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supermancrossThanks to our kinfolk over at Radical Discipleship blog for running the amazing biblical commentary by Ched Myers on the Mark gospel readings this Lent.

Ched Myers writes:

The midpoint of Mark’s narrative poses two questions, aimed both at the disciples in, and the readers of, the story:

“Do you not yet understand?” (Mk 8:21).

“Who do you say that I am?” (8:29a).

The latter provokes what I call the “confessional crisis” (8:30-33), which this Sunday’s reading inexplicably jumps into the middle of (we get the whole text on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept 13th). This is followed by Jesus’ second call to discipleship (8:34ff), deepening the journey begun in 1:16-20.

These difficult episodes together represent the fulcrum upon which the whole gospel balances. Mark’s thesis is most clearly revealed here: Discipleship is not about theological orthodoxy but about the Way of the cross. It would seem that our churches do “not yet understand” this!

We pick up the thread in the first of three “portents,” in which Jesus speaks of his impending arrest, trial and execution by the authorities (8:31; see 9:31 and 10:33f). This “reality check” has been provoked by Peter’s identification of Jesus as “Messiah” (8:29). To our chagrin, it is immediately silenced by Jesus (8:30), as if Peter were just another demon trying to “name” Jesus (see 1:25; 3:12)! Then, with the phrase “Jesus began to teach them that it was necessary that the Human One must suffer,” the story departs in a new and troubling direction (8:31).

By “necessity” Mark means that those who pursue Jubilary justice will inevitably clash with the Powers. Jesus is serving notice that he will not enter Jerusalem as a triumphant military leader, but instead be executed by the authorities. This subverts the expected “Messianic script,” replacing it with what we might call a “prophetic script.” At key points in the second half of the gospel Mark will appeal to this script: John followed it, so will Jesus (9:12f), and so must faithful disciples (13:9-13).

Read the full commentary here.

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NEWS: @SojoImmigration Webinar Tomorrow

postTomorrow, Sojourners is hosting a webinar on the current state of immigration reform. Sojourners’ immigration organizer Ivone Guillen has arranged the event. It will be moderated by the most awesome Lisa Sharon Harper and will include a variety of expert partners in the immigration field.

This is your chance to get caught up on the current state of play of immigration implementation and legislation — especially the ripple effect of potential Department of Homeland Security defunding. If you haven’t registered yet please use this link to sign-up: Click here to sign up for our FREE February webinar.

Date: February 25, 2015 Webinar
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Call In number:  (712) 775-7031
Meeting ID: 857-814-852

*Access to the visual portion of the webinar will be sent out on the morning of the event to those who sign up. *

Feel free to retweet @SojoImmigration as that will be the main handle at play for this event.

If you are looking for a quick refresher, please see recent blog articles for more in-depth explanations of relevant issues which will be discussed during the webinar:

DHS Funding: http://www.sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/10/homeland-security-funding-latest-gop-bargaining-chip-immigration-debate

26 State Lawsuit:  http://www.sojo.net/blogs/2015/02/19/ruling-26-state-immigration-lawsuit-3-things-you-need-know

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Philip Metres and the ‘Sand Opera’

612-i2IefLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One gift that holds a place of honor in my office is a signed copy of the long poem “abu ghraib arias” by Phil Metres. The chapbook’s cover is made of Combat Paper, veterans’ uniforms pulped into paper. It is a precious candle lit against such an enormous darkness.

Phil sent a note recently about his newest collection, Sand Opera, and to highlight a conversation between him and poet Fady Joudah in the LA Review of Books. He said:

A month ago, the poet Fady Joudah and I carried on a dialogue over email. The occasion was the publication of Sand Opera, but along the way we discuss quite a bit — including love and politics, Elaine Scarry and the theology of torture, the Oliver Stone Syndrome and American Sniper, empire, the Iraqs I carry, 9/11, Standard Operating Procedures, black sites, docupoetics, trance states, recursion, poems about children, the vital vulnerability of the human body, the openness of ears, the sound of listening, the War Story and its exclusions, the Umbra poets and the Black Arts Movement, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, RAWI (the Radius of Arab American Writers), and the state of Arab American literature.

We hope that this can be the start of a new conversation about the state of poetry, American life, and the role of Arab-American literature in our ongoing cultural and political debate about U.S. foreign and domestic policy regarding the Arab world. We welcome further conversation. More to come.

See an excerpt of their conversation below:

PHILIP METRES is the author and translator of a number of books, including Sand Opera (Alice James 2015), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (forthcoming 2015), Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Poetic Texts of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (chapbook, Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (chapbook, Flying Guillotine 2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront (University of Iowa 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, five Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Anne Halley Prize, the PEN/Heim Translation grant, and the Creative Workforce Fellowship. He is professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Were it not for Ellis Island translation, his last name would be Abourjaili.

FADY JOUDAH: Sand Opera is ultimately a book about love, its loss and recapture, and the struggle in between. Many will completely misread it as another political book of poems, in that reductive, ready-made sense of “political” which is reserved for certain themes but mostly for certain ethnicities. So part of that misreading is due to the book’s subject matter or its Abu Ghraib arias, and also because it is written by an Arab American.

PHILIP METRES: I love the fact that you read Sand Opera as a book about love. The longer I worked on the book, the more I felt compelled to move past the dark forces that instigated its beginnings, forces that threatened to overwhelm it and me. Love, as much as I can understand it, thrives in an atmosphere of care for the self and other — the self of the other and the other of the self — through openness, listening, and dialogue. Because the book was born in the post-9/11 era, it necessarily confronts the dark side of oppression, silencing, and torture. Torture, as Elaine Scarry has explored so powerfully in The Body in Pain, is the diametrical opposite of love, the radical decreation of the other for political ends. The recent release of the so-called “Torture Report,” and the torrent of responses (both expressions of condemnation and defensive justifications) has felt like a traumatic repetition for me. Didn’t we deal with this during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the “Enhanced Interrogation” debate? Even now, the political conversation seems to skip over the fact that torture contravenes international law and is a profoundly immoral act, and moves so quickly to debate its merits — whether any good “intelligence” may have been gleaned from it. Why is that the writers who have gained the widest platforms were veterans of the war, some of whom participated directly in interrogation — for example, Eric Fair’s courageous mea culpa December 2014 Letter to the Editor in The New York Times — while Arab voices, like Iraqi writer Sinan Antoon’s, are so hard to find and so marginalized? …

Read the whole interview.

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John Kiriakou and ‘Cut Loose The Body’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2007 Joseph Ross and I edited a collection of poems titled Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib Paintings and hosted a reading when Botero’s collection was on display in  Washington, D.C.

That same year, CIA officer John Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the agency’s use of waterboarding as well as other torture. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in Pennsylvania. Kiriakou was recently released to house arrest. He’s now living in the D.C.-area and has made appearances at the Institute for Policy Studies at Dupont Circle.

This week my friend Sarah, who directs Split This Rock, a collective of poetry and protest with an office at IPS, related this story:

I met John Kiriakou at IPS on Friday … I told him about Split This Rock and gave him a copy of Cut Loose the Body. Here’s what he wrote me yesterday: “Thank you very much for Cut Loose the Body, which I read on the way home.  It was absolutely wonderful, and I hope there will be many more.  My wife also read it and said the poems were wonderful and the two Botero sketches were breathtaking.  Thanks again.”

It’s so gratifying to know that work done in good faith makes its way out into the world and finds the people it needs to find. Thank you Sarah — and thank you John for your service to your country. John Kiriakou, who is Greek Orthodox, spent his two-and-a-half years in prison serving in the chapel. And, in a total quirk of fate, the federal prison where Kiriakou spent his time was called FCI Loretto. It used to be a Catholic monastery. The Bureau of Prisons turned it into a “low-security prison” and converted the “monks’ bedrooms” into “prisoners’ rooms.”
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WEDNESDAY, FEB. 18: DONTE MANNING’S STORY

Donte Manning was just 9 years old when he was playing outside his Columbia Heights apartment building with other neighborhood children. It was a warm spring night in 2005 and it was Easter time, so there was no school the next day.
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Chaos broke out when someone opened fire at the corner of 13th and Euclid streets NW. One of the bullets struck Donte in the head, but he didn’t die on that street. He was rushed to Children’s National Medical Center, where, after 33 agonizing days, his family made the painful decision to take him off of life support. Nearly 10 years have passed and despite offering the largest reward in city history in the case, no one has come forward.

Metropolitan Police Homicide Captain Robert Alder told ABC 7 News, “Donte Manning was not the intended victim for this.”

He added, “There are people [whom] we believe would have information … regarding what was going on that evening and regarding who actually pulled the trigger.”

Donte’s family is too upset to talk about the case. But you will hear from a neighbor who was so moved by the tragedy that she wrote a book about the innocent 9-year-old boy and the killer who still walks among us.

BUY THE BOOK: WHO KILLED DONTE MANNING? by Rose Marie Berger

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politiciansprayer

“Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”, Pope Francis says. “Where, then, should a healthy economic policy begin? What are the necessary pillars for public administration? The answer is precise: the dignity of the human person and the common good. Unfortunately, however, these two pillars, that ought to structure economic policy, often seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for integral development. … Please, be courageous and do not be afraid, in political and economic projects, to allow yourselves to be influenced by a broader meaning of life as this will help you to truly serve the common good and will give you strength in ‘striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all’”.–Pope Francis to business leaders focused on “Feeding Our Planet – Energy for Life” on Feb. 7, 2015

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Pope Francis: ‘ The Earth Never Forgives’

PopeFrancis_olivetree

“The Pope again mentioned a comment he heard many years ago from an elderly peasant: “God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives. We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction”. “Faced with the goods of the Earth, we are required ‘not to lose sight of the origin or purpose of these goods, so as to bring about a world of fairness and solidarity’, says the social doctrine of the Church. The Earth has been entrusted to us in order to be a Mother to us, able to give what is necessary for each person to live. … The Earth is not an inheritance we have received from our parents, but rather a loan from our offspring to us, so that we may take care of it, enable it to continue and restore it to them”.

“The stewardship of the Earth is not a task exclusive to Christians, but instead applies to all”, he continued. “I entrust to you what I said during the Mass of the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome: ‘I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! … We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness’. Care for the Earth not only with goodness, but also with tenderness”.–Pope Francis to business leaders focused on “Feeding Our Planet – Energy for Life” on Feb. 7, 2015

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Francis_shanty“Aim your gaze and heart not towards an emergency pragmatism that shows itself to be perpetually provisional, but instead an approach aimed at removing the structural causes of poverty. Let us recall that the root of all ills is inequality”, says Francis, repeating his words in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: “We have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. … It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. … The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’”. “It is therefore necessary, if we really want to solve problems and not become lost in sophisms, to remove the root of all evil, which is inequality. To do this, there are some priority decisions to be made: to renounce the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and to act above all on the structural causes of inequality”.–Pope Francis to business leaders focused on “Feeding Our Planet – Energy for Life” on Feb. 7, 2015

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Manuel Cisneros: ‘All I Need are Rocks’

Cover_p “I just need rocks. It’s all what I need,” says Manuel Cisneros, an artist working and living on the beach in Ventura, Calif., in this 3-minute video. (Read more about Manuel Cisneros in the Ventura Reporter.)

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art no longer Manuel but Pedro, and upon this piedra I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” –From Matthew 16:18

(Thank you to Tim Nafzinger for news of Manuel Cisneros.) Everything Happen for a Reason from rossangeles on Vimeo.

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Feb. 3: The Feast of St. Blaise

The-Arrest-And-Miracles-Of-Saint-BlaiseFeast days like today are one of the many reasons I LOVE being Catholic.

Allegretto Nuzi’s 14th century painting “The arrest and miracles of Saint Blaise” illustrates the story of the saint negotiating with the dog to release the poor woman’s only pig, while the storm troopers of Emperor Licinius come to arrest him.

Here’s some of the great story of St. Blaise:

Many Catholics might remember Saint Blaise’s feast day, February 3, because of the Blessing of the Throats that take place on this day. Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said.

Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise. It is believed he was a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century.

The legend of St. Blaise tells us that he was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. He became a bishop. Later, a new persecution of Christians began. He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Hunters discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick. Blaise walked among them unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. The hunters recognized Blaise as a Bishop, so they captured him to take him back for trial. On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman.

When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. Finally, the governor had Blaise killed.

Saint Blase is the patron of physicians, sick cattle, wax- chandlers, woolcombers, and of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies. He is invoked against afflictions of the throat (Bentley, Roeder).

As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Blase was much venerated throughout Central Europe. In art he is a bishop with a metal comb and a tall candle. He may be shown in many different ways: (1) with crozier (pastoral staff) and two candles (no comb); (2) martyred by being torn with iron combs; (3) in a cave with wild animals; (4) discovered by hunters, a fawn near him (not to be confused with the monk, Saint Giles); (5) blessing the birds in front of a cave; (6) rescuing a poor woman’s pig from a wolf; (6) saving the life of a boy who swallowed a fishbone; or (7) with the city of Dubrovnik in his hand or being carried over the city by angels .

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