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