Save the dates for our upcoming BCM webinars, listed below, featuring scriptural reflection, movement history and social justice themes. All times below are 5:45-7:15 pm Pacific Daylight Time except where noted. Register here.
Forty Years in the Belly of the Beast: Interview with Liz McAlister of Jonah House. Tuesday, June 18th
The Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice: Interview with Norman Gottwald and Jack Elliott. Tuesday, July 16th
50th Anniversary of the March on Washington: What Will Become of the Dream? Tuesday, Aug 20th
Capital or Community? Jesus’ Parable of the ‘De-fective’ Manager. Tuesday, Sep 17th
Our friend Rosemary Thompson of the P. Francis Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace in Baltimore (www.PFMJPI.org) sent this reflection by Liz McAlister’s daughter Frida, which we share in commemoration of Mother’s Day. Be sure and mark your calendar for our next BCM Webinar (Tuesday, June 18th): “Forty Years in the Belly of the Beast: Interview with Liz McAlister of Jonah House” (5:45 pm - 7:15 pm PDT). Founded in 1973, Jonah House has been the hub of Christian nonviolent direct action in opposition to militarism. Liz McAlister will tell the story of how the community began, how it has maintained its vision, and what innovations have occurred over the last decade. This will be our annual FREE community Webinar!!
My mom is fearless. Really. When my brother and I were little, we got our bikes stolen a lot. We were easy marks — pudgy, white and well-meaning, living in a tall crowded row house full of white, well-meaning people. “Hey shorty, lemme hold that bike.” We would “share” and the bike would be gone. We were always afraid to go home without our bikes because it meant getting into the car with mom and searching the neighborhood. We begged her to just buy us new bikes, but it never worked. No matter how big and intimidating the boys who “held” our bikes were to us, they seemed small and looked like kids as they handed our bikes back to our mom after mutely enduring her tongue scouring. They might have mumbled or glared as she stowed the rusty old third hand bikes in the back of the car, but they did it quietly and behind her back.
Note: This beautiful reflection was published in the April 2013 issue of Hospitality. Eduard is a Partner at the Open Door Community, and a dear friend.
Above: "American Golgotha"--King's room at the Lorraine Motel, recreated as it was April 4, 1968 at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
April 1968, Memphis.
He missed it. His favorite foods had been prepared:
by Peter Laarman
Below are excerpted remarks from an address to United Methodist Women in Los Angeles, April 27, 2013. Rev. Laarman is Executive Director of Progressive Christians United in southern California, and a good colleague and friend.
Extreme individualism is a hallmark of American culture that owes a great deal to the Protestant concept of individual salvation. We believe that everyone can succeed, that everyone can choose to do good, and that those who fail to achieve and do good must be morally tainted in some way – must in fact be among the damned. In his book, Protestantism and the Spirit of Punishment, theologian Richard T. Snyder links Protestant-infused individualism to a criminal justice system that dramatically separates human beings into the saved and the damned. Our model is one of exclusionary punishment: persons convicted of criminal activity are excluded from normal society and punished thereby. Sometimes, through solitary confinement, persons are even excluded from all human contact – and are slowly driven mad as a consequence.
Note: It helps me to make sense of Gordon's passing to post some of the thoughtful reflections on his life by friends. So here's another: excerpts from Tim Kumfer's (above) sermon to the Eighth Day Community on March 24, 2013 (Palm Sunday). Tim directs the Servant Leadership School in Washington, DC.
So here we are at Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. I imagine that for many of us here it seems more like the end of Holy Week, having held vigil these past days as one of our great prophets passed on. You will have to forgive me if I am somewhat out of step with the liturgical season, and all too eager to speak of death and resurrection. //more
Note: In February 2011, in the wake of our "Watershed Seminary" Institute, Chris Grataski of Ezekiel's Guild (Lynchburg, VA) and I drafted this Call for a "Watershed Discipleship Alliance." We've been sharing it around since, and commend it to you on this World Water Day. We like the double entendre: commitment to nurturing disciplines of care within specific watersheds, and advocating a specific Christian discipleship appropriate to this watershed historical moment. Let us know what you think.
We live in an historical moment that demands serious, sustained engagement from Christians. Both our love for the Creator and the interlocking crises of global warming, peak oil and water, and widening ecological degradation should compel us to make environmental justice and sustainability integral to everything we do as disciples and citizens. The ecological endgame that stalk our history requires Christians to embrace deep paradigm shifts and broad practical changes of habit in our homes, churches, and denominations. It is time to embrace the vocation envisioned by the Apostle Paul: that the “children of God” take a stand of passionate solidarity with a Creation that is enslaved to our dysfunctional and terminal civilizational lifeways, and find ways to bring liberation to the earth and all its inhabitants (Rom 8:20f).
Theologies of “Creation Care” have gained remarkable traction among a wide and ecumenical spectrum of North American churches over the last two decades. Yet they are still often too abstract or unfocused. We are persuaded that the best way to orient the church’s ecological work and witness is through bioregional literacy, planning and action, which focus on the actual watersheds that we inhabit. Because this orientation is still foreign to our Christian communities, it is necessary to build and nurture watershed consciousness and disciplines in our faith tradition. We think a good vehicle for these tasks of education, advocacy and organizing could be a “watershed discipleship alliance.”
Jack the Giant Slayer, a film directed by Bryan Singer, was released by New Line Cinema this month, to mixed reviews. It is (very) loosely based on two distinct folk-tale traditions, "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" (the Wikipedia entries for each are informative, but don’t address their possible relationship in oral and literary evolution).
Whenever Hollywood takes up traditional tales—as it so often does in the absence of compelling contemporary narrative—such movies function to stir up (even as they obliterate) our remnant cultural curiosity about these old, archetypal stories. I note that Singer admits that “fairytales are often borne of socio-political commentary and translated into stories for children. But what if they were based on something that really happened?” I haven’t seen the movie—though I probably will—but thought I’d take the opportunity to offer a little riff of my own on the Beanstalk tale, in hopes of tapping into the aforementioned curiosity.
Attached here is a talk I gave to the “Practicing Resurrection” Conference at Russet House Farm near Cameron, ON in summer 2010, entitled “Jack and the Beanstalk: A Political Reading of an Old, Wise Folktale,” which explores how the classic children’s story can be read as a warning tale about Sabbath Economics. Enjoy.
A few days ago Elaine and I received from Sydney, Australia one of those dreaded, urgent phone messages. When we finally connected by Skype, our long-time friend John Hirt (pictured above) conveyed to us the surprising and depressing news of his diagnosis of late stage prostate cancer. "I'd prefer not to do video from my end," he said haltingly, "I'm a bit of a mess."
John is one of my oldest friends and mentors. I met him in late 1975, in the living room of Jim and Carol Rowley's place in Berkeley, CA, part of the newly-formed Berkeley Christian Coalition. (That old shingled home, graced by a cluster of redwood trees fronting Grove St—long before it was renamed MLK Blvd—would eventually become my "incubator" as I transitioned into community with Jim, Carol and others later the next year.) The evening meeting was a house church gathering, and someone had told me I should go check out the visiting preacher who was passing through on his way from Europe back to Australia. I was just shy of 21.
It's not too many sermons one can recall vividly (including one's own). This was one. John, fresh from studies with New Testament theologians Athol Gill in Australia and Thorwald Lorenzen in Switzerland, presented to us that night a vision of "radical discipleship." It was the first time I’d heard the phrase, but it instantly became the flag under which I would march—and remains so to this day. //more
I'm pleased that our congregation, Pasadena Mennonite Church, is putting realities of “Climate Change" (a euphemism for our abuse of the atmosphere) at the center of the congregation’s attention. Sunday, Feb 10th the sermon will focus on Kiribati, the tragic “poster child” of sea level increases.
The people of Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribas") are not exotic “others” in some universe far, far away. I worked with indigenous communities throughout the Pacific islands for seven years in the 1980s, organizing for self-determination, demilitarization and environmental justice. At one very poignant moment during one of our Pan-Pacific gatherings, a chief from Kiribati gave me a gift (as is the custom in the islands), and asked me, with tears in his eyes, never to forget his small people and place. The gift was a chief’s hat, beautifully woven from local pandanus leaves, and beaded it traditional style. I wear this broad brimmed hat to this day, always using it as an opportunity to tell people about Kiribati and our climate crisis. (I tried to figure out a way to get the hat to Joe this weekend, but regrettably wasn’t able to.) Amidst your sharing and reflection today, please take a moment to remember that this place and this people are real—vulnerable and anxious just as we are. Except that they, like poor people and climate refugees everywhere, are always the first victims of our “affluenza” and the end-game of our environmental greed.
To bring this closer to home: the same ocean that is swallowing Kiribati is slowly rising along our beloved California coast, too. Alec Loorz (pictured above)