As the new year unfolds, I trust and hope that all of you are well and in the best of your health. I am not sure whether most of you can remember me. I am John Mbaria, a Kenyan and lived at Capitol Hill in Seattle between 2009 and 2011.
I wish to let you know that after going back to Kenya, I went back to journalism. I now write for a number of newspapers here and other news outlets abroad. In addition, I would like to let you know that together with another Kenyan, Dr. Mordecai Ogada, we have authored a book that questions the approach Kenya and other countries in Africa have taken to conserve the last major herds and packs of wildlife remaining in the planet. I guess that most, if not all of you love wildlife, and might be working for, or supporting the survival and conservation of wild animals. For those unaware, Kenya is one of the few countries in the world that are inhabited by huge population of diverse wildlife. The country is also blessed with pristine ecosystems, some of which have remained unchanged for hundreds if not thousands of years.
But much of these resources are now facing serious threats. This is largely because of a fundamentally flawed conservation philosophy, ideology and practice adopted and maintained here since early 1900s. Driven by donor support from the United States, Britain and other countries in the West, the conservation approach is no longer relevant to the cultural, social, economic and natural dynamism(s) that Africa is going through today. It is also more about preserving the luxurious lifestyles of the practitioners than preserving the animals - as the world is duped to believe. Further, it is racist in design and has resulted not only in the decimation and disappearance of many species and habitats, but also in immense anger by communities that suffer the brunt of human-wildlife conflicts. Climate change, that has led to increasing frequency and severity of droughts, and human population increase have added another layer of the threats. But as all these things happen, as the species and habitats disappear, the world is duped, through films, TV-programs, books and reports, that all is well - as far as wildlife conservation is concerned.
Having covered, and written on, wildlife conservation since early 2000, I couldn't take it any more; I knew that I would one day tell this story. Indeed, when Dr. Ogada suggested that we write this book in 2013, I immediately jumped for the idea. We were lucky that Skeeter Wilson - who runs the American publishing company, Lens and Pens- believed in our work. As I write this, Lens and Pens has published the book and placed it at Amazon.
If any of you is interested in reading this book, you can get it from amazon through the following link:
I am sure the book will not just be an eye-opener, it is bound to change your perspective on these matters. Thank you and may God Bless you.
Note: we have a copy of John’s book in the church library.
By Pat Kile
What is it they say—if you remember the 60’s, you weren’t really there. . . ? I guess that could be me. I was a college student in the second half of that decade, at Kansas State University. I was naïve and unaware, self-absorbed and involved in my social life and sorority—and occasionally in my studies when deadlines and finals demanded. I didn’t use drugs, but I did drink rivers of alcohol, the more acceptable drug of choice for “nice” sorority girls. I had a vague awareness in my last two years at K-State that there were protests for “something or other” on the campus. I know now of course that the protesters were FOR civil rights and AGAINST the war in Viet Nam (yes, Kansas was more progressive then!), but at that time I wouldn’t have made the distinction.
Now I’m in MY 60’s, at least for another year. And on January 21, 2017 I became a protester myself when I participated in the international Women’s March. To be precise, I think I had participated in at least one protest march against the war in Iraq with other Seattle First Baptist members. But it was much smaller and not that memorable. This was memorable—in fact, it was a life-changer. It was truly remarkable in its scope, its organization, and its peacefulness. And it was so energizing to know as we marched that women and men in cities around the world were marching together in common purpose. My daughter Kate was marching in New York and we shared photos back and forth.
I marched with my good friend Nancy Roberts-Brown, and as we marched, she and I focused on the importance of keeping the energy alive—finding ways to make our lives count going forward, once the excitement about the Women’s March had subsided. That’s the real meaning of the March—not the endless variety of “pussy hats” or the clever signs or even the amazing numbers of women and men around the globe who marched for human rights on that day.
It’s what we do with the energy we generated through that event that’s important. It’s how we’ll maintain support for justice when the going gets tough. It’s what will call us into the streets again, that will make us pick up our phones and our pens, when our own rights and the rights of the most vulnerable in our communities are threatened.
November 9, 2016 was my 69th birthday. I woke up that morning realizing that the world had changed overnight. Or maybe it hadn’t changed that much—maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention. But I woke up that day to a world that scared me to the core. And since that day, I’ve been waking up a little more every day. I’m paying attention now.
One thing I know is that I’ve been very lax when it comes to being informed about and taking responsibility for the state of affairs here and around the world. I’ve been a believer in social justice causes for at least 40 years, but I haven’t been much of an activist. Now in the “third third” of my life, I’m aiming to be better informed about both local and national issues. And I’m committed to taking a stand on things that I believe are important. And I’m looking forward to the next Women’s March in the firm belief that it’s never too late to change!
By Jim Segaar
When we read the latest news from Washington D.C. these days it may seem quite clear where our church should be with regards to our government. In seeking to follow the way of Jesus Christ we will almost certainly be in conflict with the current president and Congress. Standing with refugees, Muslims, Native Americans, and others defined as strangers is core to our mission.
But what if Hillary Clinton and the Democrats had carried that Tuesday in November? Would our church’s mission and ministry be any less vital? If the answer to that question is “yes,” then I fear we have lost our way as a community of faith. If our goals and objectives can be captured in the platform of any political party, even a progressive one, then I believe we are aiming way too low.
Religion and power have such an unhealthy relationship. History argues that every time a religion gains political power it is ultimately bad news for the world. And we as people of faith should know that. The prophets showed us. Jesus lived as an example for us. Our place is not in a seat of power, but confronting power, standing with the powerless, and as scary as it sounds, being purposefully powerless.
Power’s ability to twist religion is insidious. Consider a simple example – the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, right? So why do we end it with “For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever?” Why is that line added even though it is not in the Bible? Why does that line get the big music, the finale? Kingdom, power, and glory – three things that Jesus refused to pursue, three things that he repudiated. Even in our prayer we wrap our Savior in imperial robes and crown him with jewels.
I certainly am not arguing that followers of Christ have no place in politics. I vote. I marched with many you through Seattle in January. But I believe that our collective calling as people of faith must go farther than that.
Consider the presidency of Barack Obama. One might argue that our nation acted more “Christian” in those good old days, but that argument ignores a few inconvenient facts. Our country dropped bombs and fired missiles nearly every day of Obama’s presidency, killing some “bad guys” but also with “collateral damage.” In our name, drones routinely target weddings and funerals in parts of the world that we’ve never seen and will never understand. We continue to spend well over half of our national budget on the military, with enormous chunks of that money flowing to arms manufacturers and their stockholders (which includes a lot of us). Our economy continues to thrive not when we meet the basic needs of everyone, not when we care for “the least of these,” but when we convince those of us with more than we need to spend our surplus on more stuff and services that we don’t need.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to do better than that. As Seattle First Baptist Church we have done better. We ordained a woman before she could vote. We stood with Japanese Americans when they were imprisoned by an executive order signed by a Democrat. As a gay man I was welcomed at this church decades before marriage equality became the law of the land.
If our church ever feels like it is “in step” with our government or our society as a whole, then I believe our church will have lost its way. We will have stopped boldly going where others cannot or will not go, and we should question why SFBC even needs to exist.
Our mission as a church is no different today than it was on Monday, Nov. 7.
“We are a community of faith united in exploring what it means to follow the way of Jesus Christ, to be a people of God, and to love and care for our neighbors. As a church we will know no circles of exclusion, no boundaries we will not cross, and no loyalties above those which we owe to God.”
That, my friends, will never be the platform of a political party. It is our call to radical hospitality, radical service, radical acceptance of “the stranger,” radical powerlessness. And if we ever think that we’ve achieved it, that we’ve arrived, or that some politician is going to do it for us, then it’s time to reassess, because chances are we’re missing the point.
By Pastor Harriet Platts (written on 2/2/2017)
You faced down attack dogs, blizzards and rubber bullets. If we do not fight we will not win. Let’s build on this, make sure other cities move to divest from Wells Fargo.
~ Kshama Sawant, Seattle Council Woman
On Wednesday morning, February 1st, representatives from a host of environmental groups including 350.org, Earth Ministries, and indigenous sisters and brothers from both regional and national tribes opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on treaty lands in N. Dakota, filled the chambers of the city council’s meeting space to testify and to encourage the city to fully divest from Wells Fargo Bank. Following testimony, members of the council voted unanimously to recommend to the full Council next week that the city divest its financial holdings with Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo has been the city’s bank for operations since 1999, and manages more than $3 billion of the city’s operating account.
This feels like progress, EVEN in the face of other very discouraging news of yesterday that the Army Corp of Engineers has been ordered by the new administration to allow construction of the DAPL to proceed without the environmental impact studies being completed. A portion of this pipeline is slated to tunnel under the Missouri River in N. Dakota, a primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The Seattle Times reports that 76 protestors were arrested yesterday. A new camp set up in protest of the pipeline was cleared by nightfall, with police “dropping off teepees set up in the camp,” at the Sioux Tribe’s reservation.
On Wednesday afternoon, February 1st, I went to a local credit union a couple miles from my house, to initiate the process of opening up a new account. I’ve been aiming in this direction for a while, dragging my feet in anticipation of all the small implicit changes that would be involved in changing banking institutions. But, yesterday was the day!!
The credit union I chose is not as conveniently located to our home as our current bank, but this is a small price to be paid. We’ve been banking at a large corporate bank for the last 15 years, but in good conscience, we can’t continue. Removing our funds from the corporate bank and establishing a connection with a local credit union, we aim to say more visibly, “Yes,” to our neighborhood, to strengthen our connection to our community and to the small businesses right here. We also aim to say directly, “No!” to the big bank. We will no longer be a participant in supporting a financial institution that is financially supporting the company that’s building the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As a part of the new account application process, the assistant was prompted to ask the reason for our change. When I looked at the choices on the computer screen, there was no RESISTANCE choice available. I looked her in the eye and commented in a calm voice, “The reason we’re moving here is that we can’t continue to support a big banking institution involved in the financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” She checked the box, “Community involvement,” as I instructed. She added, “We can also make a note at the bottom of your application with more detail about your reason.” I felt self-conscience sitting there, trying to find just the right words I wanted her to type in. I took a small piece of paper in front of me and wrote the first words that came, “No more to BIG Banks!” It was heartfelt.
In the box at the bottom of the application, she entered as I instructed, “No! to BIG banks!” It was a presence moment between me, the assistant and my Maker. My heart felt earnest, true.
Right next step. We continue to practice.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist