On Cooperatives

Jonathan Miano photography
Dr. John Perkins at River City Community Church

A model for cooperatives exists, of course, in the Bible. Communitywide responsibility was a basic characteristic of the Old Testament Jews, but it functioned in a community where the economic system, the political system, the religious organization–every aspect of life–covered the same group of individuals. That way a cooperative effort to meet one particular need could be reinforced by the other structures of Jewish society.

But in twentieth-century America, or in any other complex industrialized society, a small community is simply not locked into the larger systems of banking, education, government or industry which determine its quality of life–or the lack of it. And continuous needs of certain segments of our society are the result of this.

Something is out of whack in our society. For people ought to be able to provide their own needs. When will and effort are organized and still fall short, this means only that the resources needed are locked up somewhere. And no amount of talk about “private property” or “free enterprise” will ever touch the real moral issue of our responsibility to others.

–John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down, pg 210


For a place I hate, I invoke you often. Stockholm’s: I am eight years old and the telephone poles are down, the power plant at the edge of town spitting electricity. Before the pickup trucks, the strip malls, dirt beaten by Cherokee feet. Osiyo, tsilugi. Rope swung from mule to tent to man, tornadoes came, the wind rearranged the face of the land like a chessboard. This was before the gold rush, the greed of engines, before white men pressing against brown women, nailing crosses by the river, before the slow songs of cotton plantations, the hymns toward God, the murdered dangling like earrings. Under a redwood, two men signed away the land and in history class I don’t understand why a boy whispers sand monkey. The Mexican girls let me sit with them as long as I braid their hair, my fingers dipping into that wet black silk. I try to imitate them at home — mírame, mama — but my mother yells at me, says they didn’t come here so I could speak some beggar language. Heaven is a long weekend. Heaven is a tornado 
siren canceling school. Heaven is pressed in a pleather booth at the Olive Garden, sipping Pepsi between my gapped teeth, listening to my father mispronounce his meal.

Forgiveness without Repentance

I see today a beautiful evangelical Christian religious awakening in America. Recent political events have caused Americans to face crisis, to look within ourselves. And the deep sense of the problems have caused many to look out for a basic faith, something that will make things right, something that will anchor us back in a the sheltered harbor of the justice and morality and goodness for which we long.

But I think many of us want forgiveness without repentance.

I sense this so much as I try to establish relationships with my white brethren in the South. I find that they want my relationship, but they want more to quickly forget the brutality and the injustice that their people put upon many of us in the name of Christianity. And that’s the frightening part.

Ours is not a story of bitterness–it is a story of love and the triumphs of the God of love. But it is a story carved out of the realities of violence and poverty, ending not in some sugar-coated sense of brotherly love but in the deep conviction that only the power of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross and the glory of his resurrection can heal the deep racial wounds in both black and white people in America.

Unless we see the depth of our need and unless we see the cross as the only answer then we could see this wave of evangelical awakening someday turn into a wave of repression. For what is happening in the religious wars of Lebanon and Ireland today and what happened in Nazi Germany prove that there is nothing more dangerous than latent religious prejudice and racism festering for a time beneath the surface of a light religious zeal only to explode later in violence, death and hatred.

–John Perkins, Introduction, Let Justice Roll Down

Setting the World to Rights

In all that happens, good or bad, Christ is present. So instead of resignation and worry, we should always trust that things will change, even if we have to go through hell first. For the purpose of life is Christ. God has promised to re-create heaven and earth and bring the whole world into the light of the Savior. “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1–5). This is our hearts’ deepest longing, that Christ reconciles the whole cosmos. He is the ruler over all, and his light will fill the entire universe.

–Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

Nagasaki Day

Seventy two years since Fat Man and Enola Gay
and still we politely discuss
whether it wasn’t, perhaps, okay.
Still the men of power
in pompous bellicosity
speak breathlessly of turning night to bloody day.