Monday, April 30, 2007

MILITARY THINK-TANK TALK

ECHOING SILENCE. A friend gave me a book last week that I cracked open this morning. Echoing Silence, edited by Robert Inchausti, is a collection of reflections by Thomas Merton on the vocation of writing. I happened onto a comment the astute Trappist monk--one of the leading intellectual, ethical, an Christian voices of the 20th-century--had to say in 1971 about persons who turn their creative and intellectual capacities into serving militarism:

PLAYING WITH DEATH. "Here we have a whole community of intellectuals, scholars who spend their time playing out 'scenarios' and considering 'acceptable levels' in megadeaths... One proves one's realism along with one's virility by toughness in playing with global death. It is in this playing with death, however, that brings into the players' language itself the corruption of death: not physical but mental and moral extinction. And the corruption spreads from their talk, their thinking, to the words and minds of everybody."

BREEDING CONTEMPT. "What happens then is that the political and moral values they claim to be defending are destroyed by the contempt that is more and more evident in the language in which they talk about such things. Technological strategy becomes an end in itself and leads the fascinated players into a maze where finally the very purpose strategy was supposed to serve is itself destroyed."

SO THE WAR GAME CAN GO ON. "The ambiguity of official war talk has one purpose above all: to mask this ultimate unreason and permit the game to go on."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

VARIOUS & SUNDRY ITEMS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON

WATCHING THE BULLS IN LOUISVILLE. Sam and I drove to his soccer tournament in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday afternoon. Thought I would ride my bike in the evening before dark, but there were lots of team activities and time got away. I ended up watching the Chicago Bulls play the Miami Heat on TV in the third game of their first-round playoff series. It's the first NBA game I've watched from start to finish this season. Don't know if I have ADD, can't sit still that long, or whatever. The Bulls appear to be an energized team, one to be reckoned with. Having won that game and put Miami into a 3-0 deficit, a hole no playoff team in NBA history has been in and come back to win a series, the Bulls finished off last season's NBA champs this afternoon. I only saw the last five minutes of that game for reasons or excuses stated above. So, the Bulls move on to play the Detroit Pistons in the second round. Should be a classic.

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME. I enjoy watching my kids and their respective teams play good soccer. Good soccer. Bad soccer is painful to watch. Good soccer is beautiful. Good passing, good trapping, on-goal goal shots, heartful intensity, movement to the ball, attempting great things. Beautiful. Sam's team generally plays good soccer. They played it in their second game on Saturday, keeping the Kentucky state champs scoreless until the last five seconds. A well-placed header slipped past the goalie. A heart breaker. But when good soccer is played, there are no regrets.

CYCLING IN LOUISVILLE. I rode my bicycle from the hotel in the Hurstbourne area into downtown Louisville and back between Sam's morning and afternoon games on Saturday. It is the weekend before the Kentucky Derby, I think, and there was a mini-marathon in process in the heart of the city. Like the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon that will fill the streets of Indianapolis next weekend, this mini brought lots of energy and enthusiasm into the city. Louisville's midtown area along Frankfort Road is quite nice as a rehab, redevelopment urban area. I enjoyed the ride. For those who are interested in cycling in Louisville, there is a nice riverfront path and auto drivers seem at least to be aware of the presence of cyclists.

FREEDOM WRITERS. Becky and I watched "Freedom Writers" last week. It was an inspiring movie. Of course I would like it, for, among other significant issues, it demonstrates the transformative power of journaling under the guidance of an insightful and caring teacher.

GRIEVING FAMILIES. I conducted a funeral and graveside service on Monday for Gary Meadows. The funeral was in Mooresville and the graveside service was in rural Bartlettsville near Bedford. Later in the week, I learned of the death of Dale Wolcott, a former Free Methodist pastor who lived in Woodruff Place and served as a lay leader in East Tenth United Methodist Church for the past twenty years or so. Dale was in hospice care at home when he died peacefully. I hold him in high esteem for his influence at East Tenth UMC to open up long-closed trust funds in order to serve the poor of the Near Eastside community. On Friday morning, I learned of the unexpected death my father-in-law's older brother. Bill Golay was 77, but he was not critically ill at the time. I have always been fascinated by the admiration Dave has had for his older brother. I am very much aware of the dimensions of grieving in all these individuals and families and relationships. I want to understand, as much as possible, what it means to grieve deeply and grieve well.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

NATIONAL SECURITY

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said it about fifty years ago:
"Every gun that is made and every warship that is launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of the laborers, the genius of the scientists and the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

"There will come a time that money spent for these arsenals, far from strengthening national security, will actually weaken national security. If you neglect these other factors that constitute the composite of our national security."

"The problem with defense is how far can you go without destroying from within what you are trying to protect from without."
Do you think we are there yet?

How many more billions of dollars will our national leaders throw at and burn up in Iraq?

Read a moving speech by Senator Mark O. Hatfield titled "How Do We Secure our Nation?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY & ECONOMY

Several years ago, Wendell Berry shared 17 steps to help local communities become healthy and sustainable. They are:

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?

2. Always include local nature - the land, the water, the air, the native creatures - within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products - first to nearby cities, then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of 'labor saving' if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly-scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.

8. Strive to supply as much of the community's own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.

10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.

11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.

12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.

16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.

Read these online.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CALL ME “ONE OF THOSE” TREE HUGGERS

FAITH AND CITIZENSHIP. Yeah, I’m one of “them,” one of those tree huggers. I try to participate in Earth Day and care for creation as an act of faith and citizenship. As an act of faith because I believe God, who created this world, loves it as much as God loves the humans who are direct objects of divine grace. Our history and future of salvation is linked integrally to this planet. It is an act of faith, also, because the Biblical record of stewardship and faithfulness to the land compels me.

A LEGACY IN THE BALANCE. My participation in Earth Day and related environmental concerns is an act of citizenship because our national legacy on environmental responsibility hangs in the balance. Some would say our legacy is one of irresponsibility and degradation; that may be going too far. But even the most positive perspective must admit that we have far to go to pass on to our great-grandchildren a planet that is in at least as good a condition was we found it.

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY. The impact of end-times apocalyptic preaching and teaching on evangelical believers in the 60s and 70s became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The social impact amounted to a notable withdrawal from hopeful actions and non-participation in public institutions and life. An unprecedented privatization of lifestyles and reactionary fear masking as “bold faith” are part of the legacy of prophecies of doom. The Apocalypse didn’t occur, but our unfounded suspicions and fears became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without positive participation, social engagement, and confidence in Kingdom principles, the public square has become more fearsome and its problems more complex and deeply entrenched.

APOCALYPTIC IMPACT. Apocalyptic teaching also shaped evangelical responses to the environment. Since the locus of salvation was presumed to be another world, since we were just getting ourselves ready to get on out of here in “the rapture,” since pollution and deterioration were further evidence of an impending hell on earth, what did we care? We did nothing. Actually we did do something: we used and consumed and demanded cheap fuel and cheap products like everyone else without a question (or a clue, perhaps) as to environmental cost or future impact. It’s not just that environmental issues didn’t seem important; environmentalists were lampooned and lambasted from many of our pulpits and in “Christianity Today.” What a legacy with which to live! What shall we tell our grandchildren when they ask us how our faith informed our stewardship of the world?

TODAY IS THE DAY. As always in the biblical faith, “today is the day of salvation.” Whatever has—or has not—been done in the past, today presents opportunity to repair the world. The present moment gives opportunity to reflect on the Scriptures which call for stewardship of the land, regard for cycles of life renewal, respect for the law of the harvest. Take time to contemplate the parables of Jesus. Without worshiping the earth, evangelicals can and should honor the earth out of reverence for--and in gratitude to--the God who created it and us. Faith, even so-called evangelical faith, calls for nothing less.
EARTH DAY REDUX

SECOND CHANCE. For those of you/us who missed the international observance of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22 because you/we...

(a) weren't paying attention,
(b) got caught off guard,
(c) were busy doing other things,
(d) really hadn't planned to get involved but might consider it on second thought,
(e) two or more of the above

...Earth Day is being officially observed in the Indianapolis/Central Indiana region on Saturday, April 28. We get a second chance to get involved.

GO DOWNTOWN INDY ON SATURDAY. At a most minimal level, there's lots of local resources online. For an up-close, personal and group encounter, there'll be a robust Earth Day celebration at the Veterans' Mall in downtown Indy on Saturday. This event always has lots of information and connections to creation caring organizations in the area . Every time I participate in this local Earth Day event, it's like a homecoming for friends I've made across the years through my work in urban neighborhoods, homeless services, regional planning, and faith-based initiatives.

EARTH CHARTER. Don't know if you're familiar with Earth Charter initiative. I have confidence in the local folks who are trying to advance this international effort to promote environmental integrity and advance practices and policies to care for the earth and its people (hey, that's us!). You can explore the Earth Charter website.

Monday, April 23, 2007

10 WAYS TO PRACTICE CREATION CARE

The following suggestions are offered by Dr. Howard Snyder of Asbury Seminary (from an essay titled “Salvation Means Creation Healed”):

1. STUDY THE BIBLE with creation-care eyes. Learn what the Bible teaches about the creation, earth, God’s covenant with the earth (Gen. 9), and God’s plan for creation restored. Key biblical themes worth studying are earth, justice, land, shalom, the poor, the nations, Sabbath/Jubilee, and reconciliation.

2. PRAY. Pray for the healing of the land and the nations. We can pray for reforestation in Haiti; peace in places where war ravages the environment; God’s sustenance for frontline earth healers—and for discernment: “Lord, what would you have me to do?” “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but [the Holy Spirit] intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).

3. RECYCLE. Recycle things rather than throwing them “away,” realizing that waste products never really “go away.” Support community-wide recycling efforts. Remember that it is about 90% cheaper and more ecologically responsible to make recycled pop cans than to make new ones. Recycling has an economic as well as ecological benefit. It is a way to slow down rather than speed up the entropy of the created order.

4. PROTECT. Support local, state, and federal legislation and international agreements that protect the environment and promote creation care. Strengthening the Endangered Species Act, supporting the McCain-Lieberman Climate Change Bill, and working for international accords to limit “greenhouse” gases are good places to start. Locally we might work for bike lanes on city streets, for more parks and footpaths, and expanded recycling.

5. OBSERVE SABBATH. Make Sundays (or another day) real Sabbaths by spending at least an hour reading good books and articles on creation and on creation-care as a part of mission and discipleship. Combine this with walks (alone or with friends) in fields and woods, paying attention to God’s other creatures.

6. STUDY TOGETHER. Form a group that focuses on the creation-care dimensions of mission and discipleship—prayer, study, conversation, action.

7. WRITE CREATIVELY. Write a poem, hymn, song, or meditation celebrating the greatness of God as seen in his creation. The books of Psalms and Job provide wonderful models..

8. CHANGE YOUR HABITS. Form some creation-affirming habits—moderate eating, regular exercise, walking (if possible) instead of riding or using elevators, bird-watching, nature photography, gardening—whatever best fits your own situation. Use personal disciplines and exercise for the benefit of creation and others, not just for your own health.

9. CONSERVE. Practice energy conservation—for the sake of the planet and the poor, not just to save money—in home-building or renovation, transportation, entertainment, and daily habits.

10. NETWORK. Become active in an organization or network that promotes the healing of creation from a biblical standpoint. The Evangelical Environmental Network is a good place to start and a source of information on various networks, resources, and programs. The book Redeeming Creation by Van Dyke, et al., lists numerous Christian groups devoted to creation care in an appendix.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE LEADING ENVIRONMENTALISTS

It's Earth Day [This is the official, international Earth Day; however, Earth Day will be observed in the Indianapolis area on Saturday, April 28...for those of you/us who got caught off guard and want to get involved]. I offer the guts of a reflection I recently prepared for a magazine.

LITANY OF CONCERNS. We read and hear about local, national, and global environmental issues all the time: Global warming. Climate change. Deforestation. Loss of wetlands. Air pollution. Strip mining. Water pollution. Impacts of suburban sprawl. Acid rain. Species depletion. Depletion of nonrenewable natural resources, like oil. Degradation of the Ozone layer. Dying seas. Endangered species. Etc.

URGENCY FOR ACTION. Like never before, we are constantly made aware of the fragility of planet Earth. We could debate each other on cause and effect, levels of severity, who’s to blame, and what’s to be done about any and all of these concerns that confront the future sustainability of human habitation. But it all adds up to a clarion call for new levels of care for God’s creation.

WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS CARE? But why should Christians, in particular, care for God’s creation? Isn’t it enough to leave environmental issues to people with a passion for them? And aren’t Christians involved in a greater rescue, salvage, and restoration project--the human heart? Here’s why Christians are called to care about the environment:

1. CREATION IS A GIFT

Genesis 1 records that after God had caringly created the heavens, earth, sun, moon, stars, cycles of seasons, days and nights, sea creatures, fowl, land creatures and humans in his own image, God declared it all to be “very good.” God gave creation to humanity as a stewardship. God called for us to be joyful, responsible guardians of it all--from the greatest to the least. The Old and New Testaments repeatedly compel us to see creation as a gift of God to be used carefully, restored restfully, and renewed prudently. God’s people were called to be the first environmentalists.

2. CREATION IS GROANING

Genesis 3 tells the story of how the sinful choices of humans led to a downward spiral of sin that even impacted the environment. Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation has been “groaning,” Paul says (Romans 8:22). Our selfishness, carelessness, violence, and greed have increasingly harmed the earth, its living creatures, plant life, and natural resources. All creation feels the brunt when we sin, abuse, and misuse the resources God has given us. Still, all creation hopes and waits for its liberation from this time of degradation. As people liberated from sin and sinful ways, we begin to live and act in ways that anticipate and cooperate with what God originally intended and ultimately desires for the people and world God created.

3. CREATION--THE CONTEXT OF RECONCILIATION

When John says “God so loved the world,” (3:16), it wasn’t just humans that were the focus. Paul makes clear that God is interested in reconciling “all things in heaven and on earth” to himself (Colossians 1:20). Instead of just rescuing a handful of the created human species from a dying earth, the New Testament paints a picture of a renewed heaven and earth in which people--once estranged from God, from themselves, from one another, and from creation--are reconciled to each other and to God. So, working for reconciliation between humans and the created order is an essential part of the Gospel we have share with the world.

4. CREATION CARE—A WITNESS TO THE WORLD

Paul called for the Christian community to be a company of reconcilers--literally to stand in the gap and pull people and creation together in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we know full well the power and impacts of sin, and if we know full well the power of Jesus Christ to break the self-destructive sin, attitudes and actions, then we are living witnesses to hope in a world that alternately worships the creation and despises it. Instead of blindly participating in the degradation of creation or foolishly worshiping it, we can be reconcilers of all to one another and to God, working across traditional boundaries and divisive barriers.

4 FALLACIOUS VIEWS OF NATURE

· Romantic – views nature as the primary source of beauty and truth, rather than reflecting the glory of God. Romanticism also overlooks the violence of nature.

· Commodity – views nature as raw material for profit-making. Nature is something merely to be used, consumed, diverted, exploited, and capitalized. This view degrades nature and often “kills the goose that lays the golden egg.”

· Worship – some people in ancient and current times view nature as a god to be worshiped, appeased, offered sacrifices, feared, or loved. This perspective is popularized today through several New Age gurus and animistic religious sects.

· Spiritualize – this view, often mistakenly espoused by some Christians, states that creation has no value in itself, it only exists to demonstrate spiritual realities. It degrades the real value of the material world that God created and declared good. It also leads to using devalued creation for one’s own purposes willy-nilly.

2 EXTREMES TO AVOID

· Only saving the earth from ecological collapse.

· Only saving souls from destruction of the material universe.

Instead, the Christian perspective is to pray and work for RECONCILIATION between all.

Friday, April 20, 2007

WHEN THE WORLD ENDED

PULP FICTION POLICY. Having dismissed Second Coming hype years ago, I find it interesting that so many folks keep getting taken in by the "Left Behind" pulp fiction, conspiracy theorists, and so-called end-times experts who strain at gnats and swallow camels. None of this would matter much, except that we apparenty have some of the most influential advisors in the White House making Middle East policy based on Tim LaHaye's laughable projections about an Apocalypse, the Middle East, and the future of the world.

WRONG LENS, FOCUS, & DIRECTION. Don't get me wrong: If one takes the Bible seriously, one has to grapple with its apocalyptic content. Jesus has promised to come again. But much of the current end-times hype is based on flawed scholarship and unacceptable interpretations of Old and New Testament passages (like the proof-texts and scholarship that supported America invading Iraq was flawed, unsubtantiated, and wrong). To put it bluntly: the prevailing end-times lens is not only out of focus, it's the wrong lens pointed in the wrong direction looking for the wrong indicators.

For perpsective, an excellent online Bible study by Jirair Tashjian on numerous "second coming" New Testament passages is available at www.cresourcei.org/secondcoming.html. This quote, in particular, strikes me as poignant:
“When writers and preachers make such a big fuss about the Second Coming and the end of the world, they are forgetting something much more important. They are in effect minimizing the First Coming. In a real sense the world ended some two thousand years ago in Jesus. Something decisive happened for humanity and for our relationship with God in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The New Testament is much more concerned with what it means to be crucified with Christ than with being glorified when he comes again."

The Christian Resource Institute site is a reliable online site for orthodox Christians and seekers. Note: This is not the Christian Research Institute, which I do NOT recommend or find credible. Discernnment required.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

MOVING THROUGH CHAOS

WARREN BENNIS. I find myself returning every now and then to Warren Bennis’ little book On Becoming a Leader (Addison Wesley, 1989). The following quote is from the chapter “Moving Through Chaos.”

INOVATION AND INTUITION. “A leader is, by definition, an innovator. He does things other people haven’t done or don’t do. He does things in advance of other people. He makes new things. He makes old things new. Having learned from the past, he lives in the present, with one eye on the future. And each leader pulls it all together in a different way. To do that…leaders must be right-brain, as well as left-brain thinkers. They must be intuitive, conceptual, synthesizing, and artistic.”

LEARN, LEAD, GROW. “Learning to lead is, on one level, learning to manage change…and that includes changes within the leader. One of a leader’s principal gifts is his ability to use his experiences to grow in office. The leader does it better and better and better, but is never satisfied. The leader knows better than anyone that the fundamental problems of life are insoluble, but he persists anyway, and he continues to learn.”

OUR CURRICULUM: ADVERSITY. “Leaders learn by leading, and the learn best by leading in the face of obstacles. As weather shapes mountains, so problems make leaders. Difficult bosses, lack of vision and virtue in the executive suite, circumstances beyond their control, and their own mistakes have been the leaders’ basic curriculum.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

THE WAY WE SEE

Our Unleavened Bread Cafe group read the following outloud from a chapter of Shane Claiborne's book Irresistible Revolution this morning. One at our table confessed to an unusual but profound empathy and concern for the young man who murdered 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus on Monday. When the fallen--so-called "natural"--response is to heap hatred upon murderers, what is it about grace that implants or makes possible a transcendent, loving response?

"When we look through the eyes of Jesus, we see new things in people. In the murderers, we see our own hatred. In the addicts, we see our own addictions. In the saints, we catch glimpses of our own
holiness. We can see our own brokenness, our own violence, our own ability to destroy, and we can see our own sacredness, our own capacity to love and forgive. When we realize we are both wretched and beautiful, we are freed up to see others the same way."

"All the time, we look AT people--hot girls, beggars, pop stars, white folks, black folks, people with suits or dreadlocks. But over time, we can develop new eyes and look INTO people. Rather than looking at people as sex objects or work tools, we can see them as sacred. We can enter the Holiest of Holies through their eyes."
DO GOOD ANYWAY

Last week, Colman McCarthy told those of us in chapel at Anderson University that Mother Teresa of Calcutta once handed him a piece of paper and asked him to put its contents in the next book he would write. He did so, attributing the reading to her:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
UNLEAVENED BREAD CAFE CELEBRATION - APRIL 22

COME AND SEE. We're celebrating an anniversary for Unleavened Bread Cafe at 30th & Central in Indy on Sunday, April 22. Food and festivities begins at 12:30 pm and rolls on thru the afternoon. Come see why this little place is so big.

RESTAURANT OR MINISTRY? Elise Womack (taking an order behind the counter in the photo) facilitates the place like a ministry more than a restaurant. There's always a welcome, hug, and good conversation at Unleavened Bread. The food's cheap and good, too. You can get food and you can also get help learning how to use a computer for school or work. Learn more about Unleavened Bread Cafe at ubbloggin. It's a free wi-fi hotspot.

WEDNESDAY ROUNDTABLE. I've been participating in a 7:30 am Wednesday roundtable Bible/book discussion group at Unleavened Bread Cafe for about five years. Our group is open to anyone, but it's a bit unruly, just so you're fairly warned. I'd say our focus is exploring God's presence in the city--inside and out. We've worked through several books of the Bible (most recently the Minor Prophets) and books like Making Room by Christine Pohl, The Upside Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill, A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren, God's Politics by Jim Wallis, and currently Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Who knows what we'll grapple with--or what will grapple with us--next?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

BLACKSBURG AND HADITHA

32 AND 24. Does anyone else think it's rather befuddling--ironic, even--that one day a young man goes on a rampage and kills 32 people on campus at Virginia Tech and the next day the Marine Court announces that all charges have been dropped against a United States Marine who, with his buddies, went on a rampage and slaughtered 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha on November 19, 2005?

A MURDERER MARINE WALKS FREE. A nation grieves and grapples with the question "why" in regard to the VT massacre. And, from the halls of military wisdom, the Marine Corps lets go a murderer. Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz will walk into the future a free man--with his military status clear and clean--in exchange for testifying against his troops. Yet I wonder, when all is said and done, if any of the enlisted or officer Marines who are charged with unpremeditated murder and conspiracy to cover up the slaughter will serve time or receive justice.

WHAT HUMAN VALUE? Was the murder of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq by Marines any more justifiable--or less heinous--than the murder of 32 students and faculty in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA? Are lives in America just more valuable than lives in Iraq? Or do those who wear a uniform and carry a gun in times of war have a special exemption from humane behavior?

Monday, April 16, 2007

WHEN I SAY "FAITH"

LIVING BY MY WITS? It’s so easy for me to say “faith” but live by my wits. On Sundays, I boldly implore others to exercise their faith; well, Hay, does life require you, too, to live by such faith? Is it faith you live by, or is your security and sufficiency more grounded in wordly things? Honestly, I think those of us who claim and proclaim the Christian way need to guard our walk of faith ever so carefully. We also need to grow it by virtue of challenge.

GREATEST SEDUCTION. The points of greatest seduction for people of faith may not be predictable vices but much more subtle perversions of faith into works, grace into law, and sufficiency into endlessly inventive notions. The seven deadly sins—greed, gluttony, envy, pride, sloth, anger, lust--are not the obvious sins of the flesh (as so often misrepresented and taken out of context) but insidious twists of the heart that turn faith into death-breathing legalism and self-promotion.

FOUR QUESTIONS I’M ASKING MYSELF. I’ve been working on four questions intended to guard my heart and life in regard to living by faith. Try these on for size. Each one offers a guard and corrective to ways in which simple, profound faith—for me—frequently gets distorted in the warp and woof of daily life:

1. Is the Word of God the SOUL SOURCE of my belief about the condition of my/our humanity and solution for my/our humanity? In other words, whose story am I buying into, stepping into, or living out?

2. Is it ENOUGH for me to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who embodied Truth, died for my sins, and was raised for my justification? Does my faith need “religious trappings” beyond these?

3. Is the Gospel I embrace ACCESSED and LIVED by faith—or by good works, observing rules, traditions, ideas and/or formulas? Read Paul’s intense warnings in Galatians.

4. Is love for God and neighbor the MOTIVATING, ENERGIZING source of my freely-offered service to others? Why do I serve?

Photo: part of the river walk in White River State Park in Downtown Indianapolis

Saturday, April 14, 2007

NOBODY LIKE BOBBY?

UNMATCHED, SO FAR. Becky and I watched "Bobby" last evening. Even though it was a rather lackluster movie (not even a star-studded cast could spring it into a box-office winner), the video clips of Bobby Kennedy and his speeches made me realize how much is presence and spirit is missed in current political debate and national leadership. No one since has come near matching his charisma or the groundswell of hope his candidacy represented.


TRANSITIONAL DAYS. Reading his biography a few years ago, I realize that he was neither stereotypically Kennedy nor a run-of-the-mill Democrat. I was only nine years old in 1968, when he and Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed. At the time, I had little idea how significant those events or those years were. Their transitional nature has been coming into sharp relief ever since. We have, since then, been measuring against those political and leadership standards.


REPEAT PERFORMANCE? Thus far, no political hopeful or elected official has come close to captivating the American imagination. It is not likely a Republican will, since the vast majority of Republicans serve such a shallow interest--that being the conservation and acquisition of wealth among a relative few--and garner a large enough of a following for occasional majorities by illusionist tactics and playing up the obvious pitfalls of Democrats. Neither is it likely a machine-bred Democrat will, since the organization's vision for America and the world has withered or shriveled for lack of courage, imagination, and skill over the past forty years.


NEXT PHASE AND POSSIBILITY. I think Barack Obama presents an interesting new phase for Democrats and the possibility, for the first time, of eclipsing the Bobby mystique. It's a long time before the Democratic National Convention in Denver in the summer of 2008, and there are too many unknown variables to count out any other candidate, but I will be surprised if Barack Obama does not emerge as the Democratic Party's preferred candidate.
TOMORROW'S HEADLINES: PROTESTERS BEATEN & DETAINED IN RUSSIAN "DISSENTERS MARCHES"

It will be a gross misjudgment of what is critically important in our world if the beating and detention of protesters in the "dissenters marches" in Moscow doesn't make the headlines of the major newspapers of the free press around the world on Sunday. Watch, also, for the response to the planned protests in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Russia's days as a pretend free democracy are over. It's government is back to trying to beat and imprison--and poison--its dissidents into submission or oblivion. Welcome to the bad ol' days.
LET'S TALK ABOUT CIVIL DISCOURSE

NEXT STEP. Here's what the media watchdog organization that initially (April 4) red-flagged Don Imus' racist and sexist statement have now suggested. David Brock, President of Media Matters for America, writes on their website:

"I applaud CBS for listening to reason and canceling Imus in the Morning. Viewers and listeners sent the clear message that they would no longer tolerate bigotry on America's airwaves. It is our hope that this incident will begin a broader conversation about the responsibility that news corporations, journalists, and media figures have to the American public. This is an opportunity for the media to truly raise the bar to a higher standard and return to the fundamentals of journalism."

AFTER DIALOGUE, A NEW STANDARD. This echoes my own earlier post here and on the New York Times website. No one wants a media witch hunt, but there should be a new standard for what is permissible and acceptable on the public airwaves set by the Federal Communications Commission. That FCC standard should be set only after a robust nationwide public dialogue.

OFFENSIVE WORDS AND LYRICS. Media Matters for America has documented repeated and numerous offensive statements and innuendos for major TV and nationally-heard radio personalities. Read a few for yourself to see the range and depth of the problem. To me, these are unacceptable. And these do not take in what occurs on local talk radio 24/7. Nor does it begin to address the offensive raunch in song lyrics. Along with unacceptable references to race, gender, and social role, I find the use of intimidation and threat of violence in discourse alarming.

NO MORE EMPTY PROMISES. Tipper Gore was one leading voice to try to address offensive lyrics several years ago, only to have the industry big-wigs make empty promises they quickly abandoned or made meaningless. Well, it's time for a new discussion. This time the FCC, weakened as it is from seven years of a "hands-off, business knows best" administration, cannot let entertainment barons have the last laugh.

CIVIL, CIVIC, & SELF-SERVING JOURNALISM. Civil journalism is the least that Americans deserve. Civic journalism is what they should receive, but national entertainment conglomerates, cable and satellite corporates, and national news organizations have all but quashed the very idea of civic journalism. They insist on a broken sensationalist approach ("if it bleeds, it leads") that is driving many of us away from their media (and advertized merchandise) entirely. But if they will not engage in civic journalism, the least they can do is make whatever it is they offer civil.

Friday, April 13, 2007

REQUIEM FOR EARTH

This is so typically Kurt Vonnegut. It's from A Man Without a Country (2005)

The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."

The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
perhaps
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

COLMAN McCARTHY

SPEAKING AT ANDERSON UNIVERSITY. I drove up to Anderson University this morning to join my friend Michael B. Ross in attending the Anderson University chapel with Washington Post journalist and peace teacher Colman McCarthy. I've read of McCarthy but never heard or seen him. Now that I have, I can recommend him as a person of depth, a speaker with flare and insight, and a vibrant if aging advocate for peace and peace learning. I will likely draw on his talk with the AU students and faculty for some time.
KURT VONNEGUT--A NATIVE SON OF OUR CITY

LITERARY CHARACTER. One of Indianapolis' native sons, Kurt Vonnegut, 84, died today. Though literary satirist Vonnegut left Indy 50 years ago, he stayed connected to the city in many ways. Of his relationship to Indianapolis, Vonnegut said in 1986: "All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business." I’ve got to admire a person who so freely acknowledges his connection to place in general and this place in particular.

AN ODD JUXTAPOSITION. Though Indianapolis is proud to name Vonnegut as a native son, the writer’s outspoken politics and life perspective seem at odds with the conservative Midwestern ethos of Indy. He was an agnostic, outspoken anti-war advocate, and intense critic of George W. Bush (he was a Bush basher when Bush bashing wasn’t cool). Certainly, those of us who long for rationality in government and an end to military violence as a way of solving conflicts have lost an agitating voice in Vonnegut. But no one who is sane would ever free-associate Vonnegut with Indianapolis politics. I suppose you wouldn’t free associate Vonnegut with any prevailing ideology. He was one of a kind.

OUTSPOKEN AGNOSTIC. Otherwise excellent local tributes to Vonnegut understate that he was also a rather outspoken agnostic. In his novels, essays and speeches, he lashes out--sometimes humorously, sometimes harshly--at religion, particularly Christianity. Maybe Vonnegut was never able to come to terms with the massive loss of civilian life in Dresden, Germany as a result of the American and Allied bombings he witnessed as a prisoner of war there near the end of World War II. His reflections on this experience in Slaughterhouse Five and other writings seem to indicate a conscience that could not reconcile such atrocity with Christian faith. Neither can mine.

A CYNICAL LENS FOR LIFE. I wonder if Vonnegut represents one of many people whose really irrational experiences and confrontations with evil in life are not fairly answered by shallow religious justifications or the rationales of the institutional church and civil religion. In light of their existential experiences unaddressed by wise spiritual counsel, folks tend to become cynics--and this becomes the lens through which they view every other experience the rest of their lives.

FROM CYNICISM TO FAITH. But the response to unjustifiable evil or irrational harm need not necessarily be one of cynicism. Another response is to name insanity and evil for what it is, take seriously the disarming alternative to cynicism offered in the Bible, and lean forward into a hopeful future beckoned by a God who has, does, and shall act to redeem fallen humanity in a heart-breaking world.

(Part of this post was submitted to the Indianapolis Star on April 13 as a "Letter to the Editor")

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

AM I LIVING IN RESURRECTION FAITH?

DANGERS, TOILS, AND SNARES. As I left the church building following an awesome Easter morning celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, I began to wonder what various kinds of challenges, temptations, decisions, conflicts, struggles, confrontations, and/or emotional issues each of us would face before we met again. And I wondered if we would respond to these myriad "dangers, toils, and snares" primarily with and from faith, or more with/from our wits, fight or flight response mechanism, strength, fear, intellect, power, position, habit, and/or routine?

FAITH, LESS... For all my intentions and residing "in Christ" by faith, I would have to give myself a "C" grade in this regard so far this week. When I've been late, I've driven faster. I've relied on my wits more than my faith. I've browsed for the latest online news bytes when I might have taken in the Word of God. I've spoken when I might better have listened. I've accepted praise when I might have given glory to God. I've acted from my relatively limited positions of power rather than to influence through love and service. I've jumped to conclusions instead of waiting for insight and wisdom. I've judged in petty, critical ways when I might have at least attempted to look at life through the eyes/shoes of the one I carelessly ridiculed.

WHAT YOUR RISING MAKES POSSIBLE. I suppose it is a good thing that I've been graced to recognize, confess, and repent of these pitfalls. But it is a matter of prayer, discipline and guidance to move intentionally from such faithlessness to a more robust life lived in and from faith. What I preach, I will practice. O God, help me live in the faith that Your rising makes possible, to Your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ON IMUS

Earlier this morning, I posted the following to the New York Times' article about Don Imus' two-week suspension for making sexually and racially offensive comments on his radio show:
Imus’ suspension–and potential firing–should serve as fair warning to every other shock jock and self-proclaimed radio and TV guru granted the bully pulpit of public airwaves. Imus’ statements are no worse than the offensive sexual innuendoes, prejudices, bigotry, meanness, and uncivil discourse that broadcasts at local and national levels every day. Too bad the light is only shining on Imus. But maybe this incident will give every talking head pause before they mindlessly, carelessly spout their stupidity and venom into the minds and hearts of those who happen to be listening or overhearing. — Posted by John Hay, Jr. (Comment #592)

Monday, April 9, 2007

THE DAY AFTER EASTER

O God,

Removed a day from celebrating the Resurrection event,
I wonder if I have yet begun to grasp but a fraction of
its meaning and power for me,
for the church,
for the world?
I press on presumingly,
speaking Resurrection words
but carrying on as if little had occurred.

I got stirred up about Easter
but I am apparently changed little.
Radicality dissipates into
minor adjustments,
shallow commitments,
tepid dreams.

Still, I dare to hold to faith in Easter,
to believe that on that morning
no mere rustled resettling occurred,
but a tectonic plate shifted reality for
a world without transcendence,
people without hope,
life locked in death.

Help me to explore and live the Third Day in
the face of my own doubts.
Believing you live and go before me,
meeting me in unlikely moments,
I go forward into this day,
this work,
these relationships,
your world.

Amen

Sunday, April 8, 2007

TIGER AND ZACH

TIGER TRACKS. I'm not a golfer and no golf fan, but I do watch a bit of the game on TV every now and then. Okay, I only watch golf on TV if Tiger Woods is playing in the tournament. He is phenomenal and his continuing story is one of the greatest in contemporary sports. I'll track his position on the online leaderboard throughout the four days of a golf match. Where he stands at the end of third day determines whether or not I might tune in for an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon.

UPSTAGED BY AN IOWAN. So, I tuned in for the last six holes of The Masters' tournament this afternoon. Tiger's determination couldn't overcome a few bad shots, two near-miss puts in the last four holes, or the confidence of 31-year old Zach Johnson of Iowa. Johnson, whose name I have only seen on leaderboard listings from time to time, apparently had won only one PGA tournament before surging forward out of the pack of six leaders today. It was an inspiring victory and an interesting end to the tournament. I was interested, also, in the public testimony of faith Johnson made (unprompted, unplanned, non-soapbox) during his first post-tournament interview.

WHAT'S THE KEY? Does anyone know what makes a Zach Johnson great on one weekend and just one among a hundred contenders the next weekend? What is it that keeps Tiger Woods at the top--his ability to be be consistently "on" round after round, week after week, season after season? It seems to me that golf is as much (or more) played in the mind and will as it is played with trained skill and physical ability. Pulling all these together with focus and rising to the occasion in real competiton may be what sets Tiger Woods apart.
RESURRECTION DAY

by Wilfred L. Winget

O Mighty, Holy Breath of God
On this glorious Day of Resurrection
Blow open all the shutters of our minds
bursting the barriers of
prejudice and pride
insensitivity and sloth
ignorance and fear
stretching wide our vision of
what you are doing
where you are working
in our fascinating
exasperating world.

Blow wide the doors of our hearts
impelling us outward to
the lonely and loveless
the angry and hopeless
the empty and faithless
as ready instruments
of your Grace.

Blow up our lungs to keep us shouting
Yes to Faith in the face of fear
Yes to Hope in defiance of despair
Yes to Love in spite of apathy
Yes to Life in the teeth of death

Through Christ, the Living One,
Our Lord.

Amen

Saturday, April 7, 2007

A POEM FOR HOLY SATURDAY

by the Rev. Stacey Littlefield

Thank you for the day in-between;
Safely tucked in the middle of
Death and Life.

At the start
a torturous journey,
an uphill climb,
stumbling, staggering, sweating
under the weight of the wood.
Muscles tired, strength exhausted,
body beaten, bruised and bleeding,
stretched out on display,
for mockers, curiosity seekers and saints.
A final breath, an impassioned cry
and it was finished.
On the other side of this Dark Day
a light awaits the dawn.
But, not yet

...This is the Day In-Between.
Today His body is still silent.
Drops of sweat and blood have
cooled and come to rest.
Dark, Cold and Damp
is the bed on which his limbs
grow stiff.
Quiet, lonely, without the intrusions
of daily routine or plans for the future.
He does not move.

And I am thankful for this
Day In-Between--a chance to wait, to meditate,
to embrace the silence and the sorrow,
the call and the cost.
My very life, my only hope
is there in the Dark with Him;
I am surrounded by the Holy Silence of Death,
almost afraid to move,
to disturb the calm;
afraid that the noise of my anxious, shifting feet
might drown out the sounds of hope:
-- a breath, a heartbeat, the crackle
of stiffness softening.

In the Day In-Between
I ponder
I meditate
I wait
I remember
and I begin to Hope.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

MAUNDY THURSDAY FOOT WASHING

"AS I HAVE DONE FOR YOU." Earlier this evening, my father-in-law and I participated in the Maundy Thursday liturgy at St. John's Episcopal Church in Breckenridge. The little church was half-full and it is likely a quarter of us were out-of-towners. No matter. Not used to the turnings and citings and readings of formal liturgy, I fumbled my way through the service. Oddly, the only part in which I felt deeply connected was the foot washing. We were invited to do for another what Jesus had done for his disciples that night of their last supper together. After the pastoral team, Dave and I were the first to wash each other's feet at the front of the sanctuary. During the foot washing, the congregation sang:

Brother, let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

HOMELESS NEIGHBORS' FEET. The radical humiliation of washing another's feet first struck me when I was asked to help a nurse with foot soaks and foot massages for the homeless men who visited Horizon House. I initially offered to help, but when the hour came, I found myself strangely resistant and found excuses not to be available to wash their feet. The next week, the nurse wouldn't let me off the hook. I found myself kneeling before the dirty, swollen, smelly feet of a homeless man. Still resistant but yielded, I gave myself to the task, pushing thoughts and inner protests aside. One after another I washed and massaged feet until there were no more feet to wash. I felt relieved and released and somehow strangely at peace. From that point on, I have always viewed people without homes as neighbors, recognizing and accepting my connection, complicity, and challenge in their condition.

LEADING PARADIGM. During my 2,000-mile bicycle ride through India recently, we were honored in Bangalore by foot washing. The Free Methodist Bishops of India knelt down and washed each cyclist's feet in front of all their pastors, parishioners, and nonchristian friends and community that gathered for our welcome to that city. Knowing the strong sense of caste and social role that pervade the various Indian cultures, I can only begin to imagine the radical--even offensive--action of a leader washing anyone's feet. But this is likely close to the context of Jesus' action on Maundy Thursday. He is the Servant Leader and this is the primary image for Christian leadership. Those who dismiss or stray from this paradigm mislead.
SEDUCING PALANTIR. There are those of us who still believe what's important in life isn't found on TV or in the entertainment empires. Why stare at what seduces? Don't let your soul be captivated by this glowing palantir of illusion manipulated by thinly-veiled greed.
LUNCHTIME ATOP PEAK 9

ON THE CHEAP. A morning of snowboarding and skiing ends at the Peak 9 Restaurant. Sometimes we purchase a few items, but mostly eat what we carry up in backpacks and store in lockers until lunchtime. The lower level of the two-story restaurant is for those who, like us, sack it rather than pay through the nose for food on the mountain.


RIDING PEAK 7. After lunch we hit the slopes again, a bit less aggressively than in the morning. On Wednesday, however, we rode the Peak 7 runs quite briskly all afternoon. Peak 7 at Breckenridge is the newest area for boarding and skiing. It is a tree-filled, gently rolling terrain. The runs are wide with lots of mounds and access to riding among trees; great for boarding, especially. But it's still a bit difficult for skiers and boarders to get to; it can require a bit of walking. But the bit of pain is worth the gain of enjoying the best terrain at Breck. A Peak 7 station on the new "Breck Connect" gondola is being developed and is scheduled to open in 2008. It will make Peak 7 an easy access ski area.

Photo: Molly stands at the racks of skis and snowboards outside Peak 9 Restaurant at Breckenridge. This is our tenth year in a row at Breck during Spring Break. Molly was six when we made our first visit to this mountain.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

PRESENT RISENNESS

"The life-giving Spirit of the risen Lord manifests himself…in our willingness to stand fast, our refusal to run away and escape into self-destructive behavior. Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain…And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, richer, deeper disciples. In the process we not only endure, but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we think we really are.” -- Brennan Manning
SPRING BREAK & HOLY WEEK AT BRECKENRIDGE

GO WEST. Most people head south and to the coasts for Spring Break. We head for the Rockies. For the tenth year in a row, our family has been privileged to spend the week of recess from school in Breckenridge, Colorado. Breckenridge is about an hour west of Denver and within 30 minutes of five major ski areas (for those who like variety in skiing). Thanks again, Dave & Lillie, for your hospitality.

SKIERS & BOARDERS. Sam was four years old when he learned to ski; Molly was six. When Sam was six, he received a warning ticket from the Ski Patrol for skiing too fast. Now he's a snowboarder, along with Jared, Molly and me. Yes, I've crossed over to the "dark side," i.e., moved from skiing to boarding. Becky and Abby are the only family members who opt to tackle the slopes on skis. So, it IS possible for skiers and snowboarders to get along together...most of the time. Abby and Jared: we miss you out here. Glad you were able to be here in January, but it's not the same for us when you're back in Illinois in college classes.

HOLY WEEK ON THE SLOPES. It's a bit out of the ordinary to combine Spring Break with Holy Week. The juxtaposition is interesting. I think of this when I'm gliding down a slope full of adrenalin. But we're trying to live this week of recreation gratefully and mindful of the days. We'll likely participate with a local congregation in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services before returning to Indy on Saturday.

Photo: Becky stands atop a ski run on Peak 9, one of four well-developed and easy-access ski slopes at Breckenridge.

Monday, April 2, 2007

HEAVY PARODY IN HOLY WEEK

BELIEF AND DISBELIEF. “In the drama of the redemption of the world in the Word of God, Holy Week is heavy parody,” says William Stringfellow. “If in such events the disciples exemplify not faith in Christ as Lord but doubt, and if meanwhile the public authorities, in spite of themselves, confess Christ as Lord, what are we, nowadays, to make of this?”

EXPOSING FRAUDULENT POWER. “If the authorities of this world--including the whole diverse array of principalities and powers, ecclesiastical, political, military, commercial--recognize Jesus as Christ the Lord, it is because his reign is active now and constantly disrupts and confounds their rule and exposes their power (which is no more than the sanction of death) as transient and fraudulent.”

EXPOSING NAIVE PRESUMPTIONS. “If the disciples are ambivalent, recalcitrant, incredulous toward Jesus as the Christ and toward the reality of his reign in the world, it is because they anticipate some other kingdom--one associated merely with the emancipation of Israel or one that appears immediately or miraculously: another worldly regime or an otherworldly realm--and so they are hindered in seeing the ridicule of such fragile and false hopes as when Jesus processes into the city mounted on a colt, and their Palm Sunday expectations turn into demoralization and fear.”

THE LIFE TO WHICH WE ARE CALLED. Stringfellow concludes: “The Kingdom of which Christ is Lord is not worldly but it is not otherworldly; for it is a Kingdom in this world, a historical and political reality, which both devastates and consummates the apparently prevailing order and all of its regimes and putative regimes and revolutionary causes. The life to which those in Christ are called consists of living as a society, now under the reign of the Word of God, beholden to Christ as Lord of all of life within the whole of creation, until that day when his reign is vindicated and the fullness of the power of death is exhausted, and all persons, principalities, and powers are rendered accountable, and this history ends.”

Sunday, April 1, 2007

LIBERATION DAY

PRISONERS IN THEIR OWN TOWNS. The oppressed people got swept up in the coming of the liberator. For years they had been afraid to speak their mind openly. They had been treated unfairly. They felt like prisoners in their own towns. Everywhere soldiers of their ruler could be seen – a ruthless lot ready to pounce on anyone who stepped out of line. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

IT IS HERE! They’d heard of promised liberation. They’d dared to hope for it, believe the stories. But it sounded too good to be true. Their longing hope was always mingled with cynicism fueled by their present oppression. The day dawned, however, when someone shouted: “Here they come!” “It’s here!” People dropped what they were doing. They cautiously peered out of the shadow of their doubts. Could it be true that liberation was finally going to be realized?

TOWN IN FRENZY. Sure enough, over the crest of the hill came the rolling parade. Folks abandoned their fears and took to the streets. Hope welled up inside them as the procession neared. And joy. This was cause for exuberance. In a sign of gratitude and honor, some put articles of clothing on the ground in front of the entourage. Some saluted. On tiptoe, some waved homemade signs and fronds plucked from nearby trees. Some raised their voices in shouts of exaltation at the liberation that was coming. The town was in frenzy.

WHAT’S THE SIGNAL? The liberating entourage came riding down Main Street. Was it a demonstration of defiance in the face of the oppressive ruler? Was it a show of force, to let the oppressors know their days were numbered and that the liberator could move about wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted? Was this the beginning of the regime’s end? The signal for a grass-roots revolution? What could this act mean? What would follow this day of liberation, this Palm Sunday?