Thursday, 19 March 2009

Hen Buddhism and the Art of Human Maintenance. (3)

Lee says:

Sunday, 15 March 2009
A reflection of the bigger picture.

In a comments to the last post, Rob-bear issued an implied challenge for me to say something nice about religion.

And it is true enough that people 'fault find' as a default position.

And it is a parent's mantra to accentuate the positive and not the negative.

But (don't you just love that word?) it's not easy.

In many ways the church is a microcosm of the broader community where good work is done by individuals and local groups but the higher up the power pile you go the more removed and more impersonal the public face.

Undeniably, people in most churches and denominations do well and mean well. Regardless of their faith. Community aid, charity, meals on wheels, visiting the sick and the poor, running telephone help-lines and such like. They honestly and earnestly apply their faith's doctrine of good.

Undeniably churches provide a sense of community and belonging and acceptance that many people find missing in their lives in other spheres.

The trouble with this is it is dull. If I blogged about the thousands of selfless acts of care and charity performed every day I would lose all my readers. Both of them.

The other thing is the Church puts itself out there. There are hundreds of tennis clubs around the country, full of people fervently playing tennis, raising money, looking after members, rebuilding club houses, holding meetings and generally being tennis clubs. They do not try to tell people that they are wrong for playing cricket, basketball or football. And you hardly know that they are there.

Churches would be left alone if they left alone.

Rob-bear says:

1. Regarding "the trouble with this is it is dull."

Actually, it's only dull to people who are dull. It's essential to the needs of others (especially the desperate), or those who really care about the needs of others.

2. Regarding the "hundreds of tennis clubs around the country, full of people fervently playing tennis, raising money, looking after members, rebuilding club houses, holding meetings and generally being tennis clubs."

And how many very private tennis clubs open their doors -- unconditionally and continually -- to people who are not part of the club -- week, after week, after week? Like the church that fed "street people" every Sunday morning (as well as other times).

3. Your commenters remind me of how many self-centred and socially unaware people there are in our world. Sadly. 'Tis the curse of the modern age.

{My argument with Lee here is that, like many other people in our time, he has fallen pray to the assumption that good = dull. It is a position which causes us to reinforce bad news and ignore good news. That, in turn, promotes a negative view on society, which often degenerates into outright cynicism. It was assumption and process with which I was constantly struggling as a journalist (and still do), as a matter of journalistic ethics.
That is compounded by the problem of self-centredness, which I have already mentioned. I do recognize Lee's concern if he wrote about "the thousands of selfless acts of care and charity performed every day I would lose all my readers." I would simply suggest that, as a matter of ethics, that he make his reporting more "balanced." Unless he has a particular axe to grind, which seems to be the case.}

Hen Buddhism and the Art of Human Maintenance (2)

Lee says:

Saturday, 14 March 2009
A response to Rob-bear

Rob-bear makes a fair point in my earlier post, that ‘organised religion’ has done much good in the past.

As he states, it has been responsible for providing many medical services over the ages.

It has also been responsible for the creation of many schools. Initially the Church gained great power by being the only people who could read and write. In later years, it found value in running schools and teaching.

Not for just itself but because it then had control of the curriculum.

Rob-bear did not mention art – the Church has been responsible for some magnificent architecture, art and music.

I could now go into a long list of things that the Churches did over the years that were truly atrocious but that would be missing the main point I want to make.

My gripe is with the Church today. It’s actions now.

The Church and its supporters must take this view, too. Why else would they be chasing converts? The Bible is full of calls to repent; implying that you can leave your past ways, good or bad, and follow the new.

So, my gripe is with the new.

Irrespective of how they behaved in the past, good or bad, what are they doing now?

If what they do is good, I will praise it, but if what they do amounts to idiocy then I feel no compulsion to be a quiet observer.


There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,
but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
- Elie Weisel.

Rob-bear says:

Thank you for taking me seriously.

What's happening today?

• Meals for people who don't have food. (I remember going to a church in another community for Holy Communion. Sunday service was held in the chancel. When I arrived (a bit early) the back of the nave was still full of "street people," finishing their breakfasts. Similar things happen in my community.)
• Housing for those who don't have any -- including the building of housing units if nobody else will build.
• Support networks, for those who feel friendless.
• Counselling, for free!
• Etc., etc., etc.

These things, of course, rarely make it into "the media," though they are commonplace. That's why many of these activities remain virtually unknown. Often, such actions take place in a community context, where churches (Protestant and Catholic) work together, many times side-by-side with non-church groups, to provide a broader and more effective service. I speak from personal experience.

And I don't think this is just a Canadian phenomenon.

You said, "If what they do is good, I will praise it." So, . . .

{The one thing I would add in passing is that I agree entirely with the quote from Elie Weisel. As long as we're protesting something worth protesting, not a straw man.}

Hen Buddhism and the Art of Human Maintenance.

This is the first of three conversations between Lee and me. This material originally appeared on his "Hen Buddhism" blog. It appears here with his permission -- yes, as a ethicist, I do consider things like confidentiality and intellectual property rights -- and try not to violate either.

Lee says:

Friday, 13 March 2009
Jesus wept.

A story that was on the go before I went a-wandering comes from Brazil. The time line is as follows.

* A nine year old girl is raped by her step-father.
* He had been abusing her since she was six.
* BTW: He also abused her physically handicapped 14 year old sister.
* The nine year old becomes pregnant to him, with twins.
* It was considered by medical authorities that the girl, weighing less than 80lb, was at risk.
* The pregnancy was terminated at 15 weeks.
* The Catholic Church promptly excommunicated the mother and the doctor.
* The Catholic Church felt no need to excommunicate the step-father.
* Brazil's President and Health Minister both condemned the church's decision.
* The Pope supported the church's decision.

What are they thinking?

"Jesus wept" (John 11:35) may be the shortest verse in the King James Bible but his followers certainly give him much to weep over.

One of the 'virtues' touted by believers is that religion is the source of human morality; clearly this idea needs some more work.

Rob-bear says:

I get God, and faith. I don't get stupidity, religious or other. Religion ≠ stupidity.

{The process as outlined by Lee, and confirmed through other sources, is totally lacking in any kind of justice, compassion, or human decency, as far as I can see. I'm outraged -- as is Lee. Of course, this is the same organization whose leader believes that condoms are not the answer to Africa's fight against HIV/AIDS, and that condoms actually increase the problem. Huh?}

About the icon of St. Anthony . . .
The icon comes from Eastern Christian Supply Company. With thanks!