Monday, October 31, 2011

The Real Christian Candidate

By Jeff Fulmer

Right or wrong, a candidate’s religion is often at the center of a political campaign. George W. Bush proudly touted that his born-again beliefs would be at the center of his decisions as President. A video of a Barack Obama’s fiery, some said radical, former minister put his faith into the national spotlight. And whether Mitt Romney or Rick Perry wins the Republican nomination, you can be sure it will be a major issue, although for different reasons for each man.

Since phrases such as “Christian Values” are bandied about in the public arena, it seems like it would make sense to go to the source and see what Jesus Christ might actually have thought about the issues of our day. Surprisingly, some of the hot button issues are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the Bible. There are, on the other hand, several scriptures and parables that give us a pretty clear indication of what a “Christian” candidate should actually stand for, and what he or she would stand against.

1. Some fights may not be avoidable, but a Christian candidate would at least look at how to end wars, not start them. “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). In the same Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ (5:39) and “love your enemies…” (5:44). Now, I don’t think we’re going to hear a Presidential candidate go that far, but that is Christ’s position and he’s on the record.

2. Throughout the gospels, Jesus healed as many people as possible. He healed friends and strangers alike, and he didn’t do it based on their income, job, or status. In fact, many were outcasts with nowhere to turn, such as the blind beggars and lepers. When he healed, he was ‘filled with compassion’ and ‘moved with pity’ (Mark 1: 41). While a politician is not a faith-healer, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect a level of compassion for the sick and desperate.

3. Jesus is clearly on the side of the poor. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). In Matthew 25, Jesus goes so far as to tell his followers that when he returns, they will be separated as either sheep or goats based on how they care for “the least of these.” And the early church took this very seriously. Paul tells us the disciples told him “to continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2: 10).

4. By the same token, Jesus did not try to cozy up to or coddle the rich and privileged. On numerous occasions, he stood up to the powers that be, whether it was telling the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor (Mark 10: 17 – 25) or the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16: 19 – 31). Would Jesus raise taxes on the rich? I don’t know, but he wouldn’t be afraid to try.

5. The Old Testament certainly protects the treatment of foreigners. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). “You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born” (Leviticus 24: 22). According to the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph and Mary took Jesus from Bethlehem into Egypt to hide out, making them all undocumented aliens. Thankfully, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Minutemen weren’t manning those borders.

6. Jesus didn’t seem to be threatened by any religions, except the rabbinical priests in his own religion. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews, yet Jesus not only chats up the Samaritan woman at the well, he makes the Samaritan the good guy in his parable. It’s almost as shocking as treating Muslims with equality or allowing them religious freedom to build a mosque.

7. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). And in case you didn’t get the hint, Jesus follows with, “You hypocrite, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). If Christians actually believed and obeyed that command, we would cut out over half the political ads on TV and virtually eliminate political punditry overnight. What a wonderful world.

8. To be fair, Jesus doesn’t weigh in on ecological or conservation causes. Of course, no one was drilling for oil in the Dead Sea or using mountain top removal on the Mount of Olives. However, in the beginning (Genesis 1:26), God charges man with good stewardship of all of nature, including animals and the earth. Does it make sense that a Christian candidate would want to “Drill Baby Drill” at all cost to the environment aka ‘creation?’

9. For taking a stand on these issues, a true Christian candidate should expect to be persecuted. They accused Jesus of eating with sinners and tax collectors. They spread lies about him. “Isn’t it true that you are demon possessed and a Samaritan?" (John 8:48) It’s interesting that it was the self-righteous religious types that were the most venomous in their attacks.

Many believe that it is wrong to ever mix politics with religion. However, believing that church and state should be separate is not the same as your faith informing and influencing your political views. Personally, I try to be guided by the principles in the Bible and the life and teachings of Jesus.

I encourage everyone to read their own Bibles and pray and meditate on the scriptures and come to their own conclusions about what they believe – and possibly how they should vote. But I warn you – the answers you find just might surprise you.

Jeff Fulmer is the author of the book "Hometown Prophet."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

“Occupy Nonviolently” - Prefatory Remarks to a Conversation Between James Lawson and Harvey Cox

By Hannah Hofheinz
Cross-posted with Theology Salon

Delivered as prefatory remarks on the task of theology to a conversation between James Lawson and Harvey Cox: “From Civil Rights Movement to Occupy Wall Street: A conversation on Nonviolence in the 21st Century” on October 26, 2011 at the Cathedral of St Paul, Boston, MA.

In the early twentieth century, a great theologian made a famous claim: theology’s task is to answer the questions of the age. That is, our world poses certain questions. Our experience demands attention. The theological task, Paul Tillich taught, is to engage matters of ultimate concern (to use his language) as the ultimate appears in each time and place. The task of theology is to offer the truth of Christian answers to the questions of existence. Not once and for all, but persistently. The task of theology is to provide these theological answers in the terms in which the questions arise. This means that Christian theology must be contextual. Christian theology must embrace the changes of time and space.

The occupies that now are claiming our attention and our cities – not just nationally, but internationally – are our context. These occupations are desperately needed. These occupations are theologically sound. The physical presence and the collective determination of the occupiers is a cry of communal lament. Intolerable injustices are being perpetuated in the idolatrously deified name of late capitalism.

Like Rachel, whose voice continues to ring out from Ramah, we, occupiers, will not be consoled by easy answers. And this, I believe, is good. Even when those who approach us appear to be or even are our friends, we need to remember Job. We must not mistake well-intentioned ‘reasonable solutions’ with the satisfaction of our embodied cries.

As a Christian theologian, I do not stand apart from, but as a part of this lamenting community of occupiers. Indeed, my theological work must be accountable to the occupying community. It is my community. I am an occupier. My theology is part of my occupation. Occupying is part of my theology.

When I think ‘occupy’ theologically, Galatians 2:20 immediately comes to mind: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” What greater hope can there be than to be occupied by Christ? I think Incarnation: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” – which more literally reads: “and the Word became flesh, and pitched his tent among us.” Or, as Jake Erickson wrote at TheologySalon recently, “occupation means fleshy, fragile bodies taking up political space together….When bodies incarnate movements of love and justice, creativity happens.” I think of Ruach, Breath, Spirit: God’s encompassing and excessive love, which fills our lungs and brings us life. And so I could go on.

But we must not – I must not – forget that ‘occupy’ has a very painful history. From first century Roman occupations through our last decade’s military presence in Iraq, occupation has been intimately related, if not fully synonymous, with domination, with violence, and with death. Certainly, incontestably, this is likewise evident throughout the history of the Christian churches and Christian theology.

Today, the violence of occupation resonates in our language of the 99%: the 99% that will take back what is being denied it by the 1%. Violence is evident in the iconography of the raised fist, which hovers over a lone solitary figure of the 1%. Violence lurks, crouched and waiting, wherever we identify our enemy or designate a target. And over the past couple days, we have watched the violence escalate in Oakland. What a marked contrast there is between what is happening with Occupy Oakland and what is happening with Occupy Albany. In Albany, the police defied the order of the mayor and governor to insist that they have not the need or the will to combat peaceful, nonviolent demonstration.

We continue to need to learn strategies and techniques of loving resistance from the traditions of nonviolence. Just as nonviolence permeates the theology and presence of the Reverend Doctor James Lawson, we need it to permeate ours. Rev. Lawson, we continue to need to learn from you. We continue to need to learn with you. Like all of human existence, occupation – as a word, a metaphor, or an act – is ambiguous. We need to think carefully about nonviolence and our enactments (or should I say encampments) of occupation. May we all do this together in love.

Hannah Hofheinz is a ThD candidate in Theology at Harvard Divinity School and contributor at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why Mitt Romney Really Makes the Religious Left Nervous

By Garrett FitzGerald
October 26, 2011

When doing research for - or in the odd moment of vanity - I will sometimes pull up a Google search for "the religious left" to see what's floating around out there in the aether. At this point I'm pretty familiar with most of the recent articles about the religious left that are to be found on the interwebs, so it is always a real treat when these searches turn up something new.

Last week, when links started popping up across the conservative Twitter and blogosphere to an article entitled "Why Mitt Romney Makes the Religious Left Nervous," I naturally got pretty excited to find out why I, as a religious leftist, should be sweating over a candidate who hasn't even come close to winning over the religious right.

I'm not entirely sure what I was hoping to learn from Dan Delzell, the article's author, when I clicked on the link to his piece. Had Romney been making new friends among the still-powerful evangelical elite left over from the heyday of the 80's and 90's? Had he somehow patched things up with James Dobson and the gang over at Focus on the Family after the 2008 voter guide snafu? Or, wonder of wonders, had the religious right thrown wide the doors and finally welcomed their conservative Mormon sisters and brothers into the fold?

But rather of any of these troubling (though still newsworthy) developments, what I found instead was an attack by Delzell, supported by a veritable army of straw men, against both Romney and the religious left that left me feeling more confused than nervous.
The crux of Delzell's article boils down to this: Mitt Romney makes religious leftists uncomfortable because if we don't condemn his faith we are not real Christians, but if we do condemn his faith than we're not real liberals. Delzells' (mis)characterization of the religious left apparently hinges on his opinion that the one thing religious leftists seem comfortable absolutizing is relativism, which leads to a whole host of complications when religious leftists are pressed on issues of dogma:
It is not part of their practice to articulate biblical doctrine in too much detail. It all must be kept incredibly vague and inclusive. The minute a person on the religious left allows himself to get too specific about doctrine, he starts to feel way too much like an absolutist. Somebody gets left out.
You have to give Delzell credit for his attempt to empathize with liberal Christians, a harrowing descent into backwards thinking which he envisions thusly:
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine being a religious liberal. You view the Bible primarily as a fable. You check the "Christian" box when asked your religion, but you don't associate with anyone who takes the Bible literally. You hope your followers vote against the Republican candidate. And then here comes Mitt Romney as the one chosen to oppose the "chosen one."
It's like I'm reading Dan Delzell reading my mind. 

Delzell goes on to explain when liberal and progressive Christians identify themselves as such, "[it] is not intended to mean that you believe in Christianity literally, say the way that Muslims or Mormons believe their respective religions present literal history and literal truth." I take it as implicit in this claim that being noncommittal about literal belief in Christianity is still probably more preferable to Delzell than the flat-out wrongness of literal belief in the history or doctrines of Mormonism or Islam.

There are any number of tempting targets in Delzell's piece, not least among them the laughable straw man constructions he tries to pass off as honest depictions of both liberalism and Christianity. I fully appreciate the value of setting the terms of a debate, but Delzell's depiction of wishy-washy, rigidly relativistic liberals is a stretch even by most conservative standards. Delzell's construction of real, Bible-believing Christianity, which we can infer in large part from his critiques of those who don't make the cut, is also a complete fabrication. I do (or at least try to) respect Delzell's right to stump for what he thinks is a literal, fundamentalist hermeneutic for the Scriptures (but real talk, literalism is every bit as contingent as other hermeneutical lenses) but trying to pretend that the myriad historical strains of Christianity - Mormonism included - are reducible or somehow beholden to one set of theological principles is dangerous and dishonest. 

Similarly dishonest is Delzell's caricaturing of the religious left as a bunch of relativism-loving neo-Pharisees too preoccupied with political correctness to ever consider making theological value judgments. Well, as this unrepentant religious leftist has said in previous posts, there is absolutely such a thing as bad theology, and to a certain extent I do understand my calling as a Christian to name and confront bad theology. But contrary to Delzell's claims, condemnation of bad theology does not hinge upon the legitimacy of Joseph Smith's prophethood or the veracity of religious understandings, literal or otherwise, of people with different beliefs than my own. Bad theology, the theology that I am called as a Christian to oppose in our public and political discourse, is any system of beliefs which invokes the transcendent to excuse worldly injustice. And when anyone's theology is invoked to justify harmful and oppressive social and political policies, speaking truth to power trumps respect for relativism every time.
Later in his article, Delzell asks:
How do [religious lefties] discredit [Romney's] policies without being asked questions about the history or doctrines of his religion? If they are asked specifically about those things, how in the world are they to respond? Those issues are way outside of their comfort zone.
If you want to know why Mitt Romney really makes the religious left nervous, instead of his theology, try starting with his expressed desire to broaden our imperialistic military endeavors abroad, his promotion of economic policies that unfairly benefit the privileged at the expense of the poor, his desire to cut social programs relied upon by our most vulnerable sisters and brothers, his legacy of opposition to equal rights for same-sex partners, and his new-found opposition to reproductive rights for women.

As far as discrediting Mitt Romney's stance on all of these issues, they are each open to moral and empirical scrutiny and condemnation quite independent of Romney's religious beliefs. To be frank, insofar as Romney is not relying upon a theological justification for the unjust policies he supports, I don't give two New Testaments about the history or doctrines of the LDS Church that seem to have Delzell's hackles raised. And despite the fact that Delzell imagines such a conversation to be outside of the comfort zone of the religious left, I guarantee that there are plenty of folks at this end of the theological and political spectrum who would love a chance to wax theological at Romney (relativism be damned!) should he begin appealing to religious justifications for his unjust policy positions.

As I have said time and time again, the single greatest asset that the religious left enjoys over the religious right is our recognition of the inherent value of religious pluralism and our willingness to do the dirty work required to make this pluralism a viable and vibrant force in our efforts for justice. The left's lack of preoccupation with Romney's Mormonism does not mean that there are not deeply committed Christians at this end of the political spectrum. It means that religious leftists have found ways to recognize Truth in the truths of others, and are willing to honor the integrity of moral and religious teachings different from our own.

For personal guidance on pluralism I turn to a passage, often quoted among Quakers, taken from the letters of John Woolman, an early American abolitionist, itinerant preacher, and witness for Truth:
There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names. It is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, of what nation soever, they become brethren.
It's words like Woolman's that continue to give me hope for a future of greater understanding, greater kinship, and greater love. Such a world is beyond possible. It exists already in the spark of God within each of us, would we but realize it. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Eyewitness Account of the First Openly Gay Presbyterian Ordination

By Lauren Gallant Cochran
Originally posted 10/14/11 at GLAAD

“Reformed and always reforming” is not an empty slogan for the Presbyterian Church (USA)—we worship, govern, ordain, believe, and live by these words.

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of witnessing a part of Presbyterian history: the ordination of Scott Anderson—an openly gay man—at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wis.  Scott has been a member of Covenant for over eight years and serves as the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches (WCC).  As a direct result of the ‘always reforming’ Presbyterian Church, he now holds the same position, but he has been ordained and is supported by the PCUSA as a “Teaching Elder.”

This ordination was an emotionally and spiritually moving time of worship, to say the least.  No matter our denomination (there were many present), race, gender, or sexual orientation, we rejoiced in the common belief that God loves and calls to God’s service all persons equally.

Because of Scott’s work with the WCC, many of those who came to the service were ordained clergy.  During the ‘laying on of hands’—where Scott received the prayer and blessings for his ordained ministry—the invitation for all who were ordained to come and take part left the pews empty.  Looking up to the front of the church to see 70 or more ministers of all different churches lay their hands on Scott and share their blessings was an overwhelming sight.

Equally moving was the return of Scott’s stole.  Twenty years ago when Scott was stripped of his ordination by the PCUSA because of his sexuality, he donated his stole to an exhibit showcasing all the ministers that the PCUSA had lost under similar circumstances.  On Saturday, his stole was removed from the travelling exhibit and returned to its proper place—around his shoulders.  As the words “what once was lost shall now be found” echoed through the sanctuary, I know I was not the only one with tears streaming down my face.

As expected, protestors made their opposition to LGBT ordination known before the service.  My first thought was, “Well you know your event is a big deal when Westboro Baptist shows up to protest,” but what troubled me more than their all-too-familiar-signs was to see other Presbyterians protesting against Scott’s ordination. It made me wonder in which ways we Presbyterians can live by “reformed and always reforming.”

I’m sure other Presbyterians nationwide are wondering the same thing that I am: How do I rightfully rejoice in the ordination LGBT persons and compassionately care and seek meaningful dialogue with our Presbyterian sisters and brothers who see no joy?  The approach during Scott’s ordination was prayer.  Many different people who spoke during the service mentioned the protesters outside, but not once in a negative way.  All comments, thoughts, and prayers mentioned the continued effort for understanding and peace.

Hopefully someday Presbyterians will not be protesting other Presbyterians.  Hopefully someday we can see each other equally, through the eyes of God, and recognize each other's talents in ministry.  Those Presbyterians who protest now may reform later, and in the meantime, I will certainly continue to pray for peace and understanding.

The brief words Scott shared with me at the end of the service sum up the occasion with perfect simplicity:  “It really is an amazing day.”

Lauren Gallant Cochran is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) under the care of the Boston Presbytery. She is a recent graduate of Harvard Divinity School and is currently serving as the Director of Christian Formation at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

“Just Camp Here and Stay:” Dr. King and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

By Be Scofield 
Originally published 10/18/11 at Tikkun Daily

The developed industrial nations of the world cannot remain secure islands of prosperity in a seething sea of poverty. The storm is rising against the privileged minority of the earth, from which there is no shelter in isolation or armament. The storm will not abate until a just distribution of the fruits of the earth enables man everywhere to live in dignity and human decency. – Dr. King

In another moment of Great American Irony President Obama inaugurated the Dr. King memorial this week in Washington D.C. He not only invoked the legacy of King but he also spoke favorably of the Occupy Wall Street movement and said King would support it. Yes, of course, King would back the cause. However, despite winning a Nobel Peace Prize, Obama hasn’t shown any willingness to address King’s triple evils of “war, economic exploitation and racism.” These also happen to be similar concerns for many in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Obama should, however, be careful about who and what he praises because the Occupy movement is expanding and Dr. King’s final campaign was going to bring the revolution close to home. He said, “We’ve got to camp in – put our tents in front of the White House…America will have many many days, but they will be full of trouble. There will be no rest, there will be no tranquility in this country until the nation comes to terms with our problem.”

On Dr. King’s birthday, Jan. 15th 1968 – which was sadly to be his last – he was organizing with a multi-racial coalition of Native Americans, Chicanos, Appalachian whites and urban black people to start an encampment in Washington D.C. that would be a massive “nonviolent army” which would “cripple the operation of an oppressive society.” By 1968, King’s earlier emphasis on civil rights had evolved into a revolutionary stance against capitalism, the Vietnam War, U.S. Imperialism and poverty. Leading tens of thousands of poor people, activists, clergy and concerned citizens to camp in D.C. was a “kind of last, desperate demand for the nation to respond to nonviolence.” He even suggested to his staff that after a few days they could call in the peace movements and “try and close down the Pentagon.” King meant business. The encampment would have to be “as dramatic, as dislocative, as attention-getting as the riots without destroying life or property.” He talked about clogging the roads, shutting down bridges and making the “city not function anymore.” The country that he loved so much had strayed so far from its ideals that he said, “We’ve got to go for broke this time…they aren’t going to run me out of Washington.”

It’s clear that King’s concerns resonate with Occupy Wall Streets (OWS) protests against corporate greed, unending wars, dangerous foreign policy and a broken political system. He called for a “radical redistribution of economic, social and political power.” King had courageously spoken out against the U.S. for engaging in a war that “seeks to turn the clock of history back and perpetuate white colonialism,” at a time when 70% of the country still supported the war. Involvement in Vietnam and U.S. meddling in Latin America was diverting desperately needed funds for jobs, housing and the combating of poverty. Of course King saw the war in light of a much larger problem, “Something is wrong with capitalism as it now stands in the United States.” He spoke highly of Sweden’s socialistic economy and argued that America should move towards a form of democratic socialism. Frustrated with the governments unwillingness to address poverty in the urban ghettos and angry with whites for failing to see the riots in context of oppression and racism King began condemning the “vicious class systems” in America. On some level King was asking a simple question, “What is a more basic issue than jobs and incomes?” Yet he knew that capitalism, war and racism were all tied together, which made this question a rather difficult one to solve. King, however, wasn’t prepared to wait for an answer:
We must formulate a program and we must fashion the new tactics which do not count on government good will, but instead serve to compel unwilling authorities to yield to he mandates of justice…There must be more than a statement to the larger society, there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point. The interruption must not, however, be clandestine or surreptitious. It must be open and, above all, conducted by large masses without violence. If the jails are filled to thwart it, its meaning will become even clearer.
King called upon the creatively maladjusted to rise up and protest to “save the soul of the nation.” He knew that people were attacked as un-American for protesting against capitalism and unpatriotic for challenging the military-industrial complex but encouraged the masses to speak out. He said, “How few people have the audacity to express publicly their convictions, and how many have allowed themselves to be astronomically intimidated!” When Julian Bond was prevented from taking his seat as a Georgia congressman for supporting a SNCC resolution against the war, King defended him. King also warned, “If Americans permit thought-control, business-control, and freedom-control to continue, we shall surely move within the shadows of fascism.”

What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn from Dr. King

The OWS movement has been appropriately criticized for being predominantly a white, middle class phenomenon which hasn’t recognized that Indigenous peoples were the first to be occupied on this land. The focus should be on decolonization they argue. King would share this concern. He in fact recognized America’s disturbing past,
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.
King also came to realize that “vast majority of white Americans are racist, either consciously or unconsciously.” OWS shouldn’t forget that white privilege still factors into everything. People of color in this country have experienced these economically challenging times in a much worse way. For example, a recent study showed that Latinos and Blacks are more than 70% likely to have their home foreclosed on than white people are. There is, however, some progress on these issues in the OWS movement. The Occupy Boston movement ratified a memorandum of solidarity with Indigenous peoples claiming, “Occupy Boston aspires to ‘Decolonize Boston’ with the guidance and participation of First Nations Peoples.” At the Occupy SF rally on Oct. 15th one of the speakers stated that we are on stolen land and connected this to the prison industrial complex, racism and capitalism. In the Occupy NY movement a few people of color were able to successfully convince organizers to change the language to not carelessly represent racial issues in their list of demands. Undoubtedly there is still more work to do.

King had developed several goals in his final campaign, which may or may not inspire the OWS movement. He had hoped the Poor People’s Campaign would achieve direct employment through a massive public works program, a guaranteed annual income, funding for teaching and education and adequate medical care for the poor. King also said, “We need the equivalent of Medicare for housing.” It’s simple: jobs, income, housing, education and the elimination of poverty. Are these still too broad however? Is it too soon for the OWS movement to develop concrete demands? It’s open for debate. But I think the Occupy Wall Street movement can agree with King when he says, “the real issue is the radical reconstruction of American society itself.”

As the Occupy Wall Street movement becomes increasingly global we should remember King’s insistence on creating a “world house.” He was well aware of the damaging role the U.S. was playing across the globe and that it was “a result of a racist culture, and their thinking is colored by that fact…They don’t respect anyone who is not white.” He rightly condemned the U.S. and Britain for failing to intervene against apartheid in South Africa and spoke out against corporate global domination. “We in the west must bear in mind that the poor countries are primarily poor because we have exploited them through political and economic colonialism.” King recommended forming a long-term Marshall Plan that would eliminate global poverty, especially in South America, Africa and Asia. He called for us to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the world, “so many of Latin America’s problems have roots in the United States of America that we need to form a solid united movement, nonviolently conceived and carried through…” He envisioned a “worldwide fellowship” that extends beyond “one’s tribe, race, class and nation.”

King’s emphasis was on the poor and homeless – people who were and are already occupying the streets of America. His moving into the poorest and most exploited black ghetto in Chicago was perhaps his first “camp in” of sorts. He spent time listening to the difficult stories of his fellow tenants who he was now living with in slum conditions. And he believed the driving force behind the Poor People’s Campaign would be poor people. King agreed with Walter Chivers, his sociology professor at Morehouse who believed they were the “real revolutionaries,” because they had nothing left to lose. He warned that, “If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell.” Let’s not forget that King’s final message was not primarily for the middle class, although he would certainly sympathize with their massive economic losses. Rather, he was killed while supporting low-wage African American sanitation workers in Memphis and unfortunately wasn’t able to realize his massive action in Washington.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel once said, “The whole future of America will depend on the impact and influence of Dr. King.” I agree. Now it’s up to us to carry out his legacy and take back our own futures! Occupy Everything! Decolonize! And as King said, “Just camp here and stay!”

The spirit is awake now; structures will follow, if we keep our ears open to the spirit…But we do not have much time. The revolutionary spirit is already world-wide. If the anger of the peoples of the world at the injustice of things is to be channeled into a revolution of love and creativity, we must begin now to work, urgently, with all the peoples, to shape a new world. – Dr. King

Robert James Scofield, "Be," is a San Francisco based activist working to combine spirituality with anti-racism and social justice. Be is the founder of God Bless the Whole World, a free online resource with hundreds of videos of leading visionaries related to social justice and spirituality. He writes for Tikkun magazine and his work has appeared on, IntegralWorld and FactNet.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mic Check: How the Occupy Movement is Creating Empathy Through Communication

By Matthew Remski

Of the countless intersubjective graces unfolding in Zuccotti Park and around the Occupy world, the “human microphone” is recapturing something as old as human learning. This is something sacred: a repurposing of voice, ear, and content that may serve no less than the re-membering of a more coherent human consciousness.

Watch Slavoj Zizek to see how it works. Every Occupy Wall Street orator, prohibited by permit laws from amplification (and lights when night falls), stands on a box and delivers his sentences one at a time, each followed by a pause, during which the surrounding ring of listeners, perhaps 20 deep, repeats the sentence verbatim. The repeaters, unburdened by the anxiety of creation, actually improve the clarity of the orator’s rhythm and intonation as they fall into a shared pulse. Orators learn quickly that the sentences with the highest torque are simple and well-metered – from the heartbeat of Zizek’s “They tell you we are dreamers”, to the rolling of “The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over.” Michael Moore had to quickly drop his just-a-regular-guy banter, which in human-microphone-land makes him weak and self-deprecating. And Cornel West pulled the oration of Southern Baptism out of another decade and firmly jammed it into the hipster ears. Everyone speaks of spirit, and love. These are no longer ideas through this media but thrusts of embodiment that ripple through the group neurology.

Some orators attract so many listeners that multiple relay rings form spontaneously. This can slow down the oration up to fourfold, as each orbit of 20-deep repeats the sentence, and each ring forms a distinct choir: more men in this one, more women in that, a clear tenor back there, and a rowdier group who always wants to clap and cheer more than the rest. The centrifuge of sentiment and meaning extends to the horizon of the physical gathering, and then meets the threshold of the digisphere, where the Twitter birds listen and then fly. In Zuccotti Park, meaning starts with a heartbeat, and then it accelerates as it flies outward. But its plodding beginning forms a natural control upon the ego-inflation so easily amplified by electricity and then distorted beyond all embodied measure.

Richard Kim’s excellent Nation piece hits on the slow-speech angle beautifully: how it increases the spectacle impact, how it delays the revelation of the “manifesto” that cocaine-media is demanding (so its talking-heads can shred it on the altar of sound-bites), how it emasculates the Viagra-ed credit-default mainframes within the surrounding buildings of glass and steel. Here, I’d like to expand on Kim’s cogent introduction with some broader reflections on this communication revolution. My additions are about non-violent communication, embodiment, horizontality, spiritual renewal, and oral culture.

NVC. The Human Microphone is a naturally-occurring expression of non-violent communication, as per Rosenberg and others. It is based on the first principle: reflective listening. Nothing can move forward until the sentiment of the speaker is taken to heart (into the heart, as I’ll allude to later). The implicit premise is: you have not been heard until I offer your words back to you with the strength of my own voice.

Seeing our bodies together. The Human Microphone, as Kim points out, is grinding out the slowest-moving discourse we have seen in this generation. It took two weeks for the General Assembly to form an opening statement of intent. Slowness is crucial, not only because it resists the mechanized speed of tyranny, but because it de-emphasizes the conceptual realm, and places the body at the center of experience. The New York Times has finally laid off its conceptual demands, but up until a week ago, its writers displayed that profound discomfort – so common as to be invisible amongst our alienated intelligentsia – with a singular fact: bodies in the street that are saying many things, but no unified thing. Most importantly, bodies that stand their ground, and in standing, name the ground as their space. Bodies that drum out biorhythms instead of the disco of progress. In this slowness of embodiment we’re witnessing a staged amplification of every social awkwardness that occurs when our talking dries up. The dinner party with a pregnant pause that makes people squirm. The petering out of a water-cooler conversation. The subway squeeze where our eyes can’t meet. We are watching the break in our conceptual flow that makes us instantly, claustrophobically aware that we are first and foremost these bodies that we spend our lives ignoring and abstracting. Bodies of shared needs and fears, bodies that Zizek implores us to honour to the bone: “Do not be afraid to truly want what you desire.”

No manifesto will contain the embodied energy of a paradigm change. But the body itself will feel it happen as it makes it happen in paroxysms of emotion and knowing gazes. Bodies on the street are crucial. Their silent witness is golden. Even their apparent incoherence on camera is a necessary chipping at the tyranny of our banal rationalism. And when brave young women are sprayed in the eyes with pepper, their bodies are microcosmic of the world we have made. They get blinded, temporarily, and we can all see very clearly, for the long term.

The horizontalization of power and teaching. The Human Microphone makes listeners participatory. Listeners instantly become teachers themselves. Nothing could be more empowering in a group setting. Knowledge or sentiment that passes from speaker to listener is no longer transactional, but transformational. The listener is initiated.

Internal transformation is implicit in this political theatre. It’s no mystery that there are powerful spiritualizing overtones ringing throughout the park. The content of coherence is dragged out of a medium of coherence. Speaking together is nurturing a yoga of sentiment that seems naturally given to shared value. We don’t have to agree on what the holy spirit means any more than we have to agree on a list of demands. Feeling the spirit and feeling its demands are what is most important, what has been longest suppressed or denied. Jesus doesn’t define “the poor” by income in the Sermon on the Mount: he’s not a policy wonk. He just uses the word, and lets it ring into the heart.

The Human Microphone regenerates the intimacy of oral culture. For the Buddhists, everything begins with “Thus have I heard.” Prior to mass literacy (which amplified interior complexity and created unlimited private space through the simple technology of the personally owned book), myth and knowledge were communicated chest-to-chest, in person, generally over food or other nourishment that coordinated physiological and conceptual digestion. What the Occupy speakers and listeners are doing is a return to this primal transmission, in which knowledge does not exist until it is shared, which, of course, poses an opposite paradigm to money. And in that sharing, the intersubjective blossoms: the speaker can hear plainly what resonates in the listener’s body and oral responses, and alter her course accordingly. Watch carefully what happens when Zizek throws his papers aside and makes continual eye contact with his first ring. He’s sweating and pulling his shirt away from his sternum – or is he continually tapping his heart?

This intimacy takes time, but it builds an incredible scaffolding  of meaning. The original Buddhist canon was assembled in this call-and-response manner, with monks and nuns sitting in their rainy-season huts, remembering a verse, repeating a verse, all with that same patience that has allowed certain Brahmin families in India to memorize, generation by generation, the entirety of the Vedas. In old Indian culture, this is called shabda jnan: “knowing through sound.”

Oral culture naturally adds coolness and spaciousness to our passion. Not just in the McLuhan sense, although he would be quite impressed at this most profitable regression from the tyranny of the visual. In ancient cultures, sound travels through the media of space and air. When we really hear our voices, things expand. The voice and the ear and the non-local magic in between them (for you can never tell exactly where sound is coming from), displaces the narrow aggressions of fire, which strafe the body of our culture through every pixel on every screen. The Occupy movement is not a visual movement – it has no coherent visual aesthetic, except the ironic icons of Guy Fawkes masks and homemade placards, and sheer embodied ebullience. They have humanized the visual space, their bodies filling the hard and arid streets. Their bodies are speaking and hearing, and we feel the individual, unique heat of every heart.

And it matters not that the future is unseen, for in the present, there is presence, and this can drive our dissociation away.

Special thanks to Michael Stone for inspiring this article.

Matthew Remski is an authoryoga and ayurvedic therapist and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto. With Scott Petrie he is co-creator of yoga 2.0, a writing and community-building project. yoga 2.0: shamanic echoesis now available for kindle and other e-readers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupying Wall Street and K Street

By Micah Bales
Originally posted 10/11/11 at The Lamb's War

Dear friends in the Truth,

This month has been surprising for so many of us. The emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement in mid-September has set a chain of events in motion that is impacting our public discourse in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. This movement has already deeply affected my own life. I got involved early in the occupation in New York City, and I helped do some of the earliest organizing for Occupy DC. This has been an incredible learning experience for me, and I have been reminded of my desperate need to rely on the strength and guidance that comes from the Holy Spirit.

When I first learned of the demonstrations on Wall Street, I did not take them very seriously. But I began to take notice when I heard they were occupying a park in lower Manhattan and planned to stay indefinitely. The mainstream media - and even the alternative press - was mostly ignoring the story, so I investigated on Twitter and independent blogs. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. This, I thought, could really be a sign that America is waking up.

For people of my generation, public dissent and activism had mostly been discredited. It was something that "hippies" and irrelevant leftists did - not people who wanted to be taken seriously. Occupy Wall Street, and the numerous local movements that are popping up all over the country are changing that. For the first time that I can remember, taking to the streets seems like a viable option. We can sense life there.

As I learned more about what was happening in New York, I felt that I needed to be personally involved. I felt a sense - I believe it was a leading of God - to travel to New York and be a witness to events there. After seeing the situation in Manhattan, I was very impressed by Occupy Wall Street. Although I still had many concerns about the particulars of the movement, I felt that I needed to stay involved.

When I returned to Washington, I linked up online with some other DC-area folks who also felt the need to participate. Over the course of a few days, we gathered in an online chat room and discussed how we wanted to move forward on starting an occupation here in our hometown. We picked a start date - October 1st - and a location - McPherson Square. The night before we began, seven of us met together in person for the first time to iron out the details of the occupation's first hours.

The occupation on K Street - home to a wide spectrum of monied interests and their lobbyists - has since grown to an occupation of hundreds of people. We now have an established media center, complete with an electrical generator; a welcome station; a food center with a makeshift kitchen; places for folks to sleep; and a regular gathering of the whole group for our business meeting, called the "General Assembly." We are growing in numbers and in organization. We are learning how to organize ourselves as a movement.

What I find most incredible is that Occupy DC was started by a small group of regular folks. None of us who began Occupy DC had experience as professional activists. Each of us was simply a concerned citizen who wanted to make a difference. Just as remarkably, none of us knew each other beforehand. Though trust and friendship developed rapidly, none of us had any prior personal connections.(1) I am grateful for the way that God brought together such an improbable group of people to lay the groundwork for this movement in DC.

The Occupy movement continues to bring a surprising assortment of people together. We are composed of both mainstream folks and politically radical individuals. We are Christians, Jews and Muslims; we people of many faiths, as well as those who are secular. While we do not yet represent the rich cultural diversity of our city, we are committed to holding space for all people to come and let their voice be heard as we seek truth, mercy and justice together.

My reasons for being at Occupy DC are rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ. It is his proclamation of good news to the poor, release to the captives and sight to the blind, that calls me into this struggle for greater compassion and justice in this city, nation and planet.(2) It is his voice in my heart that calls me to stand with all of those who are standing up now for a more just and compassionate society. It is my prayer that Occupy DC will continue to develop as a movement that calls our nation to deeper love and responsibility, accepting Jesus' invitation to lay down privilege for the sake of those who are marginalized and silenced.

As I continue to be involved in this ongoing public conversation, I ask for your prayers. Please pray that God will guide and ground me in Christ's tenderness and truth. Let me be a witness to his perfect love that casts out all fear. Please pray for all of those who are putting their bodies on the line to help us wake up to the condition of our nation. May we find the way forward together, bonded in the peace that comes from singleness of vision and submission to God's will.

 1. Of the seven, we had two couples. They knew one another beforehand, of course!
2. Luke 4:18-19

Micah Bales is a founding member of Capitol Hill Friends, a new Quaker church in Washington, DC. He coordinates outreach and web strategy for Earlham School of Religion, and publishes a personal blog, The Lamb's War.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remaining Human: A Buddhist Perspective on Occupy Wall Street.

By Michael Stone

A man stands on a bench in Zuccotti Park on Wall Street and chants a phrase from a meeting last night: “We don’t want a higher standard of living, we want a better standard of living.” He’s wearing a crisp navy blue suit and typing tweets into his iPhone. Next to him, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, wearing a red t-shirt, is surrounded by at least a hundred people as he makes his way onto a makeshift platform. 

Since the protesters aren’t allowed to use megaphones or amplifiers, they have to listen carefully to the speaker’s every sentence, after which the speaker pauses, and those close enough to have heard repeat the sentence in unison for those farther away. When Naomi Klein spoke three nights ago, some sentences were repeated four or five times as they echoed through Liberty Park and down Wall Street, passed along like something to be celebrated and shared, something newborn. 

Slavoj Žižek said:
They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cat reaches a precipice. But it goes on walking. Ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street – Hey, look down!
We are awakening from a dream. When the Buddha was asked to describe his experience of awakening he said, “What I have awoken to is deep, quiet and excellent. But,” he continues, “People love their place. It’s hard for people who love, delight and revel in the fixed views and places of absolute certainty, to see interdependence.” 

Over and over, the Buddha taught that what causes suffering is holding on to inflexible views. The stories that govern our lives are also the narratives that keep us locked into set patterns, habits and addictions. The same psychological tools that the Buddha cultivated for helping us let go of one-track rigid stories can be applied not just personally, but socially. Enlightenment is not personal; it’s collective.

The media love a good fight. In Toronto during the G20, those not involved in the protests were eventually distracted by the images of a burning police car in front of the banking sectors. With burning cars and young men breaking windows, there was suddenly a more entertaining target than the real issues of coming austerity measures and avoidance of policies that deal with climate catastrophe. With violent images prevailing, the protests lost momentum because the issues were forgotten in the media. 

This time, even though there is a massive police presence at most protests, the movement is not giving the media the images of broken windows that they love. Instead we are seeing a blossoming of creativity and hope. 

We need a language now that allows us to reimagine what a flourishing society looks like. Any meditator knows that there are times when the thoughts that stream endlessly through awareness can eventually grow quiet. But it’s only temporary. The stories come back. But they return differently. They have more space and they are –more fluid, less rigid. We need stories to think and make sense of a world – now an ailing world that needs us. A more convenient way to apply the Buddha’s message to the social sphere is to remember that viewpoints never end or dissolve altogether, rather we learn to shift from one story to another, like a prism being turned, so that the possible ways of looking at our lives can constantly change.

It’s time we adapt to our economic and ecological circumstances – uncomfortable truths we’ve been avoiding for far too long. This awakening is not just about economics, it’s about ecology and our love for what we know is valuable: community, healthcare, simple food, and time.

This process of dislodging old narratives is the function of both spirituality and art. Both ethics and aesthetics ask us to let go in a way that is deep enough that we find ourselves embedded in the world in a new way. If we think of this emerging movement as a practice, we’ll see that as it deepens and we let go of habitual stories, our embeddedness in the world deepens. Intimacy deepens. Relationships deepen. 

In the same way that moving into stillness is a threat to the part of us that wants to keep running along in egoistic fantasies and distraction, those with the most to lose are going to try and repress this outpouring of change. They’ll do this with police, of course, but they’ll also use subtle measures like calling us communists or anti-American, anti-progress, etc. Our job will be to keep a discerning eye and watch for this subtle rhetoric that obscures what we are fighting for.

In the Lotus Sutra it is said that the quickest way to becoming a Buddha is not through extensive retreats or chanting but through seeing others as a Buddha. If you see others as Buddha, you are a Buddha. You remain human. You no longer try to get beyond others.

A student once asked Zen master Shitou Xiquian, “What is Buddha?” Shitou replied, “You don’t have Buddha mind.” The student said, “I’m human; I run around and I have ideas.” Shitou said, “People who are active and have ideas also have Buddha-mind.” The student said, “Why don’t I have Buddha-mind?” Shitou said, “Because you are not willing to remain human.”

This student wants to transcend his life. He imagines that being a Buddha is something outside of himself, beyond his everyday actions. If you have to ask what awakening is, you don’t see it. If you can’t trust that you have the possibility to do good, to see everyone and everything as a Buddha, then how will you even begin? Our Buddha nature is our imagination.

These protests are reminding us that with a little imagination, a lot can change. We are witnessing a collective awakening to the fact that our corporations and governments are the products of human action. They aren’t serving anymore, and so it is in our power and in our interest to replace them. 

We are not fighting the people on Wall Street, we are fighting this whole system.

Žižek, the protestors, the Buddha and Shitou share a common and easily forgotten truth: We cause suffering for ourselves and others when we lose our sense of connectedness. We are the 99 percent but we are dependent on the 1 percent that control forty percent of the wealth. Those statistics reflect grave imbalance in our society. 

Of course people are taking to the streets. In the U.S. 44.6 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for over six months. Long-term unemployment at this level is unprecedented in the post second world war era, and it causes deep strife in communities, families and people’s health.

This movement is also showing the power of non-violence. Non-violence, a core precept in my own Buddhist practice, is not an ideology. It’s the power of facing what’s actually going on in each and every moment and responding as skillfully as possible. The depth of our awakening, our humanness, has everything to with how we care for others. Our sphere of awareness begins to include everything and everyone. The way we respond to our circumstances shows our commitment to non-harm.

In meditation practice we can experience gaps between the exhale and the inhale, between one thought dissolving and another appearing. The space between thoughts is the gentle and creative place of non-harm. The meditator learns to trust that quiet liminal space with patience because from it, new and surprising ways of seeing our lives emerge. This is the inherent impulse of non-harm in our lives. It begins when we bear witness to the fading of one thought and the emergence of another.

These protests are exposing the gap between democracy and capitalism. The way democracy and capitalism have been bound is coming to an end. We want democracy but we can’t afford the runaway growth economy that isn’t benefiting the 99 percent. And if the 99 percent are not benefiting, the truth is, the 1 percent feel that. If there’s anything we’re all aware of these days, it’s that it’s not just twitter and email that connects us – it’s water, speculative banking, debt and air, as well. When the 1 percent live at the expense of the 99 percent, a rebalancing is certain to occur. 

If we can trust in the space where, on the one hand, we are fed up with economic instability and ecological degradation and, on the other, we value interconnectedness, we are doing the same thing collectively that the meditator does on his or her cushion. We are trusting that something loving and creative will emerge from this space that we create. It’s too early to say what that may be. It won’t just be a rehashing of an ideology from the past. These are new times and requite a new imaginative response. 

The people of Occupy Wall Street and now Occupy San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Copenhagen and 70 other cities are trying to do both: take over a space that’s being wrested from the people, and also hold the possibility of a new way of living. What’s been stolen from the people is not merely a physical space (their foreclosed homes, for example) but space to rethink how our society operates and what to do about the bottom dropping out. Even the media, looking for a hook, can’t find one. “What are your demands?” the media keep asking. The answer: “It’s too early to say.” Let’s see how much space we can hold, let’s see what our power is, and then we can begin talking about demands.

If we are going to fully express our humanity and wake up as a collective, we need to replace our youthful ideas of transcendence with the hard work of committing to the end of a way of life in which our work is not in-line with our values. 

We’re demanding a fundamental change of our system. Yes, we all need to work through our individual capacity for greed, anger and confusion. This is an endless human task. We also have to stop cooperating with the system that breeds greed and confusion as it shapes our lives and our choices. This movement is the beginning of bringing that system to a halt. 
From here, anything is possible.

Michael Stone is a Buddhist teacher, Yoga teacher, author, and psychotherapist. He is the Founder of Centre of Gravity, a community in downtown Toronto integrating Buddhist practice, Yoga and social action. He is a voice for a new generation of young people integrating spiritual practice with environmental and social issues. His most recent book is “Awake in the World: Teachings from Yoga & Buddhism for Living an Engaged Life.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Those Cats and These Kids

By Caryn D. Riswold
October 2011

Today is the first anniversary of Owen’s baptism.  On 10/10/10, he was the fifth child with whom my husband and I stood, alongside his parents, and made promises:  To care for him, to teach and instruct him, and to love him.  The first time we were present for another godson’s baptism, it was eighteen years ago, as the presiding minister prayed for “the spirit of wisdom and understanding” and “the spirit of joy in your presence.”[1]  Then, as now, the future was full of hope.

Four weeks ago, the Westboro Baptist Church came to our town waving their hate-filled signs to protest at the funeral of a local young soldier killed in Afghanistan.  One of my students, already a veteran at age 25, attended the counter-protest with the Illinois Patriot Guard and reported back to our class his dismay at seeing a young child among the WBC group holding a sign telling the world precisely who God hates. 

This child of Westboro has parents and probably even godparents too.
Eboo Patel writes about the importance of motivating and organizing young people in his memoir Acts of FaithHow is it that some young people grow up to throw bombs and others grow up to become interfaith community service advocates?  Someone taught them.  Young people don’t become suicide bombers or community organizers ex nihilo.  They are socialized and taught and affirmed in their many choices day after day.  For Christians, baptism is one place where a commitment to young people takes place.
Of course there is an ongoing theological debate about the permissibility of infant baptism.  Those advocating adult or “believers” baptism argue that it needs to be something that an individual chooses for herself or himself.  That this makes it more meaningful.  Those of us who affirm infant baptism as sacramental, on the other hand, contend that baptism is not something we do anyway.  It’s something God has done and is still doing;  that grace is not something that we choose or make fall upon one head or another.  Baptism is a recognition of gifts already given and promises for a life that is yet to unfold.

This is why I love the small scene in Marilynne Robinson’s 2004 book Gilead that begins “Once, we baptized a litter of cats.”  Eventually, the narrator asks his father what would happen to a cat if one were to baptize it.  His father responds by saying that one ought to respect the sacraments, and the narrator concludes “We did respect the Sacraments, but we thought the whole world of those cats.”[2]

Respect for the sacrament combines here with a deeper understanding that there is something of worth in those cats deserving recognition.  Each of the children in our lives, related to us by blood or promise or proximity, has a life that has yet to fully unfold, deserving recognition.  Parents and godparents and friends and community members wrestle with how to best influence that life every day.  How can we help make their life and their world more just and more joyful

Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, has emerged as a favorite of progressive political groups for her work on economic issues.  In a speech on the campaign trail in August she made remarks about taxing millionaires:

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

There is something about the next kids that deserves recognition:  Their future.  When Warren talks about how factory owners rely on roads and bridges built by tax revenue or workers that public money educated, she describes a social fabric and infrastructure on which we all rely.  Conservative efforts to protect wealthy people and corporations from taxation only weakens this social fabric, disproportionately affecting the weakest among us.  

Consider the future of these kids all around us.  Will they become hateful protesters at a military funeral, or members of the Patriot Guard protecting a family in their moment of grief and pain?  Will they have a public library or a community center to go to after a decent day at public school, or will they turn to the seductive logic of violent extremists all too happy to name enemies and offer vengeful solutions in online chats?
In many ways, it is up to us.

[1] Lutheran Book of Worship, p.124.
[2] Robinson, Gilead, 24-25.

Caryn D. Riswold, Ph.D., is the godmother of five boys, aunt of seven nephews and one niece, and associate professor of religion at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. She is the author of three books, the most recent of which, Feminism and Christianity, is now available as a Kindle ebook as well as for print purchase in the U.K. It also remains available the old-fashioned way through your local independent bookseller in the U.S. You can follow her on Twitter @feminismxianity.