Ecclesiastes: Who Will Comfort Them?

Vigil for John Crawford shot in WalMart in Ohio
Vigil for John Crawford shot in WalMart in Ohio

“Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed — with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power — with no one to comfort them.”– Ecclesiastes 4:1

World-Renowned Peacemaker, Art Gish, Dies in Tractor Accident

Art and Peggy Gish by Dinty W. Moore

Art and Peggy Gish (above) are career peace, civil rights and human rights activists who embody the motto of their primary affiliation, Christian Peacemaker Teams: “Getting in the way.”

Art died this morning in a tractor accident on the organic farm where he and Peggy live near Athens, Ohio. He was 70.  (See Athens County peace activist killed in farming accident.)

Art Gish has been part of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron since 1995, getting in the way of Israeli military and settler violence against Palestinian civilians. Peggy was in Iraq as peace advocate and witness before, during and following the invasion of Iraq.

Art Gish stares down Israeli tank.

Both of them have been mentors to generations of Christian pacifists and peace activists – as well as bringing a deep love and peaceableness to places of violent injustice around the world, including Hebron and Iraq.

The last time I saw Art was when I was leading a nonviolence training in preparation for risking arrest at the White House as part of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq on March 16, 2007. To lead a nonviolence training with Art Gish in the room was humbling. And talking to him afterward was a deep spiritual blessing.

Art is loved by many and will be mourned by more. I hold him up to the Light. He is an witness to the model of an honorable man who literally lived “‘neath his vine and fig tree in peace and unafraid” while always standing with those whose vines and fig trees were uprooted by men with guns and for whom peace and safety were fleeting ideals

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Thank you, brother.

Art Gish on his organic farm in Athens, Ohio.

To read books about and by Art and Peggy Gish, check out these:

Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace by Peggy Faw Gish

As Resident Aliens: Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank, by CPTer Kathleen Kern

and find more at Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Religion, Workers, and the Economy

youngstown-steelI really appreciate the class analysis from the folks over at Working-Class Perspectives, a blog from the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University. They are doing contextual analysis – and sometimes, contextual theology – from the heart of the Rust Belt.

Here’s an excerpt from Religion, Workers, and the Economy by Brian R. Corbin, looking at the Pope’s new encyclical Charity in Truth. Brian is director of Catholic Charities in Youngstown and blogs at brianrcorbin.com.

Since the publication of Rerum Novarum in 1891, Catholic social teachings have provided moral and ethical guideposts for economic behavior.  Of particular importance, have been the Papal Encyclicals on the economy that have sought to protect the working class and their institutions in the face of unfettered capitalism.   In Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, the Church goes a step further by providing a critical analysis of neoliberal economic thought and the problems of globalization while reiterating the need for basic protections for workers and unions.

The pope writes explicitly that justice abhors great disparities in wealth and that societies need “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”  Employment, however, needs to be “decent work.”  Benedict writes that  such work  “expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman; work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labour; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.”

To read my column on the encyclical, see A Love Letter From the Pope.

Catholic Ohio: Sacraments in the Rust Belt

blessed-sacrament2I went to a fantastic Holy Saturday vigil mass at Blessed Sacrament in Warren, Ohio, last week. The architecture of the church is stunning with an glass silo-type spire.

There were 6 or 7 people baptized in the full-immersion font and probably a half dozen more who were confirmed into the church that night. It’s a parish alive with grace, patience, beauty, and (!) teenagers! This is a Catholic community thriving in the spirit of Vatican II.

Unfortunately, many Catholic churches in Ohio are not faring so well, according to a recent CNN story.

Along the Rust Belt and in cities dotting the Northeast and Upper Midwest, Catholic communities are mourning the loss of parishes. It’s a five-year trend of sweeping church closures that most recently hit Cleveland, Ohio. …

What drove the decision to close parishes in Cleveland were population shifts to outlying areas, financial strains that have 42 percent of parishes “operating in the red” and priest shortages, diocese spokesman Robert Tayek explained. The bishop, he said, is trying to find “an equitable solution.”

But the announcement has raised many questions. Among them: What happens to the struggling neighborhoods that have come to rely on outreach and programs offered by some of these inner-city parishes?

“Too many bishops are treating parishes as if they were Starbucks franchises,” said Sister Christine Schenk, a Cleveland-area nun who’s been fighting for nearly two decades to institute change in the church through her organization FutureChurch. “It’s about more than money. It’s about mission to the people,” she said.