"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Archive for January 2017

Letters and Papers from Prison – D. Bonhoeffer

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Written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer while in prison.  The section in the middle titled “On Folly” is particularly interesting and contemporary.

After Ten Years
TEN YEARS is a long stretch in a man’s life. Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon time we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavour, enjoyment and suffering. Time lost is time we have not filled, time left empty. The past ten years have not been like that. Our losses have been immeasurable, but we have not lost time. True, knowledge and experience, which are realized only in retrospect, are mere abstractions compared with the reality, compared with the life we have actually lived. But just as the capacity to forget is a gift of grace, so memory, the recalling of the lessons we have learnt, is an essential element in responsible living. In the following pages I hope to put on record some of the lessons we have learnt and the experiences we have shared during the past ten years. These are not just individual experiences; they are not arranged in an orderly way, there is no attempt to discuss them or to theorize about them. All I have done is to jot down as they come some of the discoveries made by a circle of like-minded friends, discoveries about the business of human life. The only connection between them is that of concrete experience. There is nothing new or startling about them, for they have been known long before. But to us has been granted the privilege of learning them anew by first-hand experience. I cannot write a single word about these things without a deep sense of gratitude for the fellowship of spirit and community of life we have been allowed to enjoy and preserve throughout these years.

No Ground beneath our Feet
Surely there has never been a generation in the course of human history with so little ground under its feet as our own.

Every conceivable alternative seems equally intolerable. We try to escape from the present by looking entirely to the past or the future for our inspiration, and yet, without indulging in fanciful dreams, we are able to wait for the success of our cause in quietness and confidence. It may be however that the responsible, thinking people of earlier generations who stood at a turning-point of history felt just as we do, for the very reason that something new was being born which was not discernible in the alternatives of the present.

Who Stands his Ground?
The great masquerade of evil has wrought havoc with all our ethical preconceptions. This appearance of evil in the guise of light, beneficence and historical necessity is utterly bewildering to anyone nurtured in our traditional ethical systems. But for the Christian who frames his life on the Bible it simply confirms the radical evilness of evil.

The failure of rationalism is evident. With the best of intentions, but with a naïve lack of realism, the rationalist imagines that a small dose of reason will be enough to put the world right. In his short-sightedness he wants to do justice to all sides, but in the mêlée of conflicting forces he gets trampled upon without having achieved the slightest effect. Disappointed by the irrationality of the world, he realizes at last his futility, retires from the fray, and weakly surrenders to the winning side.

Worse still is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. The fanatic imagines that his moral purity will prove a match for the power of evil, but like a bull he goes for the red rag instead of the man who carries it, grows weary and succumbs. He becomes entangled with non-essentials and falls into the trap set by the superior ingenuity of his adversary.

Then there is the man with a conscience. He fights singlehanded against overwhelming odds in situations which demand a decision. But there are so many conflicts going on, all of which demand some vital choice–with no advice or support save that of his own conscience–that he is torn to pieces.

Evil approaches him in so many specious and deceptive guises that his conscience becomes nervous and vacillating. In the end he contents himself with a salved instead of a clear conscience, and starts lying to his conscience as a means of avoiding despair. If a man relies exclusively on his conscience he fails to see how a bad conscience is sometimes more wholesome and strong than a deluded one.

When men are confronted by a bewildering variety of alternatives, the path of duty seems to offer a sure way out. They grasp at the imperative as the one certainty. The responsibility for the imperative rests upon its author, not upon its executor. But when men are confined to the limits of duty, they never risk a daring deed on their own responsibility, which is the only way to score a bull’s eye against evil and defeat it. The man of duty will in the end be forced to give the devil his due.

What then of the man of freedom? He is the man who aspires to stand his ground in the world, who values the necessary deed more highly than a clear conscience or the duties of his calling, who is ready to sacrifice a barren principle for a fruitful compromise or a barren mediocrity for a fruitful radicalism. What then of him? He must beware lest his freedom should become his own undoing. For in choosing the lesser of two evils he may fail to see that the greater evil he seeks to avoid may prove the lesser. Here we have the raw material of tragedy.

Some seek refuge from the rough-and-tumble of public life in the sanctuary of their own private virtue. Such men however are compelled to seal their lips and shut their eyes to the injustice around them. Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep themselves pure from the defilements incurred by responsible action. For all that they achieve, that which they leave undone will still torment their peace of mind. They will either go to pieces in face of this disquiet, or develop into the most hypocritical of all Pharisees.

Who stands his ground? Only the man whose ultimate criterion is not in his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these things when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and exclusive allegiance to God. The responsible man seeks to make his whole life a response to the question and call of God.

Civil Courage?
What lies behind the complaint about the dearth of civil courage? The last ten years have produced a rich harvest of bravery and self-sacrifice, but hardly any civil courage, even among ourselves. To attribute this to personal cowardice would be an all too facile psychology. Its background must be sought elsewhere. In the course of a long history we Germans have had to learn the necessity and the power of obedience. The subordination of all individual desires and opinions to the call of duty has given meaning and nobility to life. We have looked upwards, not in servile fear, but in free trust, seeing our duty as a call, and the call as a vocation. This readiness to follow a command from above rather than our own private opinion of what was best was a sign of a legitimate selfdistrust. Who can deny that in obedience, duty and calling we Germans have again and again excelled in bravery and selfsacrifice? But the German has preserved his freedom–what nation has talked so passionately of freedom as we have, from Luther to the idealists?–by seeking deliverance from his own will through service to the community. Calling and freedom were two sides of the same thing. The trouble was, he did not understand his world. He forgot that submissiveness and self-sacrifice could be exploited for evil ends. Once that happened, once the exercise of the calling itself became questionable, all the ideals of the German would begin to totter. Inevitably he was convicted of a fundamental failure: he could not see that in certain circumstances free and responsible action might have to take precedence over duty and calling. As a compensation he developed in one direction an irresponsible unscrupulousness, and in another an agonising scrupulosity which invariably frustrated action. Civil courage however can only grow out of the free responsibility of free men. Only
now are we Germans beginning to discover the meaning of free responsibility. It depends upon a God who demands bold action as the free response of faith, and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in the process.

Of Success
Though success can never justify an evil deed or the use of questionable means, it is not an ethically neutral thing. All the same it remains true that historical success creates the only basis for the continuance of life, and it is still a moot point whether it is ethically more responsible to behave like Don Quixote and enter the lists against a new age, or to admit one’s defeat, accept the new age and agree to serve it. In the last resort success makes history, and the Disposer of history is always bringing good out of evil over the heads of the historymakers. To ignore the ethical significance of success is to betray a superficial acquaintance with history and a defective sense of responsibility. So it is all to the good that we have been forced for once to grapple seriously with this problem of the ethics of success. All the time goodness is successful we can afford the luxury of regarding success as having no ethical significance. But the problem arises when success is achieved by evil means. It is no good then behaving as an arm-chair critic and disputing the issue, for that is to refuse to face the facts. Nor is opportunism any help, for that is to capitulate before success. We must be determined not to be outraged critics or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as victors or vanquished. It is only by refusing to allow any event to deprive us of our responsibility for history, because we know that is a responsibility laid upon us by God, that we shall achieve a relation to the events of history far more fruitful than criticism or opportunism. To talk about going down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I extricate myself heroically from the affair? but, How is the

coming generation to live? It is only in this way that fruitful solutions can arise, even if for the time being they are humiliating. In short it is easier by far to act on abstract principle than from concrete responsibility. The rising generation will always instinctively discern which of the two we are acting upon. For it is their future which is at stake.

Of Folly
Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than malice. You can protest against malice, you can unmask it or prevent it by force. Malice always contains the seeds of its own destruction, for it always makes men uncomfortable, if nothing worse. There is no defence against folly. Neither protests nor force are of any avail against it, and it is never amenable to reason. If facts contradict personal prejudices, there is no need to believe them, and if they are undeniable, they can simply be pushed aside as exceptions. Thus the fool, as compared with the scoundrel, is invariably self-complacent. And he can easily become dangerous, for it does not take much to make him aggressive. Hence folly requires much more cautious handling than malice. We shall never again try to reason with the fool, for it is both useless and dangerous.

To deal adequately with folly it is essential to recognize it for what it is. This much is certain, it is a moral rather than an intellectual defect. There are men of great intellect who are fools, and men of low intellect who are anything but fools, a discovery we make to our surprise as a result of particular circumstances. The impression we derive is that folly is acquired rather than congenital; it is acquired in certain circumstances where men make fools of themselves or allow others to make fools of them. We observe further that folly is less common in the unsociable or the solitary than in individuals or groups who are inclined or condemned to sociability. From this it would appear that folly is a sociological problem rather than one of psychology. It is a special form of the operation of historical circumstances upon men, a psychological by-product of definite external factors. On closer inspection it would seem that any violent revolution, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind. Indeed, it would seem to be almost a law of psychology and sociology. The power of one needs the folly of the other. It is not that certain aptitudes of men, intellectual aptitudes for instance, become stunted or destroyed. Rather, the upsurge of power is so terrific that it deprives men of an independent judgement, and they give up trying–more or less unconsciously–to assess the new state of affairs for themselves. The fool can often be stubborn, but this must not mislead us into thinking he is independent. One feels somehow, especially in conversation with him, that it is impossible to talk to the man himself, to talk to him personally. Instead, one is confronted with a series of slogans watchwords, and the like, which have acquired power over him. He is under a curse, he is blinded, his very humanity is being prostituted and exploited. Once he has surrendered his will and become a mere tool, there are no lengths of evil to which the fool will not go, yet all the time he is unable to see that it is evil. Here lies the danger of a diabolical exploitation of humanity, which can do irreparable damage to the human character.

But it is just at this point that we realize that the fool cannot be saved by education. What he needs is redemption. There is nothing else for it. Until then it is no earthly good trying to convince him by rational argument. In this state of affairs we can well understand why it is no use trying to find out what ‘the people’ really think, and why this question is also so superfluous for the man who thinks and acts responsibly. As the Bible says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. In other words, the only cure for folly is spiritual redemption, for that alone can enable a man to live as a responsible person in the sight of God.

But there is a grain of consolation in these reflections on human folly. There is no reason for us to think that the majority of men are fools under all circumstances. What matters in the long run is whether our rulers hope to gain more from the folly of men, or from their independence of judgement and their shrewdness of mind.

Contempt for Humanity?
There is a very real danger of our drifting into an attitude of contempt for humanity. We know full well that it would be very wrong, and that it would lead to a sterile relationship with our fellow men. Perhaps the following considerations will save us from this temptation. The trouble about it is that it lands us into the worst mistake of our enemies. The man who despises others can never hope to do anything with them. The faults we despise in others are always, to some extent at least, our own too. How often have we expected from others more than we are prepared to do ourselves! Why have we until now held such lofty views about human nature? Why have we not recognize its frailty and liability to temptation? We must form our estimate of men less from their achievement and failures, and more from their sufferings. The only profitable relationship to others–and especially to our weaker brethren-is one of love, that is the will to hold fellowship with them. Even God did not despise humanity, but became Man for man’s sake.

Immanent Righteousness
It is one of the most astounding discoveries, but one of the most incontrovertible, that evil–often in a surprisingly short time–proves its own folly and defeats its own object. That is not to say that every evil deed is at once followed automatically by retribution. But it does mean that the deliberate transgression of the divine law on the plea of self-preservation has the opposite effect of self-destruction. This is something we have learnt from our own experience, and it can be interpreted in various ways. But one certain conclusion we can draw from it seems to be that social life is governed by certain laws more powerful than any other factors which may claim to be determinative. Hence it is not only unjust, but positively unwise to ignore these laws. Perhaps that is why Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas made prudence one of the cardinal virtues. Prudence and folly are not ethical adiaphora, as some
Neo-protestant and Gesinnungs-ethics have tried to make out. The prudent man sees not only the possibilities of every concrete situation, but also the limits to human behaviour which are set by the eternal laws of social life. The prudent man acts virtuously and the virtuous man prudently.

It is true that all great historical action is constantly disregarding these laws. But it makes all the difference in the world whether it does so on principle, as though it contained a justification of its own, or whether it is still realized that to break these laws is sin, even if it be unavoidable, and that it can only be justified if the law is at once re-instated and respected. It is not necessarily hypocrisy when the declared aim of political action is the restoration of the law and not just blatant self-preservation. The world is simply ordered in such a way that a profound respect for the absolute laws and human rights is also the best means of self-preservation. While these laws may on occasion be broken in case of necessity, to proclaim that necessity as a principle and to take the law into our own hands is bound to bring retribution sooner or later. The immanent righteousness of history only rewards and punishes the deeds of men, the eternal righteousness of God tries and judges their hearts.

A Few Articles of Faith on the Sovereignty of God in History
I believe that God both can and will bring good out of evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe God will give us all the power we need to resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely upon ourselves and not on him alone. A faith as strong as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our errors and mistakes are turned to good account. It is no harder for God to cope with them than with what we imagine to be our good deeds. I believe God is not just timeless fate, but that he waits upon and answers sincere prayer and responsible action.

There is hardly one of us who has not known what it is to be betrayed. We used to find the figure of Judas an enigma, but now we know him only too well. The air we breathe is so infested with mistrust that it almost chokes us. But where we have managed to pierce through this layer of mistrust we have discovered a confidence scarce dreamed of hitherto. Where we do trust we have learnt to entrust our very lives to the hands of others. In face of all the many constructions to which our actions and our lives have been inevitably exposed we have learnt to trust without reserve. We know that hardly anything can be more reprehensible than the sowing and encouragement of mistrust, and that our duty is rather to do everything in our power to strengthen and foster confidence among men. Trust will always be one of the greatest, rarest and happiest blessings of social life, though it can only emerge on the dark background of a necessary mistrust. We have learnt never to trust a scoundrel an inch, but to give ourselves to the trustworthy without reserve.

The Sense of Quality
Unless we have the courage to fight for a revival of a wholesome reserve between man and man, all human values will be submerged in anarchy. The impudent contempt for such reserve is as much the mark of the rabble as interior uncertainty, as haggling and cringing for the favour of the insolent, as lowering oneself to the level of the rabble is the way to becoming no better than the rabble oneself. Where selfrespect is abandoned, where the feeling for human quality and the power of reserve decay, chaos is at the door. Where impudence is tolerated for the sake of material comfort, selfrespect is abandoned, the flood-gates are opened, and chaos bursts the dams we were pledged to defend. That is a crime against humanity. In other ages it may have been the duty of Christians to champion the equality of all men. Our duty
to-day, however, is passionately to defend the sense of reserve between man and man. We shall be accused of acting for our own interests, of being anti-social. Such cheap jibes must be placidly accepted. They are the invariable protests of the rabble against decency and order. To be pliant and uncertain is to fail to realize what is at stake, and no doubt it goes a good way to justify those jibes. We are witnessing the levelling down of all ranks of society, but at the same time we are watching the birth of a new sense of nobility, which is binding together a circle of men from all the previous classes of society. Nobility springs from and thrives on self-sacrifice and courage and an unfailing sense of duty to oneself and society. It expects due deference to itself, but shows an equally natural deference to others, whether they be of higher or of lower degree. From start to finish it demands a recovery of a lost sense of quality and of a social order based upon quality. Quality is the bitterest enemy of conceit in all its forms. Socially it implies the cessation of all place-hunting, of the cult of the ‘star’. It requires an open eye both upwards and downwards, especially in the choice of one’s closest friends. Culturally it means a return from the newspaper and the radio to the book, from feverish activity to unhurried leisure, from dissipation to recollection, from sensationalism to reflection, from virtuosity to art, from snobbery to modesty, from extravagance to moderation. Quantities are competitive, qualities complementary.

We must never forget that most men only learn wisdom by personal experience. This explains, first, why so few people are capable of taking precautions in advance–they always think they will be able somehow or other to circumvent the danger. Secondly, it explains their insensibility to the sufferings of others. Sympathy grows in proportion to the fear of approaching disaster. There is a good deal of excuse on ethical grounds for this attitude. Nobody wants to meet fate head-on: inward calling and strength for action are only acquired in face of actual danger. Nobody is responsible for all the suffering and injustice in the world, and nobody wants to set himself up as the judge of the universe. Psychologically, our lack of imagination, sensitivity and mental agility is balanced by a steady composure, an unruffled power of concentration and an immense capacity for suffering. But from a Christian point of view, none of these mitigating circumstances can atone for the absence of the most important factor, that is, a real breadth of sympathy. Christ avoided suffering until his hour had come, but when it did come he seized it with both hands as a free man and mastered it. Christ, as the Scriptures tell us, bore all our human sufferings in his own body as if they were his own –a tremendous thought–and submitted to them freely. Of course, we are not Christs, we do not have to redeem the world by any action or suffering of our own. There is no need for us to lay upon ourselves such an intolerable burden. We are not lords, but instruments in the hand of the Lord of history. Our capacity to sympathize with others in their sufferings is strictly limited. We are not Christs, but if we want to be Christians we must show something of Christ’s breadth of sympathy by acting responsibly, by grasping our ‘hour’, by facing danger like free men, by displaying a real sympathy which springs not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. To look on without lifting a helping hand is most un-Christian. The Christian does not have to wait until he suffers himself; the sufferings of his brethren for whom Christ died are enough to awaken his active sympathy.

Of Suffering
It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human command than to accept suffering as free, responsible men. It is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone. It is infinitely easier to suffer as public heroes than to suffer apart and in ignominy. It is infinitely easier to suffer physical death than to endure spiritual suffering. Christ suffered as a free man alone, apart and in ignominy, in body and in spirit, and since that day many Christians have suffered with him.
Present and Future

We always used to think it was one of the elementary rights of man that he should be able to plan his life in advance, both private life and professional. That is a thing of the past. The pressure of events is forcing us to give up ‘being anxious for the morrow’. But it makes all the difference in the world whether we accept this willingly and in faith (which is what the Sermon on the Mount means) or under compulsion. For most people not to plan for the future means to live irresponsibly and frivolously, to live just for the moment, while some few continue to dream of better times to come. But we cannot take either of these courses. We are still left with only the narrow way, a way often hardly to be found, of living every day as if it were our last, yet in faith and responsibility living as though a splendid future still lay before us. ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land’, cries Jeremiah just as the Holy City is about to be destroyed, a striking contrast to his previous prophecies of woe. It is a divine sign and pledge of better things to come, just when all seems blackest. Thinking and acting for the sake of the coming generation, but taking each day as it comes without fear and anxiety–that is the spirit in which we are being forced to live in practice. It is not easy to be brave and hold out, but it is imperative.

It is more prudent to be a pessimist. It is an insurance against disappointment, and no one can say ‘I told you so’, which is how the prudent condemns the optimist. The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. Of course there is a foolish, shifty kind of optimism which is rightly condemned. But the optimism which is will for the
future should never be despised, even if it is proved wrong a hundred times. It is the health and vitality which a sick man should never impugn. Some men regard it as frivolous, and some Christians think it is irreligious to hope and prepare oneself for better things to come in this life. They believe in chaos, disorder and catastrophe. That, they think, is the meaning of present events, and in sheer resignation or pious escapism they surrender all responsibility for the preservation of life and for the generations yet unborn. To-morrow may be the day of judgement. If it is, we shall gladly give up working for a better future, but not before.

Insecurity and Death
During recent years we have come to know death at close quarters. We are sometimes startled at the placidity with which we hear of the death of one of our contemporaries. We cannot hate death as we used to, for we have discovered some good in it after all, and have almost come to terms with it. Fundamentally we feel that we really belong to death already, and that every new day is a miracle. It would hardly be true to say that we welcome death–although we all know that accidie which should be avoided like the plague–we are too curious for that, or to put it more seriously, we still hope to see some sense in the broken fragments of our life. Nor do we try and romanticize death, for life is too precious for that. Still less are we inclined to see in danger the meaning of life-we are not desperate enough for that, and we know too much about the joys life has to offer. And we know too much about life’s anxieties also, and all the havoc wrought by prolonged insecurity. We still love life, but I do not think that death can take us by surprise now. After all we have been through during the war we hardly dare admit our hope that we shall not die a sudden and unexpected death for some trivial accident, but rather in dedication to some noble cause. It is not the external circumstances, but the spirit in which we face it, that makes death what it can be, a death freely and voluntarily accepted.
Are we still serviceable?
We have been the silent witnesses of evil deeds. Many storms have gone over our heads. We have learnt the art of deception and of equivocal speech. Experience has made us suspicious of others, and prevented us from being open and frank. Bitter conflicts have made us weary and even cynical. Are we still serviceable? It is not the genius that we shall need, not the cynic, not the misanthropist, not the adroit tactician, but honest, straightforward men. Will our spiritual reserves prove adequate and our candour with ourselves remorseless enough to enable us to find our way back again to simplicity and straightforwardness?


Written by sameo416

January 30, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The ‘Be-Attitudes’, Matthew 5

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Epiphany 4, 27 Jan 2017, SJE ©2017  Matthew 5:1-12 (preaching series) Micah 6:1-8, Ps 15 “Be-Attitudes” [late posting, sorry, was at the UofA at a Metis conference Fri/Sat]

It’s a good week to be reflecting on some of the greatest comforts in the Gospels, these words of the Beatitudes after Matthew’s Gospel.  Since December I’ve been following twitter much more closely, after discovering that it is a fundamental mode for communication in the indigenous community.  Twitter, of course, has been going berserk the last few days with the US bans on people from certain Middle Eastern countries.  If you’re like me, you may be deeply disturbed by these happenings.  Which is good.  As I was writing this sermon I was listening to an iTunes mix which includes some of my favorite old albums (old here meaning the 1970’s).  The song ‘Biko’ by Peter Gabriel came up, and the lyrics caught my ear.  This is the story of Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa who was beaten to death in police custody in September 1977.  In the lyrics…

“September 77, Port Elizabeth weather fine, It was business as usual, In police room 619…You can blow out a candle, But you can’t blow out a fire, Once the flame begins to catch, The wind will blow it higher. And the eyes of the world are watching now.”

The expression of compassion, and the feeling of pain are natural for the Christian.  One of the particular joys of following Christ is being particularly attenuated to injustice and immoral things in the world, and because we have this absolute frame of reference against which we hold up the changes and chances of this troublesome world they affect us in a unique and acute way.  But, it is important to keep some perspective – because as my hearkening back to Steve Biko shows, this is really the same story being played out again, and when we look through history the reality is that human history is littered with the blood of the innocent.  This does not excuse it, but it should instruct us to remember that this is the way of the world, and it is a way that is consistent with what we have been told to expect.

In fact, some of the reaction to Trump’s overtly racist rantings almost sounds like the end of the world is upon us.  For a Christian, we should not fall into this trap of expecting something different this side of the Second Coming.  One of the realities is that we in the first world have become so comfortable with having everything about life looked after for us, including anger when advanced life support takes more than a few minutes to reach us, that such events can quickly topple our world.  The Good News is the Gospels can inoculate us against such a reaction, and the Beatitudes in particular offer us a needed shot of vitamins to counteract the nutritional deficiencies brought on by this modern world.  We also know clearly our calling, which requires that we act in these situations, and not to react in a way that is destructive spiritually.

And how are we to act?  The message is clear throughout the entire body of Scripture.  Today we hear it from the Prophet Micah, “He has told you…what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  This same message comes to us through the Beatitudes.  Before we get into the Beatitudes, a word on one of the typical traps they present.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.  The trap is to pull that blessing into a purely physical sense and to convert the blessing into a regulation: if Jesus says the poor in spirit are blessed, then the preferable state of being must be to be poor in spirit.  This really trivializes what is being said in the blessing, and converts it into somewhat of a mockery of Christ’s words.  So, the kingdom of heaven is ours if we can become truly poor in spirit.  The second error is the opposite extreme, which is to spiritualize the blessing.  Regardless of how we live our lives, as long as we can achieve some state of poorness of spirit we will receive the kingdom of heaven.  So the rich can receive the kingdom of heaven, if they can generate sufficient poorness in spirit.  You see both errors involve a twisting of intention of the blessing – this is not necessarily a state to be aspired to, or to be sought out as an end unto itself, but a description of the reality that the coming of God’s kingdom means for the creation.  In fact, what this first blessing does is to clearly state a present reality: the poor in spirit already have the kingdom of heaven.  We’ll talk about this in a bit, but the tense of the verb is significant in this first Beatitude, for the next six are all set in the future tense.  So, while we can read these statements as descriptive for what a disciple looks, acts and thinks like, we have to be cautious if we attempt to make the prescriptive: you must be poor in spirit to receive the kingdom of heaven, therefore strive for that goal.

So, into the Beatitudes.  If you look at the overall structure of this text, we can group the blessing statements (this follows Bruner).  The first four are termed by Bruner as the ‘need’ Beatitudes, as they all relate to those who are in need of something.  These are the passive Beatitudes as there is no action required except that one be poor in spirit, mourning, meek or hungering for righteousness.  The response to the need is the Grace of God, for in each case the needfulness is met by the receipt of something. Like so many other examples in the Gospels, Jesus first meets people where they are, and provides the gifts of God’s grace to those in need before telling us what we need to do.  This is the lightening of the yoke in advance of the taking up of the task again.  This is the way we should receive these first four blessings, not as rules that tell us how we are to be, or what we are to strive towards to be holy, but affirmations that God will meet us right where we are.

I’ve already mentioned the poor in spirit briefly, but a further word.  What does being poor in spirit mean?  We might also describe poor in spirit as being spiritually inadequate for the task which God has set before us.  This is solace for all those who have reached the bottom, and particularly for those who know they have reached that bottom.  I may then ask rhetorically, who here needs God’s help to follow the revised teachings of the Law which Christ brought?  (hands)

If you think about some of the impossibilities presented to us, it becomes apparent that one of the teachings before us is to realize that we are all spiritually impoverished and inadequate because of our own failings.  I tell you the truth, if you look on a woman with lust in your heart you are guilty of adultery in your heart.  If you look on a brother or sister with anger in your heart, you are liable for judgement.  We will read a bit further on in Matthew, “and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (5:22).  It is a measure of how lightly we read these Gospels that many people who follow Christ will not hesitate to call, say Donald Trump a fool, when the Gospel leaves us no such latitude.  It is a sign of our impoverishment of spirit that we do such things without a second thought, and do so frequently.  And there is no saving provision offered there because the person is really foolish.  The goal is at least partly to help us learn that we are spiritually inadequate for the task before us, because only then we can begin to receive the blessing of God’s Grace.  As CS Lewis stated, God has gifts he wishes to give us, but cannot as long as our hands are full.

The following three Beatitudes deal with those who mourn, the meek (or ‘little people’) and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  The response to each of these is offered in the future tense.  This offers a teaching in itself.  As I started out noting that the world could be a nasty place, we are reminded that the ultimate comfort of no more tears due to the loss of death, will only come with the Son returns on clouds to judge both the quick and the dead.  The earth will only be remade into the new Jerusalem after the final judgement, and those who hunger for justice will only be satisfied at that same cosmic moment.  This does not mean that we do not work and advocate to bring about better reality today; what it does mean is that we do not fall into the idolatry of believing that our work today will bring about that new Jerusalem, a trap that large parts of Christendom succumb to.  What it means is we do not respond like the pagans do, with despair and rage with each new injustice that is visited upon us.  Steve Biko was killed in 1977 – 40 years ago, before large parts of our community were born.  With each new news cycle there are stories of the meek being trampled, and there is no point in our history when injustice was not rampant and overwhelming the world over, even if it was worse in some quarters. As poet Malcolm Guite said in his reflection on remembrance day, “In every instant bloodied innocence, Falls to the weary earth.”

It also means that we must be cautious to not fall into the trap of selecting secular saviours who we expect to bring about a land of milk and honey.  Barak Obama was held up by many as the person who would herald in a new era of respect and peace.  I was reminded this was not necessarily so for all the world by a Native American who noted that Obama had been given a traditional name prior to his first inauguration, translated as “he who helps those across the land”…she immediately commented, true, except for all those that he dropped bombs on.  Being cautious believers means also realizing that we participate in cycles of global violence merely by being citizens of the first world.  It also means that we should expect, in this world, to spent a portion of our time in a state of acute hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness in a world that demonstrably lacks that rightness.  We are learning both of a present reality, and a future yet to be realized.

The next three Beatitudes are, by contrast, ‘active’ blessings, what we might call the ‘help’ Beatitudes following the ‘need’ Beatitudes.  These blessings reveal the results of actively seeking to follow God’s teachings, and here we see at least a partial answer to the question: what to do about the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourning and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We respond to those needs by being full of mercy, full of purity and full of peace…we respond as Christ has called us, in service and in love.  These too are stated in the future tense, as an end not yet resolved, or a work still in progress.  We love today, not with the expectation that the desert will bloom, but with the faith that our little love today will, in God’s good time be the pivot which transforms the world.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  This blessing mirrors the ultimate goal of the restorative justice movement, which is to restore right relationship after trauma.  That restoration almost always starts with a victim who is willing to be merciful towards the offender, a victim who is willing to say as the axe falls on their neck, ‘forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.’  But the blessing is about more than forgiving, it is about coming to the aid of the needy. Because we who believed have lived God’s great mercy for us, miserable sinners, our call is to pass that mercy along to others.  Often.  Abundantly. Joyously.  This one in particular is a particularly hard one for first world residents, because one of the traps of plenty is beginning to think that we somehow deserve this life because we happened to be born into this time and place.  And if we deserve this life, then those who have worse-off lives must have also deserved those worse-off lives.  This is particularly present in the US evangelical movement in the form we usually refer to as ‘the prosperity gospel’.  Follow God and he will mightily bless you, where ‘bless you’ is code for ‘give you lots of neat stuff’.  That is surprisingly not included in the beatitudes.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  We know by the Law that we can never, of our own effort, maintain purity of heart.  This blessing, like the poor in spirit, reminds us that it is by God’s grace that we achieve purity of heart, through confession of our sins, through the washing of our bodies with Christ’s blood.  In the BCP communion service we pray this before receiving the bread and wine: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, So to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, And to drink his Blood, That our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, And our souls washed through his most precious Blood, And that we may evermore dwell in him, And he in us.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  Peace here refers to the biblical concept of Shalom, which is far broader than our use of the word peace.  This is not the absence of violence or war, but rather a situation of comprehensive welfare.  Shalom depicts a circle of right relationship, which means communal well-being in all directions.  A bringer of Shalom is a peacemaker, because Shalom brings reconciliation.  This is one of the most challenging things I see in the Gospel, because it is so hard to be a bearer of Shalom, particularly if you are either a person in authority (it’s easier just to give orders); or a person under authority (passive aggressive undercutting of your boss is just so much fun).  This blessing is one where I often look to the example of the Mennonite Central Committee, as they literally live this out around the world by placing their membership at risk to bring Shalom to those who suffer.

Which brings us to the two concluding blessings, those called the ‘hurt’ Beatitudes as both relate to persecution.  We are called to pronounce a different way of interacting with the world, one that rejects hating and to calling others ‘fools’, and if you do this long enough and deliberately enough, there will be push-back from the world for your boldness in stating there is a different way.  When we seek to live our lives in concert with Christ’s example, people will reject us, scoff at us, and mock us.  Note here that we have now encountered the second present-tense Beatitudes.  While we have six future tense promises in the middle, bookended by promises that the poor in spirit, and those persecuted for righteousness sake, will both be in the kingdom of heaven.  The persecution beatitudes come on the heels of the peacemaker blessing, because that is a usual path: a suggestion that a path of peace should be selected, will be rejected by those convinced that it is the wielding of power which will achieve peacemaking.

The Beatitudes offer us fine examples of something I’ve mentioned previously, the tendency of God to offer us dramatic reversals or inversions in things offered to teach us about the kingdom.  The Gospels are littered with these great reversals in strong contrast to a world that seeks superhero endings – in fact, the Beatitudes as a whole are a series of these dramatic reversals.  Jesus begins with ‘blessed are the poor’ while we all know that the world would much rather say, ‘blessed are the rich’.  And following ‘blessed are the meek’ when we all know that the world instead would say, ‘blessed are the powerful’.  This week we’ve seen this clearly, at the world’s treatment of the poor, and the treatment of the rich.  These reversals characterise our faith.  So rather than achieving, say, peace through superior firepower, which we might call a Beatitude of the world, Jesus instead offers the message of the other cheek.  Instead of salvation that arrives at the last moment because evil is finally defeated through mighty power, salvation instead arrives through an instrument of torture and death.  This is why Paul says in Hebrews that Jesus went to the cross for joy, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)  The word we use presently to describe the worst type of pain, excruciating pain, comes to us from the Latin excruciat- ‘tormented,’ from the verb excruciare (based on crux ‘a cross’). So that excruciating, literally, experience becomes the path to salvation for all.  A true reversal, and nowhere is that better reflected than in the contrast between the way of this world, and the way of God as reflected in the cross.  Be attentive to these reversals.

These reversals are key to us, particularly in keeping perspective on what is happening the world around us. When we hear stories of people being led away in handcuffs in airports throughout the US, and when we cry, like the Israelites, How Long, O God? To remember that our God is the great God of reversals.  This is one of the key paradoxes of our faith, that it is observing the worst of humanity, where we see the evidence of God’s greatest blessing.  As executive power is wielded without care for those without power, what we saw this week were hordes of lawyers arriving at airports in order to intervene on behalf of those detained.  This is a small example of a place where blessing comes out of madness.  And it is these reminders which we must always keep before ourselves lest we give in to the despair that grips so many people in this age. “For longing is the veil of satisfaction, and grief the veil of persecution, the coming kingdom’s overflowing bliss.  Oh make us pure of heart and help us see, amongst the shadows and amidst the mourning the promised Comforter, alive and free.”  Amen.

Malcolm Guite, Beatitudes


Matthew 5:1-16

We bless you, who have spelt your blessings out,

And set this lovely lantern on a hill

Lightening darkness and dispelling doubt

By lifting for a little while the veil.

For longing is the veil of satisfaction

And grief the veil of future happiness

We glimpse beneath the veil of persecution

The coming kingdom’s overflowing bliss


Oh make us pure of heart and help us see

Amongst the shadows and amidst the mourning

The promised Comforter, alive and free,

The kingdom coming and the Son returning,

That even in this pre-dawn dark we might

At once reveal and revel in your light.


And inspiration drawn from Guite’s sermon here: http://sms.cam.ac.uk/media/2001910


Also Craig S. Keener’s excellent commentary on Matthew and

Frederick Dale Bruner’s equally excellent commentary on Matthew (thank you SJE!)

I have been immersed in questions of Indigenous identity this week, at the UofA Faculty of Native Studies conference on the Supreme Court decision Daniels.  The conference was video recorded.  https://livestream.com/ualberta/events/6841112

Dedicated to those who suffer the impact of the politics of fear at the hands of all sorts of executive orders:

“September 77, Port Elizabeth weather fine
It was business as usual,
In police room 619…

You can blow out a candle,
But you can’t blow out a fire,
Once the flame begins to catch
The wind will blow it higher.

And the eyes of the world are watching now.”
– Peter Gabriel

Here’s to being that wind in the world.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Biko


Written by sameo416

January 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I didn’t March with Women; but did with Idle No More

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As the word was getting about on the topic of the women’s march, I gave some thought to joining the group. I’m not happy with a misogynist president either. I felt a deep sense of ambivalence about participating in the event, which is usually a sign for me to stay away. As I’ve read the ‘after-action’ reports, particularly from an indigenous perspective, I understand that sense of ambivalence better.

GK Chesterton had a great passage about the modern skeptic, in his seminal book Orthodoxy:

The new rebel is a skeptic and will not entirely trust anything… [T]he fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation applies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces but the doctrine by which he denounces it… As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, as a philosopher, that all life is a waste of time. [He] goes to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.

There is a modern tendency to protest everything, something which arises from the same rationale as Chesterton’s modern skeptic.  My disquiet was due to something deeper, and something racial.

The march was predominantly white women, protesting predominantly issues facing western white women.  In the lead up to the big day I saw stories about how pro-life women’s groups had been excluded, and in a couple of venues how indigenous women’s voices had been excluded.  The pro-life aspect really troubled me, as one of the refrains of the march was around the idea of ‘sisterhood’, but with large sections of that sisterhood marginalized, it put to lie the idea of a community of women.  Hence, a white woman’s march, and a selective group at that.

I’ve recently discovered twitter, and also that it is a huge means of building community for indigenous individuals.  As a medium which provides them with complete control (through the mute and block options) they are able to carry out discussions which are blunt and sometimes very painful.  When contrary voices from other racial backgrounds seek to impose their will, they can be controlled quickly.  It is a place I have encountered much truth-telling.

That sounds like a bad thing.  But.  For the indigenous community, the question of who controls news and communications is one that is tied up tightly in issues of colonialism.  For people who have been rendered voiceless for 100’s of years, social media presents a channel which is not subject to the control of settlers, a place where the community can discuss openly and censor those colonial voices.  In my two weeks listening (mostly) I have learned more about contemporary indigenous issues than over the last 25 texts I’ve read on the subject.  In particular, I’ve learned a ton about a very fierce community of indigenous women warriors that openly discuss things of import.  It has been a powerful and blessed time of learning.

In their voices, people who had attended the women’s march (sometimes reluctantly because of a long life of colonialism impacting them), and a number at Standing Rock, spoke about episodes of racism, being mocked and being minimized by their “sisters”.  Another theme I heard clearly through minority women beyond the indigenous community was disappointment that all those women would march for reproductive rights, but would never show up at an Idle No More, Standing Rock or Black Lives Matter march.

Oil pipeline spills are always a distant story for we urban dwellers…when most of them are in the backyards of First Nations.

That comment hearkens back to my posts about white privilege – one of my observations is there are lots of people spouting the ‘white privilege’ line…but few who will show up at Standing Rock or Idle No More or with the Metis at Christina Lake protesting a pipeline (for an Alberta example).  It reinforces one of my conclusions, that the point of much social justice warrior activity is to convince one’s self that you’re not complicit in the cycles of violence and oppression.  This is not a question of privilege, it is one of raw power.

Simply stated, when it comes to questions of land in North America, if you’re living here, you’re complicit.

As a part of my continuing growth I’m reading Chelsea Vowel’s excellent book, Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada.  I’ve followed her blog for the last couple of years because she is a witty and very insightful commentator on indigenous issues, and particularly Metis issues.  If you’re interested in engaging some of these issues more deeply, particularly as a settler looking to learn the first steps of reconciliation, I would highly recommend her book and a tour through her blog.

Some of the words from indigenous marchers were very hard to read through, so obvious was the lack of respect and welcome.  One that really stuck with me was the thread run out by @sydnerain, and some of the incredibly obtuse responses that she received.  As a sample (all her feed unless otherwise noted):

I don’t care how many pointless apologies or how good of a “feminist” you think you are. This is absolute terrorism happening right now

I also have 100+ people asking me to tell them what to do. I will not be telling you individually what to do. This is ridiculous.

Jan 23  White women! Feel free to offer up a $250/hr USD consulting fee to Black, Indigenous, and women of colour, any time you want labour, okay?.

I’ve been sayin this all night. There are WW that simply do not give a shit and don’t want to learn cause it makes them “uncomfortable.”.

Jan 22 @ShupeagDavid Entire thread is her teaching. And she’s not obligated 2 do so-requiring marginalized ppl to educate is oppression..

Sidenote for all new followers/readers of the thread, I am not your human encyclopedia or museum, if you have a ? then do your own research..

Y’all need to know we native women are, have been, and will always be sickened by settler colonial white supremacist cisgender “feminism.”.

What did I learn from ? I learned to keep distance from self-proclaimed feminist movements. I learned some WW refuse to learn..

You, WW, are complicit in my genocide, & until you abandon ur white fragility & acknowledge this you’re a white supremacist, not a feminist.

You want me to hold hands with you and sing kumbaya and be “equal,” while you stand on our ancestor’s graves and this is your first march..

You, WW with a transphobic sign about your vagina being your womanhood, WW that is a colonizer on my land, are not my sister. The opposite..

WW want to call me their “sister,” but my sisters don’t touch me or my regalia without my permission. They don’t speak over me..

These WW are saying “this is just the beginning.” Our ancestors have marched since 1492. This is our whole lives. This is who we are..

They only stopped to pay attention to us when we drummed & sang our women’s warrior song, round danced, or to say we have “pretty costumes.”.

The whole time I am treated by non-Natives and especially WW like a marching spectacle while they refuse my fliers. Like a real life museum..

And I’m marching and trying to hold my head up and remembering my Mvskoke ancestors who marched on the Trail of Tears for me to be here..

I’m crying now typing this. One day it’s a pipeline. The next our babies are stolen. Next our sisters go missing. Next we’re killed by cops..

We begin our first chant, “Mni Wiconi, water is life.” WW look confused. WW staring at us or just acting oblivious like we weren’t there..

When the march begins I am surrounded by WW holding up signs like “smash the patriarchy” “keep your hands off our pussies” and so forth..

None of us are amused and we ask her to leave. She calls us and our march “rude” and said “it’s unfortunate that Indians can’t take jokes.”.

WW responds: “I’m from Minnesota. I can name a lot of the lakes around me and they’re all in Indian. I even know some tribes too.”.

We responded, “We don’t get to choose if we’re native or not. This is our reality & you are not Indian. You are disrespectful & need to go.”.

When the march starts several WW try to join our group to march with us. Two WW beside me told me “Guess we’re Indians today!” and laughed..

WW try to walk through our prayer circle and are immediately called out by our elders present. This is all before the march even starts..

Outside the prayer circle WW are taking pics & videos of us in round dance. Several WW roll up in R*skins hats. WW asking me “What is this?”.

You could hear what the WW said. “They’re real Indians.” “They’re still here?” “I think they’re faking it.” “Why do they look like that?”.

Many women of color (WOC) have criticized this march already. I’d like to share an indigenous experience of colonization and stolen land.


What amazed me were the chastising white voices – “you should know who your allies are and respect us” — was the one that really caught my eye (and I won’t name the poster because she does not deserve to have a voice).  Second aspect where the conciliatory voices asking the poster to help them learn more.  If nothing else, a good reminder that the event you consider to be a great triumph, may be reminding someone else of a lasting terror..

Let’s talk the silliness of ‘white privilege’ now.  Only someone speaking from a position of power would say to the oppressed, “Teach me about your oppression so I can understand it.”  Many indigenous voices responded in protest to point out that the first step in reconciliation is for the oppressor to learn what it means to be an oppressor, and that they should figure out some resources on their own..

Chelsea Vowel points out in her book (as I did previously) that the real power of an oppressor is the ability to name things, a power not shared by any of the oppressed.  The march as I perceived it involved a lot of oppressive naming of things, and when the oppressed tried to raise a voice they were shut down as ‘rude’ or not having a sense of humour..

And so, when it comes to supporting true oppression, I’m afraid I will continue to throw my efforts behind these fierce sisters.  It was only a few years back that the news that the Saskatoon police department was taking indigenous men to the outskirts of town (in the winter) and leaving them there.  Discovered when one man froze to death.  This stuff is continuing to happen, today, in this country..

A final word.  I heard this outstanding talk on CBC ideas.  Indigenous law professor Tracey Lindberg and author of a fictional work, “Birdie” spoke on the question of “Reconciliation before Reconciliation”.  How do you achieve reconciliation when the same cycle of genocide is ongoing today (and Justin Trudeau’s promises of a ‘nation to nation discussion’ and implementing the UNDRIP have become one more set of broken promises in a line of 100’s of years of broken promises)?  Part of that how involves people realizing that their circumstance today was possible because of the theft of land and life from many others:

The first black cars came and scooped out our grandparents, great-grandparents and took them to schools, those babies.  Then the black car took our hunters and warriors who were following our laws, to jail. Then the black car took our children to other families, other communities and other nations. And you can bet whats happening at Val D’or whats happening at Standing Rock is housed,is being fed, is being sponsored by, being travelled to, animated by people in black cars.  I want to talk about reconciliation when the black cars are still running.


How do we talk about reconciliation when the black cars are still running?

Written by sameo416

January 24, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

White Privilege III – A Personal Encounter

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So, I argued myself in two earlier posts to a position where I’m convinced that the oft-touted idea of ‘white privilege’ is post-Christian.  That hasn’t shifted, but I had an experience the other night that opened a bit of a window for me that makes it a little easier to understand what people are trying to get at with the flawed concept.

The event was a dinner with a group of colleagues after a few days of really productive and cooperative work.  I was, as is usual, the only indigenous person in the room.  Because I neglected to wear my sash, or to carry my fire bag with me I looked the part of an entirely white Canadian.

A conversation started around the upcoming hunting trip of a relative, and how she had been given privileged access to that hunt because she was Metis.  The immediate comment which followed was that she was only something like 1/16 native, and how unreasonable it was for someone like that to receive any special treatment.

I was about to jump in with a comment about how blood quantum was an out-dated concept in Canada, this had been confirmed by the Supreme Court on a number of occasions, and that the concept was considered somewhat racist.  Before I could do that a couple of side discussions took off about privilege based on native ancestry that left me feeling very unsettled.

One comment was a joke about ‘traditional hunting grounds’, and that because one Metis relative’s mother had always shopped at Safeway it was now joked (by other non-inidgenous family members) that he now had the right to hunt there.

This was meant in jest, mostly.  What really struck me was how easily the discussion unfolded for those around me, and how isolated I had suddenly become.  If at that point I did what I probably should have, which was to speak truth into the lie, I would have risked lots with a group of people that I have to work rather closely with.  I would have become one of those activist indigenous people who are always looked on with suspicion because they’re always making those around them uncomfortable.

Certainly a moral failure for me, as it was a great opportunity to rebuke a destructive untruth.  What really shocked me was how easily all the words fell out from people’s mouths affirming the banter which was going on.

I still wouldn’t call this a question of privilege, as what was happening was not a question of being privileged.  What was happening was a question of being powerful over those who have no such power.

I’m not used to the feeling of being powerless, and indeed on lessor issues (not involving indigeneity) I’ve taken things right to the wall to make sure that my voice was heard.

So, if people want to start speaking about white power, I think I could get on board with that.  It really circles around the drain called ignorance in the bathtub of neglect.  But it is a bit clearer to me now exactly what dynamic is at work.

I’m learning also about being fierce on these issues, mostly from observing a community of fierce indigenous women on twitter, most recently around the question of Joseph Boyden’s claims of indigenous heritage (which have been pretty conclusively demonstrated to be fantasy rather than fact).  Their example is what will set the path for me ahead.

It also confirms something viscerally which I previously only knew academically – it is difficult to understand power, until you have experience powerlessness.

[As a footnote here, I’ll note that the term ‘native’ is almost entirely discarded by anyone who has been paying attention to the community – there is no such thing as ‘native’ identity.  One thing stated clearly out of the Boyden debate is that there is no one person who has a right to speak on behalf of ‘natives’.  The reason is 600+ individual communities, and tens of thousand individual experiences, all which contribute to the discussion.  This is one of the most radical concepts to come out of indigenous community – that achieving consensus on any question requires listening to many voices, and continuing to listen until the voices are done.  This is why the government’s desire to finish the TRC legal process is an example of that white power – the real discussions have not really even started.  To my indigenous world view, what the TRC has done is created a space where we can start to tell our stories.  As we’re seeking to undo something like 300 years of violence and power, this is not a question that will be resolved within a generation.]



Written by sameo416

January 20, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî

thoughts of an urban Métis scholar (and sometimes a Mouthy Michif, PhD)

Joshua 1:9

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Engineering Ethics Blog

Reflection on life as a person of faith.


Today, the Future and the Past all kinda rolled up in one.


For Those Courageous in Standing for Truth


Law. Language. Culture.

Malcolm Guite

Blog for poet and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite

"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.