Sally Ride – Ad Astra Per Alas Fideles

Sally Ride, 1983.Remembering the extraordinary Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012).

In the first half of the 1980s, I was making my way through college at the University of California’s “farm school” in the crunchy, sleepy town of Davis. Between working toward a BA in Science (with an eye toward marine biology and aquaculture) and keeping my GPA up with classes in world religions, philosophy, and advanced poetry, I spent a lot of time at the Women’s Resources Center.

I can’t remember which building it was in, but remember it was in the basement. It was cool, happy, and had couches. I’d lay down there for hours memorizing chemical equations and Elizabeth Bishop. I loved listening to the women’s voices swirling around me. These were women living beyond the social norms in so many different ways. I loved the creative energy.

It was in the hallway outside the Women’s Center that I met Sally Ride. I have no idea what she was doing on campus. Maybe she came to give a talk. But as I was heading in to the Center, she was heading out, walking with a couple of friends and all laughing hysterically. She was slim, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and no shoes. (I have no idea why she wasn’t wearing shoes. I just remember thinking, “Wow! It must be nice to walk barefoot after having to wear those heavy space suits.” Though I realize now that they didn’t have to wear those lead-lined boots in the shape shuttle!)

I can’t remember if she was wearing the shirt or if  one of her friends had it on, but it said “Ride Sally, Ride!”–the refrain from Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” that became her motto worldwide, as the first American woman in space and the youngest.

I stopped her in the hallway and shook her hand, introduced myself, saying how excited I was to meet her and that I was studying science at UC Davis (women in science was a passion of hers, as her career attests). She shook my hand and thanked me for introducing myself and off they went. “Ride, Sally Ride,” I called out as they left and she waved her hand.

She was an extraordinary woman. Brilliant and gutsy and with enormous personal courage and conviction. Her work on the Challenger shuttle disaster investigation committee was nothing short of heroic as she supported whistleblowers who had been saying for months that the O-rings were going to fail in cold weather. Her work on climate change has been prophetic.

Both Sally’s parents were Presbyterian elders and her sister in a Presbyterian minister. Below is an excerpt from Sally’s sister, Bear Ride:

“Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space and she was my big sister. Sally died peacefully on July 23rd after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. I was at her side. We grew up in Encino, CA. Our parents, Joyce and Dale Ride, encouraged us to study hard, to do our best and to be anything we wanted to be. In 1983 Newsweek quoted our father as saying, ‘We might have encouraged, but mostly we just let them explore.’ Our parents encouraged us to be curious, to keep our minds and hearts open and to respect all persons as children of God. Our parents taught us to explore, and we did. Sally studied science and I went to seminary. She became an astronaut and I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

Sally lived her life to the fullest with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless. Sally died the same way she lived: without fear. Sally’s signature statement was ‘Reach for the Stars.’ Surely she did this, and she blazed a trail for all the rest of us.”

Sally, Ad astra per alas fideles! (“to the stars on the wings of the faithful”)

More on the death and life of Sally Ride:
Sally Ride pushed us to understand our climate and our world by Philip Bump

Why Sally Ride waited until her death to tell the world she was gay by Alan Boyle

American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling by Denise Grady

Jason Goroncy on Resisting Evil

New Zealander Jason Goroncy blogs down under at Per Crucem ad Lucem. I greatly appreciated his riffing off my earlier post Guantanamo: When Will it Get Foreclosed? and providing the deep theological framework necessary for understanding the times in which we live.

Jason is a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament who teaches theology, church history, and pastoral care, and serves as Dean of Studies, at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the ministry training centre for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. He writes:

Vince Boudreau’s book Resisting Dictatorship: Repression and Protest in Southeast Asia begins with these words:

There are times and places about which nothing seems more significant than the sheer energy and violence that states direct against basic freedoms. The snippets of information that filter from these dictatorial seasons – tales of furtive hiding and tragic discovery: hard times and uneasy sleep – describe lives utterly structured by state repression. Authoritarians bent on taking power, consolidating their rule or seizing resources frequently silence opponents with bludgeons, bullets and shallow graves, and those who find themselves in the path of the state juggernaut probably have trouble even imagining protest or resistance without also calculating the severity or likelihood of state repression. Such considerations surely influence whether individuals take action or maintain a frustrated silence, and will over time broadly shape protest and resistance. (p. 1)

My long interest in the people and politics of Burma, in particular, means that I think a lot about this kind of stuff, and particularly about how the community of God might witness to and in the midst of such situations where the abuses of authority birth such blatantly evil fruit and where the climate of hope has been beclouded in fear. [Rose Marie Berger’s recent post on Guantanamo: When Will it Get Foreclosed?, for example, recalled such fruit in another part of the world]. Certainly, all human relationships and institutions live under the constant threat of the abuse of power. And even a cursory reading of history will reveal that the Church too has been both victim and perpetrator of such abuse. (I am aware that already I have used the words authority and power interchangeably here. Certainly they are at least related, and the proper understanding and use of each will decide whether the ways being pursued bring the fragrance of life or the stench of death to a situation.)

The question Jason raises is this: How does the Church or Christians resist the Powers’ abuse as described by Boudreau? Do we take action or “maintain a frustrated silence”? And what are the “weapons of the spirit” with which God arms the friends of Jesus?

Jason explores the role of worship and deep relationship with those who are dispossessed in confronting the death-dealing forces in our world.

Read Jason’s whole post here.

Richard Killmer: Why Torture is Wrong

blackwater1Torture is an assault on human dignity — both the dignity of the victim and the inflicter. While the Obama administration has worked hard to try to reverse the abhorrent policies of the Bush administration on torture, there’s still a long way to go. The Guantanamo detention camp is still functioning. The “black sites” are still hidden and functioning around the world under shadowy CIA-leadership. Rogue dictators and militias still brutalize the innocent. In other words, the insidious underside of human sin is still dismembering people and their families in hidden cells around the world.

Richard Killmer, former head of the National Council of Churches, was profiled in the digital edition of U.S. News and World Report this week. Killmer now heads up the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a leading coalition of faith groups in the U.S. trying to dismantle the torture policies. Killmer was interviewed by Alex Kingsbury in the article The Morality of Torture. This is a great piece to distribute in your church bulletins. It’s short and to the point. It appeals to political conservatives and liberals – and has Bible. Here’s a quote:

Before 9/11, there was national consensus on the illegitimacy of torture. After all, it was President Reagan who made the country a signatory in 1984 to the United Nations Conventions Against Torture, which both banned the practice and called for universal jurisdiction for its prosecution. But the events of the intervening years have changed the nation to the point where Killmer’s message is now that of a radical. “I don’t know what has gone so wrong,” says Killmer, sitting in his modest office across the street from the Supreme Court. “Whatever the political or security issues are, they don’t change the basic moral fact that some things are always, always, always wrong.”

Read the whole article here.