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

The Palm Sunday Uprising


University of Zimbabwe students carry branches and fronds during a peaceful march from the campus to Harare city centre April 9, 2001. The students, who were protesting the alleged beating to death of a student by riot police during disturbances Sunday 8 April 2001, were disbursed by riot police who fired teargas. (Picture by Howard Burditt/Reuters)

The Palm Sunday Uprising (an excerpt from The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem):

“Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30 … One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the kingdom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class …On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Jesus’s procession proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate’s proclaimed the power of empire. The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’s crucifixion.

Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and Roman imperial theology … it was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals … to be in the city in case there was trouble … The mission of the troops with Pilate was to reinforce the Roman garrison permanently stationed in the Fortress Antonia, overlooking the Jewish Temple and its courts … Imagine the imperial procession’s arrival in the city. A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. The eyes of the silent onlookers, some curious, some awed, some resentful. Pilate’s procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology. According to this theology, the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God … For Rome’s Jewish subjects, Pilate’s procession embodied not only a rival social order, but also a rival theology.

We return to the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem … As Mark tells the story in 11:1-11, it is a prearranged ‘counterprocession’ … The meaning of the demonstration is clear, for it uses symbolism from the prophet Zechariah in the Jewish Bible. According to Zechariah, a king would be coming to Jerusalem (Zion), ‘humble, and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (9:9). In Mark, the reference to Zechariah is implicit. Matthew, when he treats Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, makes the connection explicit by quoting the passage: ‘Tell the daughter of Zion: look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (Matt. 21:5, quoting Zech. 9:9). The rest of the Zechariah passage details what kind of king he will be: ‘He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations’ (9:10). The king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land—no more chariots, war-horses or bows. Commanding peace to the nations, he will be a king of peace.

Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus’s procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God. This contrast—between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Cæsar—is central not only to the gospel of Mark, but to the story of Jesus and early Christianity. The confrontation between these two kingdoms continues through the last week of Jesus’s life … Holy Week is the story of this confrontation.”–The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem, by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006, pp. 2-5)

Maggid: Telling Our Story of Resistance

This Resistance Passover is created by Rebecca Ennen and Rabbi Elizabeth Richman of Jews United for Justice. Visit www.jufj.org to learn more.

Telling Our Story

Reader:
In every generation we must each see ourselves k’ilu hu yatzah mi-Mitzrayim / as though we ourselves were freed from Egypt. This year the story speaks for itself:

All:
Long ago, a new king rose over Egypt. ‘Behold!” he said. “The people are too many and too mighty. Let us deal shrewdly with them.” He set over them taskmasters to afflict them and to make their lives bitter and harsh. We became slaves to Pharaoh in Mitzrayim.

Had God not brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, we and our children and our children’s children would still be servants to Pharaoh.

Reader:
There arose in America a President who did not know the real promise of this country, who did not recognize the beauty of our American ideals. He made our lives harsh with schemes of registers, walls, deportations, and humiliation. He embittered our lives: trampled the poor, cut our safety nets, and flouted the rule and protections of law. He afflicted and enabled the forces of hate. He feared that we, the people, were too numerous – and he tried to divide us from each other.

Continue reading “Maggid: Telling Our Story of Resistance”

Jan. 30: Gandhian Resistance by Joan Chittister

gandhiJANUARY 30, ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF MAHATMA GANDHI

Mahatma Gandhi is a strong, unwavering figure whose light has lit many a road. Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement walked the way that Gandhi led and brought segregation to an end. Cesar Chavez and the migrant farmworkers walked the way that Gandhi led and made Hispanic farmworkers a power to be reckoned with rather than an invisible minority to be exploited. The peace movement around the world has walked the way that Gandhi led and forced the end of the Vietnam War, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Marcos regime in the Philippines, and the end of nuclear innocence.

Gandhi asked us to critique government and law according to a higher law. Gandhi reminded us to be patient with others, to do no one harm, to pursue truth with passion.

Gandhi demands that our political involvement and our personal responses be based on a spirituality so deep, a spiritual attunement so constant, a spiritual vision so broad that no personal ambition, no selfish gains, no parochial interests corrupt the depth of our commitment nor the openness of our hearts. No seed ever sees the flower, Zen teaches. Those who follow Gandhi, may, like him, never know their successes. But like Gandhi, too, they will never really know defeat.—by Joan Chittister (adapted from A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God; Orbis, Devotional Edition)

Initiate Emergency Protocols in All Houses of Worship

A Silver Spring, Md. church with a large immigrant population was vandalized with racist messages, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy Robert Harvey, Episcopal Church of Our Savior)
A Silver Spring, Md. church with a large immigrant population was vandalized with racist messages, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy Robert Harvey, Episcopal Church of Our Savior)

by Rose Marie Berger

President-elect Trump has promised a White Nationalist agenda that is already impacting  our communities. In response, we must form a circle of protection around those who are most vulnerable. As the new Vatican ambassador to the U.S. said this week, the church needs to “assume a prophetic role.”

In setting priorities we should ask ourselves three things: What things can President-elect Trump do easily and quickly (eg overturning executive actions like DACA/DAPA immigrant protections)? What actions by him will have high-consequence impact (eg Supreme Court justice appointment, permitting Keystone XL pipeline, enacting E-Verify)? What actions by him will be irreversible (e.g. rapid increase in deportations, changes to the Constitution, reversals on climate-change protocols)?

There are also things that Mr. Tump cannot do (such as “ban all Muslims”), but the inflammatory White Nationalist rhetoric encourages the rise of religious, race, and gender-based hate at the local level. All of which are generally accompanied by a rise of anti-Semitism and attacks on other vulnerable communities (LGBT, prostitutes, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and political dissidents). This is already occurring (see WJLA report that the vandals struck Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring, MD. A sign reaching out to the Hispanic community was defaced to read: “Trump Nation whites only”).

We have less than 70 days to prepare.

5 actions you can take right now

1. Initiate emergency response protocols for immigrant communities – especially mixed status communities. Establish a team trained in “What to do if Immigration comes to your School (or Church).” I suggest making this widely available at churches and schools. Perhaps even printing them out for distribution.

2. Initiate “emergency sanctuary teams” in all houses of worship to prepare for work-site raids, silent raids, and massive job loss (if E-verify is enacted). Learn the mechanisms of making your house a worship a “sanctuary church.” Read history of D.C. Sanctuary Churches and the national Sanctuary Movement and learn more at New Sanctuary Movement.

3. Initiate conflict-reduction teams in all houses of worship to defuse, intervene, and respond to hate speech and hate crimes. Contact Pace e Bene training, DC Meta Peace Team, or Cure Violence to organize trainings.

4. Initiate inter-denominational and inter-faith outreach teams in all houses of worship to establish open lines of communication between local houses of worship. Multicultural and immigrant churches are most vulnerable right now. Christian churches should reach out to local imams, rabbis, and leaders of Sikh gurdwaras. See Ten Ways To Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide.

5. Initiate a “pledge of resistance” letter-writing campaign in your churches and communities addressed to President-elect Trump (c/o Trump Tower / 725 – 5th Avenue / New York, NY 10022), Senate majority leader Mr. Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Mr. Paul Ryan. The body text would include:

If you pursue the policies you embodied during your campaign, the supremacy of white people over people of color, the literal and figurative creation of walls of division and hostility between people and nations, your misogynistic attitude and practice toward women, your disdain for the poor, disabled and marginalized, your disregard for and ignorance about the environment and your encouragement of the use of violence toward those who disagree with you, if your policies as President continue down that path, I make this pledge of resistance to you today.”

Spiritually, we must be clear-eyed about the level of threat and the ability for it to be carried out. We must not succumb to lethargy. We must also pray for a spirit of tenderness in our own hearts so that we refuse to allow hate or fear to take root. Pray continually for the conversion of Mr. Trump and our own conversion as well.

Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and a senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine in Washington, D.C.

Episcopal Bishop Packard: ‘Arrests Are Badges of Honor’

Very nice piece by Chris Hedges (The People’s Bishop) about retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard’s ministry to and with the Occupy movement. I have only one question. Where are the Catholic bishops? Here’s an excerpt:

Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard is detained by police after Occupy Wall Street protesters attempted to use a lot owned by Trinity Church as a camp site, in New York. (Ozier Muhammad/NYT)

“Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard was arrested in Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in New York City on Tuesday night as he participated in the May 1 Occupy demonstrations. He and 15 other military veterans were taken into custody after they linked arms to hold the plaza against a police attempt to clear it. There were protesters behind them who, perhaps because of confusion, perhaps because of miscommunication or perhaps they were unwilling to risk arrest, melted into the urban landscape. But those in the thin line from Veterans for Peace, of which the bishop is a member, stood their ground. They were handcuffed, herded into a paddy wagon and taken to jail. …

‘‘Arrests are not arrests anymore,” Packard said as we talked Friday in a restaurant overlooking Zuccotti Park in New York. ‘‘They are badges of honor. They are, as you are taken away with your comrades, exhilarating. The spirit is calling us now into the streets, calling us to reject the old institutional orders. There is no going back. You can’t sit anymore in churches listening to stogy liturgies. They put you to sleep. Most of these churches are museums with floorshows. They are a caricature of what Jesus intended. Jesus would be turning over the money-changing tables in their vestibules. Those in the church may be good-hearted and even well-meaning, but they are ignoring the urgent, beckoning call to engage with the world. It is only outside the church that you will find the spirit of God and Christ. And with the rise of the Occupy movement it has become clear that the institutional church has failed. It mouths hollow statements. It publishes pale Lenten study tracts. It observes from a distance without getting its hands dirty. It makes itself feel good by doing marginal charitable works, like making cocoa for Occupy protesters or providing bathrooms from 9 to 5 at Trinity Church’s Charlotte’s Place. We don’t need these little acts of charity. We need the church to have a real presence on the Jericho Road. We need people in the church to leave their comfort zones, to turn away from the hierarchy, and this is still terrifying to a lot of people in the church and especially the church leadership.”–Chris Hedges

Read the rest at The People’s Bishop by Chris Hedges

Remembering Adrienne Rich

Poet Adrienne Rich (Staff photo Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office)

I’m taking time to savor the work of Adrienne Rich, one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century who died this week at the age of 82. She articulated what it means to be a woman in a man-made world, giving thousands a dictionary of images and phrases to describe our own experience. And more than any other poet I know, Rich was relentless in pursuing a balance between politics and art without ever sacrificing the essence of either.

On the Role of the Poet:

“We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out-of-control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation.”–Adrienne Rich

On Poetry and the Capitalist Model:

“Poetry has the capacity to remind us of something we are forbidden to see. A forgotten future: a still uncreated site whose moral architecture is founded not on ownership and dispossession, the subjection of women, outcast and tribe, but on the continuous redefining of freedom – that word now held under house arrest by the rhetoric of the ‘free’ market.”–Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich’s 1997 letter to Jane Alexander, head of the National Endowment for the Arts:

Dear Jane Alexander, I just spoke with a young man from your office, who informed me that I had been chosen to be one of twelve recipients of the National Medal for the Arts at a ceremony at the White House in the fall. I told him at once that I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration. I want to clarify to you what I meant by my refusal.

Anyone familiar with my work from the early Sixties on knows that I believe in art’s social presence—as breaker of official silences, as voice for those whose voices are disregarded, and as a human birthright. In my lifetime I have seen the space for the arts opened by movements for social justice, the power of art to break despair. Over the past two decades I have witnessed the increasingly brutal impact of racial and economic injustice in our country.

There is no simple formula for the relationship of art to justice. But I do know that art—in my own case the art of poetry—means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage. The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A President cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored. I know you have been engaged in a serious and disheartening struggle to save government funding for the arts, against those whose fear and suspicion of art is nakedly repressive. In the end, I don’t think we can separate art from overall human dignity and hope. My concern for my country is inextricable from my concerns as an artist. I could not participate in a ritual which would feel so hypocritical to me. Sincerely, Adrienne Rich (See July 16, 1997 Democracy Now interview with Rich)

An excerpt from Rich’s poem “Natural Resources,” in The Dream of a Common Language:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

A passion to make, and make again
where such un-making reigns. …

Jason Goroncy on Resisting Evil

New Zealander Jason Goroncy blogs down under at Per Crucem ad Lucem. I greatly appreciated his riffing off my earlier post Guantanamo: When Will it Get Foreclosed? and providing the deep theological framework necessary for understanding the times in which we live.

Jason is a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament who teaches theology, church history, and pastoral care, and serves as Dean of Studies, at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the ministry training centre for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. He writes:

Vince Boudreau’s book Resisting Dictatorship: Repression and Protest in Southeast Asia begins with these words:

There are times and places about which nothing seems more significant than the sheer energy and violence that states direct against basic freedoms. The snippets of information that filter from these dictatorial seasons – tales of furtive hiding and tragic discovery: hard times and uneasy sleep – describe lives utterly structured by state repression. Authoritarians bent on taking power, consolidating their rule or seizing resources frequently silence opponents with bludgeons, bullets and shallow graves, and those who find themselves in the path of the state juggernaut probably have trouble even imagining protest or resistance without also calculating the severity or likelihood of state repression. Such considerations surely influence whether individuals take action or maintain a frustrated silence, and will over time broadly shape protest and resistance. (p. 1)

My long interest in the people and politics of Burma, in particular, means that I think a lot about this kind of stuff, and particularly about how the community of God might witness to and in the midst of such situations where the abuses of authority birth such blatantly evil fruit and where the climate of hope has been beclouded in fear. [Rose Marie Berger’s recent post on Guantanamo: When Will it Get Foreclosed?, for example, recalled such fruit in another part of the world]. Certainly, all human relationships and institutions live under the constant threat of the abuse of power. And even a cursory reading of history will reveal that the Church too has been both victim and perpetrator of such abuse. (I am aware that already I have used the words authority and power interchangeably here. Certainly they are at least related, and the proper understanding and use of each will decide whether the ways being pursued bring the fragrance of life or the stench of death to a situation.)

The question Jason raises is this: How does the Church or Christians resist the Powers’ abuse as described by Boudreau? Do we take action or “maintain a frustrated silence”? And what are the “weapons of the spirit” with which God arms the friends of Jesus?

Jason explores the role of worship and deep relationship with those who are dispossessed in confronting the death-dealing forces in our world.

Read Jason’s whole post here.

The Rover Rebellion: Dogs Are New Symbol of Iranian Revolt

Muslims have kept dogs for centuries. For example, Salukis, a breed of hunting dog, have historically been valued by the Bedouin.

According to a recent news report in The Guardian, the extremist government and religious mullahs in Iran disapprove of dogs as pets. They are “unclean.” So now the pampered pooch become the latest sign of middle-class dissent. All I can say is that there are a million ways to undermine a dictatorship and the Iranians have found another one.

Recently a visitor from Iran assured me that her dog was staying at a five-star spa in Tehran for the duration of her trip. I had no idea she had a dog in the first place, but was struck that she had insisted in telling me such a thing. Over the past few years, dog ownership has become yet another unlikely arena for the social and political dispute within the tumultuous politics of Iran.

… The past 1,400 years or so haven’t been that much fun for dogs in Iran. All that has come to change paradoxically through the very same religion responsible for their plight. Their recent popularity and adulation must have taken Iranian dogs by surprise. Dogs are now as much symbols of safe, middle-class resistance as false eyelashes and green wristbands. Pooches have never had it so good, and rare breeds, especially small lap dogs, change hand for tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An underground industry of dog beauty parlors thrives, mostly run out of private homes, as do a plethora of canine protection and welfare charities. A legal and substantial kennel industry has developed into what is fancily called “dog spas” where the middle class deposit their dogs when on holiday or, in the case of some of my conflicted relatives, when a devout auntie comes to stay.

The industry booms further every time a firebrand preacher calls for their banning or admonishes dog owners from such platforms like the much loathed national radio and TV. Its been a long time coming, but Iranian dogs are having their day.

Now we can add to the 2002 Great Key Shaking Revolt in Buenos Aires and the 2009 Pant-Wearing Defiance of Women in Sudan. Yes. It’s the Rover Rebellion. Biscuits all ’round.