For the Love of It All

For the love of God's Creaiton

I found this image through the Facebook page of Interfaith Power and Light, a national faith-based environmental group.  It’s one of many prepared by Sarah Ogletree  and offered in a media toolkit for faith communities through website of strikewithus.org (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1_Oflxq9qzHGhqLdTKlaMdMBLC_t_ULCu).  She has designed graphics to include many objects of love:  farms, farmers, deserts, mountains, neighbors, children, families, oceans, youth, pollinators, rivers, “this world,” “those not yet born,” islands, and communities.  If we love any or all of these creatures, these living beings, we have a reason to do what we can to help them live and flourish.

Tomorrow, three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, young people and adults will join in a global strike to demand that action be taken to address the climate crisis.  For people of faith, supporting this strike is an expression loving what God loves and loving it enough to stand with young people around the world to call for a just response to the urgency of climate change.  If we can’t literally stand with them at a strike, we can amplify their voices on social media and in conversations with friends, co-workers, and family.

When I saw Sarah Ogletree’s beautiful graphics, I thought of two of Noel Paul Stookey’s songs.  “For the Love of It All” is both about the divine Love that started “it all” and about what our loving “it all” could lead us to do.

Still the world is in labor,
She groans in travail.
She cries with the eagle, the dolphin,
She sighs in the song of the whale.
While the heart of her people
Prays at the wall.
A spirit inside is preparing a bride
For the Love of it all

For the Love of it all,
Like the stars and the sun,
We are hearts on the rise,
Separate eyes with the vision of one.
No valley too deep, no mountain too tall,
We can turn back the night with merely the light
From the Love of it all.

“In These Times” more directly addresses the environmental crisis.

As the perfect storm approaches and the gale around us roars
No longer can we close our eyes and hide behind our doors:
Our choices fewer now by what we’ve chosen to ignore
In these times . . .

The ship of state is drifting; it’s getting hard to steer
It’s a complicated issue but the direction’s pretty clear
and ‘each of us’ is who we need to get to there from here
In these times . . . 

In these times . . . we must be mindful of the gift
In these times . . . use our hands and hearts to lift
The fallen spirit in this land
Bringing water to the sand
Reaching out a helping hand
In . . . these . . . times

These times call us to act “for the Love of it all.”  Be it so.

 

 

 

Can I Get a Get a Witness?: Cesar Chavez and Peter, Paul, and Mary

Cesar Chavez

Can I Get a Witness?-Chavez

During Lent I’m participating in a study of  Can I Get  a Witness?:  Thirteen Peacemakers, Community-Builders, and Agitators for Faith and Justice, created through the Project on Lived Theology  at the University of Virginia and edited by Shea Tuttle, Charles Marsh, and Daniel Rhodes.   Released last week, the book presents the stories of thirteen pioneers for social justice who engaged in peaceful protest and gave voice to the marginalized, working courageously out of their religious convictions to transform American culture.

These stories of social activists, such as Howard Thurman, Dorothy Day, and William Stringfellow, shed light on the spiritual motivation for their work for justice.  The first chapter is about Cesar Chavez, the organizer of “the first farm-worker union in a struggle for justice that took on the industry of agribusiness.”  Daniel Rhodes writes,  “Chavez always understood the movement to be about more than wages or contracts; it was a spiritual campaign.  For him, the work of the union was woven inextricably in a fabric of religious significance.  Jesus was with them, and in their struggle and sacrifices they were a part of his kingdom, his people.  It was nearly sacramental–eucharistic.”

Chavez’s story, as well as the others in Can I Get a Witness?, in of particular interest to me because I’m collaborating on a book with and about Noel Paul Stookey–the “Paul” of Peter, Paul, and Mary, a singer-songwriter and activist whose faith and social justice commitment have be integrated both in his work with the trio and in his career as a solo artist.   I share stories of Chavez’s connection with the trio.

In the 1960s Chavez and his co-leader in the United Farm Workers (UFW) organized a national boycott of grapes to draw attention to the exploitation of farm workers by mega-farm corporations.  Sympathetic to the cause, the trio was invited to perform in a Carnegie Hall concert to  support the UFW.   Noel and Peter write,  “Milton Glaser, the internationally acclaimed graphic designer who  . . . created all of the graphics for our record albums, stationery, and many other projects, asked his colleague, Paul Davis,  . . . to create the now famous image of a young Hispanic boy that was featured in the poster for the concert”  [1].  You can view the poster “Viva Chavez, viva la causa, viva la huelga” on the website of the Library of Congress.

Later, Chavez was among the people who invited Peter, Paul, and Mary to join in Survival Sunday, a 1978 concert in the Hollywood Bowl to protest the start up of a power plant in Northern California, built next to the San Andreas earthquake fault.

In 1997 the trio’s manager Martha Hertzberg called on them to  join in efforts  in Watsonville, CA, to organize strawberry workers, whose health was being affected by pesticides, who were having to work in fields that lacked potable water and toilet facilities, and who were greatly underpaid.  She partnered with Arturo Rodriguez, Chavez’s son-in-law, to organize a benefit concert and a trip to the strawberry fields of Watsonville to increase public awareness of the situation [2]. They sang Woody Guthrie’s song Deportee” about migrant workers [3].

Peter and Noel wrote, “Seldom had an audience touched us so deeply.  In some heart-to-heart exchanges with the United Farm Workers’ leaders, we found out what you cannot know from the printed page or from secondhand descriptions:  Theirs was a struggle for survival under  the constant shadow of illness, hunger, and possible death due to horrific working conditions, virtually no health services, and miserably low pay.”    They noted that efforts to improve conditions for the workers were “largely successful”:  “It was the legacy of Cesar Chavez, who changed the consciousness of American about some of our most forgotten and cruelly exploited workers.  Woody Guthrie spoke of these workers in the lyrics of Pastures of Plenty’:  ‘Pull beets from your ground, cut grapes from your vine, to set on your table that bright, sparkling wine.’  In Watsonville, we had come full circle from the ’60s to the ’90s.  The struggle for fairness and justice for the poor was, is, and, alas, will continue to be ongoing”  [4]

 

 

[1] Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Fifty Years of Music and Life.

[2] Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Fifty Years of Music and Life.

[2]  This version from the PBS Lifelines special includes Tom Paxton.

[4] Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Fifty Years of Music and Life.