Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Food for thought

William Lobdell's sojourn on the LA Times religion beat is a fascinating journey. I'm looking forward to thoughtful comments on this, though please remember: his lack of faith is NOT a reflection on or criticism of those of you who are deeply committed to your religion - at one point, he even mentions that he envies a friend of his who has that faith. So don't feel the need to defend your church; he's not attacking you. Just listen to how he got to where he is.

Do follow the link in his article to Amy Welborn's entry on the case concerning Fr Uribe. Be sure to read the comment thread - it's fantastic.

I think he says it all - I'm at about the same place with regard to organised religion, though I still believe in God - so I don't have much to add here except a quote sent in by one of the people commenting on his story at the LA Times site:

"Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, openness -- an act of trust in the unknown." --Alan Watts


Thursday, 19 July 2007

I've just joined...

a Facebook group called "Petition to revoke the independence of the United States of America".

I don't think reprinting the mission statement/letter to American citizens breaks copyright, as I suspect I've gotten in an email before. My one question is, "Where do I sign?"

To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories.

Except Utah, which she does not fancy.

Your new Prime Minister (The Right Honourable Gordon Brown MP, for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America without the need for further elections.

The House of Representatives and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium." Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour'; skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters.

You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise."

You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to re-spell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation.

Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up “vocabulary." Using the same thirty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "uhh", "like", and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

Look up "interspersed."

There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary, then you won't have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as "US English." We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize."

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier).

You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents --- Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles.

While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon." If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters.

British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness. Popular British films such as the "Italian Job" and the "Wicker Man" should never be remade.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American "football." There are other types of football such as Rugby, Aussie Rules & Gaelic football. However proper football - which will no longer be known as soccer, is the best known, most loved and most popular. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game.

The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football.

Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies).

We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2008.

You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of North America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders," which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8. The 4th of July is no longer a public holiday. The 2nd of November will be a new national holiday, but only in Britain. It will be called "Indecisive Day."

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap, and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call 'French fries' are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat.

Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling "beer" is not actually beer at all, it is lager . From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer," and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager." The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine." This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in the Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From the 10th of November the UK will harmonise petrol (or "gasoline," as you will be permitted to keep calling it until the 1st of April) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon -- get used to it).

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

16. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Happy Birthday

Before today ends, I'd like to wish the happiest of birthdays to a man who has been my hero for half my life - since I first heard of him on the news. I wept when he walked out of prison at the age of 71 after 27 years in prison, and his gentleness, integrity and warmth turned him into a worldwide icon, a countersign to the world, an example of what *true* power is. He doesn't speak the familiar rhetoric of threats, war, and 'I have more money/toys' than you have.

But when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela speaks his truth - our truth - in his quiet, deep voice, asking for peace, reason and human dignity - everyone listens. He is one of the most powerful men on the planet, yet he carries no weapon.

He's my hero, but I know he's human. I'm sure he gets angry, irritable, petulant, and makes mistakes. But I want to be him when I grow up - I want to strive for the authentic power that makes anger merely a tool to galvanise us to strike at injustice, poverty, war. The power that means that you can speak softly and you don't have to carry a big stick.

And so, Madiba, I wish you a very happy 89th birthday, and I wish you many more. God bless and protect you; and thank you for showing us what humanity can truly be and what our leaders should be.

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.

We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

Amen. Stay with us yet a while, Madiba. We need you.

In his honour, I give you the South African anthem so you can learn the words (and the translation), so you can see the country's beauty (it's the first part of the anthem with Tsosholosa), and, of course, it wouldn't be complete without it being sung at a rugby match.

And happy birthday to another favourite South African - Fr Peter Hunter...*mwah*

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Children's theology...

From the blog entry for you to check out, posted earlier today:

"I have a grown daughter that I raised with another woman. When she was four, we left her one afternoon with my parents to go shopping. My Baptist father usually slept afternoons away on the couch while my far more progressive mother delighted in children. Upon our return, I opened the door to hear our daughter saying "Yeah, he only hangs out with guys and wears a dress? Plus that long hair? Never got married? I just figured it out one day: Jesus is a Radical Fairy."
My father was sitting bolt upright, his eyes bulging. My mother was doing her best to keep from collapsing in hysterics. I rushed in to hush my daughter, but my mother said "Don't you dare." She repeated to my daughter, "Radical Fairy?" And the child says "Yeah, not like Bert and Ernie. They're more like preppie gay guys."
Maggie Jochild Homepage 07.01.07 - 5:22 am

It sounds like a Midsummer night's dream...

or a branch of theology worth further exploration.

You have to... a blog entry that reads like this:

"It's really a blessing of sorts when your teenagers enter that phase where they're mortified by the very idea of you, preferring to imagine that they were created by pixies and laid under a cabbage patch, to be discovered and raised later on by wolves. It beats the hell out of having to admit the fat, pasty, middle-aged person in the minivan has shown up at school to pick up you.

It's a blessing, of course, because revenge is a dish best served cold, and parents have to exact some sort of punishment for the routine humiliation teenagers doled out to their parents ten years earlier.I have had many such moments, such as the time, and I won't name names here although he deserves it, one of my kids announced to my mother over the phone that "sometimes my penis gets really big! And it feels good!"

For hands-down humiliation, however, I haven't yet been able to top my neighbor's misery, when his three year old daughter interrupted his poker game by running naked into the room and screaming with a joyous voice of discovery, "DADDY! DID YOU KNOW? I COME WITH MY OWN POCKET! AND IT CAN HOLD A PEN! LOOK!"

What did Daddy do? And what stories did people send in? Tolle lege, and don't forget to read all 215 comments - they're well worth it, and there's a vibrator story...

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The final quote in the trilogy...

I really did think it was going to be a duology; I promise it won't turn into Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time...

...and again, from the Catholic Corner:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Tuesday Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism were not full churches of Jesus Christ.

Protestant leaders said this was offensive and would hurt inter-denominational dialogue. [Ya think??]

A 16-page document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict once headed, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognise the primacy of Pope.

But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in Protestant denominations.
"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said.

*A moment of stunned silence followed by hyena-like, hysterical laughter*

I'm sorry, CDF, but are you trying to be hurtful and offensive, or has the Vatican finally crossed the line between narcissism and sociopathy?

If I didn't know any better, I'd think that you are deliberately scattering Christ's flock to weaken it.

Then again, maybe I don't.

Quote of the weekend, pt. 2

This will mean very little to non-Catholics, I expect, and quite possibly to *most* Catholics.

On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a Motu Proprio re-legitimising the Tridentine (pre-1962) mass, and allowing layfolk thus inclined to request it from their parish priest. No more indults needed from bishops, no more fuss, no sense of it being slightly furtive. It's another form of the mass; if you dislike it (or in my case, dislike the self-righteous, narrow types who tend to populate it), don't go. Hopefully, it will mean that a certain group of Catholic individuals can just get on with it sans beating their breasts about how victimised they are and how they'll be martyrs for the faith because they can't have their own special type of mass. Great. May I be excused, O Pontiff?

End of discussion, right? Shouldn't even cause a ripple, except for rejoicing from those who are attached to that form of the mass. The rest of the world will just shrug and carry on, yes?

I'm sorry, but did you, for a fleeting moment, think this was the real world? Please. It's the Catholic Church. And in said Church, an Italian bishop was heard to respond to said Motu Proprio in the following words...

...wait for it, really

...still there?

"This is the worst day of my life as a bishop, priest and as a man."

Over a decision to add the old mass to a long list of already legitimate masses? Oh, sorry, I actually thought the pain or death of those close to you - or of any of those 6 billion for whom Christ died - might be worse for you. Mea culpa.

As if one needed more proof that the Catholic hierarchy is insular, self-absorbed, and out of touch with any kind of reality - physical or spiritual.

Looks like Cardinal Martino should have some company on that plane to Darfur.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Quote of the weekend

One of my favourite blogs is Pandagon. I was catching up on recent blog posts when I read a comment that made me want to cheer - and it was so pithily put, I laughed out loud, unfortunately snorting Pepsi out my nose (it hurts, ok?):


The very people (white, supposedly Christian, males) who have EVERY BENEFIT of religious freedom and every other kind of freedom abuse the laws which should protect those in danger by claiming they are oppressed. They should be spanked like the small children they are.

Amen. Testify, Nothip.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Declaration of Independence

It seemed an appropriate day for this entry, which will be mostly borrowed from the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and Keith Olbermann, a worthy successor to journalists like Walter Cronkite, Edward Murrow and Eric Sevareid.

George W. Bush, the man who signed the execution warrants of more people than any man before him, found it in his heart to pardon someone -his Vice-President's Chief of Staff. He commuted a 2.5 year gaol sentence *as the appeal was happening*. Libby had just been denied bail.

For a man who insists on respect for the law, he shows an incredible contempt for it.

Practise what you preach, Mr President. And allow me to remind you of a document whose 231st anniversary we celebrate today - a document that you feel free to abide by only when it suits your purposes:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

With men like Karl Rove and Michael Chertoff, your administration has been 'destructive of these ends' for 6.5 years. But truly, if you want to understand a classroom, you look to the teacher. If you want to understand the dynamics of a religious house, you look to the abbot, prior or provost. If you want to understand a government, you look to its leader. All roads lead back to you, Mr. Bush.

On that note, I stand beside Mr. Olbermann, and add my voice to his as he declares:

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors. [and countless Iraqis who only wished to live their lives out with normal day following normal day. -I.]

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

On this day, 231 years ago, American colonists took the brave step of separating themselves from a reign of tyranny.

Today, let us separate ourselves from another.

It is time for the American people to speak out - and t
o quote a more modern American, Martina McBride:

Talk about your revolution
It's Independence Day...

Let freedom ring
Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning -
Let the weak be strong
Let the right be wrong
roll the stone away
let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day.