News, views, notes, and quotes

15 October 2015  •  No. 42

Invocation. “I could not move against this wind if I did not pray. / And all that is said of me that is untrue / would make lame my gait if I / could not free myself from / the weight of other's / malice. —Rabia of Basri (c. 717-801), among the most influential female Islamic saints and a central figure in the Sufi tradition

Left: Calligraphy by a.levant (deviant art)

Call to worship—salsified Beethoven. Beethovan’s 5th Symphony, Sinfonia Cinco Salsa arranged by Sverre Indris Joner.

If you open only one link on this page, this should be it. American rapper Prince Ea, “Why I Refuse to Let Technology Control Me(3+ minutes).

New painting (right) by John August Swanson. “Psalm 67: Our God has blessed the earth, our common home, with a wonderful harvest!” ©John August Swanson

¶ “The award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is, alas, as much a eulogy as an accolade. Certainly the Tunisian coalition of labor unions, business, lawyers and human-rights activists deserves the award for managing to turn their country’s “Jasmine Revolution” away from the brink of civil war and preserving a glimmer of hope for democracy.
        “The Nobel committee has a long tradition of awarding the prize to institutions, individuals or groups for the nobility of what they represent rather than for the efficacy of what they did.” Editorial Board, New York Times
        The quartet comprises four organizations: the Tunisian General Labor Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. The Nobel Committee emphasized that the prize “is awarded to this quartet, not to the four individual organizations as such.”

Hymn of praise.Country Girl,” Carolina Chocolate Drops

Vermont rabbi selected as “Honorary Comedic Advisor to the Pope. ”In the lead up to Pope Francis’ visit in September, the US Pontifical Mission Societies invited any and all to donate a joke, using the contest to raise money for three of its mission projects. On 5 October Rabbi Bob Alper was named the winner out of the 4,000+ submissions. —Go here to hear Alper deliver his winning lines. For more background, see Steve Lipman’s “No Joke: A Rabbi Is The Pope’s Official Funny Man.”

When the military self-blesses and Fox News blames atheists for criticism. Sign on the left at the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, Hawaii. —“Marine Corps Base Under Fire for ‘God Bless the Military’ Sign

Good news. “History was made in South Africa today, when the synod of what was once probably the most conservative church on the planet, the Dutch Reformed Church, (NG Kerk/ DRC) in an overwhelming majority, voted in favor of ordaining gay ministers and blessing same sex unions.” Melanie Nathan blog

Confession. "We've become, now, an oligarchy instead of a democracy," former US President Jimmy Carter told Oprah Winfrey in an interview excerpt released 27 September. "I think that's been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards to the American political system that I've ever seen in my life."

State of our union. “Baby Blues” cartoon dad, speaking to his son:
        “Hammie, as you grow up you have to decide if you’re going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.”
        Hammie: “Oh.” Then continuing: “Which one pays better?”

¶ “In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether ‘we, the people’ is a moral compact embedded in a political contract or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.” —Bill Moyers, “The Great American Class War: Plutocracy Versus Democracy

Resource for your church. Each fall the Children’s Defense Fund offers materials (Christian and multifaith versions) to local communities of faith for planning a “Children’s Sabbath” observance. It’s free—you only have to register.

And then there was one. For the past 4 months, the US, Somalia and South Sudan (the globe’s newest country) had one thing in common: Withholding ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose 25th anniversary was last November.
        Then, South Sudan signed on as a signatory in May. Last week, Somalia did the same, becoming the 196th of the 197 UN member states to ratify the treaty.
        The treaty, which promotes a variety children’s human rights, was negotiated during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and signed in 1995. But such treaties require a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate to become law. (Not likely to happen soon.)
        The principal hurdle to US ratification is that some states allow children under 18 to be sentenced to life-without-parole for certain criminal convictions. And, of course, some claim the treaty would permit children to disobey their parents.

Send in the clowns! As of August “Argentina has a new law for treating children in hospitals that requires doctors to literally send in the clowns. The groundbreaking law—the first in the world—for Argentina’s largest province, Buenos Aires, was inspired by the 'laughter therapy' of US physician Hunter 'Patch' Adams.'” (Robin Williams played the lead role in the "Patch Adams" movie.) —Kamilia Lahrichi, “Argentinian law makes laughter, bonding best medicine

Left: photo byKamilia Lahrichi

Bombs and balm. “Recently declassified documents confirmed what many had long suspected, that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet ordered the 1976 assassination of former diplomat Orlando Letelier, along with his colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffit, in Washington, DC. This news is of especially personal significance.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s new blog post, “Bombs and balm: Remembering Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffit

Chilean poet and musician Victor Jara was one of Pinochet’s victims. His alleged killer, Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez, a former Chilean army lieutenant, has been living in the US since 2012. In April of this year a US District Court in Florida ruled that Barrientos must stand trial in 2016 on claims of torture and extrajudicial killing. Listen to one of Jara’s songs, “Manifiesto.”

¶ “The Worst Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard Of: The Story of the Transpacific Partnership.” Robert Reich gives a wonderfully concise analysis of economic matters in a way we can understand (2+ minutes).

Words of assurance. “One day we’ll wake to remember how lovely we are.” —Bruce Cockburn, “Wait No More

This will get you off the couch. The Swiss-based Top Secret Drum Line performs a feast for eyes and ears (6+ minutes).

Intercession. Jewish Cantor Azi Schwartz singing “prayer for the dead” at Ground Zero in New York City, 25 September 2015.

When did “Kumbaya” become such a bad thing? “Writing in The New York Times in 2010, [Columbia University’s Samuel G.] Freedman noted that ‘Kumbaya’ is actually a soulful cry for divine intervention on behalf of oppressed people. ‘The people who were crying, my Lord were blacks suffering under the Jim Crow regime of lynch mobs and sharecropping.'" —for more fascinating background on the song, see Linton Weeks, National Public Radio
        Michael E. Ross, writing in The Root in 2008, observes that "Derision of [Kumbaya] and its emotional foundation has become a required sign of toughness and pragmatism in American politics today, and this is especially true since the September 11 attacks."
        Some recent examples:
        •"If you're looking for somebody that's going to say, 'Hey listen we're not going to make it hard on you, it's all going to work it out, and it's just, you know, Kumbaya, ' I'm not your guy.’" —former presidential candidate Rick Perry
        •“Singing ‘Kumbaya” is not a foreign policy strategy.” —former presidential candidate Herman Cain
        •"I don't think that anybody expects Washington to be a campfire where everybody holds hands together and sings 'Kumbaya.' That's not what the nation's business is about." —former White House press secretary Jay Carney

There are many big-name recordings of “Kumbaya,” given its popularity in the folk music revival of the ‘60s. A less known recording (and arrangement) is by the “Voices of Zimbabwe.”

More language larceny (when faith language gets mangled in popular usage). “I want to apologize for allowing my emotions to control my actions in a negative manner. I also spoke to the cooler, apologized personally, and he’s forgiven me as Christ forgives all.” —Pittsburgh Pirates’ player Sean Rodriguez, on Twitter, for getting ejected in the National League wild-card game against the Cubs and taking his frustration out by using a water cooler as a punching bag. (USA Today)

Just for fun. Rare 1962 video footage of a young Willie Nelson.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “In the book by his name, Job is addressed directly by the Lord God: ‘Gird up you loins, oh human one! I have questions for you. See if you can answer.’” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s litany, "Gird up your loins," inspired by Job 39-42

Preach it. “Hagar’s story [Genesis 16:1-16, 21] is prominently located in the early parts of our text because God wants us to know that in the beginning not only was there the word, not only did God create the world, but in the beginning God saw, heard and looked after people like Hagar. Hagar sees God face to face and doesn’t die. Hagar names God El-Roi, meaning “you are a God who sees.” Hagar is really the first theologian of the Bible. Sarah and Abraham fumble and stumble in God’s midst; Hagar boldly stands in the presence of God.” —Elijah Zehyoue, a pastoral resident at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, “#SayHerName: A shoutout to my sisters in the wilderness

Call to the table. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” —C.S. Lewis

Hymn of commitment. “I then shall live as one who’s learned compassion. / I’ve been so loved, that I’ll risk loving too. / I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges; / I’ll dare to see another’s point of view. / And when relationships demand commitment, / Then I’ll be there to care and follow through.” —lyrics by Gloria Gaither, sung to the “Finlandia” tune by Jean Sibelius

Benediction. “Christ have mercy on us” (above). Text of this litany, and a Spanish translation in graphic design, are posted here.

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

•“Gird up your loins,” a litany for worship inspired by Job 39-42

•“Bombs and balm: Remembering Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffit,” a new blog post

•“Christ have mercy on us,” a litany for worship by Nancy Hastings Sehested

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