Saturday, August 27, 2011

Overheard


...we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.
Dorothy Day

Conversation Overheard (my paraphrase)
@ Wholesome Choice, Irvine, CA 2:45pmPST, August 27, 2011

John the Reverend: In light of massive changes in our world, not only since the time of Christ, but in the last 15 years (globalization, corporate dominance, rapidly rising income inequality), how would you characterize the nature of Christian political engagement today?

Ched Myers: (long pause) That’s the $64 million question. I would start with our call to look out for the marginalized in our world. I really believe in Matthew 25: we find Christ uniquely among “the least of these.” And within the world of marginalized peoples, we, first and foremost, look out for the immigrant/undocumented community. They are tremendously vulnerable and it is the Christian’s duty to look out for them and speak on their behalf. Second, we look out for low-wage workers and obviously there is a lot of overlap between the immigrant community and labor.

John the Reverend: Would you include the mentally handicapped?

Ched Myers: Most certainly. If I had a third marginalized group to prioritize, it would be both mentally and physically handicapped folks. But obviously there are a lot of different groups of people (ie, LGBTQ, the unemployed, homeless, etc) we could include within the marginalized tent of advocacy. Solidarity politics ultimately calls us to look out for them all including the Land which has been tormented and pulverized. Christians have never had to engage with anything like climate change before. This will continue to be a greater and greater challenge in the years to come. So we’ve got to be agents of solidarity with the marginalized of every kind.

A second key strand of Christian political engagement would be anything that births or concedes violence in our world. And, of course, we are ALL subtly and explicitly implicated in both the marginalization and violence of our world.

A third key strand is the language of the “principalities and powers” from the letters of Paul. We are called to witness to the ways that corporate and government elites abuse their powers. Consider the massive corporate profits in the past few years, while at the same time, laying off millions of workers (and wielding lobbyists and lawyers to gain serious policy advantage).

Consider also the recent GAO audit of the Federal Reserve. The Fed has never been audited in its 100 year history until now! But thanks to the work of Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders and even some Republicans, we know that the bank bailout in 2008 was not $800 billion, but $16 trillion. $16,000,000,000,000! The richest folks in the world (not only American bankers were bailed out) caused massive economic and emotional hardship that still continues to this day and they get $16 trillion to cover up their greed-induced mistakes (Bernie Sanders: "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."). And this is at the same time that Tea Party movement (basically the most conservative Republicans) is demanding that the federal government cut a couple trillion dollars from the budget over a decade?

This is massive hypocrisy from the powers and Christians are called to criticize this kind of activity and behavior. But Christians must live in the tension of both humility and criticism. We have to be both humble and critical (“as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves”) at the same time—-which is awfully difficult! Some Christians are so “humble” that they don’t feel like they can say anything about those in power. It just leads to apathy. On the other extreme, Christians can be so critical that it leads to arrogance and/or cynicism.

And the fourth Christian political strand is living with mercy and compassion. We are called to vote with our hands and feet. We should constantly be looking, right in front of our own noses, where we can participate with God’s Reign in our world. Take for instance this custodian that I’ve been watching for the past hour. He’s from south of the border somewhere, probably someone really important in his village, like a priest, and he chooses to come to El Norte and work this job for his family. He’s been whistling this past hour, making beautiful music with his lips while taking a job that most Americans would immediately refuse. That’s a beautiful picture of Christ.
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*It was precious time sipping Stella Artois with theologian-author-activist Ched Myers and the men of a nameless, website-less subversive house church community from Long Beach. We bantered about intentional community, our own journeys of faith (trying to put the “fun” back into “fundamentalism”), the two-week Tar Sands action in Washington DC (more than 300 environmental activists arrested and jailed so far), the lack of Christian participation within the environmental movement and whether we should vote in the upcoming Presidential election…or not. As Ched shared with us, we desperately need spaces like this to be in solidarity and strategize our discipleship.


*For more beautiful "artisans of social change" like Ched Myers, see Leo Hartshorn's compilation here.

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