Tuesday, 25 October 2016


President Eisenhower on the military-industrial complex: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government … we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.” 

Pope Francis, US Congress, 24 September, 2015: “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.” [This quote and the quote that follows are from The Common Good, a newspaper of the Christchurch Catholic Worker.]

Thomas Merton : “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” 

Leigh Hunt
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me. 

E.M. Farrelly “Civilisation demands both the freedom to let the village idiot speak, and the universal discernment to know, it is the village idiot speaking.” Sidney Morning Herald
Martin Luther King “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Spoken at the time of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma 1965

Erich Fromm
: “A spectre is stalking in our midst… It is not the old ghost of communism or fascism. It is a new spectre: a completely mechanized society, devoted to maximum material output and consumption, directed by computers; and in this social process, man himself is being transformed into a part of the total machine, well fed and entertained, yet passive, unalive, and with little feeling.” Page 1 “The Revolution of Hope”. 

Ecclesiastes 9:4: “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope”. Quoted by Erich Fromm at the beginning of his book The Revolution of Hope

Paul Oestreicher: “If the aerial bombing of cities that kills thousands is now taken for granted as a normal way of waging war, or if at least five so-called civilised nations are prepared, in certain circumstances, to wage nuclear war, then to be outraged at the explosion of a car bomb, is strangely selective.” P 62 The Double Cross 

Winston Churchill: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

Dame Anne Salmond: “If life is understood as a struggle among cost benefit individuals, the idea of a fair and harmonious society retreats, even vanishes. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “There is no such thing as society”. If one studies human history, however, driven as it is by collective achievement, it is clear she was wrong… Human beings are social animals, through and through. However if the aim of life is personal success, those who have failed are at fault and must bear the consequences, those who lose their jobs for instance, or the homeless… Much of life in the Anglo-American world looks like that at present.” NZ Herald 15/07/2016, “Ravages of neo-liberalism.”

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Time for church to start again?

By Ian Harris               Otago Daily Times              October 14, 2016

JJ Murphy & Co is a pub in Wellington with features that remind one of a church. Amid its recycled gothic-style windows, stained glass and snugs suggestive of confessional boxes, customers drain their glasses, chat, play pool or slip into the gaming room. Not quite the atmosphere worshippers would ever have imagined.

There we gathered one evening last month to hear a panel of four ministers and academics give their views on what is happening in church life. The organisers, St John’s Presbyterian Church in Wellington and Victoria University’s religious studies department, noted that though the church today is much critiqued and frequently written off, it was also proving surprisingly durable — "vitality and innovation abound".

Hence their topic, The Church in Question. It sounded promising, and the pub was crowded with people thirsty for answers. In the event, however, that proved too much to expect. For one thing, two Presbyterians, a Baptist and a Pentecostalist don’t reflect the whole church. Other denominations would bring different perspectives. All harbour a range of viewpoints within them and all would no doubt assume other churches would do better if only they were more like their own.

The Pentecostalist certainly left that impression. .For me, the most forward-looking comment was that the church needs to re-think its theological content. Dr Susan Jones, of St Andrew’s-on-The-Terrace, said the community had moved beyond infantile and old-fashioned assumptions still current in many churches, and asked: "Are we brave enough to look again at the content of what we are offering?"

Content of faith was the detonator for the great explosion that split the Western church at the Reformation, whose 500th anniversary falls next year. New forms of church emerged after 1517 in protest at a corrupted Catholicism. Circumstances today are far different. The church that was once the bedrock of society is now very much in question.

One reason why pressure isn’t building towards another explosion is that secular reality is chipping away at church membership, leaving no great energy for change. Another is that many who see change as necessary have abandoned their unresponsive churches. On the churches’ inadequate response to societal change, Bishop Richard Randerson said from the audience clerical conservatism was a problem.

Also, many ministers were either not equipped to engage openly with people who were not church members, or were fearful of doing so. That is in marked contrast to a challenging definition of the church as "the only institution in society that exists for the benefit of the non-member". The churches’ social service arms do splendid work for many who are not members. If they suddenly ceased, many vulnerable people would quickly notice the difference. At least that aspect of the church should not be in question — but the churches have to have the people on hand to carry it out.

Theological content, social services — what else? Even to insiders, church forms, structures, rules and processes sometimes seem more important than what Christian faith is supposed to be about. Innovation is curbed and opportunities go begging under the weight of ecclesiastical bureaucracies that should instead be enabling them to proceed. Structures should certainly be in question.

Then there are the hallowed buildings. Places to meet are essential, and local churches are centres of identity rich in their associations. But if they were under less pressure to build, strengthen, maintain and insure, might the churches be freer to engage more openly with their local communities in spaces they can share — and thus exist more obviously for the benefit of the non-member?

Standing back from such practicalities, it’s worth pondering what the church might be like if it were to take its central symbol of death and resurrection so seriously that it ruled off and started again. An insight by Irish-American John Dominic Crossan, a former monk, would be an excellent place to start. There’s an essential distinction between Jesus the man of history and the Christ, best seen today as Christianity’s archetype of love, grace and transformation.

Crossan says: "I presume there will always be divergent historical Jesuses, that there will always be divergent Christs built upon them. But I argue, above all, that the structure of a Christian will always be, this is how we see Jesus-then as Christ-now. Christianity must repeatedly, generation after generation, make its best historical judgement about who Jesus was then and, on that basis, decide what that reconstruction means as Christ now." That’s not quite the church in question. But it is the fundamental question for the church.

Desmond Tutu: I want right to end my life through assisted dying  

Harriet Sherwood      Religion correspondent       Guardian/UK     7 October 2016
Just as I have argued firmly for compassion and fairness in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with the same compassion and fairness when it comes to their deaths,” he added. “Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.”

Tutu had changed his mind over assisted suicide two years ago after a lifelong opposition but had remained ambiguous about whether he personally would choose such a death. He said: “Today, I myself am even closer to the departures hall than arrivals, so to speak, and my thoughts turn to how I would like to be treated when the time comes. Now more than ever, I feel compelled to lend my voice to this cause.”

He believed in the sanctity of life but also that terminally ill people should not be forced to endure terrible pain and suffering, he wrote. Instead they should have control over the manner and timing of their death. He added: “I have prepared for my death and have made it clear that I do not wish to be kept alive at all costs. I hope I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass on to the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice.”

Tutu pointed to laws in
California and Canada that permit assisted dying for terminally ill people. But “there are still many thousands of dying people across the world who are denied their right to die with dignity”.

Desmond Tutu: ‘For those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort.’ He said: “For those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort.”

He concluded: “In refusing dying people the right to die with dignity, we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values. I pray that politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders have the courage to support the choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth. The time to act is now…”

Tutu, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1984, has been admitted to hospital several times, most recently in September, for recurring infections as a result of surgery for prostate cancer.
Assisted dying is legal in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Albania, Colombia and Japan as well as Canada. Several US states have enacted measures on assisted dying, including Washington, California, Oregon, Vermont and New Mexico.

In September last year, the
UK parliament rejected a bill to allow assisted dying for the terminally ill, with 330 MPs voting against it and 118 backing the measure, despite an opinion poll showing it was supported by 82% of the public. The same poll suggested that 44% of people would break the law to help a loved one to die, risking a jail sentence of up to 14 years.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, who sits in the House of Lords,
urged MPs to reject the bill along with other faith leaders. Former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has argued for assisted dying to be lawful, saying such a move would be “profoundly Christian and moral”. Tutu wrote: “His initiative has my blessing and support – as do similar initiatives in my home country, South Africa, throughout the United States and across the globe.”


Pope Francis rejects rightwingers with US cardinals' appointment

Talk of ‘seismic shift’ in US catholic church with trio who have spoken out for women, immigrants and gun control
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome             Guardian/UK              10 October 2016

Pope Francis has put his progressive stamp on the American Catholic church with the selection of three new like-minded cardinals – including one who has sparred with the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Mike Pence – in a clear rejection of bishops who have advocated for the church’s exclusion of divorced and LGBT Catholics. The American choices were among 17 new cardinals named by Francis. He has chosen more from the developing world and only one from Italy, reflecting his desire to decentralise power away from the Vatican in Rome.

In choosing these new cardinals – the “princes of the church” who serve as the pope’s primary advisers – Francis has made it more likely that his successor will be a moderate or progressive. It also partially balances out the influence of the cardinals chosen by his far more conservative predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

The choices could create a “
seismic shift” in the Catholic hierarchy in the US, according to John Allen, a commentator from Crux, a Catholic news publication. While the selection of Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, Kevin Farrell of Dallas and Blase Cupich of Chicago could not be considered liberal by conventional political standards, Allen wrote that each was considered to be part of the “centrist, non-cultural warrior wing of the country’s hierarchy”.

Of the three, Tobin was the surprise choice, in part because cardinals are usually chosen from the main centres of power in the biggest Catholic countries, and Indianapolis does not fit the bill. He has sought a greater voice for women in the church and was involved in a high-profile battle with Pence last year, after the Indiana governor –
a former Catholic who converted to evangelical Protestantism – fought Tobin’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in the state, claiming they posed a security risk. The archbishop prevailed.

Cupich is also seen as an advocate for Francis’s agenda and has encouraged other archbishops to be a voice for workers and immigrants. Irish-born Farrell has been a vocal supporter of gun control laws.

“The picks show Francis wants the church in America to be more focused on issues like immigration, the role of women in the church and the need to bypass traditional centres of power in order to find leaders who smell of the sheep, as the pope has put it,”
wrote Michael O’Loughlin, a journalist for America Magazine, a Catholic publication.

Only 13 of the 17 cardinals Francis has elected will be eligible to vote in the next conclave because of age restrictions. Three of the new “electors” come from Europe.

The choices were noteworthy in part because of who Francis passed over for promotion, including the staunchly conservative archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, who presides over one of the largest Catholic archdiocese in the US. Chaput made headlines this summer when he released his own interpretation of a document that had been written by Francis that was meant to encourage priests to show more “discernment” in their treatment of Catholics who had divorced and remarried, as well as other practices that fall outside church doctrine.

Instead of emphasising the latitude Francis seemed to encourage in Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love), Chaput set out his own rules, including that
remarried Catholics who wanted to receive communion needed to abstain from sex and live as brother and sister, and that lesbian and gay Catholics could still opt for heterosexual marriage with children notwithstanding “some degree of same-sex attraction”.

There was only one Italian among the new cardinals: Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador to “loved and tormented” Syria. Calling the promotion a “surprise”, Zenari told Vatican radio that the honour was a gift to the victims of Syria and all those who suffer in the conflict.