Friday, February 10, 2012

IGC wants you!

The Interfaith Guild of Chaplains News
Feb. 10, 2012
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Notes from Sarah: It has been quite a while since I posted a newsletter here!  Spring is arriving soon and the Occupy movement is emerging from a winter slump.  We too need some reinvigorated energies for 2012.  As chaplains, most of what we do is to support the Occupiers and their allies, rather than engaging directly in various actions.  However, we have been also working as public voices of conscience from the contexts of faith traditions and spiritual practices.

There have been several new ideas floating around.  We welcome both existing members of the IGC and newcomers to join us and put those ideas into actions.  The IGC is an interfaith, ecumenical and non-proselytizing group.  Whether you are an ordained/licensed/commissioned religious worker or a seminarian, or an independent spiritual practitioner with professional/ministerial experiences, you find the IGC to be a good place to put your passion into.

Weekly planning meetings: We have not been able to get a Sunday meeting started, since we decided to move the schedule from Thursdays to Sunday.  Perhaps we may need to try a new way.

Spokes Council: As an affinity group with long-standing ties to the Occupy Portland movement, we have been given a spoke, however, in order to participate in the Spokes Council as a stand-alone spoke, we must have at least three members representing the IGC.  By far, we have been clustered either with the Faith & Spirit Caucus (a separate group), or more recently, with the Women's Caucus.  It would be ideal if we had a greater representation!

Monthly get-together: Maybe meeting sounds boring, as necessary it may be at times.  Therefore we might continue a monthly get-together for a longer-term visioning and strategizing, as well as for building a better team.

Other ideas floating around:  Meditation sessions at the Che Room or other suitable location at the St. Francis campus; An interfaith service at the Camp Beta (Lownsdale Park) obelisk to celebrate the re-opening of the parks; Spring Equinox celebration; something around Lent....

Any feedback and additional thoughts on any of these items: please post on any of our social media platforms (links at the top of this page)!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Engaging the Powers (review)

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cover of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Catherine Alder

Rarely does a book show the history of nonviolence for thousands of years, explain the Just War Theory clearly, correct the understanding of Jesus' radical peace and justice statements that have been watered down by confused Christians, and help readers imagine ways of unbalancing systems of unjust power in which they do not become just like those who abuse power. Engaging the Powers, by theologian Walter Wink is such a book.

In the book acts of civil disobedience are shared from 1350 B.C.E. on down to modern times. There are potent examples such as when Hebrew midwives refuse to slaughter Hebrew babies on the orders of Pharaoh. Christians are killed for disturbing the peace and refusing to worship Caesar or serve in the military for three hundred years. Jews protest the image of Gaius Caligula being put in the Jerusalem Temple. They throw themselves to the ground saying they would rather die than go along with this command. The Underground Railroad helps slaves escape southern slave owners. Henry David Thoreau is jailed for refusing to pay taxes that would go to warring.  Women block cannons in Paris and stand between fighting parties. The women’s suffrage movement gains the right to vote for women after many are jailed and some die in the 75-year struggle. Palestinians launch a six-month strike after losing their homes and land to the Israeli settlers. A man stands in front of a tank in Beijing during a demonstration for freedom.  And now, in this long line of nonviolent actions, the Occupy movement worldwide confronts the One Percent with the needs of the Ninety-Nine Percent.  This is a great read to ground the Occupy Movement in its own place in nonviolent resistant history and in soul force, or satyagraha.

The path of nonviolence is ancient, but these actions are not often taught in our schools. The war for independence from England and World War II are  taught, but thousands of years of nonviolent actions go unmentioned in the classroom.

The goal of the nonviolent action is to unbalance the powers and principalities so the abuser stops to think about their behaviors and changes their actions toward those they abuse. Nonviolent actions go as far back as the prophets in ancient Israel trying to unbalance the wealthy religious elite on behalf of the poor and oppressed. We see it in the actions of Jesus teaching peasants to take back power nonviolently from Rome. "Turn the other cheek" means unbalance the abuser, not be a patsy as Christians were taught. Those who learned from Jesus and other nonviolent leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. have carried on this tradition. War is fought with the notion that battle will bring peace. Wink puts forth the notion that justice brings peace. This is the struggle with the "empire" we have to nonviolently get those in power to work for justice so that we might have peace. This book helps so well to frame the struggle.

This is not an official statement of the Interfaith Guild of Chaplains.

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Time to occupy a moral high ground

Occupy Portland, October 21, 2011
Image via Wikipedia
By Sarah Morrigan

What people believe (faith-religion) is political because it influences their actions and because it is the vehicle by which a religion perpetuates a social system.  Politics and religion are interdependent.  Every new social structure strives to come up with some kind of mythology of divine origin for its values and aims.  The mythology is passed on for generations, and often its validity goes unquestioned for centuries... Who absorbs whose culture is a crucial issue on the cultural battlefield.  Those who refused to accept this accommodation and continued to practice te ancient art were persecuted... Today, given the patriarchal society within which we live... a feminist politic... says clearly that the real enemy is the internalized and externalized policing tool that keeps us in fear and psychic clutter.
-- Z. Budapest, "Women's religion, as in heaven, so on earth." in The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries.

Some time ago, I wrote a paper (which requires an extensive re-working) in criticism of what I perceived as a lack of interest in social justice actions among Neo-Pagan and Wiccan Goddess-devotees.  Yesterday, I was conversing with someone and shared some continuing frustrations over the lack of visible and vocal participations by the Pagans, New Agers, Burners, and other "spiritual" people in the Occupy movement and other ongoing social actions.  I noted that, as much as we the "progressives" and "revolutionaries" and "radicals" tend to demonize Christians for almost all the evils perpetuated by the One Percent and their political machinery, it is almost exclusively a Christian phenomenon to be vocally, visibly and actively engaged in social justice and anti-oppression work from a religious and spiritual context.

It has been Christian communities such as Metanoia United Methodist Church, St. David of Wales Episcopal Church, and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish, that have offered significant, tangible aids to the Occupy Portland and stood in solidarity.  (And First Unitarian Church and P'nai Or, of course, who also deserve a mention here.)  On the other hand, I have not personally seen or met any Buddhist organization (in October I had contacted a few of them in town, no response, except from the Soka Gakkai International USA of Oregon, which ultimately did not do anything), or Pagan community (granted, there are many individuals actively engaged, but not a public statement from any established Pagan organization).

I thought of this phenomenon lately.  Many people in the Western culture who chose Eastern religions or Neo-Paganism often did so in reaction to their Christian upbringings and the perception that Christianity became a tool for hate and greed.  Many such people believe in separation of church and state, and do not feel that spirituality has to be in the public sphere.  They may also say, "morality cannot be legislated," in reaction to the Religious Right's long-standing tendency to legislate against abortion and homosexuality.

Yet, much of what the Occupiers occupy against is a moral issue.  It is a moral issue to denounce the One Percent who receive tax-funded bailouts after bailouts, while the government is forced to cut basic social services and education.  It is a moral issue when the banks are making record profits while more houses are foreclosed and homelessness is on the rise.  It is a moral issue when the militarized police across America are waging violent, indiscriminate wars on non-violent Occupiers and both federal and state legislators are preparing to pass more laws to strengthen the fascist police state, enrich privatized prison operators, and abridge fundamental human rights.

People who call themselves "progressive" and "radical" who are of any faith must take a stand, speak up, and occupy a moral high ground, in this society in which politicians and bureaucrats have long abandoned even a semblance of moral decency.

One of the phenomena that I have been noticing is the alarmist, fear-mongering and even paranoid rhetoric among some of the Occupiers.  Granted, we cannot be naive; the militarized police and government intelligence apparatus view the Occupy or any mass movement as a form of civil unrest and therefore consider a threat to national security.  It is also true that both Democrats and Republicans alike are agitating to prevent a kind of Arab Spring-style revolution from happening in the United States.

However, people of spiritual faith understand that there is a power in creative imagination and power of manifestation.  If we only visualize and imagine a possible scenario of a future totalitarian military regime, then that is all what we will get in the future.  Ironically, in so doing, we give the state a sense of legitimacy and power over us.  As long as we believe in this doomsday scenario, we will not think of anything else.

As a person of faith, we have a powerful weapon, and that is the moral high ground.  We ought to build what the first century Christians (counter-cultural radicals of that time!) called "The Kingdom of Heaven" -- a new system within the shell of the old, in which people can become good and goodness is encouraged and rewarded.  This is not "theocracy" (which is nothing more than a perversion of fascism packaged in religious trappings) but is a collective mindful choice to live out our faith and morality, not in order to dominate others, but in order for us to live our best moral choices.

Therefore it is time to occupy a moral high ground.

This is not an official statement of the Interfaith Guild of Chaplains.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekly planning meeting

Chapman Square in Downtown Portland, Oregon.
Image via Wikipedia
Sunday, Feb. 4, 2-3 p.m.

We are joining the Park Liberation Party at Chapman Square (aka Alpha Camp).  This is a great opportunity to meet the IGC people and share ideas and input!
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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Sacred Space

Spring is coming soon...

Remembering Bríd on  St. Brigid's Day ++ Ag cu...
Remembering Bríd on St. Brigid's Day ++ Ag cuimhniú ar Bhríd ar Lá Féile Bhríde (Photo credit: Liamfm .)
On Thursday, Feb. 2, the Interfaith Guild of Chaplains (IGC) held a small, beautiful ceremony to mark the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, variously known as Imbolc, Candlemas, Luciad, St. Brigid's Day, Setsubun, and Greek festival of Demeter and Persephone.

The underlying theme of bringing light into the darkest moment and place to usher the world into a new era of light is common among most of these observances across cultures.

The flagpole base at the former Washington High School became a makeshift altar for this event, and the sky was turning from a beautiful pink sunset into a star- and moon-lit night sky.  We also had a symbolic "exorcism" using the traditional Japanese setsubun custom of throwing beans to chase out the evil.

The event concluded with a small procession from the Washington High to the Occupy headquarters, the Che Room.

Thanks Kathryn and Amanda for putting this together!
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Help preserve the story of our sacred space: Oregon Jewish Museum wants you!

Lownsdale Square in Downtown Portland, Oregon.
Image via Wikipedia
The Oregon Jewish Museum (1953 N.W. Kearney St., Portland) is currently seeking photographs, video recordings, and artifacts related to the Occupy Portland community sukkah previously located in the Beta Camp (Lownsdale Square, 300 S.W. Salmon St.).

The OJM's curator also is looking for stories.

It is great to see our original Sacred Space live on as a permanent historical record for the future generations.

Those with any items or stories to contribute should contact Anne LeVant Prahl.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thursday, Feb. 2: Celebrate early spring and return of life!

Imbolc Eve
Image by Christina's Play Place via Flickr
On Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, the #OccupyPortland Interfaith Guild of Chaplains will be holding a ceremony to celebrate the festivals variously known as Imbolc, Candlemas, Luciad, and St. Brigid's Day (transferred -- Feb. 1 in the Catholic and Anglican calendars), as well as the Japanese festival of Setsubun.

This observance falls at a cross-quarter between winter solstice and spring equinox, marking the mid-point between winter and spring in the northern hemisphere.

When: Thursday, Feb. 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Where: Northwest corner of the former Washington High School field/playground, at the corner of Southeast Stark Street and Southeast 12th Avenue (across from the "vegan mini-mall") -- and will end with a short sidewalk procession to the Che Room, the #OccupyPortland headquarters (only a block away).
What: A small eclectic/interfaith ceremony with some chants, songs, readings, and other activities.

Bring: small, non-obnoxious noisemakers such as rattles, small drums, etc.; candles to be blessed if you have them (we also provide some); beans for Setsubun "exorcism" of the evil spirits (traditionally, roasted soybeans, sold in some stores these days as "soy nuts"; but any kind of beans would do); your favorite Goddess-chants or Candlemas-related songs; food offerings to share.  This will be a highly participatory event.


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