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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Dog Whistles

Grace Episcopal Church
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Grace Notes
7 February 2019

What is ASMR?  The acronym stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response”, a meditation technique that uses repetitive sounds.  What makes this practice a topic of conversation is that one of the Superbowl 2019 advertisements (for Michelob beer) involved the practice.  But (and get this), the fact that the ad referred to ASMR became a news story because most people didn’t know what ASMR is, or even that it existed.  In other words, the ad spoke particularly to people who already understood the message coded in it.
It has become common in what passes for dialogue in our society to use “dog whistles”, words and visual imagery that only those “in the know” (your “base”) will get.  The Michelob ad (which cost upward of $5 million) was a dog whistle to devotees of ASMR, while also trying to leverage some overall message of harmony to people who might want to drink beer while somehow feeling virtuous about this consumption.  Another form of coded message appeared in another $5MM+ ad, one from Hulu for the tele series “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  In this teaser a sinister depiction of oppression (itself made as a series of references intended to twist the “It’s Morning in America” commercial campaign used in one of Ronald Reagan’s election campaigns), ended with the image of the massed ranks of women in bondage standing on the Mall in Washington, D.C., with the Washington Monument transformed into a giant Christian cross.  The Cross is used—without comment—as a symbol of oppression, a message which is both a direct assault upon faith and a dog whistle to those who view faith as opposed to their own worldview.
Here's the real challenge:  In communicating about the faith—about the promise and power of salvation by and through Jesus Christ—outside of the Church, when we use “Church language” are we just using dog whistles, and only reaching those who already get the idea (if not the practice) of faith?  In using symbols, how do we continue to use symbols which testify to God’s ultimate self-giving in ways that do not become hijacked by those who would equate the Cross with a swastika or a Confederate battle flag? 
When “communication” is a series of dog whistles it becomes no more than a series of coded signals for groups which become tribes.  But the message of salvation is universal!  The Good News requires that we ignore distinctions between “Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free” (Gal. 3.28), but the message of the world is to divide.  Our message—the Message—is to unite, and to do this we must first build community with others, that when we testify to the faith our testimony is understood because it is lived.  Our testimony must begin in how we focus on the other, on what we may learn from him or her, on how we may share, and only then on what we may teach.

Grace abounds:  Please thank: 

§  Bob and Anne Hanlon, and Jack Britton for the Sunday coffee hours, with cleanup by Julie Davidson.

Call for Contributions:  If you have a spiritual reflection to share, or want to point your fellow worshipers toward a resource, submit your contributions to Fr. Karl (by email) by Wednesday in the week of publication.

Don’t forget “Something Extra for Grace”:  Supplemental giving envelopes can be found in pews.  If you want to give something extra, please use an envelope to ensure that you are credited. 

Music this Week:  The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (Baptism of Our Lord)
                              Dr. R. Benjamin Dobey, Music Director

Prelude                           Diptyque for Candlemas on Lumen ad revelationem
                                      gentium                                             Charles Tournemire
Entrance Hymn 535          “Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim”      Paderborn
Offertory Hymn 655        “O Jesus, I have promised”                                  Nyland                              
Communion Motet          O Salutaris Hostia                                      Donald Frazee
Communion Hymn 549    “Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult”                      St. Andrew                           
Closing Hymn 537           Christ for the world we sing!                             Moscow                      
Postlude                          Toccatina; Sortie dans le style ancien             Tournemire

Parish Notices:
§  Adult Formation: The Language of Faith: Class continues at 9:00 a.m. in St. Nicholas Hall, exploring the language of faith. What words do we use to describe faith? How do the words we use shape our own understanding? How do words we use present barriers to those who have no experience of faith, or whose experience is different? All are welcome.
§  Lenten Meditations:  Our book of meditations, written by parishioners, has become a treasured tradition to enter into the Lenten season.
To participate:
Choose from the scripture readings on the Narthex table; you are welcome to choose more than one.
Read and reflect on the scripture for the scripture(s) chosen.
Write a meditation based on what resonated with you, or you feel called to share based upon the readings.
The meditation can be 10 words or 300 words (maximum, please); there are no rules and no right or wrong ways.
Submit your meditation to by February 20 to allow production time. These meditations will be published in print and online before Lent begins. In addition, meditations can be read aloud on Grace Abounds, as part of our podcast series.
§  Diocesan Clergy Retreat, February 25-28:  There will be no Masses or Bible Study on these days.
§  Shrove Tuesday Feast before the Fast: March 5 is Shrove Tuesday. We will be having a Parish Potluck Supper following the 5:30pm Mass. More information will be shared in the upcoming weeks.
§  Ash Wednesday: March 6 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and a day of fasting and penitence. We will observe this day with Mass and Imposition of Ashes at 12:10 p.m. and Solemn Mass with Imposition of Ashes at 6:00 p.m. This is a holy day and a wonderful way to begin your Lenten observance.
§  Lenten Formation:  Beginning on Friday, March 15, our Lenten formation will consist of a 5-part program involving:
Stations of the Cross in the church from 5:30 to 6 p.m.
Simple Supper:  6—6:30 p.m.  Please sign up to host a simple supper (e.g., soup and salad), or to share a dish.
The Public Face of Faith:  6:45—8 p.m.  Fr. Karl will lead a series of discussions about faith which is lively because it is not private. In a militantly secular culture, problems like the dangers of growing up in a family which is not intact, or the psychological damage attendant on the “hookup” culture, or the damages to psychological health caused by the consumption of pornography are finally showing up in the popular media as problems to be named and addressed. But the media have, in general, treated the existence of these problems as “news”, as if we should be surprised.  We’ll discuss real examples of how:
What the Church has always taught now must be “rediscovered”, because a culture hostile to faith has never engaged in wisdom which has been handed down; and
“Rediscovery” is necessary because people of faith have not shared it.  Too many people of faith have bought into the model of faith being only private.
How we share our faith, how we speak to contemporary issues by addressing the cultural amnesia around us will be discussed using examples and interactive small group exercises. Join us!
§  Flower Schedule for 2019: Giving the gift of flowers is a wonderful way to remember a loved one or to offer thanksgiving for your blessings. If you wish to sign up for a specific Sunday, the Flower Schedule is available on the table in the narthex. More than one person can sign up for each Sunday.
§  Something Extra for Grace: Envelopes are available in the pews if you are moved
to give an extra gift, beyond your pledge or regular plate donation, toward the life of the church. Gifts are tax deductible if you write your name on the envelope.

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