Archive for the ‘Church & Culture’ Category

Tone deaf climate change Canadian bishops

July 29, 2015

HARPER SORRT

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

Boy

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.

Justice
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.”.

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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

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.

MLK

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.
I
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

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

The Jewish prophetic alive

May 17, 2015

greg_williams

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

BURN

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

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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.”

MLK

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

Selma 50 years after Part 1

March 11, 2015

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I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection…with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all names that the races and nations shout…we are indelibly and unspeakably one.
Jonathan Daniels

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama was quite moving. In the land of amnesia both here and in the USA, it was fitting to remind people of the ongoing struggle for justice. This is a struggle which has to be won over and over again.
President Obama was there to salute one of his heroes John Lewis whom I will write about in a later post.

Let me say upfront this was a time of testing for the Christian church and it was the black church which would hear and live the gospel call.
Between February and August of 1964, four civil rights activists were killed in Alabama: Jimmie Lee Jackson, Viola Liuzzo, Rev. James Reeb and Jonathan Daniels.

Interesting that James Reeb and Jonathan Daniels were both Christian ministers who heard the call for racial justice and responded..At the same time rabbi Heschel who was there told the synagogue to put the Torah down and start praying with their feet.

it was a bracing time for authentic religion.

Both stories, Reeb’s and Daniel’s are powerful testaments to faith.

Jonathan Daniels was a 26 year old white Episcopalian minister from Keane, New Hampshire who lived with black families in Alabama. He had gone to Lowndes County trying to register blacks to vote. First he was jailed. They let him out of jail with 3 others, Father Richard Morrisroe a Catholic priest from Chicago, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales. They went to Varner’s Cash Store in Hayneville, one of the few stores that would serve blacks.There they were met by a man Thomas Coleman with a shotgun who said that he was not going to serve any blacks or Nigger lovers in his store. Daniels was killed and Fr.Morrisroe was critically wounded and the shooter Coleman was naturally acquitted and later bragged,”I just shot two preachers”—meaning white preachers, apparently traitors to their race. Southern justice.

Daniels was designated a church martyr and added to the episcopal calendar of lesser saints.

The notorious cracker sheriff Jim Clark said of Daniels “You are here to cause trouble; that’s what you’re doing. You don’t live here. You are an agitator, and that’s the lowest form of humanity” .

That’s what Christians do—cause holy trouble in the cause of greater justice.

Nice to see that 50 years later Jonathan Daniels was not forgotten.

What seems to be forgotten by the last generation of seminarians was the summons to the cross. Few ever seemed to have in Pope Francis’ words “the smell of the sheep on them.” Nor did many of their leaders.

Joanthan Daniels, presente

Rumours of Glory

January 11, 2015

Unknown

Canadian troubador Bruce Cockburn just released what he calls a memoir” entitled Rumours of Glory.
The singer-songwriter described by Jackson Browne as “one of the most astute and compelling songwriters in the English language” is easily one of the most gifted practitioners of the art on the planet. If he were an American and if he promoted himself he would be acknowledged as the very best in the world.But alas and thankfully, Cockburn has never been at ease with celebrity and has allowed his art to speak for itself. And it speaks volumes and often prophetic truth to power.
What is staggering about a memoir by a person in the music biz is that it could be easily be read as a primer on an engaged Christian life.
This book hits you on the first page when the author says, “Along the way when i found Jesus Christ” you know you are in for either an emotional born again experience or a serious reflection on what it means to be a disciple in the modern age. Luckily, it is the latter. This book could be at home in a university theology class.It is that thoughtful and compelling.
The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works with all the power games governments play is quite astounding. His analysis of global politics as seen from the unique stance of life observed on the periphery is striking. Cockburn allows himself to hear the cries of the poor in Central America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. He goes to the killing fields of Cambodia,Vietnam, Guatemala, the chaos of Mozambique and the horror show of Iraq. He goes not as an expert but as a witness to the suffering and he allows it to inform his music.
Cockburn’s legitimate anger does not spare the real war criminals like George Bush ‘the half-wit Texas oilman’ whom he also calls “the King of Fools” and “His Highness” nor the bloodless US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright whom on a 60 Minute program told interviewer Leslie Stahl that the starvation of half a million children in Iraq because of an embargo “was worth it.”
We think the price is worth it! ..
tell the universe what you’ve done
out in the desert with your smoking gun
looks like you’ve ben having too much fun
tell the universe what you’ve done (2003)
Cockburn is astonished. His disgust was palpable as it was when he in 1983 saw the murderous activity of US sponsored Guatemalan madman Rios Montt.his response then was his song,”If I had a rocket launcher, some sonofabitch would die.”
Cockburn has deep respect for the heroic Catholic bishop Tom Gumbleton whose peace missions had taken him to Vietnam, Nicaragua,El Salvador, Hiroshima,Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru and had visited Iraq seven times when Cockburn caught up with him in Baghdad. And Gumbleton correctly is just Tom and not Your Grace.
The book is chock full of some of his great songs which he contextualizes creatively. there are so many! He advises his listeners to “don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call”. He constantly pleads to ‘remain open to the touch of the Divine, a reality that is so much bigger than our day to day selves. He purposely puts spirit in lower case to allow the experience of non-Christians to percolate.

It is his observation that “we spend excessive energy shutting ourselves off from spirit, distracting ourselves from it, and hiding from our inner works and it costs us dearly.The absence of a relationship with spirit allows us to do things like murder each other by the hundreds of thousands and play foolish power games among ourselves and between nations” (p.469)

In this brutally frank memoir this essentially shy man allows us to peer into his highly personal but public life, one that is always moving, developing and deepening.His faith is deeply incarnational, enmeshed in our beautiful, broken world. Unlike too many clerics i’ve know Bruce Cockburn does not invent the human, he takes him and her where he finds them in all their glory and fallenness.He never despairs. He tells us that “my soul is rooted in the divine; and that life is,or ought to be ruled by love.who or what God might be,what the cosmos actually consists of, how love and evil are so regularly cojoined in the human heart—all are questions that hail from a deep and overarching mystery that has forever teased and tossed us.”
The mystery, as the universe keeps reminding me, deepens and opens with every breath.
In 2004 he wrote a song called Mystery. He challenges us:

Don’t tell me there is no mystery
Mystery
Mystery
and don’t tell me there is no mystery
it overflows my cup

this feast of beauty can intoxicate
intoxicate
intoxicate
this feat of beauty can intoxicate
just like the finest wine

Rumours of Glory is a potent invitation to hear the music of Bruce Cockburn in a deeper way

Heather Eaton and Pope Francis on The Current

January 5, 2015

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Anna Maria Tremonte on the CBC ‘s The Current this morning had a segement on Pope Francis and his increasing demands on the faithful to get moving on the greatest moral challenge of our time: climate justice.
Heather Eaton a Catholic ecologian on the staff of St.Paul’s in Ottawa responded by saying this new encyclical gives direction to the whole  Catholic world, and is expected to be taken seriously by all Catholics. “This is the first pope who has taken the environment seriously.”
The RC church according to Eaton has lost credibility in the last few decades with its obsession on sexuality and its abysmal record on women.Lots of Catholics have been engaged in these issues for deades and this forces clergy to be more serious about this vital issue.
Increasingly people are seeing 3 things—the natural world has always figured in the human imagination on what we consider to be sacred—teachinga on creation had been abandoned in Christian traditions  are now being revived so people are realizing that God is part of this and destruction of the planet cannot be part of God’s plan and thirdly morals, values and ethics are related to what’s happening to climate change.
The dilemma—the JP ll/Ratzinger bishops have been nowhere on this issue.They have been hamstrung on  ‘pelvic morality” an area they know little about. As former Ireland  president Mary Macaleese famously said on the bishop’s wisdom on family morality and sexuality: “How many have changed a nappy(diaper)?”

What will they do when Il Papa tells them: Get moving!

Pope Francis and ‘the signs of the times”

December 19, 2014

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Pope Francis urged the Catholic Church’s top theologians on December 13 to listen to what ordinary Catholics have to say and pay attention to the “signs of the times,” rather than just making pronouncements in an academic vacuum.

 

The pontiff told International Theological Commission that they must “humbly listen” to what God tells the church by understanding Scripture but also by taking into account how ordinary Catholics live out their faith.

 

“Together with all Christians, theologians must open their eyes and ears to the signs of the times,” Francis said. He should have been speaking to the worldwide College of bishops as well. The theologians are the least of his problems.

 

This must be shocking news to the JPll/Ratzinger bishops who acted as if the Holy Spirit was their private preserve.Most of these are still autistic when it comes to the signs of the times especially to the sign that that we are collectively destroying the earth.The biggest moral issue of our time of course is climate justice, a “sign of the time” which is so stark and self-evident that it is beyond discussion.Creation is being mangled in the name of profit and the instityutional church ciollectively is doing litthle about it.

 

But apparently it is to these men.The best example was Cardinal Dolan’s absence from the 400,000 person march on behalf of the climate in New York city.Like many of his bishop friends raised to the purple for their slavish obeisance to Rome and not to the “sensus fidelium”, Dolan was missing in action.

 

As are most of these bishops.It would be interesting given the severity and seriousness of the issue to see how many have any pastoral plans on the go.

 

Poor Francis, a general with few episcopal troops in his army.

Bob Carty and Youth Ministry

October 10, 2014

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The death of Bob Carty on September 21 led to several thoughts.

 

First, a life well lived, a committed passionate life on behalf of what the Bible calls the anawim, the little ones.

 

Skilled in many ways, personality and wit , written word and the audioword as well as with guitar, Bobby use his abundant talents on behalf of the kingdom of God. He lived for peace and justice.

 

His solidarity work on behalf of Chilean exiles and his reports from Latin America on public radio were respected by all.

 

A gifted documentarian on the radio waves with the CBC , Bob won all the awards there were to win always holding up the forgotten in a privileged place.

 

But when I think of Bob it struck a chord of sadness. All the lost years of Youth Ministry in the Toronto diocese after the clueless hierarchy ditched the Youth Corps where Bob got his start in the late 60s. As the old folk song said, Wasn’t That a Time.

 

Tommy McKillop hired people like Bob to take the energy of Vatican ll into the world and transform it. What a formidable group, lay and priest, on fire for justice inserted into the body politic as agents of change. Youth ministering to youth. What an original idea—and what great results. Those years were the halcyon days of gospel vitality in the Toronto diocese.

 

Naturally they were under-appreciated by hierarchs and dead heads but loved by the youth they came in contact with,What was there not to love?

 

TOMMY M

The John Paul ll brigade literally threw away a miracle. Youth Corps of which Carty was a dynamic member was allowed to wither on the vine, to be replaced by what? Nada, niente, zip. McKillop was never understood by his fellow priests and like the prophets of old was treated very shabbily. Carty went on to do great things with his life.

 

Gracias for a sterling life, sadness for the lost opportunities to evangelize youth.

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