Sermon Response on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

After Sarah Augustine’s powerful sermon at our Indigenous Peoples’ Day service, Kinari Webb responded with an invitation and challenge to our community to join her in donating any money we make off of extractive industries, like mining, toward a full-time salary for Sarah. 

I recently did a three-day retreat in preparation for my book being released and one of the things I did was read Sarah’s book. I highly recommend it. It is moving and prophetic. 

I was really struck by one part where Sarah describes herself like Frodo taking the ring of the Doctrine of Discovery to Mordor, to destroy it in the fires in which it was forged – which in this case is the church. It is a heavy burden and one she doesn’t want to carry. But when you are called to something, you don’t have much choice. I understand that because I too have been called to work that may assist the Great Transition, where we learn to live in balance with our planet and with love and respect for all her inhabitants, both human and non-human. And in my calling, many others have stepped forward to help, including many of you on this screen. 

But I realize that in this calling to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery, my role is to assist. I want to help Sarah (aka Frodo) and Sheri (otherwise known as Samwise Ganji) to do this essential work of shifting the destructive systems which lead to death in so many ways, but most especially for Indigenous peoples. 

For a number of years, I’ve been working on completely divesting from fossil fuels. It’s surprisingly difficult to do, as it required me to take control of all my retirement investments. Most of these I received in my divorce, but some come from Health In Harmony. The reason for divestment in this case is because it sends a strong message that our future on this planet simply cannot include fossil fuels. But then, in reading Sarah’s book, I was also convicted that she is right, I simply cannot profit from extractive industries, either. However, she made this one easier for me in recommending continuing to hold the stock and then donating any profits. 

The reason that that’s important is because of the structure of large cap indexes. I’m going to 

get into a bit of the details here, and I fully recognize that I am speaking from enormous privilege that I even have investments to discuss. Stephanie and I spent nearly a year studying how to invest and Steve Kusmer helped us very much. What we discovered is that despite the complex language, the emperor actually has no clothes. Mostly I just had to get over the fear of it – all the information about how to do it is easily available on-line. 

The cornerstone of standard investment strategies is what’s called the SNP500. Those are the 500 biggest companies in America and you can buy an index fund which just invests in those. But the problem is that the SNP500 has lots of fossil fuel companies. So I’ve now moved nearly all of my money out of that and into a similar index fund just minus the fossil fuel companies. 

However, 2.6% of that fossil-fuel free index are mining companies like Newmont and Freeport, and to my knowledge you can’t actually buy an index fund that doesn’t have those. But it is relatively easy to calculate how much profit one has made from just those companies, and what Sarah is challenging us all to do is commit those profits to tearing down the Doctrine of Discovery. To figure out what the profits are for you, just multiply how much money you have in a large cap index by 2.6% and then by the year-to-date profits. 

For Stephanie and I, we’ve decided to go a step further. I have one chunk of SNP500 that isn’t in my retirement accounts, so I haven’t converted it to fossil-fuel free because of taxes. The total as of yesterday in this investment was $17,941. Stephanie and I have been amazed how much energy we have gained and how much more free we feel as we have moved our money into being in more alignment with our values. That is why we have decided to donate this chunk of money to the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition to help Sarah to fulfill this calling. 

This is a very scary process for us to give so much money. We do worry about Rowan’s future, and yet we consider this a different kind of investment in the future he’ll inherit. It’s investing in creating the conditions that make it more likely there will be a retirement for us — and for Rowan. 

For us, this is also a form of reparations. Giving this money to Sarah, an Indigenous woman, to help prevent future harm to Indigenous people, feels right. And I have a conviction of faith that when God calls, there is a reason for it and many positive things will come from it. This has been my own experience. 

It is also our intention to commit any profits in the coming years from extractive industries to Indigenous Peoples.

My hope is that we as First Mennonite and as a wider Mennonite community can raise enough money for Sarah to have a good salary while she commits herself full-time to this work and doesn’t have to do it in her “free” time anymore. There also needs to be enough travel expenses so she and Sheri can go on this long journey – definitely many times to DC and possibly even to the Vatican. With what we’ve given, they should be able to get some packs, some chainmail, and some lembas bread, but they are going to need many more provisions.

If any of you also feel called to help with this critical journey but would like help in calculating out how much that would be, I would be happy to help as, I’m sure, would Steve Kusmer (though I haven’t asked him yet). I hope we can do this together because that evil ring must be destroyed and we are blessed to have the opportunity to support Frodo.