Thursday, November 08, 2018

Counterpoint to Wonder - song and slideshow

The refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence in Honduras are much on my heart these days.  Through Project Via Crucis, a Central Pennsylvania ministry of accompaniment with the churches and people of El Salvador, I was privileged to participate in five PVC delegations during the early to mid-1990s.  Walking and worshiping with the faithful, oppressed people of Central America irrevocably changed my understanding and perspective. This blog post and the video it references are my response to the present day suffering of Hondurans and to the terrible misinformation about them that our government officials want us to believe.
From photographs of El Salvador and other meaningful locations I have created a video slideshow set to the song “Counterpoint to Wonder” by Carolyn McDade.  The song, with its challenge to each of us to choose with whom we stand, grew out of Carolyn’s own experiences in Nicaragua in the 1980s.  Here is the link to view the video on YouTube: Counterpoint to Wonder. What follows are thumbnail images of the slides with identification of location and relevance to the words of the song.  I invite readers to view the video first, then return to this blog post to learn about the images, then view the video a second time, keeping this information in mind.

Frames 1 and 4: Bay of Fundy shoreline at Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Here French settlers lived and thrived from 1682 until they were expelled and deported as part of the British military campaign against New France between 1755 and 1764.

Frames 2 and 3: Title, copyright, and recording information

Frame 5: Grandmothers Hills, a section of unbroken prairie in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, where First Nations people and descendants of European settlers partner to conserve native prairie and wildlife habitat

Frame 6: Outskirts of Comunidad Ignacio Ellacuría, Chalatenango, El Salvador. In February 1990 the Salvadoran military conducted a bombing raid on the community, then named Corral de Piedra, killing six villagers, including five children, and wounding at least 20 more. Later the community renamed itself in honor of Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., one of the six Jesuit teachers at the University of Central America who were murdered, along with their housekeeper and her daughter, by a Salvadoran death squad in November 1989.

Frames 7 and 12: Mountains of El Salvador, near the Honduran border

Frame 8: Rufina Amaya, one of the few survivors of the December 1981 massacre at El Mozote, Morazán, El Salvador, stands near a simple memorial at the site of the slaughter and tells her story to delegates from Project Via Crucis. Here the infamous Atlacatl Battalion murdered hundreds of villagers, raping the women and burning the bodies. The Reagan administration, which strongly supported Salvadoran authorities, steadfastly denied initial reports.  Mark Danner’s detailed investigative 1993 article in The New Yorker remains one of the best accounts of the atrocity.

Frame 9: Rural road in Chalatenango, El Salvador

Frame 10: The graves of Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, two of the four U.S. women religious workers who were assassinated by a Salvadoran death squad on the night of December 2, 1980.  They are buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of Chalatenango City, Chalatenango.

Frame 11: This photo portrait of Archbishop (now Saint) Óscar Arnulfo Romero hangs in the Romero Center of the UCA.  On the night that the six Jesuits were assassinated, one of the soldiers attacked the portrait with a flame thrower, melting the glass over it and badly singeing, but not completely destroying, the picture.  The melted glass can be seen along the sides of the frame. The photo remains as a symbol of resilience and hope.

Frame 13: Children and youth welcome visitors

Frame 14: The sewing cooperative at Comunidad Ignacio Ellacuría.  With electricity nearly non-existent in the villages, treadle machines were prized possessions.

Frame 15: The “wall of martyrs,” commemorating those in the Human Rights Commission who were murdered because of their work.

Frame 16: The main street through María, Madre de los Pobres, a very poor barrio on the outskirts of San Salvador.

Frame 17: Members of a Project Via Crucis delegation, walking with the children of one of the communities we visited.

Frame 18: Project Via Crucis members, choosing to “cast [their] lot with those who, walking, lead the road.”

Frame 19: A double rainbow bends over my neighborhood in Lititz.

Frame 20: A surprising morning rainbow, anchored in farm fields north of Lititz, anchored in Love.

Frame 21: Sun breaks through storm clouds along Newport Road, just west of Lititz.

Frame 22: Dedication and end title

Friday, August 31, 2018

To Be a Christian

What does it mean to be a Christian now, in this present time and place? It is a question I have been asking myself with increasing urgency in recent years. Safely within the four walls of the church I attend we sing “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” and “Christian hearts in love united,” and the pastors preach of Jesus’ love for the whole world. Then I go home and read the news, and so much of what is identified as “Christian” is very far from what I know of Jesus’ teachings.
As a member of a mainline, ecumenically active Protestant denomination, I’m inclined to hold a generously broad view.  If person or group identifies themselves as Christian, I’m willing to take their word for it without applying any test of doctrine or practice.  But when I observe their words and actions, I have to wonder – if that is Christian, then what am I?
Jesus taught his followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16a) Examining the fruits of those who claim to be Christian, then, is a Christ-approved way of discerning whose example we should imitate and whose we should reject.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Demonizing Other Gods

In the history of human migration and conquest certain patterns repeat themselves endlessly.  One of these is the practice of invaders to demonize the gods of those whom they have subdued and displaced.  There are numerous stories of this kind of struggle in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, told both from the viewpoint of the triumphant conquerors and of the resistant conquered.
In the Old Testament books of Joshua and Judges the military eradication of the indigenous tribes of the Jordan valley by the Israelites is firmly linked with destruction of their places of worship.  The indigenous gods, called Baals, are mocked and denounced.  The Israelite understanding of what their god requires of them is exemplified by Judges 2:1-5, in which an angel of The Lord calls them disobedient and calls punishment on them for failing to tear down all the altars to local gods.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Salvadorans Will Suffer from TPS Revocation

In early January United States Federal authorities announced that they were revoking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 200,000 Salvadoran natives who currently live, work, and raise their families in the U.S.  The status was originally granted by the George W. Bush administration after two devastating earthquakes hit El Salvador in early 2001 and has been extended repeatedly by both the Bush and Obama administrations.  While much of the infrastructure that was damaged by the earthquakes has been rebuilt and repaired, for many the country remains a very dangerous and inhospitable place in which to live.
In the years since receiving TPS Salvadorans in our country have worked hard to be productive residents.  According to analysis by the Center for Migration Studies, 88 percent of Salvadoran beneficiaries of TPS participate in the labor force.  They are parents to 192,700 American-born children who now face separation either from the parents they love or from the only friends, culture, and country they have ever known.  And they send several billion dollars annually to family members still in El Salvador.  Ending this support will significantly increase the suffering of those who depend on it to supplement their meager living.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Vigil at Lititz Moravian

Some years ago I researched and wrote this history of the Christmas Eve service at Lititz Moravian Church and have updated it as needed.  In recent weeks I've had occasion to share it with several folks and have decided that the easiest way to make it available is to post it here on my blog.

The History of the Lititz Moravian Congregation records that, just a few months after the village was named in 1756, the small group of Lititz brothers and sisters living in the Pilgerhaus celebrated Christmas Eve by holding a Lovefeast.  From that humble beginning has evolved an elaborate worship service beloved by all who participate and attend.  The congregation presents the service six times each year during the weeks before Christmas as a gift to the community.
Research into the history of the service, popularly termed the Christmas Vigil, yields fascinating results.  More than thirty odes (the order of service with hymns, anthems, and scripture readings) designated for Christmas Eve can be found in the church archives.  The earliest, dated 1765, is an eight-page printed folder detailing portions to be sung by two different choirs, soloists, children, and congregation.  The congregation’s sections are quite short, with most of the music provided by choirs and soloists.
This pattern continues through the remainder of the eighteenth century, with the children given an increasing role as the years go on.  And it is the children who, in 1792, sing for the first time in English.  One of the verses they sang, “Hail Infant new-born, whom the angels adore,” is familiar to our present choir in an anthem setting by Moravian composer David Moritz Michael.  This anthem is not, however, part of our current Vigil ode.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What's in a Name?

Last year I authored a Letter to the Editor of LNP (the Lancaster, PA, daily paper) in which I stated that Allah is simply the Arabic word for god and is used as such by Arabic-speaking members of all three Abrahamic faiths.  Some months later I was challenged on this by an acquaintance who insisted that Allah refers only to the god of Islam, who is not the same as the god of Christians and Jews.  Despite my best efforts in a rather lengthy conversation, I was unable to explain adequately the difference between a word for something and the name of something.  My letter made a statement about language usage; my interlocutor was making a statement about faith.
This exchange has set me to reflecting on how people of faith use language in reference to their deity or deities.  The subject has proven to be much more complicated than one might first imagine.  To begin, in English the word “god” functions as both a common and a proper noun, that is, as a general reference to any deity and as the name of a particular deity.  We recognize the difference depending on context and usage, and in print on whether or not the word is capitalized.  Determining what god is referenced when God is used as a form of address requires knowing the faith of the speaker or writer.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Resisting Hate

The recent invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia, by Neo-Nazis, KKK members, and other white supremacists, and the various response tactics by counter-protesters, have been the subject of intense examination in the days following.  This conversation is difficult and necessary.  Especially for those who espouse non-violence as the only moral response to hatred and injustice, serious questions have been raised and must at least be examined, if not answered.
My first thought was of the similarities between the current debate over tactics and the tensions of the Civil Rights era, exemplified by the competing views of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  Both were sons of Baptist ministers, but their life paths took very different directions.  King was relatively sheltered from the worst abuses of racial segregation.  He had opportunity for education and became a minister himself.  Malcolm’s father moved the family from Nebraska to Michigan because of threats from the KKK, but their new home was burned and his father brutally murdered by whites.  During a stint in jail Malcolm was converted to Islam and became a leader in the Black Muslim faith, then later turned to traditional Sunni Islam.