Saturday, December 29, 2007
Arranged marriages can be a messy business. Designed principally as a means of accumulating wealth, circumventing undesirable flirtations or transcending clandestine love affairs, they often don’t work. Where both parties are known to loathe each other, only a rash parent, desensitised by the thought of short-term gain, will continue with the process knowing full well that it will end in misery and possibly violence. That this is equally true in political life became clear in the recent attempt by Washington to tie Benazir Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf.
The single, strong parent in this case was a desperate State Department – with John Negroponte as the ghoulish go-between and Gordon Brown as the blushing bridesmaid – fearful that if it did not push this through both parties might soon be too old for recycling. The bride was certainly in a hurry, the groom less so. Brokers from both sides engaged in lengthy negotiations on the size of the dowry. Her broker was and remains Rehman Malik, a former boss of Pakistan’s FIA, who has been investigated for corruption by the National Accountability Bureau and who served nearly a year in prison after Benazir’s fall, then became one of her business partners and is currently under investigation (with her) by a Spanish court looking into a company called Petroline FZC, which made questionable payments to Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Documents, if genuine, show that she chaired the company. She may have been in a hurry but she did not wish to be seen taking the arm of a uniformed president. He was not prepared to forgive her past. The couple’s distaste for each other yielded to a mutual dependence on the United States. Neither party could say ‘no’, though Musharraf hoped the union could be effected inconspicuously. Fat chance.
Both parties made concessions. She agreed that he could take off his uniform after his ‘re-election’ by Parliament, but it had to be before the next general election. (He has now done this, leaving himself dependent on the goodwill of his successor as army chief of staff.) He pushed through a legal ruling – yet another sordid first in the country’s history – known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which withdrew all cases of corruption pending against politicians accused of looting the national treasury. The ruling was crucial for her since she hoped that the money-laundering and corruption cases pending in three European courts – in Valencia, Geneva and London – would now be dismissed. This doesn’t seem to have happened.
Many Pakistanis – not just the mutinous and mischievous types who have to be locked up at regular intervals – were repelled, and coverage of ‘the deal’ in the Pakistan media was universally hostile, except on state television. The ‘breakthrough’ was loudly trumpeted in the West, however, and a whitewashed Benazir Bhutto was presented on US networks and BBC TV news as the champion of Pakistani democracy – reporters loyally referred to her as ‘the former prime minister’ rather than the fugitive politician facing corruption charges in several countries.
She had returned the favour in advance by expressing sympathy for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lunching with the Israeli ambassador to the UN (a litmus test) and pledging to ‘wipe out terrorism’ in her own country. ...
In the Independent (UK) Robert Fisk closes his article today, "They don't blame al-Qa'ida. They blame Musharraf," as follows:
So let's run through this logic in the way that Inspector Ian Blair might have done in his policeman's notebook before he became the top cop in London.
Question: Who forced Benazir Bhutto to stay in London and tried to prevent her return to Pakistan? Answer: General Musharraf.
Question: Who ordered the arrest of thousands of Benazir's supporters this month? Answer: General Musharraf.
Question: Who placed Benazir under temporary house arrest this month? Answer: General Musharraf.
Question: Who declared martial law this month? Answer General Musharraf.
Question: who killed Benazir Bhutto?
Er. Yes. Well quite.
You see the problem? Yesterday, our television warriors informed us the PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] members shouting that Musharraf was a "murderer" were complaining he had not provided sufficient security for Benazir. Wrong. They were shouting this because they believe he killed her.
See also: "Olmert: Bhutto could have been bridge to Muslims" in the Jerusalem Post.Addendum: Some interesting discussions on this topic are at feministing.com and at the Womens Writes blog.
Last revised: 01/01/2008
Friday, December 28, 2007
Mega buck actor Will Smith got the shock of his life when he got word that gossip columnists had twisted and mangled his quip about Adolf Hitler. The celebrity gossip buzz was that Smith praised Hitler as a good guy.Uncle Abe Foxman's response would be hilarious if it weren't so disgusting. The Associated Press reports (12/27/07):
Smith, of course, did no such thing. What he said was that Hitler wasn't inherently obsessed with doing evil; but being the calculating, scheming megalomaniac that he was, he wound up doing the ultimate in evil.
Apparently Smith used the Hitler reference to underscore his belief that there's good in everyone. Smith was naive in making reference to Hitler to make any point no matter how well intentioned.
Hitler is the supreme taboo example to use to make any point about good and evil, human foibles and frailties, let alone a political point. Smith was even more naive in thinking that a Hitler reference would slip under the media and public’s radar scope.
If ever there was a quote that was ripe for the gossip pickings to be distorted, and draw instant howls of outrage from some quarters, it was Smith citing Hitler.
There's an even bigger reason that Smith momentarily got dumped on the hot seat for his Hitler quip. Though Smith is an immensely popular guy on the screen and with much of the public, he's an African-American. While that in no way earns him the designation as an activist or leader, which he isn't, there is a special sensitivity when references to Hitler slip from the lips of a noted African-American. Former Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan can be thanked for that unhappy burden. Two decades ago Farrakhan lambasted Judaism and in an even more intemperate moment called Hitler a great man. It was a rotten, ill timed reference, but Farrakhan's intent solely was to make the point that Hitler had rebuilt a war devastated Germany. That point and his intent was quickly lost or deliberately distorted in the storm of fury and condemnation of Farrakhan.
The controversy didn't end there. Farrakhan had unwittingly set an inverse standard of speech by which African-American public figures would be judged. There was a reason for that too. There was, and still is, the sneaky suspicion among much of the public that far too many African-Americans, and that includes activist black leaders, are smitten with anti-Semitic bias. ...
"We welcome and accept Will Smith's statement that Hitler was a 'vicious killer' and that he did not mean for his remarks about the Nazi leader to be mistaken as praise," Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement.So true, Uncle Abe, and you and your fellow Zionist thought police, who jumped all over Smith's innocent remark are the living proof.
Smith "took immediate steps to clarify his words" and condemn Hitler, Foxman said.
Foxman said words "can be twisted by those with hate and bigotry in their hearts."
See also: "JDL NOT IMPRESSED WITH ADL SHOWING WILL SMITH LOVE: 'We are not backing down from our position.' " EURweb.com (12/27/07).
Brothers and Sisters,
I wish you all a Blessed Christmas.
1. “The grace and love of God have appeared to us” (Titus 3, 4). We joyfully celebrate Christmas, hoping to see better days in our Holy Land, by the grace of God, by our own contribution to bring peace to this land and by sharing in all the sacrifices that it requires. For this reason, at Christmas, we renew our faith in the One in whom we have believed, the Word of God made man, Jesus born in Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace, and the Savior of humankind. He became man in order to bring us back to God our Creator and to let us know that we are not alone, that we are not abandoned to ourselves as we face the numerous challenges of this Holy Land. Because God is with us, we remain hopeful in the midst of all the daily difficulties we experience as a result of the occupation and of the insecurity and deprivations that arise from it. God is with us, reminding us that the commandment of love, which was given to us by Jesus, born in Bethlehem, still remains valid for the difficult times in which we are living today: our love for one another and for every man and woman. This love consists in seeing the image of God in every human being, of every religion and nationality. It is a love that knows how to forgive and, at the same time, to demand all our rights, especially those given by God to each person and to the entire community, such as the gift of life, of dignity, of freedom, and of the land. A love that requires from every one to care for one another. A love that is dedication and sharing with all who suffer from deprivation and poverty so that the same life, which God has given to all of us, may be lived to the fullest, namely, the “abundant life” that Jesus came to give us.
2. Again this year, we celebrate Christmas still searching for a peace that seems impossible. Nevertheless, we believe that peace is possible. Palestinians and Israelis are capable of living together in peace, each in their own territory, each enjoying their security, their dignity, and their rights. But to attain that peace, it is necessary to believe that Israelis and Palestinians are equal in all things, that they have the same rights and the same duties, and that both parties must adopt the ways of God, which are not the ways of violence, whether they be carried out by the State or by extremists.
The entire region, because of the conflict in the Holy Land, is in turmoil. In Lebanon, in Iraq, as well as here, the forces of evil seem to have been unleashed and to have decided to pursue their course along paths leading to death, exclusion, and domination. Despite all of this, we believe that God has not abandoned us to all these forces of evil. The situation beckons every man and woman of good will to enter into the ways of God in order to establish the reign of good among peoples as well as a sense of and a respect for every human being. We believe that God is good. He is our Creator and Savior, and he has placed his goodness in the heart of every human being. Therefore, everyone is capable of working for good and peace on the earth.
A new peace effort was begun these last few weeks. In order for it to succeed, there must be a firm willingness to make peace. Until now, there has been no peace, simply because there has been no willingness to make it: “Peace, peace! they say, though there is no peace” (Jer 6, 14). The strong party, the one with everything in hand, the one who is imposing occupation on the other, has the obligation to see what is just for everyone and to carry it out courageously. “O God, with your judgment endow the king,” with your justice endow our governments so that they can govern your people with justice (cf. Ps 72).
3. In recent times, there has been some talk about creating "religious " States in this land. But in this land, which is holy for three religions and for two peoples, religious States cannot be established because they would exclude or place in an inferior position the believers of the other religions. A State that would exclude or discriminate against the other religions is not suitable for this land made holy by God for all of humanity.
Political and religious leaders must begin by understanding the universal vocation of this land in which God has brought us together throughout history. They must know that the holiness of this land does not consist in the exclusion of one or the other of the religions, but in the ability of each religion, with all of their differences, to welcome, respect, and love all who inhabit this land.
The holiness and the universal vocation of this land also includes the duty to welcome pilgrims from around the world, those who come for a short visit, and those who come to reside, to pray, to study, or to perform the religious ministry to which the faithful of all religions have a right. For many years, we have been suffering from a problem that has never been solved, that of entry-visas into the country for priests and for religious men and women who, in this land, because of their faith, have duties to perform as well as rights. Every State in this land is not a State like all others because it has special duties stemming from the holiness of the land and from its universal vocation. A State in this land must understand that it must respect and promote the universal vocation of the land with which it has been entrusted and, accordingly, must be open to welcoming all believers of other religions.
4. I pray to God that the grace of Christmas, the grace of the God who is present with us, will enlighten all the leaders of this land. For all our faithful, in all parts of our diocese, may the grace of Christmas renew their faith and help them to live it more fully and to better carry out all their duties in their respective societies.
May you all have a Joyful and Holy Christmas.
The response of Zionist attack-dogs Abe Foxman and Rabbi Marvin Hier was predictable and reminded me of my post " Bishops Tell Truth, Zionists Apoplectic." The Anti-Defamation League was "deeply disturbed" and in a statement on the Simon Wiesenthal Center web site, Hier says (emphasis in original):
“Patriarch Sabbah’s denial of the State of Israel as a Jewish State is nothing less than a campaign to de-legitimize her and is feeding fodder to the majority of the Arab and Muslim world that their long-held dream of a Middle East without a Jewish State is still possible,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center. Hier said that Sabbah’s latest outburst contradicts both Pope John Paul II’s 1987 declaration that, ‘The Jews have a right to nationhood as do all other peoples according to international law and the United Nations Declaration of 1947 that called for an Arab and Jewish State. “Israel does not need lessons from Patriarch Sabbah on how to treat citizens of other faiths and religions,” said Hier. “He would better serve the Christians in the Holy Land by going to Gaza and defending the beleaguered Christian minority there from Hamas extremists.”Playing to widespread Islamophobia, the wily Rabbi Hier wants folks to think that Muslims are a major threat to Christians in Gaza. And, of course, the Rabbi neglects to mention that Patriarch Sabbah was, in fact, in Gaza on December 16th. Below are two photos from the trip, you can see the whole album here and you can read (in French) his homily in Gaza here. In his homily, the Patriarch did concern himself with the well-being of Christians in Gaza but he also stressed the unity and equality of Muslims and and Christians as Palestinians and as "enfants de Dieu"--children of God.
“We call on Pope Benedict to reject Sabbah’s demand and all those supporting this insidious campaign to de-Judaize the State of Israel,” Rabbi Hier concluded.
And here's a Gazan Christian perspective:
Manawel Musallam - priest, headmaster and Gazan - is a rotund, avuncular man, fond of wearing berets.Source: "Christmas under Hamas rule" by Katya Adler (BBC; 12/22/07)
I have come to his office to ask how Christians in Gaza were faring on this, their first Christmas under the full internal control of Hamas.
"You media people!" Father Musallam boomed at me when I first poked my head around his door.
"Hamas this, Hamas that. You think we Christians are shaking in our ghettos in Gaza? That we're going to beg you British or the Americans or the Vatican to rescue us?" he asked.
"Rescue us from what? From where? This is our home."
The pupils at the Holy Family School, Gaza City, all call Manawel Musallam "Abunah" - Our Father in Arabic.
His is a huge family of 1,200 children and, although the school is part-funded by the Vatican, here, as in all of Gaza, Christians are the minority.
Ninety-nine percent of the pupils here are Muslim. This is one of the reasons Fr Musallam says he does not fear the Islamists.
"They should be afraid. Not me," he chuckled.
"Their children are under my tutelage, in my school. Hamas mothers and fathers are here at parents' day along with everyone else."
And from the CBC ("Little Christmas joy in Gaza for Palestinian Christians") we learn:
"Christmas is destroyed, it's smashed in Gaza," says Father Musallam Manue of Holy Family Church. "There is no more joy in Gaza and because of that there is no more peace in Gaza."See also:
These are tough times in the territory, the CBC's Nahlah Ayed reports.
Under an Israeli blockade imposed after Hamas fighters seized control of Gaza in June, the economy has collapsed, prices have gone through the roof and Gaza is even more isolated than in the past. That's why so many Christians want out, even if just for the holidays.
- 2007 Sabeel Christmas Message: "Bethlehem not Annapolis"
- "Israel denies entry to Christian clergy" by the Campaign for the Right of Entry via The Electronic Intifada
- "Gaza's Christian Community—Serenity, Solidarity and Soulfulness" in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
In "New Document Reveals Military Mystery's Powers," David Hambling writes:
For years, no military program has sparked more fevered speculation from conspiracy theorists than the mysterious High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP. And for years, the Pentagon has been pooh-poohing speculation that the enormous collection of transmitters, radars, and magnetometers in Alaska was some sort of superweapon.
But, it turns out, the conspiracy theorists may not have been entirely off-base, after all.
Since its inception, there's been a huge range of opinion on what HAARP actually does: everything from a giant mind control facility to a space nuke countermeasure to a weather controller to an ionosphere-boiling mad science experiment to the mother of all pork projects has been suggested. But now that the program is actually up an[d] running, military managers say the electronics array has much more benign use. "HAARP's main job is to produce radio waves to probe the ionosphere," an Air Force Research Laboratory officer said in October.
Which is true -- up to a point.
A drive by Clifford Stone on the X-Files-esque uber-site Above Top Secret to use the Freedom of Information Act to turn up UFO-related documents has led to the release of a fascinating report, HAARP: Research and Applications.
It's from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research, and it lays out the uses the military see for HAARP. Turns out the Pentagon wants some military bang for their buck from the program.I recommend following the link to Above Top Secret, where you can read the HAARP document or a convenient summary provided by "rapturas." Or take a look at the video below which is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) investigative report (in two parts) on HAARP. The segment aired in 1996 on the CBC's now defunct investigative news program, Undercurrents.
The European Parliament ... having regard to the hearing on HAARP and Non-lethal Weapons held by its Foreign Affairs Subcommitee on Security and Disarmament in Brussels on 5 February 1998 ... whereas, despite the existing conventions, military research is ongoing on environmental manipulation as a weapon, as demonstrated for example by the Alaska-based HAARP system ...Here is relevant text from the "explanatory statement" of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy:
24. Considers HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project) by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body before any further research and testing; regrets the repeated refusal of the United States Administration to send anyone in person to give evidence to the public hearing or any subsequent meeting held by its competent committee into the environmental and public risks connected with the HAARP programme currently being funded in Alaska;
25. Requests the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) Panel to agree to examine the scientific and technical evidence provided in all existing research findings on HAARP to assess the exact nature and degree of risk that HAARP poses both to the local and global environment and to public health generally;
26. Calls on the Commission to examine if there are environmental and public health implications of the HAARP programme for Arctic Europe and to report back to Parliament with its findings;
27. Calls for an international convention introducing a global ban on all developments and deployments of weapons which might enable any form of manipulation of human beings;
HAARP - a weapons system which disrupts the climateApparently, there was never any follow-through on the resolution's calls for study and action (see here and here). Funny how that works.
On 5 February 1998 Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Disarmament held a hearing the subject of which included HAARP. NATO and the US had been invited to send representatives, but chose not to do so. The Committee regrets the failure of the USA to send a representative to answer questions, or to use the opportunity to comment on the material submitted.(21)
HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project) is run jointly by the US Air Force and Navy, in conjunction with the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Similar experiments are also being conducted in Norway, probably in the Antarctic, as well as in the former Soviet Union.(22) HAARP is a research project using a ground based apparatus, an array of antennae each powered by its own transmitter, to heat up portions of ionosphere with powerful radio beams.(23) The energy generated heats up parts of the ionosphere; this results in holes in the ionosphere and produces artificial 'lenses'.
HAARP can be used for many purposes. Enormous quantities of energy can be controlled by manipulating the electrical characteristics of the atmosphere. If used as a military weapon this can have a devastating impact on an enemy. HAARP can deliver millions of times more energy to a given area than any other conventional transmitter. The energy can also be aimed at a moving target which should constitute a potential anti-missile system.
The project would also allow better communications with submarines and manipulation of global weather patterns, but it is also possible to do the reverse, to disrupt communications. By manipulating the ionosphere one could block global communications while transmitting one's own. Another application is earth-penetrating, tomography, x-raying the earth several kilometres deep, to detect oil and gas fields, or underground military facilities. Over-the-horizon radar is another application, looking round the curvature of the earth for in-coming objects.
From the 1950s the USA conducted explosions of nuclear material in the Van Allen Belts(24) to investigate the effect of the electro-magnetic pulse generated by nuclear weapon explosions at these heights on radio communications and the operation of radar. This created new magnetic radiation belts which covered nearly the whole earth. The electrons travelled along magnetic lines of force and created an artificial Aurora Borealis above the North Pole. These military tests are liable to disrupt the Van Allen belt for a long period. The earth's magnetic field could be disrupted over large areas, which would obstruct radio communications. According to US scientists it could take hundreds of years for the Van Allen belt to return to normal. HAARP could result in changes in weather patterns. It could also influence whole ecosystems, especially in the sensitive Antarctic regions.
Another damaging consequence of HAARP is the occurrence of holes in the ionosphere caused by the powerful radio beams. The ionosphere protects us from incoming cosmic radiation. The hope is that the holes will fill again, but our experience of change in the ozone layer points in the other direction. This means substantial holes in the ionosphere that protects us.
With its far-reaching impact on the environment HAARP is a matter of global concern and we have to ask whether its advantages really outweigh the risks. The environmental impact and the ethical aspect must be closely examined before any further research and testing takes place. HAARP is a project of which the public is almost completely unaware, and this needs to be remedied.
HAARP has links with 50 years of intensive space research for military purposes, including the Star Wars project, to control the upper atmosphere and communications. This kind of research has to be regarded as a serious threat to the environment, with an incalculable impact on human life. Even now nobody knows what impact HAARP may have. We have to beat down the wall of secrecy around military research, and set up the right to openness and democratic scrutiny of military research projects, and parliamentary control.
A series of international treaties and conventions (the Convention on the prohibition of military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques, the Antarctic Treaty, the Treaty on principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space including the moon and other celestial bodies, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) casts considerable doubt on HAARP on legal as well as humanitarian and political grounds. The Antarctic Treaty lays down that the Antarctic may be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.(25) This would mean that HAARP is a breach of international law. All the implications of the new weapons systems should be examined by independent international bodies. Further international agreements should be sought to protect the environment from unnecessary destruction in war.
See also: Tesla - Master of Lightning: "The Missing Papers" (PBS)
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
They'll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all god's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worshipped in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgment
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
The Visit of the Wise Men
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The Escape to Egypt
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
The Massacre of the Infants
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
The Return from EgyptWhen Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’
Source: Matthew 1:18-2:23
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? -Matthew 5:44-46I've been to two counterprotests against Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church in the last few years. And he once protested outside my church, calling it a "fag church," but I say God bless him and his family. Lord knows they sure need some divine intervention but, moreover, when it comes to exercising or defending freedom of expression Fred Phelps and his family walk the walk whereas most Americans are clueless, gutless, or outright opponents. Usually their opposition is cloaked in the pious garb of propriety. These slavish fools don't understand or don't care that freedom of expression means nothing if it is only accorded to those who don't rock the boat or offend the delicate sensibilities of the 'patriotically correct,' etc. masses.
When the government permits a private action and
As an aside, there are probably millions of self-styled Christians in this country who say they oppose the illegal US war in Iraq. If they demonstrated one-tenth the commitment and courage of convictions of Fred Phelps and his flock then the war would likely be over.
The video below is courtesy of the "In Defense of Westboro Baptist Church Pickets" web site and it points out the hypocrisy of many Phelps critics. It's funny how so many of them seemed comparatively quiet when he mostly stuck to the funerals of AIDS victims but when he began to show up at the funerals of dead GIs--well, "there ought to be a law!" And, in short order, there were more than a dozen state laws and a federal law aimed at Phelps.
1st Amendment Vindicated in Phelps Case"
--Conclusion of Emily Raboteau in "Searching for Zion". Read a longer extract of the essay here or read the whole thing here.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
In keeping with this theme, it is illuminating to read what a couple of atheists have to say about Christmas ("An Atheist Can Believe in Christmas" by Randy Kennedy, NY Times, 12/17/06). According to Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation:
"It seems to me to be obvious that everything we value in Christmas — giving gifts, celebrating the holiday with our families, enjoying all of the kitsch that comes along with it — all of that has been entirely appropriated by the secular world," he said, "in the same way that Thanksgiving and Halloween have been."The God Delusion author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says:
So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian atheist. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.It is probably not too difficult to find folks who still take exception to "Merry Christmas" because, to them at least, it does have "religious significance." But it is telling nevertheless that two militant atheists such as Harris and Dawkins perceive Christmas as they do. So, what is a follower of Jesus to do?
I think Lewis, Horsley, and the folks behind Buy Nothing Christmas (BNC) are on the mark in pointing the finger at consumerism. Horsley also situates "consumer-capitalist Christmas" within the mistaken and pernicious "Christian-determined understanding of religion as personal belief." He continues, "The modern religious fetish of religion as belief ... prevents recognition of the consumer capitalist holidays as the imperial religion that constitutes power relations today."
BNC has a study guide to help youth get "off the treadmill;" here are the "three easy steps" covered in the guide:
Session 1: Take a risk, don't conform to those in the spending spree. Mary, the unwed mother of Jesus, went against the grain. Think about it.It is also telling that the self-styled Christian, conservative, pro-Israel, and anti-gay American Family Association (AFA), through their "Project Merry Christmas," has invested considerable time and money in lobbying and boycotting corporations that don't include Christmas in their advertising. Consciously or not, the AFA recognizes consumer-capitalist Christmas as an imperial holiday and, for all their hollow protestations of piety and "family values," they like it that way and will fight to keep it so. In truth, the "Exmas Rush," to return to C. S. Lewis, and its associated advertising blitz is little short of sacrilege.
Session 2: The best gifts come in no packages. The Christmas story is all about flipping the system on its lid.
Session 3: Image is everything? Well, don't get pegged as a mindless consumer, be a rebel this Christmas.
- Christmas Unwrapped: Consumerism, Christ, and Culture, edited by Richard Horsley and James Tracy
- What Would Jesus Buy videos
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
this ancient lion of ours
has been auctioned off.
proceeds will go to a charitable trust formed by the martin family.
one of these days
an iraqi is going to steal the mona lisa
and sell it for 57 million dollars
for the proceeds to go to a charitable trust formed by abeer qassim hamza's family.
and it will be a popular news item
for many a web surfer to marvel at
and pat themselves on the back
for being informed.
perhaps they auction mesopotamia's artifacts
and protect mesopotamia's oil ministry
and write mesopotamia's constitution
and stand guard at mesopotamia's soil, rivers and skies
because the true owners
are too displaced
to protect their own things themselves.
--the author is an Iraqi woman