Check out Rock, Paper, Scissors: Tools and Thinking from Christian Anarchists

Rock! Paper! Scissors! is a tri-annual, topic-focused, web-publication exploring the intersections of anarchist politics and Christian faith. Through following the way of Jesus in the shadow of empire, we seek to undermine systems of oppression and creatively explore possibilities for liberation from an anarchist or radical christian perspective.

Says Nekeisha Alayna Alexis: “After a simple creative process that involved suggesting all the ideas we could think of (Soapbox Sermons? Rad Rag? The UnBeliever?), Jesus Radicals co-organizers settled on Rock! Paper! Scissors! as the title of our new web journal. How the name of a decision-making hand game has become the heading for this project needs some explanation. What does this win-or-lose act of play have to do with a toolbox for anarchist + Christian thought? What does it say about our plans to shift from our current, past-its-prime blog format to a periodic collection of ideas, focused on particular topics and brought together by various editors?”

Their first issue, curated by Jesus Radicals organizer and Iconocast host Joanna Shenk, is titled The Movement Makes Us Human  (order Joanna’s awesome book, by the same name, of interviews with Movement elder Vincent Harding).  A call for content for this first issue is being developed and will be posted soon. If you think that you may be suited to curate and edit a future issue of Rock! Paper! Scissors!, please send your pitch for topics to [email protected]

Video: Thoughts & Prayers Makeup Line

For those of you not glued to Facebook, I wanted to post this short satirical video related to the mass murder at the high school in Parkland, Florida. To me, this video carries some of the incisive political commentary of an ancient psalm. Not the praise psalms, but the laments (see Psalm 137), which carry a corrosive bitterness and yet liberatory power.

Video blogger Sailor J. took make-up tutorial to a new level in this video “(Thoughts & Prayers) Makeup Look.

Baltimore Archbishop Wants Nonviolence to Enter the Consciousness of Whole Church

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori wants the principles of nonviolence honed in the American civil rights movement to shape the consciousness of the Catholic Church. To this end Lori released a pastoral letter in February on the  principles of nonviolence. The teaching document addresses the riots three years ago that shook Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray Jr., who died from injuries while in police custody.

The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence: A Pastoral Reflection” was released on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the season of Lent, a time that focuses on repentance, courage in the face of suffering, and reconciliation.

[To send a comment of support to Archbishop Lori, click here.]

Lori’s pastoral letter includes Dr. King’s principles for nonviolence:

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
6. Nonviolence believes that justice will ultimately triumph.

Additionally, Lori highlights Dr. King’s actions for social transformation:

1. Information Gathering
2. Education
3. Personal Commitment
4. Negotiations
5. Direct Action
6. Reconciliation

Lori encourages a serious examination for U.S. Catholics of Kingian nonviolence and ties this philosophy to the history of Catholic witness and presence in Baltimore as well as to “Safe Streets,” an current evidence-based, trauma-informed, anti-violence project carried out in partnership with Catholic Charities.

Lori says that he hopes to lift up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence and help them find their way into the consciousness of the church – “the whole church, myself, my brother priests, the leadership of the archdiocese, those involved in ministries.” —Rose Marie Berger

[To send a comment of support to Archbishop Lori, click here.]

My Lai Massacre in Vietnam: 50 Years Later

I was five years old when the people of a set of small villages in the My Lai region of Vietnam were massacred by U.S. soldiers. I don’t remember hearing about it or understanding what it meant until much later. However, I do remember driving with my parents to San Francisco to pick up my cousin who was returning from Vietnam where he served as a medic. He was not the same cousin I remembered from before. He was traumatized.

I am of the era where my older cousins and my high school teachers were veterans of the U.S. war in Vietnam. It colored everything they thought, did, felt. It set them apart from other Americans. In subdued desperation, all around us, the fought for their sanity and to make sense of hell. An impossible task.

Fifty years later, our U.S. wars are removed, sanitized. We don’t do “body counts.” We’ve outlawed frontline reporting. We have drones to kill for us. But the frontline soldiers still come back traumatized — and the killing of the innocent and guilty enemy is no less hellish.

I’m grateful to Ken Sehested for inviting me to submit a poem-prayer to this collection of worship resources produced for the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee to remember and repent what our war looked like on March 16, 1968. I invite you to use them in your personal Lenten reflections and with your community and Veteran’s groups.–Rose Berger

>>Those of us who worked on the My Lai Massacre 50th Anniversary resources share a belief that truth is found in many faith traditions. A list of relevant quotes from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity is included. What we believe we all share in common is the longing and struggle for a world characterized by mercy, in turn mediating the demands of justice and the prerequisites of peace.

Those who planned the sample liturgy are Christians, and we write from our own experience; we do not presume the ability to leap from our context to construct a service incorporating the insights from other spiritual traditions. We recognize that honest interfaith engagement does not include abandoning our own confessional expressions, though it does mean holding such convictions with humility. Among other things, humility requires listening, the most penitential posture when approaching God, who always—always—calls to us from beyond borders and boundaries.

We trust that those who gather with us from other traditions, or of no particular religious affiliation, will participate as fully as vision and conscience allow. Even more, we hope that you may find some useful material in these resources (from which you are free to borrow and edit or adapt as seems appropriate) to develop a “Penitential Opportunity” service appropriate to your own tradition.

Included in addition to the liturgy are several supplemental resources: suggestions for additional music, litanies, and other readings; a meditation on the meaning of penitence, a theme integral to many religious traditions; a brief collection of historical facts to help in understanding the context of the My Lai massacre; a collection of quotes to guide deeper reflection and seasoned conviction; and a testimony from a volunteer in My Lai.

We recognize the pastoral challenge of getting local communities of faith to devote focused attention on an episode of brutality, 50 years past, in a place thousands of miles away, where few U.S. citizens have ventured to visit. This is particularly true in a culture in which communicating God’s promise, purpose, and provision is often confused with a desire to accentuate the positive.

The writing and compiling of these liturgical resources was done in anticipation of the Christian season of Lent, when penitence is a key theme, culminating in Easter’s hopeful promise of a redemptive future. This year the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is April 4, only three days after the church’s buoyant proclamation of death’s coming annulment. We seek prayers from every quarter to assist us in knowing how to seek the Beloved Community he proclaimed, and to live animated by Resurrection’s promise, in the face of the world’s seemingly endless confidence in what theologian Walter Wink called “the myth of redemptive violence.”<<–Ken Sehested, author and editor of and coordinator of these worship resources

Ash Wednesday: Howard Thurman on Hatred

Jesus rejected hatred. It was not because he lacked the vitality or the strength. It was not because he lacked the incentive. Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, death to communion with his [Creator]. He affirmed life; hatred was the great denial. To him it was clear

Thou must not make division
Thy mind, heart, soul and strength must ever search
To find the way by which the road
To all [human]’s need of Thee must go.
This is the Highway of the Lord.

Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (p88)

Feb. 3: The Feast of St. Blaise

The-Arrest-And-Miracles-Of-Saint-BlaiseFeast days like today are one of the many reasons I LOVE being Catholic.

Allegretto Nuzi’s 14th century painting “The arrest and miracles of Saint Blaise” illustrates the story of the saint negotiating with the dog to release the poor woman’s only pig, while the storm troopers of Emperor Licinius come to arrest him.

Here’s some of the great story of St. Blaise:

Many Catholics might remember Saint Blaise’s feast day, February 3, because of the Blessing of the Throats that take place on this day. Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said.

Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise. It is believed he was a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century.

The legend of St. Blaise tells us that he was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. He became a bishop. Later, a new persecution of Christians began. He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Hunters discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick. Blaise walked among them unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. The hunters recognized Blaise as a Bishop, so they captured him to take him back for trial. On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman.

When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. Finally, the governor had Blaise killed.

Saint Blase is the patron of physicians, sick cattle, wax- chandlers, woolcombers, and of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies. He is invoked against afflictions of the throat (Bentley, Roeder).

As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Blase was much venerated throughout Central Europe. In art he is a bishop with a metal comb and a tall candle. He may be shown in many different ways: (1) with crozier (pastoral staff) and two candles (no comb); (2) martyred by being torn with iron combs; (3) in a cave with wild animals; (4) discovered by hunters, a fawn near him (not to be confused with the monk, Saint Giles); (5) blessing the birds in front of a cave; (6) rescuing a poor woman’s pig from a wolf; (6) saving the life of a boy who swallowed a fishbone; or (7) with the city of Dubrovnik in his hand or being carried over the city by angels .

Video: The Ursula LeGuin Speech

Ursula LeGuin, writer and revolutionary, died on Monday, 22 January, at age 88. She died at home in Portland, Oregon. Here are a couple of wonderful reflections about her life and farther below is the remarkable address she gave at the National Book Award ceremony in 2014.

Ursula K Le Guin, sci-fi and fantasy author, dies aged 88

Ursula K Le Guin: ‘One of the literary greats of the 20th century’ by Margaret Atwood

Ursula LeGuin’s understated, radical address at the National Book Award ceremony this week on the commodification of literature. What is the nature of freedom?

Katherine Henderson: Litany for the Poor People’s Campaign

A Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Litany for the Poor People’s Campaign

Divine One, Infinite Love, known to us by many names.

Today, we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose prophetic journey continues to mark our days, inspire our hearts and guide our feet.

In this moment of celebration let us not move too quickly, but allow our attention to focus on a world that is still sin-sick and falls so short of the mark of love and justice.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the sorrow and pain of the child who wakes with hunger in the night, one of the 40 million living in poverty in this the richest of lands.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the mother in Flint or on the Gulf Coast who cannot trust the contaminated water in her sink to quench the thirst of her children, relying instead on the contents of plastic bottles that will make their way to suffocate the oceans.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the immigrant father hiding in the storeroom of the 7-Eleven, whose insufficient papers express nothing of the dignity he has already been afforded as one made in God’s image.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the grandmother who marched with Dr. King and fought for justice, only to find her name removed from voter registration rolls when she goes to cast her vote.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the brother in prison, caught up in a system that destroys lives and families; one more casualty in the US that has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the Trans sister, who lives with the daily threat of violence just for being who she is.

Before we move on, help us sit with one another for as long as it takes to share our broken hearts, to acknowledge the magnitude of the pain of injustice, and to confess how far we are from your vision for creation.

Before we move on, hollow us out with sorrow, let our tears freely flow, so there will be room enough for hope to grow again.

O God, just as you inspired Dr. King to not let sorrow have the last word, so move us forward.

Move us forward to recognize your face in the human faces of all who struggle for dignity and liberation in this moment.

Move us forward to challenge injustice, to resist and repair, to march and to vote, to disrupt and to wake up.

Move us forward to stand for just legislation and structures that support the many and not just the few.

Move us forward to experience fierce joy–dance and laughter, the wild and the holy– that no one can take from us.

Move us forward to create the future story of America where difference is celebrated, abundance is shared and people are hopeful, working together for a future better than today.

Move us forward as beloved community “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, bound in a single garment of destiny.”

May it be so. Amen.

(Written by Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary, 2018)

Video: What does it mean to you to call love the force that moves the universe?

Pastor Jeff Gannon at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church (Wichita, KS) reflects on my column he read in January 2018 issue of Sojourners magazine about Pope Francis calling the International Space Station and having a 20 minute conversation with the astronauts and cosmonauts. The Pope challenged each of them and us to reflect on the beautiful world God has given us. What does it mean to you to call love the force that moves the universe? To see the tapestry mentioned in the video, visit Pastor Jeff’s site.

First Sunday in Christmas: Feast of the Holy Family

Marc Chagall (1909)
“Holy Family” by Marc Chagall (1909)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”—Colossians 3:12-13

In my family, the “Feast of the Holy Family” was always a chance to snicker in church—specifically during the reading from Colossians 3: 18-21. Definitions of family have changed radically over time. Most “families” wouldn’t recognize each other as such from one century to the next. The model of the “nuclear” family was a construct of economic forces that arose after the Industrial Revolution. The model of the “blended” family is more common now than it was 50 years ago. But what about the Jesus Family? What sort of family was modeled by the disciples of that first-century itinerant rabbi? What model of family did Paul conceive of when the church was young?

Not long ago I attended an impromptu prayer service on the sidewalk in my neighborhood. A young man, Erlin, had been killed there in a gang altercation two nights earlier. The word went through the neighborhood that his mother wanted to pray. Twenty people were crowded around a scrawny maple tree. Someone had taped Erlin’s picture to the trunk. His elementary-school-age nieces and nephews held votive candles purchased at the dollar store.

Erlin’s buddies from his “crew” were there too. They lined up behind his mother, forming a kind of honor guard. They wore dark glasses. A few had guns shoved down the front of their nylon running pants. Some, out of respect for his mother, had put their weapons—thick chains and baseball bats with nails hammered into the ends—behind the dumpster a few yards away.

Finally, his mother asked to speak. In her soft Jamaican accent, she said how much she loved her son. She said he struggled to do the right thing, and that watching him struggle had broken her heart. Then she turned to his friends—his fellow gang members—and said the most amazing thing. “He was my son,” she said. “You were his brothers. Now you are my sons and I am your mother. Now we are family. This is the way it is.” She expected his “brothers” to be at her table for jerk chicken and potatoes any time they were hungry. She expected them to help her fix things around the apartment. They must come to her with their problems, and she would pray for each of them every day.

In the gathering dark, I heard the line from John’s gospel echo and twist. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he said, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

“Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace.”—O Holy Night