Brake for Peace/Break for Peace

Sometimes the phrase “be careful what you wish for” rings eerily true. I have been praying, especially over the past two years to have a groundswell of acting for racial justice as well as taking our call to peace to the next level. I wasn’t hoping for disasters to occasion such an uprising, but I’m grateful we have an opportunity to contribute to a large movement. As security forces have been avoiding indictment over the needless deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, the masses have been answering with words and deeds across the nation.

#BlackLivesMatter, #StayWokeAdvent, #JusticeForMikeBrown, and #ICantBreathe have been lighting up social media as a compliment to inspiring protests, actions, prayer, worship, marches, and other ways of standing up. I think this month more of us need to BRAKE for peace like all these die-ins are teaching us. The highway stops because Shalom is broken and we all need to turn to the Prince of Peace and work at restoring God’s Shalom. Braking for peace is about listening, learning, empathizing, and prayerfully receiving from Jesus. It is about being.

We also need the doing during Advent. We need to BREAK for peace by getting out from behind the screens and into real relationships and activity. We need to break free from the lies that teach us that people outside your family are not connected to you, that God’s image does not extend beyond your racial assignment, and that by standing up against unjust systems is demonizing people. Peace is not made by just being tolerant – it is made by changing our minds about our relatedness and our actions to demonstrate it.

In and around Circle of Hope over the next few weeks there are so many chances to get more info, hear stories, get touched by God, ask questions, and make decisions about how we will respond together led by the Holy Spirit. If you can add to this list in the comments, I’d be grateful. I’ll offer an italicized prayer after each event that I suggest.

Tonight – Conversations for Peace in Palestine & Israel. Daryl Byler (of MCCand EMU) will be offering personal accounts, wisdom, and hope. 7pm at 1125 S. Broad. Let Christ’s peace extend further than the global military industrial complex. 

Saturday – Peace on Earth and the Politics of Christmas. 9:30am at 1515 Fairmount with the Alternative Seminary’s Will O’Brien and a host of other inspiring theological activists (including musicians from three Circle of Hope congregations) from Philadelphia. Let the coming of God With Us renew our hearts, minds, as well as feet & hands.

Monday – Doing Theology – this time we consider what it means to stand with Ferguson, 7pm 1125 S. Broad. Give us the courage to come to you with our doubts & fears, open for your direction.

Tuesday – Come hear a Report Back from CPT delegates who recently returned from Iraqi Kurdistan (war on terror, ISIS) and NW Ontario (indigenous resistance to the extraction industry), 7pm 2007 Frankford. Help us to connect the dots of domination and hear the groans of our mother.

Saturday 12/28 (plan still forming) – Liturgy and demonstration at the site of the future Drone Command Center in Horsham, PA (very positive article on Fox about how many jobs it will create here). Make us more human in the face of mechanized, weaponized, inhumane methods of killing.


When God said poop: prophetic theater and suffering through our collective sins

I’m not totally sure how I got on an Ezekiel kick, but I’m on one. While talking to a couple of cool pastors the other day at the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium in Philadelphia we got on the topic. They told me that they stick to Ezekiel’s “greatest hit” – the Valley of Dry Bones. The other week I dipped into this prophet while going through the story about the destruction of the cities Sodom & Gomorrah. God, through Ezekiel explains the sin of Sodom was that “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” If there ever was an Old Testament prophet with a one-hit wonder for pastors – it’s Ezekiel with Valley of the Dry Bones and its “B-side” about Sodom.

The prophet Ezekiel

Since got into chapter 4 the other week, I haven’t been able to leave it alone. The big WOW is after God explained that he was to suffer for the collective sins of the covenant people through a 390 then 40 day session of laying on the ground while eating meager food & water and “playing dolls” version of a siege playset. “Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” That’s pretty amazing. God says poop.

We could act like four year olds and stop there, but then we would miss out what is happening in the longer arc. Ezekiel, beginning his prophetic ministry in his early 30s is both re-enacting the sins of God’s covenant people and showing the future destruction of the city while he and his 2,999 other Jewish elites are in Babylonian exile. Through a very colorful display, God is trying to get his covenant people to deal with their collective sin – turning away from God as their king, moving out of being one people, and losing hope about their future. I think this is an engaging liturgical theater rife with politics, certainly causing problems but useful to God’s cause of restoring the covenant people back to the path of God’s harmony. Then comes a lot more preparation before the more popular word about Sodom and finally the dead dead dead things being made alive again.

I can’t help but wonder what God might be calling the covenant people in Jesus to do about our

One artist’s rendition of what Columbus Day is really celebrating

collective sins in North America. For starters, I’m concerned with the systems that benefit a small group to the exclusion of many trough the land theft/abuse and genocide of the people God made a covenant with about taking care of this land thousands of years ago and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and generations of rape and forced unfree labor of Africans. How long will our sisters and brothers in Christ shrug off dealing with this set of unreconciled brokenness with “you still talking about that?” “shouldn’t you just get over it?” or “it’s really not racial injustice any more – it’s really a class issue.”

I don’t think Jesus is laying more guilt trips, I think Jesus is empowering us to do something substantive about it. Through the work of the Creator of the universe, we are capable of experiencing a oneness with God/creation/one another that unravels these systems and forms a healing balm to the atrocities bringing us back to Shalom. Our question is less about whether we have the responsibility to deal with our collective sins. Our question has more to do with what we’ll do with our Spirit-filled imagination in the restoration of God’s Shalom.

Theatrics have been part of good protests as well as worship for a long time. I don’t have a high tolerance for regular worship to be overly theatrical, but I do love the occasional Christ-centered demonstration. Can using some symbolic acts – even costumes – help make a deeper point to people who might not otherwise pay attention or be interested?

I think for many of us, like Ezekiel, the process will include suffering – but not as much as those who already suffered. If we use our prophetic imaginations, at least the suffering will be productive and the theater fun. Since around two billion people use dung for fuel (including our boy Ezekiel) can we not also use the proverbial excrement of life (our collective sins, personal failures,  etc) to fuel the daily bread of change?

A society of beggars: Navigating the seas of Brilliant Friends & Crowdfunding Fatigue

I’m a bit of a booster when it comes to my friends’ projects. While I certainly love creativity, most good ideas I hear about never turn into a reality. Sometimes it’s because some people are better dreamers than practitioners. I think most often, it’s because we don’t think we actually make a difference.

Not a small number of my friends shared the pixelated photos yesterday of a group of white people walking down the street. They were likely the group who assaulted two guys in Center City last Thursday after making anti-gay remarks, landing them robbed and in the hospital.  How could sharing these photos actually help? On Twitter, someone must have recognized the dude in the salmon/blue shirt while searching Facebook check-ins near the scene. No arrests have been made as of now, but it appears this case may have been solved by Twitter users. It’s amazing!

I hope that seeing how sharing stories or other seemingly small contributions like this make a huge difference for people involved. Caring & sharing go hand-in-hand with social media – especially with investing & crowd sourcing. Here are a few suggestions for how to navigate the seas of having brilliant friends while possibly feeling the fatigue of people asking.

Ask the questions “why are so many people begging?” I’ve heard my share of “back in the day” stories when if someone had a business idea they went to the bank and got a loan. Since 2008’s financial debacle, that’s not likely to happen – especially if your business doesn’t exist yet. Our financial rulers prefer to ramp up more big box franchises, non-tenure adjunct instructor, part time employee, consolidation of wealth strategies. Those of us without rich families of origin, benevolent wealthy friends, or friends capable of investing are left begging. How should we respond to begging when we’re turning into a society of lesser beggars?

People are asking us for money or signing up for something everywhere we go. Buying underwear at Target is to be asked if you want a Target credit card. Going to a show is to be asked to buy merch so the band members can afford to have a family. Watching a Youtube video is to sit through an advertisement and being asked to “like,” “share,” and of course “subscribe.”

Pay attention to your heart while examining what your friends are sharing. Do you have a few minutes to consider their idea or do you tune it out when you feel like you’re being asked for something? Have you been desensitized to a friendly ask by all the begging? Is God trying to soften your heart at times for meaningful attempts at breaking through

You might have the problem of there being too many good ideas for you to support. You can’t give money to all of them. You might not want to turn your Twitter/Facebook feed into a constant stream of advertising because it could violate your personal branding, image, or purpose for having them.

Consider what you give away unconsciously. Most of my friends fantasize about war tax resisting without looking at the resources we have while the war machine gladly enjoys our acquiescence. We’re hit with bogus fees on everything from ATM withdraws to processing fees to fuzzy administrative charges from utility companies.

It’s been a rough summer for my friends trying to crowd source some start up funds. Gary Ducket Pickles got about $4k of a $30k goal on Kickstarter. Crime & Punishment Brewery got about $13k of their $24k goal on Indiegogo. Are these ideas bad or are we fatigued?

This week my friend Alyssa is trying to fund her thesis show about PTSD and women in the military. My friend Nic is gething pre-orders for his upcoming book about Kensington Homesteading a block from my house. Scotty is about to go to to Iraqi Kurdistan with Christian Peacemaker Teams. My friend Blew, after a crazy landlord conflict had to close my favorite direct trade organic coffee house that happened to be a block from my home. She is attempting to courageously open a new one, right across the street from the old one. She’s got like 4 days and about $7k to raise or else she gets nothing from her Kickstarter campaign for Franny Lou’s Porch.

Consider what you give away consciously. You swim in a sea of imagination where people are less reliant on inherited wealth or debt to predatory lenders. Does your conscious sharing/spending match your values? Martha and I had to adjust our budget a few years ago to make room for gifting to projects we believe in or friends that need a blessing – on top of our normal common fund sharing with Circle of Hope. It is freeing for us and feels good to help good dreams become reality. We want more generative projects and businesses, even if it means less “freedom” to spend money on other whims and habits.

I don’t think God expects everyone to be huge boosters of all these campaigns. I hope that you can find some prayerful place between your the instincts you might have to shut down in what could feel like pressure or blindly say yes to everything. God will guide you towards Godly values and help discern how to keep putting them into practice. I think we have a chance to do so many beautiful things together, and our neighbors need more beauty.

Ethnicity/Immigrant Experience blog #4

I was pondering this NY Times article about Americans and their fear of immigrants, specifically Muslims.  This connected in my mind to the developing story of internet-famous pastor [of a 50 person church] in Gainesville, FL named Terry Jones.  His foiled plan, however infamous still, was to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the attacks on the WTC by burning at least one Quran.

Allegedly on his website (which has since been pulled down by his web host) he listed 10 good reasons to do it.  I wanted to write something about it before tonight, but felt conflicted.  One one hand, I feel pretty strongly that it is a bad idea and a cheap publicity stunt that makes many of us look like fascists to the world.   On the other hand, I was hoping that the story was not going to be covered by any media.  Writing about how we shouldn’t pay attention to this man inadvertently might bring more attention to the moment.

Thankfully, now that the event is canceled, I feel released to say how ludicrous I think the idea was.  Nearly as absurd is Jones’ claim according to VOA news that he negotiated the change of venue for a proposed mosque two blocks from the former World Trade Center location.

In the VOA article, Jones is quoted as saying “The American people, as a whole, do not want the mosque at the Ground Zero location.”  I think that’s a pretty fear driven statement that has more to do with his own prejudices than reflecting either consensus of Americans or even American Christians.  It also seems like a convenient excuse to cover up whatever real reason there was to not do such a outrageous antic. Maybe it was pressure from the Pentagon.   Maybe it was the Mennonite Central Committee’s open pastoral letter to Anabaptist churches that did the trick.

Regardless of why it was kiboshed, it was a close call.