Archive for June 2007

Jesus for the Non-religious

June 14, 2007

Jesus for the Non-Religious
Recovering the Divine at the Heart of the Human
is John Spomg’s latest is also his best.

In his summun bonum, the ex-bishop of Newark sums up in concise form the biblical evidence for Jesus. The difference between Spong and Catholic exegetes is that he dares go to obvious conclusions about the nature of the scriptural portrait. Virtually the whole of the Gospel story is crafted within the metaphors and liturgy of Judaism.Jesus is the lamb of Passover and the scapegoat of Yom Kippur, hence the now outworn “blood language” of atonement theories which make no sense to moderns. We need a new way of speaking about Jesus within a new cosmology.

Scholars have always seen the miracles as externalized signs of God’s reign. When they become literalized, we miss the point. The resurrection stories are similar. In general the gospels are not history. There is very little unvarnished history here. What there is is a way of speaking about the man for whom many, “God was in Christ”, a life of extraordinary depth of humanity’s capacity to reflect the divine. Jesus breaks through all tribal boundaries which exclude people—count religious boundaries here as well.

Jesus is the great revealer of the mystery we call God.And contrary to Tom Harpur, he really lived!

The best part of this tome is Spong’s analysis of “religious anger”, a constant throughout history. The same religious anger which incensed the hierarchs of the Jewish establishment of course will be turned on Spong as he attempts to remythologize Jesus for non-believers. He’s on to something here.

Well worth a read.

Corpus Christi

June 11, 2007

Chrst the King it used to be called. As we read the Catholic lectionary last Sunday we find the feast now called the Body and blood of Christ. The old name will do fine, redolent as it is with universal, sacramental meaning.

Jack Cosello the homilist pointed out a dramatic breakthrough in theological reflection.

During the Pinochet years in Chile when the thug suborned the democratically elected Allende government on Sept 11, 1973, disappearances and torture became rampant.At that time, spurred by liberation theology and some strong episcopal leadership, the Chilean bishops began to document the abuses.

As the bishops knew several of the good people being tortured,a deeper theological reflection emerged, one which recaptured the teaching of the early fathers of the Church-men like Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. How can people go to communion and take the “Body” while doing irreparable damage to living bodies in the torture chamber? George Bush and his vaunted Christianity might ask the same of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Bodies are sacred, ikons of the living God. War and torture shatter the Body of Christ.

Bishops could no longer distribute communion while staying silent as the larger Body was being disfigured.

Another blasphemy occurred in the Regan years.

A nuclear sub was launched actually named Corpus Christi! The dolts in the US government including the Admiral of the ship could not figure out why many Catholics were beside themselves. I remember Leroy Matthiessen the great Texas bishop writing a powerful objection to this shocking development.

Imagine a ship carryong Trident missiles poised to deliveer the equivalent of 50 Hiroshimas, named after the Body of Christ.

That’s what the Reagan years were about. Imperial strutting, inflationary military budgets
and war on the poor. The Gipper made America feel good after Vietnam. What a great president. some neocons still believe this.Jimmy Carter called him the worst president (by gospel standards he was) ever—until W.

Last week W appeared with Benedict XVl. I spied another torturer in the background, the Deputy secretay of State, the man who supervised the Contra attacks from his ambassador’s post in Honduras, John Negroponte. Of course, the pope would hasve no idea of this thug’s background.

Another tribune with no concern for the Body of Christ. The Contra murdered innocent civilians by the hundreds.All in a good day’s work for Negroponte.

40 sad years

June 8, 2007

Uri Avnery, 83 years old now, former member of the Knesset is surely one of the wise elders of modern Zion. His last posting,extremely sad to read, reflects just how low a certain type of Judiasm has sunk.Read on.

The first settlers were real idealists. It did not occur to them that they were hurting human beings of another people. The Arabs were to them a part of the romantic landscape. They believed in all innocence that they were bringing blessings and progress to all inhabitants of the country.

As seen from today, four or five generations later, they look quite different. Their innocence is forgotten. It looks to many like rank hypocrisy, a cover for robbery and oppression.

That is one of the results of 40 years of occupation. The current settlers claim to be the successors of those pioneers of the 20s and 30s. They say that they are today’s pioneers. These violent, thieving thugs really expect us to view the pioneers of old as their spiritual forebears.

When we add up all the damage that the occupation has done to us – to us too, and not only to the direct victims, the inhabitants of the occupied territories – let’s not forget this. The occupation poisons the national memory. It soils not only the present, but also the past, not only in the eyes of the world, but also in our own eyes.

IT IS enough to see what the occupation has done to the Jewish religion.

In my childhood I was taught at home that Judaism was a humane religion, a “light unto the Gentiles”. Judaism means to loathe violence, to value the spiritual above the powerful, to turn an enemy into a friend. A Jew is allowed to defend himself – “If somebody comes to kill you, kill him first”, as the Talmudic injunction goes – but not as a lover of violence and the intoxication of power.

What has remained of that?

Concerned friends recently e-mailed me some hair-raising quotes from a statement by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of the settlers and the entire religious Zionist camp. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the rabbi decreed that it is impermissible to have compassion with the civilian population of Gaza if that imperils Israeli soldiers. His son, Shmuel, interpreted this decree on behalf of his father: if the killing of 100 Arabs is not sufficient to stop the launching of Qassam rockets at Israel, then 1000 must be killed. And if that is not sufficient, then 10,000, and 100,000 and even a million. All this to stop the Qassams, which in all the years have not succeeded in killing a dozen Jews.

What is the connection between this “religious” view and the God who (in Genesis 18) promised not to destroy Sodom if 10 righteous people could be found there?

What is the difference between this moral perception and that of the Nazis who executed 10 hostages for every German soldier killed by the resistance?

The rabbi’s decree did not arouse any reaction. There was no outcry, neither from his flock nor from the general public. The number of rabbis who publicly support such methods has risen to the hundreds. Most of them come from the settlements. This is a “religious” outlook that grew up in the poisoned atmosphere of the occupation, a religion of occupation. It shames the Jewish religion, present and past.

No wonder that a person with a strong religious conscience, Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Knesset and Head of the Jewish Agency, this week renounced Zionism and demanded to abolish the definition of Israel as a Jewish State. [Leaving the Zionist ghetto – Ha’aretz Magazine.]

IT IS no longer anything new to point out that the occupation is destroying the Israeli army.

A beautiful embassy

June 7, 2007

Hidden from view and certainly from the majority of the American people is the world’s largest, most expensive and most heavily fortified embassy in history. Right in the middle of prime real estate in Baghdad. It will open in September at a cost of half a billion dollars. You thought that Uncle Sam was leaving within a year or two? Think again.

Of course, it puts to bed the lie that the US was in Iraq to “promote democracy.” As Linda McQuaid so aptly put it, “It’s the crude, dude.”

The embassy will be command central for the control of oil in the region. It will be hermetically sealed and like a piece of Disneyworld for the servants of empire. All this at a time when 2 million Iraqis are refugees.Surreal is not the word for this. America of course is a can-do nation—theatre, pools, school for the army brats. Nothing but state of the art for the tribunes of empire.

The suffering unleashed by the Bush regime has been second probably only to the damage done to Vietnam and by proxy, to the Palestinian people.

But the leaders go first cabin.

New York Times ad

June 4, 2007