Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
I have been gobsmacked by suggestions from some people that there is some sort of moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas (the idea that they are both as bad as each other), or even worse, that the current conflict is Israel’s fault.
The present Palestinian people are Arabs, most of whom arrived in the area within the last two centuries. They are unrelated to the Philistines after whom the Roman and Turkish provinces were named.
In 1922 the League of Nations approved the British Mandate over the Turkish province of Palestine, including word for word the text of the Balfour Declaration, which affirmed the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land, and called for the setting up of an independent home state for the Jewish people.
Despite the fact that The British mandate was a tiny proportion of the land of the Middle East, and that it was surrounded by Arab states, the British allocated 70% of the mandate area to be a homeland for the region’s Arabs. This part of the mandate was called trans-Jordania, and then just Jordan.
In 1948 the UN partitioned the remaining area, allocating another third to be divided up between Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza strip). This left the Jews with 20% of the land of the Davidic kingdom of Israel and of the original mandate, all of which was to have been set aside as a homeland for them. The area left for Israel was the Jewish majority cities of Acre, Haifa, Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem, plus other smaller towns and the Negev Desert. This amounted to approximately one sixth of one percent of the land in the Middle East.
The Jews agreed to this arrangement, the Arabs did not. Surrounding Arab nations announced their intention to destroy any Jewish state, and urged resident Arabs to leave, promising they would be back in days, and able to take up not only their own homes and farms, but those of their Jewish neighbours.
The day after the new state of Israel was proclaimed, the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq attacked the tiny nation, whose land area is about the same size as Kangaroo Island. The first attached picture shows the direction of the invading armies. The day before, Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared “jihad”, a holy war. He said, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades”. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, “I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!” The second picture is of Al Husseini meeting with Hitler in Berlin in 1942 to discuss the implementation of the Final Solution.
By a miracle, the new state survived. The West Bank and the Gaza strip remained under the control of Jordan and Egypt. Another attack was made by Arab nations in 1967. Quotes from just two of the Arab leaders involved:
“We will not accept any … coexistence with Israel. … Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel …. The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.” – Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, May 28, 1967.
“The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map. We shall, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa.” – President Abdel Rahman Aref of Iraq, May 31, 1967
After the 1967 war Israel took control of the Golan Heights (Syria), Gaza Strip (Egypt) and the West Bank (Jordan), to give a buffer against further attacks. The next such attack took place 1973, on the holy day of Yom Kippur, when its massive and much more populous Arab neighbours again united to destroy it.
Israel is a very different place from the nations which surround it. Israeli law permits no discrimination on the basis of race. Arabs can be and are, members of the armed forces, police, the judiciary and parliament. By contrast, Jews are not permitted to reside in the West Bank (which is the traditional Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria), or in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. There is no discrimination in Israel on the basis of religion. There are mosques in most Israeli towns, and the Baha’i faith has its centre in Haifa in northern Israel. By contrast, just in the last few weeks, churches, some dating from before Muhammad, have been destroyed in Iraq, and Christians told to convert, leave or be killed. Members of other religious minorities have been subject to wholesale torture and murder. There is no discrimination in Israel on the basis of sexuality. Again, by contrast, a gay man in Saudi Arabia was sentenced this week to 450 lashes and three year’s imprisonment.
Some 850, 000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab nations following the establishment of the state of Israel, and their property seized. Those who were not murdered have been repatriated in Israel. A lesser number of Arabs left Israel in 1948, despite being asked to stay and help build the new country. Many of them and their descendants still live in refugee camps in Arab countries, who refuse to accept them as citizens, despite those countries’ much larger land areas and greater natural resources.
Hamas is the elected governing body in the Gaza strip. Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, with the promise from Palestinian authorities that giving up the land of Gaza and the West Bank would lead to lasting peace, it left solid infrastructure including roads, schools, hospitals and some 3,000 greenhouses which produced an abundance of fruit and vegetables.
Israel wanted and wants Gaza to succeed, and it could. It has some beautiful beaches. It could be the Ibiza, the Monaco of the Eastern Mediterranean. But Hamas’ purpose is not to govern. Its only purpose, according to its own charter, is to destroy Israel. The glasshouses were destroyed – remnants of the Zionist entity. Other infrastructure has been allowed to fall in to ruin.
Hamas has constructed over 1,000 tunnels under the border from Gaza into Israel, some several kilometres long, using child labour, and hundreds of tons of cement which could have been used for other construction. Those tunnels have only one purpose – to conduct terror attacks against schools, homes, farms. Since the beginning of this year, Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets into Israel. Israel is the about the same size as Kangaroo Island, or the city of Adelaide. Residents of some areas have less than fifteen seconds from the sounding of an alarm to get to shelter. How would residents of Adelaide respond to relentless attacks like that from an enemy sworn to their destruction? Hamas has broken every ceasefire in the latest conflict, firing rockets at schools, homes and shopping centres – on the first day after the last ceasefire, on average a rocket every ten minutes. Would you tolerate this? Even if the nearest shelter was 200 metres away, could you and your family run 200 metres in 15 seconds?
Israel is not perfect by any means. No nation is. It has had its share of injustices and poor policy decisions. But Israel’s response has consistently been to say that it is not at war with the Palestinian people and that it wants successful, prosperous and peaceful Palestinian neighbours. Never in the history of any conflict has one side treated the other with such care and consideration. Because Hamas has refused to spend money on infrastructure, almost all of Gaza’s electricity and water are supplied by Israel. Most of Gaza’s food and medical supplies also come from Israel – Egypt despises Hamas and long ago closed the southern border, meaning no trade or traffic from Egypt. On one typical day, 21st August, Israel transferred to Gaza 174 tons of natural gas, 548,093 litres of fuel, and 178 trucks of food medical and general supplies. On that day Hamas fired 68 rockets at civilian targets in Israel.
Hamas uses schools, hospitals, mosques and apartment blocks to fire rockets and mortars. Israel drops leaflets warning which locations are targets. Before any civilian location is fired upon, residents and workers are telephoned by Israel Defense Forces to warn them to leave the building, and finally buildings are door-knocked – a harmless percussion round is fired several minutes before to give people time to leave. Israel has shown over and over again that it does not wish to harm the Palestinian people, it simply wants to live in peace in its own borders. Israel has never tried to enlarge its territory. It has given up territory in return for promises of peace, promises which have never been kept.
You may have seen video of Hamas beating people trying to leave buildings which have received attack warnings. You may have seen video of Hamas dragging the headless bodies of suspected collaborators or members of Fatah through the streets of Gaza. You may have seen Hamas’ statements of support for ISIS, and vice-versa.
As Benyamin Netanyahu said: If the Arabs laid down their arms tomorrow, there would be no more war. If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no more Israel.
If you were Israel, what would you do?
A little article for our church newsletter:
Why do some Christians make the sign of the cross?
Many of the saints of the early Church talk about this practice. Here are quotes from just a few.
St Ephraim the Syrian:
Go not forth from the door of thy house till thou hast signed the cross. Whether in eating or in drinking, whether in sleeping or in waking, whether in thy house or on the road, or again in the season of leisure, neglect not this sign; for there is no guardian like it. It shall be unto thee as a wall, in the forefront of all thy doings. And teach this to thy children, that heedfully they be conformed to it.
St Cyril of Jerusalem:
Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it.
In every act we do, in every step we take, let our hand trace the Lord’s cross.
In other words, like American Express, don’t leave home without it!
We are not just spirit or body, but both, and we worship God, and express our faith in God not just in inner prayer, but in action. This is why we kneel or bow our heads for prayer, and stand to sing and for praise, and why we try to serve and care for others.
According to the early Church fathers, the sign of the cross is a public declaration of faith in Jesus, and it scares the heck out of the powers of darkness because it was on the cross that they were utterly defeated by the love and grace of God. It is also a reminder of our baptism, that we have died with Christ and are reborn in him, that our lives are His.
For many Christians, the sign of the cross is the first thing they do on awakening, with a heartfelt “Thank you Father!”
It is also appropriate at the absolution, when we remember that it is through Jesus’ sufferings on the cross that we receive forgiveness, at the blessing, because all God’s blessings come to us at the cost of the cross, when we think about the resurrection, because new life comes to us through Jesus’ giving of his life on the cross, and when we hear “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” because we see the nature of God the trinity most clearly when we see the cross.
Or any time at all, because for a Christian, the cross is crucial at every moment of life.
I am glad the muslim terrorist attack in Nairobi was so widely reported, even though the real horror of what happened was underplayed – the torture and mutilation of children, for example.
Perhaps this signals a change of heart in the mainstream media, and a willingness to acknowledge at last the reality of widespread jihadist terror – over 21,000 deadly attacks in the name Allah since 9/11, three murderous terror attacks very day.
But why did the even worse attack on a church in Pakistan the following day get almost no media coverage? And why the media silence about the ongoing wholesale murder and torture of Christians in Egypt and Syria?
From the Federalist:
The next day, two suicide bombs went off as Christians were leaving Sunday services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshipers, told the Associated Press. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
Some 85 Christians were slaughtered and 120 injured, the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan in history. The hospital ran out of beds for the injured and there weren’t enough caskets for the dead.
The situation for Christians in Egypt has also gone from bad to worse. August saw the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries. Sam Tadros, a Coptic Christian and author of Motherland Lost, says that there has been nothing like this year’s Muslim Brotherhood anti-Christian pogrom since 1321, when a similar wave of church burnings and persecution caused the decline of the Christian community in Egypt from nearly half of Egypt’s population to its current ten percent.
The violence of just three days in mid-August was staggering. Thirty-eight churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished. It was so bad that the Coptic Pope was in hiding, many Sunday services were canceled, and Christians stayed indoors, fearing for their lives. Six Christians were killed in the violence. Seven were kidnapped.
Maalula, Syria, is an ancient Christian town that has been so sheltered for 2,000 years that it’s one of only three villages where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Until September 7, when Islamist rebels attacked as part of the civil war ripping through the country.
An eyewitness to the murder of three Christians in Maalula—Mikhael Taalab, his cousin Antoun Taalab, and his grandson Sarkis el Zakhm—reported that the Islamists warned everyone present to convert to Islam. Sarkis answered clearly, Vatican news agency Fides reported: “I am a Christian and if you want to kill me because I am a Christian, do it.”
I am often horrified by the easy assumption of moral superiority made by people on the green/left side of politics.
It is as if they are so sure that they are intellectually and morally superior that it never occurs to them that they should actually check what the people they think they disagree with are actually saying, or planning, and why.
They live in a kind of bubble, where they only listen to one another. I guess they just think other people are stupid, or ignorant, or motivated by fear, or just evil, so why bother listening to them or trying find out why they think the way they do?
But Christians especially should resist this temptation to judge others, and to attribute evil motives to others, even politicians!
Most politicians, even those I disagree with, are decent people who want to make the world a better place. I wish some of them were better informed, or would work at implementing policies which actually work, instead those they simply think should work. But most of them are still good people.
This is a worthwhile thought: We are all capable of good and bad. To see or assume only the bad is cynicism; it is not fully human; and it is a condition of mind which the Christian is thus called to resist.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio briefly flickered through my mind as I was considering who might be elected Pope, but quickly flickered out again. He flickered in because of persistent rumours that he was runner–up in the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict. But the rumours were doubtful, while the factors weighing against him seemed decisive.
There were three.
Firstly, at 76, he is at the upper limit of what might be considered a likely age. Too old, I thought.
Second, he is a Jesuit. There has never before been a Jesuit Pope. That in itself is not a negative factor, but the recent behaviour of some Jesuits is. In the past the Society of Jesus has produced some of the Church’s greatest thinkers and missionaries. In recent years, in the Australia and the US at least, it has declined into a kind of PC knitting circle.
If you are not sure what I mean, pay a visit to the Jesuit website eurekastreet.com.au. You might as well be reading Crikey!, or the Melbourne Anglican. Just as with those outlets, you know in advance that the position taken on any social or political issue will be that of the Labor left/Greens. An organisation that offers an encomium on the virtues of Hugo Chavez, and quotes Bertolt Brecht while doing so, has lost any capacity for rational thought.
The Jesuits in South America may be different, but while a cardinal, Pope Francis made some worrying comments about the redistribution of wealth, comments which resemble the inane demands that people who have taken risks and worked hard all their lives to produce value for others have an obligation to ‘give something back’ to people who haven’t. Popes are not infallible on matters of economics, but they may be influential.
The third and decisive factor was that he has no experience in Rome. It seemed unlikely that someone would be elected as Bishop of Rome who has little familiarity with the city and its people. Even more important, given the wide publicity given to claims of a need to reform the Curia, it seemed unlikely that someone would be elected who has no detailed knowledge of the Curia and its functions. If there really is a need for reform, Pope Francis will be in the position of having to rely for advice on the very people in need of reformation.
Having said all that, it is important to point out that Pope Francis has a wider educational background than most of his predecessors; he has a Master’s degree in chemistry, and has taught psychology and literature. He has a reputation for prayerful faithfulness and unpretentious care for others. He has resisted the temptation to lapse into the cesspool of liberation theology, and has been courageous in his opposition to some of the policies and pronouncements of Argentina’s obstreperous leftist government. For example, a few months after current Argentinian President Kristina Kirchner’s husband (her predecessor) was elected in 2003, then Cardinal Bergoglio pointed out the damage done by the “exhibitionism and strident announcements” that had come to characterise Argentinian politics.
All this suggests intelligence, humility, strength and common sense.
Maybe the cardinals know better than me after all.
My latest for Quadrant Online:
One of the most interesting phenomena of the last weeks has been the enthusiasm with which media pundits who have previously expressed the opinion that the Church is dying and irrelevant have expounded upon the importance of the right person being elected to be the new Pope. Like liberal nuns and other anti-Catholics, most of these media persons (I decline to call them personalities) believe the world would be a much better place if someone was elected who had the same opinions they do.
Alas for them, it is likely, as Philippa Martyr has pointed out in her usual delightful style, that the next Pope will be a Catholic. Which means no gay marriage, no women priests, no abortions.
Going to Mass, trusting in Jesus, reading the Bible and the whole religious thing will still be a large part of what the Church is about. It might be interesting to spend some time talking about whether it is possible to identify exactly where any culture is less than healthy, by noting at which points its demands conflict with the teaching and practice of the Church. In our case, I suspect, in the areas of gender, sexuality, and ‘self-realisation.’ But instead I’ll stick with wondering who the next Pope might be.
We start with a potential field of all unmarried baptised adult male Catholics. Betting website paddypower.com offers odds of 666 to 1 on Richard Dawkins. You can also bet on Fr. Ted at 1,000 to 1 if you are absolutely determined to lose your money.
Read the rest at Quadrant.
On the anniversary of 9/11 two US embassies are attacked. One of your ambassadors is killed and his body dragged through the streets, and you are apologising because someone, somewhere, might have hurt muslim feelings?
The muslim world hates you. They see you as the enemy. Nothing you do will appease them. They will not rest until you are subjugated, dead, or convert to islam.
This is not your fault. For heaven’s sake, stop apologising.
According to several reports in the Arabic media, prominent Muslim clerics have begun to call for the demolition of Egypt’s Great Pyramids—or, in the words of Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i, those “symbols of paganism,” which Egypt’s Salafi party has long planned to cover with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids and accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”
This is a reference to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Amr bin al-As and his Arabian tribesmen, who invaded and conquered Egypt circa 641. Under al-As and subsequent Muslim rule, many Egyptian antiquities were destroyed as relics of infidelity. While most Western academics argue otherwise, according to early Muslim writers, the great Library of Alexandria itself—deemed a repository of pagan knowledge contradicting the Koran—was destroyed under bin al-As’s reign and in compliance with Caliph Omar’s command …
Currently, in what the International Criminal Court is describing as a possible “war crime,” Islamic fanatics are destroying the ancient heritage of the city of Timbuktu in Mali—all to Islam’s triumphant war cry, “Allahu Akbar!”
Of course the usual idiots will deny that muslim leaders really mean what they say, and accuse those think they do of being islamophobic.
But this would not be the first time muslims have attempted to destroy the pyramids. Al-Aziz Uthman, son of the absurdly lionised kurdish adventurer Saladin, tried in the twelfth century, and succeeded in removing many of the outer casing stones. He gave up. Dismantling the pyramids was too big a task. It might not be for a determined group of present day islamists.
I have had some doubts about the EDL – the English Defence League. But the more I hear from Tommy Robinson, the more I like him.
Some of the things to note in this video are his absolute rejection of racism, his pointing up of the double standards in policing and reporting of islamist protests (frequently violent) and any expression of any concern (no matter how mild) by ordinary people about islamism, and his statement that if we do not act now, despite the cost, future generations will never understand why we failed them.
It really is worth watching this video in full. Just ignore the poor sound quality at the beginning. It improves quickly.
An insightful and amusing article by Anthony Esolen on the banality of modern church music:
Why, when we have a trove of profound, beautiful, and poignant hymns, do we have to endure what is banal, clunky, and silly?
We have a rich treasury of hymn-poems to read, to sing, and to keep close to the heart. Some of them are almost as old as Christianity itself. They come from Latin and Greek, from our own English, from French and German and all the languages of Europe. Some were written by saintly divines with a fine ear for poetry: John Henry Newman (“Praise to the Holiest in the Height”), Charles Wesley (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”). Many were written by the great Dr. Isaac Watts, who set the psalms to English meter and rhyme. Some rose up from an anonymous lyricist among the folk: “What Wondrous Love Is This.” Some entered our language by the skill of great translators, like John Mason Neale and Catherine Winkworth. Some were the work of pious laymen who meditated upon Scripture all their lives: so the blind Fanny Crosby gives us “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” Just as many of our most beautiful melodies were written by the finest composers who ever lived—Bach, Handel, Haydn—so too many of our hymn lyrics were written by poets of some renown: George Herbert, Robert Bridges, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Milton.
So why, then, why do we have verse-by-numbers lyrics posing as real poems in our hymnals? Why, when we have such a trove of the great, the profound, the beautiful, the memorable, the poignant, the splendid, do we have to endure what is banal, clunky, clumsy, dull, vague, and silly?
Sometimes the very titles of the lyrics give them away. They are like the opening sentences of badly written freshman essays. You know the grade is a B-minus before you make it to the end of the paragraph. Let me give some examples from a recent publication:
Who is This Who Breaches Borders? I don’t know—check his passport. Can a border be breached, in English? A wall can be breached; you breach it by breaking it. But you can’t break a border; you can cross it, or trespass upon it. The next lines are worse: “And subverts the social orders, / Crossing chasms that divide.” Political slang, and an absurd redundancy at the end. What, doesn’t he cross all those other chasms that unite?
One of the commenters has it exactly right:
This is not about bad music – that’s the decoy. It’s about bad theology – an at best deistic world view, more likely a fairly Unitarian Universalist type human-centred absence of belief in the supernatural.