News, views, notes, and quotes

6 August 2015  •  No. 32

Invocation. With haggard hearts each voice / imparts this plea for constancy. / Draw near, dispel confounding fear, / with Heaven’s clemency. / Each tongue, by supplicating lung, / invoke bright morning’s rise! / Through darkest night let love’s Delight / condole all mournful eyes. (Continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Draw Near.” )

Marvel in the stunning visual effect of reflective photography, like the one at right by Arty Ali. A search of “reflective photography” yields a number of sites. My favorite is “One Hundred Remarkable Examples of Reflection Photography.”

Call to worship. Watch James Taylor perform “Shed a Little Light” with the (South Carolina) Low Country Singers, to mark, mourn, transpose and transfigure the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

The man who stopped the desert. “Yacouba Sawadogo is an exceptional man—he single-handedly managed to solve a crisis that even scientists and development organizations could not. The simple old farmer’s re-forestation and soil conservation techniques are so effective they’ve helped turn the tide in the fight against the desertification of the harsh lands in northern Burkina Faso.” —Sumitra, “Meet Yacouba Sawadogo—The Man Who Stopped the Desert

Left, photo by Andrea Borgarello/TerrAfrica.

More remarkable news on the lgbt front. Last week the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders, though the new policy exempts church-sponsored local units, allowing them to maintain the restriction. The move was supported by 79% of the Scouts’ national executive board, composed of 71 civic, corporate and church leaders.
        •In related news: A New Jersey jury found a gay-to-straight conversion therapy organization guilty of consumer fraud in state Superior Court. Three gay men and two parents sued JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), saying it made gross misrepresentations in the sale and advertisement of its program and that it constituted an unconscionable commercial practice.
        Also related news: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a groundbreaking ruling protecting gays and lesbians from employment discrimination.

Prayer of confession. “When I closed my eyes so I would not see, my Lord did trouble me. When I let things stand that should not be, my Lord did trouble me.” —Susan Werner. Listen to the full song, “Did Trouble Me.” This has become a favorite in our congregation's worship.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing: 70th anniversary. It’s hard to say precisely how many people died in atomic bombing of Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945). Each city’s population was uncertain, and the bomb blasts and resulting fires incinerated scores of bodies. The figures most widely used are 60,000-80,000 immediate deaths in Hiroshima, with tens of thousands more dying in the months to follow as a result of serious injuries and radiation poisoning. In Nagasaki, at least 40,000 died instantly, another 10,000-20,000 dying from injuries in the following months. Long-term fatality estimates reach as high as a quarter million.

Keep in mind, though, that the earlier firebombing of Tokyo killed an estimated 100,000 people in one night, the deadliest single bombing raid of the war, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“‘My God, how many did we just kill?’ The day Hiroshima was obliterated 70 years ago, through the eyes of the bomber crew – and the few who survived,” an hour-by-hour account of 6 August 1945 of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie, Daily Mail.

Ranking American military and political leaders’ criticisms of the atomic bombings:
        • “[I]n being the first to use it, we . . . adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” —Admiral William D. Leahy, President Truman’s Chief of Staff
        • “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war.” —Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet
        • “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it. . . . [the scientists] had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it.” —Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander U.S. Third Fleet
        • The use of the atomic bomb "was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion. . . ." Rear Admiral L. Lewis Strauss, special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy from 1944 to 1945 (and later chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission)
        •”[H]ad we been willing to wait, the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials.” —Ernest J. King, commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet and chief of Naval Operations
        • “General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [speaking of the atomic bomb]. I had a long talk with him today, necessitated by the impending trip to Okinawa.” —Weldon E. Rhoades, General Douglas MacArthur’s pilot
        • “[W]e didn't need to do it, and we knew we didn't need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn't need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.” —Brigadier Gen. Carter W. Clarke, the officer in charge of preparing intercepted Japanese cable summaries in 1945
        • "[I]t wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." —Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe

Post just-war theory. “There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn't bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders.” —US Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who designed and implemented the massive bombing campaign against cities in Japan.

“Thomas Merton and the Original Child Bomb” is one of a group of what Merton called “anti-poems,” this one spurred by news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This site has a link for a 27+ minute audio rendition, beginning with the original news broadcast of the bombing of Hiroshima by President Harry Truman, along with several pieces of music. A remarkable listening experience. Consider using it as a guided meditation.

Left: Atomic bomb-defaced angel sculpture at the Urakami (Roman Catholic) Cathedral, Nagasaki, Japan. The Cathedral, filled with worshipers at the time, was near ground zero.

Censoring film of atomic bomb’s effect. “In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan sixty-six years ago this week . . . the United States engaged in the airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. . . . The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for twenty-five years.
        “’I always had the sense that people in the Atomic Energy Commission were sorry we had dropped the bomb,’ said  Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the US military film-makers in 1946. ‘I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn’t want those [film] images out. . . . They didn’t want the general public to know what their weapons had done—at a time they were planning on more bomb tests.’” —Greg Mitchell, “The Great Hiroshima Cover-up: How the US hid shocking footage for decades

Make time for these four brief profiles by Dan Buttry on “Read the Spirit” site: On the Korean slave laborers who were killed in Hiroshima; Japeses painters Iri and Toshi Maruki, who created 15 wall-sized paintings of the Hiroshima aftermath; US Army Air Corps Chaplain George Zabelka, whose parishioners included the crews of Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, the B-29s that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and Sadako Sasaki and the “peace crane” story

Right: "Sadaku and the Thousand Cranes" sculpture by Daryl Smith, Seattle, Washington.

The US has 18 Trident (“Ohio-class”) submarines. Each can launch nuclear missiles with the explosive equivalent 5,000 times the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. After the first sub’s missiles are unleashed, the next 17 simply bounce the rubble.

Other anniversaries:
        • Name that invasion. “A century ago, American troops invaded and occupied a foreign nation. They would stay there for almost two decades, install a client government, impose new laws and fight insurgents in bloody battles on difficult terrain. Thousands of residents perished during what turned out to be 19 years of de facto U.S. rule.” —Ishaan Tharoor, “100 years ago, the U.S. invaded and occupied this country. Can you name it?”
        • Voting rights. 6 August is the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation that literally required the spilling of blood, most notorously on "Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama. The American Civil Liberties Union has a brief “Voting Rights Act” timeline, which concludes with recent state efforts to scale back accessibility to the polls. Significantly, this past Wednesday a federal appeals panel overturned a strict voter identification law in Texas, saying that it discriminated against black and Hispanic voters, violating the ’65 Voting Rights Act.
        • Last month marked the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre—declared a genocide by the International Court of Justice—when more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnians, mainly men and boys, were killed in and around the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War.

Left: “Mothers of Srebrenica prayer” at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial.

Lection for Sunday next. “Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with [the Beloved]. Don’t even hang around people like that.” —Ephesians 5:6-7, The Message

This is what worship is for. “It is not sufficient to discuss the present crisis on the informational level alone, or seek to arouse the public to action by delivering ever more terrifying facts and figures.  Information by itself can increase resistance, deepening the sense of apathy and powerlessness.  We need to help each other process this information on an affective level, if we are to digest it on the cognitive level.” —Joanna Macy, Despair and Empowerment in a Nuclear Age

My favorite piece of musical satire. “No one likes us—I don't know why / We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try / But all around, even our old friends put us down / Let's drop the big one and see what happens.” —Randy Newman, “Political Science

Just for fun: Classical music with a comedic kick. The Salut Salon quartet.

Preach it. “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. . . . Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.  We know more about war than know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” —General Omar Bradley

Closing hymn. “And finally brethren after while, the battle will be over. For that day when we shall lay down our burdens, and study war no more.” —Moby, “Study War

Benediction by Victor Hugo (at right).

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “The melody of restful hearts,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalms 46 and 130

• “Draw Near,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 130

• “Amnesty,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 130

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