2. Two Crosses: A Divided Christianity

Second Post in a Blog Series on the Christian Right

This series of posts on The Christian Right includes excerpts from my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World. If you Contact me with the words “free chapter,” I will send you a free chapter of the book.

Two Crosses: A Divided Christianity

“At the beginning of Christianity there were two crosses. One was a real cross, the other was a symbol.” Jürgen Moltmann

What are the origins of Christian nationalism? It did not begin with the earliest followers of Jesus, who sought to follow his “Way” and were often persecuted by Rome.

For the first three centuries after Jesus’s death and resurrection, Christianity was widely understood as being anti- imperial. His followers remembered the “real cross” upon which Jesus and so many others had been executed by the Roman Empire. Following his example, many Christians were martyred for refusing to pledge allegiance to the Roman emperor or serve in the Roman army. When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made it the state religion in the fourth century, Rome began not only spreading but also enforcing this official religion under the icon of the cross. A theology that rationalized just war followed. Now soldiers were required to be baptized and to fight under the banner of a glorified cross to promote the spread of Christianity. The cross had become a symbol of the Holy Roman Empire.

During the past two thousand years, Christian understandings about the meaning of the cross have diverged. Dominant forms of Christianity have often been aligned with the State, as in the time of Constantine. This dynamic is at work today in US civil religion, which promotes American exceptionalism and celebrates the United States as a nation uniquely blessed by God. Christian nationalist groups have used the glorified cross of domination to symbolize racist, sexist, and antidemocratic movements that merge patriotic and religious symbols, as at the insurrection at the US Capitol.

Yet those who are called to follow Jesus are invited to remember the “real cross” upon which Jesus suffered and died. This means keeping alive the story of the nonviolent Jesus, his passion for the reign of God and his crucifixion at the hands of the powers, God’s vindication of his life and ministry in the resurrection, his ongoing presence among us, and life in the Spirit that enables us to follow him.

In this blog series on The Religious Right, which includes excerpts from my new book The Cross In the Midst of Creation, my goal is to bring clarity to this discussion. The blog posts in this series will be:

  1. Christian Nationalism
  2. Two Crosses: Divided Christianity (this post)
  3. US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous
  4. The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God
  5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

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Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up  at the “Follow” link to the right.

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Contact Sharon below to request a free PDF chapter of The Cross in the Midst of Creation, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

Meet the Author Interview

This “Meet the Author” interview with Sharon Delgado ran in the Grass Valley Union on June 28, 2022.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a spouse, lover, mother and auntie, grandmother, friend, and co-conspirator for a world of justice, peace, and the healing of creation. I’m a retired United Methodist pastor, activist, nonviolence practitioner, and author, seeking to live with grace and to be a force for good in the world. Find out about my work at sharondelgado.org.

What brought you to this area?

My husband Guari and I moved here from San Francisco as part of the counterculture’s “back to the land” movement of the 1970s. We fell in love with the natural beauty of this place. We lived in a cabin without electricity outside Nevada City for seven years, then built our home and raised our children here. We lived and worked in Santa Cruz for thirteen years, then moved back and retired here in 2005.

How did you get into writing?

I have journaled for forty years as a spiritual practice and path to self-discovery. I wrote for classes I took at Sierra College when our children were young. Later at Sac State I wrote papers for various classes, including my major, Peace/War Studies (Social Science). Because for me, personal spirituality and social concern are linked, they have always been integrated in my writing. In seminary, and later as a pastor, my writing evolved. In 2007 I published my first book.

What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author?

I read the Bible daily, taking it seriously but in context, so not always literally. I also read books from other spiritual traditions. My staple diet is nonfiction, books that help me understand the social, political, ecological, and economic problems we face. Some, like The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James Cone) and This Changes Everything (Naomi Klein) have been life-changing. Novels are like dessert or like a vacation. My favorite authors are Amy Tan, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Mistress of Spices), Isabelle Allende, Zora Neale Hurston, and Barbara Kingsolver.

What is your book about?

The Cross in the Midst of Creation approaches the many challenges facing our world today from a progressive Christian perspective.  It explores confusion and disagreement among Christians about the meaning of the cross, the primary symbol of Christian faith. The book makes the case that the crucifixion is ongoing as institutionalized powers like the ones that put Jesus to death are at work today in the violence and injustice perpetrated against our human family and creation. At the same time, the resurrection is ongoing as people from varied spiritual and philosophical perspectives rise in courage and move in the direction of God’s intended world. Other themes include: a critique of Christian nationalism, rejection of punitive theologies, a survey of biblical views of the cross that focus on the God of love who was revealed in Jesus, what it means to live in the presence of the Risen Christ today and to follow Jesus into the heart of the struggle for a transformed world.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired to write a book proclaiming the God of compassion and love and transformative justice that Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated. It is distressing for me to see the message of Jesus distorted to support Christian nationalism, white supremacy, and other forms of domination, exclusion, discrimination, and cultural accommodation. I wanted to proclaim the “good news” in a way that is true to Jesus’ original message and relevant to the problems facing us today.

What did you find most challenging about writing a book?

At this point, I trust that if I keep my mind and heart open to the Spirit, the words will come. And they do. Creating the Index was challenging, since I have to relearn the computer program each time I write another book. Then comes the really challenging part—getting the word out about why I think it’s an important book and people should read it.  (I do.)

What is your key takeaway or message you hope readers find in your book?

The loving God whom Jesus proclaimed is not limited to any one religion, for the Spirit is like the wind that “blows where it wills.” This Great Mystery, “the one in whom we live and move and have our being, the “Soul of the Universe” (John Wesley) is still at work in the world and can move us in the direction of both personal and social transformation.

Where can people find your book?

You can find it locally at The Bookseller in Grass Valley or at Harmony Books in Nevada City—let’s keep our local bookstores alive. There are copies in the local books section at the library. It is also available from Amazon and other online platforms and direct from the publisher, Fortress Press.

Please describe what you’d consider your perfect day.

A day when justice flows down like water and righteousness as an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). Until that day comes, I’ll settle for a day that begins with early morning contemplative prayer, a walk in the woods with my beloved, three simple meals, reading and writing, laughing and being silly with the grandkids, taking a spin around the dance floor, and contributing my small part to what Thomas Berry called “The Great Work” of our time.




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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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.

Car Rally Urges Release of Persons Detained by ICE

Car rally urges release of persons detained by ICE

Because justice requires action, I am sharing this article that I submitted to the Grass Valley Union last week, following a car rally that several of us participated in at the Yuba County Jail, the only remaining ICE detention center in Northern California.  Please take a moment to add your name to the petition at the link below calling on our elected representatives to meet the demands listed below. Fleeing to the United States should not bring with it a death sentence.

From The Grass Valley Union, April 15, 2020

Eight people from Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Camptonville participated in a “social distancing” car rally Tuesday at Yuba County Jail. Over 40 cars circled the jail, sometimes chanting or honking their horns, demanding action to protect immigrants and other inmates who are housed there from infection by COVID-19. Over 150 immigrant detainees are housed there under a county contract with the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Human rights groups are calling on Yuba County to cancel the federal contract with ICE due to concerns that current conditions create a breeding ground which could cause the pandemic to infect people and spread.

Three Nevada County participants in the car rally, Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman and Sharon Delgado, have personally visited immigrants at the jail through a sponsoring organization, Faithful Friends. These visitors have communicated with individual detainees, inquired about their health and the conditions in the jail, shared their needs with Faithful Friends, and sometimes contacted their families or requested lawyers. The trio said they were alarmed by unsanitary and crowded conditions, which could provide an environment that could easily spread COVID-19 to prisoners and guards, including to ICE detainees. Demands include releasing all people in ICE custody who are eligible for alternatives to detention; releasing all people who are older than 60, immune compromised, pregnant or with underlying conditions. Additionally, soap, CDC-recommended hand sanitizer, medical care, comprehensive sanitation and cleaning of facilities — as well as other safety measures as recommended by the CDC — should be immediately provided for those who remain incarcerated. Organizers also advocate granting humanitarian parole requests, eliminating medical copays and lifting all fees for calls to family members.

The car rally was organized by Jewish Action Norcal, whose message, “Never again means now,” serves as a reminder that countless people died in the Nazi concentration camps due to disease. For more information, visit https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/release-immigrants-detained-at-yuba-county-jail-amid-covid-19-pandemic.

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