Wednesday, June 23, 2010
To my fellow community members,
As you all know, my time here at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker has come to an end. And what can I say? This is a beautiful place that I am very sorry to have to leave. Honestly, I would be committing to another year if I had not fell in love with Allison. Life is a mysterious thing, it is impossible to live it exactly how you plan to. But yet when plans change it is always a blessing.
I have learned so much from every person in this community. You will always be my role models, my mentors, my heroes, and of course, my friends.
Through out my childhood and early adulthood I was always a Christian. Not particularly because I wanted to be but because I was born into it. Not that I didn't like being a Christian, I did. But it was just a part of who I was. I went to church, I enjoyed it sometimes. But my faith was bland. The problem was I was talking the talk but I wasn't walking the walk. The "pursuit for personal holiness" that most Christians in our country seek didn't really get me fired up. I always thought that there must be so much more to being like Christ than just trying as hard as I can to be perfect. As I sang worship songs in church I didn't "feel" anything the way the people around me did with their hands in the air the way a toddler does when they want to be held. I had a deep skepticism of christian book stores who made money off of God. But I didn't have the radical Christian teachers who could affirm the problems I had with my faith.
Other Christians are born again. I was born again and then I was born a third time when I found the Catholic Worker. Both times were significant points in my spirituality. And there is no way I would be were I am today if it wasn't for this group of people. So thank you for being willing to teach me and for giving me that priceless gift. Of all the things that this community does I think the one thing that is most important is the mentoring and teaching that you have done for so many Catholic Workers.
I remember the first day that I showed up at the kitchen. It is a memory that I will never forget. To you guys I was just another newbie volunteer who needed so much instruction. But for me, I went away from that first day of work knowing that I had found something very special. I still think that today. This place, this house, this kitchen, they are all very special places. So as I go I want to encourage you to remember when you go to the kitchen and you have 15 new faces and you think "oh shit", just remember that one of them might be your newest community member.
I may be going off to Illinois to be a jet mechanic. I may be many things through out my life but no matter what I do I will always be able to say that I AM a Catholic Worker. Just as I can always say I AM a Christian. And if it wasn't for this group of people I might have never been able to say that. So once again, Thank You.
Grace and Peace,
Monday, November 2, 2009
It has been a while since my last blog. I guess I am just not much of a writer. This story is just a small part of a much bigger story. The story of human kind is very large and all of our lives make up a part of that story. Some of those stories are not worth telling. Not because those people's lives are not interesting but because we all have boring parts throughout our lives, even the most interesting lives have boring parts. The Decemberists are storytellers. And storytellers in general I have grown to Love over the past couple years. The Decemberists are musicians also and for me music is my ultimate Love. Even though I do not put use to what little musical talent I have I am much more content just being a Lover of music. I have heard the name Decemberists for many years. In fact I think that anyone who is interested in contemporary non pop culture alternative music has heard of the Decemberists. But only until recently, (ok, a year ago) when I started dating my new true Love, Allison McGillivray, have I started to pay attention to what the Decemberists are doing. Since those early days in our relationship we, I think, have fallen in Love with each other as well as with the work of the Decemberists. And then came that wonderful night when we were lucky enough to witness their skill and creativity first hand when we got to see them play at the Hollywood Palladium. They played the entire Hazards of Love album before even introducing themselves. At that point I fell in Love with that album and I have been listening to it, almost non-stop, ever since. Now I have always known that the whole album is a long story, I figured it out when I fist heard them play it. But I have never taken a good look at the lyrics and at the story as a whole. I always just Loved to listen to it and catch what lyrics I could from listening. But today I followed along with the lyrics as I listened and it has transformed my Love for the album into something entirely different. Now I know that when a story is told all the listeners are all picturing something completely different from everyone else, as well as the storyteller. So there is no way that I could show you what is going on inside my head. But I will just assure you that it is a wonderful and beautiful thing. I would also like to share something with you that I recently found online. It is one person’s interpretation of the story of The Hazards of Love found here. I Love how the author has gone back and changed what he originally thought about the story. It just goes to show you that your idea about a story can change over time and that no one will ever know which idea about a story is correct. I think that is why I like the Bible so much. No matter how long you study it, it continues to surprise you and the stories continue to change. They change in the meaning in which you identify with them and they change in themselves. So when you read this person's interpretation of the story do not hold it as the one and only interpretation of the story but as just one of millions of different interpretations. I think it is very important that you create your own idea of the story. It is a living breathing thing and just like my life or the lives of everyone in the world they are there to be enjoyed and Loved. So keep listening and keep writing your own story.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
So here comes Steve Lopez who works for the LA times and he starts writing columns on skid row and about Nathaniel (Jamie Foxx's character). He writes an article about the port-a-potties on the row and how they are being used for prostitution and drugs. But he neglected to also say that these port-a-potties were being cleaned out daily and they were removing thousands of pounds of fecal matter per day. That's a lot of shit that would otherwise have to be defecated on the streets out in front of the whole world. So as soon as this article came out the public demanded that these port-a-potties be removed from skid row. Which was a huge defeat for our community and we blamed Steve Lopez for it, although he did not take responsibility for it. We really just don't understand how he could see what is happening to Nathaniel and all the rest of the homeless population and then concentrate all his efforts on one individual who has an interesting back story.
So you could see why our community really doesn't like Steve Lopez. But also we see this relationship between Steve and Nathaniel and we know that this is a meaningful relationship because we have the same kind of relationship with many of the guys on skid row and many of them have just as fascinating a story as Nathaniel does.
As for the movie, I went and saw it last night. It was heartbreaking on so many levels. The severity of mental illness that I see every day was very apparent. The abuse of the homeless by the police was also portrayed well, another thing which I am reminded of almost daily. The complete exploitation of this individual to make money off his story was heartbreaking. The self-righteousness of Steve Lopez was also sad. The fact that he thought he was a more important person than these people that live on the street. The fact that he saw this man and immediately demanded that he see a doctor and then get medication was heartbreaking. The fact that there are 90,000 homeless in the Los Angeles area was just a blurb before the credits.
This was in no way an inspiring movie. Nor was it even a very good movie I think as far as movies go it lacked many elements that could have made it better. A more complete back story on Nathaniel, a more extensive look at Lopez's relationship with his ex wife. They could have also left out several scenes about Lopez's pest problem which has nothing to do with the story. But I do think that it portrayed the mental illness of Nathaniel, life on skid row, and the police's solution to it very well.
There was one scene that showed skid row at night also. They made it look very animated. Everyone was getting high or drinking and there was fights in the middle of the street. At first I thought, "That's not even close to what its like on the street at night". Whenever I go to the kitchen at night all you see is people lining the sidewalk trying to sleep. However this morning I was telling Jeff about it and he was like you know back when Lopez was writing those articles that kind of thing would not have been to uncommon down here. So I guess it is more accurate than I thought.
They also used many of the people that eat at our kitchen as extras. I recognized several of them especially the old lady with the scarf over her head that Steve Lopez talks to at the lamp community. We call her the cat lady, she always leaves cat food at our back gate for the many stray cats that live in our garden, we have to sweep it up every morning. I think her name is Caroline. They actually show her feeding some cats during the part when Nathaniel is saying the lords prayer.
After the movie was over on the way home I was talking to Jason, one of our volunteers that took me to the movie (thanks again Jason). We were talking about the police harassment scene and to my surprise he put the relationship between the kind of thing that police are doing here now with the type of thing police were doing in New York back when he lived there. Which is because the police commissioner Bill Bratton who successfully "cleaned up" New York with more police moved to LA. Since then he has began something called Safer City Initiative. Under SCI the number of cops on skid row has doubled and people are arrested for jaywalking or spitting or sleeping on the sidewalk during the day. The problem of homelessness translates to unlawfulness to people like Bratton.
I guess what I really want to get across is to remind you that there are people that have given their whole lives to helping the people of skid row. They work without any recognition and dedicate all their time to helping these people. And then here comes Lopez with the power of a global audience of the LA Times. He spends a little time down here he writes a few articles and then leaves. I also want to stress the fact that Nathaniel is just one case out of tens of thousands many of them just as sever or worse than his. But yet he is the only one you will hear unless you come down here and get to know some of them.
I would suggest going to see the movie. But just keep in mind that this life is a reality for thousands of people. And don't think that Lopez is some kind of hero. The real heroes are here every day and you will probably never hear about them.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Before I ever came to the Catholic Worker Community or even knew any of the many wonderful people here in LA that I now know there was a protest of nuclear weapons at the Vandenberg AFB on May 19th 2007. At this protest Jeff Dietrich who has lived at the LACW for almost 40 years and Dennis Apel who helps run the Guadalupe Catholic Worker were among those who were arrested for publicly crying out for the victims of war and nuclear weapons in an area which was not the "designated protest area" marked by a green line on the pavement.
This past Wednesday we had Liturgy at our house as we do every Wednesday. The second reading was Dennis' statement before sentencing for that action at Vandenberg. I just thought that his words were incredibly moving and I felt compelled to share his statement with you. This is so beautiful I began to cry while it was being read at Liturgy.
In May of 1998 I went to Iraq to take medicines to Children’s hospitals. To go was an act of civil disobedience, breaking the sanctions against that country and risking the possibility of up to a one million dollar fine and 12 years in prison. But the United Nations was reporting that 5,000 children a month were dying because of lack of medicines banned by the sanctions. So I ignored the law and I went.
When a group of eight of us arrived at the first children’s hospital in Baghdad, the lobby of the hospital was so full of women with their children waiting to be seen that we had to squeeze our way between them to get to the room where we were to be briefed on the conditions of the hospital. One of the women in our group collapsed from the shear hopelessness of that initial scene.
When we were led to the emergency room, I was shocked to see rows of beds lining the walls of a huge room with two or three sick or dying children on each bed. While mothers attended their children, I took pictures as fast as I could, hoping to capture the scene. On one particular bed sat a young mother cross-legged with an infant in her lap. She looked at me weeping and shouted something in Arabic. At my request, the doctor who accompanied me translated, “She says you come here, you take pictures and you go home…but nothing changes.”
When I returned to the United States I related this and so many more stories to anyone who would listen. I talked to Church groups and colleges. I spoke on radio and television programs. I was interviewed by the local paper and I sent mailings out to everyone I knew. A group of us met with Lois Capps, our elected representative, and with bishops and church leaders. But, in the end, the woman was right….nothing changed.
I have stood in the “designated protest area “ at Vandenberg Air Force Base now well over 100 times in the past 12 years. I go almost religiously once a month with a small group of peace-loving and justice-seeking folks to voice our objection to the mission of that Base and its complicity in the terrorizing of humanity by testing delivery systems for nuclear weapons. Twice in those twelve years, I have been arrested and convicted of trespassing for crossing the green line. The first time was in 2003 five days before our government added the obscenity of “shock and awe” to the sin of 11 years of brutal sanctions in Iraq. The second was now almost two years ago when I and three others refused to step back on the “safe” side of the green line without our brothers and sisters in the military who are knowingly or not, or willingly or not, part of the enforcement arm of the policies that, among untold other stories of suffering and death, put that young and desperate mother and her dying infant on that bed in a Baghdad hospital.
The green line at Vandenberg is used for only one purpose. The visitor center, the parking lot, the public bus stop are all on the other side of the green line and the area is open to anyone who doesn’t overtly disagree with the mission of the Base or our government’s policies. Be quiet and you can be on the other side of the green line. The green line serves to mark the point beyond which certain truths are no longer allowed.
You can’t see it, but there is a green line in our courtrooms as well. It’s called “in limine” and it also marks the point beyond which certain truths cannot be spoken. In my case the prosecutor can, and makes it a point to, state without objections my motivations for what I do. “He’s just looking for attention,” she will say. “He wanted to get arrested and he did,” she will say. But if I try to explain my motivations the prosecutor is quick to jump in, “Objection your honor…relevance.” My motivations are clearly only hers to define.
And the limits of allowing for a defense of necessity or breach of International Law or the Nuremberg Principles are so tightly defined that literally not one case of civil disobedience in the United States in opposition to everything from illegal war, to torture, to kidnapping and extraordinary rendition has been allowed such a defense.
We are, all of us, knowingly or not, or willingly or not, caught up in a system that affords greater authority and a louder voice to laws that blockade the truth than to the voice of those suffering and dying. There are those who would have responded to the challenge of a grieving mother in a Baghdad hospital by saying, “I’ll vote for someone else in the next election,” and would have felt satisfied, but I am not one of them. Because, if it were me holding my dying son or daughter, I would have been equally desperate and felt at least as much disdain for the powerlessness of the person documenting my suffering with a camera.
My deep conviction is that love supersedes the law, and while I don’t claim to be an expert at when love requires one to break the law, if opposing what we’ve visited on Iraq in the past 19 years is not it, I don’t know what is. I am neither an anarchist nor one who disagrees with the need for accountability to laws. But laws that perpetuate injustice or protect those who would cause untold suffering are so counter to the law of love, that to allow them to remain unchallenged requires that we relinquish love itself which is ultimately our only hope for justice and peace. And I’m not ready yet to give up hope.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak a little truth before sentencing, but I look forward to the day when “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” are included in the process before consideration of the verdict. In the meantime, a mother’s voice was heard one more time in this courtroom and I’m thankful for that, and to the court for your time and attention.
Vandenberg witness website:vandenbergwitness.org/
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
You can look up the rest if you are interested but I just don't feel like typing it all. He was saying that God put the ones who run this country in power. Which I disagreed and said that the people of this country put them in power. Ultimately our government was established by humans and there is no way that our founding fathers could have known what the perfect government in God's eyes would be. In the end we agreed to disagree.
Not long after I got off of the computer I went to meet with Jeff for a one on one meeting. Jeff along with his wife Cathrine sort of run the LA Catholic Worker. We were going over the values and beliefs of the Catholic Worker (since I am new we meet weekly to go over different things about the community). As I looked over the list Jeff asked me which ones I had questions about. I came across "Biblical Anarchy" which is two words you would not expect to be next to each other at any point for your standard American Christian.
So I asked him what exactly that meant. He talked a lot about how in the bible God's people were always apposed to the state. The authorities were always after Jesus. Even from the moment that he was born kings wanted to kill him. How he didn't pay taxes and instead just pulled money out of a fish's mouth. He also talked about how God's people in the Old Testament were always asking for a king so that they could be like the other nations. They were never satisfied with being ruled by God alone. He also talked about the Israelites having a sabbath year every seven years when no one would harvest their crops so that the poor among them could eat. And the year of Jubilee every 49 years when people would return to their own property and debts would be forgiven. They were also slaves in Egypt.
Now I thought that that made a lot of sense and we moved on with our meeting.
Shortly after that I sat down to read the book that I am currently reading called "Jesus for President" and this is the first page that I read:
A curious politics is emerging here: the early Christians weren't trying to overthrow or even reform the empire, but also weren't going along with it. They were not reformists offering the world a better Rome. They offered the dissatisfied masses not a better government but another world altogether. In a world gone respectively insane, Christians, as they lived God's kingdom, embodied revolutionary subordination toward the kingdoms of the world, exemplified in the suffering humiliation of the crucified messiah, the slaughtered lamb who exposed the greed and violence of the world as he died naked on the cross.
One way the church stated its relationship to the powers was, "We must obey God rather than human beings!" (Acts 5:29). Maybe this is what St. Augustine was getting at when he said, "An unjust law is no law at all." But the attitude of Jesus and the church ran deeper than the usual Christian politics-that you obey the authorities when they are doing good and disobey them when they are doing bad. Rather, the church was always revolutionary through its subordination (just like carrying the pack two miles).
Very few Scriptures can be construed to say that we are unquestioningly to follow whatever kings and presidents dictate, no matter how out of line they seem to be. But some writings, like Romans 13, often surface as justification for such servitude. Nazi Germany, however, caused Christians to rethink blind obedience to the authorities. The church could not help but wonder, "When the bible says 'be subject,' either the Bible must not have thought that one through (and it is wrong), or we really are supposed to go along with the Nazis as God's will. Or...maybe there is something deeper going on here."
When we are careful to situate Paul's writing in the context and culture in which he wrote, we find that Paul offered a biting critique of power and a creative path of revolutionary love. We might remember Paul urging his friend Philemon to illegally welcome back home a fugitive slave, Onesimus, as a brother, instead of killing him for running away. This is a scandalous subversion of Roman hierarchy. Paul was just as radical as Jesus. Remember that the Paul who wrote "be subject to the authorities" is the same Paul who was stoned, exiled, jailed, and beaten for subverting the authorities (See Acts 17:6-8 for an example of how Paul's sermons were heard). This could explain why Paul used the same word for authorities when he said in Ephesians, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the authorities [exousia] of this dark world."
Is it possible to submit and to subvert? Paul's life gives a clear yes, as does Jesus' crucifixion. Paul points out that the very act of submission is what "disarms the powers" by making a spectacle of their evil:
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
1 Cor. 4:9-13
Scum of the earth...this is Paul's snapshot of the early Jesus movement. Do we have the courage to follow?
-Jesus for president pg. 160&161
So that was the topic of pretty much all of my conversations today and I thought that maybe God was telling me something. And maybe I was wrong and maybe I am wrong in my views. And maybe what I am doing here in LA is wrong but it makes sense and I am going to continue doing it.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Anyway I just wanted to share with you my favorite part of Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Please let me know what you think:
Imagine the average youth group in the average church on the average Sunday. Imagine visiting this youth group and having the pastor say to you, "I just can't get my kids interested in Jesus. Do you have any suggestions?"
How do you respond?
To begin with, the church has a youth group. This is a brand new idea in church history. A luxury. Everybody in the church doesn't meet all together? All of the babies and the older folks and men and women and widows and students aren't in the same room, but they have gone to separate rooms?
And there are resources for this? People and organizational structures and a budget? Let's imagine that in this case, this pastor, this youth pastor, is paid a salary for his or her work. A church with enough resources to pay someone to oversee the students? Once again, this is brand new, almost unheard of in most of the churches of the world, and in church history, a brand new invention.
This salary can be paid and this building can be built because the people in the congregation have surplus. They have fed themselves and their kids and bought clothes and houses, and now, after these expenses, there is still money available. And this money is given in an act of generosity to the church, which disperses it to various places, among them the bank account of the pastor.
In many, if not most, of the churches in the world, immediate needs simply don't allow for such luxuries - too many people are hungry, too many don't have a roof, too many are sick - and so any surplus is spent immediately on the basic needs staring them right in the face.
People dying here, right now, today.
But this particular church is blessed, and we should be clear about this - it is blessing. It is good. It is fortunate that this particular church doesn't have those issues. This church has enough resources to hire a pastor who had the resources to get training to get these students in the student room to teach them about the way of Jesus. Many Christians around the world would stand in awe of that kind of blessing.
And these students in this church, these are good kids. They are from families that just want to see their kids become good Christians.
Imagine just how much is available to them. They have more at their fingertips than any generation in the history of the world - more information, more entertainment, more ideas, more ways to kill time, more options. Many of them own more than one pair of shoes. There are even some among them who have eaten at least one meal every day of their lives.
So we are talking about a minuscule minority of kids in the world. At the exit off the highway near their church is a Best Buy and a Chili's and a Circuit City and a McDonald's and a Wal Mart and a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, much like the other towns in their state and in their country. The music they listen to is distributed by one of five major corporations, which also own the movie studios that create the movies they watch, which are also connected to the corporations that create the food they eat and the commercials they watch, which also have significant ties to the clothes they wear and the cell phones they own, and the ring tone on their cell phones, the one by the artist who is signed to the record label that is owned by the same company that owns the cell phone company and the advertising agency that announced the artist's new album, which is owned by the same company that owns the beverage company in whose advertisement the artist appeared, drinking that particular beverage, singing the song that is now the ring tone on the students' phones that they purchased at the mall across the street from the Olive Garden next door to the Home Depot on the other side of the Starbucks.
And so each week they gather to hear a talk from the pastor. Their pastor tells them about the Jesus revolution. About Jesus resisting the system. About the blood of the cross. About many of the first Christians getting arrested. About Jesus having dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors. About people sharing their possessions. About Jesus telling a man to sell everything. About the uniqueness of their story in the larger story of redemption. How do children of the empire understand the Savior who was killed by an empire? How does a twelve-year-old who has never had hunger pangs that lasted more than an hour understand a story about a twelve-year-old providing fish and bread for thousands of chronically hungry people?
How do kids who are surrounded by more abundance than any other generation in the history of humanity take seriously a Messiah who said, "I have been anointed to preach good news to the poor"?
How do they fathom that half of the world is too poor to feed its kids when their church just spent two years raising money to build an addition to their building?
They gather, they sing, they hear a talk from the pastor, and then they get back in the car with their parents and they go home; the garage door opens, the car goes in, and the garage door goes down.
This is the revolution? This is what Jesus had in mind?
And so the youth pastor turns to you and says, again, "I just can't get my students engaged with Jesus. Do you have any suggestions?"
What do you say? How do you respond?
Your only hope, of course, would be to remind him or her that there is blood on the doorstep of the universe.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I also am not going to vote this election for several reasons. One being that I don't feel like I could support either candidate. I don't agree with several view points of both candidates. I also just down right don't trust any politicians. If they are going to lye to me then I am not going to support them. And they ALL lye.
Anyway having said that I wanted to talk about a well known far right radio host named Sean Hannity. I happened to be listening to his show while I was helping my dad farm today and he was doing this thing where he had a lady on the phone with him who was outside Madison Square Garden and she was picking people "at random" to talk to Hannity. It was pretty obvious that they were looking for uninformed Obama supporters, one of whom was drunk. So Sean would ask them some basic questions about the election like who are the two major candidates. Then he would ask them who they are voting for and all of them were voting for Obama. So then he asked them why do you think that Obama is qualified to be president. And of course they couldn't answer because the only reason they were voting for Obama was because they had seen his ad or heard him talk on the campaign trail. Which no politician says anything of substance on the campaign trail its all propaganda.
Anyway so then he would ask these people if they thought that it was a good idea to take money from the rich and give it to the poor. He would pretty much ask this same question and change it a little every time until he was asking them if they agreed with the following quote: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." which is of course a quote from Karl Marx. And of course they agreed with the quote and they didn't know who Karl Marx was. So then Hannity would thank them for being on the show right after he reminded them that election day was this Thursday. Then he would claim that he had just proven that Obama supporters were Marxists.
Now I have a lot of problems with the media on both sides of debate over the two parties. However I just happened to hear this broadcast and it made me so mad. First of all, Hannity is claiming that these are random people off the street which they were not. Then he can just get them to say whatever he wants by asking them the right questions that he knows how they will answer. And then on top of that he tries to tell them that election day is on Thursday.
I don't know I just wanted to share this cause I thought it was completely outrageous. Let me know what you think. I tried to find this braodcast online so you could hear it but I have not found it yet. I will put a link here if I do find it.