God Weeps

View from our deck on another smoky day

View from our home on yet another smoky day in August

Out on the deck under the trees early this morning in prayer, my sense of awe and gratitude are mingled with deep sadness and concern, not just for my family but for all humanity.  Breathing in the smoke from the out-of-control forest fires makes tangible the impact of global warming.  The drumbeats of war with Syria are sounding, and drone strikes continue.  I weep for our human family and for our beautiful earth.

I touch in for a moment with the heart of God, who is Love.  For a moment I share Love’s sadness at the damage we humans have brought about, and I share Love’s desire for healing and peace.

I first experienced this connection with the depths of divine sadness years ago, when I was a young mother, concerned about the nuclear arms race.  I wrote about this experience in Shaking the Gates of Hell, in the chapter on the military/industrial complex,  “The Iron Fist:  Enforcing Corporate Globalization:”

“I began my career as an activist in 1979 when I realized the extent of the danger of nuclear war and became involved with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  One morning I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldecott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha.  Listening to the stories about what these people had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and began to weep.

“Suddenly, I was struck with the thought: How must God feel about all this?  How must God feel about what we human beings have done to each other, and about what we intend to do, as we stockpile nuclear weapons?  I fell to my knees, praying for forgiveness, overcome with a sense of the depth of pain that God must bear because of the horrors we human beings create for each other.  To this day, I believe that God weeps for the harm we do to each other.”

May my words and actions today bring some consolation to others, and through others, to God.  And may we continue to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for God’s will is the  reign of mercy and compassion in the world.

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Guilty Verdict No Surprise in Beale Anti-Drone Case

Defendants Jan and David Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, and Sharon Delgado with Cindy Sheehan before trial.

Defendants Jan and David Hartsough, Shirley Osgood, and Sharon Delgado with Cindy Sheehan before trial.  Defendant Janie Kesselman is not pictured.

It was no surprise that at our trial on August 12 my fellow defendants and I were found guilty of trespassing onto federal property at Beale.  The judge had ruled against our request for a jury trial, and against both the necessity defense and consideration of the Nuremberg Principles during the trial.  In the necessity defense, our lawyers would have argued that we stood our ground at Beale with our “Stop Drone Attacks” banner in an attempt to prevent a greater harm, namely drone attacks.  In appealing to Nuremberg Principles, they would have based their argument on the Nuremberg Code, enacted after World War II to try Nazi war criminals.  Principle VII states “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under international law.”

Still, our pro bono lawyers made a valiant effort to have us acquitted, based on confusion about the property line.  They argued 1) that the boundary for demonstrators has shifted over a period of several months; 2)  that the “white line” we crossed was arbitrary, not an actual base boundary; 3) that we had not been warned before crossing it; 4) that many other people had also been standing on base property, and that some of them had crossed the white line without being “detained” (evidently we were not arrested, but detained);  5) that the “keep out” sign was posted at the gate to the base, which was behind us, the gate was closed, and we didn’t try to go past the warning sign or the gate.  The lawyers made the point that all these conditions together could set a dangerous precedent, allowing military installations to create arbitrary boundaries of exclusion outside of actual base boundaries.

All of these points were true.  As tedious as these arguments were and as strange as it was to hear testimony from a Beale employee and the Air Force Sergeant about property lines, halfway through the morning I started thinking that the judge might find us “not guilty.”  By then I was confused myself about the point of the white line, since it was not the actual Beale Air Force Base property line.

Of course, all this was ultimately beside the point, since the purpose of our actions was to highlight the harm caused by drones.  Any publicity that this trial receives should highlight the victims of US drone attacks and awaken people to the possibility of taking action for peace.

The afternoon testimony was much more interesting and inspiring.   Although the judge did not allow our lawyers to use the necessity defense or appeal to the Nuremberg Principles, we were able to bring up these points as we testified about our motivation on the day we crossed the line at Beale.  We each took the stand and told our story, including why we felt it necessary to take action to prevent harm (deaths of children and other civilians, harm to communities, spiritual teachings related to peace, danger of a drone arms race, etc.) and how we took action in order to avoid complicity with our government’s illegal and immoral drone wars.

The judge was patient and respectful, but since she had not ruled in our favor on any point, we were not surprised when she declared us “guilty.”  We return to court for sentencing on September 9.  How do I feel?  Calm, strong, and supported.  Ready for whatever comes.  Ready to experience the consequences of a very successful and highly publicized nonviolent direct action.  Not projecting into the future.  I’ve learned to practice the presence of God in the moment, trusting that the Spirit will be with me wherever I may be.

Our case may be the first anti-drone trial in California (so far as we know), but others have taken place around the country.  Meanwhile, five more people have been detained at Beale for crossing onto Base property to protest drones.  They will have several court appearances in September and October, before their trial on October 28.  I hope that they feel as supported as I and my fellow defendants feel.

I feel supported by our pro-bono lawyers, by a friend who is helping coordinate our defense, by peoples’ prayers, by friends and friends of friends, by networks of people I am connected with and their networks, spreading out to complete strangers who hear about this trial and are heartened by public actions for peace (as I know from my own experience).  I feel supported by and in solidarity with all who yearn for peace, justice, and the healing of creation.

See the Sacramento Bee article here.

Forest Fires and Climate Change

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Smoke from the American Fire in the Tahoe National Forest, August 16, 2013

I’m grateful to be able to sit on my deck this morning and watch the birds without breathing in too much smoke.  The smoke seems to have dissipated, at least for now.  Those of you who live in this region of the Sierra Nevada know what I mean.  The sky has been smoky for several weeks because of several wildfires.

As of today, the largest of the fires, the American Fire near Foresthill, has burned almost 17,000 acres in the Tahoe National Forest.  On my drive to Reno and back last week, I was amazed at the extent of the smoke around Tahoe.  The fire is now 60% contained.

Is this the new normal?  I hope not.  But it may be more evidence of the extreme weather-related events that come with climate change.

On a warming earth, we can expect more wildfires.  Huge wildfires have raged in many countries over the past few years, from Brazil to Spain to Russia to Australia to the United States.  These fires are burning hotter, lasting longer, and burning an increasing number of acres.

In the Western United States, dry conditions are increasing.  Spring is now warmer and snow is melting earlier, which means that the fire season starts earlier and lasts longer.  Fires in the West now tend to be bigger and harder to control,  burning more acres and bringing more smoke.

How can we respond?  Besides following the Fire Safe Council’s guidelines, we can study the issue of climate change, pray for guidance and strength to take action to preserve the health of the earth on which we depend, simplify our lives and refuse to base our identity on consumption, join with others in our community who are concerned about this issue, advocate for public policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and engage in nonviolent direct action as needed to prevent egregious harm.

If you live in Nevada County, come to a presentation on climate change by Carol Kuczora this Sunday, August 25, at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains.  This will be Carol’s first power point presentation since being trained in Chicago by Al Gore as a Climate Reality presenter.  I will also be there, speaking after her presentation about what we can do to address this crucial issue.

At that time we will also schedule a meeting of our newly-formed Climate Change Coalition.  We have an active FaceBook page, so “like” us at Nevada County Climate Change Coalition FaceBook Page.  I hope to see you on Sunday.

Jesus and Justice

Mission u in Reno

Mission u in Reno

I got back last night from a wonderful three-day “Mission u” conference for United Methodist Women, where I was privileged to preach, serve Holy Communion, and facilitate workshops on “The Call:  Living Sacramentally, Walking Justly.”  The workshops focused on baptism, communion, spiritual disciplines, and works of justice.  I hadn’t known I was going to preach, but I was asked to say a few words before serving communion.  I preached “off the cuff,” but the Spirit was present in power, and gave me the words to say.  Here is a summary:

I preached about Jesus, whose mission statement (from Isaiah) was “God has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.”  Many scholars believe that this was a reference to the year of Jubilee, when debts were supposed to be cancelled, land redistributed, fields left fallow, and slaves set free.

Jesus lived out this mission and ushered in a new form of community, which included the poor, outcaste, and even women and children, which was unheard of in his day.  This community was an example of the kingdom of God (or the “kin-dom” of God) that we pray for when we say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus wasn’t killed because he taught everyone to love each other, but because he spoke truth to power and engaged in actions of nonviolent resistance to empire.   He broke the law by healing on the Sabbath and by ignoring the purity codes.  His strongest direct action was overturning the tables of the money-changers in the Temple, directly challenging the heart of the economic system upon which the Roman occupation was built.  Afterwards, Jesus and his followers “occupied” the Temple every day.  The authorities wanted to have him arrested, but they couldn’t, because “they were afraid of the people.”

This led to the plot by the elite religious collaborators to have him put to death.  They were afraid that the disruption caused by Jesus and his followers might endanger the precarious order they had established with Rome.  In a specially-called meeting, the religious leaders said, “If we let him go on like this, the Romans will come and destroy both our place and our name.”  It was a matter of national security.  Then Caiphus, the Chief Priest, said, “It is expedient that one man die for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed.”  Jesus was executed by Rome because he was considered a threat to the established order, the system of injustice that ruled in his day.  The argument of expediency is still used to justify state-sponsored killing today, including capital punishment, drone attacks, ecocide, and the dismantling of life-saving social programs for the most vulnerable among us.  Such policies are often supported by religious collaborators who actively or passively support the status quo.

In my sermon I quoted Dorothee Sollee, who said, “Naturally one can develop a theology that no longer has the somber cross at its center.  Such an attempt deserves criticism not because it bids farewell to Christianity as it has been, but because it turns aside from reality, in the midst of which stands the cross.”  As we prepare to partake of Holy Communion, we must consider where Christ is being crucified today.

The good news is:  the death of Jesus is not the end of the story.  He is alive in us today, bringing us new life.  His Spirit is moving through us, guiding us, motivating us, inspiring and empowering us to follow him directly into the heart of the struggle for a better world.

I came home from the conference tired in body, but inspired and motivated to continue on doing the work of justice, as the Spirit leads and empowers me to do.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, after the long march from Selma to Montgomery, “Our feet our tired, but our souls are rested.”

Thanks be to God!

Beale 5 Guilty as Charged

more pics

Friends,

Today’s bench trial took the whole day.  The rally outside was inspiring and the courtroom was full of supporters.  We had a great team of pro-bono lawyers and interns who worked hard to try to bring in a “not-guilty” verdict, while also giving each of us the opportunity to testify about our motivations for our nonviolent direct action at Beale.

I’ll be writing more about the trial after I’ve had time to process this experience, but for now I’m going to go out and watch the meteor showers.  Our sentencing will take place on September 9th.  I’m feeling calm and positive.  Thank you for your prayers.

Below is today’s press release, from Cres Velluchi of the National Lawyers Guild, who has helped us so much.  Thank you, Cres!

BREAKING: Judge ignores testimony, Nuremberg Principles – Finds Beale 5 Guilty.
Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Anti-Drone Protesters Found Guilty of Trespassing
Monday; Federal Judge Won’t Allow ‘Nuremberg
Principles’ Defense Regarding Civilian Casualties

SACRAMENTO – Five peace advocates protesting against the Obama Administration’s use of killer drones and killings of innocent civilians, including children, around the world were found guilty late Monday in U.S. District Court here of trespassing.

The so-called “Beale 5” were arrested Oct. 30, 2012 at the main gate to Beale AFB, where the Global Hawk drone is based. It flies surveillance for lethal predator drones.

The guilty verdict – handed down by federal judge Carolyn K. Delaney late Monday – means a possible fine and/or up to six months in federal prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 9.

All the defendants have said they will not pay a fine or accept probation.

The court refused to allow the defense of necessity or the Nuremberg defense, which provides that a citizen is complicit in the killing of civilians – as in the drone strikes – if they do not protest or try to stop that killing by their government.

Cindy Sheehan and about 50 peace advocates from Northern California attended the trial.

The defendants were represented by volunteer lawyers coordinated by the National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento, which said the government also denied defendants a jury trial, even though they could be sentenced to six months in prison.

Those found guilty were Janie Kesselman, Camptonville; Sharon Delgado, Nevada City; Shirley Osgood, Grass Valley; and David and Jan Hartsough, both of San Francisco.

A second anti-drone trial is scheduled later this year for another group of five people arrested at Beale AFB this past April 30.