Mary's Song, Standing Rock, and Us

It almost makes no sense that a woman could pray with great certainty in such desperate times. Hers is a past-tense prayer. She doesn't pray like a someone who hopes things will happen. As far as she is concerned, they have already happened. She prays with confidence to the God who declares, the God who makes known the end from the beginning.

Mary faced the threat of being stoned for being pregnant before marriage. In more ways than one, she was in an impossible situation. Mary was in trouble, but her nation was also in trouble, so she did not limit the scope of her prayer to her personal condition. She prayed a nation-sized prayer. There have been others since Mary, who have prayed beyond their own problem.

You might as well include Mary when discussing heroes who faced overpowering opposition. I could reference Mahatma Ghandi, Elie Weisel, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Cesar Chavez, Poland's Lech Walesa, or Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi.But they are not my focus right today.

Think of how hard has been for Standing Rock Water Protectors.

The elders at Standing Rock have managed to create an atmosphere of sacred resolve. It's not perfect. Rocks are thrown and insults are exchanged across the front lines, and sometimes people show up looking for a fight, not a ceremony, but those are exceptions and outbursts, not the rule. It is not a camp of spiritually perfect people - but it is a camp of spiritually committed people.

This spiritual resolve is what I don't think the Morton County Sheriff, or the people at Energy Transfer Partners, or the Army Corps of Engineers, I don't think they really get it. It doesn't seem as if they have opened their eyes to the depth of spirit that is motivating and uniting the water protectors and their allies.

All that the officers have been given is their riot gear. Instead of spiritual armor, they rely on Kevlar and bulletproof plastics. It is an uncomfortable job they have been asked to do, and I have great compassion for the position in which they have found themselves. At one point, the Sheriff's department asked for donations to help support the morale of the officers over the winter, and get this, a delegation from the Indigenous Youth Council at the Oceti camp brought them boxes of snacks in response.

The people of Standing Rock are sending us all an important message. A message to take a stand and refuse to continue down the path that we have been on for generations. Because that path, it is clear, leads nowhere good. It is a path constructed on the basis of profits over people, with a foundation of white Christian supremacy that has made native lives seem expendable.
The people at Standing Rock are refusing to walk that way. We have the choice - we can ignore them, and turn a blind eye to the capital interests and the fossil fuel hegemony. We can roll over and act like it's all a waste of time.

Or we can see this as a wakeup call.

Because unless we change our ways, it will get worse. We CAN support them, pray with them, learn to walk with them, and perhaps find our path into a future together, in a restored relationship with the earth. Standing Rock is teaching us about solidarity. Thousands of visitors who went there to join them feel a bond. And we see another kind of solidarity: There's a fire burning in the camp that never goes out. It's a place where people gather, and someone is there leading prayer from daybreak till dark. Standing Rock is teaching us about spiritual community. Just when America was thinking we don't need to practice faith anymore, Native Americans are showing us that we need each other. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings? We need them more than ever. Like Mary and Elizabeth needed each other, so do we.

Standing Rock is today's Mary. As are Syrian refugees, being slaughtered by their government. As are the families of 43 Mexican students who were disappeared by their government. As are the families of 25 Coptic Christians killed and many more injured in last week's Cairo bombing. As are Filipinos being executed by their government. As are Crimeans, systematically persecuted by the Russian government. As are Fijian prisoners, tortured by police, corrections and military officers. As are migrant workers all over the world.

So it's time to pray bold prayers... time for prayers that will help them, and will help us all. This is our moment. After hundreds of years of mistreating indigenous peoples, we can come together as a country and find redemption. This is a time for justice. This is a time for forgiveness.

Don't think it absurd that people who face unimaginable odds still have hope. A common Native hashtag these days is #invisiblenomore. Their hope has increased, now, because they know that we know that the whole world is watching.