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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THE CROSS OF CHRIST:  A Justification for Redemptive Violence Or a Call to Gospel Nonviolence?

Another compelling online offer from the Alternative Seminary in Philly. See details below for tomorrow’s gathering.

The cross can heal and hurt; it can be empowering and liberating but also enslaving and oppressive … I believe that the cross placed alongside the lynching tree can help us to see Jesus in America in a new light, and thereby empower people who claim to follow him to take a stand against white supremacy and every kind of injustice.” ― James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree

We are witnessing how the Christian faith has been contorted to almost unrecognizable shape and put at the service of empire – even though the founder of the faith was executed by empire. The cross of Christ, perhaps the central image of Christian life and thought, has been frequently been used to promote the idea of “redemptive violence,” and has been directly or indirectly used to vindicate and even bless human violence.

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Courting and Romancing and Widows and Dams

Jim Perkinson, among water warriors in Detroit

By James W. Perkinson

The clear untouched pool accepts me into its emerald depths like a big drop of water . . . I dive down again and again, feel the water-fingers softly caressing my hot face, tracing my underarms, my neck and breasts—nipples raised hard against the cold . . . and though the water is not going anywhere, it seems to move against me still, even as I lie immobile on its surface.  I flip and turn, purring to the sensual caress.  I have dipped into a private treasure and am wrapped in the arms of the True Gods (Lee, 132, description of Glen Canyon pothole only fifteen feet wide, whose smooth sloping sides refuse her efforts to climb out wet and nearly kill her over the next hour).

I begin in the unlikely place of a quote from raconteur Katie Lee—author, musicologist, folk singer, storyteller, Hollywood actress, song writer, filmmaker, photographer, poet, and river runner (in the words of her bio, Lee, 273).  She is not indigenous.  But she is a “grit” person, as Terry Turner Tempest offers in the Foreword—a woman “not afraid to laugh and tease, cajole, and flirt, cuss, rant, howl, sing and cry.”  “Katie Lee,” says she, is “the desert’s lover, her voice is a torch in the wilderness” (Lee, ix).   I begin here, away from the subject, because that is where I begin, where most of us today begin, in this land of the less-than-free, home of the most-often-cowardly.   We who are not indigenous, not native, pretend to own the land, but we are not of the land.  Rather than belong to it, we belong mostly nowhere, counting strip malls and car interiors and I-Phone screens our domiciles of greatest comfort. 

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Ecstasy and Agony

By Ken Sehested

Lent is when the ecstasy and the agony of life collide.

Monday, 28 February, was the next-to-last-day of Mardi Gras, celebrated in the US along the Gulf Coast, New Orleans being its epicenter.

As the sun was going down in New Orleans, the eve of “Fat Tuesday,” the party hardying prior to the abstinence of Ash Wednesday, a man in California killed his three daughters and the woman supervising the girls’ visit with her father, part of the terms dictated since his divorce. Then killed himself. In a church sanctuary.

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Divine Dialysis: A 7-Minute Sermon

By Tommy Airey, re-posted from Easy Yolk

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.—excerpts from Psalm 51

This week, I read Psalm 51 in the wake of dear friends sharing the details of a sexual assault they experienced. My response was rage. I struggled to tap into tears. I was just so angry. At the perpetrator for what he did. At the police for what they did not do. Lindsay asked me if our friends’ story was triggering my own trauma. I wasn’t sure. I needed to go away to reflect—and sit with this Psalm, attributed to David who was called “a man after God’s own heart.” He was also a sexual predator.

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the brow of nazareth

by jim perkinson, ps 71: 1-6, lk 4:21-30, performed at st. peter’s episcopal church (detroit, mi), 1-30-22

“they lead him to the brow of the hill
that they might throw him off”
says the lectionary text for the
4th week-take on epiphanies and magi
and comet-streaked skies of the season
but they failed to catch the snatch—
the orator at nazareth was a rock-kvetched
match for their outraged snit, hatched
like a birthed-again chic from rugged
outcrop, spirit-born and dove-mourned
just back from a 40-day stretch

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A Brief Consideration of Language

By Dwight L. Wilson, originally posted to Facebook on January 27, 2022

When my ancestors were kidnapped from Africa, the overlords employed white supremacy philosophy to both claim they themselves believed in freedom of religion and strip the victims of their ties to ancestral religion. In the enslavers’ minds, surely the Holy One was named Jehovah, not Nyame. Any black saying otherwise was dismissed as uncivilized if not inhuman. Refusing to stop inflicting trauma, we were forced to change African personal names, and forbidden African languages so that the powerful could feel more comfortable. In partial response, I gave my sons African names 1) Kai Ashante (thank you for the surprise), 2) Rai Imani (strong faith), 3) Tai Amri (an eagle is leading) and 4) Mai Hakili (a leader who is both spiritually and intellectually strong).

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