News, views, notes, and quotes

2 July 2015  •  No. 28

Invocation. “With good pleasure, in the beginning, the Beloved aspired all that now breathes. Then again, in the Lovely One, even Christ Jesus, the Wind of Heaven confounds the wail of rancor. Come, heaven! Come, earth! With mercy so tender, adopted in splendor, all bloodletting malice shall melt into praise.” (Continue reading “Good Pleasure,” a litany for worship inspired by Ephesians 1:3-14.)

“Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?” —Lily Tomlin

Just amazing. Vivian Boyack, age 91 (at left in the photo), and Alice “Nonie” Dubes, age 90, have been together for 72 years, and this past weekend they tied the knot in Davenport, Iowa. “This is a celebration of something that should have happened a very long time ago,” said Rev. Linda Hunsaker who performed their wedding. (Photo by Thomas Geyer)

The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? —Pablo Casals

“Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled there will be America's heart, her benedictions and her prayers.  But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.  She is the well wisher to the freedom and independence of all. . . . The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force . . . She might become the dictatress of the world; she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit.” —President John Quincy Adams, Washington D.C., July 4, 1821

It is a myth that “founding father” Benjamin Franklin recommended that a turkey replace the bald eagle on the first Great Seal of the US, created by the Second Continental Congress, though he did have disparaging words about the eagle. Some might say Franklin’s estimate of the eagle’s character flaws was inadvertently prophetic.
        “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
        “With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing. . . .” —Benjamin Franklin, writing from France on 26 January 1784 to his daughter Sally (Mrs. Sarah Bache) in Philadelphia

The "lost" verse of Woodie Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." "In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple / Near the relief office – I see my people / And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin' / If this land's still made for you and me."

“Our country has always held freedom in high regard, though these days the concept seems more likely championed by people who feel oppressed by their cell phone plan. . . .” —Becky Upham, “Hank III,”

The American way. “Oh, justice will be served and the battle will rage: / This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage. / An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. / 'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." —Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” (aka “The Angry American”)

Lamentation. “If we lived in a world without tears / How would misery know / Which back door to walk through / How would trouble know / Which mind to live inside of / How would sorrow find a home?” —Lucinda Williams, “World Without Tears

¶  “Unlike most countries, we have no overt national religion; but a partly concealed one has been developing among us for two centuries now. It is almost purely experiential, and despite its insistences [to the contrary], it is scarcely Christian in any traditional way. A religion of the self burgeons, under many names, and seeks to know its own inwardness, in isolation. What the American self has found, since about 1800, is its own freedom—from the world, from time, from other selves.” —Harold Bloom, The American Religion

Words of assurance. Among the memory prods in Charleston’s aftermath is the reminder about the Spirit’s lurking—about whose presence we must foster, which whereabouts we must find, if we are to hear with clarity the proffered promise:
        “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” (1 Corinthians 4:8-10, 18). —Ken Sehested

Artwork by Ricardo Levins Morales, ©RLM Art Studio

“There’s been a sea change moment out there and the issue has really come to light,” says Reggie Vandenbosch, chair of the Flag Manufacturers Association of America. “We’re just simply not going to participate in production or selling of these [Confederate flags] out of sensitivity and not wanting to create anybody any additional emotional pain.” —quoted in Gregg Zoroya and Hadley Malcolm, “Amazon, eBay pull flag sales from sites,” USA Today

“It’s not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., former Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court

“In a landmark ruling that many hope establishes a new global precedent for a state's obligation to its citizens in the face of the growing climate crisis, a Dutch court on Wednesday said that the government has a legal duty to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by 2020. The decision came in response to a lawsuit, launched in November 2013 by the Amsterdam-based environmental nonprofit Urgenda Foundation along with 600 Dutch citizens, which argued that the government was violating international human rights law by failing to take sufficient measures to combat rising greenhouse gas emissions.” —Lauren McCauley, “In Historic Ruling, Dutch Court Says: Climate Action is a Human Right”

Confession. “We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.“ —Dorothy Sayers

The coincidence of the massacre in Charleston on 17 June and the release on 18 June of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment (“Laudato Si,” Latin for “Praised Be to You,” which appears in “Canticle of the Sun” by St. Francis, the Pope’s namesake) resulted in the latter being squeezed from the news. Following are a few significant quotes.
        •”The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
        •"Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years."
        •"The idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology . . . is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit."
        •"A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system . . . due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases released mainly as a result of human activity."
        •"Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start."
       •"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."

If your primary source for public information on “terrorism” is mainstream headlines, you’d think jihadists are public enemy number one. But the 2014 Police Executive Research Forum says otherwise. “An officer from a large metropolitan area said that ‘militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens’ are the biggest threat we face in regard to extremism.'
        “Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13.5 years. In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.” —Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer, The Other Terror Threat,” New York Times

Preach it.Beatitudes,” Sweet Honey in the Rock

Overheard. Waiting in line behind a woman speaking on her cellphone in another language. Ahead of her is a white man. After the woman hangs up, he speaks up.
        Man: “I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you’re in America now. You need to speak English.”
        Woman: “Excuse me?”
        Man: *speaking very slowly* “If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico. In America, we speak English.”
        Woman: “Sir, I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak English, go back to England.”

Altar call. “‘I am wronging no one,’ you say, ‘I am merely holding on to what is mine.’ What is yours! Who gave it to you so that you could bring it into life with you? Why, you are like a man who pinches a seat at the theater at the expense of latecomers, claiming ownership of what was for common use. That’s what the rich are like; having seized what belongs to all, they claim it as their own on the basis of having got there first. Whereas if everyone took for himself enough to meet his immediate needs and released the rest for those in need of it, there would be no rich and no poor.” —Basil of Caesarea, fourth century Greek bishop

Benediction. “Time is how you spend your love.” —Zadie Smith

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Good Pleasure,” a litany for worship inspired by Ephesians 1:3-14 

• “There are more with us than there are with them,” a sermon on Elijah

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