Thursday, April 28, 2005


Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Passing on...

Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ghosts of Clarksdale

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Diggers

Out of the Leveller movement [mentioned in previous post] came, for a brief time, an even more radical experiment. The Diggers would be a good role model for many Jeff Street Salty Saints--especially those who are committed to some form of communal living and life close to the soil.

Gerrard Winstanley was a General Baptist and part of the Leveller movement. During the English Civil War, he came to believe that the Levellers were compromising too much with the violent revolutionaries and launched a new movement. He called it the "True Levellers," but it has come to be known as the Digger Movement. Winstanley was responding to the huge number of common people who had been made into homeless refugees by (a) land grabs by the aristocracy, (b) mechanization that would lead in another generation or two to the Industrial Revolution, and (c) the war.

Winstanley believed that private ownership of land was immoral. Everyone had the "creation birthright" to earn a living from the land. So, he organized homeless farmers and created an agrarian utopian society. They occupied one of the many unused pieces of land ("The commons" which were supposed to be for common people but were being bought up by the aristocracy) near St. George's Hill. They dug up the sod, built small homes, and planted vegetables--giving them their name, "the Diggers." From this location, Winstanley wrote numerous tracts outlining a religious vision of a utopian, agrarian society. Eventually, the army destroyed the Digger Community. Most Historians think Winstanley left Baptist life to become a Quaker. But the Digger vision lived on in other communal experiments through the ages.

I never liked working on my grandfather's farm. I am not, by nature, an agrarian person. But I believe in small farms over agri-business. I believe in coops and buying food from farmer's markets instead of large grocery chains whenver possible. An ecologically sustainable society has to be closer to an agrarian ideal than today. And compared to the vision of imperialism and plutocracy that is promulgated by today's ruling elite, the Digger vision is compelling. We need to remember people like Winstanley--and we need bold experiments like the Diggers today. They may not be all the answer, but they can be models for alternatives.

by Michael, who, while not a Digger himself, digs them nonetheless

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hinds Feet

Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Re-claim the Levellers

Two of the most neglected movements of radical Christianity arising in the 17th C. in England are those of the Levellers and the Diggers. I'll describe the Levellers in this post and the Diggers in another.

The Levellers, so-called because they resisted a hierarchical, class-stratified society in favor of a society of equals--all on the same level, were a movement for political liberty and equality. Their political movement was very religiously-inspired: All the Levellers came from the ferment started in Britain by the Puritans. Most were Separatists/Independents--the movement that is the direct ancestor of the Congregationalist denomination. (In the U.S., most Congregationalists merged with others in the late '50s to form the United Church of Christ, which still has a congregational church polity, but in other places--Britain, Australia, South Africa, India, etc.--there are still Congregationalists as such.) Some were Presbyterians. Some were Quakers--until after 1660 when Quakers withdrew from such movements in order to avoid persecution. A great many were Baptists, especially from the General Baptist movement (the one which believed more in Free Will than Predestination) which, at this time, was more political than the Particular (Calvinist) Baptists.

The most important leader of the Levellers was Richard Overton who came out of the radical Separatist wing of Puritanism, lived in Germany during part of its Wars of Religion, and came to Amsterdam about 1612. John Smyth's congregation was just merging with the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites while Thomas Helwys and a handful of others who refused to join were returning to England to start the Baptist movement. Overton, after learning Dutch, joined the Waterlander Mennonite congregation just after John Smyth's death. He had to write his own confession of faith to be accepted for baptism and it committed him to complete nonviolence.

Sometime before 1620 Overton had returned to England and become a General Baptist, retaining his belief in nonviolence as did many first generation General Baptists. In 1640, he coined the term "human rights" or "rights of man" (he used these interchangeably)--a generation before John Locke or the Enlightenment. He led the Levellers in pushing for universal suffrage, an end to monarchy and aristocracy, free trade (as opposed to inherited monopolies), full religious liberty, rights to fair trial, etc.

Not all the Levellers were pacifists. Some joined Cromwell's army in the English revolution as did even some Quakers since Quakers were not universally pacifist until 1660. Mostly the Levellers tried to use the Revolution as a chance to promote their cause rather than as an end to itself. Nevertheless, many have charged that Overton lost his pacifism since many Leveller documents that were jointly-written allow for a small militia, even though opposing conscription and large standing armies. But this may have just been realism on Overton's part as to what reform he might get. I can find nothing written ONLY by him which allows for even defensive violence and nothing he co-wrote which says whether or not he believed that Christians could justifiably participate in the post-revolutionary militia the Levellers advocated. Today, many pacifists still defend the rights of gays and lesbians to openly join the army, for instance. So Overton's may have been a defense of others' conscience and not a change of his.

We know that every time he was arrested, he committed nonviolent civil disobedience--once clutching his copy of the Magna Carta as he was hauled off to jail. The contemporary equivalent would be to brandish a copy of the Bill of Rights or the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights as one is arrested at the School of the Americas, for example. His wife, whose name is lost to history, kept printing his tracts while he was in prison and was herself arrested and she, too, committed nonviolent resistance, going limp and still carrying her baby when arrested! As she was dragged through the streets, baby in arms, Mrs. Overton prayed loudly for her captors even while denouncing their actions!

by Michael Westmoreland-White, otherwise known as Michael the Leveller

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Blood Root

Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Vernon Easterhare Declares:

We read Luke 8:1-3. We still find it radical that liberated women flock to Jesus and the disciples, attending to the needs of the fledgling movement. I want to pen a few lines about how much more radical it must have seemed to the Associates of the synagogue in Jesus' time to witness such liberation of the feminine spirit.

What sort of women were these? Mary Magdalene, “out of whom had gone seven demons,” Johanna, wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and many others, some of whom had been healed of maladies and some otherwise. For simplicity's sake, we may assume that the preaching of Jesus was more attractive than the male-dominated Hebraic cultus of the time, and the new family afforded by the Jesus Movement offered a life of commitment and meaning which perhaps had been foreclosed by prior disasters. I shall elaborate...

To be consistent with the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, members in Jesus' cohort probably lived “pure” lives, devoid of debauchery; insinuation to the contrary today seems really to be a matter of reverse projection. As far as the women are concerned, there may have been reformed streetwalkers who turned out to walk clean with Jesus. The number of these we know not.

Then too, a number of women with Jesus may not have been divorcees. A divorced woman then could expect little from her “settlement:” a one-time payment of 200 zuz (600 zuz = 1 dinar, a day's wage); the settlement dropped to 100 zuz for twice or multiply divorced women. Since few family heads had cash money, settlements in land and/or farmstock were possible, but if these in-kind settlements occurred, they were deliberately chosen to be of the most-derelict quality selectable.

So we visualize these women in a new life, assisting a commune, a new family where old families had been ravaged. They are not servants/slaves, but ministers/deacons. Picture these ladies serving God out of bitter, near-useless ground with sorry farm animals, engaged in talk, talk, talk as never the old rabbis would permit with the New Rabbi whose love of women was so endearing in that loveless age.

by Vernon, who is loved by all

Wandering Girl

Wandering Girl
Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Gospel of Jeff, Part I

The Scroll Of
The Exodus Of The People Of Jeff Street

And it came to pass that Mike, of the lineage of Elliott, did leave as priest of the Children of Jeff Street, and thereupon Cindy, of the lineage of Weber, which in those days did serve as associate priest, did begin to lead the people.

And the Children of Jeff Street were fruitful, and did increase abundantly, and did multiply, not so much in number as in maturity and in spiritual fortitude, and they did wax exceedingly mighty.

Now in that day there was a king over the tribe of Long Run, who was of the lineage of Ahab. This king had loved Mike the Elliott exceedingly, but loved not, yea, could not abide whatsoever, Cindy the Weber, her being a priestess.

And he did say unto those of his subjects whose minds and wills he could control, “Behold, the Children of Jeff Street are great in their zeal to question my authority and that of the tribe of Long Run, and indeed they further do challenge the laws of our entire nation and the ways of our culture, and they do seek to abide by new forms of leadership, of worship, and of action. Therefore, come, let us deal wisely with them. Let us appoint over them a male priest to lead them, lest they multiply in strength and seek to call forth Cindy the Weber to be their leader.”

Therefore, they did seek to set against them several male priests to lead them. But the people of Jeff Street said, “Nay.”

Therefore, they did set against them taskmasters under the employ of the tribe of Long Run to afflict them with multiple scrolls of memoranda, and numerous other afflictions. And they did make their lives bitter with hard bondage, in meetings and in red tape, as numerous and vast as the heavens; and yea all their service, wherein they did make them serve was under the bondage of meetings, and of memoranda, and of redtape.

And the Children of Jeff Street did call unto the Lord saying, “We beseech thee O God to afflict King Ahab, Jr. with an affliction such that will cause him to remove from us this bondage.”

And the Lord did answer unto them, “Fear not, for yea already have I afflicted him with an affliction greater than all others, such that his skin is covered all about with polyester of a bright and hideous hue.”

And indeed the more the Long Runians did oppress the Children of Jeff Street, the more did they multiply and grow. And thus a great sound was heard throughout the land of the Long Runians, like the grinding of the wheel of a mill, that was the sound of their gnashing of teeth over the Children of Jeff Street.

Thus ends the first chapter in the Exodus of the Children of Jeff Street, by Father Roberto

Jeff Street 1990

Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.


Monday, April 11, 2005

The Gospel of Jeff, Part II

Now among the Children of Jeff Street in those days, the Administrative Committee was watching over the flock, when the Lord appeared unto them in yea another meeting saying, “I am the God of thy mothers; the God of Buna Wynn, the God of Fannie Flood, the God of Mary Burgess, and the God of Mabel Mitchell.” And the Administrative Committee did hide their face, for they were afraid to look upon the Lord God.

And the Lord did say further, “Surely have I seen the affliction of you my people which are at Jeff Street, and have heard your cry by reason of your taskmasters; for I know your sorrows; and I have seen the oppression wherewith the Long Runians and the Baptist party of the Southern Region do oppress you. And so I am come down to deliver you up out of the hand of the Long Runians, and to bring you up out of that land unto a good land, yea unto a land flowing with coffee and donuts. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto King Ahab, Jr, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the Children of Jeff Street, out of the place of their bondage, the place called ‘Jeff St. Baptist Center.’”

And the Administrative Committee did say unto God, “Who are we, that we should go unto the King , and that we should bring forth the Children of Jeff Street out of Jeff St. Baptist Center?”

And God did say, “Surely I will be with thee. And this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee; when thou hast brought forth the people out of Jeff Street Baptist Center, ye shall serve God within a place of which I shall show you, a place called ‘Machine Shop.’”

And the Administrative Committee wheretoforwith returned to the Children of Jeff Street and sayeth unto them that God had indeed spoken. And the Children of Jeff Street did tremble, for they were exceedingly small in number and in treasury; yet they were exceedingly mighty in spirit and in courage; and so they said unto the administrative committee, “Yea, this great bitterness hath lasted for four years and more, and we hath become fed up. Therefore, let us defy the threats of our accusers and let us trust in what God hath promised us, and proceed to install Cindy as priestess.” And so did they install Cindy as priestess, without shame nor trembling of spirit.

And upon this, the Long Runians did rub together their hands with glee, and they did set upon the Children of Jeff Street and did banish them out of the place called Jeff St. Baptist Center, in which they had sojourned for lo these 25 years.

And the Children of Jeff Street did gather their meager belongings and did journey from 733 E. Jefferson Street to 800 East Liberty Street, to the place called Machine Shop; about eighty persons altogether. And a mixed multitude did go up also with them; with neighborhood children on shoes with wheels, with scribes from those who record the city’s news, and with Paul playing songs of liberation upon his six-string lyre. And they did carry with them their Ebeneezer Stones, and their banners did fly before them; and the great banner leading them did read, “Pulling Down The Walls.”

And they did come forth to the place called “Machine Shop” which the Lord did promise unto them, and they did hang their banners; yea, and they did raise up their Ebeneezer Stones, and they did dance merrily before the lord, and they did sing songs of praise to the Lord their God. And upon their arrival at this place they did proclaim that God had indeed set them at liberty and had created of them a community, and thus did they rename that place, “Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty.”

And in those first five years of their sojourn in their new home, like the prophet Nehemiah before them, they did rebuild their walls . . . and their doors, and their roof, and their place for the preparing of food, and their places for personal rest and relief; and they did place upon their new home bright colors which did reflect their bright hope in their future as God’s people in this place. And they did set their Ebeneezer Stones into the wall as a reminder of God’s faithfullness over the years. And in this new place they did grow in number, and in inclusivity, and in maturity; and they did remember the Long Runians no more; and yea, they became a free and a joyful people.


penned by God's own hand, through the vessel of Father Roberto

Union Gospel Mission

Originally uploaded by jeffstreet1.
The Union Gospel Mission, which begat Jefferson Street Baptist, which begat Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty.

Artwork by one of our Church Mothers, Mary Burgess

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Vernon Easterhare Declares:

Happy Easter! To skeptics on this wonderful holiday, I but rejoin with remarks of Rudolph Bultman (a skeptic himself!), who in his History of the Synoptic Tradition determined that the sociological processes of faith and worship determined New Testament beliefs like the resurrection, a sine qua non for which he was not apologetic.

Therefore, Easter makes cause for celebration; critical minds from Northern climes can better appreciate the archetypal significance of the greening, flowering earth beyond vernal equinox. One rationalist may poo-poo the Gospel account of Jesus-and-the-open-tomb, but intuit the psychology of resurrection from the inevitable human sensation of spring fever in geographies where winters are sufficiently bitter.

Faith and worship actually seem to be human factors affecting a number of enterprises, particularly I-Thou relations communities have with what Paul Tillich called our “ultimate concerns.” The practice of the Jesus Movement originally seems to have been something like a commune or new family; see Luke 8:19-21. What Jesus may have had in mind was a cognate of the Aramaic word ummah - “womb, mother clan, community, tribe, nation... in this case, a cohort bound by obedience religiously.”

This New Family becomes the highest priority for the disciple; she/he cannot first say goodbye to he/his family of origin or bury her/his dead (Luke 8:60-61). The needs of the new family further the Realm of God as resurrection becomes the daily practice of our New Age.

This gets good utterance in John 21, when we read that Jesus appeared for the third time to the disciples since being raised from the dead. After asking Peter several times whether Peter loves Him, and getting an affirmative response, Jesus says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Again getting a “Yes,” Jesus responds, “Tend my sheep.”

The New Family is to be tended as a shepherd tends sheep; in such provision-for-need we keep alive Jesus and beckon the City of God. To me, faith and worship at Jeff Street lives out this resurrecting husbandry quite in a Jesus Way! This we do by outreach to especially those who have not, and those bonked by society, as well as the forgiving followers (who work first on the “logs” in their own eyes!)

by Vernon, who always has us running to the dictionary