I worked for years in newsrooms and each December we would produce what we called Year Enders, which summarized the most significant stories that we had covered in the past 12 months. In that tradition, I have reviewed Pulpit and Politics for the year past and this is a brief summary of what I have found. Continue reading Pulpit and Politics, best stories 2012
The school Christmas concert is on in the town hall tonight and Dale has a big part in it. When they pull back the curtain on the stage and fourteen kids stand there holding pieces of cardboard with block letters spelling the words “Merry Christmas”, he is going to be the letter M. He is also Joseph in the crib scene. His mother has made him a headpiece from an old orange dishtowel. He has a fake brown beard, and sandals borrowed especially for the concert from his cousin in Saskatoon
Miss Melanson, the principal, has overseen three weeks of happy rehearsals. She stands five feet eleven. The scent of her perfume sets fire to your nostrils and catches in your throat. Her hair is a shoe polish black but white at the roots, and she wears framed glasses with thick lenses that magnify her eyes in such a way that any student who catches her stern gaze freezes like rabbit in the headlights. The awe inspired by Miss Melanson’s presence, however, does not prevent students from poking fun behind her back. Her Christian names are Mary and Theresa — Mary Theresa Melanson. She signs report cards and notes home with the initials M.T., letters that loop and flow on the page. M. T. Melanson. So the students call Empty. Empty Melanson.
Miss Melanson’s Christmas program has a little bit of everything. There are carols sung by a thin-voiced children’s choir; actually, it’s mostly a girls’ choir because even fear of Miss Melanson doesn’t move boys over ten years of age to sing. Then there are the dramas. Miss Melanson has produced a coup this year with Dickens’s Christmas Carol because a girl who has a bone disease and actually wears a leg brace is playing Tiny Tim. Then there’s the crib scene which involves every child in the primary grades, with many of them being shepherds and others sheep. Continue reading The Christmas Concert (seasonal fiction)
My wife Martha and I spent September 2012 in Europe with about 10 days of that time in Berlin. We rented a small apartment in an area called Scheunenviertel not far from the city centre. We discovered that this neighbourhood had been a centre of Jewish population in the city prior to the Second World War. We were just a few blocks from the gold-domed Neue Synagoge, which had been inaugurated in 1866, destroyed by allied bombing in 1943, and later rebuilt as a museum that opened in 1995. There were an estimated 560,000 Jews in Germany (160,000 of them in Berlin) when Hitler came to power in 1933. Most were either driven into exile or killed. Today there are 100,000 Jews in the country, about 10,000 in Berlin. Continue reading Stolpersteine commemorates Jewish victims
If Murray Thomson wasn’t a pacifist you might call him a happy warrior. The moving force behind many worthy peace endeavours, he will soon turn 90 and more than 130 of his friends gathered recently in Ottawa to celebrate. There was a dinner with much good humour and music, some of it supplied by Thomson on his violin, but predictably the event was also a fund raiser and was preceded by a panel and discussion about the best way to get rid of all nuclear weapons. An american-based organization called Ploughshares Fund (no relative of Canada’s Project Ploughshares) estimates that there are about 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world. We know that nine countries have them with Iran threatening to join the club. Thomson, along with two other elders of the peace movement, has come up with an interesting new proposal. The three are recipients of the Order of Canada (OC), our most distinguished award for public service. Ernie Regehr is a Mennonite and the co-founder (with Thomson) of Project Ploughshares. Doug Roche is a former editor of Catholic newspapers, a Conservative MP between 1972 and 1984, Canada’s UN Ambassador for Disarmament between 1984 and 1989, and later an independent in the Senate. In 2011, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Pubic Life remains available as an Ebook format. The book is a provocative exposé of the political ideology and tactics employed by religious conservatives in Canada today. It examines the competition between religious progressives and conservatives for power and influence in Canadian life. Pulpit and Politics looks closely at the political ideology and tactics of the religious right but also documents the efforts made by religious progressives struggling to have their voices heard on issues of equality and peace, justice, human rights and world events. The book has been well reviewed and accepted. Marci McDonald, best-selling author of The Armageddon Factor called it “a must-read for anyone who wishes to grasp the spiritual tensions at play behind Stephen Harper’s majority government.”
Former MP, Rev. Bill Blaikie says: “[These] well-informed observations on the role of faith in politics, and the politics of faith, are an insightful guide to the current political landscape.”
Joe Gunn, executive director, Citizens for Public Justice, says the blog and book “focus like a laser on the analytical heart of today’s burning issues. I not only enjoy reading Pulpit and Politics. It challenges me to respond to today’s social and religious struggles from deeper, more fervent and prophetic values.”
The book is also available as a trade paperback from the author: email@example.com
The Catholic aid agency Development and Peace (D and P) is in turmoil after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) pressured the organization in September to scuttle an educational post card campaign just as the material was about to be distributed. The postcard, which was to be sent to the Prime Minister, asked that he have a parliamentary committee undertake a national consultation on the future of Canadian development assistance. This is hardly the stuff of revolt but the CCCB said that the campaign was too political and would cause division in the church and among bishops. So the CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith asked that the project be withdrawn and D and P’s national council decided to follow the advice.
It would appear that the CCCB’s decision that the fall campaign should be shut down may have been made without the knowledge of bishops who sit on the CCCB’s standing committee on Development and Peace. The Catholic Register newspaper quoted two of those bishops saying that they had not been contacted directly about the ultimatum to Development and Peace.
That decision has resulted in D and P staff resignations, criticism of the organization’s management team and elected National Council, and accusations from D and P supporters who accuse the CCCB of becoming too cozy with the Conservative government. Continue reading Development and Peace knee-capped by Catholic bishops
I posted to this blog recently about how the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops (CCCB) pressured the Catholic aid agency Development and Peace (D and P) to suspend a fall 2012 educational campaign that involved sending postcards to the Prime Minister. The cards asked that he have a parliamentary committee undertake a national consultation on the future of Canadian development assistance. The bishops said the postcard campaign was too political and would cause division in the church and among bishops. They asked that the project be withdrawn and D and P’s national council decided to follow the advice.
This has resulted in bitter accusations from D and P supporters who accuse the bishops of becoming too cozy with the Conservative government. This revolt against the Catholic hierarchy is virtually unprecedented and it is uncertain where this dissatisfaction will lead. I indicated in my previous posting that this is a many layered story and that I would provide some background to place the controversy into a context. Continue reading Development and Peace spat a many-layered story
On the eve of Remembrance Day, I attended a Brahms concert in the century-old Dominion Chalmers United Church in Ottawa. As I walked around during the intermission, I found myself looking at memorial plaques on the walls to honour the church’s young men who died in the First and Second World Wars. Coincidentally, the church’s first service was offered in 1914, the year in which the First World War began. I tried to imagine the scene that year and particularly what might have been said about the war from the pulpit in Canadian churches. I recalled a series of sermons by the Reverend Thomas Todhunter Shields that I had discovered while researching my book Great Canadian Speeches. It was all fire and brimstone in favour of the fight.
When Britain declared war against Germany in August 1914, Canada and the other members of the Empire were automatically involved even though they had not been consulted beforehand. Canadians of British origin were decidedly in favour of supporting the war, saying that Canadians had a duty to fight on behalf of Motherland and Empire. Many people who lived in Quebec and others such as my grandparents, who had emigrated from Central Europe, were much less enthusiastic. Continue reading Remembrance Day, T.T. Shields and war