Letter from Birmingham Jail

Message me  to make an order of this print! I've still got a small inventory of 12x18in. posters that go for $20 each.

Message me to make an order of this print! I've still got a small inventory of 12x18in. posters that go for $20 each.

"Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? ... Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (An excerpt of "Letter from Birmingham Jail")

Gandhi

Another piece in my icon series is complete. Gandhi's life, words, and wisdom are truly a valuable and needed gift to humanity. Ironically, a stigma is placed on Gandhi in some Christian circles, which deeply grieves me. Gandhi was deeply influenced by Jesus and devoted to embodying His way of being in the world...so much so that he adopted a daily practice of reading the Sermon on the Mount and has written that, "Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. This was non-violence par excellence" (Gandhi on Nonviolence, p. 55). Though Gandhi claimed no one particular religion solely as his, I wonder if in many ways––especially in terms of nonviolent resistance, peacemaking, care for the poor, communal unity and equality, renouncing of empire and worldly power, and the study/embodying of Jesus' words and practice––if Gandhi looked more like a Jesus-follower in the world than many of us modern-day Christians do. At the very least, I see value rather than danger in learning his story and hope that more folks might come to share that perspective as well.

What you see in the illustrated icon:

  • Gandhi pictured in the white, homespun cloth that eventually became the only clothing that he wore (and made for himself) as part of a protest to British rule in India in which he encouraged the Indian people to wear no foreign textiles.
  • His hands in the namaste position with which he consistently greeted others. Namaste literally translates as "I bow to you." It is also rumored that when Albert Einstein asked Gandhi what exactly his greeting meant, he explained it as follows: “I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you of light, love, truth, peace and wisdom. I honor the place in you where, when you are in that place, and I am in that place, there is only one of us.”
  • Waves of salt water in the background that symbolize the water of the Arabian Sea where Gandhi led people in the Salt March of 1930. This was an active, nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly in colonial India and an essential part of the revolution that led to independence for India being granted in 1947.

If you're unfamiliar with Ghandi or just curious to learn more, here are a few good places to do that:

GANDHI   was released as a major motion picture in 1982 and won 8 Academy Awards. This may be the best way to get a vivid, holistic picture of Gandhi's life and to get an introduction to his wisdom and practices. There are many options for online viewing of this movie. Don't be intimidated by its length...there's an intermission, and it's well-worth your time.

GANDHI was released as a major motion picture in 1982 and won 8 Academy Awards. This may be the best way to get a vivid, holistic picture of Gandhi's life and to get an introduction to his wisdom and practices. There are many options for online viewing of this movie. Don't be intimidated by its length...there's an intermission, and it's well-worth your time.

Gandhi on Nonviolence   (Edited by Thomas Merton) is full of quotes from Gandhi's writings and speeches as well as commentary by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

Gandhi on Nonviolence (Edited by Thomas Merton) is full of quotes from Gandhi's writings and speeches as well as commentary by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

I haven't read this one yet, but it's on the "read ASAP" list.  Gandhi's autobiography  is widely renowned reading...sure to inspire, instruct, and encourage.

I haven't read this one yet, but it's on the "read ASAP" list. Gandhi's autobiography is widely renowned reading...sure to inspire, instruct, and encourage.


MLK, Jr. Icon

In honor of Dr. King's courageous and invaluable contributions to our society and as a personal commitment to continuing the work of realizing his dreams for our lives, I made this new graphic icon to share with you today.

Also, below is a far-too-small collection of Dr. King's words in hopes that we might reflect on them honestly today. And that in our reflection, we might be moved to act in some way. Maybe this year more than many in our recent history, I think it is clear that we have a long way to go in making Dr. King's dreams a reality. So may we be challenged and emboldened by his example, and may we be the "creative, dedicated" ones who help this hurting world to get better, little by little...

I hereby pledge myself – my person and my body – to nonviolence, peace, and justice for all people everywhere.

Therefore I will keep the following commandments:

I will meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
I will remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
I will walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
I will pray daily to be used by God in order that all people might be free.
I will sacrifice personal wishes in order that all people might be free.
I will observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
I will seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
I will refrain from violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
I will strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
I will listen with respect to those who love and teach me.
— MLK, Jr. (Pledge of Non-Violence, 1963)
As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond...either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force.
— MLK, Jr.
Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.
— MLK, Jr.
God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty.”
— MLK, Jr.
We must use time creatively in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.
— MLK, Jr.
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
— MLK, Jr.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
— MLK, Jr.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
— MLK, Jr. (Letter From Birmingham Jail)
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
— MLK, Jr.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. . . I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
— MLK, Jr.

St. Francis of Assisi

I love learning about the lives of the saints in church history. Their stories can be so valuable as encouragement, inspiration, and motivation for us on how to shape our lives today. One of my favorites is St. Francis of Assisi, coincidentally the namesake of the current Catholic pope–appropriately I think, as Francis was one of the first to critique and warn against the dangers of capitalism, lived with a deep value and care for the environment/all of Creation, and was actively non-violent and doing the work of peacemaking in a time of war and crusades. We can benefit greatly from the wisdom of Francis, and today is the day the Church remembers him collectively...

This is a copy of an "icon" of St. Francis that I made for a friend's birthday present! (I'm considering illustrating more icons of saints and sharing their stories in a series here on the blog. Is this something anyone would be interested in? Comment below to let me know? :)

This is a copy of an "icon" of St. Francis that I made for a friend's birthday present! (I'm considering illustrating more icons of saints and sharing their stories in a series here on the blog. Is this something anyone would be interested in? Comment below to let me know? :)

Shane Claiborne wrote today in regards to St. Francis...

"Today is one of the great holy-days of the year. Happy St. Francis Day!!!

Christians around the world remember one of the great heroes of our faith, and the Pope’s namesake – Francis of Assisi. But Francesco Bernadone (Francis of Assisi), who died on October 3, 1226 must be laughing at the irony of it all. 

He was one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the church, and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war. Even though it’s hard to imagine a saint whose life is more relevant to the world we live in today, Francis was not always so popular. 

Legend has it, the first time he preached at the Vatican, the pope told him to go preach to the pigs. But later the pope had a vision: the corner of the church was collapsing, and little Francis and the youth of Assisi were holding it up. Arguably that youth movement was one of the most powerful restorations of church history. While he did not hold back on his relentless critique of the church, he remained humbly and hopeful. He stopped complaining about the church as it was and started dreaming of the church as it could be. As Francis said, he heard God whisper: “Repair my Church, which is in ruins.” 
So perhaps it’s Providential that 800 years later the Pope is named after him.

Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, born into a society where the gap between the rich and the poor was increasingly unacceptable. It was an age of religious crusades, where Christians and Muslims were killing each other in the name of God. The Church and the world were in chaos… Sound familiar?

Francis did something simple and wonderful. He read the Gospels where Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor,” “Consider the lilies and the sparrows and do not worry about tomorrow,” “Love your enemies,” and he decided to live as if Jesus meant the stuff he said. Francis turned his back on the materialism and militarism of his world, and said yes to Jesus.

One of the quotes attributed to Francis is a simple and poignant critique of our world, just as it was to his: “The more stuff we have, the more clubs we need to protect it. Be free like the lilies and the sparrows.” 

With a childlike innocence, Francis literally stripped naked and walked out of Assisi to live like the lilies and the sparrows. He lived among the outcasts and ostracized. He lived close to the earth and, like Jesus, became a friend of the birds and creatures, whom he fondly called brother and sister. In light of that, many a birdbath wears his iconic image. But his life is worthy of more than a lawn statue. His life was a powerful critique of the demons of his day, which are very similar to the demons of our day.

One of my favorite stories about Francis was when he decided to meet with the Muslim sultan during the Fifth Crusade – in Syria of all places. It was a tumultuous time. War had become a necessity and a habit, and was sanctioned by much of the church. Francis was sent off as a soldier, but he could not reconcile the violence of war with the grace of Christ . . . and so he got off his warhorse and put down his sword. He pleaded with the military commander, Cardinal-Legate Pelagius, to end the fighting. Pelagius refused. Instead, Pelagius broke off all diplomatic relations with the sultan of Egypt. The sultan in turn decreed that anyone who brought him the head of a Christian would be rewarded with a Byzantine gold piece. Francis, however, pursued his vision in steadfast faith, surmounting all dangers in a journey to see the sultan. He traveled through fierce fighting in Syria and inevitably was met by soldiers of the sultan’s army, who beat him savagely and put him in chains, dragging him before the sultan himself. Francis spoke to the sultan of God’s love and grace. The sultan listened intensely and was so moved that he offered Francis gifts and money. Francis, of course, had no desire for the money, but he gladly accepted one gift, an ivory horn used in the Muslim call to prayer. He took it back with him and used it to summon his own community for prayer. Both Francis and the sultan were transformed by that encounter, offering much hope to our world of troubled interfaith relations.

Although the church is prone to forget his witness or to make a monument of his movement, we can still celebrate his critique of an economy that left masses of people in poverty, so that a handful of people can live as they wish. We still rejoice in his love for the earth as we work to end the ravaging of our world. We remember his witness that there is a better way to bring peace than with a sword. 
These are the words of the famous prayer attributed to Francis. May they inspire us to become better people and to build a better world, right alongside Francesco Bernadone of Assisi and Pope Francis of Argentina.

Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon, 
Where there is discord, union,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is error, truth,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is sadness, joy,
Where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive,it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

NOTE: FOR A GOOD FLICK ON FRANCIS, CHECK OUT THE CLASSIC BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON"