Note: Today is the anniversary of Gandhi's assassination and tomorrow marks the 100th birthday of Thomas Merton. I came across this compelling article about Merton's reflection's on Gandhi which is an important and insightful read. These two men have greatly influenced countless people, including me, to follow the way of nonviolence, to live in accordance with the truth of God's commands and to be rooted in the Gospel of Jesus. They are among the holy cloud of witnesses now advocating for us! --Art Laffin
"Thomas Merton’s Reflections on Mahatma Gandhi," by Rasoul Sorkhabi (November 5, 2008), www.gandhifoundation.org.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi 1948 (now sixty years ago) and Thomas Merton, a renowned Trappist monk and author, was killed in a tragic accident in 1968 (forty years ago). These anniversaries are valuable opportunities to reflect on the legacies, works and teachings of these two great men of peace. Gandhi has influenced many minds and movements of the twentieth century. In this article, we review Merton’s impressions of Gandhi and how they are helpful for our century and generation as well.
“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
These well-known words are from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon “The Drum Major Instinct,” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968. Dr. King was explaining that we all start out with the ingrained instinct to be “drum majors”: everyone wants to be important, to be first, to lead the parade. Watch a group of children try to form a line and right away you’ll see this instinct in action. But Dr. King said too many people never outgrow this instinct—and by constantly struggling to be the most powerful or famous or wealthiest or best-educated, we forget one of the Gospels’ and life’s largest truths: the real path to greatness is through service. //more
It strikes me that having a national MLK holiday is a little like having Bibles in our church pews. A lot of struggle and work went into preserving and making these sacred, transforming memories and stories available. But that doesn't mean that most folk actually bother to read, engage and understand them, much less enact them anew. There's a certain comfort in having Bibles sitting around, or commemorating King--Google's front page simulating the Selma march today--that doesn't upset the status quo. more//
Note: Because this is the centenary of the famous “Christmas Truce” during World War I, below is an abbreviated version of a piece by retired physician and activist Kohls, which appeared on Dec 18 in the Duluth Reader. We urge you to take a moment this Christmastide to read about this amazing event (to learn more watch the resources listed at the end of the piece).
One hundred years ago this month one of the most unusual aberrations in the bloody history of the organized mass slaughter that is war occurred – never to be repeated again. “Christian” Europe was in the fifth month of the world war that finally ground to a halt four years later, with all sides exhausted and most sides financially and morally bankrupted.
British, Scottish, French, Belgian, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Serbian and Russian church pulpits in those nations back home were doing their part in contributing to the patriotic fervor that would result in a holocaust that destroyed four empires, killed upwards of 20 million soldiers and civilians and resulted in the psychological and physical decimation of an entire generation of young men.
Note: Ruby Sales (above) is a veteran of the Civil Rights movement past and present, who directs the Spirit House project. I highly recommend following their "Breaking the Silence on Modern Day Lynching" Facebook page, where they are relentlessly documents police murders of young people of color. Her thoughts on the deep history of this issue are below.
Movement building is serious business that demands an understanding and knowledge of who are our friends and who are our foes. The Movement is not a place for ahistorical thinking or emotional decisions that are devoid of hindsight, insight and foresight. The powerbrokers build and maintain their power on the backs of our collective dis-memory and our uncritical acceptance of official narratives as well as our desire for a sound analysis of the world while refusing to read!
Note: This is McKibben's response to this week's "climate deal" between the U.S. and China. A good summary worth reading. I'm happy to be on a panel with McKibben (pictured above) next week at the Society for Biblical Literature conference.
Last night, just weeks after the largest climate mobilization ever, the world's two biggest polluters -- the United States and China -- announced their most ambitious climate action yet. That is not a coincidence: it's a sign that our pressure is working, and that we need to apply much more. Here's my take on what the just-announced plan from President Obama and Premier Xi is, and isn't:
1) It is historic. John Kerry was right to use the phrase in his New York Times oped announcing the deal: for the first time a developing nation has agreed to eventually limit its emissions. This is a necessity for advancing international climate negotiations.
2) It isn't binding in any way. In effect President Obama is writing an IOU to be cashed by future presidents and Congresses (and Xi is doing the same for future Politburos). If they take the actions to meet the targets, then it's meaningful, but for now it's a paper promise. And since physics is uninterested in spin, all the hard work lies ahead.
3) It is proof -- if any more was needed -- that renewable energy is ready to go. The Chinese say they'll be using clean sources to get 20% of their energy by 2030 -- which is not just possible, it should be easy. Which they know because they've revolutionized the production of solar energy, driving down the cost of panels by 90% or more in the last decade.
A letter from our friend Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in DC) who is visiting Jeju Island in Korea, which gives a taste of the Catholic resistance to the military base there:
"Greetings from Jeju Island which is located off the coast of S.Korea in the South China Sea. I left Manila on Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 29) and arrived on this beautful Island later that evening. I left an amazing community in Manila standing for life and justice and saying No to state-sponsored killing. And I have come to be with another amazing community who are saying Yes to life and No to the construction of new naval base that is a crime and a sin!
Seeing that I was going to be in the Asia-Pacific region, I was able to make arrangements to travel after the Manila conference to Jeju Island to support this very important peace initiative. For the last seven years I have been closely following this inspiring nonviolent campaign, led by local islanders along with priests and sisters, to stop the construction of this U.S.-backed Korean naval base on Jeju Island (named the Island of Peace by the Korean government).
Note: Mike Miles (above with a friend) and his family and community mates have been doing a rural Catholic Worker in Wisconsin for many years, and participating in anti-nuclear resistance. His reflection below describes his conversion to silvopasturing as an expression of his discipleship. --CM
As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a farmer. It started on my grandmother’s farm where twelve cousins would meet for the summer to help with chores, chase cows when they got out, put up hay, but mostly to hang out at her forty acre private lake. Not a bad life for a kid from the Chicago suburbs. Why would I want to be in Little League when I could be at the farm?
This all started for me in the early 1960’s when everything we did was about raising food to eat and sell. The garden was as important as all the work that went into filling up the milk bulk tank. Eggs were gathered every day, the whole clan gathered to butcher chickens, but the hardest job was battling mosquitoes for every last blueberry back in the swamp. Pies and jam made up for the torture we endured trampling through the thickets. It was a great life.
Fifty years later I still love farming. Our garden is much bigger than Nana ever would have put up with and now when we go back in the woods it is for maple syrup. Our kids always teased us that we weren’t really farmers because we didn’t have animals but we showed them when we got chickens, pigs, and steers after they all left for college.
Note: This poignant poem about the Israeli military's "humane" policy of calling households in Gaze one minute before they are about to be bombed was forwarded to us by our friend Clancy Dunigan in Seattle. --CM
"Running Orders," by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
Note: A dispatch from our friend Fred Bahnson from the weekend's People's Climate March in N.Y. city.
Two days ago on W. 58th street in Manhattan, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a massive throng of people, waiting.
I had joined Wake Divinity alum Caleb Pusey and current student Crystal Rook who had traveled overnight by bus from Charlotte to New York. We had come for the People's Climate March, the largest such gathering in history. We were ready to march, had been ready for over an hour, in fact. But the line there on W. 58th St. showed no sign of moving. And so we waited.
We've all been waiting, haven't we? When it comes to climate legislation, we've mostly heard rhetoric from our leaders. We've been wondering why can't we get going? It's clear climate change is real, that it's happening now, and that we need to take drastic steps to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels in order to avoid ecological catastrophe. Whether it's eating California tomatoes instead of growing them locally, or burning Kentucky coal instead of getting our electricity from wind or solar, the way we currently nourish and power our lives needs to change. We each can do our part, and the role of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative is to train faith leaders to do their part to create "more redemptive food systems." But we're still waiting on our global leaders to do their part. Which is why we went to New York.
And what a hopeful day it was.