Earthy Stories with Heavy Meanings

An excerpt from William Herzog’s Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (1994).

…the parables were not earthly stories with heavenly meanings but earthy stories with heavy meanings, weighted down by an awareness of the workings of exploitations in the world of their hearers. The focus of the parables was not on a vision of the glory of the reign of God, but on the gory details of how oppression served the interests of a ruling class. Instead of reiterating the promise of God’s intervention in human affairs, they explored how human beings could respond to break the spiral of violence and cycle of poverty created by exploitation and oppression. The parable was a form of social analysis every bit as much as it was a form of theological reflection.

Flags, Guns and Briefcases

By Tommy Airey

For the duration of the Derek Chauvin trial, Lindsay and I posted up just north of Panhe, an Acjachemen burial and ceremonial site in modern-day Southern California at the coastal border of Orange and San Diego counties. The Acjachemen people are not recognized by the federal government—despite archaeological proof that they lived sustainably on that land for more than 9,000 years before European Christians, with their flags and guns, invaded it and stole it and forcibly converted them to the cult of Jesus, the white conquistador.

To add insult to injury, the white Christians raped their women and infected them with their diseases. Panhe was the epicenter of a genocidal cocktail of disease centuries before the novel coronavirus came for a country trying to make itself great again in every colonial way possible. The people of Panhe were victims of a COVID-19 on steroids. As more than 90% of the Indigenous population of Turtle Island were killed off, white Christians spurned social distancing for profit-making.

Panhe is the crucified wound of a people still surviving, but totally unrecognized. In fact, its sacred quality is soaked in the surreal statistic that .0001% of those who call California home drive by Panhe thousands of times and never even know it exists. Some of the ancient Oak and Sycamore trees of Panhe remember a time when white people were not around. They are still standing despite the encroachment of a military base, nuclear power plant, state campground and Trestles, one of the most legendary surf beaches in the world.

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Breathing room

By Ken Sehested

As I pulled out of our driveway, the NPR radio host said that the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial had reached a verdict and would be announced shortly. I immediately felt my stomach tighten and swallowed an inhaled “oh no.”

Like most, I thought the evidence against him in the death of George Floyd was irreproachable. But history said otherwise, particularly given the massive loophole provided by the Supreme Court’s ruling granting “limited immunity” to law enforcement, for “breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/03/the-supreme-courts-message-on-police-misconduct-is-changing/618193/

Each Tuesday I perform taxi service, getting my granddaughter to and from her gymnastics team workout. I was grateful the news didn’t break until after dropping her off. That came as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot on the way home, to pick up an item for dinner.

Entering the store, it seemed I was the only one who knew that a rare moment in US history had been announced. If I were more of an extrovert, I might have shouted out a few exclamation points.

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Part of a Long Line of Prophetic Perishing

An excerpt from Dr. James Perkinson’s 2001 essay “Theology and the City: Learning to Cry, Struggling to See.”

The Christian tradition that underwrites the theology elaborated here offers — as its primary icon of “how” and “where “God is present in the world and “who” God is in the world — an image of a human being hanging on an instrument of state torture, crying out to God, against God (Mark 15:34). That God is not ripped down miraculously from that piece of wood (Mark 15:29-30). That God does not make it into comfy old age. While still alive “in the flesh,” that God did not always have a full belly (Matt. 12:1-4), did not live in the posh quarters of the city (Luke 9:58), was not greeted with acclaim by the movers and shakers of his day (John 7:45-52), did not have a good retirement policy. “He” regularly angered the foundations like the Sanhedrin or the Herodian Temple Corporation that would otherwise have funded his ministry (Mark 3:11-6). He publicly blessed the welfare queens, hookers, day laborers and beggars, and other assorted “rabble” who had been downsized out of legitimate livelihoods (Luke 6:20-23). He publicly cursed the banquet-givers (Luke 6:24-26), and conference-goers, and upright, uptight stalwart citizens, who, as the pillars of their community, continuously expropriated land from the “people” by means of the debt-code in order to reemploy them as tenant farmers on their own lands (Matt. 20:1-16; see Herzog, 1994, 79-97). He loudly and loquaciously denounced the lifestyle supported by such exploitative practices and labeled “abomination” what the elites claimed as “God’s blessing” (Herzog, 1994, 53-73; 2000, 90-108; Myers, 1997, 125). He openly charged the scribal ideologues and their judicial patrons with privately wrestling widows’ last pennies away from them (Mark 12:38-44) even as they were publicly encouraging the sons to give their mothers’ estates away “to God” through the Temple apparatus called “corban” (that, in effect, transferred such endowments from the marginalized elderly to the Temple’s rapacious high-priestly high-livers) (Mark 7:5-13).

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Tax Resistance 101

An excerpt from a recent interview with Howard Waitzkin on his fifty-year history of tax resistance. Waitzkin is a medical doctor, a professor focusing on social medicine, and an activist. He is the author of The Rinky-Dink Revolution.

There are two key things to remember: First there’s nothing illegal about saying to the IRS, “I conscientiously do not believe in paying taxes for war, and I’m not going to do it. Here’s what I earned as income. Here’s what I’m paying as income tax, which is half of my calculated income tax, as required. This money that I am paying as income tax is not for war but rather for the other half of taxes that I hope goes into the good things that are done for people by governments rather than killing people. I’m going to use the half that I’m not paying specifically to help people and communities in need through the alternative funds that are set up by tax resisters.” The IRS may try to disagree with you, but there’s nothing illegal as long as you file your income tax, and are honest about what you earn.

There are rare problems that people get into with the IRS in terms of legal assets being taken away like homes and cars. The last examples that we know of happened more than 20 years ago. But there are people, usually right-wing people, who because of libertarian views, refuse to file their income tax, or cheat on their income tax by giving inaccurate information. Those things can get you into trouble. Although obviously, given the ways that billionaires and big corporations get away with not paying taxes, this happens all the time also.

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In Spite Of

By Ric Hudgens, a sermon for North Suburban Mennonite Church in Libertyville, Illinois

During this quarantine, I’ve been listening to music from an earlier period of my life. I’ve been going through my music collection and replaying songs from a time that was not bound by seclusion, confinement, vulnerability. My daughter observed that it’s been good medicine for me.

Last night I was listening to an old album by the Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn with the line “got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” This is an image of Easter “in spite of.”

When a martial artist wants to break a board, they envision punching through the board. The target is not the board itself but a spot just past the board. If you target the board you will pull your punch. To break the board, you have to punch through the board.

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Land Day

A Holy Week check-in from Ched Myers, movement elder, author and activist.

Holy Tuesday was Land Day in Israel/Palestine, always the occasion for protests and police violence (see here). Almost a decade ago, in 2012, I had the privilege of being on the streets with Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center staff Omar Haramy (pictured) during Land Day demonstrations in east Jerusalem. It was a poignant catechism in what our friends are up against (see my blog from that memorable day at https://chedmyers.org/…/blog-2012-03-31-friday-reality…/). Please keep Sabeel folks and all Palestinians organizing for justice especially in your prayers this week.

The Sandbox Revolution

Today, we celebrate the release of The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World, a beautiful anthology of collective wisdom for those whose lives are wrapped up with children and who are hungering for a more just world. This collection is edited by our very own Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, co-founder of RadicalDiscipleship.net.

You can purchase the book through Broadleaf Books, IndieboundBarnes and Nobles, or Amazon. You can also find additional resources on the website including a Study Guide and a list of recommended children books. Please reach out to me if there is a way I can connect with your communities or help spread the word on the book. We are available for podcasts, writing, sermons, talks, etc.

It is a complex time to be a parent. Our climate is in crisis, and economic inequality is deepening. Racialized violence is spreading, and school shootings are escalating. How do we, as parents, cultivate in our children a love of the earth, a cry for justice, and a commitment to nonviolence? Where do we place our bodies so we teach our kids that resistance is crucial and change is possible? What practices do we hold as a family to encourage them to work with their hands, honor their hearts, and nurture their spirits?

The Sandbox Revolution calls upon our collective wisdom to wrestle with the questions, navigate the challenges, offer concrete practices, and remind parents of the sacredness of the work. Written by parents who are also writers, pastors, teachers, organizers, artists, gardeners, and activists, this anthology offers a diversity of voices and experiences on topics that include education, money, anti-racism, resistance, spirituality, disability justice, and earth care.

Contributors include Frida Berrigan, Leona Brown, Jennifer Castro, Laurel Dykstra, Janice Fialka, Kate Foran, Jennifer Harvey, Sarah and Nathan Holst, Michelle Martinez, Nick Peterson, Dee Dee Risher, en sawyer and Marcia Lee, Susan Taylor, Randy Woodley, and Bill Wylie-Kellermann.

March Madness and the Other America

By Tommy Airey

March Madness is back. The men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments caught the coronavirus last season right when my Kansas Jayhawks were ranked number one. That was before police murdered George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, before the NBA bubble almost burst after police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. This year, I couldn’t bring myself to fill out a bracket, but I have watched a lot of basketball. This year, more than ever, I have embraced the tension between sports and social analysis—a glorious tension released by a sabbath-jubilee Spirit soaked in a trifecta of Hebrew words: hesed (steadfast love), mispat (justice) and sedekah (faithfulness to the most vulnerable). My wife-partner Lindsay, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says that my devotion to the game is not about escaping the real world, but integrating it.  

This year, my mind is penetrating past Magic Johnson and pivoting towards Lyndon Baines Johnson, the last Democratic Presidential candidate to get a majority of the white vote. In 1967, in the wake of anti-racist uprisings in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Newark, LBJ commissioned a congressional investigation. He wanted to know what happened, why it happened and what could be done to prevent it from happening again. The so-called Kerner Commission released its findings seven months later, on the last day of February 1968. The scary thing is that the results of the investigation are still ruthlessly relevant today: Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.

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PALM SUNDAY AS SUBVERSIVE STREET THEATRE: SIXTH SUNDAY IN LENT (MK 11:1-11)

By Ched Myers

Note: This is a re-post from an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.

Jesus’ long march to Jerusalem takes Mark’s story from the margins of Palestinian society (the Jordan wilderness and Capernaum in Mk 1) to its center. Arriving at the suburb of Bethany (11:1), Jesus prepares to enter the Holy City not as a reverent pilgrim demonstrating allegiance to the Temple, but as a subversive prophet challenging the foundations of State power. Mark 11-12 narrates Jesus’ second “campaign of direct action.” In the first campaign in Galilee (1:20-3:35) he confronted the status quo with his powerful actions of exorcism and healing. Now he takes on the Temple system and its stewards: the Jerusalem clerical establishment. This campaign, like the first, will culminate in polarization and rift, and will conclude with Jesus’ withdrawal to further reflect upon his mission in a second sermon about revolutionary patience (13:1ff; see 4:1ff). Continue reading “PALM SUNDAY AS SUBVERSIVE STREET THEATRE: SIXTH SUNDAY IN LENT (MK 11:1-11)”