Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Thursday
Sep152011

GETTING ARRESTED ON GOOD FRIDAY

No matter how large a city, it can support no more than a dozen prophets, and the number of radical Christians is only a few hundred – people who publically imitate Jesus. And they all know each other.

It didn’t take me long to get to know that crowd in Manhattan. That’s why Dan Berrigan and I once replaced a burned out fuse in a mid-town UCC church to relight the conference room.

And it hasn’t taken me long to get to know the radical crowd in Seattle. Fifty of us gathered at noon on Good Friday, April 22, 2011, at the Scoop Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle. We did John 19 as a group reading in five sections, with time for comments and prayer after each section. We spoke about people under oppression, persecution, or prosecution.

During one of these commentary breaks, I said the following:

“Last year, I found a book of short stories by Leo Tolstoy. I hadn’t realized that Count Tolstoy had been an artillery officer in the Crimean Wars of the 19th century. The Crimean Wars were the Russian counterpart of our Indian Wars in the United States.

“Tolstoy saw personally the carnage that happens when a conventional army fights a guerilla force. The guerillas are fighting on their turf to protect their homes, families and land. They know the territory. If they want to hide from the conventional army, they can.

“The conventional army, with its state-of-the-art weapons fights effectively against established positions – that is, towns. As a result, many victims – and often the majority of victims – are children, women and the elderly. It was that way in the Crimea. It was that way in the American West, and it’s that way today in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Then I threw out a challenge to the group. “Tolstoy protested the carnage in the Crimea. What leading American authors protested our genocide of the Native Americans in the 19th century?”

There was no response. “That’s right,” I said. “There weren’t any. In the 19th century and well into the 20th century, African-Americans were used as horses, and First People were treated like roaches–to be exterminated.”

“We’re continuing this carnage today in the Middle East. It must stop.”

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At the end of our group reading of John 19, Wes Howard-Brook explained that eleven of us were going to take part in a protest and confession of our personal and national complicity in these wars of aggression. We were going to protest by pouring (simulated) blood on our hands and then making bloody hand prints on the walls of the Federal Building, which is our closest counterpart to Pilate’s pretorium in Jerusalem.

Eleven did so, and I was one of the eleven. As Wes had coached us in advance, the Homeland Security guards at the Federal Building would look on from a distance as we read John 19 over our p.a. system. But, when we physically defaced the Federal Building, they would move in promptly to arrest us. And that’s what happened.

So, I spent the two hours from 2 to 4 p.m. on Good Friday in a locked holding room in the Federal Building. And then we were all released. We will receive tickets in the mail and will have an arraignment hearing in about a month.  Then, in the fall we'll go to trial and we’ll all be found guilty.

The photo shows me being handcuffed by a Homeland Security guard. I’m the one in the white hat (symbolism intended).

Rather than giving you details, I’ll refer you to two other sources on the web – a blog and a video:

http://sarahseattlesummer.blogspot.com/

Sarah Klaassen is a Mennonite minister, and her blog gives many of her feelings about our Good Friday witness. To get further details on the event, click on “Older Posts” at the bottom of the page to read “Good Friday, 2011”.  Then, there's a video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RqkFxMBq10

Wes Howard-Brook is the speaker. Wes is an amazing person. He grew up as an agnostic Jew, became a Roman Catholic, worships with the Mennonites and teaches at Seattle University (Jesuit). It’s no coincidence that Wes led us in the Gospel reading and in the protest. 

His latest book deals with the contrast within the Bible between empire (the kingship, Persia, Rome) and egalitarian worship and living (both the Sinai and New Testament). In the United States today, we’re much in the empire mode – and Wes’ message is: “Come out of empire.” His book won a Catholic 2011 award as the best Bible commentary published in the past year.

In the video, Wes tells why we’re protesting and then pours the fake blood (a mixture of corn syrup and tempera paint). We make marks; they put on the cuffs; they lead us away. In the holding room, we sang for the entire two hours.

One of the Seattle Eleven with whom I shared the experience was the Rev. Weldon Nisely – Ann Noffsinger’s predecessor as pastor of the Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship – the congregation that meets in the large grey Methodist Church on McMillan Avenue in Walnut Hills.

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Was I abused or harmed? No. Was I in pain during the detention? No, but two people were in real pain because their cuffs were too tight and their hands swelled.

Was this a profound religious experience for me? No. Did it bring me closer to Jesus? Not on Good Friday. Will our protest have any effect on Seattle citizens or on stopping the wars in the Middle East? Not likely.

Then, what was the use of our being arrested on Good Friday at the Federal Building?

For me, the answer was clear:  Experience and practice.

I’m preparing for the time ahead when public protest becomes a Christian responsibility.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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