From Ticklebooth, source of much video goodness:
Before Halloween there was Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival marking the begining of winter; a time when it was believed that the barrier between this life and the next was thin. Turnip lanterns and bonfires were lit to guide the recently deceased to the next world, and to ward off evil spirits…
A short clip animated by Benjamin Goldman for The History Channel.
A disclaimer: If you read this blog & are tired of my nattering on the husband of Michelle Robinson, the dad of Malia Ann & Natasha , the grandson of Madelyn Dunham - well then, you probably ought to surf somewhere else & save yourself the aggravation of reading this post.
Yesterday, I was knocked on my ass by the firehose that is the Obama campaign. After a full day of work at a trade show, I watched the 30 min ad "American Stories, American Solutions" , then I watched the DAILY SHOW interview, then I joined more than 30,000 other shivering people in a field out in Kissimee, FL:
At the rally, the last two Dem Presidents - Bill Clinton & Matt Santos - joined Obama on a stage, whipping a Sunshine State crowd up into a frenzy. Honestly, when I went to sleep at 2:34 a.m., I was O-verloaded, O-verjoyed & O-verwhelmed.
Today, I have been noodling on my reac, in between meetings and huge yawns. Two things that strike me:
who do we think Obama is ?
There is a Hebrew word "shibboleth" (שיבולת), which literally identifies its speaker as being a member or not a member of a particular group. Watching Obama, learning so much about him, even co-authoring a book about him - one central a-ha struck me. For some reason - and there are thousands - how Americans react to Obama tends to be primarily (but not exclusively) a function of our own view of life. I am no social scientist, but he - more than any public figure in my lifetime in America - serves as some sort of mirror for our fears, hopes, bias and desires. It is more than just policy or politics with how people react to this political candidate - there is something that comes from the gut and the soul, not simply the heady calculus of who will do my bidding in the swamp that is American government. This candidate seems to be some sort of shibboleth, a kind of inflection for a culture and empire that is flailing and dying and birthing all at once.
what exactly is going on with how we see Obama in the prism of our faith ?
I now live again in my home state, where a Poll finds 23% of Texans think Obama is Muslim... . Sigh----deep, deep, deep sigh.
Beyond my home state, there is something going on with the visceral reaction that Obama triggers with people who call themselves Christians. Good people, faithful people, loving people have done things that sadden God. After this election season concludes we must grapple, truly grapple, with what just happened and what it says about a nation that pounds its chest and swagger aroudn as a self-described Christian nation.
And what role will the church play in this reflection, this wandering and wondering - well one of the great writers gives me hope for what lies ahead in this pagge from his book Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith:
The visible church is all the people who get together from time to time in God's name. Anybody can find out who they are by going to church to look. The invisible church is all the people God uses for his hands and feet in this world. Nobody can find out who they are except God.
Two weeks ago, a number of us online committed our little soapboxes to bring attention to the reality of those who live their lives in poverty. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds - unfortunately, it is children who die most often.
One thing that my buddy Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves & Fishes drove home for me when we spent some time together 2 weeks ago is that poverty, at it's root, is a problem between human beings - not a set of statistics or a issue that needs fixing. There is a rip in the fabric of families, big enough that people fall through. And the only way to engage in this is as a human being, taking our place with other beloved creations made in God's image. Alan speaks from experience on the imperatives that faith & family - not loose change given out of guilt - are the cornerstones of any efforts to make a difference in the complex web of poverty.
There is some insight, at least for me, in the way religious orders - like monks & nuns & oblates - help to weave that fabric back together. These truly counter cultural gaggles of women & men strive to achieve a common purpose through formally dedicating their life to God. They are centered on a common rhythm of life, like the Rule of St Benedict or the Rule of St Augustine. While many orders live in a rule of voluntary poverty, they give from a sense of abundance to a world that hungers for meaning just as sure as we hunger for physical sustenance.
The brilliant theologian & leader Rowan Williams captures much of this sense in his usual extraordinary way:
To be poor, sadly, is still to be without a voice and without power…. The very phrase, ‘the poor,’ lumps together and depersonalizes billions of individuals with different unique stories and voices which are seldom heard, because the rich and powerful shout more loudly. It can be tempting for those attracted by Franciscan simplicity to rhapsodize about the ennobling properties of poverty. This is dangerously patronizing.
It is important to understand that there is an essential difference between poverty as a chosen, life-giving option and the poverty which denies and dehumanizes. Living in unchosen poverty does not ennoble. Instead of freeing the mind from ‘distractions’ about food and clothes and other material concerns, they become an obsession. Far from being set free to live abundantly, this kind of poverty concentrates the mind on the mechanics of blind survival. A poor people are not necessarily any freer from materialism than the rich; they merely have less opportunity to indulge their desires. For the sake of clarity, then, it is necessary to draw a distinction between involuntary poverty, and a choice (or vocation) to live in simplicity in defiance of a world which defines us by what we have.
A little over a week ago, I posted on an area I hope that churchianity can confess our failings and join the transforming work that God's Spirit is making real. I continue to get emails daily since this post from folks who have been cast out, marginalized - some even brutalized - by the tragic way that so many "faith" communities scapegoat people for who fellow beloved creations made in God's image love.
As a straight white 45 year old who has been lucky to be married to the same gorgeous woman for 25 years, I can honestly admit that I only understand a little of what is communicated in these honest, God-drenched emails - that said, it continually breaks my heart and makes me a tad (ok, more than a tad) embarrassed to call myself an evangelical Christian.
I wish I was as clever and courageous as this trickster - I suspect there is much holiness in his outward & visible sign of God's transforming & surprising love for us - all of us:
image by Burstein!
We are God's beloved, all of us, and by God we can do better.
P.S. - that young child in the picture - he is a prop, a child soldier in some else's war. Some day, that child may actually understand what is written on the sign he holds - I hope his parent will as well.