That Attracting & Sustaining Divine Love: A Review of Evolving Humanity & Biblical Wisdom

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Reviewed by Jeanne Torrence Finley

My review of Marie Noonan Sabin’s Evolving Humanity and Biblical Wisdom: Reading Scripture Through the Lens of Teilhard de Chardin [Liturgical Press Academic: 2018] is up on the Englewood Review of Books:

Teilhard de Chardin, paleontologist and Jesuit priest (1881-1955), wrote about evolutionary science, spirituality, and the expansion of human consciousness.  Although the Vatican suppressed his writings during his lifetime, today his vision continues to be appreciated by scientists, religious scholars, and spiritual seekers.  In Evolving Humanity and Biblical Wisdom Marie Noonan Sabin brings Teilhard’s vision into conversation with scripture texts related to wisdom. With an interdisciplinary background in literature and theology, Sabin uses her interpretative skills in intellectually challenging ways that will fascinate some readers with knowledge of academic biblical studies but may mystify those without such a background. Though prior knowledge of Teilhard’s complicated thought would increase appreciation of Sabin’s work, her clarity and conversational style could well inspire Teilhard beginners to delve deeper into his thought. Continue reading

Immigration Songs

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Photo by BICAD MEDIA on Unsplash

Today I received a FaithLink assignment to write about asylum and found I needed to listen to some music before I started reading the news.  Some of these are old favorites and others I’ve turned up today.   I offer this list of songs, in the words of Finley Peter Dunne’s (no relation) Mr. Dooley (an Irish immigrant) “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” He was talking about the role of the press, but songs can have the same function.

There’s no better place to begin than with  Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, which I first heard at my high school.  It gave me chills then, and it still does.  The lyrics are from the poem “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus to raise money to construct a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.   The poem was cast into bronze plaque, which was mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal.  Set to music by Irving Berlin, here it is performed by the Zamir Chorale of Boston.

No list of immigration songs would be complete without Woody Guthrie’s Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) after a 1948 plane crash in Fresno County, CA, that killed 32 people including 28 migrant farm workers who were being deported to Mexico.  National radio and newspaper coverage failed to give the victims’ names, referring to them as “deportees.”  Although the Fresno Bee had reported some of the names, Guthrie, who was living in New York, didn’t know about the local coverage and responded with this poem.  It was later set to music by Martin Hoffman, a school teacher.  Here it is sung by  Peter, Paul, and Mary along with Tom Paxton.

Noel Paul Stookey‘s Familia de Corazon  is, in his words, about “the promise that sits out there in New York Harbor to all people who want a fresh start, who believe in equality, who are seeking justice and equity.” I find this song particularly poignant at this time when so many children have been separated from their families at the border.  Stookey has also has replaced two verses of America the Beautiful  (2011) with newer ones, one of which recognizes that we are a “nation of the immigrant.”  Both are on the 2015 CD, “At Home:  the Maine Tour.”

Will You Harbor Me?  was written by Ysaye Barnwell, a member of Sweet Honey in the Rock and is on their album “Sacred Ground” (1995). One of their albums “Raise Your Voices” (2007) has the cover shown at the beginning of the video.   Here’s another immigration song by Sweet Honey in the Rock in a video featuring Yonas–We Need a Nation (2010).

These Shoes  (2008) by Andrew McKnight shows the vulnerability of an immigrant woman from Central America. In his introduction he asks,  “What would it be like to grow up in Guatemala or El Salvador and feel so desperate that the only thing you can decide you can do is to leave behind everything you’ve ever known and loved and make this journey . . . .”   The song is on his CD  “Something Worth Standing For.”  I’m delighted to learn about this singer/songwriter who lives in the northern Blue Ridge of Virginia and has a heart for the marginalized.

Nanci Griffith is joined by Emmylou Harris on Griffith’s Good Night, New York, which is recorded on her album “Winter Marque” (2002).

Bruce Springsteen‘s American Land   (2006) recalls the stories of many immigrants who came to America in the 19th and early 20th centuries who discovered that not everyone who worked hard could make their lives better.

P.S. on July 13, 2018

Since I made this post, several people have suggested other songs about immigration:

Neil Sedaka’s  The Immigrant

Ry Cooder’s  Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right

JTF

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Is On-Demand Culture Changing Us?

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

“Back in 2011, comedian Pete Holmes announced to his audience on the Conan show that he had an iPhone, adding, ‘I have Google on my phone now. . . . It’s ruining life because we know everything, but we’re not a lick smarter for it.'”

Ministry Matters has posted the essay from my latest FaithLink:
https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/9052/is-on-demand-culture-changing-us

Slow Reading

Reading for th Common Good

In college I took a non-credit speed reading course so I could read assignments faster. The idea was to move my hand or an index card down the center of the page to learn to avoid unnecessary eye movements to the left and right in order to take in larger chunks of print.  Either I didn’t understand the process, or it just didn’t work. The main benefit was the illusion that I had read Moby Dick and Don Quixote, when in fact my comprehension and retention were close to zero.  As a writer, I’ve learned to skim sources at a fast clip, but skimming is a finding technique that lodges little or nothing in the memory.  Now with the Internet and social media, I’m looking at more words than ever, but this “skill” is just a high tech version of speed reading and skimming.

Christopher Smith’s Reading for the Common Good:  How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish, has challenged me to slow down. Smith is the editor of the Englewood Review of Books and a member of the Englewood Christian Church community in urban Indianapolis.  When that congregation was faced with the temptation to move to the suburbs, it decided to stay put and work in its community.  To that end, it embarked on reading as a way to discern and prepare for action. It opened a bookstore and started its online and print review to encourage other congregations to read broadly in order to act faithfully.  The congregation became involved in actions that require learning– for example, economic development, alternative energy, caring for the marginalized. Smith explains, “Without learning, our action tends to be reaction . . . .”

In his chapter specifically on Slow Reading,  Smith puts it in the context of other “Slow” movements:  Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Money, Slow Parenting.  He says, “What these movements have in common is not just the means of acting slowly and attentively.  They also share a common end:  the cultivation of local community.”  Smith praises Isabel Hofmeyr’s Gandhi’s Printing Press:  Experiments in Slow Reading in which she describes how this practice transformed a South African community of expatriate Indians in the early twentieth century.  He also draws on the history of lectio divina, the monastic practice of slowly reading, meditating, praying, and reflecting on scripture, in order to underline the power of slow reading.  The final stage of this process is contemplation “in which we begin to imagine how the text is to be lived out within our everyday life.”

Smith invites congregations to read as an intentional, communal activity that is more transformative if it is done slowly–through reading for comprehension followed by conversation prompted by the questions that the text asks of readers.   The process also involves “reading the world” which means reading to understand the social, economic, historic, ecological, and political dynamics that affect the area in which the congregation works, whether that be local, national, or global. Smith says “reading in communion” helps churches discern God’s work in the world, provided the reading is wide in scope—not just scripture, but books on poverty, sociology, economics, and even fiction and poetry, both of which allow us to see the world and our relationships in fresh ways.

My interest in this book stems from two longings.  The first is that more congregations would see doing justice as part of their call to ministry in today’s complex and divided world.  This book presents a way to understand the motivations and practicalities of that call. The second longing is more personal–to get rid of any remnants of that speed reading course that still lead me to think I’ve learned something when, in truth, I haven’t.

What books have you read slowly lately?  What difference did it make?