Resistance through spirituality
A conversation about the Objector Church in 2019
Okay, fantastic. We are airing live, it looks like, so I want to welcome everyone to the very first live webcast of 2019, for the Objector Church. Your host for today is [myself] James M. Branum. I want to introduce this particular webcast, because our topic for this week is resistance through spirituality. A conversation about the Objector Church in 2019.
What we’re hoping is that this webcast particularly will be one with an interactive element. We’re hoping there will be some conversation. So if you have thoughts, if you have ideas on this topic, what you would like to see the Objector Church be about in 2019, we strongly encourage you to join the conversation. To do that you can go on either Facebook Live, where we have the webcast going there, or you can join us on Zoom. The information on how to do it in Zoom is on Objector Church/media. Zoom.
So we normally do these webcasts every week, Tuesdays, 12:30 pm Central Time, 10:30 am Pacific Time. We are exploring a different time option, we’ll talk about that a little bit later, but we do for sure always have a webcast every week. In our webcasts, we aim to do three things, three I’s.
First I is inspiration, in other words, something that inspires us, helps us to be better people on planet earth. Second part is information, information how we can live out our values. And finally the third is interaction, which is engaging with each other, it actually being a real two-way conversation, not just me speaking, or another speaker speaking and you listening, but rather you talking back and being pro-conversation.
We also should mention for any of you that are new to this that we are a religious humanist community that focused on peace and social justice issues. This means that we, that through a religious humanist standpoint means we deal with issues of ultimate importance, worth, identity ethics, but that’s the religious part. The humanist part is that we do this in a human centric perspective, in other words not necessarily looking outside of ourselves for answers, but rather we’re saying that there’s things inside of us that can give us the answers, and that human beings that we are, there’s something that unites us all. In other words, the division lines often between different religions or philosophies are not so helpful. We seek to try and point to unity.
Finally, we have a conviction on the emphasis of peace and social justice, that life here on Planet Earth can be a whole lot better than it is now if we simply learn to cooperate, get along, and learn to live fairly, justly, sustainably and peaceably. So that’s what we’re about.
Now for the [inaudible 00:03:10], most of today’s program is gonna be in the inspiration category, we’re gonna be introducing … I should say, we’re having a conversation about the topic of resistance through spirituality. What does 2019 mean for the Objector Church?
But before we do that, I would like to kind of as a bit of a ritual, not just for this webcast but for starting this brand new year, I’m going to light a candle and say a blessing. And this blessing, I did it from this book, The Book of Blessings by Marcia Falk, and she has written … These are from the Jewish tradition, but she writes them in a fairly nontheistic way. She’s reworded many of the more traditional prayers to express this consent of connectedness in a nontheistic way.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to write a candle as an expression of hope, as an expression of yearning for the coming year, and then I’m going to read through this blessing. I changed one word in it to be more universal even than she has it. In the beginning part I pray in Hebrew and then the rest is in English. I use the word [inaudible 00:04:20] it means congregation or gathering. You’ll hear that word, that’s one word I’ve changed in her blessings.
So anyway, invite you to join in this time. This is kind of a meditative time I might say, a way of seeking to connect.
Okay. The candle is lit, we’ll have our blessing.
[Foreign language 00:05:00]
Here, oh congregation. The Divine abides everywhere and dwells in everything. The many are one. Loving life and its mysterious source with all my heart and all my spirit, all my senses and strength, I take upon myself and into myself these promises.
To care for the Earth and those who live upon it. To pursue justice and peace. To love kindness and compassion. I will teach this to our children throughout the passage of the day, as I dwell in my home, as I go on my journey, from the time I rise until I fall asleep.
May my actions be faithful to my words, that our children’s children may live to know truth and kindness and embrace, peace and justice have kissed and are one. So may it be.
Been doing that blessing a lot at some of the beginnings of our webcast, at least a couple times because it’s really meaningful but particularly beginning this one at the start of a new year, it seems particularly important because it’s an expression of what could be, it’s an expression of what we yearn for and what we hope for.
It’s the same thing with the candle. With the Objector Church, one of the things we’re trying to do is to bring ritual back for people who may be fairly estranged from traditional forms of religion or ritual, a lot of us don’t yearn for ritual, even if the old forms don’t always work. So I picked a candle as a symbol just because it’s something that is fairly universal. It’s a presence in many traditions as a symbol of hope, as a symbol of defiance, and a symbol of yearning. So it’s one of many symbols we may use over time. This is one that I’ve chosen for some of these webcasts.
Also wanna welcome, before we go on, I want to welcome another guest who’s joined us, Sarah. So we have several people now joining us on Facebook Live, very excited to have you all here. Just a reminder along the way, please feel free to post comments on Facebook Live or on Zoom. Also do me a favor and share this on your Facebook wall, that’s how we get new viewers. In fact, I’m going to do that myself right now.
If you’re looking at this on Facebook, just hit the share button and … I’m going to do that right now and encourage you to do the same.
Okay. So our main topic of conversation for this webcast is gonna be the theme resistance through spirituality and what that means for 2019 and the Objector Church. Now the Objector Church, we are a young organization, but our roots go of course much deeper to the work of Courage to Resist and its work in supporting war resistors nationally. Also the work here locally in Oklahoma with Center for Conscience in Action. And then a lot of our groups have worked alongside over the years, especially [inaudible 00:08:16] Mennonite Church and our local Peace Community in Oklahoma. There’s a lot of folks who have a part to play in bringing about who we are today.
But as a new organization, we are bringing something new to the table, and that is we’re seeking to bring about a connection of spirituality and of humanism to the table. Part of that is very specifically that we’re dealing with activism, we’re dealing with trying to make the world better. Often the question of what are our driving principles, what are the things that keep us going, and particularly what are the things that sustain us? Those things become really important.
And unfortunately in the grind of activism, of trying to change the world, trying to change the community, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. It’s easy to lose sight of what we’re really about. So one of the reasons why the Objector Church was founded and formed in the way it was was to try to alleviate some of those issues, but to do so in a way that’s not exclusive, not sectarian. In other words, and there’s a lot of good religious tradition, not to de-emphasized peace, but too often they still have their own particular bias. And there’s people who may be drawn to peace and spirituality who may be put off by certain elements of more traditional religious approaches. So what we’re trying to do is to give space for people to come together who may not necessarily all agree, but where there’s openness and welcome, we’re all gonna participate.
So that’s a bit of who we are, but if we look out into the coming year, you know, as over- in 2018, and look at, in fact, just for fun I’m going to pull up real quick … gonna review a little bit of what we’ve been doing lately as a way, a starting point, kind of moving into conversation of where we’d like to go.
So in the last year, probably our main thing that we’ve done that’s quite probably most significant is our webcast. So we’ve had these weekly gatherings. Our idea here is specifically looking at … looking at the idea that religious traditions of all kinds usually have some kind of connecting point, a communal gathering. The problem of course is our members and our friends are scattered all across the United States and we hope in time overseas as well. So we can’t all physically gather in the same place. So we created this webcast concept to give people a chance to come together interactively online.
And through our webcast, we’ve had a lot of different topics that come up. I’m just looking at … by the way, you can view all of our previous ones at Objector.Church and from there go to the meetups, the archives. But November 6th, we had a conversation about new religious, saints and martyrs with Blake LeMoyne from the Church of Our Lady Magdalene, and especially talked a lot about there the idea of gnosticism and different forms of Christianity that were rejected at certain points in history and yet are coming back into fruition. Interesting, interesting conversation.
Then later, the next week, we had a conversation with Jeff Patterson, one of my fellow ministers with the Objector Church. He talked about his experience of being one of the first military service members to refuse to fight in Iraq. And I’m not talking about the war in 2003 and onward, I’m talking about Gulf War, back in the 1990s. Back when a lot of us who are watching this today were in high school or middle school, that’s what Jeff was doing then so we had a conversation about that.
Later on in November we had an alternative Thanksgiving program, and then we had a conversation in late November with Dwight Welch, a campus minister in Montana about the topic of autism and spirituality.
Then in December we had several webcasts. We had one conversation with [Serena Blaze 00:12:29] on the topic of nontheistic spirituality and activism. Then December 11th we had a conversation with Anya de Murray, one of the ministers of the Objector Church about the spirituality of flamenco dance as a from of resistance and also just the spirituality of dance and body generally. December 18th, I had a webcast where I talked about the winter holidays, Winter Solstice, Hanukah, advent Christmas. We talked about how the themes of these more, the older holidays, how they had a different tone and feel than our modern consumer-driven holiday of Christmas.
And finally on … I believe it was December 21st, I dont have it on the archives page, we had some technical difficulties, it was a little rougher broadcast. But I had a conversation with Camille Landry and Ben [inaudible 00:13:22]. They are the owners and operators of the Nappy Roots bookstore, Oklahoma’s only black owned bookstore. We talked a little bit about Kwanza, mostly talked about Cuba and the current sanctions.
Anyways, you can see from these conversations our past meetups, we’ve covered a lot of territory. We’ve dealt with a mix of spirituality, religion, both traditional and not so traditional, but also action, also activism both historically and in the present tense.
So one of the questions I had, and I’m jumping back over now to our Facebook Live page so I can see the conversation there … For those of you who are joining us in the conversation, one of the things I’d like to hear from you is do you have thoughts of what you would like to see from the Objector Church? If you’re someone who is a part of things already, we’d especially like to hear from you. For those of you who are new to this or just exploring it … I’ve been a little bit under the weather for the last few days so I may cough some still. But for those of you who are new to this, what we’d like to hear from you, what is it that has drawn you to watch today and what would compel you to want to stay engaged?
I’m also interested to know more about time and place. The time and date for these webcasts. We do intend on having live weekly webcasts, but as I can see from today, we have a lot more viewers today because it’s a holiday. Normally we’ve had very low attendance, on our [inaudible 00:15:04] webcast we have many more people watching in archived form later. So we’d love to hear from both on the issue of time and date. One of the times we’re thinking about is Sunday evenings, and I’m thinking about Sunday evenings at 7 pm Central Time, 5 pm Pacific. So if that would be a time that would work well for you, I’d love to hear from you. If that is not a good time for you, please post me on that, let me know when would be a better time.
Those are some of the questions I have that I wanted to pose to you all. But beyond that I also want to give a little more picture of where the Objector Church is going as I see it, and where does it seem to be evolving.
Part of the process of evolution is we are working on the programmatic side of things. Some things specifically from the Objector Church, new programming for our membership and friends. One of the pieces of this is educational. Besides our live weekly webcast, we also like to do educational programming. We started that, just the very beginning, preliminary stages with the Objector Institute. By the way, I wanna mention, if you haven’t looked at this I encourage you to check it out. I think we’re gonna change up the website a lot, I may be incorporated it more with the rest of the Objector Church website, still working on that. But if you want to look at it, what we have right now, it’s objector.institute.
Our plan in time is to be offering classes for our members and friends that are geared towards independent adult learners who want to engage and learn about a new topic, it could be some topic in religion or spirituality, it could be a topic in activism, something practical. It could be any number of things. Right now we have two classes we’re currently working on, one is called Daily Psalm, it’s looking at Psalms with Jewish and Christian scriptures from a religious humanist perspective. The second one is Experiencing Vows, and this is a series of webcasts … well these are actually audio, it’s audio podcasts for Experiencing Now that are engaging with the ancient texts of Tao Te Ching from a religious humanist perspective, but we’re also looking at it particularly through different lenses and seeking to engage the contemporary present moment with this ancient text.
So those are two classes, we’ve got many more. One of the things I’d love to do is not just the spiritual but also the practical. For instance we’d love to do classes on activism such as how to write a good press release, how to organize a protest, how to start a campaign to change a policy that needs to be changed. So those are some other classes we’re gonna do. Over time we’d like to expand this not just for independent adult learners, but also a true seminary, a training program for ministers in the Objector Church on a graduate level. Os that’s in the works. Institute.
We also would like to be- one other thing we’re working on is conscientious objection, the issue of conscious objection. This would include education on conscientious objection, and why it’s important for everyone to consider the issue. What will they do if they are asked or demanded to go to war. For members of the US Military of course, it’s important the educational campaign is about the topic of You Can Change Your Mind. You do not stop- just because at age 17 or 18 you signed blind and said, “Yes, I can go to war, I can support the American empire.” If a few years later, you see things differently, your conscious and heart have changed, you have the right, arguably you have the responsibility, the obligation to file for conscientious objector status. So we’ll be talking about that, what that means.
But also we need to be looking at what would happen if a draft is called. We often forget that the infrastructure of the draft is always in place. It’s called the Selective Service System. And very quickly with congressional action, signature of the president, the draft can be brought back. For many folks, what they may not understand is when the draft is brought back, the time period of action to avoid the draft might be fairly short. For a few reasons. One is that the system is designed to get troops into battle as quickly as possible. But secondly, once it’s underway there may be tremendous pressure, pressure, pressure to comply.
So we encourage all young adults especially, but even younger folks and older folks to consider what would they do if they were drafted, and then to prepare if they would not want to be drafted, to be ready. Now certainly I would say if there are health issues, document them. Document, document, document. Be ready. But also be ready to assert conscientious objector claim. By that I mean showing that you are opposed to all wars for reasons of conscious and that these views are deep and sincere inside of you.
So to do this, you need to show long before the draft is called, ideally, that you’ve had these beliefs. Later on a draft board may find it less than credible if a week before the draft … you get your draft induction letter, that you developed your beliefs against war. While that can be possible, it would be difficult to prove. It’d be much better if a year or more beforehand you started taking action to document your views. Such as participating in peace activism, going to peace protests, writing letters to congress or to the president expressing your views, being engaged publicly in various ways. But also in documenting in other ways.
One of the projects we’ll be starting very soon with the Objector Church is a conscientious objector registry. It will be on our website at Objector.Church very soon and it will provide a way that a person can sign a form and it be recorded with the Objector Church that you are registering as a conscientious objector.
Now of course legally this registration is basically providing documentation so later on this can be brought to a draft board. In the current, the Selective Service, all young men at the age of 18 are required to register with the Selective Service. There’s no provision right now that allows people, registrants to say, “I’m a conscientious objector.” They’re only required right now to sign on saying, yes this is my name and address and identifying information. But the problem is, is that this means that there also won’t be documentation of one’s views about war. The form has no provision for it, that means you have to do it yourself. At the Objector Church we want to make that possible.
But also want to say that right now what current law says that only men will be drafted, it’s very likely based upon previous Supreme Court rulings that the logic used in the past to justify why only men could be drafted no longer holds water. That is almost a certainty that the Supreme Court, if the issue is brought before them today would say that you cannot just draft men, you must include women on a draft, if you’re going to have a draft. Because again, combat roles are no longer restricted just to men. So our position is, as the Objector Church that it’s important that women as well do this.
And finally, I would say for people who might be outside the range of when one would be drafted, you still may want to consider these issues for one very important reason. A special skills draft. We forget about this in history, but there have been times, I believe this happened in the Korean War for sure … [inaudible 00:23:05] the Korean Wars right now, remember the old TV show, M*A*S*H back in the 70s, early 80s? In M*A*S*H you’ll notice that many of these doctors who were drafted, how old were these guys? You know, these were older folks.
Think about Winchester, that guy he had to be at least in his 40s. Why were they being drafted? They were outside the age of being drafted. Because they were doctors, because they had a special skill. So the government started drafting doctors. There’s nothing to say they couldn’t do that today, they couldn’t do a special skills draft for of course medical professionals, but also technical workers, web developers, you name it. People who have skills in the technical arena may be called upon in a special skills draft. So I would argue that anybody, no matter what your age is, you still need to document where you stand, what you believe about war. And that’s what we’ll be doing with the Objector Church is writing some [inaudible 00:24:02].
We’re gonna have a registry that you can sign up for, where you’re in fact recorded. We also provide some other means that folks who are conscientious objectors can document their views. One of them we may be doing, and this will be probably a small cost attached to this, but providing a service where the minister of our church will meet with you, either in person, over the phone or through live streaming, a conversation with you to document what you share with us about your views about war. And then for that to be … the minister to write a report that’d be signed and notarized and kept on file and you will be given a copy of it, showing that you met with a minister to discuss your views about war. Again, it’s providing extra documentation about this. So this is all coming, I would expect this probably in mid-January. But as soon as it’s available I really encourage folks to take advantage of this.
By the way, we’ve had some more folks join us. I’m checking now on our Facebook Live, so just one moment here.
I apologize today, I’m a little bit raspy and not quite at a normal … whatever. I’ve been sick the last few days, still not over this crud. Stayed up way too late last night like we all did. But this being the first one of the year, I didn’t want to miss out. So let’s see here. I think I saw a comment but I’m not seeing it on here. Let me go back over to Zoom. Okay. Well I’ll be back after I do.
Rina, I saw something- if you’re watching this I saw, I think Mary Francis posted something. It came across and I can’t see it on my comments thing. Okay, there he is. Let’s see.
Okay, Mary I just saw your comment. That was me getting started, but if you’re watching it live now it should be showing up right now. Okay. So. Okay, there we go. Sorry about that.
So now back to the conversation. So the conscientious objector registries, and other urban outreaches is another of our projects coming up. We also will be doing a lot of fundraising in the coming year for a few reasons. One of course is so that our primary project is Courage to Resist. And if you’re not familiar with Courage to Resist, Courage to Resist is a national organization that’s been involved in providing support in various ways to war resistors, conscientious objectors and whistle blowers for many years now.
Right now, one of the most important cases Courage to Resist is involved in is the case of Reality Winner. Somebody’s doing time in federal prison for whistle blowing against the Trump administration and its abuses. If it were not for Courage to Resist, I’m afraid her case probably would have been forgotten, but Courage to Resist has kept up the pressure. I should mention, probably the biggest champion of Reality’s case is her mom. Her mom has just pushed and pushed and pushed. But Courage to Resist has done their best to stand with her and with the rest of the folks working on Reality Winner’s behalf to make sure that her case is not forgotten and to make sure that she’s had the legal defense support that she needed throughout the case.
We also … Courage to Resist was very, very involved in the case of Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, a Wikileaks whistle blower in lobbying not only for her to get a fair day in court, but then in the end lobbying … well, not such a fair day in court I should say, but then it went on to the post-trial stage and finally the successful lobbying for clemency from President Obama. A huge, huge thing.
But beyond those cases, Courage to Resist is involved in many, many other cases. Cases of US Service members who sought asylum status in Canada, some who’ve been able to successfully stay there, some who were not able to win the Canadian system, were deported and faced legal consequences here in the US. Also the cases of many people who have taken stands in various ways against the war regime, of those who have refused to deploy, those who have left mid-deployment, those who have sought early discharge to a variety of means. Time in and time out Courage to Resist stood up for those folks and stood alongside them.
So that’s something that as part of our work with the Objector Church is we provide and continue support for Courage to Resist and fundraising, which is really important.
Those are the primary things we’re doing. Also I’d like to mention that we also in time are hoping to build stronger local congregations of the Objector Church. Right now we have humps of us in Oakland, California and here in Oklahoma City, we’d like to expand this in places, but also deepen each of those local communities. So if you’re in Oklahoma City, one of the things I’m exploring is what would it look like if we had some kind of major in-person gathering of the Objector Church? And one of the ideas I’m kicking around with right now is maybe doing something either based out of Nappy Roots Bookstore, or the [inaudible 00:29:27], maybe a public library or some other venue. But a chance for folks to get together, maybe share a meal, share a little bit of our lives with each other.
Then it would also be a platform not only of mutual support, but also for activism, for engagement in our community. So living out our beliefs in practical ways. The details of this are still in the works. We so far have had two special events over at Nappy Roots Bookstore which I think have gone really well. Our Alternative Thanksgiving Fundraiser for our from Bob [Waldrop 00:30:01] and then the most recent remote live webcast from Nappy Roots Bookstore. So we may do some more things over there but also looking at maybe other venues as well. So those are all in the works. So.
Anyway, there’s lots of good stuff happening, that’s kind of a little bit of a picture of what we’re working on right now. As far as I’d like to close with this [inaudible 00:30:29] information time of discussing just as far as ongoing needs and what also we’re looking for from new members. Right now as far as building up our church, we do need more funding for sure. I’m on staff right now, with specifically the goal of building up the Objector Church. Of building up our live weekly webcast, doing some legal work with what we’re dealing with as far as the hoops for you to jump through for nonprofit status, and then finally building an ongoing presence, and ongoing organized presence for the Objector Church.
But for me to stay on staff, there has to be some fundraising to be happening. So if you like what we’re doing I encourage you to go to Objector.church, and I believe … let me double check because I believe it was Objector.church/donate. And on that page there’s several options there. Our goal right now is to raise $5000 over the coming months for the Objector Church. This would provide enough funding for me to stay on staff for the rest of the year and a lot of other awesome stuff. So there’s information there, you can donate amounts of any amount. We are suggesting for membership, to become a member of the Objector Church, we’re asking $50 a year. Not a huge amount of money at all but it’s something that will make a big difference for us as an organization. So I encourage you to do that if you haven’t already.
That’s one of the things, and especially, if you’re not in a place where you can give right now, one of the things to consider is you can give us a few bucks. Even a few bucks makes a difference. But also think about people you know in your community that might be willing to give. Ask them to consider giving and especially ask them to get plugged in to what we’re doing.
We’re still at a very early stage of this, obviously. It’s a slow building process. But we really need to kick it up a little bit for this to continue and to become what it needs to be. So I encourage you if you’re watching, please consider making a donation to support us into our next stage of this work.
I’m going to close out for today, and I apologize again, I’m not at my usual perkiness. I’m just not feeling good, I’ve had allergy crud. We’ve had it going good here in Oklahoma. Before we close out though, I’m going to ask if anyone has any comments, questions, thoughts. I especially want to hear from anyone who has thoughts about the time for our weekly webcast. Should we stay at Tuesdays like we are now? Or should we transition to Sunday evenings, 7 pm Central, 5 pm Pacific. If that’s a time that’d be of interest to you, please post. We’d love to hear if that would be a better time for you.
I also want to welcome, Charles just joined us, and I think we had several people who joined us today. Jeff, Serena, Blake, Sarah, I believe I saw Mary earlier. So thank you for everyone who’s tuned in. If you have thoughts on a better time for our webcast, please let us know.
I think that’s it for this week. So thank you so much for tuning in. That’s it for now and happy new years everybody. Well actually, I’ll throw out one more thing. I think we will for sure do a webcast this Sunday, we’ll see what the viewership is like for this Sunday. So we’ll do it for sure this Sunday. If the viewership is great we may just stick with Sundays, if it’s not we’ll go back to Tuesdays.
But anyway, send us comments if you happen to have thoughts on that. Or shoot me an email, James@objector.church. Thank you so much, and we’ll see you soon!