For generations, the Bible has been employed by settler colonial societies as a weapon to dispossess Indigenous and racialized peoples of their lands, cultures, and spiritualities. Given this devastating legacy, many want nothing to do with it. But is it possible for the exploited and their allies to reclaim the Bible from the dominant powers? Can we make it an instrument for justice in the cause of the oppressed? Even a nonviolent weapon toward decolonization?
In Unsettling the Word, over 60 Indigenous and Settler authors come together to wrestle with the Scriptures, re-reading and re-imagining the ancient text for the sake of reparative futures.
Created by Mennonite Church Canada’s Indigenous-Settler Relations program, Unsettling the Word is intended to nurture courageous conversations with the Bible, our current settler colonial contexts, and the Church’s call to costly peacemaking. (Comes with a study guide for groups.)
With the most recent newsletter from Abbot Philip at Christ in the Desert Monastery comes word that Abbot Philip has announced his retirement, effective December 12, 2018, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After the election on that day of a new abbot, Philip will return to prayer and silence after 22 years of his weekly “notebook,” which he will no longer write. What a gift his insight were/are/will be for all who encounter them.–Rose Berger
“… The spiritual life has the same kind of challenges: continuity is whatever circumstances we find ourselves. It is more or less easy to remain faithful to lectio and quiet prayer when I am in the monastery on a regular schedule. When I am away from the monastery or when there are extraordinary stresses in the community, then it is more difficult to remain consistent and faithful in the inner life of prayer. Even the early desert monks and nuns recognized that we could fool ourselves into thinking that we were deeply committed to this inner life of prayer when there were no challenges.
Practically every challenge possible can come into our lives, whether we live in monasteries or outside of monasteries, whether we are single or whether we are married, whether we are old or whether we are young. Human life is spiritual combat, always, and we are invited to accept the combat and strive to be faithful at all times.
If we fail, if we are not faithful, God is always with us and continues to love us and invite us to get up and continue in the combat. This is one of the most profound lessons of the spiritual life: never give up because God is always walking with us to help us, to forgive us, to call us to a deeper faithfulness.
Many times I have explained to our community that when I was young, I sort of had the unclear idea that a person could reach a state in which there was no further combat, only faithfulness. As I have grown older in monastic life, I realize that combat endures until the day we die. We are invited to seek the Lord and to embrace the struggle every day until death.
For me personally, it has been a comfort to realize that God always loves me and that I must simply struggle to the best of my ability each day, striving to be faithful to God, to His Word, to the Spirit which calls me deeper. There is little I can do except do the little that is possible each day. It is not for me a matter of looking back and seeing what has been done but of looking forward and seeing God’s faithfulness and my lack of faithfulness—and then trying to be just a bit more faithful.
Throughout my years as a monk, I have worked for the good of the community in lots of ways. On the other hand, the focus of my life, when I am free to follow my inner calling, is on prayer and seeking to be faithful to the Lord. I have failed in so many ways over the years. On the other hand, I keep striving to do and to be what God is asking of me. The mercy of God always sustains me and gives me courage to continue seeking Him, no matter how much I fail. This, for me, is the heart of Christian life: always seeking the Lord and always striving to do His will—no matter how often we fail.”–Abbot Philip (July 18, 2018 Notebook)
I’m a huge fan of the creative and brave nonviolent actions by Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist protest punk rock group based in Moscow. If you were watching the World Cup finals, then you saw some if their “cops interrupt your daily life” antics on the field. These folks take incredible risks for freedom and for life under President Putin. See an earlier Pussy Riot post here. –Rose Berger
PUSSY RIOT: PITCH INVADERS, WORLD CUP DISRUPTORS, GREENBELTERS
During the World Cup final on Sunday, with millions around the world watching on and President Putin in the stands to soak up the adulation (at the end of what has been an astonishingly good tournament), four members of Greenbelt 2018 artists-in-residence, Pussy Riot, invaded the pitch.
Despite the usual knee-jerk groans of “what idiots!”, there was a carefully thought-through back-story behind the scenes. We want to take a few minutes to tell you about it.
In memory of Russian Poet Dmitri Aleksandrovich, who died 11 years ago, the four Pussy Rioters created an act they entitled ‘Policeman enters the pitch’. In his work, Prigov had created the image of a benevolent and perfect policeman (who Pussy Riot interpret as the bearer of heavenly statehood). This heavenly policeman, according to Prigov, would talk on his radio with God himself.
Supporters of divestment say existing fossil fuel resources are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that exploring and producing more fossil fuels is therefore morally wrong and economically risky. However, some critics argue say that remaining as shareholders and persuading fossil fuel companies to change can be more effective.
The Irish fossil fuel divestment bill was passed in the lower house of parliament on Thursday and it is expected to pass rapidly through the upper house, meaning it could become law before the end of the year. The Irish state investment fund holds more than €300m in fossil fuel investments in 150 companies.
“The [divestment] movement is highlighting the need to stop investing in the expansion of a global industry which must be brought into managed decline if catastrophic climate change is to be averted,” said Thomas Pringle, the independent member of parliament who introduced the bill. “Ireland by divesting is sending a clear message that the Irish public and the international community are ready to think and act beyond narrow short term vested interests.”
Éamonn Meehan, executive director of international development charity Trócaire, said: “Today the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] has sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels.”
Meehan said: “Just last month Ireland was ranked the second worst European country for climate action, so the passing of this bill is good news. But it has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue.”
The bill defines a fossil fuel company as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels. The bill also allows investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if this funds their move away from fossil fuels.
Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the bill, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”
I was reminded of this poem recently during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Hughes wrote it in response to the white nationalist riots that occurred in the summer of 1943 in Beaumont, Texas, and Detroit, MI.–Rose
On June 21, there was a historic meeting in Geneva with Pope Francis and other Vatican leaders and the leadership of the ecumenical World Council of Churches. Above is the 50 minute video of the shared worship service (order of worship), including Pope Francis preaching on Galatians 5:13-26 and the metaphor of “walking.” (He speaks in Italian. The English translation is here
Dear Brothers and Sisters, We have heard the words addressed by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, who were experiencing conflict and division. Groups were fighting and hurling accusations at one another. It is in this context that the Apostle, twice in the space of a few verses, invites us to “walk in the Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:16.25).
Walking. We human beings are constantly on the move. Throughout our lives, we are called to set out and keep walking: from our mother’s womb and at every stage of life, from when we first leave home to the day we depart from this earthly existence. The metaphor of walking reveals the real meaning of our life, a life that is not self-sufficient but always in search of something greater. Our hearts spur us to keep walking, to pursue a goal.
Walking is a discipline; it takes effort. It requires patience and exercise, day after day. We have to forego many other paths in order to choose the one that leads to the goal. We have to keep that goal constantly before us, lest we go astray. Walking also demands the humility to be prepared at times to retrace our steps. It also involves being concerned for our travelling companions, since only in company do we make good progress. Walking, in a word, demands constant conversion. That is why so many people refuse to do it. They prefer to remain in the quiet of their home, where it is easy to manage their affairs without facing the risks of travel. But that is to cling to a momentary security, incapable of bestowing the peace and joy for which our hearts yearn. That joy and peace can only be found by going out from ourselves. …. —Pope Francis (homily)
Rabbi Arthur Waskow reflects on the deep scriptural issues at stake with the current Trump administration policy that separates children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Please see the Shalom Center’s action steps.
Rabbi Waskow writes: “One leading official of the United States Government has claimed that biblical calls to obey the law are paramount here. We affirm that the Bible actually speaks the contrary.
Some officials are saying – even boasting – that the family-separation policy was deliberately intended by its ruthlessness to deter families from coming to the United States, seeking asylum because of well-founded fears that their lives and the lives of their children are in immediate danger if they were to stay in Central American countries that have been overwhelmed by violence.
But the Bible sees the world through God’s commitment to justice and compassion: “You shall not hand over to their masters serfs [or, some translators say, “slaves”]who have escaped from their masters to you. They may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which they choose within your gates, wherever it seems best to them. You shall not maltreat them” (Deuteronomy 23: 15-16).
Of course neither the biblical understanding of serfdom, indentured servitude, or slavery nor the experience of these refugees today, fleeing murder and rape and seeking asylum, is identical with the past of chattel slavery in the United States. Yet their experience bears elements of the same ruthless and violent subjugation. And this biblical verse is uncanny in its direct address of the crisis we face now, even more than other, broader teachings about love and justice for “foreigners.”
And the “law” that Attorney General Sessions cites to subjugate love and destroy our families is not law at all. It is a policy concocted by elements of the present US government that actually violates the law. It is intended to keep asylum-seekers from making their case as they are entitled to do both by US law and the binding law of the land, embedded in treaties the US has ratified.
It is about “laws” like these that the Bible speaks and Isaiah (10:2) cries out, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/16/18)—Lee B. Spitzer, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, published on June 15 a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in response to Sessions’ remarks which cited Romans 13 as justification for practices such as separating children from their parents in immigration cases. American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico. The text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Attorney General Sessions,
I am writing to you today on behalf of the 5,000 congregations and 1.3 million members of the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). As General Secretary, I serve as the national pastor of the denomination. ABCUSA has a long and distinguished record of service in welcoming immigrants and refugees to communities throughout the United States.
The American Baptist family would like to communicate our deep concern over the unjust immigration policies of the United States government, and in particular, the unconscionable separation of children from their parents on our southern border. As a fellowship of Christ-followers who recall the trials of the child Jesus and his parents, who fled from persecution in their homeland to another country (Matthew 2:13-18), we adamantly oppose separating children from their relatives. A just society can fulfill its fidelity to its own laws and border security without resorting to such unwise and harmful practices; instead, we urge that compassion, fairness and family-affirming policies characterize our response to the plight of families on our borders. We note that destructive practices such as the separation of children from parents place a serious burden on our law enforcement agents and officials, who in carrying out such policies find their own consciences ethically compromised and troubled.
Furthermore, we strongly disagree with your erroneous appropriation of the New Testament (in particular, Romans 13) to justify inhumane and unjust governmental actions. No responsible Christian theologian would assert that Romans 13, or any other passage in the Bible, supports the horrific separation of children from parents that we are witnessing at the present time. In fact, both the Old and New Testaments call those who believe in God to welcome refugees and immigrants with open arms and friendship, with loving care and concern, and with the willingness to assist others in enjoying the prospects of a future based on hope and opportunity.
Accordingly, American Baptists wish to express our sincere hope that the separation of children and parents will immediately cease. We urge Congress and the President to approve and implement without delay more compassionate and just immigration policies and procedures. As the leading law enforcement official of our government, it is your privilege and responsibility to lead such an effort. Thank you for considering our position.
Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, General Secretary?American Baptist Churches USA
I’ve been working on articles on North Korea and following the recent news closely about the Singapore meeting. I call it the Trump-Kim Summit because it’s clearly about the two of them–not so much the U.S. and North Korea). Eight tiny thoughts:
It could have been much worse.
It pushes the nuclear clock back a few minutes.
It is a success because it opens dialogue.
Both leaders are inveterate liars.
The agreement to repatriate the remains of U.S. servicemen is an important symbolic step toward bringing the Korean War to a close.
The incentives for both parties are commercial–but worse things have been done for money.
The proof will be in the pudding.
This Summit is an answer to millions of people’s prayers. Let’s not waste the moment.
Pax Christi International recommends follow-up talks include these key points if they are to actually lead towards disarmament and a durable peace:
Both countries should take conclusive steps towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, not only North Korea. The peninsula is not denuclearised if it remains under threat from U.S. nuclear weapons.
Both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and North Korea should rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is part of a five-step proposal for disarmament issued by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which includes Pax Christi International.
The U.S. and North Korea should pursue the successful completion of a peace treaty between both Koreas to replace the armistice from the Korean War, also as a follow-up of the historic Panmunjom Declaration of 27 April 2018.
The U.S. should raise concerns for human rights in North Korea as a condition to lift economic sanctions. Amongst other human rights abuses, up to 120,000 people continue to be arbitrarily detained in political prison camps. It is imperative that human rights are taken up in future talks, as their protection is intrinsically linked to peace and security.–Pax Christi International
If you ignore all the hoopla, here’s the agreement that Trump and Kim actually signed:
Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the Singapore Summit
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of a new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peach regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclarization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un state the following:
1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
2. The United States and the DPRK will join the efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panumunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclerarization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DRPK summit – the first in history – was a epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint agreement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world. —The White House
P.S. A pre-edited version of the agreement, hot off the copier to distribute to press, showed the U.S. and DPRK joining efforts to build a “lasting and stable peach regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
“It’s unjust for kids to be separated from their parents. It doesn’t matter the race or where the come from, because we all know, the fundamental base of society is family. So if we separate families, what we are doing, is destroying society.”—Yulio Bermudez spent 45 days trying to get his children, age 16, 7, and 3, back from the Department of Homeland Security
“God is Love and love enfolds us all the world in one embrace; with unfailing grasp God holds us, and every child of every race. And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod, then we find that self same aching deep within the heart of God,”–Isaac Watts, “God is Love” (sung to the tune of the Old 100th)