Thursday, May 31, 2007

Visitation homily

On Elizabeth and Mary.

From a homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 1985, preached at Boston’s Paulist Center.

I was still a Catholic at the time; yup, women preach in Catholic churches. I did for more than 20 years. (I was on the Paulist Center staff full-time, as the equivalent of what Episcopalians call Associate Rector and Catholics call Associate Pastor.) I’m taking out the Advent-y parts in order to adapt this to today’s feast of the Visitation. I’ve put ellipses where I made cuts. The Gospel for the day was Luke 1:39-55.

… And then there’s Mary. Not Mary the mother, as we will meet her next week, but Mary the young Galilean woman, newly pregnant, who travels more than halfway across her country to visit and share good news with her friend Elizabeth. This Mary is Mary the prophet, Mary the proclaimer. I call her Mary the prophet because her life follows the patterns of the lives of the prophets of Israel. You may remember the general pattern: God calls the prophet. The prophet says, “Here I am, Lord.” God says, “Listen, here’s what I want.” And in every case, God’s will for the prophet involves a particular role within the community of believers and some kind of proclamation of who God is for this community.

And then the prophet puts up a fight. Jeremiah says he’s too young. Moses protests that he is slow of speech. Amos argues that he is only a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees. Jonah doesn’t say anything; he just runs away. Now Mary – Mary has basically the same thing happen to her, and she does ask a minor question about how this sign from God, this birth, can happen when she has no husband (she is logical!). But she doesn’t run off or avoid the call; in fact, she run toward someone to begin proclaiming what she knows to be true. And that someone is … Elizabeth, an older woman willed with new life and new hope, who is also a proclaimer of good news, a bearer of revelation.

These women are clear and strong and they articulate God’s message with no ambiguities, no ambivalence.

Enter into that Gospel scene. There is something new and different happening in this encounter between the two women. What goes on in this scene is a proclamation of cosmic proportions: a revelation of who God is, what God has done, what God is capable of going, and how the world has begun to change. But here is a different kind of prophecy – a whole different setting. We have, not a man addressing a crowd in the marketplace or preaching in a religious assembly, but two pregnant women having a conversation in the intimate setting of a house in the hills. That’s where God chooses to have the revelation happen. That’s where our scripture and our church show us that God’s revelation is proclaimed today.

And what a revelation it is.

Remember what Mary says in this Gospel: God is doing mighty things for lowly people. A woman will be called blessed forever, though she lives in a world where men rule. The mighty are deposed from their thrones. The poor and the hungry are not just satisfied, they are heard and remembered.

I think this woman is talking about a revolution.

…You may have noticed that in Mary’s song, the Magnificat, the God who is the originator of this revolution is spoken of as faithful, as one who fulfills promises, who is there from age to age, from generation to generation. The Scripture today is full of newness; it is also filled with language about faithfulness and solid promises and endurance and continuity.

… Mary and Elizabeth invite us to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in new and different places. To change our views of the “where” and “how” of God’s revelation. One of the interesting things about the Synod of Bishops in Rome a couple of weeks ago, which some noticed and some didn’t, is that it became evident that the center of gravity in our church is shifting –from Europe and North America to the Southern Hemisphere: to countries where over half the world’s Catholics now live, to people who are mostly poor, mostly brown and black and tan, mostly young. They are blessing us with new insights into our church and our world. Mary… who sings of the world turned upside down, invites us to see God in new places: to hear the voices and welcome the insights of the lowly; of those who live on the other side of town or on the wrong side of the tracks; of the most poor; of women; of the people of the Southern hemisphere; of the very young; and of the very old; of all the forgotten and marginal ones in church and society who are, in God’s scheme of things, at the heart, at the center, of the revolution of Jesus.

Mary and Elizabeth invite us to change the way we think about prophecy and revelation, to understand that the good news is revealed in settings where we least expect it. The prophet Micah talks about this also in today’ s readings; if it can happen in Bethlehem, it can happen here, and it can happen to you and to me.

The powerful, joyful, revolutionary message from God about the world being changed and filled with grace is proclaimed –where? In a house, probably in a kitchen conversation between two pregnant women. I think this says something to us about our kitchen conversations, and our workshops and offices and classrooms and bedrooms and boardrooms, and all the places which we don’t think of as places of revelation and revolution, but which are.

This scene also invites us to sit with its mixture of the new and the old, and to examine, in our lives, the old and the new: the continuity of tradition, the age-old celebrations, the family patterns, the old promises. And the breaking in of the new, the parts of our lives where we can and must create new ways of being and proclaiming and celebrating.

Most of all… Mary and Elizabeth invite us to spend our time with them with joyful hearts. This is no grimfaced revolution. This is the revolution of God who frees women to cy out and sing, the revolution of Jesus who is our peace, the revolution of the Spirit who speaks to us with power and grace, again and again, and who can make of us all bearers of hope and new life.

Visitation: a prayer by Janet Morley

Not writing my own prayers today (bet you didn't even notice I'd written the one on the day that Copernicus, Jackson Kemper, and Simeon the Pillar-Dweller had to share a feast day) but better, much better, offering a collect by Janet Morley, found in the same book I quoted some weeks ago, All Desires Known.

O God our deliverer,
you cast down the mighty,
and lift up those of no account:
as Elizabeth and Mary embraced
with songs of liberation,
so may we also be pregnant with your Spirit,
and affirm one another in hope for the world,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Feast of the Visitation: Mary and Elizabeth

This one is from Vietnam. In Mary's hand is one of those large conical almost flat Vietnamese hat. Note the chicken(s) in the yard in the background. The artist wasn't named but the site did say he was Buddhist. Reproductions of this painting are frequent in Vietnamese Catholic circles. A group of originally French Australian nuns who now minister in Vietnam posted this.

This one is from Australia, by an artist named Frank Wesley. (Yes, he is inspired by art from India. And, methinks, by Persian miniatures.)


Nuff said.


If I have time late tonight, I will post a little snippet from a homily I preached in Advent many moons ago and which is about the Mary and Elizabeth encounter.

Meanwhile --or instead-- do visit Grandmère Mimi for a lovely, thoughtful post on today's feast (complete with the biblical text and reference) and for a reproduction of the stunning Ghirlandaio Visitation, and also Padre Rob's cyber-place. Rob has a great love for the Christian East, and for Mary as the Theotokos (God-bearer). He's also got a piece of a Bede Visitation sermon up on the blog, for you Northumbrian fans.

And don't miss the humor in MadPriest's three Visitation pictures:




Episcopal / Anglican timeline

My friend Richard at Caught by the Light has posted a clear and useful Anglican/Episcopal timeline from the period of the American Revolution (more properly called the War of Independence, some say) to the present. I haven't read all of it but it looks good. Father Jake Stops the World has already picked it up. Richard made the timeline for his congregation originally. Thank you, Richard.

It's a pdf, so you can print it out and underline and highlight things and scribble on it to your heart's content.

Richard also welcomes feedback, additions, and corrections.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Busy... So here is some music - from Brazil

A day in bits and pieces and as yet not much of that long-stretch-of-time I need every day for the writing work I'm doing. A meeting, someone's retirement reception at school (the head of internet/technology user services who saved everyone else's and my computer, day, and sanity many times over, so this was not something to miss), some administration and consulting, and various other matters with which I don't bore the blogosphere. Então, we need some more music here.

Here is a tune from Orfeu Negro ("Black Orpheus," a great movie from many moons ago, Brazilian and French) and from the musical creativity of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa and much anonymous Afro-Brazilian inspiration. These are two of the pieces (same basic tune) entitled "Manha de Carnaval." Right, that means "Carnival Morning" and here on the East Coast of the U.S. it's afternoon, but many of you won't read this till late tonight or tomorrow morning and I've just been waiting too long to post this. It's best heard at dawn --as in the movie-- but you can get in the mood early (or late). Listen to the first piece, then the other. If you've seen the movie, it will bring it back, along with sunrise over the Rio de Janeiro bay.

Get this widget Share Track details

Get this widget Share Track details

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Meanwhile, on the Episcopal calendar... commemoration of the first Book of Common Prayer

Today, or yesterday, or all week, take your pick, is the time for commemoration of the first Book of Common Prayer. Many revisions of course in those very early years, and you think theology wasn't political back then? HA! We started in mess, dear sisters and brothers, and in human mess we remain.

In the midst of it all, we pray, sometimes in too orderly a fashion (on this holy day I will spare you my rant about how there is a literalism of the Prayer Book that can be as rigid as biblical literalism -- although this day might be the very time for such a rant) but this is what binds us: we are a church woven together by common prayer, prayer layered upon prayer, Sunday upon Sunday, day after day, season following season, week by week. Year after year.

This didn't all drop from the sky, divinely inspired as it may have been. Some of the interesting history of the early Prayer Book is here.

And here's a little musically related P.S. about the 1550 edition. (Facsimile on the right.)

That link also has information about how it was just one prayer book after another in that first decade. Enough to give you liturgical whiplash.

Old dude in the early Middle Ages, name of Boethius, wrote a book called The Consolation of Philosophy. Me, I think it's history that is consoling. You think we're having a turbulent decade or two? Try the middle of the 16th century.

Summer Disco: "Pata Pata"

Miriam Makeba again. This song was a big hit in France when I was in high school. This was in the late 1960s. It's very danceable, so get up of that chair. I know the song talks about weekend nights and it's only Tuesday, but dance, as Padre Mickey knows, is something for all times and seasons. Here's to Africa and the African Diaspora and their gifts of music to the whole world.

Get this widget | Share | Track details

"It's up to you now." Cindy Sheehan quits

Speaking of Camp Casey, which Joan Baez mentions in the YouTube video below...

Cindy Sheehan, tired and mostly disappointed, leaves the action to us.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pentecost: images from India

This one is by Solomon Raj, Indian Lutheran theologian and artist.

I also just found this other one, but alas the website on which I located it is not good about quoting sources, so it doesn't say anything except that it's from India. But it is clearly in batik also and the same style as Raj. It might be that the one above is a detail of the one below, but the colors and the flame patterns are slightly different. I was entranced with the first one when I found it a couple of days ago, but having discovered the second, I am taken by those red flames!
And thanks to Rob, who reminded me that in the churches of the East, the day after Pentecost is "Holy Spirit Monday."

Memorial Day photos: U.S., Iraq

Two photos that say two thousand words.

With thanks to Jan at Happening Here.

"I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose"

Andrew Bacevich, Vietnam veteran and professor, on the death of his son. In today's Washington Post.

Memorial Day music

I'm dating myself by posting this one, but the a cappella rendition by Pete Seeger, the author of the song, is memorable.
Get this widget Share Track details

The story of the song's genesis is here.

At our church, yesterday, the one mention of Memorial Day was by Sue, the person leading the Prayers of the People, which we always have in both formal and informal form: in the second half, anyone can offer a prayer, and many people do. Sue prayed (I am paraphrasing): "Let us pray for all the brave men and women who have died in service to our country [she may have said "their country" or "their countries," I can't remember -- I know she wasn't just remembering U.S. dead, she is active in various efforts for peace, including the situation in Sudan], and let us pray that soon, very soon, no more people will join their number."

For those of you who have Peter, Paul, and Mary nostalgia, here's their version...
Get this widget Share Track details
(And yes, it was all very heteronormative back then...)

Joan Baez is still singing the song today. This (YouTube in post below) will bring back memories for some of you, and speak to this Memorial Day for many. Joan Baez sang this with mothers who had lost children in war, and then again at the concert recorded on the YouTube below.

Joan Baez - as promised above in "Memorial Day music"

(was) Joan Baez as promised above

Oops, technical difficulties destroyed this one --I have replaced it right above-- but I'm keeping the post here because in the two minutes it was up, one very speedily-writing commenter wrote in. (YouTube won't let me move the video from one post to another.)

YogaDawg rocks

If you practice yoga and have a sense of humor and/or if you read Yoga Journal and other such mags, or if you live anywhere in California (and maybe in Portland, Seattle, New York City, the Twin Cities, and a few other yoga-studio-saturated places) you'll love My Third Eye Itches, written by a character called YogaDawg. I've been reading him for a while but I am now adding him to my blogroll, not that anyone ever looks at my blogroll. (Well, SiteMeter tells me a few people have clicked out to the websites, more so than to the blogs, interestingly. Never looked at the interesting stuff in the right-hand column? Have a look. All kinds of resources, just for YOU.)

I have let my subscription to Yoga Journal lapse both to save money and because the commodification of yoga was just getting a little too much. There are some very helpful things in the magazine (the actual postures of hatha yoga and related tips) but the whole commercialization- upscale-yoga scene was getting really, really irritating along with the pop spirituality and watered-down Buddhism. So now I read YogaDawg instead at his hilarious blog, and I figure if I really made use of all my old Yoga Journals (I never throw one out) I'd learn plenty, and there's always the Yoga Journal website. (I had eliminated it from the list of publications listed on the right when I got all huffy about the magazine, but I'm putting it back in there because a free resource is a free resource.) And nothing beats a class with a good teacher.

Now go laugh with YogaDawg. Hysterical. His series on Yoga styles (mostly in May) and the one on yoga mats (mostly in April) had me howling.

His latest post is on someone trademarking the word "OM."

If you're not prepared to have a sense of humor about yoga and some of the advanced ridiculousness on the U.S.A. yoga scene, don't read it.

(And yes, I do a little yoga every morning, but NOT on a sandalwood-scented yoga-star-trademarked mat wearing designer yoga clothes that cost the price of my food budget for two weeks.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pentecost stained glass window, Taizé Community

This Pentecost image is simple and is one of my favorites, partly because it is part of my religious journey as a young adult in the 1970s.

We love Stringfellow (4): a post for Pentecost (on the Holy Spirit)

A Summer Series post.

From The Politics of Spirituality (1984). Also available in the Wylie Kellermann anthology of Stringfellow's works.

*****"... I was very impatient to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church. In my rearing as a child in that church I had come to think that confirmation was the occasion when the secrets were told. Confirmation, I supposed, was the event in which all the answers that had previously been withheld from me, because I was a child, would be forthcoming. In particular, I recall, I expected in confirmation to learn the secret of the Holy Spirit. ...

*****In my experience as a child in the church, when adults named the Holy Spirit in the presence of children, it was always an utterly obscure, unspecified, literally spooky allusion.

*****It did not specifically occur to me as a child to suspect that adults in the church did not, in fact, know what they were talking about when they used the name of the Holy Spirit. The reference, anyway, was always intimidating. ...

*****Needless to say, confirmation turned out to be a great disappointment.

*****... It was only later on, after I had begun to read the Bible seriously, on my own initiative, that the cloture about the Holy Spirit was disputed and the ridiculous mystification attending this name of the Word of God began to be dispelled. ...

*****Biblically, the Holy Spirit means the militant presence of the Word of God inhering in the life of the whole of creation. Biblically, the Holy Spirit is the Word of God at work both historically and existentially, acting incessantly and pervasively to renew the integrity of life in this world. By virtue of this redundant affirmation of the biblical witness, the false notion – nourished in my childhood in the Episcopal Church – that the Holy Spirit is, somehow, possessed by and enshrined within the sanctuary of the church was at last refuted, and I was freed from it. Coincidentally, as one would expect, the celebration in the sanctuary became, for me, authentic – a eucharist for the redemption of the life of the whole of creation in the Word of God –instead of vain ritual or hocus-pocus.

*****It was the biblical insight of the truth of the Holy Spirit that signaled my own emancipation from religiosity. It was the biblical news of the Holy Spirit that began, then, to prompt the expectancy of encounter with the Word of God in any and all events in the common life of the world and in my own life as a part of that. It was –it is– the biblical saga of the Word of God as Agitator, as the Holy Spirit, that assures me that wheresoever human conscience is alive and active, that is a sign of the saving vitality of the Word of God in history, here and now. "

Despair, hope, AIDS: the Keiskamma Altarpiece

The always thoughtful janinsanfran at happening-here?, who blogs about politics, culture, and community life, has a post, with many more pictures like the ones above and below (thanks Jan - I'm lifting them from you) on the Keiskamma Altarpiece, made of fabric by women of Hamburg, not Hamburg, Germany, but Hamburg of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. It speaks of suffering and hope in the age of HIV/AIDS. It will take your breath away.

Thanks, Jan, for letting us know about this. The Keiskamma Altarpiece is at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. From there it will go to Seattle, Washington, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.

We love Stringfellow (3): prayer, politics, companionship

A Summer Series post.

William Stringfellow on his life and common commitments with his partner Anthony Towne (the term “partner” here is anachronistic, they didn’t use it, or “lover,” or “companion” in those days – they just lived together. Towne was a writer and poet. He and Stringfellow lived for some years on Block Island. Before that, of course, Stringfellow was in New York City for quite a while, practicing law in Harlem but also staying in touch with life downtown.) This is from an essay written after Towne’s death, published in Stringfellow’s book Simplicity in Faith.*

* Also found in the Wylie Kellerman anthology.

*****" Immigrating to Block Island became a turning point in [Anthony Towne's] story as a human being. Creatively, the city had been both stimulant and affront; the ethos and environment of the island offered nurture and husbandry for his gifts. I do not mean that Anthony romanticized the place, as some do, but that the pace and sounds, the style and sights, the austerity and beauty of the island consoled him and suited his vocation.

*****His vocation – as that may be distinguished from his occupation – was, in principle, monastic, as is my own. (That is the explanation of our relationship.) That is, he and I have understood that we had been called to a life of prayer and that the practice of prayer is essentially political –a matter of attention to events and of intercession and advocacy for the needs of human life and of the life of the whole of creation. Prayer, in this sense, is not pietistic but, on the contrary, radical involvement in the world as it is prompted in the Word of God. So coming to this island to live and work had no connotation of withdrawal or escapism or default for the two of us or either one of us but, rather, a paradoxical meaning. "

We love Stringfellow (2): a basic Stringfellow resource

A Summer Series post.

William Stringfellow published a lot of books.

Most of them are out of print, though a few have been reissued recently by Wipf and Stock, bless their hearts.

Fortunately, there is a fine one-volume paperback anthology of selected works, which went out of print fast but is now on the market again, at least the last time I checked, which was last year. It's a great place to start reading Stringfellow and covers the major periods and preoccupations of his life.

William Stringfellow, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow, edited by Bill Wylie Kellermann (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994).

Augustine of Canterbury and blue belt son

It's another research-and-writing day here, but Rob, lover of saints and icons, has properly celebrated the feast of Augustine of Canterbury and today's other commemorations, and added a bonus picture of one very live boy, his martial-arts-practicing son Zac. See it all here.

Stringfellow quotes and comments coming later today!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Blue Jay babies

Fledglings, really.

You can't say we're not species-inclusive on this blog ;-).

Thanks to Greensboro Birds...

Summer Disco: Miriam Makeba!

I'm reading African women's theologies today, so enjoy this song by the great Miriam Makeba of South Africa.

I'm giving you a link rather than the usual disco-player because something is wrong with the code and it made Miriam Makeba sound like Minnie Mouse. So the link above will take you directly to eSnips and will play automatically as soon as the eSnips page comes up.
The picture is a younger Makeba, around the time she recorded this song.

The song, by the way, is called "KwaZulu" (the land of the Zulu).

Pentecost and Memorial Day: resources, reflections

Simple Village Organist has a poetic Pentecost post (how’s that for alliteration) courtesy of Hildegard von Bingen and a thoughtful Memorial Day reflection. Auntie Jane says: check ‘em out.

In the interests of equal time for canines, I also need to point out that Ed (Simple Village Organist, actually from not-so-village Immanuel Presbyterian on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles) has one adorable dog, appropriately named Anna Magdalena*, whom you can see here.

* As usual, take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, but this article looks like it is halfway decent. (Ed, please confirm this for us non-specialists.) This snooty postscript brought to you by Professor Jane, who has a note in every one of her syllabi telling her students that she does NOT want to see Wikipedia as a reference in any of their research papers because it is not a proper scholarly source, humph.

Friday cat blogging: multitasking cat

Yup, Sensei again, on Jane's messy desk at home. Winter 2006 or thereabouts. No, I did not position him on that pencil. It's all his doing.

Bede, priest, monk, historian

It's Bede's day, and in the spirit of gotta-work-on-those-
-summer-writing -projects-as- -promised, I defer to the great writer of saints' posts, Padre Mickey, whose reflections on Bede (with a very nice icon) I commend to you.

See also the picture at Grandmère Mimi's place.

And I would be a lousy friend and academic if I didn't pay tribute to my colleague and friend Arthur Holder, one of the Bede specialists of planet Earth, who has written and edited all manner of deep scholarly works on this early historian, who was also a biblical commentator.

I see this new piece is just out (well, two years ago, but that's "just out" in the non-blog world):

  • Arthur Holder, “The Feminine Christ in Bede’s Biblical Commentaries,” in Bède le Vénérable entre tradition et postérité, ed. S.Lebecq, M. Perrin, and O.Szerwiniack, Brepols, 2005.

P.S. Padre Rob not only has Bede, but two other Celtic saints for today, Dunchad and Aldhelm. I had no idea it was their day too. Have a read.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Stuff Happens"

Stuff happens. Accidents. Mental illness. Death. Throughout human history, people have asked "Why?" To ask "why" is to presume that stuff happens for a reason, that behind events lie causes we can discover. It's a question from a privileged perspective. It suggests human omniscience.

Those are the first few sentences of another fine piece, Stuff Happens, by Deirdre Good, whom I mentioned a few days ago. (Like her essay on "Jesus' Family Values," this comes to us courtesy of the Episcopal Café.)

Jackson Kemper, Nicolas Copernicus, and Simeon the Pillar-Dweller

There’s a combo!

Today’s People of the Day in the Episcopal Church:

Jackson Kemper, missionary bishop (1789-1870)

Nicolas Copernicus, priest and scientist (1473-1543)

And in the Orthodox Church, Simeon the Pillar-Dweller (521-596). (No icon available so far.) This, by the way, is Simeon Stylites the Younger, not to be confused with Simeon Stylites the Elder, another pillar-dweller.

There seem to be more icons of the elder fellow.

(See also this slightly confusing but fascinating description of Simeon the Elder – or Younger? The dates are a little contradictory in this text. But the picture is great.)
This is where Simeon Stylites (the Elder, I think) had his pillar. It's in Syria.

Finally, here is a beautiful icon of Simeon Stylites (definitely the Elder -- I know, it's not his day, but it's a great icon) with two other saints, Stylianus (with a child) and Onouphrious (Humphrey), with the flowing beard carefully arranged for modesty.
More on this fabulous icon here. (Padre Rob is going to like this one.)

Holy One of blessing,
You grace us with companions
of varied gifts and temperaments.
Flawed and holy,
they speak to us
of the many paths to you
in the Spirit of Christ, Saviour.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reporting on Evo Morales (long and in two parts -- if you're interested in media, language, and/or U.S. and Latin American politics, this is for you)

Well, well, well. Speaking of reporters. Here are two Associated Press stories. (Full disclosure: my brother was an AP bureau chief in Europe for several decades. I have AP friends in both Europe and the U.S.) No byline on either. They are the same story about the president of Bolivia. One in French, one in English.

Haven’t seen the Spanish version.

Presumably all written by same reporter, then translated, probably right at the bureau in La Paz. (But there has been an AP reorganization so this is speculation based on my knowledge of how the foreign bureaus operate. They always have staff who write in both English and the language of the country – not always the same people, but a La Paz office would have full bilingual capability, Spanish and English. Where the French gets written or translated I am not sure. But these stories come from the same news agency. I looked for the Spanish-language version but couldn't find it. If anyone finds it, let me know and send me the link and we'll do a three-way comparison. Cross cultural conversations R Us.)

Saw the French one first because it was among the three top headlines in “World News” on my French-speaking Yahoo home page headline thingie. (Sorry for the technical language.)

Muttering about how the English-language "World News” three-major-headlines thingie could have had this story since after all it is about the Americas, I clicked on the AP world news headlines link for more world news in English and still no Bolivia story among the ten or so stories on the page. Nothing. Finally I did a search on the AP world news site and found the story. (First question: what qualifies as "news of note" ?)

Same story. More or less the same headline.

U.S.-directed story:
******Bolivian president blasts capitalism.

French-audience-directed story:
******Capitalism “worst enemy of humanity,” says Evo Morales
******(actually it said Capitalism is "the worst enemy of humanity," says Evo Morales, but I abridged -- see how I adapted to my audience almost without thinking?)

Yes of course audience dictates language and it's natural for reporters to adapt to the audience with idioms, explanations, added paragraphs because of national or regional interest in particular questions.

But the nature of the differences is what's interesting here. And I have to go to bed, so I'll post the rest tomorrow, in this space. Stay tuned. (Or if you read both languages, have a look at the links above.)

Look for which story adds the qualifier "leftist" to the president's name. Any guesses?

So, it's tomorrow and here is the sequel.

Let me say that it is frequent for news agency stories to be cut and adapted by the newspapers that publish them. It's happened to pieces I have written, in fact. That's legit, though it was fascinating to see what different newspapers did with the exact same piece of raw material to suit their biases.

Agencies also often publish longer and shorter versions of the same story -- also legit. In fact, news stories are written by the reporters in such a way that you can cut out pieces of them for reasons of space; that's why the more important stuff is up front and naturally the lead (first sentence or two) gives you the main point of the story.

So it's not unusual that one story would have those three extra paragraphs.

Still, that's not all that's going on here.

The additional three paragraphs are in the English-language, U.S.-directed one, which makes sense since they are pertinent to the Americas.

There is also an additional adjective. Nowhere in the French story does Morales get called "leftist."

Also, while the French story refers to the conference he attended as a conference of “left-wing intellectuals," the English version translates the French intellectuels de gauche (a common French term, by the way; literal translation "intellectuals of the left") as“leftist intellectuals” – and you know "leftist" has a different connotation from “left-wing.” (Yes, there is a French word for "leftist," which is "gauchiste." Also pejorative, like the English "leftist.")

Let me print the two stories here, even though this will be long, and you can see for yourself. I'm highlighting some of the obvious differences in green.

The English-language story:

LA PAZ, Bolivia - President Evo Morales called capitalism the "worst enemy of humanity" at a conference of Latin American leftist intellectuals on Tuesday.

A coca-growers' union leader who became Bolivia's first Indian president, the leftist Morales has nationalized oil and natural gas resources as part of his effort to redistribute wealth in South America's poorest country.

"The transnational corporations always provoke conflicts to accumulate capital, and the accumulation of capital in a few hands is no solution for humanity," Morales said at forum in Cochabamba. "And so I have arrived at the conclusion that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity."

Morales also said Bolivia's new constitution, now being written, would declare Bolivia a pacifist nation and explicitly renounce war. "Instead of making more weapons and bullets to kill humankind, we must concentrate on producing more food," he said.

The president spoke at a two-day conference on the role of media in political efforts to create a new Latin American socialism, sponsored by Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Ecuador. Morales counts Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro as close allies.

Morales has criticized the historic role of foreign business interests in Bolivia, often noting that the 1879 War of the Pacific, in which Bolivia lost its seashore to Chile, was sparked in part by a British trading company's rush to control the coast's valuable guano and saltpeter deposits.

Bolivia later lost tens of thousands of soldiers and another wide swath of territory in the 1930s Chaco War with Paraguay, which many historians describe as a proxy battle between U.S. company Standard Oil and Dutch-British Shell Oil over land thought to hold valuable petroleum deposits.

The French-language story (translated very carefully by yours truly):

La Paz. Evo Morales, first Indian president of Bolivia, Tuesday called capitalism “the worst enemy of humanity.”

"Transnational corporations always provoke conflicts in order to accumulate capital, and the accumulation of capital in a few hands is no solution for humanity,” said the Bolivian president during a conference of left-wing intellectuals in La Paz. “I have thus arrived at the conclusion that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity.”

Elected in December 2005 for a five-year term on a platform of defense (protection) for oppressed populations, Evo Morales has since then nationalized the oil and natural gas industries with a goal of redistribution of wealth based on this transaction. He convened a constitutional convention last August, giving it one year to incorporate into the constitution the rights of the long oppressed Indian majority.

He noted Tuesday that the new constitution declared Bolivia as a pacifist nation and explicitly renounced war. “Rather than building new weapons and bullets to kill the human race, we should concentrate on increased food production,” he said.

[Note: I don't know what he said in the original Spanish -- "must" or "should" -- so there are issues of translation from the Spanish as well.]

So the French news outlet gives the story more prominence.

And the U.S. story has additional qualifiers as well as extra info on Latin America (Monroe Doctrine, anyone?) and oil.

Learn critical reading skills, I tell my students.

Though to be honest, I didn't first learn these skills in my fine U.S. college, I learned them in French elementary and high school doing explication de texte. But college did encourage them.

And now for a little levity

CLICK HERE for music.

With eternal gratitude to Miss Ella and the Duke.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Christian Anti-Judaism

I'm posting here a book review that came out a while back, for the sake of making it accessible to friends from another blog where we have been talking about related matters. I have access to the review online because I'm on the network of the school where I teach, but people who aren't wouldn't be able to use that link. So I am cutting and pasting it since it is short. I'm assuming the Anglican Theological Review, where the review was published, will forgive me just this once (I'm now a reviewer of theirs, too -- my review of Kwok Pui-lan's new book recently came out there), and I thank the author of the review, New Testament scholar Deirdre Good, who blogs at On Not Being A Sausage and whose fine essay "Jesus' Family Values" appeared recently at The Episcopal Cafe.

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament after the Holocaust - reviewed by Deirdre Good (Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2004)

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament after the Holocaust. Edited by Paula Fredriksen and Adele Reinhartz. Louisville, Ky. and London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. xi + 129 pp. $19.95 (paper).

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism contains five clearly written essays by outstanding Jewish and Christian scholars on the most pressing issue for Christians: how the New Testament is the source for Christian anti-Judaism.

Fredriksen's essay, "The Birth of Christianity and the Origins of Anti-Judaism," argues that as the identity and theology of certain types of Gentile Christianities develop in the second century, so too grows the use of demeaning views of Judaism to express that theology. Arguing how to read the Bible, these theologies serve to clarify self-identity over and against "Jews," that is, the Christian antitype.

E. P. Sanders's "Jesus, Ancient Judaism, and Modern Christianity: The Quest Continues" explains Jesus' own piety in its proper Jewish context, while John Gager argues in "Paul the Apostle of Judaism" against the widespread view that Paul was the father of Christian anti-Judaism, the author of rejection-replacement theology, who claimed that God has rejected his people Israel and replaced them with a new people, the Christians. This alternate reading makes sense of pro-Jewish passages in Paul's letters such as his insistence that God has not rejected his people (Rom. 11:1) or his statement that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26), noting that Paul says "will be saved" and not "will come to recognize Christ." Paul, in Gager’s reading, is not arguing that Jews should not observe the Torah, that it is ineffective as a means of salvation, or that God has rejected the Jews. Rather, he is arguing that God has now, through the faith of Jesus, provided another, law-free, path to salvation for Gentiles, who are now "grafted on" and joined with the Jewish people in God's economy of salvation.

In the fourth essay, "Matthew, Mark, and Luke: Good News or Bad?," Amy-Jill Levine indicates that historical-critical readings of biblical texts must acknowledge anti-Jewish and neutral or even pro-Jewish readings of the same texts. For Jews and Christians to read these passages together is probably the best way to undertake this painful but important task.

Finally, Adele Reinhartz's essay "The Gospel of John" shows how each of the gospel's three interrelated stories are suffused with anti-Judaism: a narrative about the historical Jesus; a story about the Johannine community for which this gospel was a central document; and a story about the universe that also explains God's relationship to humankind. Ancient attitudes embedded in these central stories need not be normative for Christians today.

Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism provides an introduction for those unfamiliar with the topic. For others it offers new and important perspectives on Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament in general. It is intelligently written and compellingly argued. It will be among the required texts for my introductory New Testament course next spring. It should be read by all Christians and used profitably in church (and synagogue) study groups.


Also, here's a link (this one will work for everyone) to a recent Christian Century article by New Testament scholar Amy-Jill (A.J.) Levine, "Misusing Jesus: How the Church Divorces Jesus from Judaism." It looks much like the lecture we heard Professor Levine give here in Greensboro last fall when she was a guest of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The article is written for a Christian audience, but not necessarily a scholarly one. Have a look.

There has been a growing body of literature in this area since the 1960s. My mentors Krister Stendahl and Rosemary Radford Ruether have both been involved in this area of study -- and interestingly, both have been involved in scholarship (and action) re: women and Christianity, too, and both have noted that women and Jews have functioned as "the other" in Christianity in similar and sometimes interrelated ways.

You can find solid, user-friendly resources on reading the Bible, Christian views of Jews and Judaism, the death of Jesus, and related matters in Christian-Jewish relations, at the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College.

This is a huge issue, and with all kinds of liturgical- and violence-related ramifications, as Padre Mickey and I agreed on either his blog or mine (must look it up) during Holy Week and the early Easter season. So this is just a small resource, but one among many. Fortunately since Vatican II these resources have been more and more numerous, and there has been much thoughtful, if often painful, study and conversation about this. May it continue.

But first, a little biblical hermeneutics by George and Ira Gershwin

Before we embark on our Theological Summer Series and our Summer Disco, here's a springtime theological commentary, from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Listen carefully.

Get this widget Share Track details

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jane's Summer Series

After an intense year of teaching and academic politics, I am taking a much needed and long overdue chunk of time for solitary research, thinking, writing, and editing work, some of it at home and some of it out of town.

In consequence, I will be both less and more present in the blogosphere this late spring and early summer.

I will be posting less at other blogs and probably reading them with lesser frequency.

On this blog, I may post less of the usual and perhaps much less frequently. But at (unpredictable) times I will be posting much more frequently in the form of quotes from and reflections on what I am reading and perhaps bits of writing-in-process.

Sharing in this way helps me clarify my thinking. I write also because I like sharing my intellectual and spiritual journeys. Ministry and writing are what I do as I breathe. And friendship. Teaching, too. So in that sense the sharing of ideas is nothing new, but the form of blogging is new and we are all still learning about the ways in which we can read, listen, and converse out here. I wonder how this (the blog thing) will affect all our various vocations. I’m interested in your thoughts about this, by the way. (And I have an article cooking on the back burner about what happens to prayer and spiritual life in this wired age, but it needs to cook longer, and I need to live and practice some more before I write it in full.)

I also won’t be preaching much this summer, so this is probably compensation. Girl gotta preach even when she’s alone in her room. Jesus said so. (He did?)

So, as promised earlier (way at the bottom of that Grouchy post), I’m offering, out of both selfish and generous motives, a Summer Series. Theological, mostly, but I have a very broad definition of theology, so don’t panic.

Themes that will come up in this series of reflections and quotations (related to organized writing I’m doing but in random appearance here):

* faith and justice (Christian faith and practice mostly; social as well as ecological justice);

the church (in general; not Anglican politics – that’s not the work I’m doing right now, though I hope this work will make its own contribution to the Episcopal and Anglican conversations); what it is, what it’s good for, what it should be (and shouldn’t), what some folks say about it;

* feminist and other women-defined perspectives on church, society, and culture from a variety of countries and continents (not just the U.S.), with a focus on feminist ecclesiologies (ecclesiology = fancy word for theology about the church, just as christology is theology about Jesus Christ, soteriology is theology about salvation, and so on);

* ecumenism (= relations between and among various Christian churches, usually with the goal of great unity, through common action for the social good or through reconciliation of beliefs or conversation about them, or in other ways); also (but to a lesser extent) interreligious and intercultural relations;

* liturgy, ritual, and prayer from (international, not just U.S) feminist perspectives.

1. So, Jane, have you got ten years?

2. What are you, crazy?

1. No, just a part of the late spring and summer, but I’ve been working in these areas for well over ten years (more like thirty) in some form and I expect to work in them for the rest of my life, one way or another.

2. Yes.

3. Don’t even try and figure out what I’m working on – there are actually several projects, though they are related. Just enjoy.

Note: agnostics, atheists, secular humanists, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans and all walkers in all manner of other paths besides Christianity are welcome here. I’m just being clear about what my work involves.

When a post is part of the Summer Series, I will indicate this at the beginning of the post, with a link back to this one.

That way you can skip the post if you want, or pay closer attention if that’s your interest.

As always, I will try to make my posts accessible, but some specialized language will probably creep in there.

Know that I always think of friends known and unknown as I write. (Now you’re beginning to understand why I love Thomas Merton, that proto-blogger of monkdom.) I hope these reflections will interest some of you.

Think of the Summer Series as your little online theological magazine, for resources, meditation, and conversation.

As always, your comments are welcome, even when I am less chatty than usual. Keep ‘em coming, I enjoy the company. And if you are someone who prays, please keep me in your prayers.

Note: To balance things out, I will also be having a Summer Disco series (heavier on soul and swing than on disco, but anything is possible and boogying will be a priority). For fabulous and more frequent music, though, visit the one and only MadPriest, who posts music a couple of times a day, in a variety of genres, and has great taste in roots music, soul, and heaven knows what else. (Those last two music links may expire within a few days. Just click MadPriest for the latest music on his blog.)

It's time for a bird update

This here is a Northern Flicker, and if you want to know more about the what and why and how of its interesting toes and tail, go to the full story at Greensboro Birds.

Prayers for Desmond Tutu

This is very freaky. I know I’m a little psychic, but this gives me the chills.

Late last night I was thinking about Archbishop Tutu, and I got this strong thing about his cancer having come back, or rather, what happened is that I thought of him and of posting a photo, for some reason, and then I thought no, I won’t do that, if I post his photo just like that it will mean either he’s dead or his cancer has come back, and I got this strong feeling about death and deathly illness. Then I dismissed the whole thing because I have been preoccupied with mortality of late, and because I had just a bit earlier posted a song in honor of a living friend and a deceased one, a Christian justice-maker, and that got me thinking about her. So I figured this was just one of my random brain flashes.

This morning I read this item on MadPriest’s site and saw that the signal wasn’t all in my inner wanderings. This kind of thing has happened to me before (with people’s deaths and pregnancies in particular) so I should pay attention to it. Or not.

Because what’s really important is the beloved archbishop (who is partly responsible for my becoming an Anglican, by his life and words, and whom I had the honor of meeting briefly last year --and asking for his blessing, which he gave me in Xhosa) and his well-being. So, send good thoughts and prayers his way. Of his peace of mind and communion with God I have no doubt, but good health is nice, too.

Prayers also for Leah Tutu and for the entire family.

Gracias a la Vida

This one's for PeaceBang, in honor of her blog entry on gratitude, and also in memory of Mev Puleo, at one of whose memorial services (there were several, back in 1996 when she died at the age of 32) this song played - though I think it was the Joan Baez version, and not this original by Violeta Parra. Now I always think of Mev when I hear it.

Get this widget | Share | Track details

We love Stringfellow (1)

There's a longer post coming with bits of and about William Stringfellow, but meanwhile, this little gem:

In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst babel, I repeat, speak the truth.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

How'd I miss this? (Baudrillard's death)

Geez, what kind of an intellectual am I? I missed this one. This is what happens when I don't stay in touch with my friends in other fields -- or when they don't write me, or when I am too swamped with reading students' work (first things first, after all) to read the newspapers. But you'd think that NPR or the BBC or some online news source would have told me.

Anyway: Jean Baudrillard died. Back in early March. I found out here c/o Beyond Rivalry, a blogger I just discovered and with whom I seem to share some interests; she lists simple living, spirituality, theology, politics, crime fiction,the arts, and several other areas as her interests, and I note that she talks about a broad array of topics from "House" (the TV series) to Jerry Falwell to the Christian Peacemaker Teams to journalists -- e.g. Jill Carroll, the former hostage and writer for the Christian Science Monitor, who has recently returned to the Middle East.

And how did I find Beyond Rivalry? Because I was Googling for photos of Thomas Merton and the first one that popped up was this rather sexy one from her blog. Never seen this one before, and I've seen a lot of Merton pictures.

As for Baudrillard, he was one of those Important People I've Hardly Read But Several of My Friends Really Like. At the end of doctoral work one gets wrapped up in the authors one needs for one's dissertation, and at the beginning of a teaching job one gets wrapped up in the material one is teaching. Thus the Baudrillard gap. He probably falls into the hard to read category, but I'll try him in French as well as English and see whether they've mucked him up in translation. But first I'll do the 101 on those nice links Beyond Rivalry provides.

May Jean Baudrillard rest in peace and have great conversations in heaven. (Sure, at the same time. You think these things are impossible?)

If Thomas Merton were alive today, he'd have a blog

I'm just sayin'.

69 days

Alan Johnston of the BBC: 69 days since his disappearance.

7th Sunday of Easter

From the Taizé Community:

Get this widget
Track details

80s flashback

See what happens when I read books on social analysis all evening? (Alternating with editing a piece of my own writing on a related topic, with a feminist twist of course.) If Joe Holland and Peter Henriot only knew. (And Maria Riley and Jon Sobrino, too. Yes, they're in there. Use the "search inside" feature.)

Get this widget Share Track details

It's going to be a twisted summer, I can tell. And it's still officially spring. Hang on to your hats.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Academic writing

One of my very, very favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

I sent it to my friends in the annual holiday letter in which I announced (a dozen years ago) that I was going to graduate school the following year (the Ph.D. graduate school, not the earlier divinity school one). One of the reasons I didn't do this kind of academic degree sooner is that I was afraid of wrecking my writing. This was back in the days when I was concerned about "finding my voice" as a writer. I was a published journalist, essayist, and preacher by the time I started the Ph.D. , and by then I'd also met, and read, a few academics who could actually write with beauty and clarity. But the jargon can still get pretty heavy, and there's plenty of bad writing around. What gets me most of all, or rather, what I don't understand, is why and how people who write about language (e.g. the "great" philosophers of language) are the worst of all in that department! They are impossible to understand. Fortunately, that's not my field so I can avoid reading them. I wish I had the patience, since I am deeply interested in questions related to language, but it makes no sense to me to explore the issue of language and meaning by wading through obscure texts. Sorry, Wittgenstein.


Feeling grouchy and grumpy, but not wanting to unload (or, as my parents would say, quoting the Sixties in disparaging tones, to "let it all hang out") in a public online forum, I trawled the Web for comic strips and cartoons and pictures, and found mostly male and white characters, one of whom is a favorite of mine, Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame (oh, we do so miss them) and one of whom, of course, was the dwarf (one of the seven of Snow White) Grumpy.

So then I googled "grouchy" instead of "grumpy" (yes, I was procrastinating from my Deep Academic Writing, one of a handful of summer projects, in some ways quite pleasurable since I get time to think, which rarely happens during the academic year, and in other ways a pain) and discovered that one of Napoleon's generals was named Emmanuel Grouchy, or Emmanuel de Grouchy (depends whom you read) and that despite victories at Wagram and elsewhere, he became known and remembered for his association with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. (The French, naturally, did not name a train station after Waterloo as the British did, and having been raised in France I associate the name Waterloo with catastrophe, defeat, gloom, and all the rest. How you tell history --and remember it-- depends on where you are...) So, poor guy (yes, that's his picture, one of the less cheery ones) he ran off to the United States for a while (this coincided with Napoleon's abdication) but then came back to France, where he died mid-century. Mid-19th-century, that is. His son and grandson wrote some book to try and rehabilitate his memory because despite the fact that he received more honors from at least one successor of Napoleon, he never could shake the Waterloo association.

Talk about reasons to feel grumpy.

At any rate, his name in French of course is not pronounced like the English grouchy (it's pronounced "groo-shee") but the association is still appropriate.

Here is a slightly more cheery photo of him.

So this looks nothing like my current state of mind, as I am not a general nor the loser of a Waterloo-ish military battle, but you know I like to keep my posts erudite ;-).

I will soon begin a series of theological and other "summer term reflections" here, which will cheer me up a bit and may or may not put you to sleep. But more on that later. Enjoy General Grouchy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Equal opportunity

Bird blogging continues. This one --local like the previous birds-- is a Red-bellied Woodpecker. As always, this comes courtesy of the nice humans at Greensboro Birds.

Friday cat blogging: "Birds Out There"

Yes, this is what I titled this photo back in January '06 after I had it developed and printed. That is, yet again, the late lamented Sensei, sitting on his computer (he made clear early on that I only had it on loan, see below a second photo titled "This laptop is MINE" which is from the same day) and checking out the birds from the window of my study at home.

Honoring Florence Nightingale and all nurses

Today the Episcopal Church remembers Florence Nightingale. (1820-1910)

I want to honor all nurses along with her, and may add a bit to this post later in the day. (My blogging is going to get sporadic the next few weeks while I retreat to work on a Big Academic Tome and other personal writings offline.)

Meanwhile, here are some biographies. Read 'em. This is one interesting woman.

There is a good bio at the Daily Office site. Go here and then scroll down (below Canticle 18) and click on Florence Nightingale's name for the bio by James Keifer.

From the Florence Nightingale Museum in the U.K.

From Spartacus School U.K. online.

This one, shorter, has a focus on the conditions patients endured in FN's day.

Note how appalling the nursing and medical conditions were in Nightingale's day and how much she changed them!

Life-giving God, who alone have power over life and death, over health and sickness: Give power, wisdom, and gentleness to those who follow the example of your servant Florence Nightingale, that they, bearing with them your Presence, may not only heal but pain and fear; through Jesus Christ, the healer of body and soul, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
************From the Daily Office site

Eating the words of God

Dorothee Soelle said that you should eat a Psalm for breakfast every day.

In the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Episcopal and Catholic and Orthodox and many other churches, there are Psalms, of course, as there are (in greater number) in the various monastic offices.

But one Psalm will do.

In fact --I have written this before-- the words of Morning Prayer are often too much for me. If I am alone (the group prayer experience is different) I have to break up MP if I say it, because I just want to chew on the Psalm for a while.

This morning's scriptures in the Daily Office offered a related story:

I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it. [God] spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

[God] said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and [God] gave me the scroll to eat. [God] said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.

******** Ezekiel 2:9-3:3