News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  25 August 2016  •  No. 85

Processional. Korean figure skater Yu-na Kim, 2010 Olympic champion, performing to the song “Arirang,” the unofficial national anthem of both North and South Korea.

Happy centennial, US National Park Service! Photo above of Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine, by Scott Kublin.

Invocation.How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” Brahms Requiem, Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra. (Thanks Roy.)

Call to worship. A variation of Psalm 139. “Where Can I Go Without You,” Nat King Cole.

History being made in Cuba. Pictured (in white, at left) are baptismal candidates at Somos Iglesia de la Comunidad Metropolitana en Cuba (Metropolitan Community Church in Matanzas, Cuba), 20 August 2016, during the service marking the church’s first anniversary. Included among those being baptized is a transgendered woman, thought to be the first trans person baptized by the Christian community in Cuba. Somos meets in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Matanzas. Part of the congregation’s mission statement includes this sentence: “We will continue to promote the open table of Jesus Christ for all, no matter who you are, what you are or how you are. We will continue walking along with the lepers, the eunuchs, the excluded and excluded from our time.”

Hymn of praise. “Oh night thou was my guide / Of night more loving than the rising sun / Oh night that joined the lover / To the beloved one / Transforming each of them into the other.” —Loreena McKennitt, “The Dark Night Of the Soul” (Thanks Deborah.)

Now we know. “Contrary to what The Donald says, President Obama and soon-to-be President Hillary Clinton did not found ISIS. It was me. I apologize everybody, I don't know what I was thinking. I remember the #4 train was especially overcrowded that morning, I hadn't had any coffee, and the next thing I knew I'd founded an international terrorist organization. My bad!! Just one of those days I guess. So again, please accept my apologies and feel free and pass along my regrets to all your friends.” —Facebook post from Andy, a friend in New York City

Right: Colombian government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (right) and his Farc counterpart Ivan Marquez (left) signed the agreement as Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez watched. Photo by Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press.

Extraordinary news you probably missed. “Hundreds of Colombians have celebrated an historic peace accord between the government and left-wing Farc rebels, signed after 52 years of conflict.” Cuban and Norwegian officials have brokered this agreement, the result of four years of hard negotiation. BBC News

Confession.God Forgive Us,” Armenian hymn.

Words of assurance. “When it hurts so bad / And you feel that you can't go on / Each day goes by too fast / And the nights are so very long / You'll find out true / What mother said to you / That tears of God will show you the way / The way to turn.” —Los Lobos, “Tears of God

¶ “This work is a masterpiece, far and away the most profound treatment of significant themes of life in Cuba I’ve read anywhere.” That’s what Stan Hastey, a veteran Cuba traveler and analyst, says about Stan Dotson’s new book (cover, at left), Cuba: A Day in the Life. Order from Parson’s Porch Book Publishing.

Wi-Fi temperance at summer camps.  “Campers say going cold turkey isn't easy. When 16-year-old Lily Hildreth first arrives, she says she would constantly ‘tap my pockets, and you're like, what am I missing?'" —Tovia Smith, “Summer Camps Struggle To Enforce Bans On Screen Time,” NPR

The pratfalls of texting while walking. ABC News (1:42)

Wi-Fi mahem.

        •64% of the 2.5 million traffic accidents each year involve use of a cell phone.

        •Each year 330,000 accidents are caused by texting while driving.

        •Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause accidents than drinking and driving.

        • The average speed in the US is about 55mph. Taking five seconds to read a text in this time means that the driver travels the length of a football field without looking at the road.

        • Every year approximately 11 teens die because they were texting while driving.

        • When polled, 77% of adults and 55% of teenage drivers say that they can easily manage texting while driving. ICEBIKE.ORG

There’s a Wikipedia page on this. FoMO (fear of missing out) is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.” This social angst is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing."

Old school social media.

        • “Using data from nearly three-quarters of the world’s countries, a new analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that students who do not regularly eat with their parents are significantly more likely to be truant at school.”

        • “Children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week also were 40% more likely to be overweight compared to those who do.”

        • “Children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often.”

        • ”In her book Eating Together, Alice Julier argues that dining together can radically shift people’s perspectives: It reduces people’s perceptions of inequality, and diners tend to view those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than they would in other social scenarios.”

        • ”The average American family now spends nearly as much money on fast food as they do on groceries,” and that “meals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content.” —Cody C. Delistraty, “The Importance of Eating Together,” The Atlantic

¶ “Somewhere, maybe at this very moment, neurologists are trying to figure out what all this screen time is doing to the still-forming brains of people Katherine’s age [13], members of what’s known as Generation Z. Educators are trying to teach them that not all answers are Googleable. Counselors are prying them out of Internet addictions.” —Jessica Contrera, “13, right now: This is what it is like to grow up in the likes, lols and longing,” Washington Post

¶ “Carnival barkers, conspiracy theories, willful bias and nasty partisanship aren’t anything new, and they haven’t reached unprecedented heights today. But what’s remarkable and sort of heartbreaking is the way they’re fed by what should be strides in our ability to educate ourselves. The proliferation of cable television networks and growth of the Internet promised to expand our worlds, not shrink them. Instead they’ve enhanced the speed and thoroughness with which we retreat into enclaves of the like-minded.” —Frank Bruni, "How Facebook Warps Our Worlds,” New York Times (Thanks Jon)

A friend in Australia sent me a job opening notice he saw for a small business. Among the qualifications required is “Be able to last eight hours without your phone.” (Thanks Geoff.)

A quick web search pulled up a tidal wave of article examining the impact of cell phones. The following stories were on the first page of the search (which went on for another 204 million pages).

        •“Cell Phones are Changing Social Interaction,” Psychology Today

        •“Cell phones promote serious social, psychological issues,” Washington Times

        •“Cellphone use linked to selfish behavior,” ScienceDaily

        •“Is Your Cell Phone Making You a Jerk,” Time magazine

        •“Cell Phone and Anti-Social Behavior,” StudyMoose

        •“How Your Cell Phone Hurts Your Relationships,” Scientific American

I taught both my daughters to drive, using some fun exercises like finding an empty school parking lot on a Saturday: I rode a bicycle and required them to follow me in reverse using only mirrors (to get used to using rear and side mirrors and the counter-intuitive steering needed when in reverse).
        One exercise was more serious. We took a walking tour of our local car junk yard, just to inspect up close the horrendous damage that can be done in an accident.
        But everyone who gets behind the wheel, of whatever age, should view this 34-second video of a texting-while-driving accident.

Several years ago my congregation approved a recommendation banning all Wi-Fi devices from our Sunday gathering. Most immediately it was a response to one of our members who lives with an acute sensitivity to the electromagnetic radiation such devices emit (even when they’re “off”). More than that, the decision represents an awareness that social media has an inherent tendency to dominate our lives. Disconnecting for a brief time each week is a tangible discipline to remind ourselves of the need to “be still.” —read Ken Sehested’s “Old dogs, new tricks, and social media

Preach it. “Life smooths us, perfects us as does the river the stone, and there is no place our Beloved is not flowing, though the current’s force you may not like.” —St. Treresa of Ávila

Electoral commentary. “So while a Trump presidency holds the prospect of the United States driving off a cliff, a Clinton presidency promises to be the equivalent of banging one’s head against a brick wall without evident effect, wondering all the while why it hurts so much.” —Andrew Bacevich, “The Decay of American Politics,” TomDispatch

Yes, I’m voting, if for nothing else because the next president will nominate at least one, possibly three, Supreme Court justices. Whatever your conscience—vote or don’t vote. Elections are a tiny part of “seeking the welfare of the city.” Every year I spend a lot more time in grocery store lines and doctor’s office waiting rooms than in polling sites. Elections, whether local, state, or national, are but the terminus of a long pipeline in history’s shaping. Get in on the front end. None of us start a meaningful movement for social change; but we must be busy laying the line in preparation. —Ken Sehested

Call to the table. “The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books, but that we should engrave them upon our hearts.” —St. John Chrysostom

The state of our disunion. “What would it take to cause Hillary Clinton to distance herself from the newly launched bombing campaign in Libya? Or call for a congressional debate on it? Or suggest the obvious: that the war on terror isn’t working? Of course it won’t happen. But the fact that it sounds so absurd—almost as fanciful as the notion of movie characters stepping off the screen into real life—indicates how illusory, how unglued from reality, American democracy is at the presidential level. It’s a spectator sport—mud wrestling, say—doled out to us as entertainment by the media in sound bites and poll numbers.” —Robert C. Koehler, “Reaching Beyond the Candidates,” CommonDreams

For the beauty of the earth. 23 dramatic photos of a thunder storm passing over the Outer Banks of North Carolina on 14 July 2016.

Altar call. “The resurrection isn’t an argument. It’s the Christian word for defiance. . . . It is who we are—our word for how we go on in the face of overwhelming odds.” Giles Fraser, The Guardian

Benediction. “Slumber, my darling, till morn's blushing ray / Brings to the world the glad tidings of day / Fill the dark void with thy dreamy delight / Slumber, thy mother will guard thee tonight.” —“Slumber My Darling,” performed by Allison Krauss, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O’Connor

Recessional, in intercession for friends in South Louisiana. —“Weary Blues,” New Orleans Stompers

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Creator God, we give thanks this day for work: for work that sustains; for work that fulfills; for work which, however tiring, also satisfies and resonates with Your labor in creation.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Labor Day: A litany for worship: For work that fulfills

Just for fun. “‘We’re here to call ourselves the Church of JC Capitalist—a video (2:28) spoof by comedian John Cleese

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Old dogs, new tricks, and social media: Is the "fear of missing out" actually causing us to miss out?
• “Labor Day: A litany for worship: For work that fulfills
• “Labor in the shadow of sabbath,” a Labor Day sermon

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