Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What can we say?

Not much.

Sometimes a picture says it all, here.

Every reader here at ADU will know that a few days ago, on Friday 15 March 2019, a terrorist, in the name of white supremacy, carried out a deadly plan to shoot people at two mosques in Christchurch. 50 people died, over thirty more were injured. Every news outlet in t he world has carried the story and countless words have been written about the meaning of this event. No further words are needed from me here. I have, however, said a few words in my capacity as Bishop of Christchurch, both to the Diocese and to whomever might be listening to several different radio stations.

A few comments have been made on the previous post’s comment thread. You are welcome to comment here.

Millions are praying for us around the world. Keep praying. Especially for those who are receiving the bodies of their loved ones around now, having been at last released by the coroner, to be buried as soon as possible, according to Muslim custom, and pray for those who continue to sit with loved ones recovering from wounds. For many citizens, maybe even all of Christchurch, and beyond, this tragedy has awakened grief and fear triggered by the quakes. Pray for us that healing and peace will come to a community already with heightened mental health statistics. And pray please for those people who have seen and been traumatised by the terrible video posted by the gunman as he went about his dastardly deed.


Anonymous said...

Gutted, sickened, horrified, and even these words seem inadequate. But also, shame.

About two years ago I walked away from conservative-evangelical Christianity. The why was a mix of realising that the theology didn't add up in various ways, and that treating texts written over two thousand years ago as an infallible source of moral laws for the modern world is absurd. It was not a sudden realisation, but a long and painful process of reading, thinking, and questioning. I have since embraced a far more liberal understanding of Christianity.

In making that break I also began a process of questioning everything else I believed, including my political views. I started reading far more widely, deliberately challenging myself with alternative information and views. Which brings me to Islam. Like many in conservative political circles I was sceptical about Islamic immigration. Unlike the hideous alt-Right I certainly never believed the lie that all Muslims were terrorists, or religious invaders, but I did believe that perhaps enough were that we should be extremely cautious regarding Islamic immigration.

I was wrong. The more I read the more I began to see that radical Islamic terrorism is largely a result of terrible Western foreign policies, not the least of which was the invasion of Iraq by Bush 2. Rather than the Quran, it is Western hubris that laid the ground for groups like ISIS. And I discovered that the vast, vast majority of Muslims living here in the West are firmly opposed to extremism and the hijacking of their religion by terrorists. Suspicion and fear of them, when it's Western politicians seeking to "make the world safe for democracy" that are to blame, is wrong. Badly, sinfully wrong.

That I allowed the politics of fear to gain a foothold in my mind and heart is my shame, and my sin. That fear, the fear of the Other, was on display in all it's ugly, horrifying evil last Friday.

Islamic immigrants to the West are not our enemy. Fear is, fear and the politicians and who play on those fears, and any political or religious ideology which divides people into US and THEM is a sin against the God who made us all and loves us all.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Shawn.
That is a considerable journey you have been on.

Father Ron said...

Blessings, Shaun. A lovely testimony. One that many of us can share.

Unknown said...

I'm much struck by what I'm seeing and hearing.
- The eerie silence while standing outside Deans Ave mosque or the Botanic Gardens where flowers are everywhere.
- The expressions of disbelief - 'why us?', 'not more''
- The resurfacing of anxiety and fear that resonate with emotions associated with the earthquakes of 2011.
- The need to do something symbolic - a vigil, wearing a badge or a headscarf etc
- The generosity to give money, food, water, cars etc to the families.
But I wonder too about the questions that are being asked now, and how they will change as the days and weeks go by.
Meanwhile I stick with the opening verses of Psalm 46.

Anonymous said...

Shawn, you never make a boring comment :-D

It would be a pleasure to hear more about your journey. Personally, I have traveled in roughly the opposite direction, from liberalism to post-liberalism to an ecumenical paleoorthodoxy with a love of open evangelicalism. But another not wholly unrelated writing project is keeping me from ADU, so I cannot comment much on such before the Monday after Trinity Sunday.

Not to be entirely emptyhanded today, however, I should alert you and + Peter's other readers to an analogy--

Western Muslims : immigration :: homosexual men : sexual revolution

Whether we discuss the Other Topic or That Topic, we should not confuse polarised danger/victim stereotyping of *poster children*-- eg by the 45th POTUS-- with either the most perceptive understanding of them, or the best rational arguments on the wider, complex question.


David Wilson said...

Hi Shawn, I agree that the issue with the problem with Islamism being produced, at least in part, by the actions of the West. However, I would look further back for some of the origins.

For instance, the Sykes-Picot agreement which carved up the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI has a lot to answer for in the region. Iraq was deliberately created out of the areas occupied by three different ethnic and religious groups so that the British could divide and rule.

British and French action in Egypt from 1882, in defence of their control of the Suez canal, was contrary to the significant Islamic and Arab nationalist movements in that region. The debacle of the Suez crisis in 1956 did nothing for relations between the West and Egypt.

The imposition of the modern state of Israel in the British mandate of Palestine in 1948 has been a source of friction with the West ever since. Then, this region became a proxy for the Cold War with Soviet support for Syria vs. Western support for Israel.

It was American and British oil interests in Iran that caused the democratic government to be overthrown in 1953. The Shah became an autocrat. The resulting oppression left only the clerics as effective opposition. As a result, the 1979 revolution was firmly anti-western.

Western love of oil has had a significant effect. This has fed vast amounts of money into the coffers of the Gulf states. This in turn has fuelled the strength of conservative Islamic groups. Saudi money funds the building of mosques in the West, and the support of traditional-leaning imams.

However, this last point does bring us to the point that there are within Islam movements such as the muslim brotherhood and wahabism which are the soil in which the modern violent Islamism has taken root. Western funding, through oil, and actions such as the gulf wars has stoked the fires. I would suggest that Gulf War 1 was more significant as it featured infidel soldiers within the holy country of Saudia Arabia. It was this offence which led to 9/11 etc.

Anonymous said...

Aaron Sorkin's West Wing's Josh Lyman explains--



Anonymous said...

Hi David. Yes, I'm aware that the issue of the modern West's problematic (to say the least) relationship with the Islamic world are more complex, and go back much further than my post might seem to be suggesting. That is equally true of the issues regarding our relationship with Muslim communities living in the West. I simplified in order to avoid writing an essay length post.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear David
I am not publishing your recently submitted comment.
There would be another time when such a comment would be less inflammatory but that is not this week.

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter,

It would seem that even our New Zealand Parliamentarians (via the suggestion of the Speaker, Trevor Mallard) are now open to a multi-faith dimension in the wider community - in the wake of the recent atrocities in Christchurch. The presence of multi-faith Leaders - including an Imam and a Roman Catholic Bishop - on the floor of the House of Parliament is a testimony to a new understanding of the place of spirituality in the world of governance. No-one is 'a Stranger' to the God of all creation.

Reflecting the preciousness of each individual human being, here is today's message from the Jesuit 3-minute Retreat, based on IS.49:15

"At its very core, the Bible is about the depth of God’s love for us, which is far beyond our understanding. We cannot even imagine how a mother could ever turn her back on her own child. Isaiah invites us to imagine that even deeper than the love between a mother and an infant is God’s love for us. God’s love is so deep that we can count on its power to embrace us even in our sinfulness"

If even our politicians recognise the place of religious Faith, and the ability to live together in peace in our community, then there is real hope for the future.

Anonymous said...

Scriptural Reasoning was pioneered by theologians Peter Ochs (Jewish, Virginia), Daniel Hardy (TEC, Princeton), and David Ford (Church of Ireland, Oxford). It is a way for ordinary Muslims, Christians and Jews to find peace within and among themselves by making sense of their sacred texts together. For example, if a mixed group puzzles through eg the portion of Isaiah that Father Ron mentions, then the formations of each will probably uncover a nuance in the text unnoticed by the others. The same happens as they take up say, a chapter from the gospels, a daf from the Talmud, or a surah from the Quran. Here up yonder, there are organizations that work to convene Scriptural Reasoning in a thousand or so North American communities.

They do not become scholarly exegetes, converge on authoritative interpretations, merge religions, or proselytize. But they do discover some treasures and traps in the other traditions. They see how some kinds of disagreement are native to all three of them. And the comments of other Abrahamic readers nudge them to think upstream nearer the sources of their local and personal formation. It promotes a more resilient faith-- one less dependent on that of earlier life stages and more reliant on the present voice of God.

Scriptural Reasoning may be the most constructive initiative for religion in the public square since Billy Graham started preaching in stadiums. Importantly, it subverts the materialist narrative that religion is always divisive, its adherents always tribal, and their retrieval of tradition always blind to present needs and future possibilities. And it sounds like fun.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of faith in the public square, how does a congregation from ACANZP pray at the sites of the shootings?

The walls of private/public and spiritual/material that modernity erected have fallen. A sign of our postmodernity is that ordinary people again feel the need to express their deepest feelings in material ways and in public places. We saw this in England after the death of Diana and here after the attacks of 9/11, and now we see objects left in mourning beside the mosques attacked down there.

Medieval churchmen had their ways. Because old Constantinople was always at risk of earthquake, fire, and siege, the Byzantines met at the great church * nearest some disaster, processed to the site chanting a litany, and when they got there prayed a service adapted from matins to the calamity. A day in the life of a patriarch was sometimes spent leading a procession to eg the charred ruins of a house where children had died in a fire the night before. That pattern of flash-mob public mourning led by the bishop or sometimes a dean was closely followed throughout the East, and the Book of Needs, a collection of services adapted to emergencies, was among the first liturgical books translated into Old Church Slavonic.


The West had analogous customs. Cranmer's first liturgical project was a translation of the Litany into English. An RC diocese I know sends texts to So how do Anglicans do this today?

* Great Church. Think of this as a small cathedral for a city quarter that is big enough to shelter all its Christians in it. In the C14, if you managed a plantation outside the city wall of Constantinople, and had a Hesychast spirituality, then for reasons of both convenience and piety, you would often have worshipped with the monks in Chora (#8 on Thomas Matthews's map at the link) and might have had a spiritual father there as well, but on the twelve great feasts of the year you were obliged to worship in the great church for the part of the city in which you lived. Private devotion was accommodated, but one's duty was to the Body which was the soul of the city.


Anonymous said...

Correction. "An RC diocese I know sends texts to" communicants willing to consider gathering for *flash masses* that could be in any church in the city."

Postscript. If the new wine for evangelism is a gospel less negligent of personal vocation and participation in a Body with a mission, then this question arises in the quest for new wineskins that are aligned with those retrievals. It is similar in that way to the one answered by my earlier comments on house-blessings: inclusionism, whatever one thinks of it, bursts the wineskins of an ordo that prizes what is individual, private, and mental and ignores what is participatory, missional, and embodied.

Recalling our recent discussion of canonical theism, there is good Holy Spirit reason to receive as his gifts both historical precedents that put our received mindset into a broader perspective, and also the spontaneous folklore and techlore of the present day. Those who once got their news from the fishmonger in the market were not so different from those who get it now from Facebook.


Bryden Black said...

If not much might be said and mere words fail - try song:




Pax vobiscum

Father Ron said...

Dear Bryden, thank you, thank you, for the link to these 2 wonderful recordings of Charpentier's amazing rendering of the traditional 'Stabat Mater'. I was reminded in the hearing, of the Muslim mother in Christchurch who was mourning the death - not only of her firstborn but also of his father while attending Friday Prayers in the Mosque. Her faith - that they would now be in Paradise - was a sign of what a devout Muslim feels about God's Redemption. We, as Christians, are so fortunate to be able to understand that this was wrought by God's Incarnate Son, Jesus. whose Annunciation to Mary is celebrated today, March 25th.

This is what I call 'Soul Music' given by God to God's children.

Bryden Black said...

You're welcome Ron! I've been aware of JS's beautiful rendering of Charpentier's Stabet for years - though that concert version is even richer than their earlier recording IMHO. And it's been the only adequate response for me these past few days ... Yet, and NB, it points to 'solutions' which are unique to the Christian Faith ...