Last week we drove 350 miles to Smith College, where our daughter was singing with the glee club at Christmas Vespers. Each year at a pair of services, campus and community enter liminal space by hearing sacred music from student choral and orchestral groups, pondering poetry and biblical readings by students and faculty, and singing carols together.
This year it also became a setting to turn attention to other matters. As a Facebook event page put it, “You can’t sing carols if you can’t breathe.”
Some people see violence as an absolute wrong. Others see it as a sometimes necessary evil, with considerable variation as to just how often these times come up. I’m at the dovish end of the latter group: I believe that there are times—not many, not remotely as many as American foreign policy consensus or law enforcement norms would have it, but some times—when a violent action might be the least-bad available option.
But a necessary evil isn’t a virtue; “least bad” doesn’t mean “good.”
This week's 2 Samuel and Luke passages get me thinking about promising.
Not coerced promises. A promise to obey traffic laws in order to get a license is benignly coerced. A promise to be quiet under threat of harm is violently coerced. They're not what I'm thinking about.
I bathed my 10-and-a-half-year-old daughter and washed her hair for the first time in at least six years. Thanks to her broken ring finger on her right hand, and a midnight blue fiberglass cast that can’t get wet, she needs help.
At first, it felt odd to me, cleansing this independent and maturing child of mine. The last time that I did this, her body was mushy with adorable baby fat, and the tub was filled with bath toys.
Glorybound takes place in a dying West Virginia town amidst people who are snake-handlers and prophets, to whom biblical language is as natural as breathing, and who cast their lives into exaggerated dramas.
I started singing in church choirs when I was a teenager. There I learned to read music and find acceptance among the grown up singers. It was my church’s choir director who helped me find my spiritual voice again after a car accident that fractured my larynx. I went on to study vocal music, compose hymn lyrics and sing in choirs at my college, seminary and several churches over the years.
There is a special kind of relationship that forms among choir members. Something about those rehearsals, with their jokes, irritations and prayer rituals, creates a spiritual bond that can’t be replicated anywhere else.