February 27, 2020

Collect for a Time of Contagion

Americans are increasingly anxious about coronavirus and its potential to cause a pandemic. Public statements from the governments of both China and the United States are rightly viewed as untrustworthy and, therefore, not comforting.

I searched the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and found no prayer that seemed apropos of the threat posed by coronavirus. Therefore, I decided to write one. The result is the collect below.

For a Time of Contagion

Most merciful God, whose Son manifested your love by healing the sick, protect us from advancing contagion and the fear thereof, and grant wisdom to those who, by virtue of training or election, are guardians of public health, so that we may cast aside our fears and continue to advance the Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

February 8, 2020

O God of All the Nations

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is a Presbyterian minister who is also a hymn writer. America’s recent political upheavals have inspired her to compose a new hymn, “O God of All the Nations,” which she has set to one of my favorite hymn tunes, LLangloffan (see information about this tune on Hymnary.org). Although Gillette hasn’t said so on her Web site, I suspect that her text was in part inspired by “O God of Every Nation,” which is also set to LLangloffan. (One of my own hymns can also be sung to this tune, although, for historical reasons, Munich was my first choice.)

Some have criticized this hymn as too “political.” I have two responses to this criticism. First, Gillette has offered a number of biblical citations to justify her text; it is surely scripturally based. At least as important, however, is the fact that much of the Old Testament can be viewed as political commentary. Separating God from politics separates God from considerations of good and evil. If our worship is oblivious of the world around us, including the political world, it is simply solipsistic.

I am perhaps not a disinterested observer respecting the Gillette hymn, as I myself have recently written two collects in reaction to the behavior of our current president (“For a Troubled Nation” and “For an Impeachment Trial of the President”). I don’t consider my collects to be different in kind from those in the Book of Common Prayer.

I have reproduced “O God of All the Nations” below. You can also find it on Gillette’s own Web site here, on a page that carries the following notice:
Copyright © December 19, 2019 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for free use of this hymn.

O God of All the Nations
Tune: Llangloffan 76. 76. D

O God of all the nations, your ancient prophets saw
That kings and institutions are not above the law.
Integrity is precious, and truth will one day stand;
Your way is peace and justice, and love is your command.

O God, when times are troubled, when lies are seen as truth,
When power-hungry people draw praise and not reproof,
When greed is seen as greatness, when justice is abused,
We pray that those who lead us will know what they must choose.

We pray they’ll gather wisdom and lift up high ideals,
To guide our struggling nation along a path that heals.
We pray they’ll have the vision to value each good law,
To put aside ambition, to seek the best for all.

O God of all the nations, may those who lead us see
That justice is your blessing, that truth will set us free.
Give all of us the courage to seek the nobler way,
So in this land we cherish, the good will win the day.

February 2, 2020

The Iowa Caucus Poll

 The final and much-anticipated poll results from the Des Moines Register were not released yesterday. Questions about the validity of the polling caused the newspaper to withhold publishing what were seen as questionable results. (See, for example, the New York Times story here.) Apparently, the Iowa caucuses will have to go forward tomorrow without the poll results.

The polling snafu may be a blessing. Who knows what the ultimate result of such a poll might be? If candidate A is leading in the poll, does that encourage supporters to participate in a caucus or to confidently stay home? If candidate B is behind, does the candidate’s supporters, discouraged, stay home and drink hot chocolate, or do they trudge through the snow in the hope of showing the pollsters wrong?

We’ll likely never really know the effect of the absence of a last-minute poll. We will, however, know the result of the caucuses tomorrow.

January 30, 2020

A Policy Declaration All Democrats Should Love

From the competition between Democratic presidential candidates so far, one might be led to think that policy positions are the most important criteria on which we should judge presidential hopefuls. In fact, many experts point out that voters tend to select the person, rather than the person’s policies. Certainly, expectation of what a particular candidate might actually do in office is important, but it can be difficult to rank candidates on policy alone if one considers objectives, the mix of objectives, and the likelihood of accomplishing what is being promised.

There is one pledge I would like to hear Democratic presidential candidates make, and it is a one that would be widely applauded by Democratic voters. In fact, it would be great if all Democratic candidates made this pledge. (That wouldn’t help differentiate the candidates, but it would increase peace-of-mind among Democratic voters.) The promise would go something like this:
I will appoint cabinet members and advisors who are experts in their field, rather than self-aggrandising grifters and political hacks. Furthermore, I will always give serious consideration to recommendations made by those I appoint and by career professionals within the government. I will listen to voices outside the government as well, but always with a healthy variness of the self-interest of those offering advice.
In most years, this would seem an odd pledge. After all, isn’t that what a president should do? This year, however, the declaration is a promise to undo much of the damage wrought by Trump and his minions—well, to begin to undo that damage anyway and to foster an environment that can advance the general welfare of the American people.

January 20, 2020

Collect for an Impeachment Trial of the President

I have written a number of collects, either for general use or for use in particular circumstances. As the Senate prepares to try the President of the United States, a special prayer seems to be in order, particularly since the outcome appears likely to be an unfortunate one. I hope that this collect is seldom appropriate. Before the trial of President Donald John Trump begins in earnest, however, I offer the following prayer:

For an Impeachment Trial of the President

Almighty God, whose precepts direct us into all righteousness, inspire those who sit in judgment of our president to pursue justice with wisdom, courage, and integrity, so that this nation may again display the love and compassion of your Son, our Savior, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

January 15, 2020

McConnell’s Kangaroo Court

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants a Senate “trial” of President Trump without the introduction of any documents or witnesses.

A court proceeding without documents and witnesses is simply a kangaroo court. Without documents and witnesses, the trial is a he-said-she-said affair. The prosecution and the defense can assert anything at all, and there will be no evidence to support or refute it.

Is this really happening in America?

January 11, 2020

Gilmore Girls

A few days ago, I received a Blu-ray disk of Bad Santa from Netflix. For some reason, I had put this movie in my queue some time ago, and I ended up with it because to disc at the top of my queue was not immediately available. Having forgotten why I wanted to see Bad Santa in the first place, I expected a movie that was rather stupid. It wasn’t that, but it was quite transgressive and generally in bad taste.

The bad Santa of the title is played by Billy Bob Thornton, and his love interest, such as she is, is played by Lauren Graham. If I never see another Billy Bob Thornton movie, it will be too soon, but I was smitten by Lauren Graham’s smile. I knew her from Gilmore Girls, of course, and always thought her an attractive and talented actress. (Are we still allowed to use the word “actress”?)

Anyway, watching Bad Santa reminded me how much I liked Gilmore Girls, the entire series of which I have seen at least twice. So, last night on Netflix, I watched the pilot of the series, largely to see Graham again and to remind myself how all the important relationships in the series were set up in the first hour. It is an impressive hour of television. Today, I watched the second episode of season 1.

Re-watching this series is a real joy. I don’t have to pay much attention to plot, as I am quite familiar with that aspect of the show. This allows me to concentrate on the fast-paced and clever dialogue. I found myself laughing a lot, probably more than I had on previous viewings. I’ll likely watch more episodes whenever I need to relax and recharge.

If you aren’t familiar with Gilmore Girls, I recommend your watching it streaming on Netflix. Loren Graham plays single-mom Lorelai Gilmore, and Alexis Bledel, who has gone on to appear in many roles, including in The Handmaid’s Tale, plays her teenage daughter Rori (also Lorelai Gilmore). You won’t be disappointed.