Job 20 – Reconciliation is Dead Part 2: Joining the Broader Fight

17 He will not enjoy the streams,
    the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
    he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
(Read the rest of the chapter, here.)

Zophar tells of all the wicked man will be forced to do: his own hands must give back his wealth, he will spit out the riches he has swallowed, when he has filled his belly, God will vent his burning anger against him.  I like Zophar’s latest speech better than Eliphaz’s recent one because it more fully acknowledges the greedy, opulent, and oppressive nature of the proverbial “wicked man.”  Of course we must remember that Zophar is implying that Job’s fortune was the “mirth of the wicked” and “joy of the godless.”  In Zophar’s mind, it wouldn’t have been taken away from Job if it hadn’t been so. As such, we must take Zophar’s words with a grain of salt.  But it still leaves me wondering, as I continue to ponder the phrase “reconciliation is dead,” is it appropriate for us to be agents of God’s anger, and if so, how would we go about doing it?

As a reminder, this is a blog about finding Biblical evidence of God’s radical love for all.  And I think it might be time – past time, really – for some tough love.  Let me fall back on a parenting analogy:  I try corrective behavior as much as possible in my house, trying to redirect frustration away from hitting and pinching when I see those little hands start to raise.  But sometimes, no amount of redirect is going to keep one sister from hitting the other, and the only recourse is a time out.  A swift, unceremonious scooping up of a child any way I can grab them, plopping them in their room, and shutting the door.  Talking comes later, after they calm down and aren’t a slappy, bite-y threat to the other one.  Perhaps a collective time out is needed for certain people, organizations, and governments, as well – and that gets me back to the call to action listed in this article (the same one mentioned in Part 1 of this series).

To recap: this article was written by native people for native people, at a time when First Nations in Canada are blockading railways and otherwise disrupting the economy in an effort to protect their unceded homelands from being stolen for pipelines and infrastructure that would be environmentally and culturally damaging.  There is no love lost in it for the Canadian government, and it’s outright anarchist in passages.  As I’ve said before, I still urge you to read it. It contains some very salient points that, if we are to stay true to Jesus’ message of love and stewardship, I think we are called to do as Christians.  Of course, these apply primarily to the land reclamation and defense movements going on but I think these points can also inform our larger role of Progressive Christian Activists.  Let’s examine them:

  1. Change the rules, breaking them if necessary.  The Wet’suwet’en have exhausted all other outlets for peaceably and legally challenging these land grabs.  The greed and destruction they are fighting against is wrong, so I fully support their “illegal” actions.  Remember, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.  Didn’t we have a whole civil rights movement in this country to change the laws oppressing black citizens?  Remember that?  I don’t see thoughtful law-breaking as anarchy, I see it as fairness in action.  So let’s support these rail blockades, and look closely at the laws governing the lives of women, minorities, immigrants, children…are they fair? If not, maybe it’s time we stop following them.
  2. Widen our scope. The article talks about dreaming big – past just blocking the pipelines and into full reclamation of land and indigenous governing structures replacing the Canadian state.  I’ll admit, my knee-jerk reactions are “that’s impractical” and also “how many lives would that negatively impact?”  But what if we lean into that dream?  We need to shake off this image we have of red savages circling the wagons of innocent white folk.  No one is going to scalp us if  we actually start meeting these revolutionaries halfway, and truly figure out ways to: reduce and improve government, turning more of it over to local councils; encourage landowners to return that land to native stakeholders (I’m particularly thinking about farmland that would otherwise be bought by developers, and parks and public spaces that are the current responsibility of government); and just generally put more ecologically and culturally sensitive practices into place in white society.  All of these efforts would benefit not just native society, but broader society as well.  I’m not going to lie – we as white people are going to have to put a lot of good faith efforts out there to start this ball rolling, as we as white people have a long history of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises.  And that’s going to take some courage on our part.
  3. Unity. Again, this article was written by native people for native people, so its focus was on infighting and backstabbing between different nations.  But I’m going to go ahead and give the same strongly worded sentiments to women more or less in my situation (white, middle class) who refuse to pull the wool from over their eyes, like the neighbor up the road with a giant “Women for Trump” flag in her front yard.  Why, ladies, do you keep voting men into power that do not have your best interest at heart?  Men who lie, men who abuse women, men who rape the earth for their own gain?  I can forgive you your first vote for Trump, or McConnell, or whoever…but can you not now see the depths of their depravity? I know many of you are one issue voters who are only interested in seeing that abortion bans are put in place and upheld…but please, do not let that one issue blind you to the children – the same children you are so desperate to support when they’re in the womb – that they are hurting at the border, in reservations, in economically disadvantaged families.  If you would but stop and look, you have more in common with the Wet’suwet’en than you do with the oppressive men in power.  Please, I pray, that you recognize it.
  4. Prepare for a battlefield with multiple fronts – The author of the above article ends with a call for settlers to not fall into tired solidarity traps.  I hope I haven’t, and I’m encouraged by their call to fight parallel battles towards the same goal.  I stand with Wet’suwet’en, but I’m not standing idly by.  I’m looking around my own little community and seeing what needs to be done, teaching my own children the way they should treat the world, and the way they should demand it to be treated.  Doing the same with your children is an act of resistance.  So is reclaiming spaces where you are underrepresented or flat out discouraged (yay @accessibleyoga @queerswhofarm and @blackgirlstrekkin for just three examples of such initiatives on Instagram); interrupting the cradle to prison pipeline through education and restorative justice efforts; supporting ecological initiatives in your community (the plastic bag bans in certain states are just the tip of the iceberg); and just continuing to speak up, speak out, and create alliances with like-minded people whenever possible.

I want to close with some words from the original article (which again, you can read in full at the link above): “Being determined and sure is not the same as being unafraid. There are many dangerous days ahead of us. It is dangerous to say, ‘I will not obey.’ ” It is, and there is no guarantee that, even if we are the ones proverbially putting those currently in power in time out, that we will live to see the “fate God allots the wicked” which Zophar so illustratively describes in this chapter of Job.  But even if I don’t see all the changes that I hope and dream for in my lifetime, I want to at least make it a little better for my girls, and they’ll make it a little better for their kids, and so on down the line.  But none of that is going to happen if we don’t start working for it, now.  The battle cry has been issued: reconciliation is dead.  Let it be our invitation to join the fight.

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Job 19 – Reconciliation is Dead Part 1: International Women’s Day

28 “If you say, ‘How we will hound him,
    since the root of the trouble lies in him,’
29 you should fear the sword yourselves;
    for wrath will bring punishment by the sword,
    and then you will know that there is judgment.
(Read the rest of the chapter, here)

Sitting with the term “Reconciliation is Dead”

A few weeks ago, I came across the phrase “Reconciliation is Dead,” a term being used by those in the Wet’suwet’en protest and blockade efforts.  It’s been echoing around my head a lot as I read Job, a book about suffering through undeserved injustices.  Perhaps for the first time in the story (or maybe in his last speech, depending whether you think it is spoken in sarcasm or not), Job is angry almost to the point of seeking vengeance.  He looks for his “Reedemer,” the one who will bring judgement upon those who judge him.  Job has been pushed to his breaking point, and now lashes out verbally, warning his friends that their time will come.

Truly, how much abuse can a person suffer before striking back?  How much abuse can a people suffer before revolting?  Treaty after treaty has been signed between the Canadian government and indigenous nations, and they are always ignored.  Reconciliation efforts are started when convenient, and just as easily put aside.  And we can not nod sympathetically from down here, as all of this is true in the States as well.  Job has had enough of his friends’ empty words, and First Nations have had enough of ours.

International Women’s Day and Missing Indigenous Women

Today happens to be International Women’s Day, which I fortuitously remembered while preparing this post over the weekend.  I was not planning to write about it (quite honestly because I forgot when it was), but I’m still wrestling with exactly what needs to be said, from a white woman’s perspective, on the idea that reconciliation is dead. It happening to be International Women’s Day, I believe, is a divine coincidence that allows me to break up that thought process into parts.  It seems only fitting to start my focus upon the ongoing plague of missing indigenous women, and what it means for the broader community of women.

First, some sobering statistics:  Due to a number of factors (including poor reporting and mis-identifying ethnicities, among others) the number of missing indigenous women and girls is hard to pin down, but across the US and Canada it is in the thousands.  The most consistent number I’ve seen is around 4,000, but others estimate upwards of 6,000.  Even more sobering, one in three Native women are predicted to be the victims of sexual assault.  Couple this with the disturbingly high number of disappearances and you can see the compounding effects of police brutality, sex trafficking, domestic abuse and addiction issues that has been wrought upon native communities for decades – centuries, if we’re honest with ourselves.

Clearly, the prevailing laws are failing these women.  As human beings, I believe we should care about this just because it’s the right thing to do, but as women we should care about it because if a law is failing one of us, it is failing all of us.  God forbid you are ever abducted, but if you were, what would you rather rely upon: a slow media day and the hope that you are attractive enough (and have an interested party, such as a case worker or husband, savvy enough) to make you headline news? Or a strong, well-funded, well-staffed system of effective investigative work that makes every missing persons a top priority?

And while technically “better” than the one-in-three statistic for native women and sexual assault, the national statistic for female victims of sexual assault is still one-in-six.  Let me repeat that: one in six women, across the United States, will be the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.  Neither of those statistics are acceptable.  The prevailing laws are failing all of us.  The platitudes, reminders of “how far we’ve come,” and empty symbolism of one day of remembrance mask will no longer distract us from the imperialist and chauvinistic agendas that still dominate this country.

Broad Strokes for Moving Forward

The statistics above make me angry enough to want to strike back, to seek my redeemer and warn my enemies, as Job does.  So what is to be done?  I’m still figuring that out, and there are going to be a lot of right answers, but for now, I want to share three important thoughts with you:

  1. We need to form alliances and demand change.  A rising tide lifts all boats, so to speak, and we need everyone possible to be a part of that movement. That includes reaching out beyond gender lines, not only to sympathetic men, but to non-binary peoples as well, for they face similar discrimination and abuse issues that women do. I commend the MMIW, Sovereign Bodies Institute, and others for already including two-spirited peoples in their efforts, we would do well to follow their examples.
  2. A multi-faceted approach is needed. We’re not all going to agree on all topics, but let’s try to find common ground wherever possible, and make some unexpected coalitions that will force people to pay attention.  We need to tackle reducing the stigmas attached to addiction and mental health, increase the availability of women’s health and mental health services, raise awareness about domestic abuse, child abuse, and sex trafficking, and cut through red tape and biases in police departments, to name a few areas that need work.  The expertise of social workers, community support networks, healthcare workers, lawyers, and investigative journalists are all going to be needed in this fight, so let’s start (or keep) reaching out to them.
  3. White women need to be more engaged.  We have the white privilege that allows for social power and mobility second only to white men.  Liberal, well-educated white women also usually have the economic stability, social support networks, and ability to change jobs or even locales that make speaking out less dangerous than it would be for, say, a Latina mother of three on an expired green card, or a Lakota teen who has run away from an abusive home situation. These women can and should be heard, but at the time and place of that person’s choosing, when it is safe to do so.  White women, with very little to lose, need to do more to share the load. Now, before anyone goes accusing me of white savior syndrome, let me just say, the first part of becoming more engaged is listening to the experiences and needs of non-white women. Listen to (and believe) the experiences that are shared with you, and ask what you can do to help.  Then do it.  If we can reduce the rate of violence against native women, we are on the right path to reducing violence against all women.

I fear that today’s post is a little rambling, even after many restarts and heavy editing.  Like I said, I am trying to figure out exactly what my role as a Christian and a white woman are, particularly when those two identifiers have a history of being so detrimental to the very group I want to lift up.  Whatever structure today’s post does have comes from this particularly powerful article that was directed to other native readers, but has much to offer non-indigenous readers as well, particularly those of us who consider ourselves “allies.”  It’s a strongly-worded call to even stronger action, and may put some people off with its anarchist overtones, but nevertheless I recommend it.  My calls to form alliances and take a multi-faceted approach come directly from the author’s call to action.  I’ll be referencing it again when I revisit the “reconciliation is dead” theme in a few days’ time.

“Though I cry, “I have been wronged!” I get no response. Though I call for help, there is no justice,” Job laments at the beginning of chapter 19.  On this International Women’s Day, let’s recommit to each other, and especially to our missing native sisters, to do better, to make this world a safer place for ourselves and our daughters. No one’s cry for justice and help should go unanswered.  We have the power to be agent’s of God’s change, truly be the the Redeemer such as Job looks for and so many of us need.  I urge you one last time, do not turn a blind eye to this crisis.  If for no other reason, in helping them we also help ourselves.

Sovereign Bodies Institute is staffed and directed predominantly by native women dedicated to understanding and promoting healing from sexual violence in Native Communities.  They now run the MMIWG2 (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirited) database, an effort to fill the void of a central database that can be used by community members, advocates, activists, and researchers in their work towards justice.. They are one of many organizations that deserve our fiscal support, so please donate if you are able. Also, if you are learning from what you read here, please follow the blog for more.  Click the folder icon in the upper left corner of the menu, and you can follow via WordPress or email.  God Vs. The Patriarchy is also on Instagram and Twitter, too.

Job 16 – Do Not Cover My Blood

“Earth, do not cover my blood;
    may my cry never be laid to rest!
19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
    my advocate is on high.
(Read the rest of the chapter, here.)

Just like Job’s friends, collectively we have made miserable comforters.  Job says “God has turned me over to evil men and thrown me to the clutches of the wicked.”  He points out the visceral signs of his unjust punishment: “my face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes, yet my hands have been free of violence, and my prayer pure.”  Even so, his friends stand idly by, offering false piety and thinly veiled scorn instead of truly loving help.  Couldn’t Job’s words be used to condemn us, in the broadest sense of the word, in our apathy towards our fellow man?

I’ve been paying more attention to the news as the corona virus continues to spread, and as I learn to use Twitter better (it’s not my favorite social media but I feel it necessary for the blog…Instagram is my natural habitat).  This renewed awareness reminded me of all the unanswered cries that are still being called out, and I’m ashamed of how little I’ve cared to know.

The rapid spread of the corona virus is a big deal, I’m not trying to make light of it.  But please, do not panic, and do not put your compassion on hold.  A few stats from Johns Hopkins to put things in perspective: As of February 26, 2020, there have been 81,322 cases reported world-wide, with 2,770 deaths (none of which have yet occurred in the US).  The flu, on the other hand, a virus mutation we see pop up every year that hasn’t caused global panic since World War I, has an estimated one billion cases worldwide per year, with up to 646,000 deaths annually, worldwide.  They are sobering statistics, and I truly debated sharing them because it may do more to fan the flames of fear than to calm them.  My hope is that it will remind you, my reader, that we function in a world full of contractible, deadly viruses already.  It is a fact of life that demands more compassion from us, not less-just make sure to wash your hands.

Don’t let the corona virus blind you to the ongoing injustices in the world. A quick run-down of the stories I’ve been following.  And again, there are a lot more that we could get into, but this is what I’ve been able to read about in between the hustle and bustle of daily life with two kids and a farm:

  1. The latest humanitarian crisis in Syria – there is a lot of biased information out there.  Just a simple search on the subject returns not only articles from the BBC, which I generally trust, but also front-page hits from Russian outfits like Sputnik and RT, which I don’t trust as much.  Given our own president’s lukewarm (at best) interest in Syria, it’s not a topic that gets the attention appropriate to the magnitude of the crisis.  As best as I can gather, almost one million people have been recently displaced by fighting in the northern province of Idlib.  It is winter, and people are having to spend nights in below-freezing temperatures without food or shelter.  Children are dying from cold, others are so traumatized they’ve stopped speaking.  Pregnant mothers are under enough stress to cause premature births and miscarriages.
  2. The ongoing border crisis, especially as it pertains to children – Technically, the Trump administration ended its policy of separating families at the border in June 2018.  But over 1,000 families have still been separated since that time, including the heartbreaking case of the parents who were deported, after being promised as part of their deportation deal to be reunited with their four-month-old son, without him.
  3. Wet’suwet’en blockades in Canada – In short, the Wet’suwet’en have been protesting Canada and oil companies seizing unceded lands for pipeline projects.  Part of this protest has taken the form of rail blockades, which are seriously impacting the economic realities of Canada.  It is hard to get truly impartial news on this issue, as well.  It’s receiving very little main-stream media coverage from outside Canada and most Canadian news sources are skewed to favor the Canadian government and Canadian business interests.  I support the Wet’suwet’en people’s right to defend their territory because it is the sovereign right of any country or people to do so when threatened with invasion.  I further support it because they are doing important ecological work in protecting fragile ecosystems from the damages that come with pipelines, including leaks and spills, groundwater contamination, and habitat disturbance.  The IG account of @smogelgem provides a real-time account of what is actually happening, with opportunities to support the protesters whether you live near or far.

We all get compassion fatigue.  We all need to take care of ourselves – you can’t pour from an empty cup, etc etc.  But we can also all try better.  Do a little more.  Especially at a time when the world is facing a global pandemic.  You see, I’m worried that this corona outbreak is going to make people become insular, less willing to reach out and help those in need and more likely to protect their own interests.  This is not the time to be callous.

I try very hard not to ask you to do more than I do, so let me list for you the mini-activisms I did while writing this blogpost.  Actually, before I do, I want to remind you that I do not list this stuff to brag.  I just want to show that you really can do it, too, even if I have to guilt you into it.  I currently have a cold, as does my oldest.  I’m trying to stay on top of laundry and make dinner every night and get insurance for our new commercial kitchen and deal with the leak in my freezer trailer, but I still made time to make a little effort.  If I can do this, then so can you:

I made a small donation to the White Helmets, a boots-on-the-ground organization in Syria dedicated to helping innocent civilians.  I also called my representatives, saying that I think more needs to be done to support Syrian civilians and the work of the White Helmets.  I did my research, and read the stories coming not only out of Syria but from the border, and from Canada. More than anything, I’m talking about it.  Again, I say this not to brag, but to show you what a hassled mom with limited bandwidth can manage.  I may not be able to be out there marching in protests, pulling people from bombed rubble, or providing pro-bono legal council, but I can support those who are.  So now I ask you, can you make a small donation to the White Helmets (the IRC is another good one)? Can you share a #wetsuwetenstrong post on Instagram? Can you call your representatives and tell them that children being held in detention centers at the border is unacceptable?  Together, we can do our part to make sure the cries of the downtrodden are never laid to rest, but answered.

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