News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  3 July 2019 •  No. 196

Processional. Drummer Emmanuel Afolabi from Lagos, Nigeria.

Above: Lightning and rainbow, photo by Miriadna

Invocation. “Let no one lift a coin of gold and say, ‘In God We Trust.’ The shekel’s rule and the shackle’s restraint shall feel the wrath of the One who sets prisoners free. In this confidence, sing and shout together, lift every voice and sing: Proclaim liberty throughout the land!” —continue reading “Proclaim liberty,” a litany for worship for use on US Independence Day

Call to worship. “Discard your reluctance, you saints and you sinners: / Shout vowels of praise, sing consonants of delight. / On you, Dear Beloved, have I cast my care and / entrusted my fare. Let none rejoice over my sorrow; / let none reprise my grief.” “Weeping may linger,” a litany inspired by Psalm 30

Pride Month and proud nations
The difference between dignity and dominance

“. . . No other season on our calendar is more sensitive to the demands of distinguishing between dignity and arrogance—between delightfulness and hubris—as we transition at the end of Pride Month to the week of our premier occasion for national genuflecting, the US Independence Day revelry on 4 July. . . .”  continue reading

¶ “When a group of youths stood up to police raiding a popular gay hangout in New York City on the night of June 28, 1969, they had no idea where their actions would lead. ‘What I find so inspiring is that a group of people who may have been considered weak and fearful, people who turn and run at the drop of a hairpin, confounded all expectations and had the police on the run,’ said Eric Marcus, founder and chairman of the Stonewall 50 Consortium.” Jim Byers, Los Angeles Times

Hymn of praise. “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, / vast, unmeasured, boundless, free, / rolling as a mighty ocean / in its fullness over me. / Underneath me, all around me, / is the current of Thy love; / leading onward, leading homeward / to my glorious rest above.” — Simon Khorolskiy, Katie Gayduchik (violinist), “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

¶ “Nearly 1 in 5 LGBTQ people ages 13 to 24 attempted suicide in the past 12 months.” Lindsay Holmes, HuffPost

¶ “The first stirring of an LGBTQ uprising—a modest one, not a riot—in the U.S. was the formation of two groups in the 1950s that lobbied for equality, as well as acceptance for gay men and lesbians. The Mattachine Society, formed in Los Angeles, was for gay men who were arrested for their sexual activity. Daughters of Bilitis was formed in 1955 in San Francisco and provided lesbians with a social life outside of bars, as well as emotional and legal support.” Sophia Waterfield, Newsweek

Good News.

        • There were tears and raindrops and rainbows everywhere today when Taiwan became the first Asian nation with a comprehensive law allowing same-sex marriage. Lily Kuo, Guardian

   • “Botswana's High Court has overturned a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations in a landmark victory for Africa's LGBTQ movements.” Kara Fox, CNN

Left: Activist Kat Kai Kol-Kes holds a LGBTQ pride flag inside Botswana's High Court.

   • “United Methodists across the US have protested the global denomination’s crackdown on LGBTQ members in all kinds of ways. But now a group of teens in a confirmation class at a historic United Methodist church in the Midwest has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to join the church.

        “Eight teenagers, aged 13 and 14, who make up this year’s confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, stood before the congregation on Confirmation Sunday (April 28) and read a letter saying they do not want to become members at this time. . . . ‘We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision,’ the confirmation class wrote.” The congregation then gave them a standing ovation. Yonat Shimron, Religion News

 ¶ Words of assurance. “I Behold You, Beautiful One.” —Acapellaboratory and Choral Conspiracy

 ¶ “[Cole] Porter, who first hit it big in the 1920s, wouldn't risk parading his homosexuality in public. In his day ‘the birds and the bees’ generally meant only one thing—sex between a male and female. But, actually, some same-sex birds do do it. So do beetles, sheep, fruit bats, dolphins, and orangutans. Zoologists are discovering that homosexual and bisexual activity is not unknown within the animal kingdom.” —James Owen, “Homosexual Activity Among Animals Stirs Debate,” National Geographic

Confession. “Queer people know homophobia. It’s a fact of our existence. We tell our young people things get better, but the truth is more complicated than that. For all the progress we’ve made, thing are worse. . . . If #MeToo has reminded us that women alone cannot solve misogyny, the same is true for homophobia.” Charlotte Richardson Andrews, Independent

Right: Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell (holding sign), pastor of First Baptist Church, Washington, DC, was among many in different cities offering “free Mom/free Dad/free clergy” hugs during the recent Pride Parades across the nation.

¶ “The pace of change is dizzying but uneven. Anti-LGBTQ violence has increased in recent years; transgender women of color, 10 of whom have been killed so far this year in the United States, are at particular risk. Among homeless youths, 40% identify as LGBTQ. States are expanding protections that allow health-care providers and others to discriminate against LGBTQ people on religious grounds.” —Emily Douglas, “What We All Owe to Gay Liberation,” The Nation

¶ “How did a culture and identity once defined by its marginalization—the criminalization of same-sex relationships, the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness—turn into a fashion statement?—Diane Winston, “How gay rights went mainstream—and what it cost,” Washington Post

Hymn of resolution. “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” signature tune by the legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain.

Who’s the rogue nation? “Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the US government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state.” — Arundhati Roy

¶ “The term ‘rogue nation’ has come to my mind many times, such as when the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq under President George W Bush, when President Barack Obama dramatically escalated drone strikes on sovereign nations, when Trump ordered the cruise missile strikes on Syria last year and again this year, or now as the US continues its more than half a century of embargo on Cuba.

        “But my civility prevented me from using the term. The strongest language I have used against the US is: a ‘threat to global rules and norms’”. . . regarding “Trump’s appalling actions of withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the Iran nuclear deal; cutting funding to the UN, and threatening to impose more punitive tariffs on imports and abandon trade agreements with the US’ major trade partners. The US announcement last week of pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council is the latest such action.

        “Mary Robinson, a former UN special envoy on climate change, said last year that the US pullout from the Paris accord ‘renders it a rogue state on the international stage’.

        “Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, too, blasted Trump for withdrawing from the accord in an article titled ‘US a step closer to being a rogue nation’.

        “And Peter Hartcher, political and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, censured Trump for withdrawing from the Iran deal in a May 9 article, headlined ‘Donald Trump’s America has just become a rogue nation’”. Chen Weihua, The Nation/Thailand

¶ “The U.S. tried to change other countries’ governments 72 times during the Cold War.” —Lindsey A. O’Rourke, Washington Post

¶  On Monday, 6 May, the United Nations released a report saying that one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction due to climate change, “with alarming implications for human survival.” On that same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blocked an Artic Council policy statement referencing extreme polar ice melting, instead celebrating the amount of money to be made on the new shipping lane being created by the thaw, which would add dramatically to the flooding threat of rising sea levels. Rick Noack, Washington Post

¶  “US weakens first global commitment on curbing single-use plastics.” Nita Bhalla & John Ndiso, Reuters

¶  US threatens veto power on the UN Security Council resolution condemning rape as a weapon of war, demanding that the resolution’s support of “family planning” protocols be removed. Michelle Kosinski & Eli Watkins, CNN

¶  “The US has revoked the visa of the international criminal court’s [ICC] chief prosecutor in response to her intention to investigate potential war crimes by US soldiers in Afghanistan. . . . [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo said on 15 March that the ICC was ‘attacking America’s rule of law’ as he announced a policy of imposing visa restrictions on ‘individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel’”. Patrick Wintour, Owen Bowcott & Julian Borger, Guardian

The Trump Administration is refusing to endorse the “Christchurch Call,” an international agreement to combat online extremism, on the grounds that it weakens the US’ First Amendment rights. Democracy Now

The US was one of three countries [along with Ukraine and Palau] to vote against a UN human rights committee resolution condemning the glorification of “Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” CBS News

Hymn of intercession. “If the War Goes On,” by John Bell, performed by Soikles (Monica Miller) on violin.

A Pew Research poll of citizens across 25 nations revealed that 70% think the US does not takes into account the interests of other countries. Richard Wike, Bruce Stokes, Jacob Poushter, Laura Silver, Janell Fetterolf & Kat Devlin

When only the blues will do. “John the Revelator,” Larkin Poe

¶ “The United States at War: There have been only 17 years that the US has not been involved in a war since 1776”

Preach it. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: its moral values.” —French President Emmanuel Macron, remarks during the 11 November 2018 commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Stephen Moore, whom President Trump was planning to pick for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, once told a documentary filmmaker, “Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy. I’m not even a big believer in democracy. I always say that democracy can be two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.” Peter Wade, Rolling Stone

Call to the table. “Kinderszenen" No. 7, Scenes from Childhood,” by Schumann, performed by Vladimir Horowitz. (Thanks Kimberly.)

The state of our disunion. “He gave them food, he gave them water, he gave them a place to stay. . . . He did a bad thing.” —Federal prosecutor Anna Wright in her summary (virtually a quote from Matthew 25:35) of the government indictment of Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, a faith-based aid group which places water in the desert for migrants. Warren was facing a potential sentence of 20 years in prison. The trial ended with a hung jury, but the feds have said they will retry Warren. Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos

Best one-liner. “Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes

For the beauty of the earth. Rare 'rainbow' blanket octopuses caught on camera in the Philippines. (1:38 video.)

Altar call. “The only honourable course will be to stake everything on the formidable gamble, that words are more powerful than munitions.” —French playwright and essayist Albert Camus, in “Neither Victims Nor Executioners, written just after the end of World War II

For more on the topic of patriotism, see the special issue of Signs of the Times, 28 June 2017, No. 125

Benediction. “Remember, if you dare, the Jesus-named Abba is the kind of God whose movement often trespasses on religious authority, proper social standing, predictable economic forecasts and political maneuvering of every sort. There is an otherness, a wildness, one could even say a queerness to this God which does not lend itself to ecclesiastical management, cultural propriety, futures market predictions or congressional oversight.” —excerpt from “In the Land of the Willing

Recessional. “This is my song, O God of all Nations / A song of peace for lands afar and mine / This is my home, the country where my heart is / Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine / But other hearts in other lands are beating / With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.” —Finlandia (“This Is My Song”) sung by flashmob in a Helsinki, Finland train station

        The Finlandia tune was written by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in 1899, as a protest to growing censorship of Finnish society by Russia. The original piece is a longer (9+ minutes) orchestral piece, which what is now the stand-along “This Is My Song” as the final movement. Here is a full orchestral version of the complete “Finlandia” piece (with some fabulous wildlife video).  My favorite version of “This Is My Song” is an a cappella rendition by Joan Baez.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Weeping may linger,” a litany inspired by Psalm 30

Just for fun. Bill Bailey, “Minor/Major(2:43 video)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Pride Month and proud nations: The difference between dignity and dominance,” a new essay

• “North Carolina torture taxis: Commemorating the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture,” a new essay

• “Proclaim liberty,” a litany for worship for use on Independence Day

• “Weeping may linger,” a litany inspired by Psalm 30

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