Tag Archives: Peace & Justice

A Dung Theology


December 7, 2014

I nudged the cow manure with my boot toe. A worship service was going on but others were speaking and doing a fine job. So my mind wandered to wonder about the cow pie at my feet and the bug population it might be supporting.

The fall afternoon was cool, the sun bright, and the blue sky cloudless. Students from two universities: Lewis and Clark, and Heritage, were visiting the farm. They had collaborated on their fall break and had chosen to spend their fall break on the reservation at the JustLiving Farm. Together we would have an afternoon conversation on American Indian autonomy and Farmworker rights, and then spend another afternoon working on farm projects. To get to those issues of human justice we were first working our way through the broad the broad-brush stroke of landscape justice; thus, there we were in the pasture.

No movement, so I kicked a little harder. My boot broke through the crusty surface and slid through its gooey innards. Dung kicking is an art and I found my artfulness left wanting. A misjudgment of consistency left me with cow shit stuck to my boot like gum to a sidewalk.

I think of worship service in simple terms. Worship, a reverence for the mystery of creation. Reverence a willingness to question, admire, and be astonished by that which cannot be (or, at the least, hard to) explain. Service a gathering of folk revering that which is natural and normal. Continue reading

Turkey Stock Spirituality


November 27, 2014

James, a neighbor from down the road, and I visited over coffee last Tuesday at the Cougar Den. I watched a young man walk in, his Resistol worn and dirty, the Carhartt wore in but not tattered, and his boot and jeans muddy below the knee. I wondered if he had been feeding or at the stockyard when James brought me out of my trance saying he had been putting up squash before he left the house. Belinda and I haven’t thought about squash for two weeks. During the first hard frosts, we put up as much squash as we had time for. But when a cold snap froze the remaining garden squash to the core (photo), we figured we turn it into good roughage for the cattle and goats. So, when James said he was still putting up squash, he had my attention.

Sure enough, his squash had frozen same as ours during those eight-degree mornings. However, instead of figuring it all was going for cattle and goat feed, he gathered what he thought he had time put up and stuffed it into the haystack—to insulate and keep frozen. Ever since, when he has the time, he canned and froze squash.

I believe James’ work needs attention. James raises a good size garden each year with the intent of providing a fair portion of the family’s food come summer, fall, winter, and a bit of the spring. When ones work is producing food for family consumption, conserving that food is important. Who cares the squash froze? Considering the work that went into raising squash, it makes sense to conserve it well. Continue reading

The Warming Fire


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

Beefing Up Justice


November 02, 2014

Two questions often asked: “Do you have cows? And, do you raise your beef from babies?” My answer: “No, I don’t have cows. And, no I don’t raise our steers from babies.” Inevitably the next question is, “Why?”

Good question. “Why,” teases out a little more information that often gets to the core of what the original question hoped for. The “why” answer is, Belinda and I buy, raise, and sell our calves because of our sense of justice.

Our neighbors work cow-calf ranches/farms. A cow-calf ranch is one that has a number of cows which are kept year-round. These cows are breed to a bull(s) who, often, is also kept year-round. Calves are born in the spring (some ranches also have calves in the fall). They are raised on mamma’s milk throughout the spring and summer. Come late summer calves begin eating range or pasture grass alongside mamma. Early fall sees the calves weaned from their mothers. Then in late fall the calves are taken to the auction house and sold. That is where we come in.

Each fall we visit our neighbors looking for calves to bring to the farm. Our favorite way of having calves come to the farm is to say to our neighbor, “We’ll take the two black claves and the baldy. Whatever price you get at the sale yard, we’ll give you the same.” Continue reading

Abolish Columbus Day?

14.10.13October 13, 2014

Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of Jamaica on May 5, 1494. The Jamaican Tanos people went from sixty thousand to zero in fifty years. To replace the Tanos, Spaniards brought slaves from Africa. Because of a lack of perceived riches, the Spaniards were gone a 150 years after arriving.

The first Europeans to connect with West African coastal people were Portuguese traders. As the fifteenth century ended, Spanish, Dutch, British, and French had all established a presence in West Africa. The Berlin Conference on the Congo in 1884-85 created an all-out European scramble to claim and colonize West African land and peoples.

Well it is Columbus Day again. Isn’t that somewhat hard to believe? After all, if anyone of any consequence—person or group—thought the actions of Columbus were worth a damn, retailers would have had their promotions out a month ago. When I was in elementary school, few gave Columbus Day a second thought and there were promotions. Today, though, folk are beginning to believe Columbus Day needs replacement, say, with something along the line of Indigenous Day (The mayor of Seattle is signing to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day today.). Maybe that is good… Continue reading

Active Awareness


September 21, 2014

Some eras are of awareness, others action. The Christian Doctrine of Discovery is in an era of awareness. As denominations, the United Nations, and World Council of Churches take a stand on the Doctrine of Discovery, folk are slowly beginning to question what it is and how it affects them and their neighbor. Knowledge of the Doctrine of Discovery calls for action, but until enough folk understand the historical and modern ramifications of the Doctrine of Discovery there will be no meaningful action. That is to say, there is significant action in bringing folk into awareness, but meaningful action—action that changes lives through societal structural change—is ahead of us, but not now.

When the era of action occurs depends on how well this generation helps folk understand the impact the Christian Doctrine of Discovery (DOD) has had on their life, the life of their children, and the life of their neighbor. Such awareness takes time.

My high school years were those of the early seventies; the Red Power Movement was at its height; Vine Deloria Jr.’s 1973 book God is Red had just published; and I took an elective class on American Indians. I and many folk read God is Red and learned about the DOD in the seventies, however structural changed never occurred. Bottom line, even though folk knew about the DOD, few had the ears to understand Deloria’s words. It took me another thirty years and life on the reservation before I began to grasp what Deloria was getting at. This inability to hear occurs because folk come to the DOD with a normalized mindset that does not lend itself to accepting ideas that may call them to change existing conditions. This crawl to awareness can change, but folk will need to engage in discernment of the DOD’s effects in their communities. Continue reading

Virtuous Redneck Liberal


September 1, 2014

Home was a small piece of sage canyon land butting against open land. As kids, my sister, brother and I and our friends never gave it much thought biking a mile or so to a friend’s house. On any Saturday we could spend a day riding canyon roads on banana seat bikes never intended for off road. Many of us boys learned to ride a horse but few were serious horsemen. Though we all rode a bit more during our teenage years when we grasped that most of the girls rode horses. We walked canyons and climbed Live Oaks to watch hawk and owl nestlings—we also learned to duck when mamma came at you talons first. We built box traps and trapped raccoons, possums, and an assortment of animals—we also learned the heartache of watching a wild animal die because it could not live in space other than the wide-open. As teenagers we arrived at school during hunting season with guns in the pickup and at last bell were walking steep canyon hillsides. In this landscape of canyons and open sky I became a young man and a redneck liberal

I have not thought about being a redneck for a while, but since I commented in AM Radio Justice about dumbass rednecks, I’ve given it some thought.

I was not saying rednecks are natural dumbasses. No one has a lock on that. From where I stand the are clearly as many dumbass liberals, conservatives, and moderates as there are dumbass rednecks. In other words, one is not a dumbass by virtue of being a redneck. Just the same, we all know many folk do not think very highly of rednecks.

Redneck notoriety begins outside. In the U.S., like many world societies, those people whose work life places them out of doors—normally doing physical labor (farmers, ranchers, construction workers, fishers)—and whose skin the sun has darken, are often understood as something less than. For white folk, the darkened skin is most notable on the neck, thus the redneck. Continue reading

AM Radio Justice


August 24, 2014

It has been a busy summer and like other folks who blog and run a farm, the blog settles down somewhere in the back forty waiting for a moment of rest—often after fall harvest.

Though farm work is busy and there have been more pastoral visits than normal, the summers weeklong SAGE Quest group visits are done. After weeks of folk at the farm, having justice conversations, it seems as if some extra time has popped up (One reoccurring conversation this summer was on time…more about why that last sentence is a bit problematic another day.). So, maybe a little more time for writing and a regular blog entry are in the future, but I miss those daily conversations with visitors that often got a bit edgy.

A conversation arose last month due to a public radio announcement. When SAGE groups are around I keep the farm truck radio set to an AM country station. Two reasons. You get a taste of local culture and a taste of rural justice. Many folk visit the farm thinking country music a bit backwards. However, by having the radio set to an AM station, playing older country music (because it is an AM station), I get to point to the justice of musicians like Guy Clark and bring about a reconsideration—Like many rural folk in my landscape who don’t understand Hip-Hop culture and the justice of much Rap music, neither do many non-rural folk grasp the justice many country musicians (though let’s be truthful and say both have a fair amount of junk).

So, the conversation happened like this. I’m on the road Tuesday, mid-morning, with two youth in the pickup. We were heading for Noah’s Ark, the areas only homeless shelter. We’re three miles from the farm, turning north onto South Wapato Road and an announcement comes over the radio, “It is illegal for drivers to give to panhandlers at busy intersections in Yakima.” Continue reading

A Better Memory, Can We Handle It?


June 7, 2014

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other sorts of U.S. media figured they had a great story this week with the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. The Post, like others, spoke of how there is “no trace of remembrance on 25th anniversary of protests.” Listening to folk talking about this brought back a number of images for me. As those images bounced around in my head, I also found myself getting upset with those speaking about how could anyone forget, or well, that’s China’s government for you.

Really?! How can such a time in history be forgotten or hidden from the people? Too often, and this is one of those times, U.S. citizens have a good time looking at and complaining about the inadequacies of others when they should be comparing and contrasting those atrocities with their own.

Don’t remember Tiananmen Square? How about the Sand Creek massacre? Or President Lincoln and Mankato, Minnesota where the largest mass execution in the U.S. took place? Or Wounded Knee 1890? Or Wounded Knee 1973? Or Pine Ridge 1975 and Leonard Peltier?

The images of Tiananmen Square continue to disturb me. They are images of how a society holds people at bay when they call out for recognition and freedom. And while I want to speak about the need to remember those images, I also want to say that we, the people of the United States, have as much to remember as the people, the media, and the political leaders of China. The U.S. does well at silencing our own and this silencing isn’t only of the past.

There may not be an image of a lone man in front of tanks on the National Mall, but we have our own. Consider the Cleveland Indian Mascot or the Washington Redskins name, or the Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop; are they not the same as Tiananmen Square? Perhaps one might think not, but one, ask American Indians what they think, and two mull over the last time folk in your office or congregation had a serious conversation about poverty on reservations, the high rate of American Indian suicides, or the Supreme Court’s silencing of American Indian voice and rights. Continue reading

Segregation In The Northwest

Alex Stonehill

Photo by Alex Stonehill (http://www.prx.org, April 16, 2009)

March 11, 2014

Folk often wonder how the Christian Doctrine of Discovery (CDOD) is active in our world today.  In our era, recognizing the CDOD and the racist results are not always easily observable.  Since the civil rights era of the 1960’s, racist policies have moved below the surface.  Segregated lunch counters—separating white folk from folk of color—are of a bygone era.  Boarding schools—separating parents from their children—are of a bygone era.  However, the segregation of people is alive and well in the United States.

Society too often misses evil in its presence when that evil does not directly affect people of power.  When folk of power do not feel the repercussions of isolation, they too often allow the evil of separation to become normalized; as occurred with segregation for over a half-century and boarding schools for over a century in the United States.

The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma (NDC), Washington is a modern example of the normalization of the racist structure of the CDOD in our community.  A private for-profit prison, supported by the government (contracted by US Department of Homeland Security/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the NDC’s interest lies in making a profit on the backs of people of color.  The CDOD is complex and hard to recognize today, yet the NDC is a real example of how government and business have created a symbiotic relationship where both grow, benefit, and profit through the separation of parents and children of color.

Clara Flores-Aguilar

Clara Flores-Aguilar (http://www.oregonlive.com, Feb. 18, 2013 -The Associated Press)

Continue reading