Fly Kites not Drones

 

March 24, 2014 at Beale

March 24, 2014 at Beale

“Fly Kites not Drones” was the theme of our last demonstration at Beale, home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that helps identify targets for armed drones.   This phrase perfectly expresses the hope that “another world is possible.”

Fly kites not drones.

Plant gardens not land mines.

Scatter seeds not shrapnel.

Build schools, not bunkers.

Subsidize solar power, not oil.

Support human rights, not corporate rights.

Bail out people, not banks.

Tend Mother Earth, don’t exploit her

Everyone who is working for change along these lines must have some degree of faith that such transformation is possible.  At times such changes in the general mindset and in social policies seems impossible.  The institutional Powers that rule the world are so entrenched, and bad news compounds every day.

We can’t know for sure.  As theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote:

Has the modern world any future? Its future is conversion. Will humanity survive the crises we have described? We cannot know, and we must not know. If we knew that humanity is not going to survive, we should not do anything more for our children but would say, “after us, the deluge.” If we knew that humanity is going to survive, we should not do anything either, and by doing nothing we should miss our chance for conversion. Because we cannot know whether humanity is going to survive or not, we have to act today as if the future of the whole of humankind were dependent on us—and yet at the same time trust wholly that God is faithful to his creation and will not let it go.[i]

This is why I have devoted my life to speaking, writing, and acting to help usher in a world that is peaceful, just, and ecologically sustainable.  We don’t know what the outcome will be, but it’s not time to give up just now.  We are at a period of great transition.

I believe that whoever acts on behalf of this vision of a radically transformed world, what Jesus called “the kingdom of God,”  is doing the will of the One who brought the universe and this precious earth into being.  May we reaffirm our commitment and do what we can to be the transformation that we want to see.

 

[i]. Jürgen Moltmann, “Has Modern Society Any Future?” in Jürgen Moltmann and Johannes Baptist Metz, Faith and the Future: Essays on Theology, Solidarity, and Modernity (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1995), 174.

My Response to Doublespeak on Environmental Issues

Anti-Fracking Rally, Sacramento, March 15

Anti-Fracking Rally, Sacramento, March 15

There is currently a debate among environmental activists about how to frame issues of concern.  Do we use language that will be acceptable to as many people as possible, in order to build bridges with Tea Party members and other conservatives?  Or do we speak directly to the heart of the problem of climate change and destruction of the earth, including identifying the necessity of transforming worldviews, lifestyles, and the system that is wreaking havoc all over the earth?

Clearly, I’m in favor of the latter.  I see no point in holding back, hoping that by moderating our message people who are on the other side of these issues will get on board.  It’s time to speak truth to power, expose falsehoods and denial, and pull out all the stops.  It’s time to take strong and courageous stands for the earth community and for future generations.

Today I wrote a response to a Letter to the Editor in my hometown newspaper, the Grass Valley Union.   The original letter included doublespeak commonly used by ultra-conservatives to denigrate environmental issues and concern for the common good.    Here is my response:

“James Butler’s March 14th letter about the suction dredge mining ban included examples of doublespeak, or  “language used to deceive, usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.”   Mr. Butler may not realize it, but here are the misrepresentations:

“Agenda 21 can’t “dictate” anything.  It is a non-binding set of principles developed through the United Nations in a participatory process .  The guidelines are completely voluntary and unenforceable.

“The idea that our local government is “forcing UN socialist ideas down our throats under the guise of protecting the environment” is ludicrous.  Many locals want to protect the environment and rural quality of Nevada County.  The United Nations is not “socialist,” but includes countries with capitalist, socialist, and mixed economies.  Calling “sustainability” and “common good” buzz words doesn’t take away their actual meanings, which are positive.

“Our democracy faces many very real challenges, including the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the pending “McCutcheon” decision, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is binding and would give secret tribunals power  to overturn our democratically enacted laws.  These are bad for sustainability, bad for the common good, bad for democracy.

“Confusion, obfuscation, and deliberate misrepresentation are the last things we need.”

I have written more extensively on the issue in a previous blog posting called Agenda 21 vs. the TPP.  

The Things that Make for Peace

Preaching at Ash Wednesday Worship Service at Beale

Preaching at Ash Wednesday Worship Service at Beale

I delivered this message at the Ash Wednesday worship service at Beale Air Force Base.

As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it,  saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side.  They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” Matthew 19:41-44

When Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, he stopped along the way.  He wept over the city and the disaster that was coming if things didn’t change, if people didn’t turn around.  Jesus wept.

I can identify with him, and you may, too, since you’ve come out all the way to the gates of Beale on this rainy day so early in the morning.  There is a lot to weep over as we look at our world today.  I believe that God weeps over the harm we human beings cause each other, and calls us to another way:  away from personal, social, and institutionalized sin and to the way of justice, peace, and caring for the earth.

Jesus told his friends that peacemakers are blessed.  But just what are the “things that make for peace?”  First, we need reconciliation.  As we stand here today, when environmental destruction, violence, and war threaten to consume the earth, we remember that we stand in the presence of the Great Mystery, the Creator and Source of the universe, who is experienced in an infinite number of ways and is called by many different names by the peoples of the earth.

God is here.  Do we recognize the time of our visitation from God?

I am so glad that people of different faith traditions are joining us here today.  We acknowledge the need to make amends, to foster understanding, and to live in unity in order for cycles of violence to end.  We pray for reconciliation with people of varied philosophies and spiritual understandings.  We pray for reconciliation with God, with all peoples, and with the whole community of life.

Second, we need repentance.  Today we focus on our participation and complicity in systems that cause harm.  Those of us here who are Christian acknowledge and lament the harm done by Christian imperialism.  We repent for Christian complicity in systems of domination, violence, war, genocide, and ecocide.  We call all Christians to repent of harm caused,  turn away from today’s systems of violence, and turn toward the nonviolent Jesus of Scripture.  He walked softly on the earth, created a community of compassion and inclusion, preached good news to the poor, spoke truth to power, and lived and died for Love.  Those who follow him are called to do the same.

We recognize where we stand at this pivotal time in human history.  We stand in the heart of a nation that has more political, economic, and military power than has ever before existed on earth.  This nation was built on the blood of Indigenous peoples and on the labor of slaves, immigrants, and the poor.  Our government promotes and supports a global system of unrestrained free market capitalism, dominated by corporations.

The United States is the primary enforcer of this global system, which is ravaging the earth and the human community.  Our government is engaged in endless war, including drone strikes, unrestrained by international law.  This cycle of destruction and death, paid for by our tax dollars, should stop, and the resources should be released for meeting human need.

This is institutionalized sin.  We repent for the violence in our own hearts and lives and our complicity in our government’s actions.  We call on the President and other government leaders  to repent of the harm being caused and to radically change course, to turn away from war and to work for peace, justice, and the healing of the earth.  We call on drone pilots, military personnel, and civilians to listen to the call of conscience, turn away from supporting war and begin the hard work of building a culture of peace.

Third, we need resistance–nonviolent resistance–following the example of Jesus.  Theologian William Stringfellow said, “The integrity of resistance to the power of death is the only way to live humanly.” In times of great social evil, the only way to maintain our humanity, and our inner peace, is to live in resistance to the domination systems that bring death.  Roger Gottlieb, in his book, The Spirituality of Resistance, made the point that living in resistance is the only way we can truly accept the reality of the dangers that threaten our world.  How can I accept that my grandchildren are facing a disastrous future unless I am doing all in my power to prevent that from happening?  Besides, as they say, “In resistance is the secret of joy.”  And I mean today.  Today  there is no place I’d rather be.

Standing here at the gates of Beale, we express our resistance to the inhumanity of drone warfare, on behalf of the families and children of Afghanistan and Pakistan, of Yemen and Somalia, and of every nation on earth.  We express our resistance to drone warfare on behalf of our own children and grandchildren, and those who will come after.  We commit ourselves to working tirelessly to stop the endless cycle of violence so that future generations can live in peace.

It’s good to weep.  It means we’re not in denial.  We, like Jesus, know that if we don’t turn things around, the earth community and our children’s children face disaster.

But God is in our midst, calling us to reconciliation, repentance, and resistance to the dominant systems of our day.  The Spirit is inspiring us, empowering us, and working through us to help create a world of peace, justice, and fruitfulness that can sustain life through all generations.

One of the baptismal vows in the United Methodist Church is this:  “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”  As we stand here at the gate of Beale Air Force Base and the Global Hawk Drones, we say “yes.”

Ash Wednesday Worship and Arrests at Beale

Beale Arrestees on Ash Wednesday

Beale Arrestees on Ash Wednesday

Today, on Ash Wednesday, I participated in a deeply meaningful worship service and nonviolent direct action against drones at the gate of Beale Air Force Base.  In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “My body is tired but my soul is rested.”  Actions of faith and conscience are good for the soul.  You can see KCRA’s coverage of the service here, and a video of the arrests here.

The worship service was exquisite.  Although today is a Christian holy day and we used traditional Christian symbols in worship, the service was unique in that it was open to and inclusive of people of all faiths and philosophies.  It included a prayer in the four directions based on Indigenous spirituality, the World Peace Prayer (from the Hindu religion), and a Hebrew song introduced by Rabbi Seth Castleman.

The service included both personal and national repentance, particularly related to U.S. militarism and drone warfare.  We celebrated Holy Communion and used ashes as a sign of repentance and mortality.  The “passing of the peace” included some people carrying the message of peace to the TV crew and Beale officers.  Several participants told me that it was the most meaningful Ash Wednesday service they had ever attended.

Following the service, five of us walked across the boundary line onto base property.  We sprinkled ashes that represented the ashes of children killed by U.S. drones.  Some of us carried crosses with artistic renditions of some of these children, with their names, ages, and countries of origin.   The other people who were arrested were:  Michael Kerr, a member of Veterans for Peace from Bay Point/Pittsburg; Flora Rodgers, a young peace activist from Linda;  The Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, pastor of Parkside Community Church (United Church of Christ) in Sacramento; and The Rev. Dr. Jerry Pedersen, a retired Lutheran pastor from Sacramento, a member of Veterans for Peace and former U.S. Marine.

We were quickly detained by Beale officers, taken to the guard station, where we were fingerprinted and photographed but not cited, then released.  When entering the guard station I greeted the officers with the words, “Peace be with you.”  We all treated each other respectfully and with good humor, with the understanding that they were doing their job and we were doing ours.  The young guards were impressed with Jerry’s military card Jerry, which shows that he was present as part of the Honor Guard on the U.S.S. Missouri during the surrender of the Japanese at the end of World War II.

As we were arrested, supporters were singing “I’ll be rested when the roll is called,” with the names of people who have worked for peace and justice through the ages.  May it be so for all of us.  May we find rest for our souls in the midst of the violence of our times.