Genocide, the Border, and Water


Water station operated and maintained in the Sonoran Desert by Human Borders.
Pima County, Arizona.

Genocide and water.

Thinking about aspects of genocide and efforts to eliminate groups of people who get in the way of governments and their ambitions. 

An important but hidden issue behind NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] was that displacing indigenous groups in Mexico would open up access to aquifers under their lands. 

One of the ways of controlling those then displaced people attempting to go North, by design, was and remains funneling those people into the Sonoran Desert, an area notably devoid of water. 

Attempting to aid the displaced people by putting out water for them is a crime in some areas but not in others.

The Sonoran Desert has become a vast cemetery for those displaced persons who had no access to water. 

On the last and most important day of Passover, Jesus stood up in the Temple and shouted, “Come over to me and I will give you living water!” Even the Temple police began to desert, joining Jesus.

The Pharisees, who were collaborating with Rome, began to quake.


Why Good News Is Not Fake News

εὐαγγέλιον

This is the Greek way of presenting what is translated into English as “Good News”. The word embodies the idea that there is a messenger bringing news. Good News is news is news that is reliable, accurate, and tells the listener something he/she needs to know. It embodies the idea of something which has just happened—that which is news in the newspaper or nightly news sense.

There is not much in the gospels—the good news—which is cheery or light hearted. It is often troubling news which challenges understanding, which challenges predominant narratives. Good news is a contrast to the fake news spouted by Empire. My thinking is that good news, reliable news whether cheery or disturbing, gospel news, the news one needs to hear and understand is losing out to fake news. I’m talking about the fake news of news media whether of Fox News or the New York Times. I’m talking about conspiracy theory news and magical thinking news.

I think we Americans are in pretty deep. I think that despite our veneer of Christianity, we can no longer distinguish between gospel, i.e. reliable, truth telling news and conspiracy theories or magical thinking.

Twelve Songs of Dignity

dragon-sun-woman

 

No more manager scenes. Resistance this time.

i. John of Patmos understood. In his apocalyptic vision he saw a great sign in heaven—a Woman clothed with the sun, her womb struggling to bring forth new life, who so antagonizes the Powers (Powers, represented by a Dragon, which deceive) that they sweep to earth a third of the stars. The Woman flees to a plot of land which is prepared to nourish her for a time and times and half a time —1,260 days!

ii. Orishas are Yoruban deities. Some of them crossed the Atlantic on slave ships. One of them, Oya, is an Orisha of winds, violent storms, lightning, birth, and death. Named for a river in Niger which has nine tributaries, she has been torn by the nine children she bore.

iii. An apocalypse is the full revelation of the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge so well articulated and widespread that it necessarily brings with it the destruction of the present age.

iv. Dynamite Hill was the nickname given to Center Street, the site of multiple drive by bombings in Birmingham, Alabama which itself was known by the sobriquet “Bombingham”. Between the 1940s and 1960s, there were some forty bombings in a city known for the viciousness of its segregationist sentiments and practices.

Center Street marked the residential color line running through the area of Birmingham known as Smithfield. Whites claimed the land to the west. Blacks were consigned to the land to the east. At the top of the hill, prosperous middle class Blacks steadily chipped away at the boundary as zoning laws were successfully challenged. As it chipped away, occupying White land, the Ku Klux Klan pushed back with fires, gun shots in the night, and dynamite.

Theodora Shores, the wife of NAACP attorney Arthur Shores, once found a case of dynamite in her garden. Her home was a frequent target of mob violence which led to a Shores family ritual: hit the floor and crawl to safety.

The frequency of fires and bombs prompted a neighborhood group called the Dynamite Hill Defenders, a rifle patrol, to defend their properties from attack.

v. Mary, her son, Jesus, growing in her womb, sang a resistance song about bringing down the powerful from their thrones and filling the hungry with good things. So dangerous was she that she had to flee to the hill country of Judea. When her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who also was pregnant, heard Mary’s approach, she cried out loudly, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth’s own child leaped within her womb.

vi. Susan Diane Mitchell has borne nine children all of whom survive. She lives now on Center Street and 11th Court North. Inspired by Dynamite Hill’s legacy of resistance, courage, and self-determination, its community spirit, and the sight of revolutionary Angela Davis’s former home across the way, in 2015 Mitchell initiated the Dynamite Hill-Smithfield Community Land Trust with support from the Magic City Agriculture Project. The Project emphasizes democratic decision making in the development of sustainable, cooperative agriculture. Mitchell and her beloved partner, Rev. Majadi Baruti, find spiritual nourishment in remembering the Black Goddess.

vii. The Black Goddess bears a resemblance to the Virgin of Guadalupe who is a representation of the Woman who fought the Dragon. Clothed with the sun and with stars on her cloak, she stands on the moon, pregnant. Known in Mexico now as the Queen of the Americas, the madonna first appeared to an indigenous man near Tepeyac sometime after the Conquest. The Spanish had destroyed a temple to the Aztec’s mother goddess, replacing it with a chapel dedicated to their European goddess, Mary. But resistant indigenous people knew she was, in fact, Tonantzin.

viii. In 2014, Birmingham had been chosen as the site of the 2021 World Games. With tax incentives, the choice accelerated the development of Downtown Birmingham. For residents of the Smithfield Community, the first community west of Interstate 65 and Downtown Birmingham, “development” is a euphemism for “gentrification” or the displacement of the low and moderate income residents who already lived there.

ix. Susan Mitchell and Majadi Baruti have a home in Smithfield. In the land around the house, they grow food to eat, sell, give away, or barter. A registered urban farm, they named it Ua Mer which means Beloved Water. The name was chosen in solidarity with the millions of women around the world have no access to clean, nourishing water.

The Land Trust Susan established is part of a plan to provide access to affordable housing and sustainable agriculture in the five predominantly African American Smithfield neighborhoods through a process of land adoption. A cooperative, the idea is that the Trust will own the land but individual families will have access to their own plot. There, they will give back to Mother Earth more than they receive.

For Susan, the Trust is an act of resistance and remembrance.* Her resistance is not only to gentrification, but it is resistance to the toxicity of living on earth in the present age. She dreams of creating small villages where people live communally, share what they have, acknowledge the indigeneity of land, and where they can have a home to care for.

The Trust is also an act of remembrance of a time before patriarchy, before large scale agriculture, and before capitalism when land was not owned but was worked by women. Susan remembers the time before the Garden spoken of in Genesis.

x. The Black Goddess whom Susan and Majadi remember is the crystallization of this long ago time when the black or brown or red earth was our Mother whose womb provided home and hearth, living waters, clean food, and safety.

xi. In an act of resistance, members of indigenous communities all across Colombia marched to demand the country’s leaders adhere to the terms of a peace agreement. They said, each and every one with the red and green flag held high, with pain and anger for their fallen comrades at the hands of the government for the sole reason of defending their territories, the platform of struggle and the principles of unity, land, culture, and autonomy called them to defend life, Mother Earth, and every being that inhabits it. They called each and every indigenous in one voice to sing a single song of dignity.

xii. So angry was the Dragon with the Woman that it tried to drown her but the earth came to her rescue, opened up its mouth, and swallowed the river pouring from the mouth of the Dragon.

*Many thanks to Susan Diane Mitchell for explaining what the Black Goddess, Ua Mer farm, and the Land Trust mean to her, in a phone conversation, October 31, 2017.

Ellin Sterne Jimmerson

Dear President Obama, Turn The Grief-Bearing Ship Around

The Wall, Sasabe, fence and barrier

 

In a different form, this article originally appeared in the Mobile Press Register, 2011. Altered, it appeared in Patheos.com, August 29, 2014.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2014/08/an-open-letter-to-president-obama-and-members-of-the-united-state-congress-turn-the-grief-bearing-ship-around/

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

I am a Baptist Minister to the Community. My ministry focuses on the production of a migrant justice documentary, narrated by Martin Sheen, called The Second Cooler. I first felt called to make the documentary because I was heartbroken for the families, especially the mothers, whose children died under the blazing Arizona sun as they were trying to cross the heavily militarized border into the United States.

Through a terrible twist of fate, I joined them in grief.

On the night of April 17, 2009, my sixteen year old daughter, Leigh Anna, and her precious boyfriend were killed by a drunk driver in Huntsville. The car exploded on impact and Leigh Anna’s tiny body was consumed by flames. The driver was an undocumented migrant from Mexico.

My family and I lost a lot that night. A daughter, an only sister, a granddaughter, the son-in-law we might have had, grandchildren, an aunt, cousins. And on that fiery night we became one of the broken families with broken hearts and broken dreams.

One of my favorite memories of Leigh Anna was the day, about two years before her death, when she went with me to Athens. The Ku Klux Klan was holding an anti-immigrant protest. We went to participate in a counter-protest. I remember her holding a neon-yellow sign, as big as she was, that had one word written on it in big, black letters: LOVE.

I have my memories, but I grieve and I grieve and I grieve.

There is nothing special about my grief. It is no different from that of the young mother in Huntsville whose infant was suffocated by an anxious coyote in that treacherous southwestern desert. Or the grandparents of other children who have died of the brutal cold there, alone and scared. Or of the children whose fathers have been snatched from them and put into deportation. Or the mothers now making plans for someone else to take their children if they should be deported.

And I am reminded of Mary, prostrate with grief at the foot of her crucified son.

I am reminded that recklessness does not belong only to drunk drivers. Or to police officers engaged in high-speed chases.

Recklessness also belongs to the powers, princes, and potentates who wash their hands of the grieving people they accept as the collateral damage of their policies and programs. Who wash their hands of the broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams.

And as I think long thoughts about Leigh Anna and that reckless night, I recall that I worship the God who said, “No!” to Pharaoh and his recklessness. The God who said, “No!” to Nebuchadnezzar and his recklessness. The God who said “No!” to Caesar and his recklessness.

I worship the God of the Exodus, the God of protection for those in fiery furnaces, the God of Resurrection. The God who takes sides with the broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams. The God who defies expectations and delights in dramatic reversals.

I remember Saul on the road to Damascus who heard a voice saying, Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” And he encountered himself in that profound moment and Saul became Paul, announcing the reality of the God who had effected the dramatic reversal, the dramatic “No!” to Caesar, the dramatic Resurrection.

And I recall John Newton, steering his deadly ship filled with desperate, grieving human beings bound for slavery. And that in an unexpected moment John Newton encountered himself on that alien sea, encountered his own recklessness, turned around his ship with its cargo of broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams unsold, and wrote those endlessly beautiful words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

President Obama and members of the United States Congress, in the days and weeks ahead, the political talk and strategizing about “comprehensive immigration reform” will resume. In its guise as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, “reform” is a deadly ship, a ship filled with nothing but more broken families, more broken hearts, and more broken dreams.

But I believe you already know this. In your efforts to further militarize our southwestern border with this package, carelessly disregarding the more migrants who are sure to lose their lives there, you already know you are being reckless with other people’s lives. In your effort to extend the system of indentured servitude duplicitously called the Guest Worker Program, you already know you are being reckless with other people’s lives. In your effort to push all undocumented people into the deportation system under the guise of a “path to citizenship”, you already know you are being reckless with other people’s lives.

I am asking you to encounter yourselves as did Paul and John Newton and turn this deadly grief-bearing ship around. I am asking you to reject political calculating with other people’s lives and begin working for justice.

 

Peterson Toscano

toscano transfigurations.JPG

“Falling for Ebed Melech”

Text: “Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. The king happened to be sitting at the Benjamin Gate, So Ebed-melech left the king’s house and spoke to the king,“My lord king, these men have acted wickedly in all they did to the prophet Jeremiah by throwing him into the cistern to die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.” Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take three men with you from here, and pull the prophet Jeremiah up from the cistern before he dies.”— Jeremiah 38:7-10

Excerpt: “When I finally came to my senses and came out gay, I refused to toss out the Baby Jesus and the Bible with the anti-LGBTQ bathwater. I began to discover Bible characters routinely left out of the abridged versions of Bible stories preached from the pulpit. It was through this creative dialogue with the Bible that I fell hard for eunuchs.”

Bio Peterson Toscano uses storytelling to promote justice and equality. Through original performance lectures, Peterson opens up discussions about lgbtq issues, privilege, the Bible, justice, and climate change. He created the performance lecture Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible, which unearths gender non-conforming Bible characters. His personal essays about his experiences with conversion therapy have appeared in the Gay and Lesbian Review, Liturgy Magazine, and Huffington Post. He contributed to the Lambda Award winning anthology, Gender Outlaws—The Next Generation. Together with artist Joey Hartman-Dow, he has created the illustrated story, The Amazing Adventures of the Afterbirth of Jesus. A self-described Quirky, Queer Quaker, Peterson speaks at universities, conferences, and in the media. As the host of Citizens’ Climate Radio and the curator of ClimateStew.com, he draws on storytelling and comedy to present climate change as a human rights issues. His climate change presentations reveal the interconnectedness of power, privilege, justice, polar bears, and coffee beans. These include his performance lectures, Everything is Connected—An evening of stories, most weird, many true and Climate Change—What’s Faith Got to Do, Got to Do with It? He lives in Central Pennsylvania with his partner, Glen Retief. www.petersontoscano.com

Invitation to a dying Church to free itself. John Dorhauer

“An entire reformation was birthed when the Bible was given to the common worshiper. It’s amazing what the Spirit will do when she is not withheld from those who need her most. In Rainbow in the Word, Ellin Jimmerson invites a dying Church to free itself from the constraints of its long-held homophobia and exposes it to the biblical insights of today’s most marginalized voices. New life will emerge on the other side of this.” — JohnCDorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ.

Jimmerson.RainbowintheWord.32082

Highly recommended! Brian D. McLaren

“In the debate about the place of LGBTQ persons in Christian churches, often only the voices of straight, white theologians are heard. Rainbow in the Word introduces us to the beautiful voices of LGBTQ persons themselves, people who, against all odds, have kept the faith and who can speak for themselves. No conversation about these courageous and articulate Christians should take place without their own voices being heard. Highly recommended!” — Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration

Jimmerson.RainbowintheWord.32082

Our sexual identity is not a liability. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

“When so many conversations around LGBTQ people in the church centers around debating our legitimacy, Rainbow in the Word reminds us that our sexual identity is not a liability to be defended but an essential contribution to the Church’s understanding of Scripture and of God. This unique book invites us into richer hues and brighter colors as we encounter the Creator whose divine image is reflected in us all.” — Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author of The Cost of Community

Jimmerson.RainbowintheWord.32082

Viki Matson

10399257_30728289328_6602_n

“Foreword”

Excerpt: “Rainbow in the Word includes the marks and memories of LGBTQ peoples’ struggles, particularly as the struggle involves the Bible. Some writers reflect on a particular text, wondering if there are ways to understand it that reveal a liberating rather than a punishing God. Others identify with a particular character in the Bible, diving deeply into their story to unearth what might be hidden or neglected. Some speak of the ways they have been injured by Scripture, while othersspeak of being freed by it. Additionally, within these pages you will find genres as disparate as those contained within the Bible itself: narrative, confession, poetry, biography, and calls to action.”

Prof. Viki Matson is the Director of Field Education and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ministry at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, she served as Chaplain at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, TN. Prof. Matson hold as BS in Religion from Phillips University in Enid, OK (1977) a Master of Divinity (with distinction) from Phillips Theological Seminary in Enid, OK (1982). Additionally, she has completed a residency year in Clinical Pastoral Education and has done graduate study in Ethics. Prof. Matson’s professional interests and expertise include theological reflection on practice, the global dimensions of theological education, and the capacities needed for religious leaders in our times. Prof. Matson is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is currently a Member-at-Large on the Steering Comittee for the Association of Theological Field Education.

Can’t wait to share with gay friends! Bravo!

An interesting thing happened to me this week. I met a young man who is down on his luck. We were talking and in our conversation he said to me that he always thought that to say “Be normal” was such a negative thing. He said, “I think we should say be natural”. It really struck home with me.
Then I started reading Rainbow in the Word and the title of an article in it, “The Non-Normative Jesus”, made me think back on this conversation.
I am enjoying the book immensely and can’t wait to either buy one for or share with a couple of my gay friends. Bravo!  — Lauren Knox

 

Jimmerson.RainbowintheWord.32082