A New Hymn for Justice

Statue photo, Andre Helbig /
Statue photo, Andre Helbig /

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote this hymn based on Micah 6:8 after attending Bread for the World’s Lobby Day on June 12th and reading Jim Wallis’ “The Missing Religious Principle in Our Budget Debates.”

               O God, You Call for Justice

AURELIA D   ("The Church's One Foundation")

O God, you call for justice—for goodness, never greed!

You seek a world of fairness where all have what they need—

Where all have food and water and homes in which to thrive,

Where all have hope and laughter and joy to be alive!

Standing with Nuns, Standing for Compassion

Sisters, javarman /
Sisters, javarman /

The reprimand that came out of the Vatican last month has familiar echoes.

The statement addressing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 80 percent of nuns in the United States, accuses the organization of “serious doctrinal problems” regarding the focus of religious practice, among them, a concern that the Catholic Sisters are too focused on social justice and not enough on voicing the Church’s views on homosexuality or abortion.

For me, the reprimand carries reverberations of similar friction from my undergrad that followed a weeklong retreat on Chicago’s West Side.

Fun, Fantasy, and Other Deep Truths

NICK HARKAWAY’S second novel, Angelmaker, is out now through Knopf. His first, The Gone-Away World, found favor with fans of boisterously literate science fiction. Angelmaker is, in many ways, tipped from the same mold as its predecessor. It is unapologetically fun (with a particularly English sense of humor familiar to fans of Stephen Fry and Douglas Adams), stuffed full of blisteringly creative ideas and digressive subplots, and shot through with darker undernotes. In it Harkaway asks some large questions about (among other things) the nature of identity, who owns the truth, the dark side of the will to power, and the true cost of the preservation of stability. The novel also makes a strong case for the power of compassion, courage, and the glory of imagination used well.

Angelmaker follows two alternating threads. In one an irreverent and intelligent orphaned girl, Edie Banister, is recruited into wartime secret service with the Ruskinites, an order of men and women devoted to beautiful craftsmanship who have been roped into weapons development. She rescues and falls in love with a genius who is using microscopic clockwork to build a supercomputer that will reveal the truth and end war. This “Apprehension Engine” (the titular Angelmaker), is baroque and bizarre; the force field of truth is to be disseminated by mechanical bees swarming from clockwork hives around the world. Naturally, an unreconstructed dictator wants to use it as a weapon of mass destruction.

The second thread is the present-day tale of Joe Spork, as he attempts to lead a humble, honest life until he is manipulated into adventure by the elderly Banister and pursued by the now-corrupt and terrifying Ruskinites.

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Cee Lo, Tebow and American Fundamentalisms

Imagine. Image via
The Strawberry Fields "Imagine" memorial in NYC's Central Park. Image via Wylio

Cee Lo Green got himself in some pop-culture hot water on New Years Eve when he changed the lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine." You would think he was changing the Bible or something, but no, it was much worse. He changed the lyrics to a John Lennon song. "No religions" became "all religions" and all hell broke loose....

Suffice it to say that people were put out. They defended Lennon's unchangeable artistic canon. Green's supporters suggested that all art can be reinterpreted...even John Lennon's. Personally, I didn't find it offensive at all. Instead, I thought it was a thoughtful (if momentary) update to the iconic pop song. Given the religious strife in the world, expressing a love for humanity through all the world's religion was generous and very appropriate for a New Year celebration.

Alas, no. We're beset by fundamentalisms of all kinds (Lennonists?) and on all sides in this nation of ours. We're sufficiently afraid of religiosity that we've turned anti-religiosity into a religion and musicians become gods and their three minute songs become scripture...unchangeable holy writ.

We're afraid and that fear strips us of our compassion.

New and Noteworthy

Free South Africa
In the five-part documentary series Have You Heard From Johannesburg, filmmaker Connie Field tells the dramatic story of the many-faceted worldwide movement to end South African apartheid. Premieres on PBS’s Independent Lens in January (check local listings).

To Love More Deeply
In Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis, Ilia Delio, OSF, explores “what expands the human heart for another,” bringing the saint’s life into dialogue with the technological and cultural frenzy of modern life and encouraging a gentler way. St. Anthony Messenger Press

When Disaster Strikes
Connections—Storms of Injustice: From Hurricane Katrina to Your World is a short DVD and study guide with interviews of pastors in New Orleans about how structural injustices intensify the impact of natural disaster. Encourages reflection and action. Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Wrestling with Tradition
Contemporary scholars introduce the issues raised when 21st century questions of race and gender are brought to bear on the work of classic ethicists and philosophers in Beyond the Pale: Reading Ethics from the Margins, edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Miguel A. De La Torre. Westminster John Knox

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From Jim Wallis to Billy Graham, on His 93rd Birthday: "Thank you!"

Billy Graham has always been a life-long learner, passionate about preaching the gospel but always ready to understand more about what that gospel means in the world. It was never surprising to me that this southern born and raised American evangelist decided early on to insist on preaching only to racially integrated coliseums and crusades, when many others just went along with their culture. Later, as a result of falling in love with the new congregations we was preaching too in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, had a "change of heart" on the nuclear arms race-which we featured in a cover interview with the evangelist in Sojourners magazine. Billy Graham has also been willing to admit his mistakes and grew from them, which is something all of us as "leaders" need to constantly learn from. And while a conservative evangelical all his life, Graham was never drawn to the hard edged and politicized fundamentalism of the "Religious Right" but instead often winced at them.

#OccupySunday: Blood-Boiler du Jour

In case you missed it...

In an OpEd titled, "What the Costumes Reveal," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote about a Halloween office party thrown by the N.Y. law firm of Steven J. Baum, an outfit that specializes in real estate foreclosures -- a "foreclosure mill," if you will -- where, apparently, employees came costumed as homeless and foreclosed-upon families.

WARNING: No Compassion. Proceed with Caution.

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Where is the compassion in our economy and our politics? It says much of the economic system that Sojourners even needs to campaign for a "moral budget." How do we, as Christians, challenge structures that allow billions of dollars to be wasted via tax loopholes while 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty?

Will we, as Sachs hopes,