News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  21 January 2016  •  No. 55

Processional.Africa,” by Toto, by the Angel City Chorale, which begins with hand percussion mimicking a passing thunderstorm. (Thanks, Naomi and Geoff.)

Invocation. “Fill my heart with song and / Let me sing for ever more / You are all I long for / All I worship and adore.” —7-year-old Angelina Jordan, from Norway, singing “Fly Me to the Moon

Right: Photo by wittap

Somebody ought to inform the Holy Spirit about this heretofore unknown lease arrangement. “Our side, the conservative side, needs to reeducate its people that we own the entire [biblical] tradition." —Representative Dave Brat (R-VA), responding to President Obama’s quoting of Scripture during a 18 November 2015 news conference in response to Republican resistance to accept Syrian refugees. —see Jordan Fabian, The Hill

Reverence in a gym. You’ve never seen a dance video like this one from Revere Dance Studio in Cincinnati. (Thanks, Mike. 4:29 minutes)

The final tally is in: 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history—by a record-breaking margin. On Wednesday, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the official record for last year's runaway temperatures, an average of 58.62 degrees Fahrenheit (14.79 degrees Celsius). That's 1.62 (F) degrees hotter than any average year in the 20th century. "It's getting to the point where breaking records is the norm," Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told the Associated Press. —Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams

Hymn of praise.Let My Prayer Arise,” Russian Orthodox chant.

Confession. All of us, law enforcement and non-law enforcement, carry with us implicit biases. We react differently to a face that looks different from our own. We have to stare at that and own that." — James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial ceremony, Monday 18 January 2016

Words of assurance.It is Well With My Soul,” arrangement and 4-part a cappella harmony by Bailey Rushlow.

Dr. King would be especially pleased to know this. The New Baptist Covenant, “a movement [of some 30 Baptist bodies] founded by former President Jimmy Carter to unite US Baptists across racial and other divides in service to the poor, is among 16 social justice initiatives to watch in 2016 cited by the Center for American Progress (CPA). “They have tackled predatory lending, assistance for formerly incarcerated family members, food inequality, and literary skills training for disenfranchised communities.” —Bob Allen, Baptist News Global 

King holiday aftermath. “It’s become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King’s birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about ‘the slain civil rights leader.’ The remarkable thing about this annual review of King’s life is that several years—his last years—are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole. . . .
        “An alert viewer might notice that the chronology [of TV newsreels] jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn’t take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever. Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they’re not shown today on TV. Why? It’s because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.” Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, FAIR

In 1962, Crayola renamed its “Flesh” crayon color as “Peach” in an attempt to . . . well . . . make room for 70% of the global population.

According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the number of white Christians has dwindled to 46% of the US population, down from 55% in 2007 and 70% in 1984. National Journal

In 1999 the Gallup polling company used a special research procedure to determine the most admired individuals of the 20th century. One bit of that research is especially intriguing: The longer Martin Luther King Jr. lived, the less popular he became. In 1963 King had a 41% positive and a 37% negative rating, in 1964 it was 43% positive and 39% negative; in 1965 his rating was 45% positive and 45% negative; and in 1966—the last Gallup measure of King using this special procedure—King’s popularity was 32% positive and 63% negative. —information from Frank Newport, “Martin Luther King Jr.: Revered More After Death Than Before”

This is the most compelling invitation to examine white privilege I’ve ever seen: “Dear White America,” by George Yancey.

¶ Watch “Do black lives matters to white Christians,” a new 1 minute video by Sojourners

¶ “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” —Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
        The above quote comes to mind after SC Governor Nikki Haley’s comment to reporters the day after she delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address: “We’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.”
        Even granting that Haley’s comment was strictly in the context of legal immigration matters, it’s still disingenuous. For instance, what about:
        •The Naturalization Act of 1790, which extended citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person. . . .”?
        •Or the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882?
        •Or the Immigration Act of 1917, which banned immigration from East Asia and the Pacific?
        •Or Ozawa v. US, the 1922 Supreme Court decision which declared that Japanese immigrants could not be naturalized?
        •Or US v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the 1923 high court ruling which said people from India—like Gov. Haley’s parents—could not be become naturalized citizens? —this list of cases is from Leonard Pitts, “Haley’s fairy tale ignores our history,” Miami Herald

Pitts’ commentary (above) continues: “What makes Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions on Muslims troubling is not that they represent the coming of something new, but the return of something old, a shameful strain in the American psyche that we have seen too many times before. It is not a deviation from America, but the very stuff of America, an ugly scapegoating that has too often besmirched our character and beguiled us away from our most luminous ideals.”

Preach it. “W.E.B. Du Bois famously wrote in 1903: ‘The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.’ And we know that it is still a horrifying problem of the twenty-first century, along with the gender line, the sexual orientation line, the immigration line, the religious line, the economic line, the class line. The lines are drawn along the ancient human problem of entitlement, with one group feeling entitled to have power and control over another group. The problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of the past centuries, the problem of the power line. I’ve found myself on both sides of that line, at once powerful and then powerless. But in prison, it was clear that I was on the side of the line of privilege and power.” —read Nancy Hastings Sehested’s sermon, “When the wine runs out,” a sermon on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday

¶ “I am not sure that I will have words adequate to express myself, so let me allow the psalmist to say it:
      “’I will always hope / And praise you ever more and more / My mouth shall declare your justice / Day by day your salvation / Though I know not their extent.’ (Psalm 71:14-15)
      “I realized something the other day: If I am going to give God thanks for my life, as it is today, that means I am thanking God for all that has brought me to this place and time in my life, for the total journey of my life. How can I make sense of that? How do I sort that out? To sort out the light and dark, the wrong turns and good choices, the sorrow and joy, the loss and grief along with the love and comfort, the memories: wonderful, horrible, bittersweet, etc. And to thank God for all of it!? . . . With the psalmist I can only say, ‘I know not their extent.’” —letter from a friend in prison

Don’t know whether to laugh or cry. On Wednesday, 13 January, the Republican-controled House of Representatives voted to overturn a ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency concerning federal authority enforcing clean water standards. Then, on Saturday, 16 January, President Obama signed Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s request for an emergency declaration clearing the way for federal assistance to the residents of Flint, which is undergoing an unprecedented crisis due to lead in the city’s water system.

Something creative you can do. To counter the resistance to receiving Syrian refugees (30 of 31 Republican governors, plus one Democratic, have publicly stated their refusal our friends at the US Fellowship of Reconciliation have launched a creative campaign of sending pillow cases with the phrase #GiveRefugeesRest to governors and to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
        • Here’s a brief but powerful #GiveRefugeesRest” video (1:24 minutes) reading of Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on a bronze plaque on the pedastal of the Statue of Liberty in the New York City harbor.
        •For more information, see “How pillows can change the Syria refugee narrative,” Anthony Grimes, Waging Nonviolence

Amazing news. Brownfield Baptist Church in the tiny town of Brownfield, Alberta (population: 15), is hosting a Syrian refugee family.

These photos of immigrants, from the earliest years of the 20th century, have just been digitized by the New York Public Library. They are a reminder of the added “otherness” which shapes our national identity. More than 12 million immigrants passed into US society via Ellis Island in the upper New York bay. (Thanks, Henry.)

If you want concise historical background to US immigration policy, here’s the best thing I’ve seen: “Watch how immigration in America has changed since 1820,” Alvin Chang, Vox. (Thanks, Allen.)

At right is the #GiveRefugeesRest pillowcase painted by Craig Spencer, a member of Bainbridge Islanders for Inclusion, for whom the plight of immigrants has a special history. It was in early 1942 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, consigning citizens of Japanese descent to concentration camps. The first of those incarcerated were from Bainbridge Island, Washington. Spencer’s painting is a take on the 15th century icon, variously known as "The Trinity" and "The Hospitality of Abraham," depicting the scene in Genesis 18 where “the Lord” appeared to Moses under the oaks of Mamre in the guise of three travelers. Numerous variations have since been produced.

¶ “No defensible moral framework regards foreigners as less deserving of rights than people born in the right place at the right time.” Alex Tabarrok, “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely,” The Atlantic

Call to the table. “Crowded House has re-released their song Help is Coming as part of a global campaign in aid of the refugee crisis. Written in 1995 and released in 1999, it has been made a "worldwide priority" by Apple's iTunes as part of a Save the Children campaign. English actor Benedict Cumberbatch introduces a video for the campaign, which also features the song.”

Altar call. “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” Elvis Presley.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “O child of consecrated lips and covenant voice, / relinquish your fear! / You shall not be put to shame. / Your Refuge is secure. / It is you, O child of destined grace, / who will utter the Word that will shatter all enmity.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Mercy’s requite,” a litany for worship inspired by Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71

Just for fun. “HEAVEN – Following the untimely death of David Bowie, God, the almighty, all-knowing deity and Creator of Heaven and Earth, has announced the final lineup of his much-anticipated supergroup, Rock Gods. ‘Yeah, man! I am super stoked on this,’ said God to a group of reporters gathered outside the pearly gates. ‘I just finished up receiving six months of guitar lessons from Leadbelly and wanted to seriously pursue this music thing, so I selected some of my favorite musicians to help out. . . .  A lot of people don’t really know that I have a pretty eclectic music taste . . . they think I just bump hymns all day,’ He Who Built All Things noted.” —The Hard Times

Benediction. “To suceed in life you need three things: a backbone, a wishbone, and a funny bone.” —country music start Reba McEntire

Recessional.Come Away With Me,” Norah Jones.

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “When the wine runs out,” a sermon on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday by Nancy Hastings Sehested

• “Mercy’s requite,” a litany for worship inspired by Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71

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