Privilege and the Painful Demand

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 by Stephen Tickner
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Virgen de San Juan de Valle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I sit under the protective glare of Our Lady of San Juan, I am reminded of my privilege. Today was to be my third trip into the colonias of Reynosa and Rio Bravo, Mexico. Five minutes before we left Ed, my mentor in this journey, got a call from one of his promotoras. There was trouble brewing.

Ed was told that the streets of the colonias have been closed. Large trucks and trailers have been parked blocking the entrances denying anyone access into or out of these shack lined streets. The Narcos were at work. When streets are closed there is violence. The trucks are put in place to block the army from interrupting their work.

Prior to this, our experiences have been guided by adventure and good fortune. We’ve traversed  new colonias formed by an organized land takeover looking for a couple who is expecting a baby. We’ve seen our car, steeping with steam from the front hood, decide to stop working in the heart of a colonia. We’ve not been harassed at all by the border patrol. All along the way people have cared for us and welcomed us into their modest homes. They go the extra mile to get us seats. They provide us portions of their limited supply of filtered water. They share their pain of being taken advantage of and abused at work.

You see all of these people work in Maquilladoras which are large factories of transnational corporations. These are companies that put production over people. The profit margin is the God they worship and they are strict monotheists. Nothing keeps these companies from the worship of their one God and these maquiladoras are the temples which these global capitalists prey in.

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The Kohler maquiladora

Continually these companies violate Mexican labor because they know the workers don’t know their rights and don’t have the money to pursue action even if they know their rights. But that is where these companies fall short and Ed’s work, and the work of the promotoras, begin. They are empowering the women of the maquiladoras to organize and exercise their rights. Mexican labor law is very progressive but it has to be demanded from these companies in a way that doesn’t get the workers blackballed.

So, on the one hand the people of the colonias are fighting for their lives in their work environment. On the other hand these people are fighting for their lives at home. Forget the environmental disaster that the colonias are, these people have to deal with the Narco trafficers. The drug war. Today was a slap in the face, reminding me of the dangers of the colonias. The dangers of poverty. The dangers of exploitation. And I have the ability to avoid it.

What continually haunts me, however, is the common thread between both of these killers–consumption. Our consumption. We, living in the wealthy west, have to have things, consume things, and do it cheaply. Whether it’s a $300 flat screen television or $40 bag of weed, we are a driving force in the corruption and disembodiment of millions of people. We drive the demand.

I pray for the people of Reynosa today. And I pray for us.

Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2012 by Stephen Tickner

Who is this helping Jesus? That’s not one of Jesus’ family members, nor a disciple, nor someone he has recently healed. It’s Simon. In the black church tradition he is known as Black Simon because he is from Cyrene, a Roman city in North Africa now known as Shahat, Libya. This is important because he probably never knew Jesus, or even knew about him. Mark 15:21 says Simon was just passing by and was forced to help Jesus out. Whether he was forced or not, Simon was the only person to help Jesus in his time of need.

How often have I heard Christians or Christian churches refuse help from someone because they weren’t sure they were Christian? How often have I heard the church refuse to serve someone or let someone provide their gifts to the church because, in the minds of the Christians, the person was “living in sin,” doing something they deemed to be against God? Even more to the point, how often have I heard of Christians and Churches offering to help a community as long as they can preach to them and try to convert them?

I think Simon carrying Jesus cross is very important. Jesus didn’t interrogate Simon, he didn’t question his ethics, interrogate his faith or investigate his tradition. Jesus was in a state of emergency. He needed help and a man who knew nothing about Jesus provided it. Simon didn’t have a choice either. He was forced to help Jesus. But there they were. Two men who didn’t know each other forever tied together by the cross.

Jesus could have taken that moment to evangelize to Simon through his pain. He could have tried to “save” someone in his last moments. But he didn’t. So why do we feel like it is our duty as Christians to convert people either before we help them or use our works as a means of conversion? Why can’t we just help people out when in need because that is what our faith requires of us?

This might be a stretch but it’s a question that’s been on my mind lately.

 

 

 

Jesus Meets his Mother

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2012 by Stephen Tickner

The appearance of Mary as Jesus carries his cross must have been reassuring. Or humiliating. There is not much said about their relationship in the Bible accept that Jesus rejected his family when told she was waiting for him. But, in my mind, I see Mary being a reassuring presence.

What must it have been like to see her son like this? She knew he was blessed but how far had she come since the magnificat?

  “My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

–Luke 1:47-55

Had he been successful in her eyes? I know he felt responsible to God, his father, but how much responsibility did he feel towards Mary, his mother?

Much more to be said about this, I think.

Jesus Falls for the First Time

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20, 2012 by Stephen Tickner

Jesus is praying. Jesus has been condemned to death, given his cross, fallen, and he prays. At least that’s what I see when I look at this station.

I know that’s probably not what the sculptor of this station had in mind. Jesus’ face is full of pain, his cross is on top of him, and he is on his knees.

He is on his knees.

Prayer is hard. I know I need to do it more often but it doesn’t come easy to me. I know it can come in different forms–walking, intentional actions, meditation–but consciously kneeling down and connecting with the divine is hard for me to do.

Not too long ago I learned about the prayer life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1956, it was an experience in prayer late one night that gave Dr. King the strength to move forward as a civil rights leader. It has been said that every major decision he made was consulted on in prayer.

César Chávez did the same thing. In the book Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States, Stephen Lloyd-Moffett documents Chávez’ Catholic mysticism and personal spirituality. Lloyd-Moffett discovered that Chávez would perform extended fasts which would lead him into encountering God. He writes, “These mystical experiences grounded, directed, and infused his program of social reform by serving as the basis for his decisions.”

It takes humility to pray. It takes trust to pray. It takes bravery to pray. Both of these men exemplify these qualities.

So does my Mom. She prays all the time.

Perhaps that’s why it’s not easy. Here’s to all of us finding the strength to pray!

 

 

 

Jesus is Given His Cross

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 by Stephen Tickner

I’ll never forget standing in the shadows of the maquilladoras. These majestic factories stationed in towering buildings, settled on manicured lawns, protected by a security force. I’ll never forget how intimidating these structures were to behold.

I’ll also never forget the colonias. The small portions of land, the dirt roads, the concrete floors, the smiling women and children. I’ll never forget how humble I felt to be inside the bedroom of one of the women of these colonias.

I’ll never forget the contrast between these two places. I can only imagine how intimidating it must be for these women, who are desperate for work, to enter into one of these factories. And I think it is purposefully presented that way.

Nothing in this world is more powerful than fear. What must Jesus have been thinking as he watched two men bring him the cross which he, by himself, will be forced to carry to Calvary? What must these women be thinking as they enter these majestic maquilladora parks coming from their beaten down colonia knowing they might not return home the way they left?

Knowing the rest of the story, I am amazed at Jesus courage. But he didn’t have a choice. Hearing the womens stories, I am amazed at there courage. But they don’t have a choice. So what do I do with the thousands of choices presented to me everyday?

I don’t know if I have the courage of Jesus. But I hope I do. I know I don’t have the courage of these women. But I pray I do. I know courage is decided in the choices we make everyday. Am I making the right ones? I hope I am.

Jesus is Condemned to Death

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2012 by Stephen Tickner

“…As you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

–Luke 23:15-18,23-25

As I think about this station today, I think about Pilate. I think about how he didn’t want to take responsibility for Jesus’ death so he gave him over to the will of the crowd and washed his hands, signifying his own innocence in what will occur. Today, I think about the washing of hands we do as a society.

I look at the many social ills we have today–an unjust food system, the school to prison pipeline, a corrupt economic industry to name a few–and see how all of us, in some way, wash our hands of any kind of indictment. This can manifest itself in different ways. One way is by ignoring the problems, pretending like they do not exist. Another way is by thinking there is nothing we can do to change things, feeling so overwhelmed by the problems of society or by underestimating the power we have in our voice and actions.

Even though Pilate washed his hands of condemning Jesus to death, it doesn’t excuse him. Even though we wash our hands of the condemnation of so many invisible bodies in our society, it doesn’t excuse us either. There are 312, 871, 459 people in the United States. Imagine if each of us decided to take responsibility for one injustice. Still think you can’t do anything?

Stations of the Cross

Posted in Uncategorized on January 17, 2012 by Stephen Tickner

Last week our Borderlands group participated in the Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of San Juan de Valle. It was a powerful time which combined the power and meaning of the cross with the power and meaning of our experiences in the Rio Grande Valley. This time of meditation made the cross come alive for me in a new way, a way I’ve never experienced before.

For this first experience of the stations, I was assigned only one, “Jesus was Crucified.” This experienced left me wanting to do more. Oddly enough, as of tomorrow, I will have fourteen days until my spring semester starts–the same number of stations. So, starting tomorrow morning I will be doing a 14-day stations of the cross meditation. I hope people who read them will find some sort of inspiration from them but the primary exercise is to help me continue to find my theological voice and process the trip to the border I just returned from.

 

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