Friday, December 27, 2019

Mass Movement for Salvation

Jingle dancers at Standing Rock gathering 2016

The Power of the People: A Mass Movement to Address Runaway Inequality and Save Ourselves and the Planet

 by the Rev. Connie Yost
December 27, 2019

I recently went to the Native art market in Washington, DC, where I bought a first edition of Eugene Tapahe, Navajo photographer/writer’s book, Never Forget, Standing for Unity.  It is a beautiful testament to the gathering of water protectors at Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline fiasco.  Even years after the camps broke up, the people who were there speak of the spiritual power of the gathered community that has stayed with them and literally changed lives.  It speaks to me of the long loneliness people endure in this world and the power of love when people come together united in doing the right thing.  They say that they were not protesting, they were protecting, a distinction I find spiritually empowering.  Who wants to go around angry in protest, when we can come together in peace and prayer to honor and protect the earth, the animals, our ancestors, each other, and all the generations yet to come.  

I wasn’t there at Standing Rock at the time, but I was there last June, and I find that in all my travels to Indian reservations, natural landscapes, small towns and the places no one goes to, there is a beauty and a hunger and, I think, a spiritual clarity and strength deep down in the people, just waiting to be unleashed for the common good.  But too many people are being crushed under systems of violence, injustice and inequality, barely managing to survive, if at all.  That simply f-s people up.  We need the gathered community for sustenance, and we desperately need to address the root causes. 

That is why I find the message of Runaway Inequality by Les Leopold so compelling.  He makes the case in easy to understand language that we need to come together in a mass movement to demand the kind of policy changes that will stop the financial strip-mining of America, which began 40 years ago and is now of crisis proportions, leaving everyone falling further and further behind except the financial elites.  

Read the book, please.  I cannot do it justice here, only to say that runaway inequality is the over-arching defining issue of our day.  We have to be willing to take it on, on a massive scale, or no other issue can be solved.  Leopold writes, “…no matter what our individual identity…, we also need to take on the identity of movement builder.  We all must come together or we all lose.”

There have been spontaneous risings, like Occupy and rallies for Bernie Sanders, which show that people can be moved into action.  But this kind of massive movement will require some kind of organization, and right now I don’t know which organization has the potential for this.  My dream is that perhaps the National Poor People’s Campaign can take this on.  (I’m working on it!)

We were blessed to have Les Leopold come to Portland to present Runaway Inequality at my church.  He is a dynamic speaker and I encourage you to invite him to your city.  He has inspired and empowered many of us to sign up to be trainers of the Runaway Inequality curriculum (available for free on, doing what we can to educate and mobilize people.  

Maybe our salvation will come in another rising like Standing Rock.  Standing Rock gives me hope. One of the protector conveners, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, said that 

When I look at our indigenous people, I think, “Oh my god, we must be the smartest people on earth.” Because we know all the components of our environments.  It is time for the young people to share this and learn from the stories, because I truly believe it will save the world.  When you came to camp, the first thing security said was, “Welcome home.”  That phrase just threw people off.  I had no idea it was such an amazing phrase.
“Welcome home.”  Where do we get that in the “real world?”  Even in church communities it is talked about a lot, but rarely achieved.  Even in families, it is easier to exclude than truly welcome.  I am so sorry that I didn’t get a chance to go to Standing Rock during the gathering; for sure, I will be at the next one.  For sure, I will be doing what I can to address runaway inequality.

Moving forward from greed to compassion, doing what we can together, and changing lives in the doing.  Protecting, loving and praying together.  May it be so.

Copyright 2019 Constance B. Yost. All rights reserved.