Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stopping on the way home


Kristen Leigh and Russ

Our neighborhood Palestine solidarity group is meeting at West-Park this afternoon.  We used to meet at Advent, but now that Pastor Elise has gone, we’ll need a new place at least for awhile. The Palestine committee at one of our churches is having a difficult time with a new pastor. There is controversy within the congregation. Question as to whether the task force should  keep the name of the church, even though the church is the basis of this group. Concerns about interfaith couples. Jewish neighbors. Need for a balanced view. We’ve been hearing this more and more in the neighborhood as it becomes more and more difficult to have public advocacy for Palestinians within the faith community.

The balanced view was a view I held passionately…around 30 years ago. Over the years things have gotten worse and the occupation has become all but irreversible. Despite our national denomination’s policy statements and actions, especially regarding divestment from three major companies profiting from the occupation: Hewlitt Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola; local churches feel little influence of those policies.  There will be no Tree of Life conference this year nor does it look like we can get Ilan Pappe to the neighborhood.  There is a feeling of losing ground. 

We will proceed with planning our next film series and see where  to go from there.

As the meeting is breaking up, I ask Russ to hang out a little  because our friend Kristen Leigh was stopping through on her way back to North Carolina. She is a musician, artist, theologian, scholar, friend. She has pretty well articulated the myth of New York (northeastern) superiority, The attitude of privilege: social economic and intellectual of northern liberals. She has discovered  well the more nuanced but no less insidious northern brand of racism. From her perspective, southern conversations about race are more grass roots and less theoretical. In a word, more real.

She’s also called out the slow death spreading through our old liberal and mainline churches like a hardening of the arteries.

As an artist, she objects  to any effort of the church to have arts serve as a handmaid to a theological/ecclesiastical project. Likewise, social justice advocates requesting what amounts to agitprop. What is called for is the freedom of the artist to listen for the voice of God and respond accordingly. Always seeking to report the truth.  We're working on planning a meeting to explore these issues. 
Travel well, Kristen Leigh

She says, you don’t know  how important it is for us that you are here, doing what you’re doing. That there’s a place we can always come to and just be, just listen and see what happens. And look what happens!  I will miss her performances here, she’s had several at West-Park.  And I will miss her.

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