William Stringfellow on the Power of the State

“Remember, now, that the State has only one power it can use against human beings: death.  The State can persecute you, prosecute you, imprison you, exile you, execute you.  All of these mean the same thing.  The State can consign you to death.  The grace of Jesus Christ in this life is that death fails.  There is nothing the State can do to you, or to me, which we need fear.”–William Stringfellow (Second Birthday)

Rene August: ‘Tell the truth and shame the devil’

“Two-thirds of the world live on less than two dollars a day. Two-thirds of the world! That makes you [in the U.S.] a minority. Who in the U.S. lives on less than two dollars a day? … From where we sit [in South Africa] … did you know that the scale of the world map was reconfigured to make the USA look bigger than it actually is? And to make Africa smaller than it actually is? That’s just telling lies. So we must tell the truth and shame the devil. Because when you participate in lies you participate with that same enemy. So I’m not going to be collaborating with lies — as far as I know. I realize that I participate in many lies that I am blind to …

On FB someone said something about ‘America’ and I said, ‘Don’t you mean the US?’ So this country that is the United States, calls itself America, which is  two continents. And then you call where I come from, you call Africa a ‘country.’ A whole continent is treated like a country. And a country treats itself like two continents. That’s lies right there! So when you talk about making America great again, you are talking about making Mexico great again. You are talking about making Nicaragua great again! You are talking about making Canada great again.” –Rene August, South African Anglican priest @SojoSummit2017

Hard Books You’ll Be Glad You Read

Here are the hard books I hope to read (or re-read) this summer:

Blood and Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism by Damon T. Berry

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by Kelly Brown Douglass

A Most Dangerous Book:Tacitus’ Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich by Christopher B. Krebs

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: An Informal Autobiography by Lorraine Hansberry

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby

Let me know what hard books you are reading!

‘Saving Place, Saving Grace’ Trappists, Sustainability, and Place

Ecology meets theology. “Saving Place, Saving Grace” is the story of a Trappist monastery’s struggle for reformation of their home by embracing an intense sustainability initiative. Witness the monks’ land stewardship, contemplative prayer, and work ethic that shapes the core of their community, Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia.

An old definition of a monk is “Amato loci,” lover of a place. In 2009, the University of Michigan did a yearlong sustainability study of Holy Cross’ 1,200 acres on the banks of the Shenandoah River and embraced a land management plan. Now most of the 1,200 acres have been put into a conservation trust. Can faith communities and agricultural interests find common ground? Is there a balance between working the land and consecrating it?

Wade Through Deep Water: An Introduction to D.C.’s Watershed

Tevyn East as Miriam and Jay Beck as John the Baptist in “Wade Through Deep Water”

By Rose Marie Berger
Introduction to “Wade Through Deep Water” presentation held at the Festival Center in Washington D.C.

In the Roaring Twenties, the WWI war profiteers were enjoying unprecedented prosperity, while rural landholders were losing their farms to debt and moving into the cities looking for work. The war had displaced millions of refugees who also were pouring into the cities.

Along with immigrants came the Chinese exclusion act of 1923 and National Origins act in 1924. With the rise in urban population came the “modernization” of the city, the rise of tenements, streets for automobiles, and rudimentary cisterns and sewers. The Roaring Twenties are also sometimes called the Jazz Age. And Jazz captured the frenetic, complex energy of a city in the way that Mississippi delta blues never could.

In March 1923, Robert Frost published a poem in The New Republic titled “A Brook in the City.” In it creates a snapshot of the once solitary farmhouse nestled into fields swallowed by new urban sprawl. Frost meditates on the stream that used to identify the watershed in that place.

A BROOK IN THE CITY by Robert Frost

The farm house lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in. But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.

Tonight we gather with members of Holy Fool Arts as they present “Wade Through Deep Water,” a Ceremonial Theater event “tracing the soggy footprints of a people through the wombs of the Red Sea and Jordan River to birth an Exodus thirsting for collective liberation. Come near to hear the voice of water’s lament as told by Miriam, Moses’ sister, and John the Baptist—two of God’s prophets whose water-logged lives kept them swimming in transformation.”

But before this ancient narrative can well up in our own, we have to learn about where we are. Here at the Festival Center on Columbia Road in Washington, D.C. we are guests in the watershed of our country’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. The bay was formed 35 million years ago when a speck of stardust was flung from the hand of God into Delmarva peninsula, punching a hole that slowly filled with water. For 10 million years, the estuary spread. It sprouted rivers—the Anacostia, the Susquehanna—in the fissures opened in rock by melting ice. Twenty thousand years ago the Anacostia settled into her riverbed, creating this watershed, this basin of biotic relationships (see Brock Dolman).

For more than 10,000 years, Native peoples have created thriving societies along the Anacostia and her tributaries: the Powhatan, the Piscataway, and the Nanticoke.

The Piscataway had about 8,500 members in 1604 when the English arrived. Within 100 years only 300 remained. And they remain still. We give honor here to the Tayac family to Chief Billy, Gabrielle, Sebi, and the community. The Piscataway Nation continues to offer prayers for the Cheseapeake bay, for Anacostia river, for the streams and tributaries. They serve as sacred water protectors here.

These rivers, like this city, were weaponized during wars—the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II—with bases and armories built on their silty backs. Until 125 years ago, this city was known for its artesian springs—like Rome today There were more than 50 public wells and hundreds of private springs that provided fresh water.

Here on Columbia Road we sit on Lanier Heights, the very western edge of the Lower Anacostia watershed. This neighborhood is held in the arms of two abandoned and buried tributaries—Reedy Branch and Moore Spring.

All the wells and springs were backfilled in the 1920s. A system was devised to divert water from the Potomac for public use.

Only in the past 10 years–with the pressures of climate change–are we reversing the way this city uses water and looking at how to revive and protect our underground streams. The most stunning example of this is the project to return the Broad Branch tributary that has been piped in and concreted over back to the surface in a process called “daylighting.”

As Robert Frost wrote, “No one would know except for ancient maps / that such a brook ran water. But I wonder / If from its being kept forever under / The thoughts may not have risen that so keep /This new-built city from both work and sleep.”

This is where we are. Now we ask: What does it mean? I hope these underground streams will delight and disturb your dreams.

—Rose Marie Berger (9 June 2017, Festival Center, “Wade Through Deep Water” ceremonial theater). Find out more in Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice, edited by Ched Myers (Cascade, 2016).

Tommy Airey: ‘Resistance and Recovery’

“Our communities of discontinuity aren’t rearranging pews on the Titanic. We are striving for what Parker Palmer calls “circles of trust.” In short, we pledge ourselves to resistance and recovery.   We actively resist red-state austerity dreams, blue-state mediocrity memes and neoliberal prosperity schemes.  However, until we take our own inventory and commit to the long process of inner healing, we simply project our own predatory ways on to them. They become convenient scapegoats. Meanwhile, nobody really gets saved. We keep drowning spiritually andemotionally, just stubborn great whites devouring those most dear to us.”–Tommy Airey, “Intimacy and Inner Work

Surveiling Dakota Land Defenders Has Biblical Resonance

Two recent articles (see below) document what land defenders fighting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines have been reporting anecdotally: they are being aggressively surveiled and treated like enemy combatants, not Americans. As Sojourners publisher Joe Roos said during the Reagan era, “The real goal of most domestic surveillance is political control. The suppression of domestic political dissent and the containment of social change movements lie more at the heart of our government’s intentions.” And Bill Wylie-Kellermann reminds us that “In truth, [surveillance] is an ancient tactic of the powers, one with which Jesus contended and coped.”

Wylie-Kellermann continues, “An eye for surveillance material in the New Testament is a little like paranoia; it begins to stare back at you from every page. In a recent re-reading of the four gospels, I counted easily more than 40 instances where Jesus or his followers are being watched, watched for, or sought. Add to that some 25 or more references to plottings against him and his friends, and you begin to get the creeps. At the point in John where Jesus himself is accused of being “paranoid” (7:20), we can take sympathy. He has good reason to be. In general, the gospel of John (so often revered as the least political) appears to have the most abundant material on surveillance. There we are granted a dramatic view most privy to the counsel of the authorities, and there the actions of Jesus in response are most versatile and conscious. Of the synoptics Luke is the most explicit about the plots: “So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor” (Luke 20:20). These agents do deliver. At the trial those political charges are brought, with a host of witnesses to back them up.”

There is nothing new under the sun and our authentic witness for the integrity of creation continues to provoke responses in the Powers That Be. So, beloved, be “wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.”–RMB

Paramilitary security tracked and targeted DAPL opponents as “jihadists,” docs show by Antonia Juhasz for Grist

“As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.

The activities of the company spanned, but were not limited to, the four states through which the pipeline passes: South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The documents also show that its surveillance efforts continued after the breakup of the Standing Rock camps this winter, including at ongoing pipeline protests in southeastern Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Dakota.

The internal documents from the firm, called TigerSwan, take the form of situation reports, or “sitreps,” prepared between September and April for its employer, Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners. The records detail a range of tactics that experts from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and Electronic Frontier Foundation say would likely be illegal if conducted by law enforcement. …” Read more here.

Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics used at Standing Rock to ‘Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies’ by Alleen Brown, Will Parrish, Alice Speri at The Intercept

“… The situation reports also suggest that TigerSwan attempted a counterinformation campaign by creating and distributing content critical of the protests on social media.

The Intercept is publishing a first set of TigerSwan’s situation reports from September 2016, which describe the company’s initial operations. We are also publishing two additional situation reports dated October 16 and November 5, along with PowerPoint presentations shared with law enforcement that correspond to the same dates. The names of private individuals whose actions are not already in the public record, or whose authorization we did not obtain, have been redacted to protect their privacy. The Intercept will publish the remaining situation reports in the coming weeks.

In addition, The Intercept is publishing a selection of communications, obtained by public records requests, detailing coordination between a wide range of local, state, and federal agencies, which confirm that the FBI participated in core Dakota Access-related law enforcement operations starting soon after protests began last summer. Finally, we are publishing two additional documents, also in the public record, that detail TigerSwan’s role spearheading Energy Transfer Partner’s multipronged security operation. …” Read more here.

Looking for Nonviolence and Active Bystander Intervention Training?

What Kind of Nonviolence Training Do You Need?
Read Rivera Sun’s round-up on types of nonviolence training to determine what will work best for your group. Read Rose Berger’s When You See Something … Act (April 2017 Sojourners).

Are you looking for Peace Team, Active Bystander and Nonviolent  Intervention Training?

What you’ll learn: In this training, participants learn skills for nonviolently interrupting vio lence and discrimination, hate, intolerance, intimidation and harassment. They learn de-escalation skills, documentation skills, intervention and disruption skills, protective accompaniment, peace team and unarmed peacekeeping skills. Role-playing is often an essential part of the training process.

When to use this training: You see verbal abuse happening on the subway, or in line at the grocery store. You live in an area where discrimination and intolerance is visible and vocal. You are going to a situation where there is likely to be hate crimes, verbal abuse, active discrimination, or tensions around difference that could lead to violent and abusive situations.

Who offers it:

D.C. Peace Teams
Michigan-Meta Peace Team
Kit Bonson at the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (email: [email protected])
Tameka Bell at Story Fuel Strategies (See her training description.)
Green Dot
Hollaback
Beautiful Trouble

What if I want to facilitate my own Active Bystander and Nonviolent Intervention Training?

While we recommend inviting trainers who have a broad expertise in nonviolence and a variety of conflict situations, anyone can facilitate an introductory training with a few basic tools.

Contact Kit Bonson at the Montgomery County (Md) Civil Rights Coalition ([email protected]) to request the training curriculum used by Swamp Revolt at the 23 trainings held in the greater D.C. area on Inauguration Day.

Materials for Nonviolence & Active Bystander Intervention Trainings
Want to learn how to de-escalate hate speech and harassment and better understand what it means to (safely) stick up for your neighbor with compassion and resolve?

Take 32 minutes to complete the following self-study on the basics:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the Principles of Bystander Intervention by Kit Bonson (2 minutes)
  2. Read Six Principles of Nonviolence by Michael Nagler (6 minutes)
  3. Watch Ken Brown explain the science behind bystander effect and active bystander effect: The bystander effect is complicated — here’s why(16 minutes)
  4. Study this illustration on Islamophobic Harassment by French artist Marie-Shirine Yener about how to help if you witness public harassment of a Muslim woman (3 minutes)
  5. Review and personally commit to the Nonviolence Pledge (5 minutes) and see the Meta Center’s Pledge of Resistance.

 

Go Deeper in Nonviolent Civil Resistance and Active Bystander Intervention
Want to learn more about the broader social movement for civil resistance to injustice and how to build stronger, more inclusive, democratic communities?

  1. Read Education and Training in Nonviolent Resistance by Nadine Bloch (20 minutes)
  2. Watch Standing Up for Racial Justice’s video, Don’t Be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks (4 minutes)

Ken Sehested: ‘Violent People Learning to Be Nonviolent’

Thank you to Radical Discipleship for posting Ken Sehested’s commentary Conflicting Memorials: The Lord’s Table of Remembrance vs. The Nation’s Vow of Preeminence

People of the Way remain committed to a peculiar allegiance and a distinctive conviction: that all violence, of every sort, is a form of evangelism for the Devil. Those who stand by this claim get no extra cookies nor receive special privilege. Pride is excluded from the armor of faith, and boasting is limited to the promise that loving enemies is the only fruitful way to lasting peace, in imitation of the one who refused the option of a militarized angelic rescue from the crucifier’s grisly work. (cf. Matthew 26:53)

We make this profession of our faith even knowing that we ourselves are not immune from the lust for vengeance. As César Chávez, the great practitioner of nonviolent struggle for justice, said: “I am a violent man learning to be nonviolent.” Indeed, we are given the grace to confess our bloodlust precisely because we stand in merciful submission to the promise of life that is to come.–Ken Sehested