Saturday, January 08, 2011

Civility Needs Communities Or Else It Dies...And People Too

Today, in Arizona with the shooting and deaths of public officials and citizens at a public event, we see many problems in our society being magnified in one horrible episode. Certainly, a disturbed individual, but also issues of the spread of weapons, and an attack on the First Amendment rights to gather peacefully and expression opinions. What underlies much of this, and where it happens when churches and mosques and synagogues and temples are attacked, when physicians performing abortions are attacked, etc, is that civility and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, and to in fact encourage seeking out opposing viewpoints and learning from them, is under attack and has been virtually destroyed.

The prophet Isaiah asks us to come together and reason together, but instead our media age creates a climate where people get in echo chambers and ramp up their own rhetoric of us vs. them and objectification of persons without concern for others and how it will be received; we dehumanize; we label; we go for the quick soundbite cutting down of others; we use inflammatory imagery; we seek to gain someone's attention rather than their conscience and consciousness; we do it to create consumers and to turn even public discourse into something to sell and make a profit out of, and to be consumers of our own feelings rather than citizens who need one another in order to become our fullest selves; passionate expression replaces thought and fact seeking and concern for the greater common good and for community.

But, here is the rub. Civility will not become real in our world with rallies, with books, with speeches and sermons. This is because it is not a matter of the head or the heart. Also because those tend to be received only by others who are already in our own echo chambers. It can only become real through practice; through failure and feedback and forgiveness and grace and showing up again to live with those who are different from us. Words and events, as important as they are, come and go. But relationships and communities last and make impacts, even though they do not make the news cycle. What is needed now, is vital now for the survival of civil society, are relationships of persons seeking the deepest freedom in community, where they are reminded again and again that the good life means getting over the preoccupation with self, that life is not about me and my wants but about serving God through serving the least of these who struggle with needs not wants. We must create newer, and create better communities dedicated to the practices of civility, especially those which are planted in places where these relationships are most in need and where community is most vulnerable, and that includes not just geographic places, but places that reach out to those disturbed, those outcast. Communities that are missional and foster "third places" for the cultivating of common good out of differences are the very soil for growing the soul of the Common Good.

Whether it is assassinations in Arizona, or gang violence here in our locale where recent drive-bys have wounded children and left bullet holes in baby cribs, or bullying of gay and lesbian students leading to suicide, there is first created an environment in the community where everything is seen through the lens of enemies and of fear, or the drive to elevate the self in others eyes, a kind of celebrity culture come home to roost, and also out of a reactive concern for being shamed and dishonored. We have let those communication outlets become dominant that are based on creating fear and enemies of others and been surprised when such communication begets similar communities in which people get constant reinforcement of that perspective. The way to counter them is not just to put out a different communication; it is to create and embody the values of which we are speaking, and to do so requires committment to communities of civility, relationships rooted in radical stances of civility.

What are we each doing to seed and nurture and sustain and spread such community?
Go to for ideas drawn from how we are doing it; or for more presentations on the topic.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Manna From Heaven for news on the community and for how to donate to us; for deeper thoughts on why we do what we do.

1. This Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm we will show the movie Manna From Heaven, set in Buffalo, NY but with messages and stories evocative of our community here as we move people from consumers to citizens, from scarcity to abundance, shaping a giveback people and shared economy. We will have worship and common meal before, during and after the movie. 6514 N. Peoria for a few more Sundays. Come relax and discuss ways to help this month as we move out of our space.
Needs: People to show up whenever you can to help pack and move, especially on Tuesday evenings, but let me know when you have time to help and we will make arrangements if possible. thanks. 691-3223.

2. Next Friday, Jan. 14, 6 pm celebrate with dinner with us as we bid farewell to this space and say thanks to all the volunteers and community folks who have helped us find our footing and become such a force in our community. RSVP.
Needs: bring food or drink to share, and your stories of what this space has held. Also get current info on our move and our new plans in all our areas.

3. Sat. Jan. 15 10 am to 2 pm: Moving Sale. Help us find homes for some of the items we don't want to move; books, clothing, computer equipment misc, and etc.
Needs: people to help us make box advertisements and set around the streets, and work during it.

4. Sunday, Jan. 16, 11 am Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday worship, sharing stories of what we did with our reverse offering money from thanksgiving. 5 pm marching in the candlelight procession and attending the interfaith service at Boston Ave. Methodist Church.

5. Monday, Jan. 17 11 am Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade. Come ahead of time and meet up with us at Pine and Greenwood area and march and ride with us in the annual parade. rsvp if you can.

While we are moving and morphing this month, we are also continuing to meet and put together some truly revolutionary projects that will renew our community, empower our residents, and grow healthy lives and neighborhoods through small acts of justice done with great love.

We have been finishing promising grants for the Miracle Among The Ruins GardenKitchenPark to continue its transformation. We have been working on grants for a "disruptively innovative" approach to health care that will begin in our underserved, no served, health care areas of north and west Tulsa a new Community Health Worker plan that will be made up of neighborhood residents, filling a niche along with the new OU specialty clinic and new health department primary clinic and existing Morton clinic and others. And we are working on the grant to bring sidewalk and safety to the Cherokee School area here on North Peoria where there are none. And we continue to work with current and potential partners in education, health care, parks, neighborhoods and more and those who drop by the community center for connections and assistance.

Thanks and blessings and more soon, come and see, come and join in, there is always room around The Welcome Table....