Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter is Coming, the Snow is in Sight!

Oh, I guess the song is "Shrimp Boats Are A-Comin', Their Sails are in Sight" and not "Winter is Coming..."

A cold Saturday morning with snow flakes in the air awaited us as we headed north to Stevens Point. We registered for the "Non-violence Conference” that was sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches and led by Ched Myers or Bartimaeus Ministries (see Ched had some VERY interesting and provocative things to say about the first two chapters of Mark’s Gospel and what Jesus was trying to tell us.

Mark's Gospel gives us a model of non-violent resistance to Empire (whenever we read “Rome” in the New Testament, simply replace it with “us” -- we are the empire. We are the domination power in contrast to the new power of the new Way Jesus taught (Incidentally, both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. got the message quit clearly).

The Message and the Procedure:

1. Proclaim resistance to the system of domination in your society. In order for conflict to be transformed it must first be exposed. Jesus went about exposing the Roman domination system in Jewish Palestine which marginalized the poor and transferred wealth upwards to the elite.

2. Confront the system. Jesus had the audacity to enter the temple and teach there -- a real confrontation. The system provided for the scribes to do this, NOT poor Jewish carpenters from Galilee.

3. Withdraw, pray, re-focus. After a prophetic proclamation and “action” (confronting the system) it is absolutely necessary to rest, refresh, heal and reflect before the next mission/action.

4. The system is challenged again as Jesus heals the sick (only priests are to do this) and touches lepers (breaks the purity code). He forgives sins and interprets the Torah (challenging again the priests’ status and social power).

5. Jesus again withdraws for prayer and re-focusing.

So what we have here is an effective model for social action. To get a better feeling for where Myers is coming from see his article, “Hope is Where Your Ass Is: How I Got Stated in the Movement,” at Also read Ghandi and King.

Also buzzing around in my head last week was Old Testament Theologian Walter Brueggemann’s “19 Theses,” which I have linked below but will attempt to summarize: Brueggemann helped me to first realize that Empire is us; America today.


My humble attempt to summarize Brueggemann’s "Nineteen Theses" in 10 statements:

1. Everybody has and lives by a “script” – a dominant social narrative. We get scripted though the process of socialization – simply living in our society does this. And the dominant script in America is “technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.” It socializes us all.

2. This script is enacted (constantly) through advertising and propaganda in our society – mainly through the liturgies of television that promise to make us safe and happy.

3. But this script has failed. It doesn’t work. The script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy; consequently, we may be the most unhappy society in the world.

4. Eventual health for our society depends upon disengagement from and relinquishment of that script. But we resist it.

5. De-scripting is providing an alternate script that can make us happy and safe in the world. De-scripting is steady, patient and intentional work – it is the counter-narrative to “technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.”

6. It is the task of ministry to de-script the dominant social script that cannot make us happy or safe.

7. The most distinctive feature of the alternative script is God. This God is “ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent because this God is “illusive… irascible… and hidden.” This script (story) cannot be smoothed out. The dominant script of “technological, consumer militarism” is all about certitude, privilege, and entitlement and this counter-script is not. Thus care must be taken to let this script be what it is, which means letting God be God’s irascible self.

8. It is the work of ministry to introduce this illusive, irascible character called God through the practices of preaching, liturgy, education, social action, spirituality, and being a neighbor. The entry point to this counter-script in the Christian tradition is baptism where the dominant script is renounced.

9. The ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless. If this happens, this script gets flattened and domesticated and it becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism. And most of us are ambiguous about the script and are not at the deepest places wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script.

10. Thus… the work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence between the two scripts and to manage a way through it.

[Full text of Brueggemann at:


I think we both drove home from Stevens Point energized with not only hope but also the potential we have in faith-based social change. How long has the war been going on now? Eight years, can that be possible? And how many have died now? How many have life-altering injuries? How many have lost their homes and have been displaced?


This week we meet with our cancer support group in Madison and I will be leading a walk with the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, at Bethel Horizons near Dodgeville (not too late to register and attend…)

The following week, Thanksgiving Week, we have surgery scheduled for Tuesday as Dr Becker makes another hookup attempt with Sabine’s narrow arm veins.

After that we will have to decide what method is best for Sabine’s continuing dialysis. In the meantime, home dialysis is working well and we are looking forward to doing a little travelling this winter.

We both thank you for your continuing prayers, healing thoughts and support.

p.s we were joined by Charlie Bradley (a grizzled peaceworker from Portage) and his wife, Sue. Charlie and Sue worked with us when we served at St John's Episcopal Church in Portage).

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