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.

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.  

 

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:

IMG_4555 (1)

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.’

 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.

 

Do We Have the Wisdom to Survive?

 IMG_1830 (2)

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?

wisdom to survive

They’re Just like Us

 

War is not healthy

War is not healthy

 

When my grandchildren, Alex and Malina, were recognized for raising money for mosquito nets for the Imagine No Malaria Campaign, Alex explained, “They’re just like us.”    Just ten years old, and already they have empathy and can imagine how these other children must feel, even children who live halfway around the world.

This is part of what it means to be human.  We live in the midst of dehumanizing forces, with the awareness of danger and suffering all around.  Media images distract, divert, distort, and disempower so effectively that most of us believe that there is nothing we can do.  It’s tempting to withdraw our awareness of what’s going on across the globe, and to just focus on our personal lives.  But by doing so we become part of the “silent majority” that consents to the status quo through our silence and inaction.

The invasion of Gaza is at the top of the news.  I oppose all forms of violence, including the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel.  But Israel’s actions are so disproportionate and horrific that people around the world are voicing their outrage and turning out for mass demonstrations.  Israel is terrorizing the civilian population in Gaza through occupation and now invasion.  The people are suffering in ways that most of us cannot imagine. Read this Letter from Gaza by a Norwegian Doctor to get an idea of the scope of the horror.

The United States sends $3 billion of military aid to Israel every year, so we who are US citizens are complicit in this escalating violence against innocent civilians.  Even those in Gaza who want to flee have been hemmed in so that there is nowhere for them to go.  Can we really ignore their suffering without diminishing our humanity?  I don’t think so.

We are also hearing a lot about the children coming across our border from Central America, fleeing for their lives.  They are being met with intolerance, racism, xenophobia, and hatred.  This exodus is not taking place in a vacuum.  The United States has a history of overthrowing democracies throughout Latin American and establishing dictatorships that are open to US military and corporate interests.  The United States has also dominated the economies of many of these poor countries, through IMF and World Bank debt and more recently through so-called free trade agreements.  Rather than helping these countries become self-sufficient, these policies have increased corporate power, privatized and deregulated public services, and driven people off the land.  To find out more, read David Bacon’s insightful article “How U.S. policies helped create the current immigration crisis.”

Many of these children are fleeing violent gangs or political oppression.  Many may qualify as refugees.  Can we in good conscience turn our back on these children and send them back into situations of extreme danger?  How could we do that without diminishing our own humanity?  What would we do if we found ourselves in situations like theirs, where we felt there was no alternative but to flee?  What would our children do?

I’m glad that my grandchildren feel a sense of solidarity and connection with people around the world, and that they are eager to help when they can.  In this age of globalization, that is what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

 

Resting Up after Annual Conference

photo 2

I’m still resting up after last week’s trip to Burlingame for the 2014 California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  I took three of my grandchildren with me.  They attended the Annual Conference youth program during the day, and we spent time together at night.

Alex and Malina, both ten years old, were recognized by Bishop Warner Brown for raising money, rolling coins, and bringing it forward in a big jar for the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, which provides nets for children in Africa. Alex spoke to the group (about 1000 people) and answered the Bishop’s question of why he had worked on this. Alex said (to great applause), “There’s no difference. They’re just like us.” The Bishop gave them each a big hug. Malina said later, “He was proud of us.”

I had drafted two of the resolutions that conference attendees worked on during the day.  The first, “A Call to Stop Drone Killings,” passed on the Consent Calendar with no debate.

The second, “Go Fossil Free,” was a call to our United Methodist Board of Pensions to divest from fossil fuel companies as a response to climate change.  It passed in the preliminary voting Section with a two-thirds favorable vote.  It would probably have passed on the floor of Annual Conference, but with much debate.  After brainstorming with colleagues, another approach came to mind.  A substitute resolution was drafted: “Resolution in support of an investment screen expressing United Methodist Social Principles on The Natural World.”  Instead of urging the Board of Pensions to divest from oil, coal, and gas companies on a company-by-company basis, this substitute resolution engages several of our Conference Boards in a collaborative effort with the Board of Pensions to establish an across-the-board screen that would accomplish the same thing.  I spoke in favor of the substitute, and it passed with no debate.   The resolution also calls for a report to be made at next year’s Annual Conference and “the timely submission of General Conference legislation for the denomination as a whole.”

I’ll be posting each of these resolutions here within the next couple of days, along with the rationale behind each of them.  I’ll also write more about the process of changing the fossil fuels divestment resolution to a resolution on establishing an investment screen.

Other important resolutions also were passed, including “No More Deportations,” “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” “Healthcare for All,” “Truth in Imports from Palestine/Israel,” “Prison Reform:  Ending Mass Incarceration.”  We also passed a “Resolution on Conflicting Mandates,” which prioritizes our denomination’s principles of inclusion above exclusionary and discriminatory statements related to GLTB people.  Our Annual Conference is strongly inclusive, and this resolutions is a reflection of that inclusiveness.

Good work, and fun times with the kids.  And now that I’m home…  more rest.