A Liturgy for Removing the Flag from your Sanctuary

Konrad Summers CC, “Countries of the Cross,” Santa Clarita, California, 2008.

By Kerr Mesner, Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, and Kateri Boucher. First published in Geez 62: Dismantling White Theology.

May this symbolic action catalyze us into ever-deeper action to remove the nationalism and white supremacy still living in our communities and our world.

We hope that this liturgy can be used in both Canada and the United States (and indeed anywhere else), but we know that the histories and symbols are unique. Let this be an offering that can be edited, amended, altered, and made stronger in your own beloved community.

OPENING PRAYER
We gather in this sacred place,
declaring that symbols matter.
They reflect our dreams, our joy,
our courage, and our work.

We have come here today to remove
the flag from our worship space.
It is time. It is past time
to say that nationalism has
no place in our church.
Our allegiance belongs to God.

Continue reading “A Liturgy for Removing the Flag from your Sanctuary”

White Folks: We Love Racists. When We Accept This, We Can Fight White Supremacy.

By Rev. Margaret Ernst

Waking up on the day after Election Day, 2021 I searched for news from Buffalo, Virginia, New Jersey, Minneapolis and other places where municipal and gubernatorial elections became litmus tests for the realities of our present political landscape. I braced myself when a Buffalo-based friend who has been organizing for India Walton, told me that it looked as if Byron Brown was winning his write-in campaign for mayor after losing the primary. Ms. Walton is a Black woman progressive fighting for the working class, and Brown was a former mayor for 16 years, and his campaign this time around was financed by white supremacists alongside business and developers. This strategy by the Right, to play on local white anxieties while playing a complex game of identity politics by fielding their own Black candidate, worked: Brown won.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Democrats across the country reeled as Republican Glenn Youngkin beat incumbent Terry McAulliffe, and New Jersey voters kept Democrat Phil Murphy in office by just a hair over Republican Jack Ciattarelli. 

Unsurprisingly, I am seeing glum posts from progressive friends and people invested in the Democratic party across the country, and valid concerns about what yesterday’s results mean for the 2022 primaries, especially while the fossil fuel industry and other monied interests keep stalling desperately needed action for climate and care in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

I am writing this from my office as a pastor of a small-town church in mostly-rural Berks County, Pennsylvania, a county which is always a swing in Presidential elections highly sought after by both parties, and where the fall leaves are turning ever more golden every time I make my commute in from where I presently live in Philadelphia. 

Continue reading “White Folks: We Love Racists. When We Accept This, We Can Fight White Supremacy.”

The Widow’s Mite: Commendation or Condemnation?

WidowBy Ched Myers, for the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 12:28-13:2)

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

Special Note From Ched: I apologize for conflating my comments posted last week, in which I treated BOTH Mk 12:28-34 (this last Sunday’s gospel) AND 12:38-44 (this coming Sunday’s gospel), with a heavy emphasis on the latter. Hopefully most of you focused on All Saints themes last Sunday and weren’t disoriented or disappointed. I was traveling and dispatched the blog with too much haste! RD.net is reposting last week’s blog to be of use to those preaching or teaching on this coming Sunday’s reading, which is indeed the story of the “Widow’s Mite.” Sorry for any confusion, and for giving short shrift to last Sunday’s gospel. Thanks for following this series, which now heads into its last few weeks.
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The lectionary leaps ahead this Sunday (which is also All Saints Day), moving to the concluding episode of Mark’s Jerusalem conflict narrative (chapters 11 and 12), in which Jesus clashes with every authority group in the capital city. In this week’s reading it is the scribes, the arch opponents of Jesus. The sequence begins with their challenge to interpret the great commandment, which was a central debating point among the rabbis (12:28). Jesus knows that the “orthodox” answer is the Shema (12:29f; see Dt 6:4), but pointedly attaches to it a citation from the Levitical code of justice, implying that to love God is to refuse to exploit one’s neighbor (12:31; see Lev 19:9-17).
Continue reading “The Widow’s Mite: Commendation or Condemnation?”

Bound

By Tommy Airey

“The possessive investment in whiteness can’t be rectified by learning ‘how to be more antiracist.’ It requires a radical divestment in the project of whiteness and a redistribution of wealth and resources. It requires abolition, the abolition of the carceral world, the abolition of capitalism. What is required is a remaking of the social order, and nothing short of that is going to make a difference.”—Saidiya Hartmann

Fifty years before George Floyd moved to Minneapolis, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got arrested in Birmingham. Dr. King, whose national holiday we now celebrate every January, was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. However, like love itself, Dr. King has been sanitized. White folks and middle-class people have molded him into a meek and mild Black man devoted to a watered-down dream of politeness and patriotism. The real MLK took his cues from a bold biblical brand of love that beckoned him to break rank from a cozy and counterfeit middle-class life built on injustice and oppression.

During his short life, Dr. King was arrested 19 times—the same number of trips that Harriet Tubman made back to the South after she escaped to freedom. While King was in that Birmingham jail cell, he wrote a long letter to white pastors on the margins of a newspaper and smuggled it out to get it published. It is one of the greatest documents ever produced in American history. In it, Dr. King articulated a profound spiritual conviction that serves as the basis for a biblical conspiracy—a life built on belovedness and belongingness.

Continue reading “Bound”

No Comfort For the Afflicted?

This excerpt is the conclusion of Bruce Rogers-Vaughn’s brilliant Bias Magazine essay “No Comfort for the Afflicted?,” a response to a piece published in The Christian Century written by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon

In effect, this dialogue between two white men sets a low bar for the pastoral care that is so badly needed today. Hauerwas concludes: “If in a hundred years Christians are identified as people who do not kill their children or the elderly, we will have done well in our pastoral care.” Really? I can only assume that such a statement is intended to shock rather than be taken seriously. And when he adds: “Words like care, love, and compassion can be self-deceptive when not disciplined and driven by our theological commitments,” I have to wonder if behind the theological commitments to which he alludes lurks the image of a muscular Jesus who kicks asses and takes names. As historian Kristin Du Mez has documented, we have had enough of that Jesus already.

Finally, I question the location and timeliness of this anti-empathy diatribe, appearing as it does in the middle of a global pandemic, in the context of political chaos, in the shadow of a rejuvenated white supremacy and emboldened patriarchy, record-breaking economic inequality, and a withering level of empathy in our society—especially toward those we perceive as different or foreign. What we need is more pastoral care, not less; more empathy, not less. To an overwhelming degree, pain in our world has little or nothing to do with narcissistic self-indulgence, or wallowing in victimhood. The outliers who appear masochistically attached to their pain are not typically catered to or coddled, as Hauerwas and Willimon insinuate. Rather, they are easy targets for discipline, punishment, blame, and shame. Pain is not primarily a plea for attention. It is a cry for connection in the midst of alienation, for justice where there is none, for love where apathy and hate prevail.

Continue reading “No Comfort For the Afflicted?”

We Need the Funk

Catalina Vásquez, “Celebrating LGTBIQ+ Pride by Dejusticia,” 2020.

By Lynice Pinkard and Nichola Torbett. This article first appeared in Geez 62: Dismantling White Theology.

The two of us have kicked off countless antiracism and anti-oppression trainings by asserting, not half in jest, that “diversity trainings ruin well-meaning white people.”

But it’s not the trainings, really. It’s the whole moralistic ethos that focuses on getting everything right and avoiding what is wrong: Never use this word. Always use that word. Say “BIPOC,” not “people of colour.” Never cry in a mixed group. Intervene in instances of oppression, but remember that you are not a saviour. Speak up and stand up, but also, step back and yield the mic. These injunctures yield stiff, stilted white people who may successfully “perform” antiracism for limited periods of time but have little capacity for joy or genuine relationship across lines of difference.

Continue reading “We Need the Funk”

The Gospel According to Rizpah

A sermon from Dr. Wil Gafney (right), October 17, 2021) on 2 Samuel 21:1-14; Psalm 58; Revelation 6:9-11; Luke 6:43-45

*Re-posted from Dr. Gafney’s website. Click here to watch or listen to the video.

Yesterday, we talked about the women’s stories in scripture that we do and do not hear taught and preached. Sometimes we don’t hear stories of women because their pieces are scattered like breadcrumbs throughout the scriptures and it takes a major archaeological excavation to gather all of those pieces together and far too many preachers say, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Well, I got time today.

Let us pray: May the preached word draw you deeper into the written word and kindle in you the matchless love of the incarnate word. Amen.

Before the mothers of the Black Lives Matter movement, there was Rizpah. Before the mothers of women and men and children swinging in the southern breeze as strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees, there was Rizpah. Before the mothers of the Maafa, the African-Atlantic holocaust, there was Rizpah.

Continue reading “The Gospel According to Rizpah”

On the “Blind” Following the “Blind”

BartimaeusBy Ched Myers, for the 22nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mark 10:46-52), originally posted in October 2015

Right: A relief sculpture of the healing of Bartimaeus by artist/minister Charles McCollough, done in honor of our ministry at BCM (at right is the rich man and one of Jesus’ disciples).
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Note: This is an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015. This is a longer post because Sunday represents the feast day of “St. Bartimaeus,” whose story has accompanied Ched through his entire ministry (see second half of the post).

In this culminating episode of Mark’s “discipleship catechism,” there is one more polemical role reversal to shock our propriety, and one more blind man healed to give us hope (compare Mk 8:22-26). On the outskirts of Jericho, the final stop before arriving in Jerusalem, we encounter a beggar sitting “beside the Way” (10:46). Bartimaeus will provide a dramatic contrast to the previous two stories of “non-discipleship”—the rich man’s refusal and the disciples’ ambitions—and will symbolize for Mark the “true follower.” Continue reading “On the “Blind” Following the “Blind””

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Facing Apocalypse with Eloquence

By Jim Perkinson, a sermon for Detroit Unitarian Universalist Church (9-26-21)

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Climate Catastrophe Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Voter Suppression Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Collapse Health Care with Cavalier

COVID Response Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Right Wing Authoritarianism Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Billionaire On-the-Take Booty Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Flee to Mars If You Are Elon Musk

 Time

What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: You Fill In the Blank—What Time Is

It For You!

This title question was a favorite litmus test query any time someone met with the late great Eastside Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs over the last ten years of her extraordinary life.  In vernacular counterpoint to Boggs’ more philosophical probe, garbage-art impresario Tyree Guyton of Heidelberg Project fame—also on the Eastside—festoons many of the trees of his bright throbbing block with clocks whose hands salute the hours every which way.  Each asks outside the politesse of our typical interactions, what hour do you think it is—really?  

Continue reading “What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?: Facing Apocalypse with Eloquence”