Posts Tagged ‘social issues’

Plus ca change…

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

“Imagine, if you can, a person being now put to death for a speculative theological opinion. You feel at once that in the most bigoted country in the world such a thing has become impossible; and the impossibility is the measure of the alteration which we have all undergone.”

I recently read this passage in a book of essays by the Scottish historian James Anthony Froude. Froude was from a famous family of Anglican theologians and scholars. What is notable is that the quotation above was published more than a century ago, in 1901.

In our times, people are executed every day for expressing their theological opinions. Particularly in Muslim countries but also in Hindu parts of India and probably other countries we don’t know about. Despite what we might think has been the increasingly liberal atmosphere of modern times, religious intolerance has increased in recent years.

“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” That is French for, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” All the more reason to hold fast to whatever gains in tolerance we can manage, and all the more reason never to take religious freedom for granted. —J. Douglas Ousley


For the Little Ones

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Last Friday, I attended a reception at the home of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry.

The occasion was the launch of a new capital campaign by Episcopal Relief and Development, the major international relief organization run by the Episcopal Church. The campaign is called, “One Thousand Days of Love.” The 1000 days are the first three years of a child’s life–the period when so many decisions are made that are critical to the child’s future development.  The program will aid Anglican partners throughout the world in providing nurture, healthy diet, housing, and medical care to newborns, infants and toddlers of many nations, races, and creeds.

This strikes me as a particularly worthy project. So many children lack one or more of these necessities, and they never get a chance to grow and thrive in later childhood.

One more good program for Episcopalians to support and be proud of. —J. Douglas Ousley


On Good and Bad Alike

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Jesus famously noted that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45)

So the rain of Hurricane Dorrien is falling mercilessly on the saints and sinners of the Bahama islands. The commanding Prime Minister yesterday commended his country to God, “the only One who can save us.”

As our part of the world deals with this and other hurricanes, we are reminded that even with all the marvels of technology, it remains impossible to control or even predict the weather. Things are better today than in past generations, when severe storms might appear without warning from the media. But we human beings are still far from being in charge of our planet.

This is a somber lesson for all of us, just and unjust. All the more reason to seek the aid of “the only One who can save us.” —J. Douglas Ousley


Attention Span

Monday, August 26th, 2019

Social commentators often note the short attention span of the public today. Only a few weeks ago, the media was filled with agonizing reports about two mass shootings, and there were countless calls for gun control. Today, you hear little about the subject, and we can expect little public comment until the next shooting. (Although we should note that the police have apparently managed to stop some recent incidents through good detective work.)

Major climate change reports appear periodically–only to disappear quickly from the public eye when some other newsworthy item arises.

The 20th Century French mystic Simone Weil often wrote of the need for “attention.” Like one’s focus on a piece of art, human beings need to learn to overcome distractions and concentrate on one thing at a time. Specifically, we need to pay attention to the divine. Weil saw this as part of the larger mystical project of “waiting on God.”

As far as media news is concerned, we might profit from devoting our attention to the deep issues beyond the headlines. To violence. To the condition of God’s world. To God. —J. Douglas Ousley

 


No Sympathy for the Devil

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Last week, I was extremely fortunate to be given tickets to the performance of the Rolling Stones in the Meadowlands. For someone like me who is of their generation, there is no better rock and roll band on the planet–and no greater performer than Mick Jagger.

It was interesting for me to recall, as I watched the four old men play their countless hits, how menacing the Stones were when they first appeared in the 1960’s. With their “sympathy for the Devil,” they seemed to threaten the very foundations of civil society. Now they seem almost warm and fuzzy.

The Devil however, as Scripture reminds us, remains alive and active. As demonstrated in the horrendous mass shootings of the past week, the Demonic in the form of young white males is very much with us. God help us all.–J. Douglas Ousley


A Hot Summer Ahead

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

A year or so ago, the former Altman’s Department Store across from the church began an extensive exterior restoration. As part of the work, the bottom floor of the building is covered in netting. Homeless people now climb into a space behind the netting to bed down and in many cases to live. Others take advantage of the sidewalk covering and sleep on the sidewalk. A little town has sprung up.

The obvious question to ask is, why doesn’t the city do something to help these people so they aren’t forced into what the English call, “sleeping rough?” And the answer to that question is that the city isn’t very good at helping the poor.

Last night, a local television station did an investigative segment on seven of the city’s “cooling centers,” where poor people including the homeless can go for relief during hot weather. It turned out that four of the centers have no air conditioning. Moreover, they haven’t had air conditioning for weeks and they have similar problems every summer. Yet the whole purpose of these institutions is to present a comfortable environment in hot weather.

I recognize that the tolerance we have toward the homeless is in some ways admirable. They are allowed the freedom of the streets. We can be proud of our tolerance and our social freedom. But less proud of the consequences. —J. Douglas Ousley


Pride Universe

Monday, June 24th, 2019

As everyone in New York City knows, the annual Gay Pride March takes place this coming Sunday, at the end of what has been called, Pride Month.

The Episcopal Church has been on the winning side of this issue for quite a while, and we might be tempted to ask why Episcopalians and LGBT people need to bother to march in this day and age. They have virtually all the rights of straight people. Isn’t the battle over?

But we need to remember that homosexual behavior is still against the law in many, many countries throughout the world–and it is often proscribed in the name of religion. Even in this country, the largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church terms gay sex sinful.

Unfortunately, there is still much to march for. —J. Douglas Ousley


Maximum Security

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Despite the title, this post is not about the Kentucky Derby result–a matter I leave to the equestrian experts.

We on the Vestry have had several discussions about security during our worship services. Yesterday, we reiterated our current procedures and discussed other options. The local police precinct knows our church and sends officers quickly if we call them.

Our main threat is not an active shooter but someone with mental problems who wishes to disrupt the service by yelling or walking around. This is a genuine concern in our city with increasing numbers of homeless persons–though the matter is also tricky, since we almost always have homeless or recently homeless persons worshiping with us peacefully and happily.

The challenge is to provide a place of prayer that is both welcoming and safe. That said, we live in a fallen world and we are unlikely to find maximum security this side of heaven. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians in the Arena

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Christians worldwide reacted in horror to the news of the bombing of Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday. More than 250 persons were killed and hundreds more were maimed or injured.

A prominent Wall Street Journal columnist, Gerald Baker, chided the Anglican Archbishop of York for not being more forthright in his expression of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Christians. Baker was concerned that Archbishop John Sentamu emphasized that he was against all forms of anti-religious violence. For Baker, this seemed to undermine the support the Archbishop should have expressed for the recently martyred.

This is a very tricky issue. Christians are “people of the Book ” but so are Jews and Muslims Especially given the secularization of Western culture, we Christians shouldn’t find ourselves blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Faithful people have to stick together.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Easter Sunday was all Christian. May the Sri Lankans be uplifted by the prayers and witness of all their fellow Christians–and by observant Muslims as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Side of the Muslims

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

My last post might have been interpreted as being anti-Muslim. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that prejudice against Islam is somehow acceptable. Prominent Muslim leaders are often the target of such prejudice, and we Christians should defend them against such attacks.

Which brings us tragically to New Zealand, and how a climate of anti-Muslim sentiment can breed horrendous violence. Of course, there was just one fanatic who killed. But it took a village to raise him up, and a culture and social media that freely allow hate speech can’t escape blame.

Christians have to stand up against this anti-religious speech, however mild or casual or common it might be. And we also have to denounce anti-religious speech that is also racist and supremacist.

It’s often hard to determine “what would Jesus do.” In this case–in this Western culture–it isn’t. —J. Douglas Ousley