Dec 30, 2011

Welcoming the New Year

As a propitious ending to 2011 the coffin of Vaclav Havel was majestically carried down the Vltava River yesterday-and today- on it's way to his home.

The imaginary life journey of the first Czech president Vaclav Havel, who died earlier this month, will be symbolically closed by a boat voyage along the Vltava and Labe (Elbe) rivers on December 31, Sabina Tancevova from Havel's office told CTK yesterday.

The boat will set off downstream the Vltava from the pier near the National Theatre in Prague at 10:00.
It will carry flowers and wreaths that people laid at Havel's coffin on the days preceding his funeral last week.

The boat with the flowers will go down the Vltava and the Labe, into which the Vltava flows to the north of Prague, via the towns of Melnik, Roudnice nad Labem, Litomerice, Lovosice and Usti nad Labem to Decin, the last town on the Labe before it leaves the Czech Republic for Saxony, Tancevova has written in a statement that has also been signed by pop musician Michael Kocab and artist David Cerny.

Havel died at his country house in east Bohemia on December 18, aged 75.

And to welcome in the New Year, I've moved into a new and very charming apartment on the river with a 10 square meter terrace overlooking a green hillside. A perfect retreat away from the bustle of the city, where I can write and reflect over the coming year. I hope to have internet service up and running by next week and hope to resume blogging at that time.

Best wishes to one and all for a fulfilling, peaceful and hope filled New Year.  

Dec 24, 2011

Dec 18, 2011

In Memoriam: Vaclav Havel

At six this evening (one hour ago) all church bells across the Czech Republic tolled their bells in mourning at the passing of Vaclav Havel, one of the truly great political leaders in the world today - of the stature of Nelson Mandela. The story is well known how Havel after suffering imprisonment and harassment for many years at the hands of Communist officialdom  led his country to freedom through the non-violent Velvet Revolution of 1989. A playwright, an artist, a creative and moral thinker, Havel was anything but a career politician, and even through two terms as Czech president, never became entirely comfortable in the role. He  always longed to return to the role he loved best, that of writer and thinker and chronicler of his times, and for this longing and for his evident resistance to the political life he was beloved by his people, for all of his quirks and faults. His passing will now send shock waves of reflection and assessment through his country, as we evaluate how we have evolved as a country since 1989 and in what ways we have honored his legacy and in how many ways we may have betrayed it. The passing of a giant.

Estimated crowd of 100.000 pays homage to Havel this evening in Wenceslaus Square.
This is the self effacing poet and playwright who led them to freedom 22 years ago.

Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, died Sunday.
Christian Science Monitor

Dec 17, 2011

Apartment Hunting

Running about these days searching for a new apartment here in Prague, which is experiencing one of it's mildest winters in years. We are usually covered in snow at this time and in fact most of the Czech and Slovak Republics are experiencing snow at this moment. Prague is drenched in rain and is beginning to turn cold, but so far nothing like the past few years. Various things are happening about town and the great churches are preparing for their advent concerts a week from now. It feels good to be here, and in preparation for the coming of the Lord I'm ignoring the crazy goings on in certain fanatical human institutions and living in the Peace that passeth understanding. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, Come.

A few of the possibilities for a new home for the new year and a cheaper one than the very expensive one I'm presently occupying. Trusting in Our Lady to show me the way. Then when all of this is settled, I'll be taking off for the grand Polish Marian shrine of Czestochowa.

Dec 8, 2011

Another Teen Bullied to Death, Another Reason for a New Christianity

Terribly sad news for this feast day of The Immaculate Conception, a feast day that celebrates the purity and innate goodness within all of us. Immaculate Mother heal us all of the sin of homophobia.

Thanks to John Shore and Huffington Post for this article/

Another kid has been bullied into killing himself. His name is Jacob Rogers. He went to Cheatham County Central High School, in Ashland City, Tenn. Apparently he'd been pretty severely bullied for four years. It got so bad that around Thanksgiving he quit going to school.

A friend of Jacob's told reporters, "He started coming home his senior year, saying 'I don't want to go back. Everyone is so mean. They call me a faggot, they call me gay, a queer.'"
Yesterday Jacob took his own life.

You can read more via MSNBC. (An important detail not mentioned in that MSNBC story comes from from "Dr. Tim Webb, Director of Cheatham County Schools [said] that his almost all-new staff at the high school only knew of one incident of bullying and confronted the accused over the bullying. However, Dr. Webb also noted that because staff were new to the school, they were perhaps not aware of the extent of bullying that Jacob had endured in years past.")

I've done a fair amount of writing on these sorts of tragedies (see this past Saturday's "Tell Me, Christian, That You Hear this Boy," "Christians and the Blood of Jamey Rodemeyer" and "My Gay Christian Cousin Committed Suicide," to name just three). And so I have no doubt that some will claim that the primary reason Jacob killed himself is not because he was bullied. They'll say that we don't know the whole story. They'll point to the fact that Jacob lived with his grandmother, that his family is poor (not, God knows, that poverty is any sin) -- that it's safe to assume this kid had problems beyond being bullied.

And I will respond with what I always say: that certainly there are always myriad causes behind the suicide of any person. But that that does not alter the fact that the root cause of tragedies like the Jacob Rogers story is that strain of Christianity that continues to insist that homosexuality is an evil affront to God.

If Christians would actually read the Bible, instead of daring to insist that three or four isolated phrases within it justifies a theology that has no more to do with Christ than Fred Phelps has to do with Welcome Wagon, we would arrive at a popular Christianity that is not, as so much of our Christianity is today, a pure affront to anyone with half a conscience.

And that Christianity would dissipate the motivation of those kids who bully in the name and spirit of condemning homosexuality. Quickly and inevitably, that particularly noxious train would come to a halt. Because there wouldn't be left any enduring reason for anyone to ever condemn gay people at all.

Then gay people would just be ... people. You know: that thing God made in his own image.

* * *
I don't know how to say this without sounding self-serving, but the whole reason I wrote "Taking God at His Word: The Bible and Homosexuality," the concluding chapter in "UNFAIR: Why the "Christian View of Gays Doesn't Work," is because I wanted to unarguably prove that using the Bible to condemn gay people is purely unbiblical. And that's what that essay does. You can buy "UNFAIR" as Kindle book; you can buy it as a Nookbook; if you don't have a Kindle, you can download onto any PC, Mac or device a free Kindle reading app, and read it that way. You can wait for the paper version to come out about 10 days from now. I don't care. But the next time someone tells you that God condemns homosexuality, you give them that book.

Dec 5, 2011

GREASE is the word

Just finished directing the musical, GREASE, for my high school here in Prague - which is why I haven't been blogging for a while. Exhausted from the experience and need a rest, but it was so rewarding. An absolutely fantastic production with such talented youngsters.

Nov 19, 2011

To Tip The Bushel of Oppression

Thanks to Bishop Richard Mickley and Fr. John Churchman of The Diocese of One Spirit for this beautiful Advent Ritual Prayer.  
An alternative Advent Ritual
Rather than lighting candles during Advent,
Let us instead overturn bushel baskets
To let our lights shine for all to see
Recognizing that those sitting atop our bushels,
Including Church hierarchy,
Will be upset when they are tipped
But that if enough of our lights are exposed,
We can cancel darkness forever,
Including that within the Church.
John Chuchman
Out from Under the Bushel
To Tip the Bushel of Oppression
to Let the Lights of Our God-Given Gifts Shine
for All to see
upsetting those seated atop,
We Pray.

For Women called to Full Church Ministry, including Priesthood
the bushel of being labeled not selected by Christ
be removed
so they may fulfill their call,
We Pray

For the Married, Divorced, and Remarried
the bushel of being labeled as living in sin
be removed
so they may be seen as fully sacramental,
We Pray.

For Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered
the bushel of being labeled intrinsically disordered
be removed
so they may be seen as equal to all others as in God's eyes,
We Pray.

For the Married Men called to Priesthood
the bushel of being labeled not capable
be removed
so they may fulfill their call,
We Pray.

For the Priests not called to Celibacy
the bushel of forced celibacy
be removed
so they may gain the intimacy they deserve and need,
We pray.

For those who are Not Catholic
the bushel of being labeled followers of a defective religion
be removed
so all may be welcome at all liturgies, rituals, and tables,
We Pray.

For the Laity who ARE Church
the bushel of being labeled less than the ordained
be removed
so they may BE Church fully,
We Pray

For All Those with Gifts Under a Bushel of Oppression
the bushels be removed,
no matter how high the hierarchy sitting atop
so the Lights of their Gifts may shine
for All,
We Pray.

To dare to dream, to make dreams reality,
We pray.

To believe in the power of the Holy Spirit
working within her daughters and sons to recreate, to re-inspire,
to regenerate the universal church,
We Pray.

With Love, John Chuchman
aka Bushel Tipper
This reflection is also published on John Chuchman's blog.

Nov 7, 2011


Thanks once again to Bridget Mary's Blog for this revolutionary news from Vienna. Lay Catholics will begin to celebrate the Eucharist on their own in priestless parishes. This is just the kind of prophetic act the Church needs in this time of crisis to highlight the fact that the hierarchy, who have become mere bureaucratic administrators of  Church 'buildings' and little more (except as signs of contradiction), do not possess some charismatic superiority, some special supernatural power,  that elevates them above the laity. It is this misinformed adulation and 'idolization' of hierarchical power that the community called Church needs to purge from its body, this powerful addiction to sacral power residing exclusively in specially blessed male leaders. This act, if carried out, has implications far more profound than simply providing a solution to the priest shortage. The very system of clericalism needs to go and nothing less than a shock of this magnitude will effect such a profound purification. Blessings upon the We Are Church group in Vienna.

VIENNA Mon Nov 7, 2011 

(Reuters) - "Dissident Austrian Catholics announced lay people will start celebrating Mass when a priest is unavailable, a clear call to disobedience just as the country's bishops hold their autumn conference.

A manifesto adopted by dozens of activists at the weekend said lay people will preach, consecrate and distribute communion in priestless parishes, said Hans Peter Hurka, head of the group We Are Church.

"Church law bans this. The question is, can Church law overrule the Bible? We are of the opinion, based on findings from the Second Vatican Council, that this (ban) is not possible," he said Monday...
Schoenborn, a former student and close associate of Pope Benedict, has ruled out sweeping changes demanded by dissident priests led by his former deputy, Rev. Helmut Schueller...The group, which claims to represent about 10 percent of the Austrian clergy, has challenged Church teaching on taboo topics such as priestly celibacy and women's ordination..."

"...A record 87,000 Austrians left the Church in 2010, many in reaction to sexual abuse scandals."
(Reporting by Michael Shields and Tom Heneghan)


Nov 5, 2011

Ricky Martin, father of twin boys, to Marry in Catholic Spain

And on a more cheerful note, pop singer Ricky Martin has just been granted Spanish citizenship, by means of a letter of naturalization, "issued in special circumstances because of his personal and professional links with Spain."  

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Martin sought citizenship in order to marry boyfriend Carlos Gonzalez Abella, with whom he is bringing up his twin three-year-old sons.

Read the full story here at Pink News. 

Always nice to remember that Catholic Spain was the third country in the world to grant same sex marriages in 2005, helping to spark a world wide trend.

The sight of this high profile celebrity holding up his twin sons, Matteo and Valentino is also uplifting to the heart. Here are his comments on 'hands-on' parenting:

Discussing his hands-on parenting:

“I don’t have a nanny,” he says. “I’m doing this on my own because I don’t want to miss a moment. I have a personal assistant who helps me, someone who takes care of me while I’m taking care of them, but I’m the one who changes the diapers, the one that feeds them, the one that bathes them, the one that puts them to sleep. Then it starts all over again! I created structure for their eating and sleeping patterns — sometimes they cry at the same time, too. For any parent, the first couple of months tend to get a little bit intense. With twins, it’s double the love. But it also means I don’t get much sleep.”

What a wonderful comment, "With twins it's double the love," and what an inspiring role model for gay men everywhere.

“I’ve had many highlights in my life, but being a father has been the most amazing so far,” the singer shares. “I started this with a lot of love in my heart. I don’t think any other experience will ever get close.”
Read the full story here at PEOPLE. 

Ricky's comment about his soon-to-be husband, Carlos Gonzalez Abella:

My partner, my boyfriend is very sexy, very smart, very compassionate, but the most important thing [is] he loves my children. It’s very beautiful. Super cool. I am very happy.”

Nov 1, 2011

Police association calls for homophobic recording of Stuart Walker murder

In further developments in the Stuart Walker slaying, the UK Gay Police Association, an organization that specifically represents the needs and interests of lesbian and gay police employees in the United Kingdom, has called for the recording of the Stuart Walker murder as an explicit homophobic attack. Finally, some one has seen the light. I've been surprised at how few gay voices have picked up on this case, especially since the reticence of the police to name the attack as a hate crime only acts as a deterrent in preventing such evidence to surface - exactly the point of the UK Gay Police Association. A young eighteen year old neighbor boy has been arrested in connection with the case. The GPA was moved to make it's statement by evidence that Stuart Walker had been robbed and sexually assaulted before his death, then subjected to a ferocious beating before being set on fire. How could any impartial observer not view this as a hate crime?

Read the full story here at Pink News.

Oct 26, 2011

Addendum to Stuart Walker Case

I'm continuing to follow the Stuart Walker case, posted previously. Unfortunately, the unfolding revelations have only gotten worse, but I decided in the interests of decency not to report them. The good news is that the local police have 'every available officer on the force' at work on this high profile case. Part of the shock of the case is that the community is so close knit and intimate, in which everyone knows everyone else. By all accounts, Stuart was warmly liked and equally warmly accepted for his sexuality. This is what has particularly shocked this (by all accounts) decent community, that homophobia was not in evidence. Yet the police and community are convinced it was not a random crime. If there is any blessing at all in this horrific event, it is the outpouring of love and support from his community, and their insistence that their love and respect for him were not conditioned or lessened by his sexuality, which they considered to be incidental.

Strathclyde Police
“We are still working towards identifying a motive for this murder.  I am aware of all the speculation in the media regarding Mr Walker and his death.  At this time we have nothing to indicate that this is a homophobic crime.  Until we know the exact circumstances surrounding this murder, we will not rule anything out and will keep an open mind on any possible motive for his terrible crime.

“There have also been reports that Mr Walker was tied to a post, this is not the case.  He was found lying on the roadside and although we are not going to go into specific details on the cause of death, it was an extremely violent crime and our focus at this time is finding those responsible and bringing them to justice.

Oct 24, 2011

Another Gay Ritual Slaying?

Has another young gay man been sacrificed and martyred on the altar of homophobic hate, in a ritual slaying that mirrors the death of Matthew Shephard in the US? Too early to tell, but the suspicion must remain high that his horrific death by burning is linked to his sexuality. The case is already being referred to as "The Lamp Post Murder," since he was tied to a lamp post, beaten, and then set on fire. Clearly this is more than a simple murder, but a calculated slaying designed to make a point. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

From The Daily Record UK

Family of 'gay slaying' lamppost murder victim Stuart Walker tell of shock at his brutal death

stuart walker cumnock murder Image 2
A Gran had her 80th birthday party - unaware her grandson had been murdered and set alight while tied to a lamppost.

Stuart Walker's family only heard of his horrific death after Margaret McMeekin's party.

The barman's beaten and scorched body had been found at an industrial estate on the outskirts of his home town, Cumnock in Ayrshire.

Last night, the 28-year-old's cousin John Mullen spoke of the family's heartbreak.

John said: "We knew something was wrong because he was really close to his gran and wouldn't have missed her party for anything.

"He was close to everyone who knew him. He was everyone's best pal.

"Stuart was the best guy ever. Everyone knew Stuart - he was one of the best known boys in Cumnock and the surrounding area.

"If you were to walk down the street, no one would have a bad word to say about him." Police last night said Stuart, who was gay, may have been targeted after a house party in the town where he spent most of his life.

They were trying to piece together his final hours.

He is believed to have gone to a party in the town's Netherthird housing estate in the early hours of Saturday after a night out with pals.
stuart walker death scene Image 1
Stuart's friends last saw him alive near the fire station in Glaisnock Street at about 2.30am. His scorched and beaten body was found tied to a lamppost just before 5am on the Caponacre industrial estate on the outskirts of town.

Detective Inspector John Hogg, of Ayr CID, said yesterday: "It is imperative that we find out where he was between 2.30am and 4.50am, who he was with and why this happened to him.
"We understand that there may have been a number of house parties in the nearby Netherthird housing estate in the early hours of the morning - between 2am and 3am.

"At this time we do not know if these parties are linked to our investigation or not, so again, any information on that is important. Officers are checking CCTV and carrying out door-todoor inquiries in the area and we would encourage anyone with information to approach them or to call."

Yesterday, flowers were laid near the murder scene. One left by his gran read: "Miss + Love you always our dear grandson. Sleep tight, Gran and Papa."

Another said: "There are so many words going through my mind at the moment. One is Why. Why our Stuart? The whole family has been ripped apart.

"Life will never be the same again - or any party! We are all so devastated and heartbroken.
Lov n miss you so much, from Keri, Ryan and kids. XXXX."

Stuart's cousin John said he had been "the kind of guy that everyone who met him loved".

John added: "He was the life and soul of the party. He loved music and clubbing.
"Whoever has done this has ripped our family apart and broke everyone's heart.
"If anyone knows what happened, we would plead with them to come forward."

Stuart started work in the First Edition bar, in Kilmarnock, days before his murder. Manager Gareth Alberts, 25, said: "He gave the whole place a real buzz."

Here is the Guardian's muted coverage of the story. The only hint that Stuart was gay was the mention that "Officers are not ruling out the possibility that the attack was motivated by homophobia."

And the Telegraph's more explicit coverage. 

Oct 14, 2011

The Murdered and Forgotten Pope: Martyr to Reform

Papa Luciani
Pope John Paul I

I've posted below a rather gentle reminiscence about this holy pope, long forgotten by history in the wake of John Paul II's reign, which swept his memory away like a pebble on the shore. His coffin, in the underground crypt of St. Peters, has been placed in the ignominious central aisle, reserved for the 'insignificants,' a few meters away from the spectacular niche reserved for his successor, JPII, with it's permanent guard and eternal flame.   Whenever I visit, I always bring a bouquet of flowers and place it on the casket. It is the only one. He has indeed long been forgotten, and that fact in itself says much about the present state of the Church he intended to reform in much the same spirit as Pope John XXIII. The article itself makes no mention of the controversy surrounding his death, as he was most likely assassinated by elements within the Italian mafia with colluding forces within the Vatican. Both of the doctors involved in the case, his personal physician and the residing doctor who signed the death certificate ("for the safety of my grandchildren") were convinced he had been poisoned, a 'fact' only made public by them when they broke their 25 year silence for interviews with the Italian media in 2002. The Vatican, unsurprisingly, made no comment in response to the interviews. 


(Taken from America Magazine. Thanks to William Lindsey for sending me this.)

Why Albino Luciani's holiness should be celebrated

On the Second Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI declared John Paul II “blessed,” a milestone in the late pope’s journey to sainthood. The speed at which Karol Wojtyla’s cause for canonization has progressed is singular. Under the church’s rules, the process cannot begin until a candidate has been deceased at least five years, but Pope Benedict dispensed with that requirement in this instance.

Not so with John Paul’s namesake and immediate predecessor, Albino Luciani, whose own cause, initiated nearly eight years ago, still sluggishly wends its way through the labyrinthine Vatican bureaucracy, its ultimate resolution still in doubt.

For those whose faith was rekindled by that gentle pope, the lingering uncertainty about his canonization is disheartening. Albino Luciani’s life was so exemplary that it could inspire a world grown weary and cynical and yearning for the “greater gifts” and a “more excellent way.”

“He passed as a meteor which unexpectedly lights up the heavens and then disappears, leaving us amazed and astonished,” Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri aptly observed at the pope’s funeral Mass in 1978.



It is consoling to remember this holy man. Hundreds of millions, however, have no such consolation, for Luciani’s fleeting 33-day papacy has been eclipsed by that of John Paul II, whose illustrious 27-year tenure was of impressive duration and historical consequence. But papal longevity itself is no criterion for sainthood, and it is wrong to conclude that Luciani left no legacy of import to succeeding generations.

In just a month Pope John Paul I captured the hearts of people worldwide, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who witnessed in him the welcome but unexpected triumph of humility. Many of us intuitively recognized in the flash of his benign grin, the gentleness of his manner and the compassion at the core of his public talks a beacon of hope. That Luciani transfixed the world during his abbreviated pontificate is no exaggeration: he was a radiant man who taught us how to live and love.

Luciani picked “Humilitas” as his episcopal motto, an appropriate choice for a prince of the church who regarded himself as “poor dust.” “We must feel small before God,” he preached; and he lived that conviction faithfully, often describing himself publicly as “a poor man accustomed to small things and silence.”

Oct 4, 2011

God is not a Christian, Nor a Muslim, Nor a Hindu: Are religions Becoming Obsolete?

        The visit of St. Francis of Assisi to Sultan Malik al-Kamil.

 The following posting is in honor of St. Francis and his spirit of reconciliation.

I have just started a provocative book by Bishop Carlton Pearson, author of The Gospel of Inclusion. 

 His newest endeavor is entitled: God is not a Christian, nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu: God Dwells with Us, in Us, Around Us, as Us. The color coding is part of the book's title.

This remarkable book is on "the cutting edge" of contemporary spirituality and religious culture and provides the perfect antidote for those too fixated on the institutional forms of any one branch of Christianity.

Some passages from the preface:

Religion is a faith journey into the mystery of God and things considered both divine and worldly or experienced in this world. Institutional or organized religion is a system of doctrines, dogmas and human-constructed disciplines that has become idolotrous and has begun to die and perhaps lie. Theism is not God. God is not a religion. Religion is a human construct and involves a definition of God that assumes that God is a being or a person that can be known, rather than simply or even profoundly experienced. Most have assumed this God to be a "Supreme Being": supernatural in power, dwelling outside the world, and occasionally invading it to answer prayers or to effectuate Divine will. I was raised to believe in that God and believe about that God. ...

Christianity, like most other institutional religions, tends to...claim the superficial as substance. Christianity has gotten so far from the accurate realities of the Christ Principle that even Jesus would probably distance Himself from it.  Jesus was a mystic operating in the Christ Presence and Principle. who was in touch with His divine nature and taught us to be in touch with our spiritual center, our pre-incarnate self. This is Christ Consciousness, something much more potent, plausible, and viable than the religion bearing the name. The same of true of all religions.....

For the first time in my life, I don't feel an obligation to literally know God. In a sense, I'm getting in touch with the God I perceive to be with me, for me, in me, and perhaps as me. Mind you, I've already encouraged people to know God for themselves personally. I also felt for many years that the only way you could know God was through Jesus Christ as your professed Lord and Savior. As difficult as it is for me to confess it, I no longer believe such religious non-sense, though I love and believe in God and feel as close as ever to Christ as a person and a principle. I also love Jesus as much as I ever have and consider myself an honest and earnest follower of him, at least in principle. However, I am, for the first time in my life, willing to admit that the most certain thing I can say about God is that I don't know much about Him, Her, or It, at all. ...

We all came from the center and will all return there. The edge is an unstable place, full of artificial assumptions, all of them artifacts of a contrived religious past that no longer fits or feels relevant. Sadly, many refuse to acknowledge this and insist on living in denial. They seem afraid of the spiritual center. In fact, most people are completely unaware of that place, except in the deepest recesses of their spiritual memory. ...

In a colossal irony, I submit that Christianity and the other world faiths, which in theory were created in order to serve as conduits between the human and the Divine, have devolved to the point where they now serve only as barriers between humanity and the divine reality of God within us. Consequently, religion as we practice it today is in fact becoming irrelevant and obsolete. As a result, religion as we know it today could dissipate and perhaps disappear altogether over the next hundred years or so. Faith in God or the transcendent will never go away, but the varying brands of religion are becoming increasingly irrelevant in these modern, mystical, spiritual and more scientific times....

(The traditional) image of God has been mortally wounded by the evolving consciousness and experiences of millions of people of all religions who seem to have awakened to a broader awareness of self, soul, and inner divinity. There is a new perception of the concept of God emerging as a global shift in religious sensibilities. This shift is causing many to rethink God and Divinity. Religion is being shoved to the backseat, and "New Thought" is emerging on the largest scale in recent history....

I am for the first time in my life, enjoying knowing/being the God (and good) that I am. It is wonderfully renewing to feel and perceive the creative and intuitive gifts of God within myself and others. It's fun being God.

Highly recommended. 

Oct 2, 2011

We are Egypt: The Occupation of Wall Street

Still can't believe how few people know about this. If the Tea party were demonstrating on Wall Street for a single day (instead of 3 weeks), they would be receiving 24 hour coverage. And if you're looking for Jesus, you won't find him in the Cathedrals. He's occupying Liberty Park. 

Superb article at Ampedstatus which fills in the historical context. Posting it whole at request.

How Anonymous, AmpedStatus, the NYC General Assembly, US Day of Rage, Adbusters and Thousands of Individual Actions Led to the Occupation of Liberty Park and the Birth of a Movement

As the occupation of Wall Street moves into its third week, there are many questions about the organizers behind the ongoing protests and the origins of the 99% Movement. As one of the many people who actively supported the effort, and helped launch the 99% Movement, I will give my perspective on the events leading up to the occupation of Liberty Park.
As I understand it, the #OccuppyWallStreet 99% Movement is a decentralized non-violent rebellion against economic tyranny. It is a leaderless movement that has been dependent upon tens of thousands of individuals taking it upon themselves to take action and fight back against their own personal financial hardships, and in defense of their family and friends who are desperately struggling to make ends meets.
The road that led to the successful occupation has been a long, hard and winding one. When you go to Liberty Park, into the heart of the occupation, you will see a very diverse group of people with opinions across the entire political spectrum. It is the very essence of a ground-up grassroots decentralized movement. Everyone there has their own individual story on what brought them to take such a strong and inspiring stand in support this action. I urge members of the press and people interested in the movement to begin a dialogue with any one of the people taking part. There are many fascinating stories to be heard and a deeper understanding of what’s happening is impossible without hearing from a plurality of voices.

To give some background information, the following is a timeline of my 19-month long personal experience within the movement:

The Birth of the 99% Movement
On February 15th, 2010, published the first-part of an extensive six-part series that I wrote detailing the financial destruction of the US economy. The report is entitled, “The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States.” The first sentence reads:
“It’s time for 99% of Americans to mobilize and aggressively move on common sense political reforms.”
The introduction goes on to say:
“It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The harsh truth is that 99% of the US population no longer has political representation. The US economy, government and tax system are now blatantly rigged against us.

Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99% of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep… and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the US middle class.”
The report quickly went viral and many popular websites picked it up and published it. featured an adapted excerpt from the report with the headline, “The Economic Elite Have Engineered an Extraordinary Coup, Threatening the Very Existence of the Middle Class.” It became one of the most popular reports that they have ever published. In aggregate, across many websites that have publish sections of the report, it has received an estimated five million page views. 

Sep 30, 2011

Not to Be Missed: Christ Hedges occupies Wall Street

Best theological commentary of the day/week from Chris Hedges with the occupiers on Wall Street, speaking of the corporate class creating and perpetuating "Systems of Death."

In a ringing clarion call of support for the Wall Street Occupies, Chris pleads for solidarity and support for them and  calls for a rejection of  "the distorted and perverted values system that defines the commodity culture". ..."We have to go back to the wisdom of the religious left..Dorothy Day, the Berrigans, King...that we have a moral imperative to fight for life....Camus writes about this, 'If we're not physcially involved in an act of rebellion (against these systems of death) then it's spiritual death'. ...As a Christian anarchist, I believe that we are called to do the good."

"The disease of empires, all throughout history, is brought back to the Homeland. Thucydides wrote about it on Athens, that Athens's expanding empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home, so that the tyranny that Athens  imposed on others, it eventually imposed on itself. And that's what we've done.

Essentially, we are being given a wake up call - to emerge from the night of death around us. 

See the five part live interview here at Truth Dig.

Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith. They sleep on concrete every night. Their clothes are soiled. They have eaten more bagels and peanut butter than they ever thought possible. They have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in general assemblies, seen their chants drift upward to the office towers above them, wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win. But as long as they remain steadfast they point the way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive. They are the best among us.

Read Chris's commentary here:

From The Guardian
“We might do well to consider the collapse of the European colonial empires. It certainly did not lead to the rich successfully grabbing all the cookies, but to the creation of the modern welfare state. We don’t know precisely what will come out of this round. But if the occupiers finally manage to break the 30-year stranglehold that has been placed on the human imagination, as in those first weeks after September 2008, everything will once again be on the table – and the occupiers of Wall Street and other cities around the US will have done us the greatest favour anyone possibly can.”

Sep 28, 2011

Elder Porphyry the Kapsokalivite Joyfully Blesses a Group of Prostitutes

Lovely article (below) which I've shamefully lifted from the charming Orthodox site, Salt of the Earth, also cross-posted at Milk and Honey.  Amidst all the 'fuss' about splintering and schism from within the quite partial, but very rich (and equally corrupted) Roman tradition of Christianity, it's wise to ponder the astonishing number of extraordinary saintly figures, both female and male, who illuminate the Orthodox tradition. The Great Schism of 1054, which divided Eastern from Western Christianity was a far more profound division than the Reformation of the 16th century. Yet Her Divine Holiness the Spirit continues to populate the Eastern branch with these extraordinary figures, as if to say, "Oh piffle, who gives a flying fidler's fart for all of these institutional divisions and distinctions. I sprinkle my flowers of inspiration where I may. Let the Roman Papist be confounded." To which I say, thank you, your Holiness, and Amen. 

On a related note, I'm presently reading (very slowly) Diarmaid MacCulloch monumental, 1000 page  A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and I'm happy to report from this reading that Chritianity is nothing but a history of splintering and fragmentation, some of it quite lovely and creative, a bit of it rather unpleasant and even bloody, but the whole process seems to be part of the substance,and well-nigh unavoidable. At the moment, I'm in the middle of the chapter highlighting the delightful Monophysites, the rambunctious Miaphsites and the equally naughty Dyophysites, all of whom split off from the 'main' Roman Imperial branch after Chalcedon, and that was a very long time ago. And yet it hasn't prevented these exotic flowers from producing some astonishing examples of holiness. Last Holy Week, I was in Jerusalem and was invited by the utterly sweet and charming Eritrean Monophysite Christians living in my hotel to attend their Easter Vigil, which was being held, courtesy of the Orthodox, in the tomb of Our Lady, which is right next door to the Franciscan Church of Gethsemane, outside the walls. Their service, which was held about 10pm, was so filled with joy and light, and an uncontainable enthusiasm for living, that it left me breathless and a little speechless. Never in my 66 years had I experienced such an Easter Vigil filled with so much JOY. Then, by a bizarre coincidence, when I walked out of the tomb and up the hill onto the main road, I was taken up into a swirl of Spanish pilgrims disembarking from parked buses and heading straight into the Franciscan church of Gethesame (which had been unlocked just for them, with a porter at the door monitoring their entrance) I went right along with the flow and felt carried by the Spirit into this quite conventional and very familiar Roman Catholic Easter Vigil service. It was quite lovely and profound and spiritual and LONG and boring and uninspiring in it's lack of theatricality, but it did do honor to the mystery of the feast and there was an inner sense of satisfaction at its finish. But if this had been a contest??? I'm sorry, the Monophysite Christians next door win the prize hands down for knowing how to celebrate. "The Lord is Risen and don't you forget it", the Eritreans were shouting to the world, and I say Amen to that and bring on the splintering!

Here is this charming story and don't the Orthodox have such bizarrely wonderful names?

Elder Porphyry Bairaktaris the Kapsokalivite
In the old days, during the feast of the Theophany, we used to sanctify homes. One year I also went to sanctify. I would knock on the doors of the apartments, they would open for me, and I walked in singing “In Jordan, You were baptized O Lord….”

As I went along the road called Maizonos, I saw an iron door. I opened it, walked into the courtyard which was full of tangerine, orange and lemon trees, and proceeded to the stairs. It was an outdoor staircase that went up, and below it was the basement. I climbed the stairs, knocked on the door, and a lady appeared. Since she opened I began my common practice singing, “In Jordan, You were baptized O Lord….” She stopped me abruptly. Meanwhile, girls began to emerge from their rooms after hearing me from the left and right of the hallway. “I see that I fell into a brothel,” I said to myself. The woman walked in front of me to stop.

“Leave”, she told me. “It is not right for them to kiss the Cross. I will kiss the Cross and then you should leave, please.”

I took seriously her disapproving attitude and said: “I cannot leave! I am a priest, I cannot go! I came here to sanctify.”

“Yes, but it is not right for them to kiss the Cross.”

“But we don’t know if it is right for them or you to kiss the Cross. Because if God asks me for whom it is more right to kiss the Cross, the girls or you, I probably would say: ‘It is right for the girls to kiss and not you. Their souls are much better than yours.’”

With that she became a bit red in the face, so I said: “Leave the girls to come kiss the Cross.” I signalled for them to come forward. I began to chant more melodically than before: “In Jordan, You were baptized O Lord…” because I had such joy within me, that God had ordained things so that I may also come to these souls.

They all kissed the Cross. They were all made-up, with colourful skirts, etc. I told them: “My children, many years! God loves us all. He is very good and allows the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (Matt. 5:45). He is the Father of everyone and God cares for everyone. Let us make sure to come to know Him and for us to also love Him and to become good. May you love Him, and then you will see how happy you will be.”

They looked at me, wondering. Something took a hold of their tired souls.

Lastly I told them: “I rejoice that God has made me worthy to come here today to sanctify you. Many years!”
“Many years!” they also said, and I left.

Sep 27, 2011

Hope for the Future of Religions

Lovely video below on Bede Griffiths in his gentle, declining years with words of wisdom for us all.
The perfect antidote to news of the Pope's visit to Germany -which I've been ignoring. Giving it too much attention (ala John Allen of NCR) only serves to increase it's negative energy -which is best left to dissipate like clouds of dust. Nice news about the young Catholics at the event, however, enjoying the fanfare and symbolism of the event, but almost completely ignoring the message -from Bilgrimage blog. The real work of the Spirit is hidden, subtle, unobtrusive - gentle, humble and wise. At this point in history, I think it is both unwise and unhealthy spiritually to get too caught up in any one institutional manifestation of the sacred. They are now all incomplete on their own, and only find meaning and substance in complementary unity. Where is the Spirit truly leading us? Not into an obsessive examination of the minutia of a crumbling institution. 

"As long as (religions) remain on the surface they will always be divided in conflict. If they discover their depth, then we converge on the Unity. ...As you go deep into any religion, you converge on the center. And everything springs from that center, and everything is converging on that center.....90% of the people in the West are leaving the Church today not because they don't believe in religion or faith or Christ, but because they cannot accept they way it is presented to them....

"I think Hinduism taught me, above all, the sense of the sacred. I had been searching for it, but you see the Western World is profane. We've deliberately eliminated every sign of the sacred, except in some churches and some places. But in India, there are holy temples and places, but the earth is sacred and the air and the water. We are living in a sacred world."

Find the Video here: A Human Search: The Life of Father Bede Griffiths

Merton as Buddha

Sep 26, 2011

The Gospel of Religious Pluralism according to Justin Bieber

Fascinating article on the young pop star and his religious faith, taken from CNN's Belief Blog. Since I met him about a year and a half ago, I feel a particular affection for this young performer - despite all the naysayers on the internet. The music is...well... a bit sugary, but then it isn't written for old folks like me, but for very young impressionable girls, and for them I think it's just fine. Let them have their magical moment with a young star who exudes decency from ever pore. What impressed me during my conversations with him is, that despite his religious origins in the Evangelical Christian "Right," he is warmly accepting of gay people in the entertainment industry, completely non judgmental and non patronizing.  He is also particularly sensitive about the Jewish members of his staff, especially his Jewish manager, Scooter Braun. This is why, when he is witnessing in public to his gratitude to "God"  at awards shows, etc. - while it may make some people squirm (including moi) - his sentences are carefully worded to distinguish between "God" and "Jesus."  (I'd like to thank 'God' for all my success. I'd also like to thank Jesus- Video Music Awards, 2011). After all, it was none other than Thomas Aquinas who said many years ago, "You cannot put the name 'Jesus' and the word "God' into the same sentence co-joined by the copulative very 'to be'" (i.e. Jesus is God), a witty aphorism which has been very much neglected down the years by Jesuolaters. Remember Karl Rahner's famous quip that most Christians were Jesuolators, who had divorced the mystery of Jesus from its inclusion in the heart of the Trinity. This thought has been echoed by many distinguished theologians, among them Jan Sobrino. Jesus, while a conduit or symbol of the divine, is not an absolute substitute for the ultimate mystery of the Godhead.  Justin, therefore, is not going to equate the two out of respect for the beliefs of his Jewish friends. Very wise, and very postmodernist, in line with the pluralist theology of Roger Haight, Paul Knitter, and Philip Phan. Justin has been taken to task by some for this practice, and accused of being theologically illiterate. Nothing could be further from the truth. He knows exactly what he is doing in respecting the sensibilities of his Jewish friends, particularly during the prayer sessions preceding each concert, in which Jewish and Christian prayers commingle, with no deference given to 'Jesus' as an absolute God Figure. I have to agree with the author of this article. The faith of this youngster seems very genuine, however awkwardly he may express it at times, employing hackneyed formulas (Jesus died on the cross for our sins). But that he has been touched by something very real within his inner being seems evident to those who really know him, which should give pause to those of us (like myself, I admit) who are sometimes harshly judgmental of the evangelical side of Christianity. Thank you, Justin, for showing us that the Spirit can touch the hearts of persons through a variety of theological/religious frameworks.

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – Justin Bieber is one of the world's most famous pop stars but is also decidedly more Jesusy than his day job might lead some to believe.

When the young Canadian-born singer burst onto the scene, he was discovered in part by singing Christian songs on YouTube. But that is just the beginning of Bieber's faith journey, spelled out in a new book on the young star.

Cathleen Falsani sarcastically self-proclaims she is the "pre-eminent Justin Bieber scholar in North America."

Falsani has penned "Belieber! Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Bieber," a book exploring the faith life of the tween sensation.

An award-winning religion journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist on the God beat, Falsani came to writing about Bieber almost accidentally.

"I was aware of who he was as a cultural figure. I was aware that he existed, that he was young, cute as a button and Canadian and that his music wasn't something that I generally listened to," she said.
She stumbled across an interview Bieber did with Rolling Stone magazine in which he talked about God. "I was like, 'OK, this is interesting.  Let's see if this is any different than all of the other young 'Christian' pop stars or actors.' "

She was intrigued by the "tone and tenor" of what the young teen had to say about his faith, so she dug deeper. Her young adopted son Vasco was talking about Bieber at the time, and a friend told her she ought to write a book on "the gospel according to Justin Bieber."

What she found was a compelling story of a young man born to an 18-year-old single woman who lost and then found her faith and her way back to church.

Falsani details how Bieber's mother, Patricia Mallette, openly shared her struggles with drugs, alcohol and a suicide attempt before she gave birth to Justin.

Mallette's faith journey took her to Jubilee Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Stratford, Ontario. The church mirrors many charismatic churches in the United States with an emphasis on prayer and spiritual gifts.

"I would call it a charismatic or a Pentecostal church. The iteration of that looks a little different in Canada than it does (in the United States). It looks like any number of our evangelical nondenominational churches, but with a lot more arms raised. Very, very prayerful," Falsani described.

Mallette joined the praise band, which led the music on Sundays. "Being young ... they used to hang out, and she would bring Justin. That's when they noticed this kid's got unbelievable rhythm. And he's 2," according to Falsani.

From there, Bieber lived the life of a normal Canadian church kid, focusing on school and sports.
Bieber kept his musical talents quiet from friends until he was 13 years old and entered a singing competition. He placed third.

His extended family was not able to come and see his performance, so he and his mom began to upload videos onto YouTube so the rest of the family could see him singing. Some of his tunes were Christian worship songs and others secular pop tunes.

The videos hit in a big way.

Falsani explained that Justin's mom thought, "If God had a plan for Justin to be to a music artist, then surely it would be in the Christian industry, and God would send them a nice Christian manager. Suddenly, this 25-year-old Jewish kid from Connecticut called."

In 2007, Scott "Scooter" Brown discovered Bieber.
His career took off.  The family moved to the United States, and Bieber began palling around with music icons.

The haircut, the honey-dripped voice and the screaming tweens are the stuff pop legends are made of. Today, Bieber is a multimillionaire and an industry all to his own, but Falsani details in the book how he and his mother have maintained their faith.

Sprinkled heavily through "Belieber!" are tweets from Bieber and his mom talking about faith, quoting scripture and sharing a simple Christian narrative that God loves people.

Bieber explained his approach to Rolling Stone in February: "I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans. I'm not going to tell them, 'You need Jesus,' but I will say at the end of my show, 'God loves you.' "

He does not take complicated theological soapbox stands. In February, he drew a lot of attention for articulating his opposition to abortion in a Rolling Stone article, but he was quick to say it was his belief and he would not force it on anyone.
The book also uses quotes from social media sites to evidence the positive influence Bieber's faith has on his young fans. Falsani sprinkles in quotes from Bieber's core audience - tween and teenage girls - and plays to their hand with a glossy color photo spread featuring pictures of Bieber being Bieber.

Though she considers herself a fan in his shadow demographic (the moms at the concert who secretly dig and buy the music), as a mother herself, Falsani appreciates the positive role Bieber's faith has played in his young career.

"I do think this faith he has is very genuine and very much his and not his mom's or anyone else's. It's not a marketing tool," she said.

Bieber's work with charity is well-documented; he gives a portion of ticket sales to charity, among other approaches.  Falsani is taking a similar role with this book, too. Part of the proceeds from her book are going towards the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.