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The Lilies of the Field, and Krista Lynn: A Prescription for Tired Hearts, and BishopsKevin D. Annett Salem-News.com
The tired functionaries of Rome don’t live by the human heart anymore, but like all of us, they once did. I know them, for I was once like them.
(NANAIMO, Vancouver Island) - The first of so many aboriginal friends of mine who have died for speaking up was a young woman named Krista Lynn.
On January 29, 1995 - the Sunday after I was barred from my pulpit at St. Andrew’s United Church in Port Alberni - Krista stood up in my place and did like Jesus did, and caused a riot in the synagogue by calling down the Pharisees.
Before the ushers dragged her from the church, Krista cried out,
“You people are crucifying Kevin! You’d crucify Christ too if he came back here. But I ain’t afraid of you anymore! Because if you put aside all your fancy clothes and titles and robes and stood naked before God, would you be able to look him honestly in the face and say, yes, I did right by you?”
Krista was found dead in her apartment a week later. The cops, who had threatened her, said it was a drug overdose, even though she never went near drugs.
I’m supposed to write a statement to the Bishops of Ireland, for friends who are meeting with them on May 4 to once again demand justice for the raped and murdered victims of the Church. But for some reason, all I can think of tonight is Krista Lynn, and what she did with her last measure of devotion.
William Wordsworth might have had Krista in mind, as well, when he penned Splendor in the Grass; for “the faith that looks through death, and the human heart by which we live” is the best and only epitaph I can give for my long lost friend. And, indeed, these are the words which, like Krista’s life and death, are meant to be spoken to the Irish Bishops and their counterparts everywhere.
The tired functionaries of Rome don’t live by the human heart anymore, but like all of us, they once did. I know them, for I was once like them. But it was Krista Lynn and those like her who saved me from what I was becoming, within the church. Her, and something in me.
Perhaps that same something is asking me tonight to lay aside demands and protests for a moment, and speak to that place in the Bishops’ hearts that yearns, as mine did, to break free of itself and recall the splendor in the grass, or perhaps simply, the lilies of the fields.
Jesus’ words – so echoed in Wordsworth – about the glory of our world and of ourselves has always brought tears of a rare joy to my eyes, even as a boy. I’ve always believed that his words have the power to change us, and return us to a love that can bind up any wound and wipe away any tragedy. And yet how often have others tried to prove me wrong, and snatched away my innocent faith, leaving bitter loss in its place.
I could never have imagined that fate and those around me could be so cruel as they have been, and remain: brutal enough to smash down a struggling young girl of such pure honesty, like Krista, or to steal my own children from me. But a faith that does look through death has emerged where there should have been none at all; and beyond it, I am glimpsing the radiance that makes all that we presently fear as nothing.
Krista never came to my church very much; her brief time with me was spent where it mattered, among her fellow wanderers, helping moms and their kids in our food bank line, or delivering bread with me at the local Tseshaht Indian reservation. She hated churches, in fact, not only because of her rape by a Lutheran minister, her step father, when she was very young. And yet, all alone that final Sunday, when all who had loved me and our work were slumped in fear, she strode into my church and spoke.
I would like to think that I could stand before the Bishops in Dublin soon, and speak to them with the kind of love and valor that bore Krista to my pulpit, and to her end. I wish, constantly, for the kind of faith that can move hearts of stone and break open all the prisons of the mind that keep religions so fortified against God. I want there to be a future for all of us, even in the face of all the doubts and disasters.
Krista once told me in her simple way that she really understood Jesus, because like him, her father had betrayed her, too, and put her up on a cross. I thought of her words the day I heard she had died, and I felt I had lost one of the few people who had ever understood me. But I do find strength in what is left behind: and from the example which Krista set for me and all the other crucified ones who have stepped out from the shadows and spoken, and changed the world.
So many of my heart-warrior friends have joined Krista now that the reassurances of Jesus, and Wordsworth, can seem to weigh for little in the brutalities of my week. But since I carry all of those friends now, and they carry me, in the place that has no shadow or defeat, their memory and example is a stream of constancy that neither Temple nor Crown can stop, or overcome.
It may even convert a Bishop, or two.
www.hiddennolonger.com (includes documentary film Unrepentant)
A Canadian clergyman, Kevin Annett has for nearly twenty years led the movement to bring to light and prosecute atrocities in Christian “Indian residential schools”, and win justice for survivors. Expelled in 1995 from his former United Church of Canada for exposing murders in that church’s Indian residential schools, and persecuted and blacklisted for his efforts, Kevin is now an award-winning film maker, author, social activist and public lecturer who works with victims of church violence and genocide all over the world. In 2009, he helped to establish the five-nation International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State, which is seeking to indict church and government leaders for crimes against humanity.
As a result of Kevin’s tireless efforts on behalf of native people, the Canadian government was forced to issue a public “apology” and reparations program concerning Indian residential schools, in July of 2008. In giving him the name Eagle Strong Voice in 2007, Anishinabe elder Louis Daniels declared, “Kevin Annett is doing what few of his people have done, and that is to speak about the crimes they committed against many of our nations and their children. He has earned a place forever in our hearts and history. He is a brave and prophetic man. I ask everyone to welcome him and heed his voice.” And scholar Noam Chomsky wrote in 2006, “Kevin Annett is more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than many of those who have received it.”
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