An American Thanksgiving

400 years after English Protestant separatists landed in Wampanoag territory in November 1620, let us tell the story rightly and truly.

THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA JAMES

Wamsutta (James, Frank), “The Eagles and the Crows” (c. 1972)
by Wamsutta (Frank James),” Indigenous New England Digital Collections.

Three hundred fifty years after the English Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their “American” descendants planned an anniversary celebration (1970). Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their ancestors and the Indigenous Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Wamsutta James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that his views — based on history rather than English supremacy and myth — were not what the Pilgrims’ descendants wanted to hear. Wamsutta refused to deliver a replacement speech given to him by a public relations person. Wamsutta James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. Below is the prophetic speech he was never able to give:

I speak to you as a man — a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction (“You must succeed – your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!”). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first – but we are termed “good citizens.” Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt’s Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years?

Continue reading “An American Thanksgiving”

Book release: Advancing Nonviolence is now available!

Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace is available to order today!

Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and World is the groundbreaking Catholic “peoples encyclical” on nonviolence as the forward-looking theology, spirituality, and practice for the Church when engaging issues of violence and developing peace.

120 theologians, social scientists, biblical scholars, grassroots practitioners, and pastoral leaders across 39 countries met over three years to discern how to return nonviolence to the heart of the Catholic Church.

Advancing Nonviolence is edited by Rose Marie Berger, Ken Butigan, Judy Coode, and Marie Dennis and published by Pax Christi International. All proceeds support the work of Pax Christi International.

What are people saying about Advancing Nonviolence?

“We need to mainstream nonviolence in the Church. We need to move it from the margins of Catholic thought to the center. Nonviolence is a spirituality, a lifestyle, a program of societal action and a universal ethic.”–Bishop Robert McElroy, San Diego

“In reading Advancing Nonviolence, I was moved by the gift we have been given through the gospel, tradition, and teachings of peace and nonviolence.”–Josianne Gauthier, Secretary General, CIDSE

“Active, compassionate and cooperative nonviolence is essential for our future survival. This book helps chart that path.”–Tiffany Easthom, Nonviolent Peaceforce

“The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, on behalf of Pax Christi International, has now put together a significant, integral argument for advancing nonviolence globally. While discussions on just war have had such texts for centuries, it is hard to say that the movement for Catholics supporting nonviolence have had such a foundational text of compelling resources until now.”–James Keenan, S.J., Boston College


Order your copy today!
Product details

Item Weight: 13 oz.
Paperback: 322 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-178456-716-3
Dimensions: 5.75 x .75 x 8.25 inches
Publisher: Pax Christi International (October 2020)
Language: English

To order Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and World go to https://www.fast-print.net/bookshop/2299/advancing-nonviolence-and-just-peace. Ships to all countries. All proceeds support Pax Christi International.

Nov. 11: Feast day of Soren Kierkegaard

“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?”–Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings

The 10 Commandments of Christian Nonviolence

The freedom struggle of the American south was built upon the firm foundation of Christian nonviolence. Here are the ten commandments of nonviolence that formed the basis of the pledge that Dr. King and others committed to as they engaged in courageous confrontation, wise and strategic organizing, and gentle, fierce service to a larger vision of equal justice under law and democracy that reflected the Beloved Community.

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

The Minyan of Creation by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

By stained-glass Judaic artist and scholar Revital Somekh-Goldreich (http://www.lettherebelightjudaicart.com)

“The Torah portion this coming Shabbat is called “Va’yera” after its first word, which means “was seen” or “became visible.”  The opening sentence (Genesis 18:1) reads like this:

“Now YHWH [the Interbreathing Spirit of the World] was seen by him [by Avraham} in the oaks of Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance to his tent at the heat of the day.”

 First let me say, “in the oaks of Mamre” is an unconventional but utterly reasonable translation of “b’elonai.”  Most translators say “by the oaks” because they want to point to three men who are about to appear as messengers of God, making God visible, and they are uncomfortable with the notion that God may be visible in the trees themselves.  But most of the time in the Bible,” b’” means “in.”

How could God be visible in that forest? If “YHWH” is the Breath of Life, the Wind of change, the Spirit of the world, then the rustling of leaves in that forest, blown by the Wind, would make visible the Wind that is about to change the life of Abraham and Sarah and the world.

 Secondly, in our own generation the scientists at last have taught us– – and perhaps long ago wise human beings knew the deep truth – that trees use chemicals to communicate with each other, that they help each other when some of them are in danger, that they breathe out the oxygen we need to breathe in and they breathe in the CO2 we breathe out.

When in Deuteronomy 20:19 Torah asks, “Are the trees of the field human?” we thought the question was tongue-in-cheek and that the answer was obviously No. But perhaps if being “human” means communicating wisdom across generations the answer is obviously “Yes!” (Consult Richard Powers’ insightful novel The Overstory.)

I have several times led prayer circles where I have invited people as part of the service to seek out a tree and listen to it breathe, then hear the tree’s own prayer, then come back to the community and share the tree’s prayer. When a dozen people do this, each prayer is unique, the prayers are as different as you can imagine — and profoundly “spiritual.”

Finally, how many of us have seen God become visible in a forest, a river, a bird, a cloud of fireflies? Time for us to welcome these bearers of life into the minyan, the quorum that makes prayer possible. Indeed, there could be no minyan without them.”–Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

Podcast: Voting as Our Sacred Duty with Rose and Vasu

So a Bahai and a Catholic walk into the voting booth … both consider social justice as foundational to their faith. What happens next?

InterfaithISH with Jack Gordon hosted Vasu Mohan, an international elections expert who is also Bahai and me, a Sojourners magazine editor and Catholic for this 60-minute podcast. Give yourself a treat and enjoy a generous and engaging conversation.

As the election approaches, we reflect on the spiritual responsibility to exercise our civil right, navigating the challenges of partisanship, and who we are remembering this All Souls Day. Featuring Vasu Mohan, an international elections expert and member of the DC Baha’i community, and Rose Berger, senior editor at Sojourners magazine and a member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.

InterfaithISH (10/28/20)

Learn more about:
Vasu Mohan wilmetteinstitute.org/faculty/vasu-mohan/
Rose Berger sojo.net/biography/rose-marie-berger
Catholic Non Violence Initiative nonviolencejustpeace.net/
How to Win the Baha’i Vote in South Carolina sojo.net/articles/how-win-bah-vote-south-carolina

Why Persist in Our Countercultural Habit?

The story in Exodus 34 narrates Moses on the mountain again, getting a second set of stone tablets from God, having busted the first set in sheer frustration of his people’s preoccupation with the idols of Egypt. This portrait offers the starkest possible contrast to the spectacle we witnessed last week. We’re speaking of course of Donald Trump clearing the streets with teargas so he could walk to an Episcopal Church that didn’t want him there, in order to brandish a Bible he didn’t open. These two images of a man carrying Holy Writ could not be more different. On Sinai we see Moses, a prophet of liberation, ascending yet again to the Source, trying again to bring instruction to a hard hearted people, on whose behalf he begs mercy. Moses is reminded that this Creator is indeed “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness.” This is a story of loving solidarity between God, prophet and community.


In DC, on the other hand, we see Trump descending from the White House, posing for a gratuitous photo opportunity in yet another attempt to weaponize the scriptures—of which he is ignorant, and from which he has never taken instruction—in order to legitimate his war on the citizenry. This is a story of unbridled cynicism. Friends, this is why we persist in our countercultural habit of turning to these ancient texts: because they offer a different narrative with which to counter the fabulations and manipulations of empire. This wisdom born from mountain peaks is how we do battle with the deadly hubris born from ziggurats and Trump Towers. “Our sacred stories,” as the great Indigenous writer Leslie Marmon Silko put it in her acclaimed novel Ceremony, “are all we have to fight illness and death.”

Ched Myers, “For God So Loved The World … A Tribute to Liz McAlister” (delivered on June 7, 2020)

The End of Predatory Policing

Photo by Jessica Griffin

The movement to end predatory policing is part of a national turn toward nonviolent civilian control of public safety. The rise of militarized police is a problem faced around the world. Militarization of police not only brings about more violence and abuse of authority, but it is based on a presumption of the citizen as a threat. This is antithetical to liberal democracies.

“A presumption of threat,” write Eliav Lieblich and Adam Shinar, “assumes that citizens, usually from marginalized communities, pose a threat of such caliber that might require the use of extreme violence. This presumption, communicated symbolically through the deployment of militarized police, marks the policed community as an enemy, and thereby excludes it from the body politic. Crucially, the pervasiveness of police militarization has led to its normalization, thus exacerbating its exclusionary effect. Indeed, whereas the domestic deployment of militaries has always been reserved for exceptional times, the process of police militarization has normalized what was once exceptional.”

“The police need to understand that this is a new day. The consent of the governed for predatory policing and mass incarceration racial injustice is hereby revoked. They need to understand they either change how they police or we will dismantle police departments as they exist today and create wrap-around safety strategies and institutions. They’ve got a choice now: They can either do it on their terms or it will be done to them by people who don’t understand as much about what they know.”–Connie Rice, civil rights lawyer, co-founder of the Advancement Project on As It Happens (8 June 2020)

“The only way we’re going to stop these endless cycles of police violence is by creating alternatives to policing. … More training or diversity among police officers won’t end police brutality, nor will firing and charging individual officers. … The focus on training, diversity and technology like body cameras shifts focus away from the root cause of police violence and instead gives the police more power and resources. The problem is that the entire criminal justice system gives police officers the power and opportunity to systematically harass and kill with impunity. … The solution to ending police violence and cultivating a safer country lies in reducing the power of the police and their contact with the public. We can do that by reinvesting the $100 billion spent on policing nationwide in alternative emergency response programs, as protesters in Minneapolis have called for. City, state and federal grants can also fund these programs.”– Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris, No More Money for Police (New York Times, 30 may 2020)