preventing spiritual violence

[This weekend, with the help of a grant from Stronger Together, SSU has been hosting a symposium called “Sacred Encounters.” Indigenous and church leaders from the Maritimes gathered in St. Andrews and listened to each other. Baby steps were made along the way toward these two items from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action]:

Action 59: We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.

Action 60: We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.

You can read more about this ongoing project of SSU here.

the dominant religion in our society

The story that the rulers of domination societies told each other and their subordinates is what we today might call the Myth of Redemptive Violence. It enshrines the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, that might makes right. It is one of the oldest continuously repeated stories in the world. The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience unto death. This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today….

The myth of redemptive violence is, in short, nationalism become absolute. This myth speaks for God; it does not listen for God to speak. It invokes the sovereignty of God as its own; it does not entertain the prophetic possibility of radical judgment by God. It misappropriates the language, symbols, and scriptures of Christianity. It does not seek God in order to change; it embraces God in order to prevent change. Its God is not the impartial ruler of all nations but a tribal god worshiped as an idol. Its metaphor is not the journey but the fortress. Its symbol is not the cross but the crosshairs of a gun. Its offer is not forgiveness but victory. Its good news is not the unconditional love of enemies but their final elimination. Its salvation is not a new heart but a successful foreign policy. It usurps the revelation of God’s purposes for humanity in Jesus. It is blasphemous. It is idolatrous. And it is immensely popular.

– Walter Wink, The Powers that Be

turning again…

[from a back-to-school transition liturgy crafted by Agnes Kramer-Hamstra, and prayed together last night at a small gathering of faculty and staff]:

….We turn again to the little way station that is SSU

We turn to this small happening microcosm where
we try to play out the largeness,
the largesse,
the grand languid move and
the almost invisible quickstep
that is your life in and with our lives,
in and with the life of this world,
Creator and Redeemer.

And, as we turn, we ask for help:

Help us each to accept who we are and what we are able to give right now
Help us to offer what we can, gladly
Help us to hear and see the people students are, see them and hear them as you do
Help us to teach; help us to listen.
Help us to ask for help.
Help us when we feel overwhelmed.

Grant us your peace.

gospel as new possibilities, new dangers

[I’ve been fascinated lately by reading Ivan Illich and finding a creative analysis of modern culture that critiques those who wield power on the right and the left]:

I believe that the Incarnation makes possible a surprising and entirely new flowering of love and knowledge. For Christians the Biblical God can now be loved in the flesh. Saint John says that he has sat at table with him, that he has put his head on his shoulder, heard him, touched him, smelled him. And he has said that whoever sees him sees the Father, and that whoever loves another loves him in the person of that other….

The opening of this new horizon is also accompanied by a second danger: institutionalization. There is a temptation to try to manage and, eventually, to legislate this new love, to create an institution that will guarantee it, insure it, and protect it by criminalizing its opposite. So along with this new ability to give freely of oneself has appeared the possibility of exercising an entirely new kind of power, the power of those who organize Christianity and use this vocation to claim their superiority as social institutions.

  • Ivan Illich, The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich as told to David Cayley (2005)

how not alone we are

[a quote from the ending of the new book written by David Moore, pastor in Santa Barbara and adjunct faculty at SSU]:

Away with graceless Christianity, so full of suspicion and devoid of mercy! Out with the old and in with the new hope of Jesus. Even with its persistent sorrows, ubiquitous disappointments and lingering aches of the soul, life is hopeful. This will be realized increasingly in the days to come as more of us discover how not alone we are. Faith is generous. Hope is strong. Love is limitless. There’s no need to be selfish and stingy because the supply only increases, and access to it, as we share.