Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two Responses to Greed-American Style

Evangelist Jim Wallis is mad as heck:

The financial collapse of Wall Street is the fiscal consequence of the economic philosophy that now governs America — that markets are always good and government is always bad. But it is also the moral consequence of greed, where private profit prevails over the concept of the common good. The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with government and business. The climate seems to shift between an “anything goes” mentality and stricter government regulation. The excesses of the 1920s, leading to the Great Depression, were followed by the reforms of Franklin Roosevelt.

The entrepreneurial spirit and social innovation fostered by a market economy has benefited many and should not be overly encumbered by unnecessary or stifling regulations. But left to its own devices and human weakness (let’s call it sin), the market too often disintegrates into greed and corruption, as the Wall Street financial collapse painfully reveals. Capitalism needs rules, or it easily becomes destructive. A healthy, balanced relationship between free enterprise, on the one hand, and public accountability and regulation, on the other, is morally and practically essential. Government should encourage innovation, but it must also limit greed.


Economist Paul Krugman has a few reactions to the proposed bailout:

. . . if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That’s what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It’s also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

I’m aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Best Way to Reduce Abortion

Initially I wrote this as a response to Cvow, who (like many of you, dear readers), believes that abortion is wrong in all circumstances because life begins at conception. Although I am prochoice, I think this view is logically consistent given its premises. And I'd like to thank Cvow for being candid and calm in expressing his views.

With all respect to you guys, as a woman of child-bearing age, my views are not merely academic: at any point, it could be me in the moral crosshairs. (Later, I'll tell you what two friends just decided.)

Let's agree, for the sake of argument, that all abortion is immoral because life begins at conception. We'll leave aside for now just how that is determined, but accept the fact that a good 30% of these conceived lives self-abort, i.e. miscarry. (If we were being consistent, we might want to limit human reproduction to nonsmoking, non-coffee-drinking young women, and neuter men over age 35 as they are risk factors for miscarriage).

But onward: what is the best way to reduce abortion?

Three options: make it unnecessary, unavailable, or illegal.

Is the first method effective? We know that women continue to have abortions in countries where it is illegal, under conditions that often result in terrible tragedy. Some 70,000 women a year DIE from unsafe abortions. Others suffer grave injuries, including infection, hemorrhaging, and infertility. This hurts women, their families, and whole communities, but it does very little to reduce abortion.

Making abortion less available is happening right now in the U.S., and it does work to reduce the number of abortions -- among the poor and the very young, who are least likely to afford daycare or healthcare. The baby is substantially more vulnerable to violence, poverty, disease and abandonment. I respect the anti-abortion activists who adopt such children, but there will never be enough of these adopters to stop the cycle. Except in those rare cases, this option is not ethical, as it treats the unborn life with higher value than the born life.

How can we make abortion less necessary?

The first way is to reduce unintended pregnancies (half of all pregnancies in this country are unintended, and, of those, half end in abortion). Prevention includes adequate sex education (abstinence-only doesn't work), contraception (cheap or free, like Viagra), and safety from sexual violence.

In spite of the above, there will always be some unintended pregnancies. I can't emphasize enough that the best way to reduce abortion in this case is to ensure that the mother has the means to have and raise a child in health and safety.

One of most common reasons women choose abortion is because they can't afford a(nother) child. How are we doing as a country to ensure that ALL women have education and career opportunities, healthcare, childcare, housing, and services for disabled children?

Personal aside: two of my friends are now well into unplanned pregnancies (birth control is not 100% reliable). They have previous children, are in committed marriages, and have stable (well, until last week) incomes. These women are prochoice for all women, while against abortion for themselves. They are also, given the current economic crisis, deeply concerned about how their expanded families will make ends meet.

Imagine how many women of less fortunate circumstances are weighing their options. How can we best help them come down on the side of bearing the child?

Both of my friends are supporting Obama in this election. Like them, I think that Obama's priorities and policies will go further in preventing abortions than McCain's.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

White Privilege

by Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for an easy-to-understand example of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you, or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a "f*ckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, who likes to "kick ass" if people mess with you, and who likes to "shoot sh*t," for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough or the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office -- since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s -- while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights because (ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school) requires it, is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wanted your state to secede from the union, and whose motto was "Alaska first" -- and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do -- like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor -- and people think you're being pithy and tough. But if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college -- you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a "light" burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possible allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90% of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain...

White privilege is ... the problem.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin Praises Finland


By the funny Palin (the Brit).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Palin an Extremist?

From David Talbot at Salon.com:

Sept. 15, 2008 | WASILLA, Alaska -- The Wasilla Assembly of God, the evangelical church where Sarah Palin came of age, was still charged with excitement on Sunday over Palin's sudden ascendance. Pastor Ed Kalnins warned his congregation not to talk with any journalists who might have been lurking in the pews -- and directly warned this reporter not to interview any of his flock. But Kalnins and other speakers at the service reveled in Palin's rise to global stardom.

It confirmed, they said, that God was making use of Wasilla. "She will take our message to the world!" rejoiced an Assembly of God youth ministry leader, as the church band rocked the high-vaulted wooden building with its electric gospel.

That is what scares the Rev. Howard Bess. A retired American Baptist minister who pastors a small congregation in nearby Palmer, Wasilla's twin town in Alaska's Matanuska Valley, Bess has been tangling with Palin and her fellow evangelical activists ever since she was a Wasilla City Council member in the 1990s. Recently, Bess again found himself in the spotlight with Palin, when it was reported that his 1995 book, "Pastor, I Am Gay," was among those Palin tried to have removed from the Wasilla Public Library when she was mayor.

"She scares me," said Bess. "She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.

"At this point, people in this country don't grasp what this person is all about. The key to understanding Sarah Palin is understanding her radical theology."

Bess -- a fit-looking, 80-year-old man in a gray University of Illinois sweatshirt and blue jeans – spoke with me over coffee at the Vagabond Blues, a cafe in Palmer with a stunning view of the nearby snow-capped Chugach Mountains. The retired minister moved to the Mat-Su Valley with his wife, Darlene, in 1987, after his outspoken defense of gay rights at Baptist churches in the Santa Barbara, Calif., area and Anchorage landed him in trouble with church officials. In the Mat-Su Valley, Bess plunged into community activism, helping launch an assortment of projects, from an arts council to a shelter for the mentally disabled.

Inevitably, his work brought him into conflict with Palin and other highly politicized Christian fundamentalists in the valley. "Things got very intense around here in the '90s -- the culture war was very hot here," Bess said. "The evangelicals were trying to take over the valley. They took over the school board, the community hospital board, even the local electric utility. And Sarah Palin was in the direct center of all these culture battles, along with the churches she belonged to."

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Garrison Keillor (Not a Fruit Fly)

By Garrison Keillor
Sept. 10, 2008

So the Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling, "Throw the bums out!" They've been running Washington like a well-oiled machine to the point of inviting lobbyists into the back rooms to write the legislation, and now they are anti-establishment reformers dedicated to delivering us from themselves. And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is an advocate for small-town America. Bravo.

They are coming out for Small Efficient Government the very week that the feds are taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those old cash cows, and in the course of a weekend $20 billion or $50 billion (pick a number) go floating out the Treasury door. Hello? Do you see us out here? We are not fruit flies, we are voters, we can read and write, we didn't just fall off the coal truck.

It is a bold move on the Republicans' part—forget about the past, it's only history, so write a new narrative and be who you want to be.

Sen. John McCain has decided to run as a former prisoner of war and a maverick, a maverick's maverick, rather than President Bush's best friend, and that's understandable, but how can he not address the $3 trillion that got burned up in Iraq so far? It's real money, it could've paid for a lot of windmills, a high-speed rail line in Ohio, some serious R&D. The Chinese, who have avoided foreign wars for 50 years, are taking enormous leaps forward, investing in their economy, and we are falling behind. We're wasting our chances. The Republican culture of corruption in Washington hasn't helped.

And a former mayor of Wasilla, a town of about 8,500, who hired a lobbyist to get $26 million in federal earmarks is now running against the old-boy network in Washington who gave her that money to build the teen rec center and other good things so she could keep taxes low in Wasilla.

Stunning.

And if you question her qualifications to be the leader of the free world, you are an elitist. This is a beautiful maneuver. I wish I had thought of it back in school when I was forced to subject myself to a final exam in higher algebra. I could have told Miss Mortenson, "I am a Christian and when you gave me a D, you only showed your contempt for the Lord and for the godly hard-working people from whom I have sprung, you elitist battle-ax you."

In school, you couldn't get away with that garbage because the taxpayers know that if we don't uphold scholastic standards, we will wind up driving on badly designed bridges and go in for a tonsillectomy and come out missing our left lung, so we flunk the losers lest they gain power and hurt us, but in politics we bring forth phonies and love them to death.

I must say, it was fun having the Republicans in St. Paul and to see it all up close and firsthand. Security was, as one might expect, thin-lipped and gimlet-eyed, but once you got through it, you found the folks you went to high school with—farm kids, jocks, the townies who ran the student council, the cheerleaders, some of the bullies—and they are as cohesive now as they were back then, dedicated to school spirit, intolerant of outsiders, able to jump up and down and holler for something they don't actually believe.

But oh, Lord, what they brought forth this year.

When you check the actuarial tables on a 72-year-old guy who's had three bouts with cancer, you guess you may be looking at the first woman president, a hustling evangelical with ethics issues and a chip on her shoulder who, not counting Canada, has set foot outside the country once—a trip to Germany, Iraq and Kuwait in 2007 to visit Alaskans in the armed services. And who listed a refueling stop in Ireland as a fourth country visited. She's like the Current Occupant but with big hair. If you want inexperience, there were better choices.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Sermon by Jeremiah Wright

I bet the title got your attention. ;-)

I'm posting this sermon for two reasons, one of which is political, and the other which relates to Laestadianism.

First, the political. By now we've all heard the excerpts from Wright's sermons which caused Obama to finally renouce Wright and his membership at Wright's church. Wright said some things that are pretty much inexcusable in my book, and most books for that matter. You might wonder (and I certainly wondered myself) how Obama could have stayed in his congregation if that kind of stuff was the stuff regularly preached there. Hopefully this sermon helps answer that question. I think it's a great sermon and while it doesn't excuse what Wright has said with such noteriety, it does make the case that Wright is capable of far better theological reflection than what we've all heard on YouTube.

Secondly, the topic of this sermon is "Hope." It was the sermon that inspired Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope," and is a topic relevant to all of us who have had to bear unbearable situations. I think as former Laestadians we of all people can understand what it's like to sit in church and listen to things that we think are crazy. As former Laestadians we also are familiar with the suffering of those who feel trapped and helpless under an oppressive system that we felt helpless to change.

We left, but how do people who feel like they can't leave continue on in their suffering? I think this sermon helps answer that question.

One final note before I leave you to the sermon. Where the "horizontal" and "vertical" dimensions come together; there is the cross.

Hope
Preaching Today published this sermon in 1990.

Several years ago while I was in Richmond, the Lord allowed me to be in that city during the week of the annual convocation at Virginia Union University School of Theology. There I heard the preaching and teaching of Reverend Frederick G. Sampson of Detroit, Michigan. In one of his lectures, Dr. Sampson spoke of a painting I remembered studying in humanities courses back in the late '50s. In Dr. Sampson's powerful description of the picture, he spoke of it being a study in contradictions, because the title and the details on the canvas seem to be in direct opposition.

The painting's title is "Hope." It shows a woman sitting on top of the world, playing a harp. What more enviable position could one ever hope to achieve than being on top of the world with everyone dancing to your music?

As you look closer, the illusion of power gives way to the reality of pain. The world on which this woman sits, our world, is torn by war, destroyed by hate, decimated by despair, and devastated by distrust. The world on which she sits seems on the brink of destruction. Famine ravages millions of inhabitants in one hemisphere, while feasting and gluttony are enjoyed by inhabitants of another hemisphere. This world is a ticking time bomb, with apartheid in one hemisphere and apathy in the other. Scientists tell us there are enough nuclear warheads to wipe out all forms of life except cockroaches. That is the world on which the woman sits in Watt's painting.

Our world cares more about bombs for the enemy than about bread for the hungry. This world is still more concerned about the color of skin than it is about the content of character - a world more finicky about what's on the outside of your head than about the quality of your education or what's inside your head. That is the world on which this woman sits.

You and I think of being on top of the world as being in heaven. When you look at the woman in Watt's painting, you discover this woman is in hell. She is wearing rags. Her tattered clothes look as if the woman herself has come through Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Her head is bandaged, and blood seeps through the bandages. Scars and cuts are visible on her face, her arms, and her legs.

I. Illusion of Power vs. Reality of Pain

A closer look reveals all the harp strings but one are broken or ripped out. Even the instrument has been damaged by what she has been through, and she is the classic example of quiet despair. Yet the artist dares to entitle the painting Hope. The illusion of power-sitting on top of the world - gives way to the reality of pain.

And isn't it that way with many of us? We give the illusion of being in an enviable position on top of the world. Look closer, and our lives reveal the reality of pain too deep for the tongue to tell. For the woman in the painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually an existence in a quiet hell. I've been a pastor for seventeen years. I've seen too many of these cases not to know what I'm talking about. I've seen married couples where the husband has a girlfriend in addition to his wife. It's something nobody talks about. The wife smiles and pretends not to hear the whispers and the gossip. She has the legal papers but knows he would rather try to buy Fort Knox than divorce her. That's a living hell.

I've seen married couples where the wife had discovered that somebody else cares for her as a person and not just as cook, maid jitney service, and call girl all wrapped into one. But there's the scandal: What would folks say? What about the children? That's a living hell.

I've seen divorcees whose dreams have been blown to bits, families broken up beyond repair, and lives somehow slipping through their fingers. They've lost control. That's a living hell.

I've seen college students who give the illusion of being on top of the world - designer clothes, all the sex that they want, all the cocaine or marijuana or drugs, all the trappings of having it all together on the outside-but empty and shallow and hurting and lonely and afraid on the inside. Many times what looks good on the outside-the illusion of being in power, of sitting on top of the world - with a closer look is actually existence in a quiet hell.

That is exactly where Hannah is in 1 Samuel 1 :1-18. Hannah is top dog in this three-way relationship between herself, Elkanah, and Peninnah. Her husband loves Hannah more than he loves his other wife and their children. Elkanah tells Hannah he loves her. A lot of husbands don't do that. He shows Hannah that he loves her, and many husbands never get around to doing that. In fact, it is his attention and devotion to Hannah that causes Peninnah to be so angry and to stay on Hannah's case constantly. Jealous! Jealousy will get hold of you, and you can't let it go because it won't let you go. Peninnah stayed on Hannah, like we say, "as white on rice." She constantly picked at Hannah, making her cry, taking her appetite away.

At first glance Hannah's position seems enviable. She had all the rights and none of the responsibilities - no diapers to change, no beds to sit beside at night, no noses to wipe, nothing else to wipe either, no babies draining you of your milk and demanding feeding. Hannah was top dog. No baby portions to fix at meal times. Her man loved her; everybody knew he loved her. He loved her more than anything or anybody. That's why Peninnah hated her so much.

Now, except for the second-wife bit, which was legal back then, Hannah was sitting on top of the world, until you look closer. When you look closer, what looked like being in heaven was actually existing in a quiet hell.

Hannah had the pain of a bitter woman to contend with, for verse 7 says that nonstop, Peninnah stayed with her. Hannah suffered the pain of living with a bitter woman. And she suffered another pain - the pain of a barren womb. You will remember the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4 who had no child. The story of a woman with no children was a story of deep pathos and despair in biblical days.

Do you remember the story of Sarah and what she did in Genesis 16 because of her barren womb - before the three heavenly visitors stopped by their tent? Do you remember the story of Elizabeth and her husband in Luke I? Back in Bible days, the story of a woman with a barren womb was a story of deep pathos. And Hannah was afflicted with the pain of a bitter woman on the one hand and the pain of a barren womb on the other.

Hannah's world was flawed, flaky. Her garments of respectability were tattered and torn, and her heart was bruised and bleeding from the constant attacks of a jealous woman. The scars and scratches on her psyche are almost visible as you look at this passage, where she cries, refusing to eat anything. Just like the woman in Watt's painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually existence in a quiet hell.

Now I want to share briefly with you about Hannah - the lady and the Lord. While I do so, I want you to be thinking about where you live and your own particular pain predicament. Think about it for a moment.

Dr. Sampson said he wanted to quarrel with the artist for having the gall to name that painting Hope when all he could see in the picture was hell - a quiet desperation. But then Dr. Sampson said he noticed that he had been looking only at the horizontal dimensions and relationships and how this woman was hooked up with that world on which she sat. He had failed to take into account her vertical relationships. He had not looked above her head. And when he looked over her head, he found some small notes of music moving joyfully and playfully toward heaven.

II. The Audacity to Hope

Then, Dr. Sampson began to understand why the artist titled the painting "Hope." In spite of being in a world torn by war, in spite of being on a world destroyed by hate and decimated by distrust, in spite of being on a world where famine and greed are uneasy bed partners, in spite of being on a world where apartheid and apathy feed the fires of racism and hatred, in spite of being on a world where nuclear nightmare draws closer with each second, in spite of being on a ticking time bomb, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God. The vertical dimension balanced out what was going on in the horizontal dimension.

And that is what the audacity to hope will do for you. The apostle Paul said the same thing. "You have troubles? Glory in your trouble. We glory in tribulation." That's the horizontal dimension. We glory in tribulation because, he says, "Tribulation works patience. And patience works experience. And experience works hope. (That's the vertical dimension.) And hope makes us not ashamed." The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension. That is the real story here in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Not the condition of Hannah's body, but the condition of Hannah's soul - her vertical dimension. She had the audacity to keep on hoping and praying when there was no visible sign on the horizontal level that what she was praying for, hoping for, and waiting for would ever be answered in the affirmative.

What Hannah wanted most out of life had been denied to her. Think about that. Yet in spite of that, she kept on hoping. The gloating of Peninnah did not make her bitter. She kept on hoping. When the family made its pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Shiloh, she renewed her petition there, pouring out her heart to God. She may have been barren, but that's a horizontal dimension. She was fertile in her spirit, her vertical dimension. She prayed and she prayed and she prayed and she kept on praying year after year. With no answer, she kept on praying. She prayed so fervently in this passage that Eli thought she had to be drunk. There was no visible sign on the horizontal level to indicate to Hannah that her praying would ever be answered. Yet, she kept on praying.

And Paul said something about that, too. No visible sign? He says, "Hope is what saves us, for we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man sees, why does he have hope for it? But if we hope for that which we see not (no visible sign), then do we with patience wait for it."

That's almost an echo of what the prophet Isaiah said: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension.

There may not be any visible sign of a change in your individual situation, whatever your private hell is. But that's just the horizontal level. Keep the vertical level intact, like Hannah. You may, like the African slaves, be able to sing, "Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere." Keep the vertical dimension intact like Hannah. Have the audacity to hope for that child of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that home of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that church of yours. Whatever it is you've been praying for, keep on praying, and you may find, like my grandmother sings, "There's a bright side somewhere; there is a bright side somewhere. Don't you rest until you find it, for there is a bright side somewhere."

III. Persistence of Hope

The real lesson Hannah gives us from this chapter - the most important word God would have us hear - is how to hope when the love of God is not plainly evident. It's easy to hope when there are evidences all around of how good God is. But to have the audacity to hope when that love is not evident - you don't know where that somewhere is that my grandmother sang about, or if there will ever be that brighter day - that is a true test of a Hannah-type faith. To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope - make music and praise God on and with whatever it is you've got left, even though you can't see what God is going to do - that's the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt's painting.

There's a true-life illustration that demonstrates the principles portrayed so powerfully in this periscope. And I close with it. My mom and my dad used to sing a song that I've not been able to find in any of the published hymnals. It's an old song out of the black religious tradition called "Thank you, Jesus." It's a very simple song. Some of you have heard it. It's simply goes, "Thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Lord." To me they always sang that song at the strangest times-when the money got low, or when the food was running out. When I was getting in trouble, they would start singing that song. And I never understood it, because as a child it seemed to me they were thanking God that we didn't have any money, or thanking God that we had no food, or thanking God that I was making a fool out of myself as a kid.

Conclusion: Hope is What Saves Us

But I was only looking at the horizontal level. I did not understand nor could I see back then the vertical hookup that my mother and my father had. I did not know then that they were thanking him in advance for all they dared to hope he would do one day to their son, in their son, and through their son. That's why they prayed. That's why they hoped. That's why they kept on praying with no visible sign on the horizon. And I thank God I had praying parents, because now some thirty-five years later, when I look at what God has done in my life, I understand clearly why Hannah had the audacity to hope. Why my parents had the audacity to hope.

And that's why I say to you, hope is what saves us. Keep on hoping; keep on praying. God does hear and answer prayer. Jeremiah Wright is pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. - 1990 Jeremiah Wright

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Numa Numa

The kids go back to school tomorrow. Pardon me while I celebrate a little.