death penalty in modern history.

Shane Claiborne, influential Christian author and activist, speaking of the significance of religious leaders, said this:  “Sadly, the death penalty has succeeded in America not in spite of Christians but because of us.  Over 80% of executions in the past 40 years have been in the Bible Belt.  As a Christian, that is especially troubling because one of the tenants of our faith is this: No one is beyond redemption.  Much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance. Moses. David. Paul.  The Bible would be much shorter without grace.  So it was a beautiful thing to stand alongside my fellow clergy and faith leaders…  And, if you go to jail, it’s good to have a nun and a priest next to you.  As we look at history, we are reminded that we’ve got good company among the holy troublemakers who have gone to jail for justice.  Abortion is not the only pro-life issue.”

Those arrested were Peter Armstrong (Sojourners, Washington, DC), Leroy Barber (Portland, OR), Abraham J. Bonowitz (Columbus, OH), SueZann Bosler (Miami, FL), Shawn Casselberry (Chicago, IL), Shane Claiborne (Philadelphia, PA), John Dear (Santa Fe, NM), Randy Gardner (Taylorsville, UT), Lisa Sharon Harper (Sojourners, Washington, DC), Derrick Jamison (Cincinnati, OH), Art Laffin (Washington, DC), Scott Langley (Ghent, NY), Michael McBride (Oakland, CA), Tom Muther (Topeka, KS), Doug Pagitt (Minneapolis, MN), Jack Payden-Travers (Lynchburg, VA), Sam R. Sheppard (Oakland, CA), and Kelton Tupper (Cheverly, MD).

Those arrested spent 30 grueling hours in D.C. lock-up with the Supreme Court police, D.C. Dept. of Corrections Central Cell Block, and in the holding cells of D.C. Superior Court. They were arraigned on Wednesday afternoon arraigned in chains before Judge Staples in D.C. Superior Court. They were charged with “parading” and given a “stay away order” from the grounds of the Supreme Court. A status hearing was set for Feb. 24.

Since 1977, there have been 1442 more state-sponsored executions. Nearly 3,000 prisoners are currently on death rows in 31 states.

Pope Francis: ‘The life of a Christian ought to be courageous’

be-courageous-t-shirt2“We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience are inheriting the promises.”–Hebrews 6:11

Yesterday Pope Francis gave this homily at morning Mass at Casa Marta on the daily scripture from Hebrews 6:10-20. I took courage from it as we enter the days of the Inauguration and Women’s March here in D.C., where our friends are threatened and harassed in taxis, public transportation, in their churches, etc.

From Independent Catholic News:

The life of a Christian ought to be courageous, Pope Francis said during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday. The day’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, speaks about zeal, the courage to go forward, which should be our approach toward life, like the attitude of those who train for victory in the arena. But the Letter also speaks of the laziness that is the opposite of courage. “Living in the fridge,” the Pope summarised, “so that everything stays the same.”

“Lazy Christians, Christians who do not have the will to go forward, Christians who don’t fight to make things change, new things, the things that would do good for everyone, if these things would change. They are lazy, “parked” Christians. They have found in the Church a good place to park. And when I say Christians, I’m talking about laity, priests, bishops… Everyone. But they are parked Christians! For them the Church is a parking place that protects life, and they go forward with all the insurance possible. But these stationary Christians, they make me think of something the grandparents told us as children: beware of still water, that which doesn’t flow, it is the first to go bad.”

What makes Christians courageous is hope, while the “lazy Christians” don’t have hope, they are in retirement, the Pope said. It is beautiful to go into retirement after many years of work, but, he warned, “spending your whole life in retirement is ugly!” Hope, on the other hand, is the anchor that we cling to in order to keep fighting, even in difficult moments.
Continue reading “Pope Francis: ‘The life of a Christian ought to be courageous’”

Get Trained on January 20th – Be an ACTIVE BYSTANDER

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Learn more here: https://swamprevolt.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/jan-20-trainings/

This is what I’ll be doing on Inauguration Day. I’ve teamed up with doula Amy Ard, founder of Swamp Revolt, to organize 25 simultaneous “nonviolence and active bystander intervention” trainings on Jan. 20th in the D.C. region.

Our big, hairy, audacious goal is to train 2,500 people who are coming to D.C. for Inauguration protests and the Women’s March on Washington.

Please pray for us an our crazy endeavor! On Jan. 7 we organized a “training for trainers” and 108 people registered with less than a week’s notice. As of last night, we’ve deployed 68 people in training teams and matched them with more than 20 locations in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.

We are going big on this one!

Please promote this in your networks–especially local organizations that you know are sending buses and people to D.C.

Morning Messages

dawn-city

“Children, let us love not in word
or speech but in deed and truth.”
—1 John 3

“In whatever you do, remember
That Christ is calling you, in one
Way or another, to the service of
Love: the love of God and of your
Neighbor. Real love is demanding.”
—John Paul II

These are days of hard and demanding work for me. Dawn struggles to make it up over the skyline of row houses in D.C. The writer of John’s letter and the old sainted pope send a sustaining message.

Video: ‘I Am the Land’ by Ethelbert Miller with music by Richard Clark

E. Ethelbert Miller, D.C.’s poet-troubadour, worked with composer Richard J. Clark to produce this stunning rendition of Miller’s poem “I Am the Land,” a tribute to Salvadoran martyr and archbishop Oscar Romero.

I offer it here as a Christmas blessing to you all in these days.

Fourth Friday in Advent

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“Now I am sending my messenger—he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand firm when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye.”–Malachi 3:1-2

Excerpt from “The Refinery” by Robert Pinsky (1940)

… The great Refinery–impossible city of lights,
A million bulbs tracing its turreted
Boulevards and mazes. The castle of a person
Pronounced alive, the Corporation: a fictional
Lord real in law.

Barbicans and torches
Along the siding where the engine slows
At the central tanks, a ward
Of steel palisades, valved and chandeliered.

The muttering gods
Greedily penetrate those bright pavilions–
Libation of Benzene, Naphthalene, Asphalt,
Gasoline, Tar: syllables
Fractioned and cracked from unarticulated

Crude, the smeared keep of life that fed
On itself in pitchy darkness when the gods
Were new–inedible, volatile
And sublimated afresh to sting
Our tongues who use it, refined from oil of stone. …

Fourth Thursday in Advent

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“I like to imagine that it was on a night like tonight, at his mother Mary’s breast, that Jesus first heard the words, ‘Take and eat, this is my body and I give it for you.'”Alexie Torres-Fleming

“Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.”Luke 1:56

Mary is a variant of Miriam. Miriam was one of the three primary leaders of the exodus, along with Aaron and her brother Moses. She was a prophet. Both Mary and Miriam’s names carry the echoes of the word “bitter” (see Ruth 1:20) for the bitterness that was pressed down on the people in the time of Pharaoh and in the time of the Roman occupation of Israel and destruction of the Temple. In some translations Mary or Maryam’s name is “sea of bitterness.”

The story of Maryam, in Luke’s narrative, mirrors the crisis that caused Moses to flee Egypt. In Exodus 2:12, Moses murders an Egyptian soldier. It’s premeditated, and it’s an act of treason against Pharaoh. He “flees” (2:15) from his death sentence to the land of Midian.

Maryam also “flees” (Luke 1:39). Not because she has committed murder but because she is “untimely pregnant,” as Richard W. Swanson notes in his excellent article “Magnificat and Crucifixion.” Not only is she pregnant outside the clan arrangement, but it’s very possible that she belongs to a priestly family. This pregnancy, an affront to the social and religious order, is a crime that may be punished by death—either by stoning, strangling, or burning (according to the ancient legal tractates).

Maryam doesn’t wait to be dragged into the streets as part of an honor killing, as Swanson frames it. Instead, she heads for the hills of Judah—perhaps to the “castles and towers” (2 Chronicles 27:4) built there by King Jotham—where her kinswoman Elizabeth (or “Elisheva”) would offer her protection. Elisheva was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) and thus a powerful priestly leader in her own right, as well as with her husband, Zechariah.

What happens when Maryam approaches Elisheva’s gates? The baby in Elisheva’s womb leaps and dances in response to Maryam’s greeting—as David did before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:16). And Elisheva leads the gathered community in a loud song of rejoicing. She pours out her blessing on Maryam and on her baby—a sign of Maryam’s bravery and radical prophetic hope. Who am I, asks Elisheva—she of the priestly lineage whose family business it was to study the prophecies of God and believe they would be fulfilled—that I should welcome the one who truly believed that the promises of God would be kept?

Maryam, like her foremothers Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and Judith (13:18), sings the responsive canticle: With all my heart I make great the faithfulness of God. My whole soul claps with gladness that our Rescuer-God has come. Why? Because God has “taken note” (Exodus 3:16) of us in our oppression and desolation. And not just us, but generations to come will receive this blessing, for God has made me great with possibility and posterity. The Mighty Deliverer has liberated us. The God of Israel is God alone and has chosen me, though I have done nothing to deserve it but lifted my eyes and acknowledged God’s name. God’s strength has winnowed out the ones who will not lift up their heads and will not say God’s perfect name. Instead, God has fouled their perfect plans. Power-mongers are yanked off their high horses and the put-upon are raised up. The hungry, God will overflow with goodness. The stuffed, God sends out to the road to beg. The suffering servant Israel, God takes up in her arms to remind us how much we are cherished. Just as God promised to our forebears, and Abraham, and the children of Abraham and Sarah, for all time.

The rabbis tell us that “In every generation one is obligated to see oneself as having personally gone out from Egypt.” Using our sanctified imagination, can we—as disciples of the coming Christ Child—see ourselves also as Maryam, the one who bears God to the world through a “sea of bitterness”? How will we sing her canticle today?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

(A version of this first appeared in Sojourners magazine, January 2008.)

Fourth Wednesday in Advent

2015-05-13-15-41-30-1When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”–Luke 1:57-60

Mary is a variant of Miriam. Miriam was one of the three primary leaders of the exodus, along with Aaron and her brother Moses. She was a prophet. Both Mary and Miriam’s names carry the echoes of the word “bitter” (see Ruth 1:20) for the bitterness that was pressed down on the people in the time of Pharaoh and in the time of the Roman occupation of Israel and destruction of the Temple. In some translations Mary or Maryam’s name is “sea of bitterness.”

The story of Maryam, in Luke’s narrative, mirrors the crisis that caused Moses to flee Egypt. In Exodus 2:12, Moses murders an Egyptian soldier. It’s premeditated, and it’s an act of treason against Pharaoh. He “flees” (2:15) from his death sentence to the land of Midian.

Maryam also “flees” (Luke 1:39). Not because she has committed murder but because she is “untimely pregnant,” as Richard W. Swanson notes in his excellent article “Magnificat and Crucifixion.” Not only is she pregnant outside the clan arrangement, but it’s very possible that she belongs to a priestly family. This pregnancy, an affront to the social and religious order, is a crime that may be punished by death—either by stoning, strangling, or burning (according to the ancient legal tractates).

Maryam doesn’t wait to be dragged into the streets as part of an honor killing, as Swanson frames it. Instead, she heads for the hills of Judah—perhaps to the “castles and towers” (2 Chronicles 27:4) built there by King Jotham—where her kinswoman Elizabeth (or “Elisheva”) would offer her protection. Elisheva was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) and thus a powerful priestly leader in her own right, as well as with her husband, Zechariah.

What happens when Maryam approaches Elisheva’s gates? The baby in Elisheva’s womb leaps and dances in response to Maryam’s greeting—as David did before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:16). And Elisheva leads the gathered community in a loud song of rejoicing. She pours out her blessing on Maryam and on her baby—a sign of Maryam’s bravery and radical prophetic hope. Who am I, asks Elisheva—she of the priestly lineage whose family business it was to study the prophecies of God and believe they would be fulfilled—that I should welcome the one who truly believed that the promises of God would be kept?

What promises of God do you believe will be kept?

Ad……vent. A d v e n t (slowly breathe in on the “Ad” part and out on the “vent” part)…There! You prayed today. Keep it up!

With gratitude to Sojourners where this reflection first appeared in print.