The Common Good

Blog Posts By Mark Charles

Posted by Mark Charles 16 weeks 1 day ago
They say a watched pot never boils. But that's not entirely true. Of course a watched pot boils—it's just that intently watching a pot of water reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit is not an incredibly exciting way to spend your time. And so most people get bored or distracted and end up leaving before it ever reaches the boiling point.Systemic racism is like a heat source that keeps a pot of water simmering at a constant 211 degrees. Extremely hot, but not quite boiling. Every once in a while the heat gets turned up just a tad—like when a frightened white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shoots a young unarmed black man while his hands are in the air. Or a group of ignorant, overzealous college students from Oklahoma State University create a banner for a football game that makes light of an act of genocide committed against Native Americans by the United States government.And then the water starts to boil. Protests are organized. Twitter goes ablaze. Op-eds are written. Civil rights leaders are given the microphone.And the temperature is brought back down to 211 degrees.
Posted by Mark Charles 24 weeks 2 days ago
People know.Not just Americans, but the entire globe.People know that the founders didn't mean it then, nor does this nation mean it now. Sure, the words were written down, and our leaders frequently point to them as evidence that we are good. But no one really meant them. They were merely a means to an end.Back in 1776, when representatives from a bunch of colonies wrote the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," they did not in fact mean all men.But people know that.
Posted by Mark Charles 32 weeks 5 days ago
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,In the Bible, there is a story of when Jesus was teaching a large crowd. At the conclusion his disciples observed that it was late in the day, they were in a lonely place, and the people were hungry with no food to eat. Jesus responded by telling them, "You feed them." The disciples immediately panicked and pointed out that doing so would be massively expensive, costing up to eight months of a man’s wages. They also implied that they did not have enough money to make even a dent in that need. Undeterred, Jesus asked them what they did have. They went out and returned with a young boy who was willing to share his five small loaves and two little fish. Jesus took it, looked up to heaven, and GAVE THANKS! Then he just started passing out the food. And not only did more than 5,000 people eat to their heart's content, but afterward the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers! (See Mark 6:30-44 and John 6:1-15)Did you ever stop to wonder how the young boy who gave his lunch to Jesus felt? Can you imagine the exhilaration he must have had watching his five small loaves and two little fish feed a crowd of well over 5,000 people? I bet he went home and told that story over and over and over again. He probably felt like, as long as he was with Jesus, anything was possible.One young boy who was willing to share his simple lunch was all Jesus needed to meet the overwhelming needs of a very hungry crowd.
Posted by Mark Charles 50 weeks 20 hours ago
The other day I observed a Twitter exchange between Pope Francis and Miroslav Volf.Pope Francis (‏@Pontifex) Tweeted: “God does not reveal himself in strength or power, but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn babe.”To which Miroslav Volf (‏@MiroslavVolf) replied: “@Pontifex How true! And yet the babe grew and taught with power and authority, and the crucified one was raised from the dead in glory.”Since moving to the Navajo reservation more than a decade ago, I have done much thinking, studying, praying, and reflecting on the dynamics between power and authority. And God has given me a few insights over the years. So when I read these tweets I had an instant desire to jump in and be a part of the discussion. 
Posted by Mark Charles 1 year 44 weeks ago
It was one week ago that I received the email I had been dreading. On Feb. 6, 2013, while in Washington, D.C., for the National Prayer Breakfast, Richard Twiss suffered a major heart attack. He remained in a hospital in the D.C. area for several days as friends and family rushed to his side. But on Feb. 9, at the age of 58, Taoyate Obnajin, he Stands with his People, crossed over to meet the Creator. He is survived by his wife Katherine and his four sons Andrew, Philip, Ian, and Daniel.If you ever had the privilege of meeting Richard Twiss, chances are he invited you somewhere. Richard was an incredible host. I remember last summer I attended a symposium for the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies, of which Richard was a board member. No sooner had I walked through the door when I was greeted by Richard and asked if I would like to join their drum circle up front to start the next session. I felt extremely honored by this invitation and gladly accepted. I am not a trained theologian nor am I a prolific powwow drummer, but this small gesture immediately made me feel at home and communicated that I was welcome there and was given a voice should I have something to contribute.Richard was involved in many conversations. As a follower of Jesus, president and co-founder of Wi
Posted by Mark Charles 1 year 50 weeks ago
Reconciliation is never easy, which is why it doesn't happen very often. Reconciliation is not something that can be checked off of a list. It is not a single event encapsulated in a moment of time. Reconciliation begins with a conversation and ends with a relationship restored.It was the morning of Dec. 19, and I was standing in front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. I had reserved that space months in advance so I could host a public reading of H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. I did this because page 45 of this 67-page document contained an "apology to native peoples of the United States." In three years this apology had not been announced, publicized, or read by either the White House or the 111th Congress.
Posted by Mark Charles 2 years 6 weeks ago
My early voting ballot is almost complete. I have done my reading, finished my research, and ignored a sufficient amount of robo-calls and attack ads. I have made my choices for county school superintendent, state representatives, and even U.S. Senator. But there is a gaping hole at the top of my ballot ...It is November 6, 2012, and after more than a year of carefully following the presidential campaigns I still do not know which candidate I am going to vote for. I am an independent voter but registered as a democrat. On my Facebook page I identify my political position as "a morally-conservative Democrat or a fiscally-irresponsible Republican."
Posted by Mark Charles 2 years 7 weeks ago
If I had to translate her words into Navajo, I would say “ádin.” Ádin means nothing, none, zero.I couldn't believe my ears. I was visiting Iowa in the first week of January during an election year. Presidential candidates were crisscrossing the state — kissing babies, shaking hands, and pleading for the vote of everyone they met. Campaign events were taking place in high school gymnasiums, community centers, and local businesses throughout the state. Many of the people I met had personal stories of meeting one of the candidates, shaking their hands, and talking about their issues. There are 99 counties in the state of Iowa, and a few of the candidates were taking the time to stop and hold campaign events in each and every one of them. But there I was, just a day before the caucuses, standing in the community center and tribal offices of the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, Iowa, with the tribe’s executive director telling me that not a single presidential candidate had held a campaign event in their community.I shouldn't have been surprised. After all I live on the Navajo Reservation. Our reserve is nearly 26,000 square miles with about 300,000 enrolled tribal members, and I cannot recall in my lifetime a presidential candidate visiting our reservation and campaigning directly to our people.  
Posted by Mark Charles 2 years 16 weeks ago
In December, I will be hosting a public reading of the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.I am doing so because page 45 of this 67 page document contains a generic, non-binding apology to native peoples on behalf of the citizens of the United States.The text of the apology included in the defense appropriations bill reads:Apology to Native Peoples of the United StatesSec. 8113. (a) Acknowledgment and Apology- The United States, acting through Congress —(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;(4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;(6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.This apology was not publicized by the White House or Congress. As a result, a majority of the 350 million citizens of the United States do not know they have been apologized for, and most of the 5 million Indigenous Peoples of this land do not know they have been apologized to.
Posted by Mark Charles 2 years 20 weeks ago
On December 19, I am hosting a public reading of the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. I am doing so because page 45 of this 67-page document contains a generic, non-binding apology to native peoples on behalf of the citizens of the United States.This apology was not publicized by the White House nor by Congress. As a result, a majority of the 350 million citizens of the United States do not know they have been apologized for. And most of the 5 million Indigenous Peoples of this land do not know they have been apologized to.... This apology is a part of our country's history. Our leaders wrote it, the 111th Congress passed it, and President Barack Obama signed it into law. Then, unfortunately, they buried it. I am not protesting this, nor am I celebrating it. I am merely attempting to publicize it in the most open, respectful, and sincere way I know how.