News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  4 August 2016  •  No. 82

Processional.Now the Powers of Heaven,” Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir.

Above. Perseid meteor shower, photo by Cody Limber, 2013.

Invocation. “Christ is the one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” —St. Bonaventure

Call to worship. “Let the weak say I am strong / Let the poor say I am rich / Let the blind say I can see / What the lord has done in me.” —Soweto Gospel Choir, “Hosanna”

¶ “In a gesture of solidarity following the gruesome killing of a French priest, Muslims on Sunday attended Catholic Mass in churches and cathedrals across France and Italy.” NBC News (1:37)

Hymn of praise. “My grateful heart, so filled with years of living. / Memories flow by me like petals on a stream. / My grateful heart forgives so many sorrows, / Brings peace that lasts forever, / Illuminates the dream.” —Threshold Choir, “My Grateful Heart.”
       The Threshold Choir is a network of some 150 a cappella groups, primarily women’s voices, who mission is to sing for and with those in hospice care.

¶ “The George W. Bush administration embarked on a five-year campaign focusing on voter fraud and managed charges against all of 120 people nationwide. One study found 31 cases of voter impersonation nationwide in elections since 2000. That’s out of more than 1 billion votes cast.” —Asheville Citizen-Times editorial, 2 August 2016

This is amazing. “In the last 10 days, courts have issued six major decisions against GOP-backed voting restrictions in five different states.” Ari Berman, The Nation

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision striking down North Carolina’s voter restriction legislation is especially accusative, saying the legislation is marked by “racially discriminatory intent. . . . We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern NC history” and that the law targeted minority voters with “almost surgical precision.” —Asheville Citizen-Times editorial, 2 August 2016

Read about the “Garden of the Righteous” in Tunisia which memorializes Muslims who have risked their lives to save Jews and others from terror.” —Robert Satloff, “How we honor Muslims who stand up to terror

Confession. “One of the defining features of living in a putatively classless democracy, as has often been observed, is a constant feeling of status anxiety. In the absence of a clearly delineated hierarchy, we determine where we belong by looking above, at those we resent, and below, at those we find contemptible.” —Hua Hsu

St. Isaac the Syrian (aka St. Isaac of Nineveh, at right) was a 7th century monastic and theologian of the inner life and ascetic practice, born in the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula (in what is now Bahrain, where the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is stationed). Once appointed bishop of Nineveh, he lasted only five months before returning to a hermit life.

Much has been made of the line in Michelle Obama's Democratic National Convention speech about the White House being built by slaves. (Commentator Bill O'Reilly, straight-faced, assured his listeners that these laborers were well-fed and housed at government expense.)
        You can read more about this—and a longer history of racial relations in the US with the White House as the narrative pivot—in Clarence Lusane's The Black History of the White House, including the fact that the day in 1901 after President Theodore Roosevelt had dinner with Booker T. Washington (then deemed the safest of African American leaders because of a shared commitment to segregation) what until then had been the "Executive Mansion" was formally re-named "The White House."

Chances are you heard Rev. William Barber’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. (You can watch it here. 10:43). Word for word, it may have been the most stirring of four days of speeches (excepting, maybe, Khizr Khan’s challenge  to Donald Trump. 6:03.)
        What you may not know is that Barber’s closing refrain, “Revive Us Again,” was a direct quote from the final verse of the 1863 revivalist hymn by W.P. Mackay: “Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love; May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah thine the glory. . . .”
        This conversionist theme, long a suspect topic in cultured company, reminds me of Dr. King’s persistent refrain—“America, you must be born again”—especially near the end of his career as it became more clear that the structures of injustice went well beyond segregation.

¶ “So, a Muslim-American couple of uncommon valor may play a crucial role in bringing down Donald Trump. God has a great sense of humor.” —Jeffrey Goldberg on Twitter

Of all the overlooked items in this year’s presidential nomination conventions, nothing more threatens the prospect of peace in the world’s most dangerous region that this. “Both Republicans and Democrats Went Backward on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Now What?” by Sam Bahour and Geoffrey Lewis, Forward.
        The Republican party platform reads, “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier.” On the Democratic side, “Clinton supporters rejected an effort to amend the platform which would call for ‘an end to occupations and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.” Both positions are “out of line with international law and dozens of United Nations resolutions” and “also totally out of sync with US foreign policy.”

¶ “Of the 2,472 delegates at the [Republican National] convention, only 18 of them were black, the lowest percentage in over a century, according to History News Network and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.” —quoted in Bill Moyers & Michael Winship, “Donald Trump’s Dark and Scary Night,” CommonDreams

Urban artscape! Philadelphia’s amazing outdoor murals. CBS Sunday Morning (5:46. Thanks Abigail.)

Left. Meg Saligman's “Common Threads,” one of many amazing murals in Philadelphia, reflects the links between the past and present and across cultures.

Words of assurance.Just the Way You Are.” Husband enlists a flash mob to sing to his wife, who has MS, on their wedding anniversary. (Thanks Anne.)

¶ “Americans overestimate the terrorist threat emanating from refugees. When asked to estimate the number of refugees charged with terrorism since 9/11, only 14 percent say it’s fewer than five, while 28 percent estimate it to be 100 or more. The actual number is 3.” Shibley Telhami, Brookings

¶ There have been 998 mass shootings since Sandy Hook. Only 4 involved Muslims. 998 involved males. But yeah, must be a Muslim problem, not a male violence problem. —Mother Jones

¶ “A new exhibit in Austin, Texas examines a little-known chapter in the state's history, a time when Texas Rangers and white, civilian vigilantes massacred hundreds—if not thousands—of Mexican Americans or Tejanos between 1915 and 1919 in what historians have called some of the worst state-sanctioned racial violence in the US.” Cindy Casares, Latina (Thanks Charles.)

Hymn of intercession. “All my life I've been waiting for / I've been praying for / For the people to say / That we don't wanna fight no more / There will be no more wars / And our children will play / One day.” —Matisyahu, “One Day

¶ “The lovely true thing about America even in the age of Trump” by Garrison Keillor is more than worth the effort.

Preach it. An interview on NPR Weekend Edition (24 January16) with Bruce Lisker who at 17 was framed for his mother’s murder and who was exonerated in 2009 after 26 years in prison. When asked about how he negotiates anger, he said:
        “Yeah, that's going to come up, isn't it?  I don't do recrimination, I don't do bitterness, I don't do carrying that around because that would damage me. And I came up with something that I repeat as often as I have a voice: It's impossible to travel the road to peace unless you first cross the bridge of forgiveness. And the only hope of peace and happiness that I have is to, the minute something like that comes up, and it does, forgiveness is not a light switch, it's a dimmer, and somebody keeps sneaking over and turning it up—but you have to be mindful, you have to not go to the fear, not go to the anger, not go to that side but go to the love of yourself, of your family.” —read more of Abigail Hastings’ sermon, “Resilience Mojo for the Bonobo Year

Legendary jazz and pop singer Sarah Vaughan (left) was honored this year on a “Music Icons” commemorative stamp by the US Postal Service.

Call to the table. “Be my love, for no one else can end this yearning / This need that you and you alone create / Just fill my arms the way you've filled my dreams / The dreams that you inspire with ev'ry sweet desire.” Sarah Vaughan, "Be My Love"

Best one-liner. “Assuming one is against police when they’re against police brutality is like assuming one is anti-parent when they’re against child abuse.” —Rosemary Jones on Twitter

For the beauty of the earth. Perseid Meteor Shower 2016. (5:03)

¶ “Olympians Without Nations: First-Ever Team of Refugees Heads to Summer Games.” Christopher Zumski Finke, Yes!
            Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini (right) fled war in her home country in August 2015, and boarded a tiny dinghy in Turkey with 18 other refugees. When the engine stopped working and the dinghy began to take on water, Mardini, her sister and another refugee got into the water and pushed the boat across the Aegean Sea for more than four hours, until they reached Lesbos. In 2012 she represented Syria in the World Swimming Championships. The 18-year-old now lives and trains in Berlin.

Altar call. “Faith steals upon you like dew: some days you wake and it is there. And like dew, it gets burned off in the rising sun of anxieties, ambitions, distractions.” —Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

Benediction. “So let us persevere in the pace we have kept, laying aside every fear, looking to our Pioneer, who for the joy set before him disregarded all shame, that every lame and languishing name be ransomed and reclaimed from death’s grievous and groanful domain. —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Faith is contagious,” a litany for worship inspired by Hebrews 11

Recessional.Windsor’s Toccata,” performed by Olivier Latry. (Thanks Naomi.)

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Peace is not the silence of the sepulcher, drowning sad-soul songs of lament. Peace isn’t passive. It’s not always nice or good-natured, cheerful or charming, winsome or quiet or sweet. Prophecy that provokes no crisis, asserting no claim or prompting no offense, is a liturgy deaf to Redemption’s resolve, inflated with pious pretense. —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Peace, peace, but there is no peace,” a litany for worship inspired by Luke 12:49-53 & Jeremiah 6:13-15

“Secret Book” mural (left) by Joshua Sarantitis, located on a building near the Free Library of Philadelphia, conveying the expansion of imagination by reading.

Just for fun. “Air Canada announced this morning that as of 2017, passengers will be required to pay an extra fee to transport any emotional baggage they happen to be carrying with them onto their flight.” Sophie Kohn, CBC Comedy (Thanks Joe.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

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

• “Peace, peace, but there is no peace,” a litany for worship inspired by Luke 12:49-53 & Jeremiah 6:13-15

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