22 March 2012

Nonviolent shorts, part two

Last year, in one of our classes, we told the story of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Freedom Rides, with the help of the television series Eyes on the Prize. (See blog entry here.) Today we repeated that lesson in class, including the video footage and Frederick Leonard's recollections of Parchman Farm. We presented this material to both sections of our course; in both cases, students told us they had only heard the vaguest outline of this history and had no idea how costly and dramatic these events had been.

The television program included several pieces of freedom songs from that era. We used a handout entitled "How Spirituals Became Freedom Songs," with the lyrics to such songs as "Woke Up This Morning" (we played Ruthie Foster's version) and "Oh Freedom" (played a track from Odetta). The first song originally began, "I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus." I pointed out that in the minds of many Christians, perhaps particularly in the black churches, changing the line to "...stayed on freedom" was complementary, not contradictory.

This point was reinforced by the video scenes of the embattled First Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama, on May 21-22, 1961. With the sounds of rioting outside and tear gas seeping into the crowded church, Martin Luther King said, "The first thing that we must do here tonight is to decide that we aren't going to become panicky. That we're going to be calm, and that we are going to continue to stand up for what we know is right. And that Alabama will have to face the fact that we are determined to be free." (Transcript.)

Most of the Christian world is in the middle of Lent, or as it's called here, the Great Fast. As I've been doing for the last thirty years or more, I'm slowly re-reading Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy's Stations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love. (Available here as a PDF document.)

Going through Charles McCarthy's stations is a difficult exercise. It's a constant invitation to reconsider the reality of my conversion.
We cannot be born into the cross of nonviolent love. We must freely choose it. But when we choose it, we choose not merely to live in its shadow and light. When we choose it, we must choose to be nailed unto death on its inscrutable, imprudent and ever unfolding divine logic. Its truth is unfathomable yet simple, bloody yet unequivocal. It tolerates neither contradiction nor compromise. (Eleventh Station.)
But we don't choose it alone. "To help carry each other’s cross of nonviolent love is part of the purpose of the Christian community, the Peace community." (Fifth Station.) Maybe this is secretly why I am so convinced of the importance of evangelism--I want more company!

Repentance is one of the themes of Lent. I've wondered out loud about repentance before, but the connection with Lent came back to me while I was reading Father McCarthy's booklet and again today when I came across this item, "Lent and Human Sinfulness," in Soong-Chan Rah's blog. His concern: "Conversion requires a sense of one’s own guilt, sinfulness, and wretchedness. I don’t have a problem with that doctrine, but it is interesting how circumstances, history, and context often determine how that doctrine is received, appropriated and applied." In particular, how do you apply it when relating the Good News to people who already feel completely worthless?

Then I circle back to Anthony Bloom, who reminds me that we may need to repent, not for dramatic sins that we've been able to avoid, but for the loss of contact with the deepest places within ourselves--those places where we meet God. And when we meet God, we meet the One who loved and desired us into being. So: we meet God in an attitude of humility and repentance--but also with our backs straight and our heads held high, because we are made in the image and love of our Creator.

Nonviolence does not only touch our relationships with others; we also are to apply it to ourselves.

This CNN story has struck a lot of people the right way: "Can Facebook page help Israel, Iran toward peace?" Maybe it's a measure of my own cynicism that I did not expect mainstream-media-related writer to say that "it may be too simple and too cynical" to expect this Israel Loves Iran campaign to influence war-talking leaders.

Whether or not the campaign immediately influences the leaders, it is making a constituency for peace more visible. And if we are to believe the growing numbers of warm-hearted posts on Facebook and the campaign's own sites, the warmth is contagious. That is, people who had never considered the "other" in a kind light are doing so now. The naive and sentimental are citizens and voters, too!

Friday PS: See this item in The Lede (New York Times).

While tracking down the link for online copies of Charles McCarthy's booklet, I came across this story from back in 1991--an account of McCarthy giving his sermon on "Radical Evil." I was glad to have this reminder of the themes of that sermon, which he gave twice in my hearing--once at a Catholic Worker house in Boston, and once at Beacon Hill Friends House. It is still one of the most memorable sermons I've ever heard.

Linda Jenkins, "Putting faith to use in Occupy Boston."

In the U.S. Congress, "Rep. Ryan's budget is upside down"--the Friends Committee on National Legislation's accessible summary of the budget discussions and assumptions in the House of Representatives. Conservatives are right to be urgently skeptical about massive deficits, but in spiritual terms, this draft budget (both on income and expenditure side) does not address deficits on any kind of honest zero-based basis. It puts a huge wall of protection around wealth and lethal power, while grinding the values of compassion and shared sacrifice under its heel.

"Confessions of a male feminist."

"Overcoming the stress of 'Englishnization'" The lament of the force-fed employee: "In English I am not myself. My personality is much smaller in this context."

"Encyclopedic memories: Britannica bytes it."
The (actually) 1910—or 11th—edition, the last to be published before the encyclopedia moved to Chicago—is famous for its scholarship and for the luster of its contributors. But one other thing can be said for it: it preserved in amber the world as the English-speaking intelligentsia understood it on the eve of World War I.

I'm doing a study of Charles Dickens' works as presented in films for an upcoming conference at our Institute. Do you have a favorite film based on Dickens? What is it, and why do you like it?

Rita Engedalen, "Holy Land" blues:

1 comment:

Jeremy Mott said...

Call it blues if you like. I'd call
it gospel music. That makes no difference. As soon as you see the first landscape, you know that this is the music of Mississippi, beloved in Norway as well----and all over the world now. Wonderful music! Thank you for sharing it, Johan.
Jrtrmy Mott