by: Donna Schaper on July 30th, 2013 | Comments Off
Moral Monday March and Interfaith Social Justice Rally, July 29th, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons.
Since state legislators were taken over by the Koch brothers, many progressive clergy have spent our entire discretionary accounts on travel to our state capitals. We attend on behalf of equal marriage or the living wage or campaign finance reform or fracking or low-wage workers. We epitomize that famous word for today’s progressives, “intersectionality.” While trying to be faithful, we are also, in the great words of Joseph Sittler, “macerated” by our citizen involvements.
An experiment is occurring in North Carolina to de-macerate and reunite our spiritual souls with our political bodies. Instead of episodic lobbying, on Moral Mondays, clergy visit with their representatives as chaplains. They change the language from the pragmatics of the political to the hope of our God. They pass through the wilderness of the secular and its optimism and arrive at the land of hope. They talk about the downtrodden in meaningful ways with state legislators and by doing so, take off some of their own boot. Instead of being “rentaclergies” for statewide organizations, they name their own agenda, in their own language, at their own time. They even develop relationships with state legislators over time so that when they have to sit in at the rep’s office they know him or her by name. Nonviolent civil disobedience is so much better that way.
Prayers from the Stranger for the Stranger to the Stranger
O God, remind us that we are part of a whole, part of the land or our ancestry and your future, that we are both bordered people and unbordered, national and trans-national, wound and unwound people. Let us be citizens of a globe, where love and respect have just borders. Amen.
We pray to the Spirit and the Forces that created the globe. No matter whether our tradition began with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Sara, or Ishmael and Hagar, or the immigrants standing at the manger, or in a manifestation as deep as the heart’s longing for understanding, still, hear our prayer for the displaced and misplaced. We are each hosts and guests, strangers and friends, on an increasingly small globe that has its source in you. Bind us together in the arts of mutual welcome and understanding. Amen.
Marriage equality is an emerging story useful to both same sex and the “one man/one woman” kind of marriage. It is even helpful to families who are single parented. By story I mean the tale we tell ourselves about ourselves. The big word for it is narrative – and what the nation is missing right now is a narrator in chief about gender. Without a commanding narrative about what it means to have a gender, we are each and all lost in the woods of personal confusion, which results in national confusion, which results in many long dark nights of the soul, for those with any kind of sexual equipment. Marriage equality is helping, not hurting, this gender confusion. It helps by allowing for experiments it what it means to be married, what it means to be a person with a gender, and what it means to cling to each other, in the world beyond consumerism. We promise richer/poorer; better/worse; sickness and in health when we get married. Our word is our word here. Multiple attention dissolves into singular attention, the kind we want from a lover. We stop “shopping” and start living.
At tables, during holy days, occupy our hearts with something new:
Let us risk a conversation in which debt is not considered shameful.
Grant us mutual release of any embarrassment that we aren’t rich yet.
Release us from the nasty shame that says debt is our fault.
Remind us to keep our resumes at home.
Keep us from reporting only accomplishments to each other.
Help us forgive all our intimates for not winning the lottery.
Help us redefine what it means to win.
Grant us some generous forgiveness for not being wildly successful and limit our
bragging to one self-referential story per hour. Move us beyond shame for being “poor”
or understanding how you can have a lot of food and still feel poor. Remove internalized
poverty from our table, where it sits next to the egg, the root, the parsley, the shank.
We are almost always counting, Precious Lord. Teach us soon to count our blessings. We are in a terrible hurry. Put something in the way of our rushing about and let us trip over it, finding a new appreciation for interruptions. Amen
We pray, O God, for that thing called integrity, that exciting marriage between our inner and outer lives. Help us to pay attention to our own nourishment and what we put into our bodies, our arms and our hearts. Help us find energy, to know that health is not so much the absence or disease as the presence or vitality. Make us into inner-actives; people who move with grace from the inside out and the outside back again. Help us to be both morally nimble and morally solid. Let us not be afraid of our confusion but rather embrace it with the power of wisdom in you. Amen
Shekinah, Spirit, draw near and dwell among us. Settle us down and when we have come out of BUSYNESS as usual, change us. Animate us. Brace us. Mystify us. Change us. God you come into our life to change us and to be yourself be changed. Like a parent is changed by a child, you are also changed by us. Show us how much you love the world, so much that you are willing to be changed by it and us. Show us how much we matter to all others and to you. Amen
We know that Tyler Clemente and Trayvon Martin are dead and we are not naive about who else will kill whom else. We know about Colorado killings and Tucson killings and Newtown killings and we know we don’t want to even have to name everybody. We know about the sting of death, especially that worst kind of death, useless death, the kind that has no point and just stings and stings and stings, the way a bullet first hurts a child and then goes on to haunt a family.
We also know that the dead alert and compost the living into new ways of being. The dead help us get clear, clear enough to live beyond the sting. While haunting us, they also fertilize us to unsentimental appreciation for life and breath. We get unstung and we almost never know how. We know the process of release from pain and marvel at why it took so much death to get changes in gun laws or a tad of release from racism. We muse on what a useful death can be in a world of such extensive uselessness.
We begin to see that death had its name on our own resume before we even got to update it. Someone asked Arianna Huffington if she was going to write a memoir and she quipped, “Aren’t they for dead people?” Yes, they are for dead people but once you write the story down, you don’t have to carry it around any more either. Once you write the memoir, by dying early to an achieving self, you are lighter. You might even begin to have a useful life heading towards a useful death.
by: Donna Schaper on February 13th, 2013 | Comments Off
As women gain power, politically and economically, our cultural power will become ever more interesting. The good news is that we have so much more control over our cultural power than we ever will have over the political or economic. We are the ones in charge of our hearts, which is the home of culture and likewise the site of joy, that mystery that has gone missing under centuries of inequality.
Surely you have heard that women are more than half the US work force. Women now get more college degrees than men. Even John McCain acknowledged that the forces for choice in reproductive rights are winning. New Hampshire has a governor and two senators, each of whom is female. We didn’t need Hanna Rosin to tell us about “the end of men.” Nor does there have to be any “end of men,” if women find new beginnings and new tendencies for our generous hearts.
Creative Commons / JMozzolaa
On Monday night, November 14, 2011 the mayor of New York City ordered the police to evict the 500 or so overnight occupiers in Zuccotti Park. The eviction happened around 2 a.m. He did not tell them to leave within 72 hours. Or 48 hours. Or even by morning. He moved them out by force at 2 a.m. using surprise. In addition the police put the tents and tarps, many of the backpacks, computers, notebooks, sweatshirts and granola bars into a trash compactor and let the grind be heard throughout the park. As Rev. Robert Coleman of Riverside Church said, “I have the receipts for the 100 tents we bought. I’d like the city to repay my congregation for the destruction of our tents.” Sacred space may start with tents and have a middle stage in church buildings, even sanctuaries. Sacred space has no need of one place. It can occupy many, at the same time.
Consider the way in which too many Christians, Jews, and Muslims have imagined the city of Jerusalem as their privately or parochially owned sacred space. We speak often of a two state solution to the “problem” of Jerusalem. That political solution need not stop the sacralizing of space, the universality of the human urge to call one place “Ur” or original home.
A meditation at Occupy Oakland
On Monday night, November 14, 2011 the mayor of New York City ordered the police to evict the 500 or so overnight occupiers in Zicotti Park. The eviction happened around 2 a.m. He did not tell them to leave within 72 hours. Or 48 hours. Or even by morning. He moved them out by force at 2 a.m. using surprise. In addition the police put the tents and tarps, many of the backpacks, computers, notebooks, sweatshirts and granola bars into a trash compactor and let the grind be heard throughout the park. As Rev. Robert Coleman of Riverside Church said, “I have the receipts for the 100 tents we bought. I’d like the city to repay my congregation for the destruction of our tents.” Sacred space may start with tents and have a middle stage in church buildings, even sanctuaries. Sacred space has no need of one place. It can occupy many, at the same time.
What follows is a list of blended do’s and don’ts if your congregation or minister were to decide to open your space as a sanctuary for Occupy Poughkeepsie or OWS Protesters. For the record, my congregation has done so the last two nights, will again tonight, and will consider doing so going forward. We “slept” about 100 each night, turned away about 40. Riverside, our chief partner, in this enterprise, slept about 60. The rest have been scattered to the four winds, originally by the police eviction that separated then forcefully by allowing only forty or so at a time to go any one direction. The police action gave new meaning to the words, “divide and conquer.” It didn’t work – as the movement is already too deep in the hearts and minds of Americans. If anything, the eviction moved us forcefully into a second phase of this movement, which has changed the American story about ourselves. We are now authoring the story again – not reading what Wall Street tells us about our political and economic futures or ourselves.
by: Donna Schaper on November 15th, 2011 | Comments Off
Creative Commons / Amanda Farah
Why in the middle of the night? Why with so much police power? Why did they think they had to shove people out? The good news is that this action, so unnecessary, will build the movement even more. Yes, the people in the park had become tired, irritable, a little vague. They had even considered exit strategies but were unable to execute any, due to a serious allegiance to the kind of democracy most people gave up on long ago. Some sexual violence was happening, likewise drugs, as the park was open to the world and the world moved in with it. But the larger story is one of extraordinary discipline, inner development, non-violence. The larger story is the way some folk out of Canada, with great symbols and slogans, camped out and changed the conversation in the United States. I call Occupy my zanex, my anti-depressant, my ability to sit with peers over dinner or coffee and not become morbid. I had a spiritual and political depression. I don’t have it any more. The cops don’t have a chance of taking it away from me.
My hope had been that the earliest spark and spirit would have prevailed and some humor would have announced an orderly departure to a winter home in various congregations and union halls. That was partly in the works. But the police made all the decisions, the way force often does. So unnecessary, so sad. There is some relief that there is an ending. But truthfully, this is just the beginning. The fact that New York’s finest — and a decent Mayor — made a choice to go stealth instead of steady is embarassing. New York is better than that. The mayor won’t care, because he is in his third term. But New Yorkers will.