Love, In a Nutshell

This picture, “Love, in a Nutshell,” goes with the words below that my clergy colleague Elizabeth Brick wrote in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

Abortion is an issue that I have deep feelings about, due to my faith and to my own personal experience. I’m not going to write in-depth about these things today. What is important right now is to make clear that I stand as pro-choice because everyone has the right to make their own personal decisions, as I have had. It’s not my business.

The lawmakers in states making rigid anti-abortion laws certainly don’t have the general wellbeing in mind, or the wellbeing of children, as is made clear by high levels of child poverty and lack of universal health care and refusal to take meaningful action on gun violence. I can see that the end of Roe vs. Wade will have terrible consequences and will continue to bring desperation and misery. I remember those days and will stand with the others in support of freedom of choice.

Here are the words that go with this picture, words to which I commit:

“I will drive you to your medical procedure, no matter what it is, and I will care for you afterward if you need, because this is what love looks like.

“I will legally solemnize your relationship if you seek to be married, no matter your gender or gender identity, because I have been granted this beautiful, legal privilege by the state, by virtue of my ordination.

“I will support you in your decision-making, your grief-processing, and your anger-managing, because it is the very least we can do for each other in these days of discrimination, fear, and strife.

“I will be there for you, as you have been here for me, as together we will be there for others, because this is what healthy community looks like.

“This is how we continue to create, grow, and nurture a world of mutuality, compassion, and joy not just for ourselves, but also for those who follow behind us.”

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Love Wins

Progressive Christian Social Action

Love Wins

Last night I wept. This morning I’m sick at heart. The community I love is divided like never before. Oh, but here come the quail, out from the blackberry bushes, dozens of them. When I sit out on the deck writing in the morning, they tolerate me if I move slowly. Even today, they remind me of the beauty of Nevada County, which has been my home since 1971. We raised our kids here, worked elsewhere for a while, then retired here in 2005 as we always knew we would.

As a biracial family, we have known that racism is a reality here. It’s not by accident that our community is so white. But now racial animosity seems to have come to a head, here and throughout the country.

At the march for racial justice in Nevada City on August 9, I carried a small cardboard “Black Lives Matter” sign. Why? Because I despair of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) ever being treated as if they do matter, as fully human beings. I planned to stay socially distanced at the back, but an organized group (without masks) blocked our path. They wore white nationalist and Trump insignia, used flags as weapons, yelled racist and homophobic slurs, and pursued us as we tried to walk around them. They ganged up on people (including young teens), injured several people, and destroyed property. They shoved us and yelled in our faces, “Get the f___ out of our town.”

Evidently this is a homegrown hate group. The Facebook Page Patriots Pushing Back Nevada County has over 10,000 people and is growing. After the demonstration, their posts celebrated and bragged that Law Enforcement was on their side (which is indeed how it appeared). They raised funds through Go Fund Me to support Jimmy Smith, the member of the group who was arrested for two felonies. Now it’s a private Facebook group, but make no mistake: organized hate is here, embedded in our community.

Then yesterday, Back the Blue Nevada County held a huge “Freedom Ride Parade,” ostensibly to support the police. I’m sure there were good-hearted people who participated solely to support Law Enforcement. Curious though, that the send-off speaker stated in one breath that the purpose of the parade was: “standing with Trump, standing up for our flag” and promoted “Trump gear” for sale. The “parade” included vehicles with Trump’s name and multiple flags: Trump flags, “Thin Blue Line” flags (with multiple meanings), and the US flag, like the trucks that brought disrupters to the march in Nevada City. The mixed symbols confused the event’s purpose. Was it to support the police no matter what? Glorify Trump? Claim the flag as a white nationalist symbol? Intimidate peaceful protestors? Evidently it was not to celebrate the diversity this nation represents.

Also, our local Republican Party is sponsoring a “Political Protest” fundraiser featuring “far right commentator” Katie Hopkins. According to Twitter, Hopkins was banned in June for “violations of our hateful conduct policy,” which prohibits “promoting violence against or directly attacking or threatening people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, age, disability or serious disease.”[1] Yet the Nevada County Republican Party publicized their event by stating, “To underscore how GOOD she is as a strong conservative voice, Twitter last week permanently banned her from communicating with her one million followers.” In other words, hate speech is not only acceptable—it has become popular.

Racial justice demonstrations have been on hold here as people deal with trauma, injury, and threat. But this struggle is not over. I encourage everyone in despair to take heart, and those who may be possessed by the current climate of hate and authoritarianism to reconsider what it means to take a moral stand for the common good.

The quail have now moved to another spot. I probably got too excited and moved too fast while writing this article. I am thinking of going down to the Broad Street Bridge with my little BLM sign and sitting there by myself. Or it may be best to work with others who are attending online workshops on nonviolence, white supremacy, keeping each other safe, and de-escalation, to prepare to take a unified nonviolent stand for compassion, justice, peace, and environmental healing. For the sake of my community and world, for the sake of our children, I will not let go of my belief that love wins, or my commitment to helping make it so.

[1] Graeme Demianyk, Katie Hopkins Permanently Banned From Twitter, Social Media Firm Confirms: Account suspended for “violations of our hateful conduct policy”, HuffPost, June 19, 2020.

 

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Climate Trial: #AllEyesOnJuliana

Progressive Christian Social Action

Climate Trial: #AllEyesOnJuliana

Tomorrow, June 4, in Portland Oregon, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, three judges of the Ninth Circuit will hear Trump Administration lawyers who seek to stop the progress of a high-stakes trial related to climate change: Juliana vs. the United States.  The lawsuit is being brought by a group of young people who claim a constitutional right to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life” and who assert that the United States government is violating that right.  Some are calling it “the trial of the century.”

The “Juliana” in the case is Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, age 23. She is the oldest of 21 young plaintiffs who are suing the federal government for violating their rights to life, liberty, and property by knowingly enacting policies that cause climate change.  Kelsey says, “I believe that climate change is the most pressing issue my generation will ever face, indeed, that the world will ever face.  This is an environmental issue and a human rights issue.”

The Trump Administration has tried to get this trial dismissed since it was initiated in 2015.  Each time, the judges have ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who claim that the United States government is violating their constitutional rights to a stable climate and a habitable planet.  The lawsuit is being supported by Our Children’s Trust.

The Ninth Circuit will livestream the hearing. The Juliana plaintiffs have created a website to sign up for livestream info and to spread the word.  They hope with this hearing to “make history and have this be the most watched Ninth Circuit oral argument ever.” Find out more here: www.youthvgov.org/alleyesonjuliana.

The plaintiffs in Juliana vs. The United States know they face a hard future.  Levi Dranheim is eleven years old.  He is the youngest of the plaintiffs.  He lives on a barrier reef off the coast of Florida that is thirteen feet above sea level.  He knows that if sea levels continue to rise his island home will disappear.

Xiuhtezcatl (Shu TEZ caht), age eighteen, is another plaintiff. He was raised in the Aztec tradition.  He’s a hip hop artist and youth director of Youth Guardians, another organization that is supporting the case.  He says, “Climate change is the defining issue of our time.”

What do the plaintiffs hope to accomplish through this lawsuit and what are they demanding?  They are calling on the court to order the federal government to enact and implement a “National Climate Recovery Plan” that would restore atmospheric levels of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to 350 parts per million, stabilize the climate, and de-acidify the oceans.

Could this court case actually have a positive impact, like Brown vs. the Board of Education did in the area of race relations?  This case is showing promising signs. The court has already ruled that the plaintiffs have “the right to a climate system capable of supporting human life,” that “air, running water, sea, and the seashore” are public trust assets, and that the government has failed to protect them.” The court has made clear that this case will not be about whether climate change is real or human-caused because “the science is undisputed.”

Friends, this is an opportunity for us to take a stand for intergenerational justice as we face the threat of climate chaos. This case may be a vehicle not only for raising public awareness but for creating a systemic change in how the Powers that be respond to the dangers of climate change. By supporting these young plaintiffs, we contribute to the struggle for climate justice and increase the possibility of positive change.  It may be that this is one of those times in human history when what seems to be impossible becomes possible.

To find out more about how to watch the hearing and support the youth in this case, go to:  https://www.youthvgov.org/alleyesonjuliana.  Young people are invited to sign an amicus brief to be filed with the court in future hearings at https://joinjuliana.org/.

To read more about the case itself and the various rulings, see https://www.youthvgov.org/new-folder.  To watch a a 60 Minutes program about the case, click on The Climate Change Lawsuit that Could Stop the U.S. Government from Supporting Fossil Fuels.

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Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

#MeToo–I Didn’t Tell Either

Progressive Christian Social Action

#MeToo—I Didn’t Tell Either.

No one wants to tell about their own sexual assault, but I feel compelled to do so in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is being viciously maligned for speaking out about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh so many years ago.

These years of Donald Trump’s presidency will go down as a dark and shameful period in our nation’s history.  A known sexual predator holds the highest office in the land. (We’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape.)  Now he has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and he continues to stand by Kavanaugh while insinuating that Dr. Ford is lying because she waited so long to tell her story, saying, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents…” This same theme is being reiterated by other Republicans and across the internet: the implication that she is lying because she didn’t tell years ago.

This most recent incident has convinced me that I, too, need to go public with the story of my rape as a 16-year old, and why I didn’t tell.  The perpetrator was 18.  He was the son of my divorced mother’s boyfriend, a man whom I loved and trusted and who taught me how to drive.

I began dating this man’s son. One night he (the son) raped me in the back of his van. I struggled. I fought. I said “no” and “stop,” but he didn’t stop. He hurt me. What I didn’t do was scream or call for help. Why? Shame, shock, embarrassment, disorientation, bewilderment? I’ve asked myself many times.  I was stunned, and I had no mental or emotional category that could help me make sense of the experience. Because I did not call for help, I thought I had “let it happen.”  I felt guilt, shame, and self-hatred. I blamed myself.  I didn’t even call it “rape” in my own mind, until years later, when I learned more about what rape means.

This was not my first experience of sexual assault or harassment, nor would it be my last. But Dr. Ford’s story has reminded me of how traumatic for a teenager a sexual assault can be and how hard it can be to come forward. It took a lot of courage for her to come forward recently when she heard that Brett Kavanaugh had been nominated to the Supreme Court.

As a pastor and as one who seeks to live in the way and Spirit of Jesus, I am especially distressed that many white Evangelical Christians, over 80 percent of whom helped elect Donald Trump and continue to stand by him, support the GOP’s efforts to push through an immediate up or down vote on Kavanaugh, without an FBI investigation or other witnesses.  Reverend Franklin Graham, an Evangelical leader, said, “It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh who has a stellar record–that somebody can bring something up that he did as a teenager close to 40 years ago. That’s not relevant.”  Or as another Kavanaugh supporter said, “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?”

Unconditional support for Trump and his nominee has descended into hateful and hellish attacks on Dr. Ford, maligning her character and motives and threatening her family and her life.  If she had known the extent of the hate that would be directed toward her, she may have chosen to not tell her story or to remain anonymous, as she had hoped to do.

I am horrified to know that my grandsons are hearing people say that assault and attempted rape is normal behavior for teenage boys. God forbid!  The teenage boys I have known understand that violence against women, including sexual violence, is always wrong. It’s not normal, and there’s no way to justify it.  I’m also horrified that my granddaughters are hearing it.  As one college freshman said, “Girls my age are watching, reading, and hearing these conversations. And it’s making us scared.

Women have come a long way since the years of my childhood, but violence against women and children is still pervasive.  The #MeToo movement and the broad challenge to Kavanaugh’s fitness to be on the high court because of this (and now other) sexual assault allegations are moving us forward.  But we still have a long way to go to end the culture of misogyny and rape.

#MeToo                                   #IBelieveHer

Read the Grass Valley Union article about our local demonstration.

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Never Again: Protest is Our Prayer

Progressive Christian Social Action

Never Again!  Protest is Our Prayer

United Methodist Building, Washington, DC

On this Monday of Holy Week, reflections on the events that led to the death of Jesus merge with events that are taking place today.  As in Jesus’ day, today’s ruling Powers are entrenched in control by domination and violence.  People who seek to change the dominant system and make it more compassionate are maligned and persecuted, as Jesus was.  He was put to death after he drove out the money changers from the Temple, challenging the economic system upon which the Roman occupation of Jerusalem was maintained.

Today it is our youth.  Some are congratulating them for their activism, but they are also being insulted and called names for marching for their lives, standing up to the ruling Powers, and demanding reasonable gun laws and safe schools.  When these demonstrations of active democracy are maligned or called naïve, while our political process is dominated by corporate front groups like the NRA, we are in dark times indeed.  Meanwhile, gun manufacturers and their political advocates accept very minor gun-control policies that they know will increase gun sales. (See the March 2nd Time Magazine report:  Gun Maker Says Sales are Plunging.)

Nevertheless, young people are stepping into leadership, raising their voices, and calling for an end to gun violence, including shooting deaths (often of young black men) by police.  They demand that adults act and that lawmakers establish policies to protect them from being shot and killed in their own schools.

In my own community, many students joined in the nationwide school walkout, some with support of teachers and administrators and some on their own.  I’ve talked with several of them.  One student told me that their school let them make signs, but they couldn’t have words or images related to guns.  Another told me that the teacher said that since it was raining, they could march around the halls, but later relented and they did go outside.  One girl told me how she overcame her personal self-doubt when the marchers she was with turned around and she found herself in the lead.  She didn’t feel like she should be leading the march. She felt like fading back and letting someone else take the lead, but she stayed the course, letting her values guide her instead of her fear.

Many people, including me, believe that there would be less gun violence if there were stricter gun control laws, background checks, mental health services, and (not often mentioned) greater economic and social equity.  Some people are feeling more hope for the future because of this uprising of student activism. I, too, applaud the spirit of these young people and rejoice that they are awakening to what is at stake and coming into their own power.  Every so often there is an uprising that catches fire and kindles a spirit of hope and activism for the sake of a better world.  Every so often a time comes around when “the politically impossible suddenly becomes possible” (Naomi Klein).  This is such a time.

But adults, now it’s on us.  Youth can take the lead, and they may well be the ones who will change the world.  But we can’t just cheer them on.  We must act as their allies, acting in solidarity with them.  We, too, must show courage.  We, too, must speak out, in our homes, at work, in our places of worship, no matter how entrenched these institutions are in the status quo.  We, too must demand action in our communities, in public spaces, and to our legislators. The kids shouldn’t be the only ones to say “Never Again.” They shouldn’t be the only ones to say “We call B.S.” to the conventional wisdom that weapons of war should be easily acquired or to challenge the paralysis of lawmakers because they are in the pockets of the NRA.

Adults, too, need to extend their support, experience, expertise, and resources to this movement.  We need to join with our young in taking action that will make true the call, “Never again.”

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