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Signs of the Times  •  2 June 2016  •  No. 75

Processional.Get Right With God,” Lucinda Williams.

Above: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

Memorial Day reprise

Special edition of Signs of the Times

Fellow citizens (in the US): We need to talk. Not just about Memorial Day but about an annual holiday calendar that includes no less than 13 days celebrating (directly or indirectly) a militarized history of our nation. (The annotated list is printed below.)

        This past week I’ve written two new short essays dealing with this question. The first is “Memorial Day piety: A meditation on the day’s significance.” The second is “Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse.” (Part one of a two part series title “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”) The summary paragraphs for both, with links to the full texts, are posted below.

        Ponder these things. I would love to know what you think. Post your comments, questions, and/or challenges on the “reader comments” section at the bottom of this page.

Invocation. Agnus Dei” (Georges Bizet), performed by Luciana Pavarotti.

Call to worship. “I’ll lay down my Bible / if you’ll lay down your gun / Hear my plea / Hear my plea / Hear my hopes  / For you and me / May we all join hands  / lay down our arms harmonize  / breathe as one  / May we love, love, love, love  / May we love.” —Willie Sugarcapps, “May We Love


First featured essay

"Memorial Day piety: A meditation on the day’s significance"

        My question is not whether we should mourn, legitimately and unreservedly, the loss of our war dead on Memorial Day.

        Yes. A thousand times yes. . . .

        I happen to believe that the failure to love enemies, resulting in the resort to calculated violence, is to hedge your bet on Jesus. Others will argue differently.

        So let’s be very clear about this: The disagreement between proponents of just war and those of principled nonviolence does not include competition for divine affection. God is utterly beyond such partiality, and nothing we can do will tip the scales of beloved attention. No one gets more cookies, seating upgrade or pay-for-play access to seats of power. The contrast in opinion is not a contest over who excels in moral heroism, superior courage, or intellectual rigor. —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Memorial Day piety

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Patriotic holidays. There are 13 officially-sanctioned holidays in the US annual calendar which, directly or indirectly, commemorate a militarized history of the nation.

        This does not include commemoration of the Confederate cause of the Civil War, or the birthdays of one of the Confederate leaders, in 11 Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and in Pennsylvania, where the state’s Confederate partisans are remembered. In many of these, actual observance is fading or phased out entirely. For more details, see “Confederate Memorial Day in the United States

        •Lincoln’s Birthday, celebrating our Civil War president (12 February).

        •[George] Washington’s Birthday (22 February), celebrating the Commanding General of the US Revolutionary War and first US president.

        •Loyalty Day originally began as "Americanization Day" in 1921 as a counter to the Communists' 1 May celebration of the Russian Revolution. (“May Day” celebrations actually go back to the pre-Christian era and continue as a spring festival for many countries in the northern hemisphere.) On May 1, 1930, 10,000 VFW members staged a rally at New York's Union Square to promote patriotism. Through a resolution adopted in 1949, 1 May evolved into Loyalty Day. Observances began in 1950 on April 28 and climaxed 1 May when more than five million people across the nation held rallies. In New York City, more than 100,000 people rallied for America. In 1958 Congress enacted Public Law 529 proclaiming Loyalty Day a permanent fixture on the nation's calendar.

        •Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May).

        •Memorial Day (last Monday in May).

        •Flag Day (14 June). Prior to the Civil War, the US flag was not popularly displayed but “served mostly as a military ensign or a convenient marking of American territory, flown from forts, embassies, and ships, and displayed on special occasions like American Independence day.” [Adam Goodheart (2011). :Prologue" in 1861: The Civil War Awakening, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group]

        •Independence Day (4 July).

        •Patriot Day (11 September), in remembrance of the terrorist attacks. Established by a joint resolution of Congress, 18 December 2001.

        •Constitution Day (17 September). In 1917, the Sons of the American Revolution formed a committee to promote Constitution Day. A new song, “I Am An American,” was featured at  the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Soon public media picked up on and promoted the theme. On 29 February 1952 Congress moved the "I am an American Day" observation to September 17 and renamed it "Citizenship Day.” Congress changed the name to “Constitution Day” in 2004.

        •National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day, customarily observed on the 3th Friday of September, was established by an act of Congress in 1998.

        •Columbus Day (second Monday in October), marking the start of European colonization of the Americas. Several locales in the US have begun celebrating “Indigenous Peoples Day” (though the event does not replace Columbus Day in places where Columbus Day is a state holiday). These include the state of South Dakota, Berkeley, Ca., Sandoval County and Albuquerque, N.M., Anadarko, Okla., Multnomah County and Portland, Ore., Erie County, N.Y., Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., and Olympia and Seattle and Bellingham, Wash., Lawrence, Kan.,

        •National Boss Day (16 October). Just kidding.

        •Veterans Day (11 November).

        •Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (7 December).


Second featured essay

"Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse"

        Let’s be honest. Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” is likely the New Testament’s most memorable yet most effectively ignored directive.

        US presidential candidate Donald Trump hints at the disconnect in a recent interview.

        When asked on a radio talk show to name his favorite Bible verse or story that “informed” his thinking or character, Trump’s response was (and this is verbatim):

        “Well, I think many. I mean, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And some people, look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that.” (Notice his characteristic way of saying something without quite saying it.)

        He continued, “That’s not a particularly nice thing.”

        “Not nice”? You mean there’s something “not nice” in the Bible? When asked to pick a text that informed his thinking, why go to the “not nice” part? One that Jesus contradicted? Why not mention a “nice” verse or two. —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse,” part 1 of a two part essay titled “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” 

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Hymn of praise. Paraguay's landfill orchestra plays instruments made from recycled rubbish.

The Spirit’s intercession for the world.Because I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” Amy Winehouse.

Confession.Father Forgive Us,” Armenian hymn.

Words of assurance. Agnus Dei – Gregorian Chant,” Monastic Choir of the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault.

Hymn of intercession. “Who said that everything's lost? / I'm here to offer my heart, / So much blood carried away by the river, / I'm here to offer my heart.” —First verse in English translation of “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón,” Mercedes Sosa

Preach it. “No one should dispute the valor of soldiers and sailors and airmen and women, and I certainly don’t. In fact, I’m envious, envious over the fact that we have institutions capable of calling forth the willingness to go into harm’s way for reasons beyond self-preservation. Once upon a time, the church offered a similarly compelling story, inspiring similar levels of commitment.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s Memorial Day sermon, “How long will you sit on the fence?

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

Altar call. “Many are the hearts that are weary tonight, / Wishing for the war to cease; / Many are the hearts looking for the right / To see the dawn of peace.” —refrain from “Tenting Tonight,” a Civil War era song by Walter Kittredge performed by Tom Roush

Benediction. “Into your hands we commend ourselves and those we love. Be with us still, and when we take our rest, renew us for the service of your Son Jesus Christ.” —New Zealand Prayer Book

Recessional. “Eternal Father, strong to save, / Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,  / Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep / Its own appointed limits keep; / Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, / For those in peril on the sea! Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” (aka “The Navy Hymn"), performed by the US Navy Band Sea Chanters

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Those to whom little is forgiven, love little.” —Luke 7:47

Just for fun. Listen to the a cappella music group Cantus’ rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s hit song, “It’s All Right

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Memorial Day piety,” a meditation on the function of Memorial Day

• “Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse,” part 1 of a two part essay titled “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” 

• “Agnus Dei (Lamb of God),” a poem

• “How long will you sit on the fence?a Memorial Day sermon

Recently featured

• “Memorial Day: A summary history: Why being for peace is not enough”

• “Trans-formation: Controversy over the boundary of God’s welcome continues

• “Public reasoning and ekklesial reckoning: Commentary on the Vatican conference calling for ‘spirituality and practice of active nonviolence’ to displace church focus on just war"

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