Guest Post: Mark Davies

Fighting Theocracy

With reproductive justice under attack, “don’t say gay” laws gaining traction, and a warped view of religious freedom threatening civil rights; the real possibility of theocracy is at our doorstep, and the Supreme Court of the United States can no longer be counted on to stop it. It is critical that we understand what gives rise to theocratic movements and what can be done to stop the increasing influence of theocratic visions and practices within our society.

Persons who want a theocracy are looking for a way to create a facade of divine support for oppressing anyone they deem the “other.” People who promote theocracy do so in order to create a society of people who tend to look like them, believe like them, and worship like them. The spirit of theocracy is the antithesis of a pluralistic democratic society. Every movement towards theocracy is simultaneously a movement away from democracy.

Autocrats count on religious fervor to justify the weakening of democratic institutions and processes in exchange for advances to the cause of a particular religious vision for society. Ironically, theocrats who argue that society ought to be ruled directly by God are almost always willing to make a deal with the devil of autocracy to further what they mistakenly believe are divine causes. They move quickly to the practice of using any means necessary to bring about their desired results. These means include weakening democratic institutions and processes to accomplish the results they are looking for.

Theocracy is a tool of autocrats to provide the appearance of divine justification for their destruction of democratic institutions and processes for the maintenance and expansion of their power. Most of the major autocratic movements of our time appeal to some form of theocratic vision to manipulate the masses to support them. Putin, Trump, Orbán, Erdoğan, Modi, and even Xi Jinping all appeal to elements of divine authority/religious authority to justify their autocratic forms of governing. Putin of Russia, Trump, and Orbán of Hungary all appeal to forms of Christian Nationalism, Erdogan of Turkey appeals to Islamic nationalism, Modi of India taps into Hindu Nationalism, and Xi Jinping of China functions as the equivalent of a divine representation of the religion of the state. Each leader has used a kind of theocratic vision to expand or attempt to expand their autocratic hold on power. It is not surprising that these leaders take on a type of divine status in the eyes of the citizens who support them.

Autocracy and its use of religious fervor for the establishment of theocracy are deeply intertwined with the desire to maintain and strengthen patriarchy. Theocratic autocracies are always and everywhere horrific for the role and status of women in society.

Theocratic autocracies are inherently anti-democratic, anti-Women, anti-any religion other than the one supported by the state, and anti-LGBTQIA+. They also typically show very little concern for the well being of the natural environment. To put it succinctly, theocracies are a nightmare for both people and the planet, and they actually have very little or nothing to do with God or authentic religious expression.

Here In the United States, our typical theocratic brand is Christian fundamentalist extremism, which is being used by people like Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon, Franklin Graham, and many others to tear apart the very social fabric of our country in an attempt to create some kind of theocratic Christian state; and it seems this movement will justify almost anything to pursue its causes, including a violent attack on our nation’s Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a duly elected government. In its embrace of authoritarianism, nationalism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and practices; it resembles something more and more like a fascist movement than a religion of love and justice. If this is left unchecked, we will experience continued and increasing violence and injustice, much of which will be done in the name of religion.

Our current situation is tragic on many levels, but one of the saddest things for me is that in the name of Christianity, fundamentalist extremism is taking people farther and farther from the loving and just ways of Jesus in this world and is dividing us through fear and hate rather than uniting us in Beloved Community. Religion is being used to imprison and manipulate rather than renew the human spirit to care for people and the planet, and I believe that would make Jesus weep.

What then can be done to stop the increasing influence of theocratic visions and practices within our society? The only way to stop theocracy is for us to be as persistent in protecting and preserving the institutions of democracy as the theocrats are in weakening and destroying them (at every level – from the school board to the Supreme Court and from the city council to the presidency). It is also the responsibility of every religious leader and every person who believes in genuine religious freedom and a pluralistic democracy to speak out against the dangers of theocracy. This is no time for apathy. It is the time for vigorous action to protect democracy for sake of beloved and diverse community.

Local Grandmothers Highlight Intergenerational Pipeline Struggle

In late May, I travelled to Minnesota by train with three other local grandmothers, Janie Kesselman, Shirley Osgood, and Joyce Banzhaf, to join a 31-member delegation of 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations. Our purpose was to highlight the intergenerational nature of the struggle to stop construction of the Enbridge Line 3 dirty tar sands oil pipeline. Together, we visited and helped out at the Water Protectors Camp which serves as a welcome center for visiting Line 3 activists, we hosted young Indigenous activists from a frontline camp for a memorial ceremony on the 1st anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and we held two public demonstrations, including one at the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion in St. Paul See video of that action here  and See pictures of the trip here.

The delegation included Lakota grandmothers from South Dakota, including Madonna Thunder Hawk and Mabel Ann Eagle Hunter, who have been activists struggling for Indigenous rights and the rights of Mother Earth for over 60 years; Alcatraz was in 1968, and was not their first big action! They were engaged in an ongoing way with the American Indian Movement (AIM).  Their daughters and niece, now also grandmothers, had also been involved with AIM as children and teens and were also part of this delegation. All of us were motivated by concerns for today’s children, for the natural world and our other-than-human relatives, and for future generations.

Our grandmothers’ trip was a precursor to the Treaty People Gathering that is taking place early in June in support of the Anishinaabe people, whose treaty rights are threatened by this pipeline. (See #TreatyPeopleGathering). Massive demonstrations are taking place along the route of pipeline construction. Thousands are participating, including Indigenous leaders, celebrities, climate justice activists, and others who understand what is at stake if the construction of oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure continues to extend the fossil-fuel era. People are engaging in major public actions, including nonviolent civil disobedience at pipeline construction sites.

The Nevada County contingent stayed an extra day and participated in an action led by Indigenous youth where two young people were arrested for trespassing and stopping workers from continuing construction by climbing onto the newly-laid pipeline. The four of us did not risk arrest and made it to the train for our return trip that night. We returned home grateful for being welcomed and included, sobered by all that we had learned and have yet to learn about the issues related to Line 3 and about respecting Indigenous leadership.

The Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline would run from Canada through the Mississippi headwaters and Minnesota’s lake country, threatening its pristine waters. It also runs through sacred ancient wild rice beds, traditionally harvested by the Anishinaabe people. This land is under treaty with the Anishinaabe, who have the rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice, all threatened by this pipeline. Treaty rights are the law of the land, with priority over federal or state laws.

Enbridge, a Canadian corporation, has a terrible safety record, with over 1068 pipeline spills before 2013, leaking 7.4 million gallons of oil. Disastrous spills continue. Enbridge calls the new Line 3 a “replacement pipeline” although it is constructing 300 miles of pipeline along a new route, abandoning the old pipeline to deteriorate in place, and doubling the quantity of dirty tar sands oil.

Climate activists make the case that long-lasting fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines locks us into increasing greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures for decades. This project alone would have the climate impact of 50 coal mines, counteracting Minnesota’s plans to reduce climate change by investing in renewable energy, green jobs, energy-efficient buildings, and electric cars.

Since 2011, the United States has been a net exporter of fossil fuels. Under the Paris Climate Accords, our exports of fossil fuel are not counted. So even if we reduce emissions nationally, by continuing to increase our exports of fossil fuels we cancel out our stated intentions to reduce global climate change. Stopping construction of new oil and gas pipelines is a necessary step to addressing climate change.

Finally, solidarity with Indigenous peoples in their struggles for a livable world is a way to affirm indigenous wisdom and perspectives that move us from a worldview that promotes organizing society around the market to a worldview that promotes organizing around concern for the whole community of life. This lays a foundation for actions that impact the future in ways that further the good and heal the past.

For anyone who is convinced that the struggle against Line 3 is an important effort, there are many actions that we can take. Indigenous leaders are requesting that supporters call on President Biden to cancel this pipeline.  Find a petition here:  https://www.stopline3.org/take-action. Go to https://www.stopline3.org/biden for more information on how to contact Biden and make it clear to him that there is a large and diverse intergenerational movement to #StopLine3.

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https://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org/enbridge_safety_record

The Struggle to Stop Line 3

Hello Friends,

It has been a long time since I have written a blog post, but I’m happy to report that I recently turned in a manuscript for a book that I have been working on all year, so here I am. I’ll tell you more about it when it gets closer to time for publication.

Next up: now that I am fully vaccinated, I am getting ready to take a train trip to Minnesota with three friends to join about 25 other members of 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations. We will be joining members of the Anishinaabe tribe who are resisting the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline that would go through their territory. We are going at their ,invitation. While we are there we will support their efforts however we can, when we get back we will share their story and how it ties in to the larger struggle for a livable future. 

Climate activists and others are joining together to support the Anishinaabe in their attempts to defeat Line 3. Public pressure led by Indigenous people and supported by environmental groups led to the defeat of the Keystone XL Pipeline, helped along by creative coalitions such as the “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” that included ranchers along the pipeline route. Likewise, public action drew international attention to the Standing Rock Sioux’s struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which a judge recently ruled as being illegal. Similar coalitions are now at work to stop Enbridge Line 3.

Where does stopping construction of new oil and gas pipelines fit into the overall struggle for a livable future? Long-lasting oil and gas infrastructure such as pipelines not only vastly increase the capacity of fossil fuel development but lock in the extraction, transport, processing, sale, and burning of such fuels over decades, accelerating climate change into the future. Pipelines pollute lands and waters along their routes through their frequent spills.

The very definition of climate justice is that we need to listen to and serve as allies to those who are on the front lines and at most risk of harm related to fossil-fuel extraction and climate change: people in sacrifice zones where fossil fuels are extracted, transported, and processed, usually communities of color; people in poor countries and communities (often communities of color) where the impacts of climate change are often first and worst; children and young people whose futures will be made much harder because of policy choices made today; and yes, species that are struggling to survive as ecosystems are degraded and destroyed.

On Earth Day this year, the organization I work with, Earth Justice Ministries, published a commentary about The Rights of Indigenous People and the Rights of Mother Earth. Acknowledging the rights of Indigenous people and centering their voices about caring for creation is critical if our work to create a livable future is to bear fruit. This awareness is essential for anyone concerned about climate change and other environmental damage, for simply changing our lifestyles or working piecemeal on individual policies will not bring about the overall systemic change that is needed. It will also require a change of worldview and frontline communities taking nonviolent action to keep polluting fossil fuels in the ground.

To contribute to our travels, you can donate to the Go Fund Me account Send Grandmothers to Help Stop Line 3.

To find out more about the effort to halt construction on Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, see the resources at Honor the Earth, Stop Line 3. Stay tuned for more!

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  A previous post that speaks more about Indigenous worldviews and front line community actions is at Conflicting Worldviews at the Global Climate Summit.

What to Do if there is an Attempted US Coup

Progressive Christian Social Action

What to Do if there is an Attempted US Coup

We are people aligned with various local groups who are concerned that if President Donald Trump loses in the upcoming election he will refuse to concede power even if the results are clear. We are organizing locally, as are thousands of people around the country.

We see many warning signs. When asked repeatedly, Trump has refused to commit to respecting election results. In July, when Chris Wallace asked, he answered, “I have to see… No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no.” The other day he again started people chanting at a rally: “Twelve more years,” despite the eight-year Constitutional limit.

All of us should be invested in the integrity of the democratic process, respect for election results, and the peaceful transition (or continuation) of power. Those of us who are looking at this challenge ask each of you to consider what you might do if this threat becomes reality. Most coup attempts fail if the people take immediate action. To find out how to be prepared, see below.

We ask our local elected representatives to prepare for this contingency by 1) establishing standards to protect voters from intimidation, 2) counting every vote before certifying results, and 3) directing local law enforcement officials to respect people’s First Amendment rights and protect those rights from individuals and groups who may threaten them.

There are many possible scenarios for election interference. The Trump Administration has been hard at work at voter suppression, including restricting vote-by-mail during the pandemic. Mail continues to be delayed. The most likely scenario is this: Trump will show a lead on Election Night, since his supporters are expected to vote in person, with his lead diminishing as mail-in votes are counted, perhaps stretching into days or even weeks. Trump could claim early victory. There could be contested results, state-by-state power struggles, demonstrations, social media chaos, and inflammatory tweets by Trump. This could be just the beginning of a chaotic election and aftermath.

A Trump Campaign adviser said, “There will be a count on election night, that count will shift over time, and the results when the final count is given will be challenged as being inaccurate, fraudulent — pick your word.” For months Trump has been setting the stage for this claim. At the Republican National Convention, he said, “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”

An article for the November 2020 Atlantic Magazine “What if Trump Refuses to Concede?” was published online early because of its urgency. It recommends the following:

“…If you are at relatively low risk for COVI9, volunteer to work at the polls. If you know people who are open to reason, spread word that it is normal for the results to keep changing after Election Night. If you manage news coverage, anticipate extra­constitutional measures, and position reporters and crews to respond to them. If you are an election administrator, plan for contingencies you never had to imagine before. If you are a mayor, consider how to deploy your police to ward off interlopers with bad intent. If you are a law-enforcement officer, protect the freedom to vote. If you are a legislator, choose not to participate in chicanery. If you are a judge on the bench in a battleground state, refresh your acquaintance with election case law. If you have a place in the military chain of command, remember your duty to turn aside unlawful orders. If you are a civil servant, know that your country needs you more than ever to do the right thing when you’re asked to do otherwise.”

Finally, please join us in signing the following pledge at choosedemocracy.us. Tens of thousands have already signed:

  1. We will vote.
  2. We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted.
  3. We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted.
  4. If we need to, we will shut down this country to protect the integrity of the democratic process.

In closing, from The Atlantic: “Take agency. An election cannot be stolen unless the American people, at some level, acquiesce.”

Those of us who are working together are Sharon Delgado, Guarionex Delgado, Janie Kesselman, Mikos Fabersunne, Avila Lowrance, Brian Fry, Shirley Osgood, Jesse Golden, Joyce Banzhaf, Peter Galbraith. We invite you to join us. Find updated information on Earth Justice Ministries Facebook Page, which also appears on the website at https://earth-justice.org.

To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.

Why Nonviolent Direct Action?

Progressive Christian Social Action

Friends, I wrote this post and recorded it for Youtube as we were getting ready for a peaceful march on October 4th for racial equity, inclusion, and peace.  Although the march is over, I wrote this to share why I believe nonviolent direct action is important in social change.

People sometimes argue that we should not go out into the streets for demonstrations at this time of division because it is dangerous. This may be true. Some say such actions further the divisions among us. They certainly may highlight the divisions. Some people argue that we should do more studying of the issues or reach out to talk with people who think differently than we do or focus on doing the inner work of changing our own hearts. Certainly, all these things need to be done.

But at this time of upheaval, our challenge is not just to change people’s hearts. Changing people’s hearts is a central part of the theory and practice of nonviolence—especially changing our own hearts.  We know that hurt people tend to hurt people unless they have found healing. But it’s also crucial to change public policy, and that takes more than voting every four years. Changing hearts and changing public policy goes together.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated the role of nonviolent direct action:

“You may well ask, `Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Mohandas Gandhi led the nonviolent struggle against the British occupation of India.  The whole time he insisted that the British would leave India not as enemies but as friends. And they did. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Love is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.” In nonviolent direct action, changing hearts and changing public opinion go together.

In recent months, white nationalists calling themselves patriots have been violently disrupting peaceful demonstrations for racial justice in smaller rural communities like Rocklin, Placerville, Auburn, and here in Nevada City. We all hope that they won’t try to disrupt our upcoming march, where we plan to come together to demonstrate strong community support for racial equity and inclusion and peace. I do hope that Proud Boys and others like them really are “standing back and standing by” for now, including here in Nevada County as we prepare for this march. But they haven’t been told to stand down, and we have to be prepared with all the nonviolent tools at our disposal, especially as this critical election draws near.

Why take nonviolent direct action? Why go out into the streets? Because we don’t yet know how far down our society and world might go toward fascism or social and ecological collapse if we don’t face these challenges together.  Right now, the time calls us to stand with our BIPOC brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children. Otherwise what Martin Niemoller said during the Nazi era could come true:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Regardless of what path we take, there are no guarantees, whether we take to the streets or stay home. But it seems to me that in the long run we are safer if we take action together nonviolently in a coordinated way.  I invite you to form supportive groups of people you trust, study nonviolence theory and practice, and form equitable and inclusive relationships with people engaged in today’s multi-faceted struggle.

Join us in envisioning and demonstrating for and creating the world as we know it can be, a world built upon values and policies that support the common good and will sustain us into the future, such as truth and reconciliation, voting rights and participatory democracy, racial, social and economic equity, health care for all, public health and environmental policies supported by science, and community well-being.

I hope to see you in the streets.

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