Review of Hacksaw Ridge

Yeah, I realize that it’s been an extremely long time since I used my WordPress site, but here we are.

We saw #HacksawRidge last night (Tuesday, 11/1/16) on a pre-screening. Since a friend or two asked on Facebook for our opinion, I thought that I’d share on various social outlets.

Mel Gibson does a really good job in the “first two acts” of developing the character of Desmond Doss, why he was a conscientious objector, and what it might have been like to be a CO in WW2. Act 3 is the battle, and it’s typical Gibson violence (extremely graphic and gratuitous). At least 20 minutes are nothing but bullets, flame throwers, and hand grenades.

Given that the main character is a conscientious objector, I’m not clear why so much graphic violence is needed to tell his story. The incongruence is enough to make me believe that they created such violent scenes “just because they could” and “because it will sell a lot of tickets.” (Please don’t tell me “that’s the way battle was” because such a statement doesn’t refute my point.)

Potential viewers should balance the possibility of seeing a good story against the gut-wrenching, graphic violence for such a long period of time.

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Sesame Street Reflection

Since I have four siblings younger than I (by 2, 5, 9, and 14 years), Sesame Street was on our TV most days after school for many years. One of the features was the “People That You Meet” segment, and they featured a police officer, a firefighter, a letter carrier, and so on. If memory serves, they never mentioned

• The person, walking down the street, having an argument with themselves;
• The person, waiting for a train, who paces incessantly over a 10-foot range;
• The person, whom you’ve never met before, who will strike up a conversation like you were their long-lost best friend.

There are others, of course, and given my upcoming move to Center City Philadelphia and regular commuting by train, *THOSE* will most likely be “the people that [I’ll] meet each day.”

«Cue theme song»

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Prayer for Memorial Day

God of the living and of the dead, God of our ancestors and of our descendants, God in whom we all live, and move, and have our being: We come before you in prayer on this Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country and those who gave their lives in service to others or to protect others’ lives.

We thank you for men and women who set aside their everyday lives to enter military service. Some volunteered; others were drafted. Some became officers, and others served without significant rank. We give you thanks for them all.

We pray especially this day in remembrance of those who lost their lives while on active duty. In your eyes, no life is inconsequential, and no death insignificant. Send forth your Spirit to comfort their loved ones.

Your Son taught us that no one has or expresses greater love than one who lays down his or her own life for the sake of another. We pray in remembrance of all those — military or civilian — who gave their lives while in service to others or in order to save others’ lives. Such selflessness is an embodiment of your all-encompassing love in our world. Grant that, as we reflect upon and remember such self-sacrifice, we may follow their example and set aside our own self-interest in service to others, even when that service may put our own lives or safety in jeopardy.

We also pray that you would open us to all acts of love, large and small, that others do, so that we may be grateful for them, and to those acts of love that we may do, so that we extend your Kingdom through our loving deeds of service to others. All this we ask through your Son, our Savior, Christ the Lord. Amen

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Prayer for Peace

God of all peoples and nations, we pray today for peace amongst your human children.

We confess that our sin and our pride blind us to your way of peace in our world. We would rather rely on our own strength, our own initiative, and our own ideas than to work cooperatively or to seek others’ thoughts, ideas, and guidance. We like to possess and control more, and we grow jealous of those who have what we do not have. For these and for many other reasons, we provoke and prod one another until a violent response breaks out. Forgive our foolish pride and selfish insistence on “having it our way.” Send instead your Spirit to enlighten our minds, open our hearts, and to guide us into the ways of peaceful cooperation with each other.

We pray for those whose lives are affected daily by violence: for those who live in war-torn areas, for those who live with domestic abuse and violence, and for those who live in violent neighborhoods. We pray that we will be generous to and supportive of organizations that work to reduce violence, to address people’s needs, and to rescue or assist those whose lives are so affected.

We pray for diplomats, emissaries, and peace envoys around the world. Imbue them with the wisdom that they need to speak peace, to encourage peace between nations and peoples, and to reach out to leaders of the nations to assist them to work toward peace, at home, and with their neighbors.

Finally, O God, we pray for the day when all human divisions and barriers will be eliminated, when all conflict and strife will cease, and when all people will follow the Way of your Son, the Prince of Peace, through whom we pray. Amen

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Prayer for Service Personnel

God of us all, we pray this day for all those who are in service to our country in our military forces. We ask that you would watch over, care for, and protect them. We know that their jobs are difficult, straining every nerve, muscle, and fiber of their being, so give them the strength that they need to carry out their duties well.

For those who are serving far from their home: Grant that their sense of loneliness and separation from family and friends be ameliorated by camaraderie, by frequent communications with home, and by a sense of your comforting Presence.

For those who are serving in places of active conflict:  Give them the alertness, the energy, and the stamina that they need to endure this time of conflict. We pray that any and all conflict would come to a quick and peaceful resolution.

For those who serve Stateside and/or in the Reserves: We ask that you give them the wisdom that they need for their work and the courage to stand ready to move quickly, if Orders should come to do so. We also thank you for their willingness and ability to move into areas of natural disaster or other local emergencies, and for their faithfulness in assisting those who are in great turmoil and need.

For Military Chaplains: Surround them with your loving grace and compassion. May your grace and love be made known through their ministries by all those whose lives they touch.

For Military Families: Send forth your Spirit to provide them the strength that they need. Enable them to endure times of separation from their loved ones, and provide them with the ability to love and care for their family members through mail, telephone calls, email, and other communications.

Grant that we all will remember to be grateful to those who serve or who have served in the military. Help us to support them by our care, our concern, and our prayers.

Finally, O God, we pray for the day when your Kingdom truly comes in this world, when wars and conflicts cease, and when we all become one family in Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we pray. Amen

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It Gets Better

I’m not one who has access to a web camera or other digital video camera, so I thought that I’d add my part for the “It Gets Better” Project by way of my blog.

Over the last several weeks, a number of teens and very young adults took their own lives because they had been bullied or harassed because they came out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or because people simply believed or assumed they were gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This is a national tragedy. Bullying (especially “cyber-bullying”) has increased significantly over the last few years. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in persons 15-24 years of age, and gay or lesbian kids are four times more likely than their straight counterparts to commit suicide.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender kids, youth, and young adults are often on the receiving end of bullying. Because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they are perceived to be different, weird, or odd by their peers. Even though many strides have been made over the forty-one years since the Stonewall Riots toward more equal rights for all people, the LGBTQ community is still maligned, mis-characterized, and misunderstood. Adults’ attitudes inform the attitudes of their own children or children over whom they have some influence (e.g. pastors, teachers, youth group leaders, etc.). Intolerance on the part of adults breeds intolerance in the children and youth they influence.

It is sad that parts of the Church are responsible for the intolerance of many people. When the Church points to Biblical passages that refer to sexual practices as an “abomination,” that is quickly translated by many Christians as, “gay people are an abomination.” Even The United Methodist Church’s proclamation that, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (The United Methodist Book of Discipline 2008, paragraph 161G), is hurtful language. It still implies that there is something wrong with gays or lesbians. The language of the Church is reinterpreted by many to justify cruelty to or intolerance of LGBTQ persons.

Thank God that there are pastors who make sure that the members of their congregations know that all people – straight, gay, young, old, male, transgender, female – are an important part of the Body of Christ. Even The United Methodist Book of Discipline states that, “Homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons, are individuals of sacred worth,” and that we Methodists support equal rights for all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation (paragraphs 161G and 162H). Many within The United Methodist Church identify as Reconciling United Methodists, working toward the day when all God’s people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are welcome to participate fully in all the rites and the ministry orders of the Church. Such people and positive language is the only way that we will steer the Church away from hateful and hurtful attitudes towards sexual minority persons.

Let me make my own opinion perfectly clear: After years of careful and thorough study of the texts and the traditions, after much prayer and conversation with folks of all sorts of opinions, I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered persons; they are persons of sacred worth, created in the image of God, living into being whom God has called them to be. It is as honorable to live in a committed, homosexual relationship as it is to live in a committed, heterosexual relationship. God created us all equal, imbued us all with his spirit of love, and calls us to live in loving relationship with each other.

So, does it get better? For the sake of the Church and the hurting LGBTQ persons of this world, that is what we hope and pray for. Jesus started this movement called “The Kingdom of God.” In his initial band of followers, he included a lot of First-Century-Palestine “outsiders”: women, tax collectors, poor people, the physically or emotionally disabled whom he had healed; all these were considered “less than persons” in their society. Some of them were even labeled as “abominations.” Jesus’ remedy? He called those who would be part of the Kingdom of God to love all people, regardless of their background or what others thought of them. That call and command of Christ has not changed one iota. We, too, if we are part of the Body of Christ, must reach out in love, care, and concern to every person we meet and love and welcome them into the Kingdom of God.

But loving actions and welcoming attitudes are not enough. We must speak out against bullying, bigotry, and intolerance, in whatever forms they present themselves. This includes speaking out against intolerant language on the part of the Church and/or its leaders. No matter what hurt – especially hurtful language and attitudes – is being caused to someone else, each of us has a responsibility to stop it. We are also responsible to monitor our own language and attitudes, avoiding off-color jokes about “those people” or mean, off-hand comments made about certain groups of people. Not only are they not funny, they are hurtful and are part of the problem.

Finally, we must affirm to all our children, youth, young adults, the middle aged, and the senior citizens of all sorts, stripes, backgrounds, and orientations: God loves you, we love you, and we all need each other to make this world a better place. Only when we learn to live, work, and love together will the sentence be true that “It Gets Better.”

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International Day of Prayer for Peace, 9/21/10

The World Council of Churches (WCC) sponsors an International Day of Prayer for Peace on September 21 each year.  This date corresponds with the UN International Day for Peace.  You may read more about both at the WCC’s webpage.

A resource that I often use, “World News this Week in Prayer,” has adapted a prayer for the day from a church in Tanzania to include specific petitions.  It is a very good prayer, and you can find it here.

Wanda Lawrence, a Chippewa, wrote the following prayer, which is included in The United Methodist Book of Worship (© 1992 The United Methodist Publishing House):

We pray that someday an arrow will be broken, not in something or someone, but by each of humankind, to indicate peace, not violence.  Someday, oneness with creation, rather than domination over creation, will be the goal to be respected.  Someday fearlessness to love and make a difference will be experienced by all people.  Then the eagle* will carry our prayer for peace and love, and the people of the red, white, yellow, brown, and black communities can sit in the same circle together to communicate in love and experience the presence of the Great Mystery in their midst.  Someday can be today for you and me.  Amen

(*An eagle in the Native American traditions is often a carrier of prayer.)

I trust that each of us will find a way to pray for peace on Tuesday, September 21.

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