News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  11 April 2019 •  No. 190

Processional.The Soundmaker,” electrifying acoustic guitar performance by Rodrigo y Gabriela. (Thanks Tom.)

Above: Sunset on Sugar Ridge Road, Ennis, TX in bluebonnet season. (Getty Images)

Invocation. “Oh, Strong Refuge, incline your ear to the clamor of children and all of weary voice. Hasten now, all you whose life is spent with sorrow, you of bone-wasting days, of sighing weeks and storm-tossed years. Come to the Sheltering Presence of the One who knows, The One who tapes your photo to Heaven’s refrigerator door.” —continue reading “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31

Special issue

"The world's worst humanitarian crisis"

        The news was easy to miss. I saw it in several media, but never “above the fold” or in the opening lineup of topics for cable news shows. And there is reason to debate how significant the news is, depending on your level of political optimism or pessimism.

        But the fact that Congress recently voted to exercise its never-before-used War Powers Act to cut off US funding for the Saudi-led war in Yemen is at least unusual. The face that both the House and the Senate approved the measure is significant; though the margin in the Senate makes it unlikely they can override an anticipated veto by President Trump. —continue reading “The war in Yemen: Why it matters

Call to worship. “With feet-wearied hope doth my voice still rejoice.  / Incline us, consign us, to steadfast Embrace. / With glad songs of vict’ry, from the formerly vanquished, / let the festal procession loot the treasury of fear.” —continue reading “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

Hymn of praise. “When I come to die, / When I come to die, / When I come to die, / Give me Jesus.” —“Give Me Jesus,” Calvin Carter

By the numbers. The war in Yemen, which multiple international authorities describe as currently the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, has caused untold suffering.

        The war is directly responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 15,000-60,000 people since 2015.

        An estimate 85,000 children have died from starvation and easily preventable diseases; another 1.8 million under the age of five suffering acute malnutrition. Rick Noack, Washington Post

        “Of the nearly 29 million people in the country, about 22 million — nearly 76 percent of the population — need some form of humanitarian assistance. Among them, 16 million don’t have reliable access to drinking water or food, and more than 1 million Yemenis now suffer from cholera.” —Alex Ward, “Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe, in one chart,” Vox

¶ “Yemen crisis: Why is there a war?” —BBC News

Confession. Of a former US Air Force drone program technician. “I consider drones to be terror.” AJ+ video (2:24)

¶ “When a Saudi F-15 warplane takes off from King Khalid air base in southern Saudi Arabia for a bombing run over Yemen, it is not just the plane and the bombs that are American. American mechanics service the jet and carry out repairs on the ground. American technicians upgrade the targeting software and other classified technology, which Saudis are not allowed to touch. The pilot has likely been trained by the United States Air Force.

        “And at a flight operations room in the capital, Riyadh, Saudi commanders sit near American military officials who provide intelligence and tactical advice, mainly aimed at stopping the Saudis from killing Yemeni civilians.” Decian Walsh & Eric Schmitt, New York Times

Hymn of supplication. “By night we hasten in darkness / to seek for the living water / Only our thirst lights us onwards.” —"By Night", Jacques Berthier

¶ “The war in Yemen is a humanitarian disaster and a strategic failure, with precisely the forces the [US] Administration says it opposes—Iran, jihadists, separatists—gaining ground on the back of the bankrupt Saudi-led war strategy.”  David Miliband, former British foreign affairs secretary, Guardian

MSNBC, the nominally liberal 24-hour cable news channel, has yet to cover the Saudi-led, US-financed war in Yemen in 2019. From July 2017 to July 2018, the news channel’s stories mentioned Stormy Daniels 455 times with zero mentions of Yemen. Adam Johnson, Common Dreams

Words of assurance. “Morning by morning my Sovereign awaits my wakeful embrace of the dawn. My ears rise, eager, despite my heart’s meager consent to the summons of grace. Make our tongues worthy—make them constant and true—to sustain the weary with a word.” —continue reading “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

¶ “CNN has established that the weapon [which struck a school bus full of children] that left dozens dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors. (Photo above: Charred remains of the school bus struck by a US-made bomb dropped by a Saudi war plane. On the right is a bomb fragment notes its manufacturer.)

        “The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market—this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb—killed 97 people.

        “In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over "human rights concerns."

        “The ban was overturned by the Trump administration's then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2017.” Nima Elbagir, Salma Abdelaziz, Ryan Browne, Barbara Arvanitidis and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

US drone strikes in Yemen have killed more than 1,000 people, most in the last three years. New America

¶ Listen as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer argues with Sen. Rand Paul, who opposes US funding of the war in Yemen, saying a lot of jobs would be lost if the US stopped supporting the war. (0:38 video)

Professing our faith. In her book Christianity After Religion, Diana Butler Bass notes that the English word believe comes from the German word, belieben, which is linked to the word for “love.” Rather than a truthful idea or opinion, “believe” is more akin to something cherished, something trustworthy, something worthy of devotion.

Right: President Trump, seated next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, holding up a poster showing how many jobs were created from the money Saudi Arabia was spending to buy US weapons. Photo by Shealah Craighead, White House.

Hymn of resolution. “Take Me to the Water (to Be Baptized),” Darrell Adams.

Short story. “The Deaf Princess.” The amazing tale of Princess Alice, the deaf British royal who sheltered Jews in her home during the Holocaust.  Accidental Talmudist (2:40 video. Thanks Connie.)

Hymn of intercession. “The ends of earth are in thy hand, The sea's dark deep and far-off land. And I am thine! I rest in thee. Great Spirit, come, and rest in me.” —Marty Haugen, “The Lone Wild Bird

Word. “The only clear line I draw these days is this: when my religion tries to come between me and my neighbor, I will choose my neighbor. . . . Jesus never commanded me to love my religion.” —Barbara Brown Taylor

Preach it. “The War Prayer,” by Mark Twain, presented as an animated film by Markos Kounalakis. Twain’s work is a short story written in the heat of the Philippine-American war of 1899-1902 offering a poignant reflection on the double-edged moral sword implicit to war. (14:02 video. Thanks Randy.)

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Listen to this brief (32 seconds) commentary by Senior White House advisor Stephen Miller (Trump’s “Director of White Supremacy”). Miller, by the way, is the great grandson of refugees seeking asylum in the US from anti-Jewish persecution in Belarus.

Call to the table. "Imagination is better than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work." —Mary Oliver

The state of our disunion. “The 2019 World Happiness Report says that Finland remains the happiest country on Earth for the second year in the row, while the U.S. drops to No. 19, its worst ranking ever (it was No. 18 in 2018 and No. 14 in 2017).” Grace Dobush, Fortune

The most poignant combination narrative and photos of the effects of the war in Yemen: “The Tragedy of Saudi Arabia’s War,” written by Declan Walsh, photos by Tyler Hicks, New York Times

Lenten instruction. “How does silence affect the brain?” Bright Side (1:15 video. Thanks Henna.)

Good news for gardeners. “State lawmakers in Florida have told cities they must respect citizens’ property rights, and seemingly even more basic right to grow their own food. They just passed a bill ‘prohibiting local governments from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties.’” returntonow  (Thanks Tom.)

Genuine sports hero. “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar auctions off NBA championship rings and other memorabilia for STEM education.” CBS News

Best one-liner. “We must address the question of responsibility for one of the greatest American foreign policy disasters of the twentieth century." —Lt. General H.R. McMaster, former Trump Administration national security advisor, in his 1997 book, "Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam"

For the beauty of the earth. The amazing world of deep sea creatures. BBC

Altar call. “Come you masters of war / You that build the big guns / You that build the death planes / You that build all the bombs / You that hide behind walls / You that hide behind desks / . . . I think you will find / When your death takes its toll / All the money you made / Will never buy back your soul.” —Bob Dylan, “Masters of War

Benediction. "I said: what about my eyes? / God said: Keep them on the road. / I said: what about my passion? / God said: Keep it burning. / I said: what about my heart? / God said: Tell me what you hold inside it? / I said: pain and sorrow? / He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” —Rumi

Right: Destruction caused by Saudi airstrike in Yemen-Yahya Arhab-EPA.jpg

Recessional. “Let us agree to work while it is day. The night is coming when no one will be able to work!—English translation of lyrics in “Ngatitenderane,” performed by Phillip Mudzidzi, pastor, peace activist and conflict transformation trainer in Zimbabwe.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script, using 8 voices, to tell aloud John’s resurrection account.

Just for fun. Generic Northerner terrorizing London by saying “hello.” (1:39 video. Thanks Vic.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

The war in Yemen: Why it matters," a new essay
• “Palms, Passion, Politics and Prayer,” a Palm Sunday sermon
• “Mutinous lips,a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118
• “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31
• “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a
For Maundy Thursday
• “Wash your feet,” a Maundy Thursday litany for a foot washing service
• “Bounty and abundance,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 116
• “Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script, using 8 voices, to tell aloud John’s resurrection account

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