The Land is not Empty

An excerpt of Rev. TJ Smith’s response to Sarah Augustine’s book The Land is not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery. This is re-posted from the book forum hosted by Anabaptist Witness.

As I work with younger First Nation and First Alaskan, my hope and prayer is for them to know they are wonderfully made as they are. I think of a young First Alaskan who asked me with tears rolling down her face, “You mean it is okay to follow God and speak my language, live my culture?” To help them understand that the community where they come from is more important than the idea of “conformed individuality.”

To think of the next generation of you Indigenous leaders that will be free from; you are invisible, you are nothing more than a merciless savage, to you are my daughter or son who I created…. How freeing and empowering could that be for them, for the generations to come? How do we, can we help free them from the bondage that we have carried?

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The Radical Bible

By Wes Howard-Brook

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7)

What “words” do we keep in our hearts this day? What stories do we tell our children to give them hope and joy amid a world overflowing with violence and suffering?

Winter quarter was my final time teaching the Bible to college students at Seattle University after two decades. One might imagine that folks enrolled at a Jesuit Catholic university might start with some basic biblical literacy, or at least perhaps some curiosity about the stories that are supposed to be foundational for all Christian traditions. Yet I found almost the opposite to be true: most students were not Catholic or Christian in anything more than inherited label, and few had the slightest interest in engaging biblical narratives. I found my experience was common in many places.

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Easter as Mystical/Material Abundance

By Ched Myers, comments on John 21 for May 1, 2022

I’ve long been fascinated with today’s gospel reading. The story is roughly parallel to Luke 5:1-11, and notably Luke places his version at the beginning of his narrative of Jesus’ ministry (in place of Mark’s call of the fishermen), while John puts it at the end of his gospel.  This tradition must have been strong in the early church, and seems to signal a restoration of divine abundance in place of the scarcity of the exploited fishery in defiance of official regulations. 

John brackets this story (21:1,14) with assertions that this was a “revelation /manifestation” (phaneroō, 6 times in John, e.g. 3:21); this is the final revelation. John places it at the “Sea of Tiberias,” a name only he uses in the N.T. for the Sea of Galilee” (see 6:1), which seems to emphasize the imperial renaming of the lake. In C.E. 14, Caesar Augustus died and Tiberius eventually became Emperor. To cultivate the new emperor’s favor, in C.E. 19 Herod Antipas began building a new capital city, which he named Tiberias in a bald demonstration of fealty. Right on the Sea of Galilee, this city was part of a new wave of Roman economic colonization.  Its primary function was to regulate the fishing industry around the Sea, the most prosperous segment of ancient Galilee’s economy, putting it firmly under the control of Roman and Herodian elites, who endeavored to control the industry for export markets. 

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A New Song

By Tommy Airey, reposted from Easy Yolk

“What I do know is that love reckons with the past and evil reminds us to look to the future. Evil loves tomorrow because peddling in possibility is what abusers do.”—Kiese Laymon

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song.”—Psalm 96:1

Thirty years ago, four white cops caught on video beating Rodney King fifty-six times were acquitted in Simi Valley by a jury made up of ten white folks, one Latino and one Asian. In the aftermath, a righteous rage fueled the L.A. Riots. At the time, I was fifty miles south, getting ready for senior prom. Six weeks earlier, our high school basketball team won the CIF sectional championship at the Sports Arena, where the Clippers used to play back in the day. We beat Lynwood, an all-Black squad from south L.A. In our all-white minds, we were getting revenge.

When I was a freshman, we got manhandled by all-Black Manual Arts High School in the state playoffs. They brought a cadre of students and parents down to South Orange County, the metro region with the lowest Black population in the US. Their crowd was small but persistently on point. When they scored or made a stop, everyone in their section of the bleachers would extend their arms out like an alligator and chant in rapid succession, “We love it. We love it. We love it.” As they clapped together, the alligators chomped together. Black excellence completely obliterated our home court advantage.

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Memory and Mandate: A Meditation on Maundy Thursday

By Ken Sehested

Under the sway of Easter bunnies, chocolate binges, and spring fashion sales, Holy Week and Resurrection Morning observances have shed almost all connections to the volatile political events in Jerusalem leading up to Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into the city.

The season of Jesus’ final visit to Jerusalem was the fevered occasion of Passover. Passover was the story of the Hebrews’ miraculous escape from Egyptian bondage. Passover’s observance in first century Palestine was like President’s Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day all rolled up into one. Judea was again in bondage, this time subjugated by Roman occupation. Jews from around the countryside streamed into Jerusalem for reasons of piety mixed with nationalist fervor. Rome ramped up its troop level every year at this time.

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Challenging Power and Privilege: Is Good News for the poor Bad News for many of us in North America?

By Will O’Brien, coordinator of The Alternative Seminary

Our Western scholarship and church teaching have communicated to us the notion that the four Gospels convey “objective truth,” and we read them to discern their objective and universal meaning. But such an approach to Scripture, bred in the Western / European church, has functioned to uphold social power systems of domination. What is “objective” and what is “universal” have been adjudicated conveniently by church hierarchy and monarchs to serve the needs of Empire, muting the prophetic and liberating voices of scripture.

In recent decades, the Western church has had its safe objectivity subverted by the powerful and insistent voices from the global south, who have forced us to reckon with the social contexts of scripture – both in its historical origins and in our contemporary world. They have exposed the lie behind the phony neutrality of Western biblical scholarship and challenged our concepts of universal meaning by reading the gospels in contexts of real-life suffering, oppression, and unjust social systems.

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The Time is Very Urgent – We Must Slow Down

By Bayo Akomolafe and Marta Benavides , a letter to deepen the conversation, re-posted from BayoAkomolafe.net

Recently, we were privileged to be part of a Global Summit organized by DEEEP (Developing Europeans’ Engagement for the Eradication of Poverty) and a coalition of activist organizations that includes CIVICUS, CONCORD and GCAP (Global Call to Action Against Poverty). We gathered in the city of Johannesburg to consider what a different world might look like and, much more importantly, how we could collectively work together to bring about this world. We celebrate the amazing efforts of the organizers that made this possible.

Bayo Akomolafe (one of us) delivered the keynote address, in which he espoused a new politics of engagement, a new sort of activism for the times. On the heels of his passionate plea, we now write. We, members of the so- called Global South, now offer to you the gifts of our spaces – gifts we think are crucial to this beautiful conversation about a world our hearts believe is possible today.

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A Monarch Migration in March

By Tommy Airey, re-posted from Easy Yolk

On Fat Tuesday, six days into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I drove out of Detroit while it was still dark. For the first two hours, the slipped disk in my upper back was screaming. This thorn in my flesh, this messenger from Satan, was signaling a lack of emotional support in a world collapsing with the 4 C’s: capitalism, climate, covid and conflict. I drove through all four time zones as gas prices sky-rocketed and the stealth BA. 2 variant spread. On the road, in this mess, I was trusting in Something greater than myself, a divine Presence percolating the world with steadfast love and solidarity. This Force does not sit on a throne. It hovers low like a nurturing mother bird and runs fast like an open-hearted, emotionally expressive father figure.

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Of Mountain Watches and Dread Help

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon on Transfiguration, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, MI, February 27, 2022

I have developed a late life habit.  When the snow falls around our house, these days, the bird seed comes out.  I am a bit loath to invite too much wild dependence on human provision, so I normally don’t lay out food that way. But given our urban Detroit encampment on the habitat of so many wild creatures, I figure snow may interrupt some of the other foraging possibilities and so sprinkle some seed. The local sparrows and chickadees are quick to spy out the offer and just as quick to spread the word, sparrow style.  But it is especially the cardinal pair whose territory we occupy that I delight in.  For two winters now, when my gift-giving begins, they are adept at the uptake and 2-3 times per day, beginning around noon, will summon me by cavorting in the front bushes outside my second-story study-window.  Once I see, I get up, go down to the front door while they vigil in a front-row, top-of-the-bush seat.  I give a little throw onto the sidewalk from the open door; they hop down and feast.

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