Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.
1. The Lectionary for June 14 (Gen. 18:1-15; 21:1-7) opened a rich discussion of Sarah, Abraham and Isaac and how laughter, doubt, and faith come together as we respond to impossible situations. Irony, contradiction, bitter laughter and dark humor can help us face the current situation, stand back, gain distance, clarify sight and deepen hope, faith, trust, or resignation. We quoted our favorite hymn that prays for “homes with love and laughter filled.” We named current prophets of humor and wit who assist us (Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel, Myers, Noah) and gave highest praise to the Netflix show Afterlife for its depth of understanding of grief, loss, death and the acute pain of mourning.
2. Heresy or apostasy? We are embarrassed to even talk to each other about “White Blessing,” the new theology of white privilege (racial supremism) proclaimed by an Atlanta megachurch pastor who calls slavery “a Divine gift for White people.” The Reverend Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta claims slavery provided the frame for all the privilege white U.S. Americans enjoy. Heresy is believing what’s right but getting it wrong; Apostasy is believing what’s wrong and getting it accurately and diabolically right. If all idolatry is apostasy, what is self idolization?
3. We mourn the deaths of thousands. We mourn the death of our brother, Milton Good, this past Monday. Physician, artist, a very favorite friend. We mourn him, and our grief calls up the multitude dying of COVID 19. We ask how to open the arms of the soul to embrace all who suffer. Is it humanly possible to grasp human mortality? “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.” The cold statement is alleged to have originated with Joseph Stalin in response to the civil war and the famine in Ukraine. What a contrast with the Mishnah, “When one person dies, a whole world ends.” Every person is precious in God’s eyes, we conclude, every one.
4. A Mother’s Day gift, The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen, is a trustworthy way to awaken taste buds that have been languishing unstimulated—believe us—and we dare you to try baking your way through this collection of 60 pies. The black bottom lemon pie will live on in your tongue’s memory when many other pies, thought truly memorable, will have been forgotten.
5. Racism is Satanism. In spite of the virus we walked in the Black Lives Matter march for our community; in spite of our system-embeddedness we have to repudiate daily the blatant racism we see in our culture; in spite of years of trans-cultural living we need to repent of either the impulse to judge or the tug of passivity in the face of the evil demon of prejudice. “Racism is Satanism,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said on Jan. 14, 1963. His sermon stays on our computer desktop and is frequently read. I recommend it to you. Sixty years old; true then, true now. We are nudging all in our church to attend this webinar on racism next week, and to read The Atlantic compendium of articles on racism from 1866 to the present as a primer in thinking and conversation.
David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.