Author Archive: RustyP

Blessing of the Animals

Your justice is like the unending mountains,
your judgments like the great deep;
human and beast the Lord preserves!

Psalm 36:5-6

Today is the annual Blessing of the Animals. This holiday has taken on many forms and is incorporated throughout many traditions, but it was started by St. Francis of Assisi, who had a deep connection with the wild and with non-human animals. For those unfamiliar, St. Francis was the son of a wealthy Catholic family in Assisi. He was sent to war, yet quit and returned home early with a drastically different outlook on life. He refused to kill and began questioning everything. He spent time living in the wild with the animals and swore that they taught him things. He publicly renounced all material possessions. The rest of his life would be dominated by feral, simplistic solidarity with the peasants and animals- the human and non-human ‘beasts’ of Assisi.

There is not a lot of space for ritual within our culture, and since most religious traditions are products of our culture, there doesn’t seem to be lot of room for ritual within our churches either. Catholics and Episcopals still celebrate the Blessing of the Animals, yet the Protestant denial of the material has led most Christian churches to stay away from valuing the ‘things of this world.’ Most Protestant churches, especially evangelical ones, tend to be stripped of statues, art, candles, incense, or anything else material. ‘Scripture only’ and ‘faith alone’ doctrines have led to a rejection of anything that might aid the process of spiritual development for fear that it would do the opposite and become an idol or a replacement for that which only God can be. Yet this radicalism has led to a spiritual philosophy void of meaning, where the advice of pastors become, “Just leave it to God,” or “Just read your bible.” Ritual was central to the Jewish tradition. Jesus did not challenge ritual, but the attempt of the religious authorities to strip ritual of it’s proper meaning. When he turned the water into wine, he was doing something very profound. The water at a Jewish wedding was most likely used to wash, which was not primarily a sanitary concern, but a purity ritual. It’s my belief that Jesus intentionally took the water away and turned it into wine to challenge the religious leader’s idea of purity. He turned it instead into a wine, which is a drink commonly shared with friends and families during celebrations, bringing life and spirit to the occasion. (more…)


The day is soon approaching when people all over America will be rushing to the malls and shopping centers to get the best deals of the year. Black Friday- the day stores move from red to black in their sales margin, fueled by a culture of over-consumption (and perhaps also the left over energy from a day of over-eating). Millions will wake up before the sunrise to fill their carts with the latest gadgets, half-price sweatshirts, and 3-for-1 boxes of chocolate. A lot could be said about the cultural ideology that makes such a bizarre event seem normal, but instead I want to offer a constructive alternative. If you would rather sleep in on Friday and save money by not spending it in the first place, then you should check out this link:


Buy Nothing Christmas is a Mennonite-run campaign that stems from the Buy Nothing Day campaign of Adbusters magazine. Buy Nothing Day challenges the consumerism of Black Friday by asking people to buy nothing the whole day. Inspired by this challenge, a group of Canadian Mennonites decided to take it even further by asking people of faith and conscience to make no Christmas-related purchases throughout the whole season, addressing both the over-consumption of our culture and the fact that Santa gets more attention than Jesus these days. Instead they advocate making your own presents or offering gifts of time. The website is full of beautiful ideas to fill the holiday season with true joy, the kind that comes from family and friends, not stuff.

Ancient Paths: The Way Forward

This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

I just returned from the Gathering Around the Unhewn Stone, an event that took place this last weekend in Philadelphia. The purpose of the gathering was to explore the connections between Anarcho-Primitivism and Christianity. Ched Myers was the main speaker, leading us all through a crash course in biblical primitivism. There is so much I could write about, but I know that in this space I can only scratch the surface. Many secular and religious scholars alike are beginning to read the Hebrew-Christian bible from an archeological/historical perspective. Instead of reading the stories as metaphors or “lessons of old,” many are starting to take them more seriously and view them as factual. The Paradise of Eden is then understood not as fable of moral decline, but as a historical recollection of a time when human animals lived in balance with the earth. As ecological disaster ripens, it becomes fascinating to read these stories through this lens. As we look at it more closely, the bible begins to read like a manual of Anarcho-Primitivism. Of course that term wasn’t around back then, but the principles are so similar that it is incredible. For those unfamiliar, Anarcho-Primitivism is a form of anarchism that takes it’s critique of society all the way back to origins, citing civilization as the culprit of our current crisis. This brand of thinking values indigenous cultures and earth-based people groups as teachers and elders who hold wisdom long forgotten (or violently silenced). Our hunter-gatherer ancestors laid out for us a way of being that is truly sustainable. It was the norm forever, until the rise of agriculture, which changed the landscape of things and paved the way for civilization. As the towers rose and power centralized, most people got the short end of the stick. This is the context in which the Hebrew-Christian tradition developed. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic”. Numbers 11:5. (more…)

Introducing Rusty…

Greetings everyone,

I am the newest contributor to the YAR blog, and as is the custom here, I was asked to introduced myself. I won’t bore you with my life story. I’ll keep it short and relevant.

My life is a complex journey, as all of ours tend to be in this day and age. I am a suburban southern kid who was raised during the corporate take over my once rural town. I watched the wild playground of my youth become paved and replaced with shopping malls. All the tree forts and hideouts we built as kids were replaced one-by-one with ‘real’ shelters, housing wealthy neighbors with well-manicured lawns. The whole infrastructure of my town shifted, and slowly, so did the income level and mindset of my family. The innocence of my youth was not only interrupted by all the normal challenges of adolescence, but also the rising consciousness of suburbia, consumerism, wealth, competition… capitalism.

For years I have been trying to forget what I know and remember what life was like before the corporate takeover of my town and my mind. Isn’t this the journey we are all on, trying to reconnect with our primal selves, our young innocence, our wide-eyed hope? This search has brought me so many places, literally and figuratively. I am currently living in Chicago, the third largest city in the country. I hate it. It’s a big concrete jungle, devoid of anything wild or natural. What keeps me here is the community house that I live in. But as the winter moves in, I will be moving out and navigating back to Florida, where I grew up.  I thrive in wild spaces, under stars, below trees. Though, I will say that as a student of herbal medicine, I love seeing tough healing plants rising between the cracks of abandoned factories. It gives me a glimpse of the coming kingdom of god. “A tree shall sprout in the middle of the city, and it’s leaves shall bring healing.” Revelation 22:2 (more…)