Category Archives: YCM

Changing A Statement of Mission: Trying to Think Better

15.06.07

June 07, 2015

After nearly fifteen years, the Yakama Christian Mission has changed its statement of mission from,

To enhance the wellbeing of children and youth through advocacy and education.
to,
To enhance the wellbeing of indigenous children and elders of North America and Canada.

There are numerous reasons for the change. At the top is admitting an emphasis on children alone is not holistic. In hindsight, the fifteen-year old statement’s singular focus on children was little different from the Mission’s previous eighty-year approach. Both approaches hold today’s children as tomorrow’s future. Nothing wrong with that. However, as commonly lived out in the US (and certainly on reservations), this approach has a tendency to separate children from their elders—except those specific elders who carry and project the correct virtues of the community. From the eighty-year stance, the correct values were most always White values, which from the historical perspective of many in the church, few Yakama elders held.

The approach over the last fifteen years is similar insofar as programing focused on children and youth and, though I wish it were not the case, because of embedded White worldviews of staff, board, and church leaders. Due to this focus, there was a natural separation of young people and elders. Granted, this model is a societal norm. After all, US parents give their children to the “correct” people for their scholastic education, and children stay home while parents go to a school board or a church board meeting—interesting, isn’t it, when folk think it is groundbreaking to have a “youth” representative on a board? Continue reading

Losing Ourselves on the Side of the Street

15.05.31

May 31, 2015

“If a panhandler comes near you and you are fearful, call the police.” The statement is not exact but it is close to what I’ve heard on the radio once a week for a number of months.

I don’t so much find this statement bad as I do evil. Built into such a message is “you ought to fear those folk you see on the side of the road.” My guess is, if folk did not fear panhandlers in the City of Yakima yesterday, they will tomorrow. Like too many messages we hear in our communities, this message is not one of peace and wellbeing for one’s neighbor, but one of, if you don’t look, smell, and think like me, you are questionable at the least and a danger at the most.

It would seem this announcement lead’s toward one path—the imprisonment of panhandlers and homeless people (Homeless folk are a small percentage of panhandlers, however, I’d guess most folk think the opposite). The hope, it would seem, for those supporting and funding this announcement, is to eliminate those who struggle greatly within our society—under the guise of justice.

The absurdity of such an announcement is not only hurtful to those who have little societal voice, but damaging to the whole of community. To make our sisters and brothers on the street, who struggle to make a dollar, as something other than ourselves—into folk to be feared, we damage our sense of justice, of peace, and our spiritual wellbeing. To lose our brothers and sisters, whose lives are so different from our own, to our fear and possible imprisonment is to jail our own created self.

*KIMATV.com: File photo

GMO And Cardboard Food

15.05.24

May 24, 2015

Folks in Jackson County, Oregon are having a fit. The people of Jackson County voted last fall to ban GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. Alfalfa growers are ticked off. Lawsuits are filed. Having planted “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, a perennial plant that is productive for years, GMO farmers claim a potential devastating income loss.

Roundup Ready crops like alfalfa allow farmers to spray their entire field with Roundup (imagine a crop-duster plane), killing the weeds while leaving the resistant crop alone. Some folk argue there are problems with the GMO plant itself and they don’t want it fed to the livestock of they eat or provide their milk. Others question what widespread, non-specific spraying (of any type really) is doing to the soil, water, and air. Interesting enough though, is in time the arguments may mean little because weeds are developing an immunity to Roundup. Which might mean that about the time GMO alfalfa is normalized, Roundup will not be effective, and chemical companies will have developed a new herbicide.

There are alternatives though and I hope folk begin to recognize them. I’m not wholly against herbicides, however I am against wholesale use with little regard for tomorrows folk who must use this same land. Farmers could decide to quit large-scale herbicide use and accept a few more weeds and a little more work, and the consumer could pay a little more for their food. However, this would call farmers and consumers alike to change their practices. Alfalfa wise, farmers would have to learn old practices of allowing weeds to go as far as developing a seed head and then cutting their crop before the seed ripens. Done well, the plant (often) thinks it has reproduced and does not therefore put another seed head on. Continue reading

A Practice Of Reverence, Honor, And Spirit

15.05.17

May 17, 2015

Knowing food is a spiritual practice. Paying close attention to food is living a practice of knowing creation.

To know food is to move beyond myopic buying of food with little thought of its origin: the people involved in its growing, the weather that supports its growth, the community of production, or the sources of its growth—soil, water. To know food is to step beyond a big-box grocery store existence to life of creation.

This desecration eliminates harmony within the landscape. In part, the dearth of harmony comes from a food system that says there is a “right” way of eating. The system cares little if one is a meateater, vegan, or vegetarian, what matters most is that folk believe their way of eating is correct. Such thinking keeps a food conversation of justice at bay, and folk looking at one another believing they could do better. When a friend posted Beefing Up Justice on their Facebook page they commented, “Thank you…for the sacred work you do. And for providing ‘happy meat’ for those of us who just can’t quite commit 100% to the vegetarian way of life.” Obviously, the response made my day. Here is a meateater giving serious thought to becoming vegetarian, who has not fully embrace that way of eating, but is trying to live well in the transformation. Soon thereafter, someone responded to my friends posting saying, “I believe you will be able to give up killing to eat one day. I have faith in you!”

Both my friend and the responder gave faithful responses. Yet, I’d like to ponder the latter response.

I understand the want to give up killing. I figure few of us want to kill. However, only in our modern non-agriculture society might one convince themselves they can eat without killing. Continue reading

The Richness of Suicide, The Lack of Sin, and Robin Williams

15.03.29

March 29, 2015

(The media is deliberating if this weeks tragedy of Germanwings Flight 9525 is a suicide. Having written prior to the crash, I don’t deal with the tragedy. However, I will say at this early moment after the crash, I believe when one takes the lives of others along with their own, it is not an act of suicide, but something very different. What that difference is, I don’t know.)

A friend of mine, Daniel, sent me a note soon after Robin Williams’ suicide last August. The note has nagged me ever since. He gave a few of his thoughts on Williams and suicide and asked if I might have a few of my own. Schooled in a Catholic high school, Daniel received an earful on the sin of suicide from a particular perspective. Gaining the wisdom that comes with living life, he is now a young adult who has allowed the idea of suicide as a Cardinal sin barring one from heaven to go by the wayside. As he puts it, “how can a truly all loving God turn his back on someone who is filled with so much dread, torment, and affliction that in their greatest time of need his love would not be shared?” Fleshing out his thoughts, he answered his own nagging questions. Good for him, but that did not get me off the hook.

When it comes to suicide, there is little difference between my protestant upbringing and my friend’s Catholic high school. The elders and pastors of the Christian church of my youth were clear suicide is a sin and if you choose such you’re going to hell. No much slack on this one.

Suicide didn’t come up much in my young life. Once, in the preteen years, a friend headed home from a day of hiking Iron Canyon and came across a pickup truck parked at the end of road that was hardly more than a trail. Continue reading

Engaging Justice Prior To Movement Status

15.01.04

January 4, 2015

When speaking about the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and asking folk to consider if their life-ministry-vocation is to help the movement by raising their communities awareness of the CDOD’s structural injustice, a question sometimes asked (perhaps it isn’t as much a question as it is a comment), “what movement?”

I think we all have an ingrained desire to participate in justice. Justice may look very different to each of us and sometimes we find ourselves as if across a wall from one another believing ours is the justice side. Regardless of which side of the wall we find ourselves, we want justice for our friends, neighbors, and relations. To make it so, we often prefer being part of a movement. In other words, we want to do justice, but we would a whole lot rather not do it alone.

Not being alone has much to with the question. Though many are engaged in raising awareness of the CDOD, there currently in no single organized movement. There is the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, but most people don’t see themselves related to such a world structure. Then there are churches who have begun asking questions and wondering what change might look like within their own organizations, like the Methodist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, and Disciples of Christ churches. And there are a few universities with groups who are actively engaged in questioning the CDOD. Continue reading

The Warming Fire

14.11.23

November 19, 2014 (Updated)

Each year American Indian Heritage Month arrives and each year I find the writing I make public, hard. When temperatures just outside the farmhouse window linger in the single digits, I prefer to write of warm ideas, considerations, actions, and seasons. I believe it is my good fortune is to live on the reservation. From land to people to wind, community stories give warmth in the days of cold.

Yet, as a white guy on the reservation, I also find I have a responsibility to speak to the injustices non-white skin folk experience in my adopted landscape. Thus, when American Indian Heritage comes along and many of my American Indian sisters and brothers are paying attention to and writing about American Indian accomplishments, I question the white structure whose very makeup requires society to create American Indian Heritage in the first place. In questioning that structure, I step on toes, mostly white toes, but some toes of color and Indian toes too. Little question stepped on toes hurt and being one whose theology is a call for hurt to end, makes writing this time of year hard. Realistically there are only a handful of folk who read what I say and I know I could let the writing go and few would know the difference. However, I believe it irresponsible and disrespectful to live in my landscape, enjoy its created gifts and not question or comment about the denigration American Indians experience from non-Indians, past and current—that it seems is more hurtful than stepped on toes. Continue reading

Great Music is Country Music

14.11.16

November 16, 2014

All great music is country music. From Handles Water Music to Guy Clark’s Homeless, music that matters is music of landscape.

The landscape sings. Not metaphorical nor exacting music, rather the song of landscape rises from the mystical space of experiential and Déjà vu, from space known and unknown. Landscape singing tells stories, ancient and current, of creation; and great music, well, great music comes from those who listen well. This is why great music is genre-less. The best of the Blues or Native Folk, or Rap or Powwow or Western or Jazz or Native flute and whistle or Classical, comes from those who have tuned into the landscape, listened, and interpreted that song so the rest of us can hear—the nature of Creation, I think, is to hold on to her valuables until a caring ear or eye or hand comes along, gently leans in, and asks if they might interpret his voice so others might awaken.

Hearing the fullness of the landscape is to become whole. To sing well, in key or not, is to know the voice of place. The song of landscape is unique, but then, every landscape is uniquely its own. No other voice, no other sound can come out of her than that which is his own. Jazz, the Blues, ancient stick and drum, and Western sing of place. Classical does the same, but in human’s eagerness to classify, the songs of many landscapes have been bundled together and place of origin too often lost. Continue reading

Considering Weakness and Apathy

14.11.09

November 9, 2014

I found Bill Running Wolf Davis’ essay Disciples Missional Tokenism to American Indians: Legacy of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery posted on the Facebook Page Disciples Exchange last October 9. During the essay Running Wolf raises a number of questions and makes a few comments about the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (Disciple(s)) historical and ongoing commitment to American Indian justice. Running Wolf (RW) doesn’t cut Disciples much slack in his essay; so, Facebook being the nonconfrontive space it is, few non-Indians risked commenting on RW’s thoughts. Being fair though, it takes more than a few sentences to ponder the many issues RW raises.

RW centers his thoughts on the Disciple denomination. However, I find many of his comments apply to every American Christian church: Catholic, Methodist, Mormon, Episcopal, Mennonite, et cetera. Additionally, I agree with a number of his observations and question a few. Seems like perfect stuff for conversation, and since this is Native American Heritage Month, I thought I would use RW’s essay to spur a few thoughts of my own over the course of the month.

Running Wolf’s essay opens with a quote from D. Duane Cummins 2009 book Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation. The quote is the concluding paragraph of Cummins’ Native American section. Continue reading

Time to Elder

14.10.26

October 26, 2014

One does not have to be in the church, any Christian church, for long before hearing a low wailing bemoaning the loss of young folks. I do not know if the same holds true for folk in Judaism, Islam, or other religions, but the loss of young adults have freaked-out Christians for a number of decades. The freaked-out truth is seen in the countless books and blogs on strategies to bring youth and young adults back to church.

My ten cents worth (and ten cents ain’t worth much today) is we Christians don’t deserve to have young adults in our congregations. If that comment is raising a rash and face muscles are tensing up, let us talk for a moment or two, before the fits kick in.

Hiring a young pastor, a youth pastor, creating a youth group, supporting youth events, funding youth worktrips, and giving youth the fireside room are all actions congregations have taken to keep or attract youth to church. There is nothing wrong with implementing any of those. However, each can be problematic if folk believe those actions alone will lead to young adults returning to their congregation. After all, congregations have been implementing those ideas for decades and young adults still are not in their churches. Continue reading