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

This Bethlehem Dream

Advent JesusBy Tommy Airey, from Listening in the Dark: Daily Advent Reflections for Radical Discipleship Communities (2017)

We script & sing this Bethlehem Dream
Of Life reflecting divine Reality,
Light illuminating every dark cavity,
When the lion and the lamb
Dance to a silent tune sung by all humanity.

Until then,
Addiction assaults an
Anxious audience
Caught in counterfeit dramas spun on cable channels. Continue reading

Deep Love

Kings BayBy Tommy Airey

Lindsay shot me a text last Friday afternoon. KingsBay7 all found guilty of all the charges. She concluded with crying emojis. The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 is a motley crew of older white Christians who, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, broke into a Naval base in Georgia with hammers, crime scene tape, baby bottles containing their own blood, and an indictment charging the U.S. government with crimes against peace. ¡Personas peligrosos!

The Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base is home to at least six nuclear ballistic missile submarines, each of which carries 20 Trident thermonuclear weapons—possessed with 3,800 times more destructive power as the weapons that were used on Hiroshima. Hammers? They were literally following the prophet Isaiah’s command to “beat swords into plowshares.” They discerned the action after two years of prayer and practice. This was a deep symbolic action designed to penetrate souls. Continue reading

May We

Michael Raymond Smith

PC: Michael Raymond Smith

By Tommy Airey

A translation of the Jesus Prayer for this time.

May we celebrate Steadfast Love.
May we pledge to end exploitation and extraction.
May we live simply so it will be simple to love.
May we be released from our shame and supremacy.
May we share the debt load of others.
May our tests and trials transform us.
Amen.

Tommy Airey was born and raised on stolen, unceded Acjachemen territory (“Orange County, California”), was transformed by the thin place the Ojibwe, Huron and Odawa call Wawiiatanong (“Detroit River”) and has entered the sacred “hidden waters” the Molalla and Paiute named Towarnehiooks (“Deschutes River, Oregon”). He is the co-curator of RadicalDiscipleship.Net and author of Descending Like a Dove: Adventures in Decolonizing Evangelical Christianity (2018).

When Spirit Starts Scratching

Speed Limit 3By Tommy Airey

The first time I heard her was in the middle of the night. She woke me up. I dragged my angry ass out of bed and bee-lined it for the bathroom. I strained straight up and pounded on the ceiling. Her scratching stopped. For five seconds, all was quiet on Washtenaw Avenue. But she would return. And would keep returning night after blessed night.

About 72 hours after the first episode, Lindsay and I hypothesized that the serial scratcher was a raccoon. Her nocturnal lifestyle gave her away. After midnight, she let it all hang out, hauling in branches and pinecones and rocks. The havoc played out in the vent that became her home that winter. Sometimes it sounded like she was playing a friendly game of marbles. Sometimes we were certain the light fixtures were going to crash through the ceiling. A raccoon roommate is like having an uncle who watches Fox News. He shows up at the worst times and he’s impossible to ignore. Continue reading

Scaffolding This Appalling Silence

By Tommy AireyWexler

Late last month, Ruby Sales lobbed me my first reading assignment: The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock. Over the phone, she delivered a tutorial on its fresh relevance for late stage racial capitalism. We hung up a week before white men targeted Black and Brown bystanders in El Paso and Dayton.

As it turns out, the real terrorists are white Christians. The Awful Grace of God details the ways and means of white pastors and their KKK-congregants who conspired to kill Dr. King in the 50’s and 60’s. This clandestine movement fused religious passion, reactionary politics and the spirituality of hatred. By 1967, the price on Dr. King’s head was $100,000. The news of this rapidly circulated through federal prisons, where King’s supposed killer James Earl Ray was about to escape. Of course, this strand is still alive and well, but as King himself noted time and time again, the greatest tragedy remains “not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” The grandest conspiracy of all is the collective denial of white supremacy in all its insidious forms. Continue reading

Bound By Love

We The People, Delivery

Monica Lewis-Patrick and Debra Taylor leading up the ideology of the beloved community in Detroit

By Tommy Airey, on the Parable of the Good Samaritan

When the lawyer finally got face-time with Jesus, he poured out what was heaviest on his heart, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He groped for a guarantee. He wanted a divine will and testament. He was begging for a bill of rights.

As usual, Jesus pivoted on freedom. He was never much into being The Bible Answer Man. He asked the lawyer how he interpreted the sacred text. The lawyer’s answer, according to Jesus, was spot-on. Eternity’s most valuable asset has nothing to do with where we go when we die. It is a gut-busting love for both our higher power and our lowly neighbors. Right here. Right now.  Continue reading