A Day with Vincent Harding

From Rachel Elizabeth Harding, re-posted from social media.

On May 19, the 9th anniversary of his passing, the Iliff School of Theology is honoring my father — with a day-long program of music, art, community conversation, good food, and reflections by Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Anne Dunlap , Tink Tinker, Daryl Walker, Jon Hurst, Gloria Smith and yours truly. For more information and to register (it’s free!) click in the link here.

The Rebel Heart

Harry Belafonte. Rest in Power. This is an excerpt from his Democracy Now interview in December 2016.

A group of young black students in Harlem, just a few days ago, asked me what, at this point in my life, was I looking for. And I said, “What I’ve always been looking for: Where resides the rebel heart?” Without the rebellious heart, without people who understand that there’s no sacrifice we can make that is too great to retrieve that which we’ve lost, we will forever be distracted with possessions and trinkets and title.

In Memphis. On the Mountaintop.

An excerpt from Dr. King’s final speech, in Memphis, on April 3, 1968. Exactly 55 years ago.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.

Continue reading “In Memphis. On the Mountaintop.”

A Lexicon of Stringfellow’s Theology

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann, the author of William Stringfellow: Essential Writings (2013)

*See below for a chronological list of Stringfellow’s works (corresponding to initials & page numbers at the end of each entry).

Babel…means the means the inversion of language, verbal inflation, libel, rumor, euphemism and coded phrases, rhetorical wantonness, redundancy, hyperbole, such profusion in speech and sound that comprehension is impaired, nonsense, sophistry, jargon, noise, incoherence, a chaos of voices and tongues, falsehood, blasphemy. And, in all of this, babel means violence…By the 1970s in America, successive regimes had been so captivated by babel that babel had become the means of ruling the nation, the principal form of coercion employed by the governing authorities against human beings. EC, p.106-7.

Baptism …is often profoundly misunderstood. It is widely thought to be the sacrament of the unity of the Church. But that is not what baptism is; just as it is not mere membership or initiation ritual. Baptism is the assurance – accepted, enacted, verified, and represented by Christians – of the unity of all humanity in Christ… The oneness of the Church is the example and guarantee of the reconciliation of all humankind to God and of the unity of all humanity and all creation in the life of God. The Church, the baptized society is asked to be the image of all humanity, the one and intimate community of God. ID, p.111.

Blasphemy. In Revelation it denotes wanton and contemptuous usurpation of the very vocation of God, vilification of the Word of God and persecution of life as life originates in the Word of God, preemptive attempt against the sovereignty of the Word of God in this world, brute aggression against human life which confesses or appeals to the Word of God. CO, p. 69.

Continue reading “A Lexicon of Stringfellow’s Theology”

Her Brilliant, Full, Dynamic Life

This is a powerful statement from the friends and family of Jen Angel who was tragically killed last week. Thank you to longtime RD.net contributor Nichola Torbett for posting on social media.

It’s with very heavy hearts that we announce that Oakland baker, small business owner, social justice activist, and community member Jen Angel has been medically declared to have lost all brain function and will not regain consciousness. Her official time of death was 5:48pm (PT).

Friends and family of Jen hope that the story of this last chapter of her brilliant, full, dynamic life is one focused on her commitment to community, on the care bestowed upon her and her family by the people who loved her, and on the generous and courageous role of countless health care workers and public servants who fought to preserve her life. We know Jen would not want to continue the cycle of harm by bringing state-sanctioned violence to those involved in her death or to other members of Oakland’s rich community.

As a long-time social movement activist and anarchist, Jen did not believe in state violence, carceral punishment, or incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity. The outpouring of support and care for Jen, her family and friends, and the values she held dear is a resounding demonstration of the response to harm that Jen believed in: community members relying on one another, leading with love, centering the needs of the most vulnerable, and not resorting to vengeance and inflicting more harm.

Continue reading “Her Brilliant, Full, Dynamic Life”

So They Tell Us

From John (Fire) Lame Deer, Sioux Lakota (1903-1976). Thanks to Lorna Standingready for posting.

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men,
we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents.
Without a prison, there can be no delinquents.
We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves.
When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket,
he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift.
We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property.
We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being
was not determined by his wealth.
We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians,
therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another.
We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know
how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things
that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.”

The Truth of the Work Itself

An excerpt from Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist. Thanks to Bill Boyle, a radical discipleship comrade in metro Detroit, for passing this along.

You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated with ideals and with causes. This sounds heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to be engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic. Going through this kind of reaction helps you to guard against this. Your system is complaining of too much verbalizing, and it is right.

You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has  to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. the range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, as you yourself mention in passing, It is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.


The Grimke Sisters

Sarah and Angelina Grimke are 19th century models of white people breaking rank with supremacy. This is an excerpt from Drew Gilpin Faust’s recent article in The Atlantic Magazine: The Grimke Sisters and The Indelible Stain of Slavery. The article is longish, but certainly deserves to be read in it’s entirety. It explores a new book that details tensions and complications with the Grimke legacy. Tensions and complications that white people breaking rank can learn from today.

Thirteen years apart, the two sisters came to share an abhorrence of the slave system on which their family’s wealth and position depended. Angelina was particularly repelled by the institution’s violence—the sound of painful cries from men, women, and even children being whipped; the lingering scars evident on the bodies of those who served her every day; the tales of the dread Charleston workhouse that, for a fee, would administer beatings and various forms of torture out of sight of one’s own household. Both Sarah and Angelina became deeply religious, rejecting the self-satisfied pieties of their inherited Episcopalian faith, but finding in Christian doctrine a foundation for their growing certainty about the “moral degradation” of southern society. In 1821, Sarah moved to Philadelphia and joined the Society of Friends; by the end of the decade, Angelina had joined her.

Philadelphia was a focal point of the growing antislavery movement, and the sisters were swept up in the ferment. Soon defying Quaker moderation on slavery just as they had defied their southern heritage, the Grimke sisters embraced William Lloyd Garrison and what was seen as the radicalism of abolition. In essays appearing in 1837 and 1838, Angelina and Sarah each set out the case for the liberation of women and enslaved people. They joined the Garrisonian lecture circuit, and Angelina developed a reputation as a sterling orator at a time when women were all but prohibited from the public stage. In 1838, Angelina married the abolitionist leader Theodore Dwight Weld in a racially integrated celebration that adhered to the free-produce movement, including no clothing or refreshments produced by enslaved labor. Weld and the sisters shared a household for most of the rest of their lives, and Sarah became a devoted caretaker of Angelina and Theodore’s three children. Their opposition not just to slavery but to racial inequality and segregation, as well as their support for women’s rights, placed them in the vanguard of reform and at odds with many other white abolitionists. With emancipation, they took up the cause of the freedpeople, which they pursued until they died, Sarah in 1873, Angelina in 1879.

Daniel Erlander: Child of God

A special thank you to Marcia Dunigan for passing along the news that Rev. Daniel Erlander passed away in late August. His memorial service was this last weekend and you can access a video recording of it here. His books were clear and clever and were beloved by children and adults. If you haven’t, please order Manna and Mercy now. What a beautiful scripting of the biblical narrative! This is Dan’s obituary from the memorial bulletin.

Daniel Winfred Erlander
Child of God

December 10, 1938 – August 28, 2022 Daniel Erlander’s story is one of art and theology: theology as an embodied art and art as visible theology. Dan was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1938, the second of Ruth and Emory’s three sons, and baptized on February 6, 1939. He was nurtured in faith and life in Lutheran parsonages in Cheyenne, Moline, and La Crescenta, CA. His childhood memories include drawing, especially airplanes, trains and cars.

Continue reading “Daniel Erlander: Child of God”