Saturday, 26 August 2006

bank holiday weekend

The Guardian considers John Betjeman’s poetry in a Face to Faith column by Terry Philpot.

So also does Charles Moore in a Telegraph column.

Christopher Howse has written about The Vatican’s war of words. For more on this, the Tablet article by Arthur Roche is here.

In The Times Ziauddin Sardar discusses Hezbollah.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Dewi Zephaniah Phillips.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 26 August 2006 at 9:17am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion
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Nice articles. I particularly enjoyed Ziauddin Sardar's considered discussion about Hezbollah, addressing the positive things they do, but being honest about the fears as well. A big issue confronting Hezbollah, that is common to all the religious leaders seeking theological domination and authoritarian control, is "would God want this"? How far to go?

There was an excellent article on Algemeiner the other day: http://www.algemeiner.com/generic.asp?ID=506. I had some fun collating some ponderings that have been happening over the last week: http://www.wombatwonderings.org/plugins/newsfeed.cgi?rm=content&plugin_data_id=14463

And I just love the biblical imagery of people offering hospitality to "the other" throughout the bible. One of my favourites is Zechariah 3:10 ‘In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,’ declares the LORD Almighty.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 26 August 2006 at 8:45pm BST

And what does an islamic faith-based state look like? Sardar is perfectly realistic about Hexbollah's aims: they are sponsored by Iran, which has no place for dissidents.

Here is a link to the Iranian Rights campaign -

http://www.geocities.com/iranian_rights/

The pictures they provide are most unpleasant, but they show how cheaply life is held in this islamic nation.

It is astonishing to think that the national cathedral in Washington DC has invited Khatami there. He has cultivated a moderate image, but even he condones torture:

http://www.geocities.com/iranian_rights/torture.jpg

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Sunday, 27 August 2006 at 12:18am BST

Wow thanks loads for the D. Z. Phillips clue. I shall add his works into my long, long reading lists right away. I suspect his approach will walk on pathways I struggle to see and understand. Ah, the alternatives to closed frame doctrines and undoubted certainties of so many powerful sorts.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 27 August 2006 at 2:06am BST

But Hizbollah isn't Iran.

And I would have thought that conservative Islamists have much in common with conservative Christians in any case.

Talking of life being held cheaply, visited Texas lately?

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 27 August 2006 at 5:51pm BST

Hezbollah is sponsored, equipped and trained by Iran. I suppose MM would prefer a secular variant, so I expect he would approve N Korea's enlightened, non-superstitious approach to Christianity:

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/367.htm

http://www.martinrothonline.com/MRCC35.htm

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Sunday, 27 August 2006 at 7:18pm BST

It is possible to drag up mud against any religious or secular caste and then generalise that to demonize the whole philosophy. Communism was dismissed out of hand through the failed experiment under Pol Pot and Stalin; and we overlooked the merits of Cuba & Nicaragua. If Christianity was to be held up on its worst case examples - we have the witch-burning dark ages, the crusades, and Hitler's protestant perversion. Then we have states that like to make out they are "above Iran or Afghanistan" but have a filthy underbelly e.g. Hurricane Katrina exposed the US's negligence to its own citizens, Israel's reputation is in tatters because the Palestinians have lived in such appalling conditoins for so long (and I am sorry but decades of such standards is not "their fault" and relies on sophistry to explain avoiding responsibility). I reread Hosea on the weekend, a timely reproach to hypocrites and lovers of violence, and then there is Jesus' advice to take the plank from our own eyes before we worry about the other's splinter.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 27 August 2006 at 7:52pm BST

Alan,

You said

"It is astonishing to think that the national cathedral in Washington DC has invited Khatami there. He has cultivated a moderate image, but even he condones torture:"

If we were to be consistent in our standards, then if we ban Khatami from a cathedral for condoning torture, then we would also have to ban half the US Adminstration, quite a few of the present UK Government, and even some UK judges, who in a recent judgement said it was OK to use the products of torture in evidence as long as the torture was not actually done on UK soil.

Personally I would be very happy for US and UK churches to make that sort of stand against torture and speak out against Mr Bush and Mr Blair - but it never seems to happen to the same extent that they speak out against Muslim leaders.

Simon Dawson

Posted by: simon dawson on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 9:30am BST

Cheryl Clough writes:
'we have the witch-burning dark ages ...and Hitler's protestant perversions'
Amplification of these ellipses would be appreciated.
Cheryl also writes:
'I am sorry but decades of such standards is not ''their fault'' and relies on sophistry to explain avoiding responsibility'.
Could she spell out her meaning here?

Posted by: clive sweeting on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 10:58am BST

Hizbollah, whether we like them or not, is part of the solution in the Middle East. They remain part of the Lebanese government. They are not Iran.

As I said before Alan, I see far more parity in your views and those of conservative Islam than I do differences.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 11:56am BST

MM, your grossly offensive comments serve only to reveal your complete failure to engage with the faith of the great majority of Christians, let alone Anglicans.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 1:17pm BST

Mike and Alan
Please desist from personal attacks; how about responding to Simon Dawson's comment instead?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 1:43pm BST

I agree with Simon's comments.

My views on Islam are irrelevant - groups like Hizbollah have to be part of any solution. They are not going anywhere.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 2:52pm BST

>>>Personally I would be very happy for US and UK churches to make that sort of stand against torture and speak out against Mr Bush and Mr Blair - but it never seems to happen to the same extent that they speak out against Muslim leaders.

Well, that would be nice, but we in the U.S. and the U.K. are far too busy fretting over what people might be doing with their pee-pees and hoo-hoos (and, heaven forbid, their woo-woos!) to be bothered with such minor matters as murder and torture.

Posted by: New Here on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 3:40pm BST

Simon makes serious allegations which he cannot substantiate, which equate the US and UK governments with the methods of Iran. I wonder if he has seen the photographs, and thinks this happens in the west? I wonder if he has seen the photographs on the internet of teenagers being hanged in Iran after being "convicted" of being homosexual? I wonder if he agrees with MM that this equates to conservative Christianity?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 4:12pm BST

But, Alan, conservative Christians are in the forefront of those who are calling for recriminalisation of homosexuality. Theonomists/reconstructionists advocate 'Biblical' stoning. Now, I would agree that not all are so extreme, but neither are all individual Iranians or individual muslims for that matter.

The point is that tirades against Islam are not helpful, and I would not choose to listen to Bush as any sort of authority on human rights.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 4:45pm BST

OK, MM, can you show us one example of any Anglican calling for stoning to be reintroduced?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 5:51pm BST

Howard Ahmanson is an Anglican. In fact, he is putting up a big chunk of the money for the schismatics. And yes, Ahmanson is a Reconstructionist.

Posted by: New Here on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 6:22pm BST

So, let's see evidence that Howard Ahmanson supports stoning.... not that one nutter represents Anglican conservatism or ECUSA.

It becomes a more serious matter when islamic leaders, who are actually in power (Ahmedinejad was elected, remember) practise torture, holocaust denial, execution of adulterers and homosexuals, and call for the eradication of Israel. Hezbollah shares their views and their ambitions and is funded and equipped by Iran. Iran is not far off acquiring nuclear capability and thus the means to attack Israel. It can not be assumed that they will regard Israel's own atomic weaponry as a deterrent.

Are readers here really so obsessed with gay rights and the Anglican Communion that they can observe Khatami's invitation to Washington with equanimity?

http://www.geocities.com/iranian_rights/

Again I invite people to take a look at the Iranian regime's activities and ask whether it can ever be appropriate to invite Khatami to a cathedral as an honoured guest?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 7:06pm BST

I am told that George W. Bush is an Episcopalian. The US's refusal to sign international treaties to acknowledge human rights (just last week the newly endorsed UN human rights for the disabled). See http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2006/08/un-panel-approves-disability-rights.php

Then there are references e.g. the 2006 books from Noam Chomsky "Failed States" or John Pilger's "Freedom Next Time" . Then there is Guntamano Bay, the whole scandal of secret prisons. Then there is the Latin American Oliver North/CIA/Death Squad training and sponsorship. Then there is the disaggregation of wealth in the US and the increasing diversion of funds away from wellbeing and into supporting a war machine.

Does Iran scare me? Yes. Do the jihadists scare me? Yes. Do I approve of apostate laws that endorse murder of people who would convert? No.

But I am also scared of a Christian sponsored war machine that thinks that economics comes before justice, preservation of the American "ideal" for the few justifies the "living death" of billions of people for decades. In this sense both Israel and the US have lost touch with their roots. Both are guilty of overlooking the needs of their own citizens and their neighbours for a delusion.

If you read the bible, you will see that God wants his Name and honor preserved more than the continuance of his chosen people (insert Jewish, Christian, Muslim - whatever your fetish). In fact God will rebuke and discipline those who commit atrocities, dishonesty and/or gross negligence and claim legitimacy as God's annointed people. E.g. Jeremiah 30:10-18 & 31:30-36, Deuteronomy 29:23-30:10, Ezekiel 22:19-31, Hosea 4:1-9, 1 Kings 8:35-51, Micah 3:8-4:7

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 9:59pm BST

I suppose you would prefer a full-scale attack on Iran, the crushing of the Palestinians, and compulsory lectures on the clash of civilisations?

Frankly, I have no sympathy for Israel - everything they experience is the result of their own policies. In hindsight, I don't believe that Israel should have been created in that region, and I don't think it has a viable future, as there is precisely no trust left, and clearly they will always be a small minority in that geographical area. I cannot see a two-state solution being likely to work in the current climate.

Clearly I strongly disagree with much the Iranian regime stands for.

However, Hizbollah are part of the Lebanese government - and because of Israel, now have much more support than they had before. Indeed, its notable how many who strongly opposed them now see them as an integral part of those protecting Lebanon against US/Israeli aggression.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 10:54pm BST

I am told George W Bush is a Methodist.

What delusion does Cheryl have in mind in respect of the US and Israel? Was 9/11 a delusion? Is the constant threat from islam to eradicate Jews and Israel a delusion? Would Iran attack Israel directly if it could?

How many islamic states care about the human rights of their citizens? How many islamic states are poverty-stricken? Would their citizens not benefit enormously from being able to exercise democratic rights, from freedom of thought and speech, from being able to develop a modern economy?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 11:38pm BST

Cheryl, if I recall the man's biography correctly, GW Bush was raised as an Episcopalian, but now makes his church home in the United Methodist Church.

Not that I want to deny him or anything... ;D

Posted by: Em Bee on Monday, 28 August 2006 at 11:52pm BST

Wrote Cheryl: "I am told that George W. Bush is an Episcopalian."

GWB, Jr. is not an Episcopalian, although he attends Episcopal services near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At the time of his marriage to Laura (or was it while he was in recovery from alcoholism?) he affiliated with the United Methodist Church in Texas. GHWB, Sr. and Mother Barbara are still Episcopalians.

GWB, Jr. meets with the Anglican Network bishops, being close to their IRD funding sources. I am not aware of any recent meetings he has had with ++FT Griswold. GHWB, Sr. had prayers with Billy Graham inside the White House on the eve of the 1991 Iraq War, while ++Ed Browning, the former PB, demonstrated against the war in front of the White House.

VP Cheney and SOD Rumsfeld are nominal Episcopalians. Obviously, the two office holders from the Ford Administration ignore TEC's teachings with regard to the inadmissibility of torture and pre-emptive war.

Posted by: John Henry on Tuesday, 29 August 2006 at 12:35am BST

The chequered history of one president, no wonder it is so confusing. Alan et al, your concerns about human rights in Islamic states is laudable, but the bible is about human rights in ALL states. Similarly, everyone's concerns about whether the US president is being fairly accussed is also laudable - and I admire that trait. But there is also a question of what we are fighting for.

Are we fighting for biblical principles of justice, mercy, compassion, fair treatment? Or are we fighting for the right to be "above the law" and ignore the needs of others? The latter is not biblical and is renounced as hypocrisy again and again in the bible, including by Jesus.

I was contemplating this question today - and whether I as being fair. I found myself contemplating the role model of Jacob's son Joseph. Who was sold off into slavery and taken to Egypt. Yet Joseph stayed true to his Israelite principles and rose to ascendency in the Egyptian empire - to both his and the Egyptians' benefit. The Jews might have been in slavery for hundreds of years - but the merits of the biblical principles stood the Egyptians in good stead until a Pharoah lost the plot and gave God a chance to redeem the Israelites through Moses. Joseph was not a rabbi, but he was loved by God because he brought honour to God's name. Joseph did not seek to be above the law, and did his best to apply godly principles even in these inhospitable conditions.

The recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict was tragic, even the head of Hezbollah has admitted it was a mistake http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5291420.stm

The challenge for the Middle East, the Jews and Judaism is to find a way of co-existing in a hospitable manner. There is no glory to be found in wiping out Judaism, and the problems of lack of space are going to hit us all unless we learn to live within sustainable boundaries - the Palestinians are simply feeling the space crunch earlier than some of us. But the Jews need to remember to honour their God, and how the Palestinians have been treated has slurred God's reputation as they are meant to be "his" people...

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 29 August 2006 at 9:00am BST

Alan Marsh wrote "How many islamic states are poverty-stricken? Would their citizens not benefit enormously from being able to exercise democratic rights, from freedom of thought and speech, from being able to develop a modern economy?"

What makes you think that Muslims who had democratic rights would choose to use them to accomplish freedom of thought and speech. The available evidence is that democratic majority Muslim areas tend to vote in Sharia. Turkey is, so far, still a secular state, but it's probably a matter of time before the government there can no longer suppress the religious parties.

Democracy is not a panacea for countries with no history of respect for indepentand thought.

Posted by: ruidh on Tuesday, 29 August 2006 at 4:17pm BST

I liked your comment ruidh that "democracy is not a panacea for countries with no history of respect for independent thought". I read a quote from Thomas Jefferson the other day: "A nation cannot be ignorant and free".

Ignorance can include blacklisting authors or groups because they are seditious and/or ungodly (e.g. McCathyism). In recent times, I have read several internet papers where someone's publication was dismissed, not on its content but on the history of who wrote it. There can be no real listening process if one refuses to heed the material lest one become corrupted - there can be no theological meeting of the minds if there is a blacklisting of "liberals". There can be no democracy when parties are blacklisted from meetings based on "suitability" e.g. 2008 Lambeth conference.

Any claims to have genuine democracy when there is such censorship is merely whitewashing. Thus there can be the form of democracy but the actuality of rigging means there is covert autocracy.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 30 August 2006 at 10:11am BST
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