Voting No While Standing With

Three caveats before I start: 1) I failed to do my homework before the CPCUCC Annual Meeting which led to my failure to speak out to the assembled; 2) I feel woefully inadequate to address solutions to conflict in the Mid-East; and 3) I am deeply troubled by Israel’s actions directed at the Palestinian population.  

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The Palestine-Israel Network of the CPCUCC calls the gathered to pass "A Resolution of Witness " Photo by Maggie Sebastian

The Palestine-Israel Network of the CPCUCC calls the gathered to pass “A Resolution of Witness ” Photo by Maggie Sebastian

The Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ met last weekend for their Annual Meeting. The gathering passed “A Resolution of Witness Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” I voted against this resolution which can be read here. (This is the original version without friendly amendments added during the meeting.)

My concerns about this document began when I read materials on the information table. Terms like “European Jewish colonialism” and frequent use of the term “Jews” in background materials are at best vague and imply or place blame on whole swaths of people rather than Israeli decision makers. The tone of the materials and their reliance upon the Kairos document, which one Conservative Jew whom I respect calls “antisemitic at its core” were red flags for me.

When a proponent of the resolution described Gaza as an open-air prison, I was appalled. If our goal is peace and reconciliation terms like that only polarize. Peace requires the concerns of all parties be recognized and heard. As an American Christian that term was loaded with innuendo and implication that failure to pass the resolution was tantamount to condoning Israel’s actions against the people of Gaza.  How might a phrase like that be heard by Israeli Jews who live within a context Americans — especially Christians — can barely imagine?

It is no secret that embedded anti-semitism is both a contemporary and historical sin of the Christian church. Our sacred text itself has been used as a weapon to blame our Jewish sisters and brothers for killing Christ! This, of course, is historically inaccurate. The only entity that had the ability to crucify Jesus was the occupying Roman authority.

Too many Christians believe that Jesus’ criticism of religious leaders of his day implies a rejection of his own Jewish faith.  The biblical witness does not bear this out. His criticism of leaders and arguments with other Jews is analogous to differences argued within any mainline American Christian denomination. Our supersessionist reinterpretation  of some passages of the Elder Testament (e.g.; Isaiah 7:14) to have meanings never intended by the original authors too often affirms embedded anti-Jewish attitudes.

None of this is to suggest that the proponents of the resolution passed at the CPCUCC Annual Meeting last weekend are antisemitic in intention. We must stand with our Palestinian sisters and brothers — Christian and Muslim — who are victimized by the actions of the Israeli government. The conditions under which they live are abhorrent.

That said, when those of us in the United Church of Christ, a denomination committed to Christian unity and positive interfaith relationships, stand with oppressed peoples in Palestine we must do so without relying on antisemitic documents. We must intentionally seek to uncover the embedded antisemitism of our tradition. Until we do, our voice calling for justice will lack credibility.

In short, we need to stand in witness with our Palestinian sisters and brothers but we must do so without perpetuating the sin of antisemitism.

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Related

My Speech to the Presbyterians, Rachel Lerner of J Street

Cautions to US Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document

I Will Vote No on Divestment, Rev. Chuck Currie

Mine!

The squirrel scurried across the trail with a cone full of seeds in its mouth. Turning to look at me it seemed to say, “Mine!” before it made its exit far from my camera’s reach.

Mine! Photo by Tim Graves

Mine! Photo by Tim Graves

Photo by Tim Graves

The Pit-a-Pat Party

Photo by Tim Graves

Glistening leaves of emerald, gold, and ruby create a party ambience in the old woods. Photo by Tim Graves

Buffing the rocks to a see-yourself shine,
the dance floor emerges as the rain begins.

Glistening leaves of emerald, gold, and ruby
create a party ambience in the old woods.

Tip. Tap.
The band begins to warm up.

Splish. Plop.
If you listen closely you can anticipate the show-to-come.

Pitter and patter,
anticipation builds,
as wren and sparrow announce arriving guests.

Soon the frogs leap to the latest beats, appendages flinging here and there, frenetic as liquid joy falls from the sky. Photo by Tim Graves

Soon the frogs leap to the latest beats, appendages flinging here and there, frenetic as liquid joy falls from the sky. Photo by Tim Graves

Here and there a leaf wiggles,
as drops s-l-o-w-l-y fall until…

Until…

Until the Pit-a-Pat band opens the show,
with a beat you can dance to!
The forest celebration has begun!

Soon the frogs leap to the latest beats,
appendages flinging here and there,
frenetic as liquid joy falls from the sky.

Slugs hug the walls,
waiting out the rock and roll,
the disco,
and the hip-hop.

In time frog after frog leaps away, lizards return to the safe shelter of rocks, and the band finally plays the slow song. Photo by Tim Graves

In time frog after frog leaps away,
lizards return to the safe shelter of rocks,
and the band finally plays the slow song. Photo by Tim Graves

Lizards emerge as groupies,
keeping pace with the mystical beats,
and hypnotic rhythm.

Waiting and watching frenzied frogs,
until the slow dance begins,
slugs continue hugging walls of cascading moisture.

The beat comes faster and faster,
the euphoric rain dance becomes a blur,
for all but the slugs who wait.

In time frog after frog leaps away,
lizards return to the safe shelter of rocks,
and the band finally plays the slow song.

Simple and sedate a melody transforms,
the empty but still glistening dance floor.

And the slugs emerge from the walls,
as the Pit-a-Pat band finishes the show with romance.

Photo by Tim Graves

Just One More Bonus Moment

Photo by Tim Graves

Photo by Tim Graves

Every hike has a moment. In each hike there comes a moment that makes the strained muscles, the perspiration, and the overall effort worth the journey. As I journeyed a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail (near Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood), the moment came when I rounded a bend, slogged up an incline, and came upon a view of a deep chasm and Mt. Hood.

But this post is not about The Moment. It is about the bonus moments that some trails offer up with divine abundance. The waterfall reached by a scramble up a canyon filled with rocks, gravel, sand, and boulder was just such a bonus moment offered by the Pacific Crest Trail near Timberline Lodge. The challenging scramble forced me to move from one side and again the other of rushing snowmelt. The bonus moment was worth the risk of landing in icy water.

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Photo by Tim Graves

But this post is not about that bonus moment, either. It is about those bonus moments that distract me from thoughts of well-prepared food and a shower as my trip nears its end. They are parting gifts that often bring a tear to my eye.

This post is about the creature that I caught in my peripheral vision as I moved through a canyon. The movement of the orange mammal was a divine gift as I was returning to the trailhead and thinking about filling my belly. It was the Just One More Bonus Moment that crowned my ten mile hike with a golden glow.

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See also The Things That Move

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The Crimson Face of God

Ascending,
muscles speak,
breath shortens,
and the cool, fresh air invigorates,

Photo by Tim Graves

Photo by Tim Graves

On the boulder strewn summit,
with its vestiges of snow,
and grey moon dust,
green patches cling close to the ground.

Between the stones and rocks,
within the moist canyons,
green grasses and blooms thrive,
in the late summer.

Beyond the trees,
beneath the late summer sunshine,
the mountain peak dominates,
the deserted ski slopes.

In hopes of snow-to-be,
the lift clangs and beeps,
as it moves in anticipation,
of white mounds of snow.

Beneath the cables,
the rock and grey dust,
are stirred by foot fall,
and breeze.

It is here,
in this alien and sacred place,
that God reveals God’s face,
in crimson leaves.

Photo by Tim Graves

God reveals God’s face in crimson leaves. Photo by Tim Graves

Bursts & Sudden Stops

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She touched my heart which has been grieving the disappearing summer and gave me joy for the seasonal shifts, each with purpose and presence worthy of my notice. Photo by Tim Graves

If I were a car, I’d be annoying to follow. I hike in bursts and sudden stops. Moving, moving, go, go…HALT!  If I were following myself I’d be hard-pressed to anticipate my own stops. I stop first, then think about stopping. On a preconscious level, I note something I want to examine or photograph and I cease moving.

I’m sure a brain researcher could explain the neurological functions that occur when this happens. Perhaps my brain is primed and looking for creatures and plant life of interest to me. I do hike with my camera intentionally.

However, I prefer to interpret this biological behavior metaphysically because for me hiking is as much a spiritual experience as a physical one:

Leaving the trailhead, I embark on a journey with the one I call God. Typically, I fail to notice my traveling companion during the early miles of my hike. For awhile my divine hiking partner, allows me to set my own pace. As my muscles move, the toxins I carry with me are released. A space opens up within me that is open to creator and creation.

Photo by Tim Graves

From my extravagantly bedazzled flower, I learned to live fully in the moment. Photo by Tim Graves

Once my being is open to the divine under my feet and surrounding me, I begin to notice the divine in the chattering squirrel, the towering pine, and the rock face.

But.

But even so, sometimes as I’m hoofing it I run the risk of passing by someone I should meet. The divine hiker, stops me suddenly. It’s as if my hiking buddy shouts, “Wait! Look at this!”

In that moment my eyes focus on someone from whom I can learn. The most remarkable encounters I have on the trail are typically the result of these sudden stops.

This morning, I met the first wooly worm of fall from whom I learned that there is beauty and purpose in all seasons. She reminded me that life is cyclical. She touched my heart which has been grieving the disappearing summer and gave me joy for the seasonal shifts, each with purpose and presence worthy of my notice.

Photo by Tim Graves

The morning sun had conspired with semi-transparent seed pockets to garner my attention. Photo by Tim Graves

Earlier, my divine hiking partner grabbed my arm and pointed to the lavender robes in which the late summer flowers clothed themselves. From my extravagantly bedazzled flower, I learned to live fully in the moment.

Cool nights are upon us already. Bitter winds filled with snow will mark the end of lavender displays along the trail. Rather than worrying about what is to come, my floral friend celebrates the present in his best outfit.

As I neared the end of my hike, with trailhead and my car in view, I raced downhill only to have my victory burst halted. The morning sun had conspired with semi-transparent seed pockets to garner my attention.

From this friend, I learned that the future is within the now. While we are influenced by our past, the future beckons us in our becoming. Using not only the raw materials of the past and now but the future we are in the perpetual process of becoming. In this becoming, is where we are most wholly (holy) ourselves.

 

 

 

 

I’m On to You! (An Ode to Poison Oak)

Photo by Tim Graves

Photo by Tim Graves

I’m on to you.

After that one time,
you know the time I’m talking about,
the time you infected my skin with your invisible weapon.

You ask will I ever get over it,
it’s been two years hence.
Did I mention I was miserable for weeks?

My skin puffy and crimson and the itch unbearable,
because you felt a need to protect yourself from my bare leg.
You could’ve just asked me to stay away.

You could stay in your area,
and I’d stay in mine.
But noooo, you encroach on my path.
Did I mention I was miserable for weeks?

But I’m on to you now.

I see you lurking beside the trail.
Your evil ways are known to me,
and I protect me from you.

I wear long pants when I’d rather wear shorts,
leaves of three invade my psyche and my nightmares,
but I know you now.

Sometimes I even protect me from benevolent three-leafers.
You should be ashamed at the bigotry you’ve created in me now.
I avoid raspberry plants and trillium and banana plants because of you!

Did I mention I was miserable for weeks?