Thursday, July 18, 2019

Attention, Please

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Elijah Touched By An Angel -- Marc Chagall

Even though I've preached on giving our attention to God through the years I may have been too distracted to notice the way different cultures describe attentiveness. Recently a linguistics wonk named Javier Santana tweeted these observations on the subject: 

In Spanish, attention is something you "lend", because you kind of want it back. In French you "make" it, because it's not there if you don't. In English you "pay" it, because it's valuable. And in German you "gift" it, because it's really a present. I wish I knew all languages!

This intrigued me and served as a reminder that attention is active rather than passive, something we engage in for any number of reasons, including strengthening relationships. Thanks Javier, wherever you are. 

This also led my fevered brain to consider what I've been reading recently in the second volume of Maggie Ross's Silence: A User's Guide. She points out that the word "behold" is used many times in the Older and New Testaments. When we enter the portals into silence we open the mind, the eye of the heart.  She regards this profound attention --often born in silence -- rather than distraction, as central to the biblical message.

Attention and the divinely deepened ability to behold are costly, and perhaps only possible by God's gift of grace. I find that I am able to lend my attention most deeply when I'm in the natural world, in a canoe or kayak, 

Hmm...see what a random tweet gets started!

Fess up, is your ability to pay attention diminishing in this day of social media distraction? 

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Apollo 11 and Prophetic Voices

Reverend Ralph Abernathy, flanked by associate Hosea Williams stand on steps of a mockup of the lunar module displaying a protest sign while demonstrating at the Apollo 11 moon launch site.

Reverend Ralph Abernathy, flanked by associate Hosea Williams stand on steps of a mockup of the lunar module displaying a protest sign while demonstrating at the Apollo 11 moon launch site. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

When Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield spent months in space I followed him on Twitter so that I could enjoy his spectacular photos of our planetary home. We learned what a creative guy he is, a musician, writer, and photographer. Hatfield was inspired to become a space traveller by the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on July 20th 1969 when as a boy of nine he watched with his family.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the moon landing I'm underwhelmed, although I've enjoyed exhibits about the moon. I'll confess that I'm not all that interested in actual space exploration, nor space-fi, whether its books or films. The Emperor Trump's notion of creating a "space force" should be an embarrassment to the American people, but they have a lot of cringe-worthy Trumpisms to choose from. 

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For me there is so much that need to be addressed here on Earth, whether is issues of poverty and inequality, or making sure that the planet is habitable for humans and all other creatures. Why spend untold billions of dollars on space exploration?

It turns out that the American people weren't all that impressed with the space program of the Sixties, putting it near the bottom of priorities in national polls. People understood that it was a Space Race with the Russians which had more to do with Cold War rivalry here than the benefits from "out there."

I hadn't realized that there were protests at the site of the Apollo 11 launch on July 15th of  '69. Most of the 500 protesters were African-American  led by civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, a close friend and colleague of the late Martin Luther King Jr. They arrived outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center a few days before the launch. 

The administrator for NASA, Thomas Paine later recounted a conversation with Abernathy who said “One-fifth of the population lacks adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care, [Rev. Abernathy] said. The money for the space program, he stated, should be spent to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and house the shelterless.”
Abernathy told Paine that he had three requests for NASA, that 10 families of his group be allowed to view the launch, that NASA “support the movement to combat the nation’s poverty, hunger and other social problems,” and that NASA technical people work “to tackle the problem of hunger.”
Today there is still huge inequality in America and race is still an issue. Globally there are 70 million refugees and untold millions more could become displaced persons because of climate change. Perhaps Christians everywhere need to acknowledge those protests in 1969 and express prayerful gratitude for those who raised their prophetic voices.
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Earth and the Moon -- Chris Hatfield

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

3 Amigos, 3 Good Samaritans

I mentioned on Sunday that the Ecumenical Lectionary gospel passage from Luke was one of those passages that everyone seems to know, or knows about, regardless of faith. Jesus tells a parable about a Good Samaritan who couldn't pass by a stranger in need. It is Jesus' answer to the question put to him "who is my neighbour?" 

Last week three teens from Fonthill, Ontario, had been swimming and were heading to Tim Horton's, when they spotted a smoking car on the highway around 1 a.m. The friends stopped and realized that a young woman driver was stranded and couldn't afford a tow. So, they pushed her car for seven kilometres (you read that correctly) to her driveway. Another passerby "rode shotgun" in his vehicle as they pushed to make sure no one was injured. 
While people have responded to the social media posts of the other motorist with offers of rewards the lads have said thanks, but no thanks, insisting they just wanted to help 
Perhaps if Jesus was telling his parable today Billy Tarbett, Bailey Campbell, and Aeron McQuillin, would have been named. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Disappointing Time for LGBTQ2 Anglicans


Around the time I became what was then called an intending candidate for United Church ministry in the early 1970's there were intense conversations with the Anglican Church in Canada about union. Eventually they fell through for a number of good reasons but I had many conversations with colleagues through the years about the value of having bishops as decision-makers rather than what sometimes felt like the cumbersome processes of the UCC. 

In the past few days Anglicans have met in Vancouver for their General Synod, the equivalent of the UCC's traditional national General Council. At this meeting the delegates rejected a motion which would have amended the church's marriage canon to remove references to the sacrament being a union between a man and a woman — effectively allowing same-sex marriage.

The motion required 2/3rd's of laity, clergy, and bishops to vote approval. In the end 81% of Anglican laity and 73% of Anglican clergy said yes. Only 62% of Anglican bishops approved, meaning that only a handful of bishops --perhaps three or four - blocked what would have been a historic decision. 

I find this very sad for a number of reasons. This synod elected a woman as Primate, which is important, and took steps toward more effective reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Yet the news reports have focused on what seems to be a regressive stance on same-sex marriage, one which will undoubtedly change in the years ahead. Meanwhile the message to the country is that Anglicans are not welcoming to LGBTQ2 persons. And the laypersons and clergy who are already part of the Anglican communion will continue to feel that they are treated as second-class members. I think of Anglican clergy I know who will be discouraged by this decision. 

So, bishops? Maybe not. 


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Mike Pence Needs to be Born Again, Again

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US vice-president Mike Pence was not likely to be in a church which uses the ecumenical lectionary or table of scripture lessons this morning. Pence became an evangelical, "born again" Christian as a young man, apparently to his mother's dismay. Pence wears his faith on his sleeve and seems to feel that Christians are persecuted for their faith convictions in America, a notion which is absurd. 

Mike Pence needed to hear from the book of Amos, the 8th century BC prophet who challenged the hypocrisy of religious, go-to-temple Jews who ignored the plight of the destitute as they praised God. The gospel lesson today is the story of the Good Samaritan, the outsider who lifts a beaten man out of the ditch while supposedly righteous people pass by. 

A couple of days ago Pence visited a Border Patrol facility holding migrants. There were about 400 men in a fenced area meant for half that many. When the detainees saw reporters arrive, many began shouting, saying they had been there for 40 days or more and they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. Agents guarding the cages were wearing face masks and the stench was overpowering. 

Those who watched the Veep say he was impassive, as though he wasn't taking in the plight of these men. Later he claimed that they were being treated well, although he changed his tune on this to a degree the next day. 

It would seem that Pence needs to be "born again", again, to have his eyes opened to Christ's powerful reminder that we can't claim to love our neighbours as ourselves yet act as though we don't see or hear the pain of others.

The same applies to all of us as Christians. Read this pointed criticism of the hypocrisy of some Christian leaders who ignore those who are in the ditch next door while they are raising money for efforts elsewhere. 

Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx)
Where are the pastors of the Christian megachurches who raise money from their flock for soul-saving missions to Latin America? 

And when they return they tell the congregation how bad things were there and how much good they did. When will you use your voices? This is wrong.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Frank Lloyd Wright and Unity Temple

Exterior of the Unity Temple.

Unity Temple Exterior

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
I can't believe your song is gone so soon
I barely learned the tune
So soon
So soon
I'll remember Frank Lloyd Wright
All of the nights we'd harmonize till dawn
I never laughed so long
So long
So long
Architects may come and
Architects may go and
Never change your point of view
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you

So Long Frank Lloyd Wright 
Simon & Garfunkel

UNESCO is the international organization which designates World Heritage Sites and buildings such as the Taj Mahal as well as the Great Wall of China are on the list. Last Sunday UNESCO voted  to designate eight buildings by architect Frank Lloyd Wright to the list, a rarity in terms of modern architecture as designated sites. 
 One of the most remarkable FLW structures is a home called Fallingwater designed in 1939. Another of the buildings is a church, the Unity Temple located in Chicago's Oak Park, near Wright's studio. Apparently this Unitarian Universalist congregation was led by minister Rodney Johonnot who was known as a open-minded leader who wanted a modern building to replace the previous structure which had burned. The design of Wright's monolithic Unity Temple with no steeple or clear entrance was unlike other places of worship. I can only imagine that for decades people have sniffed at the unique exterior and interior -- "that doesn't look like a church!" I find it quite intriguing, at least the interior

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For 11 years I served a congregation in downtown Sudbury, Ontario, which was in a ten-storey high rise building. The sanctuary was and is unique and while I have been the minister of beautiful traditional church structures St. Andrew's Sudbury was probably my favourite. It spoke to me of a fresh outlook for a congregation which was steeped in tradition. The original church on the site had to be demolished because of structural issues and this building with apartments and shops and the church space rose from the rubble.

Church folk may claim to be followers of the Christ who makes all things new, but we love our conventions and sometimes make bricks and mortar more important than relationships and mission. And God help those who push too hard with new ideas, including those for church structures. 

Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple Interior

Friday, July 12, 2019

Woman and Men in the 21st Century

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Because I write a couple of blogs I get lots of email contacts from religious publishers asking if I would like to review books, as well as emails from other organizations with Christian leanings. Sadly, most of them are evangelical with a certain bias toward "traditionalism" while some are shockingly Islamaphobic or homophobic. The truly virulent ones I block or ask to be removed from their mailing lists. Others I allow because it gives me a window on a religious world I don't normally inhabit.

I received one a couple of days ago from someone named Sarah who was promoting Fascinating Womanhood for the Timeless Woman, the follow-up to a a book on a same subject which apparently sold five million copies.  The fascinating part of womanhood appears to be women making men feel good about themselves as a way to their own personal fulfilment. The author suggests five goals:
  1. Appreciate his masculinity. 
  2.  Let him be your hero. 
  3.  Admire his accomplishments. 
  4.  Be non-judgmental. 
  5.  Stop trying to change him. 
This is wrong is so many ways. Now, I do figure that our marriage is stronger when we mutually support one another and judgmental attitudes can be toxic for any relationship. Still, there is a "Stepford Wives" feel to this, or at least June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, circa 1960. 

Ruth, my wife worked for years as a counsellor for a womens' shelter and had far too many clients whose partners figured that their supposed masculinity gave them permission to be controlling and they were guys who really needed to change their behaviour. Often they were teaching their children, especially boys, that "real men" had permission to be abusive. 

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What disturbs me is that this "make your man feel great and your relationship will be better" outlook is often considered biblical and Christian when it is actually disrespectful of women and too often dangerous. This is a book by a woman, pitched by a woman with a contact provided for a female publicist. Do they really believe this stuff is the way to a happy and mutually fufilling relationship? 

Could it be that we should follow Jesus' direction to love one another as he has loved us? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Gentleman Jack and Covenant

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Have I mused about the excellent HBO  series called Gentleman Jack? It stars the wonderful Suranne Jones playing Gentleman Jack, one of several nicknames, mostly derisive, for a late 18th, early 19th century wealthy British woman named Anne Lister. Lister was a brilliant individual, the first known climber of the highest mountain in the French Pyrenees, a student of brain surgery under Georges Cuvier in Paris. The series shows how she developed coal mines on her estate, despite male intimidation, and we see her as a diarist, much of it written in a code which wasn't cracked until nearly a century after her death. She was a bold person, and often went out in public in clothing associated with men -- hence Gentleman Jack.

Gentleman Jack is primarily a love story though, because Lister is best known today for marrying another woman in 1834, earning her the title of the “first modern lesbian.” Obviously Lister and her partner were not legally married in an age where men discovered in homosexual relationships were sometimes executed. Interestingly, being a lesbian wasn't considered a crime -- women just weren't that important.

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Anne Lister

In the series, based on Lister's diaries, she is determined to enter into a formal, covenantal relationship with her partner. She gives her a ring as a sign of commitment and wants them to receive communion together as a Christian seal of their love relationship. All this is portrayed with sensitivity.

Gentleman Jack is an excellent reminder that LGBTQ2 realities weren't "invented" during the past fifty years. And LGBTQ2 persons have desired committed relationships for centuries, before God and their peers.

Have any of you watched Gentleman Jack? Have you heard of her life? I certainly hadn't.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Eva Kor, Hero of Forgiveness

Eva Kor

We are listening to the novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris. The book has been a bestseller and is being made into a movie, even though there are some significant criticisms of its authenticity by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre. We were aware of the concerns but felt we needed a reminder of the horror of the Holocaust/Shoah as those who were surviving prisoners die and memories fade. Statistics show that younger generations have limited knowledge of how six million Jews died during WWII.

You may have noticed reports of the death of Eva Kor, an 85-year-old who was part of the terrible experiments on twins in Auschwitz by the evil physician, Josef Mengele, known as the Angel of Death. Both Eva and sister Miriam survived, but Miriam died in 1993.

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Entrance to Auschwitz

Eva Kor was a remarkable human being who shared with others her deepening commitment to forgiveness in order to live a full life. She actually met with one of the doctors who was involved in Auschwitz and gave him the gift of a Forgiveness letter. Here is part of Eva's recollection, courtesy of the Forgiveness Project

In my desperate effort to find a meaningful ‘thank you’ gift for Dr Munch, I searched the stores, and my heart, for many months. Then the idea of a Forgiveness letter came to my mind. I knew it would be a meaningful gift, but it became a gift to myself as well, because I realized I was not a hopeless, powerless victim. When I asked a friend to check my spelling, she challenged me to forgive Dr Mengele too. At first I was adamant that I could never forgive Dr Mengele but then I realized I had the power now…the power to forgive. It was my right to use it. No one could take it away.

On 27 January 1995, at the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I stood by the ruins of the gas chambers with my children – Dr Alex Kor and Rina Kor – and with Dr Munch and his children and grandchild. Dr Munch signed his document about the operation of the gas chambers while I read my document of forgiveness and signed it. As I did that, I felt a burden of pain was lifted from me. I was no longer in the grip of hate; I was finally free.

The day I forgave the Nazis, privately I forgave my parents whom I hated all my life for not having saved me from Auschwitz. Children expect their parents to protect them; mine couldn’t. And then I forgave myself for hating my parents. Forgiveness is really nothing more than an act of self-healing and self-empowerment. I call it a miracle medicine. It is free, it works and has no side effects.

I believe with every fibre of my being that every human being has the right to live without the pain of the past. For most people there is a big obstacle to forgiveness because society expects revenge. It seems we need to honour our victims but I always wonder if my dead loved ones would want me to live with pain and anger until the end of my life.
Some survivors do not want to let go of the pain. They call me a traitor and accuse me of talking in their name. I have never done this. Forgiveness is as personal as chemotherapy – I do it for myself. I do it not because they deserve it, but because I deserve it.

We elevate sports stars and entertainers to hero status yet this woman should be known to everyone as a shining example of humanity at its most courageous. 

 When I saw the notice of Eva's death the name was familiar to me and I realized I'd written a blog about her back in 2015. Here is the link:

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Monday, July 08, 2019

The Moral Jane Philpott


Photo: Nathan Denette, the Canadian Press.

I'll confess that I was perplexed by the political fiasco which resulted in the departure from the Liberal Party of Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson Raybould. Both women seemed to be bright lights in the federal cabinet and it was obvious that they were deeply offended by what they claimed was meddling by Prime Minster Trudeau in a judicial process involving charges against industrial giant SNC Lavalin.

Philpott, a physician, began in the Liberal cabinet as Health Minister and in the first few months addressed care for Syrian refugees, navigated Bill C-14 on Physician Assisted Dying, removed  cuts to refugee health plans made by the previous government, and addressed Safe Injection Sites for drug users. She went on to the important portfolio of Minister of Indigenous Service before being appointed President of the Treasury Board. There was a sense that she was a highly dependable person wherever she was assigned by the PM.

Could her choice to depart from cabinet really because of principle and a moral compass which wouldn't allow her to continue because of suspect political decisions regarding SNC Lavalin?

An article in The Tyee called  The Forging of Jane Philpott’s Moral Will helps us understand what makes her tick, and a big part of it is her faith. She is a PK, a preacher's kid, and grew up in the church. Her Christian faith continued into adulthood and she met her husband who attended the same church when she was a student at Western University.

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Jane Philpott with residents of Zinder, Niger, and the medical humanitarian organization Medicines Sans Frontieres, 2005. Photo courtesy of the Philpott family

Philpott and family lived and served in the African nation of Niger with a faith-based organization for nearly a decade and tragically lost a child, Emily, to a rapidly fatal infection. They somehow carried on in faith and as The Tyee article describes it:

Oddly enough, being in Niger helped Philpott deal with her grief. Death there was the final playmate for so many children. As a Christian, her religion acted as a balance in the hurly-burly of life. It gave her the conviction that things happened for a reason. Both of these factors helped her find a way to carry on without Emily.

Philpott is involved with her Mennonite congregation in Stouffville, and plans to run as an independent in the next federal election having been removed from the Liberal caucus. In the end she felt she would have been dishonest if she had stayed.  I have a much deeper appreciation for what might have motivated her decisions earlier this year, and if she isn't reelected it will be a loss to Canadian politics.


Sunday, July 07, 2019

Thoughts on Healing

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Jesus Heals a Child

Circle _________, Gracious God,

keep protection near and danger afar.

Circle __________, Healing God,

keep hope within, keep despair without.

Circle ____________, Caring God,

keep light near, and darkness afar.

Circle __________, God,

keep peace within, and anxiety without.

May God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer

shield ___________on every side. Amen.
Caim Prayer

Yesterday someone I appreciated very much during life in a congregation I served contacted me asking about a prayer I had once shared during worship. It was for healing, although as he described the prayer it was more about God's active presence in our lives in times of challenge than of the "God's magic wand" variety. The details were vague enough that I wasn't sure which direction to look but I shared a "caim" or protection prayer I've used with people on many occasions through the decades.

It turned out that this morning our pastor (son Isaac) began a summer series with the first subject being healing. The passages from older and newer testaments were both about healing (Elijah heals a child, Jesus heals a child) and he took a thoughtful and open approach to what can be a difficult subject. Today charlatans can find a wide audience of vulnerable people through television and the internet, holding out promises of healing they can't keep.

At the same time, our Judeo-Christian tradition has assumed that God is actively healing in the world and that Jesus was a healer, changing people in body, mind and spirit. It's only recently that we've concluded that those people of faith who address healing are suspect and that medical science is the only true source of healing and curing.

The United Church has never taken a razzle-dazzle approach to healing and we encourage our members to avail themselves of medical avenues to restored health. Yet we have always prayed for the healing of our members as well. I've been part of a cluster of congregations which had regular services for healing and the excellent UCC resource called Celebrate God's Presence has outlines and specific prayers for healing which are theologically and biblically sound.

In every congregation I served, and now as a member of Trenton United, folk have sought prayer and given testimony to God's activity in their lives. It seems to me that we need to do more of this if we have any hope of Christ's family of faith continuing as a living presence in our communities.


Christ our Lord,

long ago in Galilee

many who were sick and suffering

needed friends to bring them to your side.

Confident of your goodness,

we now bring to you

those who need your healing touch.

 We name before you

those who are ill in body:

whose illness is long, or painful,

or difficult to cure;

who suffer restless days and sleepless nights.

(names of particular individuals may be said aloud)

Jesus Christ, lover of all...

We name before you

those who are troubled in mind,

distressed by the past,

or dreading the future;

those who are trapped

and cast down by fear.

(names of particular individuals may be said aloud)
Jesus Christ, lover of all...

from a prayer in Celebrate God's Presence

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Hypocrites and the Hijab

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge met human rights activist Malala Yousafzai in France, saying on Twitter that they discussed education and international development.

Most government officials anywhere have yet to meet a bright, shiny photo op they didn't like. This was true of Jean-Francois Roberge, Quebec’s education minister. He made sure he met Nobel Prize-winning human rights activist Malala Yousafzai while in Paris this week.

Malala wears a hijab, which is banned for teachers and other government officials in the not-so-Belle Province, at least not in terms of inclusion. Roberge was accused of hypocrisy after tweeting a picture of himself with Yousafzai, saying on Twitter that they discussed education and international development.

As you probably know, religious groups were united in resisting the legislation which banned wearing religious symbols on the job in Quebec. School boards did as well, claiming that this was antithetical to the messages of tolerance and inclusion taught in schools. And of course thee is a larger than life crucifix in the National Assembly in Quebec, a blatant reminder that this is more about rejecting Islam than working toward a secular society -- as if that is possible.

Some days I just shake my head in discouragement at politicians. I try not to tar them all with the same brush and admire those who are consistent and act with integrity. They are a rare breed these days.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Farewell but not Goodbye

Off we go to Kingston this morning to inter the ashes of my late mother, Margaret Mundy (Farmer.) She died in November 2018 but we decided, as so many families do, to wait for more agreeable weather.

Mom was a fine person, who almost never complained, no matter what the circumstances. She had lots of reasons to be bitter about life, yet never was. Her Christian faith was a source of strength all through her life, and she used her musical talents and organization skills in God's service. We will gather, sing, pray, read scripture, and commend her to God's care and keeping.


Perfect weather, a lovely walk through the trees to the burial place, family offering up gratitude and affirming our resurrection hope.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

A Prophet of Freedom for the 4th of July

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The Trump family has now lived in America for five generations (yes, they were immigrants) but not a single one of them has served in the military. That hasn't stopped Emperor Trump from literally weaponizing the 4th of July, throwing a parade in Washington which is even making military leaders queasy. Trust Trump to turn this into another yet another ego exercise. Why don't his supposedly patriotic supporters see the emperor has no clothes?

Today I'll be focusing on an actual great American, Frederick Douglass, one of the most significant figures of the 19th century. I'm reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by David Blight called Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Douglass was born a slave, escaped to the north, and became the relentless spokeperson for the end of the injustice of slavery. Not only did he spend extended periods on the road in the northern States, he toured Britain, where slavery had been abolished. Tall, imposing, handsome, he was one of the great orators of a golden age of public speaking and often drew large crowds. He was both cheered and threatened in these engagements and was physically attacked on a number of occasions.

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Blight is persuasive in contending that Douglass drew upon his knowledge of the bible and the prophetic tradition to fuel his own fervour for the cause of emancipation and that of his listeners and supporters. He was loaned to relatives of his owner as a boy and the woman of the household treated him more like a son than a slave. Douglass wrote that she taught him to read from the book of Job. In a chapter entitled By the Rivers of Babylon, a reference from Psalm 137, Blight shares the many biblical references from the bible used by Douglass, including from Isaiah and other prophets.

As the Trump administration attempts to divert attention from the shameful reality of children treated worse than animals in detention centres with a desperate display of military might, let's remember the courageous, biblical witness of Frederick Douglass.

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Pediatricians share migrant children's disturbing drawings of their time in US custody

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Jesters, Prophets and Cartoonists

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I follow political cartoonist Michael de Adder on Twitter and some of his images are brilliant. Others, not so much, including a couple which have demonstrated insensitivity on women's issues. Surely this is the reality when a person is required to be creative and clever day in and day out. I found that writing a weekly sermon was both joy and challenge, and coming up with a blog entry between five and ten times a week is the same.

There used to be thousands of political cartoonists in North America and now there are a few hundred. Social media, Photoshop, and the steady decline in the number of print newspapers have all contributed to this. I still think that a well-drawn satirical cartoon can get to the heart of a matter in a way nothing else does. These cartoonists are somewhere between the court jester whose job was to "poke the bear" without getting killed, and biblical prophets, who also did their best not to draw the wrath of the "powers that be." Surely courageous prophet Nathan was under God's protection from the wrath of King David?

Michael de Adder got axed from several New Brunswick papers recently and now he is a celebrity and a reluctant symbol of free speech around the world. He has been in hot water for a while because he loves taking shots at Emperor Trump and the owners frowned on this, often cutting his president-related images. The last straw was the cartoon seen above which depicts Trump as a cold-hearted sociopath moving past the bodies of a man and a child in a river. This father and daughter did drown attempting to enter the United States and the intimation is that the Trump administration couldn't care less.

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Salvadorean Father and Child

This was a cartoon that I didn't like because in condemning Trump it demeaned the tragic deaths of the father and child. I got it, and it was powerful, but I didn't find it helpful at all. So, I saw it and moved on. There will be other de Adder cartoons which will cause me to laugh or to exclaim "yes!"

If it is true that someone in the Irving family chain of command fired him for this, then shame on them. I'm glad that he continues to create cartoons for other publications and that the Toronto Star has picked him up as an act of solidarity.

We need the jesters and prophets and cartoonists who grab our attention and make us ponder the tough stuff of our daily existence. And sometimes if we didn't laugh we would weep.


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Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, Tania Vanessa Ávalos
 and their daughter, Valeria, on Valeria's first birthday.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Hong Kong Christians Sing Hallelujah

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Have you been following the protests and turmoil in Hong Kong in recent weeks? Hong Kong, once a British colony, was transitioned to Chinese authority in 1997 but has retained a degree of autonomy economically and supposedly in terms of democracy. Recently China arbitrarily introduced a new extradition law for Hong Kong residents to the mainland and the people have pushed back. There are roughly 7 million people living in Hong Kong and in one public protest march more than a million took to the streets of the city.

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Prominent amongst the leaders of this resistance are Christian pastors and congregants who have encouraged a non-violent but vocal activism. According to a New York Times article one young protestor said:

“I am very certain that Jesus would not have stayed home enjoying the air-conditioning,” Ms. Wong said. “He would have been out here helping people and marching.”
Christians have been a visible part of the protests this month — among the largest in Hong Kong’s history — providing food and shelter at demonstrations and condemning efforts by the police to break them up.

Protesters have spoken of “loving thy neighbor” and winning a battle of “good versus evil.” Youth groups have held prayer circles to call for peace and redemption for the police. A hymn called “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” has become an unofficial anthem of the demonstrations, echoing from bridges and makeshift shelters.
Hong Kong’s Christians have long played an important role in the politics of the semiautonomous Chinese territory, on issues like religious freedom, democracy and human rights. And though Catholics and Protestants make up only about one in nine people in this city of 7.5 million, the influence of Christianity in the protests has been striking, providing a source of inspiration and solace.
“We believe in upholding justice,” said David Cheung, a pastor who has taken part in the protests. “Our faith gives us our courage, confidence and hope against this evil government power.”
I have written about the oppression of Christians and other religious groups in mainland China, so the threats are real. It is impressive that Christians have taken a leading role in standing up to "the powers that be" and it isn't hyperbole to describe the Chinese regime as evil. Canadians have seen how this government throws its weight around in disputes with other countries including ours. We can't imagine the extent of control for those who are dissidents. God knows how many have died, including people of faith.
Over the weekend the protests intensified and became destructive. This played into the hands of the regime and riot police became involved. Lets join in prayer with our sisters and brothers in Christ in Hong Kong so that there is no loss of life or liberty.

Turtle rescue in downtown Belleville! Film at 11, or read about it now, in today's Groundling blog!