Friday, April 29, 2005

The New Pope

It´s a bit of patriotic pride, I guess, and yes, I am happy that the new Pope Benedict XVI is former Cardinal Ratzinger.
They say, he is a reactionary just like the former Pope John Paul II was a reactionary. It depends what you call a reactionary in my opinion. I read the former Pope´s messages on peace and on poverty and they sure didn´t sound reactionary to me. But yes, there are those views about sexuality, feminism and liberation theology. I´ll get into those topics in another post.
Here I would like to let Pope Benedict talk for himself, with my own thoughts attached.
On April 25, 2005, after talking to representatives of the Eastern Christian churches, he talked to those of other faiths:

I turn now to you, dear friends from different religious traditions," said the Holy Father in English, "and I thank you sincerely for your presence at the solemn inauguration of my pontificate. ... I am particularly grateful for the presence in our midst of members of the Muslim community, and I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level. I assure you that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole.
The world in which we live is often marked by conflicts, violence and war, but it earnestly longs for peace, peace which is above all a gift from God, peace for which we must pray without ceasing. Yet peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions. Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."
Benedict XVI concluded by inviting all present "to become together artisans of peace, of a reciprocal commitment to understanding, respect and love." -V.I.S.

The above quote made it it quite clear, that the catholic Church will not support any kind of modern "Crusade" or "Fight of Civilisations". By emphasizing especially the dialog and the building of bridges between Muslims and Christians you can be sure that this was not just a diplomatic meaningless gesture, but he was making a point.
Cantrast this "bridge building speech" to Bush´s "fire speech" at his inauguration.
Peace as a duty for all those who profess to belong to religious traditions, is an obvious counter towards Bush and his followers of Christian and Jewish Zionists.
By the way in an interview Bush gave after the last Pope´s funeral he said:
"I think John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace, compassion..."
This for sure is the opposite legacy of what Bush himself will have.

Here are excerpts from Pope Benedicts inauguration homely:
Talking about the "pallium" which would be placed upon his shoulders as a liturgical symbol, symbolizing both the "yoke of Christ" and the "lost sheep" he said:

"The symbolism of the pallium is even more concrete: the lamb's wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life. For the Fathers of the Church, the parable of the lost sheep, which the shepherd seeks in the desert, was an image of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The human race - every one of us - is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way.
The Son of God will not let this happen; He cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition.
He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon His shoulders and carries our humanity;
He carries us all -
He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.
What the pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ. But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd's mission, of which the second reading and the Gospel speak. The pastor must be inspired by Christ's holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.
The symbol of the lamb also has a deeper meaning. In the ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people. This was an image of their power, a cynical image: to them their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished.
When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, Himself became a lamb, He stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed. This is how He reveals Himself to be the true shepherd: 'I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep,' Jesus says of Himself (Jn 10:14ff). It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God's sign: He Himself is love.
How often we wish that God would make show Himself stronger, that He would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God's patience. And yet, we need His patience. God, Who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified Him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man...."

Yes, the Pope does see the salvation of men more in the spiritual than in the political realm, however by using the words "the powers of exploitation and destruction" he also shows critical inside into the reasons for the miserable state the world is in right now.
The Pope puts love as the opposite of power. And I think he is right. The world cannot be got off the destructive path, it is on right now, by just another power struggle.
We have seen, that in China and the Soviet Union a violent power struggle towards the supposedly humanistic and universalist goal the Marxist ideas represented has brought on in both countries and their satellites immense suffering for exactly those people who should have profited, the poor, the peasants.
And in both countries when the governments reversed to capitalistic goals, for the majority nothing of the idealist mindset of universalism was left.
An ideology based on power struggle is just not capable of creating an altruistic mindset neither in its adherents nor in the people they want to convert.
A philosophy however, based on the idea of unconditional love, even love of enemy, is far more likely to change the attitude of the surrounding society towards universalism and egitalism in the long run.
And this is where God´s patience comes in: Change doesn´t come suddenly it takes time. The Church herself, after she had become state-religion for the Roman Empire, took far more than a thousand years to change herself from a political to a moral authority. And this is where the strength of religion lies, in ethics.
Human progress must lie in human ethics, it cannot lie in human power of some over others, no matter who those some are. History has shown us, that power corrupts men - nearly all of them.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Cut Backs and Paranoia


Steve Maich from the Canadian publication MACLEANS writes puts up the question "Is America going broke". In an interview David Walker the Comptroller General of the United States explains, that
that plush North American lifestyle to which we've all grown accustomed has been bought on credit, and the bill is rapidly nearing its due date. If the United States can't find a way to pay up, the results will spill beyond national borders, spreading economic misery far and wide
And this way to "pay up" would have to be by raising taxes and cut down on spending:
Walker stresses the need to make "tough decisions," and none will be tougher than tackling the runaway costs of providing health-care coverage for the elderly and the poor. Health spending in the U.S. is projected to jump 63 per cent by 2010, and to continue rising even faster after that. Most analysts agree that, at some point, the government must find a way to clamp down on those costs, yet any cuts in coverage are sure to raise an outcry from the swelling ranks of senior citizens -- a highly influential voting bloc.
Academics have proposed such reforms as a national retail sales tax, a luxury tax and a rollback of all tax cuts enacted since 2001. Others are calling for increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service to catch tax cheaters. Many insist there must be increases to Medicare premiums, as well as massive cutbacks in a wide range of social programs.

If these cut-downs and tax-raises are not done, then in a few years debts will rise to such a height, that the basics, like education, environmental programs and the legal system can no longer be afforded.
National Security is mentioned fleetingly, but military spending it never even was taken seriously into account as having to be cut down as well.
Right now the United Stated spends more money on weapons and "intelligence" than all other countries of the whole world combined and still a cut down in this is not considered a serious option in an extremely serious fiscal crisis?
Even just cutting down military costs by half would probably get the US out of debts in a short time.
Are those economists blind or why don’t they consider this option?
Maybe it’s just American paranoia, believing, that if America cannot threaten the whole world with destruction at the same time, all countries of the world will combine, attack and destroy America.
Maybe it is also the realisation that America has committed so many heinous crimes against humanity in the last few decades that the rest of the world will want revenge.
America projects its own crimes on the rest of the world and hates the rest of the world for them and therefore fears the world in a paranoid way.
America, even secular America, is totally Old-Testamentarian. Founded both on Puritan ethics and on Secular Supremacism, America does not believe in repentance through apologizing and forgiveness.
In this American believe salvation does not come by regretting what was done wrong, repenting and doing better from now on.
In this paranoid believe system salvation comes by faith alone, faith not in the humble, suffering redeemer, who identifies himself with the poor, humble and suffering of the world, not in the Prince of Peace but in the King of Power and Might.
And so while more and more starving its own people at home, especially the poor, the old and the weak, in selfaggrandizement America is showing the outside world the face of a mighty blood-thirsty warrior.
But paranoia is extremely bad for your health and self-aggrandizement is bad for your relationships. In the end, paranoid fears could become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I´m an Alien

I no longer fit into any box. I used to see myself as a socialist. I don’t any more. I used to see myself as progressive of leftist. I don’t any more. But I haven’t changed course and become a conservative all of a sudden, neither in the American nor in the more benign German sense.
Umkahlil comments in her blog about the "liberal bloggers" who complained of not being invited to the press-party, when so many conservatives were. But when she checked out their blogs, she couldn’t even find one pro-Palestinian article in March from all the list of those "liberal" bloggers.
Those "liberals" were totally blind to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
In the same way I could not even find one single article by so-called progressives who could see, that there was enough evidence in Schiavo case to point to a mercy-killing not of a "brain-dead" woman but of a severely handicapped but awake woman, whose life was declared "unworthy" to live, something the Nazis have done to thousands of people.
In the same way I see the German liberals and progressives being satisfied with the ban of women wearing a headscarf teaching in public schools or working in other public services, since according to their logic those women are either oppressed by their families or they are potential terrorists or married to potential terrorists.
So by banning women from working they are trying to liberate them?

I never was a feminist, but when I read progressive stuff, it seems to me, that feminism is a main prerequisite of being a progressive and in nearly all cases, atheism as well. However feminism nowadays means no longer to fight for equal rights in politics, in the family and at the working place, no, it means most and foremost and over all the fight for "female reproduction rights" or just plain pro-choice or still more plain pro-abortion.
Not agreeing on this issue means a woman is self-hating and reactionary. It’s not even possible to discuss the matter, arguments, even scientific arguments are not allowed to be raised. End of discussion, Punkt, basta.

And then what about my religious opinions? Most people in my parish came from countries with far more conservative Catholicism than I. Theologically I do not always agree with them. I can’t read the bible literally, but I see much symbolism in it.
However I do believe in the central points of the Creed, the divinity of Christ, his suffering and death for the sins of the world, his resurrection, the promise of eternal life for us and Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
But then most German Catholics do no longer believe this either. And those you hear about in the news are all for reforming the Church by turning her upside down.
For sure I wouldn’t mind a few minor changes, but in these so very dangerous times for the Church to get into an inside battle, dancing around her own navel is in my opinion not only self-defeating but out right irresponsible. Should the Church to be changed into something the small but vociferous middle-European liberal Catholics want against more than 90% of her practicing membership in times where we are on the edge of a new world-war?
And so I pray with my whole heart, please, God, let the next Pope be a conservative but not a Zionist. But the German liberal Catholics will tell me, so you want the Pope to be a Jew-hating Inquisitor?
No, I’d say, I just want his main work be not changing the Church from the inside but strengthening her message of peace and justice towards the poor of the world. Let the next Pope also become an ambassador between the world’s cultures and religions, a peace maker, a true pontifex, a builder of bridges.
But the liberals won’t listen to any explanations, they never do. They call me conservative, they call me reactionary, they call me self-hating, and they call me anti-Semitic.
I’m none of those things.
I’m Erlenda, I’m an alien.