Thursday, September 28, 2006

A covenant with death

Miscellaneous reflections on today's congressional action:

Habeas Corpus... (Associated Press article here) Sen. Specter, thank you for proposing your amendment and pointing us back to the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Sen. Levin, thank you for your statement that the bill as written was "legally abusive." Sen. Lincoln Chafee, from my home state of Rhode Island (always was, always will be, no matter where I live), thank you for making me proud of the state's history of independence. Sen. Feingold, thank you for representing me!

As for the rest of you...Sen. Graham, your statement "It impedes the war effort, and it is irresponsible" is in itself irresponsible. 51 United States Senators voted against the U.S. Constitution today, in rejecting Sen. Specter's amendment to the torture bill. Democrats who voted for the torture bill, this is not about smart politics. Rep. Hastert, this is not about coddling terrorists. Voices in the blogosphere crying, "they would have kept doing it anyway" - this is not about pragmatism. This is about showing integrity. The founders must be rolling in their graves. "We hold these truths to be self evident..." " the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."

Mass media, for the most part, abdicated their responsibility. There was an important opportunity to inform the public. For much of the day, there was nothing listed about this legislation on the index page of news sites I visited. There was little to prod citizens into action, into contacting their representatives - pro, or con. The "compromise" bill that came before our elected representatives today was more extreme than the one reported over the weekend. Where was the reporting on that?

One for the books:

  • Encyclopedia Entry: In case you weren't watching, today, we have (literally) just rewritten the book on torture.

  • Dictionary: Why in the world did we just authorize a single person to define what "torture" means, in the United States? There's a name for that. Visit your local dictionary. Check out a page or two.

  • Etymology: the roots of the word "torture": the act of twisting. To twist out of proper relation. Lies, and distortions. We have made a covenant with death.

Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement; when the overwhelming scourge passes through it will not come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter; ...[therefore thus says the Lord God,] I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter. Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand. (Isaiah 28:14-18a,NRSV)

Faith demands action. To everyone - and I include myself - who has been a spectator to today's shameful events: Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to communicate what values you hold dear, and convey a forcefull message that this agreement cannot stand.

Now is also the time to stay alert. Beware of what news may be dropped on us tomorrow, on a Friday when news tends to get lost, when we are distracted by today's events. Ask: what is it we are being distracted from?

kyrie eleison

I do not want to sound hysterical. I never thought I would say this. Today, I am absolutely ashamed of what our nation has become, and what we stand for around the world. We are losing this country piece by piece; we are trading our souls, piece by piece. Part of me is still in my first grade classroom singing "My country, 'tis of thee..." Part of me is weeping. And all of me? Angry as hell that torture has been officially endorsed, in my name, by the highest representative body in the land, making me complicit. Forgive me. I am rambling. I am at the end of a long day, and I am weary. I cannot begin to match the eloquence with which others have expressed their pain and anger, their fear and their faith. So, I call your attention to this prayer. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The use and abuse of punctuation

When I write, punctuation matters! Over the course of my academic life and professional career, I have probably invested a lot of energy discerning whether the semicolon or hyphen would be more appropriate for a given situation. From today's blogosphere, here's a read on the appropriate use of the comma:

US President George Bush, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer:
"I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy."

Excuse me? The crisis in Iraq is just a comma? More US lives lost than on 9/11; we've lost count (or never even bothered to keep track) of Iraqis killed; billions of dollars spent on killing and torture, with more certain to follow; damage to the souls of all those who have been involved in these atrocities - and it's just a comma?

I rather prefer this use of the comma. May our Still Speaking God inform our cries for justice in the face of such arrogance.

p.s.: And for you grammar junkies out there, here's the scoop on the less politically fraught use of the ,

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Today's story: Public theology.

To be continued in installments throughout the autumn, and perhaps beyond, if the experiment works out. I'm enrolled in a seminary course in public theology, and our coursework includes actually doing public theology rather than just studying it. We'll be engaging various political/social/economic/you-name-it issues throughout the course of the term. Assignments include writing op-eds, posting to our own blog and inviting discussion.

The stories are there to be shared, and wrestled with - and hopefully changed for the better in the telling, hearing, and re-telling.

So, welcome! Pull up a chair and a cup of your favorite hot beverage (I'll be drinking tea) and join me for the ride. I welcome your comments and conversation.