A little while back, Mrs. C. came across a prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that we often return to when, as on our better days, we find a few minutes in the morning to stop and pray. It turns out it’s quite well known in the right circles, and there are a variety of English translations, but I’ll include here the one we know best: Continue reading Morning Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Leonard Cohen
I am continually and genuinely perplexed when major Christian institutions—whether that be particular Protestant denominations or indeed the great Roman Catholic Church—seem to go out of their way to take official positions on matters of international relations that specifically run counter to the expressed security interests of the people of Israel. It is not at all that I think these churches ought to reflexively support the line of the Israeli government of the moment, but rather that I cannot understand why they feel obliged to put themselves out there officially on the given issue at all, versus merely doing what religious teachers are after all most qualified to do, which is to lead people in prayer for good and peaceful outcomes. Some of us Christians actually devoutly believe in the real power of prayer and conversely have much less faith in the power of bishops and priests to make accurate judgments on matters pertaining to hard-nosed international diplomacy, economics and military strategies. (Call us crazy.) Continue reading The Strange Inclination of Christian Church Institutions Against Israel
A happy and blessed Passover to all of those observing it from us at the CINCH HQ.
I’m a Christian, but I found fascinating a recent article in the Boston Globe on the exponential growth of the Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch organization. In the Boston area Chabad has grown from 7 synagogues to 26 over the past 20 years, but their growth has been nationwide and indeed worldwide. After the 1994 death of Chabad’s most recent leader, the by-all-accounts-inspiring Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, many suspected Chabad would fade away, but instead they have exploded, growing “faster in the last 20 years than in the previous century.” Where are their congregants coming from? Continue reading Chabad Making Old Things New
It would be remiss not to make note of the very special tribute that Bob Dylan paid to Kris Kristofferson in the speech he gave last Friday, February 6th, at the MusiCares benefit. (Transcript “from Bob’s notes” now at this link.) After speaking about how the Nashville scene was once “sewn up in a box” by a collection of songwriters and power brokers, he goes on: Continue reading Kris Kristofferson in Bob Dylan’s MusiCares Speech
Under Milk Wood is Dylan Thomas’s “play for voices” (i.e. intended for radio rather than the stage), a quite wild and sometimes soaring portrait of the inhabitants of a fishing village in Wales, the fictional Llareggub, depicting both their dreams and a day in their lives.
One of the quieter moments comes at sunset, when the town vicar, the Reverend Eli Jenkins, goes out and says a prayer. The remarkable Cerys Matthews, a woman of so many hats, has just put out a new album with musical treatments of sundry works of Dylan Thomas, titled A Child’s Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs [full review at this link], and below via YouTube is her performance of “The Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer.” Continue reading Cerys Matthews – “The Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer”
These kinds of things tend to be quickly swept away in the major media outlets, so I’m just pausing for a moment to highlight them.
Today Dallas Nurse Amber Vinson was discharged from Emory University Hospital, and declared free of Ebola, which she caught while caring for the patient Thomas Eric Duncan. Her statement on release began like this:
I’m so grateful to be well. And first and foremost, I want to thank God. I sincerely believe that with God all things are possible.
While the skill and dedication of the doctors, nurses and others who have taken care of me have obviously led to my recovery, it has been God’s love that has truly carried my family and me through this difficult time and has played such an important role and given me hope and the strength to fight.
After thanking many specific people, and drawing attention to the terrible toll that this disease is taking on so many people in West Africa, and before asking for privacy, she ended her statement with this: Continue reading Ebola, God, Just Sayin’
In 1949, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote a book called The Earth Is the Lord’s on the culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe; i.e. on a culture that had then been all but wiped out. It was the first book he had published in America, having himself escaped from Europe to there during the war.
In writing about the joy that was to be found in the culture of the Hasidim for pure ideas, for endless study and restudy of the Talmud, he says this: Continue reading Heschel on the Need for the Unnecessary
Life is a gift. While surveying what often seems the bleakness of the current global landscape, one should try to remember that simple fact. After all, we haven’t actually earned anything of what we get the chance to experience here. The world teems with love, compassion and joy, and in an ultimate sense all of those good things are for free: we as individuals did not have to have experienced any of it. We have no true ownership of our breathing, of our own existence, of the reality that anything exists. Life itself is a gift.
But with the gift comes a responsibility—should we care to accept it—to be careful of how we and our fellow creatures are treating that same gift. That part can be a bit difficult.
When might the following words have been written? Continue reading Strange Days, Weird Monsters, and Prayers
An article in the UK Telegraph alerted us to the curious “Sunday Assembly” godless church movement. Although the idea was originally hatched by some comedians (literally-speaking) in London, the article focuses on a congregation in the somewhat unlikely locale of Nashville, Tennessee. (On the other hand, perhaps it’s not so surprising that atheists in that part of the country would want to network and find some reassurance in numbers.) Continue reading A Church with no God
Very recently I happened upon one of those discoveries (new at least to me) that seems sufficiently obscure to justify being written down, and especially so while it’s still at the frontal area of the old lobe. It is merely a beguiling echo perceived in two poems, written respectively by two poets separated by about 330 years.
Samuel Menashe was born in 1925 in New York City, and died in that same city in 2011. The relevant poem from him is “Improvidence.” I hope no one would come after me for quoting it here in full; Menashe’s poems are so short, and so tightly constructed, that it is not as if one can just quote a verse and say “buy the book and read the rest” (though by all means buy the book and read the other poems). In the great majority of cases the poem is a single stanza, and you need the whole thing to have any sense of it. All the more so “Improvidence,” which possesses careful timing all the way to its quasi-punchline. It is a poem which on its face is about economics, as well as human nature, and indeed Menashe liked to mention that it was once incorporated into a talk by an economist of note. Continue reading George Herbert and Samuel Menashe; Improvidence and Faith