Staring at scripture, feeling connection severed, words barely resonate, like fiction written for another time.
Wicked prospering for centuries, exploitation, extraction, eradication, while earth suffers, gasps for relief, and the righteous die of hate crimes, man-made disasters, preventable medical crises untreated due to cost of care.
Faith, some say, should cause radical transformation, radical community, radical love, but look inside most churches and find the same hierarchy, thirst for control, the same willful disregard as on the outside, but with a shiny Christian label,
manipulating people to believe good works are donating gifts for the disadvantaged, giving old clothes to the homeless shelter, dropping groceries to the food pantry, patting ourselves on the back as we drive away
as though congregations haven’t spent years elevating people who, from greed and power, conjure the conditions for devastation, disadvantage, housing insecurity, hunger, from a world of abundance,
selling myths of irresponsible individuals and climate change denial, pointing away, sleight of hand, from systems of abuse, their own wicked policies, all while claiming virtue
and I want to scream, to wail, to fling my Bible into the rising ocean, and sit, hands to earth, drinking in deep truths from mother trees and non-human animals and water wisdom and thin places and learn an entirely different way of being.
What kind of system produces those who behold other people and see only what can be imposed, controlled, taken?
Autonomy disregarded. Humanity undermined.
The beautiful unwieldiness of another callously reduced to anatomy, role, function, capital, the fulfillment of demands from those hellbent to uphold constructed binaries, hierarchies, supremacies.
Infuriated by anyone unwilling to accept oppression.
Outraged by those willing to call harm what it is.
Doubling down on cognitive-dissonance to maintain the opposite of co-creation:
Extraction as a way of life.
Telling us to continue consuming, controlling, hoarding as much as possible while wildfires rage, floods overwhelm, water runs out, wars are waged, cities swelter, children go hungry, rights are stripped away.
Killing the planet, the future, each other, so greed and power always rule.
Expected to carry on feigning independence, working to exhaustion, making appointments, reading fine print, paying bills, acting like there is no other way things could be.
But systems can be undermined.
Hearts straining against bone, grief fueling resistance to this destruction, anger preventing our deferral, connection reminding we can burn with love as well as rage.
In the garden, work complete for the day but not ready to leave, sitting on the kneeling pad, bare feet in the dirt, pondering control and lack of control.
The bodily autonomy of women and the marginalized, our children’s safety, our mother planet, existing so precariously at the whim of those who want total control as they deem it.
We know there are other ways, alternatives to this cycle of dominance and power we are born into, inhale with our first breath, the beginning of our indoctrination.
Some have left us wisdom, stories, even shown us by example other possibilities.
I like to think of other possibilities, how to subvert control.
Some days, that feels impossible and I sit despondent, weight crushing.
But sometimes I remember resistance, words of collective liberation.
Looking out at clover growing abundant in the part of our yard we’re letting go to meadow, I think of how lovely it can be to let go.
I remember years I’ve spent unraveling my own indoctrination.
And now I breathe deep and look around at the volunteer Black-eyed Susans I couldn’t bear to clear, the goldenrod and late boneset I left growing among the coneflowers, even though this gives my garden a wild, unkempt flair.
I eye the morning glory seedling I did not plant that recently appeared between the rows of straw flowers and decide to leave her alone.
The act of planting what I have is enough control for this space, not everything needs my intervention.
And maybe, somehow, these decisions unravel one more thread of control in the universe.
Scripture tells us that God even gave Mary the choice of whether or not to become the mother of God incarnate, yet men and women under the influence of patriarchy who claim to speak for God believe they know choice better than someone seeking medical care, someone who is pregnant, a couple struggling with a difficult decision– even God Godself.
These patriarchal people are taught to believe the only choices available to anyone should be what they choose for them, because patriarchy is built on control.
Decades of rhetoric have worked to train the reach of their compassion to extend only to certain groups and they have been convinced that there is no place for complexity, no space to hold the fact that multiple things can be true at the same time, no possibility that what they believe best for themselves might be trauma for someone else.
They seem unwilling or unable to see the truth that choice is more than just one thing and what they offer as easy alternatives are, in fact, rarely simple.
Violation is a terrible reality in our world, homes, churches. Medical peril is real. Poverty is trauma. Pregnancy is dangerous. Adoption is a labyrinth. Birth can be death. Sometimes all available options are devastating.
This is not to say there aren’t real moral questions to address regarding choice.
This is not to say there aren’t those who have sincere personal conviction regarding when life begins or what happens in the womb.
Yet too many have allowed the beliefs they chose to be used to secure the power of those who wield their conviction as the means to strip away from the marginalized meger, hard-won rights of autonomy because they have been told it is only the rights of those who agree with them that matter.
Convinced their own rights are absolute even if they infringe on the rights of others, convinced they are the ones persecuted and denied rights because they can’t always impose their choices on others, unable to recognize that with justice further undermined, it could be their choices, their rights, stripped away next.
Even as this seems the inevitable outcome of our current state, I admit I want to hold out hope we can find a way to other possibilities.
In lockdown I wrote thoughts until they became a poem and then another and another and then I remembered I’ve always thought in poetry.
It was Spring and the woods smelled of decaying leaves and honeysuckle blossoms, as if to remind me that a cycle of fading and blooming is the truth of this life and that perhaps it was possible the catastrophic failure of our current systems would bring about the letting go and renewal this world desperately needed.
But time passed and the ship has yet to right itself.
We have lost so many and many communities are worse off now than when pandamonium started and it’s become impossible to ignore that we are in a face-off between those who want a better world and those whose gods are profit and power and the only way anything is going to change for the better is if those of us who can imagine, envision, insist on a way of life together that is not perpetual harm— find each other, work together, and cultivate it.
Those of us who are people of incarnation and resurrection, of compassion and justice, of collective healing and liberation, of knowing there is more to life than chasing accumulation, exploitation, unfair gain.
Even as we’re told to go back to normal and ramp up productivity and pretend we didn’t see behind the curtain, I will keep facing hard truths, questioning narratives, dismantling conditioning, and writing poems.