25 August 2016

Yes and no

Last week I came across this post by Yakov Krotov, priest/essayist and host of the talk show From a Christian Viewpoint: (translation and links are mine; original is on this page)
In defense of words: the yoga of no.

Let's take the case of that unfortunate woman, 56 years old. who refused to participate in the United Russia primary elections. Her boss yelled at her, put pressure on her, demanded that she resign. She resigned, returned home, but on the next day was hospitalized with a minor heart attack. Two weeks later, she died in the critical care unit.

Right now there are lots of stories like this. Saint Euphrosinia Kersnovskaya comes to mind -- she could herself go right up to the secret police and demand to be arrested, but she would not sign any paper if she did not agree with its contents.

To an American or a Nigerian, the story of the 56-year-old woman would not be comprehensible. What does it mean to be "pressured"? If she's already of retirement age, what's the worst they could threaten -- to fire her? So, fire her -- what's the point of demanding her resignation?

But then, as the above-mentioned Kersnovskaya would say, the Bolsheviks don't let you live and they don't let you die. Psychological torture is still torture, and all the more if the subject has a living soul.

However, if the soul has only managed to preserve the ability to tremble, it's not exactly dead, but it's not completely alive, either. It's in an infantile state. Adulthood begins with the ability to say "no." Firmly and irrevocably. As with baptism, sin has been put away, Christ has come.
Adulthood begins with those first small refusals. There is a yoga of freedom, and its first asana is a negative side-to-side movement of the head. If you can intimidate a 56-year-old, it means that person has never said "no" to anyone. Sadly, there are such people. That's why it's important to train ourselves in this ability -- saying "no" to oneself and to loved ones and to bosses. We continue saying no on various minor occasions for the very reason that they're minor -- there won't be unpleasant consequences, and the soul comes to realize that peace isn't found in servility but in dialogue.

So: here's to the yoga of freedom!
A few years ago I wrote about the power of the word "no", and how it relates to my life theme, which is the word "yes," from 2 Corinthians 1:20. My main emphasis was the analytical power of the word "no" -- how it can expose contradictions and conceits as practiced by the powers that be. But as I read Yakov Krotov's brief essay, and the human dramas he mentioned, I thought about a dimension I had underemphasized: the relationship context. The woman who died, Tatiana Kuznetsova, didn't say "no" in the abstract; she didn't say "no" to her computer screen or in the near-anonymous safety of a mass petition. She said no to her own director and, as a result, lost her job. A short time later, her life came to an end.

Could I risk a "no" when it really counts? There was a time when I said "no" to paying war taxes, but the risk was relatively low and I never actually faced a specific person in making that decision. Instead I had the support of my dear mentor, Gordon Browne. One "no" that I vividly remember saying at age 18 resulted in losing my home. A short time later, another "no" got me disinherited. A few years after that, another "no" probably resulted in not getting a particular job.  But I honestly can't scrape together very many examples. This also means I don't have much practice in maintaining relationships after the "no."

What about being on the receiving end of refusals? When people say "no" to me and my obviously very reasonable requests, how do I respond? In one case I can think of, my initiative was actually poorly thought out, and that person's "No!" probably saved the relationship. But in another case, we never spoke again.

Finally, what about learning to say "no" to myself? As the Valparaiso Project on "practicing our faith" says, "We must learn the practice of saying no to that which crowds God out and yes to a way of life that makes space for God." (At the same time, "Christian asceticism is not spiritual boot camp....") One of the biggest gifts of the church for me is the reality that I don't have to discern alone, and that mistakes are not fatal.

Friends,—Whatever ye are addicted to, the tempter will come in that thing; and when he can trouble you, then he gets advantage over you [2 Cor 2:11], and then ye are gone. Stand still in that which is pure, after ye see yourselves; and then mercy comes in. After thou seest thy thoughts, and the temptations, do not think, but submit; and then power comes. Stand still in that which shows and discovers; and there doth strength immediately come. And stand still in the light, and submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone; and then content comes. And when temptations and troubles appear, sink down in that which is pure, and all will be hushed, and fly away. Your strength is to stand still, after ye see yourselves; whatsoever ye see yourselves addicted to, temptations, corruption, uncleanness, etc., then ye think ye shall never overcome. And earthly reason will tell you, what ye shall lose; hearken not to that, but stand still in the light that shows them to you, and then strength comes from the Lord, and help contrary to your expectation.

G. F., from Epistle 10.
I also appreciated this sermon on saying yes and saying no, from the Open Door Community's Web site.

Among this week's quarter-century anniversaries: The world-changing failure of the USSR's August 1991 coup.

Also: Happy 25th birthday, Linux! (How Linux changed the world. Where to next?)

The church militant: "... Violence is the norm." (Sadly, we know that this tendency isn't unique to one country or confession.)

This link, embedded in Yakov Krotov's essay above, bears repeating: E. A. Kersnovskaya, "How much is a person worth?"

As violence rises again in eastern Ukraine (right! Ukraine -- another 25th anniversary!) ...  a glimpse of daily life and death.

Are white evangelicals in the USA losing an entire generation?

Colombia's peace agreement is signed, awaits October referendum. I needed something positive to end this list!!

Sweet dessert from Hamilton, Ontario via the YouTube time machine....

18 August 2016

Pass me another Danish

Today at the gym I was listening to the BBC Newshour podcast. I enjoyed listening to James Coomarasamy's interview with the design journalist and writer Charlotte Abrahams about her upcoming book, Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way. The related Norwegian adjective hyggelig (good, pleasant, delightful, cozy, comfortable) was so very familiar to me from times spent in Norway, where I'd often overhear such phrases as "It was so hyggelig to meet you" or "Your place felt so hyggelig." (The "y" in hyggelig is a somewhat earthier, compressed version of the "i" in "wig." Click on the audio icon here.)

Until I looked up this book on the British Amazon Web site and saw the other books listed under "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed," I had no idea how fashionable hygge had become. Related searches brought me to a slew of articles on this trend, starting with the Guardian's coverage of the new book from Abrahams. Among other helpful articles, I appreciated this linkage of hygge and the long, dark Scandinavian winter.

I've been meditating on this exchange between Coomarasamy and Abrahams:
So, in terms of your book and there are several others coming out on the same theme, is there a quest for this, do you think, in the English-speaking world, perhaps?

I think it's a kind of reaction to all the other lifestyle philosophies that are on offer at the moment ... Hygge is not a lifestyle philosophy, it's part of of Danish culture. But I think that non-Danish countries are kind of adopting it as the next big lifestyle thing -- because it demands nothing more of you than you enjoy the small pleasures of life. You know, there's no guilt involved ... it encourages you to go sit by the fire and eat cake.

Do you think it's something that can be ... learnt is probably not quite the right word -- it's come up organically in places like Denmark. Do you think it's something that people can read a book and say, "OK, this is what we're going to adopt as our philosophy"?

To an extent. I think, fundamentally, that Brits, you know, we're different, I think we're a bit prone to that sort of Puritan work ethic, and guilt, and things, but certainly you can try and adopt some of the principles....
The comparison of "work ethic and guilt" and Danish hygge reminded me of one of the comments I sometimes hear about Protestants from some Russian Orthodox people. They consider us just a bit too ascetic, legalistic, pinched-in, to enjoy life heartily the way they do. As one priest in the Buzuluk region explained, "You Western Christians are all straight lines and sharp corners. Even church architecture tells a story. We are more rounded, more organic."

I'm not exactly ready to concede this point, but it does bear thinking about the relationship between hygge and discipleship in a world where a rescued boy in Aleppo can reduce a CNN news reader to tears. We need to be just as mindful of the sweet times we're granted, and the wonderful people we regard around us, as we are (or would like to be) about the things that break God's heart. We Quakers usually don't have the physical elements of bread and wine in our communion, so it maybe easier for us to forget the spiritual significance of taking in food and drink together, and the pleasure, even joy, that goes with it.

Sing and rejoice, ye children of the day and of the light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt. And truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills. And upon them the lambs do skip and play. And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the seed Christ is over all, and doth reign.

As I was putting together these reflections, I came across this just-published post from Mike Farley, whose moving words and well-selected quotations caused me to ask myself if we can talk about a connection between the simple pleasures of hygge and the life of praying without ceasing.

Mark Wutka writes very helpfully on tears and brokenness of spirit.

Canadian Friend and renowned scientist Ursula Franklin, 1921-2016: the CBC obituary and appreciation.

"There are some people you should kill," ... according to a priest!

I have fond memories of this magnificent ship, whose future is uncertain.

"They call me lazy; goodness knows I'm only tired."

11 August 2016

Russian avos' and American politics

Last week I recommended not including judgments about a candidate's faith when criticizing that candidate. My reasoning: (1) Unless we've dialogued directly with the candidate, we're relying on third parties for our information about the candidate, and many of the channels for our information are committed to influencing us with a biased message. (2) We risk hypocrisy.

There's an important role for our own faith, of course, as we speak out about the candidate's behavior and policy positions. For example, I find it disheartening to consider the likelihood that Hillary Clinton as president would continue to follow Washington DC's conventional wisdom on defining and fighting terrorists. If anyone has heard of new proposals to engage our so-called enemies in an honest confrontation over their grievances (and ours), I'd love to know. Otherwise, I expect the long list of military and CIA failures in much of the world to keep growing.

Donald Trump, the other candidate in our de facto binary process, is another story altogether. He doesn't present us with a predictable set of likely policies, nor does he fit the behavioral profile for the role of our country's national representative to the world. He is the very definition of a loose cannon -- and that is his appeal to many of his supporters, because the tight cannons in charge up to now have not delivered for them.

In her article, "Trumputin: What Russia can teach us about the US election," Natalia Antonova writes,
Perhaps one of the most telling lines about Trump supporters was recently published by conservative writer David Frum, who quoted this line from his discussions with fellow Republicans who are set to vote for Trump: "You believe in institutions because they work for you… But our people don’t believe in institutions any more."

People who have lost faith in institutions have lost faith in institutional change. This makes them especially vulnerable to promises made by firebrand demagogues. And it places them further beyond the reach of facts or logic.

. . .

Arkady Ostrovsky argued that the west should not have gloated when it won the Cold War. I similarly want to caution Clinton supporters from gloating should their candidate beat Trump at the polls.

This is not about winning an election anymore. The Trump phenomenon has exposed deep fissures in our society and political system. It has exposed the fact that an unwieldy, inflexible two-party system no longer adequately addresses the interests of millions of Americans. It has exposed the fact that many voters have lost faith in traditional legislators. It has exposed the fact that our citizens are fearful and mistrustful of each other.
These fearful and mistrustful citizens may well be aware of the doubts that many of us have about their loose-cannon champion. They may even have taken our worries into account, and have decided that the fruit-basket upset they want to see in the establishment is worth the risk. It reminds me of the Russian concept of avos', which linguist Natalia Gogolitsyna describes as follows in her book Untranslatable Russian Words:
This colloquial word and expression combines the meaning of "perhaps," "I wish," "on the off-chance" and "hopefully," which creates problems when translating. In Russian folklore, it has both positive and negative connotations.
Two of her examples of usage are particularly interesting to me in the context of Trump's supporters:
... the concept of "Russian avos". What is it? In fact it is the habit of living in conditions of limited information. Living and surviving. Valery Milyayev
... a Russian can't work like an Englishman; even now we do everything on the off chance. Andrei Konchalovsky
I wonder if "limited information" in the Russian context might be understood a bit loosely as "a sense of limited personal efficacy." Might that also be behind Trump's followers' mood? Could that result in the sort of cynicism that often seems to be poisoning the politics in both countries? As a result of this sense of being marginalized without recourse, are people in both countries more willing to do things on the off-chance?

I was already thinking over this impression that some of Trump's supporters were in an avos' mood, when I walked into our institute here in Elektrostal a few days ago -- my first time there since returning from the USA. One of my colleagues asked, "If it's not a secret, what do you think of your presidential candidates?" I mentioned my doubts about Trump, and she replied, "If Clinton wins, we already know how she feels about Russia -- she's not exactly our friend. In any case, we more or less know what she will do. Don't you think it would be a lot more interesting, even fun [veselo] if Trump became president? After all, he'll have advisors, a cabinet; people will make sure that he can't do too much harm. And life will not be boring!"

I'm not as ready as my Russian colleague to throw the USA on the mercy of a Trump-shaped avos', but I suspect that her Russia-centric outlook on our presidential choices is not that far from some of his home-grown supporters, including those in my extended family. How do we reach them to compare notes about the risks facing us on election day? Concerning communication with Trump's supporters, Antonova recommends:
As George Lakoff has argued, when cold, hard facts don't work, values, empathy and positively-framed truth do much better. Simply relating to each other better as human beings works.

This is why I don’t have any hatred for Trump supporters, even when they yell at me to “go back to Russia” on Twitter. I know they want me to hate them. But I don’t want to give them what they want, nor do I want to play their game. It’s not a game a rational person can win. Putin supporters, who’ll call you a "Russophobe" when you so much as question their leader, taught me that a long time ago. [Links in original.]
Finally, I can simply remind myself that, whatever pretensions a president might put on ...
I will walk about in freedom,
     for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings
     and will not be put to shame...
(Psalm 119:45-46, NIV; context)

More on Russians and our American political season: Why Russians don't care about Trump, Clinton, and the DNC hack; on the other hand, here's why Russian Facebook users love Donald Trump.

Micah Bales on what it means to follow Jesus in the age of Trump.

Building our house in the storm: Brian Drayton writes to Friends of New England Yearly Meeting as they gather for their 356th annual sessions.

...Examinations of the interaction of race and the law have tended to focus on when minorities are subject to legal process, not their treatment when administering it.

Blues from Brazil: After enjoying their recorded music for several years, I finally heard the Igor Prado Band live at the 2016 Waterfront Blues Festival. Here they are, performing "Memphis Train" and (at 8:30) "Give Me Back My Wig!"

05 August 2016

I may not like your politics ...

In the heavens over Moscow Region, yesterday...

... but I'm not allowed to trash your faith.

I listened to and read with great attention these treatments of the faith of the Republican and Democratic candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of the USA:
This calm reportage contrasts dramatically what I'm seeing in blogs and social media and hearing in ordinary conversations. There's an open season on these candidates (especially Trump and Clinton); even Satan is dragged into the picture. Forgive me for not dipping into the cesspool of contemporary political discourse to provide examples. Fortunate are you if you don't have some already right at hand. In any case, there no doubt are unclean forces at work here (Satan is known as the father of lies and the author of confusion!) but I'm quite sure that none of the candidates are his direct affiliates!

Thoughts on commenting on candidates' faith:

First of all, there is only one authority on a candidate's religion: the actual candidate. (I agree with C.S. Lewis's advice as described in an earlier post, "We will never see another non-Christian.") Whether a candidate's heart faith or their comprehension of every detail of that faith achieves perfect coherence is another question, but one that we must approach cautiously. Does my faith and your faith meet that standard? How do you know? Can the speck of imperfection in the candidate's eye be seen through the plank in your own? (Matthew 7:3-5.) Flirting with this boundary risks violating the Commandment against false witness.

Thinking privately about candidates' faith and consistency is completely natural and important, of course, since it (among other things) helps us understand their motivations, reliability, policy biases, and likely blind spots. The problem is getting enough honest input on which to base our thinking. The Getreligion writers talk about Kellerism, a phenomenon summed up by Julia Duin thus: "...the trend toward editors making up their minds on hot-button issues to the point that they believe there are no legitimate, alternative points of view on the story. Thus, only one side of the story makes it into print."

To complicate things, candidates and their teams are highly motivated to reveal and enhance those aspects of the candidates' faith that will appeal to voters. This is understandable, if ethically troublesome. The religion industry itself (whatever the specific religion) emphasizes the ideals, aspirations, and superiority of its brands. The candidates' campaigns naturally want to exploit the benefits of those hints of special godliness. We just have to retain the ability to discern core values and issues from the public-relations enhancements that are being sprayed our way.

Given the power of religious rhetoric, political campaigns are also tempted to go negative on the opposition. (Remember the stolen e-mail recommending pinning Bernie Sanders with the "atheist" tag?) Individuals have great freedom to do the same, as I can witness time after time on social networks, where (for example) Trump is accused of faking his religiosity, and Clinton's own faith history is minimized or ignored.

When can we permit ourselves to go public with our thoughts on candidates' faith?
  • When we accurately report what the candidate says -- any candidate.
  • When we make reasonable inferences about the social or policy implications of a candidate's expressed religious views (not based on the exaggerations of their own campaign or their opposition's campaign).
  • When we point to genuine controversies about a candidate's expressed views on faith. (For example, can Norman Vincent Peale really be linked to the so-called Prosperity Gospel? But we're not allowed to tar Trump with this brush unless we can do so with a fair use of his expressed views, rather than a cherry-picked selection of quotes or references to others conducting smear campaigns.)
  • When we (or the candidates we like) are not guilty of the same level of heresy or hypocrisy that we want to charge our opponents with.
  • When we're honest with ourselves about our motivations. If we really don't like a candidate -- if we're sure a candidate is dangerously wrong for the office they seek -- that's when we are most tempted to generate or repeat false testimony.
As I read over these words, I think to myself that these ideas are so routine and obvious that they approach banality. But then I look back on Facebook and think, maybe they're not so obvious after all.

Test case: What do you think of this article, with its brief mention of a current candidate? -- "The Bad Faith of the White Working Class."

More on J.D. Vance and his understanding of Trump supporters, via Amanda Erickson and the Washington Post. And a National Public Radio interview.

Gina Ochsner (Pentecostal) and Paula Huston (Catholic): a conversation between novelists.

More conversation: encouraging a dialogue on "becoming God."

"We follow the ways of Jesus": Margaret Fell and the first Quaker peace declaration, in contemporary English.

Coup talk in Ukraine.

"Oh, what have we done to this kingdom we proclaim to be the chosen one?"

28 July 2016


Bob and Sue Henry. Bob is pastor at Silverton Friends Church.
Thanks to Bob for permission to publish his sketch notes.
Photo taken at today's banquet to honor newly recorded
minister Alice Maxson and outgoing superintendent Becky
At our just-concluded Northwest Yeaarly Meeting of Friends Church annual sessions, we spent over four and a half hours discussing whether or not to approve the Yearly Meeting elders' report, which included its decision last year to release West Hills Friends Church from membership in the Yearly Meeting. (Background page one on YM site, background page two on West Hills site.)

During this week's sessions, Ken Redford, clerk of elders, described how his analysis of the groups involved in these discussions had changed. The two groups aren't just advocates for affirming same-sex relationships on the one hand, vs advocates for a position opposing such relationships on biblical grounds, on the other. Ken now makes a different distinction, one that resonated with many Friends at the yearly meeting sessions. In his view, one group consists of those who may hold either of these preceding views but can co-exist in one body with those holding the opposing viewpoint ("we can agree to disagree") and, in contrast, the other group consists of those who simply cannot agree to disagree -- those for whom affirmation of same-sex relationships is "a bridge too far." For the latter group, such acceptance would be a "shattering" violation of the Yearly Meeting covenant as described in our Faith and Practice, and as such, would subject the local church involved to the Yearly Meeting elders' process provided for such violations.

Last year's decision, by the elders, was announced just after the end of the annual sessions and was quickly appealed by eight churches, although not by West Hills itself. The decision (in the form of the letter that the elders sent last year to West Hills Friends Church) was included in this year's booklet of reports for the annual sessions. A letter from the Yearly Meeting's Administrative Council, distributed at the start of this year's sessions, explained,
The Administrative Council acknowledges that approval of Board of Elders report would result in the decision to release West Hills Friends remaining in effect. If the members in business session do not reach consensus around the Elders' report, several outcomes are possible, such as the following:
a) Refer to the Representatives for a final decision to be reported back to the business meeting.
b) Refer to the Representatives for consideration and recommendation to the business meeting.
c) Refer back to the Elders for consideration, or
d) Another leading from the Holy Spirit.
Although the statements made by Friends on the floor of the sessions didn't differ remarkably from previous years, there was a tender spirit throughout these long hours. Clerk Brad Holton frequently asked for periods of silence or singing, and was scrupulously fair in his clerking. Even so, the tension was high. Many Friends of more conservative leanings felt betrayed that the elders' years-long process of discernment and resulting decision were in effect being nullified, while those on the "agree to disagree" side continued to express hope (sometimes in strong terms: "I will not approve the decision, and I will not agree to step aside") that West Hills could remain in membership. In odd mirror-image conversations between the sessions and at lunch, I heard each side talk about the politicking that the other side was doing -- that was in fact the most discouraging thing for me to hear as the background noise of a community supposedly committed to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Brad Holton allowed the business session to continue an extra hour and a half beyond the scheduled end of business. The cross-trade of irreconcilable statements continued to the end, after which he had (as I saw it) no choice but to go to the list of options in that letter and announce that the Administrative Council and the representative body would continue to work on an outcome at a later date.

I have two very contradictory impressions. Conservatives (that is, Friends whose understanding of biblical interpretation opposes any same-sex behavior, as well as those who believe that the plain language of today's Faith and Practice should settle the matter, whatever changes might occur in the future) saw the elders doing a long, hard, mutually respectful process of discernment with West Hills Friends, leading to the decision to release that church -- which moreover did not appeal the decision within the 30-day deadline. The stream of objections from those who could agree to disagree, as represented in the appeals from other churches, and the business-meeting discussions, should not have affected the outcome unless they could obtain unity around the liberal viewpoint, which was clearly not going to happen. I understand why those conservatives were unhappy to contemplate yet another half-year or more of delay, at least, with no clear end in sight. Who would not be frustrated in a similar position? It was no wonder to me that some left the sessions in a cynical or separatist mood.

As concerns the plain text of Faith and Practice and the procedures outlined in it for "shattering" instances of non-compliance, I felt that the can't-agree-to-disagree group had governance process on their side. But from a systemic viewpoint, the more liberal (agree-to-disagree) side also had a valid argument: there is no unity today in our yearly meeting on the sexual ethics portions of Faith and Practice, and using those portions to force an outcome somehow feels artificial. "It's a permanent solution to a temporary problem," said one Friend. My own metaphor: removing the canary doesn't make the mine safer. West Hills' non-compliance is symptomatic of a faultline that runs through many churches and even families, a faultline that itself threatens the future of Northwest Yearly Meeting but hasn't been given adequate attention or even definition. Is sexual identity and behavior the main issue, or is it our understanding of biblical authority and the authority of Yearly Meeting structures and documents? All of the above? And, most importantly to me, why didn't our process seem trustworthy enough to earn the patience required to tackle these underlying strains?

Internet Monk: Wendell Berry and the "politics of mutual estrangement."

New York Review of Books: Which Europe? Conference of European Churches: What future for Europe?

Why are so many black Americans killed by police?

Russia and America, it's time to talk face to face.
Today, it makes sense to examine the possibility for direct conversation “over the barriers” between Russia and the US — if only because the level of mutual distrust, both genuine and as shaped by media outlets, is almost as great as it was during the Cold War.

Blues dessert from the late Magic Slim, performing in Brazil.

21 July 2016

Trail shorts

Columbia Gorge trail
Spokane River Centennial Trail
Overlooking Dufur, Oregon
Cape Lookout main trail
Short Beach (Oregon Islands nature preserve)
As an earnest, idealistic disciple and veteran Quaker operative, I probably should be spending these days in constant prayerful attention to political events and the worldwide cycles of violence, and even trying to squeeze out a few words of wisdom for this blog. Yearly Meeting sessions are just a few days away, and I have responsibilities!

Instead, I have been enjoying amazing hours on various trails in Oregon and Washington, as Judy and I (and, more recently, our friends Natasha and Elizabeth as well) have come across one spectacular vista after another. Layered bluffs and scarred cliffs reveal the geological processes that built these beautiful landscapes. Snakes and anemones animate the trailsides and tidal pools. Rightly or wrongly, mayhem in city streets and convention halls seems far away and incredibly ephemeral compared with the beauty we saw today just a few miles away from Netarts, Oregon, our last stop before heading for the Northwest Yearly Meeting sessions in Newberg.

Thanks to the all-present Internet, we're not totally shielded from the world's open wounds, of course. In all the controversy around the shootings of armed motorists by police, I had a vision of a terrifying future: the more we citizens claim the right to "open carry" and "concealed carry" their guns, the more we put police officers in impossible situations. Without blaming victims in any tragic episode of police overreaction, isn't it inevitable that police encounters with more and more armed citizens will more frequently result in innocent lives lost?

It's completely correct to point out racial disparities in these awful outcomes. Black citizens who are lawfully carrying guns should not be in any more danger from police than white citizens lawfully carrying guns. The more general point is this: the national romance with guns cannot help making police work even more dangerous, for the police themselves and for everyone else. How is this danger factored into our gun control discussions?

By the way, "More children are victims of Chicago's gunfire..." (a painful reminder to me: my fourteen-year-old sister Ellen was shot to death in Chicago back in 1970).

Nearly a year ago I registered my surprise at the negative reactions to the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Thanks to a recent Trumpcast interview with Nick Confessore on white nationalists' affinities with the Donald Trump presidential campaign, I may have gained a few additional insights into these negative reactions.

One thing that came out in the Trumpcast conversation was the popularity of the "reverse racism" charge. Confessore: "It is now a truism on Fox News that when somebody makes a charge of racism, that charge is itself racist. It's 'playing the race card'." Black people, by this logic, must never make claims of being victimized by racism, and must be perfectly color-blind, long before our society as a whole has shown itself capable of ensuring safety for such behavior.

I think to myself: at this very time, after the nation has been repeatedly shocked by a long series of racially suspicious shootings by mostly white police officers, why in God's name should any nonwhite person give up the healthy habit of being cautious around white people?! As a white person, I feel terrible about this, but until Black Lives Matter just as much as my own, my tender white feelings are entirely irrelevant.

Elaine A. Heath asks the church, "Can we get over ourselves?" Her question is a very good one, but I have a slightly different context for posing the same question. Some of my friends believe that religious freedom is diminished when Christians are not permitted to discriminate in business on the basis of faith. (A famous example is being asked to provide a cake for a lesbian wedding.) I have mixed feelings about the legal trade-offs involved, just as I do about not paying war taxes. However, I want to say to that aggrieved baker, "What relationship does not providing a cake have to any sort of winsome proclamation of the Gospel?" Are Christians to be known for whom we won't sell to, and what holiday cliches we insist on, rather than for the good news we claim to represent?

"The worst prayer I have ever heard." (Caution: political content!) And while we're at it, "Carson, Clinton, Colbert, and ... Lucifer?"

Rethinking apostolicity: Myles Werntz reviews a new book by John G. Flett.
By allowing apostolicity to be reconceived as a process to be undergone rather than a historical-cultural substance to be replicated, Flett convincingly argues for a postcolonial way forward for ecclesiology. The lingering question of ecumenicity remains, however: if the relationship between old and new church is no longer that of host and colony, what is that relationship?
The question on God's lips.

Blues dessert from the late Lynwood Slim: