September 2017 – Minutes

Clergy and Laity United for Justice and Peace
September 12, 2017   12-2pm
Minutes

 The meeting opened with a prayer by Chip Sanders.

Attendance was recorded.  Those attending included: Taylor Beard, William Gray, Jean Hammond, Hal Horan, Eugene Locke, Bob McAdams, Ed Murray, Dianne Murray, John Peale, Chip Sanders, David Warren, Peter Weatherly, and Liz Adam.

The Minutes of May 2017, prepared by Horan were approved.

Treasurer’s Report: Taylor Beard reported that since the May 2017 balance of 2,345.56,  we had an income of 240.00 consisting of dues (60.00 each) paid by McDonald, Sanders, Gray, and Weatherly;  total expenses were 173.71, consisting of 100.00 rental fee to the Haven for the two Community Dialog on Income Inequality meetings, along with 73.71 for the printing of programs. These transactions result in a balance as of September 12 of 2,411.85.

Old and New Business:
McAdams made an announcement, which unfortunately I did not write down.
The calendar for Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice is:
https://sites.google.com/site/charlottesvillepeacecenter/calendar-email-newsletter

Program:
Liz Hulme Adam, a former CLUJP member, was introduced as the program speaker by Peter Weatherly. He expressed his deep gratitude for her willingness to talk about her experiences as a member of the Clergy collective that participated in the events surrounding the neo-Nazi rally here in August.

“Place of the Holy”
Liz began by asking the group the question, “How do you experience ‘Holy Grace, God’?”

Some of the responses included:

  • Intimacy , soul searching
  • Powerful, fascinating mystery all around
  • Sometimes terrifying, sometimes awesomeness, both provide holy moments
  • Being “taken up, taken out of oneself” , see and feel moments of divinity in life
  • Experience is closer to poetic language than theological
  • Experience of ‘being called’, to act in love and action
  • A still, small voice, not our own
  • Contemplating eternity, something beyond temporal; if I can sometimes contemplate every once in a while, can experience ‘It’.
  • One word, for God = “Love”- of people, of one’s partner,  reciprocity confirms the wholeness, sense of community; often experience it with others in a loving moment
  • Sense of mystery, experiences that catch our imagination; seeing people with challenges, yet surprised when people rise to the occasion, being generous; seeing the miracle of birth, as well as in trauma,; seeing God as being gracious in both

Liz provided her list – Presence of Holy: evoke, empower, liberate, awaken, listen, rejoice, and stand with a sense of inter-dependence with others.

In stark contrast, the white militia and neo-Nazis represented the exact opposite of feeling the Holy – completely separating, not uniting with others.

She talked about the influence of growing up amongst a diverse population with varying beliefs. These experiences as a child helped define her beliefs about who God is and how that influences her actions today.

Liz was supposed to get training on Friday 11th  to be part of a group of clergy whose goal was to keep the neo-Nazis out of the park. But, she did not get the training due to the torch-bearing white nationalists parading outside St. Paul’s. Thus she marched with a different group on Saturday. Her group sang songs on the march to McGuffey park, where they listened to speakers and sang. This park, along with Justice Park, was meant to be a safe place for the counterdemonstrators. Liz described being a part of that group was very uplifting, as everyone seemed to have a common cause of Love and compassion.

While in this ‘safe place’  at McGuffey Park, feeling this sense of belonging and compassion, a traumatized/frantic woman came up to her who had just seen people with machine guns. This woman was obviously terrorized by the experience, which brought home that the worst fears about this rally were being realized.

Why did I show up? Liz’s statement:
On Saturday when taking to the streets arm-in-arm with friends and strangers, singing “This Little Light of Mine,” and “We Shall Overcome,” I wasn’t there only as a clergywoman. I showed up because I am responsible as a human being for correcting what’s wrong; I am responsible for reclaiming space contaminated by hate and beliefs that harm. Mine was also a presence of penance, for that which I’ve inherited and still struggle to face.

Last Saturday in Charlottesville I witnessed viciousness in the eyes of my fellow Americans — hate in aggregate, armed. I saw Americans outfitted as militia, with armor meant for war. I saw women bloodied by men who threw them to the ground and bashed their heads into pavement. But I must claim my own culpability in benefitting without protest from an unjust history that continues to abide in the present moment.

We are trying to form a more perfect union as Americans. We do so by remembering our past without whitewashed nostalgia. I marched and sang and showed up for them, and those they loved, and their stories that didn’t get recorded. It’s the least I could do. As a Christian, I also showed up for Jews. Jews taught me about Tikkun Olam — world repair. We are to repair the world. We participate in Tikkun Olam through acts of kindness, and by protecting those at a disadvantage. Too many of my Christian predecessors failed our Jewish brothers and sisters throughout history. Then, we used our sacred texts to justify or ignore the Holocaust. I am responsible as a pastor to say so.

When I look back at the past I wonder how I would have responded in times that called for risky intervention, for the defense of those who needed defending. Would I have defended the Armenian, would I have protected the Gypsy, would I have stood up for the Jews? Our current climate gives us a chance to test the question, “How would I have responded?” It is our time to respond.

May all people, of every background and belief, do everything possible to prevent any more catastrophes. And on every occasion that we lock eyes with others, may we see their value as equal to our own. We are here to become better human beings, to become more and more human by becoming more and more humane.

Peace be with you, and with our United States of America.

DISCUSSION:

Liz discussed the influence of Dorothee Soelle, a German philosopher, on her life.  Rather than ask “Do you believe in God,” it is better to examine  “Do you live out God,” thereby taking faith out of the abstract and putting it into action.   (https://liberationtheology.org/people-organizations/dorothee-solle/ )

View about ‘Power’ – People who showed up held distinctly different views.
Neo-nazis view it in terms of domination and oppression, whereas people of faith see it as helping ‘bring about Holiness’.

Rage as expression of hate – Love, sharing, caring can overcome hate, but didn’t on that day. Why not? Could it ever in these situations?  But, there were moments of Grace even amidst the chaos. A shining example was the Antifa helping protect citizens and the clergy, pulling them to safety away from the neo-Nazis’ swinging clubs.

Many people see hate as being driven by fear, but fear of what?  Not knowing what to expect perhaps? We need to hold conversations with these people to help uncover what it truly is that scares them by today’s changing world.

Fear, and subsequently rage, can be caused by a sense of powerlessness, when someone feels he is not able to do anything about what is going on. They then turn to action, as ‘acting out’ gives them a sense of influence. Problem is their fear may be of facing one’s own self-hatred. They do not know how to face that and have no tools to face it. Thus, we have become a ‘blame society.’ The rise of multiculturalism and empowering minorities causes white nationalists to feel threatened or weakened.

We need to change narrative from blame to accountability:
A couple people talked about hearing Brene Brown on radio, who described “blame is pain discharged. It’s the easy thing to do, whereas accountability requires responsibility.”

Brene Brown on Blame:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZWf2_2L2v8
Also: https://www.mindful.org/two-lessons-on-blame-from-brene-brown/

Excerpt: “Here is what we know from the research. Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Accountability by definition is a vulnerable process. It means me calling you and saying, ‘Hey my feelings were really hurt about this.’ And talking is not blaming. Blaming is simply a way that we discharge anger.”

“Blaming is very corrosive in relationships, and it’s one of the reasons we miss our opportunities for empathy.”

Blaming is essentially unleashing our anger, pain, and discomfort onto whatever we can find to make us feel more in control … when, in reality, that’s the opposite of what happens. Instead of gaining control, we are losing the ability to have happy, healthy, and empathetic relationships.

Tactical, not strategic:
Bill Gray talked about the Klan marching through a Jewish community in Skokie, Illinois. The point to understand is that provocateurs seek to provoke – what if you ignore and not feed into their intent? The counter protesters in Boston stood outside, not confronting the alt-right rally goers and it all went down relatively peacefully.

Issue of Race – Views about what happened different based on ethnicity:
White people view racism differently, can be complicit in their silence.  Different for Hispanics, not feeling safe, now can be deported, even after seeking help for medical assistance or police protection.

White people were bewildered to what happened, why it happened here and now. African-Americans, on the other hand, were not surprised. They perceive the present as being a continuation of a long history of injustices and hateful actions. For them, this area is not an idyllic, progressive and open-hearted community, but still rife with rampant issues with economic and social inequality.

Racism is still here. That will not change as long as people are passive to its presence.  Silence in the face of injustice lets it grow. Several people remarked on the role of the Antifa, who are willing to aggressively confront actions they perceive as being fascist. There were many reports how they helped protect the clergy involved in the demonstration. The discussion did not condone the Antifa as a whole, but we did concede their help made a difference.

Antifa
Eugene Locke talked about Mark Bray’s book, ‘Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook’.
(www.mhpbooks.com/books/antifa/) In it, the author describes the current movement as building on the history of stopping fascism before it grows.

Excerpt:  “As long as there has been fascism, there has been anti-fascism — also known as “antifa.” Born out of resistance to Mussolini and Hitler in Europe during the 1920s and ’30s, the antifa movement has suddenly burst into the headlines amidst opposition to the Trump administration and the alt-right. They could be seen in news reports, often clad all in black with balaclavas covering their faces, fighting police at the presidential inauguration, on California college campuses protesting right-wing speakers, and, most recently, on the streets of Charlottesville, VA, protecting, among others, a group of ministers including Cornel West from neo-Nazi violence. (West would later tell reporters, “The anti-fascists saved our lives.”)

Simply, antifa aims to deny fascists the opportunity to promote their oppressive politics, and to protect tolerant communities from acts of violence promulgated by fascists. Critics say shutting down political adversaries is anti-democratic; antifa adherents argue that the horrors of fascism must never be allowed the slightest chance to triumph again.

Hal Horan told about the current issue of ‘Christian Century’ having several great articles relating to the increase of hate related confrontations. One example:

“How Can We Fell the Demons of Hatred?”
Narratives of fear, domination, and greed abound. But there’s a better story.
by Jim Friedrich   https://www.christiancentury.org/article/how-can-we-fell-demons-hatred

Excerpt: Nazis on the march in America. We recoil at this news with a sense of shock, like getting a bad diagnosis. Our first instinct is denial. Could the social body really be this sick?

Naomi Klein, writing about Trump in a July issue of the Nation, said that we can’t really be shocked by where we find ourselves. “A state of shock,” she writes, “is produced when a story is ruptured, when we have no idea what is going on. But in so many ways, Trump is not a rupture at all, but rather the culmina­tion—the logical end point—of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a long time. That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest. That the natural world is there for us to pillage. That the vulnerable deserve their fate, and the 1 percent deserve their golden towers. . . . That we are surrounded by danger and should only look after our own. That there is no alternative to any of this.”

The meeting was adjourned, though more discussions and related programs will follow.

Our next meeting on October 10th will have Harriet Kuhr, Executive Director of the local chapter of International Rescue Committee discussing the local efforts to help refugees.

Respectfully Submitted
Peter Weatherly