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.

Hot Off the Press! Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice

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The book is out! Great work by the one of the most innovative Christian movements today. How do we bear forward the gospel at the end of the Anthropocene? Love the watershed you’re with (to paraphrase Crosby, Stills, and Nash).

Order lots of these books here.

My poem “Prophecies from the Watershed Conspiracy” is included in the foreword, along with an essay by  Denise Marie Nadeau, a French and Mi’kmaq Canadian and dance movement therapist, who has made the Nibi ceremony for the protection of water.

This collection introduces and explores “watershed discipleship” as a critical, contextual, and constructive approach to ecological theology and practice, and features emerging voices from a generation that has grown up under the shadow of climate catastrophe.

Watershed Discipleship is a “triple entendre” that recognizes we are in a watershed historical moment of crisis, focuses on our intrinsically bioregional locus as followers of Jesus, and urges us to become disciples of our watersheds.

Bibliographic framing essays by Myers trace his journey into a bioregionalist Christian faith and practice and offer refections on incarnational theology, hermeneutics, and ecclesiology. The essays feature more than a dozen activists, educators, and practitioners under the age of forty, whose work and witness attest to a growing movement of resistance and reimagination across North America.

Contributors reread both biblical texts and churchly practices (such as mission, baptism, and liturgy) through the lens of “re-place-ment.” It’s a comprehensive and engaged call for a “Transition church” that can help turn our history around toward environmental resiliency and social justice, by passionate advocates on the front lines of watershed discipleship.

Order lots of these books here.

Video: The Real Homeland Security Defends Pennsylvania Watersheds


On Jan, 20,2016, people from Pennsylvania were forced to break into a “business as usual” meeting of representatives from fossil fuel corporations and state government in order to defend their land and advance the goals of the Paris Climate Conference to keep fossil fuels in the ground and enact an immediate transition to renewable energy.

As Christian activist Nathan Sooy of Dillsburg, PA, says in this video, “When civil discourse is finally closed off or ignored it leaves only the option for uncivil discourse.”

This is a 10 minute video of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Pipeline Task Force meeting the People’s Task Force for the Protection of Pennsylvania (EDGE, BXE, and Pennsylvania fractivists) in Harrisburg, Pa. The industry had their time to talk at the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meetings. This video tells the people’s story, featuring public comment from Pennsylvania residents and public health advocates that were dismissed, silenced, and ignored after sacrificing to be at every meeting.

Seven people were arrested. None of them were the government or corporate representatives.

SEPT 1: First Global Day of Prayer for Care of the Creation – Reach Out and Touch Someone

Farid de la Ossa
Nature and the Eucharist by Farid de la Ossa

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas
and built it on the ocean depths….
Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors,
and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s armies—
he is the King of glory.
–Psalm 24:1-2, 9-10

From John Elwood, our friend and co-conSPIRITor over at Beloved Planet:

Virtually the entire global Christian Church has embraced Tuesday, September 1, as a Global Day of Prayer for Care of the Creation. Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Communion has long recognized the prayer day; recently, Pope Francis did so for the world’s Roman Catholics; and now, the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance, representing more than 600 million Christians worldwide, and the World Council of Churches have both endorsed the Day of Prayer.

You are invited you to participate in this first truly global response by Christians to our many environmental crises by joining in a Telephonic Prayer Meeting organized by Evangelical Christians engaged in various Creation Care ministries.

When? Tuesday, September 1, 8:00-8:50 PM Eastern, 5:00-5:50 Pacific

Call in instructions: Dial 1-302-202-1106 – Conference code: 381142 (Kindly mute your line upon connecting.)

Who’s involved? Representatives of the World Evangelical Alliance, the Lausanne evangelistic movement’s Creation Care Network, Care of Creation, Climate Caretakers, Sojourners, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the A Rocha Christian conservation ministry, the Christian Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church and Christians for the Mountains, among many others.

How can I participate? Download the attached PDF prayer guide and join numerous speakers in scripture readings, devotions and prayer for our world, for repentance, for those in power, and for the church. And forward this email to your friends, small group members, pastors, family members and the like. There’s room for everyone to join in prayer!

When the White House Calls to Say ‘Okay, You Win’

It didn’t take long – after news broke this afternoon that President Obama had indefinitely kyboshed the climate-killer Keystone XL pipeline – for my phone to ring.

“Hi Rose, I’m calling from White House on behalf of President Obama. We wanted to makes sure you’d seen the President’s executive order postponing the permitting of the pipeline until another environmental impact report can be done, especially focusing on sensitive environmental issues in Nebraska. And we want to thank you for your good work on this issue. We’re just reaching out to let you know that the President hears you and we hope you’ll continue to help us focus on the really critical issues that are facing us right now.”

This afternoon President Obama made an official announcement on the Keystone XL Pipeline that so many of you have been working on these last several months: “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood. … The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.”

Wow! What started as an issue among First Nations folks on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, expanded to the American Midwest where churches, farmers, and environmentalists were warning of corporate shenanigans that could poison the Ogallala aquifer (“America’s well”), and has become an international issue with more than 650,000 people signing petitions to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, has now shifted a United States president and his administration away from their earlier stated intentions.

Developing the Canadian tar sands to extract unconventional petroleum has been a disastrous proposal from the very beginning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that Canadian tar sands carbon emissions are “82 percent greater than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.” This pipeline is a climate killer. It is morally right for President Obama to delay this decision until he can deny the permit.

We must remain vigilant to make sure powerful corporate interests don’t merely drive the decision-making process underground. We can also thank the President, the State Department, and especially the Environmental Protection Agency for truly acting on our national interest by giving more deliberate scrutiny to this particular pipeline, tar sands development, and push them continue shifting our nation toward renewable fuels and energy and the “clean jobs” needed to take us forward.
This is a great win. Who are the winners? Poor people who are most critically affected by climate change. Midwest farmers who must protect their land and our water supply. Indigenous communities who lives are threatened by tar sands development.

Who are the biggest “winners”? People of faith. Our earth is a prayer that we offer back in praise of our Creator. Let us dance and celebrate and praise God for God’s guiding presence – and keep a watchful eye those who would lead us down the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Thank you everyone who is working so hard to stop this pipeline. Take a moment to do a little dance! Because those who don’t dance have run out of steam when the revolution arrives!

[See God’s Politics blog for more on this topic.]

Pope Bummed About Failure at Copenhagen

PopecropThe Pope gave a talk on 11 January 2010 to the Vatican diplomatic corps in which he expressed how bummed out he was about the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference.

Of course, being the Pope, he says it all in a much more elevated language and puts it all in its broader moral framework. Below are some of the more significant pull quotes:

In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature. Today I would like to stress that the same way of thinking also endangers creation. …

The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God. …

If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown. As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught, man represents all that is most noble in the universe (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 29, a. 3). Furthermore, as I noted during the recent FAO World Summit on Food Security, “the world has enough food for all its inhabitants” (Address of 16 November 2009, No. 2) provided that selfishness does not lead some to hoard the goods which are intended for all. …

How can we forget, for that matter, that the struggle for access to natural resources is one of the causes of a number of conflicts, not least in Africa, as well as a continuing threat elsewhere? For this reason too, I forcefully repeat that to cultivate peace, one must protect creation! Furthermore, there are still large areas, for example in Afghanistan or in some countries of Latin America, where agriculture is unfortunately still linked to the production of narcotics, and is a not insignificant source of employment and income. If we want peace, we need to preserve creation by rechanneling these activities; I once more urge the international community not to become resigned to the drug trade and the grave moral and social problems which it creates. …

Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and the cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest. …

On this solemn occasion, I would like to renew the appeal which I made during the Angelus prayer of 1 January last to all those belonging to armed groups, of whatever kind, to abandon the path of violence and to open their hearts to the joy of peace. …

The grave acts of violence to which I have just alluded, combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land. Given the extent of this exodus, I wish to exhort the various civil authorities to carry on their work with justice, solidarity and foresight. …

It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility. …

Read the whole thing here.

Why So Glum, Climate Change Movement?

happyplanetSo, the planets in peril. Yeah. That’s bad. But hand-wringing never solved anything. U.K.’s Giles Fraser, canon chancellor at St. Paul’s cathedral in London, says the motto “Let’s make huge sacrifices in order to make nothing happen” is not the way to run a successful social movement!

“The climate-change campaign needs a sense of can-do enthusiasm”, says Fraser.  The language of “hope” and “salvation” comes to mind as a way religious folk can contribute to a global shift in consciousness about all of us living lightly on the earth.

Here’s an excerpt from Fraser’s recent speech:

Why is the climate-change campaign failing to change hearts and minds? Or perhaps it is chang­ing hearts and minds (we all do our little bit: recycling, green toothpaste, and so on), but is failing to affect our fundamental thirst for energy which drives the deeper changes that are taking place. Why?

One explanation is that many climate-change campaigners sweat gloom about the future. That hardly gives them a Henry V leadership style. It can sometimes seem as if their message is that if we try extremely hard, then we can just about stop any more changes. In other words: let’s make huge sacrifices in order to make nothing happen. With that message, it is hard to imagine how you might persuade someone to get out of bed.

At Lambeth Palace last fortnight, religious leaders got together to press a different message. We are the generation that is being called on to be heroes, to make a difference, to save the planet. Now that is the right emphasis.

The climate-change campaign needs a sense of can-do enthusiasm. It would be really something if that was what faith leaders were able to add to the mix: replacing gloomy defeatism with a secularised version of something we call hope.

Moreover, we may find that those who have sneered at the very idea of salvation will come to see the importance of this type of language. A biblical-sounding crisis requires a language and a philosophy commensurate with the size of the threat.–Giles Fraser

Read the whole speech here.