Author: Vicky

LivingNonviolence 2017-06-30 18:00:00

What kind of people are we?

        I was struck by a story that I saw on the MSNBC program The Last Word. on June 23, 2017.  In this program the host, Ari Melber, interviewed Karen Clay and her son, Mike Phillips. Michael suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He lives at home, in Florida, with his mother. Over the last 30 years Michael’s disease has progressed and his care and treatment has become more complicated. Medicaid has made it possible for him stay at home and for Karen to remain his primary care giver. This situation will change dramatically and drastically if the Republican plan becomes law.
      The focus of the interview was what will happen to Michael if the Republican health care bill is enacted. Karen explained that there is no facility in Florida that can care for Michael. He would have to be moved out of state and institutionalized. His level of care would deteriorate and the cost for his care would increase–a lot. The family would be uprooted. 
     As I listened to the interview I could not help but think of a passage in the Gospel according to Matthew. In the twenty-fifth chapter Jesus is reported to say to the disciples, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (25: 40, NIV).
     We tend to interpret the words from Matthew 25 in the context of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). Remember that parable begins with a legal scholar asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, meaning not just a life after death, but life in the here and now. It is an existential question. What do I need to do in the here and now to have a life with God? Jesus answers this question with the story of a man beaten and robbed and left to die in a ditch at the side of the Jericho road. One religious person sees him lying in the ditch and passes by on the other side of the road, and then a second person comes along and he too goes to the opposite side of the road. But when the Samaritan comes he sees the man in the ditch and goes to him, binds his wounds and takes him to the inn and tells the inn keeper to take care of him, promising to compensate the inn keeper for any expenses that he incurs as a result of his care for this person. Jesus then asks the question, “Who was the neighbor to this man?” The answer, of course, is the Samaritan.  The parable concludes with Jesus instructing the person who asked the question, and by extension us, “Go and do likewise” (10: 37, NIV).
     With the parable of the Good Samaritan in mind, when we read the words in Matthew 25, it is natural that we should think that we are called to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, visit those who are in prison and so on. Dr. King famously said that day will come when we have to build a new road so that travelers will not be left in the ditches. Understandably we want to be the people who build that new road, but until then we will follow the pattern set by the Good Samaritan.
     We want to do our best to be faithful to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We want to live by the Golden Rule and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Wendell Berry says: “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” It’s common sense. But it is more than common sense. We are bleeding hearts. Karl Marx who once said that religion is the opiate of the masses also said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless world.” Many religious scholars and preachers have told us that compassion and empathy are the core of our faith and the keys to understanding the gospel. And we believe that.  This is why Michael and Karen’s story is so powerful.
     But then, when I remembered the passage in Matthew 25: 40, I had to ask myself: What about the guy in the ditch? What about the people who live on the margins of society and in the economic shadows? What about the people who are victims of injustice. What about people who live in daily fear of police violence? What about “those people” who are, the words of Jesus, “the least of these?” What about them? 
      Reverend Deenabandhu Manchala,  now with the World Council of Churches, helps us interpret these words of Jesus when he talks about “Mission at and from the margins.” As he explains, those of us in the West tend to think that our mission flows from a position of power, privilege, and possession. Our mission is to help
those who are less fortunate than we are. Thus, when I was a child my church had a program called SOS, which stood for “Share our Surplus.” Then we had another offering called “Neighbors in Need,” that was to help the less fortunate. These were ministries enabled by power, privilege, and possession.
     Remember the story of Joseph and his brothers. His brothers sold him into slavery. Over a period of time and after many trials Joseph worked his way to a position of responsibility in the government of Egypt. He became the Secretary of Agriculture. When famine came upon the people of Israel, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to beg for food that they could take home to a desperate people. This may be the very first story about an international relief mission in biblical history. Joseph famously does not reveal his true identity to his brothers until the very end of the story. Then, after he has given them food to take home, he reveals his true identity in a dramatic moment and he says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me. But God intended it for good” (Gen. 5: 20, NIV). 
      From the surplus of Egypt, Joseph was able to help his brothers and save his family. A well-known business consultant has famously said that we must do well before we can do good. Joseph was only able to help his brothers because he had done well. We have learned over the years to think of mission in this way. We have to do well before we can do good. But what does that say about the “least of these.” Are they among us simply to be the object of our mission? Are we the instruments of God’s mercy, and the least of these the object of God’s mercy? Is that the message of the Bible?
     During the MSNBC interview, Michael Phillips was intubated and lying flat on a table. But Michael was very aware of his situation and his surroundings. He participated in the interview. He was very articulate, eloquent in fact. If you had not see him lying in front of you flat on the table and unable to move you would not have known his condition. But there he was. After listening to Michael’s story and to the words of his mother, Aril Melber, the host, was close to tears as he asked, “What kind of nation are we?” What kind of people are we? What have we become that we are debating the need for access to adequate, affordable health care?
      What did Jesus mean when he said, “As you do unto the least of these brothers, you do unto me.” We tend to focus on the first part of the sentence–doing unto the least of these. But the second part of the sentence is equally important, “you do unto me.” Jesus is identifying himself with the least of these—the people who are marginalized, the people who are sinned against, people who are the most vulnerable, people who are the victims of injustice.
     The mission of the church is not limited to charity, sharing our surplus or whatever else we want to call it. The mission of the church is to expose injustice. The mission of the church is to expose the hardness of heart that would make Michael’s health care a subject of national debate in a nation that prides itself on being the richest country in the history of the world.
 What kind of people are we? What kind of nation have we become?
      Following the way of Jesus is about making life changing choices. There are lots of Michael’s in this world and there will be many more to come. We can say that his situation is unfortunate and we are truly sorry for that, but we can’t help everyone who is in need. That’s one option. A second option is to say we will do our best to do what we can for “the least of these,” recognizing our own limited resources and the myriad responsibilities that we each have. Random acts of kindness are much better than random and not so random acts of cruelty. Something is lot better than nothing. A half a loaf is more than no loaf. But there is a third option. As you do to the least of these you do to me. God stands in solidarity with the hungry, the poor, the prisoner, the stranger, the unwelcome and the unwanted, the outcasts and yes, “the least of these” because it is here that community is formed. Here on the margins character is tested and shaped and formed. Here is where we answer the question: What kind of people are we?
      From a faith perspective government is not the “art of compromise.” The purpose of government is the pursuit of the common good.  And, the measure of the economy is the well-being of the people.
What kind of people are we? We are about to find out.
David Phillips Hansen

LivingNonviolence 2017-06-23 17:33:00

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: The fight goes on The courage displayed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight to protect their sacred land and water and the treaty rights of Native Peoples has given heart to people throughout the U….

Witness, Presence, Unconditional Love

     Perhaps about 15 years ago, after the birth of our grandson, our second grandchild, I had the experience of feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the love I felt for the two beautiful young souls who were being entrusted to their parents and to us for as long as we would have time to be in their lives.  I hardly knew what to do with the feelings I had;  what to do with the awareness of what an incredible privilege and responsibility came with being a conscious grandparent.  So – I prayed for some guiding wisdom for how to go about the awesome task of loving these two precious beings and for how to be a strong and positive influence in their lives.   In the deep silence of prayer, I heard “You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.”  15 years later, I am still grappling with what these words mean, but I took this  wisdom as my marching orders for grand-parenting.  It turns out that they were marching orders for my life as well as they have continued to echo in my spirit over the years that I have been a grandmother.   You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.

        The words put me in mind of attributes of the Source of All Life, partially revealed in the story of Moses in his encounter with the Holy One of Being at the bush that burned but was not consumed (Exodus 3:1-15): 
 “I have observed the misery of my people…I have heard their cry . . . I know their suffering . . . I have come down to deliver them from slavery . . .  .I will bring them to a good land . . . “
     The Divine Voice further instructs Moses to tell the people that “…the God of your ancestors,the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.” 
       The beautiful story of the beginnings of humankind found in the Book of Genesis affirms that humankind is created in “the image and likenessof the Creator.  While I am not a Biblical literalist, I take this to point to the notion that we all carry the attributes of the Holy One to some degree – we have the capacity for creativity, for curiosity, for profoundly loving relationships.  We also have the capacity to observe, and hear and know – – the capacity to Witness the lives of others.  We have the capacity to “come down” – to be a Presence in solidarity with those who suffer.  We have the capacity to BE the Unconditional Love alluded to in the affirmation that “I am the God of your ancestors” – the source of creative loving that has accompanied humankind through thick and thin since the beginning of creation.
These attributes lead us to a high calling in our life together as a community of human beings committed to living nonviolence in our personal lives and in the world beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones. The good news is that we are already familiar with these attributes.  Indeed, we practice them every day when we witness, we notice, we observe, we see.   We witness one another’s lives in the joys and the sorrows, the challenges and celebrations, the fears and concerns, the illnesses and the healing that we go through together in community.  We witness the effects of stress and joy, suffering and well-being, wholeness and brokenness on each other – and we learn empathy and compassion. This attribute of witnessing is what makes the center hold in our personal spheres of influence.  It is also what makes us more effective as we take our caring into the world.
When we are present to one another, we become the holy attribute of Presence. Some times we are called upon to take action – to make a phone call in behalf of an important cause, to check in with each other when the news is stressful, or when an action is in need of support,  to attend to one another when one of us is suffering.  Sometimes we are called upon to  be present to one another in profound grief when there are simply no words to be said.  We each have the capacity to be a Presence in each other’s lives – whether through actual physical hands on  help or through prayer, through words of encouragement and comfort.  Being a Presence means saying “Hineini” – – here I am – – my spirit and my energy are available to you – – I am part of your life.  Being a Presence means being a little bit of God available to the life of another person. 

     And then there is the attribute of Unconditional Love. We know from the long saga of God’s journey with Israel that God does not give up when the going gets tough – – and the texts are full of reasons why God could have just thrown up the proverbial divine hands and walked away in frustration and disgust.  But that did not happen.  The love of the Holy One for all of creation does not depend upon how faithful humans are,  or how good or cooperative or thoughtful or sensitive or caring or patient with each other we happen to be.  Unconditional Love is just that – it unaffected by the conditions of our lives.  Being created in the Divine Image, we have the capacity to love one another through thick and thin – – even when we aren’t sure we like each other very much – even when we disagree about how things ought to be done, even when we hurt one another’s feelings – even when things go terribly wrong.  Being Unconditional Love means being in our holy center where we do not get shaken by the dramas and ups and downs of our daily interactions, by political differences, by our knee-jerk reactions to the most recent inflammation in the news – it means being Love even when we don’t feel particularly loving.

     To embrace the command, if you will, to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love, is, perhaps, a partial answer to the questions “How do we access soul force?”and “Where do we find the strength to live nonviolently in our world?”  Accessing “soul force” and strength for living nonviolently in the world begins with the practice of living out the Holy Attributes in community: practicing witnessing the lives of those around us; practicing being a Presence in the midst of joy and celebration and suffering and sorrow; practicing being Unconditional love that does not waver when the going gets tough.  With practice, we may yet become the influence that will transform the world.

Vicky Hanjian



LivingNonviolence 2017-06-09 14:56:00

Reason for Hope?

       In the midst senate hearings in Washington DC and parliamentary elections in England and reports of numerous terrorist attacks against a variety of homely sites like ice cream parlors, it would seem as though confusion and chaos, dishonesty and violence, subterfuge and obstructionism are the values that rule the day.  It becomes a spiritual discipline to begin each day with a re-connection with what is good and true and hopeful even when awaking into the ongoing nightmare.  Even our small town island politics reflect the larger milieu as a local CEO is fired without adequate public explanation and a popular school teacher leaves the system leaving many questions unanswered.
         It is tempting to wonder if something akin to Lyme Disease is affecting the entire neuro-muscular system of our culture, both national and local.  Lyme is a pesky, often chronic, and occasionally lethal infection – a gift of the deer tick, which seems invincible – a gift that keeps on giving.  It causes all kinds of symptoms from chronic headaches and muscle pain to fever to neurological disturbances and more, all in varying degrees of severity.   The medical establishment’s struggle to recognize, diagnose and treat Lyme is ongoing and not yet fully dependable and accurate.  There are days when, for many folks, fear of the deer tick rules the day.
         And so it seems with our human ability to  come to terms with the far reaching effects of dishonesty and violence and subterfuge and obstructionism – along with the confusion and chaos they generate. 
         BUT!  and it is a huge BUT!  Along with the onset of the most active tick season in the month of June also comes the month of celebration of another generation of young people preparing to make the long walk to the podium to receive their diplomas.  All around the world the possibility of an antidote to the infections that stalk humanity is donning its robes and “mortar-boards”, or, as is also the case on our island, throwing off their shoes and donning flower garlands on their heads, preparing to step out and make a difference.
         A high school guidance counselor describes the Class of 2017 this way: “Since their freshman year, they have volunteered for every event we’ve asked them to volunteer for, helping with the eighth grade transition, the Race-Culture Retreat.” She highlighted the Stand With Everyone Against Rape (SWEAR), for this volunteering spirit, particularly among the young men of the senior class.
“We collaborated and created a training program for boys. They talk about how sexual assault is not just a women’s issue but a men’s issue as well, and how it’s time for men to step up and accept their privilege.”   Seventeen and eighteen year old kids did final research projects on innovative treatments for debilitating diseases and on the effects of gender bias on education in the classroom.  Once again, members of the graduating class, along with a few thousand other kids from around the world, attended a Model UN Conference in New York City for a simulated learning experience that helped them to train their minds to think critically and do problem solving in collaboration with people from other cultures.
     So as the tick season hits its stride and when high profile hearings seem to uncover ever more of the presence of a long suspected disease, it is a reasonable comfort to sit in the crowd as “Pomp and Circumstance” begins and another generation of young adults, far more savvy than the previous generation was at the same age, prepares to make its influence felt. 
     They send a strong message of hope and resilience to the rest of us who feel outrage, sadness, weariness, and often, fatigue, with the enormity of the dis-ease that confronts us on a daily basis, that the “research and development” for an antidote is well underway. 
Vicky Hanjian

LivingNonviolence 2017-06-02 13:15:00

To what shall I compare the kingdom….
            This morning’s news is disheartening.  The headlines shout that the USA will withdraw from the Paris Climate agreements.  Follow-up articles tell the story of  conflicting opinions about what this will mean economically and politically for the country.  Concern, outrage, resistance, and resolve are words that appear again and again as business people and politicians seek to find a solid place to stand – either in solidarity with the administration or in opposition.   The international community shakes its collective head as the leadership in efforts to offset or contain the effects of climate change shifts away from the USA and other nations strengthen their commitment.  Once again, high drama makes the headlines.
            Meanwhile, back on my beloved island, my morning email contains a note from a church member asking for time in morning worship to make an announcement.  She writes from Haiti where she is on a brief trip to assess the state of health of PeaceQuilts, an island non-profit initiative to support women’s art and creativity by helping them to form small businesses to market their craft in the form of beautiful, colorful  quilts of all shapes and sizes. PeaceQuilts provides an opportunity for Haitian women to build their own businesses and earn a living wage.
            The announcement will provide information to the local church about several other island non-profit groups that are partnering to kick-off a summer of events that promote global aid initiatives focused on women’s empowerment and economic development. Representing work in Haiti, Zambia, Tanzania, and India, they hope to raise awareness about their organizations and the work they are doing as well as to showcase the resulting art and bring the crafts of the people they work with around the world to our island community.
            The African Artists’ Community Development Project, is a non-profit organization based on the island. Raising money for disabled children, orphans and women’s groups in Zambia by selling crafts here in the U.S., AACDP’s mission is expressed in the motto, “Buying African Crafts, Strengthening African Families.”  This group continues to explore empowerment commerce and has started a doll-making project with the mothers and grandmothers of the children at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home for Disabled Children.
            Maasai Partners, also based on the island, promotes health, educationwelfare, and economic development focusing on the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of northern Tanzania to combat the extreme poverty in the region.  Maasai Partners (working under NCN), believes the most successful development programs rely on the villagers themselves to determine what is most necessary for their own success. Collaborating with the villagers, identifying the resources needed to further community development and help alleviate poverty, Maasai Partners networks and collaborates with area nonprofits to establish effective programs within the villages, while also providing independent support. 
            Also participating as a local non-profit, will be a “The Invisible World”, a collaboration between a local plankton ecologist and Her Future Coalition. Her Future Coalition is a human trafficking rescue, recovery and prevention organization based in India. Plankton are not seen, but play a crucial role in the ecology of our planet, supplying 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Human trafficking goes on every day but is overlooked. The Invisible World reminds us to look at what is not seen on the surface, to change our way of thinking and how we see the world. 
            The email is a timely message of hope that antidotes my sinking feelings of incredulity and frustration.  The headlines seem always to carry the worst of the news of the state of the world, while, like plankton, the life blood of human resourcefulness and kindness and generosity and creativity go largely unnoticed.
            So – without a doubt, time will be given in morning worship for a woman to speak and for the congregation to hear the word of grace that will come – – the word that echoes the words of Jesus: “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Luke 13:20,21).  Yeast is a homely metaphor – but it works.  I bake bread.  I am not a truly patient person by nature.  I am constantly checking the dough to see whether the yeast is doing its work.  It really does seem to have a mind of its own and does its best work in secret – invisibly.   It seems as though it waits for me to turn my back for a moment and then – VOILA! – the dough is ready to be baked.  
            So on this glorious day, with so much sunlight after so much gray rainy weather, I anticipate the word of grace – – that there is much “yeast” at work in the world – – that it is in the nature of yeast to grow and spread throughout the dough; — that, indeed, while our attention may be focused on the dreary headlines, there are other forces at work – – and eventually we may enjoy the unspeakable delight of the aroma of fresh baked bread.
Vicky Hanjian

LivingNonviolence 2017-05-26 14:04:00

The Chimera of Multiculturalism
          The United States has moved from the notion of being a “melting pot” to becoming a multicultural society. While some people are holding a rear-guard action to protect the values and virtues of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture that shaped and perhaps even defined the US culture since the founding of the Jamestown colony in 1607, the rising tide favors the advocates of multiculturalism as the US becomes an increasingly diverse society. But is multiculturalism the road to the future, or is it a chimera? Webster’s Dictionary variously defines “chimera” as “a monster vomiting flames,” and “an illusion or fabrication of the mind.” I will let the reader decide.
     Multiculturalism emerged as an umbrella term in the 1980s and 1990s, indicative of our changing demographics. Multiculturalism is clearly to be preferred to either a system of apartheid or forced assimilation. And the concept enjoys broad public support. However, there is no standard definition of multiculturalism. A thin definition of the term equates multiculturalism with tolerance of diversity. A somewhat richer understanding of multiculturalism proffers that a multicultural society accepts and incorporates the values, beliefs, and ideas of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. An even denser and thicker definition of multiculturalism suggests that the concept embodies the celebration of diverse cultures and empowers diverse cultural groups to claim a greater measure of equality with others in the public square.
     Because multiculturalism is an umbrella concept the breadth of groups and concerns that cluster under its shelter is breathtaking. Multiculturalism includes all groups protected by the American Disabilities Act, demands respect for all holidays, offers protection against discrimination in employment, encourages the development of educational curriculum that respects racial and ethnic diversity, and much more. For some advocates, multiculturalism is a rights-based concept that applies both to individuals and groups. Accordingly, everyone has equal rights, and society has a moral and legal obligation to respect and protect the rights of each person and group.  
     The concept of multiculturalism has broad appeal in a liberal democratic society—within limits. The rights associated with multiculturalism are civil rights. When the norms of multiculturalism begin to impinge on political and economic rights we often witness increasing tension among diverse groups and popular support for multiculturalism softens. A desire on the part of the majority to maintain the status quo and the appearance of social unity outweighs the urgency of change for the sake of greater inclusion. Multiculturalism has its place, and it must be kept in its place. Enduring poverty in the midst of abundance and recent battles over voting rights witness to a retreat from multiculturalism in these areas of public life.
     The retreat from multiculturalism is due neither to a lack of awareness of the need for change, nor a want of desire on the part of well-meaning citizens to “do good.” Like the myth of the “melting pot,” the impetus for multiculturalism comes from a strong desire to remain true to the creed of E Pluribus Unum. What is missing in this effort to preserve unity is an adequate understanding of our historical context. It is this failure that turns an otherwise noble intent into a chimera.
     Many Native American scholars and historians like David Chang and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz are helping us understand that everything in US history—nation, race, and class—is about the land. Who controls the land and determines how the land is used is a—perhaps the—central theme in US history.
Native Americans, faith communities that have repudiated what Steve Newcomb, Shawnee/Lenape, correctly calls the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination, and others who are calling upon the United States to honor the 370 treaties between the US and Indian nations, are changing our national narrative and shifting our moral compass in recognition of the importance of land to our national narrative.
      Non-Indian people are beginning to understand that the real history of the United States is defined by settler-indigenous relations. Indigenous Peoples owned the land, the settlers wanted and needed the land, and with the blessing of the church they took the land. Setters invoked the quasi-religious doctrines of Terra Nullius(empty land) and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination to justify Indian genocide. The philosopher John Locke provided the necessary justification for taking the land. He argued that the settlers were defending the superior European civilization and religion (Christianity) against the “pagans” and “wild beasts.” Because the settlers were obligated to defend their superior way of life against the threat posed by the Indians, the Indians were obligated to pay for the cost of the war waged upon them. Taking the land was, in Locke’s view, just compensation paid to the settlers by the indigenous pagans.
       I am not ready to give up on E Pluribus Unum. But if we want to turn this chimera into a viable vision we have to begin with the historical reality of indigenous genocide, exploitation and subjugation. Repudiating the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination opens the way for honoring treaties and giving Indigenous Peoples control of their own land and political and economic future with cultural integrity. Of equal importance, acknowledging our real history is a truth that sets white citizens free from the shackles of historical distortions so that together we can find our way to a future beyond multiculturalism; a future in which interracial justice is normative.

David Hansen

LivingNonviolence 2017-05-19 16:08:00

We Need a Little Revelation, Right This Very Moment!

Vicky Hanjian   

      A quick glance at the calendar reminds me that Shavuot and Pentecost are a mere week and a half away.  Having my feet firmly planted in both Jewish and Christian practice makes for a very rich compote for me as these two observances cycle around again, always in close proximity to one another.


In post Biblical writings Shavuot has come to be known and celebrated as the day Torah was given to Israel.  Through the Kabbalists, a tradition of staying up to study through the night on the eve of Shavuot has been handed down as a way of preparing to receive the revelation of Torah in the morning on the day of Shavuot.


In the Christian calendar year, the Day of Pentecost follows close on to Shavuot.  It is a day when the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church in a rush of wind and fire – a day when the Holy demonstrated its power to infiltrate and shape the life of the community. 


Both Shavuot and Pentecost are remembered and observed as days of revelation.  

At Mt. Sinai  the revelation came with a quaking mountain, thunder and lightning and thick clouds of terrifying mystery.  The potent drama of creation was the venue for the revelation of the law that would shape Israel’s life as a holy people, wisdom for life in harmony and justice and peace.  Basic wisdom about not setting up false gods and worshipping them; about honoring our elders; about not murdering or stealing; about not envying what our neighbor owns; about not bearing false witness against another.


   In a parallel tradition the Day of Pentecost came with rushing wind and fire and the revelation of the gift of the Holy Spirit – the revelation spoken in such a way that all could hear it in their own language regardless of where they came from.


Christian tradition holds that the Spirit came bringing gifts of holiness for those who could use them.  Gifts like wisdom and knowledge, of faith and the ability to heal, of discernment and the ability to interpret spiritual truths.


Taken together the two traditions of revelation form a firm foundation for the human community to live in harmony and wholeness – in holiness.  Both traditions have the power to pull us back to center in a time when the wild centrifugal forces of national and global politics send us spiraling away from the most fundamental truths.  Truths like being honest and not lying to or about our neighbors – – ordinances about not murdering -either literally or verbally – – like not stealing or envying what belongs to another.  The revelation on Sinai seems so fundamental – – and yet is so easily ignored and trampled upon at the highest levels of political machination where adequate health care or a sense of safety can be stolen from the most vulnerable at the stroke of a pen. 


Revelation of wisdom for living is at the heart center of Jewish and Christian tradition.  The thunder, the smoke and the quaking mountain, the rushing wind and the tongues of fire, all caught the attention of our ancient ancestors.


Our attention has wandered – but we still have the stories and the ritual days that have the power to draw us back to center and to remind us again of the most basic principles for harmonious living.   No fireworks, no exploding mountains, no mysterious smoke and clouds, no rushing wind and flames – – just a silent, ageless whisper of intent: “You shall be holy!!” Now –  get with the program!!


A friend and I were talking the other day about what has become known as “fake news” and “alternative facts.” We agreed it was harder than ever to know what to believe. Exaggeration has gone viral. Outright lies have become prolific. The determined att…

May Pinkletinks Prevail!

Our beloved island is birthing spring!  Azaleas and rhododendrons are lavishly pink and purple.  Lilac buds are getting ready.  A great blue heron surveys its realm from the shore of  the pond, standing on one leg.  “Pinkletinks”, tiny frogs that inhabit the damp low places, are singing their ecstatic chirping songs.  We open our car windows  as we drive so we can hear their invisible presence and feel the joy.  A pair of fluffy white “pillows” float on the pond – two majestic swans – their graceful heads and necks submerged, grazing the bottom for breakfast. 

            With spring comes the tell tale signs that our quiet winter, our time of rest and restoration and recovery from the previous summer, is gradually coming to an end.  There are more visitors on the weekends.  Once again bicycles share the narrow roads with auto and truck traffic.  The sounds of hammers and saws and the smells of fresh paint and sawdust  abound.  Here and there the signs of “summer anxiety” can be seen and heard.
            For more than fifteen years, a local restaurant has graciously provided an appreciation dinner for the Island Food Pantry and Habitat For Humanity volunteers.  The dinner has provided  a public opportunity to express gratitude for the service that volunteers provide.  It has had a practical business benefit too.  Each year the restaurant employs a number of  temporary seasonal staff from several countries in Eastern Europe. The appreciation dinner gives the restaurant  an opportunity to do a  “dry run” with their new employees before opening for the season.
            The dinner will not happen this year.  Due to  difficulties and delays in the getting visas, the staff that the restaurant depends upon may not materialize this year.  Delays are forcing the restaurant to open a full month later than usual.   Loss of employees and loss of income for an island business make the issue of recent government  immigration policies a reality “on the ground.”   The same story is told by numerous businesses around the island.
            “Summer anxiety” will have an added dimension this year as business owners scramble to find enough employees to keep their businesses open and running smoothly and to meet the demands of  frequently less-than-sympathetic  summer visitors.
            Meanwhile,  our Sunday morning book discussion group is reading  “Reconnecting with Nonviolence”, the 6th chapter in The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by John Phillip Newell.   Newell reminds us that “There are angels of light and angels of darkness in us all.  One moment we may be preaching nonviolence as the only true energy for real transformation in our world.  The next moment we may be consumed by violence of heart.  Sometimes this is provoked by the most trivial of disagreements and at other times by differences of real substance. But whether or not our violent feelings or actions ever feel justified, that is never the place from which we can effect real change if we are seeking world peace.”
            These are thoughts that our small community grapples with as we prepare to thread our way through  another summer replete with heretofore unknown stresses created by forces and by decisions made in places far beyond the reach of our own control and influence.  In our microcosm we encounter, on a much smaller scale,  the same issues that affect  pretty much every aspect of life in communities and nations around the globe where economic and immigration  policies are determined by those who will be least affected by the outcome of their decision making. 
           So – our summer challenge is to stay connected with one another, to support each other in our determination to give the greatest power to our angels of light, to maintain patience in the face of the frustrating encounters with immigration bureaucracies, to offer gracious hospitality and kindness, to stay conscious of the fact that we are all living under the stress of the unpredictable whims of power, to offer unconditional love to one another – – and to roll down the car windows and listen for the sheer joy of the pinkletinks.

Vicky Hanjian  April 28, 2017


LivingNonviolence 2017-04-14 14:32:00

The U.S. is not a nation of immigrants
April 14, 2017
     The myth that the United States is a “nation of immigrants” feeds into the national self-image that the United States is both a free society and a land of opportunity. It is a seductive myth because we cherish the well-established fable of American exceptionalism, and the idea that this nation is “a city set upon a hill.” But the myth is more fiction than fact, and it hides a deeper and deeply unsettling truth about our nation’s past and present. We need to stop saying that we are a “nation of immigrants.” The following article explains why.
     The Naturalization Act of 1790 was the first US citizenship act. It limited naturalization to free white citizens, thus excluding Native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, Asians and many others. During the following decades and centuries other naturalization laws were enacted, but it was not until 1924 that the Indian Citizenship Act was enacted. 
 Adam Goodman’s article, “A Nation of Immigrants,” which appeared in the October 8, 2015 issue of Dissent Magazine traces the nation of immigrants paradigm to the Chicago School of Sociology in the early twentieth century. Goodman says that the paradigm gave European immigrants a privileged place in US society, and allowed them to treat non-European immigrants as secondary actors, while ignoring Native Americans completely.
      The big change came in immigration policy came with the enactment of the 1965 Immigration Act. This Act ended the national-origins quota immigration system that had prevailed up until then, and created new opportunities for people from around the world to come to the United States. The number of immigrants as a percentage of the total population nearly tripled between 1970 and 2015, growing from less than five percent to nearly fourteen percent. The nation of immigrants mythology emerged during this period.
      Importantly, the “nation of immigrants” myth fed into the flawed “Bering Straits” theory of indigenous migration from Asia to the Americas some 12,000 years ago. Accordingly, Indians were the first immigrants. The Anglo settlers and others who came later were simply subsequent waves of immigrants coming in search of a better life. Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz debunked this “Bering Straits” theory. She argues that indigenous peoples were in the Americas at least 50,000 years before the English and other European settlers arrived. Recognition of this history is not permitted by the “nation of immigrants” myth. The plain truth is Native Peoples were dispossessed of their land.
      No president better embodies the federal government’s irregular warfare against Native Americans than Andrew Jackson. It is not reassuring that President Trump has moved a statue of Jackson into the Oval Office. In contrast to Jackson Era policies, the Indian Restoration Act of 1934 created a framework for a measure of Native American self-governance. But many issues remained unresolved. After World War II the federal government turned away from policies supporting Native Peoples and turned toward policies that it believed would lead to the elimination of Native Peoples.
       Congress adopted House Concurrent Resolution 108, the Termination Act, on August 1, 1953. The stated purpose of the Termination Act was “free those tribes listed from Federal supervision and control.” The termination policy meant that federal trust protection and transfer payments guaranteed by treaties and other agreements would end. That same year, 1953, Congress enacted Public Law 280, which transferred all tribal court jurisdiction to respective state courts. As a result of these acts of Congress, 109 tribes were terminated, approximately 2.5 million acres of Indian trust land was removed from protected status and sold to whites, 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal recognition, and tribal governments lost their right to govern. The termination policy was not ended until 1968. Tribes and individuals harmed by the termination policy have not been made whole for the loss they suffered or fully compensated for the damages caused by the government’s action.
      The myth that the United States is a “nation of immigrants” hides the history of our nation’s anti-Indianism while promoting the notion that this is a land of opportunity founded and built by immigrants. Since many Christian denominations have repudiated the doctrine of discovery they can now take the next step and renounce the nation of immigration myth. This will help clear the way to advance much needed conversations calling for respect of the almost 400 treaties that the United States has with Native nations, ensure protection of Native lands, lend support to the Native American drive for self-governance. 
      The United States is not a “nation of immigrants.” It is a settler nation trying to discover its identity  and redeem itself.