Category: Weekly Roundup

Russian moms

Today, the Sabbath in Jewish tradition, I’m reflecting with gratitude on the role of the Old Testament in my life. Like everyone in the Christian faith, I inherited the Jewish tradition, so I view it through a “Jesus lens.” However, the Jewish tradition belongs to every human being who welcomes its wisdom.

Judaism has a strong, though painful, history in Russia, powerfully revealed in the classic play/movie, Fiddler on the Roof. As the Russian czar cracked down on Jews, Tevye wryly asks/prays, “So we’re the chosen people? Once in a while, couldn’t you choose somebody else?”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is tragic and obscene at so many levels, including the division it has caused between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Orthodox, Jewish and secular moms, wives and girlfriends may be among Putin’s greatest problems now.

Russia is experiencing its most dramatic mobilization and forced military service since World War II. The Sabbath is a day to break away from worldly brokenness to experience (or imagine) harmony among persons, nations, and all creation. Today, I stand in harmony with the babuskas.

From “The Russian Orthodox Leader at the Core of Putin’s Ambitions,” by Jason Horowitz, New York Times, May 22, 2022


Each day, I’m helped by three “first read” emails. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation offers spiritual grounding via Daily Meditations. Yesterday’s “A Living Web” quoted Joanna Macy: “You know your lives are as intricately interwoven as nerve cells in the mind of a great being…. Out of that vast net you cannot fall…. No stupidity or failure or cowardice can ever sever you from that living web. For that is what you are … rest in that knowing. Rest in the Great Peace…. Out of it we can act, we can dare anything … and let every encounter be a homecoming to our true nature….

Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American offer historical context. Yesterday’s letter from the Boston College professor described those who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden: “The difference between Biden’s first 17 award recipients and those former president Trump honored reflects their different visions of the country.”

California Attorney Robert B. Hubbell’s Daily Edition Newsletter offers “a reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” Yesterday’s newsletter, “An Opening for Democrats,” cites several resources including Michael Klarman’s Harvard Law lecture on Dobbs v. Jackson, and “The Threat of Exhaustion,” from Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

Another helpful resource is my friend John Draper, an educator who teaches a Sunday School class. Tomorrow’s lesson is about Habit #6 from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

From “Synergy Saturdays: Practicing Habit 6 with the Family,” by Tara West, Leader in Me, August 31, 2019

The challenge of unconditional love

A few months ago, I said “Yes” to the Fullness of Loving Relationships, an emerging community and movement that I fully embrace. The website is growing, including Stories, “the means of telling the past, interpreting the present, and dreaming the future.” I didn’t know then how much I needed FoL’s focus on practicing unconditional love and forgiveness in all our relationships.

On Wednesday I was a “house sitter,” preparing for a hospital bed to be delivered to the home of our daughter and son-in-law. They were returning home from the hospital, as his care transferred from the heroic UAB Lung Transplant Team to a group of hospice heroes. My mind rotated between UAB and the agony of our Uvalde sisters and brothers. We’re all related.

I listened to Governor Abbott, waiting in vain for a statement that it’s time to end easy access to weapons of war such as the AR-15 that made it impossible to identify, apart from DNA samples, the remains of those whose bodies were destroyed in their elementary classroom. Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson identified the challenge of unconditional love. Here’s an excerpt:

All day, I have been coming back to this: How have we arrived at a place where 90% of Americans want to protect our children from gun violence, and yet those who are supposed to represent us in government are unable, or unwilling, to do so?

This is a central problem not just for the issue of gun control, but for our democracy itself. 


A love greater than politeness

This weekly roundup follows some discussions with friends about a secessionist movement within the United Methodist Church. They speak with a love deeper than politeness:

Can we fellowship with integrity with those who insist on using cold literalistic biblical interpretation to contribute to the very real hurt and real culture of oppression for real people in the real world?

This is not some abstract theological or exegetical difference of opinion. Did in any respect the life or teaching of Jesus suggest using legalistic dogma to hurt people?

When Methodist clergy’s bureaucratic, institutional thinking considers reactionary ideologues a legitimate part of the body, elemental Christian ethics are pushed to the side and off the table.

My friend Don sent this James Baldwin quote from Following Jesus, a project of the Mustard Seed School of Theology, founded in 2004 by Kurt Struckmeyer.


The Free Press

Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Muratov is editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, now published outside Russia to avoid government censorship. Since 2000, six of the newspaper’s journalists have been murdered.

On April 18, Muratov survived a chemical attack after boarding a train in Moscow. US intelligence attributed the attack to the Russian government.

Timothy Snyder’s 2010 Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin has been updated in a new 2022 paperback edition. Hitler and Stalin attacked “the fake news media” as “the enemy of the people.” Snyder discussed with Chris Hayes the origins of Putin’s war and the importance of truthful journalism.

From “A Russian editor says he won the Nobel because his slain colleagues could not,” The Economist, October 16, 2021

Earth Day

At a recent conference about climate change, we discussed our individual choices about how to conserve energy, recycle, etc.). My friend Joe Elmore (in his 90th lap around the sun) said the scale of the problem requires governments to take action. The US can reach our target for 2050 net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 through a bill in the US Senate (a carve-out of President Biden’s original “Build Back Better” program) that would provide $555 billion to address climate change.

Yesterday, Heather Cox Richardson and Diana Butler Bass both cited a stirring speech by Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow, who said: “People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape…. We cannot let hateful people …. deflect from the … real issues that impact people’s lives.”

Jeff Borzello’s ESPN story about the retirement of Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright after 21 seasons quotes former Baker Dunleavy, former Villanova player and now head coach at Quinnipiac: “Coach Wright’s true legacy will not be his championships. His legacy is the set of values he has instilled in his coaches and players.”

From Earth Day: The Official Site, one initiative is The Canopy Project: “Home to about 80% of the world’s biodiversity, forests are collectively the second biggest storehouse of carbon after oceans, absorbing significant amounts of greenhouse gasses. They also enhance biodiversity, while protecting waterways, enhancing soil nutrition, and providing buffers from natural disasters.”

Some current resources

Yesterday’s post was from Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation, whose daily meditations provide some of my soul fuel.

My second read of the day is Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters from an American.” Edward Luce of the Financial Times wrote a delightful article about his visit with Richardson in her coastal Maine village.

Other helpful resources in my email inbox include:

1440 Daily Digest, with links like this from Microsoft: “The Rise of the Triple Peak Day.”

The unabashedly blue Robert Hubbell’s Today’s Edition newsletter provides respite in deep red Alabama.

And a few others, such as The Atlantic, The Bulwark, Christianity Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

From “Historian Heather Cox Richardson: ‘Now people see what’s happening. Thank God!” by Edward Luce, Financial Times, July 16, 2021

Put love first

Richard Rohr invites us to move from “fear and contraction” to “love and expansion.”

Vladimir Putin’s war has added a new dimension to the fossil fuel/renewable energy conversation.

Heather Cox Richardson unpacks recent developments in the January 6 insurrection investigation.

I hear in many of Gretta Vosper’s words echoes of Jesus: “…put living a virtuous life—one guided by love, justice, and compassion—before whatever your religious tradition might tell you to do. If it happens to be exactly what your tradition would tell you to do, fantastic! But if it isn’t, think twice and put love first.”

A recent Liam Adams article in the Tennessean describes the soon-to-be-launched Global Methodist Church. I will not be part of the new group, but I wish them well. May we all put love first.

From “Why Do So Many Russians Say They Support the War in Ukraine?” by Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, March 29, 2022

Subway tulips

The strength of the Ukrainian people is revealed in countless ways, including their ability to humanize the inhumane conditions imposed upon them, such as a vase of flowers in a Kharkiv subway car window that has become an underground shelter. I was helped by Richard Rohr’s reflection about faith’s ability to “incorporate the negative.”

COVID research is bringing greater understanding about post-viral conditions such as chronic fatigue. Son Rob sent this recent article: “Coronavirus Infections Found to Shrink Parts of the Brain.”

Madeleine Albright’s (1937-2022) 2/23/22 essay, “Putin Is Making a Historic Mistake” is worth reading.

On two long drives this week, I listened to SCOTUS nominee Katanji Brown Jackson’s mature responses to fund-raising/campaign ad sound bites by Senators Cruz, Graham and Hawley that were disguised as questions to her. NY Times’ David Leonhardt provided helpful context in “Distorted Reality.”

Europe’s current war has made me wonder whether–if humanity’s evolution isn’t cut short by aggression–one day we may look back at the era when most nations were led by males and wonder why it took so long to take full advantage of the natural female strengths of multi-tasking, analytical problem-solving and compassionate wholeness.

From the Facebook page of Washington Post photographer Wojceich Grzedzinski, who was interviewed on CNN’s Don Lemon Tonight, March 22, 2022 (Volunteers gave tulips to women who were sheltering in the subway on March 8, International Women’s Rights Day)

Weekly roundup … of speeches

In recent days, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made televised speeches to the European Parliament, the British Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, the US Congress and the German Bundestag.

Prior to Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress, on MSNBC Jon Meacham recalled Robert F. Kennedy’s 6/6/1966 “Ripple of Hope” address to students in Capetown, South Africa: Few will have the greatness to bend history; but …. Each time (one) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, (he or she) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and … those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Meacham said: The thrilling and terrifying thing about democracy is … all of us … have the capacity to bend history. Meacham compared Zelenskyy’s “disposition of heart and mind” to that of Churchill, John Lewis, the women of Seneca Falls, the people of Selma, those who stormed the beaches of Normandy, etc., who in the mysterious yet discernible commerce between the leaders and the led made democracy what Lincoln called the best hope. He said: We face enormous stresses … a generational task. And we do have the capacity … if you believe in the Declaration of Independence … the rights of humankind … the rule of law, this is a moment to stand up. Zelenskyy has. The question now is, “Will all of us?”

In his speech to the South African Student Union, Robert Kennedy said, “The first element of … liberty is the freedom of speech….” The 1776 miracle hasn’t yet reached Russia, where the state media considers Tucker Carlson’s reports “essential” and where Marina Ovsyannikova tried to get in a word edgewise.

From “A Russian who protested the war on live TV refused to retract her statement in court,” by Bill Chappell, NPR, March 15, 2022