Friday, September 26, 2008

Soulforce is set to Ride - An Equality Ride

Soulforce has done a lot to move the LGBT issues out to remote areas where they are the hotbeds of controversy. They remain true to the strategy of "relentless nonviolent resistance". This Ride for Equality into the Deep South show open dialogue where little has happened in the past. My heart will be riding with them.

Soulforce Releases Route for 2008 Equality Ride
LGBT Young Adults to Visit Faith-Based Colleges in the SouthOctober 2-November 13, 2008
******************************************SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 9, 2008For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media DirectorCell:
(Austin, TX) Today Soulforce Q announced the route for Equality Ride 2008, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges. This fall, 17 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults will bring a message of inclusion and safety to 15 schools throughout the South.
"As young people and students ourselves, we understand that it's very difficult to learn in an environment where you don't feel safe," said 22-year-old Jarrett Lucas, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "And students who face harassment or expulsion can't always speak up for themselves. That's where we come in. We can speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear."
More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Some schools without explicit policies nevertheless foster climates where harassment of LGBT students is prevalent. A 2003 survey of 14 American universities found that more than a third of all LGBT undergraduates had experienced harassment in the past year.
Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 50 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking part in worship services and Bible studies. The goal is to inspire further conversation and to empower students, faculty, and administrators to make their school welcoming to all students.
The organizers of the Equality Ride use a collaborative approach, writing to college administrators months in advance and inviting them to work together to design programming that examines diverse points of view -- including points of view that affirm gay and transgender students.
The colleges' responses shape the itinerary. The Equality Ride strives to visit a mix of schools that are open to collaboration and schools that are not yet willing to make a place at the table for affirming viewpoints. The 2008 Equality Ride is focused on the South, with stops from Virginia to Oklahoma and from Florida to Kentucky.
Several other things are new on this year's Ride. The bus will visit more seminaries this year, including a planned stop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The Equality Ride will visit historically black colleges for the first time this year, with stops planned at Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Simmons College. And this year the Equality Riders will reach out to students and community members by organizing opportunities to come together in community service.
"We know that young people want to be part of the solution that heals divided communities, churches, and schools," said 26-year-old Katie Higgins, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "We're reaching out to these schools, because we can't heal those rifts until everyone has a place at the table."
2008 Equality Ride Route
Oct. 2-3 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
Oct. 6 Columbia International University Columbia, SC
Oct. 9 Morehouse College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 10 Spelman College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 13-14 Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, FL
Oct. 17 Heritage Christian University Florence, AL
Oct. 20 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
Oct. 23 Louisiana College Pineville, LA
Oct. 24 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
Oct. 27 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, TX
Oct. 29 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX
Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
Nov. 7 Central Baptist College Conway, AR
Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY
Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to

Men Made it...but can not control it

The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came...Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves...If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank-or the Company- needs-wants-insists-must have-as thought the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time...The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.

The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew figures in the dust, and yes, they knew, God knows. If the dust only wouldn't fly. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad.

Well it's too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger then they were...You see, a bank or a company...those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so...The bank - the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't stay one size...taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size...

We have to do it. We don't like to do it. But the monster's sick. Something's happened to the monster...

Sure, cried the men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours...

We're sorry. It's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, you're wrong there-quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.

John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

This passage seemed rather appropriate considering the failure of banks - or did they just stop growing at the rate which was expected by the powerful elite running them. And how many Americans will become more poor as a result? When will people realize the in order for us to support so many extremely greedy men, thousands of others must be kept in extreme poverty. You can't have one without the other, and to get rid of one you must eliminate the other. How many jets, multi-million dollar homes, servants, limos, etc, does a single man need?

I pity the rich. I'd rather be poor than rich. It seems that if you get some, you only want more. They have these enormous bulging stomachs with little tiny throats unable to satiate their appetites (the hungry ghost). If they would only try just once to be in service to the rest of us, they would come to understand where real joy is cultivated.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

I admit that I have often dismissed the work of the environmental activists - not because I don't believe it's important - just that it wasn't as important to me. I started my activism with Greenpeace then moved to PETA ready to release captive animals at every opportunity. I loved animals deeply and their pain brought much misery to my heart. But when that love finally awakened toward my own species my activism shifted with it. I came to the conclusion that if humans could learn to live together peacefully, it would indicate that they had also learned to live with themselves peacefully and this would naturally extend to the animals and the planet. So now I wander around preaching the gospel of nonviolence and stepping up for nonviolent direct action when called upon. So when I read the blurb about the panel discussion on Saturday night, including Julia Butterfly Hill, I considered returning early to the hotel for respite from the tiring day of workshops. But since I had planned to meet with a friend after that panel discussion, I opted to stay and search for her.

As I listened to the panel discuss nonviolence and fierce passion in the environmental movement I found myself caught off gaurd by the grace and wisdom of Julia. She spoke with fierce passion, but that passion came from a conviction rooted as deeply in her soul as Luna, the tree she sat in for 700+ days, is to the Mother Earth. Julia also provided the closing words for the conference on Sunday. Her intelligence and her presence in the moment make her a powerful speaker. She never lost sight of the audience and I witnessed the changes in her as her consciousness danced with ours, bringing our energy closer to her own. Her reflections from the time spent in Luna touched me deeply. She commented on how we clear-cut each other with our speech and action - and that as she looked around from her perch she realized that the clear cutting of the forest was a physical representation of this reality. I would take that analogy even further and say that the clear cutting we witness in our world is a reflection of the clear cutting that goes on within each and every one of us as we chastise ourselves for not being what we think we should be. If the chain saw is buzzing within our own thoughts, how can it not cut our loved ones much less those we do not love. And there is no doubt that this can only extend further to Earth and our non-human companions on this big blue boat home.

I now count myself a fan of Butterfly. Her blog will be added to the roll. May we all quiet the chain saws and let the trees grow within the forest of our hearts.

Rev. C. T. Vivian - An American Satyagrahi

The evening of September 12th I listened to one of America's own warriors for truth, the Rev. C. T. Vivian. Prior to his speaking he showed a clip from the civil rights movement - a moment that we are fortunate to have preserved in video - where he stood at a courthouse in Alabama, with 40 or so African Americans behind him, ready to register to vote but were blocked by the sheriff and his comrades. Rev. Vivian spoke truth to this opponent, his voice never betraying anger, only passionate insistence on equality. The sheriff, unable to dissuade the group, beat the Reverand, a man walking in Christ's truth, to the ground. At no time did Rev. Vivian strike back or even block the blows. As I watched the images dance before me, the violence and oppression, Gahndi's words kept playing in my mind, "When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."

Growing up in America and moving about as I have I've noticed that nearly every city, if not every, has a street named after Martin King. But as I learn more about these other brave warriors using the force of truth, I realize that we need to start making a lot more street signs. Rev. Vivian has only a few paragraphs to his entry in Wikipedia, but if you read them you learn that he had several successful nonviolent campaigns before he joined with MLK for the larger satyagraha. How did these Christian ministers learn to wield man's most powerful weapon so effectively? For that we must give our gratitude to James M. Lawson Jr, who trained at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of King. By this time Lawson had already spent time in prison as a conscientious objector (I so love a Christian that lives by the model of Christ). After his release he went as a Methodist missionary to India where he studied Gandhi's principles for satyagraha. It was through Lawson that the seeds of nonviolent non-cooperation firmly took hold in the South and gave the civil rights movement its strategy - nonviolent direct ACTION. Rev. Vivian emphasized to the crowd that it's in action that change happens.

The Rev. Vivian still has that great passion, vision and love. What is alive in him, can live in us all if we can shed fear. I've read so many first hand accounts of the events at the Republican National Convention (RNC) and realize that we need deperately to enliven that spirit in all Americans before it's too late. We need to own our own media and make sure our stories are broadcast over a loud speaker to the world. America is no longer the land of the free, it is a police state. Our voices are no longer allowed to be heard. We can not even go in numbers larger than three to our senators office in Portland Oregon - supposedly a progressive city. We have much work to do and I know that patience in many sectors of the peace movement is wearing dangerously thin. Many people are still not convinced that nonviolence is the only true path to lasting peace. There are many tactics available to the satyagahis, but only one strategy, and that is the same one used by Gandhi and MLK - Nonviolent Direct ACTION.

Thank you Rev. Vivian for reminding me of the not too distant path so that I remain true to my path and the radical use of force, the force of truth that is.

Nonviolence as a Way of Life

September 11th has come and gone but this year was different as many people began to recognize that this is not just the anniversary of a tragic event in the US but rather the 102nd birthday of Gandhi's notion of Nonviolence. Since the events of 2001, this year I found myself not pondering the horrors of that day seven years ago, watching the politicians spin the memorial jingoism, but with a choice of two conferences on Nonviolence (NV), one in Portland and the other in Eugene. In Portland the Peace and Justice Studies Association kicked off its conference with a rally titled, Take Back 9/11 for Nonviolence, which made me immensely happy. But a few months earlier I had already committed to attend the other conference in Eugene, Nonviolence as a Way of Life. I missed the rally (but look forward to seeing pictures of it soon) and instead embarked on four days of soul enriching, energy producing connections with other Oregonians searching for ways to integrate NV into their lives, their thoughts, their actions and their communication.

I had read and/or listened to a few of Marshall Rosenberg's books, but this was my first time in his presence. I had heard that he had almost a cult following, but after seeing him in action I can understand why. He walks his talk. He can hold to the spirit of NV even when a large audience voices is disparate needs. Marshall has been doing this work, and international mediation, for over 30 years now. He has managed to make NVC playful by introducing the "jackal" and the "giraffe". The jackal language is blaming, argumentative, always searching for the upper hand. The giraffe on the other hand is listening for the unmet needs that this language is hiding. He had offered us a precious gift, a way to connect to "what's alive" in one another. But even more, it's a reprogramming model for the human mind. For 8000 years we've lived in a domination paradigm that requires that we shalac over our hearts, our vunerabilities, with impenetrable armor which is reflected in every aspect of our lives, and is paticularly evident in the way we relate to one another. If NVC can take root this will help to nibble away at the current paradigm. Language is such a powerful tool and Marshall has provided us a way to strip off the many layers of armor and allow our divine light, the light that shines through and connects all of us, to pierce the darkness in this world. If you haven't heard of NVC, please get his book and give it a try. Just start with the dialogue inside your head - is it a tyrant or a friend. Once we can speak kindly to ouselves and treat ourselves with respect, that will naturally begin to extend to those we love and eventually even to those we don't.

The other two invited speakers were Rev. Vivian (from the civil rights movement) and Julia "Butterfly" Hill. Both were inspiring and deserve an entry all their own. In addition to the brilliant speakers there were at least 15 choices for each of the four sessions each day, relating to every part of our lives. I will speak to a couple of these in subsequent posts, including a terrific teaching on the Bhagavad Gita and Cosmic Ecology, Restorative Justice, and an interfaith dialogue on nonviolence that I found paticularly insightful. As I close this entry, it is my hope that 9/11/2009 will find even more people pondering ways to celebrate the anniversary of nonviolence and turning a deaf ear to those who wish to maintain their domination and power by instilling fear and hatred, a dark shalac, over our bright and beautiful hearts.