|Sam Walton (Facebook); source.|
Ever since Pussy Riot performed their punk-music prayer inside Moscow's Church of Christ the Savior, asking the Mother of God to do something about the Russian president, I've been thinking a lot about the nature and boundaries of protest-as-worship (or, if you prefer, worship-as-protest). There's something about the very idea that makes me uneasy, but I hope it is a creative uneasiness rather than something negative and condemning.
I've participated more than once in worship services that were intended as protest. When I lived at Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston, Massachusetts, I participated in the annual Good Friday Peace Vigil on Boston Common, and in the vigils marking the period between the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic attacks, August 6 and 9. Another moving memory from those years is an ecumenical vigil at Electric Boat's shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, protesting the U.S. Navy's plans to name a submarine "Corpus Christi" (body of Christ). In a tiny victory, the Navy subsequently added "City of" to clarify that they were referring to a city in Texas. Ironically, the submarine's motto, according to Wikipedia, is "For God and Country."
During those Beacon Hill years, I was part of a weekly Bible study group. We named ourselves Ailanthus after the hardy ailanthus tree, the "tree of heaven." On Sunday we would meet for worship and Bible study, and on Mondays some of us would reconvene at the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge to protest its work in developing ballistic missile guidance systems. We believed that Monday's actions were a direct and spiritual continuation of Sunday's Bible study. Some of us were led to trespass on Draper's territory; when those who were arrested came to trial, we continued our prayers in the courtroom.
(One of Ailanthus's members, Bob Hillegass of Wellesley Friends Meeting, wrote a Pendle Hill Pamphlet about his experiences, Non-Violence on Trial.)
|Independence Day, July 4, 2003.|
Can I honestly say that in all those instances of worship, I was in the sort of spiritual place that Evelyn Underhill describes?
- Was there truly a "powerful bond of union," as Underhill says, and was God part of it?
- Was there any of the elitism and spiritual exhibitionism that Jesus warns us against?
- Was there an element of emotional coercion in our attitude toward our involuntary audiences?--"Take us ever so much more seriously, and don't lay a finger on us, because we are worshipping!"
- Was there a way for bystanders to gain access to our community and learn more about why the name of Jesus has power?
- Maybe the first question should have been, whose idea was this thing? Ours or God's? (This question isn't as simple or as binary as I'm implying!)
No, my own experience did not always measure up to these queries. But in most cases, I think that, imperfect as we were, we were right to take the risk. And this review of my own experiences is now making me humble enough not to judge hastily when others, such as the British Friends confronting BP, also attempt similar protests and claim that they are truly acts of worship.
In the USA, today is the National Day of Prayer. Anne Graham Lotz's prayer for today includes these powerful words:
You are merciful and forgiving. You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame because we have sinned against You, and done wrong. We have turned away from Your commands and principles. We have turned away from You."I didn't really want to be Archbishop." (In this interview, Rowan Williams weighs in on, among other things, the "Is Britain Christian?" conversation.)
Yet You have promised in 2 Chronicles 7, that if we--a people identified with You--would humble ourselves, pray, seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways, then You would hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land.
So we choose to stop pointing our finger at the sins of others, and examine our own hearts and lives. We choose to acknowledge our own sin--our neglect and defiance and ignorance and even rejection of You. This day we choose to repent.
"The War on Truth in Ukraine. ("The fragmentation of consensus about critical events and the degradation of legitimate political authority are like two apocalyptic horsemen riding together.") Also see "Pundits say presidents who won't lead the country into war have trouble leading it anywhere."
Post-Protestant and post-Catholic? "Peter Leithart's 'Church of the Future'."
"There is nothing funny about last night's botched execution in Oklahoma."
"The Kremlin's Rock 'n Roll Revisionism."
The tightening controls on the Runet (Russian Internet space) and activists' responses.
Norwegians invade Sweden ... J.T. Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters at Åmål Bluesfestival.