Arabs constitute around 24% of Israel’s population. They are Israeli citizens, can vote and have all the rights of any other citizen. Minarets punctuate the landscape of Israel; no city is without them.
I asked our Jewish guide what he thought about the fact that Israel’s tolerance of Muslims was not reciprocated in Islamic nations. He said: “you can’t expect this world to be balanced.” “No, I suppose not” I replied.
While we are on the subject of unbalanced views on Israel, the Anglican Church of Canada is asking the Canadian Government to do something about the Middle East. I expect Stephen Harper wishes he had thought of that.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has joined other leaders of the Canadian Council of Churches in calling the Canadian government to respond to crises in the Middle East.
In a May 17 letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the 24 leaders of CCC member churches outlined their concerns and recommendations:
“We are concerned about the continuing humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria; the uncertainty and turmoil with democratic transitions in Egypt; the unresolved decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the rising tensions and stresses within and between various countries in the region.”
They encourage the government to take action, including robust response to the needs of displaced peoples, leadership in the area of human rights, and assistance for churches as they “work with local peacemakers and providers of humanitarian assistance in the region.”
I just came across this:
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34 .
Just prior to this unfortunate encounter I was travelling on the road to Damascus musing on Paul’s more providential encounter.
Call me a blind optimist if you must but, as an experiment, I would like to set the Presiding Bishop and numerous other Anglican bishops – who shall remain nameless – on this road of destiny, point them in the right direction and tell them to start walking. It could work, couldn’t it?
There is a lot more traffic these days, of course.
Normal service will resume after a brief period of peripatetic refreshment.
Although the “Working Paper – Anglican Church of Canada Statistics” report is from 2010, I hadn’t seen it before. The numbers only extend to 2001 and the numbers are mostly for “membership” in the ACoC and so are far higher than those actually attending church. In 2001 the number of “identifiable givers” stood at just over 200,000; this number is probably closer to the average Sunday attendance at that time. The whole report is worth a look:
We begin our discussion by looking at the national membership of the Anglican Church of Canada after World War II. The membership of the Anglican Church (Figure 1) rose steadily in the immediate post-war period. Starting at just under 1 million members (983,779) in 1948, the earliest year after the war for which we have such figures, membership grew over the next decade and stood at 1,300,029 a decade later (1958). The rate of growth over this ten year period was very high, a remarkable 32% increase. Membership continued to grow consistently for several years after 1958, reaching 1,361,463 members in 1962. Membership then dropped slightly to 1,356,424 in 1963, but rebounded the next year in 1964 to reach a peak of 1,365,313. This was to be, though no one could have predicted this at the time, a record high, one that the Anglican Church would never come close to achieving again.
After reaching a peak in 1964, a significantly different trend emerges as membership moved into steady decline. The initial decline was notably steep. By 1968 Anglican membership had declined to 1,173,519 – a decline of almost 200,000 members in a three year period. In just three years, almost 15% of the church’s membership had vanished from its rolls. There was a small rebound in 1968, as there would be at various times in later years, but the downward trend after 1964 is notable. By 1978 the Anglican church membership had not only fallen below 1 million members, it had also fallen below its membership level of thirty years previously (1948). There was a brief increase in the late 1980s, but this did not reverse the overall trend. By 2001, the last year the church reported such figures, Anglican membership had fallen to 641,845. To put this in perspective – membership was less than half of what it had been at its peak. And, of course, the overall Canadian population had been increasing in this period, with the national population increasing by just over 60% from 1961 through to 2001, that is from 18,236,247 people in 1961 to 29,639,030 in 2001.
I couldn’t resist plugging the numbers from the graph above into a spreadsheet and extrapolating the decline to find the year when membership reaches zero:
It isn’t easy to stop bishops talking, but Primate Fred Hiltz has found a new weapon to wield in the ceaseless struggle to silence garrulous bishops: he is compelling them to be nice to each other, thus leaving them with nothing whatsoever to say.
The trick appears to be to convince them to engage in “quiet and theological reflection”: the bishops are locked in separate soundproof rooms where, no matter how well projected and resonant their battology, they cannot be heard.
Anyone who has had to listen to an ACoC bishop preach a sermon would applaud this effort.
The primate is concerned that this may inhibit the bishops from making “clear, public statements to the church” – something that last occurred by accident in 1945.
The latter, a twice-yearly gathering of Canadian Anglican bishops is one of the livelier meetings the Primate chairs. The house has seen hot conflict over theological issues, especially same-sex blessings and scriptural interpretation.
Hiltz has worked to cool the mood. As chair and liturgical leader, he’s given the bishops more time for quiet and theological reflection. He’s said his goal is to ensure that bishops do not leave these meetings more tired than when they came.
Yet some view this new civility as a kind of “silencing,” says Hiltz. Heading into a new triennium, he wonders how the bishops should balance personal reflection with the need to discuss hard topics and make clear, public statements to the church.
In Game of Thrones we’re shown a world of medieval technology, accoutrement, and honorifics, but without chivalry (some lame pretense is made here and there, but it plays no part even in the life of the nobility, and the tale is told solely through their eyes) because there is no Christ to inspire it and no Church to encourage it. The denizens of the land claim a belief, of whatever sort, in “the gods,” who are never specified, whose mythology is never told, and of whom worship seems virtually nonexistent. The latter is the one significant breach with real-world paganism, which always involved true belief and often extravagant liturgics. There is also (as there was with Rome) a most implausible dearth of numinous awe for the natural world. One may have to pledge one’s son in marriage to the daughter of the castle-holder controlling a vital river crossing in order to get one’s army across, but of the necessity of offering a she-goat or woodcock to the river god himself in order to be granted safe passage there is nary a trace.
This is a significant oversight and makes the world a more modern one that the filmmakers should be comfortable with. Nevertheless, we are presented a generally accurate (for Hollywood) portrayal of what theologian David Bentley Hart calls the “glorious sadness” of ancient paganism in which life was short, or at least wildly precarious, and relatively meaningless while it lasted, and death both all too common and all too horrid to contemplate. Pleasures were to be grasped in whatever form they may be readily at hand, and whether they involved cruelty or kindness was a matter of relative taste. Joy may flit briefly by, but only in such a manner and measure as to enhance the agony of its loss and the poignancy of its ephemerality.
We in fact, live — and have lived — in a world significantly shorn of such things. Christ has come, hence the actual medieval world was very different from its portrayal in Game of Thrones. We do not fear death — or indeed life — as our pagan forbears did. We in the West have inhabited a world steeped in divine transcendence, with the clear moral order and attendant theological virtues of faith, hope, and love as the concomitant of God’s self-revelation and Christ’s sacrifice. Atheism in our day is seldom if ever properly Nietzschean — it’s more a form of cafeteria Christianity, the selections of which simply do not include God or Christ. The generally pathetic efforts to revive paganism are far too hopeful and, well, Christian, to be of any real account. (Not that the occult is benign: 1 Peter calls Satan a “ravening and roaring lion” against whose attacks we must vigilantly guard.).
Why should Christians watch Game of Thrones? There’s no necessity, and some will find the gratuitous sex and violence dangerous and damaging. It’s not for all. By God’s grace the world remains Christ-haunted; faith, hope, and love, when they are not subsumed into wastes of superstition, optimism, and sentimentality, still signify. And yet we live in another dark and superstitious time in which virtue increasingly lingers as a vestigial effluvium, while transcendence is ignored or positively rejected. Seeing the hopelessness and savagery of what this age threatens to become may serve to shake us from our torpor.
I have read the first three instalments of Game of Thrones and have watched the TV adaptation; perhaps it’s because I occasionally doze off in front of the TV, but I have no idea how someone viewing the series keeps track of everything without having read the books.
Fantasy and science fiction used to be mercifully devoid of the pornographic extravagances of other modern fiction; no longer, it seems. The Game of Thrones novels aren’t particularly well written so they can’t lay claim to the literary pretensions of, say, Henry Miller: nor can excursions into the titillative be a striving for realism – this is fantasy, after all. The reason is probably the usual one: an attempt to be different from what came before with the inevitable result of a monotonous conformity to the scribbling of the author’s contemporaries.
The novels do tell an interesting story, though, so I will probably find myself reading the fourth volume at some point.
Jean-Paul Sartre reckoned that hell is other people. In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis’s Episcopal Ghost, who delights in conversation as long as we are free to interpret words in our own way, is eager to return to the hell in which he doesn’t believe in order to present a paper to Hell’s Theological Society. Dante’s understanding of Hell, even though it precedes the former interpretations, is quite in tune with our zeitgeist: it is diverse and inclusive. Today’s clerics would feel quite at home there.
From, of all places, the BBC:
Hell is diverse
The modern cartoon image of Hell, with flames and pitchforks for everyone, is tragically bland compared with medieval depictions. This modern version is probably the legacy of Milton, who in Paradise Lost describes hell as “one great furnace” whose flames offer “no light, but rather darkness visible”. Then again, he is setting it in the time of Adam and Eve when its only population is demons, so even his Hell might have livened up a bit later. In the medieval hell explored by Dante and painted by Hieronymus Bosch, punishments are as varied as sin itself, each one shaped to fit the sin punished. In Dante, sewers of discord are cut to pieces, those who take their own lives are condemned to live as mere trees, flatterers swim in a stream of excrement, and a traitor spends eternity having his head eaten by the man he betrayed. In Bosch, one man has a harp strung through his flesh while another is forced to marry a pig in a nun’s wimple, and other people are excreted by monsters. This Hell is not a fixed penalty, but the fruition of bad choices made during our lives
One in eight retired Britons still have a mortgage to pay off, with an average loan burden of nearly £50,000, a report revealed yesterday.
It estimates around 1.6million over the age of 55 who have retired have a mortgage. Some owe more than £100,000, the study said.
And not all of these senior citizens have upset a bishop.
From this Sunday’s Church of England Newspaper. It’s subscription only, so I can’t post a link. I have removed a paragraph containing a description of a couple of the items in dispute:
The Church of England Newspaper
12 May, 2013
Canadian Bishop takes action against a troublesome blogger
THE BISHOP of the Diocese of Niagara in the Anglican Church of Canada has filed a lawsuit against conservative blogger claiming “defamation of character”.
On 19 February David Jenkins, author of the Anglican Samizdat blog received notice that Bishop Bird had asked a court to shut down his blog, ban him from making further comments about him and to pay him $400,000 in damages.
Mr Jenkins stated that he had been surprised by the lawsuit. “Contrary to what one might expect in such circumstances, I did not receive a cease and desist letter in advance of the suit.”
The Statement of Claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court Justice alleged Mr Jenkins maliciously and falsely stated Bishop Bird was a “weak and ineffectual leader and that his actions were motivated by avarice or financial gain”. He also claimed that the bishop was a “thief” and had a “sexual fetish”, and that he was an “atheist and heretic bent upon the destruction of Christianity.”
The 31 posts cited in the complaint were subsequently removed from his website. At the bishop’s request other posts were also taking down, Mr Jenkins noted, “as a gesture of good faith.”
“I have made offers to settle and meet/talk, but they have been rejected,” he added.
Reporters and photographers were evacuated from the West Wing of the White House early Saturday because of smoke from a faulty piece of equipment.
Reporters would not normally flee at the sight of smoke emanating from the White House, but this was different: the smoke was not accompanied by mirrors.