Incendiary Religious Thoughts and Secular Comments!

Hunter Gray HUNTERBEAR at
Tue Jan 2 11:02:24 MST 2001

Verily, verily -- indeed!  One of the more recent proofs I've seen regarding
the durability and fertility of "religion" is its spectacular proliferation
as a discussional topic in the context of this, our present group.

For myself, I certainly have no apologies whatsoever of that which I'm
certain is my own inherent spiritual dimension -- manifested in our
interesting  and enduring family/tribal blending of the traditional beliefs
with some of the more attractive facets of Jesuit Catholicism.  I should add
that Ignatius of Loyola -- he of single-minded and super-intensive
organizational commitment (whatever his own historical goals) -- is for us a
special entity.  Several works of and about Ignatius are immediately
adjacent to my 45 volumes of Lenin (no two-volume index with my set.)  I'd
say that Lenin and Ignatius certainly have something in common. Quite a
number of works by American radicals are close by, along with a good deal of
Native American material.  (Stalin is segregated, off to a dark corner.)

I certainly don't feel that a spiritual dimension is anything except
intricately correlated with that dimension of ours which demands material
well-being.  Hell, I even think we have a liberty-seeking fire as well!  I'd
argue that all of these are fused together beyond any precise analysis.

And I don't think for a moment that anyone in the history of Humanity -- or
any group or tendency -- has captured the entire complexity of the Cosmos
and all of its components (and all of these components, in my view,  are
intricately linked.)  By the way, the existence of certain parapsychological
phenomena -- e.g., telepathy, psychokenisis, clairvoyance -- have been very
well established (including by Soviet scientists) under rigid lab
conditions.  But these, always known consciously by tribal people (and
found, in my opinion, in all humans -- however cloaked they may be in the
superficialities of "western" science)  -- cannot be put as formulae on
blackboards.  I think the case for "survival of the human personality beyond
bodily death" has been at least fairly well established by
parapsychologists.  But, presumptuous as it may sound, most humans know this
anyway and most of us aren't inclined to think too much  at this point about
what lies Beyond the Fog.

I but I do state, and categorically, that I'm alive today because of certain
clear and overwhelmingly intuitive warning feelings.

Anyway, I certainly do indeed think that religion -- or the lack of it -- is
up to the individual. And I say again that any really working organizer
seeking to get grassroots people together, develop on-going and democratic
local leadership, deal effectively with grievances and individual/family
concerns, achieve basic organizational goals and develop new ones -- and
build a sense of the New World To Be Over The Mountains Yonder and how  all
of that relates to shorter-term steps -- can hardly afford, whatever the
organizer's particular stand on religion may be, to become involved in his
constituents' views on religion!

The institutional Church (or church) can indeed be something else.  I parted
company with that in the summer of 1978 at Rochester, New York.  For the
better part of the two  previous years, I'd been Director of the Office of
Human Development, the social justice arm of the twelve county Rochester
Catholic Diocese.  For years it had been a mostly talk situation -- and I
was hired because part of the staff  genuinely wanted to do some  genuinely
tangible things (and the Church bureaucracy was unaware of what  bona fide
community organization really meant!)  We moved quickly on a number of
fronts:  organized Native mink-skinners (in some of the most  repressive,
feudal conditions I'd seen since the Deep South) into successful strike
actions; launched all sorts of effective grassroots single-issue and
multi-issue projects; developed meaningful and effective liaisons with
unions; pushed international justice issues (Chile, southern Africa, Panama)
and actively supported the Iroquois land claims cases -- all of these  both
directly and through the New York State Catholic Committee; vigorously
supported gay rights; and we did much else.  And we also pushed  hard for
the socialization of utilities power -- the people-gouging (super-gouging)
Rochester Gas and Electric -- whose board chairman, we knew, was the biggest
single contributor to the Diocese.

Tension between our bona fide social justice organizing and fighting -- and
the institutional Church --  had been growing steadily as Church politicians
began to realize what we were doing via the Office of Human Development.  I
was given a series of ultimatums which I, of course, ignored -- and, in due
course, I was fired by the Bishop's hatchetman for "insubordination" (later
changed to "a break-down in communication.")  There was a hell of a
grassroots protest through the remainder of the summer of '78:  Native
organizations, grassroots groups, the 89 unions making up the Rochester
AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and the Teamsters Union, many inner-city
parish priests and nuns, the Diocesan canon lawyer, Episcopal clergy, the
Catholic Worker movement.  The widely read National Catholic Reporter
devoted much of an entire issue to the Rochester upheaval.  The Bishop took
early retirement, the hatchetman (rumoured to be his successor) was passed
over and relegated in due course to a rural parish.  I was never (not
surprisingly)  reinstated -- my growing family and I went on to the Navajo
Nation -- but we did accomplish some solid victories on the New York scene
and we sowed many many seeds of discontent.  We hear from time to time of
those emergent fruits.

Would I work again for the institutional Church.  Never!  Am I still aware
of my spiritual dimension.  Of course.  And I always will be so aware.

Traditional Native  tribalism (communalistic) -- and this holds true, I
should think, for Fourth World peoples generally, has been characterized by
the primary principle of "tribal responsibility":  i.e., the group has a
responsibility to the individual and the individual has a responsibility to
the group. It's a deeply-rooted mutual kind of thing -- with a recognition
that, at least for the most part, what is good for the group is good for the
person.  There is, on the one hand, a recognition that, if the well-being of
the group and the self-perceived well-being of the individual come into
conflict, the group-good transcends the situation.  But there is always, in
the traditional tribal context, certain clearly defined areas of individual
and family autonomy into which the group cannot intrude.

All of this has enabled tribal peoples across the world to survive the
blood-dimmed centuries of attempted physical and cultural genocide.

When Father Thomas J. Hagerty, the revolver-packing priest of the Western
Federation of Mine wrote out the preamble of the embryonic Industrial
Workers of the World in 1905,  his creation -- however inspired -- started
off, of course, with "The working class and the employing class have nothing
in common."  For my part, I read that preamble decades later when I was a
teenager and, shortly thereafter, I did The Communist Manifesto.  To me, at
least, it all goes together, along with the foundation dimensions -- the
sensible balance between group and individual -- of Native tribalism; and
hopefully this will  all add up to a socialism where people are genuinely
free in all respects and where their choices are many indeed.

Fraternally/In Solidarity -  Hunter Gray (Hunterbear)

Hunter Gray

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