Spirit Sightings

January 4, 2015: God’s Unifying Impulse

From Sandra Rooney

We’ve moved beyond the Advent candles and carols, beyond the Holy Family in the stable, beyond the Wise Men. But we can’t move beyond the news. Last month the U. S. Senate Intelligence Committee released its damning report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s program to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in the years after the September 11 attack. The next day, the Rev. Susan Russell, Episcopal priest and activist from Pasadena, Calif., wrote these words in her blog:

It’s been a particularly dark Advent… the “breaking news” of the day echoing in our ears and in our hearts: the Ferguson Grand Jury decision, Eric Garner’s poignant cry of “I can’t breathe,” the Torture Report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the anniversary of the Newtown tragedy and the reminder of the scourge of gun violence in our nation.

Then she went on to say that it had gotten a little lighter for her that day, when she heard the words spoken by Malala Yousafzai upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize:

“Dear brothers and sisters,
the so-called world of adults may understand it,
but we children don’t.
Why is it that countries which we call “strong”
are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace?
Why is it that giving guns is so easy
but giving books is so hard?
Why is it that making tanks is so easy,
but building schools is so difficult?”

Russell said that in Malala’s words – “words of a young, Muslim schoolgirl targeted for violence by extremists of her own faith for daring to both aspire to and speak out for the education of women” – she heard the echo of the words attributed to another young girl, a Jewish girl, who extolled the greatness of God in the timeless words we call “The Magnificat.”

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Russell titled her blog that day “Malala’s Magnificat.” She reminded readers and reminds us that faith can produce courage, a courage that can take on the powerful and raise up the lowly.

In a speech in the Senate, shortly after the torture report was released, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Intelligence Committee’s Democratic chairwoman, called the CIA interrogation program “a stain on our values and our history.” She said, “History will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.’”

While there has been widespread condemnation of the CIA torture methods, there have also been denials from former CIA personnel, national security justifications, and questions by some of the value of information gained by torture. A New York Times editor put it well, saying the report “should be the start of national soul-searching.” 

Explore…Jeremiah 31:7–14

Jeremiah speaks his words of hope against the background of systems of power of his day.

  • Where did Jeremiah’s hope come from?
  • Where do you hear words of hope in the face of troubling situations today?
  • Where do see a need for soul-searching? How might that happen?

Prayer links…

God of history and of our everyday lives, we pray that you will overcome our fears and use our lives and our voices to proclaim a new day, a day of justice, compassion, and love. 

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