Theologian's Almanac for Week of April 7, 2019
Introducing SALT’s new “Theologian’s Almanac,” a weekly selection of important birthdays, holidays, and other upcoming milestones worth marking - specially created for a) writing sermons and prayers, b) creating content for social media channels, and c) enriching your devotional life.
For the week of Sunday, April 7:
April 7 is the birthday of jazz singer Billie Holiday. In 1999, Time magazine declared her song, “Strange Fruit,” the “song of the century.” The song was originally written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish school teacher, poet, and activist from New York City. A photograph of a lynching in Indiana some years earlier had deeply disturbed Meeropol, inspiring him to write “Strange Fruit,” and the song eventually made its way to the Greenwich Village nightclub where Holiday sang. As a way of raising awareness about lynching, Holiday adopted the song as her signature: at the end of her show each night, the club would bring down all the lights, pause all table service, and put a single spotlight on Holiday as she sang the haunting anthem. For a modern, wonderfully theological take on the song and its story by the virtuoso preachers Frank Thomas and Julian DeShazier, check out SALT’s Emmy-winning short film here (or press play below).
April 8 is widely celebrated as the Buddha’s birthday. Born Prince Siddhartha in sixth-century-BCE India, Gautama Buddha was raised in wealth and privilege - but at age 29, he decided to venture out beyond the palace walls. His encounters with suffering in the wider world inspired him to become a spiritual teacher, eventually outlining Buddhism’s “four noble truths”: 1) all life involves suffering; 2) the root cause of suffering is craving; 3) an awakened state free of craving (and therefore of suffering) is attainable; and 4) there is a practical path - the “Noble Eightfold Path” - toward this awakened state. There are many connections and resonances between the Buddha’s and Jesus’ teaching; explore them by reading Thich Nhat Hanh, Paul Knitter, and many others.
April 10 is the birthday of Anne Lamott, beloved author and hilarious, down-to-earth Christian disciple. Here’s some vintage Lamott, perfect for the season of Lent (or all year round!): “I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.” And here’s Lamott’s instant-classic TED talk on “everything I know for sure.”
And finally, speaking of knowing things for sure, April 12 is the day in 1633 that Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for supporting the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. After agreeing to recant, he was sentenced to indefinite house arrest - and died at home eight years later. But what Galileo said in his defense is worth recalling: he insisted that scientific research and Christian faith are entirely compatible, and that in fact, study of the universe would promote the proper interpretation of Scripture. This is the perfect week to remember and affirm his wisdom - and his brilliance. Indeed, legend has it that immediately after he recanted, as he rose from kneeling before his inquisitors, Galileo defiantly whispered, e pur, si muove (“even so, it does move”).