Monday, July 28, 2008

The Culture Wars

I've written here before about the so-called Culture Wars. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started this blog. However, I am no longer comfortable with the language of war used to describe political, cultural, religious and ideological division within America. Such language, is, alas, far too apt.

I'm struggling for words at the moment. This morning, in the waiting room at my doctor's office, I read about a gunman opening fire in a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Tennessee, killing two people and wounding at least five others. While the first news reports did not note a motive for this horrific act of violence, by this afternoon the motive was clear: the killer, Jim D. Adkisson, targeted his victims because they were "liberals."

This afternoon I read a featured "hate mail of the day" on Daily Kos:

I can only hope that Obama is elected president. Then maybe he and his liberal friends (including you assholes) will let in enough terrorists who will blow some shit up. They won't go after middle America (in which I live in) because we're not a large enough target. No, they will want more dead bodies. That's where you come in. I spent a few minutes on your site and realized that you're all fucked in the head brainless pussies. I'd like to personally kick the shit out of you. But since you're probably in New York or Los Angeles, that's not going to happen. I've been to Los Angeles. What a shithole. I'd like to get some good pizza in NY, but not at the risk of running across assholes like anyone on the New York Times, Madonna, David Letterman, or any other cocksucking liberal.

One day, I'll pick up the newspaper and it will say, Muslim terrorists blow up Manhattan, Boston, Detroit, Los Angles, and Washington, D.C. As sad as it will be that those stinky ragheads will have spilled precious American blood on our soil, at least most of you liberal assholes will be burnt to a cinder. Just keep up your liberal ways, letting all the illegal aliens in, handcuffing our military and police, and you'll see what happens. I'll have a box of tissues for my tears, mourning the lost lives, and also a nice bottle of wine knowing that most your you asshole libs are now feeding the worms six feet under. And in closing, fuck you!

We are increasingly willing to believe the worst about each other. In doing so, we are increasingly willing to create of our ideological opponents some morally defective "other," a group on which to place the blame for all of our own suffering, who must then be punished, even exterminated.

In this respect, the Culture Wars are beginning to look more and more like John Howard Yoder's description of a "holy" war. Here are 3 of the 5 characteristics of a "holy" war he identified in his When War is Unjust. I've picked them because they speak into my reading of the Culture Wars, especially in light of the shootings in Tennessee and the hate mail posted at Daily Kos:

a) The cause has a transcendent validation. What is at stake is not a finite political value that needs to be weighed over against other political values, so that the clash of interest of the various parties in the social mechanism can be subjected to a careful calculus of proportionality. The commander and the warriors are freed from such political calculations by the overarching value of the holy cause...

c) The adversary has no rights, or at least no vested rights that must be respected. Some Crusaders made exceptions and did not kill women and children, but often in holy war genocide is the norm. In the Iberian invasion of South America this dimension surfaced in the claim of some that the natives had no human souls, or that even if they were human they had no rights. Often this attitude correlates with racist or ethnic deprecation of the enemy ("the only good Indian [or Viet Cong, or whatever] is a dead one"). Restraint is no virtue; excess is proof of devotion...

d) The criterion of last resort does not apply. Other ways of working toward the same goal... are dishonorable in the face of the transcendent duty to destroy.

While this is not a perfect description of the Culture Wars - which are not military clashes between competing armies, but rather clashes of words that occasionally turn into outright physical violence - parts of this description hit too close to home. If, for instance, any phrase captures the malice of intent and action that is invading the sanctuary of a church and firing on a crowd (that included children!) it is: "the transcendent duty to destroy."

When people like Ann Coulter write bestsellers that fantasize about the destruction not only of liberalism (whatever she thinks she means by that) as an ideology but even the very destruction of liberals as persons, you know that it is open season on "liberals" in print. When blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage have the two highest rate radio talk shows, you know that hate-speech against "liberals" can be a lucrative industry indeed. And now, thanks to Mr. Adkisson, we see that, at least in some warped minds, it is in fact open season on liberals.

I'm at a loss as to how to combat this. My only strategy seems ineffectual, weak, but I'll offer it here, anyway. It is all I have, even if it is ultimately founded perhaps on naive optimism, unwarranted faith in our collective desire to live happily in peace. My strategy is this: regardless of our respective ideologies, we here in America need to live together, be together. Drink together, eat together. Simply breathe together.

This strategy does not help address some serious moral problems. It is, for instance, almost impossible and almost certainly unhealthy, to share a table with someone who denies your basic humanity, your fundamental right to exist. To ask gays and lesbians to come to the proverbial table with homophobes is a mark of the privilege of one who is not hated for having the audacity to exist. To ask racial and ethnic minorities to come to that same proverbial table with racists and white supremacists is a mark of that same privilege. In fact, to ask any victim of hate to sit at the table with their potential and actual abusers carries with it the real possibility of the perpetuation of abuse.


It is my conviction that we cannot ultimately create a demonic "other" out of those with whom we share fellowship (or, perhaps a better, less patriarchal word would be "community").

So a conservative friend of mine (who identifies himself as a fundamentalist) meets me for time to time to share beer and pizza. We talk about our families, our work, our hobbies. We talk about our food and drink. We talk about our fears and our hopes, our anxieties and our deepest longings. We confess our sins and declare the triumphs of our best selves. And we just sit together. We agree on very little, almost nothing if the conversation turns to theology (which it often does) or politics (a little more rare). But we sit together in our favorite pub, sharing space in peace.

We don't do this as often as we'd like to. We don't do this as often as we should. But still we do it. And it helps. We may never agree on the nature of God, or the way in which each of us respectively says that Jesus reveals God to us. We may never agree on what an appropriate political or economic system should look like. But, by virtue of simply being together at the table, we are unable to reduce each other to "others," enemies in the great Culture Wars. At the table we share a truce.

That truce may well be an uneasy one. We find ourselves on opposite sides of issue that we each are passionate about, and we honestly believe that the other's position has serious moral and ethical flaws. But we share a truce anyway, as we sit at the table together, eating and drinking in each other's company, sharing whatever respective loves we can share.

Perhaps we should invite others to that table, in the vain hope that sharing space will curtail violence.

What Liberal Media?

That's the title of an excellent book by media critic Eric Alterman, who systematically debunked the myth that mainstream media has a liberal bias. Full of witty observations such as, in the case of the title of chapter 2, "You're Only As Liberal As the Man Who Owns You," Alterman noted that if the mainstream media has any agenda, it is a capitalist one. Simply put, mainstream media outlets are about one thing, and one thing only: making money. As with any other corporation, everything else is secondary.

Yet the myth of the liberal media persists in many circles. This is no doubt in part due to very successful conservative efforts to "work the refs." Constantly complaining of mistreatment at the hands of the "liberal" media is a great way to lower expectations in the public, to create a false mainstream, and even to get media outlets to break out their kid-gloves for you. Thus someone like John McCain can - despite once arguing that the media is his "base" - with a straight face complain that the media is biased against him.

Well, as an article by James Rainey in yesterday's LA Times notes, there has most certainly been biased coverage in this year's election. It just isn't the bias that casual observers and those still clinging to the myth of a liberal media might have expected:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

This is not news to those of us who do not depend on the mainstream media for, well, our news. Critiques of the mainstream media's coverage of this election are rampant in the blogosphere, and most of the one's I've read note that Sen. John McCain (and, to a lesser extent, Sen. Hillary Clinton) has been the primary beneficiary of false media narratives.

Political Base's Mark Nickolas has perhaps been best at exposing false media narratives, especially the narrative that this election is really quite close, perhaps a toss up. He's even noted the distance between Karl Rove's and CNN's respective electoral maps. (For the record, as of July 25, the date of Mr. Nickolas' post, Rove's map had Obama leading McCain by 89 electoral votes, 272 to 183 while CNN's map had Obama leading by only 32, 221 to 189; spend some time at Political Base and you'll see a recurring theme, mainstream media outlets reporting the race as much closer than either objective analysts, pollsters, or political operatives.)

Other blogs have similarly noticed that the media seems to have different standards for Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. These differences are almost always more charitable for Sen. McCain. Whatever the reason for this, it is very clear that far from wanting Obama to win, they either want to keep this race artificially close, or, God forbid, are actually openly rooting for McCain.

That brings us back to the study in question, again as reported by James Rainey of the LA Times. It focused not on cable news, which is often overtly and intentionally biased (pitting, for example, Keith Olbermann against Bill O'Reily) but on the major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. I've already noted on this blog that CBS edited an interview with John McCain, removing a factually inaccurate answer and replacing it with an answer he gave to a different question. While that was an egregious violation of journalistic standards and ethics, it is by no means the only example of media bias that benefits the McCain campaign: just the worst.

Rainey writes:

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.

Adding this observation to the anecdotal pieces of evidence spread throughout the blogosphere, and a picture emerges: Whatever else may be said of the mainstream media, let no one say that it is liberal. Let us please finally put that myth to rest.

Friday, July 25, 2008

John McCain's YouTube Problem

In another age, politicians might be able to get away with creative self-reinventions, salvaging a "straight-shooter" image while boldly lying about their own history and positions. In another age, the failure of the mainstream media to push back against the bullshit slung at them by presidential candidates would reward dishonesty by swinging the election to a serial liar.

This, however, is not that age. And John McCain needs to learn that, while he's also learning how to use a computer. In this age, anyone can quickly put together a McCain v. McCain smash-up, post it to YouTube, and dare the mainstream media to finally take their gloves off and call McCain's relentless reinventions of himself exactly what they are: convenient lies, made inconvenient by the fact that in this age of blogosphereic challenges to mainstream media hegemony they are oh so very easy to spot and call out.

So, while CBS News may be willing to edit out McCain's factually inaccurate Iraq timeline, and while parts of the mainstream media continue - despite McCain's incessant and obnoxious complaining about coverage - to reliably be his "base", no politician or candidate can any longer entirely get away with weaving dishonest revisionist self-histories. This is the basis of the claim that John McCain has a YouTube Problem.

Here is more proof positive that McCain's YouTube problem is indeed very real, and very damning. While John McCain - though still perpetually playing his "The Surge Is Working" card - is now trying to paint himself as "The War's Biggest Critic," there is ample video evidence that he was from the beginning one of its biggest cheerleaders, aiding and abetting the Bush administration as they dishonestly dragged us all into an unjust and illegal invasion and occupation. So you just had to know that somebody would compile it and post it to YouTube.

I saw this video at Jack and Jill Politics:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fool of the Week

I'm sure Sami will have something to say about this - maybe even a post of her own. But for now, though I'm amazed that I'm wasting my precious time on idiocy, here goes:

Michael Savage - a blowhard if ever there were one - has offered some astute insight into autism:

I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'

Media Matters notes that Mr. Savage went on to say:

If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool.

If that's true, Mr. Savage, your father is on the line right now, screaming YOU FOOL!

I know, calling someone a fool and a blowhard hardly counts as an intelligent rebuttal to their point, but I'm looking as hard as I can for Mr. Savage's point, and I don't see one. All I see is someone who cashes some very generous paychecks for spewing ill-informed, bigoted hatred.

I'm all for the freedom of speech. Mr. Savage has a right to say whatever he wants to say, and so long as his speech does not slander or defame, or steer others to commit violent crimes, there should be no legal consequences for it. That's the price we pay for living in a country that tolerates public criticism. A small price to pay for our freedom to call out our government when it leads us where we don't want to go.

But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be economic consequences.

Mr. Savage should have been out of a job long ago for his many transgressions against intelligence and decency. If his employers lack the moral courage to shut off his microphone, forcing him to do something worthwhile with his life, then economic pressure should be brought to bare against them, too.

Freedom of speech does not equal freedom to collect obscene paychecks for spewing ignorant hatred.

Update: 7-18-08, 10:08 am

As soon as I posted my initial response to Michael Savage's comments, I knew it was incomplete. I should have noted in my original post the connection between Mr. Savage's lack of understanding of (or interest in understanding) autism and his lack of compassion for persons impacted by autism, and his misogynistic patriarchy.

Mr. Savage argues (if one can call his rant an argument) that autism is caused by the absence of a father, as well as by raising boys like they are girls.

Even more troubling is how his words (and the beliefs to which they presumably point) function. Simply put, here, Mr. Savage creates a socially ostracizable Other, a group that can serve as a scapegoat, whose problems are a function not of some disease, not of some accident of birth or exposure to an environmental agent, but rather of that dreaded moral weakness.

As such, I'm not so sure my earlier analysis holds. It is, after all, not a very large leap at all to go from creating this morally weak Other to exterminating it. While Mr. Savage has not directly called for violence against autistic persons and their families, his words themselves may represent a very real act of violence. They may also, if they are left unchecked, help create the necessary social conditions for physical violence.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mary, Martha, and the Post-Easter Jesus (Luke 10:38-42)

Here's a short story I've been sitting on for some time, a fictional retelling of Luke 10:38-42, in light of Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza's critique of the passage and its interpretation (see, for example, chapter 5 in her book In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins, especially the section titled "The Church in Her House"). Thus, while this is a work of fiction, it is not simply a story weaved out of nothing.

After Elizabeth Shussler Fiorenza, historical Jesus scholar Marcus Borg is the next biggest influence on this story. His hand can be see especially in the distinction made here between the pre-Easter and the post-Easter Jesus, as well as on the description of the resurrection.

In addition to following Fiorenza's feminist critique of the text, I've moved the scene from before the resurrection to after it, for both theological and textual reasons. The scriptural passage doesn't seem to fit with the material immediately surrounding it, and has some of the hallmarks of a post-resurrection story, including - unlike most of the other stories in Luke, including the material immediately before this story - that it doesn't name Jesus, but rather calls him by a title, the Lord.

If anyone is interested in discussing more of both Fiorenza's critique of Luke 10:38-42 or my own thinking in writing this story the way that I did, please feel free to leave a comment, and I'll happily reply to it. Do remember, however, to keep it civil, following the guidelines for discussion found here.

While this is a historical-theological short story, I hope it is also a story, and one that can, at its best, be as entertaining as enlightening.

Finally, I'd like to thank Renee from Womanist Musings, one of the most interesting blogs I've ever stumbled across, for inspiring me - more than six months after I wrote this story - to finally post it. She's never read this story, but her blog's refusal to duck any issue surrounding gender and race inadvertently called me out for sitting on this for so long. I hope there's an audience for it, and that it generates at least a little bit of discussion, here and/or elsewhere.



I am Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. Martha and I pastor a house-church in Bethany, near where, at our behest, Jesus raised our brother. These days it may seem strange to hear that we – two women – pastor a house-church together. You, after all, are new to the movement, and so may not know the names of the great sisters like Phoebe, Julia, Priscilla, and others, leaders in the faith back when polite Roman society dismissed us a fringe movement of lunatics and women. Of women, there were and are plenty, unashamed to proclaim the Gospel. And I suppose we must have looked like lunatics to those stuffy Romans.

I’ve invited you here today to tell you the story of the time my sister and I, while preparing the Table for the Feast, were visited by our risen Savior. I know you’ve heard Luke tell the tale. I even hear he’s written in down in that silly book of his – as though God’s revelation could be permanently fixed in words! But I want you to know the truth. The farther we get from those first days with Jesus, the more we women are told to be still and silent. But it hasn’t always been so, and some of us – those who have seen our risen Savior with our own eyes, who have heard that heavenly voice with our own ears – will never cease to proclaim what we have seen, what we have heard, what we know.

Jesus visited us often when he walked this earth in flesh. We welcomed him every time he passed through Bethany, and studied Torah with him whenever he was around. Martha was perhaps his boldest student, and he loved her for it. In fact, it was Martha who insisted that he come see our brother Lazarus that time he brought him back from the brink. And it was Martha who wept most passionately when the Romans nailed him up for challenging their system of oppression and domination.

When he died, I can’t tell you how dark that day was. I’ve heard the stories that the sun, brokenhearted refused to shine; that a curtain of darkness descended over the land. Those stories are the only way I know to share with you the darkness that was in each of us, my sister and I, and all who knew, loved, and followed Jesus.

But even before we heard the strange whispers coming from Jerusalem, Martha, ever the bold one, decided to try to hold the movement together. While many of the men holed up, afraid they too might meet a bloody end at the hands of Rome, she sent out word to some women that we should gather in our house to study Torah. Then, of course, came those strange whispers. Joanna, saying the tomb was empty. Salome, telling of a light, a voice, and most importantly, a hope.

As these stories trickled in, our gatherings became a communal act of celebration and remembrance. We still studied Torah together, but with an even greater energy, passion, and hope. If the tomb was empty, if Joanna, Salome, Mary Magdalene and others had – dare we hope to believe it? – seen a light, heard a voice, then Jesus wasn’t dead! Rome could deal death, but it could not quench the life that had been given to us from God.

It was before one of these early house church meetings that we – Martha and I – finally saw our risen Savior with our own eyes, heard that heavenly voice with our own ears, and knew beyond all doubt that our greatest hopes were not in vain. I can’t tell you exactly what I saw; such visions are beyond words. I don’t know if you would have seen it, if you’d been in the room. Some can see, others can’t, but all can hope. But, whether or not you would have seen that light, whether or not you would have heard that voice, I know it wasn’t just in my head, for my sister saw and heard as well. She was preparing the Table for the Feast – I think I already told you that. The Feast of Celebration and Remembrance we had at every meeting. I was gathering my thoughts, since it was my turn to speak. Neither of us heard the door open – I don’t think it ever did – but when we both looked up at the same time, I from my prayer, my sister from the Table, we saw a body robed in light. So bright it hurt to look at it. Then we heard the voice.

What words it said I could not tell you. They cut right through me, taking my breath away. How we knew I couldn’t tell you, but we knew. It was Jesus. He lived. He lives. I don’t know how long our Savior stayed with us. Time lost all meaning to us. But I know that by the time the congregation gathered in our home, the vision had left.

I’m telling you this because I know that what we – my sister and I – are doing rubs some of the men wrong. They’re not sure that women should lead house churches any more, though of course we always have. They wish that we would keep silent. No respectable Roman religion, after all, lets women teach. But I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that we will never be silent. We know what we’ve seen, we know what we’ve heard, and we’ve been called to share the Gospel. If you’d seen that sight, if you’d heard that voice, you wouldn’t expect us to keep quiet, either.

And This is From the Liberal Media!

This presidential election is bringing out the best in us Americans, and the worst in us, too.

I'd love to wax poetic on voter turnout, political giving, activist and grassroots involvement, politics of hope, young people engaged in the political process, and the very real possibility that - despite the persistence of institutional and even often virulent racism - a "black" (actually biracial - the need to label Sen. Barack Obama, whose mother was white, monolithically black is another evidence of the persistence of racism, a conscious or unconscious adoption of the "one drop rule") person could actually be elected president. I really would. Honestly I'm a "glass-half-full" kind of guy, who would love to accentuate the positive. Who would love to spend all my time talking up everything that it going right.


As I often say, there's always a "but."

But, right now I'm simply too pissed. That's because I just caught a glimpse of the cover of the newest edition of The New Yorker at kos:

Like most of the early commenters on the post at kos, I thought this had to be a joke. Some kind of Internet prank. The blogospere pulling my leg.

Well it turns out to be a joke, alright. Just not the funny kind. The New Yorker's idea of a joke. An attempt to satirize paranoid right-wing caricatures of the Obamas. But in aping the worst sort of racist attacks, this may only lend some credence to them.

At best this is in poor taste. At worst, it will only feed into the racism that has thus far been all too common this election cycle


Update: 7-14-08, 9:11 am

I'm coming to this party a little late. Here's what rikyrah has to say at Jack and Jill Politics:

It’s unreal to me that nearly all the BS coming against Obama during this campaign season….HAS COME FROM SO-CALLED FRIENDLY SOURCES.

This isn’t the NATIONAL REVIEW.


What bothers me?

I dunno. Take your pic.

Bin Laden above the fireplace
The American Flag in the fireplace.
Obama in ‘Muslim’ Garb.
Michelle - with an Angela Davis Afro, and a Black Panther Machine gun.

Good lord, how many goddamn Obama smears can be placed in one picture frame?

I can hear the clicks now(copying and pasting of the picture), being sent in emails, all across the country.


And here's what Renee has to say at Womanist Musings:

Who does Blitt think that he will convince with this little cartoon? Those that already believe that Barack Huesein Obama is a terrorist are not going to be swayed by seeing him dressed up in Middle Eastern style clothing ...Nope, they are going to say ah ha told ya, the New Yorker even agrees with me. It does not matter what commentary goes around the image, it is the image that will resonate in the mind of others. Look he's different, he's not white, he can't be a real American, and to make sure that is what people take away from this image the flag is burning in the fireplace. Blacks are American enough to be over represented in the military, but certainly not American enough to hold any real power in society.


Here's the comment I left at Womanist Musings, which I think is better than anything I wrote on this for my own blog:

For satire to work, it has to be an over-the-top caricature of the position it is lampooning. In the case of racist attacks on the Obamas, there can simply be no "over-the-top." Satire here is impossible, because of the extreme depth of the irrational fear-fueled racist hatred slung at them daily.

There's simply no comic material here, so any joke is bound not only to fail, not only, in fact, to backfire, but even to further fan the flames of fear and hatred. And Lord knows they don't need any fanning.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Table of Radical Hospitality

At my church this morning we used a communion liturgy that I wrote. (It wasn't my idea, but I'm glad it happened. I showed the liturgy to our pastor, and she liked it so much she ran with it. I had no expectation that we'd actually use it!)

I'm sure I'll write more on this liturgy, which focuses on ministries of hospitality and reconciliation, as well as on what it means to join together at the table of Christ in a world in which many go hungry. For now, I'm simply posting the liturgy here, along with the observation that I'm more proud of this liturgy than anything I've ever done as a Christian, a (now former) pastor, and as a budding theologian.

Parts of it will no doubt draw the ire of some, and I welcome respectful discussion of any aspect of this liturgy.

Anyway, here it is:

(Note: some of the material in this is taken from a traditional United Methodist communion liturgy, in a slightly modified form.)


Opening Prayer

Let us pray.

Holy, mysterious God, come.
Frustrate our desire to divide your creation, to hastily render false binary
judgments: in or out, neighbor or stranger, friend or foe.

Holy, mysterious God, come.
Confound our categories by refusing to reduce your holy mystery.
Remind us once again that you who made us – each of us, all of us in your image cannot and will not be fashioned in our image, fractured into a fraction of your holy mystery.

Holy, mysterious God, come. Amen.


This table and everything on it, belongs to God, whose hospitality is limitless. That limitless, divine hospitality welcomes all to the table, without exception. That limitless, divine hospitality bids all to come, to share this bread and all bread, to share this cup and all cups, so that none may hunger or thirst. Let us pray:

God who is female no less than male, God who is black, who is brown, no less than white, God who is gay no less than straight, God who is poor no less than rich: Call us again to model your holy hospitality. Burn into the very fiber of our being your love for the stranger. Unlock our hearts as we unlock the doors to this church building.

Confession and Pardon

But we do not always model God’s hospitality, do we? We still erect walls around us, and hid behind them for our security. We still trust locks and security systems more than God. We still love our televisions, our computers, our pews, our Bibles, our Hymnals, our dry-erase boards, our microphones and sound equipment, our projectors and our screens, the pictures on our walls, and yes, even this table, more than we love our neighbor. And, so we pray:

Holy and merciful God, we confess our failure to be a hospitable church. We confess to harboring fear and mistrust in our hearts. We have seen the news on our televisions, telling us to fear the stranger, the other, all around us. And so too often we have enclosed ourselves behind these walls, playing church instead of being church, preaching love instead of offering it. For this sin against holy hospitality we pray for your forgiveness, knowing that your grace is also an empowering grace. And so, in the grace of your promised forgiveness we pray that you free us for joyful obedience as we strive again to model your holy hospitality. Amen.

Hear the good news:

God’s grace is limitless; God’s mercy overflowing. God’s act of reconciliation, through all God’s prophets, and especially Jesus, who reveals to us God’s concerns and even God’s very nature, knows no bounds. And, so we can say:

In the name of Jesus the Christ, we are forgiven and freed! Glory to God. Amen.

Communion and Reconciliation

This table is a table of reconciliation. As we come to it we are reminded that on the night he was betrayed Jesus gathered his closest friends and followers, and ate with them a meal that would become a central ritual in the church. But though that was and is an important meal, it is not the only meal Jesus ate. He not only dined with his closest friends and followers, he also opened his table to anyone and everyone. Sinners and tax collectors, thieves and sex-workers, the poor, the unclean, women and men; anyone who sought the company of Jesus at the table was and is welcomed with open arms. The fellowship of his table knew and knows no borders, and so neither should the fellowship of this church. As we eat from this bread and drink from this cup, let us be reconciled to each other and to this community, tearing down the walls we build between us, fully participating in God’s ministry of reconciliation in the world.

The Holy One be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Holy One.
Let us give thanks to the Holy God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Most Holy God, creator and sustainer of all that was, is and will be. And, so we join the hymn of all creation, saying:

Holy, Holy, Holy God, of limitless love and mercy, all of creation is full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed be the one who comes in your name. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, and blessed be Jesus, who reveals you to us. Through him you reconcile creation to you. Make us a part of that great ministry, reconciling us to our neighbors, and to you.

On the night in which he was betrayed Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to you, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples and said: “Drink from this, all of you; this is the cup of the covenant, shared freely with you and with many for forgiveness and reconciliation. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” And, so in remembrance of, and solidarity with, your ministry of hospitality and reconciliation through Jesus the Christ, we offer you our very selves and all that we have or ever hope to get, in praise and thanksgiving, in union with Christ and with our neighbor, as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Pour out your Spirit here and everywhere, and on this bread, and this cup. Make them be food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, as we with Christ give all we have until none may hunger or thirst again. By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one with our neighbor, as we work toward the final feast that is the end of hunger, of thirst, of need.


The Meal is Eaten.

Closing Prayer

God of reconciliation, you showed your prophet Isaiah a holy mountain, a mount of impossible reconciliation, a mount were natural enemies, enemies from the dawn of time, lie next to each other, vulnerable, exposed, but without fear. Without fear because they know that the intimate acquaintance with you, with your ways, drives out our relentless lust for violence, our talent for mayhem, filling your creation with the yearning for peace and reconciliation rather than for division and conquering.

Show us this holy mountain, as well. Give us the courage to dream, and the conviction to work with you to bring this impossible dream into reality. Amen.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Eugene Robinson on Black Patriotism

This morning I read this wonderful op-ed piece by Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. I've been sitting on a post about it the rest of the day, trying to work up exactly what sort of commentary I'd like to run on it. The problem is, no matter what I think, no matter what I write, I can't seem to add to the post. So, instead, let me just encourage you: If you haven't read this, please do. Here's an excerpt:

What's unpatriotic is pretending that the past never happened. What's unpatriotic is failing to acknowledge that we've struggled with race for nearly 400 years. What's unpatriotic is relegating "black history" to the month of February when, really, it's American history, without which this nation could never be what it is today.

Like every citizen of every nation in the world, we live in a deeply flawed country. To say this, and to point out the flaws in our nation as they arise, isn't unpatriotic. It is, rather, the deepest act of patriotism we can engage in: to love our country enough to hope and strive for the best in it.

To claim that we already are who and what we ought to be is to deny the reality of our present and our past, and thus to trap us in a pattern of deeply engrained sin. To hold us in perpetual bondage to the mistakes we've made but won't admit to. To leave us forever clinging to a pattern of behavior that creates a great deal of suffering.

To refuse to admit that we've got problems is ultimately deeply pessimistic, because it is to refrain from hoping that we will ever be able to address those problems that we're afraid to admit exist.

Racism is one of those problems, a quintessentially but not uniquely American sin. As a nation we were built on the foundation of racism, constructed by slaves on land taken from an almost exterminated indigenous population. This racism is a part of our genetic inheritance. It is in the water we drink. It is in the air we breathe. And to say it isn't there is not only to deny the obvious, it is to remain captive to it.

Anyway, especially for those readers here who are, like me, white, please read and seriously consider what Robinson has to tell us about the patriotism of black Americans, the victims of a quintessentially American sin.

And, whether you intend to vote for Barack Obama or not, ask yourself why he must demonstrate a patriotism that would be assumed in any other candidate for the presidency of the United States.