News, views, notes, and quotes

19 November 2015  •  No. 46

Invocation. "Malka moma” (“Little Girl”), Bulgarian folk song performed by Neli Andreeva and the Filip Kutev Ensemble.

Call to worship. “Come ye fearful people come / Cast your sighs to highest heav’n / Yet—though terror’s harvest spread, / Casting sorrow in its stead— / Still the Promise doth endure / Life abounding to secure / Come, ye thankful hearts, confess / Mercy’s lien o’er earth’s distress.” —Ken Sehested, new verse to “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Photo at right. “Toadstool. Streaks of airglow burst off the horizon amid the soft glow of Page, Arizona, some 75 miles distant,” with the Milky Way shining overhead. —David Lane Astrophotography

Good news. “On Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, during the 175th anniversary event for the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) Synod of the Northeast will clear the church’s debt of approximately $175,000 as an act of racial reconciliation.” (Thanks Evelyn.)

Congratulations to the Fellowship of Reconciliation (USA)  on their centennial anniversary! FOR is the world’s oldest multi-faith peace-building organization.

Song of praise. Sydney Carter’s “Lord of the Dance” performed by LordSong.

Left: UNICEF photo.

A retro photo of Meryl Streep is circulating on the internet, with this commentary from the famous actor:
        “This [photo, in a New York subway train] was me on my way home from an audition for King Kong where I was told I was too ‘ugly’ for the part. This was a pivotal moment for me. This one rogue opinion could derail my dreams of becoming an actress or force me to pull myself up by the boot straps and believe in myself. I took a deep breath and said ‘I'm sorry you think I'm too ugly for your film but you're just one opinion in a sea of thousands and I'm off to find a kinder tide.’”
        If you’re counting, Streep now has 19 Oscar and 29 Golden Globe nominations—both records in the acting industry.

Prayer of intercession. “later that night / i held an atlas in my lap / ran my fingers across / the whole world / and whispered / where does it hurt?  / it answered / everywhere / everywhere / everywhere.” —Somali-British poet Warsan Shire

Words of assurance. Monks at the Suzdal (Russia) Monastery singing Chesnokov’s “Mystical Sacrifice.

Uh-oh.Study: Religious Kids Are Jerks,” Bobby Azarian. “A study published in the journal Current Biology testing the behavior of Christian, Muslim, and atheist children has found that religious kids are meaner and less generous.” (Present company excepted, of course.)

Turn off the news for a minute and read this short anecdote by Naomi Shihab Nye.
        “Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: ‘If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.’ Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
        “An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. ‘Help,’ said the flight agent. ‘Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.’” —continue reading "Gate A-4"

Speaking of Nye, you’ll love this poem, “One Boy Told Me(2:37 minutes).

Then read “Christians, Muslims grieving for Paris together,” a short blog post by “Merely Me.”  (Thanks, Norman.)

Immgration again to the forefront of presidential candidates’ debate. “4 lies about immigration” is Robert Reich’s dollars-and-cents rebuttal of common “myths” about the social costs/benefits of immigrants (2:21 minutes).

¶ “When I talk to conservative Christians about their stance on a hot button issue like abortion or gay marriage, they usually quote the Bible. But when I’ve spoken to them about admitting Syrian refugees, almost none of them do.” See more about why as Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, says, “The refugee resettlement program is the least likely way for a terrorist to infiltrate the US.” Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service

Before interrogating Muslims on religiously-sanctioned violence, Jews and Christians must first come to terms with their own sacred texts, such as:
        •“Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city [which has worshiped other gods] with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.” —Moses, relaying God’s command to the children of Israel, Deuteronomy 13:15
        •“Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” —Hebrew judge and prophet Samuel, prefacing the instruction with “thus says the Lord of hosts” to King Saul, 1 Samuel 15:3
        • “Happy shall they be who take your [the Babylonians’] little ones and dash them against the rock!” —Psalm 137:9

And then there’s history like this.  “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and [we] gave the praise thereof to God.” —William Bradford, governor of the early Plymouth Colony, writing in 1637 of his Pilgrim community’s annihilation of a Pequot Indian village along the Mystic River

¶ “Army of God? 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About,” by Alex Henderson, AlterNet.

¶ “How do we stop young Muslims becoming radicalised?” is the question we now continually ask. But it’s a deeply misleading question . . . . We buy into the radicalisation hypothesis because we want evil to be mysterious and other; something that has nothing to do with us. We want to tell ourselves that we are secular and enlightened and so have no part in all of this bloodshed. It’s what people commonly do with evil – we conceptualise it as being as far away from us as possible. But if Islamic terrorism is really all about politics, then we have to admit that the long history of disastrous western interventions in the Middle East is a part of the cause of the horror that continues to unfold. In other words, we have to face our responsibility.” Giles Fraser, “It’s not religion that creates terrorists, it’s politics”

For background. Ever wondered why the jidahist group most in the news these days goes by several names, e.g., ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh? Read Lauren Markoe’s helpful explanation.

¶ “Not in my name—Muslims against ISIS.”  A group of young British Muslims have joined the fight back against Islamic State militants with a video (1:19 minutes) and social media campaign.

Allah says: “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…” —Qur’an 5:32

¶ “Paris Attack Leads to Calls for Religious Discrimination in Law Enforcement, Immigration," by Don Byrd, Baptist News Global.

¶ “The ‘war on terrorism’ is violent and punitive. The war will be won by those who are able to exact the higher price in lives and resources, by those who are able to instill the greater fear. In short, the victor in a violent war on terrorism will be the party that is most adept at inflicting terror. . . . The only peace that can come from the effort to oppose terror with terror is the peace of the graveyard.” —Lee Griffith (Griffith’s relatively-unknown “The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God” is the best book I know for its combination of analysis and theological reflection.)

¶ “Four former U.S. Air Force drone operators issued a public letter on Wednesday warning that the United States' ongoing targeted killing program ‘is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.’ The letter, addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Chief John Brennan accuses the administration of fueling ‘tragedies such as the attacks in Paris’ while ‘lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program.’” Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams

Left: World Peace prayer art by Jody Richards. The text is an adaptation by Satish Kumar of a mantra from the Hindue Upanishads.

The fear of religion’s bloodletting legacy. “Why Downton [‘Downton Abbey,” the popular BBC drama] doesn’t do God: TV chiefs ordered show’s creators to ‘leave religion out of it’ in case they upset viewers.’” Amanda Williams, Mailonline

Preach it. “If the faith doesn’t call us all to humility and release of unjustified privilege—especially over the stranger—it is not safe for our melting earth. If you are a Christian and you think that Jesus loves you more than Jihadi John, you don’t know Jesus. And, it follows, you probably don’t know much about John, either. . . . Beware a faith that fits quietly around a fist.” Gary Gunderson, “small god”

Despite being among the most repressive regimes in the world, Saudi Arabia is about to receive a $1.29 billion arms purchase of bombs and munitions from the US, one month after the US approved an $11.25 million in combat ships. According to the United Nations, the Saudi Arabia’s seven-month military assault on Yemen has already taken the lives of over 2,300 civilians, wounding nearly 5,000 others.
        Can you guess why? According to a spokesperson for the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the purchases insure “defense,” “stability in the region,” and . . . wait for it . . . “to safeguard the world’s largest oil reserves.” Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams

Lection for Sunday next. “O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for God has given the early rain for your vindication. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” —Joel 2:23-26

Just for fun. Photos of “15 woodpiles that have been stacked into gorgeous works of art.”

Call to the table.There is room at the table for everyone,” by Carrie Newcomer.

Altar call. “No one heals himself by wounding another.” —St. Ambrose of Milan

Left: Sign outside a Brooklyn, NY, café, photo by Julie Pennington-Russell.

Benediction. “It is the resurrection which is the terror of God to all who believe that death should have the final word. It is the promise of the resurrection which renders null and void the victories of all who shed blood.” —Lee Griffith

Recessional. Charles-Marie Widor, Toccata from Symphony No. 5 (6+ minutes).

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

      •“Testimony in a Time of Terror,” a litany for worship

      •“When life is violated: Grist for the contemplative mill in seasons of trouble,” a collection of quotes

      •“Blood moon arising,” a litany for worship inspired by Mark 13:24-37, Joel 2:31, Daniel 7:13, Acts 2:20, Revelation 6:12

Special resources for Thanksgiving

      •“On saying thanks,” a poem for Thanksgiving

      •“Come Ye Thankful (and Ye Cranky) People Come,” by Abigail Hastings, a Thanksgiving call to worship

      •“Why is it so hard to say thanks? 10 reasons

      •“Now Thank We All Our God,” revised lyrics

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