Archive for November 2006

Jimmy Carter lays it out

November 30, 2006

Jimmy Carter ‘s latest book is a smoker.The title says it all. “Palestine,Peace not Apartheid.” Not on racial lines but “more oppressive than South Africa” says the best ex-President in US history. This is part of Carter’s book:

“The overriding problem is that, for more than a quarter century, the actions of some Israeli leaders have been in direct conflict with the official policies of the United States, the international community, and their own negotiated agreements. Regardless of whether Palestinians had no formalized government, one headed by Yasir Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or one with Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and cabinet, Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land. In order to perpetuate the occupation, Israeli forces have deprived their unwilling subjects of basic human rights. No objective person could personally observe existing conditions in the West Bank and dispute these statement.”

Carter is clinical in his description of the horrendous and brutal occupation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. He is very critical of his own country’s role as an honest broker.

“The United States has used its U.N. Security Council veto more than forty times to block resolutions critical of Israel. Some of these vetoes have brought international discredit on the United States, and there is little doubt that the lack of a persistent effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a major source of anti-American sentiment and terrorist activity throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world.” (pp. 209-10)

“The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens–and honors its own previous commitments–by accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel’s right to live in peace under these conditions. The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories. “(p. 216)

“Most Americans are unaware of the conditions in the Occupied Territories. In Israel there are intense debates.None of those debates exist in the USA. It’s about time they began.” Carter told NPR in the USA.

The Dundee Prophet

November 24, 2006

George Galloway, the Respect Party member from Bethnal Green in London,England appeared in Toronto on Monday November 16. Many were obviously there to see the man who electrified the political world when he stood up to the US Senate last May and gave them a dressing down the likes of which senators never heard or exoerienced before. The slack-jawed legislators were reeling after Galloway’s 45 minute blistering attack on their craven submission to Bush’s lies. Monday’s speech at Trinity-St.Paul’s United Church. near the U of T campus was tame by comparison.In a wide ranging talk, Galloway, who is on a cross -Canada tour which has been selling out everywhere, left no prisoners. Eschewing the usually bland utterances of a politician, he more resembled an Old Testament prophet, fulminating in moral tones against the Iraq War and Israel’s ongoing assault on the Palestinian people.

Noting that the speech was held in a Christian church, the Dundee born member set the tone for the whole evening by roaring that both “Bush and Blair blaspheme against Christ” for their lies in dragging their countries into a needless war. Then he launched into an attack on Prime Minister Harper’s “absurd foreign policy in AFghanistan” wondering why Canada would “join the ranks of the hated. and the terrible two. You’re killing people in Afghanistan, which is a problem in itself, and it’s compounded by the fact that by you killing them in Afghanistan, you’re releasing the Americans to go and kill people in Iraq.” Galloway saved most of his fury for “the chicken hawks (Cheney,Wolfowitz, Bush and Rumsfeld) men who never served in war and did everything to avoid it. Now they send other people’s kids to shed their last drop of blood.”

Galloway in 1975 had the Palestinian flag fly over the Dundee City Hall on November 29. Controversial then, nobody bats an eye today as the world is becoming more aware of the apartheid state Israel is attempting to unilaterally foist on the Palestinians Just recently 100 Irish academics called for a boycott of Israel for this reason.

Galloway fingered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as central for peace in the Muslim world and he pointed out that the USA pays for every weapon used by Israel including the 4 million cluster bombs (still exploding ) dropped in the last few hours of the Lebanon war. 90 civilians have died since this—”and George Ignatieff lost no sleep over this.” He then described the savagery of the Sabra-Shatila massacres in Lebanon in 19982 which should have ended Ariel Sharon’s career. Galloway demanded the right of return for Palestinians run out of Israel in 1948 pointing out that US Jews have more rights of abode in Israel than Palestinians who have lived their for century.

To huge cheers Galloway absolutely rejected the charge of antisemitism.”I have no animosity for Jews…it is Israel’s policies which I abhor. It is those policies which are causing hatred in the Arab world.” After dealing with Iraq and Israel/Palesine Galloway turned to the hypocrisy of the USA and its blindness to the lack of democracy in Saudi Arabia.

“The West can stop propping up the corrupt kings in the Arab world. To support SaudiArabia as a democracy and then reject a Hamas led government legally elected is the height of hypocrisy”.

The fiery orator ended with a simple prescription as old and as true as the Bible. The solution to Israel/Palestine is easy: No justice, no peace.Standing ovation.

A Wasted Life

November 21, 2006

The social role of families is called upon to find expression also in the form of political intervention…they should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.
Pope John Paul ll, Nov. 22, 1981

War can be so impersonal, yet when we put a name, a face, a place and match it to families, when we look through the catalogue of memories, those memories become sacred treasures, and then war is not impersonal.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich Democrat Ohio

At 10:45 AM on August 3,2005 two marines arrived at the back door of the home of Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer in the Cleveland suburb of Streetsboro, Ohio. The senior of the two, a lieutenant colonel broke the news to this couple that their only son Augie was killed in Iraq earlier in the day. And then the old lie which empires of occupation usually use to paper over the terrible finality of the needless death of another child of promise:Your son is a true American hero.

The Schroeder-Palmers were having none of it and they moved into action immediately. They vowed that their son would not be brought home under the cover of darkness to some military base. They started speaking out dramatically and forcefully to any and every media outlet who would listen. and plenty did including the CBC’s Michael Enright on his Sunday Morning show of November 5, 2006.

Enright did his usual excellent job of interviewing, allowing the still-grieving couple to articulate their deep anger at the Bush administration. Their wounds were so raw and their depth of feeling so compelling that it was amazing that Enright himself could get through the conversation. All he could utter after completing this riveting interview was a long sigh. I sat in my parked car with tears running down my cheeks. As a parent and grandparent, I wanted to reach out and hug the Schroeder-Palmers-and go after those craven cowards like Cheney, Bush and Wolfwowitz, the “war wimps” who ran from combat in Vietnam but now in their neocon enthusiasm, so quickly sent other people’s kids to die .I wanted to shake the American Bishops for not organizing their pastoral life around this blasphemous adventure.

Paul Schroeder, on the other hand, was remarkably calm and very articulate but fifteen months after Augie’s death, two things were evident. An angry fire still simmered and part of him had died. Rosemary Palmer quietly wept but her husband was speaking from a shallow grave. “This is a wasted life,” he said to Enright. He admitted he had lost all passion for the business he had started a decade ago and that he could never celebrate his birthday again as it was too close to Augie’s.

When asked what memories they had of their son, Paul Schroeder replied that whatever they were, “they always ended in tears.“ Earlier he had written, “ This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.”

With all due respect to their legitimate rage and their irreplaceable loss, this couple did not seem to get past the faulty instrumental reasoning that it was merely the handling of the war that was wrong. “More troops were needed” the husband said. The mother stated,”You had to fight the war right or get out” and “the war had gone wrong.”

No,the war simply was evil, “immoral and unjust” as the Vatican called it. It was against international law; the US president lied.Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.The Mid East is in a shambles and one more American family has become “the victim of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”

J.B.

November 21, 2006

On Labour Day, 1992, a statue was unveiled in downtown Glace Bay, N. S. The eight-foot, granite memorial was that of J.B. McLachlan, the legendary Scottish-born union leader of the Cape Breton coal miners in the 20s and 30s. After the unveiling, the Halifax Chronicle Herald paid tribute “to the memory of a man, who, powerful in his own time, remains a magnificent example to Canadians of all generations.” David Frank, history professor at the University of New Brunswick, despite his tendency to prolixity, has done a fine job in rescuing McLachlan from the dustbin.His biography of McLachlan should be required reading for all Canadians.

Cape Bretoners, of course, despite the disappearance of King Coal in their backyard, have long revered gutsy McLachlan’s lifelong defence of workers’ dignity. His picture decorated many a miner’s home, right under the pope’s portrait. Frank does a neat job of writing “social biography,” placing McLachlan right in the centre of a rapidly charged and dynamic Canadian culture in the post First-World-War years.

James Bryson McLachlan was 33 years old when he emigrated from Scotland in 1902. He arrived in Canada, well formed and committed. At age eight, McLachlan was witness to the greatest disaster ever to hit the Scottish collieries: the explosion at Dixon’s mine that claimed 207 men and boys. Although McLachlan’s formal schooling had ended, at age 10, he retained a lifelong passion for reading and self-improvement. In his personal life, McLachlan combined the ferocious commitment of Cameronian Presbyterians — who had resisted the absolute monarchy of Charles II — with Baptist evangelical piety. The key to McLachlan’s life and success lay here, in his field preaching that joined his Christian faith to the radical unionism under Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party.

Frank aptly traces McLachlan’s career of organizing, particularly against the intransigent British Empire Steel corporation and its hated president Roy “the Wolf” Wolvin who blamed McLachlan for all the disturbances in the coalfields. Jailed in Halifax (no Cape Breton court would have convicted him) by Chief Justice Robert Harris, a former president of a trust and steel company, McLachlan accepted his incarceration with these words: “New ideas are born in stables and brought up in jails … people frequently have to die for a cause. In the early days of Christianity, many clergymen were dragged to the Colosseum.”

Released after a few months, MacLachlan said sedition happens, “when you protest against the wrongs inflicted on working people.”

McLachlan, a revolutionary socialist and member of the Communist party, never wavered in his commitment to workers and industrial unionism. He died in 1937; his lungs exhausted from the coal dust he had ingested as a young man. A fitting epitaph would be his own comment during the Duncan commission of inquiry into the explosion:
“I believe in telling the children the truth about the history / Of the world: that it does not consist in the history of kings / And lords and cabinets, but consists in the history of the / Mass of workers, a thing that is not taught in the schools.”

Frank has added immeasurably — both to labour history and to our collective memory as Canadians — struggling to maintain the respect and dignity for working people and reeling under globalization from above.

Anne Rice gets religion

November 16, 2006

Comes again, another novel on the lost years of Jesus.Sad to report this turkey doesn’t fly.

For decades, Anne Rice has been known as the queen of the Vampire novels. The New Orleans-born writer tapped into a deep mother lode of cultural confusion and arcane spirituality with her vampire character, Lestat. The latter was the hero of numerous gothic novels, which found a huge audience among many people. As well, Rice wrote a few pornographic novels under two different pen names. Then she gave it all up. Beset by crippling illnesses and the death of her husband of 40 years, the lapsed Catholic stunned the popular literary world by turning her attention to the greatest story ever told, that of Jesus.

“I was ready to do violence to my career,” she writes in the afterward of her latest novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. “Nothing else mattered. I consecrated my life to and my work to Christ.”

Rice initially broke with the Catholicism of her youth when she married Stan Rice, who was a passionate atheist. In an extensive interview with CNT, Rice described herself during this period as being “lost in a world without light.” She knew no one at her San Francisco college for whom religion played a significant role in their lives. Looking back on this full immersion in secular pursuits, she says it reflected her quest for meaning in a world without God. “The secular materialist view of life predominated.”

A voracious reader, Rice first found herself researching early Rome for a novel and this led her to early Christianity and Judaism. How had the Jews survived? she wondered. It was this mystery that drew her back to God, and with the help of some “flexible Catholics of some sophistication,” she returned to Catholicism. Focusing on Jesus and the evolution of Christianity, Rice then dove into New Testament scholarship, much of which was contradictory, she admits. Rice, however, did appreciate the Jewish milieu of Jesus as outlined in Paula Frederiksen’s Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

In Christ the Lord, Jesus is a seven-year-old living in Alexandria, Egypt, where the holy family has fled to escape the wrath of the mad King Herod. We follow the precocious lad as the family returns to Jerusalem and the riotous days of Passover. He then finds himself in his hometown of Nazareth, encountering the local Pharisees. The novel follows him over the course of a year attempting to make sense of his life and the strange circumstances of his birth.

Rice comes across as very natural and delightful. Her sincerity is unquestionable. I do not believe for a minute she is attempting to cash in on the post-Gibson fundamentalist boom in popular religiosity. But this novel is fatally flawed in almost every way save the fine historical background material.

Rice begins with the famous incident in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, when Jesus the boy, angry at a playmate, strikes him dead. “Jesus killed Eleazer. Jesus cursed him and he fell down dead, says his older brother James.” It appears that James was also privy to the time that Jesus made sparrows out of clay and they proceeded to fly away.

What are we to make of this? To build a novel on the idea that Jesus is a super human dynamo with God-like power oozing out of him even as a youth, is to trivialize the flights of fancy in the apocryphal Gospels. No scripture scholar takes these events seriously as historical incidents in the hidden life of Jesus. Also, the idea that Jesus lived in Alexandria, while acceptable as a novelistic conceit, is simply a piece of Matthean midrash.

A well-known literary device of antiquity, midrash serves to illustrate a theological point. In this case, one greater than Moses, Jesus the Christ, is also coming out of Egypt. Later in the story, the young Jesus became obsessed with the equally midrashic, celestial gymnastics at the time of his birth. Rice also had Mary saying, “the Holy Spirit would come over me. It said the Holy Child born from me would be the Son of God …” Rice apparently accepted all of this as historical, and in this way turns the gospels into something that they simply are not. She justified this by saying, “Assuming that Jesus did have these magical powers at an early age, I am somehow being true to the declaration of the Council of Chalcedon that Jesus was God and man at all times.”

Again, Rice seemed to wave the prodigious, biblical scholarship, which takes us beyond Chalcedon and Hellenistic thought categories in the understanding of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. Nevertheless, the author is adamant. “This is the Jesus I believe in. What was it like to have a virgin mother? I just plunge in. If she saw an angel, maybe people will whisper. Maybe they won’t let him into synagogues. My whole approach is to make literal what we say in the classical story. The challenge was to take it all on. Yes, I believe it.”

This novel does little to further insights into the historical Jesus. It is both clumsy and cartoonish, having more in common with Batman and Spiderman than with the humanity Jesus obviously shared with us. A much more serious attempt at the life of Jesus is Nino Ricci’s overlooked Testament, a novel that is greatly superior to Rice’s own work.

Despite her literalist, literary assumptions, though, she is certainly not conservative in her attitudes toward the church of her homecoming. Having a son who is a gay activist may account for some of her thinking.

“I’m a Catholic through and through and I am very aware that this is an authoritarian religion. There’s not much of a warm welcome to anybody who is a critic. I can only dream that it will change. I keep hoping Pope Benedict will surprise us. I hope before I die I will see women in the priesthood, gays in the mainstream and celibacy being optional for priests. Imagine what it would be like tomorrow if these were to be proclaimed. There would be a huge resurgence of energy and the churches would be full.”

As a person, Anne Rice is impossible to dislike, but those looking for illumination about Jesus in the lost years will have to wait for another writer. In the interim, Ricci’s Testament is worth a read.
 
 
 
  

A wasted life

November 13, 2006

The social role of families is called upon to find expression also in the form of political intervention…they should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.

Pope John Paul ll, Nov. 22, 1981

War can be so impersonal, yet when we put a name, a face, a place and match it to families, when we look through the catalogue of memories, those memories become sacred treasures, and then war is not impersonal.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich Democrat Ohio

At 10:45 AM on August 3,2005 two marines arrived at the back door of the home of Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer in the Cleveland suburb of Streetsboro, Ohio. The senior of the two, a lieutenant colonel broke the news to this couple that their only son Augie was killed in Iraq earlier in the day. And then the old lie which empires of occupation usually use to paper over the terrible finality of the needless death of another child of promise:Your son is a true American hero.

The Schroeder-Palmers were having none of it and they moved into action immediately. They vowed that their son would not be brought home under the cover of darkness to some military base. They started speaking out dramatically and forcefully to any and every media outlet who would listen. and plenty did including the CBC’s Michael Enright on his Sunday Morning show of November 5, 2006.

Enright did his usual excellent job of interviewing, allowing the still-grieving couple to articulate their deep anger at the Bush administration. Their wounds were so raw and their depth of feeling so compelling that it was amazing that Enright himself could get through the conversation. All he could utter after completing this riveting interview was a long sigh. I sat in my parked car with tears running down my cheeks. As a parent and grandparent, I wanted to reach out and hug the Schroeder-Palmers-and go after those craven cowards like Cheney, Bush and Wolfwowitz, the “war wimps” who ran from combat in Vietnam but now in their neocon enthusiasm, so quickly sent other people’s kids to die .I wanted to shake the American Bishops for not organizing their pastoral life around this blasphemous adventure.

Paul Schroeder, on the other hand, was remarkably calm and very articulate but fifteen months after Augie’s death, two things were evident. An angry fire still simmered and part of him had died. Rosemary Palmer quietly wept but her husband was speaking from a shallow grave. “This is a wasted life,” he said to Enright. He admitted he had lost all passion for the business he had started a decade ago and that he could never celebrate his birthday again as it was too close to Augie’s.

When asked what memories they had of their son, Paul Schroeder replied that whatever they were, “they always ended in tears.“ Earlier he had written, “ This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.”

With all due respect to their legitimate rage and their irreplaceable loss, this couple did not seem to get past the faulty instrumental reasoning that it was merely the handling of the war that was wrong. “More troops were needed” the husband said. The mother stated,”You had to fight the war right or get out” and “the war had gone wrong.”

No,the war simply was evil, “immoral and unjust” as the Vatican called it. It was against international law; the US president lied.Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.The Mid East is in a shambles and one more American family has become “the victim of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”

Remembrance Day 2006

November 11, 2006

Wilfred Owen was the best known “war poet” of World War One

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

(It is sweet and right to die for your country-from the Roman poet, Horace)

In August, 1918, Owen who had been injured, returned to the front. November 4, just seven days before the Armistice, he was caught in a German machine gun attack and killed. He was twenty-five when he died.

The bells were ringing on November 11, 1918, in Shrewsbury to celebrate the Armistice when the doorbell rang at his parent’s home, bringing them the telegram telling them their son was dead.

The following is from American historian Howard Zinn

We need new ways of thinking. A $300 billion dollar military budget has not given us security. Military bases all over the world, our warships on every ocean, have not given us security. Land mines and a “missile defense shield” will not give us security. We need to rethink our position in the world. We need to stop sending weapons to countries that oppress other people or their own people. We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.

Jackie Parker and the greatest Grey Cup game

November 10, 2006

The frost is on the pumpkin at this time of year. And it always will be for me. November is Grey Cup time and though I long ago lost any interest in our greatest Canadian sporting event, the death of Jackie Parker on November 6 brought it all back.

In what has been called ‘the greatest Cup game in history” the 1954 final at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium is as indelible to me as the day that Parker electrified the country with his stunning 90 yard run and broke the back of the powerful Montreal Alouette club. Boasting perennial all stars as Sam “The Rifle” Etcheverry, Red O’Quinn, half backs Alec Webster and ex Chicago Bear,Chuck Hunsinger, the stunningly talented Prince Hal Patterson, who played end as well as safety, “Flying Wing”, Joey Pal, and the powerfully built guard number 56, Herb Trawick. This team should have been unbeatable.

Right in front of our gang of inner city kids who never missed a Cup game or a league game(and never paid for one of them), the drama unfolded. Driving down inside the Edmonton 20 yard line, Etcheverry foolishly called an end run and gave the ball to Chuck Hunsinger. Why? Even a kid like me knew that you never ran wide where there was open apace and you were nursing a 5 point lead .A fumble out there could cost you. If you dropped the ball while plunging up the middle, the opposition would be immediately surrounded and a 90 yard run was out of the question.

Hunsinger was quickly hemmed in and in a moment of panic attempted to lateral the ball as he was tackled. Defensive back, Spaghetti Legs Parker going both ways for the Esks, scooped it up and ran 90 yards the other way chased by a lead-footed Etcheverry. He quickly outdistanced the plodding quarterback and a silent pall descended on the crowd. Surely it would be called back. This could not be happening. The score stood. The game was over.

40 years later I ran into Etcheverry at a sports banquet and told him I was there. He was very warm and told me I looked too young to have been at that game.Then he laughingly recalled the and told me Peahead Walker the ALs coach was so angry at Hunsinger that he cut him the first practice the following year!

I miss the old ORFU, the BIg Four and the real Canadian game of onside punts, quick kicks and all the other rugby elements of football.It lost me when it became too “American.’ But when the frost is on the pumpkin,I can’t help but watch the Cup game.It has too many memories of a simpler time when players like Patterson,Parker and Avatus Stone went both ways, Bernie Faloney quick kicked and Cam Fraser lofted punts 50 yards.

And there’s Jackie Parker streaking up the field in the greatest Grey Cup game ever played.

The Bible is true — and some of it happened

November 9, 2006

In a column a few years ago Tom Harpur, a religion journalist of  broad experience and a former professor of the New Testament, wrote  the following: “The most devastating blow religion has suffered over  past centuries and still endures right now, is an ignorant literalism  towards its sacred books or Bibles. The different sages who wrote the  
ancient scriptures never dreamed that the great myths, allegories,  legends, dramas, metaphors and parables in which the old wisdom has  come to them would ever be taken as literal fact or history.”

Harpur further commented that this literalist approach is “not the  property of the far right but it stealthily permeates the thinking of  even the most literal-minded churches.” More and more, this looks like the case.

Letter writers to Catholic New Times complained about Harper’s article and on closer scrutiny I  discovered they were people engaged in parish life but with close to a  dangerous, literalist approach to scripture. Their parish and their church had failed them in this crucial area.  They had become frozen in the “first level of naiveté”. (Eliade).  Like children, they had been stalemated  in a literalist stance, abandoned  in a crude fundamentalist corner and held as intellectual hostages by  the same church which had once given the world universities, and a  belief that the development of rational thinking was a necessary companion of faith.

Whether by inattention, ignorance or overwork on the part of their  leaders, the faithful have been sequestered in this literalist limbo,  lacking a basic appreciation of metaphor and symbols in our   foundational stories. When Tom Harpur expressed the assured results  of biblical scholarship, people reacted with hurt and anger. Their agitation while understandable, was directed at the wrong person. Their  Church has failed them. And we can also say with little fear of contradiction–synagogues and mosques have failed as well.

Why has this scriptural illiteracy proliferated for so many years?  Seminaries have certainly kept up with biblical scholarship, teaching  basic form criticism (scripture comprises many different “forms”  which have their own integrity, meaning and use), certainly since the  1960’s. There should be no reason, given the modern means of   communication, why so many in the pews are still so clueless about  our holy texts, their origins, use and meaning.

Harpur, like many others, has pointed out the dangers when such a deadly  approach  wins the day. Anti-intellectualism, rigidity, narrowness, and arrogance are bad enough, but murder as response to ambiguity and hopelessness is lethal.Witness the fringe nuts who quote scripture to bash gays, shoot  abortion doctors, invade foreign countries which have not attacked you and steal Palestinian land in the name of God. Allah, jesus and Yahweh are shaking their heads,

Harpur finished his column: “If you doubt any of this, consider the  blind literalism undergirding the stance of George W. Bush. He says  Christ is his ‘favourite philosopher’. His simplistic, religiously- inspired definition of “good” and “evil” has rained ungodly destruction upon thousands.” About 650,000 Iraqis,  proportional in population to 6,500,000 Americans, have paid the  ultimate price for this crusade.

Renowned Catholic theologian Hans Kung has pointed out that there will be no peace in the world until there is peace among the great world religions. One might add  that there will be little hope of peace there until leaders embark on  extensive adult education among their adherents, weaning them off the  deadly curse of fundamentalism. Mercifully, an emerging paradigm is  rising within Christianity, one which has resulted from its encounter with postmodern science, historical scholarship, pluralism and  cultural diversity. This model will take the Bible seriously but not  literally; it will see the Bible as metaphor and as sacrament, a way  into discipleship and the transformation of the world. The Church as a whole will either embrace this paradigm or become irrelevant.

Breaking the silence

November 6, 2006

I was very encouraged to see the following appear in public. The Jewish community never has been a monolith and many are embarrassed by the sheer “power over” politics of too many Israeli governments.See posting under Politics on “Amira Hass”.

Open Letter to the Jewish Communities of Canada
by Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians
General email sent by Abraham Weizfeld
To appear in Canadian Jewish News Montrיal – November edition

The lives of Jewish Canadians, as well as the lives of Israelis, have been adversely affected by the policies carried out by the various governments of Israel. Despite growing international opposition to these policies, Israel continues to pursue a primarily military strategy while claiming to speak in the name of Jewish people around the world. In the absence of an alternative public Jewish voice, all Jewish people are tainted by default with the fallout from such policies.

It is time for those of us who have a different vision to come forward publicly to present our views to the Canadian Jewish community and to the people of Canada. We need to make it clear to the people and government of Canada that Jewish Canadians do not think as one with respect to current Israeli policies, and that thousands oppose them. For these reasons we have joined together to create a cross-Canada alliance of Jewish anti-occupation forces and to make our case both within the Jewish community of Canada and before the general public.

The goal of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians is to serve as a Canada-wide umbrella organization for Jewish individuals and groups whose views are not represented by the government of Israel or by the uncritical positions taken by the leadership of the major Jewish organizations in Canada.

Canadians, especially Jewish Canadians, seeking a peaceful resolution to the seemingly endless Israel-Palestinian conflict should no longer remain silent in the face of Israel’s actions in the Occupied Territories. Israel is taking over increasing amounts of land that the Oslo process had envisaged for the creation of a viable Palestinian state, leaving ever-diminishing prospects for this vital element of a lasting peace. Patently illegal Israeli government policies, such as the Separation Wall recently condemned by the International Court of Justice, greatly diminish our moral stature throughout the world and, far from increasing our security, actually sow hatred against us.

We call on those who share our profound dissatisfaction with the direction in which the leaders of our community have taken us to join with us as we carry an alternative vision into our communal institutions. To this end we have applied to take our rightful place as an affiliate organization of the Canadian Jewish Congress; but our affiliation is being opposed, unfairly in our opinion, by the National Office. We appeal to the Congress to be a true representative of the wide range of Jewish opinion in Canada and not to close its doors arbitrarily to Jewish organizations such as ours that have legitimate and principled differences with the current leadership of the CJC. Above all, we urge Jewish Canadians to take a greater role in supporting and promoting a peaceful and just resolution to this tragic conflict.

For ACJC membership, send your name, email address / telephone number to :
ACJC2006@yahoo.ca
See ACJC : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ACJC2006
Tax-deductible donations to: La Galerie Fokus (designating the ACJC) and sent to: ACJC, 68 Duluth Ave. East, Montreal QC, H2W 1G8

Standing Committee:
Janet Weinroth Westmount QC
Abraham Y. Weizfeld Ph.D cand. Montrיal
Jonathan Wouk Ph.D. Ottawa ON
Jason Kunin PhD Toronto, Ontario
Joshua Katz-Rosene B.F.A. Montreal, QC
Mark Samuel Etkin M.D. FRCPC Winnipeg MB
Judith Deutsch M.S.W., R.S.W. Toronto,ON
Michael Mandel LL.B., B.C.L. Toronto, CANADA
Judith Weisman Toronto, Ontario
Ophra Benazon Ph.D. Montreal, (Quיbec)
K. Ram Ph.D. Ville St-Laurent, QC
Stephen Aberle Vancouver, BC
Leah Birnbaum MSc.Pl. Toronto, ON
Zalman Amit Ph.D. Bridgewater N.S.
Mark Golden Winnipeg, MB
Michael Benazon Ph.D. co-founder – 2006
Mark Klein Toronto, ON

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