Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Politics and Religion

We all know that Miss Manners, Linus, and nearly everyone else advises us to avoid discussions of politics and religion, but -- throwing caution to the wind -- here are a couple of eye - opening titles from my more serious summer reading.

First, politics:

Book at amazon
Photo at

I have been a fan of Harry since reading his remarkable 2013 essay "This year I will wear the poppy for the last time." Last month, I took some time to read his Last Stand (you can read it in a day) and felt that I had discovered a latter day Orwell. I like Harry's politics, courage, and honesty in speaking from the heart of a lifetime of experience. I agree when he writes that "It is both anti - democratic and immoral when life doesn't get materially and socially better for the majority. . . . For over a generation, British society worked together for one common aim: measured prosperity for everyone. To achieve it, free health care and education were provided to every citizen to even out the playing field of life" (105, 124).

Any time that "social democracy is placed jeopardy," Harry speaks up on behalf of the populace (155). He is living proof that aging does not lead inevitably to regressive politics. He observes that "Many people who are younger than me presume that because of my age I have a default setting which makes me, among other things, a lover of dogs, suspicious of immigrants, wary of welfare benefit recipients and distrusting of those who possess piercings and / or multiple tattoos" (66). But no! They'd be wrong!

When one of Harry's younger relatives points out that "The world has changed a lot since you were a boy, "Harry draws the opposite conclusion: "Though I didn't want to disagree with him, it seems to me that the problem is that it hasn't changed enough" (72).

Of the elderly, Harry writes, " . . . we are not so different to you. I still have many of your familiar worries, from how to pass the time of day to how to pay my rent. Like everyone else, I grumble about money. I think I have too little; that my pension is shrinking while the cost of living is rising. Like you, I have some regrets. Why didn't I ever learn to swim or speak French? Why didn't I buy that computer stock? Like all of us, I worry about my children, despite the fact that they are halfway along in their own lives" (8).

He provides a voice of reason amidst all the nonsense: "When I watch the news of television -- and it doesn't matter which broadcaster: BBC, Sky, CNN, Fox or CBC -- it all sounds tired, deflated, as if it had been written by a lobbyist or government policy maker. It seems contrived and fake, like the newsreaders are in on a joke that eludes their public. I can be in Yorkshire, Albufeira, New York or Toronto, but the message is always the same: health care is too costly, education must be about job training, immigration is too high [and so forth]. It can't ever be about making a more informed citizen because culture is too costly in a world content with scripted reality television shows and blockbuster zombie movies. . . . I will never understand why the daily rags castigate the poor and label them scroungers with a vigour that should be reserved for corporations . . . Yet these voices that ring so loudly are media creations, and only exist to create discord, mayhem and hatred . . . " (18, 9, 127).

Harry Leslie Smith
follow on facebook ~ listen to interview

Now for some religion:

“The Bible is a human product:
it tells us how our religious ancestors saw things,
not how God sees things. "
Marcus J. Borg

"It is not Christianity, but priestcraft
that has subjected woman as we find her.
The Church and State have been united,
and it is well for us to see it so."
Lucretia Mott

"Whatever the Bible may be made to do in Hebrew or Greek,
in plain English it does not exalt and dignify woman. . . .
we say that these degrading ideas of woman
emanated from the brain of man,
while the church says that they came from God."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"In practice the Mother of God or Queen of Heaven continued to occupy the same position in the Christian pantheon as in the earlier pagan one, even when churchmen officially declared her nondivine (though somewhat mysteriously miraculous). Medieval Mariolatry provided some degree of comfort for downtrodden women, although it could not assuage their pain more than just a little, since churchmen declared Mary exempt from the supposed crimes and disadvantages of mortal women. Mary was sexless, sinless, and absorbed in her relational role of mother to the exclusion of all other roles. The God who had impregnated her without pleasure had usurped all her earlier functions, such as creatress, lawgiver, judge, protectress, nurturer, spirit of nature, inventor of the civilized arts. The church insisted that the multitudes who worshipped her as divine were not really doing any such thing, simply because the church had forbidden them to view her as a true goddess."
from The Skeptical Feminist:
Discovering the Virgin, Mother, and Crone

by Barbara Walker

~ also an influential knitting expert ~

Next Month's Post:
Barbara Brown Taylor (Religion) & David Kuo (Politics)

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