April 4: The King of Love

Fifty years ago, Martin King was assassinated. As theologian Jim Douglass shows, the face-covering of the Unspeakable was lifted and we saw the true enemy of the great democratic experiment. Nina Simone sings into the moment as she wrestles with “Always living with the threat of death ahead / Folks you’d better stop and think / Everybody knows we’re on the brink / What will happen, now that the King of love is dead?”

For Christians and Americans, this is our Good Friday moment. And with every killing of Michael Brown, Sarah Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Stephon Clark … with every killing of Sandy Hook children Charlotte Bacon (age 6), Daniel Barden (age 7) and 24 others … with every killing of Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr., and 48 others at the Pulse nightclub … with every high school leader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland … with all known and unknown … we reveal that we are still standing – uncertain – at the foot of the cross staring at our Crucified Christ. Which side are you on? Which side am I on? –Rose Marie Berger

Video: Privacy, Surveillance, Arendt, and Gandhi

“A life spent entirely in public, in the presence of others, becomes shallow.”–Hannah Arendt

Roger Berkowitz (Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College) and Uday Mehta (professor of political science at CUNY) discuss “private” and “public” life in the context of Hannah Arendt’s writing and Mohandas Gandhi’s writing. They discuss the “virtue of reticence” and the importance of public-private boundaries in order to allow for public judgement and standards as well as for the development of individual or communal “spiritual depth.”

Length: 1 hour (first 25 minutes are Berkowitz’s and Mehta’s presentation)

My notes:

When the right to security becomes a transcendent right, rather than one right among many that need to be balanced, then other rights become subservient to it. But for Christians, security is never a transcendent value. Our “security” comes from God.

Uday Mehta: For Gandhi, privacy mattered to him but not as a “right” provided to you by the state or anyone else. Gandhi does not think his bedroom life is “private” but there are somethings that are so important that they are only between the individual and God and this is private. But the state cannot infringe on this.

Arendt’s things that should be private:
1. Goodness can’t exist in the public sphere. If people know about your goodness then it dies. Friendship can be public, but love should always be private.
2. Birth and Death cannot exist in the public sphere. When you become of age as a public citizen, then the public should not ask about who you were beforehand.
3. Opinion/personal conversations should be kept private.

Uday Mehta: Gandhi’s perspective was that one should say nothing in private that one would not say in public. Because of this he never develops some of the pernicious aspects of “vanguardism.” Gandhi’s commitment to openness did not lead him to violate confidences.

Arendt: If privacy matters, then the only reliable safeguard for privacy is the right to private property, which might not be defensible on economic grounds, but is on privacy grounds.

If you try to balance privacy and security, privacy will always loses, because people will always choose security, convenience, and transparency. People don’t think that invasion of privacy takes away their dignity or autonomy and so they freely give privacy up.

Gandhi wanted to have a conversation between the Indian civilization and Western civilization (and he thought that Indian civilization was superior), but he did not want it to be a nationalist political struggle for sovereign rights.

Scott Cairns: Coming Forth

Coming Forth

I’m sorry. I’ve had a hard time not laughing
even now. This ridiculous grin

won’t get off my face. Dying did it,
though I don’t remember much about

being dead. Sometimes, horrible things happen:
children die, famine sets in, whole towns

are slapped down and turned to dust by earthquake.
I can’t help it, but these things start me

laughing so I can’t stop. My friends all hate me.
The morning my sister cracked her hip,

I was worthless; I had to run clear out
to the clay field to keep anyone from seeing

how it broke me up. I know. You think
I’m trash, worse than a murderer

or a petty god. I suppose I am.
I just get this quiver started

in me every time someone I know dies and stays dead.
I tremble all over and have to hold

myself, as if some crazy thing in me
were anxious to get out. I told you

I can’t remember being dead. I can’t.
But this weakness in my knees, or in my throat

keeps me thinking—whatever comes next
should be a thousand worlds better than this.

—Scott Cairns, The Translation of Babel (University of Georgia Press, 1990)

Easter: Will You Run Toward Good News?

POPE FRANCIS at Easter Morning Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Rome:

After listening to the Word of God, to this passage of the Gospel, three things come to me.

First: the announcement. There is an announcement there: the Lord has risen. That announcement that from the earliest times of the Christians went from mouth to mouth; it was the greeting: the Lord has risen. And the women, who went to anoint in the Lord’s body, found themselves in a surprise. Surprise … God’s announcements are always surprises, because our God is the God of surprises. It is so from the beginning of the history of salvation, from our father Abraham, God surprises you: “But, go, go, leave, leave your land and go”. And there is always a surprise after another. God can not make an announcement without surprising us. And the surprise is what moves your heart, which touches you right there, where you do not expect it. To say it a little with the language of the young: surprise is a low blow; you do not expect it. And He goes and moves you. First: the announcement made a surprise.

Second: the rush. Women run, hurry to say: “But, we found this!”. The surprises of God set us on the road, immediately, without waiting. And so they run to see. And Peter and John run. The shepherds, that Christmas night, run: “Let’s go to Bethlehem to see what the angels told us”. And the Samaritan woman runs to tell her people: “This is new: I found a man who told me everything I did”. And people knew the things this had done. And those people, run, leave what he is doing, even the housewife leaves the potatoes in the pot – she will find them burned – but the important thing is to go, run, to see that surprise, that announcement. Even today it happens. In our neighborhoods, in villages when something extraordinary happens, people run to see. Go in a hurry. Andrew did not waste time and in a hurry he went to Peter to tell him: “We found the Messiah”. The surprises, the good news, are always like that: in a hurry. In the Gospel there is one that takes some time; he does not want to risk it. But the Lord is good, waiting for him with love, it is Thomas. “I will believe when I see the wounds,” he says. Even the Lord has patience for those who do not go so fast.

The announcement-surprise, the response in a hurry and the third that I would like to tell you today is a question: “And me? Is my heart open to the surprises of God? Am I able to go in a hurry? Or am I always with that chant: “But, tomorrow will I see, tomorrow, tomorrow?”. What’s the surprise to me? Giovanni and Pietro ran to the tomb. John the Evangelist tells us: “Believe”. Even Peter: “Believe”, but in his own way, with faith a little mixed with the remorse of having denied the Lord. The announcement made surprise, the ride \ go in a hurry, and the question: “And I, today, in this Easter 2018, what am I doing? What do you do?–Pope Francis

Holy Saturday 2018: The Big Blue Reveal

Tradition holds it that Mary Magdalene continued to carry out her mission as witness to the resurrection of Jesus and “apostle to the apostles” by boldly presenting herself to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. She taught him about resurrection by using an egg to illustrate her message. Holding the egg out to him, she exclaimed for the first time what is now the universal Easter proclamation among Christians, “Christ is risen!” I usually start the egg dyeing process on the evening of Good Friday, let them rest in their dye bath over night, and have the Big Reveal on Holy Saturday. Above are the treasures from this year!

For blue eggs: Take 1 large red cabbage (about 1 pound) and tear up the leaves. Combine in a saucepan with 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Place in uncooked eggs. Bring to a solid boil, then cover and turn off heat. Let the whole thing cool (outside if possible), then put in the refrigerator over night. In the morning on Holy Saturday, gently remove eggs from the bath and let them dry. Once completely dry, you can lightly rub them with olive oil to return the sheen.

You can use a similar process with red onion skins (deep brown), yellow onion skins (golden brown), beets (red), and tumeric (golden yellow).

Mary Magdalene Easter Eggs

There exists a tradition which makes Mary Magdalene the originator of the custom of making red eggs at Easter. After the Ascension of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, called “the apostle to the apostles” because she brought the good news of the resurrection to the other apostles, wen to Rome to preach the Gospels there.

In Rome she had dinner with the emperor Tiberius to tell him what a mistake he had made by allowing Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. But, she told him, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead–conquering death for all. She held took up a white egg from the table to explain the new life in Jesus. Emperor Tiberius scoffed at her saying, “Your Lord could no more be raised from the dead than that egg your holding could turn red. At that moment the egg is Mary Magdalene’s hand turned red, reflecting the blood of Christ. She raised the red egg and said to Tiberius, “Christ is Risen!”

At this, Tiberius asked that Mary preach to them about Jesus and he and his whole household became followers of Jesus, believing because of her word and the miracle of the red egg. Forever after, whenever Mary began to preach, she would hold up a red egg.

Good Friday and Contemporary Crucifixion: 7 Last Words of Black Life

On Good Friday, we remember the cross, the act of crucifixion, the selfless sacrifice, the complicity, the fleshy vulnerability of God-with-us, the cancellation of debts, the lamentations of the world.

We kiss the wood. We touch the nails. We let the crownish thorns prick the soft underbelly of our souls. We weep–for ourselves, for our world, for all that is not as God would have it be.

Let our lamentation be prophetic. In lamentation, write Walter Brueggemann, “there is a sense of forsakenness with none to comfort, with a yearning for mercy, but only a yearning. Israel must be grieved and not too soon can there be a word beyond grief.”

One Good Friday practice is meditation on the Seven Last Words of Jesus. The tradition was begun in the 17th century by a Jesuit priest, Alonso Messia (1665-1732), in Peru as a three-hour devotion for his communities after they had suffered a series of severe earthquakes. From 12-3p on Good Friday, they prayed and meditated on the words Jesus spoke while on the cross, concluding at 3 p.m. with, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

On this Good Friday in 2018, the First Congregational Church of Oakland (CA) will host the “7 Last Words of Black Life”–put into sharp focus with the recent killing of Stephon Clark by police in Sacramento.

The Seven Last Words of Black Life:

“I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” -Michael Brown (1996-2014)
“What are you following me for? ” -Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)
“How did switching lanes with no signal turn into this?” -Sandra Bland (1987-2015)
“I wasn’t reaching for it.” -Philando Castile (1983-2016)
“You shot me. You shot me.” -Oscar Grant (1982 – 2009)

First Congregational Church of Oakland writes, “We believe that Black people in America are the contemporary crucified life. In observance of Good Friday, we will be holding a service honoring, grieving and lamenting crucified Black Life. We will bear witness to the last words of those crucified at the hands of police brutality, racism and state sanctioned violence. This Good Friday, we will honor the final moments of Jesus’ earthly life through seven of our fallen. We will honor them through word, song and art.” (See below for more actions taken by the First Congregational Church of Oakland.)

In the United States, “the cross and the lynching tree” have been the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African-American community, according to theologian James Cone. Now, on this Good Friday, we meditate on, grieve, and lament on “the cross and body bags with evidence markers.”

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison. Amen.



CHURCH DIVESTS FROM POLICING, INVESTS IN COMMUNITY SAFETY OAKLAND, CA – Friday, March 30, 2018 — On Good Friday, the day that Christians remember the murder of Jesus by the Roman state, First Congregational Church of Oakland (FCCO) will honor the memory of all people killed by state forces by declaring its intention to reduce reliance on policing and incarceration and develop community-based safety and conflict resolution initiatives.

Citing the ongoing killing of unarmed people by local police—especially Black and Brown people, many of them with mental illness—the church on the corner of 27th and Harrison will formally pledge to “reimagine our policies, procedures, and relationships to our neighbors in order to reduce our reliance on policing that is too often deadly for those already marginalized.” It will further seek “to contribute to restorative/transformative approaches to addressing harm, and to increase our capacity to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.”

The multiracial church recently received a grant from the San Francisco Foundation’s FAITHS initiative to create a network of organizations and individuals committed to divesting from militarized policing and mass incarceration and investing in mental health and addiction intervention, violence prevention and de-escalation, self- and community-defense, and transformative justice processes.

First Congregational Church of Oakland’s Good Friday declaration is part of a national campaign organized through Showing Up for Racial Justice. The full text of FCCO’s declaration can be found here.

The public release of the declaration will be followed by a Good Friday worship service called “7 Last Words of Black Life,” in which preachers will address the last words of seven Black or Brown people killed by police: Korryn Gaines, Raynette Turner, Eric Garner, Kayla Moore, Alex Nieto, Alan Blueford and Aiyana Jones.[]

Steven Charleston: ‘Fragile Bodies and Anxious Minds’

Steven Charleston, citizen of Choctaw Nation and retired Episcopal bishop.

“I have seen it before, the loving presence that is watching over you, and so I have no fear, for I know from the experience of so many others that you will be safe from harm. In this world of fragile bodies and anxious minds we may feel vulnerable or weak, but the strength that surrounds us knows no limits. What is made of clay will come and go, what we think is forever will soon be forgotten, all drifting away on the winds of change, but one constant thing will remain: the core of a human life, the soul and all it has seen and done, held like a precious jewel, held in the hand of God, brought to the place of quiet seas and still mountains, the place where peace finds its name.”–Steven Charleston

Catholic Sisters Raise Giant Cross on Top of the Pipeline on Palm Sunday

Photo Credit: Kevin Lynn

From our friends at Lancaster Against Pipelines:

“The Adorers of the Blood of Christ held a very memorable Palm Sunday service. One hundred people braved the mud and chilly temps to “Stand With the Sisters” as they prayed, raised a 12-ft cross, and dedicated a heart-shaped meditation labyrinth directly atop the Transco pipeline that was forced on their land against their will. Fittingly, the Order’s official symbol is comprised of a cross and heart.

Yesterday also marked the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Adorers’ Columbia, Penn., community. Local Lancaster (Pa.)  media published a story on Saturday highlighting that history.

The Palm Sunday service at the Sisters’ outdoor chapel, followed by the dedication event in the pipeline right-of-way, was a powerful tribute to the deep religious convictions of this remarkable community of women, including their profound commitment to the sanctity of Creation.  See the LNP story here.

We continue to be inspired by the Adorers’ bold, public commitment todefend the Earth, curb fossil fuel use, and reduce climate change. The Sisters still await a ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on their religious freedom lawsuit, which challenges the “right” of Williams to install a fracked gas pipeline on their own land in direct violation of their core religious convictions.”

Read more about the Adorers of the Blood of Christ’s battle to defend their land.

Hildegard of Bingen: ‘Our Dangerous State’

“The beloved of the love of God came through the fountain of life to nourish us back to life and to help us in our dangerous state. The Word is the deepest and sweetest love preparing us for repentance.”–St. Hildegard of Bingen (Vision 2:4)

(A 3-minute video on visiting the Hildegard sites in Bingen, Germany.)