Saturday, 18 April 2015

Not exactly Turkish delight - a few news items of interest

The Turkish Government's  attack on Pope Francis for cleverly merely quoting Pope St John Paul II about the reality of the Armenian genocide seems to have backfired spectacularly [here] 
Now, of course, everyone, rightly,  is talking about the subject ...
Turkey, however, has an increasingly ambivalent attitude towards its Ottoman past. The aggressive secularism of the modern (post-Ataturk) Turkish State is being toned down considerably due to the resurgence of political Islam. A recent symptom of this is the first recitation of the Koran in Hagia Sophia for 85 years [see here] - something unimaginable only a few years ago and somewhat revealingly insensitive given the desperate plight of non-Muslims in the wider region.. 
Over the years the Turkish record (under democratic or military rule)  on human rights and freedom of speech is not a particularly proud one, nor is its largely uncondemned attempt to eradicate archeological evidence of Asia Minor's Roman / Byzantine and Armenian,  Christian past.
Perhaps our own politicians should think more than twice before advocating, as they are even now,  closer ties between Turkey and the E.U.
"...It is the responsibility not only of the Armenian people and the universal Church to recall all that has taken place, but of the entire human family, so that the warnings from this tragedy will protect us from falling into a similar horror, which offends against God and human dignity. Today too, in fact, these conflicts at times degenerate into unjustifiable violence, stirred up by exploiting ethnic and religious differences. All who are Heads of State and of International Organizations are called to oppose such crimes with a firm sense of duty, without ceding to ambiguity or compromise...."   
[The full text of the Pope's address can be found here]

We should also be glad that the BBC has finally woken up to what is happening to the Christians of the Middle East in our own time.  A good programme [link here]  by Jane Corbin investigates the heart-breaking reality.

The death, after a courageous battle with cancer, of the American Cardinal Francis George [an appreciation here] highlights the contemporary lack of intellectual ballast in the modern Church (ecclesial bodies of all traditions). He is, of course, remembered here mostly for his remarks about the likely fate of his successors:
"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

Closer to home, in the run up to the General Election, the Archbishop of Wales urges us [full address here] to cast our votes (as the Church in Wales website puts it) for 'the common good.' 
Most of what Dr Morgan says about Christian concern for the poor and vulnerable in society probably needs to be said more often - if from a more non-tribal standpoint: his references are telling in this regard -  but, and, most importantly, the precise ways in which we can identify and work towards that common good, is a rather more contested subject (both in the Church and in political life) than the Archbishop's Governing Body address seems to credit.

And back to the BBC; there was an interesting radio programme [here]  which, as well as a (determinedly non-theological) attempt to define 'the good life,'  included a piece about the way our politicians and their advisors use language more to disguise rather than illuminate. An abuse of the gift of speech most certainly: it's no wonder the electorate remains so obdurately cynical ...

As to the important issue as to who can we now vote for, Deacon Nick Donnelly [here], from a traditionalist Roman Catholic standpoint,  poses some important questions for all of us: 
"....I consider voting at a General Election to be a solemn and binding duty on every citizen because countless men and women have given their lives to protect our freedom as a democracy. But what do Christians do when all the political parties advocate a whole variety of policies that we consider immoral? I’m sure I’m not the only one to conclude that no political party at this General Election represents our moral world view as a Christians...."
It would also seem that the Greens are now the real 'nasty party' [here] with  its less than articulate leader backing a complete economic, cultural and artistic boycott of the State of Israel, for all its many faults, the only recognisable democratic state in the Middle East.
As 'greenness' (as opposed to responsible, orthodox, Christian stewardship of the natural world) seems to be highly fashionable at the moment, at least among our 'opinion-formers,'  here is a review of 'The Green Bible' (foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) - yes, really,  you couldn't make it up - I can't resist posting this excerpt from the article: 
"...Still more ill judged is the over-egging of the rhetorical pudding. The project website tells us that “with over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth.” I am not sure what to make of this argumentum ad arithmeticum, unless the point is that the earth is approximately 1.88 times more important to God than love and 2.04 times more important than heaven. Based on my own research into this topic and following the same method, I am prepared to say that the earth is 7.04 times more important to God than donkeys (which are mentioned 142 times in the Bible).  
The Green Bible presents us with a curious kind of natural theology: We start with things we know to be true from trusted sources—Al Gore, perhaps?—and then we turn to Scripture to measure it against those preexisting and reliable authorities. And what a relief to discover that God is green. Because we already know that it’s good to be green—what we didn’t know is whether God measures up to that standard..."

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