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.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Awakening a Sleeping Giant

Sign at Occupy Wall Street .

Sign at Occupy Wall Street .

Update, June 13:   Fast Track was defeated in the House of Representatives… for now.  We can do this if we are in the struggle for the long haul.  Success!

My dear friends,

If you ever plan to participate in decisions made by so-called “leaders” on your behalf, today is the day to do it.  The Senate already passed “Fast Track” trade negotiating authority, and it is scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives today.  If passed, it will be much harder to stop upcoming free trade agreements, which increase corporate rights and make it harder to protect public health, communities, human rights, and the earth itself.

Go to Credo Action for the phone number for you to call your congressional representative.  Simply tell whoever answers that you urge your representative to vote “no” on Fast Track.

If you want to know more about this, see my blog on Fast Track to Hell, which spells out what’s so bad about the upcoming Trans Pacific Partnership, the first in a series of very bad agreements that don’t just deal with trade.  You can also watch the video presentation that I gave with Emanuel Sferios on Toxic Trade Agreements and the TPP.  Finally, the book that I wrote, Shaking the Gates of Hell,  is about the process of “corporate globalization,” in which transnational corporations write and promote these corporate bills of rights in their quest to consolidate global corporate rule.

There are many among the 1% who would benefit materially from increased corporate profits, but so many more among the general population who would be harmed.  Fortunately, more and more people are awakening to the extent of the damage being done by these misguided policies, and realizing that only “the power of the people” can stop them.  Even if Fast Track passes, the struggle will go on.  As the sign says, “The 1% has awakened a sleeping giant and filled us with great resolve.” Join us!

As I wrote in Fast Track to Hell:   “We don’t need to leave these decisions to government “leaders” who are blinded by allegiance to their corporate sponsors.  The fact is, we who can see what is at stake are the only ones who can stop this fast track to hell.  I trust that God and all the powers of the living earth are with us in this struggle.”

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.

System Change Not Climate Change (2)

Change the SystemHow can we understand, challenge, and transform the global system of late-stage free-market capitalism?  It seems so all-encompassing and all-powerful that nothing can stop it.

To most people in the United States, today’s dominant system seems like a given, just part of the milieu.  Most people don’t give it a second thought.  We’re like fish in water who have never known anything else.  Or rather, we are like frogs in a pot of water on the stove, not noticing that the water is getting hotter and hotter and will eventually kill us.  We have moved from a “mixed economy” in the decades following World War II to a system that benefits the wealthy few at the expense of the majority of people, communities, and the natural world.  This system is very bad news for the climate, for those vulnerable people who suffer first and worst from the effects of climate change, and for future generations.

How is all this related to so-called “free trade”?  The very corporations that write many of the laws here at home are creating trade agreements with new rules to consolidate their power.  The egregious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is just one such effort.  There are many more.  Through the global trade regime, corporations are able to challenge democratically enacted laws, including climate-friendly policies that require local sourcing or “green jobs” for locals, that create moratorium on fracking or other environmentally harmful practices, or that restrict the extraction or export of “dirty fuels.”

For details about how trade agreements impact the movement toward a peaceful, just, and sustainable world, read This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein. (See info about a local book study below.)  You can also read my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, which covers similar themes.   Below is an excerpt from Chapter 12, “The Unholy Trinity:  The IMF, World Bank, and WTO,” which explains how this global free market system is being further institutionalized:

“You would think that governments and multilateral institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, would be moving in a more constructive direction, but many people both within and outside of these institutions believe that the current course is already set and is inevitable. Why, for instance, is the United States government not using its vast financial resources to create a better life for the majority of its people or for people around the world? Why does it support policies that trap people in generations of debt? Why does it allow domestic laws that protect people and the environment to be overturned?

“Clearly, the United States and other nations see their interests as tied to corporate interests. As corporate power increases, however, the power of government decreases, until governments, the lucky ones, end up riding on corporate coattails. But corporations, once they are truly globalized, have no loyalty at all, except to the bottom line. They are not even loyal to their “home” governments. They can even change nationalities at will.

“Though the rhetoric of the IMF and World Bank has been about development and raising the standard of living, the actual effects of these multilateral bureaucracies has been to integrate poor nations into a world economy dominated by global corporations and powerful nations. They have used structural adjustment policies (SAPS) to “pry open” the economies of developing nations, creating complete dependency.

“How can global corporations further pry open the U.S. economy and the economies of other industrialized nations? How can they finish what they started during the Reagan Revolution in the 1980s? How can they bypass the messiness of the democratic process altogether while gutting regulatory agencies and eliminating troublesome laws that interfere with corporate profits? How can they perpetuate the “smoke and mirrors” illusion that nation-states have power, while eliminating the very laws that governments use to protect the rights and well-being of their people? How can they privatize the potentially lucrative public-services sector, including publicly funded hospitals, schools, libraries, prisons, utilities, water services, and social services, and offer these and all other services up for sale to the highest bidder? How can they ensure that wealthy, industrialized nations will ultimately be as dependent upon the global system that they dominate as are poor and indebted nations? How can they bring structural adjustment policies home? How can global corporations extend their power and consolidate their dominance over people, their governments, and the earth itself? The answer: they create trade agreements and global bureaucracies that convince governments to do this for them, institutions like NAFTA and the WTO, which essentially take the matter out of government hands.”

As of now, there are many things that we can do to challenge and transform this global system. In order to be effective, we must understand what is at stake and where the power for change resides.   I will lead a 5-session community book study on Naomi Klein’s book beginning Monday, April 6.  To RSVP and to find out more, “join” the book study on this This Changes Everything on the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition Facebook page or contact me here.

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.

Read Sharon’s previous blogs on climate change here.  Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.  Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Find related actions at Earth Justice Ministries website or Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page

 

System Change not Climate Change (1)

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I have been engaged in several conversations lately about how best to reach people on the subject of climate change.  Is it best to focus on educating people about the basics of climate change and its implications?  Should we try to convince skeptics by appealing to science and logic?  Shall we encourage people to make simple changes to their lifestyles and reduce their carbon footprints, even as overall emissions continue to rise?  Shall we use “bridge language” that feels safe, non-confrontational, and socially acceptable?  Or shall we sound the alarm and go to the heart of the problem: the global system of unrestrained free market capitalism, which depends upon ever-increasing amounts of oil and ever-rising corporate profits.

Perhaps there is a place for each of these strategies.  But if we think we will be able to continue on indefinitely with life as we know it, ignoring Earth’s changing climate or just making minor lifestyle changes, we are mistaken.  As the overall climate warms, extreme weather events (including unusual snow storms, as the ones taking place in the eastern United States) become more frequent.  The most vulnerable people are affected first and worst, but eventually everyone on earth will be affected.

In This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate, author and activist Naomi Klein claims that if we want to halt climate change, we will have to change everything, including this global system that is causing climate change.  Many other leaders in the struggle against climate change are saying the same thing.  As Bill McKibben said in a Rolling Stone article, “The gap between `We’re all sitting ducks’ and `We do not face a crisis’ is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It’s the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that’s powering our destruction.”

I have been writing about this for years.  Next Saturday I will lead a workshop that addresses this topic at the Interfaith Climate Conference:  Moral Ground-Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril at the University Covenant Church in Davis.  My workshop will be a presention and discussion on “System Change through Divestment,” about the movement within the United Methodist Church to screen fossil fuels out of our investment portfolios.  Of course, divesting from fossil fuels is just a small part of what needs to be done to address climate change.  But as I posted in a previous blog, it does “undermine the system that causes climate change.”  See Global Divestment Day:  Undermining the System that Causes Climate Change to see how.  Changing the system that causes climate change (along with so many other ills) is also the topic of my book,  Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization.

Upcoming blog postings will be about these topics:  A Critique of Global Free Market Capitalism, Challenging the System of Free Market Capitalism, and Transforming the System.  It may seem impossible, but my hope is that we human beings will rise to the occasion, awaken to what is at stake, take action to change the corporate-dominated system that is wreaking havoc on people and the planet, and create new life-sustaining institutions and systems that support life and heal earth’s natural systems and human communities.  I believe that God is with us in this struggle.

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

Sharon is available to give presentations on this or other topics.  Contact her here

Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.  Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Find related actions at Earth Justice Ministries website or Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page