Monday, June 14, 2010

Christ-like birds in oil spill: You can help

An oil-covered pelican stretches its wings like Christ crucified. The photo was taken along the Louisiana coast on June 3, 2010. (Associated Press photo/Charlie Riedel. Used by permission.)

Birds covered with oil in the Gulf spill look like Christ figures to me. I have to keep reminding myself that resurrection is possible, even though the huge, toxic leak is on Day 56 with no end in sight.

I’ve posted many queer and female images of Jesus on the cross on this blog. Today I decided it was important to post a photo of a Christ-like bird facing a kind of crucifixion.

I felt grief-stricken and powerless about the oil spill until I got an invitation to join “Bloggers Unite for the Gulf.” They reminded me, “Bloggers can use their medium to affect real change” I decided to join and tell people how to help.

But first -- why write about the BP Gulf oil spill on a blog devoted to LGBT spirituality?

1) Because the abuse of LGBT people is linked to the abuse of nature -- both come from a system of domination and control.

2) Because spirituality is linked to nature -- nature is created by God, nature leads to God, and our God-given task is to take good care of nature.

You can take action by clicking on these headlines to:

Write to President Obama (Sierra Club)

Write to your Senators (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Ask the EPA to stop BP’s government contracts (

Tell your friends to join you in taking action.   Here's a button you can use.

Bookmark and Share

OK, you may stop clicking and start praying. I especially like “Life Chant” by Diane Di Prima, which reads in part:

deep silence of great rainforests
may it continue
fine austerity of jungle peoples
may it continue
rolling f--k of great whales in turquoise ocean
may it continue
clumsy splash of pelican in smooth bays
may it continue

Click here for the whole chant

In Luke 12:6, Jesus said, “What is the price of five sparrows--two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them.” Watching so many birds suffer and die in this human-made disaster must be a great sorrow to God.

Finally, please leave a comment of support for me in my personal faith journey during this oil spill. I keep having nightmares that I am a bird covered with oil. I’m finding it hard to get through each day knowing that the oil is still gushing, wildlife is still dying, and that I am still a member of the human species that is responsible for the disaster.

Psalm 137 plays through my mind: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” Zion is the promised land. In this case it is the lost past and longed-for future time when the Gulf waters were clean and full of life.

I’m not sure how many of my blog readers share my shock/despair/outrage/horror over the oil spill. I would greatly appreciate your comments of support. Even a few words will mean a lot.


Karin Bartimole said...

Dear Kit, you've created a powerful post, from a very unique perspective. I love that our voices can join and unite to lift our hearts, spirits and hopes to over come the "system of domination and control" you write about. No matter who or what it is being used against, dominion over another, and misuse for one's own gain is wrong.
Thank you for your visit and kind words regarding my art and Bloggers Unite post!
Blessings to you,

June Butler said...

KittKatt, I grieve deeply with you, every single day since the oil started gushing. As the crow flies, I'm only about 40 miles from the Gulf. The birds - the birds really get to me.

JayV said...

I found your blog from a link over at Wounded Bird, so this is the first time to visit your blog. It's tragic, I mourn the loss of life (animals, humans, plants, etc.) I saw your link to write Obama, via Sierra Club. Did you happen to read this in FDL today?

'Asked if Sierra Club has any concerns about the administration’s response to the spill, [Sierra Club's Dave] Willett said, “Overall, we’re satisfied with the cleanup and recovery effort.”'

This, of course, belies what the SC writes in that letter to Obama link.

Big money and power corrupt, and the SC is included (implicit) in that equation.

hayra nur said...

With you. Thanks

DallasLEMminister said...

The 1st thing I thought of when the
oil started spewing...was the Pelicans...and their nesting sites...
Our Gracious God has given us such
a beautiful planet , and we are , through our evil mongering , ruining this island home...
Lord Have Mercy....

Trudie said...

As always, your post is powerful and extraordinarily timely. Listening to the radio, to the report of the escrow account that they are trying to get BP to set up for damages to businesses, clean-up costs, etc., I could only think -- yes, people are hurting, and yes, it is important to reimburse them. But how will money replace the utterly destroyed ecosystems? What is the price of nesting sites forever polluted? How can we buy back species made extinct by this disaster and so many others like it?

And yet, I refuse to simply blame BP, or the greedy stockholders who still want their dividends. Because, as Jesus said, let the one without sin cast the first stone, and I am equally dependent upon my automobile, and I, too, search for the cheapest price per gallon on fuel, and I, too, am careless about turning off unnecessary electrical appliances. It is our culture that oppresses, abuses and exploits, and we are all embedded in it. Indeed, we need to fast, pray, weep, and repent to the utmost!

Kittredge Cherry said...

I don’t feel so alone anymore, thanks to all these comments! I will reply in more detail soon, but now it’s time to take my dog for a walk along the river and be renewed.

Kittredge Cherry said...

It really helps to receive so many comments from others who share my concern for the oil spill. I was feeling isolated before, but writing this post and getting your comments are giving me power to continue with hope.

It’s great to get so many comments from new people, as well as a couple of old friends (Grandmère Mimi and Trudie, that means you!) I have been wondering how much crossover there is between the LGBT spiritual community and “environmental activists” or nature lovers. To me, the earth and spirituality are deeply, inescapably connected.

A special welcome to Karin Bartimole, whose stunning art I discovered through Bloggers Unite for the Gulf. I look forward to seeing more of your art.

Grandmère Mimi, thank you for putting a link to this post on your “Wounded Bird” blog -- especially appropriate because I write about how the oil is wounding the birds. It warms my heart that you appreciated the photo of the oil-covered pelican stretching its wings like Christ crucified. I went through a lot of soul searching and effort (plus some $$) deciding to run that photo and then buying the license to post it from Associated Press. I felt it was right to support the photographers who are taking risks to bring us the bird photos that BP doesn’t want us to see. My prayers are with you and everyone on the Gulf Coast.

JayV, thanks for the inside story about corruption at the Sierra Club. I’m not necessarily endorsing these organizations, but I did find that they provided a valuable service at the links posted. The text of the letters is basically good, and it’s easy to submit them to the appropriate government officials through these sites. It’s also easy to use them to write your own letter with your own wording.

DallasLEMminister, I echo your prayer, God have mercy.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Trudie, you tell a powerful, painful truth when you say that we are all responsible, and we all need to repent. I feel that so intensely, I think that’s why I was having nightmares about being a bird covered with oil. During this oil spill I became intensely aware of how many products around me are made of oil -- not just gasoline, but everything plastic (which is almost everything!)

I did some research and found out that without oil our whole medical system would grind to a halt -- we rely on plastic for surgical IV bags and many medical devices, and even many pharmaceutical drugs are derived from petroleum -- either as a base ingredient or as a solvent in processing. This includes some antibiotics, painkillers, antihistamines, vitamin capsules, and more.

It seems like there is no escape! But then I remember how Jesus responded to seemingly impossible situations. He promised, “With God, all things are possible.”

Turtle Woman said...

I know I'm never going to forget the cry of the "oil bird"-- the most powerful photo of all the ones out of Louisiana.

Cannary in the coal mine... well, I'd say that Pelican is screaming for help, and trying to warn humans that the christ bird is speaking. Maybe we'll listen before it's too late.

Trudie said...

There is no direction to move except forward. I become ever more incensed at the reactionaries who believe that somehow we can reclaim the simple life of centuries ago by just wanting it. We will NEVER return to a horse and buggy economy. The only options for humankind now are to perceive the direction in which creation is meant to move, towards ever greater unity in love and compassion for all, or complete collapse.

Kitt, your example of the dependence of the medical community on disposable plastic for everything is absolutely on target. But as you say also, the appropriate attitude is not despair or negativity, but confidence that there is a direction to the evolution of human consciousness, and that is toward Christ consciousness and the New Creation of which he spoke.

Anonymous A said...

It is also good to know that you and so many others share my "grief, outrage and despair over the Gulf oil spill." I have been sick about it since day one of the spill when eleven people died because of the neglect and greed of so many individuals, 3 corporations and our government. I have been actually physically sick since last week Thursday with a terrible flu-like illness that has me coughing up bile and heavy thick phlegm. That is such an obvious metaphor for the Gulf Oil Spill on a singular human level that I know I have internalized the pain I feel for the planet. It is as though at some primordial level I think I am able to absorb some of the damage the human race has inflicted on its birth mother. I have prayed for guidance and help because I feel as though I personally am drowning in that oil and toxin filled Gulf. Your e-mail and your blog entry indicate to me that in his infinite wisdom God has begun to answer my prayers.

Arrogant human avarice created The 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster, and only with God given humility, love, and compassion will we be able to begin to repair the damage done to our earth. I will pray now that God gives me the humility to ask as many people as possible to be a creative part of that restoration. I will pray that God will allow us to share his love for our Earth with as many people as possible. And, finally, I will pray that God will grant to me, and all of us the compassion to forgive our arrogant brothers and sisters for the terrible damage they have done.

thank you Kitt.

June Butler said...

"Only the destitute are innocent."

Kittredge Cherry said...

John, thank you for sharing your personal pain of feeling heartsick and physically sick over the oil spill. I can totally relate to your statement, “I have internalized the pain I feel for the planet. It is as though at some primordial level I think I am able to absorb some of the damage the human race has inflicted on its birth mother.” The nightmares of being a bird covered with oil were so real! And when I woke up I felt physically nauseated as if I had inhaled some toxic chemical. I wondered if I was actually absorbing some of the toxins on some indetectable energetic-spiritual level. Your experience confirms my own.

It eases my pain to hear that it is somehow part of God’s answer to your prayers. I was happy to see you listed at as one of the new bloggers united for the Gulf.
For me, spiritual renewal began when I realized I could help in some small way by joining Bloggers Unite for the Gulf. I hope that you also receive some healing by uniting your voice, your blog, with others to help fix the oil spill and its damaging effects.

By the way, I sponsored LGBT Pride Month as an event at Maybe you would like to participate in that, too? They didn’t have any LGBT-related events, so I decided to add that one. I’ll be posting more details at the Jesus in Love Blog soon.

Turtle Woman, thank you for echoing the cry of the “Christ bird.” I understand that turtles are also suffering on the Gulf. The LA Times had a front-page story on Sunday about how they return every 18 years to the place where they were hatched… but no live turtles have made it through the oil yet this season.

Trudie and Grandmère Mimi, you’re right about human responsibility… and that we must not let the sense of guilt crush us, but keep moving forward. If "only the destitute are innocent,” I feel inspired to follow Jesus’ advice to give away everything I have and follow Him.

Trudie, maybe I’ve watched too many sci-fi movies, but I still think we may return to a horse and buggy economy… or perhaps a stone-age hunter-gatherer economy… after some devastating climate change, epidemic, toxic spill, nuclear war or other disaster wipes out most of the human race.. However, I try to stay positive and be part of the “evolution of human consciousness” that you envision.

June Butler said...

KittKatt, my quote is not meant to make everyone feel paralyzingly guilty but to suggest that it's not enough to point the finger at BP or the US government. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." (I know. I'm killing you with quotes.) We're not serious about weaning ourselves off our addiction to polluting minerals. We're not serious about finding clean sources of energy. Our government won't act until we demand them to act. You're right to urge folks to contact their representatives in Congress and to the president.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks for explaining what you meant, Grandmère Mimi. Speaking of taking action, I thought a lot about whether to include a link to a government site that tells people how they can actually go to the Gulf and clean up oil. However, it didn’t feel right to recommend that because I doubt that adequate safety precautions are being taken for clean-up workers. I heard several times on the news that many (or all) of the people who helped with the Exxon Valdez clean up are now dead from the toxic effects.

Here’s a quote for you -- “Each one’s death diminishes me…. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” From John Donne (a distant relative of mine, according to family lore).

cjbarker said...

Kitt- I don't have words deep enough to say how I really feel about this- but fortunately my queer, chemically injured, Jewish Pagan friend Jamie Isman does. Here's a link to her prayer for the oil spill:

Oil Spill Prayer

As far as "overlap" goes, in my "other" life -which has actually been my main life for the last 16 years or so- I help run an all volunteer non profit that provides support, advocacy and information for the chemical and electrically inured. I am also a person who has been living the reality of chronic fatigue and environmental illness/multiple chemical sensitivity for over 30 years, and an activist who works at the intersection of environmental health, disabled rights/access responsibilities, and organic, "greener" and healthier living.

As such, let me say that it is my *very* strong belief that the reaction you describe is just you being you, you being who you *are,* you being who you're *supposed* to be on this planet at this time.

In my experience there's something about having an immune system or a detox system or a nervous system or a respiratory system or a digestive system that is damaged or different in this particular way that forces you to carry around, 24/7, *inescapable* knowledge of how much trouble the biosphere is really in, and just how difficult it will be to change that.

Other people may know that from books or movies or scientific papers or powerful art or well done documentaries, and may even feel it in their bodies from time to time; and we may know it intellectually and emotionally at times as well. But we also know it in our *bodies,* in a way that doesn't leave us alone any hour of the day or night, much as we would sometimes like it to. Others can go home at the end of the day, or go to a movie, or read a book, or make love, or fight, or sleep, or dream and just forget about it all for a minute or two, or an hour or two, or a day or two, or a year or two. We don't get to do that- our bodies don't let us. No matter what else we're doing or thinking or worrying about or loving or hating or protesting or grieving, we experience guardedness and loss and worry - and it *always* seems to get worse during environmental disasters.

In those times I often find myself blurting out often nearly screamed things that seem like they're coming more from my body than my mind. I'm not at all sure just what that accomplishes, but many years of experiencing that myself (my conscious awareness of it goes back to the day Chernobyl happened) and watching others experience it, have convinced me that it's both real and important, and that it actually does "do" something that matters.

So- I honor what I'd call your "embodied prayers," and *thank you* for them!!!

cjbarker said...

Regarding the supposed "clean up" - and its probable aftermath - long time mcs activist Alison Johnson wrote a book-

Amputated Lives

that, among other things, covers the Exxon Valdeez "clean up" (and the horror and injury and lies that followed), the World Trade Center "clean up" (and the horror and injury and lies that followed), and the Katrina "clean up" (and the horror and injury and lies that followed). The pattern is quite old and familiar by now, and I'm sure goes back much, much further than that, if anyone had the resources to research and document it.

Hmmmm...."clean ups" that "clean" very little, but rather create ever deeper hurt and injury, which then get further denied and ignored. What that seems most like to me is actually so-called "repairative" therapy. Blessedly I never really tried that on the queer part of myself, despite being pressured to do so and going to meetings of those kinds of groups for awhile many years back. But, in the form that government and sometimes church approved counselors offered it to me, I did, for years, try to get over the "imaginary," "lying," "all in your head" symptoms of my chemical injury, and the fact of the chronic fatigue that followed.

From my point of view, the two approaches seem practically identical in how they pressure people to lie and pretend and attempt to change something that can't and shouldn't be changed. But here's the difference: few people outside of an increasingly narrow swath of fundamentalist right wing churches actually believe, anymore, that getting lgbt people to change- or pretend to change- is a good idea. But there's whole industries out there running well funded pr campaigns designed to convince the public that the chemically and electrically injured and sensitized and those with cfids are nothing more than pitiful, mentally ill people in need of compassion for their tragic deluded condition and help learning that they can actually live just like everyone else if they truly want to it. It's all seems very familiar- and maddening- and often like it's getting worse, not better.

cjbarker said...

One final thought- as lgbt people we and our lives are- again, whether we like it or not- right at the center of the "culture war" divide which, for over 40 years, has been cynically and crassly manipulated by people and institutions that have a very real stake in keeping red states red, and blue states blue, and people in power who won't *do* anything about *any* of the real reasons that things like this oil spill have been allowed to happen in the first place.

But people get sick in the red states, too (and in red parts blue states- like Kern and Riverside counties here in CA). Many of them are homophobic, xenophobic, right wing, and conservative, and their faith is often evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christianity. And when they feel the pull in their bodies - and they do- they scream their "prayers," too, in words they understand. And when we see them doing that - and when they see us doing it- do we risk crossing that divide and joining together to actually try and *do* something about it? Or do we just stare at each other across the chasm, and snarl at each other - like we've been taught to- while the PROBLEM madly rages on?

Kittredge Cherry said...

CJ’s response to my oil spill post is wonderful! I hope that many others will read her comments and benefit from her wisdom.

CJ, your comment is one of the only things that has helped me feel better since the oil spill. I especially appreciate your interpretation of me feeling sick and having nightmares about the oil spill as “embodied prayers” and “you being who you're *supposed* to be on this planet at this time.” Until now I have compounded my own suffering by thinking that I shouldn’t feel this way.

I think you are on the right track. Somehow, despite my health challenges, I AM who I am meant to be now -- even though it includes, as you say, the “inescapable knowledge of how much trouble the biosphere is really in.”

I deeply appreciate the connections you make about so-called clean ups “that create ever deeper hurt and injury.” You made me see the similarity between the environmental clean-ups and ex-gay reparative therapy -- both are superficial cover-ups that only compound the pain by trying to change what can’t and shouldn’t be changed, without allowing true healing to come from within. It is scary -- but true -- that there is more public sympathy for LGBT people than for people with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Environmental Illness and/or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I know this from my own experiences.

Even before reading your response, I recognized the similarity between the chemical dispersants being used in the Gulf oil spill and the pharmaceutical drugs that are used to treat diseases in conventional medicine. As I’m sure you know, the pharmaceutical approach is to suppress symptoms while ignoring the deepest causes…. Just like with the oil leak. Disperse the oil so it stays below the surface where we can’t see it, even though it will do even more toxic damage down there.

I love the video prayer “blessings of the breast and womb.” It reminds me of something that an Australian aboriginal man said at a speech at the women’s pavilion when I attended a World Council of Churches Assembly in Australia: “The earth is our mother. Would you cut her breast to get at her milk?”

Kittredge Cherry said...

I feel some relief now that the oil has stopped gushing. I hope that you're doing better, too. My partner and I are planning to visit a local aquarium to help balance all the toxic images of wildlife poisoned by the oil spill.