A tiny ripple of hope…

In 1966, thirty long years before the fall of Apartheid, South African students heard Robert Kennedy proclaim:

“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements of thought and action have flowed from the work of a single person… It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Robert_Kennedy_(1962)

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Rachel Held Evans – “Damn right, I’ve gotten political.”

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Rachel Held Evans is a progressive Christian blogger and author of the books Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood and Searching for Sunday.  Evans is also a prolific Facebook and Twitter poster who often stirs fiery debates in the comments sections with her posts. Here is her latest blog.


You don’t like that I’ve “gotten political,” huh?

If saying it’s wrong to mock people with disabilities makes me political, then so be it.

If rejecting the notion that demeaning, groping, insulting, and assaulting women is “just how men are” makes me political, then so be it.

If supporting a free press makes me political, then so be it.

If speaking out when religious and ethnic minorities are targeted with misinformation campaigns that have dramatically increased hate crimes against them makes me political, then so be it.

If believing the president of the United States is not above the rule of law, or the most basic ethical accountability, makes me political, then so be it.

If refusing to stand by as desperate refugee families, including many children, are turned away from safety based on misinformation and fear makes me political, then so be it.

If calling my senators to oppose a healthcare bill that would likely increase the abortion rate and definitely leave my friends with special needs kids bankrupt and desperate makes me political, then so be it.

If expecting the president of the United States to behave with some semblance of decorum and decency, even on Twitter, makes me political, then so be it.

If getting angry when Christian leaders shrug off sexual assault, lying, racism, bullying, cruelty to the vulnerable, and unapologetic greed and self-aggrandizement because it gets them the judge they want or the power they crave makes me political, then so be it.

If turning over tables when Christians sing hymns in honor of this administration’s ethno-nationalist agenda makes me political, then so be it.

You don’t like that I’ve gotten political?

I don’t like that the future of the Republic and the integrity of the American Church has been so glibly handed over to a man who has no respect for either.

You’re damn right I’ve gotten political.

And even if you remain silent, you have too.

– Well said, Rachel! I couldn’t agree with you more.

Jesus as Scapegoat by Richard Rohr


Jesus on the cross echoes three healing images: the Passover lamb, the “Lifted-Up One,” and the scapegoat ritual. The third symbol deserves a deeper exploration because it is central to understanding how Jesus resets the pattern of history. We’ll spend this week looking at Jesus as scapegoat before we move on to the promise of resurrection.
Humans have always struggled to deal with fear and evil by ways other than forgiveness, most often through sacrificial systems. Philosopher René Girard (1923-2015) saw the tendency to scapegoat others as the primary story line of human history in every culture. [1] Why? Because it works, and it is largely an immediate and an unconscious egoic response. The scapegoat mechanism was ritualized by the Israelites, as we’ll see tomorrow (see Leviticus 16:20-22).
If your ego is still in charge, you will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say. Something has to be sacrificed. Blood has to be shed. Someone has to be blamed, attacked, tortured, imprisoned, or killed. Sacrificial systems create religions and governments of exclusion and violence. Yet Jesus taught and modeled inclusivity and forgiveness!
Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion are almost the same history. When religion remains at the immature level, it tends to create very violent people who ensconce themselves on the side of the good, the worthy, the pure, the saved. They project all their evil somewhere else and attack it over there. At this level, they export the natural death instinct onto others, as though it’s someone else who has to die.
As long as you can deal with evil by some means other than forgiveness, you will never experience the real meaning of evil and sin. You will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there, instead of “gazing” on it within and “weeping” over it within yourself and all of us. The longer you gaze, the more you will see your own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling you are on higher moral ground. Forgiveness demands three new simultaneous “seeings”: I must see God in the other; I must access God in myself; and I must experience God in a new way that is larger than an “Enforcer.”

References:

[1] I highly recommend James Alison’s exploration of René Girard’s work, particularly Alison’s four-part study series Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice (DOERS Publishing: 2013), http://www.forgivingvictim.com/.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 193-194.

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His Holiness Pope Francis: Why the only future worth building includes everyone

0:15 Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there. Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference. I very much like its title – “The Future You” – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a “you.” “The Future You:” the future is made of you, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others. Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.

1:27 As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: “Why them and not me?” I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s “discarded” people. And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?”

2:35 First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.

3:38 Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world. Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.

4:27 And this brings me to my second message. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the “culture of waste,”which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.

6:08 Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone. Yes, a free response! When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?

6:50 In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of.

7:52 There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who’d rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you have heard it before. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbor?” – namely, “Who should I take care of?” –he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren’t even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.

9:26 The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves “respectable,” of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road. Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”

10:26 We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts. Now you might tell me, “Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.

11:27 To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another “you,” and another “you,” and it turns into an “us.” And so, does hope begin when we have an “us?” No. Hope began with one “you.” When there is an “us,” there begins a revolution.

13:16 The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness. And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

14:13 Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

15:23 Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.” You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.

16:52 The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. Thank you.

The Day Death Died – Reverend B. Gail Williams

No one cried

the day death died

there was no weeping

no grieving

songs of joy

victoriously weaving

the story of Jesus

risen alive

the day that death died.

 

The vail was parted

pushed aside

Jesus risen with us to abide

 and love us to life

when we die

no black cloth

 no hearse appeared

glorious colors

bright apparel

song

dancing

no celebrant cried

the day death died.

 

The day death died

angels sang

Father God smiled

Earth’s children laughed

bells rang

rock rolls

empty tomb

Easter morn

the day death died

and so

we shall all live

through Jesus Christ

our Lord.

 

Amen

 

Happy Easter! This poem was written by my childhood Pastor. He recited it at my Father’s Celebration of Life service six years ago. What a gift from a hand guided by the greatest gift giver of all.

Universal Love

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole  and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky

God restores rather than punishes, which is a much higher notion of how things are “justified” before God. The full and final Biblical message is restorative justice, but most of history has only been able to understand retributive justice. Now, I know you’re probably thinking of many passages in the Old Testament that sure sound like serious retribution. And I can’t deny there are numerous black and white, vengeful scriptures, which is precisely why we must recognize that all scriptures are not equally inspired or from the same level of consciousness.

Please take a moment to read Father Rohr’s full meditation.

The meditation concludes with these powerful words…

As long as your ego is in charge, you will demand a retributive God; you’ll insist that hell is necessary. But if you have been transformed by love, hell will no longer make sense to you because you know that God has always loved you in your sinfulness. Why would God change policies after death?  

We are all saved by mercy and grace without exception—before, during, and after our life in this world. Could God’s love really be that great and universal? Love is the lesson, and God’s love is so great that God will finally teach it to all of us. Who would be able to resist it once they see it? We’ll finally surrender, and God—Love—will finally win. God never loses. That is what it means to be God. That will be God’s “justice,” which will swallow up our lesser versions of retributive justice.

– Fr. Richard Rohr

 

Richard Rohr: “Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation” | Talks at Google

Father Richard Rohr visits Google to speak on his new book, Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation. Father Rohr highlights his unique ideas on how to have a relationship with God in the modern day and how religious people can be respected for having a “mystic worldview” in a scientific world. If you can’t find the time to watch the full version – forward to the final 10 minutes for an awesome summation.

 

The racist history of Southern white evangelicalism and the rise of Donald Trump – Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

LYNCHBURG, VA – JANUARY 18: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University January 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Two weeks after electing Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, America pauses this week for a day of Thanksgiving. No doubt, many dinner tables will be as divided as the election results—as contentious as our anxious streets. But if we listen closely to the prayers of those who are jubilant in this season, we may discern the false religion that blessed Donald Trump’s reactionary campaign. Such discernment is necessary, as we have learned through our cross-racial Moral Mondays movement, before we can experience the moral revival that offers the only way forward together for American democracy.

Franklin Graham, the son of our home state’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham, celebrated Trump’s election with this prayer of thanksgiving: “Political pundits are stunned. Many thought the Trump/Pence ticket didn’t have a chance. None of them understand the God-factor… While the media scratches their heads and tries to understand how this happened, I believe that God’s hand intervened.”

While many progressives scoff at neo-Nazi and Klan celebrations of Trump’s victory, they often fail to comprehend the deep wound race has inflicted on white religion in America. To Franklin Graham, overt racism is anathema. But he thanks God for the same triumph that the white nationalists of the Alt-Right celebrate because Graham inherited a religion which accommodated itself to slavery in America and has morphed over and again for 150 years to fuel every backlash against progress toward racial justice in American history.

[Why some fear this election will do lasting damage to American Christianity]

We cannot make sense of Graham’s proclamation of triumph without recognizing its roots in the Lost Cause Southern apologist religion of the 19th century. Following the Civil War, black and white ministers like ourselves worked together throughout the South to proclaim “good news to the poor” through coalitions that supported public education, economic empowerment, and equal protection under the law. These men (and a few women) were evangelical preachers contributing to the work of America’s Reconstruction. But they were viciously attacked as “political religionists” by a plantation caste that perverted theology to frame their backlash against “Negro rule.”  Proposed changes to the Southern way of life were branded “immoral,” and reactionary politicians euphemistically used the term “Redemption” to rally a resistance.

Even in the violent campaign of 1876, when black votes were suppressed through vicious Klan attacks, the Redemptionists never officially endorsed violence. They always called for peace and a restoration of order. But their false religion worked hand in glove with lynch mobs to inaugurate the reign of Jim Crow.

Heirs of this movement wrote the theology textbooks and published the Schofield reference Bibles that taught America’s Bible-believing Christians to separate their faith from politics, in an attempt to take the edge of biblical demands for justice.  When, following the Great Depression, a Social Gospel movement arose to challenge this division and write biblical notions of economic justice into public policy, the industrial barons who were the heirs of plantation capitalism fought hard against progress toward justice. But they were smart. As Kevin Kruse has shown in his book One Nation Under God, they knew they did not have the moral authority to wage a successful crusade against the Social Gospel. So they hired James Fifield to teach 19,000 preachers a gospel that could warm the heart while damping the fire of justice at the heart of biblical faith.

[I was an evangelical magazine editor, but now I can’t defend my evangelical community]

This is the true story of faith in America. It has not always been on the side of truth. In every era, reactionary forces have exploited faith to push back against the very progress that God requires of us.

God did not intervene on Trump’s behalf in this year’s election, but the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association did. Organizing prayer rallies in all 50 state capitols, Graham spent $10 million in 2016 to rally a backlash against President Obama in God’s name. It was a strategic investment. Eighty-one percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Just weeks before Election Day, when Graham concluded his national tour here in North Carolina, he stood on the steps of our old state capitol and told thousands of faithful followers that they needed to know the true name for those of us who call ourselves progressives: atheists.

Sadly, our brother Franklin believes that a god who does not bless white America’s fear and nostalgia is no god at all. But right here on the very capital grounds where Graham uttered his heresy, we have witnessed the power of God to unite a diverse coalition of people committed to justice and mercy through Moral Mondays. That movement, which produced the nation’s largest ever state-government focused civil disobedience in 2013, spread to 32 other states through this year’s Moral Revival. As Trumpism swept the South with Graham’s blessing, North Carolina’s Pat McCrory was the only Republican incumbent in the nation to lose the governor’s office.

[The Rev. William Barber’s speech but the audience at the Democratic National Convention to its feet]

As ministers who grew up on opposite sides of the color line in North Carolina, we know the power of religion to divide and conquer the heart of democracy. But we have also witnessed the power of “moral fusion,” or organizing across racial and class lines to build a coalition for progress in 21st-century America. Just as North Carolina saw a hard turn to the right in 2012, America has experienced a backlash against our first African-American president in 2016. The months and years ahead will not be easy, but right here in North Carolina we have seen a Moral Movement that can overcome Trump’s extremism. As the false gods of our past are exposed, every knee must bow to the God of justice. We hold out hope that even brother Franklin Graham will see the light and join the Moral Movement. Together, following the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights movement, we can look forward to a Third Reconstruction of racial justice and healing in America.

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 Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina and President of Repairers of the Breach. He is also co-founder of the Moral Mondays movement, a series of progressive activist vigils held in North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh. Together with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, he is the author of The Third Reconstruction, newly released in paperback.