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“Peace on Earth” – Classic MGM Christmas Cartoon

23 Dec

Peace On Earth. Classic Christmas cartoon. MGM 1939. Anti-war.

Here is my early Christmas gift to all of my friends and visitors to this blog. I hope you take the 8 1/2 minutes to watch this extraordinary classic cartoon. It is distinguished as being the only cartoon to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I would describe this as a post-apocalyptic, dystopian-yet-utopian tale that presents the true meaning of the peace associated with the Christmas story in a manner that makes it still as relevant today as it was when it was first released, back in 1939. Think of it as an extended meditation on the twin themes of the “peaceable kingdom” and “turning swords into plowshares” that figure so prominently in the Book of Isaiah; two themes which serve as a backdrop to the story of the first Christmas found in the Gospels of Mathhew and Luke. What is ironic and sad is that this cartoon’s powerful anti-war message was largely forgotten or ignored just two years later when the USA entered the throes of WWII.

I post this now as we enter into this year’s Christmas season in hope that perhaps the message of this cartoon may engender in some people a reconsideration of the subversive but much needed message of Christmas: of the power of non-violent love that was incarnated in the coming of the Christ child some 2000 years ago. As we reflect on the sorrow, injustice and violence that plague our world right now, it should be clear that we need this cartoon’s simple message of peace and hope even more today.

I would love to have you post your reactions and thoughts here once you enjoy this heartwarming cartoon and ruminate over its message. And you are certainly encouraged to share or re-post this!

Merry Christmas and “Peace to All People of Good Will!!!”

Tom

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Words from Nelson Mandela

6 Dec

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An Appropriate Prayer for Election Day: “Step Back And Take the Long View”

2 Nov

On this day of the 2010 mid-term elections, I am shortly going to fulfill my civic and spiritual duty by voting my conscience. I will then join others in the effort to encourage other citizens to do the same by making phone calls and/or canvassing neighborhoods. As I embark, I frankly find my characteristic optimism in danger of giving way to despair concerning the probable outcome of this election as I envision the possibility of a rather bleak future for my children and country. Clearly at stake in this election is the election of officials that will assert their power to stem the tide of racism and xenophobia, economic and ecological calamity, the threat of assaults on civil rights and basic freedoms, and an almost certain roll back of some of the much needed health care reforms.

Deep down I realize that, regardless of whatever the immediate voting results might be, I am seeking to join myself with a larger current of grace and providence that trancends not only myself, but even the army of good people involved in effecting positive political change. In the end, as a Christian it is incumbent on me to humbly seek God’s Kingdom and will. Victory is assured. No effort born of a love of Truth and Justice, and motivated by a compassionate concern for my fellow human being and creatures of the earth, will be in vain. I must abandon my fears and renounce even the fruits of my own efforts, patiently trusting in God’s grace to guide this mess to his own end.

Today, then, I offer a prayer written by Roman Catholic Bishop Kenneth Utner for a homily read by Bishop Deardon in 1979. It was preached shortly after the assignation of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who had been assassinated in El Salvador for his stance in solidarity with the poor of that country against the rich and powerful there. The prayer so reflects the spirit and tone of Romero’s own spiritual vision, it is often erroneously attributed to him. With a little adjustment, I find it a perfect prayer to make my own.


It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Amen.

“The Weight of Nothing” – an important parable for this election season

25 Oct

If you are like me, you probably find that it tempting to get discouraged in the face of so many problems and setbacks when we are striving to move our country forward with a progressive agenda, an agenda that will benefit average folks. A sense of despair certainly is difficult to fend off when TV pundits in the mainstream media have virtually swallowed lock stock and barrel the narratives spun by Tea Party kooks and other Neo-Cons, and voices of reason are drowned out by all the noisy clamor. One may well feel that tempted to crawl in a hole while feeling that one’s own voice for justice would be nothing more than a vain burst of hot air. And all of this is complicated by the fact that an avalanche of lies are spun through countless ads sponsoring right-wing politicians whose campaigns are funded by a handful of billionaires and Lord knows how many multinational corporations!

There is a fabulous little story that I recalled today that has given me solace and encouragement. I first heard it some 30 years ago while attending a peace conference that focused on forging a path towards nuclear disarmament. I’d like to share it with you:

The Weight of Nothing

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake !” a blackbird asked a dove.

“Nothing more than nothing!” was the answer.

“In that case I must tell you a marvellous story” the blackbird said.

“I sat on a branch of a fir tree, close to the trunk and it began to snow,

not heavily, not like a raging blizzard. No. Just as in a dream, softly

without violence. Because I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted

the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their

number was exactly 3,741,952. When the next snowflake fell on my

branch – nothing more than nothing – the branch broke !” Having said

that, the blackbird flew away.

The dove, since Noah’s time somewhat of an authority on the matter,

thought about the blackbird’s story, and finally said to herself:

“Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come

about in this world….”

from A Race to Nowhere, by Pax Christi

Now with only a week to go before the mid-term elections, I ask that you please join me and others in getting out the vote! Here are a just a few ideas as to how each of us can do our part to make a difference:

  • First of all, make sure that you personally make it to that voting booth, voting first and foremost with an eye to policies that serve the common good, including the needs of the poor and marginalized.
  • In addition to the typical network newscasts and newspaper sources (e.g., ABC, NBC, CBS), continue to be informed by rebiewing solid and reliable news sources that present news items and analysis with a critical eye for the truth. A few I would personally recommend include National Public Radio, Democracy Now (podcast and on YouTube), Best of the Left podcast (comes out about every three days), Left, Right and Center (podcast), Rachel Maddow (podcast and MSNBC site), and locally there’s the Shepherd Express. Also, there are some good religious publications that maintain a focus on social justice issues. Two that are particularly of note are the National Catholic Reporter and a progressive evangelical magazine called Sojourners. (If you ever wanted other ideas for good news sources, let me know; I pay attention to a ton of them. Also, feel free to post your own ideas!)
  • Help get the truth out by posting links to news items and editorials that simply and clearly help counter rightwing propaganda.
  • When the opportunity arises in conversation with friends and colleagues, don’t be afraid to tactfully speak up, offering your view supported by relevant facts to the address right wing propaganda that might crop up. Of course, do so in a matter-of-fact manner that us free of malice and haughtiness.
  • then, if you have the time and inclination, consider contacting your political party’s local office and volunteer. (I have done this myself, working both in the phone bank and by canvassing neighborhoods with other volunteers on order to both get out the vote and to help educate others though discussion and passing out literature. (I have met some wonderful everyday folks this way.)In the end, let us fight any and all temptation we might feel to give into apathy and inaction, even in the face of what appears to be a rather bleak political landscape. Rather let us each pledge to place into service our own hands, feet, and voices in answer to that age-old question of “what can one man do?” In the words of my favorite singer-songwriter and activist, Bruce Cockburn, we have to “kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” None of us can afford to be that “one lone voice that is needed” for a brighter future for our nation and its people.