Is the American Dream Worth it?

An excerpt from Mychal Denzel Smith’s book Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream (2020).

I am not, obviously, the first person to ever poke holes in the idea that is the American Dream, but no matter how many times you have heard it before, no matter how many times you have heard it critiqued, I believe it bears repeating: the American Dream is bullshit. And it’s not bullshit so much because of its relative unlikelihood, but because it rests on the very idea that inequality is natural and good. You can, in America, come from nothing and gain everything—a fantastic idea if you think it is at all just that there would be people who have nothing. The Dream is premised on the idea that someone, somewhere, will always have so little that they must do more, must sacrifice their time, their body, their values, their self in order to achieve, in order to have more. And more is not always more, sometimes more is simply the basic means of survival. Most of the time.

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#LentenAbolition

PC: dsaemerge.org

By Tommy Airey

“It’s not simply: better jails, better police, better training. It’s no police, it’s no jails, no prisons. It’s creating a new means of justice that’s not based on criminalization but based on affirmation and reparation, and by reparation that is trying to repair relationships that have been damaged and destroyed as a result of five centuries of warfare against Indigenous peoples, Africans, poor white people, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Latinx populations.”—Robin D.G. Kelly

Lent starts next week. A season to take spiritual inventory. To assess crucifying realities. To grieve. To confess our complicity. To rise up into newness of life. This year, the Lenten journey begins on Wednesday, February 17—four weeks into a new Presidential administration committed to “going back to normal.” This year, more than ever, Lent resists “normal.” Lent lifts up what Dr. King called a radical revolution of values. Protecting people over profit motives and property rights. Black people. Brown people. Indigenous people. Immigrant people. Poor people. We want nothing to do with a “normal” world of racism, materialism and militarism. Following Jesus of Nazareth, we are inaugurating a world that brings good news to the poor and proclaims release to the captives. We are rolling away the stone guarded by those who protect and serve empire.

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What Keeps you Warm? A Prayer for Late Winter

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

In the cold,
dark,
dreary,
loneliness
of February,

I am kept warm.

By the taste of last season’s tomatoes in my salsa
and strawberries spread over fresh baked yeast and whole wheat flour.

By the monotonous moves of my knitting needles,
                and blue ink on paper writing love letters to elders.

I am kept warm.

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The Liberating Spirituality of Vincent Harding

By Ric Hudgens

PC: Ryan Rodrick Beiler

In homage to Black History Month, I’m reposting this essay about one of my heroes Dr. Vincent Harding (1932-2014). This is slightly edited from the original which was written for “The Movement Makes Us Human”, Rock! Paper! Scissors!, Vol 1, No 1, edited by Joanna Shenk, 2018. A bit out of the beaten path of these essays, but revealing the roots of my own journey through this time.

Introduction

We knew how blessed we were by the gifts of Vincent Harding as a historian, educator, and “veteran of hope.” Less known is the contribution Harding made to the development of the first generation of black theology. 

Theologian Dwight Hopkins writes that Harding “has had a profound effect on the development of contemporary black theology in the United States, particularly the young black theology of the 1960s and early 1970s.” Harding’s essays in the mid-1960s preceded James Cone’s writings and described a religious spirit rooted in the beauty, horror, and creativity of the black experience. But Harding disavowed any formal interest in black liberation theology. “I’m much more interested,” Harding told Hopkins, “in the liberation of spirituality.” It’s the contribution of Vincent Harding to liberation spirituality that interests me here. [See Dwight Hopkins, Black Theology USA and South Africa: Politics, Culture, and Liberation, “Vincent Harding,” Wipf & Stock, 2005, pages 81-84].

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Will You Pull Back The Veil With Me? Plunder the White Vaults Holding Ransom Our Spirits?

By Lindsay Airey (right, on the banks of Nandewine Sippy)

You say
I have a heart
so big
it needs its own moon
to orbit around.

I say
this heart of mine
feels weary
from carrying around
so
much
weight
it often feels like
it will drown me.

You say
what clarity you bring!
What love
and
joy
and
challenge…
How is it possible?
In one being.

I say
I am so tired…
from being one being:
feeling
fire-tending
raging
weeping
feeling it
seeing it
saying it
wiping your tears
building you up
holding you up
digging you out of the pit
with all these
hard-fought
tears, and knowing.

Continue reading “Will You Pull Back The Veil With Me? Plunder the White Vaults Holding Ransom Our Spirits?”

Simply Being Black

From Jesmyn Ward in The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race (2016)

Though the white liberal imagination likes to feel temporarily bad about black suffering, there really is no mode of empathy that can replicate the daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.

There is Still No More Compelling Alternative

Happy Birthday to Ched Myers! Today, we honor this cherished mentor and elder with an excerpt from Binding the Strong Man, Uncle Ched’s groundbreaking political reading of Mark’s Gospel. Written in the late 80s. More relevant than ever!

The radical discipleship movement today is beleaguered and weary. So many of our communities, which struggled so hard to integrate the pastoral and prophetic, the personal and the political, resistance and contemplation, work and recreation, love and justice, are disintegrating. The powerful centrifugal forces of personal and social alienation tear us apart; the “gravity” exerted by imperial culture’s seductions, deadly mediocrities, and deadly codes of conformity pull our aspirations plummeting down. Our economic and political efforts are similarly besieged. The ability of metropolis to either crush or co-opt movements of dissent seems inexhaustible.

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Lamentation to Adulation: Every Psalmist’s Perilous Journey

By Ken Sehested

“If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” —Psalm 139:8

Blessed One, whose name we dare not speak, but of whose
Presence we dare not remain silent, we stand before you
with hearts in shreds and hands frozen.

We know that we creatures were made for praise and
thanksgiving. We recognize that gratitude is our natural
home.

But these are unnatural days. Instead of Heaven’s jubilation
at Creation’s unfolding, most of what we hear are the arias
of agony and the cornet’s sounding of retreat.

Sighs hover; cries haunt. And still your Face eludes.

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Enabling America’s Racial Violence

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and Director and Chief Visionary, Faith Strategies, LLC

In my ministry in the 1980s in Roxbury, Massachusetts with the recovering community from drug addiction, I encountered one of our struggling addicts and his spouse.  He had been using though he was supposed to be in recovery.  I shall never forget his explanation of his struggle to remain clean.  He said when questioned by me, that I did not understand, his “relapses were getting shorter and his recoveries were getting longer!”  His spouse agreed with that reasoned explanation, though I realized his con, but unfortunately his spouse enabled his addictive behavior until he died of an overdose.  This was a poignant lesson for me. I see in this lesson how we may enable destructive behavior seeking and hoping that the reasoning and rationalization is true.  The rationalization deters us from confronting the real issues where the so-called recovering addict was not recovering, but the avoidance of the issue and the realities would offer some comfort even while eventually leading to death. 

As I see it, the United States is in the same boat as the recovering addict. The nation claims to be dealing with its problem of racism, white supremacy, and white idolatry, or claims at times that it has dealt with its problem, rationalizing the progress, when the progress is strained if at all existent. Our behavior as a nation has not changed, and we rationalize our race problems, and pretend that what exists does not exist, and that before long we will be cured.  This is how racism and white supremacy remain a persistent disease in the country, and after more than 400 years have not been dealt with, and we continue to claim that our “recoveries are getting longer” and our “relapses are getting shorter,” but the problems of racism and white supremacy remain a fixed reality as most of America delude itself believing that we as a nation is getting better. 

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Forged in Fire

Forging the gun into garden tool,
Corey Simon, 2020.

by Corey Simon, re-print from Geez 59: Powers and Principalities

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares . . . and learn war no more.

My arm aches.

It’s the second day at the forge, and the sound of hammers and the fumes of coal smoke surround me as my classmates work on their own projects. I pull out what I’ve prepared for today: the barrel of my 9mm handgun, inexpertly cut from the rest of the gun which now sits useless at home.

BANG BANG BANG.

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