News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  2 November 2017 •  No. 142

“All Saints Day” illustration by Martin Erspamer OSB

Processional.When the Saints Go Marching In,” The Weavers.
        The Weavers were formed in November 1948 by Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Pete Seeger. The group took its name from a play by Gerhart Hauptmann, “Die Weber” (“The Weavers” 1892), a powerful play depicting the uprising of the Silesian weavers in 1844, containing the lines, "I'll stand it no more, come what may.” In the early '50s, during the McCarthyite anti-communist hysteria, the group was blacklisted and their music banned. —see more at Wikipedia

Above: Korean landscape, photo by Jaewoon U.

Invocation. “May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, / for Thou art kind. / Eternal rest / give to them, O Lord, / and let perpetual light shine upon them.” —English translation to the title/lyrics of Edward Elgar’s “Lux Aeterna,” performed by VOCES8 (Thanks Joel.)

Call to worship. “We come again to a time when mortals / play out the battle of good and evil. / Before the goodness of the saints is delivered to us, / We must face the dark night / Don our courage / Wear it like a shield and / Say BOO! to the darkness / before it engulfs us.” —continue reading Abigail Hastings’ “Hallowed Week: A call to worship for All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day

How to think of ALL the saints. Astronomer Dorrit Hoffleit estimates the average naked eye can see 9,096 stars in the sky at night. Dr. David Kornreich, founder of the “Ask An Astronomer” service, makes a rough guess that there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe (based on an estimate of 10 billion stars in our galaxy and 10 trillion galaxies in the universe).
        Think of the saints that we know about as the former figure; the actual number, the latter.

Beauty pageant subversives. Contestants (right) in the Miss Peru 2017 beauty pageant read out facts and statistics about violence against women in Peru instead of the traditional measurements of bust, waist and hip sizes in an effort to draw attention to the mistreatment of women. (1:10 video)

Hymn of praise.I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” The Children's Choir of St. John's Episcopal Church in North Haven, CT.

Good news. Inspiring stories of places in the world committed to restricting or eliminating single-use plastics. (1:45 video. Thanks David.)

Confession. During the 1950-1953 Korean War, some five million civilians and soldiers were killed. —for more info see “Korean War,” History Channel

 ¶ “A coalition of more than 200 South Korean civic groups have announced plans to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's escalation of nuclear tensions with North Korea during his scheduled visit to Seoul next week. . . . ‘Who can possibly welcome a foreign leader who talks about the possibility of a war on their land?’ the civic groups said during a press briefing.” —Jessica Corbett, “South Koreans Plan to Welcome ‘War Lunatic’ Trump With Mass Protest,” CommonDreams

Hymn of assurance. “All around us and within us / And yet it's only at times we notice / As real as rain, and soft as stardust / We know deep down, what nobody told us / Can't you feel it ever closer / We breathe it in and we then we exhale / We touch both sides and now eternal / Standing closer to the veil.” —Carrie Newcomer, “All Saints Day” (Thanks, Mandy.)

¶ “As President Donald Trump continues to ratchet up tensions between the US and North Korea through saber-rattling on Twitter and in television interviews, the U.S. has quietly begun preparing to put nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on ‘24-hour ready alert,’ a status not seen since the end of the Cold War. . . . Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, concludes this ‘would precipitously raise the risk of accidents, strain an aging force, and ensure a destabilizing Russian response.’” Jake Johnson, CommonDreams

The US now has three carrier strike groups near the Korean Peninsula, or nearly a third of its Naval power. According to June Teufel Dreyer, a University of Miami political science professor and a leading Asia watcher, “Bringing in three carrier groups and not using them sends a bad signal.” Gordon G. Chang, Daily Beast 

¶ To be sure, there is a good bit of manufactured hatred of the US by the North Korean government. But some is fact-based. Consider:

        •During the Korean War, the US dropped 635,000 tons of bombs, greater than the 503,000 tons dropped in the entire Pacific theater of World War II.

        • The US’s intentional bombing of population centers in the North during the Korean War was a blatant war crime.

        • “What hardly any Americans knows or remembers is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.” — University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings in The Korean War: A History

        • “I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe, but I had not seen devastation until I had seen [post war] Korea.” —Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

        • General Douglas MacArthur want to drop “between 30 and 50 atomic bombs.”

        • The dictatorial regime of US-backed South Korean President Syngman Rhee carried out a massacre of tens of thousands of suspected communists. Eyewitness accounts report that US military officers helped supervise the slaughter. —Mehdi Hasan, “Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War,” The Intercept

¶ “The American air war [in Korea] left a deep and lasting impression . . . more than any other single factor, gave North Koreans a collective sense of anxiety and fear of outside threats, that would continue long after the war’s end.” —Columbia University historian Charles Armstrong, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992

¶ “In 1994, when President Bill Clinton contemplated the use of force to knock out the North’s nuclear weapons program, the then commander of U.S.-Republic of Korea forces, Gary Luck, told his commander in chief that a war on the peninsula would likely result in 1 million dead, and nearly $1 trillion of economic damage.” —Bill Powell, “What War With North Korea Looks Like,” Newsweek

Hymn of intercession.Farewell,” a song for All Souls Day, by the choir of St. Francis Church, Melbourne, Australia.

Saintliness breaks out at the beauty parlor. “I arrived for a cut at the very end of their workday and witnessed them provide a warm and very human circle of care for the only other client. This was a woman past my age who had called in a panic when her long wavy hair started coming out in handfuls as a result of her cancer treatment regimen.

        “Now this was not my first time here, and in the past I've heard these women pass on some vicious gossip and fling barbed zingers at one another with glee. There was none of that this evening. Neither was there saccharine sentiments nor empty platitudes.

        “Instead, they lovingly washed her hair and efficiently shaved off what remained, completely following the woman's lead in conversation topics, which ranged from family doings to treatment experiences and side effects to the best way to fashionize her new look. Perhaps she would wear black lipstick and go Goth or maybe wear only one of her large hoop earrings for more of a pirate statement. They cut some stretchy black silky material into a headscarf and tied it into some beautiful stylish knots.

        “And they held steady when she teared up as she faced her self in the mirror without her hair.

        “It was beautiful. They were beautiful. She was beautiful.” —Amy Smith on Facebook

¶ “I didn’t know [the US has] 1,000 troops in Niger,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Evidently, Armed Service Committee Chair John McCain was surprised and said “Americans should know what’s going on in Niger. Democratic Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer (NY) also said they were unaware. —for more see John Haltiwanger, Newsweek

¶ “Niger is the perfect example of the US state of perma-war.” “It’s the ‘war on terror’ circle of life: send troops into a country to ‘advise and assist’, troops inevitably get killed by local militants when they inevitably engage in combat missions, send more troops in to ‘fix’ the problem. Rinse. Repeat.

        “It’s not just Niger either. As journalist Nick Turse, an expert on the region who has been covering US military presence in Africa for years, writes: ‘In truth, US forces are already deployed all across Africa by the thousands. Around 6,000 troops are on the continent, conducting 3,500 exercises, programs, and engagements each year—almost 10 missions each day—from Cameroon to Somalia, Djibouti to Libya’.” Trevor Trimm, The Guardian

Short take. Wondering about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico that Trump has frequently referred to? Here’s an explanation (2:32 video) of how US tax policies created this burden. (Thanks Andrew.)

Preach it. "The whole point of Jesus's public career was not tell people that God was in heaven and that, at death, they could leave 'earth' behind and go to be with him there. It was to tell them that God was now taking charge, right here on 'earth.'" —N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus

Left: Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj.

Can’t make this sh*t up. “[A war on the Korean peninsula] would be terrible, but the war would be over there, it wouldn’t be here.” —Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, NBC interview

Call to the table. “Performance without rehearsal. / Body without alterations. / Head without premeditation. / I know nothing of the role I play. / I only know it's mine. I can't exchange it. / I have to guess on the spot / just what this play's all about. / Ill-prepared for the privilege of living, / I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands. / I trip at every step over my own ignorance. / I can't conceal my hayseed manners. . . .” —listen to a reading of Wislawa Szymborska’s “Life While-You-Wait” (2:34 video. Thanks Karen.)

The state of our disunion. Greg Poppovich, legendary coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, speaks eloquently: “We still have no clue of what being born white means.” —Sport Illustrated (2:18 video. Thanks Aline.)

For the beauty of the earth. Scrap metal sculpture artist John Lopez. (2:57 video. Thanks Amanda.)

This year’s “National Organ & Tissue Donor Sabbath” observance is 10-12 November. For more information visit Donate Life for congregational resources.

Altar call. “The difference between the Gospel written and the lives of the Saints is the same as the difference between music written on a page and music played out loud.” —St. Augustine

Benediction. “I know your life / On earth was troubled / And only you could know the pain / You weren't afraid to face the devil / You were no stranger to the rain / Go rest high on that mountain / Son, your work on earth is done." —“Go Rest High Upon That Mountain,” Vince Gill, Alison Krauss & Ricky Skaggs

Recessional.When the Saints Go Marching In,” Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Session Band.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Teach your children well. For they are living messages to a lineage you will not see; to a future beyond your horizon.” —continue reading “Teach your children well,” a litany inspired by Psalm 78

Just for fun.Voice recognition technology . . . in Scotland.” (Thanks David.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Teach your children well,a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 78

Eucharistic conventions: Why we practice these (somewhat) odd manners at the Lord’s Table
All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day

• “Hallowed Week: A call to worship for All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day,” by Abigail Hastings

• “All Saints,” an All Saints Day call to worship and pastoral prayer, Nancy Hastings Sehested

• Seven-year-old Sydney reading the Beatitudes at Circle of Mercy Congregation

• “All Saints Day,” a litany for worship

• “For All the Saints: New lyrics for an old hymn

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