Monday, April 30, 2007

St Pius V

Not my favourite saint of the year, but you can read about his busy, busy life here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sts Peter Chanel and St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort

The story of St Peter Chanel is a remarkable one of going the way of the cross. From here:

The protomartyr of the South Seas, St. Peter Chanel was born in 1803 at Clet in the diocese of Belley, France. His intelligence and simple piety brought him to the attention of the local priest, Father Trompier, who saw to his elementary education. Entering the diocesan Seminary, Peter won the affection and the esteem of both students and professors. After his ordination he found himself in a rundown country parish and completely revitalized it in the three year span that he remained there. However, his mind was set on missionary work; so, in 1831, he joined the newly formed Society of Mary (Marists) which concentrated on missionary work at home and abroad. To his dismay, he was appointed to teach at the seminary at Belley and remained there for the next five years, diligently performing his duties.

In 1836, the Society was given the New Hebrides in the Pacific as a field for evangelization, and the jubilant St. Peter was appointed Superior of a little band of missionaries sent to proclaim the Faith to its inhabitants. On reaching their destination after an arduous ten month journey, the band split up and St. Peter went to the Island of Futuna accompanied by a laybrother and an English layman, Thomas Boog. They were at first well received by the pagans and their king Niuliki who had only recently forbidden canabalism. However, the kings jealousy and fear were aroused when the missionaries learned the language and gained the people's confidence; he realized the adoption of the Christian Faith would lead to the abolition of some of the prerogatives he enjoyed as both highpriest and sovereign.

Finally, when his own son expressed a desire to be baptized, the king's hatred erupted and he dispatched a group of his warriors to set upon the saintly head of the missionaries. Thus, on April 28, 1841, three years after his arrival, St. Peter was seized and clubbed to death by those he had come to save. And his death brought his work to completion - within five months the entire island was converted to Christianity.

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. From Wikipedia:

French priest and Catholic saint, born in 31 January 1673 at Montfort, ordained to the priesthood in Paris in June 1700, and died at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre on 28 April 1716.

St. Louis was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and canonized by Pius XII in 1947. His feast day is celebrated by the Church on 28 April.

The saint served as a missionary among the people of Brittany and the Vendee. His preaching in the Vendee contributed to it being the only region strongly resistant to the anti-clerical revolution of 1792.

St. Louis de Montfort was known for having directed the construction of a calvary among enthusiastic peasants. The King of France, however, under the influence of members of the Jansenist school, was later to order it destroyed. It is reported that upon receiving this disturbing news, he was not perturbed but only declared, "Blessed be God!" St. Louis' spirituality placed great emphasis on the value of obedience. However, he is best known for his promotion of Marian devotion.

Grignion de Montfort's approach of "total consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary" had a strong impact on Marian devotion both in popular piety and in the spirituality of religious orders.

The thought, writings, and example of St. Louis de Montfort, an example of the French school of spirituality, have been singled out in an encyclical by the late Pope John Paul II as a distinctive witness of Marian spirituality in the Catholic tradition; the pontiff also spoke of his reading the saint's work The True Devotion to Mary as a "turning point" in his life.

His popular book The Secret of the Rosary is approved by the Catholic church and is an easily readable, multi-perspective approach to the Holy Rosary that has been read by Catholics worldwide for over two centuries. "True Devotion to Mary" has been called the greatest Marian book of all time.

Friday, April 27, 2007

and the award goes to...

Generally I'm not a big fan of memes, but I'm flattered to have been nominated by Simon Holt for a thinking blogger award (yes I know there's no award ceremony, prizes, etc. but it's nice all the same). That means I have to (and by have to I mean have to - apparently it's a law of the universe, like gravity), nominate five other blogs that make me think. Or some such.

There are rules. You can find them here.

So here goes:

1. Simply Simon: Sime's been a friend for a long time, but I'm not tagging him because of that. He also tagged me, but that's not why I'm tagging him. I nominate his blog because it's in many ways the yin to my yang. While I'm out trying to change the world, Simon quietly plugs away finding God in the kitchen, the loungeroom, the backyard, the suburb.

2. Wonderful Awful Things: Christop's writing style is extroardinary because Christop is extraordinary. Very matter of fact, humble, simple, yet profound. Beyond that I can't quite put my finger on what I love about it, but love it I do.

3. Three Words Back...: David is one of those darned articulate people you wish you could write like. He knows words and put them together good and stuff. He has excellent taste in music and often manages to articulate what I'm thinking when I can't do it for myself. And for someone with the nickname "Not funny David", he's pretty funny.

4. To Be Frank: Frank Rees was one of my theology lecturers and a constant challenge to me personally and theologically. I love that I get to keep in contact with his thinking even though I don't hang around Whitley as much anymore.

5. Marcus Curnow: How could I go past fellow rabid Cornishman and Urban Seed colleague Marcus Curnow for good bloggage? His response to Andrew Bolt's dig at Urban Seed last year is worth the price of admission alone. Kernow bys vyken!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I KNEW it was all a conspiracy...

Global warming? Schmobal warming.
Lucky we have intelligent, vigilant people like this or we'd all be fooled by those fear-mongering liberals.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Feast of St Mark the Evangelist

Just happens to fall on Anzac Day...fascinating. Two competing stories, one of which I confess to favouring over the other...

It should be said, I have some ambivalence towards Anzac Day. It always reminds me of my Grandad, who died last year, as he was a career soldier in the Australian Army. I had a lot in common with my Grandad, a real connection, and I even marched with him one year in the parade. That is among my most cherished memories of him. Holding these truths in tension (that I love my Grandad, and at the same time oppose the army) is not easy. So it should be known that while I respect and even admire those who gave their lives, I cannot support their violence. I think it's possible to hold that tension.

Anzac Day has become a replacement religion in our country for those who have none. It's an investment in the myth of redemptive violence, a deeply-embedded legend about how our nation was formed (particularly with reference to Gallipoli). So much so that when anti-war protesters yesterday (in a demonstration of particularly poort timing and sensitivity) painted slogans like "Anzacs are murderers" on a war memorial, instead of discussion over what this might mean, there is only outrage. Which is to say, rage, rather than dialogue.

It should be recognised that Anzac Day reinforces some pretty anti-Christian ideas. Below is the AAANZ's (Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand) reasons for staging an alternative Anzac Day:

Most ANZAC ceremonies around the country usually:
- only remember the men and women who served in the military
- suggest that participation in war is one of the most important things that our ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’ are built on
- suggest that national identity is connected with intimately connected with religion, patriotism and war
- promote nationalism and patriotism (which are often ways of seeing our place in the world that lead humans into conflict to ‘defend’ our nation, ideology, culture, beliefs and values)
- do not acknowledge the role of empire and access to resources that most international wars in the past 100 years have really been about
- do not acknowledge that ‘history belongs to the victors’ and the way ‘we’ interpret historical events will be skewed to make ‘us’ look brave, heroic, just and right
- do not acknowledge that peace is active not passive
- do not acknowledge the cultures of violence that still pervade our society through the media, arts, sports, religions and popular culture
- do not suggest that peace making is something we should all be involved in at a personal, family, community, national and international level
- do not acknowledge the role that diplomats, politicians, activists, conscientious objectors and others who have lived their lives for the cause of peace – many being killed, wounded, ignored, mocked or dismissed in the process of waging peace – men and women who have sacrificed their lives in non-violently struggling to make the world a more peaceful, free and equal place for all people.

On the other hand, we celebrate St. Mark today, a man (or at least a community) who penned the story we now have as number two in the Second Testament. A very political story (as those who have read Ched Myers will know), yet one that consistently advocates the way of nonviolence; not merely for one country, but for the whole world. That this man who was killed at the hands of the State is actually the way forward; not military victory, not killing others, but one who refuses, to the point of death, to kill others.

And it is this second story that gives us a way forward. A way into an alternative kingdom - dare I say an anti-empire - that never coerces, never dominates, and only loves people into cooperation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

St Fidelis of Sigmaringen

From here: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life.

Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a Franciscan friar of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor.

As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. Once, during a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers.

He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions.

He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed.

the anti-simon

I noticed this new billboard ad on the corner of Nicholson and Princes Sts as I drove past last night...not really being into football, I had never really heard of the brand before, but it did strike me as oddly familiar...

Monday, April 23, 2007

don't call me a peace activist

I was introduced today as a peace activist and once again it struck me as strange. I know the image I used to have of peace activists, and I kind of don't like being shoved into that, it just struck me as something people use to stereotype or pidgeonhole others. I felt a bit like saying, "No, I'm a Christian. The 'peace activist' should be implied."

I mean, sometimes I might use that tag of myself just because it kind of denotes someone who cares about peace, and who isn't passive about it...but mainly I find it increasingly difficult that some people see it as a choice, or just one of many ways to be concerned about the world, or just one of many identities. In that sense, the apathetic middle ground worries me far more than those who are actually actively opposed to pacifism. Now that justice is considered 'cool', it's become yet another form of consumerism...

The whole word 'peace' is so co-opted I mostly refuse to use it at all...everyone's for peace. George Bush, John Howard, even Hitler was for peace. Even though I think it's not the best word (sounds too negative, defined by what it's not rather than what it is), nonviolence is yet to be co-opted.

Dorothy Day used to say "Don't call me a saint...I won't be dismissed that easily." I kind of feel a bit the same about "peace activist".

St George and St Adalbert

St George - from Wikipedia: There are no historical sources on Saint George. The legend that follows is synthesized from early and late hagiographical sources, such as the Golden Legend, which is the most familiar version in English, since William Caxton's first translation.

George was born to a Christian family during the late 3rd century. His father was from Cappadocia and served as an officer of the Roman army. His mother was from Lydda, Iudaea (now Lod, Israel). She returned to her native city as a widow along with her young son, where she provided him with an education.

The youth followed his father's example by joining the army soon after coming of age. He proved to be a good soldier and consequently rose through the military ranks of the time. By his late twenties he had gained the title of Tribunus (Tribune) and then Comes (Count), at which time George was stationed in Nicomedia as a member of the personal guard attached to Roman Emperor Diocletian.

According to the hagiography, in 303 Diocletian issued an edict authorizing the systematic persecution of Christians across the Empire. The emperor Galerius was supposedly responsible for this decision and would continue the persecution during his own reign (305–311). George was ordered to take part in the persecution but instead confessed to being a Christian himself and criticized the imperial decision. An enraged Diocletian ordered the torture of this apparent traitor, and his execution.

After various tortures, beginning with being lacerated on a wheel of swords, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's defensive wall on April 23, 303. The witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.

So much militarism in the history of the church. So sad, particularly when the first couple of hundred years it was so clear that everyone refused to fight...

St Adalbert of Prague - from here: Born 939 of a noble Bohemian family; died 997. He assumed the name of the Archbishop Adalbert (his name had been Wojtech), under whom he studied at Magdeburg. He became Bishop of Prague, whence he was obliged to flee on account of the enmity he had aroused by his efforts to reform the clergy of his diocese. He betook himself to Rome, and when released by Pope John XV from his episcopal obligations, withdrew to a monastery and occupied himself in the most humble duties of the house. Recalled by his people, who received him with great demonstrations of joy, he was nevertheless expelled a second time and returned to Rome. The people of Hungary were just then turning towards Christianity. Adalbert went among them as a missionary, and probably baptized King Geysa and his family, and King Stephen. He afterwards evangelized the Poles, and was made Archbishop of Gnesen. But he again relinquished his see, and set out to preach to the idolatrous inhabitants of what is now the Kingdom of Prussia. Success attended his efforts at first, but his imperious manner in commanding them to abandon paganism irritated them, and at the instigation of one of the pagan priests he was killed. This was in the year 997. His feast is celebrated 23 April, and he is called the Apostle of Prussia. Boleslas I, Prince of Poland, is said to have ransomed his body for an equivalent weight of gold. He is thought to be the author of the war-song, "Boga-Rodzica", which the Poles used to sing when going to battle.

why I live in brunswick

Saturday, April 21, 2007

St Anselm of Canterbury

Ah, Anselm. Many a scholar of nonviolence has cursed your name...

Anselm basically articulated the first satisfaction theory of the atonement, which preceded penal substitution, and kind of paved the way for it...personally I have nothing against him, since I think he was trying to contextualise what he saw as "good news" for his time and culture...obviously though, the implications for today are fairly terrifying. Nonetheless: I honour him, particularly for his consistent humility and courage to stand up for what he believed in. A detailed and extensive history of Anselm can be found here: it's actually well worth a read.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

iPods and the death of community

So here's my theory: there's a direct link between the rise of iPods (and other types of mp3 players) and the death of community. Bear with me here.

It used to be that you bought albums. Albums were (are) soundscapes, with accelerations and slow points, and rises and falls, with valleys and peaks. They include songs that are pleasing to the ear and songs that aren't so much. But they sit each song in a context, the sounds and moods of one morphing into the next, introducing it, following on from it. The first song on an album matters, simply by virtue of being the first song. There's a reason it's first, and the second one follows from it, and the third precedes the fourth, etc., right down to the last song, and sometimes even the bonus track.

Of course, the first albums were vinyl, and in my opinion it still hasn't been topped for sound quality (clarity and perfection isn't everything). There were, of course, the smaller version with 45's (SP and EP) but they were mostly still whole albums. Then there were cassettes. Cassettes also came as whole albums, and their construction meant that you had to listen to side A before side B, and once you'd listened to side B you couldn't just listen to side B again without rewinding the whole side. The hassle of fastforwarding or rewinding to find the right 'spot' for the start of a particular song meant that most often you wouldn't bother, and therefore would listen to the whole album in its entirety.

Then there were cds. This made skipping tracks much easier, but you still had the whole thing, and without direct, deliberate intervention, you still had to listen to the whole album. There were cd singles as well, of course, but you usually bought them as a trial for the album, or to see if it was worth buying. Nonetheless, the concept of the cd single (and to a lesser extent, the cassingle) began the slide I'm talking about.

Then computers revolutionised the cd; because the sound was digital, it could be ripped into a digital format and played individually. And then it was mp3 players. Then iTunes and iPods meant you never had to deal with the surrounding paraphernalia of the album. And now all we have are individual songs standing alone, starkly naked in their individualism. They rise and fall on four minutes of pop glory.

I reckon there's a link here with the rise of individualism in our (Western) culture. Now of course there's the phenomenon of riding the tram (or train, or bus) with at least half the passengers looking like refuelling robots, what with the wires protuding from their ears, but I'm not talking about that kind of individualism that revels in its own world despite being very much in public. I'm talking about the hedonism of individual songs vs the longer patience and effort required to listen to albums.

The only songs we are prepared to put up with now are the best, the brightest, the poppiest. But divorced from their proper context in an album (which is, of course, how they have been historically made and placed), the song becomes an isolated, individual phenomenon that is greatly, greatly impoverished for having to stand alone.

It's not a big leap to extrapolate this out to people. No longer do we live in communities, groups of people where we have to put up with the bad as well as the good; where we have to deal with difference, with unpleasantness, with difficulty. We can choose who we live with, who we interact with, who are our friends and who aren't. Now some of that's natural; but what happens when we strip individuals of their context in community and take them as stand alone pop units?

We lose the album sense of community. The up and down, the texture of sad and happy, the peaks and valleys of human frailty and triumph. We place so much value on the hedonism of my own pleasure or comfort that our senses are never expanded or taken on a journey. To paraphrase John Donne, no song is an island.

So I reckon we need more Ghost Train in the August and Everything After of our lives. More Within You Without You in our Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Bands. More Zoo Station in our Achtung Baby.

Know what I mean?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

what would (young) jesus do?

I saw this picture in Savers yesterday and wasn't sure whether it was profound or just profoundly disturbing. A sweet young Jesus lovingly doted on by his parents for making his first crucifix?

Vale, Kurt Vonnegut

I don't agree with your abandonment of the human race (though I understand it), but you sure knew how to speak truth to power...

Custodians of chaos

In this extract from his forthcoming memoirs, Kurt Vonnegut is horrified by the hypocrisy in contemporary US politics

By Kurt Vonnegut

06/17/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ. [Simon's note: Jesus did say it too, Matthew 7:12]

The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show.

But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favourite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana.

Get a load of this. Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:

"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.

"As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it.

"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?

When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly George W Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'état imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale".

George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves! Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.

The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.

While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.

And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's really going on.

I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.

In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.

In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as Nazis once were.

And with good reason.

In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.

Piece of cake.

In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanised our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.

Piece of cake.

The O'Reilly Factor.

So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.

Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed there were weapons of mass destruction there.

Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the first world war. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the first world war so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.

Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?

Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the second world war and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.

My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."

Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas.

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?

© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: : A Memoir of Life in George W Bush's America.

Monday, April 16, 2007

St Bernadette Soubirous

From here:

Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age.

There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig.

According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was.

Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862.

During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35.

She was canonized in 1933.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

not peace, but a sword

Tracey Makaeme's report of her nonviolent direct action at Pine Gap last year warms my heart because it's not just from someone who's well-versed in activist culture. As a 43 year old mum, it's taken far more courage for her to do this than many others who are enculturated activists. Read her account at Dave Andrews' blog here - talk about inspiring. This is a small excerpt from it:
"It was then that I knew that I was moving into a new phase in my life - a door was opening. I began to focus on all the missed opportunities I’ve had and the constrained resistance within me to be an activist. I’d been fighting it all my 43 years of life, unable to embrace it for fear of what is ‘accepted conservative Christian behavior.’"

more questions for penal substitution

If the point of Jesus' death was to pay the price for sin, and the price of sin is death, wasn't it kind of cheating to raise him to life again? What price has really been paid there if he just comes back to life again? Especially if God knew that was what would happen.

I'm more and more convinced this theory isn't even internally coherent. I think the reason many still believe it is because it conforms to many of our (flawed) ideas of justice - an eye for an eye, etc., projected onto God. But this is exactly what Jesus reveals is anathematic to the nature of God - "...but I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of God. For God makes the sun to shine on the good and the evil, and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust".

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Questions for penal substitution

So for a while now I've had a lot of questions for the penal substitution theory of the atonement (which is the idea that God required a death in order to pay for our sins, and Jesus was that death), and these are ones I've never heard satisfactorily answered. Do any of my readers have any ideas? Do I even have any readers? Anyway, I've come by far more plausible and inspiring ideas about the significance of Jesus' death, and yet still this is the dominant (at least in my circles), if not the only, image of the atonement. So if you're a subscriber to the theory, help me out. If you're not, have a go anyway.

What’s the significance of the resurrection? Did Jesus have to rise?

Is there any significance to the particular type of death suffered by Jesus, or could it have been any kind of death?

If it couldn’t have just been any kind of death, what parameters exist for the kind of death that would have constituted an acceptable atoning death?

If God required a sacrifice, why did God get others to do it? Why couldn’t he do his own dirty work?

Why does God require us to forgive without recompense, when God does not do so?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the fishbowl

So my desk at Urban Seed is right next to the window, which is right on the street, and at about eye level for most people. We call it the fishbowl for a reason: people walking past stare at you like some curio in a museum. Granted, I look funny at the best of times, but is there really any need to stare? (mine's the middle window in the picture below: above, is the view from my desk.)

easter 07 reprise

For Easter blogging goodness, check out inspiralblog, here, here and here.

be like unto the duck

Every Monday now (Monday is my Sabbath) I've been going down to my spot at Merri Creek just to sit and listen to the water for a few hours. What I love most about this is the ducks. Most of them are Pacific Black ducks like the one down the bottom, but there's also two beautiful Mallard ducks, a male and female. I think the male is the one with the deep green neck and head; the female is a mottled brown. Or maybe it's the other way around, I don't know. Every time I see them I am reminded of this piece of writing by Michael Leunig:
"I have drawn a simple picture of a person kneeling before a duck to symbolize and demonstrate my ideas and feelings about the nature of prayer. I ask the reader to bear with the absurdity of the image and to remember that the search for the sublime may sometimes have a ridiculous beginning. Here then is the story behind the picture.

A man kneels before a duck in a sincere attempt to talk with it. This is a very clear depiction of irrational behaviour and an important aspect of prayer. Let us put this aside for a moment and move on to the particulars.

The act of kneeling in the picture symbolizes humility. The upright stance has been abandoned because of the human attitudes and qualities it represents: power and ego. The kneeling man knows, as everybody does, that a proud and upright man does not and cannot talk with a duck. So the upright stance is rejected. The man kneels. He humbles himself. He comes closer to the duck. He becomes more like the duck. He does these things because it improves his chances of communicating with it.

The duck in the picture symbolizes one thing and many things; nature, instinct, feeling, beauty, innocence, the primal, the non-rational and the mysterious unsayable; qualities we can easily attribute to a duck and qualities which, coincidentally and remarkably, we can easily attribute to the inner life of the kneeling man, to his spirit or his soul. The duck then, in this picture, can be seen as a symbol of the human spirit, and in wanting connection with his spirit it is a symbolic picture of a man searching for his soul...

A person kneels before a duck and speaks to it with sincerity. The person is praying."

From the introduction to A Common Prayer: A Cartoonist Talks to God by Michael Leunig.
It's very calming to sit and watch ducks. They have nothing better to do all day but forage for food and paddle in the water. Reminds me of Jesus saying "Why do you worry about your life, what you will eat and drink, or about your body, what you will wear? Look at the birds of the air - they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them."

Of course, every now and then a person will come with their dogs and bluster down to the creek so their dogs can get wet before blustering off again. This scares the ducks away. I often feel irritated when that happens.

I try not to worry though. They have as much right to be there as the ducks or I. Still, they miss a lot by not sitting.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Palm Sunday

Check out the post over at inspiralblog for details of Palm Sunday action around here. Suffice to say it was a deeply meaningful and incredibly enjoyable day of fun for the whole family (literally). And really accessible for anyone, which is great.