Monday, May 31, 2010

alternatives to church

in place of going to services yesterday, I opted to relax at home with cousins of my wife. this has gotten me thinking about family, which is so important to them, and never has been for me. since our marriage I've been taken in by my wife's family to the point that I almost feel more tied to them than to my own blood, and while I know that's because of my own failure--after all, I'm the one who tended to disappear for months at a time without notifying anyone and show up unannounced in the middle of the night without having called and other suchlike--I also think somehow it's, well, "wrong" is the wrong word. "discomforting" might be closer.

I have a lovely pair of parents who are still alive and in reasonable health. they continue to live on their own with minimal help from my cousin and his wife (who own the house in which they live and have a small bait shop/grocery store across the road). my cousin, who I barely remember from childhood, asked them to come live in the tiny town of austin, pa, after his own mother, for whom he'd bought the house, was placed in a local nursing home.

my sister and her family are well and happy, for the most part, in rural ny, not many hours from where we grew up; and while we didn't get along too well as kids--we were each other's only playmate for years, and that can lead to intense closeness or intense hostility, with the focus in both instances on the intensity--we are better with one another as adults. I'm close with my niece, getting closer with my nephew, and reconnecting with my brother-in-law. I also have a first cousin about 50 miles north of my parents who I see each time I go out there and who has been a stable part of our lives since I was in my teens.

all in all, I'm discovering that family is becoming more familiar to me. I don't think it's from a sense of mortality since I've always been very aware of my own, although an argument can be made, given the rapid slide of my father-in-law's health, that I'm becoming more aware of other people's. I willingly spent my weekend playing games with jayne's cousins' kids and sitting quietly in a hammock listening to the older one as she told me about her summer and her concerns (they're exactly what you expect a 10 year old to be concerned with); and while I've always loved to drink and share time with the adults, this time it seemed a little holier, as if we'd reached a place where we had found a place to which we can return at will. I'm not entirely sure how to say that, not sure I have the language to do so. I've talked for years about making a space a holy place through honoring one another in it, but I think I'm beginning to understand what that feels like on more secure footing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

my 1st half century

I think I had a party at 5. I don't remember 10 at all. at 15 I was resigned to the reality that, like everyone else, I grew older. at 20, already married, I saw in myself a new version of my father. at 25, newly divorced, I was certain I'd never see 50.

when I hit 30, life was starting to get good: I imagined that at 50 I'd be living in the desert, growing a small plot of vegetables, and teaching. by 35, buying our first house in the midwest, I knew that wasn't going to happen. I celebrated 40 with a vasectomy and spent the weekend on the couch in a vicodin and beer-fueled haze. by the time I hit 45, teaching and appreciating the life I had, I'd started reflecting on life differently.

like nearly every male growing up in the late 20th century, I held onto the fantasy of being a boy wonder for a long time, finally even giving in to the fantasy in my 40s of being a late-blooming boy wonder. at 50 you can't convince even yourself you're a boy wonder anymore. why that particular fantasy holds such sway for americans I'm not really certain, except for our youth-transfixed culture and the lure of early and easy fame. I can still evoke the shudders I felt standing in the dark schubert theatre in 1975 listening to this line from bobby in a chorus line: "if troy donahue could be a movie star, then I could be a movie star."

living and writing quietly on the rim now, heading into the heart of what was once a frontier city to teach and be taught, discovering what it means to be trusted by community and appreciated in turn, well-remarried and playing each day with animals who recognize in me the benign nature I sometimes forget myself, I am happy with what I am. I dreamt last night that I was teaching in a crowded school wherein classes were conducted in huge open rooms with students sitting in chairs arrayed around teacher's desks. the lighting had to be better, and I was replacing the lamps with help from former students. we were laughing and telling stories, and I woke with a solid sense of contenment and doing holy work.

this is where I should be, this is what I should be doing. I'm only missing the vegetables.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

a mosque grows in manhattan

that there are conflicted feelings about a mosque being built a few blocks from ground zero in manhattan should be a given; that those feelings should trump considered thinking about it is not. a mosque should be built there.

the overwhelming vote in favor of endorsing the mosque (29 to 1) by the local community board is an indication that there is a fervent wish to build bridges between locals still affected by the near-decade old wtc attacks and the faith whose twisting convinced some followers to fly two airplanes into the twin towers. it is the equivalent of building a church near the site of wounded knee, and I am in favor of that too.

the board's vote is not binding--it has no real say in the matter--but it does indicate the feelings of community members, and suggests that there's an opportunity for reconciliation that might never come again. of the sincerity of injured families and groups which spoke out against the building I have no doubt--I'm certain they deeply feel this is an affront--but I would also point out this quote, attributed to bill doyle, leader of the group coalition of 9/11 families: "Many families of Sept. 11 victims fervently opposed the proposal, saying they were offended by the idea of building a prayer space so near the site. 'That should be a serene site...Now you’re going to see protests and demonstrations there all the time'" (link may experience problems). bill doyle is probably talking about his own group's plans to disturb the peace.

the impetus for most of such opposition is an unstated desire to keep the two groups, attacker and attacked, segregated and in conflict. in the face of a nearly-unanimous vote willing to provide a symbol for bridging the divide, such opposition is like peeling back a scab. it's time to let the wound heal.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"we swim together"

I attended my quasi-home church the other morning, expecting to hear a visiting pastor speaking on "the art of listening to yourself"--spiritual stories and memoirs, that sort of thing--and was surprised to listen instead to the candidate for full time minister at the congregation. this was not a problem.
julianne lepp, the candidate, is young and southern and interesting. her sermon was titled "lifeministry: diving deep" and had a water motif--her referent point was the ocean and diving into it. "we swim together," she said in her conclusion; "we might want to swim alone but the lifeguard has a rule: we must swim together."
the congregation seemed taken with her and her partner (their children were not there) and I think she will make a good fit for the eau claire congregation. she is solidly in the mold of the last two ministers, virginia woolf and (interim) wendy jerome. like with them, I found her easy to listen to (not unchallenging but easy to follow and to understand) and essentially optimistic, which is important in fellowship. if she is confirmed, I look forward to good conversations with her.

but while listening to her I came to an interesting epiphany about myself. I enjoyed parish work when I did it--the sermons, visits, the hustle of writing and meetings--but I think I'm coming to realize that this may not be the future for me. I am feeling drawn closer to a new style of ministry devoted to people outside church walls, more like community or service ministry. I've had a hard time articulating what I mean: a ministry of doing and being on the street with people (especially the homeless) and traveling. if I had my druthers, I'd be one of those annoying traveling ministers who set up camp at rainbow gatherings and dead show parking lots and behind carnivals and tent revivals. I'd love to give sermons, but that wouldn't be likely. I'd be more often serving people, getting food together, talking one on one with people, hanging out with kids and old people, sewing up ripped clothes and setting up healthcare appointments. most often, listening to the stories people tell.

this would be wonderful. I'm not aware of any way to make a living at it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

you must change your life

I've spent all week in essay-land and below is the final paragraph from one of them, for an online class I took on the spiritual life of the congregation. the essay reflects one of the thoughts I've been having the past few weeks, encouraged by the reading for this class and another class on liberation theologies. if contemporary xianity is the church of the empire--and this is not just about xianity, by effect all contemporary religions, judaism, islam, buddhism, hinduism, and unitarian universalism, are the churches of empire--then perhaps it's not a bad thing that congregations and churches are dying out. perhaps the reason we aren't drawing young people to us is because we are not offering what they need from a spiritual angle. perhaps what needs to happen in the 21st century is the previous millenia of theologies need to fall away so new, 21st century theologies can be built by those young people themselves. let the dead bury the dead, indeed; let the living build for the living.

"We’re concerned, and rightly so, about the drain on congregations. Churches are dying out and there are any number of statistics that prove this to my satisfaction. But perhaps we’re looking at this wrong. My friend Pete, a Lutheran minister who nears retirement and the return to Tanzania where he was born, has a theory that every ten years a church ought to burn down so each generation has the opportunity to rebuild it from the ground up. No more favorite windows, no more nostalgia about the hymnals, no more untouchable crosses sitting like a gargoyle on an otherwise renovated wall. We fear the end of church, the dying of the light. Perhaps it is not such a bad thing. As Diane Butler Bass notes, “Jesus insists that every person he meets do something and change. The whole message of the Christian scripture is based on the idea of…the change of heart that happens when we meet God face to face.” We may be wrong to assume one needs a face to meet with god. All religion has at its core this message: You must change your life. Perhaps we shouldn’t assume that advice is meant only for people. Perhaps like a fir seed, snuggled so tightly in its pine cone husk that it takes a forest fire to bring it out, churches must die out for greater church messages to emerge."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

a mustard seed of violence

this is a video mashup for my theology and film course on which I spent last weekend working. I ought to warn you that its theme is violence and thus its imagery, much of which is devoted to films we studied in class, is violent (including a scene from m.i.a.'s "born free," on which I've written). also below is the short theological statement I wrote for it.

this is the sort of thing I do nowadays, consider the mashup of theology and reality. tonight I begin work on an essay about the mestizaje future of american religion. all this is very different from any of the scenes I ever imagined in my life over the past half century. that is a plus.

A Theological Statement to Accompany
A Multi Media Statement
By Bob Bledsoe

Americans are less a people of violence than we are a people who love violence. Especially when it is done by or to our factotums. Like the mustard seed of Luke 13:18-19, violence “is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.” It is this tendency toward metastasizing rather than a love for violence itself that betrays something uniquely American.

From the beginning, Americans enjoyed violence. The Great Train Robbery (1903) features a lethal gun battle at midway; similarly, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) often speeds up its plotline with war battles and gunplay, including a reenactment of Lincoln’s assassination. What may be noted about both is their lack of realism: in Train Robbery the actor who is shot throws up his hands as if in frustration and spins several times before falling; Lincoln is shot at close range from behind but there is no blood and no observable damage to the actor himself beyond his slumping. If Griffith’s take on violence is accepted, being shot in the back of the head merely leads to poor posture. This neatened violence reaches its apex in the epic but apparently harmless kung fu battle between Neo and hundreds of Agents Smith in Matrix Reloaded (2003).
Spiritually more honest is the violence of movies like Kids (1995), Transamerica (2005), and Hustle and Flow (2005). The violence is short, spontaneous, and people bleed. Their violence has consequences. Whether the violence is directed outward at strangers, as in these films or allegorized against an ape in The Hunger (1983), or in the direction of loved ones, personally as in Brokeback Mountain (2005) or the representational Daughters of the Dust (1991), or in the direction of the self, as during Virgil’s nightwalk with The Brother From Another Planet (1984) or the recitation of Venus Xtraveganza’s suicidal behavior in Paris is Burning (1991), it is not inconsequential. Quotations from the Psalms and Micah suggest the same thing: violence is real and expressed not for our entertainment but against us (the video “Born Free” [2010] and American History X [1998]).

The violence need not be physical. It can be social, systemic, and endemic, against a class of people (as shown in The Soloist [2009] and Addressless [2007]). We cannot dissociate from it: the violence is in the best and the most innocent of us (for instance the children in the opening to The Wild Bunch [1969]).

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say violence in American movies are often played as a game as suggested by the girls’ dance sequence from Daughters of the Dust. Proverbs encourages us to be aware we are remembered by what we do. Violence, correctly employed, can be cathartic. The lesson of Rudy Yellowlodge in the final moments of Skins (2002) reinforces that what we do matters.

• Addressless: Homelessness, Problems, and Solutions. [Documentary] (2007) Directed by Gino Salerno.
• American History X. [Film] (1998) Directed by Tony Kaye.
• Birth of a Nation. [Film] (1915) Directed by W.D. Griffith.
• “Born Free.” [Video] (2010) Directed by Romain Gavras.
• Brokeback Mountain. [Film] (2005). Directed by Ang Lee.
• Brother From Another Planet. [Film] (1984) Directed by John Sayles.
• Daughters of the Dust. [Film] (1991) Directed by Julie Dash.
• Great Train Robbery. [Film] (1903) Directed by Edwin S. Porter.
• Hunger. [Film] (1983) Directed by Tony Scott.
• Hustle and Flow. [Film] (2005) Directed by Craig Brewer.
• Kids. [Film] (1995) Directed by Larry Clark.
• King of Jazz. [Film] (1930) Directed by John Murray Anderson.
• Matrix Reloaded. [Film] (2003) Directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski.
• New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha. NRSV. (2007) Oxford University Press.
• Paris is Burning. [Documentary] (1991) Directed by Jennie Livingston.
• Skins. [Film] (2002) Directed by Chris Eyre.
• Soloist. [Film] (2009) Directed by Joe Wright.
• Transamerica. [Film] (2005) Directed by Duncan Tucker.
• Wild Bunch. [Film] (1969) Directed by Sam Peckinpaugh.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ascension day in erin prairie

for several years I've passed a little catholic church out in the boonies of erin prairie, wisconsin, on my way to new richmond and decided that today I'd attend mass there. I arrived early, hoping to find a seat near a window so I could look out at the surrounding expanse. erin prairie is pretty out there, even for being on the rim, and the church is set in the middle of fields where the wind blows desolately, and from the hill the church is on you could be looking out at nebraska, circa 1940. but all the windows were ornamented and let in beautiful spoltches of colored light that played along the rows of parishioners, but let nothing, not even furtive gazes, out.

I thought at first that these folk might give the unitarians a run for showing up after service began, but almost all of them walked in between 10:55 and 10:58. a veritable wash of people. many of the older men looked like retired or still practicing farmers, all swinging gaits and sunburned faces that end abruptly where the brim of a seed cap would start, which is what I expected. but there were also more middle-aged and younger people and most of them looked like middle management or insurance agents. in the end, about 125 adults were settled in the pews and the opening commenter made a reference to the church "looking empty" because of fishing opener.

jann, my worship teacher, often talked about worshipping in "liminal time," and how this was accomplished by making no reference to what day it was or what time of day, setting up the time outside time for worship. but every speaker at st. patrick's said "good morning" at the start of his or her function, including the priest. there were great swatches of silence between songs and elements, but they were intentional silences interrupted consistently by the sound of children. they certainly suffer the little children--not a minute went by without at least one and often three and four kids called out inappropriately to a parent or another kid. I often had to strain to hear the speakers even though they were amplified and it looked as if others had that issue too. hand-made celtic rosaries were distributed to the first communicants and I found myself coveting them: they looked simultaneously fragile and chunky, like spun sugar necklaces.

the reader, who read as if he'd never seen the text before, nonetheless sat confidently and calmly in his pew between his functions, his arm affectionately around a woman who was probably his wife, and another woman rocked her child to each hymn. these were homely, gentle scenes that comforted me. the thesis statement of the priest's ten minute sermon focusing on this feast day of the ascension was "jesus will not leave us alone," and in my serenity, smelling no incense but old timber and dust, I could believe it. even the happy-clappy singsong of the lord's prayer near the end could not dissolve that sensation and I left feeling relaxed and right.

a further note: I took communion because I do that when I am invited, and my provider turned out to be a young man the priest introduced at the end as a seminarian from st. paul's. he looked in his mid-20s, but when I walked out and he was standing at the steps shaking hands, I realized when I took his that he was more like 17. I said, "I'm a seminarian too, but not xian," and he looked at me as if such a thing were impossible, as if I was an entirely new species that had lifted onto its hind legs and brayed in his face. it was only later when j pointed it out that I realized he was probably reacting to my having accepted the host and wondering why I would do that. the truth of course is that I do anything religious that I can do--nothing spiritual is alien to me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

why do I love susan sontag?

"Sontag caught a rising wave, and Against Interpretation came to us like a message in a bottle from an antique land. We were hiding from the Vietnam Way by miming education. Sontag was a thirty-something Jewish Intellectual who had trekked from Tucson to Berkeley to Chicago to Cambridge to Oxford to Paris and, finally, to New York, devouring schools like a cat on a trail of kibble. For us, this was mysterious and quaint; it meant no Yucatan, no Casablanca, no Lhasa, no Waimea, no smuggling, no jail, and no rock and roll--and we were no less vain about our prerequisites than Sontag herself. So Sontag was not one of us, but she was a hottie--one of those supersmart lipstick lesbians you met at Saint Adrian's Company down on Broadway for all-night marathons of intellectual speed-rap."

--Dave Hickey, "!Una Lesbiana Enamorada!: The Reverse Bowdlerization of Susan Sontag," from Harper's, December 2009

because even in a review of Reborn, her notebooks to 1963 in which she wrote to herself, "I'm not a good person/Say this twenty times a day/I'm not a good person. Sorry, that's just the way it is," she can still inspire an admirer to write the above.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

johnny thunders died for your sins! (3)

spork is a new film premiering at the tribeca film festival in nyc that I'm greatly looking forward to. from most accounts, it's a good but not a great film, as most first features ought to be. but why it's important to me is its existence as pastiche, as homage, and as example of the power of punk in the making of art. director/writer j.b. ghuman is relaxed talking about his methods and his direction and the mere existence of this storyline makes me tingly.

A Scene From "Spork" from Alex & Peter Knegt on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

we are laundrymen

when they were married back in the mid-50s, my parents took the then-radical and still-progressive step of divvying up household chores between them. my father chose laundry. in other families there are other signs that a young man has come of age: with jews, it's bar mitzvah; with american indians, it's vision quest; in wisconsin, it's ordering your own beer. in my family it was taking responsibility for washing clothes.

my dad, as a professional and a person who trained for a short time to be a teacher, tried to make a science of it, but it really isn't one. mainly, it's an attitude of common sense: "put like-colored clothes together; load the machine one piece at a time; don't overload the machine; separate the pieces and layer them on the floor of the dryer; take them out and fold them while they're warm, it cuts down on ironing time." I hear these instructions in my dad's voice each time I do laundry. I do the laundry here on the rim: I was trained.

along with tending the grill and mowing the lawn a man ought to take charge of the washing of the family's clothes. it is not a sexist or testosterone thing, but it is an acceptance of our obligation for doing for the family. like the responsibility for keeping track of game scores and checking the oil level in the car, it is something we ought to pride ourselves on because our fathers taught us. one task moving down the generations. one solid block of men, each holding a basket.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

alternatives to church (2)

I thought I remembered a book by stormie omartian that came out some decade or so ago, but the internet isn't backing me up, so it's obviously by someone else. but when I was at buns & noodles and in charge of the religion section, I used to reliably see a book cover of a title something like "what to do when your husband doesn't believe." the cover had a drawing of a man mowing the lawn and the presumption was that he was doing this instead of, say, going to church on a sunday morning. I remember my wife noticing it once and saying of it, "she's lucky her husband mows the lawn on sunday."

that's in my head today because I opted not to go to church but to stay at home and mow the lawn instead. this has got me thinking, of course, because it's the sabbath, or the day I regularly celebrate as the sabbath (as well as its being mother's day), and my practice is to do as little as possible on the sabbath. but here I am, sweetly smelly and sweaty with the odor of cut grass and dandelions and a trifle burnt from the sun, and feeling very, very good about it.

this has been a long, eventful week, and it has rained a lot, so the grass has gotten tall and I like to keep it at a length at which I can see things in my path. that's not to say I couldn't wait until tomorrow, presuming it doesn't rain, to mow, or later in the week for that matter. but I opt to mow on this day not in spite of the sabbath but because of it. I'm as in favor as the next guy of keeping my sabbath idle, but work is a holy activity too. when I am teaching or listening to someone or planting or walking dogs or mowing I am taking an active part in the universe, thanking it by paying attention to it. zen masters say that when one mows the lawn, one should mow with one's whole being. well, they should say that.

but when I am doing something as trivial as mowing and I am in my groove, it is an act as delightful to reality and god as any words of contrition or praise. I am in the place I ought to be in and doing the thing I ought to do. we must take heed, after all, of jesus when he reminds us "the sabbath was made for people, and not people for the sabbath."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

mark yaconelli's error

from a longer post I'm writing for my online class:

The most popular and, I presume effective, youth leader I’ve ever known is my friend Bill who used to be the director of religious education for the congregation I served. Bill wasn’t interested in what he could teach youth about Unitarian Universalism or anything handed down in the UU OWL program as much as he was interested in simply being what Mark Yaconelli describes as being “prayerfully present to young people.” He had few lessons—every once in a while he’d lead them on a hike or a garbage pickup around town or a foraging expedition—but just went outside with them for an hour during services to the park nearby or, if the weather was bad, down into the basement where he’d teach them to play flutes or let them talk about their week.

By all criteria that I can think of Bill’s tenure was successful—the youth group bloomed under his leadership, the kids genuinely looked forward to spending time with him, I’ve heard from parents that they’d often talk the rest of the day about the things Bill had said or shown them, and even years after he’d left if one of them heard that Bill was appearing at a service she’d show up, just to sit next to him or talk with him afterward. He left eventually for the local Methodist church which has a large choir, singing being his second obsession (his own native spirituality being the first). After he left, the youth just dribbled away.

I’m of two minds about Yaconelli’s book. There are parts, especially those that make me think of what Bill was to those kids and the effect he had on them, that I really stand up and cheer for. There are other parts that I take serious issue with.

I’ll take the latter first. There are occasional spots in which Yaconelli seems blind to the effect some his ideas might have on other people—I’m thinking especially of the story he tells in chapter 3 about his epiphany concerning his youth ministry and how it changed after he realized it was up to god and not to him, which sounds wonderful for Yaconelli, but since we never hear how it affected the youth program under him or even if it did, a less charitable reading might suggest he just got comfortable with his own mediocrity—but one story sticks out for all the rest, and that’s the one on pages 117-19 about the young man from the Redwoods Group Home.

Yaconelli’s description of this incident in a local mall is pretty affecting, and I really liked the end of the first part: the man with Down Syndrome ordering and enjoying his own coffee. That’s a good story and an important lesson. Folks with Down Syndrome deserve the respect afforded by making their own, sometimes unhealthy, decisions. But it’s when Yaconelli continues that it’s obvious he can’t see beyond his own experiences.

The sad fact is that the young woman who sat in the puddle with the man and let him cry on her shoulder probably is no longer in that profession. On her return to the Home she would have come up against the rules once an administrator or manager saw the man in soaking wet, stained clothes. Her explanation that she had “participated in the power of God’s healing love through [a] gentle act of solidarity and kindness” (to use Yaconelli’s words), would not cut the mustard with someone who simply wants to know why she let him stay in the rain. At the very least, she was probably reprimanded for not having convinced him sooner to get up and into the van. (Clients putting themselves at risk is one of the few times staff are empowered to use Personal Restraint Techniques if the home was state-run; a private facility makes its own rules, but the staff have fewer safeguards against being fired.) And if he’d gotten sick, as residents living in a facility with other people whose hygiene may not extend beyond the two or three times a day staff can coax them into washing their hands are prone to do, she might even be open to personal financial responsibility by the client’s family because she obviously did not follow procedure or policy. (And before we argue that the policy should be more reflective of the ethics Yaconelli espouses how would we feel is that was our son or brother or father and he was struck with pneumonia?)

What I’m trying to get at is not that the woman was wrong to sit in the puddle with the man and share his grief or that Yaconelli is wrong to point it out as a model for us. What I’m trying to get at is that our response to it is as people outside the event who have no stake in it and we do not take into account the persons immediately involved who might have other responsibilities and who might suffer for their decisions.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I could teach you but I'd have to charge

I don't know enough about economics or finance to know if robert reich's solution is likely to work, but I do know enough about education to know the current system is not working. education is, or ought to be, a holy thing and too often communities treat it as an afterthought. the locally-financed system, which is good on paper and in theory, often leaves public education as the only government function on which people are able to vent their frustrations when times are bad. it leaves the holy office of teacher vulnerable to the anger people may justifiably focus toward other, further-away, unrelated problems.

the usual complaint against public education, that there are too many people making too much money for doing too little work, has been proved false over and over. of course there are individual mediocre teachers and professors--and I've no doubt most of us would end up on other people's lists--but certainly there are statistically fewer than there are, say, mediocre ballplayers or professional poker players or politicians. but mediocre teachers are an aspect of a broken system we think we can do something about, except it almost never happens that way. bad educators have been the bugaboo of taxpayers for a long, long time; by now, if they were the problem, this system would be nearer to ideal. no one thinks it is.

teaching is an honor and most teachers look on it that way. it's time for american communities to catch up with that conviction.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

the quiet voice of truth

"it is a tragic commentary on our broken world that many people do not listen as carefully to the quiet voice of truth as they do to the loud noise of bombs."

--father naim stifan ateek, palestinian xian and anglican priest