News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  11 August 2016  •  No. 83

Processional.Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” by legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain, who died Sunday at age 86.

Good news! “Monarch Butterfly Population More Than Triples Over Last Year.” (Pictured above: Monarch butterfly wintering in Michoacan, Mexico.) —Terry Turner, GoodNewsNetwork

Invocation.Alleluia,” Countertop Ensemble.

Call to worship. “In my vision, Heaven’s Voice made the mountains shake and the meadows rumble. And I said, ‘I am not worthy to see such things! My lips cannot speak such wonder. My hands cannot hold it. I am only a little girl.’ But the One who breathes every breath said to me: Do not say ‘I am only a little girl.’” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Send me,” a litany for worship inspired by Jeremiah 1:7-9 and Isaiah 6:1-8

Just amazing. A group of fifth-graders at Bell Gardens Elementary, assisted by their teacher, Leslie Hiatt, convinced the California State Assembly to pass a bill requiring the teaching of the Mexican Repatriation from the 1930s, when more than 1 million US citizens and lawful residents of Mexican descent were deported. Lani Cupchoy, Yes! Magazine

This week brings anniversaries of two priests murdered in the midst of their liturgies.

        • Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero was born on 15 August 1917 in El Salvador. He was assassinated on 24 March 1980 by members of an extrajudicial “death squad” with ties to the US-backed government of El Salvador. An outspoken critic of the military crackdown in his country, the day before his murder he pleaded with soldiers, "I beseech you, I beg you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!"

        • Brother Roger, a Protestant who founded the ecumenical order of monks at Taizé, France, was killed on 16 August 2005 by a person later deemed to be mentally ill. Born 12 May 1915 in Switzerland, he began his ministry sheltering refugees fleeing Nazi control. Over the years the community has become a popular pilgrimage site, especially for young adults. (See Ken Sehested’s “In Memory of Brother Roger.”)

        • Both of these recall the tragic assassination barely two weeks ago of Fr. Jacques Hamel, parish priest in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, also while saying mass, by two young men claiming affiliation with the Islamic State.

        • Murder comes in many forms—some face-to-face, some from a distance; some personal, some ideological; some by those simply “following orders.” All are forms of derangement. All are forms of “possession.” All are, in fact, variations of atheism, the conviction that God is unable to make history turn out right and in need of surrogates.

Hymn of praise.Go Rest High Upon That Mountain,” Vince Gill, Alison Krauss & Ricky Skaggs.

Remember, the US “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign, initiating the 2003 war in Iraq? The phrase itself comes from a 1996 publication by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade, “Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance.”
        “The intent is to impose a regime of Shock and Awe through delivery of instant, nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction directed at influencing society writ large, meaning its leadership and public, rather than targeting directly against military or strategic objectives.”
        The FBI’s definition of terrorism: “Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction. . . .”

Hymn of intercession and the centennial of the Battle of the Somme. "Pie Jesu" (“Merciful Jesus”) by Sarah Brightman, Paul Miles-Kingston. The music accompanies actual film footage (3:34) from World War I’s “Battle of The Somme,” when French and British allies took the offensive against German troops in France, 1 July-18 November 1916. The British suffered 57,000 casualties on the first day of the offensive. All total, more than 1 million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history.

¶ “The United States escalated its war against the Islamic State in Libya on Monday as part of a new military campaign against the extremist Sunni terrorist group’s stronghold in North Africa. . . . By linking the Libya action to [President Bush’s September 2001 authorization for military force against terrorism], the administration will not have to officially notify Congress. That means that the campaign in Libya can continue indefinitely.” Helene Cooper, New York Times

Mehdi Hasan gives 'War on Terror' a reality check. (1:49 video.)

Peter van Buren, active in Iraq reconstruction following the invasion of Iraq, writes about those squandered efforts in We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

        •“There were almost too many failed projects to document, though SIGIR (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) tried. What SIGIR called a ‘legacy of waste’ in an August 2010 report included a $40 million prison that was never opened, a $104 million failed sewer system in Fallujah, a $171 million hospital in southern Iraq that [First Lady] Laura Bush ‘opened’ in 2004 but that still has never seen a patient, and more, totaling $5 billion.”

        • Altogether, the US spent $63 billion on reconstruction in Iraq which “was the largest nation-building program in history, dwarfing in cost, size, and complexity even those undertaken after World War II to rebuild Germany and Japan.”

        • “As one Iraqi said, ‘It is like I am standing naked in a room with a big hat on my head. Everyone comes in and helps put flowers and ribbons on my hat, but no one seems to notice that I am naked.’”

Confession. “Somewhere between Cain and Abel, that's where we live / It's only human to take more than you give / To reach for a fix to fix to fill you up / Take away the pain, oh, but that's not love.” —Mary Gauthier, “Walking Each Other Home

Essential viewing. Watch this video (1:18) by David Wolfe showing “before and after” scenes from the warn torn city of Aleppo, Syria. (Thanks Kent.) h

The state of our disunion. This week our local paper featured a story about a donation campaign headed by a local charity (one that does great work), and supported by a major grocery store, to collect needed supplies (pencils, markers, notebook paper, etc.) for school children prior to the start of the fall term.
        I will be among those donating. But I have to confess it makes me angry that public schools must depend on charitable subsidy when money is never in short supply for warplanes that cost between $9,000-$20,000 per hour to operate.
        Can you imagine a military pilot set up at a card table at your local mall soliciting gas money

¶ “When Soldiers Come Home, Who Tends to Their Moral Injuries.Micael Bogar, Yes! Magazine

Best analysis of presidential race I have read to date. “Note that Clinton’s acceptance speech in Philadelphia included not a single mention of Afghanistan. By Election Day, the war there will have passed its 15th anniversary. One might think that a prospective commander-in-chief would have something to say about the longest conflict in American history, one that continues with no end in sight.” —Andrew Bacevich, “The Decay of American Politics,” TomDispatch

¶ This week marked the second anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American, by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Two weeks ago a mural of Brown was painted on the metal gate of a vacant storefront by artists in Trenton, New Jersey. It was painted over when some in the Trenton police force and the Trenton Downtown Association were unhappy with the mural, saying it “sent the wrong message about community and police relations.” David Foster, The Trentonian

Words of assurance. “A kind and steady heart can make a grey sky blue, / And a task that seems impossible, is quite possible for you. / A kind and steady heart, is sure to see you through. / It may not seem like very much right now, / It'll do, it'll do.” —Peter Gabriel, “That’ll Do” (Thanks Randy.)

Good long read. “ISIS Is a Symptom, Not the Cause, of the Middle East’s Disintegration,” by Patrick Cockburn, The Nation.

In a 2007 poll, Americans estimated the number of killed Iraqis at less than 10,000. However a 2015 study by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that at least 2 million people have been killed in the Iraq (1 million), Afghanistan (220,000) and Pakistan 80,000) since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. In addition, they estimate another 1.3 million violent deaths in newer conflict zones, including Syria and Yemen. —see Jon Queally, CommonDreams

Khizr Khan, the Muslim-American, who burst into the political spotlight after dramatically calling out Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention, continues to make news, though this time not a way either party prefers.
        In an MSNBC interview, Khan, who lost a son in Iraq in 2004, was asked by Chris Matthews what he thought about the multiple US military engagements in Muslim-majority countries, with renewed US bombing in Libya in the news. Khan replied that these are leaving the US in a “quagmire,” “more vulnerable,” and are creating “chaos for ourselves.”
        Not surprisingly, MSNBC didn’t include this part of the interview in the clip posted on the company’s website.
        That’s not unlike the celebrated October 2013 visit with President Obama by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. Her telling the President that “drone attacks are fueling terrorism” got little notice. Listen to Ronan Farrow’s interview with Malala about her meeting with Obama. (3:33)

According to the transparency group Airwars, July 2016 had the highest number of civilian deaths [in Syria] caused by US-led coalition since the bombing began two years ago. Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams

Preach it. “But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, / And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.” ―Edward Shillito

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “Deodorant is having a little bit of a moment. People are thinking about it more and talking about it more, and are willing to spend more. What’s really interesting to me here is people are wardrobing, which is they’re buying different deodorants for different occasions.” Sales for deodorant and antiperspirant rose to almost $4.3 billion last year, up more than 7% from the prior year. Marketplace

Call to the table.Adagio for Strings,” with scenes from the movie “Platoon.” (7:35)

Some remembrances, however painful, provide essential guidance for truth telling in the future. The second of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan exploded directly over the Urakama Cathedral in Nagasaki, a Jesuit-led congregation at the heart of Japan’s Roman Catholic population, on 9 August 1945. (Thanks Shelley.)

For the beauty of the earth.The Earth—A Living Creature." Amazing NASA Video. (1:28. Thanks David.)

Altar call. “How many times must the cannon balls fly before they’re forever banned?” Bee Gees (from 1963! Thanks Marian.)

Benediction.Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” by Emma’s Revolution with the Community of Christ. (The first few bars are rather discordant—wait for it.)

Recessional.Study War,” by Moby.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Just got back from speaking to the Baptist Student Union. They wanted me to talk about ‘seeking God.’ As one student told me, 'We just want to seek God's face and worship him.'
      “So I spoke from Hebrews 12 [vv. 18-29], where it recounts that Moses sought God on the mountain and the mountain shook. There was darkness and gloom, fire and smoke, and Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’ The text ends with, ‘for our God is a consuming fire.’
      “I told the students if they seek God, great; but they had better be careful. I've seen this God make sophomores sick, cause otherwise subdued English majors to lose control. I've seen senior marketing majors all set to graduate and pull down some big bucks meet this God and end up going to work the homeless and hungry. I've seen ROTC members meet this God and begin to question whether you can follow Jesus and be prepared to use violence at the same time. I've seen it!" —Kyle Childress

Just for fun. Legendary tap dancers gather at the Kennedy Center to honor Sammy Davis Jr. The Nicholas Brothers (Harold & Fayard), Chuck Green, Jimmy Slyde, and 'Sandman' Sims. (6:05)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Mercy’s requite,” a litany for worship inspired by Jeremiah 1:7-9 and and Psalm 71

• “In memory of Brother Roger, founder of the Taizé community in France: A meditation on tribulation and contemplation

• “Send me,” a litany for worship inspired by Jeremiah 1:7-9 and Isaiah 6:1-8

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