Thursday, 22 January 2015

Debunked: Islam as a religion of war. WOW!

Unbelievable. Believable. Just so articulate and challenging to our certainties and uncertainties and the nonses we hear - especially in Judaeo-Christian circles
One of the best arguments against people who claim Islam as a religion of war.

And then there are other voices saying he missed stuff - or mis-represented some of it - or .... ohh... this is really hard... but worth trying to understand ... 

and to keep trying to add beauty, compassion, and love to the world...

Karen Armstrong - A Powerful, Hopeful, and Beautiful Challenge

Karen Armstrong
Two speeches by Karen Armstrong :

OK - so I'm also sharing other people's 'stuff..."  An hour and 15 minutes more worth listening to than ... well - ... it's wonderful. Thanks to Barb Hill Bissonnette for bringing it to my attention. 

Some amazing lines - some facts to "counter our many unsubstantiated certainties ...  :-) And we are sooo certain... 

"The always fascinating Karen Armstrong gave a timely talk on the connection between religion and violence, arguing against the idea that religion has been the cause of all, or even most, of the major wars in history. Religion is implicated in violence with a religious dimension, she says, but if we don’t look at all the other factors, we aren’t seeing the situation straight."  The Germanacos Lecture

She's told so often = "Religion is the cause of all the wars..." "Religion is not the cause of all wars. Eg - WW1 and WW11 were fought for secular nationalism... We never go to war for a single ideology. There's never a single reason for wars - ... territorial, geographical, military (power), competition for scarce resources .... even terrorism - even if it is said to be in the name of religion it is inescapably political - power - grabbing power or disposing of the current status quo..."

For instance: WW1 - 5% of those killed were innocent civilians. WW11, 66.5% (firebombs of whole cities on both sides in europe, atomic bombs - and now - in war 90% of those killed are innocent civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time...

Re Islam - she says a great deal - one point worth thinking about: "We need to educate ourselves."

"We need to allow ourselves to be shaken, changed, to go beyond our received wisdom." coming from Socrates who, just before he died, said, "I know only one thing - that I know nothing." or something close to that...

Anyhow, well worth the long watch/listen. There are many other memorable quotes - but i don't remember them - it's like books - if they change my heart, they've done their job and set me in the right direction.  But don't ask me to quote them.

Just a few thoughts... and she walked away from the institutional church years ago, but "I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but I really love what the Pope is doing."  

Check out Armstrong's Charter of Compassion. sign up if you wish.

People want to be religious, says scholar Karen Armstrong; we should help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help build a Charter for Compassion — to restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.

The Golden Rule is at the centre of all religions. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

"May today you know peace within..." and Remembering Mum

These are hard times. I don't know if they're any harder than usual or if it's simply that we know so much so quickly. The world seems to be, as Dad used to say, "Going to hell in a handbasket." Whatever that means. 

Just FYI - from The Phrase Finder on the internet:
"The first example of 'hell in a hand basket' that I have found in print comes in I. Winslow Ayer's account of events of the American Civil War The Great North-Western Conspiracy, 1865. A very similar but slightly fuller report of Morris's comments was printed in the House Documents of the U.S. Congress, in 1867:
Speaking of men who had been arrested he [Judge Morris] said, "Some of our very best, and thousands of brave men, at this very moment in Camp Douglas, are our friends; who, if they were once at liberty, would send the abolitionists to hell in a hand-basket."
'Hell in a handcart' is found in print before 'hell in a handbasket'. The earliest citation I can find for that is in Elbridge Paige's book of Short Patent Sermons, 1841:

Well, if the abolitionists were going to hell in a handbasket, many of us would have been in good company along with them ... all depends on one's perspective, I guess, whom one is condemning to hell or elsewhere.
How about not condemning anyone to hell? How about none of us being the judge?  How about we try more love and compassion in the midst of our fears of the violence around us? Having celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday this week we've seen his sermons, quotes and images on facebook and elsewhere... thank God.

St Teresa of Avila apparently had a wonderful sense of humour, and of playfulness - even with God. We all likely know the story of her journey on a cold and stormy night :-) ...   She was travelling to one of her convents and was somehow knocked off her donkey, falling into the mud and injuring her leg. 
“Lord,” she said, “You couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”
She heard a response from God in her prayer : “That is how I treat my friends.”
Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”
This is the same saint (although I have seen it attributed to Mother Teresa) who prayed, 
Twenty years ago today, Mum died in the end peacefully - though unwillingly - of cancer. She wanted to live. She loved us. She adored her grandchildren. She was only 75 - which is getting younger all the time, sez I at 68.

In the grand scale of the universe, her death is a small thing - but not to those who loved her. In the midst of terror at the violence and seeming hopelessness of the world situation, her death and anniversary will go unnoticed by the world at large. And yet ... 

“... can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up?"

Charles Dickens

I prefer this version - "...whispers the o'er fraught heart...."

Mum was courageous, determined, had a sense of humour... Her life was hard in many ways. Her childhood was unsettled, to put it mildly. She endured the sudden death of her firstborn son when he was 8, an unwanted divorce from Dad, MS, cancer ... I've written more about her elsewhere on my blog - look for daffodils in the titles. 

Mum registered at Sir George Williams College after Lorne's death and, with night and summer courses, earned a BA. She shifted from working at Pratt and Whitney to teaching, first at our local William White School. She was one of the first to really recognize and address issues like dyslexia. (In those days children were simply forced to repeat grades - and were thought to be - and thought themselves to be - slow.) She earned her teaching certificate at Macdonald College in the summers. She drove alone across Canada with Jim (aged 11) and me (aged 9) in 1956. Mum was our camp cook at Wa-Thik-Ane Girl Guide Camp in 1959 only a few miles from the camp where Lorne had drowned in 1950. No exaggeration: we had the best meals anyone ever had at camp, including lemon cake pudding for dessert. :-) She flew to the UK the day after the divorce was final, rented a car, and drove around (on the 'wrong' side of the road) to visit family and friends. She went to Haiti as a volunteer in 1975, when I was to return to the ministry with our Sisters in Port-au-Prince. (That part didn't work out, when I had my breakdown/break-through and couldn't go.)

Those are some of the big things. The innumerable little things are written in the hearts of those who loved her, and whom she loved. She re-married.  She hopped about on spontaneous adventures in Quebec and Vermont with people like Antoinette Tracy. She loved to travel back roads, as do I. 

Mum was an ordinary woman who loved ordinary people. Down-to-earth. Kind-hearted. A bit nutty in the best kind of way. Burnt cookies because she liked to do five things at once. I'm my mother's daughter. Though I don't usually burn the cookies, I feel her essence in me when I take on the kitchen. If  zucchinis were living creatures, hers would have taken over the world by now, so many did her garden grow. Picked blackberries by the bushel. Bent over with laughter. I laugh like Mum when I get going. Sort of a cross between human and horse (a nice horse, and a small one, of course).

So, in the midst of a world seemingly gone mad, of one anonymous person posting hateful horrors on my blog in response to my saying "I'm Not Charlie," I remember our Mum. 

And I pray for peace. 

Peace in the world. 

Peace in each of us. 

Peace for Mum, wherever she is. 

Peace today for Sister Marie Margaret who has died in Boston. She was the first Sister of Haitian origin in the community. Little, mighty, and feisty, she gave her all to faithfully serving others in the Religious Life. She was so kind to me when Sister Rhoda was dying. Sister Marie Margaret was a nurse and in charge of the infirmary at the Louisburg Square convent. I often went over after work at the Donovans looking after 'my children' and SMM always welcomed me in with a smile to visit with Sister Rhoda. SMM has been Sister-in-charge of the convent in Port-au-Prince for quite a few years and was one who survived the earthquake and continued the Sisters' ministry afterwards. 

Peace for her Sisters at St. Margaret's Convent - in Duxbury, Dorchester, NYC, and in Haiti, and for her family.

Peace. Period. 

Love, hope, and compassion.

Daffodils to brighten our days and to remind me of Mum, and to remind us that we are a resurrection people even as we "wander lonely as a cloud..."

And a kitty and an English robin to help us keep on keeping on - through grief and sorrow - through fear and longing ... to peace.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Noam Chomsky Speaks Truth - thank You Mr. Chomsky

I hope I'm not breaking copyright laws or something ... but I'm giving him full credit.

I changed the link, as it's better (safer for some reason) than the previous. 21 Jan.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

I'm Not Charlie. Today I'm Nigerian.

This morning we had a lovely, quiet church service at St. CHL. Last Sunday was a dynamic, creatively chaotic children's Epiphany service. Yesterday our little church was packed for the funeral of Barbara's 104 year old Mum. Today - Morning Prayer (an adapted version of the 1962 BCP inserting inclusive language where possible). :-) Lovely hymns. Warm church family life.

We kept the Baptism of Jesus - since snow/ice storm on January 4th led us to kick Epiphany forward. We talked about water, life, meaning... the essential-ness of water to life - and also its capacity for destruction. Water, like power authority can be creative or destructive. We shared images we hold dear of water - Caribbean waves and calm waters, learning to swim in a dam at Rawdon many years ago or in the icy cold Bay of Fundy, tossed like a football from Dad's shoulders and paddling back to him... 

What really touched me, though, was the response to a question I posed: How many of you felt "I am Charlie" this past week? I've felt almost guilty that I couldn't see myself as Charlie, and as if I might be in a minority and somehow lacking. Not one person said they felt they were Charlie. Not because they didn't care or hadn't watched the news. Not because the murders in Paris weren't terrible. Because they are aware of other tragedies happening now - and because of the disrespect of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

What a relief. I'm not alone.

I'm not Charlie. I believe fervently in freedom of speech. I believe in respecting people of all faiths and no faith. The murders in Paris were reprehensible. Plain wrong. I'm still not Charlie.

I looked at a few of the cartoons artists at Charlie Hebdo had produced and was disgusted and horrified. The one that will never leave my mind is of the Prophet on his knees - well, you know the one. More description isn't necessary. It reminded me of the horrors at Abu Graibh prison, and the torture and despicable behaviour of American soldiers towards Muslim prisoners. 

Even if the Muslim faith supported the use of benign images of the Prophet, (and it doesn't) how can these Charlie cartoons be accepted as examples of free speech? Does free speech not come with responsibility to respect people who are different? Does free speech give us the right to portray what is sacred to some in such a manner? Does free speech mean we can, it would seem deliberately, provoke the ire and resentment of millions of honourable Muslims?

The consequences were inexcusable. I grieve with and for the families of those killed in Paris.

And I ask, as I did this morning at church a second question: Why is there so much uproar - why are so many saying "I am Charlie" rather than I am Nigerian? 2,000 innocents massacred by Boco Haram. Why is this allowed to continue? Why is the world not as outraged about 2,000+ deaths as it is about 17? Why do 40 world leaders come together in Paris with arms linked - "I am Charlie" - Why are they not standing with and for the innocents of Africa? Oh - my cynical side says, " Ohhh - right, Ros. They aren't as outraged, because this is Africa."

I don't want to live cynically. Not innocently, either - or is it naive? To live cynically is to live without hope. And to live without hope is to be paralyzed into thinking we can't make a difference. That it will never be otherwise. That we have learned nothing from the Holocaust, from the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, from the outside influences (you can fill in the blanks) that, in part, keep Haiti and other countries unstable and poor.

I will not live without hope. Today I am Nigerian. I don't know what I can do to make a difference, but for the moment it is a beginning to recognize the tragedy - the tragedy of the massacres and the tragedy that the world powers don't seem to care. Or worse, that the world powers have an investment in the poverty and de-stabilization of these countries.

At the end of the shared homily we read the promises made at baptism - in the more recent liturgies -  paying special attention to:
"Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?"
"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"

Both of these questions include people of all faiths, colours, languages, gender and sexual orientation... there are no exceptions... 

The people in Paris didn't deserve to die. I'm not blaming the victims. I still can't condone the dis-respectful and ugly cartoons that offend our Muslim brothers and sisters. I can't. They make me sick.

Removed Rex Murphy after credible reasons presented by our organist, tom Mennier, not to accept everything Rex says. Or pretty much anything in the media. Sigh.... He presents as facts what we don't know to be facts - eg - the men were killed - so we're not sure what their motive was or who they were. And rather than interfering in Nigeria, for instance - as I asked about DRC at a meeting on Thursday - what are the outside influences on these troubled areas. Who created the borders? What resources are western countries after? Not that that excuses Boco Haram. and do we simply wait while they massacre more people? I don't know the answers - we do need to ask the questions. And challenge our governments. Which group(s) in Africa is our Canadian government selling arms to? Bad grammar. Sorry, Mrs. Tudor.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Jacqueline (Jackie) Elizabeth Cyrus - Feisty Fighter Extraordinaire

Our Jackie died peacefully on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at the Jewish General Hospital. Once an adult, she was treated there for sickle cell anemia. Visitation and funeral for Jackie were held at our little church, St. CHL on de Lorimier in Rosemont.

I have permission from Jackie's family to write about her. She was a character! Feisty. courageous. Determined to get what she wanted. Refused to have her photo taken - or teased us that she didn't like it - so to get a good photo of Jackie, we had to be sneaky.

Jackie was baptized at the Church of the Ascension on Park Avenue, and then attended St. Cuthbert's Church in Park Ex. In 1991 or thereabouts, when St Cuthbert's also closed, she came with her parents to St. Hilda's. I arrived in February 1995 at the same time St. Luke's, Rosemont closed and we became St. CHL. A family of weird and wonderful people from many different backgrounds, churches, countries ... Jackie was 26 at the time.

As tasks and ministries gradually became shared beyond members of the original church, Jackie joined the altar guild. She lit the candles, assisted with setting and clearing the altar, and - being tall - always put the hymn numbers up with great care. It was reported that once when she was in hospital she said, "I hope the people doing the hymn numbers are putting them up straight!" 

Jackie suffered a great deal from sickle cell anemia, was often in excruciating pain, but unless hospitalized, she got herself to church by bus, metro, bus every Sunday. Always early, when asked where her parents were, she replied, "They're too slow!" She'd left them in the dust.

Four nieces and  nephews added joy to Jackie's life, and since she was usually home she helped provide care for them. At the funeral, Thalia told a story: when the children were naughty, Jackie would say, "I'll tell your Daddy and he'll punish you." But she never told.

On February 9, 2012, Jackie was found unconscious on her bed by her parents. 911 was called, she was rushed to the JGH and then taken to Notre Dame Hospital for surgery on a large bleed in her brain. Hope was minimal that she would survive the surgery, and if she did she might not regain consciousness or live a life in which she could actively participate.

Jackie was a fighter. She came through the surgery and bit by bit regained some strength, though remained paralyzed on her right side. Hospital led eventually to a residence. Once she had adapted transport, she was able to  join us at church a number of times to the delight of all. 

During Jackie's healing, her voice was still unclear, her mind fuzzy - we weren't sure of the extent of recovery that might be possible. During one visit, I asked her what hymn she'd like us to sing.  She said, "Your favourite." Ummm... I have a few favourites. We could see the wheels turning during a long pause while she processed what she was trying to get out. Then she said, "414." Astonished we were! 414 is in fact a favourite hymn - God of the sparrow, God of the whale - and my very favourite part is the last verse: 

God of the ages
god near at hand
God of the loving heart
How do your children say Joy?
How do your children say Home?

So many levels of home. A lifetime of living in the mystery of 'home.'

In the end, something failed. Jackie still fought, but it became apparent that no treatments were working. Several days before her death, she told her parents and me through the oxygen mask that she wanted to go home and was very clear that the home wasn't her heavenly home, but "638 Ball" repeated 3 times to be sure we got it. Going home was impossible. But she did go home - another home.

Jackie had come home in herself - accepted who she was and that her life in this world was ending. She loved and was loved deeply.  

She had a twinkle in her eye, and a wry sense of humour. She knew how to tease. She spoke her mind. "Ohhh yes!!" she'd say (implication: "that's exactly what I meant and I'm not changing my mind!") 

Jackie's body was laid out in a light-coloured and unvarnished birch coffin at our little church the afternoon before her funeral. Special markers enabled everyone who wished, especially the four children, to draw images and write words directly on the coffin - an extremely moving opportunity for the children to begin to process death, grief, what Jackie had meant to them - to participate in the experience of loss and sorrow we were all sharing. 

We also placed papers on the table in the hall, asking people to write words or thoughts following the letters of the alphabet. Children and adults participated. A taste of the wonder of Jackie Cyrus.

Jackie - it was a privilege to know you. You touched so many lives and made us better, more courageous people. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

We love you, Jackie - forever and always.

Some words to describe Jackie…
Please remember, she wasn’t perfect. Jackie was human and real. J

Awesome, amazing, altar guild
Bright, beautiful
Cherished, calm
Determined to get what she wants, devoted
Early, always early, excited for special occasions
Feisty, fighter, fun, faithful, firecracker, fantastic, family
Generous, great, good
Helpful, honest, happy, human
Independent, impish, interesting
Just being Jackie, jolie
Loving, lovely, lit the candles at church
Member, magnificent
Nice, nutty
Always Put out the hymn numbers, pretty
Quick-witted, quiet
Remarkably strong
Strong, stubborn, she was my daughter, and I loved her very much. But she died. Sweet, strong-minded, special
Thankful for what she had, thoughtful, terrific
Unique individual, ummpphh, understanding
Good Volunteer
Wise, wonderful
x-tremely private
Young – always looked young

Palls of Silence - Truth under Wraps

Palls are placed on coffins. To remind us that we are all equal and that we will all die. A coffin may be ornate bronze, solid oak, simple wood or cloth-covered. these days, there are even simple, eco-friendly coffins made of bamboo and other materials that will return to the earth more quickly. No matter the coffin, the pall covers it. There is no high or low, rich or poor. Death claims us all and we are all equal in God's sight.

There are figurative palls of silence.  And I keep wondering ... when will the pall be removed, torn off by winds and storms of truth-telling? My cousin in Liverpool wrote on her facebook page, "Tic toc..." in response to further revelations of child sexual abuse by people in high places in the UK. Paedophile rings. Vulnerable youngsters often 'bought and sold.' Tragic stories beyond our comprehension. Names begin to be named; some arrests are made. Scotland Yard continues to investigate. The pall of silence is being removed if not in one great sweep, at least bit by bit as people come forth, some in terror for their lives.

And I wonder as I also hear 'tic toc' - when and how the pall will be removed on the historical abuse in our churches by clergy and lay people? What will it take? In Canada, government and churches have begun to address the horrific abuses in residential schools. And so we should. I wonder though - what about the churches? Under rugs. On rugs, actually - or on blue blankets in a church office.

The Roman Catholic Church is being forced more and more to address the historical abuses, the slipping in the night of clergy to other parishes or dioceses where they continued to molest. Protecting the image of the church came before the ruined lives of children. What about the other churches? Anglican, United, Presbyterian ... we're smaller - perhaps less visible in the larger picture - no less culpable.

The Presbyterian Church USA put together a document to help churches address past child abuse after it became aware of extensive abuse in missionary schools in Africa. The Episcopal Church USA has a procedure/protocol for victims of sexual abuse within the church to come forward. I don't know how well 'advertized' it is. At least one American Episcopal diocese (Western New York) placed pamphlets in all of their churches inviting any who had been abused to come forward and tell their stories. An avalanche was expected; an avalanche didn't happen even though the numbers were there. However, those who wished came forward. A beginning.

The present 'wisdom' is that people don't necessarily want to sue the churches. They want to tell their truths, to be heard and believed, to receive an apology for their childhood being stolen from them - not to mention their trust or even belief in God.

When will we have the to courage to open our hearts and minds to listen and hear? To allow for some measure of healing for those who were abused - and in the process to heal some of the churches' wounds we sustained in the process of secret-keeping. 

Palls cover things. Palls are heavy. They speak of death. 

Are we going to wait until someone sues our churches? Are we hoping against hope that no one will come forward, at least not in our time? Have we convinced ourselves - of what? - that if the victims of abuse really wanted to come forward they would? Does it have to go to court for us to hear their stories? 

There is a great sickness out there. I keep trying to understand ... what holds us back? 

Jesus meant it when he said, "The truth will set us free."