This blog is aimed mostly at Christians. That's okay because, judging from the Moncton Times and Transcript, all people in Moncton are Christians. There are, it seems, no Jews, no Moslems, no Confuscists, no atheists (a form of faith.) Okay. And here's my position as a start.
1. I do not believe any church should be in a position to dictate to government. (Mind you, I don't think any corporation should be in that position, either. But I guess I'm in a minority on that.) Nor do I think any church should dictate how its members should react to any public issue. They should not be telling anybody who to vote for.
What they should be doing, and aren't doing, is encouraging their followers to discuss these issues in the context of their moral principles. We don't hear much of that from the churches. What we get instead are cutesy little stories about being kind to little children, or being sure to help any man we see lying by the roadside after being beaten and robbed, just like the good Samaritan did so long ago and so far away. Not a word about New Brunswickers living on the edge of poverty who get soaked to keep taxes for the rich down. Nothing on the question of Bill Belliveau and mad steer Flemming saying we should save money by closing up to three-quarters of our emergency centres - also to save money.
Sure. Nail the poor and the sick. Hallelujah.
2. Every society has to operate on the basis of some moral principles. The ten commandments are not just goody-goody statements. They are practical. We don't survive without them. And you will find those same moral principles reflected in just about any major religion you can think of -The Bible, the Aphorisms of Confuscius, the Q'ran, almost all are in basic agreement on moral ethics. (And many, many of the leaders of all those faiths have at some time or other betrayed those ethics.)
3. I'm a Protestant. Most of my life, I thought I was an atheist - so I know lots of Jesus jokes. But I know I'm a Protestant. However, I don't go to church because the churches bore me out of my mind with their irrelevance and their refusal to deal with the world we live in.
4. In sum, while I don't want any church (or any other corporate body) to have a hand in government, I think churches have a responsibility to relate our public life to moral ethics and to the choices we make. I think politicians have a responsibility to develop policies that reflect moral ethics. I don't care what religion those ethics come from. But I want to see some sense of moral principle at work.
I certainly don't see any moral principles of any sort in either the Liberals or the Conservatives. I don't see them in the corporation leadership of this province. And I certainly don't see them in the pages of the Moncton Times and Transcript - not even on the Faith page. So let's take a look at some cases. (and I'm going to wander beyond the boundaries of New Brunswick because there is a huge range of cases that that we should be dealing with.)
A fundamental belief of corporate leaders (and a good many economic profs) is that greed is good. Yes. Greed is good because it's a reflection of nature. (So it is. So are murder and thievery and rape.) You see, if people are greedy, they will make a lot of money and then they will invest it to give us full employment and prosperity.
Sure. If that were true, consider. The rich have been piling up money while the rest of us get poorer for the last twenty or thirty years. It that theory were true, we should all be rolling in dough, now.
So, what do Christians think about the philosophy that greed and self-interest are good? Is that notion worth discussing in a religious context? Or do we go back to mumbling about how Jesus loves the little children?
Incidentally, George Bush signed a law, The Child Soldiers Prevention Act, to protect children from being made into child-soldiers. In Africa, children were being conscripted at elementary school age, trained to kill. (and the girls were also useful for raping.) The enforcement of the act was that no country doing such a thing would be eligible to receive American weapons. Okay. It wasn't a great step. But it was a step.
A few days ago, President Obama cancelled that in the case of certain countries - like Mali and Yemen. The word now is, "Go ahead. Conscript children. And here are some assault rifles for them." Of course, the story didn't make the TandT. It should have made it into a church for discussion. It's not just a traveller beaten and robbed and left on the roadside 2000 years ago who has these problems.
Guess how many wars the US has fought (not all of them official) since 1945. And it has been the aggressor in ALL of them. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the number is 200, and the dead are in uncounted millions, large numbers of them innocent, many children, babies...
Virtually all of them were fought for the interests of big money - getting resources, controlling trade, getting banking control... There are more of them, many more to come.
Would Jesus just yawn, and say, "Let's discuss something else."? What should a faith be concerned with, if not with mass murder and greed?
Why is the Harper government getting tough on First Nations? Why is he allowing leaks to the press that show them in a bad light? Why aren't our journalists digging a little bit to find out what all this is about?
The story is, or should be, obvious enough. Big business is making a huge assault on Canadian resources. That's what's behind a trade deal with China that gives Chinese investors a stranglehold that will exempt them from any change in environment regulations - even if it becomes evident that their operations are killing people.
The assault is on mining, on oil, on shale gas, and even on water. Oh, yes, fresh water is becoming a commodity all over the world, to be sold for private profit. The First Nations treaties and the First Nations people are in the way. They have to be destroyed. That's what this is all about.
That's what the oil piplines to Texas and the east coast are about. Make a fast buck. And damn the consequences.
I think that's kind of a moral issue. Don't you? Shouldn't it be discussed in church? Or is it more important to denounce gays and lesbians? Are mass murderers and plunderers a lesser problem than the gays and lesbians who flock to Crandall University looking for jobs?
We live in world in which big business and government have become one. (You can quote Mr. Irving on that from his statement that he was in coalition with the government. Think about that next time you're imeditating in the Irving Chapel.) Big business controls government, and is driven by greed. That has taken us into our present position of war without end, war that is actually creating the terrorists it is supposed to be fighting. (Terrorists are people on the other side who kill civilians. People on our side who kill civilians are called heroes.)
Coupled with that, the greedy ones want to make even more money by destroying (or at least cutting) medicare, cutting social programmes for the needy,cutting anything public no matter what the cost to the rest of us. Mr. Irving and his friends can advise New Brunswick on how to operate its economy.
Yeah. Like a wolf can advise a shepherd on how to care for his flock.
As if that weren't bad enough, the greedy ones are proving utterly incompetent in planning national economies, and even worse in planning foreign affairs. Millions have died. Millions more are going to die. Billions have suffered. Billions more are going to suffer. The invasions of Iraq and Libya, based on greed, are failures. Iraq is almost certain to collapse in a civil war. Libya is chaotic and ungovernable and is fueling a huge resistance in Moslem Africa. And we are all being pushed to the final war.
Why do the politicians let this happen? Well, some are greedy for a share of the pie. Some have no morality. Some are scared, or shut out. Some, a surprising number, are just dumb.
Why doesn't the general population react to all this? Well, where would the leadership come from? The private news media which are almost entirely owned by big business. From the education system? Hell, parents would demand that any teacher who told the truth be fired. That's why Canadian and American history as taught in the schools are mostly mythology. It's not the education system that causes that. It's us.
Should leadership come from the churches? Well, it should. Mass murder, greed that condemns billions to poverty, are surely issues that concern religious morality. The US was behind the murders of at least a quarter million Guatemalan civilians including clergy and a lay missionary from New Brunswick. The Canadian government didn't make a peep. So - did your church discuss the moral issues in this? Does your church even know about it?
It's made even worse in New Brunswick because of the fear of public discussion that permeates this province. There are no institutions that have the honesty or the courage to discuss what is happening. Rotary, other clubs, confine themselves to speakers pimping for an events centre, or wet their pants at a chance to hear from a big business leader, or create yet more halls of fame for people who don't in any way challenge their thinking. Unfortunately, that fear embraces even the churches.
Fear had no effect on what Jesus said or advocated. Too bad His church has not followed His example in this - as well as in other - respects.
Morality has largely disappeared in our conduct of affairs. We are facing dreadful trouble and suffering because of that. You ain't seen nothin' yet. We need a sense of morality to survive. We need to see our world in the context of the faith we claim to have. We need leadership to discuss that. But we're not getting it.
Instead, we get a Faith page with a bland and cutesy-poo sermonette, and one that doesn't recognize the existence of any faith except the Christian one in this town.
people of any faith - or even lack of it - should be concerned about it.