News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  14 April 2016  •  No. 68

Processional. “Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Osanna, Osanna in excelsis” (“Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna in the highest”) —“The Ground,” by Ola Gjeilo, performed by the Heritage Concert Choir at Western Washington University


Invocation.For the Beauty of the Earth,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Call to worship. “Creation is not simply the props and drops, / the costumes and orchestra, / the catwalks and footlights / on the stage of salvation’s drama. / Rather, creation is an active part / in history’s narration. / Without the cosmos, / Salvation’s story / cannot be comprehended.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Earth’s habitus: A meditation on creation"

This is big. “The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church's long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus' teachings on nonviolence.” Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Bono a witness for nonviolence in the Senate. “Never one for holding back on an opinion, Bono has come up with a new way of destroying Islamic State—not with bombs, but with belly laughs. The U2 singer said sending comedians such as Amy Schumer and Sacha Baron Cohen would be an effective alternative to airstrikes. Bono was speaking in front of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday 12 April, during a wide-ranging discussion on the Middle East and the refugee crisis.” The Guardian

Why U2’s Bono is #14 on Fortune magazine’s “World’s Greatest Leaders.” A video (2:55) and article by Ellen McGert. (Thanks Kevin.)

Photo: Hubble Telescope captures earth in a cradle of clouds

Can There Be a Nonviolent Response to Terrorism?” Eight practices, in this brief video (6:18) by George Lakey. (Thanks Pat.)

More than Belgium’s grief. It’s important to remember that the horrific terrorism attacks in Brussels (32 dead, 200 injured) follow deadly attacks in March in eight other cities rarely mentioned: Bamako, Mali (1 dead); Istanbul, Turkey (5 dead, 36 injured); Maiduguri, Nigeria (24 dead, 18 injured); Peshawar, Pakistan (15 dead, 30 injured); Ankara, Turkey (37 dead, 125 injured); Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast (18 dead, 33 injured); Shabqadar, Pakistan (10 dead, 30 injured); Lahore, Pakistan (69 dead, 341 injured).

Globally, more Muslims die at the hands of ISIS than do Westerners. Rose Troup Buchanan, Independent

Get schooled. 12 minutes on the successes of nonviolent struggle in overcoming repression and injustice, by Erica Chenowith.

Best one-liner humor. “It is only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there is always a way to solve problems without using violence.” (Thanks Bruce.)

China one step closer to change. “A judge in the central city of Changsha ruled Wednesday against a gay couple in China's first same-sex marriage case. Sun Wenlin, 27, brought the case against his local civil affairs bureau because it refused to grant a marriage license last summer to him and his partner, Hu Mingliang, 37. Hundreds cheered for the couple outside as they entered the court. Authorities allowed about 100 people to go inside.” Despite the defeat, some observers see this case as a step forward. Hannah Gardner, USAToday

¶ Recommended reading: “Where to Pee: Predators, Posers, and Public Policy,” commentary on North Carolina House Bill 2 (the "bathroom bill"), by Stan Dotson.

Then there’s this: better news among the bad. “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an anti-discrimination order on Wednesday protecting the rights of gay and transgender people, aligning his state on the liberal side of a political divide playing out across the U.S. South. The Democrat’s executive order also protects state employees against discrimination based on other criteria including race, religion, disability or age. It bans state agencies from discrimination, while offering an exemption for churches and religious organizations.” Reuters

A tool for prompting Earth Day commitments. Consider using in your congregation “Covenant-making on Earth Day: A sample pledge statement to encourage concrete practices to sustain the earth.

¶ “The 100 Most Beautiful and Breathtaking Places in the World in Pictures.”

Important longer read, if you want to get a rudimentary handle on the science. “Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet’s surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn’t matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong.” Bill McKibben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry”

“If the environment were a bank, it would have been saved by now.” —US Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

Hymn of praise (old hymn, new lyrics). “All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to our God with cheerful voice / Let Resurrection joy foretell, Life in the Spirit’s breath rejoice.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s new lyrics to “All People That On Earth Do Dwell

Robin Hood in Reverse: Climate Change Takes from Poor, Gives to Rich. “A new study finds that climate change is triggering a massive reallocation of resources to the world's wealthiest countries.” Nika Knight, Common Dreams

Anticipating Easter’s promise: And the desert shall bloom. Watch this video (1:01) of a “super bloom” of wildflowers in Death Valley.

More beauty of the earth. 14 second still-shots of owls in flight.

¶ “Meet the Jeans-Wearing, Nature-Loving Nuns Who Helped Stop a Kentucky Pipeline.” Laura Michele Diener, Yes! Magazine

The earth is moving. 45 seconds of photos showing plants erupting against the odds.  Wonders of the World

Protect and serve: When police protect us all. (0:38 video. Thanks Mike.)

Good news. “Payday lenders have been having a tough time in Garland, Texas. Their storefronts have closed, their gaudy signs spray-painted over in black. In recent months, about a third have left the city of 230,000, situated 18 miles northeast of Dallas. Nobody could be more delighted at their demise than Keith Stewart, senior pastor of Springcreek, Garland’s largest church.” James Addis, Christianity Today (Thanks Mike.)

Confession and assurance. “There are times when life is cruel beyond imagination and beyond explanation. At such times, we simply wrap our arms around the still-breathing bodies of those we cherish. And we pray, and we sing, and we speak tenderly through the tears, chanting aloud or silently the promise that one day, all tears will be dried; one day, all mourning will pass away; one day, all crying will cease; one day, death itself shall come undone" (Revelation 21:4). —from “Blessings, benedictions & charges,” In the Land of the Willing, by Ken Sehested

My, my. “Coal giant Peabody Energy Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday, signaling what climate advocates hope is a death knell for dirty energy. "Peabody Energy's bankruptcy is a harbinger of the end of the fossil fuel era," said Jenny Marienau, divestment campaign manager with the climate advocacy group Prupis, Common Dreams

¶ “And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County / Down by the Green River where Paradise lay / Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking / Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away.” —John Prine, Paradise (joined on this version by Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Brown and Kris Kristofferson

Remembering Phil Ochs, who died 40 years ago this week, by suicide, after struggles with alcoholism and mental illness. Still a folk icon in some circles, he wrote a number of bitingly satirical songs like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” “When I’m Gone,” and “The Cannons of Christianity,” a scathing indictment of bad faith. (“Missionaries will travel on crusades / The word is given, the heathen souls are saved / Conversions to our morality / Sigh the cannons of christianity.”) For a tribute to Ochs, see Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, “Martini Judaism: For those who want to be shaken and stirred.”

State of our disunion. “I want the meanest, toughest, son-of-a-you-know-what I can find in that role [as US president].” —Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, and an outspoken promoter of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. For more background see Bob Allen, Baptist News Global

Want more background on “The Panama Papers”? See “Mossack Fonseca: inside the firm that helps the super-rich hide their money.” —Luke Harding, The Guardian

¶ “For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bible made the list of the American Library Association’s 10 most frequently challenged books last year. The 2015 list was released Monday (April 11) as part of the ALA’s 2016 State of America’s Libraries report. It includes books that have drawn formal, written complaints from the public because of their content or appropriateness, according to the ALA.” —Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

Take this visual trip (3:09) from one meter all the way out to 10 billion light years, back again, then down to one femtometer. (That’s really, really small.) Then think, God is in it all. —The Science World

Preach it. “In every age, the Holy Spirit graces the Church with the wisdom to respond to the challenges of its time. In response to what is a global epidemic of violence, which Pope Francis has labeled a ‘world war in installments’, we are being called to invoke, pray over, teach and take decisive action. With our communities and organizations, we look forward to continue collaborating with the Holy See and the global Church to advance Gospel nonviolence. —read the document approved at this week’s Vatican conference re-examining the church’s “just war” teaching

Fascinating. Underwater artwork is helping rebuild our oceans’ coral reefs: video (1:48. Thanks Marti.)

A matter of perspective. At a recent meeting of the Native Peoples Council (NPC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “Native American leaders considered several proposals on the future of this continent's large, unauthorized European population. The elders ultimately decided to extend a pathway to citizenship for those without criminal backgrounds." Beta Minds (Thanks Betsy.)

Call to the table. “(Do we) find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground / Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down / Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground / Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down.” —“Find the Cost of Freedom,” Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Thanks Randy.)

Altar call. “Every blade of grass has its angel that whispers grow, grow.” —The Talmud

Benediction.The Peace of the Earth,” Wild Goose Worship Group

Recessional.Earth Day,” Immediate Music-Believe. (3:19)

Just for fun. Ever wondered what joy looks like in a giraffe? (0:29 video. Thanks Jeanie.)

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Let the room be filled with laud and laughter, oh people of Mercy. / Fill the air with music and merriment, with the sound of delight annulling the wail of indigence. / Praise your Maker, you wind and wave. Sun and moon and Bethlehem’s star, shout in exultation!” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Acclaim the One whose breath is your bounty,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 148

Above: Artwork by Meinrad Craighead]

#  #  #

Earth Day resources:

• “Realm of earth, rule of Heaven: Bodified faith and environmental activism

• “Heaven’s Delight and Earth’s Repose,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 145

• “Satisfy the earth,” a litany for worship on Earth Day

• “The earth is satisfied,” a litany for worship on Earth Day

• “The earth is the Lord’s: A collection of biblical texts which reveal the non-human parts of creation responding to God’s presence, promise and purpose

• “The earth is the Lord’s,” a litany for use in worship on Earth Day

ALSO featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• A new batch of annotated book reviews in “What are you reading and why

A Cuban pastor’s response to President Obama’s visit

©Ken Sehested @ Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor. Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.

Your comments are always welcomed. If you have news, views, notes or quotes to add to the list above, please do. If you like what you read, pass this along to your friends. You can reach me directly at