Artful Land Care

When Is it Okay to Protest Laws of Subjugation?

In YCM on May 23, 2010 at 7:52 am

Photo everchanging @ NowPublic.com

“What do you think?”  Now that’s a helluva question when it comes to what is going on in Arizona these days.  Last week a friend on Facebook posted.

Different response to Arizona – what do you think?

Diana Butler Bass says – Episcopal bishops decide to keep their plans to go to Arizona in the fall.  Of the decision, Bp. Kirk Smith of Arizona, who is a friend, said, “We will accomplish a lot more by being here, learning, hearing and responding about it and standing in solidarity with people suffering instead of taking the easy way out by saying ‘Let’s go meet someplace else.’“  (Find a fuller article at www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_122199_ENG_HTM.htm.)

After going to the Episcopal website and reading the online article, my “what do you think” response began with “I really, really want to support the Episcopal bishops, but just can’t.”  The really, really want to support comes in large part with what the bishops and deputies did last July.  In the Episcopal meeting of General Convention in Anaheim, California, the bishops and deputies considered and passed Resolution D035, titled “Repudiation of Doctrine of Discovery.”  This resolution not only placed them miles ahead of other mainline denominations when it comes to understanding the colonization and subjugation of the land and people of the America’s, but they also took great risk in its approval.  For approving such a resolution would surely mean folk would pay attention to their actions concerning American land and peoples in the future.  Criticism, such as mine today, was sure to come when a misstep (or perceived misstep) occurred.  When a religious structure takes a stand for justice, fairness, reasonableness, and even righteousness, they set a goal for themselves that is hard to attain in every action.

The Doctrine of Discovery takes much more space than can be adequately handled in this space.  And if your congregation or organization would like to spend more time in conversation and/or workshop, please give the Mission a call, we would enjoy visiting with you and delving deeper into the Doctrine.  In a nutshell though, the Doctrine of Discovery is not so much a document as it is a historical framework of theological thinking endorsing the subjugation of people and land around the world (the America’s in particular).  Beginning with Pope Alexander VI’s issuance of the Inter Caetera papal bull on May 4, 1493, the Doctrine of Discovery became foundational to the development of Christianity, non-American Indian Land ownership, border and boundary configurations, and nation sovereignty on the American landscape.  Through the Inter Caetera papal bull, Alexander VI declared the churches desire that barbarous nations be overthrown, subjugated, and brought to the Catholic faith and Christian religion “for the honor of God himself and for the spread of the Christian Empire.”  Raising out of the theological construct that God had chosen European nations and Christianity to best live out the will of God, a European “chosen people” mindset developed.  This chosen people mindset endorsed the subjugation of American land and peoples, manifest destiny, and the creation of false borders and boundaries.  The U.S. land and border issues considered and argued over today have their roots in the Doctrine of Discovery.

When the Episcopal bishops decided to hold their prearranged regular fall meeting next September in Phoenix in opposition to others calling for an economic boycott they found themselves living out of the historical chosen people mindset structure embedded in the church.  The chosen people mindset allowed for a justification of going ahead and doing as the church pleases, on the virtue it is a multinational church and as such is somehow above the fray and therefore can be in solidarity with the undocumented and people of color by just showing up, talking about SB 1070 and immigration and justice issues, and issuing statement on these issues at the end of their time together.  By passing Resolution D035 and agreeing to, “review… policies and programs with a view to exposing the historical reality and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery and eliminating its presence in its contemporary policies, program, and structures,” there seems a call for a more open accounting to the policies and actions of the church.

Does the decision to continue to meet in Phoenix and add an “optional border trip” and “facilitate discussion on immigration and justice issues” meet some or any of the goals of SB 1070 or is it the easy way out for the bishops?  I would like to think it moves in that direction, however, what seems apparent is they are taking little risk with their money.  By continuing to meet in Arizona, they will not lose whatever pre-payments already made to hotels, caterers, and convention centers.  Folk who are coming will also not lose their prepaid air, train, and bus fares that might be non-refundable. Are they taking a risk by coming to Arizona, or are they living out a chosen people mindset?

These questions for me have some merit for they ask me, “What risk am I to take?”  At the end of the month, the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are organizing a May 28-29 rally and protest march in Phoenix.  What is their consideration to the calls for an economic boycott?  I don’t know.  But then what is my call?

For myself, I need to give consideration to the words of Steve Russel and the actions of the African American National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Steve Russel, a Texas trial court judge and columnist for Indian Country Today writes “For those Indians who can, it would be a good idea to join the boycott of Arizona while this law is in force.”  Russel recognizes that “the real reason for most arrests,” due to the law, “will be [for being] brown in a no-brown zone or failure of the attitude test.”  (Indian Country Today, May 5, Pg 5.)  The African American National Convocation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) found themselves in a similar situation of the bishops in 2009 when the NAACP asked them to support the economic boycott of South Carolina in protest of the confederate flag.  After much discussion, the National Convocation pulled their 2010 convention from Charleston (at significant cost to the Convocation) and decided to meet in Oklahoma City, OK.  There seems some reasonableness for a church of privilege and a person of privilege—like myself—to follow the lead of our/my sisters and brothers of color.

What I am thinking, it is tenuous at best to choose to attend anything in Arizona.  However, there is a lot to say about walking into the backyard of our neighbor and actively protesting their actions—their law (can an “optional border trip” be an act of protest?)  Protesting and standing against the oppression and subjugation of our sisters and brothers is important.  Perhaps for those outside the state, there is an impact to be made by showing up and protesting, but should we choose to do so, the economic benefit to Arizona’s businesses, government, and person’s of privilege must be kept at a minimum.  This is to say, if one is going to Arizona, then protest and attend the bishops fall meeting, but refuse to stay in corporate hotels and restaurants.  Protest and meet, but stay only in motels and eat only in restaurants owned and ran by Latino/a’s and America Indian’s.  Visit only those grocery stores owned by people of color.  Bottom line, remember our brothers and sisters of color in Arizona are being subjugated and hurt and those of us from outside the state cannot sleep or eat comfortably while this occurs.

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  1. Excellent post Dave. Especially like the last paragraph — if you go to Arizona, spend your money at places owned by people of color (hispanic, native American, black, etc.)!!!

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  2. Well actually, a case can be made that the Episcopal Bishops are once again out in front in their Christian response to oppression. They will be joining the Coalition of Episcopal Latinos who are also holding their meeting in Arizona in September. Bishops around the country, including the Bishop of Arizona have already made strong statements in opposition to this unjust legislation and made clear their commitment to stand in solidarity with the Latino community. Bishop Smith says, “God is with you in this struggle. Jesus always stands with the oppressed.” They are working with others to actively challenge this legislation in court and see that it never becomes law. At the same time they seek to follow Christ in also being ambassadors of reconciliation listening to all who are effected.

    Whether you call this acting out of a “chosen people mentality” or being faithful to a calling we have from God, I don’t see their stance as assuming they are above the fray. I do not believe Christianity can be exclusively identified with any particular nation or people or politically correct position. As they have done with the issue of ordination of gay and lesbian priests, it is done in all courage, seeking to be faithful, while at the same time in all humility seeking to continue to be in dialogue and communion with their brothers and sisters who in all good conscious can not agree with them.

    I myself will be going to Arizona in August to be with my mother who needs us to be with her for a time, and I and my family will join whatever protests are being organized, I will stay in my sisters home, support latino businesses and minimize my economic support of unjust systems. But I will be there too.

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    • I too hope to be able to be in Arizona for the UCC/DOC protest. My concern for both this protest and the Bishops fall meeting is to publicly endorse an economic boycott of an unjust system in word and deed, while supporting those whom are oppressed.

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  3. If I had a buck for each time I came here… Incredible read.

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  4. Well actually, a case can be made that the Episcopal Bishops are once again out in front in their Christian response to oppression. They will be joining the Coalition of Episcopal Latinos who are also holding their meeting in Arizona in September. Bishops around the country, including the Bishop of Arizona have already made strong statements in opposition to this unjust legislation and made clear their commitment to stand in solidarity with the Latino community. Bishop Smith says, “God is with you in this struggle. Jesus always stands with the oppressed.” They are working with others to actively challenge this legislation in court and see that it never becomes law. At the same time they seek to follow Christ in also being ambassadors of reconciliation listening to all who are effected.
    +1

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  5. I give it to the Bishops being out in front about something as important as repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery through resolution. However, resolutions are no more than words on paper and feel good stuff if not followed by action. Resolution D035 implies the church is to give accountability to people of color. As a whole, I am hearing folk of color say the economic boycott is important. When voices of color are saying this is important, then it is incumbent upon the church to listen. A portion of those voices speaking, I am assuming, are the Episcopal Latinos, who are telling the Bishops it is okay to come. Yet at the same time, voices of color outside the church are saying uphold the boycott.

    I find little problem with the Bishops meeting with the Episcopal Latinos in Arizona. However, what I have yet to hear (maybe because I am out of the loop) is how the Bishops are going to support the boycott while in Arizona. Are they going to walk away from any commitments they have to conveniences such as hotels, convention halls, and caterers who are not Latino or Native-American? Are they willing to lose any down payments and prepayment fees that will occur from such action? My questioning is not about holding the Bishops accountable for their actions, but rather questioning how, in this instance, are they going to accountable to themselves in living out Resolution D035? Please forward links that might answer these questions…

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