Guest Blog: A Vibrant Political Season

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From Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. Please check them out!

Dear friends:

Today is the 50th anniversary of the most important liturgical nonviolent direct action ever to come out of the faith-rooted anti-war movement: the Catonsville Nine draft file burning (below).
Please take a moment to look at this commemorative site, as well as related articles here and here.  This watershed action, which included two of my mentors, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, changed the face of Christian resistance, and helped launch many similar actions that contributed to the eventual end of the Indochina War.  We give thanks for these pioneers, and for their “kin” who carry on this tradition today, such as the Kings Bay Plowshares group, who are in jail in Georgia for a disarmament witness six weeks ago on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

And there’s much more happening in this vibrant spring political season.  Be sure and find a way to support the New Poor People’s Campaign, also honoring and carrying on the legacy of Dr. King, which just launched 40 days of direction action at state capitols across the nation (right).  Watch this short video of our friends Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis being arrested in D.C. on Monday’s launch.

And half a world away, also on Monday, 60 weaponless Gazan Palestinians were murdered (including 8 children) by Israeli IDF sniper fire, and hundreds wounded, as their protest for their international Right of Return continues (with no mainstream media coverage).  Join the Jewish Voices for Peace petition to “Speak Up for Gaza” here, and find out what our friends in Sabeel are doing in Palestine here.

Meanwhile, here in the Ventura River Watershed our community is working for protection of homeless folk, immigrant rights and clean energy and water.  There’s lots to do everywhere. 

To help build courage, capacity and conviction, Chris has made our final 2018 Kinsler Institute plenary session on “Excavating Our Hearts: Personal and Political Disciplines of Recovery and Solidarity” available on Bartcast.  There are other new podcasts up as well, and check out the just-released Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments with Decolonization here, with contributions from Ched and many of our colleagues.

This is what people of faith and conscience are doing, and why we continue in the faith of Easter’s Uprising,

Ched, for the BCM team

Mennonites and the Holocaust

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March 16-18, 2018 I attended the Mennonites and Holocaust conference at Bethel College, in Kansas. I would be hard on myself for not getting this out in the month that the event happened. But, given that Mennos didn’t study this history together, and publicly, until 2018 (2015 in Germany, 2017 in Paraguay………about 70 years after it all happened) I won’t begrudge myself the seven weeks. And this is not the end of the recognition. It is the beginning! We will begin to attend to trauma from here on out, particularly participant-induced trauma (as Trina Nussbaum from EMU puts it). We’re also going to grapple with this theologically (at a conference at AMBS in 2020, but there is a group that is part of the national church that has relationships with Jewish people that meets more frequently than that).

Side note: There is also a group that has relationships with Muslim people who meet. I guess I could start one as well for Mennos with Buddhist relationships. I am really happy that our denomination is doing more careful thinking about interfaith relationships. However, some people still would like to convert other people…that’s not how I want to structure my relationships with people in other faiths. Well, that is a blog post for another time, but the idea of Christianity being supreme, when coupled with racism and ethnocentrism is what led to the very topic that I am writing about here.

Also, the delay is related to digestion. This conference becomes more potent to me as it all sinks in. I had read the conference material beforehand, and went there because I have so many relationships with Jewish people, comrades, friends, and co-workers. If I am to show up well in the fight against Antisemitism, I must study my people’s history. And study we did; it was a very historical conference. The organizers specifically chose to focus on the past and not on present day applications. But I must focus on what it means for me and the church now…so I needed to chew on it first.

So, I’ve waited until Passover 5778 and Easter 2018, so I could hold these stories in my heart through these holy days. Now here we are, the day after International Worker’s Day (Alle brider! Rise up! Workers of the world unite!). But I began to share my learning, personally, right away. From my sermon, a day after the conference:

“Future generations will look back at this extreme time and examine our actions. This was clear from the conference we were at this weekend. I am in town for the Mennonites and Holocaust conference. There we learned about the fact that Mennonites participated in the full range of activities during the time of World War II and the Nazi rule of Germany—from being active members of the party to material collaboration with German forces, to avoidance. In rare occasions we rescued Jewish people, but more often benefited materially from their dispossession. Post-war Mennonite migration and shifting identity included falsifying documents and denying complicity.

Whatever we did, we were far from innocent bystanders, or an especially noble group, as I was taught to see myself growing up. Some at the conference looked at the way this reckoning with our past disrupts a traditional narrative of ourselves as persecuted, victimized people who have had little power wherever we live. For some, the arrival of German military forces were a relief from suffering Menno communities faced, and because we spoke German and maintained a lot of that culture Mennos sided with the Germans, even changing our theology to eliminate the cognitive dissonance participating in war created.

Overall, for most people then, it seemed too difficult to challenge the status quo, because of the anticipated consequences. This conference was one step on what will be a long journey of healing and repair. There are many lessons I could take from the conference, but that is one. Don’t let your own experience of suffering stop you from speaking up—in whatever creative way that you can—for others who are hurting, especially when that means challenging the status quo.

While confrontation of the violent status quo can be an uncomfortable thing to do, Christian peacemaking requires us to learn how to strategically show up publicly to defy societal structures and systems that separate us from one another and this planet. That includes challenging readings of Scripture that render us powerless, oppressed, trapped, and traumatized.”

So, now that this conference has been off of the news cycle, hopefully this post can bring back a solemn moment of memory. International Holocaust/Shoah remembrance day is January 27, 2019.

Never Forget
I was in conversation assisting in putting this analysis piece together. Lisa’s work here is crucial: https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2018/03/23/how-mennonites-reckon-with-our-history-in-the-holocaust/. Keynote Doris Bergen told us that scholar’s job is “to break apart the myths. . . . Many groups are confronting and breaking the myth of their own innocence or noncomplicity in the Holocaust. This can be enormously liberating.” Lisa doesn’t feel liberated yet, she ends her article:

“As a witness to this conference and this history, I feel shame, grief, and immense sadness. This history disrupts my world, my identity, and my relationships.”

That makes sense, because it’s so disorienting for so many Mennonites who have been raised with the stories of our overall noncomplicity with empire, (even if they had some critiques already), our victimization by it (even if we are experiencing ongoing victimization/targeting within the church), and the stories of our “purity” (even if we don’t strive to maintain it).  There is a specific way in which recognizing the range of collaboration with the Nazis–and the non-telling of these stories for so long–is like a punch to the gut.

Steve Schroeder brought it home with intersectionality, who teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, “described Mennonites’ failure to acknowledge their anti-Semitism and support for National Socialism under Hitler — whom many viewed as a German savior — as a denial of the past that can be corrected only by truth-telling.” He told people to learn of the indigenous people where they live, and never forget their 9,000 year cultivation and lifeways that were nearly wiped out by the same forces that tried to wipe out the Jews–European racism + Christian hegemony.

Kansas seems to be the place where I remember death. My arrival in Kansas marked 11 months to the date that I was at those places in Kansas, for MJ’s funeral. We recently set up a scholarship in his honor.  This is important because there is a current Holocaust in Congo. The count is 20 million dead now, but it’s not all about the numbers. The point is is that “never again” is happening, and we can do something about it. Check out Friends of the Congo’s work, and see what you can do.

There are

April with King

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This April marked 50 years since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th.

Many of my friends and comrades went deep into remembering his life and work. I have been honoring him and the movement through giving time to the MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

We were holding the question of what it means to live right now, 50 years since the

What follows are some photos related to the April 4th Peace Prizes, awarded to Attorneys Benjamin Ferencz (Nazi Nuremberg Trial Lawyer) and Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Institute and National Memorial for Peace and Justice)

My work at the King Center was to philosophically and logistically craft a special edition of the Beloved Community Talks, an initiative designed to bring people from diverse perspectives together, to talk about shared commitments to addressing the triple evils that Dr. King named in his 1967 Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence speech. It was called Together We Win…Facing Racism, Poverty & Militarism. 

Working with the creative alchemic force of Lead to Life was the highlight of the commemoration this year. They took 50 actual guns and melted them down to make 50 shovels. Then, mobilizing a permaculture analysis, they planted 50 trees. As they were inspired by Dr. King’s ecological analysis, they added to the richness of the various rituals by making the pain of ongoing trauma of being Black in the US real and felt by all. Sometimes Dr. King’s intersectional analysis and cosmic vision is sidelined in mainstream commemorations.

We must remember that the struggle of Black folks in this country is only as successful as the struggle of the Earth for respect and care is successful. For everything is interconnected.

The April 9 funeral march was also meaningful; I was blessed to march alongside bio-family and chosen-family.  Mary Gurley who sang at King’s Atlanta funeral also sang on Monday at this commemoration. I also helped out with an exhibit at the National Historical Park (one image is below). That was a really fun collaborative process working with all park rangers. It will be up until August 2018, so please come view it.

The photo reel ends with this image from Abundant LUUv, a new Afrocentric Unitarian Universalist congregation worshiping contextually in the heart of Atlanta. I think these folks help fulfill King’s dream because they invite people to bring their particular ways of being, melding together for the universal purposes of finding meaning, belonging, and producing the ethics of solidarity and inclusion and ecological responsibility.

Heritage Buddhists

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I have learned a lot as a new board member of Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). Today I would like to quote my colleagues as they expand our wisdom about Buddhism in the US/west, and seek to heal centuries of violent erasure.
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Heritage Buddhist comrades at the first of Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s spiritual activism retreat ❤

Heritage Buddhists are Buddhists whose Asian ancestral and cultural heritages have historically preserved BuddhismHeritage Buddhists of diasporic communities in white-dominant societies like the US embody complex intersectionalities. On the one hand, they must honor the ancestral obligations and cultural identity of their Buddhist-inflected heritage, while negotiating feelings of tension and distrust towards the oppressive habits that can sometimes entangle Buddhist teachings with nationalist or patriarchal agendas. At the same time, they face the harms of racism, erasure, and cultural appropriation from living under white supremacy.

Inspired by the work of the late Aaron Lee, as well as others like Funie Hsu and Chenxing Han,  兄弟 brothers Ed Ng and Zack Walsh are planning a gathering with the purpose of amplifying the voices and visibility of diasporic Asian heritage Buddhists, and their allies. Quoting Funie, “To be clear, Buddhism belongs to all sentient beings. Even so, Asians and Asian American Buddhists have a rightful, distinct historical claim to Buddhism.”

‘Why,” you may ask, “is this important to you, Sarah, if I’m not Buddhist?” To me it is important because, “white supremacy affects all of us and how we relate to our faiths. Christianity, for example, hardly honors heritage Christians, Palestinians who currently suffer under a cruel US-Israeli military occupation…and often Christian practice in the US fails to recognize that it is not a western religion at its origin. White supremacy is the system of power behind this. We must attempt to free ourselves from it for the health of our worship and devotion. Funie says, “behind the suspicion and exclusion of Asian and Asian American Buddhists is the same system that justified the founding and building of the U.S. through the genocide of indigenous peoples and the labor of enslaved Africans” and I am adding Arabs and heritage Christians to that list. “Undeniably, America has been created by excluding people whose differences were deemed inferior—a process known as racial othering—so as to establish a seemingly natural superiority of white people.” In Christianity this led to waves of Crusades that have attacked the indigenous home of Christianity in Jerusalem, pillaging the land and killing/re-converting heritage Christians (as well as their neighbors Muslims, and Jews). These attempts have taken different forms throughout the generations and continue today. Sabeel and Dar al-Kalima represent the efforts of some autochthonous heritage Christians.

The same process of white supremacy has created an American culture in which other practitioners, namely white practitioners, have been granted the freedom to be Buddhist in safer and more public ways. Moreover, instead of facing systemic injustice for embracing a spirituality that departs from the Judeo-Christian norm, white Buddhists are often lauded for this difference. They may attain a certain cultural capital for their practice, for donning Buddhist symbols and using dharma names in Asian languages, all of which mark them with distinction as “interesting,” perhaps even “worldly”—anything but “suspect” or “foreign.”

This is white supremacy and privilege in Buddhism.

This particular angle of racial justice and intergenerational healing within Buddhism is often overlooked in the West, and here we have an opportunity to heal some of that harm.

This gutsy and visionary group will work with Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s national offices, building power and focus to intervene in the erasure of Asians from Western Buddhism, and forward a Buddhism that honors Asian practices, ancestry, and people.

So, your financial contribution to BPF to support an initiative of Buddhists raising this issue at the Parliament of World Religions or nearby site is one small wave in the oceanic shift away from transactional thinking, toward transnational thinking and gift and solidarity economies, so treasured by Buddhists everywhere. Donate here!

Ending with quotes from Chenxing Han’s article, that I resonate with as a person alive at this moment on planet Earth:

“The fact that there is no one face, no single voice, of Buddhist Asian America frees us to be “real Asian American Buddhists” in a multitude of ways. We can see our religious identities not as fixed labels but as ever-shifting processes. As Holly, a Buddhist chaplain of mixed Japanese and Jewish heritage, eloquently stated:

I think young Asian American Buddhists I know, including myself, face challenges in integrating and expressing multiple cultural identities—as young, American, Buddhist, and Asian. Yet I think we are all moving toward a more pluralistic world in which multiplicity of identity will be the norm. As a Buddhist, I know that the self is always inconstant and interdependent, so in a way my Buddhist practices help me be at peace in the midst of the tensions in multiplicity and diversity.”

I resonate with this as having strong multiplicity in identity requires a lot of bridging. At the spiritual activist retreat, we talked about the bridges of solidarity we wished to build between people of Asian descent/diaspora and people of African descent/diaspora. It was a healing time of discovering and recovering deep layers of our transcendent humanity. My work (as one with Christian roots) in learning and listening has continued since then…

(Back to Chenxing) Bridging—“constantly straddling cultural and spiritual worlds,” as one interviewee put it—is possible for Buddhists of all races and ethnicities. As culturally engaged Buddhists, we must contemplate the histories and intersections of the cultural and religious traditions we have inherited/adopted. If we are to weave different narratives about American Buddhism, we must also critically examine the racism and Orientalism that shape our perceptions of Asian American Buddhists.

We must “recognize the harm in erasing Asian American Buddhists from representations of Buddhism in America. Whether Buddhism is the religion of their family of origin, a religion they have sought out for themselves, or both, they recognize that Asian American Buddhists are not solely responsible for their invisibility. Remedying misrepresentations of American Buddhism must be a collective effort, one that includes Asian Americans and others who have been largely absent from mainstream portrayals of American Buddhism, as well as white allies who are willing to cede control of the Buddhist mediascape in which their voices currently prevail.”

From whatever path you walk, you can “actively work to give dana (generosity) by expressing gratitude for the Asian and Asian American Buddhists who have shared their indigenous ways of being as integral expressions of their practice.” Offer dana here.

The great-grandniece of Chief Seattle

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Before heading to Whidbey, myself and a comrade stopped by the Duwamish Longhouse, in Seattle. We met Cecile Hansen, descendant of Chief Seattle and current tribal council chair. We met the young cultural director who helps organize the annual canoe delegations and is passionate about keeping Duwamish life alive…despite facing so much subjugation.

One of the initiatives by Duwamish and settler allies focuses on the layers of gentrification. This current wave that is creating such a panic is but another of the many that have crashed upon that land since the arrival of the Europeans in 1850.

Since the city of Seattle is Duwamish land (after the treaty of Port Elliott they were banned from living there, and sent to reservations) there is an invitation for Seattle residents to pay real rent, to the original “landlords.” They can include in their monthly budgets a token of reparation for their wealth generated on the suffering of others and Seattle’s biosphere.

Learn about this initiative here. If you don’t live in Seattle, find out to which tribal entity you can pay real rent to where you live.

Layers of camaraderie

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I’m excited for 2018 and to be leading multiple nonviolent direct action trainings with Jonathan Brenneman, all over the country. We’re about to lead one in my hometown, working together with a coalition of people directly impacted by the pending plan to build an immigrant detention facility. Together–with the help of a coalition of civil society of Gary, Indiana and people from El Refugio in Georgia who are reducing the violence done by Core Civic there–and many others–our community will refuse to allow Core Civic (which is renown for terrible practices) to harm immigrant families.

We’ve been asked by MCUSA to help create curriculum to support our church’s work in the area of nonviolent direct action.  Building on five years of supporting one another as colleagues in Christian Peacemaker Teams, and then becoming close and opening our hearts to one another, now being asked to work together…the layers of camaraderie have continued to grow!  Here we are on our way to Training for Change‘s workshop, to learn new skills: for relationship with one another and the broader movement for positive social change.

Stay tuned!!

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Recommitting to Solidarity in the Face of White Supremacy: A Sermon for Rosh Hashanah 5778

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From my rabbi! This was SO inspirational!

Shalom Rav

2017_0921rosen Members of Holy Blossom Temple, a Toronto synagogue, form a protective circle around the Imdadul mosque on February 3, 2017, following an Islamophobic shooting at a mosque in Quebec City.  (Photo: Bernard Weil / Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Crossposted with Truthout.

When Temple Beth Israel — a large Reform synagogue in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia — opened for Shabbat morning services on August 12, 2017, its congregants had ample reason to be terrified. Prior to the “Unite the Right” rally held in town by white supremacists and neo-Nazis that weekend, some neo-Nazi websites had posted calls to burn down their synagogue.The members of Beth Israel decided to go ahead with services, but they removed their Torah scrolls just to be safe.

When services began, they noticed three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles standing across the street from their synagogue. Throughout the morning, growing numbers of neo-Nazis…

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