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William-Adolphe Bouguereau, La Vierge aux Anges, 1881

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, La Vierge aux Anges, 1881

Some people didn’t like Utah Phillips.  But then, they didn’t like Pete Seeger either.

Utah died in 2008 after creating a lot of mischief in his storytelling and folksinging.  This song, about the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima 70 years ago today, needs to be heard more often.  Thanks to WERU radio for keeping the voice of Utah Phillips alive.

When the northern liberals and the southern conservatives agree on something, pay attention. The end of the world may be near.RDM-square

Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; an author, theologian, ethicist, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. I was very interested to read this article, as Dr. Moore is influential among Christian conservatives throughout the U.S., not only among Southern Baptists.

The Cross and the Confederate Flag by Russell D. Moore

This week the nation reels over the murder of praying Christians in an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. At the same time, one of the issues hurting many is the Confederate Battle Flag flying at full-mast from the South Carolina Capitol grounds even in the aftermath of this racist act of violence on innocent people. This raises the question of what we as Christians ought to think about the Confederate Battle Flag, given the fact that many of us are from the South.

The flag of my home state of Mississippi contains the Confederate Battle Flag as part of it, and I’m deeply conflicted about that. The flag represents home for me. I love Christ, church, and family more than Mississippi, but that’s about it. Even so, that battle flag makes me wince—even though I’m the descendant of Confederate veterans.

Some would say that the Confederate Battle Flag is simply about heritage, not about hate. Singer Brad Paisley sang that his wearing a Confederate flag on his shirt was just meant to say that he was a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. Comedian Stephen Colbert quipped, “Little known fact: Jefferson Davis—HUGE Skynyrd fan.”

Defenders of the flag would point out that the United States flag is itself tied up with ugly questions of history. Washington and Jefferson, after all, supported chattel slavery too. The difference is, though, that the United States overcame its sinful support of this wicked system (though tragically late in the game). The Confederate States of America was not simply about limited government and local autonomy; the Confederate States of America was constitutionally committed to the continuation, with protections of law, to a great evil. The moral enormity of the slavery question is one still viscerally felt today, especially by the descendants of those who were enslaved and persecuted.

The gospel speaks to this. The idea of a human being attempting to “own” another human being is abhorrent in a Christian view of humanity. That should hardly need to be said these days, though it does, given the modern-day slavery enterprises of human trafficking all over the world. In the Scriptures, humanity is given dominion over the creation. We are not given dominion over our fellow image-bearing human beings (Gen. 1:27-30). The southern system of chattel slavery was built off of the things the Scripture condemns as wicked: “man-stealing” (1 Tim. 1:10), the theft of another’s labor (Jas. 5:1-6), the breaking up of families, and on and on.

In order to prop up this system, a system that benefited the Mammonism of wealthy planters, Southern religion had to carefully weave a counter-biblical theology that could justify it (the biblically ridiculous “curse of Ham” concept, for instance). In so doing, this form of southern folk religion was outside of the global and historic teachings of the Christian church. The abolitionists were right—and they were right not because they were on the right side of history but because they were on the right side of God.

Even beyond that, though, the Flag has taken on yet another contextual meaning inconfederate flag sc the years since. The Confederate Battle Flag was the emblem of Jim Crow defiance to the civil rights movement, of the Dixiecrat opposition to integration, and of the domestic terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils of our all too recent, all too awful history.

White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, this descendant of Confederate veterans has more in common with a Nigerian Christian than I do with a non-Christian white Mississippian who knows the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea.

None of us is free from a sketchy background, and none of our backgrounds is wholly evil. The blood of Jesus has ransomed us all “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1 Pet. 1:18), whether your forefathers were Yankees, rebels, Vikings, or whatever. We can give gratitude for where we’ve come from, without perpetuating symbols of pretend superiority over others.

The Apostle Paul says that we should not prize our freedom to the point of destroying those for whom Christ died. We should instead “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night.

That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. White Christians, let’s listen to our African-American brothers and sisters. Let’s care not just about our own history, but also about our shared history with them. In Christ, we were slaves in Egypt—and as part of the Body of Christ we were all slaves too in Mississippi. Let’s watch our hearts, pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors. Let’s take down that flag.

Happy birthday, Bob.

And Ben!

Peanuts -  Bob Dylan 30

My last post was an exercise in frustration—Nick Cave’s “Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow”—because that’s nearly what we had accumulatedDana Winner over a period of two months.  The snow is mostly gone now, and it’s time to get beyond that.

Belgian singer Dana Winner has recorded one the best versions ever of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and although it’s a melancholy love song it does hold hope of summer.  And her voice is way better than Nick Cave’s.  Or Sting’s, for that matter.

Just returned from the medical mission in the Dominican Republic.  More on that later when I sort out photos.  In the meantime see our Hancock County Medical Mission Facebook page or hcmm.homestead.com.nick cave

Thanks to Kat, from Keep the Coffee Coming, for this one:  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow.”

The firewood pile is under there somewhere.  I have already found the truck.

“Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”

—Admiral James T. Kirk, eulogizing Mr. Spock

leonard nimoy

Thursday, 19 February 2015
Hello to all. All well here in Villa Vasquez, Dominican Republic. We’ve almost completed our first week and with no mishaps. The team (Hancock County Medical Mission) left Maine ahead of a major snowstorm and arrived smoothly. I came to the DR three days earlier with wife Jeri’s team, caught up with old friends in San Pedro de Macorís and saw how much the school Colegio Moriah and the Haitian Baptist church had grown since I was last there. On Saturday I met my own team members as they arrived at the airport.

We’re working in two medical groups as usual: the surgical team, which works every day in the local hospital and hardly sees the tropical sun, and the clinic team which goes by bus each day out to small farming villages and shamefully gets sunburned while doing general family medicine and occasional referrals to the surgical team or to Dominican specialists. Teo and Frida, the MMI directors, are also MDs and are treating patients. I’m translating for an MD named Ron from Saskatchewan, Canada.

Most of the days we set up clinic in school buildings, usually a kind of sprawling affair of long rooms separated by courtyards, secure for kids and also for a medical team. We’ve seen some beautiful places along the way, one of them about 1000 feet up with a view of the sea. Not too hot here, mid-eighties, and comfortable nights sleeping. Good hotel, concrete and tile with running water (usually) but no hot showers and no wi-fi. We eat in a rented house about four blocks away, meals cooked by MMI staff (that’s Medical Ministry International, our hosts) and the hospital is a few blocks from there, so it’s easy to walk around. Small town, easy to walk from one side to another, and friendly. We’ve gotten to know a few people in town—Andrea, the lady who owns the pizza place (best wi-fi AND best pizza around) and she speaks good English because she comes and goes from New Jersey.  Antonio, the security guard here at the hotel is also very friendly and we aren’t at all intimidated by the stockless shotgun that he carries around like a cane. Very talkative, and these people are great to learn from. Besides ourselves I don’t think we’ve seen anybody from the United States except for a woman with the Peace Corps. Villa Vasquez NOT a tourist destination.

Farming country nearby, lots of bananas, rice fields, and on today’s trip some tobacco. Sugar, but not so much in this area. Saw a few kinds of cactus on the ride today, and that area was very dry¸ many buildings with gutters and pipes set up to collect rainwater in cisterns. Old fashioned outhouses at the school where we worked today, and in some ways this is a step up from the proper flush toilets at the hospital—I’m told that there was no water at all there today and they had to lug buckets when the toilets got too foul.

Typical surgeries include hernia repair, gall bladder removal, lumpectomies. Probably other major surgeries like hysterectomies and tubal ligation but I’m not with that team this year [update: Charlie just confirmed all of the above, but said “lots of hernias”]. The hospital in Villa Vasquez has an OB unit so there have been two or three childbirths each day. Sarra, one of our scholarship students, has been with the surgical team, working pre-op and post-op, and has seen a few newborns, although not the births themselves. Taylor, our other student, has been with the clinic team and working with integrated health, which works as a waiting area after patients have seen the doctors and while prescriptions are being filled. During that time they receive a lesson in health care and hygiene and a gospel message, then instructions about taking their medications when the meds are ready. Taylor has been translating and assisting and she clearly loves kids. Also, there are three other teenage girls on the trip from Virginia. All are rooming together with an adult, an OB surgeon, to keep things on the level.

Food great, by the way. The MMI cooks have been doing this a long time. No chance of losing weight, especially with the pizza place as the wi-fi hot spot. Breakfasts include eggs, maybe bacon or sausage, fruit, choice of cereals and the best granola except for Jeri’s. We start breakfast with a praise song and close it with a short devotional by whoever had volunteered. My turn was this morning, and it was on Psalm 100. We also start the work day with an introduction to the people we’ll be treating, with a “circle time” that includes the song “Alabaré” (I will praise) and a prayer. The key is to be brief because it can be a long day.

I’ll close now, go over to the pizza place to connect and (try) to send this. Charlie and the gang are already over there. This time of evening I’ll walk past a bunch of older men playing dominoes on card tables on the sidewalk. You’d think it was a world-class chess match. Maybe it is, or better.

Thanks for praying. Keep it up for us, would you? See you next week in the snowdrifts.
Ted

PS—Also check out our Facebook page, Hancock County Medical Mission.  Charlie has been posting photos and videos of the OR team.  I’ll try to put this up on my blog, https://fromoffshore.wordpress.com and may include a few of my own photos in a few days.

Now you don’t have to choose between Downton Abbey and the Super Bowl.

Life is a game, in which the player must appear ridiculous.”

—Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

He’s still there…

We thought Triomphe would disappear during yesterday’s Blizzard of ’15.  With a storm surge and northeast winds gusting into hurricane force, even a dead humpback whale should have been pulled off the island.

He washed up on Christmas Day (see blog post of January 5th) just east of the old Coast Guard Station, and the next storm washed him around the point, dropping him in front of the stone wall, right under Frank and Kim’s front porch.

He did move about 75 yards farther out, no longer up against the wall of the Station, and at least he’s well below the high tide line—so another storm may take him out to feed the lobsters.  Unless it’s a southeaster, in which case he may end up in the rosebushes.

Jeri and I hiked down to the Station with Skip and Sally around mid-day; it had just quit snowing and the sun was starting to come out.  Barb joined us along the way (see article in The Working Waterfront about Triomphe, written by Barb).

This is what we saw:

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 011

Jeri

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 019

Jeri, Skip & Sally

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 025

Barb joined us.

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 026

A lot easier walking on the wet sand

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 034

Triomphe

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 042

Baker’s Island in the distance

Seagull footprints in his ribbed underbelly

Seagull footprints in his ribbed underbelly

Photos - 2015 Jan blizzard & whale 043

This will work if you’re a Gilbert & Sullivan fan, or if you’re familiar with theModern Major General song from The Pirates of Penzance, “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” (even if you don’t remember where it came from).

As for the biblical philology stuff, I used to hang around people who did this, so yeah, it’s funny if you’re into that stuff too. In fact, it’s hilarious.

Laugh. Or not. The back button is at the upper left.

By the way, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Maine will be doing Yeomen of the Guard this year at The Grand in Ellsworth, Feb 6, 7 & 8.

Eight degrees below zero this morning (that’s Fahrenheit; it’s -22 to those of you in the Celsius countries). Northwest wind and sea smoke and the mailboat cancelled all runs today.

Facebook is lit up with people wondering what happened to global warming.

It’s winter, folks. It’s supposed to get cold. The summers in the Arctic are what could become the problem: what’s melted and what’s not. Today, nothing’s melted; everything up there is good and frozen as it’s supposed to be, and some of it’s blowing this way.

Here is a lesson from the British on how to understand the phenomenon. Study it. It could keep you out of jail.

*and a cat.

Jeri and I have been married 35 years today and it looks like we’ll make a go of it. Jeri & Ted 35th anniversary brt It was chilly and breezy today, but not as cold as the 5th of January 1980—cold as a dog and the wind no’th-east, as Ruth Moore would say.  I have cousins here in Maine who still complain about how cold it was on the island the day we got married—and they go ice fishing and snowmobiling for fun. Today the wind was northwest, a clear dry wind, pulling arctic air after yesterday’s storm—but the temperature hadn’t fallen much below freezing after the warm southeaster—so it was a pleasant enough walk on the back beach.  We decided to take a few photos of the dead 36-foot humpback whale that washed up on Christmas Day.

Photos - Whale Triomphe, Little Sal 041

Left to right: Triomphe, Jeri

Triomphe, as he was called, was identified last week by members of Allied Whale and the College of the Atlantic.  He was born seven years ago in the Dominican Republic and likely would have gone back there this winter.  No indication yet as to why he died. How do they know one whale from another?  Barnacles.  Each whale has a unique barnacle pattern, unique as fingerprints; and the ones on the tail are often visible by boat and easily photographed.  Researchers can track migration patterns by comparing photographs from other researchers or even from tourists on a whale watch excursion.

Photos - Whale Triomphe, Little Sal 044

Enormous barnacles on Triomphe’s underbelly.

Triomphe had washed ashore here on Little Cranberry Island just to the east of the Old Coast Guard Station (now a summer home) but during the southeaster a couple of nights ago came adrift, made his way around the point (going over Baker’s Island Bar a bit) and nestled up against the stone wall at the foot of the Station.  I think we’ll need a no’theaster to set him adrift completely, but winter is made up of those.  In the meantime, he’s made the front pages of local papers and of course Facebook is fond of him. Photos - Whale Triomphe, Little Sal 047

The three on the right came after we got married 35 years ago.  They made the new guy wear a yellow shirt so he'd match.   No whales were harmed in the making of this photo.

The three on the right came after we got married 35 years ago. They made the new guy wear a yellow shirt so he’d match.
No whales were harmed in the making of this photo.

Photos - Whale Triomphe, Little Sal 031

Believe it or not, you can see the whale here. Click over the photo, then click again to enlarge. Triomphe is the dark mass just to the right of the stone wall at the Station.

* Here is a picture of the cat:

Little Sal on Heather's bed

Little Sal

I didn’t mean to take the rest of the year off.  June through December 2014 had much to tell, but much of it difficult and best left untold. Mostly though, all are well and ready to tackle 2015.

There were joys however: there was a wedding in September, the highlight of the year, and that deserved a blog post. But photos are up on Jeri’s Facebook page at least, and maybe I’ll post a few here someday.

For a New Year prayer, here’s what I found on a friend’s blog: it’s attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but may be more contemporary. No matter, it’s here, and very un-American.st-francis1 reversed

Most of the versions on the web omit the final verse but I include it as a benediction. St. Francis would approve.

Is it a blessing or a curse?

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

Amen.

Dylan turns 73 today. Bob Dylan - early - at mic

Here’s a recording of him at his first TV appearance, about age 22, singing the traditional ballad “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Notice in his early style the debt that Dylan owes to Woody Guthrie, who was born about the time the song may have been written (possibly by Dick Burnett, a fiddler from Kentucky), about a century ago.