"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Five: Sources of Joy

Julie writes at RevGals:

On this, Friday before Holy Week – when our lives will get very busy (more busy…) what are the things which gladden your heart? Which give you strength and sustain you when the going gets tough? And, can you choose just five!?

Song: With Joy You Shall Draw Water

Discovered this joyful and gracefully inclusive version of the canticle from Isaiah 12 at Easter Vespers at the Church of Loretto (chapel at St. Mary's College, the women's school across from ND) and recently rediscovered. There's no "A" word though so it's a good alternative to the Benedictus (Zachariah's Canticle) when time is short for Lauds (Morning Prayer)--especially as till looking up this version I only remembered, and sang a few times, the Taize-like refrain.

Book: Just started a fun modern version of Northanger Abbey by mystery writer Val McDermid. I discovered it when I checked out a book and audio disc of the original for this term's homeschool literature class cause it's fun and relatively short. We started the term with Pride and Prejudice and are both relieved to have returned to Jane Austen and ditched the truly obnoxious Cathy and Heathcliff--validating my "once was plenty" approach versus "obsessively re-read" for Jane Eyre. The audio disc of Wuthering Heights which we tried out for a while used clever marketing in reminding people that it was Bella's favorite book in Twilight, and I was impressed with the doubly clever use/echo of the work in the gobble-worthy current partner Netflix,Vampire Diaries, of having the good vampire own an original copy by "Ellis Bell"!

Film: Bride and Prejudice, a marvelous modern India take on P and P which Nick enjoyed as a young adolescent without having even read the book. I am looking forward to watching it, along with the classic Colin Firth version, to practice compare-and-contrast and deepen our analysis of the work as we prepare for the oral exam I will give the maiden at term's end.

Poetry: Still enjoying Shakespeare for my personal listening pleasure while driving, inspired by the seven we listened to for fall literature course. Just finished off Cymbeline, which is a fun romp, and also has the moving "Fear No More the Heat of the Sun." Love the rich timbre of the mezzo performing this version--slightly gender bending since the original is sung by the princes in exile to the unknown sister they think is dead. Kind of a Holy Week foretaste, I guess.

Person: Since I'm seeing a homeschool theme emerge I think I will go with my dear daughter Katie--a tremendous joy since her arrival as #3 of my 4 gave me the privilege of raising a girl after losing Rachel, #1, way too young. I am really enjoying her company, and seeing her grow into a unique and fascinating young adult, as she learns from home while we both work from home. She's recently started requesting non-fiction reading trips to the library--yesterday's discovery was a down to earth ethics history/intro called Would You Kill the Fat Man? since it's main example is the classic trolley crash dilemma. And her present tofu kick for her weekly Friday night cooking assignment has led to some things which I appreciate for the earth/justice friendliness and Lenten appropriateness) and even her skeptical dad agrees are very tasty.

For more Friday Fives visit RevGals!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Seven Quick Takes: White Supremacy Links

1. Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D.:

White supremacy in the church doesn’t always wear a white sheet but can regularly be found in the sanctuary. Unexamined whiteness endures in the sanctuary, in the halls, on the walls, and yes even on the altar in the sacraments of the Church, in biblical interpretation, understandings of God, Jesus and ultimately effects Christian identity and its expressions: theology, liturgy and iconography. When the images of God, Christ, the angels, the saints and the faithful are white, and only white, white supremacy is at work. When those images are all that children see, even when their Sunday school and vacation bible school curricula include pictures of black and brown children – because Jesus loves us all – but maintains an unchallenged white norm for Jesus and biblical characters, white supremacy is successfully passed down to another generation.

2. Jennifer Harvey: I’m tired of talking about “white privilege.” It has begun to feel to me like an easy list we can make of all the goods those of us who are white get, a list some of us are trying to do something to challenge. But a list just can’t do justice to what Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s exoneration are and mean. Our situation is far more grave than this.

I want to talk about the toxins of whiteness, the suffocating thickness of white supremacy, the ways in which the genocidal violence that lies at the very heart-center of this nation’s birth and contemporary identity has us all in its grip.

3. A Call to Confession: Racism, White Privilege, and the Church. Many articles at a Presbyterian justice online journal.

4. HuffPo:

Black women and girls should not be killed in jail in America. Not under any circumstances. And the last thing their families should have to do is fight for answers.

Justice has always been biased in this country, but it's a crisis point when a federal judge must order the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to review heavily redacted reports on the suspicious deaths, as one just did in Texas on February 18, so that Bland's family might obtain access to clear documents.

What exactly are they hiding? And why exactly are we tolerating it?

Bland's mother makes a call: "Let's start looking at indicting the system then," and, "let's not let our quest for justice die like they did." Call upon the FBI to open the records and continue to press the Department of Justice to launch an independent investigation into Sandra Bland's death.

We need to use this case to push for changes in the treatment of prisoners and better oversight of the officials in charge of protecting citizens, even the ones behind bars.

5. HuffPo again: These days persons like myself (that is, black and involved in fighting social injustice) are almost constantly giving explanation for the continued contested existence of black life in America and quite frankly, this can be extremely exhausting. Moreover, I contend that given all of the pervasive injustices that continue to threaten black life in America it can be said that simply the act of being black is an exercise of exhaustion. From this viewpoint, you can understand why many in the Black community who've been fighting for justice find themselves, as my Grandmother would say, "sick and tired of being sick and tired."

6. Memphis Burning: Of the dozen or so sources interviewed for this story, all people who are deeply engaged with poverty and inequality in Memphis, none hesitated to bring up Lipscomb by name or to question how “the city” — synonymous with Lipscomb — spends its resources. 22 Two concerns were raised by nearly everyone. First is the disparity between the meager funds spent at the neighborhood level, on CDC programs that assist small businesses and finance home repairs and construction in blighted areas, and the much larger sums of money funneled into big business projects, including for-profit ventures. The second is how the misuse of those federal millions reveals a lack of comprehensive planning.

7. Poor White Support of Trump:

We are depriving the white working classes of their means to give. As we export manufacturing jobs internationally and as we streamline labor with technology, we start moving people to the sidelines. It’s not just that they have less money, it’s that their identity as providers is being threatened. This is why they are often so against welfare. Even if it would fix their financial situation, it would not fix their identity problems. It would hurt their dignity. While the working class is undoubtedly worried about the economy, we already know many will not vote in their economic best interests. They vote for the candidate who promises a return to dignity, and it’s not because they’re dumb. It’s because they care about their dignity more than they care about their finances.

Which, by the way, directly ties in to how they are racist. Not all Trump supporters are necessarily racist, but a fair number of them explicitly are. Normally, when liberals talk about racism, they use “racist” as an end point. “Trump is racist” is, by itself, a reason not to vote for him, and “being racist” is an indicator of a person who is morally deficient.

But, if you don’t take this as an end point — if you instead ask “what do people get out of being racist?” — you’ll start to unravel the emotional motivations behind it. One of the best unpacking of this I have read is Matt Bruenig’s piece Last Place Avoidance and Poor White Racism. To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hymn: Wisdom's Feast

This hymn was written after my first Gospel mass at the vibrant community of St. Benedict the Moor in Dayton, Ohio. All of the sacred art is Afrocentric--a welcome change from the usual racist portrayals of Afro-Asiatic biblical characters as Europeans. God as maternal Holy Wisdom, the most common feminine image of God in the Bible, shone forth to me with powerful and mournful compassion through the radiant face of the Black Madonna as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament after the liturgy.

Let us come in to Wisdom’s holy house,
Let us come in to Wisdom’s holy house;
When we come home to you and you welcome us in love,
Dear God, you live in our midst.

Let us sing out to Wisdom’s holy name,
Let us sing out to Wisdom’s holy name;
When we join in glad praise of your overflowing love,
Dear God, you live in our midst.

Let us heed all of Wisdom’s holy words,
Let us heed all of Wisdom’s holy words;
When we live by the truth that you speak to us in love,
Dear God, you live in our midst.

Let us share now in Wisdom’s holy feast,
Let us share now in Wisdom’s holy feast;
When we’re fed by your Son at the banquet of your love,
Dear God, you live in our midst.

Let us go forth to Wisdom’s holy world,
Let us go forth to Wisdom’s holy world;
When we share all the gifts you pour out on us in love,
Dear God, you live in our midst.

Text: Laura M. Grimes, inspired by Proverbs 9, copyright 2012
Tune: Let Us Break Bread 10 10 with refrain

Hymn: Wisdom's Praises

Wisdom, we praise you, Creator of all,
Granting your law as a life-giving call;
Parting the Red Sea with powerful hand,
Leading through desert to new promised land.

Wisdom, we praise you, enfleshed at our door,
Welcoming children and feeding the poor;
Teaching your people, awaiting your hour,
Dying in birth pangs and rising in pow’r.

Wisdom, we praise you, O sweet fragrant breath,
Transforming evil and conquering death;
Dancing in beauty, your love never ends,
Making us prophets and calling us friends.

Wisdom, we praise you, our great One in Three:
Mother of mercy as deep as the sea,
Christ, gentle servant of greatest and least,
Spirit who calls us to the joy of the feast.

Text: Laura M. Grimes, in loving memory of Catherine Mowry LaCugna
Tune: Slane (Be Thou My Vision)

Here's a gently inclusive Trinitarian hymn dedicated to my M.A. adviser and original Ph.D. doktormutter, Catherine Mowry LaCugna; I miss her brilliance and advocacy for me on earth and treasure the evaluation officially affirming that I was the best of the first year doctoral students (with a nursing baby!) but am very grateful for her generous intercession for all the ways I live my theological vocation. Her tragic death from breast cancer prevented my completing the dissertation with her as well as, more importantly, the completion of a crucial work of pneumatology (theology of the Holy Spirit) following up on her groundbreaking God With Us: The Trinity and Christian Life.

Catherine was a courageous pioneer of the first generation of professional women theologians; the misogyny she faced, even greater than I did, meant she was never able to have a family herself which likely contributed to the severe and early onset breast cancer that took her seven years younger than I am now. She was a poised and eloquent speaker but one of my dearest memories is when she had the guts to call me in the hospital after the car accident that killed my Rachel and admit she felt terribly awkward and had no idea what to say. I was so glad that she got to meet tiny Nicholas shortly before her death and treasure the long time I spent nursing him and praying by her body in the Lady Chapel and the next day at the funeral mass and sunlit procession to the cemetery at the edge of campus.

I felt her through the touch and words of her dearest friend and housemate, "May you always find joy in theology," during the sisterly blessings at my farewell Vespers on the feast of Mary Magdalene before I left for my first full time teaching position. It was a great joy to sing the hymn in worship with a full cafeteria of Methodist seminarians during intensive residence week the year I taught a mostly online course. And I knew her blessing again when I received the award named for her from the Catholic Theological Society of America for an article on Gertrud and Augustine that was adapted from one of my dissertation chapters--a huge affirmation given the many sacrifices and challenges of academic mothering!

Hymn: Psalm 13 Lament


(Image: Brentwood Baptist Church)

How long, God, will you forget me? How long hide your sweet face from me?
How long shall my mind be battered? How long shall my heart be shattered?
By my enemies defeated, by your faithless promise cheated,
Far from all your love and pleasure, you who were my greatest treasure.

Still I trust your tender mercy, cry out to my God to help me;
I remember how you’ve saved me, made a way where there was no way.
Look on me and answer my call; light my eyes, lest I to death fall;
Hold me as I weep, forsaken; comfort me for what’s been taken.

All my trust is your compassion, breaking heart at your Son’s passion;
All my hope is in your power, raising him from that dread hour.
Heart rejoicing in your presence, in your words and in your silence,
I will sing your praise, my true friend, for your fierce love which has no end.

Text: Laura M. Grimes, Psalm 13
Tune: Schmuecke dich LMD (Deck Thyself, My Soul With Gladness)