Signs of the Times • 9 February 2017 • No. 108
¶ Processional. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” John McDermott.
¶ Invocation. “Do You Call That Religion,” The Norfolk Jubilee Quartet.
¶ Call to worship. “The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
¶ Hymn of praise. “Genuine Negro Jig,” Carolina Chocolate Drops (“And David danced before the Ark of the Covenant”).
¶ Good news. “While the situation is still dire, with Black farmers comprising only about 1% of the industry, we have not disappeared. After more than a century of decline, the number of Black farmers is on the rise.” —Leah Penniman, Yes! Magazine
¶ For Black History Month, make time in your schedule to view the “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” the PBS series (6 episodes) produced by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Each is about 53 minutes in length.
¶ Confession. “'Sin,' he reflected, 'is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one [person] to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds [they] have left behind.” —Shūsaku Endō, Silence
¶ “Ida B. Wells, a fearless anti-lynching organizer, and other African American women leaders “viewed white Christianity as a contradiction of true Christian identity, largely because of its support of segregation and lynching. ‘Would to God that it were,’ complained the National Baptist leader Nannie Helen Burroughs, when she rejected America’s Christian identity, ‘but it is the most lawless and desperately wicked nation on the globe.’ Lynching, she insisted, was ‘no superficial thing . . . it is in the blood of the nation. And the process of eliminating it will be difficult and long.’” —James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree
¶ Slavery has likely been practiced since before written history. But prior to European “discovery” of the “new world,” slaves were those captured in military conquest. Here in the Americas, for the first time, slavery became race-based.
“Increasingly, the dominant English came to view Africans not as ‘heathen people’ but as ‘black people.’ They began, for the first time, to describe themselves not as Christians but as whites. And they gradually wrote this shift into their colonial laws.” —Peter H. Wood, Slate magazine (Thanks Tami)
¶ View to this “Democracy Now” video (19 minutes) on “the complicity of American presidents with slavery. More than one-in-four US presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery,” including an interview with Dr. Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House.
¶ On complicating the history of the US. “Mr. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson: When you put your hand on the Bible and swore to protect this country, let’s be honest in who you were talking about.” —“Letter to Five of the Presidents who owned slaves while they were in office,” poet Clint Smith, video by Steve Goldbloom Zach-Land-Miller, PBS (3:37 video)
¶ Hymn of lamentation. “Oh Lord, You Know Just How I Feel,” Fannie Lou Hamer
¶ President Donald Trump is “advancing a white nationalist agenda and vision of America, whether that be by demonizing blacks in the 'inner city,' Mexicans at the border or Muslims from the Middle East.” —Charles M. Blow, "No, Trump, Not on Our Watch,” New York Times
¶ In his review of Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro,” a documentary on the life of novelist and playwright James Baldwin, A.O. Scott remarks:
“Baldwin could not have known about Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, about the presidency of Barack Obama and the recrudescence of white nationalism in its wake, but in a sense he explained it all in advance. He understood the deep, contradictory patterns of our history. . . the dialectic of guilt and rage, forgiveness and denial that distorts relations between black and white citizens in the North as well as the South; the lengths that white people will go to wash themselves clean of their complicity in oppression.”
¶ Words of assurance. “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” Lauryn Hill & Tanya Blount.
¶ If current economic trends continue, the average black household will need 228 years to accumulate as much wealth as their white counterparts hold today. —Joshua Holland, The Nation
¶ Professing our faith. “America, you must be born again.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
¶ Short story from baseball legend Hank Aaron. “We had breakfast while we were waiting for the rain to stop, and I can still envision sitting with the Clowns [Cleveland Negro League baseball team] in a restaurant behind Griffith Stadium [in Washington, DC, 1952] and hearing them break all the plates in the kitchen after we finished eating. What a horrible sound. Even as a kid, the irony of it hit me: here we were in the capital in the land of freedom and equality, and they had to destroy the plates that had touched the forks that had been in the mouths of black men. If dogs had eaten off those plates, they'd have washed them." —“8 Times Hank Aaron Faced Racism: #1, The Negro Leagues,” SB Nation (Thanks Abigail.)
¶ The initial goal of former President Richard Nixon’s [1969-‘74]“Southern strategy” was to “woo Southern whites, who were angry about the advances of the civil-rights movement, with coded racial messaging that wouldn’t alienate the party’s Northern supporters. ‘You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,’ Nixon once explained to his chief of staff, H.R. Halderman. ‘The key is to devise a system that recognizes that while not appearing to.’” [It’s pretty clear now that Southerners weren’t the only ones being wooed. Thanks Bob.] —Gary Younge, Moyers & Company
¶ Vonn New, a white woman participating in Black Lives Matter actions, has compiled a list of nine guidelines for white allies. —read Vonn New’s 9 guidelines
¶ Preach it. “"Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked." —Frederick Douglass. See more quotes from Douglass.
¶ Can’t makes this sh*t up. “A 60-ish guy in a black tank top who, annoyed both at having to wait for a tour and at the fact that the next tour focused on slaves, came back at me with, "Yeah, well, Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, so I guess what goes around comes around!" —Margaret Biser, “I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery” Vox (Thanks Alan.)
¶ Call to the table. “There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For those innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. —James Baldwin in “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundred Anniversary of the Emancipation”
¶ “If rich folks' kids get in trouble, they go to rehab. Poor folks' kids get in trouble, they go to prison.” —Vann Jones talks to us about how mass incarceration is hurting our communities. AJ+ video (2:48. Thanks Abigail.)
Right: "Pap lady" by Charis Tsevis
¶ The state of our disunion. A Public Religion Reseach Institute (PRRI) survey released in June shows that 67% of white Americans agree that Americans protesting government mistreatment always leaves the country better off. “But fewer than half (48%) of whites say the same when asked about black Americans speaking out against and protesting unfair treatment by the government,” the report says. —Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service
¶ Lucy Massie Phenix's “You Got to Move: Stories of Change in the South” is about individuals who have dared to change the world for the better and Tennessee s world-renowned Highlander Folk School (now Highlander Research and Education Center), the place that for 85 years has taught them how to achieve this change—including a young Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. —watch this trailer (1:57 video) of the one hour twenty-five minute documentary
¶ Best one-liner. Stop trying to make everyone happy—you aren’t chocolate. —author unknown (Thanks Karen.)
¶ “If you want to understand the relationship between African Americans and the country that they inhabit, you must understand that one of the central features of that relationship is plunder—the taking from black people in order to empower other people. . . . Plunder is not incidental to who we are; plunder is not incidental to what America is.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Clock Didn’t Start With the Riots,” The Nation
¶ If all we feel is shame after reviewing of the carnage of racism, we miss the point—and, in fact, yet again we’ve made the conversation about ourselves. The awareness is indeed painful, but the pain’s purpose is not punishment but a penitence that generates the resolve to engage the difficult work of reconciliation. —kls
¶ For the beauty of the earth. “Yellowstone Forever Photo Contest 2016: Top 100 photos.” (5:33 video. Thanks Bruce.)
¶ Short take. “President Barack Obama, speaking at the opening ceremony of the African American Museum in Washington, DC, said: ‘Hopefully, this museum can help us talk to each other, and more importantly listen to each other, and most importantly see each other.’
“Biblically speaking, seeing is different from looking. To see is to bond. More than curiosity, more than gathering an inventory of interesting sights and experiences, to see is to develop a relationship, to become interdependent, to enter the other’s orbit and become subject to its gravitational force.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Learning to see: Why communities of conviction are important”
¶ Of the topics displayed in new African American Museum is this. “Religion and Resistance at the New National Museum of African American History and Culture.” —Anita Litte interview with Rev. Yolanda Pierce, curator of the newly-opened museum, Religion Dispatches
¶ Altar call. “The very first mention of God’s name in Scripture is uttered in the story in Exodus where the Hebrew people cry out because of the misery of their oppression. In the story of the calling of Moses, the text says ‘Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings’ (Exodus 3:7). . . . A pattern is set with this narrative: The earth’s cries of distress mobilize the attention of Heaven.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Fear Not! The nonviolent war cry of the People of God”
¶ Benediction. “We are each other's / harvest: / we are each other's / business: / we are each other's / magnitude and bond.” —Gwendolyn Brooks, excerpt from her poem “Paul Robeson”
¶ Recessional. “We are building up a new world / Builders must be strong.” —Vincent Harding, new lyrics to “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” singing at the Wild Goose Festival
¶ Lectionary for Sunday next. “The classical interpretation of Matt 5:38-42 & Luke 6:29-30 suggests two, and only two, possibilities for action in the face of evil: fight or flight. Either we resist evil, or we do not resist it. Jesus seemingly says that we are not to resist it; so, it would appear, he commands us to be docile, inert, compliant, to abandon all desire for justice, to allow the oppressor to walk all over us. ‘Turn the other cheek’ is taken to enjoin becoming a doormat for Jesus, to be trampled without protest. . . . Rather than encourage the oppressed to counteract their oppressors, these revolutionary statements have been transformed into injunctions to collude in one's own despoiling.” —Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way,” the groundbreaking commentary on how “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5) is a form of creative resistance to injustice
¶ Just for fun. James Brown’s “Greatest Dance Moves” (7:18).
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Featured this week on prayer&politiks
• “The ‘God-factor’ in our recent election,” a post-election sermon
• “Fear Not! The nonviolent war cry of the People of God”
• “In this law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119
©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.
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