Tag Archives: #Indigenous

Do you know your King?

2 Dec
Carrie and Chuck

Photo courtesy CPT-Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team. November 2015. CPTer’s Carrie Peters and Charles Wright, along with CPTer Peter Haresnape (not pictured) accompanied and supported Haudenosaunee hunters who conducted a deer harvest in the land now known as Short Hills provincial park, in the face of protest and harassment. The team was part of a local coalition to support the hunters and honor the treaties.

Romans 13: 1-7

In November 2011, President Obama with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon began a publicity campaign describing how the United States would “pivot” towards Asia.  “After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region,” President Obama said while addressing the Australian parliament. Several years later Tom Donilon described the policy as “economic engagement” and “sustained attention to regional institutions and defense of international rules and norms.”

With the pivot emerged a secretly negotiated trade pact, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”).  If passed, signatory countries will probably include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Although called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not solely about trade. Of the 29 draft chapters, only five deal with garden variety trade issues. The TPP is actually a grave threat to the planet because it undermines climate change measures and authorizes de-regulation of mining, land use, and bio-technology.  Alarmingly, the TPP intellectual property chapter also provides international legal protections for corporate patents on plant and animal life, granting companies ownership and sole access to all of creation.

We only know about TPP’s implications because of ‘unauthorized’ leaks – we, the public, are not permitted to see the text. Even members of Congress, after being denied access to the text for years, are now only provided limited, specified sections. Incredibly, more than 500 official corporate “trade advisors” have special access to the entire document.

The TPP has been under negotiation for six years.  The Obama administration, now with an appeal to patriotism, wants the deal signed in the coming year. Opposition to the TPP is growing in the U.S. and throughout the world.

While most of the U.S. coverage about the TPP analyzes overall implications for ‘every day working Americans,’ with a dash of environmental vignettes, another significant aspect needs to be addressed and highlighted: TPP’s detrimental impact on First Peoples and indigenous communities located within each nation state.

I wonder if St. Paul would really sneer, saying the organized opposition is resisting what God has appointed. Some may say people of ‘good conduct’ can resort to international law, or rules, with appropriate tribunal authorities to seek remedies and protections.

Putting aside the known problematic provisions within the TPP regarding dispute tribunals, international law is the ‘go-to’ for everyone it seems, regardless of cloth, from Christian Peacemaker Teams to multinational ‘think-tanks’.  International law is a body of generally accepted legal rules that are supposed to govern the conduct of nations vis-à-vis other nations.

The concept of agreed upon rules of conduct ironically originates from the Doctrine the Discovery. The doctrine was developed between the 15th and 19th centuries and used by European countries to justify their presumed claims to sovereignty over Indigenous Peoples.  It also was used to govern disputes between themselves over exploration, trade and colonization of “the New World.”  And we proudly continue to be a ‘nation of laws.’

I write from the U.S. as I observe the Thanksgiving celebration.  Even after working alongside indigenous communities for the past several years, it actually remains one of my favorite holidays- the concept of giving thanks anyway.  In our ever increasing consumeristic society, setting aside at least a day to acknowledge the multiple blessings in life, regardless of challenges, is certainly a good holy discipline (See Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17; Luke 17:11-19).

While many refuse to budge from the notion that, while “such a darn shame,” the conquest is ancient history, many others are attempting to live in right relationship.  An increasing number do look to indigenous voices, in humility, for guidance.  I am quite thankful for this.

And at times, living in right relationship requires open defiance of established norms.  Thus, as a Christian, I applaud the TPP opposition.  Like St. Paul, I look to Scripture and embrace mystery.

Paul’s relation to Scripture was not for pure memorization but that of a disciple of Jesus living the text.  Paul let the Spirit use the Scriptures to form Christ in him.  And throughout Scripture is endless mystery, of which he delighted in: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).  Mystery for Paul was simply the very nature of who God is and how God works.

To believe is to obey and to obey is to believe wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship. Living the text does not mean we can simply cherry pick a verse or two to support a position.  Paul references conscience when “one must be subject.”  Peter and John also referenced the principle of supremacy of conscience over even religious institutions by telling the Temple council, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20).

Indeed, Jesus was quite clear that the demands of the state and the demands of God are not the same (see Luke 20: 22-25).  He does suggest that it is quite possible to meet both at the same time, but he does not command that obeying one is exactly the same as obeying the other.  We are not to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and also give to Caesar what is God’s.”  Even those in the early fledgling community knew a time would come when obedience to God would mean blatant disobedience to the emperor.  Returning to Acts, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).

We are to obey-and submit- to the will of God. Dallas Willard, author of Hearing God, advises us to look to circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible.  “When these three things point in the same direction…we [can] be sure the direction they point is the one God intends for us.”

Scripture has countless examples of God taking the side of the marginalized, often in unexpected ways.  When will we truly get that God does not see as mortals see, and God’s ways are not the world’s ways (see 1 Samuel 16:7)?  Bartolome de Las Casas (1484-1566), a Dominican friar and known as “Defender of the Indians” repeatedly challenged the Court of Spain to realize that no salvation in Christ is possible apart from social justice.

I often wonder how ‘the church’ would be today had it chose to follow the monastic model of the Celtic church vs. the Roman model of authority at the Whitby church synod in 664 C.E. I also question if there is any hope left for what I cheekily refer to as “American Christianity.”  The institutionalized literal seems to have replaced the living ruach.

Our ancestors too were once an oral history peoples, with many accounts combining to form “the story.”  If we could remember this, we would have a better appreciation for Noah.  The recent movie, from a Jewish director, thankfully did not indulge dominate U.S. cultural norms.  He pulled from the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, Book of Enoch and other extra-biblical sources that we Christians have simply lost awareness of and appreciation for.  Noah then represents the very fact that we do not walk with God for ourselves alone.  The call to righteousness carries with it a responsibility for all of creation.

Do you know your King?  We continue to anticipate the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, liturgically waiting, remembering he initially came as a little vulnerable, weak child.

Maranatha.

…..God’s blessing be with you, Christ’s peace with you, the Spirit’s outpouring be with you, now and always. Amen. (source: Celtic)

Become as a Hazlenut

7 Jun

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When I saw an article on Aljazeera titled “US Government Report says Fracking is Safe,” I engaged in what my Star Trek aficionados could probably affectionately dub the ‘Sabas Maneuver’: I rolled my eyes.

With that, I have to admit, it seems hard to believe that I am nearing the end of my Spirit driven U.S. wilderness camino of rest and solitude.  I recently marked the year anniversary of another camino- or path- that of the Camino de Santiago.

Reminiscing with fellow pilgrims brought me great joy.  Of course, adding to the joy was that some of the reminiscing occurred while enjoying my continuing daily morning, multiple cups of java, with the ever so healthy International Delight Hazelnut creamer (no neurologist, not giving it up).  While re-viewing the many photos I snapped while walking, I was a bit surprised at myself of ‘forgetting’ the sheer majesty and brilliance of the various landscapes I encountered.

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Climate focused rhetoric is at its usual velocity within U.S. mainstream circles, with at times interesting approaches.  Within recent months, a climate change denier held a snowball while addressing his fellow members of Congress about the topic.  He is of the “God destroyed the world once by way of water and will never do it again” club…you know the Noah tradition..(no, not the Russell Crowe brand). And so with that, we don’t have to worry about rising sea levels, the world is our oyster!  Huzzah!

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…..“God saw everything that [she] had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 (a).

Well now….how in the hell did we make such a mess of things?

Not long ago, I read several devotional readings centering on the Franciscan philosopher and theologian St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274).  In Bonaventure’s writings, refreshingly missing is the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement (which has saturated Christianity beyond tolerable measure the last five centuries).

Bonaventure simply states: “Unless we are able to view things in terms of how they originate, how they are to return to their end, and how God shines forth in them, we will not be able to understand.” For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is very simply a full circle: and to be perfect, the circle must and will complete itself.

For Bonaventure, the lynchpin holding it all in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity. The Christ Mystery is then the template for all creation.  To specify further, the crucified Christ, who reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal, keeps all things moving toward ever further life.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my service with the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team (formerly the Aboriginal Justice Team) with Christian Peacemaker Teams.  So many times, I would feel refreshed when I had the ability to connect with the land (landscapes) as well as when I would hear Indigenous teachings with respect to the Earth, air, fire, water, four-leggeds, two-leggeds…all of creation.  About that very full circle Bonaventure wrote about for our ancestors, so many years ago.

Again, how in the hell did we, and let’s specify, we Christians, make such a mess of things?

Ok, maybe I am being a bit unfair.  Not all Christians.  The ‘Celtic Christian’ tradition offers seven distinctions from popular (secular and even non-secular) assumptions regarding the Christian brand: first distinction is hope – “let’s look for the good rather than the evil in all things.”  Yes! God made everything, and it’s very good indeed!  Alleluia!

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That’s a …good…first step.  But, alas, a steak also tastes mighty good after it meets a Weber grill as well as cheaper gas and oil prices are so very good for wallets and pocket books.  And hey, fracking is good…right?

Bear with me as we head back to medieval times.  During a near death experience in 1373, Julian of Norwich had a series of visions which she called ‘showings.’  Through these experiences, she became convinced that the true nature of God is only love.

One vision involved a hazelnut:

“During this time our [Creator] showed me a spiritual sight of [Her] simple, homely loving.  I saw that [She] is to us everything that is good and comforting to us.  [She] is our clothing, which wraps and embraces us in love.  [She] completely enfolds us in tender love so that [She] might never leave us, being to us everything that is good, as I see it.

In this [She] showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball.  I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding and I thought, ‘What can this be?’

And it was generally answered thus: ‘It is all creation.’

I marveled at how it might continue to exist, for I thought it might suddenly fall into nothingness because it was so small.

And again I was answered in my understanding, ‘It lasts, and ever shall, because God loves it, for all things have their being by the love of God.’

In this little thing I saw three properties: the first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it and the third is that God keeps it.  How am I to understand this maker, keeper and lover I am not sure.  But until I am made one with God in my very essence, I will never have complete rest or true peace; that is to say, until I am so fastened to [Her] that there absolutely is no created thing between God and me.

We must understand the littleness of creatures, and to count as nothing all of creation, in order to love and to have God, who is not a creature.  This is the reason why we are not fully at ease in heart and soul: for we seek rest in these little things, wherein there is no rest, and do not know our God, who is almighty, all wise, and all good.  [She] is true rest.

… These words are truly loved by the soul, and most closely touch the will of God and [Her] goodness.  For [Her] goodness encompasses all [Her] creatures and all [Her] blessed works and overpasses everything without end, for [She] is true endlessness.” (taken from A Revelation of Divine Love, Julian Norwich rendered by Walter William Melnyk).

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Medieval missives may indeed still be off-putting, even with gender tweaking (cue Indigo Girls).  But let’s focus on the message: let us not seek rest in the little things (i.e. tasty steaks or what it takes to get cheaper oil prices) but let’s remember our smallness; we are very much part of creation, part of the circular repetition of loss and renewal.  What we choose to do (or not do) inevitably affects the symbiotic whole, to include our very own God.

To put it another way, let me turn to an Indigenous voice: “Humankind did not weave the web of life.  We are but one strand within it.  Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves” (Chief Seattle, 1786?-1866).  While continuing to think solely in terms of buying and selling, we only continue to enslave ourselves.  As Seattle noted, “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?  The idea is strange to us…Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.  Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experiences of my people…We are part of the earth and it is part of us.”

Many people probably don’t realize that Chief Seattle and many in his community converted to Christianity in 1830.  Putting aside questions as to what prompted that decision, and how totally “free and informed” it was, in reviewing his life and credited statements, he clearly saw the similarities between what I’ll term the two traditions.  When will we begin to look to our ancestors, to include Julian of Norwich and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, who continue to remind of us what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ? Why do we continue to make it so damn complicated and self-destructing?  Having dominion was supposed to be about collaboration and relationship with God for the care of our world, not wreaking havoc.  The world is not so much for us as we are for the world.  As Christ taught us, “On Earth, as in Heaven.”

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Let’s seek to know and be at one with our God, our Daughter and Son, our Holy Spirit, who is “all wise and all good….all is true rest”..rest….or the Biblical Shalom referenced countless times by our very own prophetic ancestors.

By becoming one with God, we become intimately linked with the circular camino with all creation, whether it be vegetation, plants, yielding seed, birds, sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, such as cattle, creeping things and other wild animals (See Genesis 1:1-25).

We can start by thinking of ourselves as and becoming little bitty hazlenuts.

And hey, speaking of, would you like to try some of my good sweet tasting International Delight Hazlenut coffee creamer during coffee hour?

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Selah.