“Be thou more sheltering, God. Pay more attention.” – response to Tony Kushner for hope in heartless times
By Blog editor, on 28 March 2022
Ongoing and deadly attacks on the people in Ukrainian cities, towns, villages, homes, hospitals, schools and a theatre, amidst hopes for ‘humanitarian corridors’, all affirm the scale and dehumanisation of war. Marina Ovsyannikova’s protests on live news leaving her long-term prospects still uncertain, and the tens of thousands of detained protesters in Russia, demonstrate that words and actions are indeed a privilege.
Suffering persists for the dispossessed, the ‘survivors’, and victims of countless global conflicts. Plights of refugees remain a constant reality across the world. Resilience, solidarity, social action, charity, aid, local and global support, kindness and care abound, and yet old and young flee war for the second and third time, children grow up war-torn and babies are born in war.
Words feel hopeless compared to the urgent needs of individuals and communities who are invaded or suffer under the threat of invasion. Inspired by Lisa Birman’s “A Prayer” (1996), this response to Tony Kushner’s “Aids Prayer” (1994) is an attempt to use words to speak to the heart in heartless times. In the face of the AIDS pandemic, Kushner petitions God for justice and a cure. While God is used here as an address, this God is also a goddess, a god, G-d, gods, a principle, a truth, an aspiration, a hope.
“Be thou more sheltering, God. Pay more attention.”
– response to Tony Kushner’s “Aids Prayer” in heartless times
“Dearly Beloved, Let us pray.
[Dear] God: A cure would be nice. Rid those infected by this insatiable unappeasable murderer of its lethal presence.”
A cure for war, we ask
For war, for invasion, for indiscriminate and discriminate violence.
When ceasefire occurs, for reconciliation
When peace occurs, for listening to flourish.
When homes are built, stories told, for trauma healed not handed on
For story converted to allegory: tales of inner resolvable conflict
Outer peace to yield inner peace.
May anger alert us to injustice (not force)
May fear and pride make peace
May what divides us, do so peacefully
May the exhausted and embattled not need bravery.
Your neglect leaves us besieged, God
We shake our fists at you and your corridors of humans
Wars known and unknown
Suffering heard and unheard
In the Great Court, who will the Jury find guilty?
We ask you to turn your face to us
“At present we are homeless, or imagine ourselves to be…
Be thou more sheltering, God. Pay more attention.”
“Aids Prayer” for the Episcopalian National Day of Prayer for AIDS (Tony Kushner, 1994)
“A Prayer” (in “Some Things: poems and translations”, Lisa Birman 1998, Dristill Press)