Archive for May 2010

Elvis Costello boycotts Israel

May 24, 2010

As Martin Luther King  said,

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”

Elvis Costello asked the conscience question and, it may be said,  reclaimed his Catholic social justice  heritage when  he “refused to look the other way” and joined the cultural boycott of Israel. He is the second artist to do so, preceded by the original rapper Gil Scott Heron.

The prolific British rocker who wrote the best song of the 80s,”Shipbuilding” an ironic swipe at Margaret Thatcher’s war against Argentina,  cancelled his  Israel concerts. In the 70s Costello wrote a hit song Oliver’s Army, an anti-occupation anthem about young, working-class soldiers dragooned into Oliver Cromwell’s occupation of Ireland. He has always been a keen observer of history and international politics. Following a campaign by Boycott Divestment organizers, he announced that his upcoming shows are now history. Costello  has posted a thoughtful statement about the decision on his website:

Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.

I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.

I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.

Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.

Let Elvis know he did the right thing

Papal chutpzah-or amnesia

May 21, 2010

Addressing the clergy of Rome in 2007, Pope Benedict told  his listeners that “new forms of life are being born in the church, just as they were born down the ages.” Yes, but a motherhood statement affirming the omnipresence of the Spirit.

Then Il Papa zeroed in a painful truth.

Benedict . maybe recalling Francis, Clare or Mary Ward, anticipated how necessarily disruptive and challenging God’s gifts can be, especially for administrators. So he counseled his audience to gentleness and patience in exercising their pastoral responsibility for coordinating gifts in the local community.

“The first rule,” he told them, “is: do not extinguish Christian charisms; be grateful even if they are inconvenient.”

Mmm.Is this the same Benedict who almost singlehandedly ( no, with orders from the Boss) quashed these “inconvenient truths” of over one hundred theologians?

It was at this time (1990) that the Catholic Theological society of America with Canadian Basilian Walter Principle as head   erupted and counseled the Vatican in similar language, that of Thessalonians, “Do not extinguish the Spirit.”

Are there two Benedicts?

Bill Maher, secular fundamentalist

May 19, 2010
Poor Billy Maher attacked on his own show.

It was somnething to see.  Last week the militant atheist challenged by two articulate guests on his shallow understanding of religion and faith. He didn’t know what to do or really say when this happened. Like many secular fundamentalists he showed himself to be quite narrow and unable to comprehend anybody’s Christianity or religious view of life.

Now Maher’s show is unique—but it’s HBO—not available to all. It is certainly in the vanguard of subjecting American exceptionalism to trenchant criticism.You might recall Maher lost a network show after 9/11 when he said that whoever piled into the Manahattan Towers certainly was no coward. They went down with the ship while guys like John McCain  rained death from 30,000 feet on innocent Vietnamese.

Since then Maher has shown himself to be an astute observer of US politics and  one not afraid to strongly criyicize the Pailins and Bushes of our lives. Week after week he proves how well informed he is.

But when it comes to religion Billy, the product of Jewish/Catholic upbringing is hopelesssly narrow as his movie Religolouss showed…cheap shots at the worst straw men in Christendom. It was funny but the target much too easy and simple.

Billy apparently has no sense of mystery or the deep wells of faith.

A good book to read on fundamentalisms of secular and religious stripes is Chris Hedges I Don’t Believe in Atheists.

Bill could profit  by reading it.

Benny fesses up

May 14, 2010

Now the media is exonerated

So now it turns out  it’s not the media who are persecuting Holy Mother Church over the clerical sex abuse and episcopal cover ups, the problem according to the Pope is “born from the sins within the church,” and not from a campaign by outsiders. So speaketh Josef Ratzinger on May 11 on the papal plane headed to Portugal.

The pontiff said the Catholic church has always been tormented by problems of its own making — a tendency that is being witnessed today “in a truly terrifying way.”

Well this is a step forward. But why stop there?

Now it would look on the pope to acknowledge his own work in proscribing the theological reflections  of so many fine minds with whom he disagreed as the Grand Inquisitor under John Paul ll.

This heavy handed  shutting down of the intellectual apparatus of the church will be a permanent stain on Ratzinger’s career. To many it bordered on cruelty. No theologian was ever convicted of anything and many suffered grievously for their work. Shattered lives, breakdowns, the stultification of theology have had terrible ramifications for the broader church. And Ratzinger smiled and played Mozart as he did this.

Maybe this is a new beginning. and maybe the pope should take the high road and admit his own blindness in doing little while he was head of the CDF.

Los Suns

May 7, 2010

Leave it to Canada’s gift to the NBA Victoria’s Steve Nash to lead the Phoenix Suns to a justice stance vis a vis Arizona’s draconian and racist bill forcing Arizonans to prove citizenship on the spot. This ugly piece of legislation by a right wing Republican admin has been trashed almost everywhere (including the US bishops) but it took a bold move by Nash to give it national attention.

With power forward Amare Stoudamire  he approached owners about the simple change on their jerseys to read “Los Suns.” a nice act of solidarity. The move has quickly been picked up by Latino ball players who to a man said they will not play in an all star game in Arizona if the law is enacted. Given the number of Latinos, this is turning into a major migraine for big league baseball.

Sport and politics don’t mix? Who said so?

The question for Canadians should be—where were the Amerks and Canucks when Don Cherry was slagging Europeans. One player with guts could have rounded up dozens of hockey sleepy heads to get Cherry to apologize or better still get him off the national broadcaster. They could have said, “We’re not playing while this oaf is spreading his poison. But nothing happened

Now look at the damage this guy has done  with his racist pro-war screeds.

God is pro-war

May 5, 2010

Our main man, Jerry

When we get some perspective (though many understood it at the time), we realize how insane the religiosity of GW Bush and his White House was. Bad enough to hear David Frum’s remark that when he was in the government  a familiar refrain was , “Missed you at the prayer meeting.”

But general Boykin takes the cake as a certifed nutbar.The man who led the search for Bin Laden was a regular on the evangelical circuit draped in combat gear.

“Why is this man (Bush) in the White House? I tell you because God put him there!”

And who is the enemy? bin Laden? Nah

Hussein? Nah

Kim Jong Il? Nah

The Taliban? Nah

The enemy is a guy called Satan! He wants to destroy this nation.”

This is the same soldier  who led the Black Hawk Down mission in Mogadishu and took pictures which showed balck smears.

Yes! “A demonic presence.” And “God reveled it to me”. as God told GW to make war on Iraq.

And let’s not forget the late Jerry Falwell: “God is pro war!”