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A couple of instances of Christianity in the world around us

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — anointing Brazilian strong-man Bolsonaro, and hymn singing in Hong Kong ]
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Religious behavior in general fascinates me — but when it affects politics, people often don’t realize what powerful motivation it can provide.

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Religion can be coercive, as in the anointing of Bolsonaro [at approx 3.50]–

Remember the laying on of hands over Donald Trump? The overarching authority of religion has Trump bow his head, but sets Bolsonaro on his knees! —

— and religion can be liberating —

— That’s a crowd of protesters in Hong Kong singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”.

Remarkable.

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From Reuters in June:

Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ an unlikely anthem of Hong Kong protests

For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council, and at marches and even at tense stand-offs with the police.

It started with a group of Christian students who sang several religious songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10 percent of Hong Kong people are Christian.

“This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students

The hymn is simple, optimistic yet adds a touch of solemnity and calm to the proceedings, and also affords some legal protection to the protesters —

The students sang the songs in the hope of providing a cover of legitimacy for the protest. Religious gatherings can be held without a permit in the financial hub.

“As religious assemblies were exempt, it could protect the protesters. It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Chow said.

The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.

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Between the anointing of a dictator and the hymn singing of a crowd of protesters demanding democratic freedoms from the Chinese state, we have quite an instructive confluence of ways in which religion can enter the public square.

No doubt there are others. In Nepal, there’s the tantric cultus of the goddess Kubjikaa. What’s religion up to in your neck of the woods?

Invisibility, Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, and the goddess Kubjikaa

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — it’s like a waterfall ]
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It’s like a waterfall: you stumble on an idea that comes from the mouth of Doug Coe, describing the principle behind the influence of The Family, of which he was the long-time leader —

— and it turns out the same principle is referenced in an article on surveillance in Defense One

— only to re-emerge in Dr Mark SG Dyczkowski‘s work on the tradition, philosophy and practice of the goddess Kubjikaa.

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There’s clearly a principle at work here that could find application in many fields, contexts, silos — and the concatenation of such instances is itself a demonstration of the value of silo-breaking thinking.

FWIW, I wouldn’t have so much as heard of the Goddess Kubjikaa were it not for my half-century friendship with Mark Dyczkowski, to whom I owe so much, and into the waters of whose scholarship so deep I have dipped no more than a toe.

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A DoubleTweet in which two religious icons confront urban decay

Monday, August 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I spend a fair amount of time showing the ways in which religious extremism across many religions results in violence — it’s my pleasure here to show how simple religious devotion can have a positive impact ]
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This is a very simple example of one positive aspect of religions, plural:

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BTW, anyone who wonders whether Twitter can be worthwhile might take a look at this exchange between scholars of religion, as an example of the simple notion that two minds are better than one.

In this case, I’m grateful both to Judy Silber, who posted How a Buddhist shrine transformed a neighborhood in Oakland, and to Andrew Chesnut, aka Dr. Death & Divinity, for his quick and profound reponse to my original tweet.

Border crossing: Mexican folk religion, meet American pop culture

Monday, August 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — this should really be a Sunday Surprise, but you probably won’t see it till Monday, so why not wait and post it in the morning? ]
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A DoubleTweet killer: The Mexican cult of the skeletal sacred, Mictecacihuatl or Santa Muerte depending what century you’re looking at:

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Saint Death, to whom one might pray, or Holy Death, which one might pray for, with an implied positive afterlife — Santa Muerte can be translated, or understood, either way, or perhaps better, both.

The idea that that Titanic ending love-image can be translated into a muerte santa tableau illustrates the imaginative power of the santissima muerte tradition — liebestod, lovedeath, if you love Wagner — or in Hilaire Belloc‘s version of Tristan and Isolde:

My lords, if you would hear a high tale of love and of death, here is that of Tristan and Queen Iseult; how to their full joy, but to their sorrow also, they loved each other, and how at last they died of that love together upon one day; she by him and he by her.

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Wagner, Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, sung by the impressive Nina Stemme, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by (I believe) my nephew Daniel Harding:

The Hayden-Furnish Matter

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — opening a discussion of two tweets and the place of New Testament theology in political praxis ]
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Gen Michael Hayden:

Dr Timothy Furnish:

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It seems to me that Tim Furnish‘s response to Gen Hayden opens up one of the few truly central questions of our times — maybe in fact The Key Question for holders of western culture and values.

I take it that this question is in fact a koan — strictly unanswerable, yet livable, lively.

Zen koans are the equivalent of case law. In what follows, I shall offer some precedents that may be of use as we consider the case that Tim Furnish sets before us.

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First, I would like to offer two notions from New Testament studies which may be of help here.

The Kerygma:

Following the scholar CH Dodd, Wikipedia defines the kerygma thus:

  • The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets.
  • This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel.
  • The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
  • The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
  • An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

if that’s the Foreign, what’s the Domestic Policy?

The Acts of Corporal Mercy:

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. .. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Gospel of Matthew 25 vv. 35-36, 40.

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Michael Lotus gave me an exemplary comment with permission to quote it the other day:

As to binaries, lawyers, judges and legislators do not get to spend unlimited time dealing with the ultimately unique nature of each person, each event, each controversy. They have to determine when government power will be applied to compel behavior, to extract money, to seize and bind and carry away persons against their will, to imprison, to put to to death. They have over millennia determined that clear, simple rules are the best way to use this blunt and often brutal, but essential, instrument. Then they have to apply rules to actual cases. Clarity, certainty, and the ability to plan accurately based on known rules, is critical. And inevitably there will be, or seem to be, unfairness in the application, and hard cases, and heart-breaking cases. Attempts to deal with many nuances lead to a thicket of confused rules, lack of guidance for action, and even more arbitrary application of the same unavoidable application of government power. Large and complex human groups cannot be governed otherwise than by general rules of general application. Some balance between hard-and-fast rules tempered by some degree of judicial discretion is where most reasonably fair systems end up, and that is what we have. But the basic fact of binary division is inevatable in the law. Do we hang this man or not? Is this or is this not the type of property subject to this set of rules? Is this man entitled to a deduction on his tax or not? Etc., etc. The law is at best a very crude approximation of the ideal of justice which we can imagine even in human terms if we lived in a a less defective world than the real one. And of course our poor, merely human law, even at its best. falls bitterly, laughably short of that perfect justice that God alone can comprehend and impose. It is one of the many tragedies of the human condition, deriving ultimately from original sin.

Much food for thought there..

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I’m a Brit, and a guest here in these United States. Here, accordingly, are some materials of British origin:

Think of the British coronation service, a Eucharist with anointing, and these words proffered to the King or Queen by the presiding Archbishop:

Receive the Rod of equity and mercy.
Be so merciful
that you be not too remiss,
so execute justice
that you forget not mercy.
Punish the wicked,
protect and cherish the just,
and lead your people
in the way wherein they should go.

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Sir Thomas More, in Robert Bolt‘s play, A Man for All Seasons:

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down–and you’re just the man to do it–d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes. I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

According to a Harvard Crimson article:

Sir Howard Beale, the Australian ambassador to this country, took the late Mr. Justice Frankfurter to see Bolt’s play in New York in 1962. Beale recounts that the Justice could scarcely contain his excitement during the scene just set out, and as it ended Frankfurter whispered in the dark. “That’s the point, that’s it, that’s it!”

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I saw a reference to More, who was Lord High Chancellor under Henry VIII, as Keeper of the King’s Conscience, which drove me to this definition:

Keeper of the King’s Conscience”

The early chancellors were priests, and out of their supposed moral control of the King’s mind grew the idea of an equity court in contradistinction to the law courts. A bill in chancery is a petition through the Lord Chancellor to the King’s conscience for remedy in matters for which the King’s common law courts afford no redress. The Keeper of the King’s Conscience is therefore now the officer who presides in the Court of Chancery; see Chancellor and Lord Keeper.

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Barnett Rubin, today, for another up-to-the-moment view:

Politics is not a mechanism for transforming goals into reality, for the Taliban or anyone else. It is a process of conflict and cooperation dependent on resources, relationships, and chance in which no one controls the outcome.

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St Francis would, I think, like to see the Beatitudes, and proceeding from them the corporal works of mercy, deployed in all functions of the individual and community / state; the Jesuits would, by and large and in contrast, it seems to me, appreciate pragmatism — tempered by mercy, yes, as and when pragmatism permits.

Think on these things..

Your thoughts?


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