Archive for December 2007

Army recruitment ads sicken

December 28, 2007

The  Harper government with the loose  cannon Rick Hiller, the overachieving top gun as its”face of defense” has made me ashamed of what has happened to our armed forces. At one time you could be proud of them with their country building skills of peacekeeping and infrastructure focus. No more. “Kill the scumbags” Hilier has overseen the worst recruiting ads in the nation’s history. You would swear they were out of a marine playbook. But then Hillier and Harper like to think we can play with the big boys. Kicking serious ass is their credo.  The ads are atrocious. Soldiers leaping out of planes, breaking down doors. The usual mayhem. They are  perfect fodder for the undereducated low achievers who are attracted to high adventure to make up for their hum drum jobs. It is all too sad. A gross manipulation of the impressionable kids raised on Stallone, Bruce Wilis and Chuck Norris-a betrayal of the Canadian way. Support our troops? Bring em home. Get back to peacekeeping. 

Archbishop out of touch on Infancy Narratives

December 23, 2007

Several years ago Bill Phipps, the then moderator of the United Church, scrpture scholar Mike Steinhauser, head of grad studies in theology at the U of T and I were interviewed by that journal of enlightenment the Toronto Sun. The topic: the meaning of the Christmas stories. We all told the reporter basically the same thing. The stories are not for children but are deep reflections on the significance of Jesus written 90 years after his birth. In effect, they are theological statements not to be read at the level of history.

Astoundingly the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver Michael Miller has recently come out and stated the reverse. This is deeply embarrassing for the Catholic Church-to have an archbishop, the principal teacher of a major diocese show appalling ignorance about the nature of scripture.

As reported  by Doug Todd of the Vancouver Sun (Dec 22) Miller said the birth story  is the “truly spectacular” divine conception. The more than 700,000 Catholics who live in B.C. are taught to take the virginal conception of Mary “at face value, as literally true,” stated Miller. The Christmas birth story is about the “incarnation” of God to poor parents in Jesus, Miller said.

“The first sound of the son of God on Earth was the cry of a child [in Bethlehem]. The eternal Son of God who became flesh is truly God and truly man. It is a mystery we cannot plumb.”

Certainly Miller is correct about Mystery- how Christians are to think about Jesus’ relationship to God .But to accept the birth stories as history is simply bad scriptural scholarship. Closer to the assured results of biblical scholarship was  Gary Paterson, minister at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United who appeared with Miller on the panel. Paterson said it doesn’t matter if the virgin conception was literally true — the ancient New Testament story still serves as a beautiful metaphor, a powerful symbol, of Jesus’ uniqueness.

The Christmas accounts of the birth of Jesus point to “the close relationship between God and Jesus,” said Paterson.

The daily papers are a poor place to unpack biblical exegesis.In this case it was sad to see Archbishop Miller so out of touch with contemporary biblical scholarship.

Justice and only justice

December 19, 2007

Israel has chosen Toronto and Boston as a testing ground to buff up its
woeful international image. Toronto is an excellent locale because of the
city’s diverse communities. Israel hopes this will launch a new national
image for one of the world’s most radioactive countries.
“The current image of Israel is very flat,” admits Amir Gissin, Israeli
consul general in Toronto.
Last year in a 35-country survey of desirable national qualities  Israel
ranked lowest and a  European poll labelled it “the greatest danger
to world peace.” Then there was Jimmy Carter’s book describing the
West Bank as an apartheid state. This was seconded by another Nobel
laureate Desmond Tutu.Massive Palestinian suffering,daily humiliation
was even acknowledged by PM Ehud Olmert. Many diaspora Jews of
 course are in deep denial of all of this. There is only one brand which
 will change all of this. It’s called justice for the Palestinians. All else is


Even the Wise Men…

December 16, 2007

It could, rightfully, be a cause of shame to the world. But the world, besieged by violence and injustice, hardly notices it. The people of Gaza, 1.4 million of them, are slowly and purposely being deprived of basic foods and medicines by the so called civilized countries in the West and there is hardly a protest. And all this happens because the people in Gaza want to be free and independent. Never mind that in the process children and innocent civilians are killed or families dispossessed. 

Christmas 2007


In the time of King Herod after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.


Matthew 2: 1


O Little Town of Bethlehem how still we see thee rise-

still under occupation 2000 years later,

Caesar’s boot still on your neck;

Your green hills replaced by Israeli settlements

Illegal to be sure, no matter.

Military check points now control entering and leaving

No freedom then, none now-

A wall which even the Magi could not breach

cuts you off from Arab Jerusalem.

Christian Zionists  pour into the Holy Land

weeping at the sight of Gethsemane, searching for Calvary

while ignoring the ongoing crucifixion of Palestinians.

The most “religious”  nation of all

singing hallelujah to Jesus and waiting his return

funds your oppression to the tune of 3 billion per.

In this place since the days of Pentecost, you are now invisible

still on the margins of empire.

Liberation was born here, still barely out of its crib

God’s reign, coming but ever so slowly

“Good news of great joy for all the people” (Lk.2:10)

Not if you are Palestinian in the holy city of David.



Ted and Joan Schmidt still working and hoping for a coming and a half.












Harper drags Canada down

December 15, 2007

Steve Scharper is one of Canada’s pre-eminent ecologians  

Stephen Bede Scharper, 

International Day of Action on Climate Change, 

December 8, 2007

Toronto, Ontario, Canada Rally, Dundas Square


First of all, I want to clarify something.


My name is Stephen Scharper, not Stephen Harper.


That first letter in my last name, S, is very important to me!


We are, ecologically speaking, in “deep doo,” to quote another US Head of State named Bush, father of Stephen Harper’s good buddy George W.


Just as an aside, I really hope that no other person named Bush ever gets into the White House again, don’t you?


I think there have been enough Bushes on the White House lawn for one millennium, don’t you?


But today we gather here because we realize we are not taking good care of our own house, the Earth.


Our “business as usual” is strangling the planet, and leading to “geocide.”


Here is a sampling of just three of my “top ten laundry list” facts about the environment—you probably have your own top ten list.


Seat belts fastened? Okay, here we go.


1) Today, we will force into extinction between 40 and 250 species of plant and animal life. Many of these species have not even been identified. We are deleting these like unread email.


2) Today, we will destroy over 186 square kilometers of tropical rainforest, at the rate of one football field per second. Imagine standing in the middle of Varsity Stadium and counting 1, 2, 3, –3 times that area of rain forest has just been destroyed. That’s an area the size of Austria each year.


3) Today, we will pump 15 million tons of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.


All in a day’s work.


If we as a human family were to get a report card from our Higher Power of the Universe for our stewardship of the planet, I think it might well read:


Does Not Play Well With Other Species!


We need to learn to play well with the other species and ecosystems with whom we co-inhabit and co-create this planet.


Add to this that 52 percent of the world’s population lives below the World Bank’s international poverty line, 

40, 000 children die each day owing to polluted water, and that even right here at home, nearly 30 per cent of Toronto’s families live in poverty—and this amidst a time of so-called economic growth. 


Is this what we want?


Is this the kind of home we wish to leave our children?


With widening gaps between rich and poor both here and around the world, it becomes clear that economic globalization and free trade schemes designed to “raise all boats” have simply “raised all yachts.”


And I don’t own a yacht, do you?


In light of this massive eco-destruction and devastating poverty around the world, we are especially compelled to ask:


What is our role here? What is our vocation as a species? What kind of world do we wish to leave future generations? What is the goal of “civilization,” if its thrust forward leaves behind the world’s ecosystems and a large percentage of our children as virtual road kill? 


What on earth are we doing?


This is why Al Gore calls climate change both a moral and spiritual crisis.


As such, our situation eschews a quick technological fix or a simple fine-tuning of our global economy. The nature of our crises requires the type of change goes to the heart of our collective self-understanding and our relationship with the cosmos itself.


This is a question our faith traditions ask of us.


For Thomas Berry, a cultural historian and “geologian,” the universe is a “communion of subjects, not a collection of objects” to be bought, sold, consumed, and discarded. Berry, who is a mentor of Al Gore, is quoted in Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, and twice visited to the Clinton White House to serve as an advisor in eco-matters. 


Berry claims that we are involved in a cultural pathology that thinks that we can destroy that which gives us life. He claims that we as a culture are becoming “autistic” to the natural world, and can no longer listen to its voices, or commune with its presence.


Thomas Berry writes:


“What is happening in our times is not simply another historical transition or simply another cultural change. 


“The devastation of the planet we are bringing about is negating some hundreds of million, even billions, of years of past development on Earth. 


“This is a most momentous period of change, a change unparalled in the four and a half billion years of earth history. All indications suggest that we are, in a sense, a chosen group, a chosen generation. 


“We did not ask to be here at this time. Some of the prophets, when asked to undertake certain missions, said, ‘Don’t’ choose me. That’s too much for me.’ God says, ‘You are going anyway.’ We are not asked whether we wish to live at this particular time. We are here. The inescapable is before us.”


This is really an invitation to a new relationship.


It is akin to meeting a new person, and deciding to form a friendship, or even to fall in love. 


Sure, there can be heartache and sad moments in such a relationship, but who among us would have chosen not to fall in love?


The choices we are confronted with are not just about sacrifice. It is not just about hair shirts, sackcloth and ashes, but about making a space for a novel and possibly enhanced way of life. It is a great big invitation to a new relationship with our planet.


Let us then embrace our time in history. Let us embrace this invitation to a new relationship with each other, and with our only home, the Earth. 


Thank you, and blessings and peace to you all.




Lord Black dons the orange suit

December 11, 2007

Did you hear it too?

A muffled roar which spread over the country yesterday adternoon when Lord Black of Crossharbour (just west of Gravenhurst, I think) was sent to the Crowbar Hotel for six and a half years. This was a new wind called Schadenfreude.

Now in this season of Christmas (really Advent) it is most unseemly to crow about other people’s shortcomings.This is true so please park your schadenfreude right now.

Now Lord Black (”Conrad does not do humble” says Peter Newman) showed little contrition about pensions he tried to loot (Come on down Dominion stores) nor did he lament the people he fired when he and Radler gutted every newspaper thet ever owned to turn it into economic fish wrap which solicited ads and was pretty light on serious news.

I do think his Lordship was a bit delusional when he said that most Canadians were behind him.

Again, park your schadenfreude. We wish him the best.

Harper ineptitude met by a Church missing in action

December 9, 2007

Rallies were held in more than 50 cities worldwide, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax and Moncton. Environmental organizations around the world staged the Global Day of Action to coincide with the two-week UN Climate Change Conference, which runs until Friday in Bali, Indonesia. And at these rallies the Catholic Church was nowhere to be seen. Canada’s largest religious community, like the weak leadership of Stephen Harper is simply missing in action.

At the Toronto event, an organizer dialed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office and held up the cellphone to the crowd, which shouted demands for Harper to commit to Canada’s Kyoto obligatThe 190 nations meeting in Bali are negotiating the framework for a new treaty that will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

Canada, which signed the agreement in 1998 under a Liberal government, is supposed to reduce its emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels. However, Canada is not on track to meet its goal by 2012.

The current Conservative government pledged in April to reduce Canada’s overall emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020, meaning Canada will miss its targets by years.

In the great Civil rights struggles of the 50s the black churches met on Mondays to organize their vigils, marches and protests. Today the Churches are empty because the leadership has not grasped this pivotal moment in dealing with the environmemtal sign of the time.Chuches should go no farther than this failure to understand why she is not a moral player at this time.

still verdant shoots still sprout in some Christian communities.In London England an ecumenical prayer service took place at St.Mattew’s Anglican Church, Great Peter Street. THe SRO event was organized by Operation Noah, Christian Ecology Link and the SCM

In Canada much to the emabrrassment of much of the citizenry PM  Harper refuses to do anything until all countries lockstep together is met by a flaccid Church leadership unable to grasp this important time, this kairos for humanity.

With fil

Holocaust denial

December 8, 2007

Holocaust denial is a crime—everywhere but in America. This is the point Marc Weisbrot made in a recent column.Fe writers acknowledhe the massive carnage in Iraq. 

Opinion Research Business 2 months ago estimated  1,220,580 violent deaths since the US invasion. This is consistent with the study conducted by doctors and scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health more than a year ago. Their study was published in the Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal. It estimated 601,000 people killed due to violence as of July 2006; but if updated on the basis of deaths since the study, this estimate would also be more than a million. These estimates do not include those who have died because of public health problems created by the war, including breakdowns in sewerage systems and electricity, shortages of medicines, etc.

Not scientific enough some say.As one wag  put it: if you don’t believe in random sampling, the next time your doctor orders a blood test, tell him that he needs to take all of it.

The methods used in the estimates of Iraqi deaths are the same as those used to estimate the deaths in Darfur, which are widely accepted in the media. The question as to who is responsible is simply too hot to handle.


The evangelical church which pimped the war seems to have forgotten the fifth commandment


New Canadian Catholic paper

December 5, 2007

New Catholic Times: Sensus Fidelium


Admittedly,the church as a human institution is continually in need of 

purification and renewal; the Second Vatican Council acknowledged this 

with courageous candor. 


John Paul II,“Memory and Identity”, 2005 


New Catholic Times: Sensus Fidelium (NCT:SF) is the necessary attempt to renew the Catholic Church and respond to the ever present promptings of God’s Holy Spirit as she emerges in our generation. This is a virtual impossibility without the full and critical participation of the baptized. This Church principle is called Sensus Fidelium. The late Holy Father, Pope John Paul ll alluded to this sacred principle in the last months of 2004.


He gave these instructions to the U.S. Bishops: An appreciation of the distinct gifts and apostolate of the laity will naturally lead to a strengthened commitment to fostering among the laity a sense of shared responsibility for the life and mission of the Church,”

Certainly this will involve a conscious effort on the part of each bishop to develop, within his particular Church, structures of communion and participation which make it possible… to listen to the Spirit who lives and speaks in the faithful,” 

In the growing cybercommunity in Canada NCT:SF proposes to be an important place where this important dialogue takes place. In a sense Catholic Canada is one huge parish. At present there are too few places where the necessary dialogue among the People of God can take place. Lay people urgently need a forum where the insights of the vast majority of the baptized (99.5% are lay) can germinate and grow. 

An immense amount of work has been undertaken in this regard. NCT: SF will explore current thinking on relevant topics from both a Canadian and global justice perspective rooted in the vision of Vatican ll. The Catholic principles of solidarity with the poor, the common good and the dignity of the human person will be cardinal and non-negotiable.

With our internet journal, aiming at a bi-monthy schedule we will  focus on Education, Spirituality, Liturgy and Justice, Ecology, Youth, Arts and Culture. A teachers’ guide will come with each edition. This will be a cooperative venture. $20 memberships will sustain the journal and give each member the ability to respond to each article, a valuable access to archived material and the teachers’ guide.

John Quinn, Managing editor.

Ted Schmidt, Editor

Information and membership

membership is $20.00 and may be sent to John Quinn