KATHMANDU, Nepal—The Boeing 737 loaded with relief supplies and caregivers touched down at Tribhuvan International Airport six days (nearly to the minute) after the first of two cataclysmic earthquakes wrecked havoc on the tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal.
Joining me aboard the flight from Singapore were a few other journalists from the United States and Europe, a team from the China Lingshan International Rescue in their distinctive fire engine red uniforms, and several dozen surgeons from South Africa who had come to Nepal with Gift of the Giver organization, an NGO founded in 1992 by a Sufi sheik from Istanbul.
Among us were Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains—people of good will of many religious traditions and none at all. What we had in common was a desire to help the gentle people of Nepal (one of the poorest nations in the world) who had suffered through the devastation of an earthquake on April 24 so massive that it actually moved the global satellite positioning of its capital city by nearly 10 feet.
For some of us, that assistance took the form of pulling corpses and a few miraculous survivors from the concrete and brick ruins of homes, businesses, and even houses of worship leveled by the first earthquake. (A second earthquake of nearly the same size—7.3 on the Richter scale—struck Nepal on May 11, the day after I returned to California from Nepal.)
Others—the healers from Africa and elsewhere—would offer relief to the traumatized during grueling shifts in Nepal’s overwhelmed hospitals, in surgical theaters, setting broken bones, stitching wounds, and compassionate bedside care.
Interspersed among us, undoubtedly, were those hoping to offer some kind of spiritual aid, solace, or direction to the Nepalese. In generations past, we might simply have labeled this cohort “missionaries,” visitors hoping to share their version of the gospel truth with the broken and brokenhearted.
Continue reading the entire report at Religion Dispatches HERE.
OK KIDS — TIME TO GROW UP, GET UP AND GET TO WORK
President Obama’s inaugural address might not have been one for the ages.
But it certainly was the right one for the moment.
Somber, sober and almost stern, our new president placed a mantle before the nation — We, the people — and gave us a gentle, but clear, kick in the collective pants.
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America,” he said. “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
“We remain a young nation,” Obama said, “but, in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”
He was quoting from the New Testament — 1 Corinthians 13: 11 — St. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, Greece.
I was struck by the implications of this choice of Scripture, in a speech in which the president explicitly reached out to the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and non-believing populations as well as to his own Christian community.
Most people, if they are familiar with this particular Bible passage, probably have heard it read at a wedding. This is the “love chapter” — verses that come before and after the one the president quoted — speak eloquently about true love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails,” it says.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
When St. Paul wrote his letter to the church in Corinth, he began by addressing the problems it faced. The church was beset by infighting and divisions, and threatened by immoral influences from the surrounding community, where, for instance, 1,000 priestesses engaged in prostitution at the Temple of Venus in the name of worship.
Corinth was a young city, and the church there was a young church, just as we are a young nation. Teenagers, if you will.
St. Paul delivered a stern, yet loving, reproach to the Corinthians, telling them, essentially, to quit their bickering, grow up and get busy with what they were called to do in the first place: Love.
Love one another. Love their neighbors. Be God’s love in the world — the light of the world and a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, as St. Matthew says in his gospel.
Be love with arms and legs — feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting the prisoners, sheltering the homeless.
How interesting that the Bible passage about growing up and putting away childish things (in the name of love) was chosen by our 47-year-old president and his 27-year-old chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau — perhaps the youngest team ever to craft a U.S. presidential inaugural address.
I wonder whether they chose the passage from 1 Corinthians in part to evoke another letter written by St. Paul. In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul writes to his young friend Timothy, an evangelist in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor.
“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young,” St. Paul told Timothy, “but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity.”
Favreau also helped Obama craft his famous victory speech after the Iowa caucuses where he said, in part:
“You know, they said this day would never come … They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”
“Years from now,” he said, “you’ll look back, and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope . . . Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
In his timely inauguration speech, Obama gave us marching orders anchored in a conspiracy of hope and a love that never fails.
This is it, kids. The big show.
This is when we put our American ideals into action.
Today, our ideology meets reality.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Obama’s first full day in office begins with prayer
President Obama attended a prayer service for the nation at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. this morning. (Click HERE to watch the service LIVE)
Among those participating in the sevice were:
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III
Dean of Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC
The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane
Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC
The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale
Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Decatur, Georgia
The Rev. Andy Stanley
Founding Pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia
Rabbi David N. Saperstein
Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, DC
The Most Rev. Francisco González
Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, DC
Archbishop Demetrios of America
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
Dr. Ingrid Mattson
President, Islamic Society of North America and Director of Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, New York City
The Rev. Jim Wallis
President and Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners, Washington, DC
Dr. Uma Mysorekar
Hindu Temple Society of North America, Queens, New York
The Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook
Senior Pastor, Believers Christian Fellowship Church, New York City
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein
Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
The Rev. Canon Carol L. Wade
Precentor, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell
Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas
Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl
Roman Catholic Archibishop of Washington, DC
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church USA
The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary, Reformed Church in America