How About We End It Here

How about we end it here.
Do something unexpected,
courageous and wise.

Let the US leave Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Saud, Israel
and every other country to themselves,
and let’s make for ourselves a nice home,
spending our money on health and education
and sustainable, just living with Earth and our neighbors.

Let us bring our troops and equipment from all over the world home.
Let us melt down the useless bombs.
We need no more than the poorest anywhere and then everyone,
everywhere will live rich in spirit,
each with one’s daily bread,

like the beloved of God.

My Country’s Skies Are Bluer than the Ocean

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

I thought of one of my favorite peace hymns, “This Is My Song” (tune: Finlandia) when I saw a photograph of Tehran, Iran on Twitter yesterday. Press TV, an Iranian English-speaking news outlet posted the photo and caption, “Tehran’s blue sky right now!”

I have no quarrel with anyone from Iran. Who does really? Only the elite who profit from war. It is time for human beings to take back our lands and sing with confidence a song of peace so the God of all the nations will believe that we really want it.

Here are the rest of the lyrics and a nice harmony on it from the Indigo Girls.

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

Truth Jihad: A Conversation with Kevin Barrett

Listen Here.

In March 2018 I had a live interview scheduled with Dr. Kevin Barrett on my monthly show, “The Beloved Community” on KBOO. Through a smear campaign led by Rose City Antifa complete with name-calling, character assassination, and a deluge of tweets and phone calls, the station staff and management were pressured to stop the interview and actually ban Kevin Barrett from being on the air. (Staff and management claim they were not pressured.) I appealed the decision but my appeal was never addressed. Dr. Barrett never had an opportunity to defend himself. Volunteers or the membership never had an opportunity to review this process.

On December 13th, 2019 I broadcast a pre-recorded show that included audio from the last sermon I gave to my church, an interview with Dr. David Ray Griffin and a speech Dr. Kevin Barrett delivered at a KBOO-sponsored event at Portland State in February 2018 about US-Saudi relations. Staff, in response to phone calls, stopped the broadcast in the midst of Dr. Barrett’s speech and played Christmas music! In protest to this personal disrespect and censorship, I decided to take a sabbatical from my volunteer duties and support of KBOO and move my show to a platform that respects the spirit of the First Amendment. You can read my story here.

Over Christmas, Dr. Barrett interviewed me for his radio show, Truth Jihad, and gave me permission and encouragement to rebroadcast that interview on my program.


John Shuck on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio

Censored Presbyterian Minister and Radio Host John Shuck on Why He’s Leaving KBOO-Portland and His Church

December 25, 2019 Kevin Barrett

John Shuck: When they won’t let you tell the truth, it’s time to leave

Listen HERE

Presbyterian minister John Shuck is leaving his KBOO-Portland radio show “Beloved Community” and his church position. Apparently neither the radio station nor the church can handle the truth about 9/11 and related topics. John recently wrote me:

Dear Dr. Barrett,

A number of changes have happened to me. I am no longer pastor at my church. I was judged too radical opposing wars and their lies and saying too many good things about Islam.  Now I am done with KBOO too. Here is my last show that includes audio from you.

I dedicated the show to you and to Dr. Griffin, two people who have for me modeled the spirit of sacrifice for truth that I saw in Jesus and Hussain. The audio I included of you was the speech you gave at the conference in Feb 2018 about the US and Saudi empires. I never broadcast it before.

Anyway in the middle of the broadcast this past Friday morning, while you were speaking, the station staff stopped it and played Christmas music! Naughty of me to play anything by the banned Kevin Barrett.  So after 20 months of the station’s inability to treat either of us like human beings, I decided it was a good time to go.

I want you to know how important you have been to me on a personal level. You model human decency in the time when the inhumane are in power.  Thank you.

All the Best,

John Shuck

Progressive Spirit/Beloved Community Podcast



Progressive Spirit Website

Shuck and Jive Blog

John Shuck’s church was vandalized with Antifa-style graffiti. Earlier, Portland Antifa had pressured KBOO radio to prevent John from interviewing me.

Holding to Your Truth

This is my last show on KBOO. During the airing of this episode on Friday December 13th, 9-10 am, the staff stopped the on-air broadcast in the midst of Dr. Kevin Barrett’s address and played Christmas music. In response to this act of censorship and the ongoing censorship and banning of Dr. Barrett from my show beginning in March 2018, I have decided to take a sabbatical from KBOO. I will move the show to another platform. You can read a full explanation here. Find my shows at Progressive Spirit.

In this special pre-recorded edition of The Beloved Community, you will hear John Shuck’s final sermon to his church (edited by ALIPortland) plus reflections on truth, truth-telling, and the importance of creating space and protecting truth-tellers, particularly those who expose the empire’s war machine. 

You will also hear an interview with Dr. David Ray Griffin about his book, “Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World” plus an address by Dr. Kevin Barrett that was given at the KBOO sponsored event, “The US/Saudi Coalition: Bringing Peace or War?” that was held at Portland State in February 2018.  

Clockwise from top left: Dr. David Ray Griffin, my last sermon at Southminster (11/24-2019), Dr. Kevin Barrett and Dr. Scott Bennett at PSU’s conference: “The US-Saudi Coalition: Bringing Peace or War?” February 2018.



A Blue Christmas Without You

I wrote this for the Beaverton Resource Guide:

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you

Seven years ago, during the summer of 2012, we lost our son, Zach, at the age of 25.

For Christmas that year, my wife and I managed to get a Christmas tree. We placed upon it clear tear-shaped ornaments and blue lights. It was a Blue Christmas, a la, Elvis: “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.” Nonetheless, it was Christmas.

The blue and the tears were good for our souls. I know that other celebrations besides Christmas are celebrated during the holiday season, but perhaps all of our celebrations have a similar orientation around this time of Winter Solstice. At the darkest point, the sun begins its rise.

There is much to be festive about at this time of year:  Shopping, parties, gathering with families, glowing candles, children in their pajamas, concerts and light shows and plenty of Santa hats. I love all of it.

Yet, Christmas (and the holiday season as a whole) is most complete when it includes some blue. The light that shines in the darkness is shining for the darkness of grief, loss, and struggle that we all experience. It is the price of being born.

Our tree won’t consist entirely of tear-shaped ornaments and blue lights this year, but there will be a couple of them. They will remind us of Zach and of loss and of the Light of a new dawn that pierces the darkness.

Wherever life finds you this season, may the Light meet you where you need to be met even if it shines through the color blue.

John Shuck is a Presbyterian minister. His website is

Last Sermon at Southminster: The Reign of Divine Values

My final sermon at Southminster.
The audio includes a wonderful tribute by my colleague and friend, Rev. Don Ludwig.
And a beautiful blessing from the children.
The choir sang “A New Day” perfect for “Christ the King” or “Reign of Divine Values” Sunday.
November 24, 2019

My final sermon at Southminster.

Includes a wonderful tribute by my colleague and friend, Rev. Don Ludwig.

And a beautiful blessing from the children.

The choir sang “A New Day” perfect for “Christ the King” or “Reign of Divine Values” Sunday.

November 24, 2019

Order of Worship 2019 November 24

David Ray Griffin, The Christian Gospel for Americans

The divine purpose, thus revealed, is to overcome evil by bringing about a Reign of Divine Values (traditionally called the Kingdom of God) on Earth, in which the present subjugation of life to demonic values—lies, ugliness, greed, destructiveness, injustice, hate, and indifference—will be replaced by a mode of life based on divine values—truth, love, beauty, goodness, justice, and compassion….

The Christian Community should base itself, all of its activities, on the Christian Community’s mission. Its basic mission is to lead the way in God’s battle against demonic power on Earth. The church is meant to serve as a counterforce to the demonic dimension of the symbolic structure in which human beings live. God’s incarnational activity in Jesus should be understood as a divine offensive against the power of the demonic.

The Christian Community should, of course, engage in ethical and political activity as usually understood. But this activity should be carried out in the context of a spiritual offensive, in which the power of prayer is used to reinforce the divine influence upon the individuals and institutions involved. Praying for those who are especially enslaved to demonic power, and who are incarnating it in especially destructive ways, will not only serve to remind us that they are essentially good creatures who are loved by God, but also that our battle is not with them but with the demonic power to which they are enslaved….

Central to worship is Communion (the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist), in which we remember that Jesus remained faithful in his opposition to the empire, which led to his death on a Roman cross.

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

The Reign of Divine Values

On Friday I prayed at the Islamic Center of Portland as I do on occasion. It is where I go to “church” so to speak. Where do ministers who lead worship go to worship for themselves? That is where I go. I appreciate the sermons of Imam Muhsen Al-Dhalimy. I always learn new things. I am learning slowly how to pray. They are patient with me and welcoming. Happy that I am with them.

This past Friday, a boy, a middle schooler, I would guess, led the call to prayer. Afterward, when prayer was finished, in the hallway he told me how much he liked the film Josh Townsley and I made about our walk to Karbala. He spontaneously gave me a hug and asked me if I was a Muslim.

I have been asked that before as I have been invited to speak at Islamic Centers around the country this past year. I never know exactly how to answer that. On Friday, I said,

“I am a Muslim in my heart.”

I don’t think we can really engage in interfaith work and not have our hearts transformed and expanded. In interfaith encounters, at least as I see it, we must risk transformation. It isn’t just about telling others what we think or what we believe. Then it is nothing more than a sales pitch. For me, I want to know what God is saying to me through you. That approach, by its very nature, risks transformation. You can’t control what will become of you.

In this my last sermon with you, I do want to leave you with a few things including my appreciation for you, my gratitude to you and for you, and my blessing to you. It has been a good five years. We have done good things together. I am glad I came here and served among you. Despite the discomfort of how things are ending, it is time for that ending as well. I fully support what you will be voting on today in terms of dissolving the call. Your session and I have worked together and all of us have come up with an agreement that meets all of our needs.

As John O’Donohue writes in his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, one of his blessings is entitled “For the Time of Necessary Decision.” It says in part:

“Often we only know it is time to change
When a force has built inside the heart
That leaves us uneasy as we are.”

Southminster’s phrase is “companions on a spiritual journey” and you have been my companion. I cannot say what I have given you. I hope I have been a companion to you on your spiritual journey as well. But do know, that you have been a companion on mine. All of you, even those who have been uncomfortable with me. You all have been my teachers, my companions. You have shown me the Divine presence and have lived the Divine values in many different ways. I have laughed a lot with you. We have shared tears. We have shared a great deal and none of that is lost and I thank you.

I also feel it is fitting that today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year. The phrase “Christ the King” sounds archaic. After all, kings rule by force. That is not how Christ empowers. Christ leads through love. So we might call this Sunday “Reign of Christ” Sunday or “Reign of Divine Values” Sunday.

That is really what it is about. It is about the hope of a renewed creation in which we relate to one another and to Earth with the values Jesus taught and lived: Beauty, Truth, Justice, Love, Peace, Courage, and Compassion.

As the text from Luke’s Gospel illustrates, Jesus demonstrated the Reign of Divine Values as he went to the cross. His sacrifice showed the world the true realm of God. It is this concept of sacrifice that is really at the core of this transformation that happened to me and I think is happening in the world. I feel the need to share this journey with you as I close my time with you.

In February 2018, I moderated a panel discussion regarding the war against Yemen at Portland State University. It was entitled “The US – Saudi Coalition: Bringing Peace or War?”

It was in the follow-up of that conference during an email exchange that I first heard of Hussain. He was referenced in regards to the panelists, all of whom had taken risks and had sacrificed in varying ways for their work in bringing truth to light. All of the panelists, including Kevin Barrett and Mohammad Al-Nimr, were and are truth-tellers. They told inconvenient truths about the powers that be.

That is how I was introduced to Imam Hussain (Peace Be Upon Him). He was a truth-teller and was martyred for embodying the truth. I knew nothing else about him except that. I wanted to learn more.

When I went to Karbala, Iraq for Arba’een I did learn more about Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, not only intellectually but also spiritually. I learned that Hussain, through his sacrifice, saved Islam. He defined Islam by his sacrifice as a religion of Beauty, Truth, Justice, Love, Peace, Courage, and Compassion.

Hussain was and is, as I saw him, a mirror-image of Jesus. They are siblings. They are brothers. They are one. As I said in a sermon a few months ago.

It is Jesus I follow to Karbala.
Jesus showed me Hussain.
If I want to follow Jesus,
I must follow Hussain.
Hussain shows me how to follow Jesus.

Hussain and Jesus both sacrificed in the same way. They sacrificed all they had, their very lives for the Reign of God, for the Reign of Divine Values, and they both summoned the world to follow in their steps if we wish to participate in this transformation of the world.
This Arba’een walk of 15 to 20 million or more is a modern miracle of this transformation. It is a sacrament through which the world is being summoned to walk as one against all forms of tyranny.

My heart for Jesus expanded because of Hussain. I am a better Christian because of my encounter with Islam.

This is not about religion in the narrow sense of that word (whether one is Christian, Muslim, Jew or whatever), but it is about religion in the broadest sense, the power of love that connects us all at the deepest levels.

When I went and touched the box above the grave of Imam Hussain (alayhi-salaam) I wasn’t sure if I should. Hussain wasn’t a figure in my religion. But I was told again and again that Hussain is for everyone, regardless of religion or creed. Just like Jesus.

So I am in the Shrine of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). It is beautiful. The air conditioning is on. It is filled with the sound of prayer. People are crying. Some are standing. Some are sitting. Some are in various positions of prayer. Poetry is being recited from many places. I don’t understand a word of it, except now and then I hear a name I recognize, Ali, Zainab, Abbas, Hossein.

This is about a week before Arba’een. I am with the tour group. I decide I want to go and touch the big box in the center of the shrine, the lattice work above the grave of Hussain. I don’t know what it is like on the women’s side, but on the men’s side, even a week before the day of Arba’een the place is packed. it is a push and pull like ocean waves of bodies. Your feet almost leave the ground. There are so many people. You know where you are headed. It is like swimming in the ocean. You don’t need to be aggressive but you need to hold your own. You swim through the bodies, pushed left and right. Finally, I got close enough, almost there.

I should stop here. I was conscious of being different. Different religion. I only speak English. From America. My reddish hair, now reddish-gray, pale skin. Of the thousands of people inside the shrine that day, I was probably the whitest guy in the room. I reach up and put my hand up to touch the lattice work and I can’t reach it.

What happened with me is that as I reached up, I couldn’t touch it, and a hand took mine and pushed it up against the grate. It was a brown hand, taking my white hand up against the final resting place of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). It was a visual imprint in my mind that beyond all color, all race, all religion, all language, the language of love and truth and courage is one. The love of Hussain. Our eyes met. We just looked at each other.

As I swam away, just a few yards away, I saw this man. He stared at me. Tears were streaming down his face. He asked me as many did on my trip, “Where are you from?” I told him, America. He just started bawling. He hugged me and kissed me. I have joked that I never have been kissed by so many men with scratchy beards.

But what is this?

Iraq. A country that felt post-apocalyptic to me. I like many of us Americans, watched from a distance as our leaders lied us into war, destroyed Iraq, and then ignored its suffering. No one goes there. No one that I know, except my brother-in-law. He is a professor at NYU and he goes often to the northern part of Iraq because of his work of peacebuilding with the University of Kirkuk. Besides my brother-in-law and soldiers, I know of no one who had been to Iraq. A country that Americans like me need to visit. A country devastated by the demonic, by lies and wars, by bombs and depleted uranium. By hatred from outside powers, mercenary terrorists and puppet tyrants, the people left to fend for themselves.

The US state department tells Americans not to go to Iraq. Too dangerous. Bad. Whatever. What did I find? I found love. I found tears. I found joy. I found hope. I found my heart had expanded. A Christian American was embraced and shown the love of Hussain (alayhi s-salam).

My heart was expanded. Courage is the result of an expanded heart. With courage is insight to tell the truth as best you know it when you need to tell it. That doesn’t mean I know truth more than others. That doesn’t mean I am not ever wrong. I am wrong often. Courage is admitting it and learning from it.

Courage does not mean me selling you my truth. It doesn’t mean that. Hearts do not expand that way. You tell what is true and live what is true and God does the rest.

But it does mean that I cannot be afraid of what I know or of what I learn because of the discomfort of truth to me or others or to the powers that deceive.

I included in today’s order of worship, three different quotes from Dr. David Ray Griffin. Dr. Griffin, in my opinion, is the most important Christian theologian in the 21st century. The reason I make that very bold statement is because of sacrifice.

He held on to what he believed to be true, not only true, but important for justice, despite misunderstanding, ridicule, name-calling, and marginalization.

He communicated what he believed to be true at the very point when and where it matters most.

I am going to add Dr. Kevin Barrett to my list of the most important Muslim scholars of our time as well for the very same reason. Sacrifice.

He communicated what he believed to be true at the very point when and where it matters most. He did so at great risk to himself and at great loss.

That is the type of sacrifice that is in the spirit of Jesus and Hussain (peace be upon them both).

That is what I want to leave with you my dear beloveds at Southminster.

Hold to your truth.

Hold fast to your truth.

Whatever that truth is, don’t let it go for the sake of acceptance by others.
No relationship that requires you to deny your truth is worth keeping.

Do know that if you do hold fast to what you know is true,
and this truth is in order to goodness,
it will at some point require sacrifice.

But if it is true and good, it will last.
It will resurrect beyond death.
It will live and save.
In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said:

If you bring forth what is within you,
What you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
What you do not bring forth will kill you.

In other words if you bring forth your truth,
that truth will save you.
If you do not bring forth your truth,
that truth will destroy you.

So in answer to the question of the boy who asked me on Friday if I am a Muslim.
I will leave that for God to judge whether or not I am worthy to be called a Muslim.

For my part, I will trust the brotherhood of Jesus and Hussain as bringers of Divine Values.
May we all embrace these values regardless of our religion.

In terms of a blessing, this is for you, Southminster.

It is from John O’Donohue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us.
It is called A Blessing of Angels.

May the Angels in their beauty bless you.
May they turn toward you streams of blessing.

May the Angel of Awakening stir your heart
to come alive to the eternal within you,
to all the invitations that quietly surround you.

May the Angel of Healing turn your wounds into
sources of refreshment.

May the Angel of the Imagination enable you to stand on the true thresholds,
at ease with your ambivalence and drawn in new directions
through the glow of your contradictions.

May the Angel of Compassion open your eyes
to the unseen suffering around you.

May the Angel of Wildness disturb the places
where your life is domesticated and safe,
take you to the territories of true otherness
where all that is awkward in you can fall into its own rhythm.

May the Angel of Eros introduce you to the beauty of your senses
to celebrate your inheritance as a temple of the holy spirit.

May the Angel of Justice disturb you to take
the side of the poor and the wronged.

May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you in worth and self-respect,
that you may live with the dignity that presides in your soul.

May the Angel of Death arrive only when your life is complete
and you have brought every given gift to the threshold where its infinity can shine.

May all the Angels be your sheltering and joyful guardians.



Sermon from October 20, 2019. Audio here.

Jeremiah 31:27-34
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:

‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
But all shall die for their own sins;
the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’


Where does the parable end and the commentary begin?

One of the most significant contributions of the Jesus Seminar in its deliberations since the 1980s has been answering that question about the teachings of Jesus.

(And I should take that opportunity to promote the Jesus Seminar on the Road conference here at Southminster, November 8 and 9. You have until October 25th to get the early bird rate. One of the important gifts Southminster has given the greater community is hosting these Jesus Seminars on the Road.)

One of the significant gifts that the Jesus Seminar has given is making the scholarship of the academy available to non-professionals.
What have scholars been saying about Jesus these past 200 years
that never made it to the public?

One of the things they have been saying is that the Jesus of the Creed is not the same as the Jesus who told those puzzling little parables.
These scholars also have been showing that the gospels, while preserving the teachings of Jesus, also painted portraits of Jesus and framed Jesus in certain ways.

Modern Jesus scholarship has been asking,

“What belongs to Jesus and what is later redaction?”

It is Jesus versus the editors of Jesus.

It is not a simple or easy task.
Sometimes the editors of Jesus put words in Jesus’s mouth,
so a casual reader thinks Jesus did say these things.
After all, the gospel says Jesus said it.
Who are you, scholar, to question the gospels?
The church as a whole was not pleased with the Jesus Seminar.
They didn’t like that these scholars messed with cherished belief systems.

Despite the opposition,
the scholars of the Jesus Seminar persisted,
like the persistent widow,
in searching out the voiceprint of the historical Jesus.

They discovered that this parable contains a bit of editing.

One rule of thumb is that parables are not allegories.
When you run into landlords, judges, kings, and Fathers,
don’t mistake them for God.
The later editors do that.
The historical Jesus did not.

Another rule of thumb is that a tidy explanation of a parable,
even if it appears on the lips of Jesus, is likely not Jesus.
He didn’t explain himself very well.
Jesus told parables to make people think.
Often to make people feel uncomfortable.
Often to make people challenge what they had learned from conventional wisdom.
Often to push against boundaries.

The Gospel writers didn’t like that and so they tried to explain his difficult teachings
and make what Jesus said fit their own portrait of Jesus.

In this parable of the persistent widow,
the editor appears both at the beginning and the end
to tell you how to read the parable and what it is all about.

The editor begins:

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.”

That is a nice sermon and kind of true about the parable.
Don’t lose heart. True enough.
Yet the parable itself, says nothing about prayer.
Even as prayer is a good thing,
and Jesus certainly taught his disciples about its importance,
that isn’t what this parable is about.
This parable is about widow who is fed up with injustice.
She isn’t praying to the judge.
She is demanding justice from the judge.

Then the editor appears at the end of the parable:

And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

On its own, those rhetorical questions are interesting to ponder,
but they have nothing to do with the parable.
The editor turned the widow’s persistent demands for justice
against the judge as prayer to God.
The editors have taken a parable about the reality of injustice in the world
and turned it into a lesson in personal piety.
Pray always.
Don’t lose heart.

Here is the parable without the editing:

‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”

This judge is certainly not God.
The parable itself has him say he doesn’t care about God at all.
He doesn’t care about what it is right or wrong.
He doesn’t even care about people.
He represents the reality of what widows, the poor,
and the oppressed faced in Jesus’s time.
Jesus was speaking to those very people who know the experience of the widow
and who themselves experience this injustice,
this hopelessness, on a daily basis.

Jesus is affirming what everyone who is listening already know,
that there is no justice for the poor.
That the system is rigged.
Jesus is pronouncing an indictment upon it.
The system of so-called justice has nothing to do with kingdom of God.
In fact, it mocks it in the words of the unjust judge in the parable itself,
“I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone.”

Jesus is laying it out on the entire fraudulent system of justice
as against God and human decency.
Jesus is really saying that this system is demonic.
It serves itself not who and what it was called to serve.

Jesus is speaking to people for whom all the authority figures are against them.
The people Jesus speaks to are the rabble
from whom the well-to-do want to protect themselves.

This parable of Jesus is an indictment on systems of justice
that have been structured and maintained by the powers
that be to keep that imbalance of power in place.

The editors of the gospels,
or the gospel writers,
are removed from Jesus’s original audience and from Jesus.
The gospel writers, writing at least 40 years,
and in Luke’s case perhaps longer, maybe 60-70 years after the time of Jesus,
also represent a different class of people.
Whereas Jesus was likely in the peasant class, illiterate, and without property,
the author of Luke is not that at all.

The author of Luke is like the wealthy liberal
who likes Jesus but does not relate to the experience of the poor
and the systems that are built that have
“no fear of God and no respect for anyone.”
So Luke makes Jesus’s parable a story about prayer and personal piety,
something the well-to-do could understand.

What was Jesus’s original parable about then?
It is a parable about how to respond to a system that is rigged against you.
When you have no obvious power what are some ways to get justice?
One way is to do what the widow did.
Keep showing up.

Palestinians know this.
No outside power is there for them.
There is no appeal to justice that the Israelis will ever heed.
The Israelis do not care about justice for the Palestinians.
Palestinians know this.
They know that resistance is survival.
Survival is resistance.
They stay on their land despite all the violence and abuse and the indignities.
Each day of survival is in itself a victory.

In the parable,
the judge does not grant justice to the widow because he has a change of heart.
He doesn’t rule in her favor because of the evidence
or because she is in the right.
He grants her justice because he is tired of seeing her.
She has worn him out.
She keeps bothering him.

That is the weapon you use when you have no other.
You just keep telling the truth until the powers are worn out.
You wear out your opponent with truth and love.

Who has done this throughout history?
We can think of Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King or Sojourner Truth.

Yesterday was Arba’een.
It was the fortieth day after the martyrdom of Hussain,
the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.
Between 20 and 30 million people marched to Karbala, Iraq.
The largest peaceful human gathering on earth.
I walked in it last year.
They did it again this year.

Because there is still injustice.
The judge still has no fear of God or respect for people, so they walk.

Amidst the bombs and guns of the oppressors, people walk.
Amidst the threats and violence, people walk.
Amidst the scheming and the plotting, people walk.
Amidst greed and fear of the small minded, people walk.

From Arbaeen 2018

Like the widow in the parable,
they keep continually coming.
They will not stop.
They will not be intimidated.
They will not be quiet.
They will keep going as long as there is oppression anywhere.

It was the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed in my life.
It is in the spirit of Jesus and his parable of the persistent widow.

Eventually, the unjust judge will do the right thing.
He will do the right thing because he is worn out.
Until then, they walk.
They persist.

One day says Jeremiah,
turning to the other text for today,
one day, says the Lord:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

One day, perhaps even the unjust judge will have a change of heart.
One day after the widows of the world have walked until their feet are bloodied,
Until every last ounce of energy has been used,
Until every tear has combined with every other tear to create a raging river…
One day, perhaps the scales will fall from the eyes of the powerful,
And even they will turn to God
and turn to respect other human beings…

And the law of love will be written on every heart.

Until that day,
Those who follow Jesus will walk with the widow,
They will persist.


Jack Moloney’s Century: A Conversation with Per Fagereng

Per Fagereng’s novel explores America and Portland after Peak Oil

John Shuck speaks with radio host and author, Per Fagereng, about his novel, Jack Moloney’s Century. The novel covers the 100 year life of Jack Moloney (1980-2080) as he moves from Ireland to Portland with many stops along the way through the world’s transition from abundant energy to Peak Oil and beyond.

Per hosts the radio show, “Fight the Empire” on KBOO. Per says of himself:

“I’m old enough to remember the Brooklyn Dodgers. Worked at a gold mine in Alaska and a Norwegian freighter. Hanging out at a San Francisco tavern got me started in a newspaper career. I’ve been involved with KBOO since around 1980.”

From the back cover of Jack Moloney’s Century:

WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICA? When young Jack Moloney jumped ship in New York in the year 2000 the United States was the world’s great power. When Jack died 80 years later the United States was in pieces, and his long life came to an end in a place called Cascadia. Jack Moloney grew up in Derry, in British-occupied Ireland. One night he helped some friends lob a mortar round into an army camp, and the IRA got him out of town. From Ireland to a job on a cruise ship, to New York, Chicago, the Great Plains and Oregon — Jack lived through a dangerous time in history. Gone were cheap oil, banks and mighty war machines. Now wars were fought by roving bands of armed people on foot. Old nations broke apart and new ones were born in rebellion. Nature itself fought back at human folly. As always, life depended on good land and water, and people to do the work.

Per Fagereng, “Jack Moloney’s Century” plus watercolor by Per, “George Bush in Hell”