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Signs of the Times  •  19 July 2017 •  No. 128

¶ Processional. “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight,” Cantus.

Above: Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii) cactus blooming in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. A federal official told the Texas Observer that the first section of the Trump Administration’s border wall “will essentially destroy” the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, which is often called the crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system. Melissa del Bosque

Special issue

Introduction. It was an innocent and obvious question. My wife and I were watching a bit of news after dinner. Russian attempts to influence US elections were the background for all the talking heads.

        “Do these folk ever talk about US interference in other countries’ elections?” Nancy asked. “Where do you find information about that?”

        I responded, “Well, you have to look for it pretty hard.”

        Turns out, it’s not so hard to find this information. And since it’s a topic few mainstream news outlets are raising, I decided to do a little digging of my own. A small sampling of what I found is the special feature of this column.

Invocation. “Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Osanna, Osanna in excelsis” (“Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna in the highest”) —“The Ground,” by Ola Gjeilo, performed by the Heritage Concert Choir at Western Washington University

Good News. “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a significant victory in its fight to protect the Tribe’s drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access pipeline. A federal judge ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation, which were hastily issued by the Trump administration just days after the inauguration, violated the law in certain critical respects.
        “In a 91-page decision, Judge James Boasberg wrote, ‘the Court agrees that [the Army Corps of Engineers] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.’” theindigeneousamericans

Call to worship. “Merciful One, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you hear my thoughts from far away. Encompass me with your Presence, and lay your hand on my heart.” —continue reading “Wonderfully made,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 139

¶ “Moscow didn’t do anything in America’s election that Washington hasn’t done elsewhere in the world.Stephen M. Walt, Business Insider

Hymn of praise. “Hatred had me bound, had me tied down / Had me turned around, couldn't find my way / Then you walked with me and You set my spirit free / To me and my family down that long highway / Free at last, free at last / Free from the world and all it's sins / Free at last, free at last / I've been to the top of the mountain.” —Joan Baez, “Free At Last” (Thanks Tom.)

¶ “A 2016 study by [Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dov] Levin found that, among 938 global elections examined, the US and Russia combined had involved themselves in about one out of nine (117), with the majority of those (68%) being through covert, rather than overt, actions. The same study found that ‘on average, an electoral intervention in favor of one side contesting the election will increase its vote share by about 3%,’ an effect large enough to have potentially changed the results in seven out of 14 US presidential elections occurring after 1960. According to the study, the U.S. intervened in 81 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, while the Soviet Union or Russia intervened in 36.” Wikipedia

¶ “A brief history of the times the US meddled in others' elections.” T.J. Raphael intervew with Tim Weiner, author of “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA,” PRI

Confession. “Indeed, meddling in foreign politics is a great American pastime. . . . For more than 100 years, without any significant break, the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to influence the outcome of elections―up to and including assassinating politicians it has found unfriendly.” —Ryan Grim & Arthur Delaney, Huffington Post

¶ “Over a period of more than a century, American leaders have used a variety of tools to influence voters in other countries. We have chosen candidates, advised them, financed their parties, designed their campaigns, bribed media outlets to support them, and intimidated or smeared their rivals.” —Stephen Kinzer, “We’ve been hacking elections for more than a century,” Boston Globe

Listen as conservative Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) admits during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the US has interfered 81 times in the elections of other countries. CSPAN video (0:50), 9 January 2017

¶ “While the days of its worst behavior are long behind it, the US does have a well-documented history of interfering and sometimes interrupting the workings of democracies elsewhere. It has occupied and intervened militarily in a whole swath of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and fomented coups against democratically elected populists.” Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post

Hymn of lamentation.Wayfaring Stranger,” Rhiannon Giddens.

¶ “10 Times The U.S. ‘Hacked’ Foreign Elections and Democracies.” W.E. Messamore, IVN

Words of assurance. “There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come  / No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye  / All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,  / What a day, glorious day that will be.” —Southern Gospel Revival, “What a Day That Will Be

¶ “Of course, the irony behind these concerns about the interference of foreign nations in the domestic political affairs of the United States is that the US has blatantly interfered in the elections of many other nations, with methods that include not only financial support to preferred parties and the circulation of propaganda but also assassinations and overthrows of even democratically elected regimes.” C.J. Polychroniou interview with Noam Chomsky, truth-out

¶ “Database Tracks History Of U.S. Meddling In Foreign Elections.” NPR's Ari Shapiro talks to Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dov Levin about his historical database that tracks U.S. involvement in meddling with foreign elections over the years. National Public Radio

Professing our faith.С нами Бог” (“God Is With Us”), Divna Ljubojevic and Melodi.

¶ “Acting under a secret National Security Council directive without authorization from Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency set to work” influencing the 1948 election in Italy. Whether its support of the Christian Democratic Party’s win was needed, “the agency was encouraged by the victory and the CIA’s practice of purchasing elections and politicians with bags of cash was repeated in Italy—and in many other nations—for the next twenty-five years.” —Joshua Keating, “Election Meddling Is Surprisingly Common,” Slate

After Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in 1970, “the Central Intelligence Agency attempted, through a terrorist group, to block Salvador Allende” from taking office.
        “‘Make the economy scream,’ [US President] Nixon ordered the CIA, while Kissinger infamously quipped, ‘I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.’ In 1973, Allende died in a military coup instigated and welcomed by the American government. And Chile, the nation that I called home, endured 17 years of torture, bloodshed and oppression before we managed to peacefully fight our way back to democracy.” Ariel Dorfman, CNN

Hymn of intercession.Freedom,” Richie Havens, improvising “Motherless Child” at Woodstock in 1969.

By the numbers. There have been only 17 years since 1776 when the US has not be involved in a war. See the list.

Offertory.Paris Blues,” Django Reinhardt.

Preach it. “Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.” —Barbara Brown Taylor

Can’t makes this sh*t up. National Public Radio has a 29-year tradition of reading the US Declaration of Independence on 4 July. This year they took to social media as well, tweeting the document in 113 consecutive posts. Some followers weren’t happy, one referring to it as “propaganda.” Among other responses: don’t want to read “this trash”; “this is why you’re going to get defunded”; and “So, NPR is calling for revolution.” Amy B. Want, Washington Post (Thanks Amy.)

Call to the table. “You have drunk a bitter wine / With none to be your comfort / You who once were left behind / Will be welcome at love's table.” —Julie Miller, “By Way of Sorrow

The state of our disunion. Electoral victories by Republicans are bad for gun sales. On the day after the election last fall, shares of gun maker Sturm Ruger fell 14%; Smith & Wesson fell 15%. “In the gun industry, politics and fear matter.” Uri Berliner, NPR

Best one-liner. The word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.” —Alfred Brendel

For the beauty of the earth. Watch Video of Venus and Earth forming beautiful flower pattern orbiting Sun. (1:03 video)

Featured new essay. “Not so long ago a sermon on religious liberty would likely provoke yawns. The widespread and diverse claims of “religious freedom” are so common and unquestioned in our culture, they mostly go without notice.
        “In recent years, however, a new crop of claims of religious freedom has arisen to give credence to some very old forms of discrimination. Some claims to religious liberty disguise social mischief. How do we distinguish the two?” —continue reading “Religious liberty, or social mischief? Understanding the “wall of separation” between church and state

Altar call. "The way we are, we are members of each other. All of us. Everything. The difference ain't in who is a member and who is not, but in who knows it and who don't." —Wendell Berry’s character Burley Coulter in "The Wild Birds"

Benediction. "Keep knocking, and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there." —Rumi

Recessional.Walking in Jerusalem,” Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Sister and brothers, why are we here, again, week after bloody week, weak after so much weary, warring news? . . . / Groaning with sighs too deep for words, singing our woebegone songs for the world that is promised from beyond every prediction, / beyond every market forecast, beyond every rule of engagement, beyond—at times—even our own faltering faith. / It is for that Bright Land that we intercede!” —continue reading “For that Bright Land,” a poem inspired by Romans 8:18-27

Lectionary for Sunday next. “The Love of Christ . .  / is the still, deep stream amid / Every tempest that knows / nothing, nothing, / can separate us from the / length and breadth / of Heaven’s reach.” —continue reading “The breadth of Heaven’s reach,” inspired by Romans 8:26-39

Just for fun. Here’s the ultimate way to quit a job. The Playmakers Comedy (1:00 vdeo. Thanks Chris.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Religious liberty, or social mischief? Understanding the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state,” a sermon

• “For that Bright Land,” a poem inspired by Romans 8:18-27

• “Wonderfully made,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 139

• “The breadth of Heaven’s reach,” a poem inspired by Romans 8:26-39
Other features
• 50+ new annotated book reviews in “What are you reading and why?

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