Light in this Present Darkness-Reposted

I am reposting “Light in this Present Darkness,” which I posted three years ago.  It is just as relevant today, as mass shootings continue.

No Evil for Evil

In the midst of winter darkness, people of various spiritual traditions are preparing to celebrate the return of the light.  For me, this year’s Christmas pageant was especially poignant, as the children acted out the story of the birth of a special child.  Following the killings at Shady Hook Elementary, a shroud of darkness has settled across our land.  How can we celebrate in the midst of such unspeakable tragedy?  Where is God, where is the light?

The only light I see is the light of Love, which brings us into being, nurtures us and works through us to nurture others, and leads us in the direction of hope for a more peaceful, just, and compassionate world.  This Love, which is the only God I know, enables us to keep going, caring for the children, enduring hardship and even suffering to make their days bright.  It was this day-to-day Love that motivated Shady Hook’s principal and teachers to try to protect the children in their care.

This Love, “in which we live and move and have our being,” is the light in the midst of this present darkness.  This Love is our only hope.  It points toward a brighter future.  But we can’t see the way Love is pointing if we can’t see where we are.  We must awaken to where we are as a people if we are to see the direction we need to go.

Many of us think of ourselves as spiritual, but we live in and tolerate a society that is violent to the core.  We can see the outward evidence:  bullying of children and others, child and spousal abuse, hate-filled rhetoric in the media, violent movies and video games, military-style weapons available on the open market, gun violence.  We are outraged and frightened by the most shocking incidents, but we don’t know what to do.   Start carrying guns, as suggested by the gun lobby?  Will more people with more guns make us safer?  I don’t think so.

The problem is that there is also an inner dimension to the violence that we see all around us, and even within us.  The violent milieu of our society is supported by a world view that is largely unquestioned by politicians, by the media, or by religious institutions.  US society glorifies domination and violence.  We see ourselves as the Number One nation and promote the “American way of life” as better than other ways of life.   We take for granted our right to use any means at our disposal, including drone warfare, to enforce our will.  Our criminal justice system, which is racially biased and unfair to the poor, is based not on restoration, but on retribution.  Our foreign policy is based on a view of global Empire and is supported by a military-industrial complex that seeks to dominate the world.

At the same time, our society glorifies the Market.  We are told that the Market can best allocate society’s resources, and that taxing the wealthy at a higher rate or putting rules on corporate behavior will drag down the economy.  This is the rationale for cutting services of every kind.  Giving “the Market” so much power means giving power to those with money.  This enables powerful corporations and wealthy individuals to consolidate their power and wealth by dominating political and economic policies.  Such policies do not support services for the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, or other vulnerable people.  They do not, for that matter, support schools, libraries, or any other public institutions that we have until now taken for granted.  Rather, they increase the gap between rich and poor, which studies show is linked to increasing levels of violence.

To prevent more mass killings, gun control laws are necessary, along with increased funding for mental health services.  But these actions alone will not bring about the social transformation that is needed.   To live into a more compassionate future will require us to face the current darkness and acknowledge that we, as a people, are on the wrong track.  We have allowed ourselves to be swept along by compelling myths and powerful institutional forces that harness money and use violence to dominate our world.

We can choose to resist complicity and join with others to work for the common good.  We can face the darkness, celebrate the light, and by our actions embody hope so we can assure the children that there are brighter days ahead.  Love will be our guide.

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Hiroshima Day

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I can’t let this Hiroshima Day go by without memorializing the people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and acknowledging the shadow that atomic (and now hydrogen) bombs have cast and continue to cast over our nation and world.   I plan to stand with others down on the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City this evening, holding my hand-made sign that says “Hiroshima, 70 years, Never Again.”

My children remember many Hiroshima Day candlelight walks from Pioneer Park and vigils on the Broad Street Bridge while they were growing up.  I first became motivated as an activist in the late 1970s, when I became aware of the very real threat that nuclear war posed to my children.   I wrote about an awakening that motivated me to action in Shaking the Gates of Hell, in the chapter on “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 I 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.”

My prayer today is this:

Thank you, God, for this day, for the beauty of the earth, for the “yes” of life in the midst of the systems of anti-life, which have taken your world captive and are in process of “undoing creation.”  May we never give up on the future.  May we never hide or run away from the pain of life, except in your presence and your peace.  Protect us from denial, that friend of avoidance and enemy of truth, which pretends to shield us from fear, communal guilt, and that tug of responsibility for the world.  May the strong heart of Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem, fill us with courage to feel and respond to the suffering of our time.  Fill us with your Spirit, that the winds of truth may blow and the flames of love may burn to bring about a great awakening of people of every faith and philosophical tradition, coming together as one, each doing our part to create the new world that is possible.  For you, O God of many names, are the Great Mystery, Ground of Being, Source of life and love, in whom we live and move and have our being.  Surely your will is abundant life, even in the face of death.  Your will is the reign of mercy and compassion in this world.

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

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Seasonal Antidotes to Consumer Culture

In this week or so before Christmas, I’ve been very much involved with family and friends.  I’ve been to two pageants, the Nutcracker, family gatherings, a song circle, a Solstice potluck with friends, and birthday celebrations-with more to come.  I am re-posting this message, Seasonal Antidotes to Consumer Culture, from last December 21, relevant again this year on these days before Christmas:

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Reposted from December 21, 2013

Seasonal Antidotes to Consumer Culture

On Sunday the children of our church performed a Christmas pageant, complete with Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, wise ones, sheep, and a talking donkey.  The children sang Christmas carols and at times the congregation sang along.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, The Revolutionary Stories of Baby Jesus, the biblical stories of Jesus’ birth and infancy have political and even revolutionary significance.  They are stories about a man and his unwed pregnant fiancé, forced by the State to travel a long distance to register for the census in Bethlehem.  The couple spends the night in a stable because that is the only place offered to them, and the young woman gives birth there.    Lowly shepherds see visions of angels and celebrate the birth of the baby, whose only bed is a feeding trough.  Later, foreign astrologers or “wise ones” spot a significant star and follow it, in search of the Christ child.

Our pageant ends with all the children singing “Joy to the World.”  They don’t act out the painful parts of the story:  how the wise ones go to Jerusalem, talk to King Herod, raise his suspicions and outsmart him, while setting into motion a chain of events that leads to a massacre of innocent children (sound familiar?) and the flight of the holy family into Egypt, where, homeless, they struggle to survive as political refugees.

But these painful parts of the story are there, and the kids learn them soon enough.  And whether you understand the story as history or as legend, it is a reminder of the hope that “another world is possible,” the hope of “peace on earth, good will to all people.” It is also a reminder that the Ruling Powers of this world are directly at odds with the incarnation of peace, love, hope, and joy.  This is just as true now as it was in Jesus’ day.

Take, for instance, this Toys R Us ad, which deliberately attempts to lure children away from their natural love of creation and to seduce them into a corporate-constructed “world” of greed and consumption.  This ad and others that target our children seek to instill in them a sense of entitlement, self-centeredness, greed, and lust for things, values which bring not joy but spiritual harm.  In fact these negative values, which underlie our consumer-oriented culture, contribute to poverty, inequity, and ecological damage that threatens life and the future.

Christmas pageants and other non-materialistic holiday and seasonal celebrations provide an antidote to the seductions and demands of consumer culture.  They teach spiritual values such as humility, gratitude, generosity, community, peace, love, and joy.  They “incarnate” the reality of God with us.  They point to light in the midst of the darkness and to life in the midst of death.’

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Campaign Nonviolence Arrests at Beale

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On Monday afternoon, September 29, two anti-drone demonstrators were arrested for trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base.  My good friend, The Reverend John Auer, a retired United Methodist pastor from Fresno, offered a prayer for peace and for the earth.  Then he crossed the line onto base property, assisted by my beloved, Guarionex Delgado.  He pushed John’s wheelchair the length of the mile-long road to the Wheatland Gate.  Base personnel detained them when they reached the guard house.  I also walked with them, taking pictures, but turned back when they entered through the gate.

John stated that he was attempting to deliver a letter to Colonel Phillip A. Stewart, the Base Commander, informing him of a recent anti-drone resolution passed by United Methodists in the California-Nevada region.  (I had also signed on to the letter.)  The letter also included The World Council of Churches’ Statement on the Use of Drones and the Right to Life.  Beale is the home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that helps find targets for armed drones.

This action was one of over 250 nonviolent actions carried out in coordination with Campaign Nonviolence, calling for an end to war, poverty, and climate change. John and Guari stated concerns for the children, for humankind, and for the earth as reasons for walking onto base property.  John carried a sign with a picture of the earth that said, “No War, No Warming,” a reference to the relationship between war and climate change.  They both wore light blue scarves that represent solidarity with others around the world who are suffering the effects of war and who are working for peace.

John spoke of his reasons for taking this action:  “I believe in the recuperative powers of the earth and of the people.  We can’t stop trying.  We can’t stop making an offering of our lives and of our hope.

“I oppose drone warfare because the more we depersonalize war the easier it is for us to fight, and to act as if it is not costing us anything.  When we mechanize war it makes others expendable.  Everyone becomes collateral damage.”

“I am committed to a better world for our children and grandchildren, and I mean all our children and grandchildren.  They will ask us one day what we did in this time.  I want to be able to say that we offered some kind of resistance and some kind of hope.”

Guari said, “I am opposed to all forms of violence.  Climate change is violence against the earth.  Poverty is violence against the people.  War is violence against both people and the earth.”

“When I was younger and uninformed, I served the Empire.  Now that I’m older and clearer, I serve my brothers and sisters who are working for peace and healing.  In this case I had the strength to accompany a brother in the struggle.”

Stay informed and updated.  Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.  Go to the Occupy Beale Air Force Base Facebook page or Occupy Beale website for updates on this court case, background information, and announcements about upcoming Beale demonstrations and direct actions.

 

Do We Have the Wisdom to Survive?

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Fires are burning week after week again this year here in the West.   The smoky skies aggravate asthma, give people headaches, burn people’s eyes, and make people grouchy.  We are warned to stay indoors due to unsafe levels of particulates.  As climate change continues to accelerate, other people in other places are also experiencing record-setting fires, heat waves, droughts,  floods, and other extreme weather events.

Do we have the wisdom to survive?  Will humanity rise to the challenge presented by climate change?  Will we change our ways of thinking and acting, will we transform our institutions and systems, in time to prevent climate chaos?  This question is always with me, even as I gather my grandchildren close to me and play and laugh and learn with them.  What will this overheating planet be like for them in twenty or forty or sixty years?

I do have hope.  I am grateful to be part of a world-wide community of people who are aware of what is at stake with the earth’s changing climate and who are willing to take action.  Tomorrow, the largest People’s Climate March in history will be held in New York, as world leaders gather in New York to discuss the climate crisis.  There will be solidarity demonstrations around the world, including here in Nevada City (meet at the Nevada City Vets Hall, 415 N. Pine, at 4 p.m.).  I hope that everyone who can come out will come out.  The time is now.

Or, if you aren’t convinced about climate change or have given up because you don’t think there is anything you can do, come tomorrow night to see the film “Wisdom to Survive” at 7 p.m. at the Nevada City United Methodist Church.  Here is the blurb I wrote for Old Dog Documentaries to help get the word out about the film:

Wisdom to Survive:  Climate Change, Capitalism, and Community is an exquisitely filmed documentary that presents an overview of the climate crisis, including its causes, effects, and directions of hope.  Poignant scenes illustrate the sacred beauty of the natural world, the tragedy of its diminishment, and our human interconnectedness with the rest of creation.

“The film unflinchingly names global free-market capitalism as the system that underlies the current plunder, with scenes of massive technological resource extraction causing industrial devastation.  Indigenous leaders, people from poor and vulnerable nations, scientists, scholars, religious leaders, activists, farmers, and poets make the case for “climate justice” and point in the direction of hope.

“Do we have the wisdom to survive?  The answer is related to community.   We are connected by our shared grief at what is happening to the earth and by our shared hope and commitment to the future.”

I hope you will join us here in Nevada City or at a Peoples’ Climate Rally near you.  This is not the time to give up, but the time to rise up and recommit ourselves to the earth and to the future.  Surely God is with us in this struggle.

One day our children and grandchildren will ask us what we were doing when there was still time to prevent the worst of climate change.  What will your answer be?

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