Monthly Archives: May 2018

Letter from Elder

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Letter from Joanna Macy, May 2018

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Dear Family in the Work That Reconnects,

You are all very much in my thoughts these days for this is a critical moment for all life on our planet. It is both heart-shattering and, in its ferocity, promising of what we can become as planet people.  I feel our connections in the Work resonating in me like harp strings.

I’d like to share with you some ways I am finding the Work is helping me respond to the avalanche of bad news as a call to stay both steady and open.

I will go around the spiral.

The emotional challenges of this time require of me to be all the more grateful for the immediacy and sturdiness of Gaia’s gifts.  They flow in moment by moment: the air I breathe, the faces of friends, and my loyal, hardworking old body.

As I open to the pain of our world at this time it really helps me to remember, as we do in the truth mandala, the source, or tantric side, of the intensities of grief, outrage and dread.  Then, each emotional blow actually ignites my realization of the depths of my caring for the world. This caring comes from a deep interconnectedness that unites me with life and opens me to the strengths and insights it can bring.

Also, as I listen to the news–and it matters to listen, please don’t turn away–it helps me to bless the independent journalists that are bringing the news. Love them for the risks that they take to bring us word of what is happening. Thank each person on the information chain that is letting word come to you. And as these currents of information flow through you, don’t feel that you must personally respond to each situation. Don’t fall into that trap of the hyper-individualism of our old culture.  Imagine as you listen that you are allowing the information to cycle and flow through you into wider circuits, enlivening and circulating through the collective intelligence of our time.

Moving further around the spiral. What a sweet moment to be together with other activists, joining them with our hearts and minds and with our hands as well. My granddaughter, Eliza, told me yesterday how she will spend the summer interning with 350.org in Minneapolis. We talked about how beautiful it will be to weave connections with the indigenous people of those northern Minnesota lakes, connections fortified by a common goal. Enbridge wants to bring an oil pipeline through the lakes that have yielded for centuries harvests of wild rice. To work together to protect those waters and the ancient culture of wild rice harvesting will bring solidarity and adventure and respect.

Now coming around to the going forth. I found myself thinking this morning that everything is clearer for us now.  The viciousness and brutality that have always been with us are so obvious now, and although terrifying, they’re right up front for all to see.  Their currency is fear–fear that distorts and deadens the mind. And now it’s clear: love must, and can, triumph over fear. If we’re not up for love yet– and a lot of the time I feel I’m not–we can lean into trust.  That’s something I can do. I can learn to trust, and I’m doing that.

And so, dear hearts,thank you for being here–to trust in and trust with.

Yours Ever,

Joanna

More information on how to get involved with our network: http://www.workthatreconnects.org

My specific work in this network: The Work That Reconnects

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