Types of Violence

AOR2Current events make these  excerpts from Elaine Enns & Ched Myers’ Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Volume II (2009) all the more relevant:

In Spiral of Violence (1971), the Brazilian liberation theologian Dom Helder Camara explained that various forms of violence plaguing communities of the poor—from addiction and crime to rioting and guerilla warfare—were all reactions to fundamental experiences of injustice and violation.   He called these “Violence #1”…Typically, the conditions of Violence #1 are woven into the fabric of society, and thus widely accepted as “normal,” “inevitable” or “beyond our capacity to change.” But human beings sooner or later react to violation, Camara argued. Continue reading

The Flesh

AORAn excerpt from Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Volume I by Elaine Enns and Ched Myers of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries:

Therefore, from now on we regard no one from a human point of view. Even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new! (II Cor 5:16-17) [1]

The apostle urges disciples to view the world no longer “from a human point of view”—literally, “according to the flesh.”   The “flesh” (Gk sarx) does not refer to our bodies or our sexual passions, the widespread misunderstanding of Christian pietism. [2] Rather, it is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors for the deeply-rooted, socially-conditioned worldview we inherit from our upbringing. It is the sum total of personal and political constructs and conventions that define what it means to be a member of a given culture—in other words, the way most folk think and act. A key example of the perspective of the “flesh” that we raise throughout this project is the dominant assumption that the “moral” response to violation is punishment. To challenge this cultural conviction quickly engenders passionate and often irrational resistance that is both broad (i.e. the majority opinion) and deep (welling up from the core of individual psyches). This is the power of the “flesh” in Paul’s sense. Continue reading

The Fierce Urgency of Now

FierceBy Ched Myers, originally posted in the June 2017 BCM eNews

Note: Below are edited and excerpted comments from Ched’s keynote to the annual dinner of the Cal-Pac Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Reconciling Ministries Network, at the University of Redlands, CA on June 17, 2017.

It’s a formidable task to come up with 15 minutes of inspiration and exhortation to a group like this, given that your vocations have long been forged around the work of inspiring and exhorting. So I’ll leave that task to one who inspired and exhorted all of us, and does so still: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the author of tonight’s thematic meme: “The fierce urgency of now.”

It is both relevant and poignant that this very phrase anchored two of Dr. King’s most famous public addresses, speeches that bracketed the second half of his public career as a civil rights leader. It first appeared in his most well-known exhortation to the nation–you know, that one in front of the Lincoln memorial on Aug 27, 1963. “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now,” intoned our greatest prophet. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
Continue reading

The Feast of the Ascension, Memorial Day and Doubling Down on the Incarnation

AscensionBy Ched Myers

Note: This is an edited version of a sermon preached on the Feast of Ascension (5/28/17) at Farm Church at Casa Anna Shulz.  Above: William BlakeAscension Day poem, 1794.

“People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” (Acts 1:11)

The Ascension is an underappreciated aspect of the Jesus story in the life of the church, both theologically and liturgically.  This is understandable; for many it tends to conjure “Beam me Up Scotty” escapist theology and rapture allergies.  Certainly in radical circles the Ascension has been largely abandoned or ignored.  I want to contend, however, that by doing this we are conceding to the trivializers an important trope of our faith.

40/50: Ascension Day in Church History and Culture

Ascension Day is an old feast of the church, dating back at least to the third century according to patristic witness.  It is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday (also known as “Holy Thursday)), the fortieth day of Easter, though many churches now celebrate it on the following Sunday, he last of Eastertide.  Next comes Pentecost: 50 days after Easter.  We are, in other words, in deeply symbolic terrain, given the importance of both 40 (think years in the wilderness) and 50 (think Jubilee) in the biblical narrative.  Continue reading

Wild Lectionary: Homeless, Unrecognized on the Road

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Emmaus by Melanie Delva

Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:13-35

By Ched Myers

The gospel story begins with Jesus’ family fleeing violence as political refugees, pushed around Palestine by the imperial forces of Caesar and Herod (Matt 1–2; Luke 1–2). Continue reading

A True Revolution of Values

ChedDay 27 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

 A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
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By Ched Myers (photo above), Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries

I am grateful that this blog is, through the Lenten season, joining the widespread campaign this year among faith-rooted peace and justice circles to both commemorate and “workshop” King’s most important—and consequential—address. As many commentators in this series have pointed out in refrain, King’s analysis remains disturbingly resonant today. Continue reading

Sojourners in Our Midst

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Art by Julio Salgado

From the introduction to Ched Myers’ “A House For All Peoples?  A Bible Study on Welcoming the Outsider” (2006):

There have always been two Americas: that of rich and poor, of inclusion and exclusion. The America of inclusion found expression in the ideal of “liberty and justice for all,” and has been embodied whenever Indian treaties were honored, and in the embrace of civil rights, women’s suffrage, or child labor laws. The America of exclusion, on the other hand, was articulated in a Constitution that originally enfranchised only white landed males and has been realized in land grabs, Jim Crow segregation, Gilded Age economic stratification, and restrictive housing covenants.

These two visions of America continually compete for our hearts and minds, not least in our churches. On one side are the voices of Emma Lazarus in her poem “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor…”), and Martin Luther King Jr. when he preached “I Have a Dream.” On the other side are those of George W. Bush’s imperial politics and James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family.” Click HERE to read the whole article.