Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

NEWSTALK 1010 – IN-DEPTH RADIO :: BREAKING NEWS: Cancer Forces Layton To Step Aside As NDP Leader.

I’ve just finished listening to Jack Layton’s press conference on the radio and at first I thought it was someone reading a prepared statement on his behalf. But no, it was Jack Layton, sounding incredibly unlike Jack Layton.

It turns out Jack’s battle with cancer is far from over. Though he seems to be winning the battle with prostate cancer, a new unspecified cancer has caused the NDP leader to take a leave of absense from the leadership of his party and the Official Opposition in Parliament. It should not be so!

I’ve never been a supporter of the NDP, and there have been times I’ve wondered what Jack was smoking; but, I would never want to see him taken down by anything other than a worthy political opponent or one of his own mis-steps. To be struck down by the most relentless disease on the planet is a fate that no one deserves. I will be praying for Jack’s healing in the days to come. I ask you to do the same if you are a person of prayer.

I will also ride for Jack in the 2012 Ride to Conquer Cancer in June of next year, as I do for everyone I know who has been struck by this disease.

I have been fortunate; blessed by God and the dedicated professionals in Ontario’s excellent health care system, I am cancer free and will fight to remain so. But for Jack Layton and millions of others the battle continues. Help me help them in the fight. Jack is receiving treatment at the Princess Margaret Hospital. To donate to continue funding for the PMH’s world leading research and treatment programs please click on the banner on the right and support me in the 2012 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.

The following link is to a very interesting article (By the same name as this post) on the growth of the Christian church in China published in the English version of Aljazeera (yes, that Aljazeera).

There are two things in this article that really stand out for me.

First of all, there are the lines being drawn between the gov’t sponsored churches and the house churches. Aparently the Chinese gov’t is pulling the same stunt Rome did centuries ago, embracing Christianity as a means to maintain control of the population. Home churches are resisting.

The second thing that strikes me is the belief among Chinese Christians that the current economic woes in the West are a direct result of the decline in church involvement.

Follow the link to read the article for yourself and pray for our brothers and sisters in China.  Could Chinese missionaries soon be the best bet for North America?

Christianity: China’s best bet? – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Shalom..

I know, the title of this post reads like a newspaper headline, but it’s truly how I feel about last night. Canada is different place this morning and for a number of reasons.   When this election started I was very much of the opinion that it was unneeded and would turn out to be a waste of time. I, like many people, felt we would likely just get more of the same, a Conservative minority government.

However; as you have likely noticed even if you didn’t stay up till 2 am to see the final results as I did, the face of the nation underwent a significant facelift last night.

The Conservatives have their majority mandate, largely centred in the west but with significant presence in Ontario. Harper’s place in history is secured with three Conservative victories in a row.

Jack Layton’s place in history is confirmed as well, leading the NDP to it’s most prominent place in Parliament ever – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He has good reason to feel proud this morning. With its base in Quebec it is a historic accomplishment. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this situation.

Micheal Ignatieff is more than just a footnote as well. He must wear forever the mantle of being the leader who took the Liberal party to the back benches for the first time in its long history. I’ve read two of his books and was impressed with his writing. I wonder what the title of his next book will be.

Giles Duceppe likely has the most to answer for. He not only lost the election but the Bloc has lost official party status. We will not be hearing from them in Parliament any time soon. The question now is will the voters of Quebec compensate for this massive turn by putting the Parti Québécois back in power provincially.

And for the fifth change in a single election, unprecedented in any previous election at any level of government, Elizabeth May has won the Green Party’s first seat in Parliament, earning her party a limited voice and a seat at the debates four years from now, provided the media types don’t change the rules in the meantime.

But there is one more change that took place last night that cannot be seen in the popular vote, the number of seats, or who does or does not have official party status. In previous elections, as the night wore on, I would find myself sitting in front of the TV set watching the results come in essentially by myself as Roberta dosed off on the couch beside me. But last night I had company.

Sarah, and Carlo, and Darby, and Brian and a host of others were watching right along with me. We commented and cajoled, lamented and wept, cheered and boasted back and forth without even being in the same room together. Through the medium of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Messenger I was able to watch the results and converse about them with over a dozen friends and strangers from all across Ontario, from Guelph to Ottawa; across the nation from New Brunswick to B.C.; and even heard from friends in the United States and as far away as the British Isles in real times, only a few key clicks away.

It will change the face of Canadian elections forever, as it has done in other jurisdictions. Last night the major broadcasters followed the rules and refrained from sending out results across the nation until the polls were closed, but Canadians did not. From the beginning Tweeters and Facebookers sent out the word 140 characters at a time. As soon as the first ballot box was counted in Goose Bay, people in Vancouver knew the result.

Broadcasters, pollsters, political parties, Elections Canada even everyday Canadians are all going to have to spend the next four years figuring out how to conduct an election under this new reality. This new level of connectivity has the potential to make strategic voting a tactic that will skew and slant election results even more than our antiquated first-past-the-post Westminster model of government does already.

The results last night do, I believe, demonstrate the need for electoral reform. An 8% increase in the popular vote garnered the Conservatives and additional 13% of the seats in Parliament. An 11% drop in the popular vote in the GTA cost the Liberals nearly half the seats in Toronto. There does seem to be a valid reason to seriously consider proportional representation.

But what isn’t known yet, and won’t be known until the statistical analysts have had time to crunch all the numbers, is how much did Tweeted results from Charlottetown affect voter response in Burnaby. How much was the slight increase in voter turnout from 2008 inspired by the Social Voting movement and how much was due to Frank in Kingston screaming on Facebook, “Harper’s winning! Get your ass out there and VOTE!”

The pundits will pontificate for months on why we have the results we do. Did Harper get his majority because Canadians care more about the economy than they do about honesty and transparency? Or did he get it because we hate elections and punished Ignatieff for forcing one? Did Jack gain in Quebec because his attack on Micheal’s attendance record hit home? Or because he bloom has fallen off the Separatist rose? I’m not certain we’ll ever truly know for sure.

But what we do know is this, for better or for worse the people have spoken and we are going to have to live with it for the next four years. And I am fairly certain that last night’s results will change the way elections are conducted in this country, one way or another.

Back in January I suggested that ‘Some of God’s Children should be Seen and Not Heard‘ in response to some outrageous suggestions made by Pat Robertson. Well unfortunately, I find the old Petra song running through my head once again. Here’s the part I keep thinking about…

Too many black sheep in the family
Too many stones from a house of glass
They’ve heard the story, they’ve heard the lines
But talk is too cheap to change their minds
They want to see some vital signs

Convictions – in the way we live
Convictions – not a narrative
Actions speak a little louder than words

Unfortunately in the case of Florida minister Terry Jones, he intends to back up his words with actions and frankly, his plans aren’t going to do much good, either for the memory of 9/11, for the state of international relations, or for the church of Jesus Christ.

If I remember correctly (I haven’t been to a Petra concert in nearly two decades) when Bob Hartman wrote the above lyrics the “vital signs” he was referring to are of the ilk refered to in Matthew 5:16. I seem to remember the band mentioning this passage when they sang the song.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Somehow, I can’t quite picture burning the Quran as being in the list of ‘good deeds’ Jesus had in mind. Jesus made it clear that he wanted to raise the bar on what it means to live by faith. He was very specific on how his followers would be recognized. What exactly did Jesus say would be the symbol of those who followed him? Does this sound familiar?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Now I’m sure that the members of the Dove World Outreach Centre — now there’s irony for you! As my friend Ebby put it on my Facebook page, “Dove, World and Outreach in the church’s name might, to a naive person such as myself, actually imply an intention to reach out with their message to the world with a dove-like attitude of peace. Silly me.”  Well put Ebby! – But I digress.

As I was saying, I’m sure that the members of the Dove World Outreach Centre would respond by declaring that the radical Muslims they are sending a message to are not the ‘one another’ Jesus is talking about. They will tell you, and with some small measure of validity, that these people are the enemies of the church and should be treated as such.  The problem is I remember Jesus also being very specific on how to treat the enemies of the church…

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:27-36

I am always astounded at how quickly Christians totally ignore this command and get all Old-Testament-on-your-ass whenever someone says two words that don’t line up with their personal dogma. And I’m not just talking Islam here, nor am I just calling out the book burners. I’m talking about what seems to be the default response far too many ‘believers’ take when these alleged “attacks” on the church take place.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque at Ground Zero (which isn’t by the way), a movie based on a book by an atheist, or the mathematical musings of a world-renowned physicist, Christians have this really bad habit of  responding not with love and good deeds, but hate, death threats, and right-wing repartee.[1]

Why do we have such a hard time realizing that Jesus calls us to respond differently from the world around us? Of course radical Muslims are going to call a jihad against those they perceive as disrespecting Mohammed; but where does it say that Christ is calling us to respond in kind? What part of ‘love your enemies and do good’ can we not comprehend? When Paul said that doing good to our enemy would “heap coals of fire on his head” (Rom. 12:20) I don’t think he meant the coals left over from burning the Koran.

Jesus calls his disciples to rise above the knee-jerk reactions of the Pharisees and their ilk. Any child can lash out blindly when life doesn’t go their way. But we have been called to put aside our childish responses and in true spiritual maturity set a higher example. There is a better way, shown to us by the one who forgave even those who whipped, beat and ultimately murdered Him.

If you want a truly effective way of dealing with the so-called “threat of Islam”, then may I suggest you can the rhetoric and show the love of Christ to your Muslim neighbour.

Till next time – Shalom.

—-

Notes:

[1]  If you followed the “right-wing repartee” link let me say I agree with Mike re: the lame responses to Hawking. “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” doesn’t really settle anything. On the Articulate Apologetics Assessment List it’s really little more than a theological raspberry. But that’s just me digressing again.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re surfin’ the net, trying to find the recipe for Glazed Turnips you saw on Canada AM, when you stumble across a recipe for a homemade bomb.

“Wow,” you think to yourself,  “is that ever cool! I wonder if they’re hard to make?”

Checking out the instructions you discover it’s much easier than you had previously imagined. Thinking this would make a great science experiment for the kids you’re homeschooling you downoad the pdf, print out the instructions and before you can say “homeland security” you’ve got a nifty little extreme-urban-renewal device complete with digital timer. Now what?

I mean it’s not like you intended to use it, right? You weren’t going to actually blow up anything were you?  Okay, for a moment you thought about your neighbour with the yappy little dog-wanna-be that barks at every bird, butterfly and snowflake that comes near it’s yard, but in reality you just built it to see if you could. Now you need to get rid of it. So what do you do? Where do you turn?

Well this year in Guelph, Ontario (and most other parts of the province I suspect) you need look no further than your brand new community phonebook from Bell Canada. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a phone book user these days, finding all the information I need on the web. In fact, I can’t even tell you exatly where ours is at home right now. However, when the new phone books arrived at the shop today, I took a few moments to flip through and check that they spelled my name right. (Oh Come on; don’t be like that! You do it too, you know you do.)

Right at the front of the book I noticed a rather large section on waste management, recycling and Guelph’s 3 bags-of-separation curb pick-up program. Now, let me say that I was somewhat impressed as it is the most thorough explaination of what goes where, when  and how that I think I’ve ever seen. There’s not only sections on what can go curbside in which colour of bag and what can’t; there is also a lengthy list of various corporations, businesses and organizations that will help you get rid of all the refuse of our overly consumptive lives that pose a threat to good ol’ Mother Nature and can’t be put curbside, including homemade bombs.

Section L8 Page 17 Guelph Phone Book

Section L8 Page 17

Yes friends, it surprised me too; but there it was, in Section L8 on page 17 of the Green Pages, complete with photo illustration (see pic at right) – a handy tip on what to do with Homeschool Science Experiment #235 –  drop it off at your Local Police Station!

And while you’re at it why don’t you take those unspent shotgun cartridges Uncle Fred left between the cushions of the sofa when he fell asleep after Thanksgiving dinner. Or better yet, if I may offer a suggestion, why not have your lawyer drop it off for you and avoid all those pesky questions I’m sure the officer on the front desk will have as you strive to be a greener citizen.

It certainly is good to know that all our bases are covered when it comes to Guelph’s Waste Management program. Why, even urban terrorists can do their part in creating a greener tomorrow. But then what else would you expect from a government as thorough and efficient as ours?

BTW.. did you also know there’s a line for reporting “bribes” on your income tax return?

Until next time…

It never ceases to amaze me that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that can be so utterly stupid.

Such was the response of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to the declaration by ‘700 Club ‘ and ‘CBN’ founder Pat Robertson that the earthquake in Haiti was another in a long line of natural disasters brought on by a “pact with the devil” Haitians made some two centuries ago.  The White House Press Secretary is absolutely right, but what bothers me is how often that something “so utterly stupid” is said by a minister of God.

There’s no denying that many times in the Old Testament God used a variety of ‘natural disasters’ to chastise one nation or another; so it is certainly understandable that many would question if God is still working that way today.  What I question however; is anyone’s ability to accurately discern which events are God in action and which are the natural consequence of a world that no longer works according to the original design? And even if you have reason to believe that a given event may, in fact, be the consequences of spiritual decisions made centuries ago, how can you possibly think saying so at a time when emotions are obviously running high can be of any help, either to the victims or to the cause of Christ?

It is just this kind of spiritual thoughtlessness that casts Christians and the gospel in a light not as a message of love and redemption, but rather one of judgment and condemnation. Daily Show host Jon Stewart actually hit the nail on the head during last night’s program. After reading a number of quotes from the Bible that spoke of the love and comfort of God, eg. “Turn to me and I will comfort you” Stewart looks straight into the camera and says to Robertson,

Out of all the things that you could draw on from your religion to bring comfort to a devastated people and region, you decided to go with, ‘Tough kitties, devil folk!’

Now I’m sure that this was not the spirit in which Robertson made the statements he made; the problem is that’s how it almost always comes across.  And while Robertson seems to have a substantial track record in this regard, he is not alone. All too often we as Christians think we have to expound on everything the scriptures have to say on any given situation we encounter, and more often than not all that’s needed is a simple, “Don’t be afraid. God Loves You!”

Throughout all of Scripture, God’s messengers most frequently begin their message to the people with these simple words, “Do not be afraid!” Do not be afraid, God will deliver you.  Do not be afraid, God will bless you.  Even while telling his disciples of the terrible things that were to come (including earthquakes) Jesus told them not to be afraid.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – John 16:33 NIV

Now I know some of you are wondering, “Okay, but Haiti gets hit a lot. What if Robertson is right?” Well I’m wondering, does it really matter? Does why the earthquake hit let us off the hook for being compassionate? Are we called to help and encourage only those whose ancestors had their act together? I don’t think so.

I do think the Bible calls us to be the presence of Christ in this world.  And I do think that means to feed the hungry, heal the sick and mend the brokenhearted regardless of how they got into their situation. And I also think that if the children of God can’t do this without saying things that make them sound spiritually knowledgeable, but end up doing more harm than good, then maybe God’s children should be seen and not heard!

Happy Punctuation Day

Posted: September 24, 2009 in Art, Current Events
Tags: ,

In honour of International Punctuation Day allow me to present to you the great Victor Borge. Yeah, I know; most of you have never heard of him. Pity. Enjoy anyway.