News, views, notes, and quotes

17 September 2015  •  No. 38

Amazing grace. A Turkish bride and groom decided to share their joy on their wedding day by inviting 4,000 Syrian refugees to eat with them and celebrate in the southern Turkish city of Kilis. Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat (at right), who got married in the province which is near the Syrian border last week, invited some of those refugees who have fled the country since the civil war which began four years ago. "We thought that on such a happy day, we would share the wedding party with our Syrian brothers and sisters.” —Raziye Akkoc, “Meet the Turkish couple who spent their wedding day feeding 4,000 Syrian refugees

Invocation. “Early in the morning we rise to greet You, O Gun Almighty. With all due reverence we bow before You. You alone are great. Mighty are Your deeds. Awesome is Your power. There is no one like You. In You do we place our trust.” —Read the entire “Let us all now pray to the Almighty Gun” prayer by David Gushee

Call to worship.Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem,” (not your granddaddy's Rosh Hashanah)

Intercession. “As For Me, My Prayer is for You —Afro-Semitic jazz, by David Chevan with Frank London and the Afro-Semitic Experience, from “The Days of Awe: Meditations for Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur

My lectionary imagination jumped the rails, enamored by this month’s confluence of Jewish and Islamic holy days. For Jews the ten “Days of Awe” began with Rosh Hashanah this past Sunday at dusk, stretching through next Wednesday’s Yom Kippur observance. For Muslims the annual pilgrimage to Mecca—“Hajj,” one of the five “pillars” of Islam, taking place this year from 21-26 September (calculated, as with Jewish holidays, by distinctive lunar calendars)—is expected to draw well over 2 million people from 188 countries. (Continue reading Ken Sehested’s essay, “Days of awe and Meccan pilgrimage.”)

Interfaith collaboration. “Advocates for Syrian refugee resettlement found unexpected allies as major Jewish groups have called on President Obama to open America’s gates to 100,000 asylum seekers from the war-torn Arab nation. The American Jewish resettlement agency HIAS has launched a petition drive calling on Obama to resettle 100,000 Syrians in the U.S., and Reform rabbis pledged to make refugee assistance a key theme for High Holiday sermons and congregational activism.”
        Thus far the US has admitted 1,500 Syrian refugees since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011. Last week President Obama pledged to up that number of 10,000. —Jacob Wirtschafter, “US advocates for Syrian resettlement find unexpected allies"

Hymn of praise. Islamic “Call to prayer—Adhaan by Ahmad Al-Nafees

“The Knotted Gun” sculpture (right), in front of the United Nations building in New York. The artist, Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, created the sculpture as a response to the killing of his friend John Lennon. It was donated to the UN in 1988 by the government of Luxembourg.

Call to confession.Lord Have Mercy—North Mississippi Allstars

Words of assurance. “The terror of God is the Risen One’s threat / to every merchant of death, every marketer’s breath, / every peddler of gun-wielding promise of power.” (Read Ken Sehested’s litany for worship, “The payback of Heaven.”)

 ¶ Muhammad, the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who unfairly treats a non-Muslim who keeps a peace treaty with Muslims, or undermines his rights or burdens him beyond his capacity, or takes something from him without his consent; then I am his opponent on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)

Can’t make this sh*t up. A company in Florida is selling a “Christian” AR-15 assault rifle with a Crusader’s cross etched on one side and Psalm 144:1 on the other: "Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle." Named “The Crusader,” the gun also features a three setting trigger control labeled Peace, War, and God Wills It. —Henry Pierson Curtis, “Assault rifle with Bible verse to repel Muslim terrorists unveiled in Apopka

¶ “We’re now averaging more than one mass shooting per day in 2015 (in the US).”  In the first 238 days of 2015, there were 247 mass shootings in the US—a “mass” shooting defined as 4+ victims. —Christopher Ingraham

Stunning stat. US military deaths since 1999: 5,273. Veteran suicides since 1999: 128,480.

¶ “In retrospect [the massacre of school children and teachers at] Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” —Dan Hodges, news commentator, in a 19 June 2015 tweet

¶ “Problem is, gun owners’ interests are represented . . . by the National Rifle Association, an extremist gang. . . . So long as the NRA has such an outsized voice in this debate, so long as politicians, unencumbered by conscience or vertebrae, tremble to its call, and so long as many of us are silent and supine in the face of that obscenity, Hodges is right.” —Leonard Pitts, “Even the murder of children is ‘bearable’
 ¶ “The untold story of mass shootings in America is one of domestic violence. It is one of men (yes, mostly men) targeting and killing their wives or ex-girlfriends or families. The victims are intimately familiar to the shooters, not random strangers.” —Melissa Jeltsen, “We’re Missing the Big Picture On Mass Shootings: Most take place inside the home

Exceptional. “The United States, according to [University of Alabama criminal justice professor Adam] Lankford’s analysis, is home to just 5% of the world’s people but 31% of its public mass shooters. Even more stunning, between 1966 and 2012, 62% of all school and workplace shooters were American.” —Sarah Kaplan, “American exceptionalism and the ‘exceptionallly American’ problem of mass shootings

¶ “Last week a police officer in London shot and killed a man. It was the first fatal shooting by British police since 2011. Police officers in the US have killed 776 people thus far this year.” —Lauren McCauley, “UK Killing by Police Underscores Depth of Crisis in US

A new study from researchers at Harvard University obliterates nearly every single National Rifle Association talking point about guns. Not only do more guns not equal less crime, but the study shows that more guns equals more crime, including more firearm robberies, firearm assaults, and homicides by firearm. —Randa Morris, “New Harvard Study Obliterates Every Single NRA Lie About Guns

The US has 4.4 of the world’s population but almost half of the privately-owned guns. Developed countries with more privately-owned guns have more gun homicides; states in the US with more guns have more gun homicides and more gun suicides. These and a host of other facts, along with visual maps and charts, can be found at “Gun violence in America, in 17 maps and charts.” —German Lopez, Vox

Preach it.Take Up Your Glock and Follow Me: Whatever Happened to Martyrdom?”  —Rev. Mark Reynolds, Shepherd’s Community United Methodist Church, Lakeland, Florida

¶ ”In the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee quietly rejected an amendment that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the underlying causes of gun violence.” National Public Radio

News you probably didn’t hear. Following this summer’s protests against police brutality, Congress approved legislation requiring local law enforcement agencies to report every police shooting and other death at their hands. —Matt Connolly, “While No One Was Looking

A few quotes on guns.
        •"If in the first act you introduce a gun, by the third act you have to use it." —Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright
        •“There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” —then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, 1967
        •“I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” —National Rifle Association President Karl Frederick, 1934
        •"More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history." —Nicholas Kristof, Thursday 27 August 2015, New York Times
        •”More people in this country kill themselves with guns than with all other intentional means combined.” —“Guns and Suicide: The Hidden Toll,” Harvard School of Health report

The Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” —Former US Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger, quoted by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, “The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment’s provision of “the right to keep and bear arms” is a subordinate (dependent) clause governed by the main (independent) clause about the need to maintain “a well regulated militia.”
        And what did “militia” mean to the framers of the Constitution? Article 6 of the Articles of Confederation had required that: “every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.” —for more information, see Navy Vet Terp, “The Second Amendment Has Nothing to Do with Gun Ownership

Call to the Table. Wouldn’t you love to come to the communion table singing “La Bamba”?
      English translation: “In order to dance The Bamba / You need a little bit of grace / For me, for you, higher and higher. . . . / By you I will be.”
       —“La Bamba,” a Mexican folk song from Vera Cruz, Mexico (made famous in the US by Ritchie Valens—it’s the only non-English language song on The Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time), is played and sung here by an international cast of musicians. Created by

Altar call. “Mama said the pistol is the Devil’s right hand.”  —Johnny Cash performing Steve Earle’s song, “The Devil’s Right Hand.”

¶ “I tried to domesticate the bullet, / To lead her to the truth, / To wash her copper with perfumes / And replace her gun powder with sweets. / But she refused to be unlocked, / And remained dripping pus, / With poison in her breath.” —“The Bullet,” poem by anonymous Iraqi soldier

Benediction. “So what I’m suggesting is that while we forge resilience about the inevitable betrayals ahead of us, try to forget that sinking feeling when you first heard the lies, misrepresentations, or tragedies of 2015. . . . Resist the notion that that’s all the world is—a series of awakenings to harsh truths. Notice instead that for every disappointment or cataclysm, there was an opening for a reaction that surprises.” —Read Abigail Hastings inaugural post on the prayer&politiks site, “The Summer of Betrayal: A roundup of things best forgotten

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Days of awe and Meccan pilgrimage: Reflections on the confluence of Jewish and Islamic holy days

• “The Summer of Betrayal: A roundup of things best forgotten,” by Abigail Hastings

• “Speak out clearly, pay up personally: The purpose, promise, and peril of interfaith engagement,” by Ken Sehested, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, and Muslim chaplain Rabia Terri Harris. Excerpted from Peace Primer II: Quotes from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Scripture & Tradition, published by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

• “The payback of Heaven,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 103

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