22 May 2014

May shorts

"Human: Here's your homeland!" Source.    
Finally, someone (Tom Engelhardt) put into words what I've wondered about for years: the logic of the "one percent doctrine" in view of the prospect of global warming.
[Concerning the "doctrine" ...] Its essence was this: if there was even a 1% chance of an attack on the United States, especially involving weapons of mass destruction, it must be dealt with as if it were a 95%-100% certainty.
Shouldn't the same reasoning apply to any danger of overwhelming national catastrophe? Or is it a doctrine that only applies when ideologically convenient? That's what Engelhardt is writing about--and to my mind persuasively. Why must environmental advocates prove the dangers of climate change beyond any doubt, persuading even those whose wealth depends on denial, before we sober up as a planet and begin to consider the responsibilities we bear to our descendants? If there is even a small chance that catastrophic chains of events have already been set in motion, isn't that enough for us to take a more critical look at why we prefer complacency?

The recent studies of "irreversible" melting of arctic ice are a great case study in (forgive the choice of term) polarization. Some media outlets emphasize the scare value--catastrophic rises in sea levels are inevitable. (See "Defending the Drama.") Others correctly point out that the worst effects may be centuries away. And still others hasten to reassure us by denouncing the messengers, saying "Global warming alarmists and their media allies are at it again." My point isn't that any one group is certainly correct, or that we must panic now! I just wonder when we will apply the one percent doctrine, given that the stakes involve the very future of our species.

Another guaranteed source of polarization: the application of the term apartheid to Israel and the territories directly under Israel's control. I appreciated Saree Makdisi's article in the Los Angeles Times; he makes the distinction that "'Apartheid' isn't just a term of insult; it's a word with a very specific legal meaning"--a meaning that he then applies to the Palestinian reality.

The comments to the article are fascinating. Several of the author's critics emphasize the difference between Israel and the apartheid regime of South Africa. For example,
In South Africa it was a system intentionally practiced on an innocent racial population. In Israel it is a reaction to and direct result of repeated attacks and an avowed goal of destroying Israel by a population.
I know plenty of Palestinians who have no desire to destroy Israel and none who do (while there were of course black South Africans who certainly did want to destroy the apartheid regime!) so the word "population" in the comment is inappropriate. Collective punishment is prohibited by international law.

Other critics correctly point out that Israel is by far not the only country where segregation is enforced, but that just reinforces the author's point, namely that the word apartheid is not simply a rhetorical gimmick; it is a human reality. I agree that it should be opposed consistently wherever it is practiced. However, there is only one country that, at one and the same time, practices apartheid and is also the second largest recipient of official bilateral aid from the USA.

cover, pdf version
Emil Fuchs' spiritual testimony, Christ in Catastrophe, has just been published in Russian (html format; pdf format) by Friends House Moscow. Originally published in English in 1949 by Pendle Hill Publications (Pendle Hill Pamphlet 49), and now translated for distribution in Russia by permission of Pendle Hill, his words continue to be powerful and relevant:
One terrible, bitter question torments us when we see the mighty success of what we believe is wrong, when we see that millions of persons, hundreds even of our friends, go along with this success. It is the question: “Are you alone right and all others wrong?” Are you mad or are they? Are those right who tell us that in this sinful world a politician must go the way of cleverness and deceit, fraud and violence?

Even my friends put this question to me when success after success came to Hitler. Yearly his power grew. “Is he not right?” they said. “Must a politician not use these means? Look how the great men of other nations give in to him.” Again and again I would say to myself and to those doubting people, “How high must the tower be from which we have to fall?” That we would have to fall was certain to me from the hour Christ entered my cell.

"Will Boycotting Israel Work?" Loren Lybarger addresses "The Challenges of Religion and Ethnic-Nationalism in the Search for a Just Peace."

A case study in digital surveillance from Helen Cobban: "Israeli spooks vacuuming up American 'faceprints'."

Randall Balmer, "Jimmy Carter and the demise of progressive evangelicalism."

Friends United Meeting Triennial Sessions are just a few weeks away!

Bulletin! "Not all pastors' kids are Christian."

St. Paul's Cathedral has received a remarkable new installation, "Martyrs," judging by this article and its video link.

A dear, dear voice from my Chicago childhood, Mahalia Jackson. "Coming from north south east and west, they're on their way to a land of rest. We're going to join the heavenly choir. We're going to sing and never get tired!" Amen!!

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