Wednesday, June 19, 2013


   The New Sanctuary Movement held a meeting of some of our liaisons to plan an event at Senator Ron Johnson’s office to encourage Johnson to vote for a fair immigration bill.  The liaisons are the representatives of the various faith congregations that work with us on social justice issues. 

   The event was to have a Father’s Day theme.  Latino ‘Evangelicos’ were especially excited about participating.  The difficulty of getting a clergy person came up.  “Why worry about that,” one of the Evangelists said, “As Christians, we are all to preach the word.”  A friar volunteered to try to get someone from his community to show up wearing a habit, but he wasn’t ready to do it himself.  With complete confidence a young woman said, “It doesn’t matter, Christians don’t have to wear special clothes or habits.”  “Fine,” our coordinator Nancy Flores Lopez said, and we went on with the meeting.

    Father’s Day cards were to be given to Senator Johnson expressing good wishes but noting that some children couldn’t celebrate with their fathers because they had been deported.  Johnson was asked to support an immigration bill that would stop the U.S. policy of separating families.  Large cards from various congregations, and cards made by the children would be presented to Johnson.  It was to take place in front of the Federal Building; the location of Senator Johnson’s office.  Prayers would be said, testimony of children would be given, and a Father’s Day poem would be read.  The children would release balloons expressing a hope for freedom from fear - from ICE, the Immigration Customs Enforcement.

  The event drew a large crowd and was emotionally very moving.  Nancy Flores brought a children’s Mariachi group all dressed in native attire, with their string instruments and they gave a memorable performance.

   A reading from the Bible and a commentary was given by Leonardo, one of the children from the Evangelist church:

Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the    kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Mt. 19:14)   Senator Johnson, listen to us children…those that are here to deliver cards to you, urging that you think about their dads this Father’s Day. …’It was the worst feeling of my life to see my dad get taken away by ICE’ said my friend Salvador Rojas, a 14year old whose dad was picked up during a raid where ICE was looking for a completely different person  and took him anyway.

 12 year old Alma Nunez read a poem when the balloons were released.

Soaring free across the sky, a free spirit flying high  
I want to be like a balloon 
Ending up wherever, boarders are irrelevant                                                                                      
I want to be like a balloon
Soaring free, no fear of separation, no fear of being taken                                                                          
I want to be like a balloon
Migration is natural, and beautiful like the sunsets in June 
I want to be one a balloon.                                

   The demonstration was a success.  We don’t know how Senator Johnson will vote, but many more became, through faith - CONCIENTIZADO – aware that community action is the means to change unjust political and economic structures.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


   There are many reasons for studying history both personal and social.  For me it’s just fun, but more than that, it helps not to repeat the same mistakes again and again.  Also it’s a good feeling to have the sense that history is progressive, and we are all part of the story.  Sometimes it seems as Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” however the bigger story seems to show progress.  But is history by necessity progressive?  Dominican Theologian Gustavo Gutierrrez warns,

   To falsify the memory of an oppressed people is to mutilate their ability to
   rebel.  Thereby an effective weapon is acquired for their continued subjugation.
   The manipulation of history has always been a prime resource in the hands of
   dominant groups for the maintenance of their power.  (Gutierrez, Gustavo,
   Las Casas, Orbis Books, New York 1993. p. 415)

    The story of Sam Fielden has precisely this value; it is back to the roots of personal and community identity.   Sam Fielden and his friends did the best they could do to achieve social justice; I would like to say the same of myself and those I accompany on the journey.


   Rev. Jeremiah Wright from Chicago gave the keynote speech at a recent M.I.C.A.H.  (Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope) gathering in Milwaukee.  Wright noted that the Prophet Micah said that we are required “to work for justice” (Micah, 6).  Is that my personal mandate?  Rev. Wright trashed enlightened individualism and noted that Descartes (1596-1650) was wrong in his effort to establish personal existence by saying, “I think, therefore I am.”  Jeremiah Wright rephrased the cogito and said, “I am because I know I am part of a community.”  Justice is a community mandate.


   Samuel Fielden (1847-1922), of a Protestant background, worked for justice in the very cruel time of burgeoning industrialism and nascent capitalism.  But Max Weber connected capitalism with the Protestant ethic. (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Reprinted in 1992, Routledge, London & New York)
Also capitalism and the Protestant reformation are part of the ‘age of enlightenment.’  How did Sam Fielden emerge as a labor activist?  Weber conflated such diverse groups as Calvinists, Pietists, Methodists, Lutherans, Unitarians and Quakers with a smattering of Jesuits and Jews.  It was beginning sociology so his work was researched and claimed the credibility of a scientific study.  Of course there were problems and negative criticisms.  Weber’s work was first published in German in 1904 -1905.

   One of the first sociologists, Weber in his research discovered that in a sense capitalism had a long history, but modern capitalism is new.  It is distinguished by, ‘the rationalization of labor,’ (Marx called it turning labor into a commodity) the continual acquisition of wealth for its own sake, and the constant quest for capital for renewal and growth.  Workers must follow God’s calling and fulfill  the required work ethic of duty and honesty.

   Labour must… be performed as it were an absolute end in itself, a calling.  But such an attitude is by no means a product of nature.  It cannot be evoked by low wages or high ones alone, but can only be the product of a long and arduous process of education. (ibid. p.61-62)

   Concern for families led to the condemnation of ‘liberalism’ or capitalism by Leo XIII in his 1891 Encyclical Rerum Novarum, the first of modern encyclicals on Catholic Social Teaching.  The questioning and challenge to capitalism and advocacy for workers’ rights continues to this day by Pope Francis, but is the Pope now alone in his concern? (N.C.R. June 7-20, 2013, p.1&7)  The Archdiocese of Milwaukee refuses to support the striking immigrant Palermo Pizza workers in Milwaukee .  Clergy speaking for the workers have been Protestant.


    But what about Samuel Fielden?  He grew up as a Methodist and was a Methodist preacher as a young man.  His family had ties to the Quakers and Unitarians, yet Sam was a social activist fighting for workers.  Sam wrote in his autobiography that he had his own business at the time of the Haymarket incident.

   …I invested what money I had in a team of horses, so that I became what
   the Chicago Tribune calls a capitalist.  I have earned my living by this
   means, that is, hauling stone, from that time to the time of my arrest.
(The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs, Phillip S. Foner, ed. Humanities Press, New York, 1969, p. 154)

As a ‘capitalist’ Sam had as a role model, Todmorden Mill founder Honest John Fielden who sided with the plug pullers protest. (blog posting, April 29, 2013)


   As a religious person, Samuel Fielden must have been influenced by the town of Todmorden’s religious non conformism.  Sam, following his mother’s example, became a Methodist and a preacher both in England and for a short time in the U.S.  Concern for the working class was a pillar of belief for John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists.   Slavery was stopped in England by Parliament member William Wilberforce, a close friend of John Wesley.  Wesley supported and advised Wilberforce in the successful abolition of the English slave trade in 1807 and slavery itself in the British Empire in 1833.


   Sam Fielden was a critical thinker.  As a child he quickly learned to read, but he had very little formal schooling.  In his early years, he was privileged to listen to his father and friends discuss politics.  He knew about the struggle – the politics of the Chartists for universal voting rights.  Sam attended lectures of the Free Thinkers in Chicago.  His break with religion came in a discussion in Chicago with the Moody Bible Institute founder Dwight Moody.  Moody defended the suppression of workers as biblical and moral.


   The young Sam Fielden identified with those suffering, with child factory workers, the slaves in the U.S., the freed slaves turned into wage slaves.   He commented on migrant Irish workers:  
   I used to manage to get off from the mill for a week in these hay fields with
   the men who came from Ireland to earn, by the hardest labor and the most
   abstemious living, the money to pay for their little holdings in their native
   country and the thatch above the heads of their wives and little ones.  …These
    men are compelled to harvest crops in England for the privilege of living
    in their own country,  … the money they earn in the English harvest… the
    English landlord compels them to give it up again and his lordship brings
    It back again to England.  (Ibid. p.137)


   Judging from his autobiography Sam Fielden at an early age had an acute sense of right and wrong.  His Methodist mother and critical thinking father were crucial in developing his social conscience.  Travel and work experience and social action solidified his world view and his role in it.  Gustavo Gutierrez explains Paulo Freire’s process of ‘conscientizacion’ and it is a fitting description of Samuel Fielden.

   By means of an un-alienating and liberating “cultural action,” which links   
   theory with praxis, the oppressed person perceives-and modifies-his relationship
   with the world and other people.  He thus makes the transfer from a “naïve
   awareness”- which does not deal with problems, tends to accept mythical
   explanations, and tends toward debate- to a “critical awareness”- which
   delves into problems, is open to new ideas, replaces magical explanations
   with real causes and tends to dialogue. (Gutierrez, Gustavo, A Theology of   Liberation, Orbis Books, NewYork, 1973, p. 91)

   Samuel Fielden was aware that the suffering of workers – the poor - is due to changeable economic and political structures.  He did his part to effect change.

Pastor Jeremiah Wright said that it is a given for preachers to preach justice.  Sam Fielden did just that not only from the pulpit but with his life.  It is important to remember Sam and the Haymarket martyrs as an inspiration and lesson for participating in the progress of history. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


     A brief change of subject:  What was the motivation of Sam Fielden?  Not all contributors have responded so maybe it will be in the next post.


      I remember at a Marquette Notre Dame basketball game in Milwaukee a Marquette student making fun of the name ‘Notre Dame.’ I called him on it, and it wasn’t long into the discussion that I realized that he didn’t know what the French words ‘Notre Dame’ meant.  The next day I checked with some Catholic College graduates and students and no one had a clue as to the meaning of, ‘Notre Dame.’
   So when a friend commented that Cardinal Dolan gave a meaningless commencement speech at Notre Dame by not saying much more than, - in French ‘Notre Dame’ means Our Lady.  My unspoken internal response was, well what’s so bad about that?...a needed defining of the French for Our Lady and besides the Fighting Irish are probably just trying to make up for inviting the President to give a commencement speech – normal everyday church hierarchical politics;  regrettable but nothing out of the ordinary.  However, I had an annoying feeling that there was something seriously wrong.   I googled the speech.

   After a review of the speech I feel that Dolan’s comments point to the unfortunate irrelevance of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.   ‘Notre Dame’ – Our Lady – dió luz a Jesus (gave birth-light) – a perfect time to launch a ‘Hail Mary’ and advocate for women’s ordination; a perfect time to advocate for women’s rights, including women at U.N.D., a perfect time for reference to a viable myth, ‘Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe,’ and immigration reform, but no – it was cheaper than usual hierarchical politics.  It could be considered a suitable ‘ferverino’ for an eighth grade Catholic school graduating class, but even there Dolan’s address fell short.  It appears that its real purpose was an attempt to coalesce and ‘evangelize’ for the Roman Catholic political right wing.
   Could the speech have worked as a sermon in the late forties or fifties?  Not a chance – this is not retro Roman Catholicism; this is the forging of a renewal of Gnosticism and a new right wing political identity for Roman Catholics.  Hierarchical dogma on women’s ordination, birth control, abortion, and gay rights are not subject to nuance or discussion.  As an indication of how far off base he is, Dolan stated, One can make the point that she’s [Mary –Notre Dame] the most important human person ever.”

   What happened to Jesus?  Pius XII would have picked him off.  Dolan might be a Cardinal and from St. Louis, but he’s not Pepper Martin of the invincible gas house gang.  Google the speech – am I correct?