Fr Pat McNulty asks the question:
I was on the internet trying to figure out the mileage of the round-trip-by-foot which God sent Elijah on in the Old Testament. That’s when I discovered a blog by a man who measured the number of miles he thinks Jesus walked.
Now that’s what I call trivia with a capital “T”. I can’t believe you’re into that. I mean, who cares how many miles Jesus walked anyway?
I didn’t start out looking for that. I started out trying to put some real life on the incident from 1 Kings 19:4-8 about Elijah. That’s one of the readings for Sunday, August 12th.
The story only takes up about 12 verses, and yet it tells how Elijah had to travel from somewhere around modern day Haifa to the Sinai and back again, all within a couple of months.
And he did it mostly in the desert—a desert I’ve been to as well. I couldn’t help wanting to know how many miles this poor guy had to walk for God.
According to my measurements, it was about 600 miles, give or take. But in the process of figuring out Elijah’s biblical travelogue, I came across this blog by somebody who tried to calculate how many miles Jesus walked.
OK, let’s hear it for biblical pedometers. How many miles did Jesus walk while he was on this earth? Ho, hum.
Well, this man who obviously loves his Lord and his Bible—he often walks many miles carrying a cross similar to Jesus’—figures from the information in the Gospels that in his lifetime, Jesus must have walked about 21,500 miles—give or take.
Come on! That’s almost the distance around the equator.
How would you know something like that?
You’re not alone in your trivial pursuits, Reverend, but tell me, what in the world would interest you in something as trivial as how many miles Jesus might have walked while he was on this earth?
It’s not the number of miles that interested me but the sense of how many individual people he must have met and dealt with along the way simply by being present to them as he walked however many miles. But you never hear a thing about those people in the Bible.
I thought the Spirit put into the Bible what is necessary for salvation and not all the little tidbits which might tickle our trivial attention.
The point is, I think, that we can often forget about all the life going on behind the biblical episodes…
Do read on here.
Accusing President Obama of waging war on religion. American politics.
A new Mitt Romney ad released Thursday accuses President Barack Obama of waging a “war on religion.” The ad, along with recent attacks on Obama’s welfare policy, signals a move away from attacking the president’s handling of the economy.
“President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” says a narrator in the ad. “Mitt Romney believes that’s wrong.”
Romney is referring to an Obama administration decision to mandate that religiously-affiliated employers — but not religious institutions themselves — cover the cost of contraception in their health care plans at no charge to the employee. The administration tweaked the mandate to allow employers with moral or ethical objections to request that the insurer cover the extra costs of the coverage.
Romney’s invocation of a “war on religion” recalls an infamous Rick Perry ad that attacked Obama for the same, though on different culture-war grounds.
The latest ad then cuts to Romney praising Pope John Paul II, who helped end officially atheist communism in Poland. “[I]n 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul II, spoke words that would bring down an empire. ‘Be not afraid,’” says Romney, speaking from a recent trip to Poland.
Drawing a comparison between what it portrays as the repressive Polish communist regime and a preventative health care mandate, the narrator says, “When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?”
Anglicans respect decisions made in good conscience
Contrary to Fr Christopher Seton’s reported comments (“New world order as Anglican priests move to a Catholic environment”, The Age, 8/8), the Anglican Church respects those who cannot accept, in good conscience, the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.
Even though the ordination of women has been joyfully embraced by the Melbourne Diocese and a majority of the Australian Dioceses, the Anglican Church has sought to be supportive of those who cannot accept the ordained ministry of women priests or bishops.
A protocol to ensure appropriate care and support for those who object to women’s ordination is well established.
Moreover, Fr Seton’s reported assertion “that you’ve got to believe in same-sex marriage” to remain in the Anglican Church is inaccurate and misplaced.
A new priest will be appointed to Fr Seton’s former Anglican parish of All Saints Kooyong and the parish will continue as a worshipping community in the Anglican tradition.
We wish the four priests who have chosen to enter the Ordinariate every blessing for their future ministry. We have a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church in Melbourne, and hope to maintain this by avoiding the kind of commentary reported in this article.
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
The two churches nearest to him, I have looked up in the office. Both have certain claims. At the first of these the Vicar is a man who has been so long engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for supposedly incredulous and hard-headed congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul’s Christianity. His conduct of the services is also admirable. In order to spare the laity all “difficulties” he has deserted both the lectionary and the appointed psalms and now, without noticing it, revolves endlessly round the little treadmill of his fifteen favourite psalms and twenty favourite lessons. We are thus safe from the danger that any truth not already familiar to him and to his flock should over reach them through Scripture. But perhaps bur patient is not quite silly enough for this church – or not yet? At the other church we have Fr. Spike. The humans are often puzzled to understand the range of his opinions – why he is one day almost a Communist and the next not far from some kind of theocratic Fascism – one day a scholastic, and the next prepared to deny human reason altogether – one day immersed in politics, and, the day after, declaring that all states of the world are equally “under judgment”. We, of course, see the connecting link, which is Hatred. The man cannot bring himself to teach anything which is not calculated to mock, grieve, puzzle, or humiliate his parents and their friends. A sermon which such people would accept would be to him as insipid as a poem which they could scan. There is also a promising streak of dishonesty in him; we are teaching him to say “The teaching of the Church is” when he really means “I’m almost sure I read recently in Maritain or someone of that sort”. But I must warn you that he has one fatal defect: he really believes. And this may yet mar all.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who takes up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith, has a brilliant fisk at Midwest Conservative Journal detailing how upset some Episcopalians are at the Pope, because so many other Episcopalians are swimming the Tiber…
The modern Episcopal Church is hemorrhaging members because it has abandoned Christianity. There is no great mystery about this. Frankly, over the past few decades we have had more than a few people in the Roman Catholic Church, some holding large amounts of authority within the Church, who wished the Church would follow a similar path to extinction. Fortunately, we Catholics have the Holy Spirit to make up for our blind guides who have so fecklessly attempted to destroy the Faith given to us by God while He walked among us. We thus have no prideful attitude towards the former Episcopalians who join our ranks, but merely a humble thankfulness for the Good Shepherd who saves so many before the fall of night.
Read the whole piece here.
Wherever you go in the Middle East today, you see the Arab Spring rapidly turning into the Christian winter.
The past few years have been catastrophic for the region’s beleaguered 14-million strong Christian minority.
In Egypt, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood has been accompanied by anti-Coptic riots and intermittent bouts of church-burning. On the West Bank and in Gaza, the Christians are emigrating fast as they find themselves caught between Benjamin Netanyahu’s pro-settler government and their increasingly radicalised and pro-Hamas Sunni Muslim neighbours. Most catastrophically, in Iraq, two thirds of the Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam.
It was Syria that took in many of the 250,000 Christians driven out of Iraq. Anyone who visited Damascus in recent years could see lounging in every park and sitting in every teahouse the unshaven Iraqi Christian refugees driven from their homes by the sectarian mayhem that followed the end of the Baathist state. They were bank managers and engineers, pharmacists and businessmen – all living with their extended families in one-room flats on what remained of their savings and assisted by the charity of the different churches.
“Before the war there was no separation between Christian and Muslim,” I was told on a recent visit by Shamun Daawd, a liquor-store owner who fled Baghdad after he received Islamist death threats. I met him at the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, where he had come to collect the rent money the Patriarchate provided for the refugees. “Under Saddam no one asked you your religion and we used to attend each other’s religious services,” he said. “Now at least 75 per cent of my Christian friends have fled.”
Those Iraqi refugees now face a second displacement while their Syrian hosts are themselves living in daily fear of having to flee for their lives. The first Syrian refugee camps are being erected in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon; others are queuing to find shelter in camps in Jordan, north of Amman. Most of the bloodiest killings and counter-killings that have been reported in Syria have so far been along Sunni-Alawite faultlines, but there have been some reports of thefts, rape and murder directed at the Christian minority, and in one place – Qusayr – wholesale ethnic cleansing of the Christians accused by local jihadis of acting as pro-regime spies. The community, which makes up about 10 per cent of the total population, is now frankly terrified.
For much of the past 100 years, and long before the Assads came to power, Syria was a reliable refuge for the Christians of the Middle East: decades before the Iraqis arrived the people of Syria welcomed the Armenians escaping the Young Turk genocide of 1915. In 1948 they took in the Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, driven out of their ancestral homes at the creation of Israel; and during the 1970s and 80s their country became a place of shelter for Orthodox Christians and Maronites seeking a refuge during Lebanon’s interminable sectarian troubles.
For while the regime of the Assad dynasty was a repressive one-party police state in which political freedoms were always severely and often brutally restricted, it did allow the Syrians widespread cultural and religious freedoms. These gave Syria’s minorities a security and stability far greater than their counterparts anywhere else in the region. This was particularly true of Syria’s ancient Christian communities. The reason for this was that the Assads were Alawite, a syncretic Shia Muslim minority regarded by Sunni Muslims as heretical, and disparagingly referred to as Nusayris, or Little Christians: indeed, their liturgy seems to be partly Christian in origin. Alawites made up only 12 per cent of Syria’s population and the Assads kept themselves in power by forming what was in effect a coalition of Syria’s religious minorities, through which they were able to counterbalance the weight of the Sunni majority.
In the Assads’ Syria, the major Christian feasts were national holidays; Christians were exempt from turning up to work on Sunday mornings; and churches and monasteries, like mosques, were provided with free electricity and were sometimes given state land for new buildings. In the Christian Quarter of Old Damascus around Bab Touma, electric-blue neon crosses would wink from the domes of the churches and processions of crucifix-carrying boy scouts could be seen squeezing past gaggles of Christian girls heading out on the town, all low-cut jeans and tight-fitting T-shirts. This was something unknown almost anywhere else in the Middle East.
There was also widespread sharing of sacred space. On my travels, in a single day I have seen Christians coming to sacrifice sheep at the Muslim Sufi shrine of Nebi Uri, while at the nearby convent of Seidnaya (recently shelled by government forces) I found that the congregation in the church consisted not principally of Christians, but instead of heavily bearded Muslim men and their shrouded wives. Now that precious multi-ethnic and multi-religious patchwork is in danger of being destroyed for ever.
As in Egypt, where the late Coptic Pope Shenouda supported Hosni Mubarak right up until his fall, the established churches of Syria marked the beginning of the revolution by lining up behind the regime. My friend Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the urbane and multilingual Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, was quoted as saying: “We do not support those who are calling for the fall of the regime simply because we are for reform and change.”
Initially many of the flock were unsure of the wisdom of that position, and young Christians were among those calling for the end of the Assad regime, hoping for a new dawn of freedom, human rights and democracy. But, a year on, pro-revolution Christians are much harder to find. There are more and more reports of violent al-Qa’ida-inspired salafists fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army, while Turkish backing for the opposition Syrian National Council has terrified the Syrian Armenians.
As criminality, robbery, lawlessness and car-jacking become endemic, even in places where outright fighting is absent, and as the survival of the regime looks daily less and less likely, the Christians fear they will soon suffer the fate of their Iraqi brethren.
As ever, the Christians here remain mystified by the actions of Christian America. When George W. Bush went into Iraq, he naively believed he would be replacing Saddam with a peaceful, pro-US Arab democracy that would naturally look to the Christian West for support. In reality, nine years on, it appears that he has instead created a highly radicalised and unstable pro-Iranian sectarian battleground. Now US support is being channelled towards opposition groups that may eventually do the same to the minorities of Syria.
As in 80s Afghanistan, a joint operation between the CIA and Saudi intelligence could end up bringing to power a hardline salafist replacement to a brutally flawed but nonetheless secular regime. If that happens in Syria, the final death of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homelands seems increasingly possible within our lifetime.