Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation’


When grieving, contemplation, prayer and collaboration lead to action. That is what this Saturday morning was about as my youngest tried to decide for their final Grade 8 Social Studies project which nation that is a part of them to discover and share (Metis, Indigenous, European), a friend reached out about what educators can do in our shock and grieving over the discovery of the unmarked grave on May 27, 2021 at the site of Kamloops, BC residential school.

What happened was, and I hope/pray will be powerful, a call to action on the dormant call to actions. There is a change.org petition you can sign here.

If you would rather reach out via e-mail to the local faith leaders and political leaders that can make the International Investigation and locating of the other missing children, feel free to adapt the below letter and send on:

To Pope Francis, Archbishops & Bishops of Roman Catholic Dioceses in Canada

 Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

 Moderator of the United Church of Canada

 Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada 

 The Government of Canada

Re: An Open Letter to actualize Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #75 from Educators from Canada and around the world.

On May 27, 2021, an unmarked mass grave of 215 children was found on Turtle Island (Canada). 

Youngsters stripped from their homes on the onus of the Canadian Government, handed over to religious authorities for the purpose of cultural genocide. This act of genocide ended their lives. A discovery that had the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada to ask for flags to be lowered in mourning.  

Sadly, this atrocity is not an isolated incident, but rather it is part of a dark chapter of history, known as Residential Schools which were closed in 1996. It is time for Canadians and people around the world to know this story, atrocities, and all. It is time to heal, as other nations have held up the mirror and investigated the darkness to know the truth and act in reconciliation.

It is time for Canada to be honest in our truth, and act on our intent of reconciliation. For those from a religious background, reconciliation is recognized as a sacrament, or an important act lived through the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth known as the Christ for Christians. It is not simply saying, “I am sorry for what has been done”. It is articulating the right words for what has happened, making amends and reparations, affecting healthy closure, and with that closure the grieving process in order to  move forward in healing towards a new reality. 

This open letter from educators calls on those institutions involved to turn their records over to international investigators so that they will be able to locate and return the lost children to their families for appropriate mourning. For  international investigators to be able to state clearly to Canadians the truth that is being evaded. Only then will it be possible to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation. 

On every Holocaust Remembrance we utter those words, “We will never forget or repeat,”and the whole time our own genocide was being carried out.

We acknowledge the 4/5 institutions that have apologized, and the work Anglicans, Presbyterians and United Christians have been attempting in Reconciliation work. We call on the Roman Catholic Church to actively live what their Catechism teaches on Reconciliation and  to not only formally apologize but catch up to where their contemporaries are at in the process. And to move forward to ensure the call to actions are actualized (not simply read or taught but done). For Canada, like other nations around the world needs to finally interrupt and heal our intergenerational trauma, and know our truth.


Cancel culture is the new en vogue. It is simple enough to understand as accountability for one’s posted content/thoughts/actions/behaviours. For those of us that grew up in a healthy and positive home environments with authoritative caregivers/parents that gave us boundaries, rules, expectations with warmth and love this is understandable.

As stories emerge, and folks loose work one sees the blatant hatred, racism, queer hate (sorry note homophobia, this is not a DSM-V classification for a fear that is so anxiety inducing it fires out fight-flight-freeze system this is simply hatred), bigotry, prejudice, etc. Accountability within a 24-7-365 world were everything is recorded seems laudable. For the most part it is, we learned at very young ages that words are just as destructive as acts of physical violence, and there has been far too many examples of what cyber-bullying has led to in our youngsters.

YET…there is always a yet, as we unpack what is happening within out world through a critical lens. Is it truly a world of accountability? A step in the right direction towards reconciliation and moving forward? Or is it simple acts of vengeance as the course correcting pendulum swings power from one side completely to another, with the other acting without having learned the lessons of corruption?

Pause and first think of the destruction of statues (iconoclasts), which has happened throughout our history with regime changes and history. Is it wrong to destroy monuments to hate? No. Yet, what are you going to replace the vacuum with? For if a statue is simply pulled down, or destroyed you are leaving the replacement in the hands of those the may have erected it in the first place?

Are you working to have the full story shared? Moving beyond ideological entrenchment of complete where everything on either side is holy/sacred and the other is seen as satanic/profane. A space where we cannot speak out against corruption, ills, contrariness, or violence/abuse within our own movements without being seen as “traitors” to the cause.

Are we working to replace the statues with images that represent the full story of the era that is glories/joys/scars/traumas and everything in-between? The truth of the era and what the time is to represent?

Yes, filling the vacuum with education, so as a society we get better, we learn and heal together. The onus being on each citizen to learn (not on the oppressed to constantly teach)…laying the course after truth opens up the way to reconciliation (moving forward as a society into the new). The truth stage is our moments of prototyping the new, before crystallization of the new begins (using the concepts of U Theory).

Within the arts, why are we simply removing those items that may offend instead of looking at how it can be used to teach where we were, and where we are? Is there a way to use these shows and movies, think like PBS used to have the discussion folks before and after to place the piece in its proper historical context, and discussion points for today as a result (think of how you should have been taught things like Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice in High School, we have examples within the last 100 years that need the same teaching surrounding them).

Which brings us into the other pieces of cancel culture making the mainstream and social media circuits. As we have allowed our politics to denigrate into this power anger grab match of gotchaisms to show corruption and ineptitude, so has cancel culture evolved. It is not about rooting out the asininely that is currently perpetuating hate, but rather from this old hacks perspective digging through early days of social media to catch some celebrity in a moment (possibly) of stupidity, and then using that to end their career.

Is this reconciliation? Is it making our world better?

First, is there a statue of limitations on racism/hate? Yes/no. Say what? What type of fence sitter am I?

I’m not. But I do believe it is looking at the journey of the person to see if it is in need of cancelling accountability or a case study in what the power of education and reconciliation can bring about.

When we are looking at allegations from 1-20 years old, we need to look at the person and ask…what does the pattern show? Has there been a change? Because within the journey and the change creates a case study that creates strength within the cause for a better world, for when those saying that do to (insert reason here) change is impossible, a list of those that have changed, and continued in life shows the difference.

Yes, life is about evolution and development. You are not the same person you were last year, 10 years ago, in adolescence, young adulthood, early or middle child hood. Some things may remain the same, some beliefs have strengthened, some have faded away or radically transformed. The lens you bring to personal reflection within your own journey, you need to bring to look at another’s (that whole Jesus thing of loving neighbour and loving self).

This comes out of reflecting on cancel culture and my own journey as a semi-public figure with many media interviews, public talks, sermons, and workshops out there of my thoughts, and evolving beliefs. As well, 34 years of publishing of stories in all genres and types within fiction and non-fiction. Some in the public record and archives, others in post-secondary, still more within the unpublished realm shared through friend and professional pools.

Is there anything in all that I could get cancelled for? Honestly, I do not know. I know in the time and context when the piece came from, what is there is where I was on my journey. Where I am now is what is written and shared now, there is transfiguration and transformation each day of my life as I reflect, learn and grow what it means to build a world of belonging for all.

The shift that needs to happen is not one from hate/oppression to revenge/vengeance… it is truly a shift to sharing the truth of the events of our world. Then the greatest shift in actions and attitude, through education and love, moving into authentic healing for our communities to reconciliation and into hope for the future.

Are you willing to take the first step towards HOPE?

Not just create the vacuum, but fill it with the new.


We can debate the technicality of calling Canada a confederation or federation. Yet what is true is that we are a collection of cultures, religions, regions, and nations…some at times have wanted to be declared a distinct society, when the truth is Canada as a whole is a beautiful and distinct mosaic. Currently we are in the midst of what is being hash tagged as shut Canada down. It is beginning and centered in protests in Wet’suwet’en and the “lightning rod” media issue around pipe lines.

Is it truly about pipe lines? Or is it another instance of colonialism dictating what happens and Indigenous voices shut out? Yes and no. Not an answer any one wants to hear. In Canada, as Truth and Reconciliation was not fully actualized (we went through the motions, but didn’t do the work) we are living in dualism. It is the type of dualism, Rabbi Sacks brought out in regards to historic and emergent anti-Semitism. He pointed to the fact of creating the Us-Them dichotomy where one side has to be right and the other has to be wrong. He also pointed out this dualism historically grew anti-semitism in the Christianities for it pointed to the Hebrew Bible God as a lesser being, with the Christian Testament God being superior. Even pointing out the terms Old & New Testaments continue to perpetuate this dualism, and the ability as the Christianities became Christendom under Constantine that Christianity and Rome became all Good (US) and Judaism and the Sanhedrin became Christ Killers–all Bad (Them). He goes on then to unpack that this is being brought into the Middle Eastern political landscape through bad religion and interpretation so Anti-Semitism is taking root in Islam.

Why this matters? Are you able to see the parallels with Colonialism? Settler and First Nation? Civil and savage? The outgrowth in our own politics of the same dualism where one side has to be sacred and the other profane, one holy the other sinner. The last Federal and provincial election cycles were nothing more than mud fists with the race to the lowest common denominator…no vision casting, no dreaming, no talking of foreign and domestic policies to build healthy relations nationally and globally.

Then we wonder why we have blockades? It’s a boiling point of frustration. Sure, some of the protesters may be paid, some may not know why they are their because like sports teams, political and populist movements, there is bandwagoners that join up to be a part of something. In an increasingly isolated world, any glimmer of belonging is what one latches on too.

It is rooted in the story of Canada, passive genocide both cultural and spiritual, inter-generational trauma, reserves, lack of education, soaring suicide rates, boil water advisories, Murdered Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (rampant serial killers targeting our vulnerable and the RCMP not acting), it is `60’s scoops of children to civilize them, residential schools, it is dehumanizing them, using them to fight our wars and when they returned home not allowing them back on reserves and with their families until they were found dead on our streets, shattered languages, over seizure by child welfare, over representation in prisons, high rates of addiction…

It is a government response that was almost, but not even. Talk of repealing the Indian Act since the Trudeau Sr. era. Being able to speak into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the 1982 Constitution Act (which started way back when with Louis Riel and the Red River Resistance); The failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords that may or may not have changed things for the better but became too highly politicized behind personalities for a true reading, stable governance, and a passionate Prime Minister on relationship building, Paul Martin, who worked with First Nations to craft the Kelowna Accord that would have radically changed the way our mosaic functions…then 10 years of a rise of old stock Christendom Dominionism that put relations back, if not in law, rather relationship, to when there was still debates if our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters are wards or humans. This was seen through the overturned by the Supreme Court of governmental re-write of environmental laws to push through oil and gas projects, and sell off Crown Land. To the end of the throwback to something new, but stumbling to find its rudder. An inquiry into MMIWG, Inquiry that came so close, but not far enough with no apologies for the flub. A Truth and Reconciliation process concluding with nothing changed or how to get the recommendations implemented. Both the “settler” and the “Indigenous” governmental bodies being discussed inside and outside for corruptions, misuse of funds and powers.

Then the pipeline through B.C.. The lightning rod. The final straw, and the protests began. Some poured over into blockades for transport routes (much like the Yellow Vest movement had done to support Oil & Gas). The forcing of the oil industry on another’s land, unseded. In another time, it could’ve created conversation and exploration as rural farmers are being left to foot the bill of abandoned wells on their land as the Alberta Government feels pity for the great corporations…but in the dualistic Canada it has created disparity, anger, and fuelled hatred. As well, as the challenge of balancing independence, interdependence, and need for economic capital within communities which is why, as in all pieces of our mosaic you cannot paint an act of some as it representing all.

If you want to state civil disobedience is wrong…then if your a woman stop voting, if your a veteran return your benefits, if your a worker give up your benefits and living wages and send your children to work–those are just a few changes for the better that came from Canadians with civil disobedience. The rule of law is thrown around, peaceful protest and gatherings are permitted under our constitution, the blockades are another matter. Yet the answer from the other side is the hammer of force via military (yes the RCMP is a military wing of our armed forces, they are infantry)…and so we see the peaceful protesters arrested and caged which does not help open up collaborative discourse for a peaceful ending, resolution, and healing.

Some have their hate released because of CN Rail saying it is going to lead to lay offs, and their stopping shipping. Yet, it has created a good smoke screen for the corporation that was coming under fire and tighter scrutiny by the Federal Government in their infrastructure up keep to stop the series of fatal derailments that have been plaguing the rails in Canada. They had been speaking of layoffs, and workers talking of strikes before this happened…so did the protests cause? Or are merely a way to build support for the poor corporation? Think, explore, listen and look.

See each other, as person not as Them to your Us.

Finally, we have all sides screaming for political change in Canada, reform of how government operates. I am not going into Prime Minister Trudeau’s seeking of the UN Security Council Seat or his International work during what is happening here. First, the misogynistic attempts by opponents and bully language makes one tune you out. He is doing what needs to happen internationally, let’s look what is happening nationally. The deputy Prime Minister (a woman), and the Premiers are being left to show what leadership looks like in our Constitution. Constitutionally the Prime Minister is within his rights to enact the War Measures Act…and the blood will run. So why not? There is legal and illegal, the War Measures Act is a sledge hammer, and a black and white tool in what is a grey area that requires a surgeon as we traverse the more ethical, what is right and wrong? Why this approach and why are we not able to see why this approach matters? Is it misogyny that does not allow one to see that this is a team/community approach? A rather decolonized approach to reconciliation? That we all need to work together to make our nation healthy and better.

For that is the challenge, when we speak of decolonizing I’m reminded of an interview question I had been asked in regards to it with an institution. I pointed out it is accessing wisdom of elders to compliment teaching and mentorship, but it is also taking the sacred teachings and medicine wheel as the lens (paradigm) we teach through. The response was well we have a class specifically on the Medicine Wheel. Ok, but to break the cycle it is doing things differently, it is not teaching one thing in isolation but showing how you take a value system and use that to craft your practice and your life. If we can apply in our learning and teachings a holistic system that honours creation including the person then we can grow a stronger, healthier nation and communities. It is an ongoing daily examin, adjusting, living and loving.

It can be done with any healthy and positive belief system that allows for healthy community. If done properly it will transform politics, governments and laws.  It is reconciliation after our truth…the way forward together. It is collectively opening up our constitution and saying, what does Canada need to look like for the next 150 years to continue to be a world leader?

There is no easy answers to where we are at now. We are living the grieving process of change. A nation–any community, is a living breathing organism, what we are seeing played out is what happens in our own body’s when change and grief happen. It is what happens when we keep repressing, ignoring warning signs and pushing forward eventually it crashes.

Are we willing to step up and look to the healthy solutions? Are we willing to silence the extremists on both sides in the healing and let the communal good move forward. Let the heart call out the b.s. (belief systems–or fertilizer, it is both). That is the crux of the matter. Will we give in to dualism, and the eventuality of altruistic evil

or

Are we strong enough as a nation, to live what we profess to believe?

 

 


Ah 62 CE or thereabouts as (Saint) Paul (formerly Saul) of Tarsus was in prison following his voyage to Rome. Yes, we have hit an undisputed authentic letter of Paul, his shortest epistle, and one of the top 4 shortest in the Christian Testament (2 & 3 John and Jude coming before). Paul had some aid in a co-authorship some believe with his disciple Timothy. It was a short letter to the city of Colosse (note Epislte of Colossians). It was for the whole community, but specifically written to the wealthy church leader (possibly bishop) there, Philemon. We know Philemon was wealthy, as the letter deals with forgiveness and reconciliation with a slave, Onesimus, who had left Philemon’s home, and his role to serve Paul in prison.

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

-Epistle of Philemon 1-3 (English Standard Version)

First off let’s tackle the elephant in the room with this tweet thread (as it would probably come to Colosse today). Slavery is wrong. The church used passages and writings such as Philemon to prop up the slave industry for far too long. We still see the remnants of it today with language used around sweat shops; no raises in minimum wage; fights against living wages; and those that would defend sex trafficking (or sex trade for those who have not freely chosen it). Paul was a man of his time period when slavery was apart of the socio-economics of the day. He is not writing to endorse the practice, for other writings of his boldly spoke out against slavery (there is no slave, no free). Do not use these words to endorse caste system for that is not the purpose.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.[a] For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you

-Epistle of Philemon 4-7 (ESV)

It is within these words that Paul truly lays out the worth of every human life, every image bearer. Contrary to current and ancient belief on the matter:

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,[b] whose father I became in my imprisonment.11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant[c] but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

-Epistle of Philemon 8-22 (ESV)

Level up to justice and equality. In Paul’s fashion calling out an outdated practice for one that calls themselves into leadership. It is not about the labels, the hierarchy. It is a flat plain of belonging. Forgiving the affronts of society, which is what Philemon had to struggle with for Onesimus left to do the good work of caring for another. In other words, Philemon had to let go of ego and his prestige to welcome Onesimus back. Not only welcome him back though, but become a living example of forgiveness, and the next step reconciliation. In our world, it is apt to remember forgiveness does not mean condoning actions- what Paul is showing here is actions were good and Philemon is being held back by societal construct of vengeance on property- the truth was spoken, much like truth and reconciliation.

As with some actions in our society of violence, reconciliation can be a personal matter to your own being, not letting the pain control you anymore, or the abuser. In some situations it can be an agreed upon moving forward, as we have seen in South Africa, where truth was spoken, and is taught of the horrors of the past, but the society has agreed to move forward with a new beginning.

The fresh start of the Roman prison system. If you survived your time, upon release no record followed you. That is what Paul is communicating to Philemon by saying see Onesimus as he would Paul. Destroying any caste system that Philemon would attempt to fall back on, for the new path.

What caste system belief is holding back the whole you?

 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you,24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

-Epistle of Philemon 23-25 (ESV)

Acknowledging others within the movement. Thanking those you work with for what has been accomplished. Simple leadership secrets that build a person up.

Onesimus was heading back to his owner…would a new reality await?

What new reality awaits you?

 


Much of my soul work throughout my life has been exorcising an abhorrent SIN from the amazing work of the gospel found in the Monastic Orders (Franciscan, Basillian, Jesuit) and Social Gospels that have formed me. That unnamed SIN (that is denigration of the Creator’s image, and Holy Breath of life in each of us) is EUGENICS. I wrote a response letter to the national magazine of the United Church of Canada. First hand I have witnessed, and taken the brunt of the active ableism and passive eugenics thought still existing in the institution. This has what was published (and they could not even spell my name right) and following is what was submitted…you can judge if the essence was captured or something missed:

Published September 2018:

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Submitted June 2018 via e-mail:
I must say that Rev. Cantwell is right, the UCC (and Christianities in general) have a lot more listening to do. well it is admirable to touch on the much needed work of reconciliation through TRC and affirming ministries there is still a piece of our history we allow to passively exist.
EUGENICS.
More colloquially known in its form today as “Ableism”. It is the belief that Persons with Disabilities (speical needs, differently abled, let the person let you know how they identify) are “less than human”. It is the dark shadow side of the Social Gospel movement that spurred such good societal change such as suffrage, human rights, labour rights, etc. It is the idea because we view them as less than it is okay to hide our neighbour away in institutions, remain silent on their #metoo, do not allow health sexuality to be discussed, in our very recent history in Canada still forcibly sterilized, and encourage aborting. It is also why there is an undercurrent within congregations where they feel it is okay to passively inform families you do not belong here, we do not want you here, we cannot handle your care.
We want to hold onto the justice roots of our historic social gospel, yet we fail to realize to do that means truth about our eugenics history, exorcising our continued ableism (see the call for ending plastic straws not knowing you are calling for ending some with disabilities- ability to drink), and reconciling to move forward as ONE children of God in the blessed rainbow (to paraphrase Desmond Tutu).
it means bringing a new lens to the old, old story. It is not reading a healing miracle as showing a “less than” ableist frame. It is seeing the miracle for the only way belonging could happen: removing of the barriers of society’s imposed cast system. It is what we need to do now. We need to look to the friends in Mark that found a way- even it meant tearing out the roof, so their friend could belong. We must look to what authentic and true belonging looks like. What needs to happen physically is simply one step. Token inclusion does not solve it. it is engaging in conversation, learning, and authentic apologizing.
It is truly understanding Brother Jesus’ statement about the person with disability being there for the glory of God, that is the one pointing the finger going “what is wrong with him?” being pointed out as the one with the issue, for they hate the image of God. The image the holy breath was breathed into on Day 6 and called Holy…in all forms.
So yes it is time to do deeper listening, but also to act to burn down the house of exclusion and fear. To fully admit the atrocity of our past, and to  become the ally for our neighbour we are called to be. It is time to truly understand that we are all different, and all holy. Is your congregation ready to shatter the barriers/traditions that continue the idea any child of God is less than?
Shalom & Namaste,

Dr. Ty Ragan
(Ended discernment for ministry almost 8 yrs ago over ableism in church)

Captain Sisko: You want to know… you *really* want to know what my problem is? I’ll tell you: Las Vegas 1962, that’s my problem. In 1962, black people weren’t very welcome there. Oh sure, they could be performers or janitors, but customers? Never.
Kasidy Yates: Maybe that’s the way it was in the real Vegas, but that is not the way it is at Vic’s. I have never felt uncomfortable there, and neither has Jake.
Captain Sisko: But don’t you see? That’s the lie. In 1962, the civil rights movement was still in its infancy. It wasn’t an easy time for our people, and I’m not going to pretend that it was.
Kasidy Yates: Baby – I know that Vic’s isn’t a totally accurate representation of the way things were, but… it isn’t meant to be. It shows us the way things could’ve been – the way they should’ve been.
Captain Sisko: We cannot ignore the truth about the past.
Kasidy Yates: Going to Vic’s isn’t going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is reminds us that we are no longer bound by any limitations – except the ones we impose on ourselves.

-Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, season 7 episode 15 “Badda-bing, Badda-bang” (1999)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is another overlooked gem. It lasted seven seasons and tackled many relevant issues during the 1990’s. If you remember the 90’s there was the challenges of marriage equality (yes it began then); the repercussions of the end of the Cold War; Gulf War I, and the rise of the Serbian-Bosnian war that almost created a draft in Canada, and yes sadly, the Rwandan Genocide, to Albertans being confronted by our Eugenics history of forced sterilizations of persons with disabilities and mental illness, to name but a few historic events. It also began the repercussion of revelation of the church sexual abuse of children within Canada. There was hope, but also healing needed, and evil rooted out.
This is the world that Deep Space Nine premiered into. The first Star Trek not on a space ship exploring, but a Cardassian space station taken over by Bajor and the United Federation of Planets, by a wormhole to another quadrant. Bajor is a former planet that was occupied by the Cardassian, who finally surrendered. Sisko’s journey to lead is about losing his wife in a battle with the Borg. A Borg led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Locutus, ST:TNG Best of Both Worlds), whose ship brings him and his son to the station. A journey where he begins to wrestle with forgiveness and reconciliation with the man who under control of the Borg executed many of his friends, and his beloved.
The meta-narratives of the series looked at movement from resistance to governance; role of spirituality-religion in sustaining through occupation and healing/reconciling after. The Wormhole to the Federation, was the Celestial Temple to the Bajorans, one saw wormhole aliens, the other Prophets of their religion. It was a show that used time travel, and alternate reality shows to challenge perceptions. Commander (then Captain) Benjamin Sisko’s role as leader of the station, but also Emissary of the Celestial Temple (he also punched Q). It explored commerce and the black market, inter-species relationships; eugenics, horrific treatment of persons who are different (those that were augmented that could pass and function in society, and those that cannot). As the series continued, the Dominion War storytelling caused many Trekkies’ to balk because war as part of Star Trek. A bi-sexual Cardassian former assassin, Garak, and his hiding of open affections for Dr. Bashir, and a Ferengi engineer, Rom, that if you watch him, is neuro-a-typical and the life he lives while belonging (Best episode is in Season 7, take me out to the Holo-Suite!).
Yet the war story line allowed for other explorations. Exploitation of any belief system for violent gains. The world of PTSD, what young soldiers go through who go off to war to “prove themselves”, but do not live completely or die, but return injured and the healing process. It also showed what life meant. Through the character of Vic Fontaine, a holosuite program singer, from Las Vegas, Earth 1962. A program that became conscious. A program that helped Ensign Nog (first Ferengi in Starfleet) heal from his PTSD of losing his leg on the front lines.
This is the program Sisko and his new partner are discussing in the opening quote.

Nog: The news just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?
Captain Sisko: What news?
Colonel Kira: Oh… nothing, sir, we’re, uh, talking about a holosuite program.
Doctor Bashir: Vic Fontaine’s hotel’s just been bought by… gangsters.
Captain Sisko: I see. When do you plan on going back to work?

-Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, season 7 episode 15 “Badda-bing, Badda-bang” (1999)

It is a take on an old Star Trek story, Piece of the Action (Original Series), but pays homage to the Rat Pack’s Ocean’s 11 (sorry Clooney Gang, nothing beats the original). As the leadership crew understands this constantly running lounge’s importance to the crew’s mental health, Sisko wrestles with what happens if we forget the past?

Chief O’Brien: Robbing casinos isn’t part of any Starfleet job description I’ve ever read.

-Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, season 7 episode 15 ”Badda-bing, Badda-bang” (1999)

A Jack In The Box program has allowed gangsters to take over, and change the program, the only way that technically can be found is to reboot. Reboot erases Vic back to factory settings. What makes a person? Is it flesh and blood? Or the sum of our experiences?
The other way? Beat the intruders.
They fail to beat the intruders, gangsters shoot Vic. He dies in the program, he vanishes completely.
What an option. Now the question asked is, is Vic a person? Does he deserve a chance to continue to live and thrive even if the outside world sees him as only a hologram?
Are we cursed to not be able to move from our past history?
Can we move beyond, reconcile, and if we do, and present it as anything less than it was, are we forgetting?
What about critical thought?
Same as the balance of spirituality-science throughout the series. The balance of subtlety of belonging for each of the characters and their stories. It is a series I encourage one to watch, and reflect on. It makes a great discussion night for different episodes over meals for all ages. I have used episodes with youth to tackle tough topics such as dying with dignity, belief systems, war, and belonging.
And ask yourself in your journey what this statement means:

“Going to Vic’s isn’t going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is reminds us that we are no longer bound by any limitations – except the ones we impose on ourselves.”

-Kasidy Yates


Now I have gone back and forth on taxing the churches my whole life. For me it comes down do they fulfill what their beliefs say, do no promote hatred, and are community involved is really what should allow them the privilege they have. Yes it is a privilege, and the religious communities need to remember that, it takes quite a bit to get that privilege in Canada.

And, the Roman Catholic Church has held a special part of my faith journey. I have seen welcoming parishes, and parishes that have bent over backwards to ensure belonging of all God’s Children. I love the mystery, and the sacraments, and the depth-breadth of theological and social science discourse that can happen. During my Franciscan formation there was no Ecumenical or Anglican group in the city so I fellow-shipped with the Secular Franciscan Order, have used the FCJ centre for personal retreat, and been in one parishes Lay Ministry of Praise (prayer).

But I do believe it is time for the Canadian Government to take a stand that will rile many, but I believe it is necessary. Those watching current events of the political nature in Canada have noted the fact that due to the structure of the Roman Catholic Church it is easy for the Vatican to duck responsibility on issues and to be held account for abuses. It usually allows the local diocese, and parish to take the hits while avoiding any hint of “official responsibility”. Popes will speak of personal remorse or sorrow around abuse (residential, sexual) that has happened to parishners, residential school survivors (not just Canadian, it was a format they used on other continents). The most lawyerly of answers.

Which is an affront to one of their key 7 Sacraments to stay in true good Communion with the Body of Christ. That is what was once known as the Sacrament of Confession, since Vatican II has become the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In its essence, it is admitting a wrong one has committed and seeking out within one’s whole person to be reconciled new, and to make amends to the party harmed. What are we to do with a group that will not honour their own belief systems? Core beliefs at that? A group that’s inaction has left them from following through on monetary support to residential school survivors, and due to lack of official apology are putting the TRC process in jeopardy for our hurting nation. TRC-Truth and Reconciliation- let that set in for what the church is avoiding.

You will read and hear many reasons and rationales. Some Conservative MP’s would not support the unanimous call to action to get the Pope to Canada. They sited their conscience against a government curtailing a group’s freedom of religion (I have no issue with free votes, as I have noted I dislike and think the whipped vote is unconstitutional)…yet we need to be pragmatic when thinking of freedom of religion as halting this. What else could be avoided judicially and civilly by a religious group hiding behind this? (I think of stories around Jehovah Witness’ cover ups; and other cover ups under this guise).

What is at play is simply will the Pope, head of the Vatican State and spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church truly enter the sacrament of reconciliation with all victims of his church’s practice and cover up. Will the Canadian Bishops allow it on our soil?  Personally, I would love to see it happen from the throne of the Vatican as a declaration made from the infallibility position. Would it be painful for the Vatican, its dioceses, parishes and religious orders? Yes. Would many lands, buildings and monies be lost? Yes.

But here is what happens when a body is held to account and lives out the professed beliefs…think of what healing would happen within the world.

Second best, if games continue to be played…then tax them like any other business.

Further Reading:

Bishops push back

Conservative MP blocks Unanimous Call for Residential School Apology from Pope Francis

 


I have always enjoyed reading the practical current events spiritual magazines/newspapers published in Canada. Most are denominationally specific. Among my top 3 were: United Church Observer, Anglican Sower and Presbyterian Record. The last two I also had the privilege to write for and share thoughts, unfortunately they are also no longer publishing (the fact they carried my works has nothing to do with the ceasing of publication I believe). One can also trace in my spiritual journey, denominations or religious traditions have not been high, I have drank and do drink from the many wells the one river feeds, yet it is the one river that I thirst for.

As I wrote a few days ago after a cascade of flashbacks triggered by a denominational prayer cycle (Read post here) it is unique that the latest issue of the United Church Observer in their Question Box column, Spiritual Solidarity, touched upon clerical unionization.

                “Clergy conflict reflect the ongoing turmoil and anxiety within the wider United Church.”

-Christopher White

Workplace and community conflicts are part of existing together. They are to be expected, what is not to be expected in civilized society is such harassment, haranguing and trauma that individuals leave their employment, or wind up with deep rooted scars. This article triggered flashbacks, part of the work of trying to rise above my flashbacks is acknowledging the pain, but also acknowledging the good I have seen and been apart of.

Obviously, the article is centred on the organic transformation within the United Church on this issue, but I can attest it crosses Christianities tradition and denominational lines. Following is a few thoughts on the good and bad I have been apart of.

“I also believe that more and more…is moving from primarily seeing ministry as a covenanted relationship to seeing it as a contractual one.”

-Christopher White

  1. The small congregation that hired me as a youth leader leaving my first experience, and then a minister. Both with contradicting missions. The congregation responding to the pain their abuse had caused catastrophe with previous ministries, allowing those with the money to run rampant. Online abuse existed before social media it was done via cc and bcc on e-mail as my character and personhood were attacked by those in the church that did not like their children/youth thinking. The harassment also continued through the office of clergy towards me, and some youth with mental health concerns. Meetings were held; then it went up to the Presbytery level to meet with the congregation and even though these meetings concerned me I was not allowed to attend. Eventually they beat you down, and I chose to surrender my ministry—yes the majority wanted to bring me on as minister, but even with mechanisms to sanction the vocal minority bullies—they refused. How did the organization reward this community? With more money, bigger space…message sent to those targeted—you do not matter.
  2. Being a Lay Professional Leader in a congregation doing things such as contemplative worship services, pulpit fill in; leading a bible study. Yet the wealthy in the aging congregation got their tempest in a tea pot over kids at play, noise, and the online attack campaign begun. Unwillingness again to call out a spade as a spade from those higher due to—yup you guessed it—money at play as donors.
  3. Stalked on and harassed via social media by a congregation and their pastor—why? As a family, we attempted to advertise our home bible study and potluck on the church Facebook page. My wife encouraged to distance herself from me and my unChrist-like influence. When she refused, and we chose to leave as a family those that said they were our “friends” shunned us like leaving a cult.
  4. My son’s joyful noise at a Santa Clause service being called out in vehement anger by the minister and called to leave service. Shunned by the supposedly “inclusive” spiritual home. In the moment those who preached standing up for injustice became the bystanders while the bully postured and the bullied was left believing he was on Santa’s naughty list.
  5. In Bible College having a professor point blank tell the class when I answered in favour of inclusion “that is why your church must die”…and being taunted in the halls as the “fag church member” still standing strong and up as best I could, leaving the learning environment to be battered in my “church homes” as I tried to build ministries.
  6. Para-church directors head hunting to fire me for my political and/or theological beliefs not aligning with their personal understanding.
  7. Being the family scape goated by an ill-equipped children’s educational ministry, because we had the “special needs kid” and not looking seriously at the bullying issue by the children of the long term generational members, and having the “r word” used to describe my son.
  8. Hearing during service a priest being called out on the rug because he took a stand for inclusion of God’s children, and love for those who are differently abled.

That is the darkness. Some can see through that a need for the mediating voice, but a union is not just there for the darkness, they are there to create a support network for successes. A place where the story can be shared for what has transformed, what has been overcome, and can create a relationship where clergy can easily move between denominations.

  1. I have been apart of wonderful churches that have had no actual building. Where ministries and retreats for youth were sponsored by church family members (with or without kids) in their own homes.
  2. I have been there when seniors have continued to answer the call to serve our children as they closed in on 100 years old, as we created “Elders Time” where a big comfy chair was created and the Elder could share the story, and then have the youth be their hands and legs for the activity.
  3. I have seen the passion of inclusion, where walls were broken down and churches laughed off the “tradition” of church youth/community youth time tables to have open youth group for all where spiritual formation was encouraged, and critical thought.
  4. I have seen youth and young families forego the “contemporary” service to be apart of the old liturgical service because it is where the seniors were, and allowed those without grandparents to find that role in their life in church.
  5. I have broken bread, shared meals, lifted many families and friends within my own home around simple things as movie discussion nights, bible studies…where life was done for those shunned by churches they did not fit the mold for due to life circumstance, simple acts of kindness and love allowed the journey to continue… and yes, the noise of children is apart of that.
  6. A Children’s Ministry coordinator coming and speaking directly to my son about coming and being part of the group, not asking us, asking him and listening close for his body language and spastic voice if he wanted to come.
  7. Having a priest during High Mass while blessing the host pause, as my son cheers loudly, and state to the congregation overflowing, “May we all have that excitement to be one with Jesus!”
  8. A minister that contacts my son about if he wants to be in the Christmas pageant, and then the congregation learns about inclusionary communication tools.
  9. Simple things, like a free half day Vacation Bible School that I was blessed to be apart of growing up, and then my teacher asking if my daughter would attend as they are re-launching (and yes, this past summer she learned some French!).
  10. Offering scholarships for VBS’s that have a cost so no child is turned away.
  11. Celebrating the diversity in our unity as spiritual beings from who we are to where we are from…whether it is being Affirming or Dancing our Offering to the Altar to everything in between and not even dreamed of yet.
  12. A Priest taking the flack for replacing offering over two weeks of masses to ensure the food cupboard is overflowing with blessing.
  13. A nun that gathers toys to deliver with food hampers to families in need, and when families without homes sleep in the church ensure that even the volunteers have what they need.
  14. A priest that is troubled by persons with mobility issues not being able to get to the dining hall with dignity for church meals, installs and elevator.
  15. A priest that volunteers with homeless families and realizes they do not have the opportunity to shower in the parish before going out for their day. Installs showers, and announces offering from that weekend needs to be generous to pay for it.

For every horror story there is good stories, even great ones. Yet we cannot say the good outweighs the bad. We cannot say “this is church” to allow for the bullying. People are essentially good. We need to be generous in our ability to do what we can to build a better world, one simple act of kindness at a time.

A union for church employees on the surface may be something to be scoffed at, but it creates a mediating body, removes the ability of congregations or higher church authorities to cover up for PR reasons. It creates an environment with standardized codes of care and conduct that cannot be shouted down due to the “wealthy donor” paradigm. It levels the playing field, much like the gospels pointed to.

This is my story, my experience, my opinion. My act of reconciliation as the story stands, the truth told…now it is time to move forward…into a new day, and a hopeful healthier relationship in the congregation we have settled in.


Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes Redemption (pt. 1&2, or the blu-ray full-length television movie treatment) from June 1991 (summer cliff hanger) and September 1991.

redemption

With the snowy days in Calgary, it has been movie days between shoveling (the never ending job, like the never ending story).  It is the culmination of the story of Worf’s family name return to honour, that started with it looking as his family were the traitors that allowed the massacre that orphaned him, only to be revealed it was the Duras family.

This is where Picard chooses the new Emperor, Gowron, and civil war breaks out, as the Duras sisters show up with an “heir”…partnered with the Romulan empire attempting to break the Klingon-Federation alliance. It also shows a time paradox where Tasha Yar’s half-Romulan/Half-human daughter is spear heading the charge. How? The Yesterday’s Enterprise episode where she went back in time to make her death mean something. An outsider who has wholly become one piece of the two worlds she is a child of.

With Worf being the new “Spock” character, a child of two worlds who internally struggle within. Raised by humans as a citizen of the Federation and a Starfleet officer, yet yearning for and struggling to connect with his Klingon roots.

The challenge of value of the person. I wrote about in my Chain of Command post. Where that show challenged us to look at where undervaluing the other creates, this one places the emphasis on conformity over authenticity. Worf can become fully Klingon, yet he struggles with choices made for they do not consider the collective good, only what is needed in the moment to prove one’s own superiority—as with the scene where Gowron battles a challenger within his own camp, and kills him amid a civil war. It is the front where Kern, Worf’s brother points out it is the Klingon way, to which Worf challenges the thought process.

This struck me in my ongoing reflections, for it is the struggle of being part of a species evolving in thought and inclusion, yet “tradition” attempting to hold one back, and bullying them into submission. The struggle Worf is in within the arc of Redemption. His family honour regained, does he just become the mindless traditionalist or something different?

The struggle I have written about in many spiritual settings, and spiritual based employers church or para-church I realized (probably again) is much the struggle Spock in the classic Trek, and Worf in TNG (Sisko in DS9) are within. The balance of tradition, with progress. It reminds me of something I read in Bishop John Shelby Spong’s memoir, Here I stand, to paraphrase traditionalist fearful of change said he despised scripture, and he shared the story of his love with the stories of God and the people, a gifting of a Bible as a teenager that was his most treasured gift. Yet, it was that love that caused him to go deep and led him into a journey of transformation.

This is the path that Worf was on in this story. How to balance his personality, honour his inherent Klingon and love of the tradition he yearned to be a part of, with who he was shaped to be through his life experience. Looking at the world, and how easily we become divided into ideological camps, and regress, I can see this struggle and how it can be easier to acquis to what is the known past no matter how harmful it can be to the path forward. Yet this is not what we are called to be in our evolution and being caretakers of creation. We are children of two worlds the cosmic, and the physical. The journey is the synergy of them both.

redemption2

This synergy creates the world of inclusion.

This synergy is what we are called to. It is the outgrowth of the love your neighbour as yourself teaching. For it is easy to care for the other if you place value of them. Yet, the challenge of placing value on yourself when others say you do not fit, and standing firm in being who you are. Standing firm in the journey to come to where you are in life to a place where you understand who you are, and why you do what you do.

That is the seedling of growing the love of self. It is the reconciling of desperate pieces, letting that which is harmful to self to fall away (interior and exterior, emotional and communal, etc)…and moving forward.

This is what was seen in Spong’s memoir, the love of the story of love of God, and letting the hate scriptures be revealed and stripped away to reveal the true thread of cosmic creation.

This is the story of Worf’s redemption being able to hold to what is the good of both worlds as one person, and moving forward.

When it comes to loving your neighbour, one has to ask:

Are you ready to love yourself?


“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?