Some flags are more equal than others

As I mentioned here, for a brief period during the Ottawa March for Life, the March for Life flag fluttered valiantly atop the City Hall – until someone complained, prompting an embarrassed mayor to reassert his pro-abortion credentials and have it removed.

There is a good article defending flying the flag in the National Post.

Here is another article by Rev. Robert Lyon on selective flag flying.

Received via email:

Last Wednesday’s edition of The Record announced that all Waterloo Region public schools will fly the “pride” flag throughout June to mark “Pride Month”.  The Record quotes Board rep Nick Manning as saying that the Board wants to ensure that “public schools remain a welcoming place for everyone.”

“Welcoming” – and also “safe” – are indeed what schools should be.  Every person in a civil society, including those we disagree with, should be able to conduct his or her life without giving or receiving unkindness or abuse.  But Waterloo Region DSB’s “Pride Month” decision is hypocritical. Which makes it also unkind and abusive.

This is the same school board that decided the Gideons could no longer distribute New Testaments in the schools.  The “Pride Month” flag proclaims a particular value system to all and sundry, including those who find it offensive.  The Gideons, on the other hand, who also have a lawful value system to proclaim, sought to avoid giving offense by distributing their Testaments only to students who, with parental permission, would have requested them.  But for the Waterloo Board, even that wasn’t good enough.

The Board’s unequal treatment of these two special interest groups is flagrant.  The Region’s public schools are not “a welcoming place for everyone” – not, at least, for Christians, unless they keep their mouths shut.

“…it’s small acts like this,” Mr Manning said, “that will transform our community.”  They certainly will.  But it’s clear that the Board does not want truly authentic inclusivity.

Let’s suppose, for example, that Christians in Waterloo Region were to declare a “Jesus Month” to promote virtuous and pious living.  Would the Board fly our flag?  Orwell was right: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

So what’s to be done about it?  In his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul sends greetings from the brethren in Rome, significantly including “especially those of Caesar’s household.” Even on the staff of the imperial palace there were some who had become obedient to the Faith.  When Tertullian wrote to the Roman Senate a century and a half later, he noted that Christians had infiltrated every aspect of the life of the Empire: the towns, the country, the marketplace, the army, the courts – “and we have left to you only the temples of your gods.”  Where today are the bold, vocal Christians on our city councils and our school boards?

Pastors:  It’s time to encourage informed and capable Christians to run for public office, and for your congregations to support their candidacies.

Anglican theologian declares “Life of Brian” is a heavily disguised tribute to the life of Jesus

One Britain’s most respected Anglican theologians (who respects Anglican theologians these days? Answer: other Anglican theologians) has decided that Monty Python’s Life of Brian is not blasphemous but a tribute to Jesus, thus confirming what most of us already know: it really is blasphemous – funny, perhaps but still blasphemous.

From here:

It was once denounced as blasphemous and an insult to Christians, but Monday one of Britain’s most respected theologians insisted that Monty Python’s Life of Brian is in fact a “remarkable tribute to the life of Jesus”.

The Rev. Prof. Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London, said that Christians who called for the satire to be banned after its release in 1979 were “embarrassingly” ill-informed and missed a major opportunity to promote the Christian message.

[…..]

He added: “They were satirizing closed minds, they were satirizing fundamentalism and persecution of others and at the same time saying the one person who rises above all this was Jesus … and I think that the Church missed that.”

Satirising fundamentalism is de rigueur for Anglican theologians – I suspect there is a non-optional course on it in seminary – but only Christian fundamentalism. Neither Anglican theologians – a congenitally poltroonish bunch at the best of times – nor Monty Python have the temerity to mock Islamic fundamentalism:

During his Monty Python days he poked fun at everyone from the Establishment to Christianity.

But thanks to the threat of ‘heavily armed’ fanatics, Michael Palin has admitted there is one comedy taboo he is too scared to break- Islam.

Christianity replaced by “spiritual animators” in Quebec schools

What are “spiritual animators”, you may be wondering: Cartooning nuns? Creators of pious zombies? Bishops attempting to resuscitate the Anglican Church of Canada? None of the aforementioned; they are what you are left with when you eradicate Christianity from the schools.

Read it all here:

Catholic and Protestant instruction was removed from Quebec schools more than 15 years ago but nuns and priests are now replaced by “spiritual community animators,” some of whom lead students in meditation and rhythmic breathing sessions.

[….]

QUEBEC “SPIRITUAL LIFE” GUIDELINES (SELECTED)
– To find one’s inner source, the thirst for life
– Situate one’s life in relation to time, space and the absolute
– Become familiar with interiority, silence and meditation
– To be aware of one’s inner life, one’s spiritual dimension

– Seek the meaning of life through others … “through nature, science, etc.”

QUEBEC RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY GUILDELINES
– Spiritual animators “serve as a defence against indoctrination and fundamentalist thinking”
– Religious activities are “not organized very often” and only in “exceptional” circumstances”
– Must have “educational usefulness”
– Religious activities can’t “impose ideas and practices” on students
– Can’t present a belief as “superior to another or necessary for self-fulfilment”
– Cannot be a “structured program whose specific goal is to develop a faith”

Christian youth pastors banned from a school

The deliberate expunging of Christianity from public life in the US has reached the point where the mere presence of Christian pastors in a school is regarded as “pretty dangerous”. I am quite sure that if Richard Dawkins showed up “just there to be there” he would have been welcomed with open arms, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t appear anywhere without intending to proselytise his disbelief in anything that might help people lead decent lives.

When we were in our former location, St. Hilda’s youth pastor used to visit the local high school to chat with the students; the staff were happy to have him there.  Canada, it seems, hasn’t yet reached the level of anti-Christian bigotry prevalent in the US.

From here:

Three volunteer Christian youth pastors have been temporarily banned from a Washington state middle school after parents heard from students that the three were proselytizing during lunch.

KIROTV.com reports the Bainbridge Island School District has hired an outside contractor to conduct a “fact-finding” mission into the allegations concerning the three volunteer cafeteria supervisors.

“We can’t ignore this. There are just too many serious issues to consider here,” board president Mike Spence told KomoNews.com. “That’s pretty dangerous. It’s a pretty slippery slope I guess I would say.”

Meanwhile, one of the volunteers denied the allegations.

“The only time church may have come in is when they say, ‘What do you do?’ my response is, ‘I’m a youth pastor.’ Even sometimes say I’m a leader because most of the kids don’t know what a youth pastor is,” said Danny Smith.

“I don’t wanna defend myself, I want to defend my motives. It’s not about me, it’s about why I’m there. It’s not for evangelizing and it’s not for proselytizing or recruiting, but it’s just there to be there.”

Coming soon to a church near you: Erotic Justice

The Anglican Church of Canada tirelessly proclaims its gospel of social justice. In reality, however, the Canadian Anglican Church is rapidly progressing – or regressing, depending on one’s perspective – from social justice to erotic justice. The term has not been adopted by any Anglican dioceses yet but – it’s coming. I expect the Diocese of New Westminster will be the first with its lapdog, Niagara, eagerly following.

Marvin M. Ellison, a gay Professor of Christian Ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary, has written a number of books on the subject, one of which is entitled Erotic Justice. In the book, he argues that sexual expression should be liberated from “frameworks of control” like marriage: eroticism is a good in and of itself. Sexuality, he says, has become intertwined with ableism (yes there is such a thing), racism, sexism and heterosexism. It’s all Christianity’s fault, of course, so because of its “sex-negativity and moralistic, controlling bent with respect to sexual expression, traditional Christian teachings must be critiqued”

Well, you get the picture: sex with anyone or anything in any combination is intrinsically good. When I was growing up in the 60s I remember this concept well; except it wasn’t tarted up with bogus theological justifications. We called it screwing around.

An inclusive Hell

Jean-Paul Sartre reckoned that hell is other people. In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis’s Episcopal Ghost, who delights in conversation as long as we are free to interpret words in our own way, is eager to return to the hell in which he doesn’t believe in order to present a paper to Hell’s Theological Society. Dante’s understanding of Hell, even though it precedes the former interpretations, is quite in tune with our zeitgeist: it is diverse and inclusive. Today’s clerics would feel quite at home there.

From, of all places, the BBC:

Hell is diverse
The modern cartoon image of Hell, with flames and pitchforks for everyone, is tragically bland compared with medieval depictions. This modern version is probably the legacy of Milton, who in Paradise Lost describes hell as “one great furnace” whose flames offer “no light, but rather darkness visible”. Then again, he is setting it in the time of Adam and Eve when its only population is demons, so even his Hell might have livened up a bit later. In the medieval hell explored by Dante and painted by Hieronymus Bosch, punishments are as varied as sin itself, each one shaped to fit the sin punished. In Dante, sewers of discord are cut to pieces, those who take their own lives are condemned to live as mere trees, flatterers swim in a stream of excrement, and a traitor spends eternity having his head eaten by the man he betrayed. In Bosch, one man has a harp strung through his flesh while another is forced to marry a pig in a nun’s wimple, and other people are excreted by monsters. This Hell is not a fixed penalty, but the fruition of bad choices made during our lives

How seeker friendly churches looked in the 16th Century

A few years ago, I visited the monasteries of Meteora in Greece. The Great Meteoron monastery is the largest and oldest and was established around 1340 by St. Athanasios Meteorites.

The Great Meteoron monastary has impressive 16th Century frescoes decorating the narthex – the area where the unbaptized had to wait while Communion was taking place in the sanctuary. To edify the newcomers, the frescoes depict not only notable events in Christ’s life such as his Resurrection, but the gruesome deaths of early Christian martyrs. Rather than a cheery church greeter, the 16th Century seeker was assaulted by images of people being skinned, roasted and having appendages, intestines, eyes and just about anything else that we usually consider permanently attached, removed. The idea was not only to create an indelible impression of the sacrifices made by those who founded the church, but that the neophyte should count the cost before making a rash decision.

The odd thing is, the tactic was more successful than our contemporary mania of making the church so doctrinally malleable, so comfortable with secular culture, that its members can do and believe almost anything without so much as an ecclesiastical eyebrow being raised.

And, just as bad, so can the clergy.

Back to Church Sunday reaches out to guys – BYOG

Bring your own gun.

From here:

In an effort to increase membership, a number of U.S. churches — including the Church of Christ congregation in this rural village 30 miles north of Columbus — are offering an unconventional public service: Concealed weapons training.

“Church has done a good job with coffee klatsches or whatever, but we haven’t really reached out to guys,” said Jeff Copley, a preacher at the church. “And guys in Morrow Country, they shoot and they hunt.”

Hundreds of students have enrolled in the 10-hour course, which meets the state requirements for earning a concealed weapons permit. The training includes two hours on a church member’s private shooting range.

“I grew up going to church, but hadn’t attended in a number of years,” said David Freeman, 52, a local engineering manager who attended a firearm safety class at the church. “Always considered myself a Christian. I came for the gun classes and have been coming back for two years.”

Unsurprisingly, the National Council of Churches disapproves, making the whole enterprise seem much more appealing:

[T]he National Council of Churches of Christ, which represents about 100,000 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and Evangelical churches comprising 45 million members nationwide, endorsed strict gun control in a 2010 position paper.

Conceding the need for an armed police force, the council wrote that “to allow assault weapons in the hands of the general public can scarcely be justified on Christian grounds. The stark reality is that such weapons end up taking more lives than they defend, and the reckless sale or use of these weapons refutes the gospel’s prohibition against violence.”

Is carrying a gun with the intent to defend oneself and family contrary to Christian principles? If it isn’t, is there any reason that a church should not hold classes to teach people how to do it properly?

If it is contrary to Christianity to defend oneself, then outright pacifism might be the only coherent response.

Of course, Anglican clergy would have little hesitation resorting to the ruse employed by 19-20th Century homosexual satirist and pacifist, Lytton Strachey who, when asked: “If a German soldier tried to rape your sister, what would you do”, replied: “I would try to interpose my own body.”

How to sell pizza: aggravate Christians

I really have no idea why the Chapel Bar and Bistro in New Zealand thinks this is a good idea, but they have decided that the best way to advertise their booze and pizza is to show Jesus and Mary in bed together – to keep it relevant, there is a box of half eaten pizza under the bed.

Christians will probably just ignore the advertisement: mainly because isn’t true, it’s a really stupid way to sell pizza and, for those who care to listen, there are scary warnings not to do this kind of thing.

Now, if this had been a representation of Mohammed in bed with the nine year old Aisha, it would have been quite accurate – although still not a particularly effective incentive to buy pizza. I wonder if representing Mohammed as a paedophile would have resulted in outraged Muslims breaking windows, setting things of fire and threatening to behead anyone who has the effrontery to insult their alleged prophet by drawing attention to something that he actually did?

And how long would it take for Obama to apologise for the ad?

Jesus in school

When I was in high school I was an atheist. I confess that it was a bit of an affectation; I hadn’t thought through all the consequences of my belief, but I had read a number of Jean-Paul Sartre’s books – to my mother’s consternation – and discovered that amorality is a logical result of atheism. If I was an atheist, I could do as I pleased; to a hormonally dominated 16-year old, that seemed like a good arrangement.

A few years later in university, my mathematics tutor asked me why I had such dreadful marks and why didn’t I feel guilty using taxpayer money to go to parties, get drunk and chase girls rather than study. “Well”, I said, “I agree with Dostoyevsky: if God does not exist, everything is permitted”. He stared blankly past my head and suggested I see my home tutor for further counselling. I never did.

But back to high school. The teacher I liked was an atheist. He was well-read, interesting and, so I thought at the time, unencumbered by the trivial niceties that prevented lesser teachers from showering blows of withering sarcasm down upon those with whom he disagreed. He introduced me to Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Camus, Joseph Heller, Huxley, Orwell and Dostoyevsky among others – and to the delights of mathematics. The professional Christian on staff, hired to teach Religious Instruction, was unconvincing and timid; consequently, he was teased mercilessly. He was, I thought, an excellent advertisement for the benefits of my newly acquired atheism.

There was a rather disagreeable lad in my class who received what my atheist teacher mockingly called a “visitation”; he became a born-again Christian. Regrettably, that didn’t make him, by my reckoning at least, any less irritating, pompous and noisily self-righteous. I will mention no names but the individual I have in mind had orange hair: you know who you are, Langley.

All this makes me wonder about the kid wearing the Jesus t-shirt. I fully support his right to free speech; I just hope he is not the Langley of Forest Heights.

From here:

“He will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic — good old-fashioned academics,” he said, waving a New Testament bible. “When they’re having forums, when they’re having other extra-curricular activity, he will not attend that school.”

Students said William Swinimer has been preaching and making them feel uncomfortable, and the shirt was the last straw so they complained.

“He’s told kids they’ll burn in hell if they don’t confess themselves to Jesus,” student Riley Gibb-Smith said.

Katelyn Hiltz, student council vice-president, agreed the controversy didn’t begin with the T-shirt.

“It started with him preaching his religion to kids and then telling them to go to hell. A lot of kids don’t want to deal with this anymore,” she said.