I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Time To Break The Silence” (1967)
Clackamas River, Oregon
We are one-month into our year in the wilderness, an ongoing experiment of learning from beloved communities all over the North American continent. We flew to Orange County for the memorial service for Mark Thornton, Tom’s high school basketball coach. It was supposed to be a thirty-six hour trip, but ended up being a whole week away from our sabbatical retreat. We got snowed out! After a two-day delay, we landed on Tuesday night: in Seattle. We booked train tickets for the next day and that trip was cancelled. When we finally arrived back on the Clackamas River, Lindsay got a horrific sinus infection that lasted these past two weeks. If you’re going to get sick, this is probably the best place for it—a beautiful view through the front window: trees, sky and a beautiful variety of birds.
Our next stop is the Ventura River watershed, home of the headquarters of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, our sending organization directed by mentors and bosses Ched Myers and Elaine Enns (photo below with Ched and Elaine 200 kilometers north of Saskatoon). We’ll be posting up there from February to June, working closer with the organization, staffing the big annual institute in late February, hosting a marriage retreat in late April, helping facilitate a weekly Sabbath Economics group and working on various writing and editing projects. Somehow we got a fully furnished one-bedroom apartment in Ojai, a stone’s throw from downtown. Call it divine intervention.
This, of course, is a new season for all of us. The Trump presidency started with a bang just ten days ago. We are grateful to be living in this country, but we believe there are many deep structural problems that dehumanize women, immigrants, people of color and poor and working people. We do not pledge allegiance to any political party. We campaigned for Obama, but were vocal from the get-go in 2009 when he filled his cabinet with leaders who were dedicated to economic policies that would benefit Wall Street over everyday, ordinary people, let alone for those Jesus called “the least of these.” We protested and marched when he escalated drone warfare and deportations of immigrants and never closed Guantanamo Bay prison (as promised). We were deeply frustrated that he did nothing for the people of Flint and Detroit who continue to suffer from poisoned or shut-off water.
The Trump presidency magnifies these issues (and plenty more) to exponential degrees. He is following through with campaign promises of building the border wall, accelerating deportations, blocking refugees, openly discriminating against Muslims and Latinos, and much more. This is all seasoned with a bitter string of lies about a whole slew of subjects. Again, these issues aren’t new to our country—just expanded and deepened. We are thrilled that Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries is choosing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech (also called "A Time to Break the Silence") for the annual institute next month. This is a proud text that is incredibly relevant in this season of life for all of us. What King named as the giant triplets of evil (racism, militarism and materialism) are alive and well in Trump’s America. It will be a spiritually and emotionally enriching time to spend with dozens of leaders from around the country. We invite you to join us (all information here...registration closes Feb 3rd)!
For us, this is not just political. It’s personal. The current “issues” making headlines are affecting actual human beings that we are deeply grateful for. The undocumented immigrants that we know are far from "criminals" and "rapists." We admire and love them dearly. In fact, they are some of our heroes. With the odds stacked against them, so many of the undocumented students that were in Tom’s class are thriving as leaders. Their parents came north for opportunity, to do jobs that white suburbanites refuse to work (this is documented with legitimate studies). We think of Marco, Yesenia, Aida, Ana Karen, Lupita, Roberto and plenty of others. They've made our life (and our culture) richer and deeper. So have the victims of abject poverty who we met in Detroit, somehow holding out hope as they search desperately for jobs that do not exist: Deborah, Byron, Ann, Jasmine, Matthew, Ike, Fletcher, Donna and so many others.
There is collateral beauty, though, at the advent of the Trump era. People are waking up all over the place. They are aware, alert and ready to get involved with a movement dedicated to restoring love and dignity to all those Howard Thurman described as "having their backs against the wall"--in our country and the world. This is our prayer: that a spiritual and political movement will grow bountifully. The mustard seed was planted in the 50s and 60s, as the Civil Rights Movement of Dr. King and so many others set out on a mission that was far bigger than just rights and freedoms for black people. It was nothing less than “to save the soul of America.” This is going to be a wild ride.