Updated: Aug 3, 2020
How I was led to get involved with the Poor People’s Campaign and Campaign Nonviolence movements for change.
Reflections on the roles of contemplative practice and nonviolence in preparing us to do the work of reconciliation and restoration needed to heal first our own hearts and then our nation’s heart.
I’m gonna let the musicians have the floor and warm up our audience…Hear [sic] are some opening vibes to help us all open our hearts and minds to receive the messages of reconciliation, so we can move forward – playin’ for change & groovin’ and dancin’ - as one human family…
--Buddy introduces the “Golden Brown” version of the golden rule…
“I sat my little child down
when he was old enough to know
I said out there in this big wide world
You're gonna meet all kinds of folks
I said son it all comes down to just one simple rule
That you treat everybody just the way
You want them to treat you
Underneath we're all the same…”
This next section on “HOW” was part of my post on “Nonviolence.” I’m including it here because it plays such a crucial role in any work for change we’ll undertake.
HOW we do something is as, if not more, important than WHAT we do.
We first need to take stock of our interior landscape – are there areas of hatred, mistrust or fear of some class(es) of people that we deem as less than us? From this space of getting our own house in order, we can then move to the outside. HH Dalai Lama has said that inner peace must come before outer peace. Similarly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that our inner attitudes and states are the real sources of our problems, preceding our outward behaviors.
We need some form of contemplative practice to enable us to see in “wholes” rather than “poles.” Otherwise, we just take sides and spend all our energy defending our side and attacking the other. For me, contemplation is helping me see the “other” as “me” – at the level of soul, we are one.
We need training in nonviolence – the world of church and state has been run largely by white males, seeking power and control. They conveniently overlook Jesus’ clear teaching on nonviolence and love for enemies. Because of this bias from the top, we need to listen to different voices that show us – those at the bottom - how to think and then live nonviolently and compassionately with one another.
How I came to Poor People’s Campaign (PPC)
Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org) recommended in recent Daily Meditations that we get involved with the PPC. He and those to whom he’s introduced me, write and teach extensively about social justice issues. So far, I’ve shown up at the PPC’s national, NYS and LI Zoom’s and am starting to work with their Arts & Culture Committee..
His and similar organizations that work to balance action and contemplation are critical for times like these. We need a lens that sees deeper and wider than our small, self-serving, self-protecting egoic consciousness. The theme for this year’s Daily Meditations is “Action & Contemplation” and uses the following as chief text: “What does God ask of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” —Micah 6:8
“Franciscan Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in 1987 because he saw a deep need for the integration of both action and contemplation. If we pray but don’t act justly, our faith won’t bear fruit. And without contemplation, activists burn out and even well-intended actions can cause more harm than good. In today’s religious, environmental, and political climate our compassionate engagement is urgent and vital” (from this year’s emailed Daily Meditations). See also “Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist” at the end.
On Saturday July 25 I participated in a 4-hour online workshop entitled “Reckoning with our Past – Transforming Racial Pain in America.” It was sponsored by Illuman of Ohio. I’ve included some of their resources in this post and more will follow. Illuman is a men’s organization that grew out of the pioneering work of Richard Rohr in the field of men’s spirituality and wholeness.
In this week’s Daily Meditations that focus on “Nonviolence,” Richard encourages us to participate with a group known as “Campaign Nonviolence.” He is one of the featured presenters. On August 6, 7 & 8 they are offering workshops and events on this important practice - nonviolence. I’m signed up! This can be very helpful in teaching us HOW to engage.
One of the reasons Richard Rohr began the Center for Action and Contemplation was to help folks find a way to balance the ego’s natural desire to demonize and resist “the other side” – those people and policies with which it doesn’t agree.
In his Daily Meditations he recommended that we all participate in the Poor People’s Campaign. His recommendation was enough for me to sign up.
Through Richard I’ve been introduced to prophetic spiritual voices including women and people of color. Each emphasizes the importance of balancing action AND contemplation in our daily lives as we work to create a more just society for all people. In fact, Richard often emphasizes that “AND” is the most important word in the Center’s name.
To give you a sense of Richard’s worldview, here are four recent weekly summaries, two of his Daily Meditations (or “medications” as I like to call them) and a short video explaining contemplation. Within each weekly summary you’ll find a short excerpt from each day’s larger meditation and a link to the complete meditation. Each summary also includes a contemplative practice to help us embody the message.
What do we mean by contemplation? (5-min video)
(Excerpt) “A contemplative lens is the only frame through which we can recognize and address the three sources of evil: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we remain in egoic consciousness, evil (especially in its first hidden forms that look so much like goodness), will take over unchallenged. This is exactly what Brazilian archbishop Dom Hélder Câmara (1909–1999) said many years ago when he talked about the ‘spiral of violence’: institutional violence provokes a violent response, which in turn is met with “necessary” repression,  and then the same pattern repeats, each level growing more and more violent without really resolving the underlying problem (or evil).”
Additional Richard Rohr Resources
Richard has been teaching on the subject of systemic evil for years. He reminds us that we are dealing more with evil systems than with evil people, but we’ve wasted a lot of time and energy on the individuals, allowing the systems to continue unchallenged. Here’s one meditation that’ll give you an overview:
--the following image is a quote by Brazilian Archbishop Camara who was citied in this meditation
--“Walter Wink (1935–2012), with whom I taught at several conferences some years ago, wrote a brilliant book, Jesus and Nonviolence, on a third way between fight and flight. I can see why Jesus calls it ‘a narrow path,’ as it’s not the ego’s default or preferred method. Read on. . . .
There are three general responses to evil: (1) passivity, (2) violent opposition, and (3) the third way of . . . nonviolence articulated by Jesus. Human evolution has conditioned us for only the first two of these responses. . . .
Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His is a third alternative not even touched by these options. . . .”
--(from Sunday) “I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with 7.5 billion humans now on the planet at the same time. Our future is either nonviolent or there is no future at all.”
-- “In his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus directly says that our inner attitudes and states are the real sources of our problems, preceding our outward behaviors.”
Illuman is a men’s organization that grew out of pioneering work in this field done by Richard Rohr. I belong to three different monthly groups – no bullshit zones, where I can be honest and vulnerable enough to talk about what needs work and also share my gifts with my brothers.
On Saturday July 25, I participated in a 4-hour online workshop “Reckoning with our Past – Transforming Racial Pain in America” that was hosted by Illuman of Ohio.
The two presenters described how white supremacy developed out of racist philosophies like the Doctrine of Discovery that empowered church and government to combine and enslave whole races and classes of people. It was history that was never told to me. I’m 72. They will be offering a follow up in late fall.
The next 2 resources were inspired by the Ohio Illuman racial reckoning event:
--from the Unitarian Universalist Association – a group actively involved in promoting social justice. This site includes the following 14-minute video. Watch it with your children and grandchildren. The truth will set us free…
The next 4 resources were provided by the Ohio Illuman presenters as preparatory material for our event:
“Go to the doctor and they won’t begin to treat you without taking your history — and not just yours, but that of your parents and grandparents before you. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson points this out as she reflects on her epic work of narrative nonfiction, The Warmth of Other Suns. She’s immersed herself in the stories of the Great Migration, the movement of six million African Americans to northern U.S. cities in the 20th century. The book is a carrier of histories and truths that help make sense of human and social challenges at the heart of our life together now.”
“The best laws and diversity training have not gotten us anywhere near where we want to go. Therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem is working with old wisdom and very new science about our bodies and nervous systems, and all we condense into the word ‘race.’ Krista sat down with him in Minneapolis, where they both live and work, before the pandemic lockdown began. In this heartbreaking moment, after the killing of George Floyd and the history it carries, Resmaa Menakem’s practices offer us the beginning to change at a cellular level.”
“Four hundred years ago, in August 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the 250 years of slavery that followed. ‘1619,’ a New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, examines the long shadow of that fateful moment. This episode includes scenes of graphic violence.” Site contains links to other episodes.
“I’m talking with professor Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. We talk about racial disparities, policy, and equality, but we really focus on How to Be an Antiracist, which is a groundbreaking approach to understanding uprooting racism and inequality in our society and in ourselves.”
The following are offered to further assist you in your own healing & discoveries…
--Correspondence between Thomas Merton and Jim Forest, a lifelong peace activist who founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship in 1964. Jim worked on the staff of the Catholic Worker community in NYC, alongside founder Dorothy Day.
Thomas Merton - What Is Contemplation? (0:06:22)
--reading from the opening pages of Merton’s “New Seeds of Contemplation”
--He’s been a guest of Oprah (Super Soul Sunday-several times), Krista Tippett (On Being Project-several times), Jim Wallis of Sojourners and has been interviewed by many other major media sources.
--My kundalini yoga practice offers this mantra as a way of affirming and strengthening my foundational connection to everything: my True Self, all others and the Infinite.
Here’s my favorite recording of these transformative, healing, awakening sounds:
Tom Tittmann: Blogger on our shared journey through life
Blog Posts with Social Justice Themes
--As divisiveness rises, Gandhi & Dr. King courageously applied Jesus' teaching on nonviolence.
--All revolutions must begin in OUR own hearts. Contemplative practices create space where unity can emerge.
--Thruout history the Source of Love has sided with the poor. Reflections from Abp. Camara, Richard Rohr, others
--Social change is fought on many fronts. Here's front man Bob Marley delivering his prophetic ammunition...
--The "bottom line" is: We've ignored our prophets in order to heap up profits. Dylan, DMB, Neil Young, more
--The priest: what will happen to me if I stop? Samaritan: what will happen to the man if I don't?
--When leaders are liars the people suffer. Now is not a time to kill our prophets or stone those sent to us.
“We’re all just walking each other home…” Ram Dass
“Peace” like Christianity hasn’t really been tried yet…
As G.K. Chesterton once said,
“The Christian ideal  has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
 For me, “the Christian ideal” does not refer to dogmas, doctrines and complicated theology, but rather to the justice and mercy that Jesus & Martin Luther King & Dorothy Day & Mohandas Gandhi and others preached and lived and invited us to practice.
“True religion is to look after, visit and make a difference in the lives of the homeless and loveless in their distress; to help children who have no parents and to care for women whose husbands have died…”(Acts 1:27)
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