News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  8 August 2019 •  No. 199

Processional. “Sing, Sing, Sing,” Kyoto Tachibana High School Marching Band. (Thanks Connie.)

Invocation. “O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears. . . . Restore us, O God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.” —Psalm 80:4-5, 7

Call to worship. “In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. . . . Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them.” —Toni Morrison (18 February 1931 – 5 August 2019) Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, rest in peace. Read the entire quote from “Beloved.”

Hymn of praise. “I was dead in the water, nobody wanted me / I was old news, I went cold as cold could be / but I kept throwing on coal try'na make that fire burn / sometimes you gotta get scars to get what you deserve / I kept moving on and now I'm moving up / damn, I'm feeling blessed with all this love / I think I finally found my hallelujah.” —Andy Grammer, and the choir of PS 22 Chorus, “Good to Be Alive

Good news. “This evening, a group of nearly 20 Baptists [from Kentucky churches, see photo at right] took church to the railroad tracks in Harlan County. We sang, we prayed, and we encouraged the miners [who were blocking a coal train in their bid to get back pay from the bankrupt coal company] to keep pressing for justice." Rev. Zach Bay, First Baptist Church of Middlesboro, Kentucky. For more info see “Blackjewel Miners Block Railroad To demand Pay From Bankrupt Coal Company,” Sydney Boles.

Hymn of intercession.  “There's a hole in this mountain and it's dark and it's deep / And God only knows all the secrets it keeps / There's a chill in the air only miners can feel / There're ghosts in the tunnels that the company sealed.” —Steve Earle and The Del McCoury Band, “The Mountain” (Thanks Sam.)

Confession. “The Mass Shooting Tracker project defines a mass shooting as ‘an incident where four or more people are shot in a single shooting spree. This may include the gunman himself, or police shootings of civilians around the gunman.’

        As of July 31, 2019, 248 mass shootings have occurred in 2019 that fit the inclusion criteria of this article. This averages out to 1.2 shootings per day. In these shootings, 979 people were shot; of those people, 246 have died.” There have been 9 additional mass shootings from 1-5 August.

Hymn of supplication. “No, no, no, enough praying / many things are needed / to achieve peace.” — English translation of “No Basta Rezar” ("Praying It Not Enough”), Los Guaraguao (Thanks Doug.)

Left: "The Black Madonna of Sacred Activism" by William Hart McNichols

¶ “The word ‘terrorist’ doesn't have a single, universally-accepted definition. The most commonly accepted definition is ‘a person who uses violence to achieve a political end,’ but that label is enormously problematic; by that definition, any people who engage in a war could be accurately described as terrorists.” —“Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters,”

Professing our faith. “People of faith need to understand that life lived according to the demands of justice and the prerequisites of peace—the two of which are mediated by the ministration of mercy—is not merely an ethical calculation but is adoration, is our true and proper worship, of which we need constant reminding.” —continue reading "Calling terrorism by its true name: blasphemy"

The gunman who massacred 22 people, wounding two dozen more, in El Paso, Texas, published a vile manifesto on the internet shortly before he entered the Walmart with his assault-style rifle. In his manifesto, he spoke of a “Hispanic invasion.” And he also identified with the man who murdered dozens in mosques in New Zealand in March.

        “Since January, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word ‘invasion’ — part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging.” Thomas Kaplan, New York Times

The shooter in Dayton, armed with an assault-style rifle with a 100-round magazine (like the one at right), was able to fire 41 bullets in 30 seconds, killing nine people and injuring 26.

Hymn of assurance. “We could be the healin' / When you're feeling all alone / We could be the reason / To find the strength to carry on / In a world that's so divided / We shall overcome / We could be the healing / We can be the flower in the gun.” —Michael Franti & Victoria Canal, “The Flower

Short story. “Many years ago, when she was a young associate pastor and I was a younger intern, I watched Nancy Hastings Sehested cry in her sermon. After the sermon someone confronted her saying that she shouldn’t be crying in the pulpit. A few weeks later in another sermon, Nancy said, ‘There are some things worth crying over.’ Indeed there are and mass shootings are at the top of the list. Unlike the line in the movie A League of Their Own, ‘There’s no crying in baseball,’ there is crying in church. At least there should be. So what do we do? We cry, we lament, we weep with those who weep. And we get mad. . . .” Then “we organize.” —Kyle Childress, “What Do We Say?” Alliance of Baptists

Word. “No other nation on earth comes close to experiences the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States. No other developed country tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do. . . . We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for change our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.” Barack Obama, response to the mass murders in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio

Hymn of resolution. “Some holy ghost keeps me hangin on, hangin on / I feel the hands, but I don't see anyone, anyone / I feel the hands, but I don't see anyone, it's there and gone / Feeds my passion for transcendence / Turns my water into wine / Makes me wish I was empty.” —Mavis Staples, "Holy Ghost"

¶ “If one of the perpetrators of this weekend’s two mass shootings had adhered to the ideology of radical Islam, the resources of the American government and its international allies would mobilize without delay. . . . No American would settle for ‘thoughts and prayers’ as a counterterrorism strategy.” New York Times editorial

Terrorism as blasphemy

        • “The problem with the person who drove a lorry into a crowded market of Christmas shoppers wasn’t that he was too religious, but that he wasn’t religious enough. It was the action of a half-believer, the sort of thing done by someone who doesn’t so much believe in God—but rather believes in the efficacy of human power exercised on God’s behalf, as if God needed his help.” —Giles Fraser, Anglican priest and journalist in Britain, “How to defeat terrorists? True extremism,” Guardian

        • “For the person who resorts to random killing in order to promote the honour of God, it is clear that God is not to be trusted. God is too weak to look after his own honour and we are the strong ones who must step in to help him. Such is the underlying blasphemy at work.” —former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams

        • “The point of religious terrorism is to purify the world of corrupting influences. But what lies beneath these views? Over time, I began to see that these grievances mask a deeper kind of angst and a deeper kind of fear. Fear of a godless universe.” —Jessica Stern in "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill"

        • “The war on terror is the outgrowth of a deeply problematic theology of imperial violence which is a terrible perversion of true Christianity and which is adding to a global cycle of violence.” —Michael Northcott

Preach it. Arguably, the most articulate, passionate, incisive prophetic challenge in the history of US cable news. Every US citizen ought to be required to hear this 2:58 commentary. Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department of African American Studies and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, on MSNBC, Tuesday 6 August 2019

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “On a momentous day for Tribal Nations, Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), the House Republican Conference Chairwoman, stated that the successful litigation by tribes and environmentalists to return the grizzly bear in Greater Yellowstone to the Endangered Species Act ‘was not based on science or facts’ but motivated by plaintiffs ‘intent on destroying our Western way of life.’” —  (Thanks Jimmy.)

Call to the table. “Come and remember who you are here  / Do this to remember who I am  / Come and remember you belong here  / All belong here.” —The Many, “All Belong Here

The state of our disunion. President Trump, laughing after . —Guardian (0:38 video)

Best one-liner. “What a society does to its children, its children will do to society,” a Roman sage once said. —Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, The Nonviolent Moment: Spirituality for the 21st Century

For the beauty of the earth. For years, these massive underwater sandcastles have been a mystery. Meet their unexpected architect. —Brut (2:06 video.)

Altar call. Watch this brief video (0:22) of an 11-year-old child pleading for her father’s return after ICE arrested some 680 workers at food processing plants in Mississippi.

        “Children finished their first day of school with no parents to go home to tonight. Babies and toddlers remained at daycare with no guardian to pick them up. A child vainly searched a workplace parking lot for missing parents.”Ashton Pittman, Jackson Free Press

Consider these conclusions about ICE deportations:

        • Cheap migrant labor (authorized or not) is why your chicken is cheap, your produce fresh and affordable, your home and office and hotel inexpensively cleaned.

        • Employers have no excuse for hiring those not authorized to work in the US since the federal government has an E-Verify program to assess a worker’s status.

        • If ICE were serious about enforcement, legislation would be in place to imprison business executives and corporate board members for hiring violations.

        • “Without immigrants, the US economy would be a 'disaster,' experts say.” Avianne Tan & Serena Marshall, ABC News

        • If every undocumented worker were deported overnight, there would be massive crop losses, because over half of the farm labor force have no authorization to work in the US. One-fourth of all domestic and cleaning workers are undocumented, as is 15% of construction labor. —, Quora

¶ “Don't name the shooter, name the gun. The shooter wants the attention, the gun doesn't want the blame. Name the gun, and the bullets. Make and model. Manufacturer, address, CEO, board of directors, stock symbol, annual profits, lobbyists.” —Chris Sanders on Facebook

Left: The "Loldiers of Odin" formed in Finland to counter a [white nationalist] citizen patrol called Soldiers of Odin. The clowns danced around the streets the same nights that the patrols went out in the community, bringing acrobat hoops and a hobby horse.

Creative resistance. “Why Nazis are so afraid of these clowns. Clowns have an impressive track record of subverting Nazi ideology, de-escalating rallies and bringing communities together in creative resistance.” Sarah Freeman-Woolpet, Waging Nonviolence 

Listen to the David Lamotte's "White Flour," recording of an illustrated story of confronting the Ku Klux Klan with humor. (5:42)

Benediction. “Take hope in Christ crucified and resurrected. It is in the resurrection which is the terror of God to all who believe that death should have the final word. It is the promise of the resurrection which renders null and void the victories of all who shed blood.” —Lee Griffith, “The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God”

Recessional.Amazing Grace,” President Barack Obama, at Mother Emanuel Baptist Church, Charleston, SC, after the 2015 mass shooting.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Faith is contagious,” a litany for worship inspired by Hebrews 11

Lectionary for Sunday next. For the Lord of hosts “expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteous, but heard a cry!” —Isaiah 5:7

Just for fun. Rockin’ nuns. (Thanks Guilherme.)

SPECIAL NOTE. If you have not added your signature to the “Christians Against Christian Nationalism,” I urge you to do so.

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Thoughts and prayers, shots and tears: A meditation on mass shootings,” a short meditation

• “We tolerate no scruples: A summary history of 20th century bombing of civilian populations,” a new short essay

• “Calling terrorism by its true name: blasphemy,” a theological meditation

• “Faith is contagious,” a litany for worship inspired by Hebrews 11

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