Sunday, April 24, 2011

In the Garden

Apparently the author of this hymn insisted it only be used in conjunction with the reading of John 20: 1-18 - so we'd remember what garden we were singing about.


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them,

They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.
Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her,

Woman, why are you weeping?

She said to them,

They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.

When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her,

Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him,

Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus said to her,


She turned and said to him in Hebrew,

Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her,

Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,

I have seen the Lord;
and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Yet cheerful he to suffering goes, that he his foes from thence might free"

Here's a blogpost well worth the read. And here's an excerpt:

If we don’t believe that love triumphs over all, we have no hope. The evil forces arrayed against our lives are overwhelming otherwise. But it’s not enough to cling to a belief in some vague fairy tale, which might or might not come true. We need to see the proof for hope to be real, a fact Jesus completely understood. The story of Doubting Thomas, who had to touch Christ’s wounds himself, shows that Jesus knew that only proof would do.

The miracles throughout the Gospels are all about the proof. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, he can and will raise us from the deaths we suffer by injustice and war and homophobia and patriarchy and apartheid, as well as mere disease and old age. In the case of his pal Lazarus, Jesus even waited to intervene till after he expired, old and moldy in the grave (“Lord, he stinketh”) before giving him life again.

But Jesus isn’t here today, we can’t see him, so where’s this proof?

The proof is in my friend Peter, diabetic and morbidly obese when I met him, barely able to walk; he’s lost a couple hundred pounds since lap-band surgery.

The proof is in my friend Leonardo, who should have been dead by now, but got saved by Higher Power.

The proof is in my own body – in all my friends; Helen and Marc in Crawfordsville, who lost their genius son at age 19; in Stephanie, my weeping correspondent today; in all the 1.3 million visitors to my Daily Office websites since 2004. The proof is in Desmond Tutu, in Mother Teresa, in Ryan White. The proof is in the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a bunch of ordinary Lesbian and Gay couples suing for the right to marry, when 40 years ago – the same era when I first heard “Love Unknown” – Gay people were the most stigmatized and hated folks on the planet. (There, I said it, it’s true, and no amount of bitching about racism can change the fact.)

Christ is there in all of them; Christ is here in all of us. You are yourself the proof.
But the best single line in the piece?

So what’s so good about Good Friday? Well, three days later Jesus walks out of the tomb, much to the consternation of Wall Street and the Republicans.

Anyway, here's the hymn:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

RIP - The Honourable Allan Emrys Blakeney, PC, OC, SOM, QC, FRSC, MA, DCL

Former Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney has died today after what is described as a "short battle with cancer."

He served this province for nearly 40 years, having come west from Nova Scotia in 1950 to work in the Saskatchewan public service. Elected to the provincial Legislature in 1960, he was Minister of Health during the implementation of the first universal single-payor health plan in North America. (I once said, in his hearing, that he had been Health Minister during the doctors strike. He was quick to correct me.) He was CCF-NDP leader from 1970 to 1988, and Premier of Saskatchewan from 1971 - 1982. He subsequently taught law at the University of Saskatchewan.

My favourite memory of AEB came several years after he had left active politics. The cabinet minister I was writing speeches for those days like to quote Blakeney's predecessor as CCF-NDP leader, Woodrow Lloyd, but for a particular speech, we had decided she should quote Allan Blakeney instead.

Having searched high and low (biographies, old speeches, Hansard, consults with former speechwriters), I finally did what any sensible speechwriter would do. I called him. It happened to be March 25, 1998.

The first part of the conversation was amazing enough. After indicating he couldn't think of a single thing he'd said that would fit what I needed, it only took a vague reference to a comment from a former speechwriter to set him off on an extended riff from his "speech to the party council after the 1978 election." I had what I needed.

Then I asked the Bridgewater, Nova Scotia native what he thought of the previous day's election results in Nova Scotia. (The NDP came from a mere four seats at dissolution to winning 19 seats in the provinccial legislature. This left the Liberals and NDP tied for the largest number of seats with the Liberals, as the incumbent government, with the right to seek the confidence of the House first.)

He told me that, "had the NDP gotten one more seat or the Liberals one fewer," I wouldn't have reached him because he had committed to the NSNDP that he would come out to manage their transition to power should they form a government.

This was a brilliant move on the part of then NSNDP leader Robert Chisolm (now running federally in Dartmouth - Cole Harbour, NS) to take advantage of AEB's 38 years as a provincial public servant, MLA, cabinet minister and premier in Saskatchewan.

"Yes," he said. "It's particularly gratifying, particularly gratifying."

(Every one who ever heard AEB speak is hearing is unique, clipped pronunciation of "particularly.")

"If only Bob Rae had been so wise."

If indeed.

As a public speaker, he was no Tommy Douglas. But he was a brilliant and incisive thinker who made both Saskatchewan and Canada a better place.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wannabe Lawyerism

Many years ago, I was an "inside" scrutineer at a polling place during a federal election. The job of a scrutineer is to watch the process and to ensure that all things are done according to the rules.

In addition, most parties have their scrutineers track who has voted, and that information is passed back to a zone house as part of the party's GOTV (Get Out The Vote) operation. Essentially, the canvassing parties do during the election is not to persuade people to support the party, but to identify which voters are supporting the party. By tracking who has voted, the parties can then identify supporters who have not yet voted and take action to ensure that they do.

Different jurisdictions have different rules about who can act as a scrutineer on behalf of a candidate. At the time, Saskatchewan's election law required a scrutineer to be an eligible voter in the constituency. The federal legislation, however, had no such restriction.

Part way through the afternoon, a newly arrived Conservative scrutineer started complaining that one of the Liberal scrutineers was ineligible since she was too young to vote. Thus began a two hour tempest as the Conservative scrutineer loudly demanded that "the law" be enforced - even though the law existed only in his delusions. After much shouting and raving, the Conservative scrutineer was told to behave himself or he would be ejected from the polling place. As he wound up for another go, the Conservative scrutineer at my poll, having had enough, went over and told the man to "sit the &%@& down and shut the &%@& up."

During a federal byelection some years later, I was acting as an "outside" scrutineer - meaning that I also had to be sworn in as a scrutineer, but my job was simply to collect the updated lists from the inside scrutineer. Then I'd go back to our zone house, update our sheets and determine who we needed to be calling.

As I went into the poll - carefully removing my Lynn McDonald campaign button - I noticed a woman sporting a Peter Worthington campaign button. I asked the Elections Canada staff to have her remove it. While there was no federal law against underaged scrutineers, there was - and is - a federal law about campaign materials in a polling place. Again, much raving and carrying on, based on her own interpretation of non-existent laws.

Apparently this is quite a pattern with right wingers. Make up imaginary legal precedents and fanciful though non-existent constitutional conventions to justify whatever outrageous behaviour you like. So far in this campaign, we've seen at least two examples.

First, there are the Prime Minister's speaking points about how only the party with the largest number of seats is allowed to form a government. It isn't true, of course. And the Prime Minister knows it isn't true. There is a technical term in moral theology to cover this kind of thing. We call it lying. I am curious how Harper explains the fact that, from October 1925 to June 1926, William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister, even though his Liberals had fewer seats than Arthur Meighen's Conservatives.

And now, to round it all out, we have the Communications Director of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, one Michael Sona, apparently attempting to steal ballot boxes because a special poll properly established under the Canada Elections Act was "illegal." It was illegal, you see, because Michael Sona imagined it was illegal, and therefore he was entitled to try and seize the ballot boxes.

Several University of Guelph students claim Michael Sona, the communications director for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, attempted to put a stop to voting at the special ballot held Wednesday.

The students say Sona approached the Elections Canada balloting site claiming that the process unfolding at the location was illegal and at one point reached for but never took possession of a container with ballots.

“He tried to grab for the ballot box. I’m not sure he got his hand on the box, but he definitely grabbed for it,” said Brenna Anstett, a student, who at the time of the reported incident was sealing her second of two envelopes containing her vote.

Student Claire Whalen was just about to receive her ballot just before 5 p.m. when the episode unfolded. “That’s when a guy came up and said it was an illegal polling station and that he was confiscating the ballots. And then he tried to take (the ballot box),” Whalen said.

I should mention the other consistent pattern among Canadian right wingers. Whenever they get close to being successful, they can always be counted on to screw it up with an idiot eruption like this.

Arthur Meighen is surely rolling over in his grave.


UPDATE: The Conservatives tried to appeal the matter to Elections Canada with their claim that the special poll was illegal. Elections Canada appears to have told them to pound sand. The Conservatives have thanked Elections Canada for dismissing their "concerns."

While the Elections Canada statement confirms that what happened in Guelph lacked proper authorization, we applaud the decision not to disenfranchise University of Guelph students because of errors by the local returning officer.

In the CBC story, it is noted that the Liberals tried a similar tactic at the University of Toronto during the 2008 election.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

TINA - the argument from intellectual bankrupcy

Of late, one of the more dishonest arguments for the proposed Anglican Covenant has been that there is no alternative

TINA, as the argument is sometimes called, is the argument of last resort for the intellectually (and often morally) bankrupt.

Speaking of intellectual and moral bankrupcy, Canadian Liberal leader Count Michael Ignatieff has been telling Canadians that they must either vote for one corrupt right wing party or for a different corrupt right wing party. (The Conservatives are heavier on the right wing part; the Liberals on the corrupt part.)

Perhaps there is something about bushy eyebrows that moves one to make such vacuous arguments.

In the meantime, there's at least one Canadian politician arguing that there perhaps is an alternative to the current duopoly of corrupt right wingers.