“No” to Death Means “Yes” to Life

                                                                                                                                I have heard people say, “What you resist persists.”  While there may be some truth to this saying in certain contexts, it is by no means a universal truth.  In many cases, “What you ignore persists.”  Ignoring social evils, for instance, means accommodating to them and allowing them to spread.  I agree with theologian William Stringfellow, who said, “In resistance persons live most humanly.  `No’ to death means ‘yes’ to life.”

For a social movement to flourish, the ‘no’ of resistance cannot simply be reactive, but must be grounded in a ‘yes’ to life.  For people of faith, it is essential to recognize the true context and foundation of our lives in the midst of God’s good creation, and to develop an ongoing sense of the sacred in everyday life. The earth is our home and our primary source of revelation.  As we join forces with people of every persuasion and practice active democracy that furthers globalization from below, we must not forget who we are: children of Spirit, but also children of the earth, dependent on God for life and breath and all things and interdependent with the whole community of life. Thomas Berry reminds us of the extraordinary gifts offered to us through the creation, and of our responsibility to care for the earth, our home:

“The natural world tells us: I will feed you, I will clothe you, I will shelter you, I will heal you. Only do not so devour me or use me that you destroy my capacity to mediate the divine and the human. For I offer you a communion with the divine. I offer you gifts that you can exchange with each other. I offer you flowers whereby you may express your reverence for the divine and your love for each other. In the vastness of the sea, in the snow-covered mountains, in the rivers flowing through the valleys, in the serenity of the landscape, and in the foreboding of the great storms that sweep over the land, in all these experiences I offer you inspiration for your music, for your art, your dance.”

In addition to being grounded in the earth, we must also become aware of how we relate to the dominant institutions of which we are a part. We see how ruling institutions foster a sense of powerlessness, distort the truth, dampen the Spirit, nullify conscience, and impair moral agency. These inner effects of the Powers prevent people from rising up in clear and concerted resistance to these harmful systems and demanding change.

Recognizing these realities does not excuse us from personal responsibility, but adds another dimension to our understanding of the human condition. Just as we are dependent on God for life and breath and all things and interdependent with the rest of creation, we are also embedded in institutions and systems that affect us and that we affect, through our passive acceptance, active participation, or actions of resistance and transformation. Like Jesus, we must learn to live “in, but not of the world,” that is, the human-created systems of this world.  We are called to resist being taken over by the forces of a culture that would have us believe that comfort and pleasure and ease and looking good are the most important things in life. We are called to refuse to worship our culture’s dominant gods of money and worldly power, to resist the lure of materialistic values that keep so many enthralled, and instead to value human life and the natural world. By so doing, we plant seeds of hope and honor the Creator.

This blog posting includes excerpts from Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado.  For another excerpt on a similar topic, see A Sacramental Universe.


God Bless the Grass: Two Easter Songs

Grass in Our Yard

Having gone through the winter of Lent we are now in the springtime of Easter.  I’ve been singing two songs lately.  They both use images of the earth to carry a message of hope in the face of despair.  The first song is “Now the Green Blade Rises,” a traditional Easter hymn.  The second song, “God Bless the Grass,” is by singer-songwriter and social justice activist Malivina Reynolds.  Both songs present the key message of Easter:  life overcomes death.

Listen to this version of “Now the Green Blade Rises” by the Smoke Fairies.  

Now the Green Blade Rises

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

(John M.C. Crum, 1928, 15th Century French Melody)

I also hear the message of life conquering death in this wonderful song by Malvina Reynolds.  You can hear her sing it here:  God Bless the Grass .

 God Bless the Grass

God bless the grass that grows thru the crack.
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the truth that fights toward the sun,
They roll the lies over it and think that it is done.
It moves through the ground and reaches for the air,
And after a while it is growing everywhere,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that grows through cement.
It’s green and it’s tender and it’s easily bent.
But after a while it lifts up its head,
For the grass is living and the stone is dead,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that’s gentle and low,
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow.
And God bless the truth, the friend of the poor,
And the wild grass growing at the poor man’s door,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass, which demonstrates the power of life to overcome death, and to bring about both personal and social transformation.  May we all have renewed confidence, courage, and hope during this Easter season.

Easter Renewal

Ike’s Cherry Tree(c) Andrew Wright LightHawk Photo

When I look at the major problems in our world–climate change, predatory capitalism, war, injustice of every kind–or even the small problems of family and friends, I want to do everything I can to help.  But that impulse can get me into trouble.  Doing “everything I can” takes me on a track that gets more busy and confusing as I go.  I end up feeling anxious, discouraged, and just plain tired.  As Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote:

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.

I’ve learned that instead of rushing off to do more, I can recommit myself to prayer and meditation, which allows me to rest in the loving arms of God.  I know from experience that this is a more direct route to effective action than multiplying my activities.  As I open to Spirit, I can count on getting the guidance and energy I need for the next right action to take.

This practice parallels the spiritual journey through Lent and Easter:  1) facing the disappointment, pain, and suffering of life; 2) accepting death and the annihilation of hope; and 3) experiencing a renewal of spiritual energy, hope, and joy.  This does not negate any other spiritual tradition, and in fact letting go into emptiness and coming out on the other side is part of Eastern religious practice as well.

For today, instead of trying to get everything done, I embrace the spaciousness and timelessness of Spirit.  And I entrust myself, my family and friends, and the world to “the One who, by the power at work within us, is able to accomplish immeasurably more than all we can ask or even imagine.”  (Ephesians 3:20)

A Moment’s Indulgence

by Rabindranath Tagore

I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.

Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.

Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.