Posts Tagged ‘J.S. Woodsworth’


“You are right. You can fire me, but you cannot tell me what to do.”

-Jesse Stone to the Town Council (Jesse Stone series)

J.S. Woodsworth was a Methodist minister, a founding member and leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a labour activist who had the literal beating scars from police to prove it. He had worked tirelessly in his life to get Canada to treat all Canadians as Brother Jesus implored us to. Yet his values of anti-war and stopping evil entered conflict within him as he sat as a MP in Canada’s Parliament when it came time to declare war on Nazi Germany.

See he was against war. More than just conscientious objection, he saw in war for a way of the 1% to get wealthier through munitions and more efficient ways to exterminate human beings manufacturing, and as a way the wealthy used the draft to cull the herds of poor they saw as taxing on the country’s system. Yet, he also believed the horrors against humanity that his fellow caucus members in the CCF reported back about Germany and their program.

So what was he to do?

On that fateful day, Woodsworth would lose his job as leader of his party and movement, and not be elected again. As he would stand on the side of saving lives of poor Canadians and voting against the war. The one vote against, while the rest of his party voted with the other parties to enter the war. It is not about whether Woodsworth’s decision for anyone else was right or wrong, he had a conviction and made a choice. In that choice, he faced the consequences.

In 1990’s Alberta Kevin Taft as a governmental employee would face a similar choice as he recorder in Shredding the Public Interest (1997) where he recounted how one party rule was not for the betterment of Albertans. As it was in shredding documents that showed the government was intentionally screwing over the elders that built the province, and it resulted in a loss of his job.

Another choice of conviction.

These are hard choices to make in life. Yet we are all faced with them. Those moments when we need to decide, is this the hill I die on? Or does this path tie to other values of mine that can lead me forward. A former co-worker once described working with me as an acquired taste, for that resiliency. There was the grand mission of trying to make my corner of the world a better place where I could follow many paths. Yet in those instances where my heart became set on what was right in a situation whether it be for a group, a person or a practice there was no shaking the ground beneath my feet…and yes in those instances it did simply become one of “you as an organization can continue on that path but it will be without me.” Sometimes I chose to end the professional relationship, other times it was chosen for me. Yet regardless of how it ended, I would leave with my head up knowing I had made a choice much like those examples that opened this reflection.

Whether it was choosing communities of full inclusion regardless of gender identity, sexuality, mental health, being differently abled or cultural origin, which was a stand I needed to take on more than one occasion in my service in religions and spirituality.

Putting sitting government’s feet to the fire as a journalist, writer, speaker, activist, and student.

Challenging the norms of an institution to hopefully re-think how they existed to be a more open space.

Even in those moments where a group would pink slip me or so radically change my job description at a public meeting that my role was publicly voted out with me in the room, receiving death threats, being black listed from press access to certain government officials, or  one community having me resign to protect my children, only to have the things we had rattled the establishment to institute slowly roll out those changes that so challenged them (essentially using my family and I as a sacrificial lamb or a scapegoat).

Remembering a famous line, I had used in many battles:

This is about right and wrong for our community. You can fire me, I was looking for a job before I came here and I will find one no matter how I leave here. But what will not change is what those you try to segregate see as the true heart of their community and what they choose.

To the current challenge of where my family worships and the challenge it places on my being. This congregation has been good and inclusive, welcoming and warm. Yet it is part of a tradition that many times knocked me around because it did not want inclusiveness or change, other congregations where literally I had to surrender my ministry because I refused to be apart of acts of segregation.

The value challenge that I can feel Woodsworth must have gone through on vote day. Which value overtakes the other?

Does the brand matter as much as the local practice?

Finding a resting place of inclusion where my kids can be who they are called to be, where the family can be active. Yet part of me, still awaits the other shoe to drop. That tiny voice in the back of my head that can it be too good to be true? A simple way station where we have been apart of many that have just not gotten it. Where words and practice did not align? Perhaps the heart is weary, and this truth has no reconciliation left.

Or perhaps…

Simply perhaps…

Sometimes the battle has ripples that are left unseen for some…and…

Perhaps those ripples outside, need to simply be experienced. Only time will tell with the shattered bridges, burnt souls, and cast aside lives…if there is enough to continue moving forward, but I do know despite the challenges life has laid before me. So yes I have made a choice, one that sits with my values.

Despite the winding roads of life’s journey, one thing will not change.

That is the central core of my faith system.

Inclusion.

And yes my journey of understanding who my neighbour is has made that simple community aspect a non-negotiable.

What are your non-negotiable? Those ones where you literally would put livelihood on the line? In one word, what is that non-negotiable value for you?

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With each new passing or announcement of retirement from the progressive theological movements I share with my wife, we ask, who will take up the torch?  And no, Rob Bell is not the answer or the Emergent Church movement. Yes, they are doing good things in pushing boundaries in their traditions, but compared to where Labour Church, Social Gospel, Creation Spirituality, Progressive Christianity, Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, Queer Theology, Truth and Reconciliation resonances, Human Rights, Social Justice, New Thought, Metaphysics, Jesus Seminar, Philosophy, history, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, science and ecumenical dialogues (to name but a few) have brought us, they are reinventing the foundation stones, instead of adding new floors to the towers already standing tall and strong.

I have been trying lately due to some health challenges of the holistic being to reclaim the towers, and not have to reinvent the foundation stones (I am stubborn that way). After the first night of decent rest in months it hit me, that part of continuing to build the towers is to go to your own spiritual roots.  Within myself, and my family those roots are the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament. I will be the first to admit, the Hebrew Bible can at first blush appear to contain stories of hate, genocide, blood lust and horror. They are foundation myths and legends of their time speaking to the people then and what they had gone through. The challenge for us is not to take a 21st century lens back to the historical story, but rather bring the story into a 21st century lens.

Huh?

A 21st century lens pushes these stories to obscurity, or that which should not be spoken about.

Yet bringing the story into a 21st century lens allows us to see what we have missed and continued to repeat due to our literal, fundamentalist or non-reading of the text.

This is one of the things that struck me as I sipped on my fourth cup of morning coffee. It pertains to the horrid collection of laws found in the Third book of the Torah (or Pentateuch for those Greek types), Leviticus.

Really these are laws about how to keep yourself alive, don’t spark wars with your neighbours and by bringing the story into the 21st century lens that abuse shall not happen without consequence (as seen with the hard passages around abuse of women in Leviticus 19:29:

c“Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.

(English Standard Version)

            For me speaks directly to the abolishment of the Sex Trade. All of us are either children of someone’s daughter, or have a daughter, and forcing anyone to do what they choose not to do, or to make profit from the dehumanization of another is reprehensible evil.

This method also brings a different reading into those infamous few of Leviticus 18:22-23:

22 hYou shall notlie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 i And you shall not lie with anyanimal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to ananimal to lie with it: it is jperversion.

(English Standard Version)

 

These texts have nothing today with the LGBTTQ2+ community. They are a direct redaction into what is legendarily believed to be the writings of Moses post exile from Babylon. In Babylon, the free and slave were forced into sexual predatory worship within the temple. It was led by the Clerics and to show worship after providing the usual animals and money forced participation for absolution was found in sexual penetration through varied orifices of animals, and/or human beings by the worshipper or with the Cleric (yes historical anthropological context can be disturbing).

But wait…removing the literal sentiment, what type of warning does this sound like for the people?

That your worth as you are created matters.

Do not let one in authority force you to that which you do not want to do.

When one in power forces you under the auspices of atonement, absolution, because God said, because you will make first line, I will ensure you get an A, you will get the role only if you….

Hidden in a text we have argued over a literal understanding of, we have missed a millenniums long warning of metaphor and allegory going:

Children,

You were abused in captivity, and were not allowed to flourish healthily into the true you. Do not repeat this pattern of abuse. Be the ones that shatter the cycle, know that you are loved, equal, and belong together in loving communities, loving relationships with whomever you choose.

BUT (and this one is important) you must choose the path of new and love, not the path of known hurt and abuse.

I implore you as you lick the wounds of leaving slavery and abuse, PLEASE, speak the truth, then CHOOSE to move forward as a healthy community by throwing off the monsters and casting them out.

Choose L-I-F-E.

Choose L-O-V-E.

Amazing what happens when you contemplate deeply into the Holy Mystery and attempt to answer the WTF as to why this passage exists.

So as community in the Christianities, are we going to answer the Levitical warning and:

           Choose L-I-F-E?

           Choose L-O-V-E?


woodsworth

J.S. Woodsworth was a Methodist minister, who was a labour and human rights activist, pacifist, during the general strike in Winnipeg would be beaten by authorities and imprisoned. He would lead the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation during the hey day when they almost reached popularity enough to form government if not for machinations by the two mainline parties working the first media campaign.

He wrote Canadian Social Gospel theology out of his time as the superintendent of the Winnipeg Mission, the gateway to Canada for new comers where mats were provided, health care, employment training, education, and then tracts of free land on the prairies.

Over his lifetime his theological beliefs would transform from Christian to Social Gospel to finally surrendering his ordination, as he became a universalist that moved close to if not truly becoming a Pantheist. Though judging by reading the liturgies he would craft for his Labour Church would show much more of a Panentheist, understanding the inter-connectedness of all of creation within the Holy Mystery.

He comes to mind as we simply touch upon some readings from the Aquarian Gospel for your own reflection on answering Woodsworth’s question above.

Am I that Neighbour?

Where does the following stories resonate in your own life?

How are you called to be a neighbour?

Aquarian Gospel:

Chapter 132

Chapter 133

Chapter 134

Chapter 136

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Gospel of Saint Matthew 22:34-40 (English Standard Version).

Loving God and neighbour, starts with loving yourself as the connected very blessed being you are created to be.

Out of this love that connects your core within and throughout the Holy Mystery, is that which connects you with your neighbour.

So as you step into your daily life, reflecting, praying and meditating on the 4 chapters above…now what is your action steps?

Are you that neighbour being called out in Holy Love?


Ah parables. How best to reach an oral culture only kind of coming into written records. And those written records are tied more to the authorities, the wealthy than the collected masses, or as Marx would dub us the proletariat. The working classes. These are the classes that Jesus of Nazareth, Brother Jesus would emerge from. AN unwed mother married to a carpenter/labourer to literally save her from an unkindly street death. But he was one that got it, connected deeply to the source of all that is. Showing the way that we all could be connected into the source of Love.

It is the parable that touched into the deeper levels of the person, and allowed for the early followers of the Cosmic Christ in the flesh so diverse. Just think of it—outcasts, those with health issues, mental health concerns; sex trade workers, labourers, wealthy religious (in secret), Roman soldiers/officers and Zealots to name but a few. It was this type of parable that the social gospel movement in Canada tied into to get folks active for political and societal change. For example the story of Mouseland, with one of the most famous being Tommy Douglas, but also among the ranks Bible Bill Aberhart, Preston Manning, Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau, J.S. Woodsworth, Agnes MacPhail (her image now gracing the $10 Canadian note), Paul Martin Jr., Rev. Bill Phipps, Elizabeth May, my own parents and grandparents,  to name but a few. But truly it is those driven by a deep conviction that we are created good, and as such we are to live out this ideal of justice, peace, faith, hope and love as laid out by Brother Jesus. So, I am sure there are many examples within your own world and life if you take but a moment to pause and ponder.

For it is in the parables that Brother Jesus lays out a path of self-discovery. A path that shows where we and our neighbours can be existing, but also at different phases in our lives where we have existed. For with planting soil changes over time, that which was not able to grow previous with the right tending and additions can become quite fertile.  This is the thrust found within the parable of the sower.

It is in most gospel texts that one would class as canonical, so if you wish to use this reflection with those texts, they can be found in the synoptic gospels in: Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15. Though we will continue to use Levi’s Aquarian gospel from the early 1900’s as the newer wording may touch a different chord. In that text it is found in chapter 115, which you may read here for full context

As always, I invite you to get comfortable where you are sitting. It is a meditative lectio divina as you hear the parable three times, with different focus questions to see where the soil of your heart is at, and where it is being renewed.  Before you begin, write on a scrap of paper that which you need to leave in the hear and now that can distract you. Once written crumple up and throw into the recycle. Those distractions, busyness, weights of the heart can come back after, but here, now your full presence is asked for.

Take time to slow your breathing, deep breaths in of cosmic love, the dust that formed your very essence as good. Breathe out the chakra sludge that separates you from that goodness.

Feel the 21st century technological buzzing fade away. Feel the chair you are sitting on disappear, along with the walls of where you are. The time. Travel back. Feel the dust and fresh breeze untouched by the Industrial Revolution. Smell the sea air.  The smell of the crowds, intermingling. You are on the outskirts of the crowd. People had spoken about this teacher, this Jesus of Nazareth. Some called him a bastard child and/or insane. Others said he was a master teacher, one with a new way to truly transform things.

As you hear the story the first time, think of when your heart was like the rocky soil where messages/actions of love were easily carried away by others, like the birds. Sit with one memory, what has or has not changed in your life since then?

The first hearing:

  1. And Jesus stood beside the sea and taught; the multitudes pressed close upon him and he went into a boat that was near by and put a little ways from shore, and then he spoke in parables; he said,
    Behold, a sower took his seed and went into his field to sow.
    3. With lavish hand he scattered forth the seed and some fell in the hardened paths that men had made,
    4. And soon were crushed beneath the feet of other men; and birds came down and carried all the seeds away.
    5. Some seed fell on rocky ground where there was little soil; they grew and soon the blades appeared and promised much;
    6. But then there was no depth of soil, no chance for nourishment, and in the heat of noonday sun they withered up and died.
    7. Some seed fell where thistles grew, and found no earth in which to grow and they were lost;
    8. But other seed found lodgement in the rich and tender soil and grew apace, and in the harvest it was found that some brought forth a hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.
    9. They who have ears to hear may hear; they who hearts to understand may know.
    10. Now, his disciples were beside him in the boat, and Thomas asked, Why do you speak in parables?
    11. And Jesus said, My words, like every master’s words, are dual in their sense.
    12. To you who know the language of the soul, my words have meanings far too deep for other men to comprehend.
    13. The other sense of what I say is all the multitude can understand; these words are food for them; the inner thoughts are food for you.
    14. Let every one reach forth and take the food that he is ready to receive.
    15. And then he spoke that all might hear; he said, Hear you the meaning of the parable:
    16. Men hear my words and understand them not, and then the carnal self purloins the seed, and not a sign of spirit life appears.
    17. This is the seed that fell within the beaten paths of men.
    18. And others hear the words of life, and with a fiery zeal receive them all; they seem to comprehend the truth and promise well;
    19. But troubles come; discouragements arise; there is no depth of thought; their good intentions wither up and die.
    20. These are the seeds that fell in stony ground.
    21. And others hear the words of truth and seem to know their worth; but love of pleasure, reputation, wealth and fame fill all the soil; the seeds are nourished not and they are lost.
    22. These are the seeds that fell among the thistles and the thorns.
    23. But others hear the words of truth and comprehend them well; they sink down deep into their souls; they live the holy life and all the world is blest.
    24. These are the seeds that fell in fertile soil, that brought forth fruit abundantly.
    25. You men of Galilee, take heed to how you hear and how you cultivate your fields; for if you slight the offers of this day, the sower may not come to you again in this or in the age to come.

-Aquarian Gospel 115: 1-25

As you prepare for the second hearing. Think of the next step of life in self-discovery, within that inner battle of transfiguration. When have you been like the seed battling in the soil with the weeds to emerge and not taking hold? Let these memories move from your mind to your heart. Spend time with the root cause of rooting in the weeds instead of the seed of love? Are you ready to breathe out this sludge?

The second hearing:

  1. And Jesus stood beside the sea and taught; the multitudes pressed close upon him and he went into a boat that was near by and put a little ways from shore, and then he spoke in parables; he said,
    Behold, a sower took his seed and went into his field to sow.
    3. With lavish hand he scattered forth the seed and some fell in the hardened paths that men had made,
    4. And soon were crushed beneath the feet of other men; and birds came down and carried all the seeds away.
    5. Some seed fell on rocky ground where there was little soil; they grew and soon the blades appeared and promised much;
    6. But then there was no depth of soil, no chance for nourishment, and in the heat of noonday sun they withered up and died.
    7. Some seed fell where thistles grew, and found no earth in which to grow and they were lost;
    8. But other seed found lodgement in the rich and tender soil and grew apace, and in the harvest it was found that some brought forth a hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.
    9. They who have ears to hear may hear; they who hearts to understand may know.
    10. Now, his disciples were beside him in the boat, and Thomas asked, Why do you speak in parables?
    11. And Jesus said, My words, like every master’s words, are dual in their sense.
    12. To you who know the language of the soul, my words have meanings far too deep for other men to comprehend.
    13. The other sense of what I say is all the multitude can understand; these words are food for them; the inner thoughts are food for you.
    14. Let every one reach forth and take the food that he is ready to receive.
    15. And then he spoke that all might hear; he said, Hear you the meaning of the parable:
    16. Men hear my words and understand them not, and then the carnal self purloins the seed, and not a sign of spirit life appears.
    17. This is the seed that fell within the beaten paths of men.
    18. And others hear the words of life, and with a fiery zeal receive them all; they seem to comprehend the truth and promise well;
    19. But troubles come; discouragements arise; there is no depth of thought; their good intentions wither up and die.
    20. These are the seeds that fell in stony ground.
    21. And others hear the words of truth and seem to know their worth; but love of pleasure, reputation, wealth and fame fill all the soil; the seeds are nourished not and they are lost.
    22. These are the seeds that fell among the thistles and the thorns.
    23. But others hear the words of truth and comprehend them well; they sink down deep into their souls; they live the holy life and all the world is blest.
    24. These are the seeds that fell in fertile soil, that brought forth fruit abundantly.
    25. You men of Galilee, take heed to how you hear and how you cultivate your fields; for if you slight the offers of this day, the sower may not come to you again in this or in the age to come.

-Aquarian Gospel 115: 1-25

Prepare yourself for the last hearing. When soil is fertile for the seed to take hold. Is there a time of remembrance in your life, your very soul energy that you can remember this? Even in the journeys that go to and fro where we exist mostly in rocks and weeds, there are glimmers of this or long lived life in the nourished soil. Take hold of the memories. Spend time going deeper into them to the core spark/stardust that is the ember of the Cosmic Christ within.

The Third Hearing:

  1. And Jesus stood beside the sea and taught; the multitudes pressed close upon him and he went into a boat that was near by and put a little ways from shore, and then he spoke in parables; he said,
    Behold, a sower took his seed and went into his field to sow.
    3. With lavish hand he scattered forth the seed and some fell in the hardened paths that men had made,
    4. And soon were crushed beneath the feet of other men; and birds came down and carried all the seeds away.
    5. Some seed fell on rocky ground where there was little soil; they grew and soon the blades appeared and promised much;
    6. But then there was no depth of soil, no chance for nourishment, and in the heat of noonday sun they withered up and died.
    7. Some seed fell where thistles grew, and found no earth in which to grow and they were lost;
    8. But other seed found lodgement in the rich and tender soil and grew apace, and in the harvest it was found that some brought forth a hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.
    9. They who have ears to hear may hear; they who hearts to understand may know.
    10. Now, his disciples were beside him in the boat, and Thomas asked, Why do you speak in parables?
    11. And Jesus said, My words, like every master’s words, are dual in their sense.
    12. To you who know the language of the soul, my words have meanings far too deep for other men to comprehend.
    13. The other sense of what I say is all the multitude can understand; these words are food for them; the inner thoughts are food for you.
    14. Let every one reach forth and take the food that he is ready to receive.
    15. And then he spoke that all might hear; he said, Hear you the meaning of the parable:
    16. Men hear my words and understand them not, and then the carnal self purloins the seed, and not a sign of spirit life appears.
    17. This is the seed that fell within the beaten paths of men.
    18. And others hear the words of life, and with a fiery zeal receive them all; they seem to comprehend the truth and promise well;
    19. But troubles come; discouragements arise; there is no depth of thought; their good intentions wither up and die.
    20. These are the seeds that fell in stony ground.
    21. And others hear the words of truth and seem to know their worth; but love of pleasure, reputation, wealth and fame fill all the soil; the seeds are nourished not and they are lost.
    22. These are the seeds that fell among the thistles and the thorns.
    23. But others hear the words of truth and comprehend them well; they sink down deep into their souls; they live the holy life and all the world is blest.
    24. These are the seeds that fell in fertile soil, that brought forth fruit abundantly.
    25. You men of Galilee, take heed to how you hear and how you cultivate your fields; for if you slight the offers of this day, the sower may not come to you again in this or in the age to come.

-Aquarian Gospel 115: 1-25

 

Are you willing to take hold of that ember and fan it?

Are you able to live from that spark into and out of the divine?

When you are ready with that spark. Visualizing it moving through each of the seven chakras to firmly root in the opening/awakening crown chakra. Breath in deeply the love of all, breathe out the love of all. Feel the fresh air fade away. The breeze on your face stop. The noise of the crowds. You are the fertile soil the Master Sower has found.

Hold to this truth.

As you move forward through time.

As your room reforms around you.

Your chair.

Your breath slowly returns to normal.

Your eyes re-open.

Your very essence awakens.

Are you willing to truly live as the Master Sower has sowed you?

What are you going to do today to step into your destiny of love?


Been awhile since I have put together one of these column styles, but I believe it is time to get some fresh thoughts out there within the Canadian Social Justice Context. Since January 20, 2017 when President Trump was sworn in as President of the USA, I have noticed a downturn in the Canadian justice workers’ ability to be reflective about the state of our own nation, province, city/town/village, community and self. We like to project to the Big Bad Wolf to the South and be able to say “well its Trump.”

When truly, we have many stones to repair in Castle Le Canada.

This is some musings from the reflective time of Purim (the Hebrew Bible story of Esther) which begun at conclusion of Sabbath yesterday and concludes at sundown tonight. For the story of Esther, click here.  For those readers of regularity of this site, I encourage a reflective Lectio Divina of the text to set your spirit in a-tune-ment to see the state of your world and how it reflects in the Holy Story. 3 questions could be (one for each hearing):

  1. When have I been silent? (sit with this memory)
  2. When have I been Haman in my world?
  3. When have I found a voice like Esther?

The third is where you find the resonating with the love of the Holy Mystery to take forward. Another spiritual practice would be to rewrite the story from the hardest point of view you have: King, Esther, Mortdecai, Ex-Queen, Haman? What truths are revealed for your life?

But I digress as this is not a theology lesson, but rather a time to be eclectic and percolate some thoughts in our souls as Canadians where next steps lay for our Just Society.

Aboriginal Health Care– due to treaty and the colonial-patriarchy of reserves this falls under Federal auspices, yet any Constitutional Act 1982 student (BNA Act 1867) know that this means literal limbo for our First Nations family members as the true provider of health care is provincial. So how do we truly reconcile, move forward in the new and bury to old?  Full signing on of each specific nation as a province under the Constitution Act 1982 and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with one step forward each nation dependent on population getting 4-8 seats in the House of Commons (not added extra, existing redistributed); and a set 10 block for all First Nations (+2 for Metis, +2 for Inuit) specifically in the senate, again redistribution, not adding.

This then can allow for both the HoC and Senate to be re-worked Constitutionally and perhaps a social charter can be designed that includes housing, health care, education, right of choice in life, death and income guarantees for every Canadian.

Which also flows into the next as #TRC has happened for our First Nations family, yet we have continued to ostracize/demonize another population whose story needs to be told- The Metis (Half-breeds).

The children of colonialism and the fur trade. The Roman Catholic Church forged a cultural community within those of mixed from Aboriginal-French. Which gave our nation Louis Riel and Garbiel Dumont, brought Manitoba into Confederation, first human rights writing in Canada, and a battle for equality. One that as a nation we never saw for this group until the 1930’s when they were finally recognized as human beings. The story of the Half-breeds on the book is much more destructive, as the British (Scottish-Irish) did not have collectivist good, and belief in conquering through inter-marriage but rather through absorbing. Which created the choice the child was either Aboriginal or white, so one culture lost completely. That is just what our history books will tell us, what is the story on the ground? That which has been silenced? We already know of the land tracts and speculators swindling them out of the land for a low price. But what other harm/trauma lies underneath that needs to be told? Held as truth? And then as a true community choosing to move forward as one?

This is why the TRC records with First Nations need to be kept in the national archive, need to be published and shared far and wide, so the story is known. It is part of us. But also part of the story is the choice to move forward as one and write a new story. This is the reconciliation piece of Truth and Reconciliation.

But this also brings down to the microcosm.

Where I have been struggling with my own Truth and Reconciliation within the United Church of Canada.The family pilgrimage for sacred community as has been written about, has brought us into a Northeast congregation of the UCC, where yes our son who is differently abled has found embrace. He is quite empathetic and a good reader of a person’s true energy, so when he goes on his own volition to join other kids you know the authenticity well.

But aiding him to walk as the weather change is making his muscles sore into the Wonderkids, and seeing the mish mash of kids: other cultures, typically and differently abled just together being kids it hit in my heart.

For it was seeing lived out today in church,  what almost 10 years ago got me fired from the United Church Congregation that I surrendered any hope of ordination to choose inclusion.

Just one of those aha moments, that when you start to unpack the day, and realizing the connections of everything…people…nature…energy…the Holy Mystery permeates all, and all is interconnected within it.

So as with the differently abled community coming into full inclusion in the microcosm, I look to the TRC at the more macro level for inclusion at the national level… and to the two national party’s choosing leaders-Conservative and NDP I ask members to look to the core of the beautiful mosaic Canada is, and to vote your conscience for a leader, and for policy that shapes your party in that unity within our diversity to move forward from troubled waters of the past both recent and historic.

Make the choice as Esther did, to find our voice, step out of the silence, and into the resounding thunder of justice, equality and belonging that resonates from the centre that is love. Out of this love, live our lives for a true difference, for a truly better world.

We are thankful for these and all the good things of life. We recognize that they are a part of our common heritage and come to us through the efforts of our brothers and sisters the world over. What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. To this end, may we take our share in the world’s work and the world’s struggles.

An end note aside: To Bernie Van De Walle (my theology professor at Canadian Theological Seminary)-I finally fully get your comment about reading my theolgoy through the lens of Woodsworth.


A non-Western-centric view of the spread of Christianity shows the tree branching out from the roots in the Middle East (Judaism), into a trunk that is Orthodox, to branches of many different flavours (i.e. Coptic, Mormon, Jehovah Witness to name but a few), from the Roman Catholic branch breaks out Protestantism, and then subdivides from there (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and on we go, then those break down more into the more esoteric-metaphysics movements such as New Thought, Christian Science to the spiritual-aesthetic ala Unitarian-Universalist).

As well off R.C.’s comes the religious life.

That is the beginning of the tree of Christendom. Yet there is two prevalent branches that happened in the Western World that is a thrown into the mix as overarching branches, especially in the microcosm that is North America, and more specifically the Untied States of America and Canada, that has back benched some shaping of national identity: Prosperity and Social gospels.

Now these may look at first blush as new movements starting late 19th-early 20th century.  BUT they are not, they actually can be found in the very root system of the tree. A cursory contextual-anthropological reading of the Hebrew Bible books of Judges-Prophets shows both systems at play.

  • Prosperity Gospel- Those who are in tune with God, and are blessed will thrive and grow in riches.
  • Social Gospel- A community centered movement to care for all of God’s children (widow, orphans, aliens, etc.) in a just world.

What would usually happen is that the blessed nation would get off track in the social gospel end, embracing the prosperity above all, thus creating the cycle of deserving/undeserving of blessing, and a judge or prophet would interject to get them back on track. The wisdom books tried to show the cycles of life detached from this ideal of prosperity being blessed, with the best example being the use of the Satan character to challenge the devout Job to show that bad things happen to good people, and it is what happens in the midst and how the community responds that matters. Are we a Job or his friends that scatter?

It is this dichotomy that can be seen within the religious movements that have shaped social policy in both Canada and the USA.  The official writing of the social gospel came from a writer in New York named Rauschenbush.  In later 20th century in America the movement would latch onto the idea of Red Letter Christians, in Latin America it would become Liberation Theology, still other dubbed theology of the margins would also crop up that would fall into the broad category of Social Gospel.

The Religious Right though would take the strong road of prosperity, and one just needs to look at how the social system of the U.S.A. has been developed, and barriers created to see that outcome. Especially in the battle for something as simple as universal health care, and acceptance of refugees. It underlies the drive of the meta-story of America of coming in to independently achieve the American dream.

In Canada, the Social Gospel really took root in church basements sprouting out labour movements, suffragists, and tied strongly into socialism which brought about politically Progressive Party, Labour Party, eventually convalescing into the CCF federally whose ideas so shook the status quo that it forced the two major parties to shift their focus onto just society, and yes labour rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights and universal health care.  It underlies the Canadian story of working together in a mosaic to create a home for the world.  Highlighted by such stalwarts as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, William Aberhart, Pierre Trudeau, the Famous Five and many others who should be named openly…and I would say continues with many most notably, Elizabeth May.

An aside of experience, is during the rise of the social gospel movement, the movement created a “Christian Flag” to rally behind in protests showing the lie the oppressive forces of the day chasing prosperity no matter the human cost stating it was “Christian” and “ordained by God”. The movement shook the establishment and walked with all to craft a different story.

Years ago in Arizona I was witness to a very fundamentalist church saying a pledge to the Christian flag. It was driven as a pledge with the underlying beliefs that they were to out breed the other religions. It was said as a pledge to support shooting the illegals crossing the boarder as the Gospel of Christ proclaimed. The rallying cry was used for exclusion to ensure their own prosperity would continue. I almost did not get out alive pointing out the history of this artifact and what it was meant for, the fact I was an “ill-informed” Canadian in their mind is probably what saved my life.

That is a small story that shows what happens in the extremes of forgetting who our neighbour is and what it means to love our neighbour and ourselves as we love our God. A very linked triangle that shows all pieces need to be in place for healthy self and society from a faith perspective.

The question in the dichotomous and dogmatic world we live in is one right or wrong? That is dependent upon one’s point of view. Yet is it worth being prosperous, if it means leaving behind many in poverty and pain where they need to decide on simple matters like food/heat or rent? Setting a broken limb of a child or homelessness?

There is shift’s happening, and yes, the prosperity mind set is taking root in the world, but should it? What is the counter? What changes if all move forward healthy and prosperous? What if, as has become a movement in our schools we move from ME to WE not just locally, but hold to our roots and truly live it?

You see, this is the underlying narratives within our nations, though not founded on “Christian principles” as many want us to believe, the stories crafted the narratives of expectations of the people. Now we are in a time when the narratives have allowed hate in some circles to over shadow love in the pursuit of money…

So, what choice will you make for yourself, your family, your community?

If you state you are of faith, what will you choose, prosperity or social gospel?

Individualism or community good?

To end, it is a question asked by Rev. James Shaver Woodsworth, when he was the superintendent of the Winnipeg Mission that was the open doors for the immigrants and refugees to populate the prairies. It shaped his view, his founding of the labour church, his stance against the money-making war machine, and eventually to surrendering his vocation. It is a simple question for you to answer:

Who is my Neighbour?


It is a funny question, and usually how we identify ourselves in new social settings. “What do you do?” It is not some deep existential question looking for validation of vocational calling, rather it is the question of what one does for work to earn money, and then based on occupation and how many spaces on the pay cheque before the decimal point one can assess if you “fit” their societal grouping.

Also along the lines if you mention an impressive job title are questions around your education.

Then there is the abnormality. I pride myself on being the abnormality, when folks here what I do, and the education I have they get the deer caught in the headlights, evil robot short circuiting eye glaze. It is one of the little joys of life. But isn’t bragging about oneself the point of Linkedin and not conversation of getting to know one another at beyond a superficial level?

My kids tell people I give people homes. Many believe I am in real estate, no that is buying and selling housing. An admirable role, but not mine. I believe in homes for everyone, and that is what I do. I walk alongside and aid my neighbours in becoming part of community and growing themselves a home.

I should say this is something I stumbled into, but really it was a path laid out that I chose from a young age. My parents taught me to speak out for what I believed in, to question and critically analyze societal issues, and to be welcoming to the other. I mean c’mon I grew up a child of `78 and was part of a peace march in elementary school to get Gorbachev’s attention to speak out on ending the Cold War.

I was a teenage journalist and activist challenging politicians and world leaders to understand that policy decisions were not just words on paper but affected people as a whole and individually. Yes I was one of those pains in the butt and even ran for office. I lived what the Creator laid on my soul by building communities of welcome for those we like to segregate by labels: homeless; youth; seniors; young adults; differently abled; mentally ill… think of a few more can you? The drive was a label-less world.

Follow your heart

-My Daughter, Justina, age 8, Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living

Some may read these words and say with a drive like that your home life growing up must have been perfect hell. That’s a nugatory. I had an amazing childhood with loving family, that encouraged my dreams and passions. Let us as children to develop into the adult’s we were meant to be, and to shape beliefs that resonated beyond the surface level. They showed us what a home was, and this is what everyone deserves regardless of situation and with proper supports it can be achieved.

See that is why I do what  I do…because it is part of my created being. I have answered J.S. Woodsworth’s over 100 year old question, who is my neighbour? It is each and every person I connect with in this world.

Discover your passion, then figure out a way to make a living at it.

-My Dad, Wayne Ragan, to me 16 years old in a Marketing Research Project at Lester B. Pearson High School.

So why do I do what I do?

Four little letter everyone desires, deserves, and I have been blessed to know deeply.

H-O-M-E.