An Alternative Tour

51429161_10218004177755475_3993712457292972032_nBy Tommy Airey

“The time has come, God knows, for us to examine ourselves, but we can only do this if we are willing to free ourselves of the myth of America and try to find out what is really happening here.”—James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name (1961)

“…and a little child shall lead them.”—Isaiah 11:6b

Warning: this essay contains graphic language that may be unsuitable for some adults.

On this date, exactly a year ago, Lindsay and I found ourselves on ancient Chumash land, now called “the central coast of California.” We took the shuttle up to Hearst Castle, the 40,000 acre “ranch” built for newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and his wife, five sons and mistress. Early in the tour, our six-year-old nephew creatively resisted his boredom by making a game of how many nude statues he could find along the way. He was particularly fond of the penises, which made him giggle uncontrollably. Continue reading

An Apology to Mother Earth

vanishing_birds-1

Image via the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

From Eve Ensler, read at the Bioneers Conference.

Dear Mother,

It began with the article about the birds, the 2.9 billion missing North America birds, the 2.9 billion birds that disappeared and no one noticed. The sparrows, black birds, and swallows who didn’t make it, who weren’t ever born, who stopped flying or singing or making their most ingenious nests, who didn’t perch or peck their gentle beaks into moist black earth. It began with the birds. Hadn’t we even commented in June, James and I that they were hardly here? A kind of eerie quiet had descended. But later they came back. The swarms of barn swallows and the huge ravens landing on the gravel one by one. I know it was after hearing about the birds, that afternoon I crashed my bike. Suddenly falling, falling, unable to prevent the catastrophe ahead, unable to find the brakes or make them work, unable to stop the falling. I fell and spun and realized I had already been falling, that we have been falling, all of us, and crows and conifers and ice caps and expectations — falling and falling and I wanted to keep falling. I didn’t want to be here to witness everything falling, missing, bleaching, burning, drying, disappearing, choking, never blooming. I didn’t want to live without the birds or bees and sparkling flies that light the summer nights. I didn’t want to live with hunger that turned us feral or desperation that gave us claws. I wanted to fall and fall into the deepest, darkest ground and be finally still and buried there. Continue reading

The Moral and the Ethical

CornelFrom Cornel West, in an interview last month with Salon.

Part of [the global struggle for human rights] is realizing that we are in a moment now where people’s conception of community has been degenerated into a conception of constituency. It’s that people’s conception of a cause has been degenerated into a conception of a brand. People’s conception of the public has been degenerated into PR strategies. This creates a spiritually and morally impoverished culture. And so in order to have some notion of human rights that is actually full of content and substance, one has to have some primacy of the moral and the ethical. The calculations cannot be just the Machiavellian. So much of the culture just comes down to strategies and questions such as, “How am I going to make more money? How am I going to get something out of somebody?” Continue reading

Stigma

Blasey FordAn excerpt from The Sun Magazine‘s January 2019 interview with Dr. Anne Hallward.

Professor Blasey Ford demonstrated remarkable bravery in telling her story and responding to questions in front of a phalanx of men who were hostile to her. Her experience of not being believed, of being threatened for daring to speak up, was all too familiar.

I do think her willingness to make herself vulnerable was in the service of women everywhere. Her testimony is a powerful example of how telling our stories is a form of nonviolent social change. Though the outcome of the hearing was painful, I believe it will bear fruit in the long run, raising awareness of sexual assault and helping people understand what makes it hard to bring up. Professor Blasey Ford was highly credible, and yet many senators had already chosen not to believe her. Part of how the powerful maintain the status quo is by rendering certain voices noncredible. In our culture women’s voices are often not taken seriously. We demand proof that is impossible to obtain, or we critique them as shrill or strident. In Professor Blasey Ford’s case, she suffered death threats in an attempt to silence her. Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Let them Praise!

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Psalm 148

By Laurel Dykstra

Salal + Cedar is the Watershed Discipleship community that curates Wild Lectionary. Psalm 148, which both celebrates and demands more-than-human praise for the creator, has become something of a “theme psalm” that we return to in worship. As it appears each year in the lectionary cycle we use it as a chance to look back at our year.

Praise God!
Praise God from the heavens
Praise in the Heights
Praise God, all you angels
Praise God, all you hosts Continue reading

Santa’s Surprise

12600-illustration-of-a-christmas-tree-with-presents-pvBy Liza Neal

I know a child
whose Christmas tree
was packed so high with presents
you couldn’t see its base,
and after a few hours excitement, he was bored.

I know another child.
“Santa Claus brought me a backpack!”
She told me with shining eyes.
And frankly I was surprised,
because I didn’t think
Santa Claus would come
to an asylum seeker at El Chaparral.

It was of course
the only thing she owned,
which did not diminish the joy, weeks later,
of a Christmas gift received
by a child fleeing death. Continue reading