Mark Juergensmeyer on global rebellion and religion

By Dennis Gruending

The American sociologist and professor of religious studies, Mark Juergensmeyer is known and respected for his investigations into global religion. His latest contribution is a book called Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to al Queda. Juergensmeyer believes that the contemporary world is experiencing what he calls a “religious rebellion” and by studying it he hopes to offer proposals that will lead to an accommodation between radical religion and the secular world.

This matters to us in Canada where we cherish our reputation as a peaceable kingdom and the vast majority of religious adherents live out their faith in peace. But there are no tranquil islands in an increasingly globalized world of ubiquitous jet travel and secured Internet chat rooms. It is in Canada that radical Sikhs built and placed the bomb on an Air India jet that exploded over the Atlantic in 1985. That ugly act killed 329 people, including 280 Canadian citizens, mostly of Indian birth or descent. It was the largest mass murder in Canadian history. Mohammad Momin Khawaja of Ottawa has been convicted of participating in a terrorist scheme being planned in Great Britain to build a remote-control device that could trigger bombs. In Brampton, Ontario 11 members of the so-called Toronto 18 have pleaded guilty and been sentenced for plotting, incompetently as it turns out, to mount attacks on Parliament, military bases and nuclear stations. We are not immune to religious extremism, much of it now based, at least in part, on the war that Canada and other Western countries have been waging for nine years in Afghanistan.

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Pulpit and Politics wins in 2010 Canadian Blog Awards

By Dennis Gruending

My Pulpit and Politics blog placed second in the Politics category of the 2010 Canadian Blog Awards. Winners are based entirely on the number of votes they receive from readers, so thanks to everyone who took the time to cast a ballot. You can find the …

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Pulpit and Politics a finalist in 2010 Canadian Blog Awards

My Pulpit and Politics blog remains in the running for a 2010 Canadian Blog Award in the Politics category. All ballots in this second and final round of voting must be cast by 12 Noon on Tuesday, October 26th. If you enjoy reading …

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Pulpit and Politics nominated for 2010 Canadian Blog Award

The competition for Canadian Blog Awards is on for 2010 and Pulpit and Politics is one of 16 blogs to be nominated in the Politics category. This is a good-natured affair and there is no monetary prize — just …

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Truth to Power — The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk

By Dennis Gruending

I return to Saskatchewan every summer to visit friends and relatives and usually I drop in at St. Peter’s Abbey near Humboldt. I attended boarding school there in the 1960s and I retain a respect and fondness for the Benedictine monks. I spent several hours on my 2008 visit with Father Andrew Britz, the former editor of the Prairie Messenger, a newspaper published by the monks since 1904. Andrew, ill with Parkinson’s disease, asked if I would work with him to compile an anthology of his best writing during a long tenure as editor between 1983 and 2004. Our collaboration has resulted in a book called Truth to Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk, which has been released by Kingsley Publishing of Calgary.

The book delves into debates and issues that have raged in Canadian church and society for the past twenty-five years: birth control, abortion, euthanasia, priestly celibacy, ordination of women, the church’s treatment of homosexuals, fundamentalism, ecumenism, sexual abuse, economic injustice, environmental abuse, and militarism. Andrew was, and remains, deeply committed to his church but he was fearless in speaking truth to popes and prime ministers, capitalists and clerics. His efforts were often not appreciated by those in power, not to mention some of his more traditional readers. There were discreet and at times public complaints about him to his abbot but Andrew’s monastic community protected him and allowed him to speak courageously. He called the church to a new age in the service of humanity.

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Gideon Levy says Israel demonizes Palestinians to justify occupation

By Dennis Gruending

Gideon Levy was once an army recruit and an aide to former Prime Minister Shimon Peres but he is now a veteran journalist who writes for Haaretz, Israeli’s oldest daily newspaper. He said that he feels compelled to tell his fellow Israelis a story they don’t like to hear about their country’s brutal occupation in the occupied territories of the West Bank and in Gaza. “I was brought up as a typical Israeli,” he says, “but in the late 1980s I started to travel to a place a half hour from my home, a trip that most Israelis never make. I started to go into the occupied territories, our own dark backyard.”

Levy spoke recently in an Ottawa university auditorium while on a seven-city Canadian tour to promote his most recent book, The Punishment of Gaza. A group called Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East sponsored the event. Levy said he was surprised that about 300 people attended his talk. “In Tel Aviv not this many people would show up to hear me,” he said.

What follows here are quotes from Levy’s half hour address, which he delivered entirely without notes:

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Canada’s long gun registry, facts and fiction

By Dennis Gruending

The House of Commons is poised to vote on the fate of the long gun registry. The Conservatives would scrap the registry and destroy all of its records but most other MPs want to keep it. The showdown in coming and the vote will be close. The Conservatives have orchestrated this issue and are trying to use it as a wedge that they hope will dislodge votes from NDP and Liberal MPs in rural and small town areas. For a long while it looked as though the politics of division was working, but there has been a growing chorus in support of the registry from police chiefs, emergency room physicians, nurses, people who run women’s shelters, labour unions and others. MPs on both sides of the issue are being lobbied furiously.

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Writing Clearly

Writing clearly & concisely

People often don’t think clearly about what they want to say. Lazy thinking produces fuzzy writing. English novelist and journalist George Orwell provided six rules for clear and concise writing that can improve your letters, articles, leaflets, speeches, and news releases. The points below are adapted from Orwell’s essay, Politics and …

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