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."