Beyond the Spectacles

Progressive Christian Social Action

 

Beyond the Spectacles

As the daily spectacles of the Trump Administration enthrall the public, Republicans continue to push their unjust and oppressive agenda.  For one thing, they are trying to repeal laws that keep the Internet free and accessible.  Today I made calls as part of the Internet-Wide Day of Net Neutrality, which the organizers have made very easy to do.

The shameful policies of the Trump Administration (and the Republicans) were apparent at the recent G-20 meetings, and were especially obvious in the sidelining of the U.S. president in his refusal to engage with world leaders on the issue of climate change.  Still, some have found a silver lining in that cloud of U.S. non-participation.  Because the United States has regularly blocked strong and binding climate legislation, the rest of the global community may be able to craft a stronger position than would have been possible otherwise.  The G-20 events highlight not only the disaster of the presidency of Donald Trump, but of the problems inherent in U.S.-style politics, captured by corporations, dark money, and ideologically-driven special interests, especially the Religious Right.  (See Paris, Trump, and the Religious Right.)

Meanwhile, heat records are (again) breaking and wildfires are blazing throughout the Western United States.  And now we’ve gotten word that a trillion-ton iceberg has broken off (“calved”) from the Larsen Ice Shelf; it is so big that maps of Antarctica will need to be redrawn.  There are calls to name it the “ExxonKnew” Iceberg, since internal studies show that Exxon-Mobil has known that their products would cause climate change for decades, even while they created a massive public relations establishment promoting climate change denial.  And ironically, Rex Tillerson was CEO of Exxon-Mobil from 2006 until 2016, before he was appointed to the prominent position of U.S. Secretary of State.

My new book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, addresses the ideology and mechanisms that underlie the present U.S. and global system, leading to problems that are illustrated by, but also go far beyond, the ongoing shocks of the (hopefully short-lived) Trump presidency, and which create a momentum that not only harms people’s lives but endangers life on earth.  For example, preview Corporate Influences on Climate Policy in “Chapter 10, Reason:  Climate Justice and Common Sense.”  The following call to action is also an excerpt from that chapter:

“Whatever we do, it is important to keep in mind that we are not acting in isolation, but contributing to the larger movement for climate justice. We are doing our small part to awaken people to what is at stake and to point in the direction of hope.

“Reason makes clear that building a strong movement to stabilize the climate means working in coalition with justice-oriented groups that have other priorities. By joining with pro-democracy organizations, we help to end corporate domination of government and build a peoples’ democracy. Another natural ally is the peace movement. War is deadly for humans and all life, and the U.S. military is one of the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels. It also makes sense to work with groups that oppose toxic trade deals like the TPP.  Specific groups are listed in the Suggested Reading List at the back of this book.  Working together in a broad coalition of groups builds strength in solidarity and makes it possible to influence public policy in areas of trade, economics, racial justice, immigration reform, prison reform, war and peace, and climate justice. It also makes system change more likely.

“The movement for climate justice, together with allies in the broader movement for global justice, embodies faith that “another world is possible.” Together we seek to establish justice and build a global community in which all human lives, local communities, and the natural world are valued for themselves and not for how much wealth they deliver upwards. As we consider God’s call to climate justice, we turn now [In Chapter 11] to the experiences of people living and working on the front lines of climate change.”

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Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resisting Cultural Possession

The “Golden Bull” at Occupy Wall Street in New York

All of the kingdoms can be yours,” the devil tells Jesus, “if you will just lord your power over others and take up the sword of the nations. Take charge of the biological weapons, deploy some troops, command the implementation of a ‘Star Wars’ missile defense system. All the kingdoms can be yours—if you will just use the world’s means of power: domination and violence.”       Charles Campbell

There is a call in life to come to terms with who we are in relation to the universe, to give ourselves to something ultimate, to live in right relationship with the Ground of Being, to fulfill our destiny, to enter into the Great Mystery.  But we hear other voices as well, voices that we have internalized from our families and cultures, which we hear as our own.  These voices tempt us.  They present us with a choice:  to be true to ourselves and live as free human beings or to be ensnared by desires that reflect the values of our culture and end up being possessed by them.

Jesus, too, experienced this conflict.  After John baptized him in the Jordan River, Jesus saw a vision in which the Holy Spirit descended upon him as a dove and heard God saying to him, “This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).  This revelation led him to a time of testing in the wilderness, during which a spiritually strong but very human Jesus strove to find clarity about his identity and calling (Matthew 4:1-11).  He especially struggled with what it meant to be “son of God.” This was a well-known designation in the ancient world.  The term “Son of God” was applied to the Roman Emperor, who possessed status, wealth, and worldly power.  Jews who awaited the Messiah were hoping for the coming of a king like David who would embody these characteristics.  Not surprisingly, these were the very things that tempted Jesus.

“If you are the Son of God,” said the voice of temptation (the “devil” or “tempter”) to Jesus, testing him.  If you are the son of God, then prove it… by refusing to be bound by human limitations, by ignoring the laws of nature, by choosing a path that will lead to fame, fortune, and power over others.  But each time Jesus refused, choosing instead to be faithful and to entrust himself to the will of God.  We are called and empowered by grace to do the same.

Theologian Walter Wink demythologizes “the devil” or “Satan,” relating these concepts to the “interiority” of a culture at a particular time in history:  “Satan is the real interiority of a society that idolatrously pursues its own enhancement as the highest good. Satan is the spirituality of an epoch, the peculiar constellation of alienation, greed, inhumanity, oppression, and entropy that characterizes a specific period of history as a consequence of human decisions to tolerate and even further such a state of affairs.”

These words were true of the time in which Jesus lived, when the “Roman Peace” was imposed and enforced throughout the Empire, but they are also true today.  Clearly, the United States is a society that “idolatrously pursues its own enhancement as the highest good.”   The present culture of unrestrained corporate capitalism, enforced by mass incarceration and endless war, exalts nationalism, pays tribute to wealth, promotes consumption, bows to worldly success, glorifies violence, and vilifies people who have not attained these things.  The “alienation, greed, inhumanity, oppression, and entropy” that characterize this time in our history are made possible by the personal decisions of many individuals to tolerate or even further this state of affairs.

The temptation of Jesus set the stage for the events that led to his death.  By choosing a path of deep integrity instead of adopting the cultural values of his time, Jesus set himself against the religious, political, economic, and military rulers of his day.  It’s no wonder that the religious elite, who benefited from the Roman occupation, collaborated with the Roman authorities in targeting him, plotting against him, and finally putting him to death.

And it’s no wonder that those of us who live here in the United States are often tempted to submit to cultural expectations.  Today’s ruling Powers have a million ways to reward and punish based on whether or not we comply.  But there is a deeper way to live, which offers immeasurably greater rewards.

There is always temptation, especially in our consumer culture.  It might be easier to come to terms with who we are and who we are called to be if we could go out into the wilderness.  That is what the season of Lent is about—a season that involves taking time out to reflect on what is ultimate and to accept the responsibility and privilege to make a conscious choice.

We do have a choice.  We do not have to surrender to the Powers or be driven by desires to conform and excel in their service, at the expense of other people and the earth itself.  We can refuse to submit to social pressures, resist cultural possession, and live in freedom as fully human beings, as beloved children of God.

There are many paths to freedom, and divine love is universal, offered to all people and all creation.  I choose to follow and live in the Spirit of the one who calls me, Jesus Christ.

Previous post:  A Lenten Call to Resist.     Next post:  Rejecting Theological Sadism.  

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Postcard from Burleigh County Jail

Sharon being released from Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Sharon being released from Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck, North Dakota.

This postcard arrived for my family a few days ago, now that I’m home from North Dakota.  It was written so lightly that it was barely legible, but this is what it said:

Dear Ones,

Here I am on my third day in Burleigh County Jail, happy to have a postcard and a rubber pencil so I can write to you.  I am doing just fine, in good spirits and being treated with kindness.  Right now I’m sitting in the dorm on my bunk, watching the movie “Desperado” with my five roommates, each one a beloved child of God.  I’ve been reading, writing, working a jigsaw puzzle, going to the gym, talking, eating (we have lots of cake, but no fruit or vegetables), and catching up on my sleep.  I may get out tomorrow (Monday) or at least get a phone card so I can call you.  I miss you and can hardly wait to see you, my beautiful family.  I feel privileged to stand with the water protectors here at Standing Rock, and will be so glad to be home with you.

Love,

Mom, Grandma, Sharon

I haven’t written about my time in jail, like I promised to do in my last post.  I was planning to post more about my experiences at Standing Rock, the direct action I participated in, and jail, but I was speechless when news came of the extreme violence being perpetrated against the water protectors.  Now there are threats of eviction or roadblocks to prevent supplies from being delivered to the camp.  There is snow on the ground.  Meanwhile, over 2,000 veterans are planning to go to Standing Rock on December 4 to provide nonviolent support to the water protectors.  Things are moving very fast.

Still, I have decided to share a bit about my experiences in jail there.  Why?  Because it really was a great privilege for me to be able to take an action of solidarity with others who are assuming risk for the sake of us all, in a way that was tangible.  Many people are risking far more than I did when I was arrested for holding up a banner in the middle of a road with thirty other people.  I am a privileged white woman, with friends, family, and colleagues who support me.  There is even a fundraising site now to help pay the legal fees for myself and three affinity group members with whom I was arrested.  But so many of the people in jail in North Dakota, including those whom I spent time with, and in our country overall, do not have that kind of support, and Indigenous people are disproportionately incarcerated.

Most important, the Standing Rock Sioux have put out a call for support from people who are willing to stand with them to protect the waters in that place, and who are challenging us to honor the earth for the sake of future generations.  I encourage others to respond to this call in whatever ways they can.  You can begin by calling these numbers listed here to call for a halt to the eviction.  You can also donate to the main camp at Standing Rock, the Oceti Sakowin Camp.  Most important, pray.  On December 4th, you can join a unified time of prayer with Standing Rock.   This is a movement that is bathed in prayer.

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.  

Find her previous blog postings about Standing Rock

Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 

Peaceful and Prayerful Resistance

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Nonviolence Guidelines at Standing Rock.

In my last post, I wrote about how my friends and I were arrested at a peaceful and prayerful action, separated, and taken to different jails.  My next post will be about my experiences in jail, as people have requested.  Today, though, I’m writing about the importance of the struggle for justice and healing that is taking place there.

The courage of the water protectors in the face of historic and current oppression is inspiring people around the world, and people are joining in to support their struggle in many ways.  The struggle continues to intensify as the water protectors refuse to back down, even as they prepare for snow and frigid temperatures.  Day by day, more allies are coming to join in the work.

Last Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers clearly stated that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) cannot legally proceed without further study and consultation with the tribe and with government agencies.  This is an apparent victory.  But Energy Transfer Partners continues to work night and day.  As of last Tuesday, the company had moved horizontal drilling equipment on to their fenced off drilling pad near Lake Oahu.  Law enforcement continues to harass water protectors and protect DAPL work.  Meanwhile, the pipeline project is in financial jeopardy, with contracts for oil delivery set to expire in January if the pipeline doesn’t go through.

Will Energy Transfer Partners stop construction or will they go forward illegally, hoping to simply be fined?  Will the Obama administration step in and enforce its temporary prohibition on routing the pipeline under the Missouri River?  That would be unusual, since the federal government has not historically protected Indigenous rights.

What about a Trump Administration?  Trump is invested in DAPL.  The CEO of Energy Partner Transfers, Kelcy Warren, contributed to Trump’s presidential campaign, and claims that once Trump is in office, the pipeline will be a sure thing.

The only hope I see in in the “power of the people” standing together in resistance to the institutional Powers that seek to ignore the sacred value of the water, air, land, and life itself, all for the sake of profit.  The institutions and systems based on the primacy of the market (that is, money), have left the waters, land, and atmosphere polluted, and have left people unable to sustain themselves and without hope.

Many people have been seeing this and have been working hard, trying to turn it around.  With climate change alone, we are reaching the end of the road.  With the election of Trump, many more people are recognizing the bankruptcy of the current system, which only exists by the consent of the people.  When we go along and enjoy the benefits of the current system, consider it normal, and close our eyes to historical and current injustices, we contribute to the problem.  When enough of us withdraw our consent, the system cannot stand.

Not all of us can go to Standing Rock, nor do we need to.  But each of us can do something.  Those of us who are committed to justice already know that we need to stand in solidarity with the many groups of people who are being targeted by hate groups emboldened by Trump’s election.   Indigenous people may help to lead us out of the present darkness, and to discover what it means to live in peaceful and prayerful resistance to oppressive Powers.  After all, they have been resisting for over five hundred years.

By joining as allies with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, not only at Standing Rock but also in our own regions, we can gain insight into who we are and what changes we need to make.  By listening and learning we can begin to understand how “settler-colonial” attitudes and behaviors have shaped us and what we can do to turn that around.  By taking a stand as allies in Indigenous struggles to protect the air, land, and water, we may learn what it means to live as human beings in harmony with the earth, from people who did so for millennia on this continent.

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.   Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock here.  

 Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 Articles:

Suddenly Time—and the Oil Market—are on the Side of the Standing Rock Sioux:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/suddenly-time-is-on-the-side-of-the-standing-rock-sioux-20161117

Obama Administration Halts Work on Dakota Access Pipeline: http://247wallst.com/energy-business/2016/09/10/obama-administration-halts-work-on-dakota-access-pipeline/

Dakota Access is in Financial Jeopardy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1595421937418090/1623319824628301/?notif_t=group_activity&notif_id=1479573200580003

CEO confident Dakota Access Pipeline will be completed under Trump presidency: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dakota-access-pipeline-energy-transfer-partners-ceo-kelcy-warren-breaks-silence/

Resistance: A Way to Live Humanly

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Today, Good Friday, I am publishing two excerpts from my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, about the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and continuing presence.  You can order it from a local bookstore, order signed or bulk copies directly from me, or find it online.  Here is the first excerpt:

 

How can we live humanly, as free and responsible human beings, enmeshed as we are in a global system that is diverting the life-force of human beings and siphoning off the gifts of God’s creation for idolatrous and unjust purposes that threaten the future? This question brings us around again to resistance for, as William Stringfellow said, in times of great tyranny, “resistance [becomes] the only human way to live.”[i]

For the topic of personal transformation to be relevant here, it must address these issues. In other words, How does the message and Way of Jesus Christ help us to become free of idolatry and injustice? How do they help us to become free, fully human, faithful to God, more completely the people God created us to be?

First, it is essential not to lift the story of Jesus’ death on the cross out of the context of his life, teachings, and ministry or out of the time, place, and political situation in which he lived. In the words of Charles Campbell: “The cross cannot be plopped down out of the blue as a magical transaction between God and individual sinners. Rather, Jesus’ resistance to the powers of the world leads to his crucifixion and gives the cross its distinctive meaning.”[ii] Jesus’ death was a continuation of the way he lived his life. It was also the consequence of living in faithfulness to God and in resistance to the Powers.

Second, those who would follow Jesus can expect the same. There is no promise of safety, no corner of ease or complacency in which to hide. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”[iii]

Third, Jesus makes us a wonderful promise that will be fulfilled, if we are willing: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). Jesus promises that if we follow him without reservation we will be given back our lives, our humanity, ourselves.

But how? Following Jesus isn’t easy. In fact, it is impossible without divine aid. Fortunately, this is just what is offered. For those who would follow Christ, this aid comes through an ongoing relationship with the Creator, through the tangible activity of the Holy Spirit, and through the presence of the Christ within and among us. Christian faith does not just offer us an example to follow, but a “Way.” And ironically, the cross, an instrument of torture and oppression, has become a symbol of the Way of Jesus Christ, which transforms human life.

[i]. William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Waco: Word Books, 1974), 119; italics in original.

[ii]. Charles L. Campbell, The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 47.

[iii]. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 99.