I have no words of my own in these hours of night. I have no words to express the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I have no words to describe the gifts she gave this nation. I have no words to describe the ways she became an inspiration — no, a Rock Star — for women and girls. But I do have wise and true words from my friend and modern day prophet, Ken Sehested. I share his words:
There is no connection between these two things — today’s onset (at sundown) of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and the passing of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — but the coincidence gives added gravitas to both.
Ginsburg, only the second woman, and the first Jewish person to serve on the Supreme Court, surely ranks among the greatest jurists in our nation’s history.
As sometimes happens, New Year festivities are joined by sorrow’s reminder of mortality. Even still, the psalmist assured, “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.” —Psalm 56:8 (The Message)
And just as tears serve as reminders of our fervent longing for the day when death itself will come undone, so, too, do bleak and fretful days—as we are presently experiencing—are the opportunity for that hope-beyond-despair to reveal itself.
Kindred, the news is bleak.
Rouse yourselves to maintain custody of your heart.
Kindred, the news is bleak. For we live in the valley of the shadow, when:
the stock market reaches record-breaking levels in the midst of near-record-breaking rates of unemployment;
when 1% of US citizens control $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half is saddled with more debts than assets;
when the median wealth of black households is a tenth of that of whites;
when yet another unarmed black man is shot—in the back, seven times, while getting in his car where his children are sitting—by police;
when polls show 57% of Republicans (along with 33% of Independents and 10% of Democrats) believe our nation’s COVID-19 death toll (many times greater than any other nation) is “acceptable”—despite ours being the wealthiest nation in recorded history, purportedly with the world’s most advanced health care system;
when wildfires in California set yet another record in size and destructive infernos, and similar flames in the Amazon are on track to eclipse 2019’s record;
when 30 million families lacked sufficient nutrition last week, yet the suicide rate among farmers—who provide our food—is five times greater than the national average;
when the federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25 (lowest it’s been since the 1960s when adjusted for inflation), yet Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earns approximately $8,961,187 per hour;
not to mention a monarch aspirant in high office; and our oldest living president, Jimmy Carter, having described our political economy as “moving toward an oligarchy.”
And yet, and nevertheless.
Though the fig tree does not blossom, / and no fruit is on the vines; / thought the produce of the olive fails / and the fields yield no food; / though the flock is cut off from the fold / and there is no herd in the stalls, / yet I will rejoice in the Sovereign / I will exult in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Which is to say, rouse yourselves to maintain custody of your heart and shield it from the bootleggers of despair.
Let the baptism of firmeza permanente* — relentless persistence — soak you to the bone, so that you may stand ready to confess: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” (Arundhati Roy).
Indeed, my friend, may we all be baptized in relentless persistence. Thank you, Ken Sehested, for your moving and poignant words.
Read more of Ken’s words at https://www.prayerandpolitiks.org/
*A theological movement within the Brazilian church in the 1970s, born of the same impulse as the active nonviolence campaigns of the 1930s-1940s in India and US civil rights movement in the 1950-1960s.