Strengthening Community, Nurturing Souls, Amplifying Hope

Caring for Souls, ImageBy Tommy Airey, a review of Bruce Rogers-Vaughn’s Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age (2016)

It’s the economy stupid. This was the pundit-driven explanation for Bill Clinton’s victory almost three decades ago. It is also the root of our present crises. What we’ve been hearing is true. Times have changed. Not so much in the past two years. More like the past thirty. Yet as depression, addiction, panic attacks, suicide and debt have all skyrocketed, pastoral attempts to get at the roots of the pain and suffering can tend towards family dynamics, relational patterns and trauma.

These factors are real and important. However, in his recent Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age, Bruce Rogers-Vaughn implores readers that there are interweaving socio-political powers that shape us in destructive ways too. We must dismantle racism and hetero-patriarchy. But Rogers-Vaughn writes, “Any form of identity politics that ignores class, therefore, will be fated to support the ongoing domination of neoliberal interests” (216). It’s the profit-driven, wage-reducing, deregulating, free trading economy stupid. Continue reading

Congestion

The Hole (1)By Tommy Airey

Advent is almost here. As always, she sends us signs from the sun, the moon, the rising seas and the leafless fig tree. This season, she is speaking to me through a cough that won’t give up. The sinus pressure adds insult to injury. I am now convinced that these chronic symptoms stem from my inability to just say “no.” As it turns out, I have long been addicted to “becoming all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some” (I Cor 9:22). I share the codependent affliction of the apostle who confessed that his life was unmanageable too:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).

Continue reading

Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone

Aireys, Early 20s.jpeg (1)By Tommy Airey, a homily for Day House, a four-decade Catholic Worker experiment wedged between casinos and stadiums a stone’s throw from downtown Detroit

I am new to the traditions of Celtic Samhain and Christian All Saints. I grew up in the world of white suburban Evangelical Christianity. I attended a private Christian school that was part of the movement sparked a decade earlier as a response to the Civil Rights Movement and the racial integration instituted by the Supreme Court (and resisted by Governors who were enabled by Presidents). My pastors and teachers taught me that Catholics were going to hell and that Halloween was the devil’s holiday. Continue reading

Help Wanted

By Tommy Airey, co-curator of RadicalDiscipleship.net and the author of Descending Like a Dove: Adventures in Decolonizing Evangelical Christianity

Arrest (1)On that Spring day in Lansing, when Lindsay joined the band of holy rebels getting arrested for civil disobedience (right), I participated in civil discourse with a police officer hired to keep the peace at the peaceful demonstration. Despite the overtime pay, he wasn’t happy. He confessed that he was reluctant to support anyone too lazy to get off their butts to get a job. I shared with him the data—there are hundreds of jobs for hundreds of thousands of applicants. But he had a comeback: “No way. I see help wanted signs everywhere.” Continue reading

A Revelation

Descending, Front CoverAn excerpt from Tommy Airey’s recent release Descending Like A Dove: Adventures in Decolonizing Evangelical Christianity.

A few weeks into 2016, the Flint water crisis went viral. Tap water was poisoned with high levels of lead and bacteria. As complaints from residents came pouring in, city and state officials did nothing to change the situation. Just denial. For almost two whole years.

A month after the crisis made the headlines of every major newspaper in the world, Flint native and retired autoworker Claire McClinton drove sixty miles south to visit a group of us organizing for clean and affordable water in Detroit. These were Claire’s opening remarks:

We send you greetings from the occupied city of Flint. You can go to the gas station and get lead-free gas. You can go to the hardware store and get lead-free paint. Even a capitalist knows the dangers of lead. But we can’t go to our sink and get lead-free water. I’ve got PTSD. In fact, everybody’s got it if you care about humanity.

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The Catch

BoatBy Tommy Airey, a meditation on Luke 5:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God…

We grope for what is spiritual-but-not-religious. Beyond the rusted institutions. These have utterly failed to meet human need. Too often, the church is a performance, a club, an obligation. So we go beyond the four walls, where Steadfast Love cannot be contained or confined. We come to the shore. Water and trees and birds bring life and hope and wonder. Jesus meets us there. He is the anti-institutional inspiration. He speaks truth and beauty. The word of God.

…he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.

At the shore, Jesus beckons us to the simple life. Everything we need is right in front of us. Manna. Boats. Fill-in-the-Blank. Cultivating awareness becomes crucial to the spiritual life. Jesus points to the nets. Like our souls, and everything else that carries heavy burdens, they need washing. Continue reading

The Means

Helen Moore

Detroit legend Queen Mother Helen Moore orders a table for one from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (PC: Jennifer Teed)

By Tommy Airey

This is the sequel to The Ways, posted on the day after the Spring Equinox 2018.

I won’t apologize.  But I must confess. I am a “biblical Christian.” Yet, in this post-colonial conversation, I know I can’t just testify. I must specify. The spiritual movement of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus is fundamentally a descent. The bible, like a broken record ever-resisting imperial feedback, plays a prejudiced tune that sides with the poor and oppressed and demonized and scapegoated. To be clear, the way of Jesus does not have the patent on the prophetic path less plodded. It is simply the route I’ve chosen. Or perhaps it has chosen me. Continue reading