Presiding Bishop Michael Curry meets backstage with U2, Bono to talk about Reclaiming Jesus

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met backstage this week with U2 and front man Bono at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the Episcopal Church leader and the globally renowned rockers discussed Curry’s Reclaiming Jesus initiative.

The meeting happened in the evening June 25 just before the first of a series of U2 concerts in New York on the band’s Experience + Innocence tour. A photo released by the band shows the foursome posing with Curry.

“I know of no other group that has sung and witnessed more powerfully to the way of love than U2,” Curry said June 27 in a written statement to Episcopal News Service. “It was a real blessing to sit with them to talk about Jesus, the way of love, and changing our lives and the world. They are an extraordinary community gift to us all.”
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“I shared with them our commitment to reclaim Jesus of Nazareth as the center of Christian  faith and life,” Curry said in his statement to ENS. “And this means a way of faith with love of God and Love of neighbor at the core. A love that is not sentimental but a disciplined commitment and spiritual practice infusing every aspect of life, personally, intra personally and politically.”

Read entire story HERE

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‘I Never Thought I Would Talk About It.’ So Florence Welch Put It in a Song.

Onstage Ms. Welch stalks the floor with the fervor of a preacher, raising her arms in exaltation and executing balletic spins. Credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns, via Getty Images

By Melena Ryzik, New York Times

Her fall tour for “High as Hope” is her biggest yet, with headlining stops at arenas like the Hollywood Bowl and Barclays Center in Brooklyn. At a preview show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last month, the stage heaved with flowers and moss and baby’s breath hung overhead, like clouds. Beforehand, she’d joked that the tour “could be called, like, ‘On Nightgowns and Spiritual Confusion’ because that’s what it is, I’m in a nightgown being confused about things in a loud way.”

But when she walked onstage, de-accessorized and barefoot, in a shell-pink lingerie gown and lace-edged bed jacket, there were no doubts. She stalked the floor with the fervor of a preacher, raising her arms in exaltation and executing balletic spins. In the end, she made her way into the crowd, for a communion. “Tell someone you don’t know that you love them,” she instructed. “Make it awkward.”

In real life and in performance, Ms. Welch is looking for connection. “I quite like the idea of putting really big, unanswerable spiritual questions in pop songs,” she’d said earlier. “We can be together in this moment, and celebrate the not-knowing, and perhaps feel closer to each other. We can jump up and down. If you just dance about it, you will feel better.”

To read entire news story, click HERE.

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Hawaii’s quest for a new type of independence

The Royal Family of Hawaii.

“Hawaii is the only American state that was once a kingdom. The royal family was overthrown in 1893 with decisive help from President Benjamin Harrison and US Marines,” writes Stephen Kinzer of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University in the Boston Globe. “Soon afterward a new president, Grover Cleveland, condemned the overthrow as “an act of war” and asked Congress to return the royal family to power. Congress refused. Instead, in 1898, it voted to annex Hawaii. In 1959 Hawaii was admitted to the Union as our 50th state.
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“Native Hawaiian culture is enjoying a renaissance. Cities and towns have passed ordinances stipulating that most streets should bear Hawaiian names. Clubs have sprung up to promote traditions ranging from hula dancing to navigation with double-hulled canoes. The University of Hawaii has opened a center for the study of native Hawaiian law. Courses in the Hawaiian language, which not long ago seemed on the brink of disappearing, have become steadily more popular. Some elementary schools offer instruction in Hawaiian only — a far cry from days when schoolchildren were required to speak English and punished if they did not.

“History, like ethnicity and geography, makes Hawaii distinct. The arrival of European and American mariners set off a series of devastating plagues. Within sixty years of Captain James Cook’s arrival in 1778, the native population had fallen by more than 70 percent. The mariners were followed by hundreds of Christian missionaries, most of them from New England. They were horrified by native customs and worked tirelessly to suppress them. Some of their descendants went on to assemble vast sugar and fruit plantations, depriving natives of their traditional land. A handful of them organized the 1893 uprising in which Queen Lilioukalani was deposed, ending a monarchy that had ruled for nearly a century. They succeeded only because the United States, by prior arrangement, immediately recognized them as the legal government and landed Marines to secure their power.”

To read Stephen Kinzer’s entire article on the restoration movement of the Kingdom of Hawaii, click HERE.

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Evangelicals and the Devil’s Music

The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll by Randall Stephens is a must-read for those who dig the connection between faith and pop culture.

“Much of what animates evangelical churches in the twenty-first century,” maintains Randall Stephens, “comes directly from the unlikely fusion of pentecostal religion, conservative politics, and rock and pop music.”

“The only thing that would make this book better is if it actually played the music,” writes Professor John Turner in a book review. “Stephens makes the history of American evangelicalism fun again. But you really can’t go wrong in a book centered around Elvis, Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, and Larry Norman. There are heroes and anti-heroes, troubled souls and those troubled by those troubled souls.”

“The Devil’s Music is full of spot-on observations about its subject matter,” Turner writes. “While Stephens is not the first to notice the pentecostal origins of rock ‘n’ roll, he devotes sustained attention to the importance of Pentecostalism in this story.”

“The sensuality and driving rhythm of rock ‘n’ roll owed much to outsider pentecostal church worship,” Stephens explains. Pentecostal “churches tended to welcome revved-up music and instrumental innovations,” he adds.

“Rock musicians and Penetcostals were both known for the babel of unintelligible sounds, though the enlightened could understand everything perfectly clearly,” Turner writes. “Jerry Lee Lewis (and his cousin, Jimmy Swaggart), Elvis, Johnny Cash, James Brown, and Little Richard all had Pentecostal roots, some deeper than others.” To read Turner’s complete article, click HERE.

Eric C. Miller does a worthwhile interview with Stephens, particularly when asking about why Christians were so quick to demonize—and racialize—rock?

“Well, they demonized it, in many cases, because of what they saw as a sort of sinful appropriation,” Stephens responded. “Black and white Christians accused Ray Charles of blasphemy because of how he was secularizing sacred music. Blues legend Big Bill Broonzy certainly believed Charles had gone too far. A former pastor in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Broonzy claimed that Charles had ‘got the blues,’ but ‘he’s cryin’ sanctified. He’s mixing the blues with the spirituals.’ Or, as the critic Hollie West said about Aretha Franklin, whereas she ‘once said Jesus, she now cries baby. She hums and moans with the transfixed ecstasy of a church sister who’s experiencing the Holy Ghost.'”

Stephens went on to say, “There were some white Pentecostals who thought that rock and rollers were thieving from church music. One of these, the Pentecostal youth pastor and author of the Cross and the Switchblade, David Wilkerson, called it ‘Satan’s Pentecost’ and portrayed rock ‘n’ roll concerts as a kind of inverted Pentecostal worship, with demonic speaking in tongues. A lot of this was in the vivid imagination of believers, of course, but it shows that, for many of these observers, there was a thin but important line that was being crossed. In the 1950s, white and black conservative Christians worried that even their church music was becoming too “worldly” or too vulgar.”

Regarding race, Stephens looked at the “white Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Presbyterians, and Southern Pentecostals, and found that their reaction to rock was almost uniformly negative and very often racialized. They attacked rock as ‘jungle music,’ ‘congo rhythms,’ and ‘savagery.'”

“In some cases this is ironic,” Stephens points out, “because these are some of the very things that Pentecostals were criticized for themselves—for race mixing and having “debased” music in their services, whether that be Hillbilly, boogie-woogie, or some kind of hybrid black and white styles. So there were all of these interesting, and specific, interconnections that I thought deserved more attention.”

Read full interview HERE.

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Anyone who picks a fight over tiki drinks is missing the point

From left: The Saturn, Port Light and Stolen Mercedes cocktails; (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post; food styling by Kara Elder/The Washington Post)

By M. Carrie Allen, Washington Post

From their origin in California in the 1930s, first with Don the Beachcomber, then Trader Vic’s and countless imitators since, tiki bars have long been a kind of tropical fantasia, a rum-soaked refuge from postwar anxieties and the daily grind. But they clearly provide no refuge from the age of trolls. …Within every subculture — be it Star Wars buffs, vinyl aficionados or lovers of Siamese cats — there is a sub-subculture so obsessed with arguing about the subject that they’re willing to risk ruining enjoyment in the name of dogma.
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Tiki drinks, says Martin Cate, owner of San Francisco bar Smuggler’s Cove and author of a James Beard Award-winning book on rum and tiki, are meant to delight, not challenge. They’re “not there to pick a fight.”
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But moreover, tiki culture — the 20th-century American style, not the Polynesian mythology it’s loosely drawn from — is by nature a pastiche, borrowed from other cultures in ways that are sometimes informed and respectful, sometimes problematic. Some argue that certain elements of tiki iconography exploit genuine elements of Polynesian and other “exotic” cultures, turning them into escapist kitsch. These days, one can slurp from a bowl bedecked with scantily clad island girls or vaguely “African” idols for only so long before sensing, beneath the pulse of rum, that these things should make you go “Hmmm” — and give you pause before launching attacks based on tiki “authenticity.”
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A fan of real tiki should know the history and be clear about what’s classic and what’s new. But tiki has long taken charming strangers into its embrace, and modern tiki can afford to open its doors — to welcome new and charming guests, and throw some older aesthetic baggage (and some trolls) out in the street.

To read her entire column, click HERE.

 

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RIP Anthony Bourdain

Nothing like waking up to heartbreak on a Friday morning. Brewing the coffee and rubbing my eyes as they announce that Anthony Bourdain has taken his own life in Paris. Crushing. Bourdain was the greatest punk rockish storyteller on television — his prose was dagger sharp, his disposition was brooding and snarky, and yet he took great joy in exploring the world through sharing a savory meal with smart and interesting people. Television anchors are a dime a dozen. Blah! But, Bourdain was part Keith Richards, part James Beard, part Hunter S. Thompson. He had a unique gift of transporting us to locations around the globe where he was really the only suitable tour guide. May he find rest for his troubled soul.

Bourdain: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

RIP Anthony Bourdain

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On Eating Alone in Paris

Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with specialty food shops, gives the solo traveler an opportunity to pick up picnic provisions, or a sweet treat. CreditJoann Pai for The New York Times

By Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times

France has its share of fast-food chains. Still, the French have historically spent more time eating than the people of other nations — more than two hours a day, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As the writer Alice B. Toklas wrote, the French bring to the table “the same appreciation, respect, intelligence and lively interest that they have for the other arts, for painting, for literature and for the theatre.”

Eating alone, however, in Paris and beyond, has soured plenty of appetites. Nathaniel Hawthorne cherished his solitude (“It is so sweet to be alone,” he wrote to his wife in 1844), but not at mealtime. “I am ashamed to eat alone,” he noted in his diary. “It becomes the mere gratification of animal appetite … these solitary meals are the dismallest part of my present experience.”

Solo dining even prompted the Pope to look for company. Vatican tradition had called for the pontiff to eat by himself. But in 1959, during Pope John XXIII’s first year as the spiritual ruler, the Daily Boston Globe published the headline: “He Shatters Tradition, Refuses to Dine Alone.” “I tried it for one week, and I was not comfortable,” the pontiff explained. “Then I searched through sacred scripture for something saying I had to eat alone. I found nothing, so I gave it up, and it’s much better now.”

To read the entire article, click HERE

 

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Clarence Fountain, Leader And Founding Member Of Blind Boys Of Alabama, Dies At 88

Clarence Fountain, founding member and longtime leader of The Blind Boys of Alabama. The singer died June 3, 2018 in Baton Rouge, La. (Photo by J. Shearer/WireImage)

By Andrew Flanagan, NPR

Blind Boys of Alabama, originally called the Happyland Jubilee Singers when the group was founded in 1944, played a large role in shepherding gospel music into mainstream popularity. Largely due to Fountain’s holy dedication, the band forever resisted calls to transition into the more commercial genres it helped birth: R&B and rock and roll. “There was no way we were going to go pop or rock,” Fountain is quoted in a press release confirming his death. “Who needed it? Our bellies were full, we had no headaches, we were happy. At least I was happy, singing real gospel.”

To read entire NPR article, click HERE

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Huelo Lookout, Road to Hana, Maui

Huelo Lookout. Steve Beard.

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Haleakalā National Park, Road to Hana, Maui

Haleakalā National Park. Steve Beard

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