Monday, June 6, 2016

Podcast Now Available--and Looking to Presbyterian General Assembly

The Rev. John Shuck's Progressive Spirit radio interview with me is now available on podcast here. I'm not the world's smoothest talker--I'd rather write any day than try to sound coherent on the radio--but he did a great job: asking important questions, responding conversationally, and editing out some of my uhhs and ahhs. Thanks, John! I will be preaching at his church, Southminster Presbyterian, in Beaverton, Oregon, on June 19 in connection with the Presbyterian Church USA's General Assembly meeting in Portland. 

While at the General Assembly meeting I will be serving as one of Mid-Kentucky
Presbytery's four commissioners, i.e., delegates with voice and vote on the many decisions the church will make about our course for the next two years at least. The commissioners are divided randomly to serve during the week of GA on one of thirteen committees that will each examine a block of business matters before bringing our recommendations to the entire body. I will be moderating one of these thirteen committees, the Social Justice committee. We have a heavy agenda of matters that may not seem at first glance directly related to ecological matters--but are indeed so, since social justice and environmental justice are so intertwined. 

Our committee will deal in some depth with continued structural racism in the U.S. and, consequently, in our own institutions. One intriguing matter is the study and possible repudiation of something I had never heard of before, even though life as we all know it is entirely based on it: the so-called "Doctrine of Discovery" that more than 500 years ago became the functional norm for European explorers--the church-sanctioned idea that any place inhabited by non-Christians could be claimed by "discoverers" as Christian land. This was the basis of U.S. expansionism into Native American lands (think Trail of Tears), Manifest Destiny, and white colonialism around the world, which led, and leads, to egregious bloodshed, displacement, and extraction of both resources and labor. 

How can our daily lives be so deeply based in an idea we have never heard of? Social memory only goes back a little beyond what the oldest living folks among us can
remember, and there are ugly matters we want (and are encouraged) to forget. This is why knowing history is so crucial. I am looking forward to all our conversations around racism, America's original sin. (And I've just finished reading The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd's new fictionalized retelling of the story of Charleston abolitionist Sarah Grimke--which vividly imagines the daily relations of slaveholding households and the individuals they enslaved.)

I would have loved to attend the committee dealing with divestment from fossil fuels. Divestment has by far the most support across the country of any item of business before the GA this year. Even if it doesn't pass this year, I believe it's only a matter of time. 

That committee will also discuss and, I hope, repudiate factory farming, the disgraceful treatment of animals that we raise for food, not only killing and eating them, but making their lives miserable from birth on, as if they were not sentient beings but simply industrial widgets. What is done today to chickens, pigs, and cattle--and to those that serve as meat farmers, and to their neighbors--in the name of cheap meat is so unconscionable that I find it personally difficult even to discuss. I am thankful that many of my friends and family members who aren't vegetarian at least restrict the meat in their diets and obtain their meat sustainably from family farms instead.  

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