We Who Believe in Freedom Shall Not Rest

Reinette and Sharon at Occupy Wall Street

Reinette and Sharon at Occupy Wall Street

I have been horrified by recent shootings of police officers, and my prayers go out to their families and colleagues.  At first I was concerned that the strict nonviolence practiced by the Black Lives Matter movement had been compromised, so I was relieved to hear that the gunmen were not part of the movement.  Because, you see, I support Black Lives Matter (BLM).  Of course I know that all lives matter, but black lives seem not to matter when police so frequently kill black people and are not prosecuted.  BLM has raised awareness of the racial bias of policing in certain areas of this country and has intensified demands for racial justice.

There is also a backlash against the movement, which seems apparent in the outrage expressed over Nevada City Council member Reinette Senem’s Facebook comments.  She has since apologized for her generalizations and clarified that she supports the local police and values her relationship with them.  I hope she stays the course and refuses to be shamed or intimidated into resigning her position.

I am glad to hear that she and others believe that our law enforcement officials are respectful and have a good relationship with the public.  That has been my experience as well. But racism is a reality in this mostly white community.  I have witnessed it.  I suspect that there are racial overtones to the recent debate.

I believe that the organized attempt to force Reinette out of office is a red herring, that is, “something that distracts attention from the real issue.”  The real conflict locally seems to be between those who support BLM’s calls for police accountability and those who do not, between those who are appalled by ongoing police killings of black human beings and those who want the public to fully support and trust the police.

The “blue wall of silence,” which prevents ethical police officers from calling out unethical colleagues, does not serve the interests of anyone.  Rather, it endangers all police officers as well as the public.  Yet it seemed like some of the speakers at the recent public forum wanted to extend the blue wall of silence to public officials and to put the public on notice that we, too, should support law enforcement without question.

One speaker quoted a Bible passage from Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain!”  Reading this passage in the context of the public forum implied that all police and all authorities are just.  That is simply not true.  Many of the other speakers made the same case—that we should support the police no matter what.

This demonstrates the rational distortions that result from taking selective Bible passages literally.  Jesus disobeyed the rulers of his time, as did the apostle Peter who said, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).  Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown in jail.  The Roman Empire put Jesus, Peter, and Paul to death.  Some people may truly believe that if you do what is good you will receive the approval of police or other authorities.  But that’s not always how it plays out.

Racial discrimination is well-documented in the US criminal justice system.  This statement is not an attack on police officers who do their best to protect people and uphold the law.  But the truth is that people of color are at a disadvantage in interactions with police and in our courts, jails, and prisons.  Read The New Jim Crow or Lockdown America or Just Mercy to find out more.

This conflict is not new.  It is historic, with roots in the system of slavery, followed by segregation, voter suppression, “stop and frisk,” and zero-tolerance policing.  Police killings of black people have been happening all along, but BLM is bringing these killings to light.  In the words of a civil rights song:  “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons…we who believe in freedom shall not rest, we who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.”

 

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.  

 

 

Table Turning Monday and Fossil Fuel Divestment

My friend Jenny Phillips, coordinator of Fossil Free UMC.

The following guest blog post is from my friend and colleague, the Reverend Jenny Phillips from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC, the movement within the United Methodist Church to screen out fossil fuels from its investment portfolios as a response to climate change. This issue will be voted on this coming May in Portland at our General Conference, held every four years.  In her post, Jenny links this strong and growing movement to Jesus’ nonviolent direct action in the Temple, when he overturned the tables of the money changes in the temple.

 

The Holy Day Week We Can’t Afford to Ignore

You’re basking in the glow of a glorious Palm Sunday. Your plans are ready for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But how are you commemorating Table-Turning Monday?

Table-Turning Monday marks the day after Jesus enters Jerusalem—the day when he overturns the tables of the money changers in the Temple. This critique of the ways in which religious, political and economic powers collude to oppress common people set the course for Jesus’ journey to the cross. “Jesus wasn’t crucified just because he said he was the Son of God,” says Rev. John Helmiere of Valley and Mountain Fellowship in Seattle. “He was crucified because he took a public stand against political and religious corruption that hurt the poor.”

So today is a good day to reflect on how Jesus might be calling United Methodists to critique one of the ways in which The United Methodist Church participates in the fossil fuel economy. The United Methodist pension board invests more than half a billion dollars in more than 100 fossil fuel companies—companies whose products are causing unprecedented climate change. Thanks to the recent climate talks in Paris, there is now a global commitment to target a planetary warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this goal, we’ll have to stop emitting greenhouse gases by 2060. That’s just around the corner…

Go to the Fossil Free UMC blog to read Jenny’s complete article:  The Holy Week Day We Can’t Afford to Ignore.

 

  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.  

 

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.  

 

Dust in the Wind

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This blog summarizes Sharon Delgado’s words at the Ash Wednesday service at the front gates of Beale Air Force Base, on February 18, 2015.  Go to Videos of Ash Wednesday at Beale to see several brief videos of the day’s events.

The focus of Ash Wednesday is mortality and repentance—two primary aspects of faith.  It is the first day of the season of Lent, which allows us to journey with Jesus and to identify with him as he faces death at the hands of the Ruling Powers of this world.  This day and this season is a reminder of these things.  “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

We sang “Dust in the Wind” at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday service here at Beale today.  The song is a reminder that life is short, limited, finite, and that we are mortal interconnected with all other forms of life.  Life is precious, and this day reminds us to live and love as if this day is our last.

Sometimes we forget.  We humans may think that we have constructed a “world” on top of the world, that the institutions and systems that we have set up are permanent and all-powerful, but they aren’t.  As Chief Seattle said, “What befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.”  Or as other have said, “Earth bats last.”

We U.S. Americans may think that our nation will dominate the world forever, but it will not.  Even with all its bombs and drones, today’s global Empire, like all Empires, will fall.  It already contains the seeds of its own destruction.  Everything is dust in the wind.

Repentance is another Ash Wednesday theme.  People in ancient times humbled themselves to repent in dust and ashes.   Today, we repent for harm that we have caused personally.  We also repent for harm caused by the society and nation in which we live, and we call our society and nation to repentance as well.  Today especially, here at Beale, we focus on drone warfare. Global Hawk Drones are operated here, identifying targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.  Drones are killing people, including innocent civilians and children.  Their lives are precious, too.

Near his final days, when Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, he stopped and wept over the city, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace.  But now they are hid from you eyes.”  He then prophesied that disaster would come upon them and the children within them if they did not turn around.  Why?  “Because,” he said, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

From there he went down into Jerusalem and immediately entered the Temple, driving out the money changers, symbolically striking directly at the heart of the economic/political/social/religious system of his day.  No wonder that within days he was put to death.

But that is not the end of the story.  The good news is that that same Spirit is with us still, called by so many names.  The Spirit that caused Jesus to weep over Jerusalem, the Spirit that moved him to take action for justice, the Spirit that motivated him to give himself in love… that Spirit inspires and animates us even today.  We do recognize the time of our visitation from God.  God is right here with us.

Everything mortal, finite, constructed by human hands is dust in the wind.  Everything passes.  Love remains.

 

 Read the story of these events on the Nuclear Resister website.

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.  Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.

 

Kathy Kelly—Serving Time

kathy and georgia arrested.preview

Kathy and Georgia arrested at Whiteman AFB

My friend Kathy Kelly is now behind bars, in prison in Lexington, Kentucky.  Kathy, an internationally recognized peace activist, is serving a three-month prison term for crossing the line onto Whiteman Air Force Base property.  She and Georgia Walker were attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the base commander, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base.

Last Spring, on April 18, 2014, Kathy was with us at Beale Air Force Base on Good Friday.  She spoke during the prayer service and joined as thirteen of us crossed the line onto base property in a nonviolent direct action against drone warfare.  Those of us who stepped over the line were not only protesting against remote control killing but were taking a stand for justice, compassion, and peace.  On Good Friday we grieve for the death of Jesus and countless others through the ages, but also put our hope in resurrection.

The arrests on Good Friday arrests brought the total number of people arrested in March and April to 32.  Charges against all of us were subsequently dropped.

Demonstrations against drones and nonviolent actions and arrests continue at drone sites around the country, including Beale.  I believe that these actions at drone bases around the country are raising awareness of the tragic killing of innocents by remote control.  Although being arrested at the gates of Beale seems to be a low-risk action now, it could change at any time.

Still, perhaps you will find it in your heart to join us, as a participant or as a supporter of peace.   The next time we gather at Beale will be on February 18, Ash Wednesday.  Find out more or join the event at the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  The plans are similar to last year’s Ash Wednesday service and nonviolent action at Beale.

We are also planning to host Kathy Kelly here in Nevada County when she is released from prison.  We might even go with her again to Beale.  We do know one thing:  she won’t stop demonstrating for peace and neither will we.  Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, and that’s just what we intend to be.

 

See the Democracy Now interview of Kathy Kelly about going to prison.  Read Kathy’s recent article, My Future in Prison, where she presents her insights about the connection between the drone killings across Central Asia and the Middle East and the “compulsively vengeful and diseased criminal justice system” here at home.  She points out the importance of supporting the Black Lives Matter protests and the March 4-6 protests to Shut Down Creech Air Force Base.  

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 blog Retained with Kathy Kelly at Beale on Good Friday.   Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.