News, views, notes and quotes

12 March 2015 • No. 13

Invocation. “Be humble for you are made of earth.” —Serbian proverb

Southern Appalachian mountaintops are now a bit safer. “After five years of action by Earth Quaker Action Team, PNC Bank announced a shift in its policy on March 2 that will effectively cease its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.
        “This marks a major turnaround for the nation’s seventh largest bank, which for years refused to budge on this issue. After more than 125 actions, their desire to continue business as usual proved no match for Earth Quaker Action Team, or EQAT, and our allies.
        “As more and more banks stop financing mountaintop removal, we expect the coal companies to have more trouble over the next few years securing financing for extreme extraction.” —“How a small Quaker group forced PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop removal,” George Lakey

According to a report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection employees have since 2011 been banned from using terms like “climate change,” “sustainability,” and “global warming.”

Hymn of praise. If you haven’t heard it, or need to hear it again (and maybe again and again), listen to “Glory,” by Common and John Legend, from the move “Selma,” which won the 2015 Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards and the 72nd Golden Globe Award.

Awesome. When eight-year-old Girl Scout Lily DeRosia, of Rochester, New York, heard the news that workers at a cookie factory in Louisville, Kentucky, which makes Girl Scout cookies, were being mistreated, she got her troop members and leader to sign a letter to Kellogg brand CEO John Bryant, saying “We want to sell cookies made by a company that cares about there (sic) workers.”

¶ “If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in bed with a mosquito.” —anonymous

Hard to say if this is funny or sad. “Parody of ‘contemporary’ church(thanks, Abigail)

Intercession. Shortly after this photo was taken, RJ, a member of my congregation (at right), now serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams, was taken into custody along with several others by Israeli Border Police in Hebron, Palestine, for interfering with police work (i.e., taking photos of police interaction with Palestinian citizens). All were released after an hour; but such detainments are becoming more common. That photo inspired a new poem, “For RJ: The One who shields from detainment’s constant threat.”  See this site for more information about CPT's work.

Women’s History Month is an annual recognition highlighting the contributions of women in history and contemporary society. It is commemorated in March in the US, the United Kingdom and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on 8 March. In Canada the commemoration is in October, corresponding with “Persons Day” on 18 October, marking the anniversary of a pivotal constitutional case in 1929 decision making it legal for women to be elected to the country’s Senate.

I can’t help but remember when, some years ago, my wife preached in a Baptist seminary chapel service on the school’s “Women in Ministry” day. She began by expressing thanks for the occasion but also looking forward to the day when the seminary established a “Men in Ministry” day.

Last week the US Postal Service issued a new “Forever” stamp featuring the portrait of Maya Angelou and a quote from the first volume of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

The first “International Women’s Day” was in 1911. In 1980 US President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of 8 March as Women’s History Week, saying “I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality—Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.”

It’s hard to imagine anything like this happening now in Congress. In August 1981 a bipartisan Joint Congressional Resolution co-sponsored by Sentator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Representative Barbara Milulski (D-Maryland), authorized (Public Law 97-28) and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning 7 March 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 Congress approved Public Law 100-9 designating March as Women’s History Month.

Tenth anniversary of Dorothy Stang’s martyrdom. Sister Dorothy Stang,  a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was an American-born woman who first went to Brazil in 1966, later becoming a Brazilian citizen. Over the next 40 years she built schools, established child nutrition programs, and worked with poor farmers in the Anapu region of the Amazon Forest, actively resisting illegal loggers and ranchers in their attempts to displace local communities. On 12 February 2005, while walking a dirt road on the way to a community meeting, two men assassinated her. The Roman Catholic Church later declared her a martyr.
       Following Sister Dorothy's death, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva put nearly 20,000 of the Amazon's 1.6 million square miles in the Anapu region under federal environmental protection. Brazil’s Human Rights Minister, Nilmario Miranda described her as “a legend, a person considered a symbol of the fight for human rights in [the Brazilian state of] Para.” Sister Dorothy (“Dot” to the people with whom she worked) was often pictured wearing a t-shirt with the slogan: “A Morte de floresta é o fim da nossa vida,” which is Portuguese for “The Death of the forest is the end of our life.”

¶ In 2011 the Obama administration released a report, Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,”  the first comprehensive federal report on women since the report produced by the Commission on the Status of Women in 1963.

Former President Jimmy Carter, in his 2014 book,  A Call to Action: Women, Violence, and Power, argues that the world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights.

The National Women’s History Project’s 2015 theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.”

Ain’t I a Woman? Here’s an inspiring 3-minute reenactment by Kerry Washington of Sojourner Truth’s extemporaneous speech at the May 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Confession. “Violence against women hurts everyone, including men. We invite our brothers to take up this cause, and be free from the limiting strictures of our modern definition of masculinity!” —Eve Ensler. Watch Tony Stroebel’s 2-minute video, “ManRise,” using Ensler’s text.

Words of assurance. "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world." —Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles.

¶ Look for it. “The Hunting Ground,” an Academy Award-nominated film about sexual assault on US college campuses, is now in release in selected cities.

On Monday the United Nations issued a report saying that violence against women around the world “persists at alarmingly high levels in many forms.” Among its findings is the reality that 35% of women around the world have experienced either sexual or physical violence.

Preach it. “She [the woman pursued by the dragon in Revelation 12] is a woman of power. If she were not, the dragon would not have bothered. But he persists. Her power is a threat to all that he stands for. But her trust in a God of life and love saves and sustains her. God bears her up on wings. A dance that God began with Eve continues through time.” —Joyce Hollyday, Clothed With the Sun: Biblical Women, Social Justice & Us—still the best book of reflections on women in the Bible

Lection for Sunday next. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. . . . No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me.” —Jeremiah 31:33-34

O Lord, I’ve made you a place in my heart, and I hope that you leave it alone—Greg Brown

For more on “heart religion,” see Ken Sehested’s sermon, “Religion of the Heart”  and a litany for worship, “Heart Religion."

“She marched, so I can vote. I will never not vote again.” —Krystall Leek, student at Berea College, speaking about Ann Beard Grundy who, as a Berea freshman in 1965, had participated in the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Grundy, originally from Birmingham, was a member of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham when it was bombed in 1963. The two were part of a group of Berea students and alumni who participated in the recent 50th anniversary march. Among the stories Grundy told of the 1965 trip to Selma was that their bus driver got so frightened about driving into the tense Selma atmosphere that he stopped 40 miles from the city and refused to continue, doing so only after the Berea students refused to pay him if he didn’t complete the journey. Story by Aamer Madhani, “50 year later, Selma still inspiring,” USA Today.

¶ “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” —legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead

¶ “There is Kayla Mueller’s America and there is Chris Kyle’s America and we can’t identify with both. There is Kayla Mueller’s Christianity and Chris Kyle’s Christianity and the two religions have little in common. Kyle or Kayla; who’s your hero?” —by Alan Bean, one of my favorite commentators on questions of faith and justice.

Altar call. “The test of sincerity of one’s prayer is the willingness to labor on its behalf.” —St. John Chrysostom

Benediction. “Live long and prosper” were the parting words of Mr. Spock, on “Star Wars,” played by Leonard Nimoy, with hand raised, two fingers apart, forming a “V.” Nimoy himself said the idea for this salute came from his Orthodox Jewish childhood.
        This shape of the Hebrew letter “shin,” Nimoy said in a 2013 interview as he made the famous “V” gesture, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including “Shaddai” (a name for God), “shalom” (meaning “peace” and still a common word for saying hello or goodbye), and “Shekhinah” (the shining presence of God, often thought of as a feminine presence). The hand sign—using both hands—has been used by rabbis for hundreds of years for the ritual of Priestly Blessings, performed on various Jewish holidays and other special events.

Featured this week on prayer&politiks:
•A new poem, “For RJ: Freedom from detainment’s threat,”  following her detainment by Israeli police in Hebron, Palestine
Religion of the Heart,”  a sermon based on Jeremiah 31:31-34, lection for 22 March
Heart Religion,” a litany for worship, inspired by Jeremiah 31:33-34
• “The Cost of freedom entails moral accountability: The need for truthtelling about the CIA’s torturing practices,” a newspaper op-ed

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