Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jim Wallis responds to Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck recently attacked churches that believe in social justice (which, as far as I know, would be any church that follows the teachings of scripture) and urged Christians to leave their churches if social justice is a stated value. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine suggested that perhaps Christians should leave Glenn Beck. Beck responded by issuing this creepy threat to Wallis and then followed up by devoting an entire segment to smearing Wallis.

Wallis has now given a thorough and even response to Beck. Beck is way out of his league on this one.

This stuff is, in my opinion, important to follow. Beck has influence over vast numbers of people. Yet he has evolved into more or less a propagandist and promoter for an extreme strain of conservatism which is based on the writings of Mormon conspiracy theorist Cleon Skousen.

Extremists have used mass media as a propaganda tool for as long as there has been mass media. If you read the Wikipedia entry on Propaganda techniques you will pretty much see Beck's entire playbook spelled out. Propaganda is repeatedly used as a tool to influence the masses because it is effective. Talk radio shows in Rwanda, for example, played a large role in inciting the mobs to violence and genocide through the use of propaganda.

I don't think the Christian response to people like Beck ought to be to just ignore them and hope they go away. We are called to speak truth to power and right now Beck is a very powerful voice that is propigating a very warped message about America, Christianity and "social justice".

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An ancient Quaker on war

"We never go to war. This is not because we fear death. On the contrary, we bless the moment that unites us with the Being of Beings. It is because we are neither wolves, tigers nor mastiffs, but Christian men.

Our God, who has commanded us to love our enemies and to suffer without complaining, would not permit us to cross the seas to slaughter our brothers, just because murderers clothed in scarlet, wearing caps two feet high, enlist citizens by making a noise with two little sticks beating on a stretched ass's skin.

When after a victory, all London is lit up with illuminations, and the sky is ablaze with fireworks, and the noise of thanksgiving is heard from bells, organs and cannons, then we groan in silence about the murders which caused the public rejoicing."
Andrew Pitt, 18th century English Quaker, as recorded by Voltaire ("Lettres Philosophiques" 1734).

Hans Kung on the Catholic priest abuse scandals

Hans Kung is a well-known and widely published independent-minded Catholic priest and theologian. He wrote this editorial letter to the National Catholic Reporter, who printed it on 3/18/10. It is in response to the abuse scandal that is currently bubbling over in Germany on the heels of the abuse scandel in Ireland. I want to make it clear that in posting this I am not anti-Catholic but I do believe in speaking truth to power.

"After Archbishop Robert Zollitsch's recent papal audience, he spoke of Pope Benedict's "great shock" and "profound agitation" over the many cases of abuse which are coming to light. Zollitsch, archbishop of Freiburg, Germany, and the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, asked pardon of the victims and spoke again about the measures that have already been taken or will soon be taken. But neither he nor the pope have addressed the real question that can no longer be put aside.

According to the latest Emnid-poll, only 10 percent of those interviewed in Germany believe that the church is doing enough in dealing with this scandal; on the contrary, 86 percent charge the church's leadership with insufficient willingness to come to grips with the problem. The bishops' denial that there is any connection between the celibacy rule and the abuse problem can only confirm their criticism.

1st Question: Why does the pope continue to assert that what he calls "holy" celibacy is a "precious gift", thus ignoring the biblical teaching that explicitly permits and even encourages marriage for all office holders in the Church? Celibacy is not "holy"; it is not even "fortunate"; it is "unfortunate", for it excludes many perfectly good candidates from the priesthood and forces numerous priests out of their office, simply because they want to marry. The rule of celibacy is not a truth of faith, but a church law going back to the 11th Century; it should have been abolished already in the 16th Century, when it was trenchantly criticized by the Reformers.

Honesty demands that the pope, at the very least, promise to rethink this rule -- something the vast majority of the clergy and laity have wanted for a long time now. Both Alois Gl├╝ck, the president of the Central Committee of the German Catholics and Hans-Jochen Jaschke, auxiliary bishop of Hamburg, have called for a less uptight attitude towards sexuality and for the coexistence of celibate and married priests in the church

2nd Question: Is it true, as Archbishop Zollitsch insists, that "all the experts" agree that abuse of minors by clergymen and the celibacy rule have nothing to do with each other? How can he claim to know the opinions of "all the experts"? In fact, there are numerous psychotherapists and psychoanalysts who see a connection here. The celibacy law obliges the priest to abstain from all forms of sexual activity, though their sexual impulses remain virulent, and thus the danger exists that these impulses might be shifted into a taboo zone and compensated for in abnormal ways.

Honesty demands that we take the correlation between abuse and celibacy seriously. The American psychotherapist Richard Sipe has clearly demonstrated, on the basis of a 25 year study published in 2004 under the title Knowledge of sexual activity and abuse within the clerical system of the Roman Catholic church, that the celibate way of life can indeed reinforce pedophile tendencies, especially when the socialization leading to it, i.e. adolescence and young adulthood spent in minor and major seminary cut off from the normal experiences of their peer groups, is taken into account. In his study, Sipe found retarded psycho-sexual development occurring more frequently in celibate clerics than in the average population. And often, such deficits in psychological development and sexual tendencies only become evident after ordination.

3rd Question: Instead of merely asking pardon of the victims of abuse, should not the bishops at last admit their own share of blame? For decades, they have not only tabooed the celibacy issue but also systematically covered up cases of abuse with the mantle of strictest secrecy, doing little more than re-assigning the perpetrators to new ministries. In a statement of March 16, Bishop Ackermann of Trier, special delegate of the German Bischops' Conference for sexual abuse cases, publically acknowledged the existence of such a cover-up, but characteristically he put the blame not on the church as institution, but rather on the individual perpetrators and the false considerations of their superiors. Protection of their priests and the reputation of the church was evidently more important to the bishops than protection of minors. Thus, there is an important difference between the individual cases of abuse surfacing in schools outside the Catholic church and the systematic and correspondingly more frequent cases of abuse within the Catholic church, where, now as before, an uptight, rigoristic sexual morality prevails, that finds its culmination in the law of celibacy.

Honesty demands that the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference should have clearly and definitively announced, that, in the future, the hierarchy will cease to deal with cases of criminal acts committed by those in the service of the church by circumventing the state system of justice. Can it be that the hierarchy here in Germany will only wake up when it is confronted with demands for reparation payments in terms of millions of dollars? In the United States, the Catholic church had to pay some $1.3 billion alone in 2006; in Ireland, the government helped the religious orders set up a compensation fund with a ruinous sum of $2.8 billion. Such sums say much more about the dimensions of the problem than the pooh-poohing statistics about the small percentage of celibate clergy among the general population of abusers.

4th Question: Is it not time for Pope Benedict XVI himself to acknowledge his share of responsibility, instead of whining about a campaign against his person? No other person in the Church has had to deal with so many cases of abuse crossing his desk. Here some reminders:

* In his eight years as a professor of theology in Regensburg, in close contact with his brother Georg, the capellmeister of the Regensburger Domspatzen, Ratzinger can hardly have been ignorant about what went on in the choir and its boarding--school. This was much more than an occasional slap in the face, there are charges of serious physical violence and even sexual abuse.
* In his five years as Archbishop of Munich, repeated cases of sexual abuse at least by one priest transferred to his Archdiocese have come to light. His loyal Vicar General, my classmate Gerhard Gruber, has taken full responsibility for the handling of this case, but that is hardly an excuse for the Archbishop, who is ultimately responsible for the administration of his diocese.
* In his 24 years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from around the world, all cases of grave sexual offences by clerics had to be reported, under strictest secrecy ("secretum pontificum"), to his curial office, which was exclusively responsible for dealing with them. Ratzinger himself, in a letter on "grave sexual crimes" addressed to all the bishops under the date of 18 May, 2001, warned the bishops, under threat of ecclesiastical punishment, to observe "papal secrecy" in such cases.
* In his five years as Pope, Benedict XVI has done nothing to change this practice with all its fateful consequences.

Honesty demands that Joseph Ratzinger himself, the man who for decades has been principally responsible for the worldwide cover-up, at last pronounce his own "mea culpa". As Bishop Tebartz van Elst of Limburg, in a radio address on March 14, put it: "Scandalous wrongs cannot be glossed over or tolerated, we need a change of attitude that makes room for the truth. Conversion and repentance begin when guilt is openly admitted, when contrition1 is expressed in deeds and manifested as such, when responsibility is taken, and the chance for a new beginning is seized upon."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Tale of Coleman the Thirsty

My great-grandfather came from Ireland and to this day there are lots and lots of Colemans in County Sligo, Ireland. The name Coleman was originally O'Colmain (which, if I recall, means "son of the dove"). It was typically Anglicized to Coleman or Colman.

Legend has it that there was a Coleman who was a follower of St. Patrick. The story goes that Patrick was big on temperance and advised his followers not to drink alcohol. A disciple by the name of Coleman apparently misunderstood Patrick's instructions thinking he meant not to drink *anything* and so worked all day harvesting in the hot sun without drinking even a drop of water. At the end of the work day when Patrick and his followers assembled, Coleman suddenly dropped dead of dehydration. He is forevermore remembered as "Coleman the Thirsty" (or "Colman the Thirsty") and to this day a common nickname for Colemans/Colmans is "Stadhach", which in Irish Gaelic means "thirsty".

Makes me want to have a Guinness.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quaker Meeting

Sitting in silence with Friends
Facing inward
Listening together for our Lord
Time goes out of focus
Then it happens
We are lifted by a reverse gravity
Gathered into the Presence
All is still
Within and without

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quote of the day

"Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated."
-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Glenn Beck

The first time I came across Glenn Beck on the radio I thought he was entertaining. After listening to him for about a week I realized that his whole schtick is built around hysteria and fear-mongering. He continuously makes outrageous claims of impending doom in order to keep his listeners titillated, knowing full well that they will forget that his previous alarmist prognostications never actually materialized.

At the time I was listening to him he was going on about an impending Islamic Jihadist attack on American elementary schools. Of course it didn't happen. I can't listen to him anymore. The calculated disingenuity is just so obvious to me.

Now Beck is attempting to divide the Christian church. Recently, he told his listeners to leave their churches if their churches teach about social justice. That's right, in Beck's view--and I quote: "Social justice and economic justice are code words." Wow. Social justice--you know, feeding the poor, speaking up for the oppressed, seeking equity--all that Jesus stuff. Code words for, according to Beck, Communism and Nazism. Run away, says Beck. Leave your churches.

Apparently Beck, a Mormon, believes that he knows better than your faith tradition.

You can here the clip here:

In the same broadcast, he went on to say, "Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That's what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: 'social justice.' They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy." Apparently, in Beck's view these things are evil.

I'm picturing Glenn Beck 2,000 years ago in Judea. I can easily see him being one of Jesus' harshest critics. "All that love-talk that Jesus uses--it's code! He really wants to bring socialism! Giving to the poor? Bah! That's redistribution of wealth! Avoid Jesus at all cost! His teachings are dangerous!"