Archive for March 2017

Dorothy Day: Saved by Beauty

March 30, 2017

Kate Hennessy the youngest granddaughter of Catholic icon Dorothy Day (1897-1980), has written a fascinating biography of the not yet canonized Day, and her own mother Tamar, Day’s only child.

This book, Dorothy Day:The World will Be Saved by Beauty will be jarring reading for the fainthearted Catholics who want their saints and icons to be Hallmark cards of unalloyed piety and perfection.

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Day of course had a fascinating life from bohemian friend of the young Eugene O’Neill and communist Mike Gold, a woman who had an abortion to serious Catholic with a penchant to priest idolatry  and a rigid spirituality. She appeared to be a hip anarchist with many lovers who found herself pregnant by the elusive Foster Batterham. The latter absolutely refused to marry Day. He wanted no truck with Catholicism which Day had embraced. It finally drove them apart and in n the end and after 5 years Day gives up on Forster but continues an on gain a off again relationship with him until she dies.

Day’s naked carnality puts Augustine to shame. This note to Forster is typical:

My desire for you is a painful rather than pleasurable emotion. It is a ravishing hunger which makes me want you more than anything in the world and makes me feel as though I could barely exist until I saw you again…I have never wanted you as much as I have ever since I left, from the first week on, although I’ve thought before that my desires were almost too strong to be borne.”

Tamar grows up with an absentee father off the scene and sadly marries the troubled David Hennessy with whom she has 9 children.

This movie is painful as we watch Hennessy disintegrate and Dorothy, now the founder of the Catholic Worker, combines the work of a hands on anti-poverty and anti-war activist with being a devoted grandmother.

At times her life appears out of control, absolutely chaotic. She only survives by taking off on speaking tours, riding buses and retreats to the Catholic Worker farm.

Hennesy’s mother, Tamar, who was Day’s only daughter. had a tempestuous but loving relationship with her mother. Tamar left the church in 1967 and was followed by all her children. There is a profound lesson to be teased out of all this. Patriarchy,misogyny and triumphalism would be good places to start.

This is a stunning book, sensitively written. It brings fresh light on the extraordinary Day whose freenetic  life was only saved by holding tight to a rigid Catholicism which many will find incredible. It is highly dubious if her harsh spirituality, highly judgmental and rigid until late in life could ever be duplicated today. At the same time it must be said, it saved Day but did have unforseen consequences.

Granddaughter Kate has rendered a great service to the Catholic community for fleshing out the visionary life of her extraordinary grandma whose love of books, music, beauty and the sacraments allowed her to persevere in her love for the poor and her own flesh and blood.

Richard Gere in Hebron

March 27, 2017

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Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, 30 ks south of Jerusalem , about 200,000 Palestinians and 600 provocative settlers. The army is there to protect the settlers who have free rein. You really have to experience this shocking abuse of the indigenous Palestinians, a nauseous experience I had in 2010.This is an experience fewtourists have.

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Richard Gere was in Israel promoting his latest film. His celebrity status gave him access to the bizarro world of life in palestine. visit.Here he was accompanied by the brave soldiers’ group Breaking the Silence.

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/settlers

The soldiers are human beings.They cannot stomach the un-Jewish actions of the true believers,the settlers.They openly tell their mothers.
They escort Gere to Hebron.

Not a Palestinian in sight. Soldiers and settlers roam comparatively carefree. The roads are too quiet. All of the shops are shuttered. Gere is stunned:

“This is the thing that’s flipping me out right now,” Gere stammers to his Hebron guides, activists with the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, former soldiers that now advocate against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory, “Of everything we’ve seen for two days, the people we’ve talked to, it’s…I mean…I’m…I’m touched by that, I know that story. But this is really bizarre.”

“This is genuinely strange,” Gere adds, before telling his guides, Hebron is like the Jim Crow South:

“It’s the dead city, but who owns the city? And their [the settlers] feeling of ‘I’m protected, I can do whatever I want,’ and that sense of where the boundaries are. I mean it’s like…it’s exactly like what the what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go, they could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place. It was well understood. You didn’t cross it or you’d get your head beat in or lynched,” Gere said.

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Rosie Dimanno: “a Light Unto the Nations”

March 24, 2017

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Oh my, the Toronto Star has a know-it-all columnist Rosie Dimanno.Give her credit she is a facile writer, apparently with no social life, a scribe who who roams far and wide in her opinions. In Friday’s Star she left the locker room of the Leafs (only briefly her column appeared in the Sports section) to pontificate on the work of the distinguished Princeton Professor of International Law, Richard Falk.

Richard Falk was the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Dimanno never having walked in the West Bank or Gaza and angry at Falk for telling the truth about Israel’s shameful human rights record, labelled Falk a “self-hating Jew.” Wow, if the professor is a sel-hating Jew there are hunbdreds of thousands in this category: Jews raised in a culture of human rights who can no loinger abide Israel’s barbaric behaviour.

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Now contrast Dimanno’s narrow Toronto-centric rant with those of Tel Aviv’s secular prophet Gideon Levy who has been writing for 20 years about his native country.

Levy is a secular Jew but iis well aware of the Biblical expression of Isaiah’s that the biblical people Israel were called to be l’or goyim, a light unto the nations.

Opinion A Light Unto The Nations
Gideon Levy Mar 23, 2017

How right-wingers in West wish they could shut their states to citizens of Muslim countries and suspect anyone who has an Arabic last name – like Israel is doing. Israel has resumed its biblical role as a light unto the nations in recent years. To increasingly larger groups in the West it is a source of inspiration and a subject of imitation. Israel is the model, the forerunner, the pillar of fire, the lighthouse. It is also the defensive shield. When the world charges to the right, Israel once again shines brightly, like in those beautiful days of pony tails, the kibbutz and the Six-Day War.
When the world wages war on the Muslims, it remembers that Israel was there first, the vanguard of the sons of light in their war on the sons of darkness. When they talk about the ways to fight them, Israel is the most tried and tested training field. When they talk about the influence of Donald Trump’s election on the Israeli right, we should also pay attention to the opposite, much more significant influence – how Israel has become the legitimacy source for the American radical right.

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Dutch far-right Party of Freedom leader Geert Wilders came to Israel 40 times. He also lived here for two years. What exactly did he see in it? A source of inspiration for his racial doctrine and a shelter to launder his views. “Nowhere in the world do I feel that feeling of friendship like in Ben-Gurion Airport,” he once said. What more can we ask? Just like its predecessor, South Africa, which the West saw as its front outpost against the savages and the Communists, Israel is now seen as the West’s front outpost in its war on the Islamic darkness.

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“Thanks to parents in Israel, who send their children to the army and don’t sleep at night, the parents in Europe and the United States can sleep peacefully,” said Wilders, the Israel enthusiast.
Indeed, Israel started all this. It was the first to identify the Arab menace and wage war on it. It brought back colonialism. The right will not forget that. It built the separation fences and walls, realizing the global right’s dreams. If only they could surround Europe with a wall like in the West Bank, if only they could build a fence on the Mexico border, like the one on the Egyptian border. Israel has proved it’s possible. It has proved that a country can be both a democracy and apartheid – something the global right is dreaming of.

 

 

Israel has proved that it’s OK to flout international law and exist without the High Court of Justice and human rights groups. Trump would swell with pleasure. Wilders’ eyes would glitter to see the routine executions of girls with scissors and boys throwing stones in the West Bank. They can only envy their friends from Israel. They can only envy the Israelis, who are not ashamed to hold millions of Arabs as subjects without rights for 50 years and still be part of the enlightened world; to legitimize every abomination under cover of “the war on terror.” How the rightists in the West wish they could close their countries to all the asylum-seekers and not recognize anyone as a refugee, as Israel does. How they would love to thumb their noses at international conventions and international institutions’ resolutions – it’s so 2017. How they wish they could shut their states to citizens of Muslim countries and suspect anyone who has an Arabic last name – like Israel is doing; to hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners, most of them political prisoners, some of them without trial.

 
From Marine Le Pen to the far-right “Sweden Democrats,” they would all want to implement that in their countries. Israel was the one that started all this, and now the West is imitating it – they’re already banning computers on flights from Muslim states and you can feel the Israeli inspiration in the air. Not only drip irrigation has Israel contributed to the world, but profiling, too. Not only cherry tomatoes, but detention without trial.

It has shown the world how to incite against minorities – and the Wilders were impressed and amazed. It is showing how to fight critics, human rights NGOs, the media and the courts – a model Le Pen would gladly adopt. It is demonstrating theocracy in the West – and the evangelists in America are full of admiration. Please show a hand of applause the old-new chosen people; please welcome Israel.

The “only democracy” at it again

March 23, 2017

How long before the world shakes its cobwebs off and realizes the  real dire sitauation in Israel/Palestine.This is the latest outrage.

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On the morning of Sunday, March 19, Israeli tax authorities barged into the home of Omar Barghouti, the prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for the freedom, justice and equality of the Palestinian people. They detained and interrogated Omar and his wife Safa for 16 hours that first day. Omar is currently enduring a fourth day of interrogation.

Below is the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee’s (BNC) response to these developments and the Israeli government’s systematic efforts to criminalize the BDS movement, intimidate activists and stop free speech:

A prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, has for years been subjected to intense threats, intimidation and repression by various arms of the far-right Israeli government, particularly after it considered the movement a “strategic threat” to its entire system of injustice against Palestinians.

At a March 2016 conference in occupied Jerusalem, several Israeli government ministers threatened Omar and key BDS human rights defenders with severe measures, including “targeted civil elimination” – a euphemism for civil assassination. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs last year established a “tarnishing unit,” as exposed in the Israeli daily Haaretz. This unit’s job is to tarnish the reputation of BDS human rights defenders and networks.

It is in this context that the Israeli tax department’s investigation of Omar and his wife, Safa, must be understood. After failing to intimidate them through the threat of revoking Omar’s permanent residence in Israel, and after the effective travel ban imposed on him proved futile in stopping his human rights work, the Israeli government has resorted to fabricating a case related to Omar’s alleged income outside of Israel to tarnish his image and intimidate him.

The fact that this investigation includes a travel ban and that it comes a few weeks before Omar Barghouti is scheduled to travel to the U.S. to receive the Gandhi Peace Award jointly with Ralph Nader in a ceremony at Yale University proves its true motive —repression.

The fact that the Israeli government publicized the inflammatory fabrications against Omar just 24 hours after he was taken in for investigation shows beyond doubt that the investigation’s real goal is to tarnish his reputation.

No matter what extreme measures of repression Israel wields against the BDS movement or its human rights defenders and vast network of supporters, it cannot stop this movement for human rights. Bullying and repression can hardly affect a grassroots movement that grows in people’s hearts and minds, empowering them to do the right thing — to stand on the right side of history, against Israel’s fanatic regime of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing, and for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

This latest desperate chapter of repression and intimidation by the Israeli government against Omar Barghouti is the strongest indicator yet of the failure of the Israeli regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid to slow down the impressive growth of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

Another Jewish Jew: Gershom Gorenberg

March 20, 2017

 

Gershom Gorenberg is another “Jewish Jew” who takes the Torah seriously, struggles to live his Orthodox faith, battles with Torah and writes books and articles on what he sees in his country, Israel. As another Jew of conscience, he is not impressed by what he sees.

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In an Haaretz article “We Can’t End the Desecration of Judaism Without Ending the Occupation (Dec.30, 2015) he wrote:

“One implication of this history is that the occupation has not only corrupted the State of Israel, it has corrupted Judaism. It has become a constant defamation of God’s good name.”

He runs through Israel’s history “and shows how the state provided the conditions for a marginal religious stream to grow, and for part of it to become dangerously radical.”
This is his latest article from the Moment magazine:

My wife recently sent me an email with the subject line “Sodom.” It linked to a news report headlined, “Serbian police: You are not allowed to feed the refugees!”

Let’s take note: Sodom’s failure wasn’t just a lack of giving by individuals. The city, as a polity, rejected responsibility.
The same section of Genesis describes the polar opposite of Sodom: Abraham, who sees strangers and runs to offer them shelter and food. After this, God gives the reason Abraham will become a great nation: “He will instruct his children and his house after him to keep the Lord’s way, to do justice….”

In short, the Torah says that the collective known as the Jews is called into being for the sake of justice. All the commandments given later are vital, but they rest on this. And one facet of justice is a society’s shared obligation to help people from outside that society.

That news item from Serbia, by the way, was dated January 17—before a new regime tried to close America’s doors completely to refugees. But the refugee crisis didn’t begin with Donald Trump. America has taken only a few thousand Syrian refugees a year, out of millions. Many Europeans would like to avoid the wave of refugees by keeping them in Turkey.

Israel, where I live, has evaded its responsibility under the 1951 Refugee Convention to give asylum to Eritrean and Sudanese refugees who have crossed the Sinai seeking safety. Just as scandalous, rabbis and religious political leaders have either ignored the issue or supported anti-refugee measures.

Instead, the Jewish Home party, the supposed home of religious Zionism, devoted its energy to passing a different insult to morality, the so-called Regularization Law. The law allows the state to confiscate private Palestinian land in the West Bank on which settlers have built homes. It turns land theft by individuals into theft by the state.
Around the time the bill first came up in the Knesset, the 929 project reached the Book of Hosea. The project, created by Rabbi Benny Lau, encourages Israeli Jews—religious, secular and in-between—to read the same five chapters of the Bible each week and meet to discuss them. A friend who’s taking part pointed out to me Hosea’s ancient protest: “The leaders of Judah have become like the movers of field boundaries”—that is, people who steal others’ farmland by moving markers.

Religious settlers and their backup band of rabbis would deny that this verse applies to them. Some have told me explicitly: The land is all ours, because God promised it to us.

But this argument flies in the face of another midrash, also quoted by Rashi—one so basic that any religious Jew should have learned it by third grade. It provides an explanation for the dispute between the herdsmen of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot in Genesis 14: Lot’s men, says the midrash, grazed their animals in other people’s fields. Abraham’s men objected. Lot’s men said that God had given the land to Abraham and that Lot was his heir, so the pastures already belonged to Lot. Abraham’s men answered, “What, is theft now permitted?!”

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Which is to say: The promise of the land doesn’t abrogate the normal demands of justice. Rather, the promise of the land rests on justice. The land is supposed to be a means for creating a just society.

In both Israel and the diaspora, the perception is that there’s an inverse relation between halachic observance and concern for human rights. Statistically, to my great sorrow, the perception seems correct. But religiously, it has no basis. The difference between Sodom and Abraham is justice. Justice is the foundation of Judaism.

And justice is absolutely a matter of politics.

Peter Beinart a “Jewish Jew”

March 17, 2017

This is the first article on real “Jewish Jews” as I style them in my upcoming book.They are Jews who are deadly serious about the ethical implications of their faith. They are coming to terms with the radical deficiencies of Zionism—out of their faith.The Covenant simply can not coexist with occupation .If it does you are now with Pharaoh.

I quite like Peter Beinart, contributing editor at the Atlantic who writes regularly for the New Yorker and  also pops up regularly  in Haaretz. Beinart is a liberal Zionist and a very thoughtful serious Jew.

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Recently (Jan 31)in the Jewish daily  the Forward  he challenged the orthodox Judaism of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

He thinks out loud as he reads his Torah portion:

Why must the Jews leave, become slaves in Egypt, wander through the wilderness, and fight their way back to the place where, at the end of Genesis, they already reside? Why the big detour?

Obviously, there are many answers. It is in Egypt that Jews evolve from a family into a nation. It is in Egypt that God displays to that nation his awesome power. It is in the wilderness that God gives the Torah.

But in their Haggadah, “Go Forth and Learn,” Rabbi David Silber and Rachel Furst offer another reason. They suggest that “one purpose of the Egypt experience was to sensitize the People of Israel to the suffering of others, to teach them what it means to be alienated and oppressed, so that when they set up their own society, they will be sure not to impose such suffering on others.”

Slavery, in other words, was meant to ensure that Jews would remember powerlessness once they gained power. Jared Kushner is what happens when that memory fails.

He then described the privileged affluent life of Kushner simply saying

In remarkable ways, modern Jewish history echoes the passage from powerlessness to power that begins in the Book of Exodus. Therefore, the challenge for Jared Kushner, and everyone in our extraordinarily privileged generation, is to remember our ancestors’ suffering and honor their memories by defending the weak, vulnerable and oppressed today.

Now that’s real Judaism!
How could Kushner — a Modern Orthodox golden boy — fail to internalize that? How could he invite Donald Trump’s Cabinet to his house for Shabbat dinner only hours after his father-in-law’s executive order banning refugees from entering the United States? How could he pose in a tuxedo alongside his wife, Ivanka Trump, on Saturday night as that executive order wreaked havoc on innocent people’s lives simply because they hailed from the wrong countries?

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Kushner’s failure is not his problem alone; it should chill every Modern Orthodox educator, rabbi and parent in the United States. How could the Modern Orthodox community, a community that prides itself on instilling in its children Jewish knowledge and ideals, have failed so profoundly?

The Frisch School, the prestigious New Jersey yeshiva from which Kushner graduated, should conduct the kind of after-action report that the military conducts when its operations go awry. Every synagogue where Kushner prayed regularly should ask itself whether it bears some of the blame for having failed to instill in him the obligations of Jewish memory. Even if it is too late to influence Kushner, Modern Orthodox leaders still can work to ensure that they do not produce more like him in the years to come.

Obviously, not all Modern Orthodox Jews share Kushner’s moral indifference. Last November, the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek organized a remarkable letter condemning “Trump’s hateful rhetoric and intolerant policy proposals.” On Monday, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, a vice president of Yeshiva University, sent out a tweet congratulating the Cardozo Law students who were working to help people hurt by Trump’s ban.

But these are the exception, not the rule. Kushner’s moral failure challenges the Modern Orthodox community — a community for which I have enormous admiration — to ask why it is often more stringent about ritual lapses than it is about ethical ones. Why do many Modern Orthodox Jews shudder at the thought of eating nonkosher cheese, yet proudly support Trump?

Matthew Fox on Paul Ryan

March 15, 2017

There can be no doubt that advanced capitalism has corrupted many North American Catholics. We all have a bit of Egypt in us, some more than others.Jesus was right when he said we could not serve 2 masters and Paul Ryan is a prime example. He has fooled a lot of people advancing his spurious credentials as a serious Catholic and now Matthew Fox has totally undressed him for the fraud that he is. Four years ago many theologians told him in more polite language that he was an empty vessel posing as Vatican ll Catholic. The man seems totally oblivious to the inconsistencies  in his reasoning.Now Fox adds chapter and verse.

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Is Ryan a Religious Hypocrite?  
Dear Speaker and Congressman Paul Ryan,

As a priest who commemorates his 50th year in the priesthood this year (28 as a Roman Catholic and 22 as an Episcopalian), and as your elder, I am writing you this letter because I am worried about your soul.

We all know you take good care of your body, working out frequently in the congressional gym we taxpayers provide for those in Congress, and that is a good thing.  But I am concerned that you are neglecting your soul.  It too requires work-outs and practice to stay healthy.

You claim to be a good and a practicing Catholic Christian but I have serious doubts that you are.  Our Christian beliefs include these words of Jesus after all: “What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”  These powerful words are surely important for anyone serving in public office or any other places of responsibility, whether in government or business or church or wherever.  Yes, they even apply to your close buddies the Koch brothers, upon whom you depend so fully for your income and ideas and campaigns and job.

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Was it the ridiculous narcissistic writings of atheist Ayn Rand that enticed you to surrender Gospel morality for Mammon? 

You see, another passage that grounds Catholicism and Christianity is found in Matthew 25: “Do it to the least and you do it to me.”  Not to mention the Golden Rule which is found in Matthew 7:12 and is reflected in some form in every world religion since the time of Hammurabi: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Now I want to ask from a spiritual and theological perceptive how you can possibly reconcile these basic teachings of the Gospels with your continued efforts to create budgets for our entire nation that do the following:

1. Threaten to privatize and thereby destroy Social Security for elders and disabled people.

1. Destroy critical health support systems for the sick, handicapped, mentally disabled, and homeless by effectively scuttling Medicare and Medicaid.

a. Dismantle the EPA so that the rest of God’s sacred creation is imperiled by human narcissism (Pope Francis’ words).  Have you not read Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si that teaches everyone—believer and non-believer alike—that we humans are not here to destroy but to support creation for the good of all beings on earth now and in the future?  If you have studied this great document—as you must as a thinking believer—where is it to be found in your legislative agenda?

Another Biblical teaching is the warning that we are not to worship idols.  But Wall Street is a purveyor of the idolatry of money.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in that system.  Pope Francis has spoken to that truth also when he speaks of the “savage capitalism” and the “god of money” that dominates so much of decision-making in western culture.

Your naked efforts to give more and more tax breaks to billionaires like your supporters the Koch brothers is proof that you have up to now chosen to be on the side of the savage capitalists and the gods of money.  Have you no shame?  Have you no conscience?  Do your faith and Jesus’ teachings mean nothing to you because you are mesmerized by power and the powerful?  Do you not know—or do you simply not care—that when the uber-rich do not pay their fair share, the struggling poor and middle class must pay from their meager resources to subsidize the rich? And when the uber-rich get still more tax breaks, the poor and middle class are forced to make up the difference?

I am worried about your soul.  It is not too late to repent and start over.  It is time to examine your commitment to the values that drive your heroes the Koch brothers, who want to worship the idols of Wall Street instead of caring for God’s sacred creation, and who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes to contribute to the common good.  And who buy the loyalty of politicians like you to commit sins against the poor and creation itself to make their fat wallets even fatter.  Shame on you!

Yours are not the values I learned growing up in Wisconsin (indeed, my godmother lived in your hometown of Janesville) and growing up in the Catholic Church.  How have you wandered so far off track?   (Let me add that I admire many atheists for their ethics and morality but Ayn Rand is not one of them.  Not by a long shot.  She has rendered selfishness a virtue.)

I wish through this letter to awaken your soul.  Your sweet Wisconsin smile and gym-toned body notwithstanding, through your choices you are dancing with Evil.

The gospels teach such truths.  So too does Pope Francis who, as a Roman Catholic, you supposedly respect and listen to.  Have you listened to his warnings and his teachings lately?  Allow me to remind you of some of them.

The Pope minces no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today.  He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human.  In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.”[i]  Is globalization enslaving the nations?  It seems to me that much of Trump’s success as a candidate was built around this very idea—only his solutions seem to me to be dark indeed.  What is your agenda, Mr. Speaker, about this “inhuman” globalization that is hurting so many citizens of our country and beyond?

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Pope Francis says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor”[ii] and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.” [iii]   Are you on board with this set of values?  Or are you in the camp of “savage capitalism?”  Why do you want to destroy the dignified retirement of American people by diminishing Social Security instead of building it up?  And to destroy social benefits for the very poor and working classes while giving tax gifts to the super rich and corporations?  And to eliminate a current health insurance program that provides assistance for many millions of people instead of improving it?

The Pope praises St. Francis because “he contributed an entire concept of poverty to Christianity against the wealth, pride, and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”[iv]  Are you putting obstacles in the way of the wealth and vanity of the powerful in our day?  Given your responsible position as Speaker of the House, why don’t you try to change history for the poor and neglected instead of for the 1% who are already over their heads in favoritism and success and (too much) power?

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The Pope takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”[v]  How important is that?  He equates economic structures with terrorism.  Yes, he is telling us that Wall Street terrorizes.  Ask any Main Street citizen: we all feel the effects of this terror and that is why many in Main Street voted for Trump, out of fear of this terror from Wall Street.  But your buddies the Koch brothers are those very terrorists the Pope is speaking of.  Yes, how does it feel to be in bed with terrorists?  And of course, Trump has turned his back on his promises to the working people and has appointed an unprecedented number of billionaires (terrorists) to head his cabinet positions.
The Pope also denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth. [vi]  He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good.  What are you doing to challenge those hiding their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid taxes?  Aren’t you in a powerful position to do something about that?

Pope Francis has said: “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity.  It is the Gospel itself.”  And he has remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the Church on the needs of the poor, he would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyite.”[vii] Are you leading legislation that puts an option for the poor in the forefront?
He says: “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”[viii] Are you on the side of human rights and against economic structures that create huge inequalities?  Or are you on board to actually increase those inequalities by passing legislation that gives tax breaks to the 1% who in fact need them the least?  Pope Francis warns that “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.”[ix]  Where do you and your fat-cat donors stand on the subject of the “cult of money”?

 
We need, Pope Francis says, a “balanced social order that is more humane”[x] and that resists consumerism.  Pope Francis says further that “Money has to serve and not rule.”[xi]  It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.[xii]  Where do you stand on the topic of “savage capitalism” and the cult of money?  In your very responsible position as Speaker of the House what are you doing to address these important issues—issues that touch all the people in America, especially the downtrodden and left out?  If you had addressed them before the 2016 election, maybe the strongman Trump would not have been able to tap into the frustration of as many blue-collar Americans as he did.

Finally, as a Catholic, where do you stand on the notion that corporations are people (see Citizens United and Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decisions)?  Are you in bed with the neo-fascist Catholic members of the Supreme Court who, contrary to Catholic teachings, are telling us to believe that a corporation is a person?  How could you possibly reconcile that with the teachings of the Church on the immortality of the individual soul and more?  While we are on the subject of neo-fascist Catholics, where do you stand on Opus Dei?
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Unfettered capitalism is, according to Pope Francis, a “new tyranny.” [xiii] Where do you stand on this new tyranny?  What limits are you setting on unfettered capitalism by your legislative leadership?  Are you keeping Dodd/Frank laws on the books?  Says the Pope: “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.”  This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.”  A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry. [xiv]

 
In his document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly as all the prophets do.  He says No—as all the prophets do.  He denounces “trickle-down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”[xv]  Where do you stand on trickle-down economics?  Have you learned from its blatant failures?  Are you aware how many Main Street citizens are “still waiting” for good wages and jobs to reach them?

Following are some of Pope Francis’ No’s presented in his own words:
1. 1.  No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.[xvi]

1. 2.  No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self-serving tax evasion has taken on worldwide dimensions.  The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.[xvii]

1. 3.  No to a financial system which rules rather than serves.  Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative.  It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….Money must serve, not rule!  The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.  I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.[xviii]

1. 4.  No to the inequality which spawns violence.  [Violence happens not] simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.  Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.[xix]
Cosmo
And “NO” to the despoiling of Mother Earth about whose peril Pope Francis has written an entire encyclical.  Clearly you have turned your back on the sacredness of the Earth as well: you support for the head of EPA a man who has shouted that he wants to destroy it, while you make ridiculous mumbles about climate change that you are not a scientist.  Well, sir, isn’t that all the more reason to listen to scientists who do tell us that humans are bringing about climate change and the destruction of many, many species as well as the rising of the oceans?  How can one be a Christian and not recognize the sacredness of creation?
Where do you stand, Speaker Ryan, on these issues that the Pope raises?  How are you using your position of power and responsibility to alleviate the ills he addresses?  Isn’t what the Pope says true, that the violence the current system provokes is one reason why many victims of this system voted for Trump—and even admire his violence?  Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.” [xx] And he defines injustice as “evil.”

I pray that you may be converted and return to the teachings of Christ and the Church striving to teach in his name very soon.  Time is running out for our species and you are in a position of trust and responsibility and leadership in our country at this time.  Earn it!

Meanwhile, until you and your party pay attention at last to these basic issues, I as a Christian priest and theologian can only conclude that you are not at all a Catholic or a Christian but just one more hypocrite flaunting your bogus religion on your sleeve to garner more votes and stay in a cushy job while you sell your soul to the Koch brothers and other Wall Street misers.  People who don’t have a clue about the “weightier matters of the Law—justice, compassion, good faith!” (Mt. 23:23) that Jesus preached, and who could not care less.

Jesus had something to say about that too, remember?  It was strong stuff.  He was speaking to you, Paul Ryan, and your fellow politicians when he said: “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness….You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.”  (Mt 23.27-28, 31).

I hope and pray that you and your fellow politicians, Mr. Ryan, so beholden to the rich and uber-rich, might heed Jesus’ words.  And if not, at least do him the courtesy of not invoking his name to justify your lawlessness.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

Israel’s history from below

March 14, 2017

Marc Ellis,  Jewish -American theologian makes the point the prophetic is the indigenous of Jewish, originating in the Jewish bible. We think of the neviim, the great prophets who spoke God’s word of justice to the kings and the powerful.The prophetic is Israel’s officialdom has lost its way. The prophetic cannot coexist with occupation or indeed with covenant.So the prophetic migrates. In Israel it moves laterally to secular justice-proclaimers such as Haarertz columnist Gideon Levy.
The former average Tel Aviv Jewish boy Gideon Levy decided to visit the West Bank and see for himself. Like the great Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer he began to see history from the underside.

Levy 30
In his letters from prison before he was executed by the Nazis in April 1945, Bonhoeffer wrote:
There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled – in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.

DIET.jpeg

Levy unlike most Israelis is not afraid to visit Palestinians and see life from the underside.
He sets the scene here:

 

We left the house in the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem last week with a malaise I cannot remember feeling for a long time: sadness over a boy’s fate, frustration at my helplessness, and rage at those who had caused him the suffering. Issa al-Mouati – a 14-year-old boy whose right leg was amputated after he was shot by Israeli soldiers in September 2015 – is being held in an Israeli prison. Back in the home of his sick grandmother in the overcrowded refugee camp, his mother Rada told me, with remarkable acceptance, what happened to her son since the soldiers left him permanently crippled.

Then he makes the prophetic links: Israel’s defensive shield of obtuseness, with all the automatic blind justifications for the occupier’s wrongs, could perhaps be cracked only through role reversal. What would have happened if Palestinians had shot a Jewish child? What would have happened if they had arrested a crippled Jewish child? And what would have happened if they had abused a Jewish child whose leg had been amputated? It’s not hard to imagine the outcry that would have arisen from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth – “Jewish blood” – the demand to condemn; Danny Danon in the UN General Assembly; the child’s parents in the VIP gallery, waving for all to see a photograph of the stump. But Issa is Palestinian, and his parents are poor and busy with the grandmother’s illness and making a living more than anything else.

And what happens when an ultra-Orthodox boy or young settler throws stones at soldiers? And perhaps Issa didn’t throw stones – it may yet emerge that he fired at the soldiers with a cannon or a tank. Wait, just wait, for his trial. Everything’s OK, occupier, your conscience is white as snow. It was necessary to shoot Issa; it was necessary to bind the wounded Issa; it was necessary to imprison the crippled Issa. For what choice does Israel have when the Palestinians, in their dastardliness, force it to shoot and imprison young amputees?

The prophetic has migrated.

As a great grassroots Protestant theologian reminded us:

Remember that:
Where you stand will determine what you see;
Whom you stand with will determine what you hear;
What you see and hear will determine what you say and how you act.

A rare public voice for Palestine

March 13, 2017

MIKO

Which should be weekly fare in a free country, PBS host Tavis Smiley featured the well known Israeli dissident Miko Peled on his show. This actually happened on February 2. Quite amazing given the suppression and self-censorship around Israel’s brutal and illegal treatment of Palestinians.

Peled is the author of The General’s Son, Journal of an israeli in Palestine.He is also the son of Matti Peled a high ranking officer of the 67 war who told the Israeli brass to give back the occupied territories if Israel didn’t want permanent war. The General went on to do a Ph.D. in arabic studies, heard the cry of Palestine and dissented. The son carries on.

Now living in California and an articulate critic of Israel,Miko Peled roared through the 13 minutes Smiley afforded him. How did he differ from his grandfather and father?

With my grandfather, there’s no way… This idea that you come from Europe, take over the land from the people who were there, kick them out– I don’t see how you can legitimize that… But those were different times, times when Europeans could come to other countries and do what they wanted. That was what Zionism was all about…
Israel is now one state. Jews and Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or in Israel, live very close to each other geographically, even though completely segregated. So geographically, it’s impossible to do. There is no area you can slice out and say ‘This will be an Israel and this will be a Palestine. It has been a single state for decades now, governed by the State of Israel, but I get privileges, the Palestinians do not. In other words, it gives exclusive rights to Jewish people at the expense of Palestinians.

I don’t see the need for a Jewish state because the Jewish state is precisely the problem. You can’t have a Jewish state in Palestine without infringing on the rights of the indigenous people, which are the Palestinians.You cannot have a Jewish state in an Arab country unless you are going to infringe upon the rights of the local people. You have to kick them out because they won’t have rights.

Smiley spoke about how controversial the issue was in the USA because Obama and Trump continue their blind support for Israel. How did Peled, an Israeli come to his stance?

In my journey, what I did, I went from my very comfortable, very safe, very clean sphere where I thought everybody lived like this into a sphere that was no more than 10 or 5 minutes away from me as it happens where Palestinians live in a completely different reality, different laws.

 
You know, they get 12 hours of water per week, whereas we have as much water as we could possibly want. You know, things like that. They live under different laws than we do, you know. They get arrested, they get treated differently than I do, which I didn’t know.

So I took that step even though everybody was telling me it’s dangerous over there. There are terrorists over there, they’re going to kill you over there, it’s against the law to go there. You’re committing a felony by going there.

But I did it anyway because it was important for me to see what is happening here and how do we resolve this and why is there this conflict? There’s no easy way to conduct this. You have to confront your fears. You have to confront the reality. You have to confront the fact that there’s racism involved, and it’s not an easy conversation, certainly not in the beginning.

Bravo for Tavis Smiley for allowing this voice to appear.Of course he had to balance Peled with a fairly zionist rabbi but that’s TV in America—and Canada.

I

Catholicism corrupted

March 10, 2017

All night on March 8, the US House of Representatives organized itself into committees to look at this shocking betrayal of American citizens and their right to decent health care. The richest (and most religious or is that irreligious) country in the world is still a dinosaur of a nation in this regard. The staggering war-making machine which dwarfs the seven next countries in bloated kill power has just been bumped another 10% by Trump…and all the while health care for all citizens is being jettisoned.

JOEK

On One of the committees the House Energy and Commerce Committee sits Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, son of Congressman Joe, grandson of Senator Robert F., and grand-nephew of President John F. and Senator Edward M. It seems that young Kennedy has not forgotten his basic catechism lessons

Kennedy verbally took on Wisconsin Republican house leader  Paul Ryan

“I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill ‘an act of mercy.’ With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different Scripture…The one I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us. There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. This is not an act of mercy. It is an act of malice.”

I wrote this 4 years ago but it apparently bears repeating:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats : The Second Coming

Nothing bespeaks the devolution of contemporary Catholicism and the abandonment of the Vatican ll vision as the announcement of Paul Ryan as Vice-Presidential Republican candidate.

One hardly knows where to start when analyzing the shocking use of “my Catholic faith” in describing Ryan’s bizarre gospel worldview.

RY

Of course Ryan begins with his conservative cred—-his pro life stance—-meaning anti-abortion (a fight which will never be won given the polarization in the US), so it’s safe to be “pro life”—and vote for war budgets at every chance.
In April, Ryan was taken to the woodshed when he dared use Catholic Social Teaching, in particularly subsidiarity, as the basis of his budget proposal. 50 Catholic theologians and leaders blasted his proposals out of the water.

“Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms,” argue the signatories.

Give Ryan credit, he is not short of chutzpah. He then marched over to Georgetown, the Jesuit university to defend the indefensible. Here he was met by a petition of 90 faculty members and administrators basically telling him he was totally out to lunch. They asked Ryan to justify  cuts to social programs which benefit the poor and no cuts to the shocking bloated military budget

Former America editor  Jesuit Fr.Tom  Reese, one of the organizers of the letter bluntly stated . “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.”

You can bet Ryan never heard of America a well-respected Jesuit magazine.

But he sure loves Ayn Rand, the high priestess of capitalism. Here are a few choice bons mots of Ryan on his literary heroine:

•    “I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people.”

•    “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are.”

•    “It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.”

•    “But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”•

“It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are.”
•    “Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.”