Better exemplars needed
The prominence given to the Toronto debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair [A force for good or evil? Jan. 2011, p. 1] underlines the importance of having good representatives for the pro-faith position. Tony Blair may be famous for being a former British Prime Minister and a convert to Roman Catholicism, but he has never been recognised as a deep thinker. He was outclassed by Hitchens [a U.S. journalist and atheist].
Christians need to challenge the so-called “New Atheists” with a Christian atheism that refuses to accept the caricatures of the Holy set up by many atheists.
Today’s Christian apologetics need not be an attempt to whitewash religious institutions but they do need better exemplars than Mr. Blair. It would be wonderful to see a really serious atheist and a Christian of greater depth engage in a conversation that would show both their common ground and the real points of divergence.
Let’s agree to agree
Both [Tony] Blair and [Christopher] Hitchens would agree that, in Blair’s words, “Religion can be destructive” [Jan. 2011, p. 1]. Hitchens would use much stronger words of condemnation, but there is tacit agreement on the principle that any disagreement is only one of degree.
Blair said, “The true essence of faith is a basic belief, common to all faiths, in serving and loving God through serving and loving your fellow human beings.” He should have added, “using scriptural authority and religious dogma as the rules of engagement.”
Hitchens indicated that the true path to earthly civility, peace and prosperity is “through serving and loving your fellow human beings.” Isn’t Hitchen’s position much more inclusive, less divisive and far more to the point?
And if both debaters had embraced this position, wouldn’t there be near unanimous agreement of the audience?
There were many worthy people who could have been chosen to participate in the Munk debate on religion. Too bad the case for religion should have been represented by a man whose words of peace, however honeyed in the best traditions of English rhetoric, belied his unrepentent support for the catastrophic intervention in Iraq. Together with George W. Bush, [former British Prime Minister Tony] Blair has helped to stir up precisely the kind of interfaith and sectarian discord and violence that give Christopher Hitchens and others a foundation for their case against religion.
There are millions of Muslims, Christians and Jews today struggling for greater harmony through dialogue and cooperation. Even if Blair counts himself as one of their number, his failure to acknowledge the havoc caused by his sanctimonious blunders is an embarrassment to them.
The editorial about the Dalai Lama [Hangin’ with the Dalai Lama, Dec. 2010, p. 4] was among the saddest articles ever published in the Journal.
The Anglicans of Canada deserve some Christian analysis. What sort of “Christian mind” gets applied against the celebrity’s worldview? How might a Christian offer the gospel to the Dalai Lama? Do the 39 articles have anything to say about his approach to God? Are there points of agreement that Christians have with the Dalai Lama? How can Christians see that he is lost in his sins? In what way might Jesus be lifted up as Lord in this discussion of other religions? Canadian Anglicans need a Christian mind applied against the news of the world.
Truly the good news
The editorial, Walking a mile in their shoes [Jan. 2010, p. 4], was one of the best newspaper columns I’ve ever read. Kristin Jenkins captured the gutsy, gospel-inspired ministry of downtown Toronto’s All Saints Church-Community Centre in a vibrantly human, honest way. This is truly the good news of Jesus Christ in action.
As the social justice and advocacy consultant for the diocese of Toronto, I got a sense of the value of this ministry during recent visits to the Dan Harrison Housing Complex, located beside All Saints. It was sobering to meet tenants who spoke of an unsafe and degrading living environment due to the presence of drug dealers and other criminals, and poor building maintenance. However, tenants also spoke of how thankful they were for All Saints’ presence among them, and how All Saints’ staff have nurtured a sense of community.
This is a ministry that can make us feel proud as Anglicans, and that deserves our active support.
Love thy enemy
I wish to support the sentiments expressed by Mr. Colin Miles [Jan. 2011, p. 5]. Our leader told us to love our enemies and all those who hate us.
Port Hope, Ont.
May God forgive him
The letter from Mr. Colin Miles [Jan. 2011, p. 5] is a slanderous insult to the memory of every Canadian killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban and its operatives. It is also insulting to the even greater numbers of Canadians who have suffered grievous injuries there. The ignorance, bigotry and callous viciousness expressed by Mr. Miles are lamentable. May God forgive him.
K. Corey Keeble
The letter to the editor by Mr. Colin Miles [A nation of war criminals? Jan. 2011, p. 5 ] displays either an innocent ignorance concerning both the workings of the United Nations and the context and purpose of the Geneva Convention, or an inexcusable attempt to support his position through insidious innuendo.
In the case of Afghanistan, Canada is and has been acting with UN approval. Secondly, The Geneva Convention, an international agreement on the conduct of warfare, is chiefly concerned with the protection of the wounded and the sanctity of the Red Cross. Citing the Geneva Convention is irrelevant to Mr. Miles’ argument.
Mr. Miles’ oblique and judgemental insinuation that our troops are routinely responsible for “… Afghans killed or wounded by our illegal actions” is demeaning and insulting to the hard-working and dedicated members of Canada’s military.
In summary, Mr. Miles’ assertions appear to be nothing more than unsubstantiated and unsupportable fabrications. Perhaps Mr. Miles could show us what court in what jurisdiction has passed judgement that Canada has indeed acted illegally and is a nation of war criminals.
Finally, Mr. Miles seems rather fond of trotting out commandments and Jesus’ sayings. Perhaps he could profit by considering these: “Thou shalt not bear false witness…” and “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
David R. Moat
Thou shalt not kill
I had a strong visceral reaction to Mr. Colin Miles’ letter [Jan. 2011, p. 5]. It was almost 15 years ago, while deployed overseas, that I had a similar conversation. I was greeting worshippers after the eucharist when one rather agitated individual took me aside and tore a strip off me for saying the decalogue, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Later, I learned he was a knowledgeable and devout Anglican who had been a fighter pilot during the first Gulf War. He had studied and prayed about the commandment, eventually taking the Hebrew word for “kill” to mean “murder.” It was the only way he could reconcile his duties and his faith.
That conversation has stayed with me all these years. Is the war just? For the answer to this question, I am grateful to a class in comparative religion I took at the height of the Cold War, while the Vietnam War was fresh in people’s minds. I was a soldier and not a chaplain then. I carried a weapon and the taking of a life was of real concern.
This class was my introduction to Just War Doctrine, which deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought. I learned of jus ad bellum [the right to wage war] and jus in bello [conduct during war]. As a soldier, I reasoned jus ad bellum was in the realm of nations; jus in bello had a direct impact on me in reconciling faith and duty.
Colin Miles’ views do not apply to the chaplains I know and have worked with. Nor does the term “war criminals” apply to those in my spiritual care.
The Rev. Harvey Fraser
New Lowell, Ont.
I spent 36 years serving my country in the Canadian Forces, helping to protect the rights of Mr. Colin Miles and his mamby-pamby views. I deeply resent him labelling me and those with whom I served, war criminals. This sounds much like Michael Ignatieff, attempting political gain at the expense of those of us who sacrifice to serve.
Perhaps, if Mr. Miles could ask why must we seek peace and reconciliation with those who are killing and wounding our soldiers in defence of his freedom.
Mr. Miles, what have you done for your country recently?
Graham Patterson, CD