News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  10 October 2017 •  No. 139

Processional.Grace,” early American melody, performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus the day after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Above: Centuries old juniper tree in the Canary Islands, molded by trade wind. Photo by Eckhard Pecher.

Invocation. “"Something's your vocation if it keeps making more of you." —character in Gail Godwin’s novel “Evensong”

Congratulations ICAN! “The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for drawing attention to the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of using nuclear weapons and for its efforts in a nuclear treaty, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Friday.
        “ICAN, which was founded in Australia, is based in the offices of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. It acts as an umbrella organization for 468 non-governmental organizations, including peace, rights and development groups, which are all trying to push for global nuclear disarmament.” —for more see Tara John, “5 Reasons Why ICAN Won the Nobel Peace Prize," Time

Right: Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) receives a bottle of champagne from her husband Will Fihm Ramsay (r) next to Daniel Hogsta, coordinator, while they celebrate after ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Call to worship. “Be forewarned, you nation of frivolous piety: You who turn the Most High God into a mascot for your charade of innocence while deceitfully invoking the Sovereign’s blessings on your affairs.” —continue reading “Nation of frivolous piety,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 99 & Isaiah 1:15

Los Angeles is the most recent (and largest) city in the US to declare 9 October as “Indigenous People’s Day” instead of or in addition to “Columbus Day.” To date, four states and 55 cities and counties have approved such a measure. —see the list at Jennifer Calfas, Time

¶ “Columbus Day as a national, and international, phenomenon reflects a much larger dynamic that promotes myriad myths and historical lies that have been used through the ages to dehumanize Indians, justifying the theft of our lands, the attempted destruction of our nations and the genocide against our people.” —Russell Means & Glenn Morris

Hymn of praise. “Holy Spirit, / Giving life to all life, / Moving all creatures, / Root of all things, / Washing them clean, / Wiping out their mistakes, / Healing their wounds, / You are our true life, / Luminous, wonderful, / Awakening the heart from its ancient sleep.” —“Spiritus Sanctus,” Hildegard von Bingen, performed by Lumina Vocal Ensemble

¶ “Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.” —Christopher Columbus

¶ Watch this video (3:38) surveying the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

¶ “If you want to read about a European pioneer on Columbus Day, learn about Bartolomé de las Casas. His story is one of unfolding repentance over the course of his life in regard to treatment of the indigenous population of the Spanish conquest of the ‘New World.’” —continue reading “Witness to villainy: An excerpt from Bartolomé de las Casas’ documentation of Spanish conquest in the Americas

Hymn of supplication.La Paz de la Tierra/The Peace of the Earth,” a traditional Guatemalan blessing arranged and performed by Marty Haugen and Marc Anderson (sung first in Spanish, then in English).

        Men: What good can come from such vile remembrance? Can we not safely and how then can we live with such terrible knowledge?
        Women: We can live because the truth unknots the cords of enmity. But first, a NO has to be spoken with clarity, a renunciation has to be made, before a YES can be asserted, before an affirmation can be announced. —continue reading “Limb by limb: Repenting and repairing a legacy of violence against women,” a litany for worship

October is “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” An international coalition of faith based groups and non-governmental organizations are sponsoring “Speak Out Sabbath13-15 October, encouraging faith groups to give focused attention to domestic violence. Worship resources available. Watch this brief (1:09) video.

¶ “Timeline of Legal History of Women in the United States.” —National Women’s History Project

¶ Judges 19—the Bible’s most brutal chapter. “But as [Phyllis] Trible reminds us, even the best English translations cannot do justice to the original Hebrew, where all of the verbal forms and the object in this statement are written in feminine gender. Literally, if awkwardly, translated it becomes “And all who saw her said, ‘SHE was not, and SHE was not seen such as this from the day that the people came up out of the land of Egypt.’” In other words, the unnamed woman [of Judges 19], the one with no status and object of unspeakable terror, is at the center of this story demanding our attention.” —continue reading “She was not: Judges 19: The Bible’s most vividly brutal story and why we must read and remember it,” a sermon on domestic violence

Words of assurance.What a Friend We Have In Jesus,” Alabama.

The Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), approved by the United Nations in 1968 and then extended indefinitely in 1995, is a multilateral treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons including three elements: (1) non-proliferation, (2) disarmament, and (3) peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Above: U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses bomber

       • Nine countries possess nuclear weapons: United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. Only the first five have signed the NPT. The US and Russia have 93% of these weapons.

        • ”Fact Sheet: Who Has Nuclear Weapons and How Many Do They Have?—Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News

        • One Ohio-class US nuclear submarine (the US has 14) carries 24 Trident II ballistic missiles, each of which splits into eight independently-targeted nuclear warheads.

        • The US is planning a $1.2 trillion upgrade of its nuclear weapons program. Doing so will likely provoke a new nuclear arms race with Russia and China.

        • Currently there are 15,000 nuclear weapons, 9,400 active in military arsenals, 4,000 in a state of constant readiness.

        • At the height of the Cold War the global stockpile of nuclear weapons was 40,000+. The negotiated reduction is good; but that’s a bit like saying you used to have 40,000 hammers in your workshop but now only 15,000.

        • The largest US weapon would kill 1.4 million within the first 24 hours; the largest Russian weapon, about half that many. Many millions would die in the weeks and months after.

        • Today’s strategic nuclear weapons are between 6 and 333 times more powerful than the bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

        • As few as 100 nuclear bomb explosions would create a “nuclear winter,” sending enough ash into the air to block sunlight and dramatically lower temperatures, eventually destroying most life forms.

        • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in July 2017 to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty by comprehensively prohibiting nuclear weapons. 122 nations voted in favor; the Netherlands voted against; Singapore abstained; and all nine nuclear powers (and many of their allies) refused to take part in the negotiations.

        • Nuclear Weapons 101.” —Physicians for Social Responsibility

        • It’s not widely known that the US has never adopted a no-first-use policy regarding nuclear weapons.

Left: Painting by Jeffrey Robin

Two overlooked premises. First, if you believe in principled ethics—that the same norms should apply consistently—then nations possessing nuclear weapons have no moral basis for denying them to others. Second, if you believe in the rule of law, then nuclear powers are bound by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to take concrete, tangible action to abolish all nuclear weapons. For that goal, the US only has thoughts and prayers.

Hymn of resolution.Nearer My God to Thee” (for 9 cellos), The Piano Guys.

¶ “10 Horrifying Facts about Nuclear Weapons.” —Citizens for Global Solutions

¶ “Surveys show that 13 of the leading nuclear weapons manufacturers combined spent $81 million per year lobbying US legislators. These same companies combined received an incredible $334 billion over two fiscal years. Every dollar invested in lobbying and campaign contributions resulted in about a $1,000 return in federal dollars.” Terry Clark, Asheville Citizen-Times

Short story. This is an extraordinarily moving story from National Public Radio about a music therapist and a dying patient. Listen (5:08) or read the transcript. —Erika Lantz

Offertory. Rodrigo’s Aranjuez Concerto” featuring Rafael Aguirre’s classical guitar.

Preach it. “I have come into this world to see this: the sword drop from men's hands even at the height of their arc of rage because we have finally realized there is just one flesh we can wound.” —Hafez

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Overheard in a cable news channel report: “We are just now finding out that Russia hacked into the National Security Agency, compromising the agency’s information gathering operations.” Russians hack. The US merely gathers information.

Call to the table. Imagine we were following Issy Emeney down the aisle, mimicking her every Appalachian flatfooting dance moves with ease, coming to the communion table.

The state of our disunion. The July issue of Ms. Magazine reports in the “No Comment” section an ad for a bowling alley in Michigan, which reads “Have some fun. Beat your wife tonight. Then celebrate with some good food and drink with your friends.”

Best one-liner. When you hear Republican politicians offering thoughts and prayers today [for the mass shooting in Las Vegas], remember they voted in February to sell guns to the mentally ill. Jessica Taylor, NPR

¶ “It is incomprehensible to us, as Australians, that a country so proud and great can allow itself to be savaged again and again by its own citizens. We cannot understand how the long years of senseless murder, the Sandy Hooks and Orlandos and Columbines, have not proved to Americans that the gun is not a precious symbol of freedom, but a deadly cancer on their society.

        “We point over and over to our own success with gun control in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, that Australia has not seen a mass shooting since and that we are still a free and open society.” —editorial, Sydney Morning Herald, which goes on to recommend eight specific, commonsensical policy recommendations (Thanks Ivan.)

Another foreign perspective on US gun violence, this one from the Dutch, with a satirical take. NRA-Sunday with Lubach (3:14 video. Thanks Norman.)

¶ “The 12 Most Common Fallacious Gun Arguments (and How to Refute Them),” by gun owner Michael E. Sparks. —Independentthinker

For the beauty of the earth. Feather star fish in motion. (0:36 video)

Altar call. The poem about gun violence every American needs to hear.” IN-Qu, Occupy Democrats (3:14 video. Thanks Virginia.)

Benediction. “It is said that those who walk on flat ground need not hold hands. But we who climb a steep and slippery road must hold onto each other to make our way securely.” —St. Francis de Sales

Recessional.I’ll Fly Away,” Ransomed Bluegrass.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” —Philippians 4:8-9

Lectionary for Sunday next. “For the nations shall tremble, the earth shall quake, at the stirring of Holy Intent. For the Beloved awakes to the cries of the poor, to the mourning of land and sky.” —continue reading “Nation of frivolous piety,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 99 & Isaiah 1:15

Just for fun. Slow motion video (0:31) of 17-year-old pole-vaulter Mondo Duplantis setting a new prep record of 19’1”. (Thanks Anne.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• "Witness to villainy: An excerpt from Bartolomé de las Casas’ documentation of Spanish conquest in the Americas

• “Limb by limb: Repenting and repairing a legacy of violence against women,” a litany for worship

• “She was not: Judges 19: The Bible’s most vividly brutal story and why we must read and remember it,” a sermon on domestic violence

• “Nation of frivolous piety,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 99 & Isaiah 1:15

Witness to villainy: An excerpt from Bartolomé de las Casas’ documentation of Spanish conquest in the Americas

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