Sunday, April 3, 2016

April 3: Change of pace on a Sunday

The sermonette on yesterday's Faith page talks about the leading role Christianity  has played in bringing social equality to women.  I'm suprised that it didn't mention Pope Joan, the woman of 1200 years ago who pretended to be a man in order to be ordained as a priest. She eventually, it is said, became pope, but was found out when she had a spontaneous birth of a child during a church procession. (The story almost certainly isn't true. But the sermonette is - um - misleading, anyway.)

Certainly,  women of the time of Christ were profoundly repressed. That was true over most of the world. It was certainly true in Israel where they were subordinate to their husbands  They resembled today's women of the most orthodox forms of Islam. And that's scarcely surprising since Judaism and Islam have much in common, including their region of origin. To both groups, a woman was, as the writer says, more a possession than a person.
The writer goes on to point out that Jesus treated women with the same respect He had for men. He spread his teachings to them. Women were permitted to become His followers. He treated them as equals before God. Quite so -

--now, give me the name of a female disciple. Tell me the gospel of a woman disciple. Tell me about the women who were ordained in the church. Tell me about the women bishops and cardinals, the women elders who governed Protestant churches.

It took churches and synagogues some two thousand years to bring some sense of equality to their treatment of women. That's quite a lag. And it hasn't happened yet in many institutions. Commonly, orthodox Jewish women are still just property of their men. They don't even get to choose who they will marry.

Among more liberal Jews, female rabbis have just begun to appear.

In Protestant churches, the very concept of ordained women has been with us for less than a century, and really noticeable only in the past fifty years - and ordination of men still dominates.

Roman Catholics still live in pre-Pope Joan days.

It has taken the Christian churches 2000 years to get even to this point. Nor is there any evidence that the teaching of the churches played any role in the process. The change come from women who pioneered their own way into politics, professions such as medecine and law, and through unions - and did it before the churches had lifted a finger.

That's a problem wih our churches - and most of the Faith page. They talk a great game. But the rubber never hits the road.

And that takes us to the last sentence of the sermonette which can be used as a hint to the nature of the problem with our churches.

"As individuals and as churches, let us seek to live out the values of Christ in all our relationships, particularly in our relationships with women."

Why did it take us two thousand years to begin that? Why do we still not live out the values we claim to believe in, not just in equality for women, but in much, perhaps most, of our daily lives?

Why have we accepted an economic system rewards greed and punishes the majority who just never have the opportunity to benefit from greed. Why do we virtually guarantee that the children of the poor will remain poor and the children of the rich will become richer?

Why do we vote for political parties that have no principles whatever? (Why are we stuck with a newspaper that thinks constantly about money, and never about the needs of people?)

Why are the most honoured people in our society so often the ones who do the least for society while saving the most for themselves?

Why do we claim to believe that killing is wrong, but spent much of our time killing and selling weapons to other killers? Why is our closest ally the world's leading killer?

And that's where we come to the problem of our churches. "As individuals and as churches,  let us seek to live out the values of Christ......"   In most sermonettes I have read and most sermons I have heard, we seek such values only in the abstract, never in the real world. But the rubber never hits the road.

When did you last hear a sermon on the Canadian sale of armoured cars to Saudi Arabia? On the Canadian bombing of Libya, Iraq and Syria?  On the sending of Canadian troops to Afghanistan? On the morality  (or otherwise) of a political party? On the Christian values (or lack of them) in corporations?

Oh, I know. I know.  The church has no right to interfere in the state. But that's really a sloppy statement that misuses the word 'interfere' instead of the correct 'dictate'.

I pass lightly over the fact that billionaires have no right to dictate to the state, either.  But we let them do it all the time. However, it's true that churches (and billionaires) have no right to dictate to the state. And I'm not suggesting that churches should  dictate to anybody. State decisions have to (or should) reflect the wishes of the voting public. But churches have the right and the responsibility  to encourage thought and discussion of moral values that are involved in the decisions of the public.

To take an extreme example, if a party were to run for election on a platform of murdering all homeless people,  a church should surely discuss how its  moral values relate to that issue. We badly need moral guides for our directions in health care, education, war, homelessness, poverty....

These are not interferences. Just as the news media should (but don't) provide us with essential information in our political thinking regarding voting, churches should (but don't)  encourage us to think about our (supposed) moral thinking.
Instead, both our news media and our churches keep us in ignorance - one in ignorance of what's happening, and the other in ignorance of how our moral values are reflected (or not) in  our world. Together, the two have pushed us to act in conformity with the status quo, and to go downhill from there.

Together, they encourage us to  conform, to be respectable. And respectable means thinking what everybody else does and doing what everybody else does. In 1930s Germany, Naziis were very respectable (and church-going).

As the   writer of the sermonette says, when Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath, he was attacked for 'working' on the Sabbath. Jesus was not respectable in  his world.  He wouldn't be respectable in our world, either. We shouldn't be respectable, either. That's not what church was supposed to be about.

Respectable - to stand outside the Dumont hospital holding up signs to protest against abortion.

Unrespectable - to protest against the murder by starvation and bombs of babies in the middle east.
A reader sent me the item below. It's a VERY important one.
And here's another CBC story that the Irving press will feel is unsuitable for publication.
Here's another site I've only recently learned about. This is a useful item on the propaganda game.

I don't know what to  make of this site yet. I shall have to read a good deal more to get a sense of what it is all about. For example, it has a story that Saudi Arabia has used a "tactical" nuclear bomb in Yemen. (This is a nuclear device of much less power than the strategic ones. It can be used to destroyed deep, underground positions or relatively small areas.) This is possible; the Saudis could have bought it from Israel which could have it because it is a type useful against neighbouring countries. And there are alliances within alliances in the region.. So an Israeli-Saudi link is possible. But I would like to know more about countercurrents before I can feel some trust in it.
The following is a quite gruesome account of what modern war is like. It's about the American attack on the city of Fallujah in Iraq, a city which received special attention as a centre of opposition to the invasion. The photos are the ones our news media didn't publish.
And this opinion, I very much fear, is right. Israel is the product of centuries of bigotry and abuse by most of the Christian world. And it's not an attractive product. There could be room for a sermonette on that.
And this one is - different. It caught my attention because the parents of many of my Jewish friends in Montreal got their start in the clothing industry (the 'Schmata' trade). It's a vile trade. But they got caught up in it because most employers of the time discriminated against Jews. In the depression years, their mothers had worked at home all day and often into the evening to sew shirts for  the T.Eaton Department stores. Their pay might be a couple of dollars a week.  (In Toronto, there's a very big and expensive church named after Mr. Eaton.)

In New York,  women in the schmata trade commonly worked in high rise factories where the doors were locked to make sure employees didn't take any time off. In a fire, dozens were killed jumping out of upper storey windows.
Now, we send the jobs out to third world countries where the pay is lower and the conditions worse. That's where Joe Fresh comes from.

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