Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Annual Boxing Day Ritual

You know, the one where we bring Jesus back to God and ask to exchange him for something more comfortable - or better yet, just give us the cash.

- Plagiarized from Felix Hominum

(I was once part of a discussion as to whether one who plagiarizes is a plagiarizer or a plagiarist. We concluded that plagiarist sounded more professional.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kristos Rodyvsya! Christ is Born!

Technically, it's still Advent until sundown this evening - but I expect I'll be busy then. So let me anticipate the feast, ever so slightly.

At St. James, our altar doubles as the creche. We turned it around a couple of weeks ago for the children's Advent Pageant (at least I called it the Advent Pageant). Inside, black satin suggests the night and a chevron of rough wood suggests the stable. Right now, Mary and Joseph are along a window sill, the shepherds are on the edge of the pulpit and the wise men are at the back of the church (guarded by a helpful "Mind the Camels" sign made by my wife). Mary, Joseph and the shepherds will arrive at their appointed cue this evening. The magi, of course, will make their gradual approach over the next several days. The main character (currently located in the vestry - see our adventure two years ago) will be handed over to one of the children who will manage his entrance at the appropriate time.

And we will find Jesus again tonight, literally, allegorically and eucharistically.

In closing, I offer you two videos to remind us of both the joy and the challenge of the season.

The first is an ancient Christian hymn, in it's original Arabic. Most North Americans seem a little puzzled by the concept of Christian Arabs. I read an article recently which included one Palestinian Christian, now emigrated to the US, expressing frustration that most American's he met assumed he was a convert from Islam even though his family had been Christian for generations longer than theirs.

The translation is included in the video, but for your convenience:

Today is born of a virgin He who holds the whole creation in his hand.
Today is born of a virgin He who holds the whole creation in his hand.
Today is born of a virgin He who holds the whole creation in his hand.

He whose essence cannot touch is bound in swaddling clothes as a child.
God who, in the beginning, established the heavens lies in a manger.
He who rained manna on his people is fed with milk from his mother's breast.
The bridegroom of the Church summons the wise men.
The Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts.

We worship thy birth, O Christ!
We worship thy birth, O Christ!
We worship thy birth, O Christ!
Show us also thy Divine Theophany.

The other video is a Stan Rogers classic. I can't hear it or sing it without getting all teary-eyed. (I am a rock!) It reminds us that many are lonely and in need at Christmas. Let it be a challenge to us all.

Almighty God,
you wonderfully created
and yet more wonderfully restored our human nature.
May we share the divine life of your Son Jesus Christ,
who humbled himself to share our humanity,
and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Milkman of Human Kindness

My sweetheart advises she is running low on the milk of human kindness.

I respond thus:

St. Augustine Cross recipient appointed Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon

Monsignor Don Bolen, a former official with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has been appointed as the next Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon. Earlier this year, Msgr Bolen received the Cross of St. Augustine from the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his contribution to Anglican - Roman Catholic relations.

I saw Don just a few weeks ago when he was a guest at our diocesan synod. From where I sit, he doesn't seem to fit the usual arch-conservative mold of Roman episcopal appointments under both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

I hope this is a sign of things to come.

More here, here and here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Anglican Covenant and Democratic Centralism

The "final" version of the Anglican Covenant is now on the street. You can read the assorted documentation here, here and here. Mark Harris and Jim Naughton (among others) have some worthwhile commentary. Jim, in particular, notes the secretive and unaccountable process involved.

The process that has led us to this appalling Covenant led me to consider someone who, like Rowan Cantuar, was seminary trained, had an abiding interest in Eastern Orthodoxy, had a knowledge of the writings of Dostoyevsky, had some recognized talent as a poet, had a tendency to operate through hand selected proxies and a drive to centralize power through secretive processes.

One of the central doctrines of Stalinism was Democratic Centralism - that, once a decision has been taken, it is the obligation of everyone in the society to support the decision or policy so enacted. The Stalinist version of Democratic Centralism was a corruption of the earlier Leninist idea that, prior to the decision, there would be open discussion and free debate. (In fairness to Uncle Joe, it was actually Lenin who began the erosion of the democratic part of Democratic Centralism.)

The Anglican Covenant, as it stands, is a product of as Stalinist a process as could possibly be imagined. A hand-picked committee raised the suggestion that a Covenant might be a way out of our present difficulties and suddenly, with no open or honest discussion allowed, Uncle Rowan decided that a Covenant there would be. Loyalty to the decision has been broadly demanded across the board. The committees concerned in its design and implementation have been unrepresentative and unaccountable. And Uncle Rowan has, by arbitrary fiat, declared that failure to endorse this particular doctrinal innovation will impair a Province's membership in the Communion.

As further support to his centralizing agenda, Uncle Rowan et al have arbitrarily vested ultimate authority in a body which, prior to this, had existed only to coordinate the work of two other Instruments of Communion. Now the newly re-christened Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion will be the centre of authority, charged with processing as many ceremonial denunciations and show trials as may be necessary to impose Uncle Rowan's Dictatorship of the Primatariate.

As for me, I think I'll hunker down and await Perestroika. Here's a Facebook group opposing the new Anglican Stalinism.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Senate - a festering pustule on the arse-end of Canada's democracy

The Canadian House of Commons passed new consumer product safety legislation earlier this year. In a truly remarkable turn of events, our hopelessly divided, hyper-partisan, poisonous Commons actually passed the legislation unanimously.

That's right. Unanimously. Neanderthaal Conservatives, craven Liberals, wide-eyed socialists and menacing separatists all came together to pass legislation to protect consumers - legislation that has been endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, the Standards Council of Canada, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and who knows how many other non-partisan organizations that promote the public good.

So far, so good.

Then the legislation went to the Canadian Senate.

What has happened there is clear and unambiguous proof that Canada would be better off if both the Senate and the Liberal Party were abolished.

Liberal Senators - thanks to the longevity of the corrupt kleptocracy known as the Chretien - Martin ministry - hold an effective majority in the Senate. Liberal Senators have decided to gut the legislation that the elected House of Commons passed unanimously.

Despite the posturing of Liberals in the Commons, we now know that the Liberal Party of Canada is opposed to the government instituting mandatory recalls of dangerous products. According to these unfit and despicable public "servants," companies shouldn't even have to report any serious incidents where people are injured or killed by product malfunctions.

Let's be clear about this.

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that corporate profits are more important than human lives.

At least, that's what 45 Liberal Senators believe. Liberal Leader Count Michael Ignatieff apparently sees no problem with their behaviour. (Perhaps best we not depend on the moral compass of a politician who endorses torture.)

The story gets even more bizarre.

Liberal Senator (and professional wingnut) Mobina Jaffer believes that protecting consumers is the moral equivalent of murdering a public official and cutting off his genitals. (Finally a Liberal crazier than Hedy Fry.)

No. Seriously. I am not making this up.

Yesterday, Senator Jaffer justified her attack on Canadian consumers by alluding to an incident in Uganda in the 1970s where a local mayor was murdered and castrated - possibly by supporters of Idi Amin.

The Liberals are taking their marching orders from the implausibly named Trueman Tuck, who leads an astroturf lobby group called the Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom, which apparently believes this legislation would create "a genocide far greater than any genocide in recorded history."

So, there you have it. According to Liberal Senators and their friends, trying to ensure that little babies aren't in danger from their cribs is akin to the mass murder of six million Jews and countless other victims of Naziism.


I am not making this up.

There are some really stand-up people in the Senate. And while their expensive sinecure is the ultimate taskless thanks, there are some Senators who try to do some worthwhile things.

But the irresponsible and frankly lunatic conduct of 45 Liberal Senators is proof positive that the Senate of Canada is nothing but a festering pustule on the arse-end of Canada's democracy.

And so is the Liberal Party of Canada.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Early for Christmas . . . but

There was supposed to be a way for me to embed a widget for you to listen to a few tracks from Tim Chesterton's latest CD. Unfortunately the html Reverbnation supplied was defective, so you'll have to link to Tim's page over there to hear some sample tracks.

Tim blogs at To See and To Follow. His CD sells for a total of $15 (including postage and handling and can be ordered directly from Tim. Details are in this post on his blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hate the sin - Love the sinner

A lot of people on this side of the besetting issue really dislike that old nostrum "hate the sin: love the sinner."

I understand why. There are a lot of people on the other side who trot out that line as a cover for all sorts of hateful blather - much of it directed at the sinner (as they see it) and not so much at the sin.

But the fact that some people misuse it doesn't mean that the nostrum is any less correct.

But it is really difficult for us mere humans to separate our feelings about sin - or more particularly about a given sin - from our feelings about the sinner.

Unless, of course, we are confronted with it at some level.

Like I was today.

There I was, innocently trolling the blogosphere, when I saw an article in Toronto's national newspaper - and article that left me feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach.

A friend of mine - someone I first met nearly 30 years ago - has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography. The police allege that he had a large collection of very disturbing images.

Well, first, I needed to remind myself that he was charged, not convicted.

But then what?

I guess then I need to contend with the fact that he may be guilty.

And if so, then what?

I guess that is where hating the sin and loving the sinner comes in.

It would be very easy to turn my back and deny him.

But he was my friend two days ago. If I cared for him before this, why should I care any less for him after? Indeed, doesn't he need my care, concern and friendship all the more now?

That doesn't mean condoning what he is alleged to have done.

But whatever he may have done, it doesn't change the fact that he is a child of God - and one whose life stands to be ruined regardless of the legal outcome. Even if he is innocent, the charge will dog him forever. And if he is guilty, his life is irrevocably changed.

So, while I hate the sin he is alleged to have committed, I must love this sinner (for sinner he is, regardless of his guilt or innocence on these charges). After all, I am supposed to follow the example of one who ate and drank with outcasts and sinners.

But mostly, I'm still just feeling like I've been punched in the stomach.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From one anonymous wannabe opinion maker to another

The Jurist over at Accidental Deliberations makes a good point. While he and I were posting that two senior government ministers were clueless (here and here), the mainstream media ignored that in favour of the real issue: that Bill Boyd used a naughty word.

Now, I agree that Bill Boyd probably shouldn't be using the word "bastards" - even under his breath - at a legislative committee meeting. Mind you, no one knows what he was referring to, so he may actually have been talking about illegitimate offspring.

But really. Isn't the fact that Bill had no idea what he was talking about when it came to the borrowing plans of a major crown corporation for which he is responsible more important than his possibly inappropriate use of an epithet?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Misplaced Priorities

The Diocese of Los Angeles has elected two new suffragan bishops. Both are women - which would have been controversial once. What's more controversial at the moment is that one of them, the Rev'd Canon Mary Glasspool, is a partnered lesbian.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, within 12 hours, has issued a statement on the election of Canon Glasspool. He makes it very clear he would like this election simply to go away - if necessary by means of having the confirmation process fail. (When a new bishop is elected in the Episcopal Church, the majority of bishops with jurisdiction [diocesan bishops and some others] and the majority of diocesan standing committees must give their consent within a predetermined period of time.)

Now, I can understand the Archbishop's point that the election of Canon Glasspool "raises very serious questions." Clearly it does. If Canon Glasspool is confirmed and in due course consecrated, there are likely to be implications for the whole Communion and the strength of our bonds of affection.

What's galling about this, however, is the comparison between Cantuar's prompt comment on the election of Canon Glasspool when compared with his utter silence about anti-gay legislation in Uganda - legislation tacitly backed by the Anglican heirarchy in Uganda and explicilty backed by Anglican bishops like Joseph Abura of Karamoja.

Several bloggers and others have commented on this disconnect, including the folk at Changing Attitude, and Times of London religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill. Ruth captures the bizarre disconnect quite precisely:

Critics are understandably questioning why speak out on this so forcefully, while showing such restraint on Uganda. It is probably in vain to point out that one concerns a matter of national governance, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to speak, and the other a matter of Anglican ecclesial polity, in which he is perfectly justified in taking a stand.

The fact is, whatever the ecclesiological jurisprudence, it looks bad. Very bad indeed.
Changing Attitude does a good job of explaining why.

I wish I could do something, write something, to help the Archbishop get out of this mess.

But it feels impossible. His difficulties I fear are truly manifold.

She is too kind to point out that his difficulties, manifold though they are, are largely of his own making. He has deliberately embarked on a strategy of holding the Communion together by refusing to make the far right accountable for anything at all, ever. Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Southern Cone and, yes, Uganda routinely ignore the call to "gracious restraint" about crossing provincial boundaries and face no sanction at all. Both the Nigerian and Ugandan heirarchies have actively championed anti-gay legislation that can only be described as satanic, and Rowan is silent.

I fear that Cantuar has lost whatever moral authority he may once have had. One cannot buy unity by treating evil with kit gloves.

Guardian blogger Andrew Brown also writes on Rowan's remarkably misplaced priorities. I'll leave you with his closing comments:

Consider the case of two Anglicans of the same gender who love one another. If they are in the USA, the Anglican church will marry them and may elect one of them to office. If they are in Uganda, the Anglican church will have try to have them jailed for life, and ensure that any priest who did not report them to the authorities within 24 hours would be jailed for three years; anyone who spoke out in their defence might be jailed for seven.

Under Williams, the church that marries two women who love each other is to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion. The church that would jail them both for life, and would
revile and persecute their defenders, stays snugly in his bosom. Not even the Archbishop's remarkable gift for obfuscation can conceal these facts forever.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rod Gantefoer needs a Sir Humphrey Appleby

The Saskatchewan Municipal Finance Board is a provincial government agency which can lend money to municipal governments in order to support civic improvements such as infrastructure. As of today, not yet in the fourth quarter, the Board has exceeded it's budget by 100%.

Here is Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer answering questions in committee. Both Trent Wotherspoon and Pat Atkinson are opposition MLAs.

Trent Wotherspoon: So what's up with this 100% overrun?

Rod Gantefoer: Yeah, that's a problem. But it is all due to one big project that cost $40 million, if it wasn't for that everything would be fine.

Pat Atkinson: When did you find out about this 40 million?

Rod Gantefoer: I'm not sure. Let me check. [confers with officials] I'm informed at mid-year.

Pat Atkinson: After the money is spent?

Rod Gantefoer: I take the member's point. That's probably not a good thing.

Trent Wotherspoon: But who is actually on the board? Who approves spending the money?

Rod Gantefoer: I don't know who is on the board, let me ask. [confers with officials] I'm informed that the two members are the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Trent Wotherspoon: You probably should have known about all of this then, right? How will we know this won't happen again.

Rod Gantefoer: I'm taking notes tonight, we will have to look at some stuff.

Let me just repeat one line.

Rod Gantefoer: I don't know who is on the board, let me ask. [confers with officials] I'm informed that the two members are the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

That's right. Saskatchewan Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer does not realize that he is one of two people on the Saskatchewan Municipal Finance Board. Neither does he remember what he has done as a member of that board.

It leaves me almost speechless. Thank goodness for YouTube.

First, Sir Humphrey Appleby shows how to deal with diffcult questions in committee.

And here's Chumbawumba with the song Amnesia, with it's chorus of "Do you suffer from long term memory loss? I don't remember."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In praise of Stephen Harper

It isn't often I get to say this, really. Good for Stephen Harper. Well done.

Today, the Times of London (among others) reports that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown showed real leadership at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, condemning the horrific anti-gay legislation currently before the Ugandan parliament.

Good for Stephen Harper.

Curiously, some of the bravest Canadian stands against international injustice have come from Conservative Prime Ministers - John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney led the Commonwealth charge against racist apartheid in South Africa. Despite their pretty talk, Liberal Prime Ministers have been pretty much a bust on that score. It was Liberal Mackenzie King who refused to admit Jewish refugees from Naziism into Canada, for example.

The Times article also quotes UN AIDS envoy (and former Ontario NDP leader) Stephen Lewis, who spoke to the conference. According to Lewis, "Nothing is as stark, punitive and redolent of hate as the bill in Uganda."

Now if only the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (the latter a former Ugandan judge) could rise to the same level of moral insight as these three politicians.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Torture is still wrong

I must admit, at times Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his political instincts baffle me. I swear, the man has the political equivalent of Tourette's Syndrome.

Recently, the hot news story in Canada has been the accusations of a Canadian diplomat that Canadian troops had been handing prisoners over to the Afghan government without taking adequate measures to ensure that such prisoners were not tortured.

To their credit, the Harper government have actually taken some steps to address this problem. They may not have done enough, but they had done something.

Unlike the previous Liberal government, which (unlike most other NATO countries) had decided to leave Afghan nationals to the tender mercies of a government known to engage in the torture of prisoners. That would be the same Liberal Party now led by "regulated" torture advocate Michael Ignatieff.

The part I don't get is why the Conservatives have decided to get defensive on this file, and have started attacking the credibility of this diplomat. It was on the basis of his reports that the Harper government changed the terms under which prisoners were turned over - and on at least three occasions, suspended such turnovers in response to reports of torture and abuse.

The Tory record on this file may not be perfect, but in the words of a former Conservative Prime Minister from my home province, "don't compare me to perfection - compare me to the other guy."

Seems to me the smarter (and actually justifiable) response would have been for the Conservatives to say something like this:

"Yes, there was evidence that prisoners turned over to the Afghan authorities were being tortured. That is why our government changed the terms under which such prisoner transfers happened. We are prepared to further tighten our conditions if necessary. Unlike the former governing party and their current leader, we find torture to be abhorent."

In fact, had I been advising the Prime Minister, I'd have told him to appoint a well regarded Canadian whose reputation was above reproach - possibly former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent or former Ontario NDP leader and UN Ambassador Stephen Lewis - to conduct a review and report back to the government in 90 days about how such prisoner transfers should be managed.

Instead, the Conservatives have become (in the eyes of most observers) defenders of the transfers and de facto defenders of torture.

And they've pretty much left Count Ignatieff and the Liberals off the hook.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Torture is still wrong.

People who don't understand that are either wicked or stupid (or possibly both).

For the egregiously dimwitted, here's a former professional wrestler to explain it to you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Green is the Colour

No one in Canada will need an explanation.

For my non-Canadian readers, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have won the Western Conference Championship and will play in the Grey Cup next Sunday.

The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League Championship.

Canadian Football is not the same as that silly four down game the Americans play on that tiny field, with wimpy rules like "fair catch."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hate is not a Christian value

Uganda was never, so far as I can tell, a hotbed of gay rights. Certainly the Anglican Primate of Uganda, Henry Orombi, has made enough bizarre remarks about homosexuals - in among his famous comments about how the American far right sends him so much money. (I decline to draw you that dotted line any more plainly.)
Even so, it is beyond distressing that the Ugandan Parliament should be considering an horrific anti-gay bill that calls for the deaths of LGBTQ people and for the imprisonment of any straight person who doesn't turn them in to the authorities.
Since this story broke, official responses in the Anglican universe have been pretty muted. Dead silence from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop of York - himself a former Ugandan jurist - has deliberately held his tongue. And, to no one's surprise, the North American schismatics who like to pretend their churches are in Uganda have offered nothing but deafening silence.
I suppose the Ugandan Church can be damned with faint praise for their half-hearted suggestion that the death penalty may be slightly over the top - but that otherwise the bill is just jim dandy.
Thankfully, the Anglican Church of Canada gets it. You can read last weeks resolution from the Council of General Synod here.
In the meantime, other folk have been speaking out. A Facebook group has nearly 5,000 members as of this afternoon. (And if you aren't a member, why not?) The group has designated today as a day of prayer, asking people to pray for at least 30 minutes for: the wihdrawal of the bill; for the protection and peace of LGBTQ people in Uganda and around the world; and for Ugandan Christians to realize this bill is nothing short of blasphemy.
It is worth noting that it isn't just supporters of LGBTQ folk who have spoken out against this appalling bill. You don't have to be in favour of gay marriage to realize that mass murder is wrong.
How hard is it to grasp that hate is not a Christian value?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

. . . in grateful thanksgiving for the many benefits received at his hand . . .

This Monday is the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland.

When I was a young priest (yes, I was once a young priest) I was at the local high school to see the principal. The secretary asked who she might say was calling. The conversation went something like this:

Me - I'm Malcolm French, the Anglican priest.

She - No. Anglicans have ministers, not priests.

Me - I'm Malcolm French, and I'm the Anglican priest.

She - Catholics have priests. Anglicans have ministers.

Me (choking back an entire history lesson about the English reformation and the catholicity of Anglicanism) - I was there. The archbishop put his hands on my head and I distinctly heard him say "priest." Would you please just tell Norm I'm here?

I still remember it distinctly. It was on the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland 1984 at All Saints Church in Oxbow SK.

The picture is a stained glass window from St. Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh. The image is taken from the official website of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Church Kiss

My wife and I attended a high school production of The Wedding Singer last night. The students did very well, and the costumes brought back memories of the 1980s in all their horrors.

I'd never seen the Adam Sandler - Drew Barrymore movie on which the show was based - though it was one of the early pieces in Sandler's transition from cinematic clown to serious actor in romantic comedies. He's carried it further in movies like 50 First Dates - also with Barrymore. He's following the steps of noted funny men like Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, though he's not quite seen as a potential leading man in a drama.

In any event, last night did introduce me to one scene which serves to answer a question that comes up (implicitly, not usually explicitly) at wedding rehearsals. To wit:

The play also included a brief hit of klezmer music, which moves me to include this video for no particular reason.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Taskless Thanks

Yesterday, there was a bit of a rhubarb between New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer and Conservative Senator Mike Duffy on Evan Solomon's new show, Power & Politics. The issue was a report Peter had issued about the cost of the Canadian Senate.

For the clarification of my non-Canadian readers, the Senate of Canada is not so much like the Senate of the United States as like the pre-reform British House of Lords. Senators are "summoned" by the appointed Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. They hold office until the age of 75.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had promised to reform the Senate, and that he would not appoint Senators. (He did allow that he would honour non-binding Senate elections if any province were to conduct one. Only Alberta currently provides for that.) Despite his promise, Prime Minister Harper now holds the record for the most Senate appointments in one calendar year. He has now appointed 28 Senators. One, Bert Brown, was the winner of a non-binding Senate election in Alberta, who Harper appointed in 2007. The rest were appointed in four batches so far this year.

There are 105 seats in the Senate, with two current vacancies in New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Two of Harper's appointees, including Senator Duffy, may have violated the constitutional requirement of being resident in the province they were appointed to represent. Five of his appointees will still be in the Senate (barring resignation, impeachment or death) in 2039. One will not have to leave until 2049. Nice work if you can get it. Truly, it is the taskless thanks.

Now, here's the video of the exchange. I swear, I was worried dear old Duff's head was going to explode.

Here's the interesting thing. The comments on the CBC website were 90% critical of the Senator. Similarly the media commentary. Duff's former friend, Don Martin (no syncophant of the NDP he) was unusually blunt is his condemnation of his erstwhile colleague.

Many senators are decent types trying to make intelligent and constructive contributions to public policy. But Mike Duffy's only value has become that of poster boy for why the Senate needs, at very least, major reform if not outright abolition.
The first politician to rise to Stoffer's defence was an MP of another party.

Peter Stoffer said he would run for Parliament and did. He won, as he has done repeatedly. He acted on his convictions. Mike Duffy railed against the Senate as a place of unelected stooges while a media commentator but then took an unelected appointment to the place the moment it was offered. Of the two, I can guarantee you that Peter Stoffer is not a fake.

Duff defended his travel expenses by comparing them to Stoffer's, which he claimed were similar on an annualized basis. "What's the difference?"

Here is my email to Senator Duffy (cc-ing Peter Stoffer):

Dear Senator Duffy,

On CBC yesterday, you indicated that you couldn't see the difference between your travel claims and those of NDP MP Peter Stoffer, whose claims, on an annualized basis, you suggest are on par with yours.

Now, I'm a bit surprised you can't figure it out. But let me explain it to you.

Last election, 24,290 Canadian citizens voted for Peter Stoffer. That's about 61.5% of the votes cast in Sackville - Eastern Shore.

By contrast, no one voted for you at all.

Now don't get me wrong. Duff. My contempt for the Senate of Canada does not translate into contempt for every Senator. I'm quite fond of Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who has always been very kind to me personally. I've met Senator Michael Meighen and found him to be both amiable and well-informed. My own great-uncle, Earl Hastings, was a Senator for more than 30 years. I always got on well with the late Senator Hazen Argue and am friends with several members of his family. And some of the work of Senate committees has frequently proved a valuable contribution to public debates.

However, none of that changes the fact that there is no place for an all-appointed legislative body in a democracy. The Senate of Canada, as presently constituted, is a festering pustule on the arse-end of Canada's democracy. Those who accept the taskless thanks of a summons to the Senate should be prepared to have their activities scrutinized - particularly the cost of the Senate is increasing at more than three times the rate of the cost of the House of Commons, even though the number of MPs has increased while the number of Senatorial sinecures has remained stable. Whingy temper tantrums on national television by the most junior Senator
from Prince Edward Island do nothing to enhance the credibility of the Red Chamber.

I hope this clears the matter up for you, Senator.

Yours aye,

Malcolm French APR

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Steven Anderson - CINO

In any movement, there will be those hardliners who claim that other members of the movement who dissent from the deemed consensus on X, Y or Z issue are not "real" members of the movement.

In Canada, the Reform Party arose, in part, because the Progressive Conservative Party were deemed "not 'real' conservatives."

In my own party, there are always the handful who claim that various of us have no right to be New Democrats due to our assorted thought crimes. (Ironically, they will often accuse me of really belonging in the Liberal Party, while at the same time decrying my alleged lack of principle in refusing to countenance electoral deals with the Liberal Party. A trifle counterintuitive that.)

The right wing of the US Republican Party have even come up with a (half) witty acronym for moderate members of their party: RINOs - Republicans in Name Only.

Thing is, it does occasionally happen that people will claim to be part of some movement or body or structure while at the same time violating its basic beliefs or principles.

So, brothers and sisters, let me introduce you to Pastor Steven Anderson, CINO - Christian in Name Only.

Pastor Anderson has taken to praying for President Obama. Not that God should guide and bless the President, mind. Rather that the President should die.
"I hope that God strikes Barack Obama with brain cancer so he can die like Ted Kennedy and I hope it happens today."

This isn't an example of a well meaning Christian getting it wrong. This isn't a wee bit of confusion about the finer points of Christology or Trinitarian dogma. This isn't honest disagreement about casuistical divinity.

No, brothers and sisters. This is not error. This is grievous sin and overt heresy. This is Satan messing with the Body of Christ.

It is clear and unambiguous. Though he calls himself "pastor," Steven Anderson is leading Jesus's sheep into the tender embrace of the wolves.

If he believes that there is any theological warrant to pray for the death of another person, then the god who Steven Anderson worships is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Jesus he proclaims is not the Son of the Living God. The Spirit he invokes is not the comforter who will lead us into all truth.

Now, here's the kicker. If I want to be more than a CINO, I need to pray for Steven Anderson. To pray that he will have his eyes opened, that he will be freed from this error and come to know the true God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That someone who pretends to be in a position of Christian leadership would pray so hateful a prayer is a scandal. He slanders the Name of Jesus.

Of course, he's not the only one out there preaching hate and pretending to do so in the name of the God of Love. We've seen enough examples of that of late - Uganda and Maine spring immediately to mind.

Much as I may feel otherwise, my Christian duty is to pray for them all.

MOST gracious God, we humbly beseech thee for thy Church. Fill it with all truth; in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where any thing is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is in want, furnish it; where it is divided and rent asunder, make it whole again; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Judicious Divine

Today is the feast day of that judicious divine, Mr. Hooker.
"He that goeth about to persuade a multitude that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favourable hearers, because they know the manifold defects whereunto every kind of regiment is subject, but the secret lets and difficulties, which in public proceedings are innumerable and inevitable, they have not ordinary judgement to consider. And because such as reprove supposed disorders of state are taken for principal friends to the common benefit of all, and for men that carry singular freedom of mind, under this fair and plausible colour, whatsoever they utter passes for good and current. That which wanteth in the weight of their speech is supplied by the aptness of men's minds to accept and believe it."

- The Rev'd Dr. Richard Hooker
Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (I, 1, i)
When I was a young priest, I had, for a time, a retired Archbishop as my honourary assistant. On his death, his family kindly gave me his copy of Ecclesiastical Polity. I got more than the occasional odd look when I would mention that I now had the Archbishop's Hooker.
I suppose it was injudicious of me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Municipal Elections

This will be of little interest to my readers outside of Saskatchewan, but this Wednesday is municipal election day in all the urban municipalities in Saskatchewan, as well as all school divisions.

In municipal elections, it's often difficult to tell the cats from the mice. (If you didn't understand that reference, see below.) Every candidate, it seems, is in favour of lower taxes, improved services and reducing crime. (Some day, I want to meet the candidate who's in favour of higher taxes, poorer services and more crime. Clearly that candidate is a lunatic, but I'd just be really curious to meet him or her.)

In any event, if you're from my side of the political spectrum and you want to figure out which candidates share your progressive values, check out

Anyway, for those of you who didn't get the reference to mice and cats, you badly need to watch this video:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In a good cause

As some of my readers will know, in the Navy part of my life, I have been raising money for the Terry Fox Foundation by participating in the Great Canadian Head Shave. I promised I'd even shave off my beard if I personally raised more than $1,000.

Well, the $1,000 mark was easily passed. All told, the Captain and I raised $2966.17 (don't ask about the 17 cents). Then, as we finished, one of the young officers offered to shave his head for what he could raise right there on the drill deck. That extra $50 put us over the $3,000 mark.

If there is anyone who'd like to kick in a little extra, it isn't too late.

Now, here are some pictures.


And here we go

Almost there

After - and all in a good cause.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It seems to me I've heard that song before

Yesterday, Vatican officials issued an Apostolic Constitution (meaning a big, bureaucratic policy paper) setting out conditions and a process for Anglicans who want to be united to the Roman Catholic Church while "preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony." To my knowledge, the Apostolic Constitution itself is not currently available online, but the Vatican's news release is here. The best aggregations of links can be found at Thinking Anglicans and at Episcopal Cafe's The Lead.

Naturally, the secular media are all over this story. And naturally, most of their coverage makes it clear they haven't the foggiest notion what they're talking about.

This is hardly the first time that Benedict XVI has chosen to meddle in the affairs of the Anglican Communion. As Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, he was given to issuing (semi-disparaging) statements about Anglicans to coincide with major Anglican Communion events. When dissident Episcopalians met in Plano, Texas in 2005, he wrote them a letter (purportedly on behalf of John Paul II) to encourage the schismatics as they strategized to destroy the Episcopal Church.

However, if Benedict's intent is to open the doors to a flood of converts from Anglican Churches to Rome, I suspect he'll be disappointed. Every few years, someone hatches a new scheme which will open the floodgates only to find the flood is a trickle.

The process outlined in the Apostolic Constitution is consistent with Rome's Pastoral Provision for "Anglican Use" parishes in the United States. When the Episcopal Church started ordaining women, Rome thought they'd see, if not a flood at least a steady stream, of Episcopal converts. To ease the path, they established a process for groups of Anglicans to act corporately (sort of synchronized swimming the Tiber) and to use an adapted version of the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer. At the end of the day, there was no flood nor even a steady stream. There was a brief trickle, and all told there are only about seven Anglican Use parishes in the entire US.

Again, this was nothing new. Rome's skewed analysis of Anglican sensibilities dates back much farther. One of the clearest examples was the lead up to Leo XIII's 1896 bull Apostolicae Curae which declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void." Both the theological reasoning and the ecclesiastical politics behind the document are multilayered. One of the factors in Pope Leo's finding was the pressure from the Roman heirarchy in England who were convinced a negative finding would result in a mass of conversions from the high church party of the Church of England. Disappointment reigned.

Anglicanism's relationship with Rome is complex - almost as complex as Anglicanism's relationship with itself. My old dogmatics professor, Eugene Rathbone Fairweather (aka ERF) was a member of the first Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission. ERF once told us that there were many loud debates that occured during his time on the commission, but that there had never been a single occasion where all of the Anglicans were on one side and all of the Roman Catholics on the other.

In the catholic heart of every Anglican there beats a desire for the unity that Christ willed for His Church. Though I was never so afflicted myself, "Roman Fever" (a flirtation with converting) has been known to infect more than the occasional Anglo-Catholic. On the other hand, the odd Roman Catholic has been known to find their way to Anglicanism - including the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the most recent Bishop of Rochester (UK).

In the meantime, I off you this, with apologies to both Simon and Garfunkel.

It’s an Apostolic Constitution,
the perfect made-in-Rome solution,
where ritual will not be bland
and women priests would all be canned
and independent thought is banned
by Benny – it’s a one man band

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me

A personal ordinariate
Tridentine mass, imagine that
and Cardinal Newman’s Oratory
the incense and the rosary
the pious pomp of liturgy
reminds me that I long to be

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
Ill play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me
In shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony
I need someone to comfort me

Romeward bound
I wish I was
Romeward bound
Rome, where my thoughts escaping
Rome, where my music’s playing
Rome, where the Pope lies waiting
Silently for me
Silently for me
Silently for me

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Communion, Community and our Common Life

Three significant articles I want to link you to today.

Resist the Anglican Covenant - A retired English Bishop, Peter Selby, recently spoke to Inclusive Church's Word on the Street conference. His topic was When the Word on the Street is Resist, which was a response to recent ramblings from the Archbishop of Canterbury and from some other bishops who want to see authority in the Anglican Communion concentrated in the hands of Primates and Prince Bishops. Among his points:

His first key contention is that if Anglicans are to be a communion they need to set out what are the patterns and convictions that make them recognisable as such in a form to which the various provinces can sign up; and they need restraints - self-restraint principally but if need be imposed restraints - to prevent provinces from doing things which would make them unrecognisable to others.

There are several difficulties about this way of arguing, one of which I regard as fundamental. One might ask whether the history of the church bears out such a notion as having operated in the decision-making of churches over issues of considerable importance; and in particular one might ask whether the history of Anglicanism supports requiring that way of undertaking and then sanctioning developments. Is it the case that provinces have not acted on new ideas until they had consulted with other provinces and taken the teaching of ecumenical partners into account? Is it not rather the case that quite controversial decisions have been taken because they seemed to be right, and it has taken time for it to become clear whether they were legitimate developments or not?

In other words, a significant portion of the argument in favour of a punitive Anglican Covenant as proposed is based on revisionist history - or, to put it a little more frankly, falsehood.

Please go read the whole thing. And as this matter moves forward, many of us will have to consider the continuing steps of resistance to this curializing attack on Anglican tradition.

God and Politics - Former Member of Parliament Dennis Gruending, also a former official with the Canadian Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops, recntly wrote an article for the 20th anniversary of The Hill Times, the "local newspaper" on Parliament Hill, regarding the role of religion and religious groups in Canadian politics. He has reposted the article at his blog, Pulpit and Politics. Among his points:

The Conservatives are assiduously courting those evangelicals, Catholics, and certain Jewish voters as well to join their political coalition. That has caught the attention of other parties. The NDP has responded by creating Faith and Social Justice Commission, which attempts to mobilize a religious constituency on their behalf. Michael Ignatieff has given Toronto-area Liberal MP John Mackay the task of reaching out on behalf of his party to evangelical Christians.

The CCF-NDP had significant roots in the Social Gospel movement. The first leader of the party was a former Methodist clergyman. The second was an Anglican lay reader. The fourth a Baptist clergyman. Yet there is also a strong anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) element, seeming centred in the Ontario section of the party. I recall an attempt to hold an unofficial Christian Socialist Caucus meeting at a federal convention in the early '80s triggered a bitter and viscious debate on the floor where several speakers demanded such a group not be allowed to meet on the convention site or have its meetings announced, and one speaker even demanded that participants be expelled from the party. (Of course, federal conventions sometimes serve to bring together wingnuts who don't really represent anyone at all.)

Unlike that Christian Socialist Caucus (which never really became an organized group), the Faith and Social Justice Commission is an officially recognized group with a mandate which includes outreach to religious progressives.

One of the things I find curious in Dennis's article is that, while the Conservatives are, naturally enough, reaching out to religious conservatives among all faiths, and while the NDP is reaching out to religious progressives of all faiths, the Liberal Party version of religious outreach involves one MP and one subset of believer. Yet another example of the Liberal Party operating in a political paradigm at least 20 years out of date.

We do not walk alone - Apparently the newest Nobel Laureate and his family chose to worship at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square this morning. To their credit, the parish did not adjust the preaching rota, so the Obamas (Obamae?) heard a sermon from seminarian Mike Angell. And, as befits his name, the preacher had a serious message. You can read the whole sermon here. And here is the closing paragraph and challenge:
We do not walk alone. Take a moment and look around this sanctuary. None of us walks this way alone. Christianity has consequences, and none of us can face those consequences alone. There is a danger to read the story of the rich man individualistically. We can make it a story about a man who has to individually choose whether or not he will follow Jesus. When Jesus invited the rich man to follow him, he invited him to join a community, a community boldly living life together in a new way. These followers of the way were later called Christians. Jesus walks beside us, and we walk beside our sisters and brothers, the body of Christ. Christianity has consequences, and none of us can face them alone.
Hat tip to Episcopal Café - The Lead.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sing You Sinners

Dearheart and I went to see Tony Bennett this evening. He was stunning - including a performance of Fly me to the Moon sans sound system.

So, here are a couple of videos.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Torture is a war crime

Torture is wrong.

Torture is wrong at a number of different levels.

From a military / investigative standpoint, torture is stupid.


Anyone who believes that torture has any military or investigative value is simply too stupid to be put in charge of anything at all, ever.

People who are being tortured will, eventually, say anything in the vain hope of having the torture stop.


You want that 20-year old Iraqi to confess to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby in 1932? Torture him long enough, and he'll admit it. And he'll probably be prepared to say that he was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. And that he was the real mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery. The fact that all these things happened decades before he was born is irrelevant. He'll confess to them just to make the pain stop.

Certainly he may also tell you things that are true. But there will be no way to tell what's true and what he's saying because he thinks it's what you want to hear. And the effort of confirming what's true (if anything at all) and what isn't diverts resources away from doing useful things. Things like actually investigating.

If you believe in the value of torture, you are simply stupid.

Dick Cheney, this means you.

Now, the stupidity of torture, of course, isn't the worst thing about it.

The really hideous thing about torture is the way it dehumanizes both its victims and its perpetrators.

Torture is a war crime.

And any official who has condoned, permitted, directed or approved torture is guilty of a war crime.

More guilty, I would argue, that even those who performed the torture first hand.

George Walker Bush, 43d President of the United States, this means you.

But even you, George Walker Bush, are not beyond the reach of grace.

And the thinking person's conservative, Andrew Sullivan, offers you a way to atone for your grievous sin.

In a column in The Atlantic this month, Andrew Sullivan (the only conservative commentator on American politics who is at all worth reading - or at all capable of critical thinking) sets forth clearly and conscisely how the best possible outcome would be for George Walker Bush to come forward and take personal responsibility for approving the violation of American and international law.

Structuring his column as an open letter to 43, Sullivan begins by making the case that forcing the former President to do the right thing would be destructive to his country.

I have come to accept that it would be too damaging and polarizing to the American polity to launch legal prosecutions against you, and deeply unfair to solely prosecute those acting on your orders or in your name. President Obama’s decision thus far to avoid such prosecutions is a pragmatic and bipartisan one in a time of war, as is your principled refusal to criticize him publicly in his first months. But moving on without actually confronting or addressing the very grave evidence of systematic abuse and torture under your administration poses profound future dangers. It gives the impression that nothing immoral or illegal took place. Indeed, since leaving office, your own vice president has even bragged of these interrogation techniques; and many in your own party threaten to reinstate such policies in the future. Their extreme rhetoric seems likely to shape—to contaminate—history’s view of your presidency, indeed of the Bush name, and the world’s view of America. But my biggest fear is this: in the event of a future attack on the United States, another president will feel tempted, or even politically compelled, to resort to the same brutalizing policy, with the same polarizing, demoralizing, war-crippling results. I am writing you now because it is within your power—and only within your power—to prevent that from happening.

He then makes the case that the only way for the United States to recover any sort of moral integrity is for the former President to man up and be accountable.

Examine the moral and ethical question. Could any moral person who saw the abuse of human beings at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Camp Cropper, Camp Nama, and uncounted black sites across the globe and at sea believe it was in compliance with America’s “respect” and “law and freedom”? As president, your job was not to delegate moral responsibility for these acts, but to take moral responsibility for them. You said a decade ago: “Once you put your hand on the Bible and swear in [to public office], you must set a high standard and be responsible for your own actions.”

The point of this letter, Mr. President, is to beg you to finally take responsibility for this stain on American honor and this burden on a war we must win. It is to plead with you to own what happened under your command, and to reject categorically the phony legalisms, criminal destruction of crucial evidence, and retrospective rationalizations used to pretend that none of this happened. It happened. You once said, “I’m worried about a culture that says … ‘If you’ve got a problem blame somebody else.’” I am asking you to stop blaming others for the consequences of decisions you made.

Go. Read the whole thing. It's more than worth it.

Then pray that George Walker Bush will read it. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pierre Whalon on Rowan Williams's Daft Idea

The Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe has a new blog post in which he comments on the current process towards a so-called Anglican Covenant. The phrase "Rowan Williams's Daft Idea" is mine, not Bishop Whalon's. He's far too cerebral and reasonable for that.

Bishop Whalon does point out that, despite the enraged mewlings of the Amer-Anglican right and their fellow travellers in the UK, the Episcopal Church has been far more deeply and intentionally attentive to the Covenant process than most other Provinces. He also points out that the Covenant is not quite so widely accepted as Cantuar, Dunhelm and others would have us believe. He also, in a nice byblow, points out the Orwellian pretensions of "Three Guys with a Website," AKA the Anglican Communion Institute.

I repost the whole piece below, but it can also be found at Bishop Whalon's website. I had the privilege of meeting Bishop Whalon a couple of years ago at the American Cathedral in Paris.

(The picture is the bishop's cathedra - the bishop's formal seat, which makes a chuch a cathedral.)

(Looks deucedly uncomfortable. One more reason, in addition to the silly hat, that no sane priest should aspire to be a bishop.)

Covenant, shmovenant?

People continue to go back and forth about the proposed
Anglican covenant, perhaps more so (if possible) since Archbishop Williams' July 27 essay, Communion, Covenant, and Our Anglican Future, in which he commented on the actions of General Convention. The upshot of Cantuar's piece is that a Covenant is desperately needed if there is to be an Anglican Communion, that is, a “theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'.”

More recently, a group of Episcopal scholars, along with the Bishop of Durham, has opined that the 2009 General Convention has already rejected the Covenant, particularly in Resolution D025—brushing aside the last (and in rhetoric, the most important) paragraph that acknowledges continuing disagreement among Episcopalians on how to fully include gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. This piece seems to deploy a “hermeneutic of deep suspicion”—that is, if they say one thing, they really mean the contrary. Up means down, right means get the picture.

Let’s all try to remember D020. Convention 2009 asked all the dioceses to consider carefully a Covenant draft which is still not out yet. And participation in the Covenant process is crucial to developing a deeper Anglican identity, even if that identity does not, in the end, pass through this particular document.

Furthermore, I remember distinctly Bishop Zerubbabel Katsuichi Hirota of Kita Kanto diocese of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai saying to the Lambeth Indaba group I was in that the Japanese bishops had caucused, and would not sign a covenant, because that word can only mean "contract" in their language and culture. The Bishop of Hong Kong immediately rose to say his province has the same issue. Going back to Lambeth Indaba, the “minutes” of the Lambeth Conference 2008, Section J has a set of pros and cons that continues to be relevant. [*] An Anglican Covenant by Norman Doe, recording all comments made up to June 2008, is still worth reading in this regard, and is instructive in finding out what people elsewhere are saying. (See here for a review of that book, among other

So other provinces may or may not accept a Covenant, for reasons other than the perceived orneriness of Episcopalians. Nevertheless, The Episcopal Church is the province that has participated the most fully in the Covenant process so far, and I think we are already the better for it. We need to see it through. More scholarly reflection, as well as further collections of conversations at the grass roots, would be useful. The Anglican Communion may not be more “theologically coherent” at the end of the process, but we will surely have a better handle on the challenges of Anglican ecclesiology—and that ain’t about sex.

Even more importantly, the relational matrix that the Communion is now will be deepened. Or, if you will, we will have a little more insight into how to obey the Lord’s command that we (Anglicans) love one another as he has loved us. Who knows—we might even become a little more obedient...

[* Reading the Indaba text yet again, I saw this remark by my friend, the late Ian Cundy, sometime Bishop of Peterborough, and heard his wise voice again: “Our modality is historically the “bishop-in-synod” rather than ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’”. He liked to make that point often, and I am glad that the Indaba editors retained it.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reflections on Ignatieff and Harper

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life:
The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged.
One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes,
leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood,
unable to deal with the real world.
The other, of course, involves orcs."
- Kung Fu Monkey
The country would doubtless be a better place had these two yahoos been introduced to Tolkein.
I'm just sayin'.

A little preoccupied

I'm sure you will all forgive me for being a little preoccupied.

Since my dear heart has decided that she is "the Babanator," I must therefore be the Dido.

Here is the happy dido (grandfather) with the most precious grandson that ever there was.

Welcome to the world, Oliver.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ordinary Time

I first saw this poem last year on Tobias Haller's blog. He has posted it again.

Just like last year, he takes my breath away.

September Midday Mass

The tall old priest entered the half-lit sacristy,
fresh from his usual Tuesday morning studies.
The fair-haired acolyte with the bad complexion
was ready, vested, standing in the dimness
quietly. The old priest noticed he was sniffing
and his eyes were red. A failed romance,
he thought; but keeping his own rule on chit-chat
in the sacristy, vested silently.
The old familiar motions and the prayers
displaced whatever thoughts he might have had;
the only dialogue to break the stillness was
the rote exchange of formal preparation.

Then, in one motion as he slipped his hand
beneath the pale green veil, the other hand
upon the burse, he lifted vested vessels,
turned and followed in the sniffing server’s
wake. Eyes lowered to the holy burden
in his hand, he failed to notice that
the chapel for this midday feria —
on other days like this with one or two
at most — was full of worshippers; until
he raised his eyes, and saw the pews were filled —
but undeterred began the liturgy:
the lessons and the gospel from last Sunday,
his sermon brief, but pointed, on the texts.

It wasn’t till the acolyte began
the people’s prayers, and choked out words of planes
that brought a city’s towers down, and crashed
into the Pentagon, and plowed a field
in Pennsylvania, that the old priest knew
this was no ordinary Tuesday in
September —
not ordinary time at all,
that day he missed the towers’ fall.

Align RightTobias Stanislas Haller BSG
first posted on March 8, 2008

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The same lies

There are more than a few Canadians watching the bizarre and lunatic antics of health reform opponents in the US and feeling a mite smug.

We shouldn't. The lies being told there are roughly the same as the lies that were told here in 1962. The following video is an excerpt from Prairie Giant, a movie about former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas. The clip covers the introduction of Medicare in Saskatchewan and the blackmail and lies that were used to oppose it - the same blackmail and lies we now see in the US.

The lies about "state medicine," the lies about cameras in examining rooms - all of these things happened as depicted here. And I can confirm from the personal account of members of the Woodrow Lloyd family that the threats against his children were real as well.

Beating bullies means standing up to them. Here's one American who's doing just that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The radical extremism of the "conservatives"

The Guardian has launched a series on the future of conservative Anglicanism. Given that the first article focussed on Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and, to a lesser extent, the now thankfully former Bishop of Rochester (UK) Michael Nazir-Ali, I suspect the series will be more focussed on the irreconcilable extremists who tart themselves up as conservatives.

In fact, the very first essay in the series makes the very clear case that there is nothing the least bit conservative about this lot of rabble-rousers. Real conservatism, by definition, seeks to conserve. Akinola, Nazir-Ali, Duncan, Harvey et all seek, not to consereve but to destroy. And, as The Guardian's Savi Hensman makes clear, they do it the good old fashioned way, by scapegoating those who are different - with LGBTQ folk and Muslims at the top of the list.

That's right. The radical right wing figure they need to move on from preaching hatred of LGBTQs, so they've started to preach the hatred of Muslims.

It is all too easy to project evil on to another group, harder to acknowledge that it may be found in one's own community and self. In the Gospels Jesus urges his followers not to be so fixed on the speck in someone's else's eye that they do not notice the log in their own, and warns of evil thoughts in the human heart which, if unchecked, may result in harming others. This does not mean that injustice should not be resisted, but regarding people as good or bad simply on the basis of religion or ideology is risky.

Many Anglicans, including moderate conservatives, are too conscious of their own need to be delivered "from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness" (in the words of the Litany) to be attracted by the simplistic approach of the radical reformers who misleadingly call themselves "conservatives" or "traditionalists". Their campaigning has to some extent paid off. Yet, in the longer term, many Anglicans in the UK and elsewhere will hold on to values which are at odds with those of the conservatives striving to reshape the communion.

Let me be clear - there are lots of people who are conservative on the presenting issue and on other issues of theology and praxis who do not engage in this radical scapegoating. Many of these are understandably embarrassed by the antics of the extremist pretendy conservatives.

After all, who would not be embarrassed by that evil man, the Primate of Nigeria and Bishop of Abuja who refuses to condemn an attack in which 660 Muslims were murdered in a two day rampage, mosques and houses burned to the ground, women and girls raped.

"Let no Muslim think they have a monopoly on violence" hardly seems a sufficient response.

The real Jesus disapproves of rape and murder.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible

We learned this morning that Baba died during the night.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

O God, the maker and redeemer of all,
grant us, with your servant Mary
and all the faithful departed,
the sure benefits of your Son's saving passion
and glorious resurrection;
that in the last day,
when you gather up all things in Christ,
we may with them enjoy the fulness of your promises;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This time I really mean it

This refers to Canada's political crisis, where the opposition leader is pretending he's grown a spine. The image works as well for certain irreconcilables in the Anglican world who keep assuring us that the entire Communion is about to expel the North Americans.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Prayer request

My dear heart has been away for a few days to visit her Baba (grandmother). Baba Mary, 98 years old earlier this month, is not doing well. Cancer on her lip has led to a broader decline.

Dear heart is coming back home tonight. One cannot put life on hold waiting for the end. But we are presuming a mournful journey at some point in the next week or so.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

"For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. Then shall the saying be fulfilled:

"Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?"

And here is a video which has no particular connection to Baba and her life apart from the fact that the artist is Ukrainian.

Христос воскрес!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I am zeromeanszero

The blog's url identifies it as zeromeanszero, but the actual title on the first page is the wordier "Please, Step Aside Mr. Mayor, Please. You're an embarrassment to the entire city." Posts are attributed to Jane and John Smith. The url refers to Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien's much vaunted campaign promise on taxes and fees - although it seems that "zero" actually means the highest increases in the city's history.

The oldest post at the blog suggests the reason for it's existence:

Just when you thought at least one of the city's daily newspapers was holding firm and unwavering in its commitment to reporting facts as it pertains to Ottawa's Mayor along comes a story in Frank Magazine suggesting that Ottawa Citizen reporter Gary Dimmock has been told by his superiors that he is being pulled from any and all future stories involving Larry O'Brien. Aparently, so the story goes the Citizen was recently delivered a cease and desist - rather chilling isn't it? For those of you who are already up-to-date you'll know that Mr. Dimmock has just been nominated for the National Newspaper Award.

In the age of corporate media, it has become all too common for the political interests of owners to trump the public interest. Not that the corporate media were ever unbiased. The slanted coverage of the Saskatchewan doctors strike in 1962 makes Faux News coverage of US health reform seem positively balanced. (Indeed, the Sifton news monopoly in Saskatchewan - both major dailies, the largest private radio stations and all the private TV stations - was so biased in their coverage that even the Toronto media wrote tut-tutting editorials about it.)

But in 1962, outside of Saskatchewan at least, there still tended to be a variety of news sources. Media ownership concentration has served to narrow the range of media voices. In the US, we saw how anyone questioning the political, moral, legal or even military propriety of George W. Bush's Iraqi adventure was completely marginalized in the early days of the Cheney Doctrine. More recently, we have seen the same corporate media lend legitmacy to tinfoil hat conspiracy theories ranging from Barack Obama's birthplace to the way we Canadians are putting our grandparents on iceflows.

The blogosphere has provided an opportunity for citizen-journalists to challenge the corporate media monopoly, just as pamphleteers of an earlier aged challenged their own establishments. And like the pamphleteers, many bloggers choose to be anonymous or semi-anonymous.

Anonymity, of course, can be a problem. Some bloggers use anonymity as a permission to be scandalous, slanderous and dishonest. Others use anonymity to speak truths which would otherwise be costly.

Of late, there have been attempts to silence bloggers by threatening to "out" them, to strip them of their anonymity. Alberta's Tiny Perfect Blogger didn't just shut down the blog, but actually deleted all the content after a commenter threatened to reveal his (her?) identity. The Jurist blogged an TPB's choice to cease blogging, while also explaing his own choice, initially, to blog anonymously and more recently semi-anonymously.

Now, following a successful case in the US, political interests in Ottawa are attempting to use the courts to force Google to strip away the anonymity of Jane and John Smith. Clearly the goal is to silence a potent and widely read critic of the current mayoral administration in Ottawa.

I concede that there may well be particular cases where the public interest is served by stripping a particular blogger of anonymity. If a blogger declared an intention to assassinate a public figure, for example, or to engage in a terrorist act.

But being mean to public figures isn't a criminal act. At least not yet.

So, following on a few other examples (such as here and here) I want to declare to you all that

I am Zero Means Zero!

And just in case anyone doesn't see the point: