Rick then spoke of his experiences on the Mexican border and the sanctity of all life. "We become holy in community; we must study and do Torah, and we build the Church by building community. God is within everyone, and the direct experience of working with, for, and among the poor and oppressed is the quickest way one can experience the presence of God."
After a few more speakers, Jack was overfilled and restless to move about. He wandered the campus while listening to a CD by Dave Rovics, one of the musicians at the conference. For the rest of the day, Jack couldn't get "They're Building a Wall" out of his head:
They're Building a Wall by David Rovics
building a wall, A wall between friends, A wall that justifies any
means to their ends. Many feet thick and twenty feet high. They're
building the wall between water and land, So we can eat fruit and they
can eat sand. A wall to keep quiet that which you fear most. They're
building the wall to remove reality from your facts on the ground, A
wall to keep distant the terrible sound of the houses that crumble and
the children that die, A wall to keep separate the truth from the lie.
A wall made of brick but bricks can be broken When the people of Zion
have finally awoken And said no more walls, no more refugees, No more
keeping people upon their knees. And before apartheid was ended they
were building a wall.
That evening, Bishop John Shelby Spong began by asking, "What has happened to Christianity? I have been a student of the Bible my entire life. I am a committed Christian and open to anyone's opinion, but not to their own facts. The Bible has been used to justify slavery, segregation, to deny woman equality, and to promote war. A lot of evil happens when the Bible is misunderstood and misused. In the name of God, men have become murderers. We live in a world where people in power get to define those without power. The prophets spoke the word of God in concrete circumstances and throughout history. Hosea spoke of God as love. Amos understood that worship and justice go together. Micah confronted Israel with their behavior, and God again told the people what is required: "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your Lord.'"
On Friday morning, in Newman Hall, in the sanctuary known as Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Betsy Rose led the crowd in singing:
There's a new world coming,
There's a new world coming,
There's a new world coming,
I can hear her breathing.
Jack marveled at all the smiling faces around him and about the fact that he had not been in a Catholic church since his youngest sister was wed twenty-four years ago by their brother, Father Mike.
Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, leader of the Interfaith Alliance Foundation and pastor at Northminster Baptist Church in L.A, brought the crowd to their feet from the start. "We are people hungry to get on with the business we are about. American politics have already been transformed by religion and spirit, just not the one we believe and desire. We are a deeply divided nation, and the substance of what passes for religion looks like the stuff of politics. There is no such thing as the American religion, for we are a country of over seventy-five faith traditions. The proper role of religion is to link core values, to cooperate, to respect all people, to promote peace, justice, and compassion, and to protect the weak, poor, and the environment. Today, politics have become a form of religion. We need freedom for and from that kind of religion. Religion should command, inspire hope, and build bridges between other faiths and to those with no faith at all. We will be restless until we speak the truth to power. We will be restless until we comfort the afflicted and disturb the comfortable. We will be restless until we become a nation that cares for its entire people and lives with respect towards all others in the global village. May we all be restless, and then speak and act in peace and goodwill, in the spirit of cooperation."
Jack's mind wandered back to what he had read in Subversive Orthodoxy: Outlaws, Revolutionaries, and Other Christians in Disguise, as soon as he noted the author Robert Inchausti was on the morning's program. Inchausti had written, "To change the world we must become receptacles of God's love, understanding and goodwill. We must have faith, not merely of the mind, but of the heart that surrenders the whole man to the divine inflow; moral action links personal salvation directly to social responsibility. Victory is not the goal, doing God's will is."
Jack reflected everyday on what God wanted from him, and spent most of the time in the dark. He left his ruminating behind when Robert Inchausti stood at the podium and proclaimed, "This country was built by spiritual progressives. Spiritual progressives are the center and we are not a mushy middle. The new bottom line is not new at all; it was already articulated by the Puritans. The Puritans were about charity, not power, and that is the true American tradition. We radical spiritual activists are the heart of the American tradition. Of course we know there will always be the poor among us, but our call always has been to respond."
At the break, Jack was the first one out of Newman Hall, and he strode directly to UC Botanical Garden to be with over three thousand California-native plants and sublime silence. On his way back for the afternoon session, he met a rabbi from Australia and a pastor from England, who had traveled to America specifically to attend the conference. Jack marveled at the possibilities of what might happen on the other side of the world when these men shared what they had experienced.
Jack parted ways with them and headed back to Newman Hall to hear Father Fox speak about the New Reformation. And Jack thought, Everyday, I am crossing paths with so many incredible people. Last month I sat in Reverend Ateek's Sabeel office in Jerusalem, and the other night I sat next to Abla, his sister-in-law, at a meeting of MEPAC. There, I met a community of tireless workers in the political realm keeping the issue of peace and justice in Israel and Palestine on the front burner. The next day, I was in the office of this riot of a woman who founded MECA--funny, crusty, and salty, with a most compassionate heart. For seventeen years, MECA has been bearing witness to the West Bank and Gaza. Then there's Doug, the guy from that last work group; I have never known anyone like him. Talk about connecting with one's feminine side! It has got to be holy wisdom, the feminine divinity that led him to photograph the neighborhood gardens in his town and display them on Main Street, to bring the folks around and build community. Then he takes up dancing and singing--his wife must be wondering who she is now sleeping with.
It was apparent to Jack when he returned to Newman Hall that the fire department's maximum allowed crowd size was being ignored. In the center of the sanctuary of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Father Fox proclaimed,
"Forget original sin; remember original blessing. There are two Christianities in our midst. One worships a punitive father and seeks obedience at all costs. It is patriarchal, demonizes woman, the earth, science, gays, lesbians, and deep thought. It builds on fear and it supports empire-builders. Its theology includes a punitive father in the sky and teaches original sin.
"The other Christianity recognizes the original blessing that all beings derive from. We recognize awe, not sin, not guilt, as the starting point of true religion. We recognize a divinity who is source of all things and is as much mother as father, as much female as male. We honor creation and diversity. When God created everything, He pronounced it all good. We are here to make love to life. Yes, we are here to make love to life.
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