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THE PHOENIX IN 2013

Jesus of Nazareth is back: risen, phoenix like from the ashes of five year's obscurity.

What happened in the interim; what changed? The answer is complex for us as individuals and plain to see in a global context. Let us examine the religion of politics first.

THE RELIGION OF POLITICS

Across the broad expanse of planet earth, the real 'bad guys' remain largely unchanged: Putin still rules in Russia and continues to supply weapons to his minor disciples such as Bashur Assad in Syria; the Taliban as a terrorist and oppressive right wing Islamic organization continues apace, as does Al Qaeda despite the dramatic execution of Osama bin Laden by US special forces.

Why do you not do as I say?
"Why do you call me Lord, Lord,
and not do as I say?"
[Luke 7.46]

Gaddafi has gone too; meanwhile Libya is interviewing potential replacements, but in North Korea it has been a simple dynastic succession from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un coupled with a dramatic expansion of that rogue state's nuclear weapons program. Then, of course, there is Ahmadinjad and the mad ayatollahs in Iran, who are continuing to enrich uranium as if tomorrow does not exist. Elsewhere on the nuclear front, Pakistan continues to threaten India [and other non-Islamic entities]; the latest Kim in N. Korea has put his military on a "total war" footing and in Iran, Ahmadinjad waxes poetic about the removal of Israel from the face of the Earth. Israel's position remains unaltered: she does not discuss her nuclear arsenal with friend or foe alike.

Change has occurred among the political elite; most notably George W. Bush has joined his dad on the back porch of the family ranch where he hopes to be the first to see Jesus riding in with the four horsemen of the apocalypse as the rapture begins. His replacement, Barack Obama, became another 'instant' Nobel Peace Prize winner while waging war in the Middle East and simultaneously demonstrating a total lack of political savvy in any field, but in particular that of international relations. In 2012, the Republicans tried to unseat him by fielding a Mormon business mogul; however, the American electorate was having none of that! The Canadian liberals have been consigned to political obscurity where sheer desperation has forced them to exhume the 'Trudeau' name in search of a leader: Justin Trudeau is more qualified to run a lemonade stall than a country, but Catholics have always worked well for the liberals in particular with regard to diverting tax dollars into their own pockets. Steven Harper has been accused of promoting Harperism [apparently an extreme right wing form of conservatism] yet to his credit, Harper stands alone in support of Israel which nation has been abandoned by the USA and its closet Islamic leader in favour of just about every terrorist group that threatens her borders or right to exist.

Since 2008, the European Union has experienced a deepening financial crisis: Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal being the hardest hit. Germania [Belgium, Holland, Switzerland led by Angela Merkel's Deutschland] controls the purse strings, while the poorest countries are forced to perform the 'Have-nots Tango', a humiliating dance where the poor and lower middle classes are stripped of their jobs, assets, benefits, pensions and dignity while the upper classes and in particular the political class are totally unaffected. Ireland has danced to Merkel's satisfaction; Greece hovers on the edge of bankruptcy and anarchy fighting back with huge posters of Merkel in nazi uniform; the situation worsens in Spain where the leadership from the Zarzuela Palace to the Cortes wallows in corruption, staggering from exposure to exposure in the person of Coco the Clown, aka Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The latest scandal, some 22 million euros subverted by the right wing Partido Populaire [PP] and sent to Swiss bank accounts to pad the salaries of the political elite. It must be noted that the left wing Partido Socialista de Obreros Espanolas [PSOE] basically bailed out as the crisis started, content to have filled their pockets with EU funds funneled through the creation of phony savings banks; the building boom; corruption; nepotism and graft. Unemployment in Spain has now passed the 5 million mark and is higher than 50% among the youth group. France and Italy have their own problems, and it has been said that the entire situation resembles a powder keg with a slow burning fuse. How close the flame is to the keg of black powder is debatable and depends on to whom one is speaking.

Last, but not least, and certainly not uniquely, there is Israel. I would suggest that you revisit, two earlier articles: The Jews and Ayatollah's Legacy because the former gives some historical background, while the later enumerates the serious situation that exists between Islam, Judaism and Christianity which remain the most problematic religions of politics. Nothing has changed, except the timeline: we will explore that later.

So now, if we dare, let us take a peek at the politics of religion. I can feel my body tensing; my stomach churning and a heady feeling of discomfort prompted by psychological stress, so let us begin not with prayer [albeit that prayer is always appropriate] but with humor in the form of a limerick.

THE POLITICS OF RELIGION


Said a tired old man with a beard,
Events seem much worse than I feared:
Within the deepening schism.
In worldwide Anglicanism;
Time that I disappeared...

And so, Taffy Williams, returns his yellow chasuble to the back of the closet at Lambeth Palace and shuffles off to obscurity as Dean of Whatever at Oxford having achieved absolutely nothing for Christianity.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury is one Justin Welby. "Who?" you ask, looking somewhat bewildered. Well, he's an oil industry executive really; ordained five minutes ago, perhaps after being struck blind on the road to Houston, Texas and hearing a voice saying: 'Justin, Justin, why are you destroying my beloved planet in order to satisfy man’s unstoppable avarice?

Continue your journey to Oil Town, where Halliburton will restore your sight just as they restored Iraq!'

Frightened and confused the Justin of our story continued to Houston where the scales fell from his eyes and the voice told him that his mission would be threefold: firstly to accrue vast wealth for the Anglican Communion and to worship Mammon, secondly to rid the priesthood of homosexuals and women and thirdly to spend the Anglican adherents charitable donations on political chicanery, luxury for the House of Bishops and in fact 'anything he wanted' except Jesus' simple program.

Unlike Paul who suffered a vision on the road to Damascus, the voice that Justin heard was definitely not Jesus!

Sounds like mission almost impossible to me; particularly when you consider that our own homegrown Canadian Primate, Fred Hiltz, has jumped the Canterbury enthronement and inaugural ball already with a pilgrimage to Justin aimed at heading off Anglican Communion recognition of the schismatic Anglican Network in Canada [ANiC] and furthering the gay and lesbian cause within the Anglican Church of Canada [ACoC]. As the ANiC has already been stripped of all its assets by Fred's church lawyers, Mammon is off the table, which leaves the contentious Gay and Lesbian issue which has already scuppered more than one Canterbury incumbent to date; however, it should be easy for Justin and Fred to find common ground with regard to political chicanery, luxury and greed.

It must be said that the Canadian Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz has, during the last five years, proved himself to be a silver-tongued [Canada’s First Nations might say fork-tongued] politically adept individual who manages to display a mien of sincerity that fools the casual observer and even some who should know better. The track record of his 'beloved church' has not improved in any quarter. Charity [such as it is] begins and stays at home; the abuse issues remain [aboriginal genocide, sexual, psychological and physical abuse] and continue unresolved; lip service is paid to ecumenical matters; money is god and, like a dog in the manger of oxen, while the ACoC does not follow Jesus' program it does its level best to make sure that others are restricted or discouraged from meeting the challenge or filling the gaps.

What about Vatican City? Here confusion, and of course intrigue, is the order of the day because having read the contemporary Canterbury Tale Pope Benedict XVI decided to retire and become Pope Emeritus [an act without precedence in the last 600 years] leaving the throne of Saint Peter deserted and cold until a new Pope was elected.

On 13th March 2013, the 266th Pope was elected on the fifth ballot of the Papal conclave in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. Another surprise: Jorge Mario Bergoglio is a relatively unknown cardinal archbishop from Argentina who has chosen to be known as Francis I. [On first appearances, not Peter the Roman; the ultimate pope, predicted by Saint Malachy]. Advanced in years, Francis faces an enormous and daunting challenge if he is to restore the Roman Catholic church to anything even resembling a position that commands societal respect from Catholics and non Catholics alike. In the image of Albino Lucciano, the ill-fated John Paul I, Francis is a humble man who sees the church as the 'Church of the Poor'; however, he appears not to have a track record of standing up to the establishment, which bodes ill for those of us hoping for radical reform. Status of women and human sexuality issues are equally unlikely to change. Nevertheless, I pray that God watches over him and Jesus walks at his side; however, on a worldly level I would also recommend food tasters and private personal security.

The Roman Catholic Church continues to be rocked by the abusive acts of clergy from parish priest to Cardinal Archbishop; women are relegated to the status of second class citizens. At the highest level the Roman Curia makes Machiavelli appear honest and straightforward, while the Vatican Bank showcases the financial dealings of the Catholic Church in a manner that would embarrass a mafia crime boss. Since Benedict's resignation, rumours from the sublime to the ridiculous have been released by the Vatican's spin doctors as well as a myriad of so-called insiders from the Camerlengo to the pope's cook. [The pope's butler is in jail for releasing embarrassing information last year].

My personal favourite is the now historical presumption that Benedict wanted to reform the church and that resistance at all levels wore him down and destroyed his health. Uh huh... In my lifetime there has been two great reforming popes; namely John XXIII and John Paul I. They both rocked the establishment, and both of them died rather suspiciously; in particular John Paul after only thirty-three days on the throne, and after announcing far reaching reforms on the eve of his death to his Secretary of State. Benedict XVI has been many things: a member of the Hitler Youth; a Luftwaffe soldier; a career politician; a very senior enforcer in the Vatican who wrote the book on covering up child abuse while head of the Prefecture for Religious Affairs [previously the Office of the Inquisition] and a Cardinal who did nothing to bring the Roman Catholic Church into the twentieth [never mind twenty-first] century. The one thing that Benedict has never, ever been is a reformer...

DOLDRUMS OF CHANGE

On the face of it, nothing much has changed. Or has it?

THE MIDDLE EAST

Let's take a peek at Israel. Same problems, same political players with some shifts in the power base and the same enemies; although Israel's friends have changed a bit, perhaps most significantly with a cooling of US - Israeli relations most obviously between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. To some extent Israel now stands alone against Iran, who, in turn, has threatened to remove Israel from the face of the earth.

Significantly, with regard to the nuclear weapons needed to accomplish Israel's destruction time has appeared to stand still, Five years ago, Iran was "on the brink" of becoming a nuclear power, and a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities seemed to be imminent. Year-by-year, deadlines passed and the would-be protagonists went calmly about their affairs. It seemed that the doomsday clock has been frozen at one minute to midnight, or somebody perhaps was shouting 'Wolf!'

Here is a synopsis of the situation [time-line February 2013].

"It's no longer a question of if but when," one Israeli analyst stated when asked if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would respond militarily if Iran crossed his famous red line and acquired a nuclear bomb. This sounds awfully familiar...

Several analysts ticked off different factors behind the swings and roundabouts of political intrigue:

A growing realization that sanctions - no matter how robust - won't stop Tehran from crossing Netanyahu's 'red line' and posing an existential threat to the nation.

Fueled by the Arab Spring, a sense of chaos swirling around Israel's borders has led Israelis to vote once again for the tough-minded Netanyahu - albeit in fewer numbers - and to sympathize with his hard-line policy of protecting Israel at all costs, with walls, fences, and air strikes, if necessary.

There remains a belief - call it a hope - that Netanyahu would not 'go it alone' against Iran - that President Barack Obama would prevail upon him to avoid any unilateral action that might trigger an unforeseen Arab conflagration against Israel. But some Israeli analysts say that Netanyahu seems much less worried than Obama about a lethal Arab response to an air strike on Iran.

Israeli forces conducted an air strike on a military convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border in February 2013; it appears that this was a consignment of rockets heading for Hezbollah another sworn enemy of Israel. With some reports once again suggesting that Iran is only months away from a nuclear bomb [did you hear a wolf howling?], the Obama administration is sticking to its support for tough sanctions, but also saying that Iran cannot be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.

Interesting stuff! However, to suggest that Iran has been "on the verge of obtaining the nuclear bomb for more than five years" is patent nonsense! Sorry, no more prophecies from me; although I will go so far as to say that if one considers the frailty of the global situation as we approach the hundredth anniversary of the start of WWI, the Great War, that was supposed to end all wars, there is no sign at all that peaceful coexistence will prevail during the twenty-first century since Christ.

Will a new Pope help us? Or a new Canterbury lead us forward?

"Time and again," G.K Chesterton noted, "the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. But each time, it was the dog that died."

It would be heresy and hubris to assume that renewal is inevitable. Christianity's overall resilience has not prevented particular Christendoms from decaying and dissolving. But to hope for a revival is every believer's obligation.

What does the future hold for Christianity? There appear to be two general schools of thought on the matter: one argues that Christianity is getting more liberal and in fact will continue down that road in the future while the other argues that, on the contrary, Christianity will have to get more and more conservative.

One alternative: ABBA MINISTRIES OF CANADA

Conservative or liberal, Our clergy administer the sacraments, preach God's ways by word and example, and minister in a compassionate and caring manner across different Christian denominations and traditions. If you are seeking somewhere to call your spiritual home and would like the prayer support and Christian fellowship, we are all here for you. We serve Jesus and contemporary society compassionately in a dynamic and non-traditional model of service and quite radically, we serve as volunteers. In 2004 there were just a handful of us; today there are over fifty-five vibrant ministries from coast to coast in Canada.


www.abbacanada.org
In Christ,

Malachy

In writing this article, the author acknowledges numerous sources on the World Wide Web.

Author: Rev. Malachy Egan
Article Date: The Ides of March 2013

"Love God with all your heart,
and love your neighbour as yourself."