Saturday, August 31, 2019

America's Roots: The 1619 Project

On Tuesday, August 13, a sold-out crowd packed the Times Center in New York City for a program marking the launch of The New York Times Magazine’s ‘1619 Project,’ which explores the continuing legacy of slavery in America. The issue, which was the brainchild of New York Times Magazine staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, is timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the arrival of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia. Many of the contributors to the issue presented and discussed their work in a two-hour program emceed by editor Jake Silverstein and Hannah-Jones. 




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Saturday Haiku in celebration of light

This week on my blog I have been remembering 400 years of Africans and Europeans building a nation together. It is not our finest heritage, that a new nation used slave labor and displaced indigenous people to build what has come to be known as the highest example of freedom, liberty, and democracy. Yet it is the paradox that we must embrace and live with if we are to forge ahead to a better society.

Today's haiku is one I wrote two years ago, inspired by the art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African American artist to achieve international acclaim. Because of the racial climate in the U.S., Tanner would have to move to France in order to find international appreciation, much like the writer James Baldwin would do a generation later.








lantern light
in autumn darkness
peaceful time 
                        ~ CK















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Image: "Etaples Fisher Folk" (1923) at the High Museum of Art
Artist: Henry Ossawa Tanner
Medium: Tempera and oil on canvas
(Public Domain, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

About the Artist:

Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 21, 1859 РMay 25, 1937) was an American artist and the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim. Tanner moved to Paris, France, in 1891 to study, and continued to live there after being accepted in French artistic circles. His painting entitled Daniel in the Lions' Den was accepted into the 1896 Salon, the official art exhibition of the Acad̩mie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

After his own self-study in art as a young man, Tanner enrolled in 1879 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The only black student, he became a favorite of the painter Thomas Eakins, who had recently begun teaching there. Tanner made other connections among artists, including Robert Henri. In the late 1890s he was sponsored for a trip to then-Palestine by Rodman Wanamaker, who was impressed by his paintings of biblical themes. (Wikipedia)

About the Image:

In "Etaples Fisher Folk", Tanner’s use of chiaroscuro (dark-light contrast) suggests the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch painters, particularly Rembrandt, and sets a solemn, religious tone for this scene of two peasants preparing a meal. Using an unusual technique, Tanner combined tempera and oils and applied them in heavy layers. (Google Arts and Culture


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Friday, August 30, 2019

America's Roots: Reframing America's History of Slavery

The 1619 Project: How Slavery Has Defined America Today

The New York Times Magazines 1619 Project attempts to reframe America's History of slavery. 




“The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

For more information go to the Pulitzer Center site.


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Thursday, August 29, 2019

America's Roots: Why America Needs a Slavery Museum

“It’s Not Just Black History, It’s National History”

The Whitney Plantation was originally owned by a German immigrant family called the Haydels and run by the slaves they owned, but it now belongs to John Cummings, a successful trial attorney and white southerner in his late 70s who has spent 16 years and more than $8 million of his own fortune on the project. Cummins and Ibrahima Seck, director of research, want to educate people about the realities of slavery, its history and its impact on the country today.

“The history of this country is rooted in slavery,” says Seck. “If you don’t understand the source of the problem, how can you solve it?”

This beautifully filmed video from The Atlantic provides a glimpse into the history of the Whitney Plantation and its mission. (Introduction from the Aleteia website)






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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

America's Roots: The Whitney Plantation Museum

CBS This Morning takes a look at the Whitney Plantation and how it confronts a painful aspect of American history





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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

America's Roots: The Imperfect Thomas Jefferson

The following video, just under ten minutes long, was aired on CBS Sunday Morning in a segment titled, "The Duality of Thomas Jefferson." It examines Jefferson the progressive thinker and writer of the Declaration of Independence juxtaposed to Jefferson the plantation owner and slaveholder.  You can view it at their YourTube site at https://youtu.be/bzZnqXvRSLE.





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Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday Music: An African-American Music Tradition

This week, Not Dark Yet will be featuring insights into our shared American history as we commemorate the 400th anniversary of slavery in America. Sadly, even after the Civil War officially ended slavery, the U.S. prison system managed to continue the slave tradition well into the 20th Century. Prison work songs are examples of how a people working in bondage and under duress gained strength in holding onto musical traditions from their African homelands.

The YouTube site states that this was "recorded with outside's work conditions in Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in 1947."




Recorded over 60 years ago at Parchman Farm "these songs belong to the musical tradition which Africans brought to the New World, but they are also as American as the Mississippi River."
- Alan Lomax





Sunday, August 25, 2019

Our American Roots: Embracing the Paradox

Captain John Smith's 1612 map of the Colony of Virginia offered the first detailed map of the Chesapeake Region 


Dr. Barry Whittemore, Professor of History, Anthropology, and Philosophy at the University of North Georgia and Unitarian Universalist minister made the following statement which succinctly captures the essence of our American roots:

“400 years ago today two English privateers traded a captured cargo (20-30) of Africans for provisions in the colony of Virginia, launching us down the road to slavery. Less than three weeks earlier the House of Burgesses met for the first time in Jamestown, launching us up the road toward representative democracy.

“We are a people of paradox. What is good in our nation and what is evil in our nation are 400 years old. We tend to extoll the virtues of one and sweep the other under the rug. Both must be held to the light and dealt with before we can be whole. Never speak of one without remembering the other. Embrace the paradox.”

The privateer ships in question were the White Lion and the Treasurer. They delivered the first Africans to these American shores and thus began our foundational move toward slavery. It took a tragic war to free ourselves from the bondage of such beginnings, and we are still emerging from that history.

A Time for Healing

Today, bells will be ringing to commemorate a National Day of Healing as we mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves to the American colonies. A statement issued by the National Parks Service offers hope for healing and reconciliation:

August 25, 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first landing of enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument, a unit of the National Park System. 

The anniversary will be commemorated at Fort Monroe as a day of healing and reconciliation. The park and its partners are inviting all 419 national parks, NPS programs, community partners, and the public to come together in solidarity to ring bells simultaneously across the nation for four minutes—one for each century—to honor the first Africans who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort and 400 years of African American history.


Detail from John Smith's map of Virginia showing Point Comfort


Each day this week, Not Dark Yet will feature some shared insights in marking 400 years of African American history.



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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Haiku: Nightscape

Here is another one from my archives:


near the ocean’s shore
a midsummer tidal pool
large as the night sky





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Image: "Jupiter" (Chadds Ford Gallery)
Artist: Andrew Wyeth
Medium: Giclee (pigmented ink on paper)



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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Just Like Jonah



Not Just a Fish Story

The Book of Jonah was written during a time in Israel’s history when they were focusing on some kind of racial/national/religious purity to the point that they wanted to get rid of all foreign influence. Yes, the Israelites were returning from Babylonian captivity to their homeland. They wanted to make their nation great again, and some of their leaders (Ezra and Nehemiah, to name names) thought that they needed to cleanse themselves from all foreigners. They were even willing to separate families, telling those who had taken foreign wives to send them back to their own respective lands.

There were some, however, who said "Wait a minute, not so fast. This does not sound like the God we worship, the God we know to be compassionate and merciful." They had a more universal vision of their faith and how they should live, so there began a resistance movement to counter the hardliners.

In order to address the xenophobic error that threatened to distort the faith  even while attempting to preserve it, the story of Jonah arose to illustrate to the people that the Israelites were not the only ones who could hear and respond to the word of God. Indeed, the story reflects God's compassion for all people and gives us reason to welcome the foreigner in our midst*.

Confronting the Other

In the story, the Lord told Jonah to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. They were foreigners and heathens, after all, in Jonah's mind. His message was that they needed to repent, or God would bring down judgment. Jonah had been reluctant to even meet with these ungodly heathens, but he eventually delivered the message (after some detours, including a ride in the belly of a big fish). Once he had his say, Jonah headed out of town to find a nice vantage point to view God’s mighty destruction upon the people.

Much to Jonah’s dismay, the people of Nineveh actually repented and turned their hearts toward God. The biblical story recounts that Jonah was angry with God for the way it all turned out.  “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4: 2, NIV)

Thomas Carlisle wrote a beautiful book, You! Jonah! He recasts the story in a series of poems which can be read in a single sitting. I highly recommend the book. Here is one of the poems from Carlisle’s work:

The generosity of God
Displeased Jonah exceedingly
And he slashed with angry prayer
At the graciousness of the Almighty.
“I told You so,” he screamed.
“I knew what You would do,
You dirty Forgiver.
You bless Your enemies
And show kindness to those
Who despitefully use You.
I would rather die
Than live in a world
With a God like You.
And don’t try to forgive me either.”

Confronting Our Own Xenophobia

In America today, we are seeing a rise in xenophobic fear and recrimination. We are hearing cries to build walls and pass legislation to keep the foreigners out. People of faith seem just as loathe to show kindness and love to a foreigner as Jonah was. We are seeing a huge swath of Christian believers who apparently would rather not live in a world where the words of Jesus must be taken into consideration.

As a Southerner who grew up Southern Baptist, I find it quite ironic that we are hearing a higher ethic from The New York Times and greater compassion from Hollywood than we are hearing from our pulpits on Sunday. We, like Jonah, could learn from those “heathens” on the East and West Coasts, if we but had ears to hear and eyes to see.

We find ourselves in a world where many professing Christians confronted with Black Lives Matter or Hispanic refugees at the border do not want to hear any word about the love of God or the compassion of Christ. Instead, they want to Keep them Out,” Send them back, or Push them Down.” 

Deep down we surely know, as did Jonah in the biblical story, that God intends peace and compassion, not strife and hate.

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* The book of Ruth was written during this same time period and also illustrated the value of the foreigner by reminding the people that even their great King David had foreign ancestry in his bloodline.



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Image at the top: "Jonah and the Whale,"  ca. 1400 , Iran (At The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)
Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper 
                 A folio from a Jami al-Tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles)

Note from The MET page regarding the painting:

The story of Jonah and the Whale, mentioned in the Qur'an (37:139), was popular in the Muslim world and frequently illustrated in manuscripts of world history. This large-scale painting, however, never formed part of a manuscript. Rather, it may have been used during oral recitation or storytelling. Scholars have also suggested that with its strong palette, monumental figures, and spare composition, this work may reflect a now-lost wall painting tradition. Here, we see Jonah after his release from the belly of the fish. Above him, a gourd vine grows—sent by God to protect him from the elements—and, gliding across the top of the painting, a spirited angel with colorful spreading wings offers Jonah a garment.





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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Saturday Haiku: Night Frogs



nocturnal voices
join in the ancient chorus
old souls hear the song




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Photo: Setting Sun at Swamp
          (Public Domain)
          Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Jungian Appreciation of Mary

The following essay was first posted in 2011. It is one that readers continue to come to regularly. I am re-posting it today in honor of the Feast of the Assumption and in celebration of the feminine archetype. ~ CK

Our Lady of Fatima, on the grounds of St. Francis Xavier Church, Birmingham, Ala.

Over the centuries, there have been hundreds of claims that Mary, the mother of Jesus, has appeared to offer advice and comfort or to give warning and encouragement. Although there are only eleven Vatican-approved Marian visitations,  Lourdes and Fatima being perhaps the best known, there are even today claims of appearances from the Blessed Virgin. She has supposedly been seen by visionaries in Medjugorje, and images have been seen in windows, on walls, and on food items such as toast and macaroni & cheese. There is even a site down Highway 280, just south of Birmingham, Alabama, where thousands gathered after one of the Medjugorje visionaries reported Mary’s appearance to her when she was in town for medical treatment.

Growing up in the rural South, I experienced my share of anti-Catholic bias. Although the Catholic view of Mary is a stumbling block to many Protestants, it became one of my greatest attractions as a convert.  I should add that it took years to get there, and it was not dogma or theology that opened up the path. Instead, it was an understanding of myth and archetype. Years ago I was amazed and intrigued when I read in Carl Jung’s book, Answer to Job, that he considered the dogma of the Assumption of Mary to be the most important religious event since the Reformation. The Assumption of Mary was not proclaimed as official church dogma until 1950, but Jung saw it as something that the populace had been aware of for over a thousand years. Carl Jung, the influential Swiss thinker and pioneer in the field of psychiatry, had a lot to say about how archetypes speak to us in old stories that endure from age to age.  He also developed the concept of the collective unconscious, in which these universal archetypes speak to the human condition. He thought that understanding these archetypes could help us to understand our own interior lives. In reference to the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, he said::

 “But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work ...One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the 'Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.' For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.” (1)

It is undeniable that Marian visions occur. Rather than ask if they are factual, I think it is more important to ask why these visions are needed. I agree with Jung that we need the influence of the feminine archetype to have a balanced life. For Protestants who question this, think about 19th century American Protestantism. It was the most anti-Marian expression of Christianity known up to that time. Jesus was primary, and what did 19th century Protestants do to Jesus? They made him highly feminized, made him meek and mild, even gave him long hair and a dress! (2)  Some of the artistic portrayals of Jesus show him in flowing robes with arms outstretched – exactly the same posture that previous artists had traditionally given to Mary. This is just one example of how the feminine archetype will make itself known, even when a society tries to push it aside.

When I read about some of the Marian visions that have occurred in the past, often the message from Mary was to build a church in her honor and to promote the praying of the rosary. My own thoughts are that if this were the actual historical Mary appearing, such requests would be completely out of character – to dedicate a church in her honor? However, if that vision is an expression of the feminine archetype, it makes perfect sense. It is correcting a heavily masculine society, bringing balance by restoring feminine qualities and bringing the feminine archetype to mind (often Marian visions occur during wartime, or just before war breaks out, when the masculine war machine is at work destroying).

In the Lady Chapel
at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
 Birmingham, Ala.
Let me also share a personal testimonial. Although my wife and I are now practicing Catholics, last year we began going back to the Episcopal Church where we met. We heard that the church was in a rough spot so we began going back to lend moral and financial support. We would usually go there about three Sundays a month and would attend our Catholic parish once a month. On this particular Sunday, I felt personally inclined to meditate on Mary. As we entered St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, I was glad to find seating that was in line with the Lady Chapel, with Mary in full view. In my private prayers I prayed the Hail Mary (not a typical devotion in the Episcopal Church, though the Lady Chapel is an old Anglican tradition). After church as we were going home talking about the service, I discovered that my wife had also had Mary on her mind that morning and had spent some time much as I had done, to acknowledge the blessed Mother. Later that day, we both felt like going to the evening Mass at our Catholic Church. When we arrived, we were quite surprised to find that that particular Sunday (August 15) was the feast of the Assumption of Mary!  We enjoyed a full service giving special remembrance and honor to her. 

All of this is to say that while I am often skeptical of a lot of the Catholic lore – I don’t believe the bit about Mary’s perpetual virginity (I see no need for it) and have no use for the concept of Immaculate Conception (I see no need for it) – I do recognize the need to allow the feminine archetype into our consciousness, into our worship space, and into our society.



Our Lady of Guadalupe
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Birmingham, Ala.

Black Madonna of Czestochowa
Theotokas
St. Simeon's Orthodox Church
Birmingham, Ala.


Stained glass window at
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church

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1. C.G. Jung.  Answer to Job, trans. R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp 99 -100.
2.  Cf. Stephen Prothero.  American Jesus, New York, Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux, pp.59 - 61.



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You may be interested in reading:





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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Opening Our Hearts to the Feminine

This week (August 15) marks the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Taking advantage of that occasion, I am re-posting a couple of posts in celebration of the feminine archetype which rises within us and among us to bring life, love, and creativity. ~ CK


"She is always and forever rising. When she arises, there is creativity, compassion, and wholeness… We would all do well to take this day to recollect and to recognize all the beauties, delights, rewards and treasures that have come to us in life by way of the feminine principle."

This week is a time to celebrate the sacred feminine. The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is coming up on August 15. It is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic liturgical year.  The Assumption of Mary only became dogma in 1950, but Carl Jung called it the most significant religious event since the Reformation. To him, if codified a deep longing for that feminine archetype to take her place alongside the Holy Trinity. He went on to say that “For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there [in the heavenly court].” (See Answer to Job, by C.G. Jung, pp. 99 - 100)

Interpreting and Honoring

When one looks at the fields of literature, art, music, religion, psychology, and
archaeology, it is quite clear that the feminine principle cannot be suppressed. She is always and forever rising. When she arises, there is creativity, compassion, and wholeness. Many people will disagree on the significance of the feminine that is displayed in so many aspects of life. Some will call her Goddess, some will call her Mediatrix, and some will declare her Queen of Heaven. Some will call her anima while others will exult in the divine muse. Traditional Catholics will have their view, feminists, artists, musicians, psychologists, academics, and “new age-ers” will each have their particular take on the significance of the various manifestations of the feminine archetype. How we interpret the transcendent feminine principle and how we name it is far less important than the fact that the feminine is honored. And on this day, she is honored in a big way. She is recognized as an immanent presence in the highest realm of the universe. We would all do well to take this day to recollect and to recognize all the beauties, delights, rewards and treasures that have come to us in life by way of the feminine principle.     

I think of the feminine as necessary for bringing balance to life and creativity to the spirit. I, of course, am thinking from a male perspective. A woman would naturally have a different understanding of that feminine archetype (and any comments from a woman’s perspective will be welcomed on this post).

Poetic Connection

I mentioned in another blog post that the Catholic view of Mary is a stumbling block to many Protestants, but it was one of my greatest attractions as a convert from Protestantism.  The following poem is my first attempt to write about the profound nature of the feminine archetype. I was still a Baptist at the time, though I borrowed the Catholic title of “Our Lady.”


To Our Lady

My love bore twilight in her breast,
And starlight beauty shone
That bade me gladly leave the rest
To seek out flesh and bone.

My love bore sorrow in her eyes,
And joy within her heart
That made me fully realize
That all-connecting part.

My love bore grief within her bones
And victory in her brow.
Her strength rolled back the massive stones
That held my heart till now.
                                                    ~ CK



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Other related posts:
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Photos: The upper photo, judging from the watermark, is by Eddi van W. I found it being used on two websites: Temples of the Moon, and Woo Woo Momma.
The lower photos are details from Michelangelo’s Pieta



(This post first appeared on August 15, 2014, under the title, "Celebrating the Feminine Principle."


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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday Haiku: For the Birds

Here is one from my archives in celebration of bird-watching. ~ CK




   with careful purpose
     a safe space is created –
     our worlds briefly touch

                               



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Photos: Clockwise from upper left: birds eating seeds (Finland), goldfinches, red-bellied woodpecker, sparrows, mourning dove at feeding table, hairy woodpecker
All photos are Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"Making America ________"

We are still in the process of making America, which is why I made the title of this post a fill-in-the-blank. "Make America Great," "Make America Just,"  "Make America Green" "Make America Inclusive." I am sure you have your own desire for filling in the blank of this reading today.

For the desires we hold for this great American experiment, Reinhold Niebuhr has some important words for today. Niebuhr was a twentieth-century theological luminary. You can read a little bit about him at  Reinhold Niebuhr: the theologian politicians read.

Reinhold Niebuhr (RNS photo)
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”
                                                
(Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History)




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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A Poem for Hiroshima Day

[A Re-post from 2010 on this Hiroshima Day]


The iconic Torii Gate of Itsukushima Shrine,
Hiroshima Prefecture

On the liturgical calendar, August 6 marks the Feast of the Transfiguration, celebrating the event witnessed by Peter, James and John of Jesus' transformation into a being of light. Since WWII, it has also been Hiroshima Day. It was the juxtaposition of these two commemorations on the same day that inspired the following poem.

Jerusalem and Hiroshima:
Legacies of Concentrated Effort

We are told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,
But the peace of Jerusalem
I would wish upon no one.
Centuries of placing our noblest causes
and highest callings
In one geographical area
Has produced, not the heavenly city,
But rather a wasteland of unending struggle.

In Hiroshima, they do not just pray for peace.
They demand it.
It was there that our greatest minds with our human nature
Brought hell on earth in our fight for freedom.

Let us keep Jerusalem,
And let us embrace Hiroshima
To remind us not to try such things again.

                                                                                                          ~ CK








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Photos:

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Monday Music: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Carly Simon delivers a classic from the Great American Songbook, one of the timeless love songs featured on the soundtrack of Sleepless in Seattle.





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Sunday, August 4, 2019

When Gun Violence Comes Calling for Your Children

Picture depicting worship of Moloch from The Jewish Encyclopedia
This week, America experienced yet more mass shootings. It is a pattern all too familiar in our country.  It was back in 2015 that I first likened our gun problem with the Old Testament story of the pagan god, Moloch, to whom devotees sacrificed their children:

In a country whose politicians love to shout “God Bless America!” at the end of their speeches, and whose people speak of faith in the public square and argue about putting the Ten Commandments on display, it is the ancient and brutal god Moloch who holds sway over so much of our public discourse. Indeed the fires of Moloch continue to consume our children while nothing is done to extinguish those flames.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Mayor Pete Buttigieg  had this to say in response to the most recent mass shooting in El Paso and in Dayton this weekend:

“Here is something to think about this Sunday morning. Is a gun a tool or an idol? Any time I’ve carried or handled a weapon, whether in Afghanistan for self-defense or whether it was to go skeet shooting or hunting, I viewed it as a tool. But if the gun corporation lobby, which is what the NRA is, now has people viewing guns as a thing to be loved, a thing to be protected, a thing that is a source of our freedom and power and a thing to which we are willing to sacrifice human life, isn’t that the definition of a false God?”
 
What will you do when Moloch, who seems to have this country pinned down, comes calling for your own children?  Sadly, this is the fourth time I have posted “The Fires of Moloch.” The fourth time in four years, but before that, I mourned for the children of Sandy Hook on the Feast of the Innocents.

Here is how I framed it in August of 2015:

Gun Violence in America

Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of Ben Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
                                                                                                                  2 Chronicles 28:3
And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of Ben Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination
                                                                                                                  Jeremiah 32:35


Illustration from Foster Bible Pictures
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

Moloch was the ancient Phoenician and Canaanite god known in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy for the practice of propitiatory child sacrifice.  There are few images more horrifying than that of fearful people offering up their own children to be burned on the altar of a domineering death-making god. Yet we are seeing the fires of Moloch burning in 21st century America.

We have seen this week yet another disturbing incident of promising lives brought to a sudden end by gun violence. Once again there is talk of stronger gun control laws, yet we are impotent to make any changes. Our failure to act even in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre  in which 20 young children were killed, all of them 6 and 7 years old, demonstrated that we would rather sacrifice our beautiful preschoolers than do anything that might be perceived as a desecration of the Bill of Rights. Our words say that we honor American freedom, while our actions say that we live in fear and have so little regard for our children that we will willingly feed them to our modern day fires of Moloch. [To see a map of all the mass shooting since Sandy Hook, go here]

In a country whose politicians love to shout “God Bless America!” at the end of their speeches, and whose people speak of faith in the public square and argue about putting the Ten Commandments on display, it is the ancient and brutal god Moloch who holds sway over so much of our public discourse. Indeed the fires of Moloch continue to consume our children while nothing is done to extinguish those flames.

Why Do We Tolerate Death and Glorify Violence?

According to The Brady Center, “Over 18,000 American children and teens are injured or killed each year due to gun violence. This means nearly 48 youth are shot every day, including 7 fatalities.” 


America has a problem with gun violence

·         One in three people in the U.S. know someone who has been shot.
·         On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
·         Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm, and 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
·         The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
·         A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.

Gun Violence Takes a Massive Toll on American Children

·         More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
·         An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
·         American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
·         Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties. Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths. Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
·         Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
·         In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.

Gun Violence is a Drain on U.S. Taxpayers

·         Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
·         The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

Americans Support Universal Background Checks

·         Nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.
·         Since the Brady Law was initially passed, about 2 million attempts to purchase firearms have been blocked due to a background check. About half of these blocked attempts were by felons.
·         Unfortunately, our current background check system only applies to about 60% of gun sales, leaving 40% (online sales, purchases at gun shows, etc.) without a background check.

One question we must answer is why does our society so quickly come to the defense of guns after every deadly incident of gun violence? There are those who call for change, but such calls are always met with a push back from people who cannot tolerate any change in our gun laws. Lawmakers are forever paralyzed by the gun lobbyists and the fear-mongers.

Freedom or Fear?

Why are our citizens and our politicians are unable to put a stop to gun violence? If there were the political will, assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons could be banned tomorrow. The sad fact is, however, that our people seem to be too fearful to consider a peaceful society. We say that we are honoring the Second Amendment to the Constitution  that we hold the Bill of Rights to ensure our freedom  but the truth is, we live in fear. Why else would we be so powerless to stop our current practice of sacrificing children to the fires of gun violence?


Poster from The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence




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