31 March 2006

Fr. John Whiteford's News, Comments, & Reflections: At least we'll get to see him killed in the 6th movie

I wondered why I didn't like Dumbledore in the most recent Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the goblet of fire.

I fouund the answer here:
Fr. John Whiteford's News, Comments, & Reflections: At least we'll get to see him killed in the 6th movie

It turnms out that the actor who replaced Richard Harris hadn't evern read the books -- and it shows!

Human rights groups call for restoration of blood feud

A recent article in The Guardian includes the following:
Pope urged to apologise for Vatican castrations

Rory Carroll in Rome
Tuesday August 14, 2001


Revelations that the Vatican encouraged the castration of choir boys in the name of art for hundreds of years have prompted calls for a papal apology. Human rights groups, historians and Italian commentators said the Pope, a singer himself, should ask forgiveness for his predecessors' role in the mutilation of castrati singers.
and concluded with:
Pope Sisto V, aware that the public craved the "voice of angels", sanctioned their presence in the Vatican by a papal bull in 1589. Audiences fainted and wept during performances and groupies wore medallions of their favourites, but in the 18th century the practice was gradually acknowledged to be grotesque.

This prompts several questions:
  1. Why, if the practice was acknowledged to be grotesque in the 18th century, is an "apology" needed in the 21st century?
  2. Why are these things describes as "revelations"? Such things are common knowledge and can be found in musical and other encyclopedias.
  3. Why are "human rights groups" apparently adopting a principle that is itself a flagrant violation of human rights -- the principle of the blood feud or vendetta?
One of the basic principles of human rights, and protections of human rights, is the legal principle of the rule of law. Private vengeance should be replaced by trial by an impartial court, and people cannot be held responsible for someone else's actions. The principle of the blood feud or vendetta (such as was practised in tribal Albania down to the early 20th century, and in other tribal societies) is that if someone kills a member of my family, I have a duty to kill a member of their family, even if that person was absolutely innocent of the killing.

Of course this does not apply in quite the same way to juristic persons, which includes institutions like churches, governments and companies. There is a continuity in the institution even if the personnel change. So, for example, it is in accordance with justice that those who suffered from, say, asbestos poisoning as a result of the negligence of an asbestos mining company should have the right to sue the company for compensation even if the company is run by an entirely different set of people. A man who was left paralysed after being shot by the police of the Lebowa "homeland" is now sueing the Minister of Safety and Security of South Africa, even though the Lebowa homeland government no longer exists.

But pushing such things to ridiculous lengths encourages the principle of the blood feud, and the notion that one can hold people responsible for things that their ancestors did.

At the time of the wars of the Yugoslav succession, one of the common cliches in the media was that these wars were caused by "ancient hatreds". But Dr Tarek Mitri, an Orthodox theologian of the Patriarchate of Antioch, who had experienced the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s, has pointed out that that it is not "ancestral hatred" that causes war, but war that causes "ancestral hatred".

In this case, it seems that "human rights groups" are trying to stir up "ancestral hatred", even though the castrati have no descendants to whom an apology could be made.

30 March 2006

The Eagle's Nest

After joining the Progressive Christian Blog Network (which seems to be defunct), an old net friend left a comment, which enabled me to find her blog.

The Eagle's Nest

She has interesting comments on the privatisation of health care, and other things.

27 March 2006

Evidence that demands a verdict?

Travis Stanley, who commented on an earlier posting in this blog, has an interesting blog himself, and one of his postings, on Asking questions in theology set me thinking, especially at the point where he mentions the "Evidentiary" aproach to Christian witness.

There's been a great deal of talk of "inculturation" and "contextualisation" in my field (missiology), but one of the things that few people comment on is how Western Christianity has been inculturated into the worldview and mindset of modernity, and I think that the "evidentialism" Travis Stanley speaks of is part of that.

John Ralston Saul in his book Voltaire's bastards: the dictatorship of Reason in the West makes the point that at the core of the dictatorship of Reason was the idea that to every question there must be an answer, and that this notion led directly to the totalitarianism of the 20th century. If there is an answer to every question, then torture is justified. Hitler's Gestapo, Stalin's KGB, and Vorster's Security Police were justified in torturing people when questioning them.

As an Orthodox Christian, I was interested in the comment of one Anglican who visited our parish: the problem with the Orthodox Church, she said, was that "it never experienced the Enlightenment." Well, there's something in that, though it wasn't for lack of "enlighteners" who sought to impose it -- from Peter the Great to the Bolsheviks.

Someone else commented that the Eastern Church was not influenced by Aquinas; its methodology is different from that of the West. Not only did it not experience the Enlightenment, it did not experience much of those other two pillars of modernity, the Renaissance and Reformation. So the Orthodox Church tends to have a premodern outlook.

But if culture, at least in places, is moving from modernity to postmodernity, however gradually, and in fits and starts, the "evidentiary" approach will not be of much use. And I have a suspicion that so-called "Islamic fundamentalism" is also a manifestation of modernity. Early modern Europe was characterised by witch hunts; nowadays people like to call witch hunts "medieval", but that is anachronistic. The witch hunts happened in a society that was on the cusp of modernity and premodernity. And it is in societies similarly caught between modernity and premodernity in Africa today that witch hunts ore common today.

And the same kind of mentality is emerging in Islam, as people in Islamic countries are really trying to come to grips with the worldview of modernity.

And one also sees the same kind of mentality emerging in Orthodoxy as well. At an Orthodox mission conference I attended about 10 years ago, Francis Schaeffer, a prominent convert to Orthodoxy from American evangelicalism, called for a kulturkampf. His paper was a sustained attack on certain aspects of contemporary American culture, though without much Orthodox theological backing. He called for "an Orthodoxy with teeth."

A Russian bishop who was present, speaking through an interpreter, responded, You call for an Orthodoxy with teeth, but are you sure that the people you want to bite will not grow bigger teeth and turn round and bite you? We have people in Russia who talk like you. They were in the KGB, and now that they have become Orthodox they think that they can use the same methods they used in the KGB to make people Orthodox. We call them "Orthodox Bolsheviks".

Don't we need a new political language?

Katrina Vandenheuvel writes, in a piece entitled Don't we need a new political language? about the habit politicians have of likening their opponents to nasty dictators of the past.

But journalists are at least as much guilty of this kind of hyperbole, a recent example being the reports on the feath and funeral of Slobodan Milosevic, where he was described as "butcher of the Balkans", "mass murderer", and was said to have "orchestrated" the wars of the Yugoslav succession, and killed 250000 people.

Where do they get this stuff?

Is this sort of exaggeration particularly common in the USA, or does it happen in other places as well? IT's hard to tell, sometimes, because so much of waht we read here in South Africa is syndicated from US columnists and wire services. But the falsehoods seem to be getting bigger and more obvious.

The Progressive Christian Blogger Network

I've just joined the Progressive Christian Blogger Network in the hope of finding some kindred spirits, but I'm not very hopeful.

Much of the Internet, including the blogosphere, seems to be dominated by the USA, and US political, social and religious divisions make little sense to me. They're always on about the "Religious Right" over there, and when I've encountered it, I've found myself totally out of sympathy with their style, if not with all their causes. I generally agree with the "Pro-Life" position, but to me that means being opposed to war and capital punishment as well as to abortion, and especially to the recent US-led wars of aggression in Yugoslavia and Iraq.

And when it comes to wars of aggression, Bill Clinton doesn't seem to count as a member of the "Religious Right", but his warmongering doesn't seem to be any better than George Bush's.

But still I hope, and so, for what it's worth, there's now a "Progressive Christian Blogroll" here mainly to make it easy for me to look at some of the blogs listed, and blog them here if there's any good stuff on them.

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26 March 2006

PunkMonk San Francisco

If the Orthodox have Punx to monks, the Anglicans have this.

PunkMonk San Francisco

I'm not quite sure how similar it is, though.

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21 March 2006

Balkan outlooks: In memoriam: Slobodan Milosevic

Now here is a thoughtful comment on the life and death of Slobodan Milosevic.

Balkan outlooks: In memoriam: Slobodan Milosevic

Not that I agree with everything the author says, but at least he does not swallow the media lie that Milosevic "orchestrated" the wars of the Yugoslav succession, and shows that Milosevic was as much a victim of circumstances as an "orchestrator".

I've dealt with this more fully in my other blog, but it is interesting that at the time South Africa was moving away from apartheid, and udoing the "Balkanisation" of the apartheid years, Yugoslavia was moving in the opposite direction.

So why was apartheid bad for South Africa and good for Yugoslavia, not merely fro the nationalistic leaders of Yugoslavia, but also for the Nato powers that recommended and imposed solutions from outside?

And why was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission good for South Africa, but Yugoslavia had to have war crimes tribunals?

It has been estimated that about 3-4 million people were thenically cleansed in South Africa during the apartheid years -- far more than in Yugoslavia. So why the schizophrenic view from the West?

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no contact politics: Milosevic

Someone else has noticed the media lies that seemed to reach a crescendo on the deaoth of Milosevic.

no contact politics: Milosevic

But it's rather sad that the word "liberal" can be used to mean just about anything, and so ends up meaning nothing at all.

20 March 2006

14 March 2006

Mail problems

There seem to be problems with the mail server at Durham University, and e-mail sent to my address at shayes@dunelm.org.uk does not seem to be getting through.

If you have sent mail to me recently and have not had a reply, please resend to one of my alternative e-mail addresses:

* hayesstw@telkomsa.net
* hayesstw@yahoo.com
* hayesstw@gmail.com

I have been unable to contact the Durham University servers at www.dur.ac.uk or www.dunelm.org.uk, but I don't think they will be down permanently, but in the meantime please send copies of important mail to one or other of the alternative addresses.

13 March 2006

Mystery Achievement: Northern Cyprus Is Christianrein

There was ethnic cleansing, and there is religious cleansing, and sometimes there is both.

Mystery Achievement: Northern Cyprus Is Christianrein

Butcher of the Balkans?

Interesting contrast in news media reporting on a couple of today's top stories:


Milosevic found dead in his cell - news.bbc.co.uk

“Excerpts : Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been found dead in the detention centre at The Hague tribunal. The tribunal said an autopsy will be conducted to establish cause of death, but there was no indication of suicide.”


'Butcher of the Balkans' found dead - cnn.com

“While some may rue that he was not found guilty at the court in the Hague the fact that the 'Butcher of the Balkans' Milosevic found dead in cell is probably the best outcome for all concerned because it prevents his being considered a martyr to the West. Slobodan Milosevic was a lawyer, gas company executive, and party apparatchik who used nationalism and the media to murder hundreds of”

The first, at least to begin with, seems objective, and sticks to the facts. But CNN comes up with the tendentious epithet "Butcher of the Balkans". Where does that come from, I wonder?

And in almost everything I've read in the media about this story, there is the same exaggeration and spin. One obituary said he was the one who "orchestrated" the Balkan wars of the 1990s -- as if nobody else had any responsibility at all. He did it all, single-handed.

And most people seem to parrot this, and accept it unquestioningly, unthinkingly. Are the Western media propagating these twists and exxagerations unthinkingly, or is someone "orchestrating" them? Almost they persuade me to believe in conspiracy theories.

Undoubtedly Slobodan Milosevic played a major role in the wars of the Yugoslav succession, in fanning the flames of nationalism. But were people like Tudjman and Izetbegovic simply puppets, dancing to his tune? Were Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Madeleine Albright simply obeying his bidding, playing the tunes that Milosevic had "orchestrated" for them?

It seems that there is a massive attempt to make Milosevic the scapegoat for all the ills of the Balkans, so that others can deny responsibility for the part they played.

11 March 2006

An image of repentance

Yesterday the news media were reporting the death of John Profumo at the age of 91. For those under the age of 50 or so, who probably won't remember it, John Profumo was the British Minister of War who was forced to resign in 1963 after the biggest political sex scandal of the 20th century. He was sleeping with a prostitute who was also sleeping with a Russian spy, and that was a big no-no in the days of the Cold War.

I remember some of the jokes that went around at the time, when rumours of the scandal first started circulating, and Profumo was denying them. "Nil combustibus Profumo -- there's no smoke without fire" was one of the wittier ones.

Unlike the present day, politicians who resigned in those days could not easily return to a political career through the back door. Profumo did not return to politics, but spent the next 40 years working among the poor in the East End of London, supported by his wife, who was willing to forgive his adultery.

In reporting his death, the news media dwelt mainly on the juicier aspects of the scandal that led to his downfall, and mentioned his good works only in passing. As Shakespeare said, "The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones."

Nevertheless, Profumo's later life was an image of repentance, and an example that some of our present-day politicians would do well to follow. Perhaps our own ex-Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, could profit by the example, considering that the media are making as big a fuss over his sex life as they did over Profumo's.

For those who might like to know more about the more important part of his life, his work at Toynbee Hall can truly be said to be an image of repentance.

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05 March 2006

What advanced degree should I have got?

What advanced degree should I have got?

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You'd make a talented professor or writer.

Wot, no theology?

Western Orthodoxy: Continuing Anglican Bishop Converts to Western Rite Orthodoxy

While I'm not too keen on "Western Rite" Orthodoxy (which Western Rite do they use?) I nevertheless found this quite interesting.

Western Orthodoxy: Continuing Anglican Bishop Converts to Western Rite Orthodoxy

When I was leaving the Anglican Church (over 20 years ago now), I was visited by a continuing Anglican, Louis Traycik, who put me in touch with his bishop, Anthony Clavier, and sent me the paper he edited, and I got quite a lot of literature. Anthony Clavier seemed to be one of the saner continuing Anglican bishops. My impression that most of them were very clear about what they were against, but they were very vague about what they were for. They disliked trends in ECUSA, and united to oppose them, but once they had split off, they squabbled among themselves and could hardly agree on anything.

Orthodoxy had problems, and big ones, but there was something in Orthodoxy that was bigger than all the problems. So a move in the right direction, I think.


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