Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chi-Raq and Climate Change


Sleeping fitfully, turning uncomfortably, trusting in my body's's been an afternoon of sneezing and dribbling and restless resting.  The winter crud, 2016!  How grateful I am for a home to rest in, a family to look in on me, and a job that provides for my physical and spiritual health!  From where I lay tonight, health care should be, indeed, a human right. And it's unimaginable to think of being sick like this, and out on the street, without a home. 

The gift in all this, or opportunity, is reflection.  So many conversations of late, on so many edges, about so many urgent concerns!  I'm pondering Kathleen Dean Moore's urgent and honest call to action, to integrity in our commitment to the planet.  Climate change is on my mind.  And this weekend's conference at the church here in Santa Cruz is a invitation to confession and loving discipleship.

And there's more.  I continue to worry for the brave peoples of Palestine and Israel, the peacemakers, the families I've stayed with during visits there.  I worry for the systemic politics that block meaningful, courageous action: the fear that rationalizes walls and anger and the status quo.  And I worry for my own continuing involvement in this work, and the divisions it sows into good and caring relationships.

All that, and tonight I turned on Spike Lee's strange, lovely, curious "Chi-Raq"--a movie about...
Maybe that's just it.  Maybe that's what's keeping me up tonight.  On the one hand, it's about guns, gangs and violence in Chicago.  But it's so much, so much, so much more.  It's about a nation that builds hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, over decades, but refuses to turn a meaningful heart to its own cities, to its own schools, to its own poor.  And it's about the way our warring--years of it, generations of it--gets into our kids and into their hearts and into their dreams.  Like a curse, or a demon.  To be exorcised.  Maybe.

Tying all of this together: the rationales we come up with to do little (or nothing) of substance.  When several spiritual leaders mentioned compassion today, and particularly compassion for climate-change-deniers, Kathleen Dean Moore (a gentle, generous soul, if ever there was one) leaned forward, straightened up, and talked about outrage.  Yeah, yeah, be compassionate, she said; but recognize that these powerful people (and their powerful networks) are set on destroying ecosystems and melting the planet for their own gain.  We need, somehow, both compassion AND outrage.  And to move forward urgently to call a spade, a spade; and climate change what it is, which is sin.  And then we turn our attention to repentance, conversion and new patterns of living.

Moore then told us about an event she addressed recently, a journalistic event addressing climate change from different perspectives (I think).  And she mentioned leaving the hall that day, and walking to her car (by chance) with a petroleum industry representative.  And she initially thought to herself that this was an opportunity: seeking common ground, exploring shared humanity, that kind of thing.

But before she could get even that much out of her mouth, the petroleum ceo (apparently responding to her urgent remarks a bit earlier) tightened up, stopped on a dime and said: "Don't you ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever underestimate the power of the petroleum industry."  Something like that.

It's a 'real politic' story, to be sure; a reminder that there are indeed forces in us and among us that resist change, cling to fear, pursue selfishness and prove capable to destroy life.  In Spike Lee's movie, the women of color in Chicago come together to share their grief (around so many deaths), their power (to organize, to persuade, to seize neighborhoods from death-makers and gun-dealers), and their strength (which turns out to be a matter of incarnation in a delightful and somewhat outrageous way).  See it.  (But not with small children.)  As far as nonviolent campaigns go, their movement would be hard to replicate!  But it points to the need for creative, disruptive even, action.  Business as usual doesn't do it.  We're losing species.  We're losing generations.  In Chicago.  In the Amazon.  In Alaska.  And in the West Bank.

Not so strangely, perhaps, these three interrelated concerns have me thinking about Jesus.  For me, for us, there just can't be a Jesus (not in 2016) who doesn't respond meaningfully, compellingly to climate change, and to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, and to the Black Lives Matter campaigns here at home.  We can only see Jesus, understand Jesus, grasp his call to discipleship in the shadows and light of these crises.  To do otherwise is to miss the point, to miss his point.  

Of course, taking Jesus seriously as a Jewish believer comes first, grasping his joy in practicing sabbath economics and jubilee politics, reveling in his tender connection to Abba God.  But to hear Jesus now is to hear Jesus talking about creation and restraint, breaking out wine and bread and sharing it generously, healing those possessed by violent demons and war-making impulses.  To meet Jesus now is to meet him on the streets of Chi-Raq and Santa Cruz and Watsonville, and anywhere kids are giving up on school and life and family for the guns the NRA insists amount to their American Dream.  Jesus says, "Come, follow.  Come, be compassionate.  Come, be outraged.  Come, love life for your children's sake, and their children's sake, and theirs.  Come, dig deep and risk looking silly.  Come, love."  

So waiting out a winter cold, a chilling fever, I give thanks for philosophers (like Kathleen Dean Moore) and movie makers (like Spike Lee).  I give thanks for bold practitioners of peace (like Zoughbi Zoughbi and Mitri Raheb and Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramim).  In a strange way, I give thanks for the cold that's stopped me cold today and insisted on contemplation.  

And I pray for the courage to act, to embody, to be a living presence of peace in the world.