“A Way Out of No Way” – Fill the JAR – Episode 001

Episode Transcript

[Introductory music – clip from “Way Out of No Way,” performed by the Stop Cop City Choir]

Welcome to Fill the Jar – a podcast where we carve out a bit of body and soul breath from the dehumanizing crush that capitalism tries to exert on our lives. Welcome to Fill the Jar – the podcast where we prayerfully find a bit of nourishment to do our part in dismantling the economic systems around us that destroy life, and – prayerfully – find a bit of sustenance to build up new economies – God’s economies – economies that make thriving possible for all life.

I’m your host, Seth Wispelwey, and I’m so glad you’re here and taking this time for yourself. I use he and him pronouns, and I’m recording here in what is now called Tucson, Arizona in the United States on the stolen, looted, and occupied lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation and Pasqua Yaqui tribe and their people, who have stewarded this land for a multitude of generations. I serve as the Minister for Economic Justice with the United Church of Christ, where I get to come alongside people of faith and conscience to manifest jubilee (cancellation of debts), abundance (thriving for all), and reparations (return of land and wealth to those from whom it was taken). Jubilee, Abundance, Reparations – these are the big buckets that comprise the big J.A.R. of the economic justice a still-speaking God dreams of and commissions us to make real. Please take a moment to hit the subscribe button on your favorite podcast platform, so you don’t miss out on this special time together, and if you like being part of this shared community, take a moment and share this podcast with someone else you think will appreciate it – thank you!

Things seem bleak out there, beloved, because so much is bleak. My prayer is that this time is one where you feel a little less alone, a little more connected, and a lot more affirmed that you are part of a big, and beautiful, story. This story is one where we grow to accept that injustices we witness and experience are the direct results of the systems in which we leave operating as they’re designed to, but this story is also one where we not only believe – we KNOW – that a better world is possible and we can help make it so in concrete, sustainable, lasting ways.

Most importantly, this is a story where you are reminded – or maybe you need to hear it for the first time – that you are worthy of so much love because who you are is someone imbued with divine love and belonging. You belong in this world, and by virtue of belonging and your belovedness, you deserve to thrive. Each and every single person, creature, and plant deserves thriving – and God promises and grants us the ability to realize that. So no matter what messages you hear out there – lies that you are only what you produce, lies that you matter more or less based on how you’re embodied, and more – let this be a time you come away from with the truth that you are loved, you have power to dismantle those lies, and you are not alone when you step out to live into growing jubilee, abundance and reparations.

In this inaugural episode – and in all of these episodes, I invite us all to pause and set our intention for the day, the days ahead, the weeks and months on the horizon… whether you’re listening to this in the quiet of your home as you make your coffee or head to bed, whether you’re commuting to or from work or on a lunch break, whether you’re walking your dog, strollering with your children or loved ones, or soaking up some solitude on your own stroll, or whether the creepy magic sauce of the internet’s algorithms started playing this, welcome. Welcome! What is your intention? Pause for a moment and see what comes up – listen to your body and its needs. Maybe there’s a word attached, a feeling, a cry, a longing. Take a deep breath.

It is ROUGH out there, beloved people. Perhaps you are currently stable and secure – financially, in community, with a home, employment, health care, etc. If so, I am so glad to hear it! You are experiencing comforts that should rightly be termed rights belonging to all. You have resources to help all receive them, and I’m so glad you’re here, because even though you might not be worrying about where your kid’s next meal comes from or how to cover the rent, all of us are spiritually taxed by the grind it takes to achieve these things – a spiritual tax that leads to lots of small, and some major soul deaths. This is a theme the podcast will return to regularly. We live under extractive, racist capitalism – a system intentionally designed and executed to ensure that the majority of people have these basic human needs and rights withheld or dangled precariously over the edge of a cliff – one accident or CEO’s decision or tax-funded genocide and one or all of them can too easily fall away for millions of people. And perhaps you have experienced, are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing the depths of despair of grinding to make things work and always coming up short – the experience of mounting debt, of hunger, of poverty, of unpayable student loans from a degree meant to find a job that doesn’t pay nearly enough or let you pursue your passions…and on and on.

Regardless of any “effort” you’ve put in to making it “work” (I’m using air quotes here), there is absolutely zero wrong with you. You are worthy of all good and necessary things, full stop. You are worthy of so much love, and so lovable. God is pissed that you don’t have these things, and God and God’s prophets condemn those who make it so in the strongest possible terms. I’m glad you’re here, and my most sincere prayer is that you know today that you are not alone, that this world needs you, and you deserve rest and breath – body and soul.

Stagnant, standard wages, minimum or otherwise, do not come close to meeting the cost of living for too many, while a select few are time and again bloated with unholy (and I do mean that word intentionally) amounts of money generated by the labor and sacrifices of the masses. Your labor and sacrifice. Your medical bills. Your rent. As was recently reported, over 50% of U.S. renters cannot afford it as a manageable part of their budget, in part because hourly wages need to be at least north of $20/hour in many parts of the country to afford a basic apartment. Since 2020, the typical annual salary needed to become a homeowner in the United States has skyrocketed from $59,000 to $106,500. And on and on. We will delve into these issues, and so many more, throughout the life of this podcast, as well as, importantly, highlighting the people, programs, policies, communities, and worldviews necessary to dismantle this rotten, death-dealing system and build up something that sustains and nourishes all. Which is our only hope for long-term health as humanity and for this planet.

This understanding I’ve sketched out – that there is a system in place explicitly designed to reward a few over against and at the expense of the many, for racist, misogynistic, abjectly greedy power-hungry reasons – and that injustice we experience and/or witness is a product of that system working exactly as its designed – a system that treats each of us – treats you, a divinely inspired imagebearer of God worthy of so much love and rest and care and attention – like a disposable product …this understanding, and the understanding that it is not sustainable for us as a species or the earth entire – this is not just rooted in a theological or moral framework, it is scientifically validated as well. As was recently discussed at length in an article in Nature, a piece I will be returning to often, we literally cannot afford the rich.

The understanding that we will be truly free to survive and thrive as a species when God’s economic and environmental justice is achieved is comprehensively backed up by social epidemiologists studying this globally.

I’ve put the link in the transcript to this episode, but the short version is that the orcas understand the assignment – particularly those patrolling around the Mediterranean and Strait of Gibraltar. (You’re also going to unintentionally hear a lot about whales on this podcast – I love whales.) The slightly longer version – and I sincerely encourage you to check out the entire article for yourself – says that, in the words of the authors, the evidence clearly shows “large differences in income are a powerful social stressor that is increasingly rendering societies dysfunctional.” A number of indicators are then listed, followed by this additional data point that they also extrapolate: “Even affluent people would enjoy a better quality of life if they lived in a country with a more equal distribution of wealth” and also, “The costs of inequality are also excruciatingly high for governments.” Again, check it out for yourself, but as the title of the piece says: we literally cannot afford to continue like this.

To continue in building up a new world though and discontinue these prevailing systems, we need to, each of us, continue through today. Sometimes getting the breath, resolve, and reset we need to get started can get started in just a few minutes. So let’s do this now with the time that we have – let’s breathe. I’m going to guide you through what’s called a “box-breath” technique – something you might be familiar with, or have done before. It’s very simple, but I’ve found that every time I do it – whether lying down, standing in the kitchen, or even driving my car (I keep my eyes open for that one, and highly recommend you do too) – every time I do it, no matter how heightened, stressed, or anxious I’m feeling – I come out the other side with a much more regulated nervous system. And a nervous system that can teach itself to hug itself in this world is a nervous system that can breathe another day, and do things others claim cannot be done. So if it’s ok with you, close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so (and you’re not driving) – this will only be for a couple minutes. Find your center in your seat, ground your feet, or if you’re lying down make sure your shoulders, neck, and back are well supported, and well-aligned. Ok. Good. We’re going to inhale through our nose for a four count, hold for four, exhale through the mouth for four, hold for four…and we’re going to repeat that four times, creating a four-sided box that holds you. I’ll walk you through it. Ok, all set? Good.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4.
Hold 2, 3, 4.
Exhale 2, 3, 4.
Hold 2, 3 4.
[Repeats 3 more times]

Lovely, beloved. Wherever you are, and wherever you are on life’s journey, may you feel a bit of extra capacity in this moment. This is where it begins – you are needed in this, and you need to be taken care of.

Before we close, I want to invite you over to our new Economic Justice website at the United Church of Christ –
https://www.ucc.org/fillthejar. There you can find my contact information ifyou’d like to reach out with any questions or desires to collaborate, there you can sign up if you’re interested in a curriculum to help your church move “beyond book studies” into measurable action for justice, and stay up to date on our forthcoming, dynamic Fill the JAR campaigns. Once again, that’s https://www.ucc.org/fillthejar. Also, let us know what you think about the podcast in the comments or reviews wherever you like to listen to your podcast! We’re just getting started, and I want this to be something that sincerely meets a felt need. Finally, a special word of gratitude for “Way Out of No Way,” the music you hear opening and closing the episode, written by Reverends Tracy Howe and Osagyefo Sekou and performed by the Stop Cop City Choir. Used with permission, this music is for movement building, wherever you are, so check out the link in the transcript to listen, download, donate, purchase at Bandcamp if you like – because yes, beloved, we will make a way, especially when there seems to be no way. God is still speaking, comma…

Thank you for listening, and hopefully subscribing! I’m about to take some parental leave, but as the back half of 2024 progresses, you can expect many more and regular episodes with fascinating guests, encouragements to pause and restore yourself, and more as we build the world full of jubilee, abundance, and reparations – God’s economic justice – may it be so. And now beloved people, a blessing:

May the fierce Spirit that infuses all life bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart;

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you might be driven to work and fight for justice, liberation and, ultimately, peace;

May the Spirit of life bless you with tears to shed – for those suffering from pain, rejection, hunger, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, ageism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, our taxfunded slaughtering – may you be blessed with tears of empathy so that you can pray with your feet, embodying solidarity with them until their pain is resurrected into joy…

And may our still-speaking God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

[Outro music – clip from “Way Out of No Way” by the Stop Cop City Choir]


  1. “Way Out of No Way” Written by Tracy Howe and Osagyefo Sekou, Performed by Stop Cop City Choir, Recorded in Tucson, Arizona, Used with permission. “Stop Copy City Choir is wherever people gather to sing on behalf of the world we fight for, free of repression and abundant in life and love. Everything is donation based and all proceeds go to support the #StopCopCity and #DefendtheAtlantaForest global solidarity movement.”
    Listen/Download/Donate/Purchase: https://stopcopcitychoir.bandcamp.com
  2. “Why the World Cannot Afford the Rich” – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-00723-3
  3. Fill the JAR – https://www.ucc.org/fillthejar
Categories: Fill the JAR Podcast

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