Sunday, October 12, 2014

Repentance, All the Way Down: A Columbus Day Meditation

By Myles Werntz

One of the questions which a day like Columbus Day presents is not whether or not Columbus should be celebrated, but what should be done instead of celebration. Columbus’ diaries and the historical record speak abundantly to the reasons for not celebrating Columbus, but should we perhaps celebrate another exemplar? Should we, as Seattle has recently done, reform the day into Indigenous People’s Day?  Or should there be perhaps another exemplar celebrated, such as Bartolome de las Casas?

In looking at this day from the perspective of nonviolence, there seems to be no easy answer, and certainly no perfect exemplar. Columbus, as the historical record attests, engaged in slavery, forced labor, and dismemberment of the indigenous people. The indigenous people were no pacifists, engaging in skirmishes with their neighbors. De las Casas, while famously advocating against the Spanish enslavement of the indigenous people, initially proposed that the Spanish enslave Africans instead of the North American natives. Any alternate celebration, while moving away from Columbus, only appears to celebrate violence again in a different form. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: What Can We Do?

by Sharleen Mondal
courtesy of the Florida Times Union website

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this year, it arrives on the heels of the highly publicized case of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, who was indefinitely suspended from the NFL after video exposed his physically violent attack against Janay Palmer in an elevator (see a timeline of the events of the case here). With regard to the NFL, the conversation about domestic violence and the league’s poor handling of the Rice case continues. The Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson, for instance, has penned a call to recognize the need for NFL players to handle aggression productively, and for fans to donate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Meanwhile, cultural workers like comedian Megan MacKay have produced work not only to entertain, but also to provoke audiences to discuss recurring narratives of survivor-blaming and lack of adequate accountability for abusers.In the midst of the broader public controversy, it might be easy to lose sight of two critical questions: how does domestic violence affect me? What can I do about it?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Redtail Run Brings Nations Together

By Emily Wirtz

If you asked for my opinion, I’d have to tell you that I would prefer to walk a mile on hot Legos before I’d ever choose to run a marathon. But others aren’t so wary of long distances. In 1992, massive groups of indigenous and Native Americans began to run.

Elder men of a native community carry prayer staffs.
In Native American culture, an Eagle represents the spirit of the northern continents, while a condor represents the south. The year of 1990 began talk of an ancient tradition of bringing the eagle and the condor together to celebrate resources and community. Two short years later, the Peace and Dignity Journey began for these people. Natives from the northernmost tip of Alaska to the southern islands of Chile began their spiritual journeys towards Central America, bearing prayer staffs of every community. Vanessa Inaru Pastrano, a native Taino woman and the director for the Taino community’s Journey, explained that it was a culmination of prophecy: that “native nations will come together again.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

World Day of Prayer for Peace


September 21, 2014

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the World Council of Churches and then the United Nations eventually designated September 21st every year as the DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE around the world.Since then many religious groups have also given support. It’s now a world-wide observance in a variety of ways. May the following thoughts enrich your involvement in “praying for peace” regularly.

For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

For our Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[From the Book of Common Prayer]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Policing as Counterinsurgency

By John Moser
A few weeks back my wife and I visited the charming little college town of Delaware, Ohio. Delaware is about 35 miles from Columbus, and is home to Ohio Wesleyan University, as well as a collection of fine restaurants and even a microbrewery. We had chosen a good night to go, because there was a local street fair, and the town was alive with booths from local businesses and civic organizations. The Delaware police were there, too.

And they brought with them their new toy, a big black armored vehicle called an MRAP. That stands for mine-resistant, ambush-protected.

One might wonder why Delaware, with fewer than 36,000 residents, has need of such a vehicle. Is the local constabulary really that worried about mines or ambushes?

But of course this development is hardly unique to Delaware. For the last ten years the Department of Defense has been providing local police forces across the country with military hardware at cut rate prices. Delaware paid only $2,600 for its MRAP, which ordinarily sells for some $700,000.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Sort of People Will We Be? A Reflection on Ferguson and Christian Identity

By Brian Bantum

As a teacher and especially as a theologian I try to help students connect how a community's understanding of who God is connects to the way they see themselves and their world. But inevitably, when we encounter the historical atrocities of the American slave system, Jim Crow, or other global acts of tragic dehumanization and violence, students are overwhelmed. But they also express a curious distance from those historical perpetrators. They say something like this, "Well, surely something like that couldn't happen now, we are not those sort of people." 

But what "sort of people" either justify or ignore the persistent cries of those being dispossessed and persecuted? And herein lies the fundamental problem. The implicit language of what is natural underlines how we view ourselves and others. While a relatively small percentage of individuals owned slaves in the United States, the assumption of what black bodies were, by nature, and what white bodies were, by nature, served to perpetuate the system as part of God's natural order.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Colors of My School

By Sue Dickson

Daviny sat next to me in the school’s cafeteria, her head bent closely to the paper as she bit her bottom lip in concentration. We were in La Aguada, a rural school in the FARC controlled mountains of northwest Colombia. She was showing me that she could write the letters of her name. Her parents do not read or write—but she does. Daviny is nine. She wants to be a teacher. She walks a couple of kilometers on mountain trails to school every day. Violence is part of Daviny’s life. Her older brothers have been recruited by the FARC. When a group of FARC militants showed up at the door of the family’s hut, they knew: they could either join the guerillas or be killed. As Daviny and I worked, one of the brothers was watching us from the edge of the jungle. In another world, at another time, he would have been a student in the school, too. He is fourteen. Now, he was a militant watching from the margins.

The school is three concrete-block rooms, painted bright yellow with blue trim—the colors of Colombia. Large windows look across a grassy field and out over the valley and jungle-wrapped mountains. There are no other buildings in sight. These mountains are exquisitely beautiful and they are exquisitely dangerous for outsiders. They are remote, undeveloped, sparsely inhabited and therefore a perfect hideout for the FARC. In the valley to the north, the paramilitaries remain in control. In the middle of that valley, a military base stands watch. Violence is commonplace.