Friday, March 30, 2007

Thoughts following the Quebec elections

In his 2003 Book “Fire and Ice”, Michael Adams reported his research into the changes in social values in North America over recent decades. He reported that Canada in general and Quebec in particular were moving in the direction of post-modernism, while the United States was moving in a different direction. Among the values he charted in the post-modern sector were adaptability to complexity, global consciousness, flexible gender identity, flexible families, and à la carte religion. The popular vote in the recent election in Quebec suggests that the trend tracked by Adams may be somewhat in reverse. There is certainly a move to the right politically, and the campaign had included references to homosexuality, immigration and “reasonable accommodation”.

Although our key concern in Anglicans Really Alive connects to questions around inclusiveness and diversity in the church, together with the place of scholarship and learning in the process of interpreting our scriptures, I believe we must widen that concern to include diversity and inclusiveness in society. We need to bear witness to the possibility of a different way of being society as well as to a different way of being the church.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail:

suggests that the shift in values is also to be seen in the field of intellectual endeavor. It is interesting to note that what is hinted at here is a cause common to Roman Catholicism, Christian fundamentalism and similar sentiments within the diversity if Islam. When I was ordained to the ministry nearly fourty years ago, I assumed that the battle for a Christianity which could take on board scientific knowledge had been largely won. All that was needed were a few mopping up operations. I guess I was way too optimistic. The struggle of the Church to embrace what Marcus Borg calls the new paradigm needs all our effort to support it. The success of the struggle for a new paradigm in society needs even more effort.


Earl said...

Yes, we see evidence more and more from the highest "authorities" promoting closer links between state politics and Christian fundementalism, e.g., Bush et al. The latest volley to come across my computer screen is a recent news release from Pope Benedit XVI who is insisting that his version of Christianity be represented at the table of European political discussions as Europe was basically founded by the Christian religion. No mention, of course is made of the historical contribution of Islam or to the sizable minority of Muslims now living in Europe. Here is the text:EUROPE MUST NOT FORGET THE IDENTITY OF ITS PEOPLE

VATICAN CITY, MAR 24, 2007 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today received cardinals, bishops, parliamentarians and other participants in a congress promoted by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). The event is being held to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957.

The Pope recalled how over these fifty years the continent has travelled a long journey leading "to the reconciliation of the two 'lungs,' East and West, joined by a shared history and arbitrarily separated by a curtain of injustice." And he referred to the search, "still painstakingly underway, for an adequate institutional structure for the European Union, which ... aspires to be a global player."

Benedict XVI noted how Europe has sought to conciliate "the economic and social dimensions through policies aimed at producing wealth, ... yet without overlooking the legitimate expectations of the poor and marginalized. However, in demographic terms, it must unfortunately be noted that Europe seems set on a path that could lead to its exit from history."

"It could almost be imagined that the European continent is actually losing faith in its own future," said the Holy Father, and he recalled how in some fields such as "respect for the environment" or "access to energy resources and investments, solidarity finds scant incentives, in both the international and the national fields." Moreover, "the process of European unification is clearly not shared by everyone," because "various 'chapters' of the European project were 'written' without taking adequate account of the wishes of citizens.

"What emerges from all this," he added, "is that it is unthinkable to create an authentic 'common European home' while ignoring the identity of the people of our continent. ... An identity that is historical, cultural and moral, more even than geographical, economic or political; an identity made up of a collection of universal values which Christianity contributed to creating, thus acquiring a role that is not only historical but foundational for the continent of Europe."

"If, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the governments of the EU wish to 'get closer' to their citizens, how can they exclude such an essential element of European identity as Christianity, in which a vast majority of that people continue to identify themselves? Is it not surprising that modern Europe, while seeking to present itself as a community of values, seems ever more frequently to question the very existence of universal and absolute values? And does this singular form of 'apostasy' - from oneself even more than from God - not perhaps induce Europe to doubt its own identity?

"In this way," he added, "we end up by spreading the conviction that the 'balance of interests' is the only way to moral discernment, and that the common good is a synonym of compromise. In reality, although compromise can be a legitimate balance between varying individual interests," it is bad "whenever it leads to agreements that harm the nature of man."

"For this reason it is becoming ever more indispensable for Europe to avoid the pragmatic approach, so widespread today, that systematically justifies compromise on essential human values, as if the acceptance of a supposedly lesser evil were inevitable. ... When such pragmatism involves laical and relativist trends and tendencies, Christians end up being denied the right to participate as Christians in public debate or, at the least, their contribution is disqualified with the accusation of seeking to protect unjustified privileges."

Benedict XVI went on to affirm that at this moment in history the European Union, "in order to be a valid guarantor of the State of law and an effective promoter of universal values, must clearly recognize the definite existence of a stable and permanent human nature." This nature is "the source of rights shared by all individuals, including the very people who seek to deny them. In such a context protection must be afforded to conscientious objection" in cases where "fundamental human rights are violated."

"I know how difficult it is for Christians to defend this truth. ... But do not tire and do not be discouraged! You know your task is to contribute to building, with God's help, a new Europe, realistic but not cynical, rich in ideals and free of naive illusions, inspired by the perennial and life-giving truth of the Gospel."


earl said...

excuse the spelling mistakes - computers u no!!!

Earl said...

There is more on this topic in Jane Kramer's excellent Profile on Pope Benedit XVI in this week's New Yorker. Here is the abstract:
Letter from Europe
The Pope and Islam
Is there anything that Benedict XVI would like to discuss?
by Jane Kramer April 2, 2007
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Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a. Joseph Ratzinger);
Catholics, Catholicism;
The University of Regensburg;
Prophet Muhammad;
LETTER FROM EUROPE about Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican’s relationship with Islam. It should come as no surprise that the Vatican and Islam are not getting along, or that their problems began long before Pope Benedict XVI made his unfortunate reference to the Prophet Muhammad, in a speech at the University of Regensburg last September. It’s well known that Benedict wants to purify the Church, to make it more definitively Christian. He is the first prominent theologian to sit on Peter’s throne since the 18th century, and his dismissive views on Islam haven’t changed much since he left Germany for the Vatican, 26 years ago. He is also the first Pope to develop an active theological policy toward Islam. Mentions Daniel Madigan. Describes Benedict’s reference at Regensburg to an anti-Islam quote by Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus. Within a day of the speech, riots and protests had broken out across the Muslim world. In Europe, young Muslims took to the streets, calling for the Pope’s death. Mentions Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, the document Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), and the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Vatican II council was meant to open the Church to the world, but it sparked a conservative backlash. Mentions Pope Paul VI. Describes the differences between Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II (a.k.a. Karol Wojtyla). Describes two big prayer gatherings, Assisi I and II; in Assisi I, the various religions prayed together, but in Assisi II, they prayed beside one another. Mentions scholar Alberto Melloni. In today’s Vatican, “cultural dialogue” is a code for relations with religions that, by Benedict’s definition, can’t sustain a theological relationship with Catholicism. Some Muslim ambassadors to the Holy See agree with Benedict that Catholicism and Islam can’t sustain a dialogue. Mentions Muhammad Javad Faridzadeh. Benedict, who is nearly 80, has set two goals for his papacy. His first goal is reinvigorating what he sees as Christianity’s nonnegotiable moral precepts and reconciling the Eastern and Western Churches. Describes the significance of Benedict’s trip to Turkey. Benedict’s second goal is reciprocity with Islam. He wants to restore to Christian minorities in Muslim countries the same freedom of religion that Muslims enjoy in the West. Benedict clearly thinks that the West has been self-destructively shortsighted in its concessions to the Islamic diaspora. Feisel Abdul Rauf believes the real enemy for Benedict isn’t Islam, it’s the secular West. The Muslim anthropologist Talal Asad finds Benedict’s distinction between theological and cultural dialogue bewildering. Daniel Madigan argues that there’s really no way to separate theological and cultural exchange. The trouble with the Pope’s “no” to theological dialogue isn’t simply its dismissal of Islam; it’s what that dismissal says about Christianity.

Jane Kramer, "The Pope and Islam," The New Yorker, April 2, 2007, p. 58

Here is the url: