Archive for August 2012

The extraordinary life of Sr.Anne Montgomery

August 31, 2012

 

 

Sr. Anne Montgomery died on August 27, 2012 and the funeral, a real Mass of Resurrection, will be celebrated at the Sacred Heart motherhouse on September 15. she was an amazing nun who was truly a resurrected person simply because she mounted the Cross of true discipleship.

Her friend and fellow Sacred Heart nun Fran Tobin aptly described this remarkable nun: “Contemplative and a lover of the poor, Anne stood simply and strongly against that which harmed people and the earth, regardless of the cost to herself,”

In 1980 Sr. Anne’s life accelerate into second gear when she joined the Plowshares 8. The gospel and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist. It was that simple for her. Her final Plowshares action took place in 2009, when she was 83. She served her two-month jail term, and four months of house arrest, last year.

Now pay attention to this. He extraordinary community of the Sacred Hear actually commissioned her at the time of her sentencing

We send you, Anne, on behalf of the Society of the Sacred Heart, to continue your prophetic, educational mission with courage and grace, whether within the walls of prison or without, making known the love of Jesus for our world and all people.”

This is the pure flowering of a Vatican ll religious community.

Why are they such a threat to the Vatican? I and many Catholics find the Vatican;s hectoring of such  people stunningly obtuse and counter-gospel.

Sister Montgomery’s commitment to the nonviolent Jesus of peace and nonviolence led her to journey to global conflict areas.

As a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an ecumenical anti-war nonviolent group, she served as a witness to peace in the 1990s in dangerous conditions in Iraq, the West Bank, Hebron and the Balkans.

In Israel,her ministry was one of “accompaniment and presence”, walking with Palestinian children, harassed and  bullied by the largely American illegal “settlers.” She bravely walked this walk for seven years.

In the case of the West Bank, Montgomery said, “We say we’re on the side of the people who have the biggest guns pointed at them. In this case, we think the (Israeli) occupation is wrong. It’s wrong to take people’s land, to destroy their homes, which is what the Israeli military does. As long as this unjust occupation continues, there can’t be peace.”

Montgomery’s work is the fruit of years of reflecting on the meaning of religious life and her responsibility to the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

“Who’s going to do this if we dont’? If anyone should take a risk, it should be the religious. That’s what many religious orders were set up to do, but we’ve lost that spirit through the ages.

Words of admiration  simply fail when we attempt to come to terms with such a life. Her witness, of course, is not lost.It flows out to peacemakers everywhere.

Demonizing liberal Jews

August 30, 2012

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb tells us how far “Israel, not Torah” firsters. will go to demonize a fellow Jew who dares to move beyond tribal narrowness to universal values.

Last week, I stopped being Rabbi Lynn, educator, activist, and one of the first woman rabbis in the United States.

Overnight, I became “Obama’s Radical Rabbi” according to the Republican Jewish Committee and Iraq War architect Bill Kristol – all because I’m a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

 

If people like that are so terribly afraid of me because of my association with this brave and bold organization – well, we must be doing something right.

My story just isn’t that unusual. Last week, I joined hundreds of other rabbis to publicly support President Obama’s re-election. Immediately, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Bill Kristol, and others publicly demanded that President Obama drop me and other peace-supporting rabbis from the list.*

They claimed I was too extreme. Is advocating for peace really that radical? I don’t think so.

\For me, my commitment has only deepened. For me, the value of of standing up for the humanity of all peoples whether they be Palestinian or Jew, American or Iranian, is worth it.

When absurd distortions were printed about me in the right wing press, my phone started ringing off the hook with reporters asking for “Obama’s Radical Rabbi.” And in the days that followed, every other member of JVP’s Rabbinic Council who endorsed President Obama was under attack as well.

Commentary Magazine, the National Review, the Jewish and Israeli press —everyone was coming at us at once. Under other circumstances, we would have felt completely overwhelmed. 

In one sense Lynn Gottlieb is radical. She and other Jews who dare criticize israel are getting to the real roots—solidarity for those on the margins, the Palestinians of modern day Israel.

Three cheers for Jewish Voices for Peace

Bill Kristol should be ashamed of himself.

Sr.Anne Montgomery presente!

August 29, 2012

This was a bad week for gospel practitioners.I just learned  that a giant among Catholic gospelers, Sr.Anne Montgomery passed away in the infirmary of the Sacred Heart Sisters in Atherton, California. Hard on the heels of Sr.Megan Rice’s arrest, this was deeply unsettling to me.

These women are a major part of why I am still a Catholic. Megan Rice is still with us, an 82 year old manifestation  of divine obedience. Let me tell you about this holy woman I have long admired from afar,Sr.Anne Montgomery

Anne was indefatigable in her rejection of nuclear weaponry and the money it was stealing from life-giving projects, She went to jail constantly ,a witness to justice and peace and nonviolent love.

Born into a military family in San Diego in 1926, she entered the convent in 1948.With two masters degrees, she taught in her order’s schools in NYC. She then worked with school drop outs in Harlem .One can see that Anne Montgomery from an early age was never prone to invent the human person. She had  experieced life in the raw, poverty in the land of the rich and humans treated as non-entities. It was this experience that propelled her into full time peace and justice advocacy. She was driven to challenge the deeply ingrained myths of national security. It was the shocking waste of money and human resources in a military bloated economy which  challenged her whole religious life. In the name of Jesus, she could not abide this nor the sentimental reliugiosity which defended it. She got to the “rootr” of the problem.In this sense she was :radical” (Radiz,Latin for root)

 By 1980 she became a member of the Plowshares 8 .They were eight deeply Catholic citizens who had internalized the Jesus gospel of nonviolence. Two were priests, Dan Berrigan and Carl Kabat OMI.  Dan’s brother Phil was also a member. On September 9, 1980 they  entered the General Electric Nuclear Missile Re-entry Division in King of Prussia, PA where nose cones for the Mark 12A warheads were made.  They hammered on two nose cones,  and poured symbolic blood poured blood on documents and offered prayers for peace. They were arrested and initially charged with over ten different felony and misdemeanor counts. They were defended by ethical giants such as Former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark, Dr. Robert J. Lifton, Professors Richard Falk and Howard Zinn,Theur “crime”  was  defended in the context of the common plight of humanity.

It was in King of Prussia, Pa outside the court room that I first saw Anne Montgomery.It turns out  she was just getting started.

 

 

Sr. Rice just won’t quit

August 27, 2012

My friend Sr Megan Rice went to jail again. Sigh,Does she never learn? I mean the woman is 82 years old! Wake up and smell the roses.

 

We visited Megan in her humble abode on the outskirts of Vegas a few years ago, Then she was preparing for the Desert Easter Experience of nuclear resistance. No bishops had signed up.

On July 28,2012  with 2 other accomplices she broke into Oak Ridge nuclear reservation in Tennessee, splashed symbolic blood (which is very true to its sign—the waste of human lives ad misplaced resources—and raised a banner “Swords into plowshares,”  one of isaiah’s best lines

This is old hat for the persevering Sr.Rice.She has been arrested 40 or 50 times for acts of civil disobedience.Done heavy time too,

The US energy Department wanted to find out what made this “crazed” woman tick.So she reluctantly  told them about her background of privilege in the Big Apple (Manhattan) The youngest of three girls in a Catholic family. Her father was an obstetrician who taught at New York University and treated patients at

Bellevue Hospital. Her mother received a doctorate from Columbia

University in history, writing her dissertation on Catholic views

about slavery.

She entered the convent at 18  and received degrees in biology from Villanova and Boston College, where her studies included class work at Harvard Medical School on how to use radioactive tracers. From 1962 to 2004, with occasional breaks, she served her order as a schoolteacher in Nigeria and Ghana.

And read the Catholic new Times.

Her story she insisted was not important. It is always the outrageousness of the issue

“It’s the criminality of this 70-year industry,” she said. “We spend

more on nuclear arms than on the departments of education, health,

transportation, disaster relief and a number of other government

agencies that I can’t remember.”

i regard her as a great disciple of Jesus, a faithful woman, a prophetic nun, just the type of witness the Vatican does not like.

Just the type of witness which gives the american Catholic Church a semblance of credibility.

She’s looking at serious time hereThe government charges carry

penalties of up to 16 years in prison and fines of up to $600,000.

“Not guity” she pleaded. she goes to trial in Knoxville on October 10.

Missing the many splendored thing

August 24, 2012

The March of the Living and Birthright are two Jewish attempts to bond mostly young American Jews to israel. They are no cost to the participants and already  over 300,000  have taken advantage of the opportunity. These trips often produce lasting effects and links to the Jewish state.

One of the greatest donors to this program is the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The name may be familiar. His deep pockets funded Newt Gingrich in his hapless run to the republican nomination.Adelson also donated $25 million to refurbish the fantastic Holocaust museum Yad Vashem.

Latterly Adelson accompanied Mitt Romney to Israel where Romney exposed his absolute ignorance of the Middle East and in particular of the Palestinians. No matter, Adelson wants to make sure whoever is president a hard pro-Israel line will be the result. line.Adelson much like fellow billionaires the Koch brothers are exactly what’s wrong with American politics where whoever pays the piper calls the tune. Their influence is not only deleterious to democracy but very dangerous to the Middle East powder keg. The sheer fact is that Palestinians have no such backers with deep pockets. All they have is justice on their side.

As far as Birthright and March of the Living, I have questions.

Israel is an incredible country rich indeed in culture and history and anyone exposed to it, Jewish or not, cannot help but be moved. However…

What do these young Jews see when they go to Israel?

You can bet no time is spent in Gaza or the West Bank.There will be no seeing the Other as oppressed human beings. All this will be glossed over. It will be justified by not mixing politics with culture and history, an absolutely impossible separation. Real Jewish values will be traduced.

A shocking example of this was related to me by Sami Awad a  Palestinian who studied in the States and whose uncle Mubarrak Awad , a nonviolent leader has been permanently banned from Israel.

 

Mubarrak Awad permanently exiled

An aside here is the answer to the question Where are the Palestinian Gandhis? They are all exiled and unable to return to their homeland.

Anyway, Sami  Awad being open to Jewish suffering actually went on a March of the Living experience to Aushwitz only to hear the leader say to his young charges: “You see this is just what the Palestinians want to do with us!” He was shocked as all of us should be.

I doubt that this is normal discourse.

However I do not doubt that young Jews are exposed to the long suffering Palestinian people.

Thus these potentially rich trips are radically deficient and they border on the fraudulent.

 

“Evangelizing” young Jews

August 23, 2012

Birthright Israel is an organization that sponsors free trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. Its sated goals are  to connect young Jews with their heritage. Most of these kids come from the States for obvious reasons—that’s where  the political influence lies.

On the surface one can not quibble with this. For obvious reasons Israel has resonance with Jews of all stripes.

Modern day Israel sadly is leaving a bad taste in many Jewish kids’ mouths.They are not deaf and dumb as to what is happening to the Palestinians.

So Birthright is an attempt to fill a void in young Jewish lives.

Well young Jewish lives are not so different from young Catholic lives. Most are unchurched and biblically illiterate and unevangelized. As these teens move away from Church/.Synagogue (many for good reasons) the pop culture feasts on their impressionable lives. Other demons are ready to swoop in and take the place of authentic spirituality. For Jews the temptation is to make Israel an idol. Any criticism of Israel thus is an affront to God.

Canada also is  part of THE MARCH OF THE LIVING a program with a similar purpose. It brings Jewish teens to Poland on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the notorious “death camps” of WW ll.The goal of the March of the Living is for these young people to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and to lead the Jewish people into the future vowing Never Again.

These programs are problematic in some ways. To this I turn in a few days.

United Church bravely opts for boycott

August 22, 2012

Look for the full court press of the pro-Israel faction in Canada to go into hysterical overdrive as the United Church bravely has put modern Israel on trial with its decision to boycott of goods produced in the Occupied Territories.The usual chorus of the Toronto Sun and National Post, Israel firsters both, will raise the heat and avoid the light. Many local Jewish organizations sadly will opt for tribalism and  reflexively condemn the motion in near apocalyptic terms and with the flimsiest of reasons.the worst of these is: How about Syria? Iran? Hezbollah or sure I am guilty but how about those other guys!

The fact remains that this 60 year occupation is intolerable. It continues for many reasons. First, because it can due to the overwhelming military superiority of Israel’s firepower. Secondly, the craven and idiotic politics of the USA backed by the blinkered fundamentalist religious support which conflates “the Land of the prophets” with the modern oppressive  state. The US government could force the Israelis to bargain seriously if they turned off the financial tap.It is mind boggling to think that a developed country like Israel consumes one-third of US foreign aid. This has allowed Israel to add 650,000 of these illegal settlers since the mid 90s.One wag asked the impertinent question: How can you negotiate over a whole pizza while one side is already eating it?

What has consistently stunned me as  a committed friend of Israel  is the refusal to see, the adamantine resistance for Canadian Jews to go to the West Bank and see for themselves the daily, crabbed and impoverished life of the Palestinians. They simply have no “blood knowledge” of the effects of Occupation. Secure in their privilege as Canadians, they think they are being loyal to Israel while in fact they are betraying her  and doing irreparable harm to Judaism. Meanwhile hundreds of church sponsored exposure tours such as the United Church (forget the somnolent Catholics)  has wakened the biblical prophetic conscience

The gut loyalty of Jews to Israel  I understand. I have no problem with the emotional link to Eretz Israel. But it’s like having an alcoholic brother: if you really loved him, you’d get him help, try and bring him to his senses. Canadian Jews in larger numbers are simply feeding their drunken family member more alcohol.This is eminently tragic in the extreme.

For religious Jews a blinkered loyalty never trumps  shalom and sedeqah—peace and justice. Tribal values  must give in to the universal values of human rights and justice. And indeed many Jewish critics of Israel do state this.

 

Why can’t they see asked the brilliant israeli journalist Amira Hass in 2006. Hass who for years has lived both in Gaza and the occupied Territories wrote:

Could it be that you do not know what is happening 15 minutes from your faculties and offices? Is it plausible that you support the system in which Hebrew soldiers, at checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank, are letting tens of thousands of people wait everyday for hours upon hours under the blazing sun, while selecting: residents of Nablus and Tul Karm are not allowed through, residents of the Salem village are not even allowed to be here, a sick woman who skipped the line must learn a lesson and will be purposefully detained for hours. Machsom Watch’s site is available for all; in it are countless such testimonies and worse, a day by day routine. But it cannot be that those who are appalled over every swastika painted on a Jewish grave in France and over every anti-Semitic headline in a Spanish local newspaper will not know how to reach this information, and will not be appalled and outraged.

Hass has lived in the Occupied Territories, the sole Jewish journalist who does this since 1996.She sees. Those who live 15 minutes away are not interested in seeing.

And those in Canada? Where are the rabbis like Lynne Gottlieb of the Jewish Voice for Peace who encouraged the United Church to pursue the boycott as a loving gesture of true solidarity .Gottlieb wrote:

I speak for hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world from a wide spectrum of affiliations who oppose Israel’s policy of settlement expansion and military occupation. We want to see real change. By supporting Palestinians in their struggle for justice, you are also supporting us, the Jewish people, because the fruit of justice is peace. Peace for everyone in the region,” Gottlieb said. “Now that 171 Palestinian organizations and scores of Jewish groups have called for a boycott of settlement products, I am standing with them. The boycott aligns my values with right action. It accords with my religious beliefs.”

The rabbi explained that the boycott of settlement products has come about because all other avenues of nonviolent struggle have failed to end Israel’s policy of settlement expansion, which lies at the heart of the conflict. She pointed to the fact that prominent Israelis including Miko Peled, Avrum Burg, Neve Gordon, Dalit Baum, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom and thousands of others believe that Israel’s policy of settlement expansion enforced by military occupation is delegitimizing the country.

United Church boycotts goods from Occupied Territories

August 21, 2012

On August 17  the General Council of The United Church of Canada  voted to boycott goods produced in the Occupied Territories. It recommends that church members  participate in a comprehensive boycott of items produced in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West. It is not a boycott of Israel.

“The only comments I’ve received so far are those advocating a complete severing of ties with the United Church”

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs stated that “the only comments I’ve received so far are those advocating a complete severing of ties with the United Church.”

The truth is very difficult to hear especially when it is suffused with deep reservoirs of emotion. Most Jews have a deep connection t Israel.Many Christians like myself have as well.This stems from the overwhelming impact of the Shoah, the destruction of one third of Jewry. As well there is biblical connection to the land of the prophets.

Mr Fogel feels the Church’s stance goes against conventional thinking and that its commentary is biased and one-sided.

On the first point he is wrong.There is almost universal condemnation of Israel’s 45 year Occupation and trewatment of the Palestinian people.

As for bias there is some truth—but not much. Other mideast countries deserve criticism on many points of human rights. so why Israel seems to be Mr.Fogel;s point.

This can be answered in two ways. Pointing at other nations does not address the massive human rights deficit in Israel.It’s school, yard mentality. “sure, I am wrong but what about  him!”

Secondly, in all polls among Arab nations Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a neuralgic issue; it throbs, screams for redress; it will not go away. The solving of this issue would do much to dampen tensions between Islamic nations and the Jewish state. It is a major global sticking point.

As for the United Church’s stance, I will address tomorrow.

Former true believer disillusioned by Harper

August 16, 2012

In Peter C. Newman’s book on the Liberal demise, When the Gods Changed:The Death of Liberal Canada he quotes one Dan Veniez, a Brian Mulroney Tory who kept the faith in the Conservative party and worked under 3 ministers then went into private business as an entrepreneur. In 2006 he became a Stephen Harper supporter:

“I wanted him to succeed,” Veniez said,” he was smart, from the west…but I did not trust the Reformer crowd, their social conservative bent or their dogmatic theology on economics, social and foreign policy.Maybe they would mature.I was wrong.

Whether Harper stays or goes the base of the Conservative Party will remain a small-tent western, rural and populist base and its Christian fundamentalist core,and that’s anathema to my essential DNA. The conservative party and its leader are viscerally angry. that is an ingrained part of who they are and what they represent. They remain a protest party and a protest government. They manage by negatives and are generally incapable of inspiring hope or thinking big.

They attack, assassinate character, tell lies, lower the bar of public discourse, and engage in tactical and divisive wedge politics and governance. They tap into people’s anxieties, fears and prejudices,then seek to exploit them to the hilt for electoral advanatage. The tone,strategy and culture for this government are established by Stephen Harper, a cheap-shot artist and cynic of the highest order.

 

Universal values

August 13, 2012

 

Rabbi Rosen quoted this beautiful meditation of  Abraham isaac Kook who was the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine.It is a hymn of praise to universal values. This of course is the great struggle in the lives of the adherents of the Abrahamic religions.

Now the great wandering preacher,rabbi Jesus who Christians call Lord had a powerful warning to fellow Jews in his brief ministry. Bible scholars attest to the historicity of this message—as it is so radical, distinctive for its time that it was remembered. In other words,no one would dare excise it,so authentic and germane to the ministry of Jesus.

It is contained in the most important gospel (the earliest) of all, Mark.

A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mk.3:32-35

Jesus  was shocking at the time of a tribal society, inviting people into the kingdom of universal values.Who are my brothers and sisters—everybody! And while we are at it, even the winged and finned propellor trinitarian focus avers that our God is radically relational, no holds barred, nobody or no thing excepted.

Now Judaism suffers as any religion from the tension of the particular and the universal.It is no secret than many Jews (like market Catholics) have succumbed to cultural and societal values.The market Catholics have allowed economics and privilege to undermine evangelical values; many Jews have lost their way and substituted the state of Israel for the living God which Rabbi Kook hints at.

Rabbi Kook:

There is a person who sings the song of his soul. He finds everything, his complete spiritual satisfaction, within his soul.

There is a person who sings the song of the nation. He steps forward from his private soul, which he finds narrow and uncivilized. He yearns for the heights. He clings with a sensitive love to the entirety of the Jewish nation and sings its song. He shares in its pains, is joyful in its hopes, speaks with exalted and pure thoughts regarding its past and its future, investigates its inner spiritual nature with love and a wise heart.

There is a person whose soul is so broad that it expands beyond the border of Israel. It sings the song of humanity. This soul constantly grows broader with the exalted totality of humanity and its glorious image. He yearns for humanity’s general enlightenment. He looks forward to its supernal perfection. From this source of life, he draws all of his thoughts and insights, his ideals and visions.

And there is a person who rises even higher until he unites with all existence, with all creatures, and with all worlds. And with all of them, he sings. This is the person who, engaged in the Chapter of Song every day, is assured that he is a child of the World-to-Come.

And there is a person who rises with all these songs together in one ensemble so that they all give forth their voices, they all sing their songs sweetly, each supplies its fellow with fullness and life: the voice of happiness and joy, the voice of rejoicing and tunefulness, the voice of merriment and the voice of holiness.

The song of the soul, the song of the nation, the song of humanity, the song of the world—they all mix together with this person at every moment and at all times.

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