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Archive for January, 2017

In today's New York Times, Lonnie Ali, widow of Muhammed Ali, writes of her husband and Thomas Merton: "Neither the monk nor the boxer relied on political leaders to set their course in matters of justice, equality and tolerance. Neither man was elected to high office, but their messages in print, in words and in deeds reverberated across the globe and in the highest chambers of power." (Photo from today's New York Times.)

Two days ago in The New York Times, Lonnie Ali, widow of Muhammed Ali, writes of her husband and Thomas Merton: “Neither the monk nor the boxer relied on political leaders to set their course in matters of justice, equality and tolerance. Neither man was elected to high office, but their messages in print, in words and in deeds reverberated across the globe and in the highest chambers of power.” (Photo from New York Times.)

Lonnie Ali, widow of his greatness Muhammed Ali, had a nice piece in The New York Times Tuesday about two men whose lives converged in Louisville, Ky.–the lives of her husband and Thomas Merton.

More specifically, she notes that it’s “the convergence of their message of faith that bears noting as we mark what would have been Muhammad’s 75th birthday on Jan. 17.” (See here to read the article in whole.)

Longtimers here at the Cult of the Jitterbug know that Thomas Merton has always been one of my faith heroes. And Ali, of course, one of my sports and cultural heroes.

So the article naturally got my attention.

Writes Lonnie Ali:

    Like Merton, whom he never met, Muhammad was naturally drawn to the power in all faiths and at his direction his memorial service included an imam and an Islamic scholar, two Baptist ministers, two Jewish rabbis, a Roman Catholic priest, a Native American tribal chief and faith leader, and a Buddhist monk. Muhammad famously said, “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths.”

The point of her article is laid out in these words:

    As America stands divided once again in the aftermath of a polarizing election, we would do well to follow the example of Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali in their approach to diversity, pluralism and faith. Regardless of our differences, we share a common humanity, something that will always bind us to each other. We must find ways to reconnect to each other by developing empathy and by giving back. In truth, America has always faced division in varying degrees. The test for America has always been how she manages her division, how she finds and clings to a common purpose, and how she spins the tapestry of her diversity.

Indeed, these times we live in aren’t as unique in terms of division as we might think.

Lord be with us as we seek to manage the division and help us to “spin the tapestry of our diversity” in the spirit of those deeply spiritual peacemakers Merton and Ali.

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Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action… agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community… It is a willingness to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven to restore community… .

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness." -- MLK Jr, on his vision of "the beloved community."

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” — MLK Jr, on his vision of “the beloved community.”

Never forget: Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost a great preacher and he was a great preacher because he kept throwing his theological nets out deeper and deeper.

Consider, for example, his deep understanding of how and why we love even our enemies.

It’s not because we feel anything like sentimental, affectionate love for those who hate us so much they would gladly kill us.

It’s because … well …

Maria Popova summed it up nicely yesterday in reviewing King’s pillars of nonviolent resistance and the Greek notion of Agape love.

Popova is the curious brain behind the online site “Brain Pickings,” which is a readable, must-read blog featured every Sunday for people curious about all things literary, philosophical and theological.

You can read for yourself her summation of King’s tenets of nonviolent resistance and Agape love here.

 Maria Popova, the brains behind "Brain Pickings." She describes herself as "a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large."

Maria Popova, the brains behind “Brain Pickings.” She describes herself as “a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large.”

Here’s a sampling of Popova’s post yesterday (which I’ve broken down into short paragraphs for readability):

    Dr. King turns to Ancient Greek philosophy, pointing out that the love he speaks of is not the sentimental or affectionate kind — “it would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense,” he readily acknowledges — but love in the sense of understanding and redemptive goodwill.

    The Greeks called this agape — a love distinctly different from the eros, reserved for our lovers, or philia, with which we love our friends and family. Dr. King explains:

    Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative.

    It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love.

    It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

    Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes.

    It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both.

    If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake.

    Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.

Even many of his fellow civil rights activists initially thought King was wrong to come out against the Vietnam War as it took to the focus off the cause. But he saw the war and profiteering from it as an impediment to the realization of a restored community--it was always about community with King!

Even many of his fellow civil rights activists initially thought King was wrong to come out against the Vietnam War as it took to the focus off the cause. But he saw the war and profiteering from it as an impediment to the realization of a restored community–it was always about community with King!

Nonviolence … does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Growin’, growin’, changin’ ev’ry day
Knowin’, showin’ all my worldly ways

Hear the chimes, hear how they ring
Marking time all through the day”

— From the Doobie Brothers classic “The Captain and Me”

I don’t know about you, but at times this week I’ve felt like this was the craziest, most divisive week in America I’ve ever experienced in my (soon-to-be) 67 years.

But then remember I graduated from high school in 1968 and lived through the divisive time of civil rights and the Vietnam War and Watergate and all that.

At any rate, this calls for some music therapy from my era featuring The Doobie Brothers–a great American band that was a hit machine back in some turbulent days.

My favorite of their songs, though, wasn’t a big single hit; it was the title song from their great album The Captain and Me. (More here on it.)

It was a socially conscious song as much of their music was–“Taking it to the Streets,” for example, with lyrics like:

    You don’t know me but I’m your brother
    I was born here in this living hell

    You don’t know my kind in your world
    Fairly soon the time will tell

Not exactly Beach Boys white-bread music.

“The Captain and Me,” which I never get tired of hearing, seems especially apropos for this weekend in which we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King.

The other Doobie songs I’m featuring are simply other, personal favorites.

(And here are lyrics to The Captain and Me.)

Keep on rocking’ in the free world, y’all.

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Here’s how Trumpcare will work if the incoming President gets his way in Congress:

    Republicans’ planned bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act … would provide an immediate windfall tax cut to the highest-income Americans while raising taxes significantly on about 7 million low- and moderate-income families (My italics for emphasis.)

    First, it would eliminate two Medicare taxes — the additional Hospital Insurance tax and the Medicare tax on unearned income — that both fall only on high-income filers, thereby cutting taxes substantially for those at the top.

    The top 400 highest-income taxpayers — whose annual incomes average more than $300 million apiece — each would receive an average annual tax cut of about $7 million, we estimate from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data.

    This group’s tax cut would total about $2.8 billion a year.
    The roughly 160 million households with incomes below $200,000 would get nothing from the repeal of these two taxes.

    Second, ACA repeal would significantly raise taxes on about 7 million low- and moderate-income families due to the loss of their premium tax credits — worth an average of $4,800 in 2017 — that help them buy health coverage through the health insurance marketplaces and afford to go to the doctor when needed.

So says a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute. (See more here.)

I’m sorry, but this is not good governance.

And it’s sure as the dickens not moral, ethical or Christian, is it? If you think it is, I’m open to your argument.

* * *

Unless you believe everything that runs counter to anything Trump is for is just so much fake news, you might want to take the time to digest the whole report here.

Then contact your Congressman and ask her or him, who works for you in Washington, where they stand on this.

This, after all, could have an ill effect a lot of sick and injured folks and our wallets, too.

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Speaking of my first book (see yesterday’s post about the idea I’m developing for a book about “Trumpianity”), it’s going to be published in this millennium, I promise.

Maybe even in a couple or three months.

Publication of The View from Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty has had seemingly endless delays beyond my control.

To update you, it’s in the hands of a proofreader who aims to be done with the reading this weekend. The manuscript is also in the hands of a sketch artist who will be done with pen-and-ink illustrations soon.

After I’ve given it another reading myself it will go back to the publisher for some more weeks and probably a few months of processing before it hits the market.

So stay tuned–it’s going to hit the market some day, that I can tell you.

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I’m thinking seriously that my next book will be about what I’ve dubbed as “Trumpanity.”

Trumpanity is an American, bastardized version of traditional Christian discipleship in which followers will go to extreme lengths to defend that which cannot be defended or justified by a leader who doesn’t believe in humility, praying, repenting of sins, asking God for forgiveness, admitting mistakes, apologizing for any behavior or words no matter how much his behavior or words may hurt others, or living by the Golden Rule.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer defined "cheap grace" in his classic book on discipleship.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” in his classic book on discipleship.

It has many of the marks of what the Christian martyr and Nazi resistance leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer described in his classic book The Cost of Discipleship as “cheap grace” (“the deadly enemy of our Church, the grace we bestow upon ourselves,” etc.)

It is always backed up by bad if not horrific theology, as when its apologists say David committed adultery and murder in one fell swoop and remained God’s chosen one. And never mind that David listened when the prophet Nathan called him to account and David made his wrenching repentance (see Psalm 51 here) and suffered enormous pain at the end of his life for his sins.

It is fast displacing traditional Christianity.

It’s the sort of twisted Christianity that surely causes Jesus the prophet to weep as he did over Jerusalem when followers disregarded his prophetic words.

More on cheap grace at this link.

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    epiphany
    noun (also Epiphany)

    the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.
    • a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.
    • a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

 More details James Tissot: The Magi Journeying (c. 1890), Brooklyn Museum, New York City


More details
James Tissot: The Magi Journeying (c. 1890), Brooklyn Museum, New York City

Today is Epiphany on the church calendar, a day in which most Christians around the world remember the beautiful story in Matthew 2:1-12 of how the whereabouts of God-with-us was revealed to the wise men.

That’s what an epiphany is all about–something is revealed in a moment.

The wise men went to pay homage to the unlikely newborn child who was the fulfillment of the healing savior the psalmist sang of in Psalm 103:2-3 a thousand years before the epiphany the wise men experience:

    “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits. He forgives all your iniquity and heals all your diseases.”

As healthy as you or I may be–and I for one am richly blessed to have had 67 years of mostly excellent health–we all suffer from a terrible human disease in the sense of our being constantly wracked by a sense of dis-ease.

We all live in fear and anxiety, unwilling to surrender all to the healing savior the wise men (who were Gentiles, mind you!) were wise enough to get to without fail.

Happy (Epiphany) Friday.

Matthew 2:1-12
2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

2:2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

2:3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;

2:4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

2:5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

2:7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.

2:8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

2:9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.

2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

2:11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

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