News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  3 March 2016  •  No. 61

Processional.I Want Jesus to Walk With Me,” Fannie Lou Hamer.

Right: This lavender labyrinth, in Germany, was developed by Christa Wendling in 2005. It is a replica of the one laid in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France in 1220.

Invocation. “We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.” —Angela Y. Davis

Call to worship.Woke Up This Morning,” Fannie Lou Hamer leading group singing.

Lent’s threat is to our self-made delusions. Mixed martial arts fighting (MMA, aka, no-holds-barred cage fighting) is among the most savage sporting phenomena in our culture. Yet a recent comment by former MMA female champion Ronda Rousey after her surprising loss to a competitor, is instructive for understanding Lent’s interrogation of our inventive persona habits:
        “In the medical room, I was sitting in the corner, and I was like, ‘What am I anymore if I’m not this [the champion]?’ And I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself in that exact second. Like what do I do anymore? And no ones gives a sh*t about me anymore without this.” —Rousey speaking on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” reported in USAToday

Good news. “A bipartisan group of governors from 17 states has pledged to accelerate their efforts to create a green economy in the US by boosting renewables, building better electricity grids and cutting emissions from transport.” The states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. These states are home to around 40% of the US population. The Guardian

The image at right is a drawing by Gabe Harper a photograph made by William Smith of Fannie Lou Hamer speaking outside the Capitol in Washington DC on September 17, 1965, first printed in "Hospitality," newsletter of the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia.

Born to sharecroppers in 1917 rural Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer grew up in cotton fields. She made a fateful decision, in 1962, to attend a meeting about African American voter registration. That cause became a life commitment, working the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helping found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, among many other involvements. Despite her limited education, she was among the most eloquent voices for freedom within the civil rights movement. And singing was always part of the way she moved in the world.

¶ “Fannie Lou Hamer never recovered from the beating she suffered in the county jail in Winona, Mississippi. A blood clot eliminated vision in one eye. Severe damage to her kidneys shaved decades off her life. The sadistic brutality Hamer and her friends endured in Winona beggars comprehension unless you understand the times.” —continue reading Alan Bean’s  “‘Songs got us through’: Fannie Lou Hamer in Winona.”

Watch this video (3:40) of Hamer testifying on 22 August 1964 before the Democratic National Convention’s credentials committee, challenging the legitimacy of Mississippi’s all-white Democratic delegation to the Convention. —PBS American Experience, “Freedom Summer"
        •You can watch the entire “American Experience Freedom Summer” 2-hour film.
        •President Lyndon Johnson was so threatened by Hamer's testimony that he called an impromptu press conference to preempt news coverage of her testimony. The plan backfired—all three major television networks aired Hamer’s testimony that evening.
        •Engraved on her tombstone is her most memorable refrain: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

¶ “8 historic women who pioneered the Civil Rights Movement,” photos and brief summaries. —Yohana Desta,

Hymn of praise.This Little Light of Mine,” Fannie Lou Hamer leading singing.

Practicing praise. Neuroscientists know that expressing gratitude is good for your health. “Fad diets aside, we all know the basic formula for greater physical health—eat less junk and exercise more. The same can be said for greater happiness. Sure mental health is hugely complex, but the research on how to promote basic, day-to-day well-being couldn't be clearer—just cultivate gratitude.” Jessica Stillman, Menu Inc.  (Thanks, James.)

As only McFarrin can do it. “Musician Bobby McFerrin uses the pentatonic scale to reveal one surprising result of the way our brains are wired. You will be intrigued by how humans process thoughts and think.” (3:05. Thanks Naomi.)

Extraordinarily good news. “My vote for this Lent’s saint of the season is 8-year-old Amelia Meyer (watch this 0:39 video) of Kansas City. Amelia, who’s battling brain cancer, was selected by the Make-a-Wish Foundation to fulfill a dream-come-true desire. But instead of a Disney World escapade, she wanted to “take care of the world” by gathering with her friends to pick up litter in her city’s parks.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “No resurrection by proxy: What 8-year-old Amelia Meyer has to teach us about Lenten arrangements that lead to life’s flourishing

For the beauty of the earth. National Geographic video (1:51) of “The President,” one of the world’s largest trees. (It has an estimated 2 billion leaves.)

Confession.Oh Lord, You Know Just How I Feel,” Fannie Lou Hamer.

The state of our disunion. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has never in 10 years spoken a word from the bench during oral arguments of cases before the court. He broke that silence Monday to indicate his discomfort with taking away “the Second Amendment right to own guns” from a man convicted of violent domestic violence. Laura Clawson, Kaily Kos

History we still don’t know. “In 1958, James Hanover Thompson [then 8 years old] and his friend David Simpson [7 years old]—both African-American—were accused of kissing a girl who was white. They were arrested, and taken to jail. Prosecutors sought a stiff penalty—living in reform school until they were 21.”

¶ “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism.” —Robin Diangelo, The Good Men Project (Thanks, Alan.)

This 2-minute dialogue from TV’s “black-ish” sitcom sums up what needs to be heard if black lives are to matter.

¶ “To survive, you must tell stories.” —renowned Italian novelist, literary critic and philosopher Umberto Eco, who died last week

Satire from The Onion. “According to a report published Thursday in the Journal Of Applied Psychology, the act of getting out of bed in the morning dramatically increases the risk of things becoming even worse.”

Here’s a trend to applaud. “At least 85 of America’s top colleges are now endorsing the idea of emphasizing community involvement over personal success in their admissions policies. A new Harvard Graduate School of Education [‘Turning the Tide’] report is basically saying the best way to succeed for students who are applying to college is to relax, and be nicer to your family and neighbors.” —Terry Turner, GoodNewsNetwork

Left: Ricardo Levins Morales, ©RLM Art Studio.

¶ Powerful spoken word performance. “Indifference,” by Brook van der Linde. (3:08. Thanks, Bruce.)

Words of assurance. “And I’ll rise up / I'll rise like the day / I’ll rise up / I'll rise unafraid / I'll rise up / And I’ll do it a thousand times again / And I’ll rise up / High like the waves / I’ll rise up / In spite of the ache / I'll rise up / And I’ll do it a thousands times again / For you.” —Andra Day, “Rise Up

Oscars. Chris Rock’s 10-minute opening monologue was widely anticipated, given the controversy over the fact that no African Americans were nominated for an Oscar award. Rock jumped on it right out of the gate—and did a stunningly funny  job (despite a misbegotten swipe at Asian Americans)—proving again that humor’s sharp edge makes for a better scalpel.

More Oscar news. The most poignant moment in the Oscars show was Lady Gaga’s emotively-charged rendition of “Til It Happens to You” (a nominee for Best Original Song, written by Diane Warren) from “Hunting Ground,” the documentary movie about rape on college campuses. (Both Gaga and Warren are sexual assault survivors.)
        Midway through the song, the stage curtain in back lifted and some three dozen survivors of sexual assault joined her on stage, each with a phrase like “not your fault” or “survivor” written on their forearms. As the group exited the stage, Brie Larson, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Room,” the film about a woman held hostage for seven years, hugged every one of them. 

Sexual assault occurs on average every 107 seconds  in the US, and the vast majority of victims are women. 18.3% of females, and 1.4% of males, are raped at some time in their lives. Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. The good news is that sexual assault has decreased by more than half since 1993.
        •Worldwide, at least one in three women have been beaten or sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, and most of the abusers are family members.
        •Every day in the US more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
        •Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Preach it. “In the rule of St. Benedict, the momenta mori [reminder of one’s mortality] . . .  challenged me to incorporate the awareness of death into my daily living, for that is what it really amounts to. It isn’t primarily a practice of thinking of one’s last hour, or of death as a physical phenomenon; it is a seeing of every moment of life against the horizon of death, and a challenge to incorporate that awareness of dying into every moment so as to become more fully alive.” —“Learning to Die,” Bro. David Steindle-Rast (Thanks, Deborah.)

Call to the table.I’m Going Down to the River of Jordan,” Fannie Lou Hamer.

Good question. “Every notice how journalists always ask how Bernie will pay for free college, but never ask how we will pay for endless war?” —from the internet

Altar call.Precious Lord,” Fannie Lou Hamer.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “‘Behold, I am doing a new thing, beyond your wildest dreams and favored calculations!’ In forgiving, we do not forget; we remember in a different way. Violation cannot be undone. But with time, wisdom, and care of a Good Shepherd, its poison can be drained, its tear stitched, its trauma calmed, its power annulled.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Remembering in a different way: A meditation on communion, forgiveness and reconciliation's labor, inspired by Isaiah 43:16-21

Benediction. "Salvation does not divide. Salvation connects, so that one sees oneself in others and others in oneself. . . .” —novelist James Baldwin

Recessional.I Want Jesus to Walk With Me,” Marion Williams.

Just for fun. “Simon Beck (2:10 video) has an incredible passion and talent for creating elaborate snow murals by taking one step at a time. What started out as just a fun way to exercise, later became a unique art.” (Thanks, Andrew.)

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Right: Linocut art ©Julie Lonneman

Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Remembering in a different way: A meditation on communion, forgiveness and reconciliation's labor, inspired by Isaiah 43:16-21

• “No resurrection by proxy: What 8-year-old Amelia Meyer has to teach us about Lenten arrangements that lead to life’s flourishing

Resources for Lent

• “Raucous: God’s mutiny against Lenten tedium and patriotic pablum,” a poem

• “Fasting: Ancient practice, modern relevance

• “Wilderness: Lenten preparation: A collection of biblical texts that speak of wilderness

• “Lent is upon us,” a liturgy for Lent

• “Deepening the Call: A wilderness fast opposing a “Desert Storm,” a Lenten essay protesting the 1991 Gulf War

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