I am going to Standing Rock.
A call went out today, asking clergy of all faiths to come to the Standing Rock reservation outside of Bismarck, North Dakota to witness and join the water protectors, whose numbers have swelled with representatives from over 200 tribal nations from all over the globe in an unprecedented showing of Native solidarity.
I will be answering that call, flying to join them at the Camp of the Sacred Stone on November 2nd for a training, and then participating in a clergy action, under the guidance of the Standing Rock elders, on November 3rd.
I am coming because I was asked — by people with whom I am in relationship.
I am coming because that is what Love calls me to do — I am compelled by Love.
I am coming because I refuse to buy into the worldview that separates people into “us” and “them,” when in truth there is only “we.” What do lines on a piece of paper mean, when clean water is essential to everything? What do we need with more oil, when our communities are fracturing and our children’s inheritance is at risk?
As our great Civil Rights leader once said, in his Letter from Birmingham Jail:
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…. This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So when I go, it is because I feel another’s suffering as my own — that is the nature of compassion. Compassion, a form of love in action, is what moves us to alleviate another’s pain, because it is natural to act in a way that diminishes suffering. By showing up to witness, to put my body on the line, to learn the stories and bring them back, to give voice to the voiceless — in all these ways, I can work to ease our collective suffering.
In a recent visit to our congregation, Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison Reed reminded us that social transformation and justice movements are built on relationship; we human beings, for all our flowery talk of doing something because it’s the right thing to do, are not actually compelled by conscience, but by being in relationship with people who are asking us to show up, which is to say that we are compelled by love — which is just another way of saying that change happens when our hearts are moved to compassion, when we must alleviate another’s suffering because it is our own.
It comes down to the question: Whose Are We?
To whom do we belong? To whom are we bound in a mutual relationship? To whom are we accountable, both today and in the future?
The answer to that question will dictate where you show up, which is another way of saying how you use your power.
And as you start teasing out your own answers, you will begin to realize that there’s a thread of relationship and meaning that weaves your entire life together.
The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
~ William Stafford
This thread could be called other names — your life purpose, your calling. That Which Makes You Excited And Maybe A Little Scared But You Do It Anyway Because You Can’t Quite Live With The Idea Of Not Doing It Because You’d Be Disappointed In Yourself And Would Need To Find A Way To Repair The Relationship With Yourself And Probably Others.
Or we can just call it the thread.
And right now, my thread is leading me to Standing Rock.
Will I see you there?