Coren: Persecuted Christians in Asia, Africa and Middle East need ‘help and solidarity’

A reminder:

The mass murder of Christians in Sri Lanka stunned many observers, not only because of the obvious barbarism of the act but because the prime target was Christians, and during Easter and in church. For those of us who have been writing and broadcasting for decades about the persecution of Christians, however, this obscenity came as little surprise.

Back in 2012, I was hosting a nightly television show and on one occasion my guest was a Christian minister from the Middle East. He asked me if he could put a Bible on the desk in front of him during the interview. I politely told him that I’d rather he didn’t, because it might look like proselytizing. He replied that he understood, but that this particular Bible might be of interest to the viewers. It had been in Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad on October 31, 2010 when a Sunni Muslim terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq attacked the church, murdering 58 people and wounding more than 75.

The book being held in front of me was almost beyond reading, as its pages were glued together in purple lumps, sticky with the blood of the men, women and children who had been slaughtered that warm evening in a place of peace, in a city where Christians had lived and flourished for almost 2000 years. This was not a holy book to be preached from, but a holy book of martyrdom that preached. Its hardly legible pages spoke entire volumes, its red-turned-to-brown stains cried out to a still largely indifferent world.

The Baghdad attack, however, was merely one example of the war on Christianity. Even Pope Francis, hardly militant in these areas, told a group of 40 Jewish leaders, including the then head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, “First it was your turn and now it is our turn.” In February, 2014, U.S. representative Chris Smith, chairman of the congressional panel that oversees international human rights issues, told a congressional subcommittee that discussion of “anti-Christian persecution is not meant to minimize the suffering of other religious minorities who are imprisoned or killed for their beliefs” but to make it clear that Christians “remain the most persecuted religious group the world over.”

More than 300-million Christians are threatened with violence or face legal discrimination, forced conversion, and daily threats. In countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and elsewhere they are frequently imprisoned and tortured on false charges of drinking and blasphemy, and in Iraq the exodus of Christians has been so great that the faith may even cease to exist in any meaningful sense in years to come.

But this is a good example of why we have to be very selective and informed in how and what we judge. Saddam Hussein was a brute, but he didn’t persecute Christians. It was the western invasion of Iraq that smashed the stability of the place, empowering Islamist groups and leading to the full-scale attack on the Christian minority. Similarly in Syria, Christians are generally protected, and in Palestine the national conversation was traditionally shaped by Greek Orthodox Christians. In Egypt the story is sadly different, in Turkey there is hardly even a concept of a “Turkish Christian,” and in Pakistan the once respected Christian minority is now intimidated and frightened.

This is not an issue of Islam refusing to accept Christianity, but of radicalized Islam and of ignorant, sadistic fanatics not accepting anybody but their own – they also slaughter Muslims who refuse to adopt their gruesome twisting of the Muslim faith. Yet Christians are without doubt the main victims of this systemic persecution and violence, and the western world says relatively little.

The reasons are complex, but one of the causes is that conservative Christians in North America and Europe so frequently claim victimhood, usually when they show intolerance towards LGBTQ people. This absurd boast of martyrdom leads to cynicism about the very real horrors experienced by Christians in other parts of the world. On a grander scale, when George W. Bush launched imperial campaigns in majority-Muslim areas and spoke of a Christian motive there was an understandable if misplaced anger. If Bush and his people were Christian, how could Christians be vulnerable and persecuted?

Then there is sheer ignorance, with the political and media class having so little experience of peoples outside of their comfort zone. There’s an assumption that Christians are somehow like them, are white and secure, powerful and prosperous, and thus not the correct demographic at all for sympathy. The middle-class solipsism of all this is nauseating.

The inescapable fact is that Christians are indeed a highly persecuted group in large parts of the world, and that Christianity even faces disappearance in the places where it was born. It is not a western faith but one rooted deeply in the Middle East, and its adherents in much of that region, and in Asia and Africa, demand our help and solidarity. If we choose between marginalized groups, and ignore one for whatever reason we conjure, we are failing in our intelligence, compassion, and humanity.

Source: Persecuted Christians in Asia, Africa and Middle East need ‘help and solidarity’

ICYMI: Some parties matter. The Islamic Party of Ontario doesn’t.

Good column by Michael Coren:

It’s not difficult to establish a political party in Canada. A few forms and signatures, a handful of supporters, and any of us can pretend to be aspiring premiers and prime ministers. Some parties matter, while others simply don’t. I’m reminded of Monty Python’s “Election Night Special” with its Silly Party, Sensible Party, and Very Silly Party. Now we have something called the Islamic Party of Ontario, which, according to the usual suspects on the political hard right, is an existential threat to all we hold sacred.

Well-known journalist Tarek Fatah wrote a column in the Toronto Sun about the new party, claiming that its founder, Jawed Anwar, had previously condemned him as an enemy of Islam who therefore deserved to die. If this is so, it’s deplorable. The column was syndicated throughout Canada, and picked up and commented on abroad. But it all seems a little tenuous, and the so-called party something of an illusion.

When this story broke, Anwar had a derisory 60 followers on Twitter, most of them conservatives, anti-Muslims, and bots. After Fatah’s column appeared, and various conservative writers and hard-right social-media warriors had screamed about this terrible foe of Canadian values, his followers increased to 160, including bizarre nationalist Faith Goldy, other well-known right-wing figures, and even some branches of the Conservative Party.

It all seems rather curious and odd, especially since Anwar has publicly and aggressively supported Ontario Premier Doug Ford. It’s also significant that Anwar and his party seem to be largely anonymous within the Muslim community, and when Muslim leaders have been informed about the new organization, they condemn it, not support it.

There is something else, and something that is deeply disturbing. A video purporting to be in support of this new party suddenly featured on social media, and was viewed numerous times. It labels itself a “Message for LGBTQ from the Islamic Party of Ontario,” and is hosted by a man dressed in what appears to be cartoon Muslim dress. He speaks of murdering gay people by fire or by sword, or throwing them from the tops of tall buildings. He purposefully mispronounces English words, and declares there is nothing to fear from Islam.

Truly awful stuff. But this man is actually someone called Eric Brazeau, a notorious Islamophobe who has long appeared at demonstrations and meetings, and who has even served time in jail for his dreadful and hateful activities. For this, he’s considered a martyr by some anti-Muslim zealots. They surely must have recognized him from the video, but said nothing about his true identity.

Yet none of this prevented a number of leading alt-right commentators from blogging and broadcasting about this new party and about the danger it posed to Canadian peace and democracy. Candice Malcolm, for example, is the founder and a senior fellow of the True North Initiative. She wrote, “Let’s talk about the Islamic Party of Ontario. They’re already threatening journalists and dissenting Muslims,” then broadcast about what she saw as impending doom.

It’s all a tempest in a teacup, really, and while the party’s ultra-conservative policies are grim, hardly anybody has even read them, let alone given them any credibility. It’s worth noting that the Christian Heritage Party has existed for more than 30 years, opposes abortion, euthanasia, and equal marriage, wants to eliminate secular education and to introduce “biblical values” into Canada. Very few people vote for it, which is what democracy and the right to choose and decide is all about. Perhaps it can form a working alliance with the Islamic Party of Ontario!

It’s one thing to expose and condemn the very real threat of genuine Islamist violence, but another to insist that support for such violence is ubiquitous, and to imply that the vast majority of Muslims support it. This is horribly unfair, downright racist, and plays into the hands of the authentic zealots who want to divide society and convince Muslims they’re not welcome in the West. There is nothing new about such politics, and it stinks of the approaches taken by historical despots against various ethnic and religious scapegoats.

By the way, in Monty Python’s political parody sketch, the Silly Party and the Very Silly Party split the silly vote. Someone should alert right-wing commentators; it could be a story.

Source: Some parties matter. The Islamic Party of Ontario doesn’t.

A lesson in reaction to John Carpay’s rainbow flag comparison: the cross does not justify lunacy – Coren

I always find it somewhat amusing with the contrast between more reasoned argumentation in mainstream publications and some true colours emerge at an event organized by Rebel Media. As Carpay should know, invoking Hitler or the Nazis means he has lost his arguments (Godwin’s law):

I was shocked when it was revealed that Christian conservative lawyer John Carpay had compared the rainbow flag to the Nazi swastika. Not because Carpay had drawn the grotesque juxtaposition, but because it had taken so long for such a sentiment to be made public.

Last Saturday, Calgary-based Carpay, a leading voice with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and ubiquitous within social conservatism, spoke at a conference organized by Rebel Media, where the sewers breathe and the ghouls come out to play.

“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism?” he asked rhetorically. “You’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms.”

He later apologized, explaining that he was actually discussing totalitarianism when he listed the rainbow flag with the emblem under which 12 million people were slaughtered in death camps — including, of course, many gay men. Such apologies are usually signs of being sorry because someone is caught, not because they are genuinely contrite. Change of heart and mind come about not due to pressure, but because of personal conviction.

I’ve known Carpay for many years, and he’s not an evil man. A little eccentric, extremely conservative, but not evil. What he is, however, is a committed right-wing Christian, and that’s a world few of us know well.

In the United States it’s enormously influential, in Canada less so but — as we saw with the leadership victories of Andrew Scheer federally and Doug Ford in Ontario — it can muster perhaps 20 per cent of any conservative race, and thus decide a vote.

At the heart of their beliefs is the conviction that there is a spiritual war taking place, and that the major battlefields are life and sexuality. The rights of women to control their bodies, or of gay men and women to live equally and enjoy the same rights as the heterosexual majority, are not signs of progress or liberty, but a satanic attack on God’s plan, and on the safety and sanctity of the Christian family.

Within evangelical circles and on the right of the Roman Catholic Church it’s a commonplace view, as any casual reading of socially conservative media platforms or blogs will show.

One of the books often quoted is The Pink Swastika, co-authored by the odious Scott Lively. He’s notorious for his anti-gay extremism, has advocated the criminalization of “the public advocacy of homosexuality”, and spread his venom in Uganda and Russia, where LGBTQ people live in fear of their lives. His book, subtitled “Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” is now in its fifth edition. No credible historian takes it at all seriously, but many Christian social conservatives certainly do.

At the epicentre of all this is fear, and in that it is not unlike the cult that has developed around bestselling author Jordan Peterson. Long powerless groups are finally speaking out and up for their rights, and whether they are women, gay, trans, native, or Black, their insistence on justice intimidates many of those who have long taken it for granted.

Within a conservative Christian context, it’s comforting to paint the entire struggle in spiritual colours, because if God is on your side it’s all going to be OK. Problem is, Jesus never mentions homosexuality, and is in fact stunningly indifferent to what some around him insist is sexual sin. Lesbianism is never referred to in the Old Testament, and the subject of homosexuality is spoken of a mere handful of times in the entire Bible. If any demand permeates the Gospels it’s love, acceptance, and the welcoming of the marginalized.

Carpay’s apology is irrelevant. What matters is that reactionaries shame the voice of Christ with their fanaticism, that Nazism is minimized by such grimy propaganda, and that LGBTQ people — still persecuted, humiliated, and killed in large parts of the world — have once again been assaulted.

The rainbow flag is a symbol of liberation, but the swastika is an icon of genocidal horror. That anybody should think otherwise, and use the cross to maintain their lunacy, makes this Christian very angry indeed.

Source: A lesson in reaction to John Carpay’s rainbow flag comparison: the cross does not justify lunacy – Coren

Enough with the Jordan Peterson hysteria: Michael Coren

Michael Coren’s “a plague on both your houses” is well argued and stated:

I’ve met Jordan Peterson twice; first on a TV show and later at a dinner party. He’s an intelligent and interesting man, with ideas on numerous subjects. Since then, of course, he’s become famous, and the mere mention of his name can divide a room.

I’ve no interest in providing yet another analysis of the Toronto academic’s ideas, but I will say that he is nowhere near as extreme and repugnant as many of his critics allege, and nowhere near as profound and original as do his supporters.

Peterson’s earlier claims were hardly fanatical. He wanted increased thought given to how we use and change language, and objected to the more sweeping linguistic demands of some in the trans community.

Agree or not, this was hardly outrageous stuff. But then the polarization began, and rather than flee from it, Peterson — perhaps because he had no choice — seemed to embrace the conflict.

He spent time and showed solidarity with The Rebel, a media platform that lost all credibility some time ago due to its far-right content and employment of figures rejected by respectable media. He made broadcasts that seemed increasingly strange and sentimental. There was a certain narcissism on display, a development of a public personality who, rather than offering informed reservations about language change, was now seen by his enormous number of followers as a philosopher-king, with answers to almost every dilemma.

It’s unfair to characterize someone entirely by those whom they attract, but equally unfair to dismiss the connection as immaterial. Anybody who has been on the receiving end of Peterson’s supporters realizes how abusive, intolerant, and angry they can be.

To his credit, their hero has sometimes told them to stop, but he also seems to be a product of their enthusiasms. There’s something exponential in all this, with Peterson appearing to be encouraged now to speak out on all sorts of things, often with very limited authority. But because it comes from him, it’s assumed to carry great weight.

Then there is the reaction, which is often grotesque. At a protest outside one of his recent talks, a violent demonstrator was found to be in possession of a garrote. This is the world gone mad! Peterson is called a racist and a homophobe, and that’s likely untrue, but the same can’t be said of all of his fan-base.

There is so much space and time given to Peterson and anti-Peterson, so much of it fat with empty hyperbole. And here’s the point. A self-defeating division has been created, where the chance of a moderate, sophisticated, and empathetic discussion has been made virtually impossible.

Peterson’s supporters are contemptuous of his opponents, highlighting the lunatics rather than listening to those from marginalized communities who have valid fears about what is being argued. His opponents refuse to give Peterson credit for anything he says, when in fact if we unwrap the showmanship and ludicrous zeal, the man sometimes asks essential questions.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of older, privileged journalists dismissing, and sometimes mocking, minority sensitivities. They’re generally white men, and have been unchallenged in their careers. Sorry guys, times are changing, and about time too.

Equally, I’ve had enough of the hysteria brigade, screaming at every ostensible offence, urging censorship as a political weapon, and making no distinction between what is genuinely dangerous and what is merely challenging.

A plague on both of your bloody houses, and you should try to grasp that most Canadians are caught in the middle of this, and consider both of you to be problems rather than solutions.

Jordan Peterson is not some infallible figure. Some of what he says is absurd and wrong, his followers are far too often motivated by misplaced fear and nostalgia, and a lot of his most vociferous critics don’t even know what he says and need to learn that violence is entirely unacceptable, and that they usually play into Peterson’s hands.

So, there we have it. The difficulty with being in the middle of the road is that one sometimes gets run over, and I confidently expect that to happen now on social media and the like. Thus, I suppose, proving my point.

via Enough with the Jordan Peterson hysteria | Toronto Star

If there’s a war on Christmas, it’s being led by the most zealous Christians: Coren

Another good and relevant column by Michael Coren on much of the nonsense about a “war against Christmas”:

…. there is not and never has been a war on Christmas, whether it’s the appearance of Happy Holidays cards (so what?), multicultural television commercials (surely a good thing), or carol singers allegedly being banned from shopping malls (they aren’t). But the sausage roll reveals a sorry irony. If there is a religious war, it is not on the season we have somewhat arbitrarily and relatively recently chosen as the date of Jesus’s birth. Rather, it is an attack against the Christian, egalitarian virtues that the child and the event are supposed to epitomize—a charge led by some Christians and churches themselves.

Truth be told, some of the loudest and most active Christians tend to be socially conservative and harsh in their opinions of what is new, novel, and challenging, often obsessed with issues such as abortion and homosexuality. The latter is a subject I myself wrestled with for a long time, and I once accepted—albeit somewhat reluctantly—that same-sex marriage was forbidden in Scripture. A deeper reading of the Bible, however, and a less anachronistic grasp of its meaning, led me to question what I had considered self-evident. I also saw firsthand the love and commitment of so many same-sex couples, often Christian same-sex couples, that must lead God to smile with delight.

We must remember, however, that these are not issues that Jesus explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Yes, he did respond to the Pharisees’ question about divorce by noting that marriage was between a man and a woman, but we also read of his dealings with a Roman centurion and a slave whom the said Roman loves—a romantic love, according to some textual readings. St. Paul does mention homosexuality—a word not used as it is today until the 19th-century—but this is more about heterosexual men using boys than loving, adult relationships. And while some of the stories in the New Testament are certainly up for debate, Jesus’s emphasis on refusing to judge others, especially where sexual sin is concerned, is not.

What is expressed repeatedly in the Gospels, however—with a virtual monomania—is love for neighbour. Christ teaches that authentic devotion to God can only by demonstrated by this love, this fraternal romance, and such a love demands social justice, a passion for the poor and marginalized, and a revolutionary understanding of power and morality. If Jesus does condemn anyone, it is the reactionaries, those who have authority, who obscure love under law, and who disguise the kingdom behind formalities and regulations. Instead of opening the doors wide, they close them and bolt them tight.

I have no doubt that those Christians who complain about the ostensible war on Christmas and have such right-wing attitudes about so many subjects still believe in their religion, and I certainly have no right or ability to look into their souls. But it has all reached a crisis point now, particularly for those of us who embrace a more progressive but nevertheless committed belief in Christianity. Quite frankly, the antics of the Christian right also turn people away from Christianity, and understandably so. If that’s what Jesus is about, some people say, I want nothing of it.

Don’t forget that one of the leaders of the battle against this chimerical war on Christmas, and a powerful leader of North American Christianity, is Franklin Graham, the son of Billy. He believes that Islam is “very evil and wicked,” admires Vladimir Putin, and demanded that LGBTQ people be barred from churches because Satan“wants to devour our homes.” He also claimed that the election of Donald Trump was due to the “hand of God” at work. Imagine putting all that on a card for Santa.

What he and his friends seem to consider as Christmas is the stuff of tinselled nostalgia mingled with the self-prescribed absolute right of Christians to dominate the public square and dictate the private conscience. And if anything should anger followers of Jesus at Christmas time, it shouldn’t be some irrelevant commercial for food, but rather the fact that millions of people go without food altogether; it shouldn’t be that Jesus’s name is taken in vain but that His teachings are taken in vain; it shouldn’t be that we don’t say “Merry Christmas” as often as we did, but that we so seldom say “I forgive you,” “You are loved,” and “All are welcome in church.” After all, per the once-ubiquitous question, “What would Jesus do,” the answer would probably be, “tell everyone to grow up, re-read what the New Testament says, and then go and turn the world upside-down”—not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.

via If there’s a war on Christmas, it’s being led by the most zealous Christians –

White people must understand that racism is real: Coren

Good commentary:

The one constant and reliable conclusion about people who argue that racism no longer exists is that they are white. And naive of course. It’s a crass statement, to be thrown in with claims such as unions have outlived their usefulness, fascism and Communism are as bad as each other, poverty a result of laziness, and the rest of the reactionary mantra. The lions of the suburbs preaching, as it were; gratingly comfortable and darkly unworldly in their invincible smugness.

The bunch of banality can usually be dismissed but lately a number of influential and even respected journalists have joined in. Sometimes they couch their arguments with a vague intelligence, often in tabloid hysteria, but the theme is repetitive: traditional values are under attack, political correctness is oppressing us, free speech is moribund, and radicals are violent and unreasonable. We’re all going to hell in a handbasket and the world has to know about it.

Most of the writers are middle-aged, as am I. In my case not only middle-aged but a white, middle-class man to boot. As such do I find some of the claims and demands of many young progressives to be shocking? Yes. But does that mean that they are wrong? No. If I can break out of my comfort zone there’s no excuse for anybody else.

Thing is, aging needn’t be synonymous with conservatism. In fact, the maxim that we become more right wing as we grow older is often the opposite of the case. Life experience, years of parenting, an increasingly safe distance from the daily economic struggle faced by younger people, the sobering reality of immortality, should all lead one to become more empathetic and reasonable.

It should also make us braver and not more fearful, but it’s fear — even hysterical fear — that seems to characterize so many of the comments from this new right collective of journalists and pundits.

Judging from what they say and write they are threatened and intimidated by the anti-Fascist movement, by Black Lives Matter, by students asking for language to be more inclusive than it used to be. Yet while these may be new movements in their specifics, there is nothing new in a fresh generation wanting a better world. When my uncle went off to Spain as a 16-year-old to fight against Franco, his parents in London were outraged. They later celebrated him as a hero.

Complacency is the last refuge of the privileged. It’s nasty in the bar or the social club but unacceptable in the pages of national newspapers. This increasingly militant wallowing in nostalgia, this reverence for a time that never was, doesn’t expand but simply destroys the debate. Yes of course such attitudes will attract fans but that says nothing — the politically blind leading the politically deaf.

It’s like the boorish parent bemoaning the music their teenagers listen to and the clothes they wear. You become figures of fun at best but at worst you’re causing harm. After one recent article denying that there was very much racism in Canada I asked a Black friend about his experience. Had he ever been stopped by the police?

He laughed. That was all. Laughed. It wasn’t a laugh of contempt but of resignation. Of course he had been stopped, several times. Is it really too much to ask those who will never be treated thus to make a small leap of empathy? Isn’t that what real journalists are supposed to do?

In the case of racism for example, it might be one thing to question some of the actions of radical groups in the Black community but quite another to refuse to understand why they were radicalized in the first place. The majority, those who enjoy power, is always frightened by anger but that does not mean that anger is not justified. As for students, socialists, and social justice campaigners, remember that liberation has to breathe. Give it some room, allow for the a few rough edges, let go and enjoy the ride.

Terms such as racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia and the rest did not develop from a vacuum and without cause. They are, alas, undeniably real. Getting old is inevitable, being young at heart, mind and soul is a choice. Do not go gently into that dark night of irrelevance.

Source: White people must understand that racism is real: Coren | Toronto Star

More faith, not fanaticism, needed in politics: Coren

Michael Coren on Christianity and politics:

Within moments of Andrew Scheer being elected as the new leader of Canada’s Conservative Party his opponents began to criticize his opinions. That’s politics of course. But this time the analysis went a little deeper.

Scheer may have said that he will not reopen debates around equal marriage or abortion, it was argued, but he doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage or a woman’s right to choose and that matters a great deal. And on issues such as euthanasia and trans rights, it was claimed, he will certainly be politically involved.

But his defenders responded that this was an “anti-Christian” attack and that the new champion of the Tories was being condemned for his religious beliefs.

Now just hold on one Bible-believing moment.

Contrary to what social conservatives have tried to tell us, there is nothing especially Christian about these issues. Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality, abortion, or euthanasia but He did speak a great deal about peace, love, justice, the dangers of wealth, the sin of materialism, and a preferential regard for the poor.

So Mr. Scheer and his friends, with all due respect and humility let me take you on a magical mystery tour of what that Jesus fellow actually did say.

There was the worryingly egalitarian, “Servants are not greater than their master”, and the snowflake nonsense of, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged, and “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

Then we have the lefty silliness of, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”, and “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone,” and “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”

Moving on there is, “In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”

Not very conservative at all! Even worse there is, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Or the nastily socialistic, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

So in a way we could say that every time someone on the right attacks a Liberal or New Democrat calling for a higher minimum wage, stronger welfare, increased funding of socialized medicine or an end to war, it is they who are being attacked for promoting Christian ideas.

In other words, Christianity is not what politicians who wear their faith on their sleeve have led us to believe. Both Old and New Testament scream for social and economic fairness and the story of the Christian God is a seamless garment of care, not for some, but for all, especially those least able to look after themselves.

Roman Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister said it so well: “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

I’m one of those odd, unfashionable people who want more and not less mingling of church and state, but a church informed by the authentic teachings of its founder and not the sex-obsessed monomania of the new Catholic and evangelical right.

Sorry Mr. Scheer, but the criticism of you had nothing to do with your faith and everything to do with your fanaticism. God bless you.

Source: More faith, not fanaticism, needed in politics: Coren | Toronto Star

Facing opponents of an updated sex ed curriculum: Michael Coren

Coren on those opposed to Ontario’s updated sex-ed curriculum:

Recently I covered my second demonstration against Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. Standing outside of Queen’s Park were the usual suspects — fundamentalist Protestants speaking of “sodomites,” ultra-conservative Catholics disgusted at Pope Francis’ ostensible liberalism and various angry people holding clumsy posters. The last time I was here an Elvis Presley impersonator with a dog collar loudly condemned me from the platform. Not this day alas. Elvis had obviously left the building.

As bizarre as it may sound, this is serious stuff and has led to parents removing their children from school and even to the previous provincial government withdrawing this acutely necessary and entirely reasonable curriculum. So who are these perennially outraged men and women who think we’re all doomed and damned?

I know quite a few of them and their leaders; hardly surprising in that it’s always the same people and the same faces. One prominent regular is a leading anti-abortion campaigner who once made up and then spread the rumour that our youngest daughter, who was still at school at the time, was gay. She happens to be straight but her sexuality is irrelevant to us. Thing is, it was done to try to hurt her and by extension hurt me because I had become increasingly vocal in my support for same-sex marriage. The person in question is a devout Catholic.

Others were from a group who had worked successfully to have me fired as a columnist from a Christian newspaper because I had written that a 10-year-old Paraguayan girl raped by her stepfather had the right to an abortion. So, as I say, I know them well and they’re hardly representative of mainstream Canadian society.

Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of, their extremism these zealots do have a following. More than this, they are trying to co-opt minority communities — principally Chinese Christians and South Asian Muslims — into their coalition.

Their anchors are hysteria, paranoia, fear and ignorance. The apocryphal is wrapped up as established fact and what is gossip becomes ironclad information. At their demonstrations and in their literature they quote the curriculum severely out of context and speak of teachers — always unnamed — who are “perverting” children. There are frequent references to pedophilia and the smog of homophobia is seldom far away.

This latter point needs to be understood, because there has been a deliberate effort on the part of the antisex ed leadership to publicly, if not privately, play down or deny the anti-gay prejudice that was so prominent in earlier demonstrations and in their attitudes toward Kathleen Wynne.

While hardline evangelicals are part of the leadership, the central figures are traditionalist Roman Catholics who reject Pope Francis’ moves toward dialogue and have adopted Cardinal Robert Sarah from Guinea as their champion.

This senior cleric’s name is peppered on antisex ed websites and in their conversations. Sarah has denounced what he calls “Western homosexual and abortion ideologies” as being “demonic” and compared them to Nazism. He has described equal marriage as “part of a new ideology of evil” and supports African anti-gay laws, many of which are hideously punitive and lead to the arrest and assault of gay men and women. This is the reality of the antisex ed movement.

What the activists refuse to say is that it is not this particular curriculum they oppose but any attempt by the state to teach children realistically about sex and sexuality, and certainly any approach that embraces the full equality of the LGBTQ community. Many of them oppose birth control and virtually all of them vehemently oppose reproductive choice and premarital sex. This is not, as they claim, “ordinary parents defending their children.”

At the root of much of all this is a denial of sex as a loving, pleasurable, invariably harmless and entirely natural act. They don’t oppose sex in itself but view it primarily, if not exclusively, as a means of procreation rather than as a method of enjoyment. They also refuse to realize that children, even their children, will be and are sexually active. An acidic nostalgia for a time that never was.

Regrettably, the conversation is not over and neither is the opposition. As for the Elvis impersonator, I fear he will be back to sing again.


How a change of heart led to a backlash from the ‘Church of Nasty’ | Michael Coren

Michael Coren on the backlash against his leaving the Catholic Church and becoming more liberal in his social views. Well worth reading:

It’s been an interesting two weeks. I was fired from three regular columns in Catholic magazines, had a dozen speeches cancelled and was then subjected to a repugnant storm of tweets, Facebook comments, emails, newspaper articles and radio broadcasts where it was alleged that I am unfaithful to my wife, am willing to do anything for money, am a liar and a fraud, a “secret Jew,” that my eldest daughter is gay and I am going directly to hell. As I say, an interesting two weeks.

The reason for all this probably seems disarmingly banal and for many people absurdly irrelevant. At the beginning of May it was made public that a year ago I left the Roman Catholic Church and began to worship as an Anglican. More specifically, from being a public and media champion of social conservatism I gradually came to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, more liberal politics and a rejection of the conservative Christianity that had characterized my opinions and persona for more than a decade. I’d won the RTNDA Broadcasting Award for a major radio debate where I opposed equal marriage, I was the author of the bestselling book Why Catholics Are Right, I was Michael Coren, for God’s sake — certainly not someone who would ever appear in the pages of the Toronto Star!

The change was to a large extent triggered by the gay issue. I couldn’t accept that homosexual relationships were, as the Roman Catholic Church insists on proclaiming, disordered and sinful. Once a single brick in the wall was removed the entire structure began to fall.

I refused to base my entire world view and theology, as so many active Catholics do, around abortion, contraception and sex rather than love, justice and forgiveness. Frankly, it was tearing me apart. I wanted to extend the circle of love rather than stand at the corners of a square and repel outsiders. So I quietly and privately drifted over to an Anglican Church that while still working out its own position on many social issues, is far more progressive, open, relevant and willing to admit reality.

But social media being what it is I was “outed” by some far-right bloggers and the gates of media hell opened roaring wide. Thus the comments above. Actually, my daughter lives with her long-term boyfriend in Paris, not that her sexuality matters to me and shouldn’t to anyone else. I am far too ugly to cheat on my wife and we’re very much in love. My dad was Jewish but I’m not and never have been really, secret or otherwise. I’m boringly honest and have never defrauded anyone. I’ve lost a substantial amount of money through lost work because of all this, so if financial gain is the purpose I’m pretty dumb. As for going to hell, I suppose that’s still open to question.

But on a serious note, why? Why would the religious and political change of what is at best a mid-level Canadian journalist and broadcaster cause such visceral anger and aggression in so many people? Their disappointment is understandable, of course, but that they would troll my children’s Facebook pages and make up lies about my family says something far greater and more worrying about contemporary religion and politics and in particular the conservative right.

Over the years I have been attacked by various people in various camps, but I have never witnessed such an organized, personal and unkind campaign — all from men and women who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, a Messiah who preached turning the other cheek, empathy and endless light. I’m trying to forgive because as a Christian I’m in the forgiving business. But I tell you in all honesty, it’s hard.

…If any single characteristic dominates the mindset and ideology of such people it is fear. They have built themselves a hobbit-hole of seclusion, a bunker of protection against the outside world. Nor can this simply be blamed on their age because some of the fiercest and cruellest of them are fairly young. The fear is a result of their socialization, their mingling of church and state and their desire for a cause in an era they see as corrupt and immoral.
I don’t see that corruption and immorality. I see the same challenges, the same greatness and the same brokenness that has always been. But here’s the paradox: while Canada may be less explicitly Christian than ever before, it has arguably become in its sense of equality, fairness and downright decency more Christian than ever. Perhaps that’s why my new friends are so angry with me, with Canada and with pretty much everything.
As for me, in spite of, or perhaps even because of, all this I’ve never felt deeper and more content in my faith and never happier to be a Canadian. As I say, it’s been an interesting two weeks.

How a change of heart led to a backlash from the ‘Church of Nasty’ | Toronto Star.

I hate the hatred | Coren Toronto Sun

Michael Coren, whose writings I generally disagree with, nevertheless is worth reading in general for a different perspective, and particularly this piece on Israel and Gaza:

I hate the way some on the right and in Zionist circles refuse to listen to the Palestinian experience and believe Israel can do no wrong. I hate the way some evangelical Christians think the ghastly battle over Israel and Palestine is some sort of Biblical combat and modern Armageddon to be fought vicariously by Jews and Arabs. I hate the hatred.

I hate it when North African thugs in Paris attack synagogues in the name of Palestine, beat up Jews in the street and then scream about human rights. I hate it that kids from Pakistan will say not a word about their home country’s blasphemy laws and murder of Christians but roar their hatred of Israel when they probably couldn’t even find it on a map. I hate the hatred.

I hate the singling out of Israel for condemnation but the ignoring of the murderous regimes that surround it. I hate the fact that Iran can hang young gay men, Syria can murder tens of thousands and Turkey can occupy two countries and deny the Armenian genocide but there are no demonstrations. I hate the hatred.

I hate it that when supporters of Israel, like myself, argue that there has to be another way, that Palestine has to exist and that the settlements are wrong, we are mocked as compromisers – I actually wear that badge with pride. I hate it when the same people who welcomed Soviet diplomats, sportsmen and artists and now welcome diplomats, sportsmen and artists from repugnant Arab dictatorships, boycott Israeli kids who can kick a ball or play an instrument. I hate the hatred.

I don’t have a solution, I don’t even have much hope — and for someone who has spent so long in the Middle East, read so much, met so many people, listened to so many stories, I am I suppose a terrible disappointment. I’m obviously not as clever as those on both sides who know exactly how all of this can be settled. But I do know that I hate the damned hatred.

I hate the hatred | Coren | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun.