More cheerful news emerges from another passion of mine, the shift in global consciousness that we are living through right now. The evidence that we are is presented in this analysis by retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. I passed it on to my personal email lists of politically interested. “It is really excellent,” responded my friend Sondra. “His historical framing of shifting attitudes is like looking through a microscope that is a little out of adjustment, a little fuzzy, and bringing it into really sharp focus.”Unemployment (at 30%, and 43% for under-30s), manufacturing and agricultural decline (despite a recent upturn), large-scale revenue losses, "dire" humanitarian conditions, worsening socioeconomic indicators—all these issues and more are linked explicitly and repeatedly to the political situation.
Monday, November 26, 2012
The latest military upheaval in Gaza has reawakened a passion in me—my indignation at Israel’s continued oppression of Palestinians— and, worse, my government literally aiding this brutality by sending weapons to Israel. Of course, Israel’s action is called “defense” while retaliation by Gazans is called “terrorism.”
My recent writing on this bias in our government and media was published on Saturday. I argued that American media don’t give the Palestinian side and I gave some facts leading up to Israel killing Ahmad al-Jabari. Israel wins the propaganda war by playing the victim surrounded by hostile forces, thus cleverly blaming the real victims, the Palestinians. In this way it justifies its brutality and humiliation of Palestinians, which our biased media do not report to Americans.
The Times included my wish that Hamas would stop trying to win justice by military means and move to non-violent protests, but it did not include my reference to the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s, which awakened the conscience of Americans. Such an awakening is needed if justice is to come to the Middle East, and we all know that there can be no peace without justice.
Besides writing, I pass on many articles that come my way. Seeking background for those who do not follow the dire conditions in Palestine—Gaza’s children are malnourished and stunted—I found this written in 2011, before the latest explosion, and showing the U.N.perspective. It explains that humanitarian relief is welcome but a long term solution must stop Israel from undermining any progress toward economic independence for Palestinians.
I appreciate Spong’s sharp critique of religion’s role in “the birth pangs of this new consciousness.” He understands that, “No new consciousness is raised without rampant anger from those being displaced.”
Finally, I recommend the incomparable S. Joan Chittister speaking about women oppressed. I love her for her eloquent expressions of outrage and her forthright criticism of religious oppression.
I do not stay silent and take as my reward the responses I get to letters in National Catholic Reporter, pieces in the Times, and my posts here. Thank you.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I received a message showing the power of the hierarchy to intimidate. Fear is gripping some Catholics. This came home to me in a personal way when I learned more this past week about how a community I love is restricting its educational outreach for fear of reprisals from the hierarchy. Signs of this growing fright have been dribbling out during the past months as we wait to see who will be appointed the new bishop.
I wish I could give details but they are not mine to give. Think fear of the Inquisition and you will be in the neighborhood. This is overblown because the Inquisition carried out physical punishment. But parallels exist, and ultimately leading the charge is the pope who used to be Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, head of the Vatican office formerly called the Inquisition. Pope John Paul II began the campaign to reverse the fresh-air reforms of Vatican II, his chief ally Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI. These two popes repudiated the Council, refused to share power, and appointed bishops they knew would carry out their repressive agenda. Fear of such a bishop infects this monastery.
I was studying for my masters at the School of Theology from 1986 to 1988 and was fortunate to have as an instructor the renowned Fr. Godfrey Dieckmann, one of the periti or experts educating bishops at Vatican II. Among the memorable moments in that class were Godfrey’s admissions that some of his views would not be approved by the Vatican and frankly asking for our silence regarding them.
“Epistemic closure.” This is the phrase David Brooks, conservative commentator on National Public Radio, used to describe his own conservative side. “Epistemology” is the science of knowing and this phrase means closing one’s eyes to what one does not want to know. He was referring to the pre-election Republican conviction that Romney would win, despite the polls indicating an imminent Obama victory. E.J. Dionne, the liberal counterpart in the conversation on NPR, applied Brooks’ phrase also to the Republicans’ denial of global warming despite the evidence produced by science.
I apply it to the Christian right’s denial of evidence refuting traditional beliefs on a wide range of issues—biblical interpretation, the rise of women, the legitimacy of non-Christian religions, and advances in moral awareness, particularly gay rights.
Catholic bishops campaigned against gay rights and greater access to contraception before the last political election. They were defeated. Contributing to the defeat were religious leaders who campaigned against the repressive amendment in Minnesota. Especially courageous were prominent Catholics who spoke out for justice. They won. The bent of history is clear.
Another sign of history’s direction is the flourishing Catholic womanpriest movement, which has the only liturgies that do not suggest God is exclusively male.
Would that my beloved monastic community placed itself on the side of history and of courage! Fear never rewards. It diminishes us as it cramps more and more. It robs our integrity, thus alienating us from our Beloved Source. I plead with you to release the resources of intelligence, learning, wisdom, and compassion in your community to educate, to model, to inspire, to spread the true message of Jesus of Nazareth. Let creativity and freedom ring!