REBLOGGED: Dr. King’s Work Continues: Forty-eight Years Later, Still “Not Welcome”

The following is reposted from the blog of Matthew Fox’s alumnus and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Richards, former director of the YELLAWE program in Oakland, and the founder and director of the Chicago Wisdom Project. We urge you to support his work by signing the Wisdom Farm petition!
_______________________________

“NOT Welcome!” read the email. I stared at it for a while. We were not welcome to build our farm in Baroda, Michigan, apparently. Even though, in the same email, the neighbor claims he does not know what we are doing. ["It is not clear to me what the complete objectives are for this project, who will be 'farming' this land, and why you thought it would be appropriate placement in my front yard! NOT welcome at all." - Gregory Davis] But hey, I thought, this is just one neighbor. No big deal. But then I got the call from Mike Moran. Mike is running the farm in Michigan and had just returned from a hearing with the town board. A dozen or so neighbors had showed up, bringing pictures they’d printed from our website, bringing wild accusations about what our plans, bringing, most significantly, fear and ignorance that we’d been taught was a thing of the past. I’d seen “Eyes on the Prize.” I knew that when my wife’s family moved to a white neighborhood in Chicago in the eighties she’d faced similar prejudices. But this was 2014. Dr King’s birthday is celebrated as a big, collective “thank you” for getting rid of this kind of thing, or perhaps as a “Day of Service” where people do nice things like feed the homeless. But addressing issues of systemic racism and exclusion are not really part of the narrative.

In an article in the local newspaper, another neighbor, Leslie Arbanas, is quoted as saying “it’s not the right place.” Why? Because, according to the article, “the presence of inner city youth, including high school drop-outs… could… hurt property values.” To be clear, none of the youth on the farm have been “high school drop-outs.” Most are headed to college. But that really shouldn’t matter. Let’s get to the heart of the matter: “inner city” is code in America for black and brown. She is making the same argument that was made in Dr King’s day: We’re not racist; we’re just afraid that the presence of black people will hurt our property values.

Speaking of narratives, some in this small town, apparently, had been working pretty hard at creating one. We were introducing a “rehab center” was one such story, because, you know, there are pictures of black kids on our website and they must be drug addicts (this would include my five year old daughter, by the way). Particularly telling about the hate mail I received and about the hearing Mike had to endure was that the narratives seemed to be based entirely on the images on our website. No one had read any of the words. But they’d seen those scary pictures of kids planting corn. (To see the pictures, go to The Chicago Wisdom Project Website)

It didn’t seem to matter, in this meeting, that false accusations were made, or that no one actually knew what a non-profit was [this made our donations page particularly suspicious: "Where is all the money going?!"--I wish we had this problem]. As on Fox News, it was possible to give equal weight to lies and truth, if the lies were repeated enough.

And speaking of Fox News, since this is where I suspect many of these people surely get their information about the world in general, let me turn to the role of the image in this controversy. The images were the focus of the fear and of the efforts to get rid of us. Images, too, I suspect, were at the root of this fear. Like most white Americans, their only experience of black or brown people comes through the images–along with the race-bating and hate-mongering commentary–they had seen on their televisions. These people probably don’t even realize they are racist. Ms. Arbanas, for example, claims that race isn’t an issue–”it just isn’t the right place.”

This makes our work at The Chicago Wisdom Project all the more important. What we have been trying to do for years now is give young people the opportunity to tell their own stories, to create their own narratives. Our youth are well aware–far more aware than those who would attempt to deny them the right to work and play and learn and create at Wisdom Farm–of the negative images of them in the popular discourse, of the deficit narrative that attempts to attribute the injustices of our society to the failures of the oppressed. Our work is to help to create a counter-narrative that tells a different story.

This story can be simplified, however, for those not ready to hear all this. One narrative is this: The Chicago Wisdom Project is bringing to the tired soils of Michigan a new way of farming. Permaculture instead of industrial agriculture. There seems to be a connection between the cultural malaise in Middle America and the agricultural malaise of Middle American Farms. They are afraid of children where they should be afraid of the fact that their farming practices are toxifying the land and depleting their soil.

To be clear about what we are doing, we’ve been working hard over the last year to create a space for our youth to come to get their hands dirty, to experience the quiet and beauty of nature, and to let their imaginations fly free. It is a context for our youth’s rites of passage ceremony, a place to create memories, ideas, art. But Wisdom Farm is, first and foremost, a farm. Somehow, our neighbors didn’t see it as a farm [notice the scare quotes around "farm" in the email from Gregory Davis above] because there was learning and art and music and storytelling and conversation happening. (You can find more about it at the Wisdom Farm Page.)

In 1966, Dr King came to Chicago to fight housing discrimination. It was considered one of the great failures of his career. In the north, he faced fewer legal barriers to his work for equality, but just as much hate. It would have been far easier to change a law than to change the hearts of people who simply told African-Americans, “NOT welcome!” I am not ignorant of history; I realize that much has changed for the better in the last forty-eight years. But I can also say that–sadly from my own experience–there is much work to be done.

We realize that we can do more to work with our neighbors, to help them understand our work and to acknowledge that their presence on this land before us should be respected. Indeed, we’d love for them, or their kids, to join us in our work. We’d love to engage them honestly in a way where we could learn from each other. And the truth is, we’ve got a lot of work to do: we don’t want to spend our time and energy at board meetings or in court houses. But sometimes the lesson plan you bring to the classroom is not what needs to be learned, especially when the world is the classroom. Standing up for themselves against prejudice can be a great lesson for our youth. No one, in any neighborhood in America, can tell our youth they are not welcome. Both our neighbors and we need to learn this lesson now, even forty-eight years after Dr King came up north.

Please sign this petition to ask the town of Baroda to give us a fair hearing.

Theodore Richards is the director and founder of The Chicago Wisdom Project. He is the author of several books, most recently Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto, finalist for the USA Book Award. His second novel, The Conversions, is to be released in October. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including two Independent Publisher Awards, The USA Book Award, and the Nautilus Book Award. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

A Special Invitation to Transformative Activist Training, via Tikkun

Dear Friends,

I hope you know that Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine and its activist arm, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, has been one of my most consistent supporters, printing my articles and inviting me to speak at their conferences. I’ve been much impressed with the unique way they combine a deep understanding of the spiritual dimension of reality with a shrewd knowledge of how to change the world rather than to adjust to it. And their insistence on transforming the Left from its religio-phobia to become a force for what Lerner calls “The New Bottom Line” of love, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, caring for each other and the planet, and learning how to respond to the universe with what Lerner (taking from his teacher and mentor Abraham Joshua Heschel) calls awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of all being.

So I really want to urge you to consider coming to their Transformative Activist Training in Berkeley, Ca. the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Jan 17-20, or, getting together a group of 50 people in your own area who would pay to have the trainers (Rabbi Lerner and Cat Zavis) come there. For more info, please go to
http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/training.

This weekend will be a very unique opportunity, with a small group of people, to study with Lerner, absorb his exciting ideas, and perhaps even become part of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (which you can read about and join at their website http://www.spiritualprogressives.org).

If you don’t do the training, I strongly encourage you to join the Network of Spiritual Progressives (and when you do, you also get a subscription to the print edition of Tikkun magazine—in which, incidentally, in the Summer 2014 issue there will be a focus on ways of thinking about God, and I have an article there, as does John Cobb, Gary Dorrien, Judith Plaskow, and many other serious theological thinkers).

Please read below how they describe some of what they are up to.
Warm regards,
Matt Fox
___________________________

Some people and organizations have been begging for your money on the premise that if they could just deal with their single issue, the terrible suffering and screw ups of the human race could be solved. But it’s not that simple.

The problems of domestic and global poverty, increasing economic inequality, destruction of our privacy by the NSA, drone warfare, threats of war with Iran if the US and Israel don’t get their way, dismantling of the life support system of the planet by the ethos of unlimited growth and corporate environmental irresponsibility, military clashes between nations, elections dominated by the rich 1%, repression of dissent, abiding racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia (and the resulting oppression of minorities, the homeless, and immigrants) are all rooted in a global system that is self-destructive. There will inevtiably by a global crisis–probably within the next ten-fifteen years. But the outcome might not be a transformaton toward a world we want to see–it might be a new and more sophisticated form of fascism in much of the world.

So we need a new kind of movement–a movement that can incorporate all the existing “issues,” but can transcend the single-issue focus and provide a vision of the kind of world we actually want, and then mobilize people around that vision. The goal is not to replace all the valuable single issue struggles, but to provide them with a unifying vision and worldview that will make them more effective. NSP has the vision, and now we need people to be trained in how to become activists and leaders in this kind of a movement.

If such a movement is successful in reaching millions of people in the coming years, when the inevitable crisis comes, we will have in place people ready to win mass support for a world of love, generosity, environmental sanity, ethical seriousness, joyful affirmation of pleasure, celebration and awe of the grandeur of the universe, and genuine caring for each other in recognition that our own well-being depends on the well being of everyone else on the planet and the well being of the planet itself, rather than a society based on fear, domination, intimidation and violence. But it won’t happen if you don’t help us build it now.

That’s why we at the NSP have set up a training for activists who want to build this kind of transformative movement–and its first sessions will be in two weeks–January 17-20 (Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend) in Berkeley, Ca. Since this is the first one, it will be small and have plenty of direct contact with the trainers: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis. If you can’t make it because it’s too far away, then recruit 50 people in your own area and Rabbi Lerner and Ms. Zavis will provide that training in your part of the country.

Check out the details and register for this first training at www.spiritualprogressives.org/training . Be with us on the ground floor of this exciting venture!

Of course, if you can’t become an activist in this movement, you can still help us by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressies or by making a financial donation at http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/donate . Your tax-deductible donations to Tikkun and/or the Network of Spiritual Progressives help us stay alive and provide critical support–and we deeply appreciate the thousands of people who donate each year. And if you are ready to move beyond that to be an activist with us, well, come to this training, or bring Rabbi Lerner and Cat Zavis to lead one in your part of the country!

Warm regards,
Tikkun Magazine Staff

P.S. Did you know you can read our Tikkun Daily in a weekly digest version or as a dialy blog. And it’s FREE–register for it at http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/join-tikkun-daily/

Matthew Fox’s Christmas Letter, 2013

Dear Friend of Creation Spirituality:

A blessed Holiday Season to you all! I am sure we are all deeply yearning for the kind of peace with justice that the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons are all about. I hope these kind of miracles are in the works for all and through our dedicated inner and outer work.

A few summaries of our goings on at FCS this year. I have been working on a new book on Meister Eckhart, my third, but my first in over thirty years. Called Meister Eckhart: Mystic Warrior for Our Times, it is due out from New World Library in July. I borrowed my methodology from my recent book on Hildegard when I put Eckhart in the room with twentieth (and twenty-first century) thinkers such as: Rabbi Heschel; Adrienne Rich (on the Divine Feminine); Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry (on the Cosmic Christ); Black Elk (on shamanism); Dorothy Soelle (on liberation); Carl Jung; Otto Rank; Biblical scholars Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and Bruce Chilton, Karl Marx, David Korten and Anita Roddick (on economics), Lily Yeh and M.C. Richards (on education), etc. I enjoyed doing it and I hope you will like it too—I incorporate his words from many of his sermons that were not part of my original fat book on him once called “Breakthrough” and now called Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.

Andrew Harvey and I did two of our Christ Path Seminars this past year, one in Oakland with Joanna Macy and another in Pittsburgh at the Methodist church with Bruce Chilton. They were very rich and we filmed all the sessions. Unfortunately the financial results were less than break-even so we had to cut back on doing more for the time being. We do have those two weekends available in dvd form, however, and at a very reasonable price ($60 for about 12 hours of dialog and practices).

The YELLAWE Program has flourished this year in Fremont High School in Oakland and our teacher and director, Rose Elizondo, also took it to Oaxaca in Mexico and to Mexico City where she taught youth living in the streets. Newspaper articles appeared in both cities about the program which included using paints that the students made themselves from cactus (a practice Rose learned from her grandmother) and the use of moss so that the murals the students created are literally growing pieces. In both programs local artists, some of them quite famous, joined to instruct the young people. Also a very accomplished artist in the Bay Area, Francisco Franco, joined Rose at FHS to lead the students in painting a mural together at the school. Students also created “cosmic shoes” by painting stars and more on tennis shoes that the program furnished.

We were part of the annual Sounds True Conference in the Rocky Mountains this summer where we were invited to put on a Cosmic Mass for about 1000 participants. Celtic singer Noirin ni Rian and her two sons, also musicians and in their twenties, were part of the Mass. Nicole Porcaro did a fine job directing it with much assistance from the ST staff. It was highly ecumenical and very well received. I share the following quote from Thich Naht Hanh who, I think, truly gets the Cosmic Christ and the Mass:
“Take, my friends, ‘this is my flesh, this is my blood.’ Can there be any more drastic language in order to wake you up? What could Jesus have said better than that?….This piece of bread is the whole cosmos. If Christ is the body of God, which he is, then the bread he offers is also the body of the cosmos. Look deeply and you notice the sunshine in the bread, the blue sky in the bread, the cloud and the great Earth in the bread. Can you tell me what is not in that piece of bread? You eat in such a way that you come alive, truly alive.”

A number of people were deeply affected, including a woman who told me she had “hated religion for 22 years,” and wounded Catholics (know a few?) and others. Rabbi Rami Shapiro joined us for table prayers and Shiva Rea led dance during the DJ dance time.

On December 1 we began anew the TCM in Oakland at a club in Jack London Square named “Kimballs.” It too was very well received and I am pleased that over twenty people signed up to volunteer for future Masses in Oakland. The theme was “Celebration of the Body” and our prayer included Lakota drumming and singing, a Jewish cantor playing a Mongolian drum and song with words set to it from the Kabbalah, Pancho’s spoken word, Joanna Macy teaching, Rabbi Michael Ziegler and Aeeshah Clottey at the table prayers and more. Sister Dorothy Stang’s brother Tom and his wife were in attendance as well. And some great altars and entrance ‘tent’ overseen by Rose Elizondo! I am pleased to announce that we have a new director for the TCM, Skylar Wilson, who represents a new generation (he is 29 years old) leading things. For more on the recent Oakland TCM including pics you can go to www.matthewfox.org. We created a Kickstarter campaign that assisted with raising funds and getting the word out as well. The next TCM is scheduled for February 16 in Oakland.

On Thanksgiving Day the Italians released an Italian translation of my Letters to Pope Francis and several Italian papers have run reviews of it. Also, TIKKUN magazine ran a substantive article I wrote on Pope Francis that can be found at www.matthewfox.org In that series of letters I urge the new pope to be true to his namesake; I feel he is doing a pretty good job. When a pope gets Rush Limbaugh so mad at you that he calls your teaching “pure Marxism,” you must be doing something right! It will be something to watch the right wing Catholic politicians and supreme court justices squirm under the teachings of Pope Francis on behalf of the poor. I recommend that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together announcing the “Revolution in Values” that our species needs to survive.

Spread the word: The publisher of Letters to Pope Francis is running a special all week beginning Monday 11:00am ET with the e-book available from amazon.com for only 99 cents until Tuesday, 12/20 at 3:59 p.m. PST. There is a special price every day, so spread the word.

I appeared on Democracy Now! again a few weeks ago regarding the Pope’s recent comments. You can watch the video or read the full transcript HERE. I was also interviewed on the Real News Network again this past week and that video will be published Monday.

Some other news…..We may have an announcement early in the next year about a reincarnation of our D Min program in creation spirituality and work as a fully accredited degree. My assistant Dennis Edwards goes in for surgery on his hip on Feb. 4, and I recommend your prayers for his rapid healing. He expects to be out of commission only a few days however.

So, much going on. Prayers to you all. If you want to reach into your pocket to help make our work sustainable either by donation or purchase of product, please don’t resist the temptation.

Peace to you all,

Matthew Fox

A Special Holiday Gift
from the Publisher of Letters to Pope Francis

Newsflash!

If you’re resonating to the message of Pope Francis for social and environmental justice, you’ll surely want to see Matthew Fox’s heartfelt letters to him…so….

To celebrate the holiday and Pope Francis’ being named TIME’s Person of the Year, the publisher of Matthew Fox’s book Letters to Pope Francis has made a generous offer….

The Kindle edition will be deeply discounted this week only, beginning at just $.99  – a 91% discount! – today and moving up to $4.99 by the end of this week.

From 12/16/2013, 8:00 AM to 12/17/2013 3:59 PM (PST) $0.99 (91% discount)

From 12/17/2013, 4:00 PM to 12/19/2013 11:59 AM (PST) $1.99 (81% discount)

From 12/19/2013, 12:00 AM  to 12/20/2013, 7:59 AM (PST) $2.99 (71% discount)

From 12/20/2013, 8:00 AM  to 12/21/2013, 3:59 PM (PST) $3.99 (61% discount)

From 12/21/2013, 4:00 PM to 12/23/2013, 11:59 AM (PST) $4.99 (51% discount)

End December 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM (PST) Original list price of $9.99

So the best time to purchase Letters to Pope Francis is TODAY, after 8:00 a.m. PST, till Tuesday at 4:00 pm. – don’t miss this offer!

And please spread the word!

 

Pope Francis: A Breath of Fresh Air?

The following article was written by Matthew Fox for TIKKUN Magazine and published there, December 8, 2013.

I recently wrote a book on Pope Francis, or better a book to him, entitled Letters to Pope Francis. The book was released in Italian on Thanksgiving Day. In it I challenge him to live up to his purposefully chosen namesake and warned that people would hold his feet to the fire because no other pope had ever taken up that name, icon that it is, and that most people do know what St Francis of Assisi stood for: Ecology and non-chauvinistic relationships to the plant and animal worlds; a preferential option for the poor; and (this may be slightly less acknowledged) an admirable and almost startling balance of gender justice and consciousness. In his celebrated poem, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” he moves back and forth, back and forth, between masculine and feminine names for the sacred.

People who care about such matters recognize fresh consciousness in the pope’s refusal to move into the palatial headquarters known as the papal apartments; in his refusal to drive in limousines and his call for bishops and cardinals to follow suit; his trips to embrace embattled refugees on islands off southern Italy; his visits to favelas or slums in Rio de Janeiro as well as his work in the same in Argentina over the years.

These actions, plus his strong words denouncing the “idols” and “gods” of the marketplace together seem to be framing a story of a different kind of pope and papacy from anything we have had since Pope John Paul I, who was (most probably) murdered after thirty-one days in the office some thirty-four years ago. It raises hopes in the minds and hearts of activists and progressive Catholics, many of whom have left the church behind but still recognize its potential power as a source for good in many parts of the world.

Theologically, Pope Francis is speaking the radical language of Vatican II abandoned by his two predecessors: that the church is NOT the hierarchy but “the people” whose “sensus fidelium” actually matters. The effort to poll parishioners about such subjects as birth control, abortion, women’s rights and homosexual unions is a first, though quite lame effort, as the survey was unprofessionally done, asking for essay answers and not direct answers. In many cases it has been ignored by the bishops, who are simply filling in the blanks according to their own theological whims.

One sign that Pope Francis is being heard is the steam emerging from people who do not want to hear about justice, economic equality or church as people of God. (Rush Limbaugh, for example, had lots to complain about and did so loudly regarding the pope’s recent take on Wall Street, calling the pope’s words “pure Marxism.”)

But right-wing Catholic nay-sayers are caught in something of a trap. It will be interesting to see how they emerge and this includes stalwart power brokers like the four right wing Catholics on the Supreme Court, all of whom voted for “Citizens United”–Scalia, Thomas, Alioto and John Roberts. Throw in Kennedy, another Catholic though not so extreme right (for his scandalous vote in favor of Citizens United). Then there is Newt Gingrich, a new convert to Catholicism (under pope Ratzinger); aspiring presidential candidate Paul Ryan (whose philosophy owes much more to atheist Ayn Rand than to the Gospels or papal pronouncements but who still claims to be a stalwart Catholic); Rick Santorum; John Boehmer.

How these politicians dance around this pope’s pronouncements on economic justice will be a spectacle that deserves watching. Recall how the Catholic bishops under Pope John Paul II were instructed not to give communion to Catholic politicians who advocate for the right to abortion and how this cost Kerry the election in 2004. Will the same threats obtain for Catholic politicians who deny rights of the poor? And who are shills for the interests of the “deified market” (the pope’s words) and “a “new tyranny” (the pope’s words) of current day capitalism? Stay tuned.

The pope has essentially told the shrill right wing Catholics who received such support under the previous two popes, to chill out and to cease reducing theology to “a condom” or a set of rules, and to get moving on social and economic justice. There are currently Catholic writers who have made a living denouncing social justice such as George Weigel and it will be interesting to watch them squirm also with this new pope. Weigel is famous for complaining about Catholics who take some of the teachings of the church and leave others out. He did the same with: 1) the war in Iraq –he was and is a committed neocon who has never apologized for getting us into Iraq, despite both of the popes he so admires being against it; and 2) economic alternatives to Wall Street rape of Main Street, i.e, consumer capitalism.

Yet he constantly trumps his version of Catholicism, which is really papalism, as the only way. “The truth of what is taught by the pope and the college of bishops is not a matter for debate” he tells us in his most recent (and scariest) book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church (page 61). Will he continue to invoke papalism after reading what this pope is preaching?

How is it then that Weigel supported the invasion of Iraq when two popes opposed it? Why did he run from papal teachings on distributive justice? And from their teachings on the death penalty? When it comes to seminary training, Weigel says it should begin with the Catechism and only then move into Biblical studies which “should build upon this solid foundation so that each candidate has a deep understanding of what the Church teaches—and why.” He says this is the way one learns to think “with the Church” as if the Church is the maker of catechisms—not the people of the world or the carrier of Sacred Scripture. (By the way, the great idea for a catechism came from none other than the pedophile champion, Cardinal Law, as I make clear in my book, The Pope’s War.) Yes, we will soon learn what really constitutes the theology of our hard right Catholic propagandists, and I suspect that for many if not all of them Wall Street will trump the Vatican.

But beyond the Catholics squirming in and out of political office, there are the larger issues that the pope is addressing to the capitalistic system itself at this time of history.

Being the first pope from what we call “the third world,” Pope Francis can be expected to understand the tides of history and of economic oppression differently from being the recipient of years of abuse than from being the source of it. I end my letters to the pope suggesting that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together, hitting most continents to speak to the “Revolution in Values” that our times call for. This is not because change comes primarily from the top down, but because a few at the top (whom the media will be almost required to report about) can, by speaking out together, put wind in the sails of those millions and indeed billions who pray for and/or work for a saner world. Together they could speak to the obvious and real moral issues of our day:

  • economic inequality based on a system of avarice not only at the top but in the consumer bottom and middle;
  • gender injustice (something the Catholic Church has to address internally as well);
  • ecological destruction;
  • unemployment, especially among the young;
  • the pressing need for religious and spiritual interfaith or deep ecumenism;
  • the necessary and desired marriage of science and spirituality (as opposed to silly fundamentalism either by religion or by science).

The young could be deeply inspired by such a road show and I have no doubt that the two principals would themselves learn from one another. This pope has displayed a refreshing humility and eagerness to learn from other religious leaders as in his book of dialogs with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina (who is also a PhD in science). It is a fine book and they got together over a two year period to produce it.

Teachings of Pope Francis that stand out include some of the following.

1. A walking of his talk of simpler lifestyle. Pope Francis was well known in Argentina for taking public transportation to work and refusing any limousine-like service, which so many prelates take for granted. He has done the same in his new position as pope, where he chooses not to live in the papal apartments but in a far more modest guest house or hotel in the Vatican (might he give over the apartments to Rome’s homeless?). He drives a Ford Focus in Vatican city. He has also drawn some press recently for sneaking out at night from the Vatican in the simple priestly garb of black suit and color and hanging out with homeless in the streets of Rome. One senses he is trying to walk the talk and follow his own preaching about simplification. And he is putting pressure on other prelates to do the same.

2. As for his talk, he tends to mince no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today. He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human. In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.” (Fox, Letters to Pope Francis, 24; subsequent citations are from the same) Is globalization enslaving the nations? Serious words worthy of a serious discussion.

3. He says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor” and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.”

4. He praises St Francis because “he brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”

5. He takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” How important is that? To equate economic structures with terrorism? Yes, Wall Street terrorizes. Ask any Main Street citizen.

6. He denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth. He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good.

7. Pope Francis has said: “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And he remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the church on the needs of the poor, he would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyte.” (119)

8. He critiques clericalism as a “distortion of religion” and says priests should not declare “I am the boss here” but listen to the community. “The Catholic Church is the entire people of God,” he declares, a la Vatican II—not words the previous two popes were at all home with. (85)

9. “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” (71)

10. On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of young people in jail, including the feet of some women, one of them being Muslim. It is a custom to do this ritual after the memory of Jesus who also did it—but the Catholic right wing is up in arms about his daring to wash women’s feet, and those of a Muslim woman!

11. He endorses the concept of small communities over what he calls “hierarchical mega-institutions” because these better “nurture their own spirituality” and after all the “origin of Christianity was ‘parochial and later organized into small communities.” (94)

12. “Repair my church in ruins” he said on taking over the office of the papacy. He seems to get it. The schismatic church of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) has left a Catholicism which the young have abandoned en masse. They left a church in ruins run by fascist leaning Opus Dei cardinals and bishops all over the world. One Catholic paper in India declared “there is a civil war in the church.” I for one do not believe this pope or any pope could return Catholicism to its previous state—or should. As I concluded in my book, The Pope’s War, I see in the destruction of the Catholic Church as we know it the work of the Holy Spirit. It is time to simplify the message and the presence of those who follow a Christ path. It is time to travel with backpacks on our backs, not basilicas. The pope’s work will not bring Catholics “back to the church” but hopefully it will inspire Christians and non-Christians alike to consider the basic teachings of Jesus around compassion and justice and start acting accordingly.

13. Says Pope Francis: “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.” We need, he says, a “balanced social order that is more humane” and that resists consumerism. “Money has to serve and not rule.” It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.

14. Says the pope: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Structures can “give us a false sense of security” and “rules makes us harsh judges…while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “give them something to eat.’” He wants to decentralize the church for “excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

15. Unfettered capitalism is a “new tyranny” “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.” This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.” A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry (125f) and interestingly he chose a parallel phrase, the “Joy of the Gospel” for the title of his most recent pronouncement.

In his recent document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly as all the prophet do. He says No—as all the prophets do. He denounces “trickle-down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” Following are some of his No’s presented in his own words:

1. “No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

2. “No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self-serving tax evasion has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.”

3. “No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.”

4. “No to the inequality which spawns violence. [Violence happens not]simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded form the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.”

Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.” And he defines injustice as “evil.” He has invited liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican and the word is out that he will canonize Archbishop Romero.

A different kind of papacy? Surely from the past two popes; much more like Pope John XXIII. Does that mean we go back to papalolatry? Absolutely not. But it does mean that it is good that a person in the public eye is keeping his sights on values that matter and speaking up for the kind of people of conscience who read and act on the values that Tikkun represents.

When it comes to issues of women, Pope Francis has much to learn (including how women were leaders in the early church). But I think he is capable of learning. On homosexuality, he has uttered a telling line, “Who am I to judge?” that certainly distances him from the previous two popes. On issues of abortion, at least he has spoken to the need to care about the women involved. Pope Francis is not perfect—none of us is—but he is an ally to all those seeking a world of justice and therefore peace.

The Cosmic Mass Returns to Oakland, Its Birthplace

Sunday, December 1, was a big day for the Cosmic Mass (TCM) —
it was our first Mass in Oakland  in several years.

Due to a shrinking of staff and resources from the economic downturn and our forced abandonment of Historic Sweets Ballroom, FCS put its energy into training others for the TCM rather than hosting it in Oakland, its birthplace, over the past several years.

But Dec 1 was a whole new beginning with a new leader—Skylar Wilson–and a new generation taking charge, with the support of Nicole Porcaro and Matthew Fox.  The theme was “The Celebration of the Body.”

The location was Kimball’s, a club in downtown Oakland in the Jack London Square district and the club manager and the club owner were both impressed with the event.  A great entrance field and four fine altars were put together by volunteer teams organized by Rose Elizondo, who also directs the Yellawe Program in Oakland.

One altar was a stunning mandala of flowers and branches; another an interactive black light space where people were invited to write messages to their bodies.  Tom Stang (brother to Sister Dorothy Stang who was martyred in the Amazon for defending the peasants and rainforest there), was in attendance with his wife Darnel… Sister Dorothy, a graduate of the University of Creation Spirituality, had often attended the TCM during her days in the school.

Mural Artists Ernesto Olmos and Francisco Franco brought beautiful pieces to display: Ernesto brought his painting of “Madre Tonantzin,” and Francisco actually painted portions of his mural of “The Unveiling—the Birth of Creation” while people were entering.

Native American drumming and songs opened the night as people arrived and also opened the directions and the closing of the directions at the end.  Matt Fox offered a welcome and introduction and Joanna Macy offered the teaching. VJ Dragonfly had all dancing and sweating their prayers.  A flautist and a bass accompanied us at times, and Richard Kaplan, a cantor in a local synagogue, sang a moving Mongolian song with a Mongolian drum and words from the Kabbalah.  VJ Carol Luna sang a Hildegard song during communion to the accompaniment of Tibetan singing bowls.

The spoken word was shared by Pancho Ramos-Stierle, who is a leader in Occupy Oakland: he believes it is time for “spiritual people to become activists and activists to become spiritual.”  Rabbi Michael Ziegler prayed at the table prayers for an expansion of human and religious outreach.

Responses?  One young man who drove down from Portland, Oregon said he had never danced so hard or so fully in his life, he felt the spirit taking him over.  It was striking how many young men were there—something one rarely sees in church or in spirituality workshops.  Clearly the language of dj and vj and rap is their kind of language!

One woman told me she was too moved to talk.  Another person commented how special it was to see young people in positions of leadership.  Another person said he “was in heaven.”  A number of people came forward to volunteer for the next TCM.

All told, it was a night to remember and we look forward to our next Oakland TCM coming up in February!

Highly Recommended: National Grieving Day

We don’t deal well with grief in our culture. We are expected to move on quickly after our losses. But when we don’t take the time to acknowledge and deal with our grief, that grief builds up, anger builds up, joy and love are lost, creativity is stifled, and despair enters in.

And who cannot be grieving today about what’s happening to the earth and to the beings of the earth?

So I think grief work – practices and rituals for grieving within a supportive community – is a critically necessary for these days. Mystics in all traditions bear witness: the depth of nothingness is directly related to the experience of everythingness. We learn we are cosmic beings not only in our joy and ecstasy, but also in our pain and sorrow.

And I believe that Grieving Day, which was initiated in Ireland and is now a global event taking place tomorrow, December 3, is a key step toward healing individually and in community: while grief is most often suffered alone, in isolation, this event offers the possibility of grieving together, in compassionate community.

I invite you to connect with the leadership of International Grieving Day at nationalgrievingday@gmail.com, to explore events that may be taking place in your area, and to consider offering an event of your own.

At our recent Cosmic Mass in Oakland on Dec. 1, we did, as we always do, a grief practice.

Grief practices invite the participants to enter the third chakra and go where we hold our anger and our sorrow and let the sounds out. This can be done privately by wailing with a drum or collectively by getting on “all fours” (actually all sixes) and putting one’s forehead to the ground (all “sevens”) and letting the sounds out of the third chakra; first listening to one’s own sounds; then, while still emitting the sounds, listening to one’s own sounds.

_____________________

From the National Grieving Day announcement on Facebook:

National Grieving Day initiated in Ireland and happening around the world on Tuesday, 3rd of December is a day set aside to honour and acknowledge grief in all its forms. Recent times have brought many losses – personal debt, communities losing jobs, businesses closing, young people feeling disempowered, losing a loved one, environmental disasters, personal dreams being dashed or national expectations and identity having to radically change course.

The day will include a series of events giving people an opportunity to reflect,dignify their loss and offer the release of what is felt at an individual and social level, awakening hope for the future. The events are gentle, non-intrusive and open to all.

Contemporary culture often does not allow time or space in our lives, in our world, for celebrating what’s been lost and the grief around it. This day is an invitation to meet that need, to offer events and places for those who want to take time to reflect and grieve their losses, small or big, old or more recent.

The National Grieving Day events will allow us to navigate discomfort and uncertainty and restore hope. The day itself is one of the darkest days of the year, on a night without even moonlight, which encourages us to embrace the dark in the knowledge that there that the light of new beginnings are born.

The spirit of people has arisen time and time again and it will do so once more. Let’s comfort ourselves, recognise what power we hold within and renew our strength and resilience through our individual and collective release.

If you don’t feel like joining a group setting, perhaps you’d like to light a candle on your own on the day to honour the grief you feel and say a prayer or meditate.

How people are getting involved…

  •   Join the group on FB (national and international pages)
  •   Celebrate individually with a candle, prayer, meditation
  •   Organizations can mark it with something aligned with their culture
  •   Come along to one of the grieving events
  •   Share details of the Day with your community and networks
  •   Suggest introductions for us to connect or talk with
  •   Host an event yourself

EVENTS: This is a decentralized, co-created day. There will be events all around Ireland, the UK, France, Netherlands and Australia with the list growing every day as people tune in and arrange programmes: see the global map for events. These include Remembrance Walks, Musical Mourning, Speeches, Ceremonial Fires, Sean Nós, Labyrinth Walks, Grief Circles, Keening, Ecstatic Grief, Poetry. The list is growing steadily!

CREATE AN EVENT: if you would like to run something in your community on Tuesday 3rd of December, please drop us a line at nationalgrievingday@gmail.com and we can provide you with resources, suggestions and outlines for events if you wish.

YOUR SUGGESTIONS: if you have suggestions or connections for us to make, please drop us a line.

EMAIL: keep in touch with us through this page or drop us a line at nationalgrievingday@gmail.com

YELLAWE Goes International!

Matthew Fox’s groundbreaking program, Youth and Elders Learning Laboratory for Ancestral Wisdom Education (YELLAWE) has passed another milestone.

After expanding to new schools in the Oakland area, and strongly influencing the Chicago Wisdom Project and New York-based Reciprocity Foundation, it has now crossed U.S. boundaries in the form of a workshop by Rose Elizondo, the Creative Arts director of Matthew Fox’s AWE Project in Oakland, California.

See the article below….

 Oaxacan urban artists venture into green graffiti.

Written by Elisa Ruiz in Oaxaca, Mexico, September 2, 2013 (Quadratín)

The new trend in the world of urban art is green graffiti.

Without aerosol sprays or synthetic paints, urban artists can express themselves using vegetable dyes and organic matter that is a mixture of nopal cactus juice, egg, yogurt, moss, or fast growing seeds, resulting in a living mass that can “paint” the city’s walls green.

Oaxaca’s first Green Graffiti Workshop is under the direction of Rose Elizondo, the Creative Arts Director of the AWE Project, who works with low-income youth in Oakland, California.  She is collaborating with Guillermo Pacheco, the founder of Okupa Visual Project, Oaxaca.

The first green graffiti teachers are among Oaxaca’s internationally known urban artists: La Piztola, Vloque, Serckas, Retroman and Bicu Yuba. Rose Elizondo’s trip to Oaxaca, at the invitation of Guillermo Pacheco, was funded by the American writer Matthew Fox, author of over 34 books whose most recent title is: Occupy Spirituality, published by North Atlantic Books.Rose Elizondo is the Creative Arts director of Matthew Fox’s AWE Project in Oakland, California.

Rose also facilitates meditation and Restorative Justice in San Quentin prison near San Francisco. Rose Elizondo explains that the goal of green graffiti is to prevent damage which can occur in the lungs of young people who use aerosol spray paint. Moreover, she commented, green graffiti is friendly to mother earth and prevents damages caused by the toxins in aerosol spray to the ozone layer.

Because of these benefits, Green Graffiti has started to be a trend in several countries such as Italy, Brazil and the United States.In this experimental “Growing Graffiti” workshop in Oaxaca, chia seeds and birdseed will be incorporated in the murals along with moss.

Taking advantage of the rains, Guillermo Pacheco expects one or two more days until the seeds and moss begin to sprout and grow small plants that will make the artwork something truly organic. The first green murals in the city of Oaxaca are on the walls of Okupa Visual Project on the streets of Melchor Ocampo and La Noria.  The artwork will be will be inaugurated on Thursday, September 5th at 18:00pm.

The original text of this article was published by Quadratín Agency at the following address : http://oaxaca.quadratin.com.mx/Artistas-urbanos-oaxaquenos-incursionan-en-el-grafiti-verde/

This content is protected by law. If you quote , please state the source and link to the original note of where you’ve taken . Quadratín Agency. All Rights Reserved © 2013 .

Dear Pope Francis:
An Impassioned Plea to Rebuild the Church

(Excerpts from Matthew Fox’s newest book, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion - now available on Amazon)

“Surely your choosing his name reveals your own preference for this vision of brotherhoods and sisterhoods, of bands and circles of people, rather than hierarchical ladder climbing. The implications of this choice for church reform are immense, as you well know. I take this to be the primary reason you dared to choose the name ‘Francis’ at this time of the dark night of the church. And dare you did!” page 10

“Because, quite simply, in Catholic theology a Council trumps a Pope but a Pope does not trump a Council. This was the case in the fourteenth century when the Council of Constance, fed up with three popes vying for power over a forty-two year period, fired all three and hired a new one. Beginning with the reign of Pope John Paul II we have had two papacies mired in schism because they have been undoing the reforms and teachings of Vatican II, centralizing everything in the Curia, and thereby turning their back on a valid Council. Two papacies in schism.” page 14

“Just as General Motors can’t run without engineers, neither can a religious tradition operate without theologians studying and debating. A professor of my alma mater, the Institut Catholique de Paris, which traces its roots to the first University in Paris where Aquinas and Eckhart both taught, said to me several years ago when she heard me in dialogue with a scientist in the city of Chicago, “The Pope (John Paul II) and Cardinal Ratzinger have killed all theology in Europe. Theology is dead there. Nothing like what you did tonight could be happening in Europe.” Maybe this is a principal reason why the European churches are as empty as they are—no thought allowed.” pp. 15-16

“St. John Henry Newman also famously remarked that if forced to choose between the pope and his conscience he would drink to conscience every time. Moreover, he observed, the church would look funny indeed without the laity. The laity are the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful. What they think and intuit matters, as the great Council affirmed. So let us once again have a church that listens and hears them out.” page 16

“What has been the result of all this Centralization? Corruption. Staggering, overwhelming corruption. Pope Benedict XVI received a report about call-boys blackmailing Curial hierarchy and all the facts will someday come to the light. Such a report is a natural outcome in an environment that fosters corruption, promoting the appointment of so-called leaders on the basis of their proclivity to act as Yes-men rather than being purveyors of conscience and justice. The appointment of these Yes-men has everything to do with the pedophile crisis and its horrendous cover-up to preserve the institution at all costs, even at the immeasurable cost to children. This corruption is further enabled by the dumbing down of the Church that stifles serious theological research and discussion, and infected with financial malfeasance of every kind that has given rise to fundraising sects of dubious moral standing such as Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation and the Legion of Christ, to places of prominence and power and decision-making in the Church worldwide.” pp. 24-25

“You have your hands full, Pope Francis, and I and many others wish you well. But clearly your task begins at home with a deep housecleaning in the Curia itself. Your rather rapid move in appointing an eight-person team chosen from many countries is indeed a promising first step in trying to restore this deformed institution. This has gone far beyond a matter of bringing law-breakers to true justice; it requires a re-education of a whole privileged caste of errant, arrogant, theologically-challenged souls who have put their own advancement ahead of the spirit of ministry.” page 27

“Obey, obey, obey. That is the only “theology” I see in studying the sects that have been pushed so hard by the Vatican of late: Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and the Legion of Christ (which boasted a special vow of never speaking badly about the founder who turned out to be a pervert beyond measure). Obey, obey, obey—that is the very definition of fascism. Its patriarchal message of control and domination is all that matters, its image of God as a punitive father is perverse and it in turn gives legitimacy to punitive attitudes of “superiors”—all that plus sexism is found wherever fascism reigns. An ideology of obedience and authority is no substitute for theology. And it is miles from anything Jesus taught or lived. Such ideology is the polar opposite of compassion…” pp. 39-40

“With all my heart I hope your papacy is one of compassion in its fullest and richest meanings and an example to other institutions of our world that compassion matters. And justice matters. You have said so yourself in the following words: “In the fact of grave forms of social and economic injustice, of political corruption, of ethnic cleansing, of demographic extermination, and destruction of the environment…surges the need for a radical personal and social renewal that is capable of ensuring justice, solidarity, honesty, and transparency.”" page 41

“Our divine-like creativity needs to seek out the beauty we can make, the communities we can build, the healing we can effect, the joy we can generate, the celebrations we can birth, the remembering we can invoke, the rituals we can share, the work by which we can employ others, the gardens we can grow, the food we can harvest, the forgiveness we can bring about.” page 45

“I am impressed as I write this that you are being so slow to move into the palaces of the Vatican. You seem sensitive to what I am writing about. Yes, perhaps more may be at stake in your obvious reluctance to take up residence in one of the last palaces on earth and to do so in Jesus’ name. Good for you! Francis and Jesus would both resist as you are resisting. Surely there is a simpler place to bear a more authentic witness to Jesus’ name and work than the Vatican palaces in their current state. The medicine for a religion of control, projection, fear and enfeeblement is to return to experience…” page 50

“Today’s youth are not waiting for marching orders from priests, bishops, or popes. They are putting their consciences to work with great imagination. What might happen if you, in the spirit of your namesake Francis, would acknowledge their work, listen deeply and support their adventure by engaging it? In short, I would love to see the Church hierarchy start acting like responsible elders and learn to listen again and support the Spirit speaking and acting through the young.” page 58

“It is not enough to talk about “evangelization.” The content of evangelization is crucial. After all most of the advertising industry today is built on “evangelization,” i.e., promises that buying one’s product will offer salvation or healing or beauty or power. The content of true evangelization today needs to be—as it was in Francis’ revolution—the Gospel values themselves, values of joy and of letting go, of creativity and responsibility, of compassion and justice.” page 80

“Pope Francis, all over the world people are feeling embarrassed to call themselves Catholic. The anti- intellectual sects that are masquerading as lay movements that I referred to earlier have been, for the past thirty five years, receiving the Vatican’s utmost promotion. Furthermore, it is from their ranks that countless bishops and cardinals of the Church have been appointed during the past two papacies. This will not do. They are not trained in a Gospel spirituality. Isn’t it an embarrassment to you, as a Jesuit, to know that the Church is being run by anti-intellectuals, or what one Brazilian bishop called “neurotics for orthodoxy”? Being a Jesuit you belong to a proud intellectual tradition—isn’t it time that a respect for theologians and what they do be returned to the Church? Isn’t it time to end the Inquisition just as the Second Vatican Council ended the Index of Forbidden Books? Isn’t it time to support, rather than interfere with, those theological movements that are returning us to the basic message of the Gospels? Isn’t this what Francis was all about?” pp. 83-84

“Perhaps we can now move beyond the rhetoric that has piled up around terms like “Marxism,” “base communities,” “Liberation Theology” and go back to the gospel message of liberation. As you once put it, “the option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And you said that if you preached sermons from the first fathers of the church about the needs of the poor you would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyite.” Besides, you have spent much of your ministry working in slums. Beyond rhetoric and politics lies the powerful Sacrament of Liberation, a sacrament that rose up in your continent as a living witness to the ever-present need to interfere with the injustice that obstructs the flow of grace that Life and God want all to experience.” page 119

“We can and need to move beyond politics alone to a sacramental approach to supporting human liberation around the world, honoring the poor, the under-employed, and those abused by abhorrent working conditions. It is clear you are already fighting on their behalf and including them in your public statements and prayers. I appreciate your perspective when you say: “Human rights are not just violated by terrorism, repression and murder…but also by the existence of extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that create huge inequalities.”” page 125

“I have just learned that you are planning an encyclical on Global Poverty. That is good news. You will have lots of support for that and I trust you will include the work of forward-thinking economists who are part of the growing majority who sense a need for an economics that works for everyone. Like your namesake, you are truly speaking to the needs and the hopes of the poor. Let us recommit to the Biblical meaning of love, which includes justice and compassion. There can be no love without justice. We are all here to love and learn about love and to inculcate these values into economic and political structures that make them more possible. In such a context as this, a truly universal and therefore catholic church would emerge again.” page 127

“Very early after your election you cited the phrase, “Repair my church in ruins.” Those are strong words, a “church in ruins.” You seem to have a sense of our times and how you have come along at a remarkable crossroads of time and history, not just church history, but more importantly planetary and human history. I beg you to keep that in mind in all of your decision-making. Remember you are not in this alone. I have sought to make some connections between your choice of St. Francis as your namesake and the deep needs of our present moment. We are in this together. No pope can save the Church alone, or should imagine he or she can do so. The people, who are the church, are already busy trying to. But it would be a great blessing if the Church’s hierarchy, beginning with a refreshingly humble Bishop of Rome, would begin to assist rather than flagrantly obstruct these efforts.” page 129″

Statement In Support of Grand Elder Raymond Robinson
and Idle No More

Grand Elder Raymond Robinson of the Cross Lake Nation in Manitoba, Canada, is now in his fourth day of hunger- and thirst-strike protesting the Harper administration’s massive removal of Canadian environmental protections and Indigenous treaty rights, opening up the transcontinental boreal forest to unlimited Tar Sands devastation.

Matthew Fox responds to the protest:

I join with thousands of others in prayer to support Elder Robinson and Chief Theresa Spence and others for their generous witness in standing for justice for Mother Earth and all her creatures. We share solidarity with them and the First Nations peoples who have always known that care for the Earth precedes the misbegotten money schemes that only seek to engender greed and separation in individuals and communities. All people are diminished when profit takes precedence over the health and beauty of our waters and soil and our four-legged brothers and sisters. It is our children especially who will suffer from such greed and rapaciousness for their lives will be less beautiful and less healthy. Future generations will ask us: Where were you when they came to destroy Mother Earth in the name of corporate profits? Let us all stand up and be heard and be Idle No More.

Rev. Matthew Fox
author of “Original Blessing”

_______________________________________________________
(Anonymous background article reposted from the Occupy Canada and other Facebook pages)

April 5th, 2013, at 9:30, Grand Elder Raymond Robinson has been
without food or water for 63 hours. The most that a person can survive
without water is maximum 4 days, which is 96 hours. This means with
each passing minute, Elder Robinson is closer to death. Earlier this
year, he broke a 44 day fast after fasting to support Chief Theresa
Spence and everything she stood for, which was to bring attention to
the plight of First Nation Peoples.

This time Elder Robinson is on a hunger strike in protest to the
passing of bills (government policies), which will bring about
horrific damage to the environment. Because the pipe lines need to
pass through our reserves or the camps need to be located on the
reserves, Elder Robinson stated, ‘First Nations are being blackmailed
into signing their rights away. These changes have been implemented
without any consultation… They are asking us to give up our waters
our lands our resources and even our Inherent Aboriginal Treaty
Rights’. To his word, he has been on a hunger strike; the food is not
the biggest concern because for the human body, water is essential for
life.

Elder Robinson from Cross Lake Nation in Manitoba, asks that the
government recognize that the First Nations peoples have a right to
clean water, hydro education, proper health care, the right to have a
voice on what takes place within their territories, among other basic
human rights that others members of society are privileged to have and
take for granted. He states that the passing of the bills will deny
these basic rights to First Nations peoples, which was Chief Spence’s
message during her fast. Sadly, the response months later from the
federal government was to have this new bill quietly passed without
consultation of the First Nation leadership. Elder Robinson is asking
for the repeal of the bills and that the Prime Minister, follow
through with his January 11th, 2012 promise to meet face-to-face with
the First Nations Chiefs.

On April 3rd, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s
spokesperson, Jason MacDonald had this to say about the Elder
Robinson’s hunger strike, ‘Like all reasonable people we encourage,
Raymond Robinson to continue to consume food and water.’ However,
Aboriginal Affairs supports the bills that deprive children of clean
water and fundamental basics as reasonable. Today, Aboriginal Affairs
Minster Bernard Valcourt met with Elder Robinson and said, ‘I’ll make
you deal, if you quit your hunger strike and I’ll visit your reserve.’
Elder Robinson said, ‘I said to him (Aboriginal Affairs Minster
Bernard Valcourt), ask the prime minister to meet with our nation
leaders. To which he said, ‘that is not going to happen,’ and then he
laughed.’

Elder Robinson asks, ‘are my people a laughing matter?’ No. It is time
for the Prime Minister to start respecting the First peoples of Canada
as well as the land base we live upon. The general public is being
told that the chiefs do not want the bill to be passed because they
would have to report their earnings. This is a distraction to what is
really being opposed and that the government is making decision on the
First Nations behalf. So what exactly are the laws that Elder Robinson
are opposing through his hunger strike? They are the Omnibus Bills C38
and C45, which contain changes to over 90 Federal Laws. The laws
include: changes that affect the Navigable Waters Protection Act and
the Fisheries Act – developers are no longer be responsible for fixing
the environment and habitat damage they cause. The First Nations
peoples stand to be at the greatest risk of environmental
exploitation, because the law is designed to provide for quick
development access to resource extraction industries of which most
occur on First Nations’ Land. Other Acts include Canadian
Environmental Assessment Act, which decreases opportunity for First
Nations’ involvement in Environmental Assessments as well as ending
environmental assessments. The National Energy Board Act, which limits
the ability to challenge decisions of the Federal Cabinet with regards
to project approvals. Other changes that will affect the omnibus bills
are Canada Grain Act, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Indian Act and
Public Sector pensions.

And, so why should these change be so scary for us. We need only what
occurred during the recent oil spill in Arkansas, where Exxon was off
the hook for paying into the federal oil spill fund responsible for
cleaning up the spill in Arkansas, because tar sands because isn’t
classified as oil under the law. Is this what Elder Robinson sees for
our future? Oil companies destroying the land and then afterward using
loopholes in the law to leave our lands destroyed for the next
generations. Which means that the already disadvantages peoples would
be a greater disadvantage as the land is destroyed around them.

Instead what do some members of society focus on? Sadly, they believe
the lies that Elder Robinson is upset that band leadership will have
to report their income. Do the people who make these kinds of
statements really think that the traditional stewards of the land care
about currency? First, I think most people would be shocked at the low
income of some of the nations chief and councilors; however, it is not
what Elder Robinson is slowly dying because of (mere money); rather he
is hoping the Creator will intervene and Mother Earth will be left to
continue nourish her children for generations to come.

Elder Robinson has told us that he is willing to suffer on behalf of
his people and he is doing that. The simple fact is that with each
hour, his body shuts down just a little bit more. My relatives please
join my prayer for Elder Robinson. Please spend a moment sending light
and love towards this beautiful and love filled warrior. (ejh)