Archives For Pine Ridge

IMG_19351379868371The US Patent Office just revoked the Redskins’ trademark, saying it was ‘disparaging.’ It is. You can read the story here.

I wrote the following reflection last spring after having spent Memorial Day weekend at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota for a gathering of Taize Pilgrims: 

Not being a football fan, I was only vaguely aware that pressure has been mounting in the business and political (both R’s and D’s) community for the Washington Redskins to change their name and mascot.

I know a slew of Redskins fans and the last thing I want to do is incite their wrath or to receive and respond to the types of shameful, ignorant comments you can read at the bottom of this ESPN post.

Here’s my two cents.

Taize2_candlelight_serviceAs I’ve posted, I spent Memorial Day weekend at Red Shirt Table on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I was there with a thousand other Christians from around the world for a Taize Pilgrimage.

We were all there at the invitation of Robert Two Bulls, a Lakota Indian and Episcopal Priest. We camped on his land, ate his buffalo, prayed alongside him and listened to his and his family’s stories of suffering and injustice.

Aside:
I’d never really thought too much about it until I was actually there, but how F-d up is it that America has sovereign nations within itself all due to our incredibly sinful, corrupt history towards entire people groups?

I was getting coffee Sunday morning, standing in line in the rain by the back porch of Robert’s little white church, when someone- another pilgrim like me- asked Robert Two Bulls about…

…yep, the Washington Redskins name.

The shame, anger, hurt, disappointment- you name it- that immediately crept across and through every crevice in his old face was heartbreaking and said it all.

The mascot is symbolic but not, primarily, for the past suffering and injustice meted out to Indians- the history we kinda half learn in history class after which we reassure ourselves that that’s all ‘history’ now.

It’s symbolic of how their suffering and injustice is very much a present-tense experience.

It’s symbolic of how invisible their suffering remains to an America that remains comfortably ignorant of them.

As I said, I’m not a football fan. My time at Pine Ridge, though, convinces me of one thing. Taize-2008-016

That a GAME is the only Indian issue in the American consciousness, the only Indian issue about which Americans’ are passionate enough to write hundreds of comments to online stories, is what the Church calls SIN.

It’s the stuff of Righteous Anger:

“Therefore, because you trample on the poor…I hate, I despise your festivals sports, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies games…But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

– Amos 5 (sort of)

The look on Robert Two Bulls’ face when asked about the Redskins’ name was, I would argue, costlier than any of Dan Snyder’s free agent signings.

As a baseball fan, I get the arguments about historic sporting tradition.

As an American, I understand the arguments about government staying out of business.

But as a follower of Christ, I get- rather I was recently knocked upside the head- that following Christ is about solidarity: God’s solidarity with us in Christ and our solidarity with others as Christ.

And there’s something deeply, bible-bad, wrong that most of us feel a greater solidarity with our favorite sports team than with those who suffer.

Taize-Pine-Ridge-2013Not being a football fan, I was only vaguely aware that pressure has been mounting in the business and political (both R’s and D’s) community for the Washington Redskins to change their name and mascot.

I know a slew of Redskins fans and the last thing I want to do is incite their wrath or to receive and respond to the types of shameful, ignorant comments you can read at the bottom of this ESPN post.

Here’s my two cents.

As I’ve posted, I spent Memorial Day weekend at Red Shirt Table on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I was there with a thousand other Christians from around the world for a Taize Pilgrimage.

We were all there at the invitation of Robert Two Bulls, a Lakota Indian and Episcopal Priest. We camped on his land, ate his buffalo, prayed alongside him and listened to his and his family’s stories of suffering and injustice.

Aside:
I’d never really thought too much about it until I was actually there, but how F-d up is it that America has sovereign nations within itself all due to our incredibly sinful, corrupt history towards entire people groups?

I was getting coffee Sunday morning, standing in line in the rain by the back porch of Robert’s little white church, when someone- another pilgrim like me- asked Robert Two Bulls about…

…yep, the Washington Redskins name.

The shame, anger, hurt, disappointment- you name it- that immediately crept across and through every crevice in his old face was heartbreaking and said it all. photo-3

The mascot is symbolic but not, primarily, for the past suffering and injustice meted out to Indians- the history we kinda half learn in history class after which we reassure ourselves that that’s all ‘history’ now.

It’s symbolic of how their suffering and injustice is very much a present-tense experience.

It’s symbolic of how invisible their suffering remains to an America that remains comfortably ignorant of them.

As I said, I’m not a football fan. My time at Pine Ridge, though, convinces me of one thing.

That a GAME is the only Indian issue in the American consciousness, the only Indian issue about which Americans’ are passionate enough to write hundreds of comments to online stories, is what the Church calls SIN.

It’s the stuff of Righteous Anger:

“Therefore, because you trample on the poor…I hate, I despise your festivals sports, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies games…But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

– Amos 5 (sort of)

The look on Robert Two Bulls’ face when asked about the Redskins’ name was, I would argue, costlier than any of Dan Snyder’s free agent signings.

As a baseball fan, I get the arguments about historic sporting tradition.

As an American, I understand the arguments about government staying out of business.

But as a follower of Christ, I get- rather I was recently knocked upside the head- that following Christ is about solidarity: God’s solidarity with us in Christ and our solidarity with others as Christ.

And there’s something deeply, bible-bad, wrong that most of us feel a greater solidarity with our favorite sports team than with those who suffer.

imagesIf you’re a theology nerd like me, trolling Christian blogs into the wee hours, you notice how many Christians are obsessed over the homosexuality issue. Perhaps rightly so.

Either way, the arguments tend to run one of two ways.

One line of argument is suggest that the progressive perspective runs counter to what Christians have believed over two millennia.

Another line of argument harvests writing from Paul and Acts to hold that current cultural shifts are the ongoing work of God.

Karl Barth might respond to both these arguments by asking: “Who cares?”

In concluding he prolegomena (§1.7.2-3) of his Church Dogmatics, Barth takes a last stab at keeping theology thoroughly biblical in a way that contrast with both Catholic and Modernist theology.

While Barth is aware of how theology is a deeply contextualized endeavor, he’s equally sensitive to how this fact is subject to losing the plot in one of two ways.

In one way, there is the (Catholic, Fundamentalist) danger of turning theology into a repetition of the past. Good theology becomes merely repeating what Thomas Aquinas said, say. Our understanding of what scripture is shackled to what John Calvin believed scripture said. Historical Christianity becomes tantamount to what the church today- and always- should believe and preach.

In another, equally fraught way, theology is always done within a particular culture, which can lead to us simply listening to culture as our defining standard.

This is the mistake of liberal modernism, of unreflectively assuming that what is happening in the world or in culture is equivalent to what God is doing in the world. Eventually, the danger is real that we end up with something that is no longer recognizably Christian.

The work of theology, as Barth understands it, is never simply or uncritically to affirm either what the Church once said and believed or what the world presently says and believes.

Because Christianity is always embodied by sinful people in particular locations, the faith of the past and the present must always be open to correction and criticism.

The Christianity of the past can never become what scripture is, our canon. Rather scripture must always bring the Christianity of the past and the present into critical, revealing light.

I think this is the refreshing both/and manner of Barth’s theology: a recognition that we must never be content with the faith as its been passed down to us because the Bible, as the living word of God will always correct where we have screwed up and carry us to fresh expressions in new times and places.

As you may know from this blog, I spent the Memorial Day weekend at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. That place is just one example of how the Christianity of the past got ample wrong and should not be accepted or rotely repeated without examining it in light of the converting, living Word.

We’re done with chapter 1 of the Dogmatics…on to chapter 2 and Barth’s treatment of ‘revelation.’

5127ee0225791.preview-620Over the Memorial Day Weekend a few of us from my congregation joined between 1,000-1,500 pilgrims from around the world at for the Taize Gathering at Red Shirt on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Taize is an ecumenical monastery in Burgundy, France. Every week the brothers of Taize welcome thousands of pilgrims to participate in the rhythms of their communal life, and once a year some of the more than 100 brothers take their ‘community’ somewhere else in the world for a pilgrimage gathering.

This year the brothers were invited by the Lakota nation to welcome pilgrims to Red Shirt.

Just as pilgrims do at Taize, we spent our time at Pine Ridge in worship (sung chants, sung prayers and a whole lot of silence) 3 times a day. We shared simple meals of buffalo meat straight off the rez, and we shared our faith stories in small groups. We listened to each other; in fact, listening was the primary reason we’d gathered. We camped in tents in a horse pasture and went, uncomplaining, without running water.

For those few days at least, we did our best to approximate the simplicity and joy of what the New Testament refers to as the ‘oikos.’

The ‘economy’ or household of God.

Our ‘sanctuary’ was a hollow carved out by the wind in the middle of the badlands. We sat in the prairie grass under the sun and stars.

Sunday night’s worship concluded with Taize’s traditional Prayer around the Cross.

photoThe cross is an icon of the Crucified Christ with water rushing out from his pierced side. For the prayer around the cross, the icon is taken out of its stand and laid on top of 4 cinder blocks so that it’s about a foot off of the floor and perpendicular to it.

As the gathered sing, one by one, pilgrims approach the cross on their knees. Once they make their way to the cross, they place their forehead on the cross and pray.

The Prayer around the Cross is powerful to experience.

It’s just as powerful to watch so many approach the cross with devotion and seriousness.

But it’s even more powerful to notice the patience and hospitality everyone affords one another during the prayer, for it can take a good long while for that many people to crawl to the cross and then pray on it.

Before the Prayer around the Cross on Sunday night, Brother Alois, the prior of Taize, invited us to place our burdens upon the cross, the burdens we suffer both personally and collectively ‘because,’ Brother Alois said in his simple yet incisive way:

‘Christ didn’t just suffer in the past.

Christ still suffers today with us, with anyone who suffers in the world.’

His words hit me with converting clarity.

The prairie wind I felt blow across me could very well have been the Holy Spirit.

Because not one of us 1K pilgrims missed the clear, straight, connect-the-dots line he’d just drawn from the Crucified Christ to the all-but-crucified Lakota Indians on whose land we prayed.

When Brother Alois mentioned ‘collective suffering’ an accompanying illustration or further explanation wasn’t needed.

photo-1We prayed that night just a stone’s throw from Wounded Knee, the site of massacre where a mass grave of over 300 innocents slaughtered by the U.S. Army little more than a hundred years ago.

Afterwards the soldiers took gleeful pictures next to heaps of bodies of children and their mothers.

Wounded Knee remains a festering wound of memory for the Lakota.

Brother Alois spoke of the cross and collective suffering, we all knew what he meant.

And in one sense, nothing he said was revelatory or profound.

Yet here’s what hit me about what he said and from where he said it:

the ‘traditional’ evangelical understanding of the cross, what theologians call ‘penal substitution,’ not only has nothing to say to people like the Lakota, penal substitution speaks no good news to them because it simultaneously privileges people like me.

Penal substitution is an understanding of the atonement ideally suited for oppressors and people who benefit from oppressive systems.

On the pop level, penal substitution is the understanding of the cross that says ‘Jesus died for you.’

For your sin.

Jesus died in your place. Jesus died the death you deserve to die as punishment for your sin. Jesus is your substitute. He suffered (suddenly I realize how the past tense is key) the wrath God bears towards you.

On the purely theological level, I’ve always had a problem with penal substitution. Quickly: penal substitution seems to make God’s wrath more determinative an attribute than God’s loving mercy. It easily devolves into a hyper individualistic account of the faith (me and God). God the Father comes out, at best, seeming like a petulant prick who bears little to no resemblance to the Son, and, at worse, the Father seems captive to his own ‘laws’ of righteousness, honor, wrath and expiation.

Forgiveness, it’s always seemed to me, shouldn’t be so hard.

And shouldn’t require someone to die.

I’ve always had my theological gripes with that way of understanding the cross, but when I heard Brother Alois introduce the Prayer around the Cross the this-world, moral deficiencies of penal substitution hit me like a slap across the face.

Saying Jesus Christ died for you, for your sin, for your sin to be forgiven is good news to… sinners.

But what about the sinned against?

What we flipply call ‘Amazing Grace’ is good news for wretches like Isaac Newton. For slave-traders and slave-masters. Thanks to the cross, they’re good to go. Their collective guilt and systemic sin…wiped clean by the blood of the cross.

Hell, we might as well continue in those sinful systems because what matters to Christ isn’t our collective guilt but our individual hearts.

Yet what about those whom the ‘wretches’ made life an exponentially more wretched experience? What about the millions of others whom those wretches, who’ve been found by this amazing grace, treated like chattel?

At the Lord’s Supper we proclaim that Christ came to set the captives free, yet we persist in an understanding of the cross that bears zero continuity with that proclamation.  We spiritualize and interiorize gospel categories like ‘suffering’ and ‘oppression’ and ‘deliverance.’

Because it suits us.

Because we are ourselves are not oppressed, have no actual desire to be delivered from our ways in the world and suffer only the affliction of the comfortable.

Penal substitution, I realized upon hearing Brother Alois’ words, makes the mistake of acting as though Jesus of Nazareth is the only one to ever be strung up on a cross of shame and suffering.

Sure, every single, last Lakota gathered with us was, on an individual level, a ‘sinner.’ Just as surely to focus so singularly misses the larger issues, for the Indians praying with us at Red Shirt have been sinned against by us actively for centuries and they are now sinned against by our cynical indifference.

To suggest the primary meaning of the cross is that Christ died for their oppressors’ sins is to perpetuate, in a very real way, their suffering.

If Jesus wept over Jerusalem, I’ll be damned if he doesn’t weep over a place like Pine Ridge. And if he called the Pharisees ‘white-washed tombs’ for turning a blind eye to Rome’s oppressive systems, I wonder what he might call us?

On my knees in the hollow that was our sanctuary and hearing Brother Alois’ words as they struck the ears of Indians along with mine, I realized that Christ doesn’t die for us so much as Christ dies as one of us. With us.

In solidarity with those who’ve suffered like him at the hands of empire and indifference.

Location, location, location.

Real estate can make you hear the gospel with different ears- that’s what I realized at Pine Ridge.

The cross, I realized at Pine Ridge, is the opposite of good news unless it is today what it was for the first Christians: a symbol of protest, a demand for and a sign of an alternative to the world’s violence, a declaration that Christ not Caesar is Lord.

The primary message of the cross for someone like me, then, isn’t that God’s grace has saved a wretch like me though it can include that message.

No, the primary message of the cross is that it’s a summons to suffer, as Christ, for those whom the world makes life wretched.

Rather than Jesus being the answer, the solution to our selfishly construed problem, Pine Ridge has left me believing that the Cross is meant to afflict us with the right nightmares.

Taize @ Pine Ridge

Jason Micheli —  April 10, 2013 — 3 Comments

taize-pine-ridge-2013-360There’s still a couple of weeks if you’re interested in signing up to go the Taize gathering on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Badland.

Taize, the ecumenical monastery in France founded after WW II.

Each week throughout the year thousands of young people from around the world gather at Taize for a week of community and prayer.

Phyllis Tickle argues that in the future Taize will be credited as one of the precipitating movements of Emergence Christianity.

I believe her.

Because my previous visits to Taize have proven to have an enormous impact on my own spiritual development and how I understand the nature of the church.

The Taize gathering at Pine Ridge will be over Memorial Day weekend. I plan on going with a few others, and I will be guest-blogging for Tony Jones about my experiences there.

Check out this video about the gathering: Video

Here are a few details and then you can click over to read more at the Taize website itself.

When: Friday afternoon, May 24- Monday morning, May 27

Who: Anyone ages 18-35

Cost: $50.00 (plus travel…however we decide to get there)

Lodging: Tent Camping

Food: Provided by the Lakota

If you’re interested, contact me. Here’s the info page at Taize’s website.

Taize @ Pine Ridge

Jason Micheli —  January 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

taize-pine-ridge-2013-360Taize, the ecumenical monastery in France founded after WW II, is taking their community on the road to host a pilgrimage weekend on the Lakota reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. My previous visits to Taize have proven to have an enormous impact on my own spiritual development and how I understand the nature of the church.

The Taize gathering at Pine Ridge will be over Memorial Day weekend. I plan on going and will be guest-blogging for Tony Jones about my experiences there.

I’d love to have some others join me if you’re interested. Outdoor worship in South Dakota with the Taize brothers and pilgrims from all over the world. How could you say no.

Here are a few details and then you can click over to read more at the Taize website itself.

When: Friday afternoon, May 24- Monday morning, May 27

Who: Anyone ages 18-35

Cost: $50.00 (plus travel…however we decide to get there)

Lodging: Tent Camping

Food: Provided by the Lakota

If you’re interested, contact me. Here’s the info page at Taize’s website.