Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

The Path of Totality: Part 1 Transfiguration

I woke that Sunday morning with a heightened sense of angst.  August 6 was the seventy second anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The industrial catastrophe at Fukushima was continuing to spew radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean and war tensions were growing on the Korean Peninsula.  It seemed to me, that with the exception of the people of Japan, and a few global disarmament groups, the deployment and use of nuclear weapons was losing its reprehensible aura.
 
Indeed the deployment and use of strategic nuclear weapons was creeping into the narrative as a solution to the North Korean problem. So as Earth proceeds into the seventh decade of post Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy, the rationale and consequences of its aftermath and its place as an historical marker signifying a horrific tipping point in the Anthropocene Age was fading from global consciousness. I thought it might be a good day to get my ass to church.
 
I’ve been a church going person for well over two decades.  Baptized and confirmed as an adult into the Anglican Communion, today I consider myself half Episcopalian, half Quaker as a “small f” Friend. With this composition I got all the angles of high and low church covered.  I sup at the Lord’s Table as a free will Christian and tend the inner light of social justice as a free thinking unfettered Friend.  Though my church attendance has been few and far between the past few years its more the result of spiritual fatigue than backsliding reprobation.  
 
My recent relocation to Florida placed me near an Episcopal church. Inside its Red Doors I discovered a typically dispassionate but collegially earnest multiracial parish.  The sanctuary was well lit, suitably air conditioned and blessed with ample space accentuated with all the modern accouterments of worship.  I had attended a service a few weeks back and the Rector just returning from a west coast vacation preached on Matthew 11:28, “come to me all who are weary and I shall give you rest.” I took the reading to be a propitious affirmation of the reason for my retreat to the Sunshine State.  Though his homily was a bit parochial, I reasoned this is the theology of deep Central Florida. These are the parishioners who helped elect Trump President and returned Rick “don’t use the term climate change” Scott and Lil ”I hate the senate” Marco back to their respective offices.  This parish is located about an hour south of the place where “stand your ground” George Zimmerman walked away from murdering Trayvon Martin and about an hour north of state sanctioned corporate bio-hazard Lake Okeechobee.   
 
As I settled in the pew I was pleased to discover that it was the Feast of the Transfiguration.  Thank God I thought.  Another propitious attendance at Sunday services.  All too often I reluctantly drag my dead ass out of bed on Sunday morning to get to services.  Many times I was glad I did and came away convinced that divine kismet or should I say a predestined Calvinist grace put my ass in the pew to hear the word specially crafted for me and my current life situation.  
 
Today I was hungry to hear a message that transcends the pedestrian dread the 24/7 cable news cycle pedals in the error of Trump. I was eager to hear how this critical Gospel story concerning transformation related to the dire need for transfiguring our broken world. Perhaps some insights into how the attitudes and responses to the problems of daily life continues to elicit the same old responses binding us to stasis, intractable conflict, resentment and distrust.   I was ripe for transfiguration myself.  My ossified Neo Marxism, coupled with Old Main Line Protestant Liberalism and a strong dollop of passionate Jesuit Liberation Theology was falling short in constructing a dialectical understanding of the class struggle in the Age of the Avatar.  So eagerly I lent my ears to hear the word.
 
Most are familiar with the Gospel reading of Luke 9 28-36.   Jesus goes up to the mountain with Peter, James and John.  Jesus goes to a place to pray and his three disciples witness Jesus transfigured in a state of glowing white.  Jesus is filled with divine glory as he converses with Elijah and Moses about his coming resurrection.  Peter approaches a divinely lit Jesus and asks if he should build tree tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  A voice descends from heaven declaring “This is my Chosen Son. Listen to Him.”  Elijah and Moses disappear.
 
The Rector’s homily offered an apologetic of Peter’s Epistle. (2 Peter 1 13-21).  Peter, the flawed one.  Always fraught with inconsistent doubt, ready to offer an incorrect answer. Offering to build three tents for departing visitors.  Peter, swayed by enthusiasm and the whims of passion would leap off a boat and dutifully sink into the morass of unbelief. Or worse, denying His Lord three times before the cock crowed.  Though we love Peter for his deep humanity and all the foibles of being human, his Epistle fails to address the troubles of this world. Indeed he doesn’t even raise them. We must console ourselves in the knowledge that Peter witnessed the Transfiguration.  Peter’s prophecy concerning what he witnessed on the mountain proving The Christ is Lord unfortunately did not prohibit his denial of Jesus after his arrest in Gethsemane. It would take a post resurrection visitation by Jesus before Peter finally got the religion.  In this Epistle we can say this is how religion becomes ideology. Rote acceptance without real world pertinence.  As Christian’s we are Transfigured in Christ to live as transfigured beings in a transfigured world.  The word is made flesh by its application to real world conditions.  It answers the ills of the world as a real balm that heals wounds, changes hearts, transfigures minds and informs actions.  The Rector stood squarely on the dogma of Peter’s Epistle while totally ignoring the bleeding world outside the Red Doors crying out to be recognized, understood and transfigured.  
 
As we filed out of the church I sarcastically thanked Rector James for his passionate apologetics. He in turn asked my name and excitedly continued the line of his sermon. He failed to detect my sarcasm.  I wanted to inquire how the story of the Transfiguration related to the anniversary of Hiroshima, or the growing threat of war with North Korea or Iran but the exit queue was not the place.  I blessed the Rector, dipped my fingers into the dish of Holy Water, crossed myself and left the sanctuary.
 
Returning home I meditated on the homily.  I believed the Rector wasted an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of the living Gospel.  Hiroshima is one of the seminal transfiguring events of the 20th century and not a word or prayer was raised.  The global ascendance of the technology of mass destruction, the commencement of the Cold War, the political proclivities of MAD and how it profanes the Holy Spirit, the thinking behind the decision to unleash the atomic genie on a community of Asians,  the mass scale of death, the imagery of total destruction,  the release of a second bomb and the decision metrics concerning its necessity, the aftermath narrative and the complicit media, the mass poisoning of the people and the land, the slow debilitating deaths of 200,000 people suffering radiation sickness,  the altered psychology of civilization,  the politics of racial animus, nuclear arms testing in the Bikini Islands,  the morality of disarmament and the insistence of moral justification, atoms for peace, mass proliferation of nuclear energy, mass proliferation of nuclear waste, cleanup and storage of nuclear waste, management of nuclear waste, the ecology of stewardship, Three Mile Island, Hanford, Chernobyl, Fukushima and the next nuclear incident, thermonuclear war with North Korea and Iran. The Rector clearly a missed opportunity to shine the Light of Christ to quell the darkness surrounding the crying needs of the swooning world.
 
As the week progressed the escalating rhetoric surrounding the North Korean nuclear threat and the response of the United States was building to a crescendo.  In response to military provocations by the USA (fly overs and maneuvers with Japan’s military),  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un threatened to visit mass destruction on the purveyors of imperialism.
 
Tuesday was the eve of the the 72nd anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing and Trump was attending a symposium on the opioid epidemic.  During the meeting, from the bourgeois civility of his Bedminster country club boardroom,  Trump bellowed the United States will deliver “fire and fury, like the world has never seen” upon North Korea if it threatens America or its allies again.  
 
True to his brand of irresponsible recklessness, Trump’s bombast sought to match Kim Jong-Un’s latest temper tantrum.  Trump drew a shock and awe red line for Kim who quickly crossed it with a threat to drop missiles within twenty miles of the American Protectorate of Guam.  
 
The world is trapped in a pattern of conditioned cause and response.  Unable to transfigure our prism of understanding or the mode of response to our problems, vitriolic hyperbole and threats of violence inches the Doomsday Clock ever closer to game over midnight.
 
Part 2: The Fire Next Time
 
Music: Donald Byrd, Change
 
Orlando
8/21/17

jbm

 
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August 23, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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