Archive for the ‘Church & Culture’ Category

50 years ago Roger Laporte immolated himself

November 9, 2015


On November 9, 1965, at the age of 22, Roger LaPorte set himself on fire in front of the United Nations building in New York City to protest the Vietnam War. He was a former seminarian and a member of the Catholic Worker Movement. Despite his burns, he remained conscious and able to speak at the hospital. When asked why he set himself on fire, La Porte replied, “I’m a Catholic Worker. I’m against war, all wars. I did this as a religious action.” La Porte died the next day

It is hard for most people to comprehend such an act of self-destruction putatively for a higher cause.Obviously Laporte like many Americans was appalled at the fire engulfing ordinary Vietnamese at this time—all supported by US tax dollars and a misguided militarist adventure. Laporte obviously was a highly sensitive person who deeply felt the unmerited suffering of those he considered family. Laporte looked around and saw virtually no rejection of the US appalling assault on the Vietnamese which took over 1 million civilian lives. His own catholic church was virtually mute. we will never know what his thinking was even though we shudder at his actions.

Yet Laporte was not alone.
Two years earlier On June 11, 1963, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, immolated himself at a Saigon intersection to protest Buddhist persecution by its Catholic president and US proxy Ngo Dinh Diem.

There were others too.

On March 16,1965 an 82 year old Jewish-American pacifist Alice Herz went the same route.

The most shocking was the self-immolation of Norman Morrison a 31 year old Quaker from Washington, D.C. Standing outside the office of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Morrison handed his 1 year old daughter Emily to a bystander he torched himself. His wife said that [S]he was a powerful symbol of the children we were killing with our bombs and napalm–who didn’t have parents to hold them in their arms.”

That amazing Catholic pacifist Fr.Charlie McCarthy wonders why Laporte has been forgotten.

Thich Quang Duc, is revered by Vietnamese Buddhists as a bodhisattva (saint), the intersection where he set himself afire has a monument and park dedicated to him and his intact heart is preserved as a relic of the spirit of compassion in a glass chalice. Alice Herz, who was also a refugee from Nazi Germany, has a plaza named after her in Berlin. Shingo Shibata, the Japanese philosopher, established the Alice Herz Peace Fund in her memory. Norman Morrison has a road named after him in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang. In Hanoi a street is named after him and the Government of Vietnam has issued a postage stamp in his honor. An HBO film about him has been made and poems and books have been written about him. Roger LaPorte’s charred dry bones lay in the ground of section 1, row 11 of Saint Alphonsus Cemetery in Tupper Lake, NY. —long dead, long gone and long forgotten.

McCarthy’s rationale:

By political and ecclesial necessity and arrangement the warriors, dead or alive, are fawned over, but the billions of non-warriors they maimed and destroyed must be kept out of sight, out of mind and out of memory, lest they reveal the immensity of the evil the honored warriors and their honorable puppet masters, have done to fellow human beings, who did them no harm and who intended to do nothing harmful to them. In other words the non-warrior victims of the warrior heroes must be expunged from history, must become as if they never existed, or if they existed were of no worth. The victorious warriors and their controllers, who carefully manage the memory of the past, so as to assure that in the future the young will experience being used as violent and lethal warriors as nobly heroic, must drown them in the vastness of time. The non-warrior victims of the honored and obedient warriors and their sting-pullers are, on the other hand, consigned to historical oblivion as unworthy of being remembered, as they were unworthy to continue life. To such a community of the dead has Roger Laporte been consigned—“unwept, unhonored and unsung.”

Reuben Slonim: Toronto’s last prophetic rabbi

October 10, 2015

Slonim 24
Reuben Slonim: Toronto’s last prophetic rabbi
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Beit Zatoun

612 Markham St. at Bloor Toronto 1 minute from Bathurst subway stop
Reuben Slonim (1914-2000) was the first Canadian-born rabbi to head a Canadian congregation. After the Six Day War of 1967 said that Israel might win the war, but it would lose the peace if it did not show magnanimity towards the Arabs. He maintained that the deepest ethical values of Judaism were being jeopardized and betrayed by Israel’s blatant ghettoization and suffering of another Semitic people, the Palestinians. Fired from his congregation and called an “Arab lover” and an “enemy of the Jews” Slonim never flagged in his defence of Jewish universalist values. Reuben Slonim’s brave defense of Palestinian rights has stood the test of time and he deserves to be honoured as one of the great rabbis.

Ted Schmidt former editor of Catholic New Times was a good friend of Rabbi Slonim.

Brant Rosen, a rabbi for our time

September 26, 2015


It is rabbis like Brant Rosen of Tzedek Chicago’s synagogue who will lead Judaism back to a more prophetic understand of biblical faith. Over the last many decades as many Jewish critics have written. Judaism has been suborned by Zionism, a historic Abrahamic faith co-opted by a nationalist ideology. Often at the centre of the community’s life was Israel, a modern state not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Lest Catholics begin to point any fingers, Roman Catholicism in advanced capitalist countries have settled for the Constantinian arrangement where our critical biblical justice faith has been too easily linked with the flag and predatory capitalism. Even last night on Bill Maher’s TV show, this aggressive atheist, raised a Catholic and commenting on Pope Francis, wondered how could Republicans call themselves Catholics. Instead of Israel at the centre of their spiritual life right wing Catholics have raised the free market as their god and abandoned the poor and the environment. But I digress.

Rabbi Rosen on the holiest day of the Jewish liturgical calendar, Yom Kippur (this year on September 22) dared to lead a Confession Communal Complicity. Every year on Yom Kippur that gem of the Hebrew scriptures the Book of Jonah is read as it challenges the whole community to rethink its values.

Rosen wrote a unique confession called the Al Chet which is part part of the Vidui – or Confession – in which the congregation stands up and publicly confesses the sins of their community.

The congregation rises and publicly confesses the sins of the community and since Israel is part of American Jewish landscape, you can see where this is going.

Al chet…we say together

For the wrong we have done before you…
for forgetting that we were all once strangers in a strange land;

for preferring militarized fences to open borders.

for supporting trade policies and murderous regimes that for drawing lines and turning away those who come to our country seeking a better life.

for demonizing migrants as threats to be feared;

for labeling human beings as “illegal.”

For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement…

for buying into and promoting the ideology of American exceptionalism;

for oppressing other peoples and nations in the name of American power and influence;

for profiting off of weapons of death and destruction;

for contributing to the increased militarization of our nation and our world.

for expanding our military budget while we cut essential services here at home; for believing that militarism and violence will ensure our collective security.


for a brutal and crushing military occupation

for blockading 1.8 million Gazans inside an open air prison;

for repeatedly unleashing devastating military firepower on a population trapped in a tiny strip of land.

for wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism;

or rationalizing away Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

This direct naming of Israel’s humiliation of the Palestinian occupation indicates to me that the prophetic is alive still, small though it may be, in the Jewish community. Rosen makes no bones about this. He is a virtual Jeremiah for our time.His target is idolatry, empire and arrogance.

May his numbers increase.

Jeremiah in Anata

August 28, 2015

Comes a welcome announcement from another “Jew of Conscience” Jeff Halper, the driving force behind the Israel Committee against House Demolitions.The ICAHD team has been working overtime to save Israel from itself.The message arrived today.
Between July 19th – August 3rd, ICAHD hosted its 13th annual rebuilding camp, constructing its 188th and 189th homes, one in the West Bank town of Anata to which we return every summer and the other a large tent-structure suitable for housing a family in the Jordan Valley. Rebuilding is a  key part of ICAHD’s resistance to Israeli occupation, and especially to Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes (about 46,000 on the Occupied Territory since 1967). We rebuild demolished homes as political acts of resistance, which means 189 joint actions of Israeli, Palestinian and international activists.

This year we built a home for the Fhedat family of Anata. The Fhedat family are really two families, that of the husband and wife and the husband’s widowed sister-in-law; there are 11 children altogether. An impoverished Bedouin family, the Fhedats were forced to demolish their own home by the Israeli authorities or face a violent demolition by the IDF and a stiff fine of $15-20,000.
Now Anata which is situated in the shadow of the separation wall is about 4kms northeast of Jerusalem and most believe it is the home of one of the great prophets of the Hebrew bible, Jeremiah of Anatoth. The latter railed against the royal temple ideology of the corrupt leaders who believed they had a stranglehold on the Holy One. Jeremiah read Hebrew history beyond the power politics of kings like Zedekiah. With typical hubris the last few kings of Judah while claiming divine sanction had for gotten the covenant, that Jews had once been sojourners in Egypt and slaves of Pharaoh. In like manner the modern state of Israel has forsaken biblical Judaism and substituted a nationalist Zionism which has marginalized the original inhabitants of Palestine.Jeremiah reminded his contemporaries that there will only be hope for you “if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan and the widow or shed blood in this place (7:5,6).The same goes for modern day Israel.

In Anata today we see the bible come alive. ICAHD rather than oppressing the widow of the Fhedat family is raising her up. Jeremiah 587 years before Jesus, spoke for God,“Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD 31:28.
ICAHD in the biblical Anatoth has chosen to build up and to plant. Since 1967, Israel contravening international law has engaged in collective punishment. It has of destroyed ing about 46,000 homes in the Occupied Territories.


Jeremiah through ICAHD lives today in Anata.

The reluctant prophet Fr. George Zabelka

August 11, 2015


I remember when “the reluctant prophet” George Zabelka  came through Toronto years ago.He died in 1992 but his memory and witness stays with me.

A very humble guy who became converted to the nonviolent gospel. A guy who “said nothing” when one of the greatest crimes in history took place: the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Years later (2005) I met a priest from Augusta, Georgia Bob Cushing who was been relieved of his duties in his parish because of negative backlash resulting from his decision to travel on a pilgrimage to Japan to apologize to the Japanese people for the United States’ use of atomic bombs on two of their cities 60 years ago.

The bishop. Kevin Boland wrote him saying “I am concerned about your using your position as an ordained priest of the Catholic church to foster and nourish your agenda as it pertains to your opinions about World War II,”

The nonviolent gospel of nonviolence is named as “your agenda’. Amazing.

Cushing stated the obvious that Americans have never dealt with the bombings, which Pope Paul VI called “butchery of untold magnitude.”

The Catholic Worker true to its mandate is promoting the film which includes witness from our friend in the peace movement, a survivor herself, Setsuko Thurlow. Their intro follows:

This film is not simply a biography; it is a visual testament that reflects the breadth of Christian doctrine and a view that the heart of Christianity is living a discipleship of Christ as active non-violence.

As a young priest and active duty officer in World War II, Father George Zabelka was the chaplain who offered spiritual reassurance to the crews of the bomber planes (right before the planes left the ground) that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Father Zabelka remembers that he did not object before the planes took off although he knew what the planes were ordered to do. The severity of those attacks and devastation for civilians caused by those bombs prompted Father Zabelka to question what level of killing is acceptable and to what ends.

The conflict grew for him between his identity as a Catholic priest and his identity as a military chaplain who had given religious
sanction and moral clearance to the bomber crews. Father Zabelka questioned if it is possible to be a Christian and also to partake inthe ethos of war and militarism.

After Father Zabelka left the armed forces at the end of WWII, he resolved his question through experiencing the civil rights movement,the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr., the theologies of nonviolence and the protest movements against the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, the military industrial complex, and militarism.

In the end Father Zabelka found affirmation of his belief that a discipleship of Christ rejects violence, protests violence, and aspires to live for the good news of peace, bearing love not arms.

Tone deaf climate change Canadian bishops

July 29, 2015


An article in the BC Tyee once again points out the ‘do nothing on social justice” bishops named by John Paul ll.
Writer Ian Gill, presumably a Catholic looked for signs in Vancouver of any Catholic insitutional action on history’s major moral issue, climate change.

Don’t bet on it, brother Gill, These guys have shown themselves tone deaf on anything north of the pelvic area.Weird coming from celibates. none of these JP bishops have forged a pastoral plan to deal with the issue.Sad,indeed.

Gill writes:

Here in Vancouver, birthplace not of Christ, but anyway Greenpeace, I have searched for signs that Rome’s encyclical on the environment hasn’t accidentally been tossed in the recyclical here in our self-styled Greenest City on Earth. The signs are not promising.

“The Gospel is meant to be lived on its feet — taken places,” offered Fr. Eugenio Aloisio at a recent Sunday mass in East Vancouver’s Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, which seemed like a logical place to listen out for a local interpretation of Laudato Si’, the encyclical otherwise known as Praise Be: On Care for Our Common Home.

After all, the Pope took his name from the divine champion of the natural world, Saint Francis, although judging by the homilies emanating from the eponymous church on Napier Street, East Van is a long way from Assisi. Our pastor has offered little more than a passing reference to the encyclical, and no exhortations to parishioners to change their ways. The Gospel, at least that part of it that relates to climate change, has clay feet (Daniel 2; 31-33) in my neighbourhood.

Trickle-down ecology

Up at the devoutly LEED Gold certified offices of the Archdiocese of Vancouver at West 33rd and Willow, the B.C. Catholic newspaper put a link to Laudato Si’ on its website and has reprinted some news and commentary from elsewhere, but if our archdiocese’s half-million faithful are going to be stirred into action, it won’t be from anything they’ve read so far in B.C. Catholic.
So if it is going to take perhaps months, maybe years, for the climate change encyclical to trickle down to actions in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, or anywhere else for that matter, here is something Canadian Catholics can do right now and act upon in just a few short weeks: take a vow to not vote for the Tories — and then don’t. No self-respecting and God-fearing Canadian Catholic, not a single one of them, should vote for Harper. Nor should any of them run for his party. Nor should any of them work for his party.
Why? Because Harper’s brand of economic and social evangelism directly contradicts virtually everything the Catholic Church now claims to stand for.

Reporting in The New York Times when the encyclical came out last month, Justin Gillis wrote: “Polls suggest that evangelicals are the American religious group least likely to believe that global warming is real or caused by humans.” On the evidence of Harper’s profane and unsacred term in office, Catholics should be the first to cast him out. And since, as Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun reported around the time of the last federal election, about half of Canada’s Catholics voted Conservative back then, that would be a lot of casting out by a lot of Tory faithful.

That alone would probably condemn Harper to electoral oblivion, but don’t count on it. One by-product of the encyclical has been the predictable backlash by industrialists and right-wing politicians who claim, as summarized by Gillis in the Times, that “the Pope should stick to religion and stop meddling in matters in which he has no competence.” Or as David Brooks opined in the Times in a singularly tone deaf column, “The innocence of the dove has to be accompanied by the wisdom of the serpent — the awareness that programs based on the purity of the heart backfire.”

No more praying for peace and paying for occupation

July 2, 2015


By an incredible 80% margin, the United Church of Christ voted on June 30 to divest from Israel’s nearly 50 year occupation of Palestine, and to boycott products made in settlements. This vote by the UCC, which represents almost one million Christians, sends a clear message: faith communities are standing up, speaking out, and taking action for peace and justice.

Yet the Roman Catholic church on this issue is MIA (missing in action)

This is yet another sign that the American government is reassessing the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and that BDS is gaining traction, the State Department yesterday said that it did not oppose BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions actions, aimed at the occupied Palestinian territories, because Israeli settlements “make it harder to negotiate a sustainable and equitable peace deal in good faith.”
Chemi Shalev of Haaretz says Israel led the effort:
The U.S. State Department on June 30 punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical to boycott of Israel proper… The boycott of settlements, in effect, has now been officially stamped “kosher” by the State Department.

The UCC Palestine Israel Network said it best: the days of “praying for peace and paying for occupation” are over. The time for action is now — and taking action is exactly what the UCC did today.
Last year, the Presbyterian Church aligned their values with their investments by divesting from Israel. another major religious body has made it clear that they won’t profit from the persecution of Palestinians.
And the big question: why is the Roman Catholic church so silent on this issue.

One simple answer: the poor leadership of the John Paul ll bishops.

A real Memorial Day and a Pentecost moment

May 26, 2015

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.Usually it is a day of sentimental nostalgia, long on the greatness of the American Empire as the saviour of the world syndrome and short on the reality that the modern wars especially Vietnam and Iraq were catastrophic blunders.Monday was memorial Day in the USA.

As usual Democracy Now the thoughtful NPR American radio show hosted by that audio treasure Ami Goodman brought a whiff of reality and self-reflection into public consciousness.The show focused on Vietnam and in particular the brave people who resisted this imperial misadventure.

Fifty years ago, on March 7, 1965, 3,500 U.S. marines landed in South Vietnam, marking the start of the U.S. ground war in Vietnam. That same day, in Alabama, state troopers beat back civil rights protesters in Selma trying to walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Weeks later, the first teach-in against the Vietnam War was held at the University of Michigan. By 1968, the U.S. had half a million troops in Vietnam. The war continued until April 1975. Some scholars estimate as many as 3.8 million Vietnamese died during the war, up to 800,000 perished in Cambodia, another one million in Laos. The U.S. death toll was 58,000.

On May 2 and 3 a conference entitled “Vietnam: The Power of Protest”  was held at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.One of the speakers was former Oakland Congress member Ron Dellums, who was elected to Congress in 1970 during the height of the Vietnam War and went on to serve 27 years in that branch of government.

Listening to Dellums a number of thoughts crossed my mind.

First, bravo to the Presbyterian Church for daring to hold such an important look at history. You will never find a Catholic church stepping beyond the safe and predictable, so bourgeois and middle class has the institution. Today in San Francisco where Dellums is from (actually across the bay in Oakland) Catholics took a full page ad out to ask the pope to remove the John Paul ll bishop Salvatore Cordileone. The plea follows months of dissent within the archdiocese over Cordileone’s emphasis on traditional, conservative church doctrine — including asking high school teachers and staffers at Catholic schools to sign a morality clause that characterizes sex outside of marriage and homosexual relations as “gravely evil.”.


The point here being that the last 30 years the Catholic church under the last two popes have bypassed prophetic voices within the institution and raised up timorous bishops who seemingly do not have a prophetic bone in their bodies. You would be hard pressed here and the USA to find a church which would host such an event on war and peace, poverty, the environment etc.


Dellums, a 79 year old black man made several interesting points which should have spoken to Christians who just celebrated Pentecost, the explosive force of the Spirit which sent believers out to transform society.

First, he pointed out how people in big American cities in the turbulent 60s had to hear what we would call “the signs of the times.”

Somethings happening here,what it is ain’t exactly clear,
I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down

sang the Buffalo Springfield

So, unlike many other places, we were forced to sense each other’s anger, to feel each other’s rage, to listen to each other’s analysis, to feel each other’s passion, to listen to each other’s music. And I maintain that out of that incredible cauldron of activism, a unique group of people emerged. So we heard—we had to hear each other. Interesting word—hear- one had to get beyond the official story, the government handouts, the horrific justifications for war, inn other words,the flag waving.One of the first persons dellums met was Robert Scheer, same age, a New York Jew transplanted to the west coast.Scheer is till active editing the great website Truthdig where another Presbyterian Chris hedges holds for the on a regular basis,

Dellums spoke about his Spirit moment, his time of enlightenment when the black Moses mounted the pulpit on april 4th in riverside church in new york. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the greatest speeches in American history—and I would also add—church history. The black Baptist pastor called out his own government in a sermon he called Beyond Vietnam.


Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.”

The sermon took the top of Dellum’s head off.iIt was as if he was in that upper room with Jesus.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: ‘Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?’ ‘Why are you joining the voices of dissent?’ ‘Peace and civil rights don’t mix,’ they say. ‘Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,’ they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.”
Dellums said:

It was courageous and historic. He laid out his moral opposition. He saw it as unjust, illegal and immoral. When he stepped away from the pulpit, he was attacked by people in the civil rights movement by saying, “Martin, stay in your lane, brother. You’re a civil rights activist. Don’t water down the movement. You’re going to invite new enemies. You’re going to detract from what we’re doing. Stay in your lane.” Whites attacked him essentially the same way, by saying, “Reverend Martin Luther King, stay in your lane. You’re a civil rights leader. What do you know about foreign policy and national security and war and peace? Stay in your lane.”

So Martin Luther King begins to criss-cross the country to answer his critics. He comes to Berkeley, California, Sproul Hall steps, University of California at Berkeley, crowded literally with thousands of people. A young black guy, Ron Dellums, standing way in the back of the several thousand people, hanging on every word, didn’t realize at that moment that my life would be changed forever.

Dellums experienced his Damascus moment.

And I would comment on four points that he made in that speech and speeches going forward challenging the war in Vietnam. First, he said, “Why did I stand up?” His response was, “I cannot segregate my moral concerns.” That said to me that we must challenge all forms of injustice, because Martin Luther King said we cannot segregate our moral concerns.

Secondly, he said there are two kinds of leaders, one who waits until the consensus is formed and then run swiftly to the front of the group and declare leadership, but then he said there’s a second kind of leader, who has the audacity and the courage to risk attempting to shape a new consensus. I interpreted that to mean we had carried the burden of racial, cultural and economic oppression, but we did not have to carry the burden of ignorance, that we had the obligation, the right and the responsibility to enter the arena and be educative, to educate our people, to help them to understand the interrelatedness, the interconnectedness, the relationships between and among all issues of oppression and injustice.

One of his lessons of education was a statement that was so vivid, so powerful: “We are dropping bombs in North Vietnam that are exploding in the ghettos and the barrios of America.” How incredibly poetic! How incredibly powerful, the vision! He was saying to people, understand the relationship between the billions of dollars that are being spent to wage war and the inability to address the injustice that is taking place in the ghettos and the barrios of America, the issue of priorities. Very powerful.

But, to me, the most powerful statement, that shaped my life forever, was this comment: “Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.” I interpreted that to mean, wow, the peace movement is the ultimate movement. Peace is the superior idea, that the umbrella movement for—of all movements, the peace movement, because to come together under the banner of peace forces us to challenge all forms of injustice.
Suppose everyone—because I believe that the movement to end the war in Vietnam ultimately became the largest and most powerful movement in the country. But when the war in Vietnam ended, many of the people went home and left us to fight racism, poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, helplessness—went home. And my great lament in my life has been: What would have happened in this country and in this world if people had heard Martin Luther King and said, “Now that we’ve ended the war in Vietnam, let’s get on with dealing with other forms of injustice”? What would the world look like?

Martin Luther King told us to raise our voices in the name of peace and justice and equality and peace, because it was the right thing, the moral thing, the ethical thing, the principled thing to do. This generation must do it because it’s now the only thing to do. It has now become the imperative. So what was principle for our generation now is the imperative for this generation, because we know that the price of war is too high. We know that the price of neglect of the issues that affect the human condition, we do it at our peril, so that we have a responsibility now to address the imperative.

A second difference is, Martin Luther King never told us we couldn’t do it. He said go out and change the world. Remember, he said, “I may not be with you at the end, but I have reached the mountaintop, and I can tell you this: We will achieve.” So we felt that we could change the world, and we went out to change the world.

And Catholics all over the world heard the same gospel on Pentecost


Peace be with you.As the Father sent me,so I send you. John 20;21

The Jewish prophetic alive

May 17, 2015


It is getting to be a common occurrence at least in the USA that when a synagogue to its shame invites a member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF),the cruel army of occupation in the West Bank, young Jews of Conscience protest. Last Tuesday Greg Williams and Dan Fischer protested at Temple Israel in Westport Connecticut.

What is impressive about the following statement of Williams is that his historical knowledge matches his moral passion. He begins by quoting Dan Berrigan’s famous lines from The Catonsville Nine about the burning children. This is a thinly veiled critique of Jewish theologian Irving Greenberg’s famous line that “No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children.” For Greenberg the only burning children were those who perished in the Holocaust.Basically, Williams turns this statement on its head by obliquely referring to the 521 children “burned” in last summer’s IDF massacre in Gaza. And the lies of Israel to justify such a horrific slaughter in light of these children.

A responder to Williams eloquently stated:
This courageous act of conscience should be publicized as widely as possible and emulated throughout the country. These two young men are pointing the way to a new non-violent tactic, in which Jews confront Israeli war crimes wherever their authors are invited to appear. It is particularly fitting that this event occurred at a synagogue which was shamefully involved in welcoming an active war criminal. The brutal response, crude lies and display of panic over two unarmed protesters shows which side possesses moral courage on this issue. To Gregory and Daniel, thank you and all good wishes for your complete exoneration.

Greg Williams Statement

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.” – Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968


At around 1 pm on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature – I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home.

We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.

Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.
We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews (additionally, I am a scholar of religious ethics), and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.

Growing up, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother telling stories about members of our family who were killed during the Holocaust. One of the lessons that I learned from those stories was the lesson of collective responsibility.

History remembers kindly those Europeans and Americans who took responsibility for the racism in their community which had bred Naziism by protecting Jewish people, by lifting up their voices, and by working to build a political resistance movement to dismantle fascism.

I entered Temple Israel on Tuesday because I feel that, as a Jew living in the United States, the time has come to take responsibility for my community. Zionism is no less racist, no less hateful, and no less violent and threatening to human life and dignity than Naziism. Like Naziism, Zionism seeks to build a nation upon an ethnocentric vision which erases the lives of people it considers “undesirable.”

When Dan and I reached the second floor of the synagogue, we told staff exactly why we were there. We said that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.The staff immediately assaulted us, and tackled us to the ground. We did not take any physical action against them. Instead, we started to read the statement that we had come to deliver and, since we were still outside the door of the meeting room, we did so loudly so that as many people would hear us as possible. The staff kicked our phones away, we began to say “Free, Free Palestine!”

Even though we had told the staff what we were doing, and had made clear that this was a nonviolent political demonstration, they turned around and, over the phone and in our hearing, filed a false police report, claiming that we were armed. “We’re unarmed!” we said, “Tell them we are unarmed! We are Jews coming to a synagogue!”

Because the staff (and apparently several others) filed this false police report, we are told that several schools were put on lockdown – this is one of the dangers of filing a false report or making a frivolous 911 call.

Since then, people from senators to judges to newspaper reporters have called us “violent,” “criminals,” even “terrorists.” I ask you, who is the terrorist? Someone who reads a statement from a Palestinian woman, or the general who helps murder that woman’s child?

What is violent, to protest that general, or to hold a public event to support her and the illegitimate armed force that she serves? There are those who say that they felt threatened by our action. I ask, what does it say about your community that you feel threatened by two nonviolent protesters testifying to the violence of that racist hate-ideology called Zionism?

Could this mean that your community is committed to racism and hatred? There are those who say that they felt threatened by our volume. I respectfully submit that there are times, especially times when children are being murdered by a colonial regime and a racist ideology, when it is an act of violence not to yell and scream.

Gregory Williams
New Haven

The most dangerous man in Israel

March 25, 2015


The most dangerous man in Israel, journalist Gideon Levy a man despised by most of his fellow citizens came to Toronto last night.

Two things came to mind.

First, Levy was warmly welcomed by the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral Douglas Stoute. He seemed to understand that even in the heart of Anglican Toronto, a biblical prophet was among us, a man struggling valiantly for peace in the Holy Land. The cathedral fundamentally exists to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of the most dangerous man in Palestine, Yeshua ben Miriam or as he is known to us by his Latinized name Jesus of Nazareth.

Even the most established church in Canada which celebrated the funeral of Tory Finance Minister James Flaherty, saw that it was right and fitting to provide a listening post for another brave Jew who is speaking truth to power in Israel.

Secondly, there was the absence of any fellow Jews to listen to Levy. This was very troubling. So inward looking and so defensive has diaspora Judaism become that it dared not open a major synagogue for him to challenge their ongoing blindness and failure to live up to the call for prophetic biblical witness. The silence of the synagogues over Palestinian oppression is staggering.

Contemporary Judaism desperately longs for the voices of prophetic men like Maurice Eisendrath, a towering American Reform rabbi who served Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple from 1929 to 1943 and dove into ecumenical and social justice work while he was here. “Nobody slept during his tenure,”wrote another rabbi, “for he was a disturber of sleep who brought discomfort to the comfortable.”


Eisendrath was followed by another “dangerous” man Abraham Feinberg (1943-1961) who championed radical causes and anti-war work. And then there was Reuben Slonim,the brilliant Conservative rabbi(d 2000) who was shunned as an Arab Lover for his criticism of Israel

Saddest of all for Catholics was the fact that our cathedral could never open its hermetically sealed (to the prophetic) doors to a man like Gideon Levy. As per usual no putative Catholic leaders were present last night.Catholics of course are used to this non-presence of institutional leaders.

Pope Francis has challenged what he believes is the Church’s fundamental illness: ecclesiastical narcissism.
“When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize,” he said, “it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” And irrelevant he might add.

It was Johann Baptist Metz who reminded us that danger is a fundamental category for understanding the life and message of Jesus. Only in the face of this danger does the vision of the kingdom of God that has come near in him light up…the lightening bolt of danger lights up the whole biblical landscape especially the New testament scene.Danger and being in danger permeate every New Testament statement…thus the discipleship stories are not entertaining but stories in the face of danger, dangerous stories.

Fr.Metz went on to say “in bewilderment and mourning” when we lose “the dangerous memory of Jesus” we end up with a bourgeois domestic religion.’

And that’s where we are today, safe in the church and not in the streets, a danger to nobody and no threat to the unjust status quo..

Amazingly the cathedral was packed to hear this “dangerous man” who calls himself a true Israeli patriot sent to wake up his smug countrymen, comfortable with occupation and morally obtuse and apathetic.

The change in Israel needs to come from pressure from the outside. Alluding to his ecclesial surroundings he reminded us that miracles do happen.And as Christians move into holy week once again we are reminded that there is no Easter without Good Friday


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