Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The True War on Christmas

00 Whos in Whoville. 30.11.12

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00 Black Friday. 01.12.12

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Every year, as the holiday season approaches, in a cynical ploy to bolster their ratings and profits, opportunistic pseudo-journalists employed by so-called “media outlets” rant about a so-called “war on Christmas“. To support their contentions, they cite examples of retailers and advertisers using “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas”, and they vilify secularists, people of other faiths, and those who oppose Nativity scenes (and here) and other religious-themed displays on government property. However, one fundamental error in their “logic” is how vacuous their endorsement of symbolism over substance can be. Even Jesus, whose birth they claim to defend, recognised that pious outward appearances don’t necessarily show what’s in a person’s mind or heart, and he publicly denounced as hypocrites those who made open and ostentatious displays of their alleged piety.

Some years ago, the late Mad Magazine cartoonist Dave Berg made this point with gentle humour. In one of his cartoons, two men stood on a sidewalk on a typical suburban residential street where all the homes, except one, have Christmas lights and other symbols of the season. One of the men pointed to the undecorated home, telling the other, “They mustn’t be very religious”. Meanwhile, inside this home, comfortably huddled around the fireplace, the father reads the Bible to his family. Perhaps, the greatest testament to Christmas symbolism’s insignificance is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr SeussEven after the Grinch stole all the trappings… gifts, trees, ornaments… nonetheless, Christmas came, prompting him to realise, “Maybe, Christmas doesn’t come from a store”.

Yet, you wouldn’t know that in America; it doesn’t measure Christmas by how effectively it spreads the message of “Peace on earth, good will towards men” throughout the world, but instead by how much profit retailers generate from “Black Friday” sales and other holiday promotions. Recently, conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh denounced a leading Christian figure, Pope Francisco, as a Marxist. Although I’m loath to agree with anything Limbaugh says, and whilst I’d not go so far as to equate the Pope’s compassion for the poor with Marxism, indeed, there’s some merit in the idea that true Christianity is incompatible with capitalism. Limbaugh’s diatribe is undoubtedly related to the hostile reception, decades ago, of right-wing, American-backed dictatorships in Central and South America (where Pope Francisco was born) to the doctrine of “liberation theology“. One of the most poignant summations of this reaction came from the late Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara, who said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist“.

In contrast to liberation theology, capitalism claims to focus on individual initiative and responsibility, prompting the saying, “If you give a man a fish, you only feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. The fundamental fallacy of this assertion is that teaching a man to fish is meaningless if he has nowhere to cast his line because the rich and powerful own all the land and water. This is the reality in today’s America. Inequality.org posted, “The USA exhibits wider disparities of wealth between rich and poor than any other major developed nation”, with the top 1 percent controlling more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

Every year, as Christmas nears, many wealthy people and corporations conspicuously and pretentiously throw fish to the underprivileged via food, clothing, and toy drives, or other “saintly” endeavours. however, However, such crass self-promotion isn’t only antithetical to Jesus’ principle that when giving to the needy the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing, it also camouflages that a significant percentage of America’s underprivileged are the “working poor“, created by the substandard wages (and lack of benefits) that many of these wealthy people and corporations pay their employees, even though they rake in billions of dollars selling products made in countries where sweatshops have lax environmental and safety standards, where child and prisoner labour is normal, where there’s no religious freedom, and/or where they oppress and persecute unbelievers and those in religious minorities (which often includes Christians), often under the guise of anachronistic “blasphemy” laws that punish free thought and expression whilst rewarding those who exploit and manipulate religion for political and/or financial gain. This means that the gift you give to a loved one to celebrate the birth of Jesus might have been made by someone who risked imprisonment, torture, and/or murder for celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Even when American capitalism doesn’t result in such severe human rights abuses, nevertheless, it creates and maintains a pool of desperate people willing to work for substandard wages. Corporations callously exploit the plight of these people, then, they pretend to be charitable to lure in gullible consumers. Therefore, at the very time of year when America should honour the Golden Rule, “Do to others what you would want them to do to you”, it drowns in the inequitable economic and political reality, “He who has the gold rules”. Given Jesus’ warning, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven“, it would seem that wealthy people (especially, those who acquired wealth through chance, through marriage or birth) would tremble in their shoes. Nevertheless, thanks to their ability to exploit a “literal/figurative” rationalisation technique to assuage their guilt (if they’re capable of feeling any) to justify their greed, hypocrisy, and exploitation of others in their own minds, this will never be.

This stratagem assumes that when Biblical passages promote the personal, financial, and/or political agendas of the rich, they’re accepted as literal; however, when Biblical passages are anathema to the rich’s personal, financial, and/or political agendas, they interpret them figuratively. For example, during the 1960s, more conservative clergy criticised those priests and preachers, both African-American and white, who supported the civil rights movement and/or opposed the war in Vietnam, for becoming involved in worldly political issues, instead of focusing on salvation in the afterlife. Suddenly, when Ronald Reagan‘s peculiar brand of Christianity became the norm in the 1980s… a “Christianity” that endeavoured to negate the gains of the civil rights struggle and that openly supported the Salvadoran government as it assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero and raped and murdered American missionary Jean Donovan and Maryknoll nuns Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clarke, and Ita Ford… the politically-active “Christian right” was born. Over the years, the “Christian right” was particularly adept at exploiting “literal/figurative” rationalisations to create a brand of “Capitalist Christianity”, whose devotees don’t have to “pick up their cross” and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Now, they only need to kneel in supplication and worship him… oh, of course, send money.

Because of this excuse, they continue to cite Biblical statements about homosexuality as literal justification to deny gays and lesbians equal rights under the law. Yet, as “Christian right” televangelists and their political supporters continue to acquire vast amounts of wealth by duping the gullible into believing God charges an admission fee, they conveniently interpret Jesus’ Golden Rule and his warning about the difficulty of the rich entering heaven as being only “metaphorical”. In politically-retrograde regions of America, even children’s health and safety is hostage to this ideology. For example, Indiana‘s “Christian right”, successfully exploited fears about governmental intrusion into religion to thwart legislation designed to make sure that church-sponsored day-care centres had to abide by certain health and safety standards, even after several state lawmakers described the conditions they saw at some of these centres as “absolutely deplorable”. Nevertheless, Indiana’s Christian-based private schools don’t hesitate to accept government vouchers to pay a student’s tuition costs.

Before concluding, I want to make it clear that I’m not opposed to the customs and traditions of Christmas. I understand that children enjoy looking at decorations on houses (I did so myself when I was a child); I applaud efforts to give gifts, food, and clothing to the underprivileged, especially to children who might otherwise experience a debilitating sense of lack; and I believe it’s beneficial to society if, even though it’s only once a year, people shop with the wants and needs of others in mind. What I do oppose is the hypocrisy of those who adopt and exploit the trappings of Christmas for their own greed and self-aggrandisement, and those who feign dishonest concern about the social and economic conditions they’re responsible for creating. Such people are modern-day exemplars of what Jesus described as “whitewashed sepulchres”… appearing sincere and altruistic without, but full of decay within. Perhaps the late, great musician Jim Croce expressed it best in his song Which Way Are You Going, when he lamented that far too many so-called Christians claim to love the baby, yet they wouldn’t hesitate to crucify the man.

4 December 2013

David Hoffman

Pravda.ru

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/04-12-2013/126302-christmas_war-0/

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31 December 2013. Just What Does Edward Snowden Have to Say for Himself?

00 Edward Snowden. 26.10.13

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  • Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American.
  • This country is worth dying for.
  • Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper… the Director of National Intelligence… baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed isn’t consent if it isn’t informed.
  • Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history.
  • Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.
  • The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things… I don’t want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That isn’t something I’m willing to support or live under.

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We have a choice… we can vote Republican and have tyranny worse than any seen in history (the NSA’s perversion mainly occurred under George W Bush)… or, we can vote against them. Let’s put it this way… the Democrats aren’t exactly pristine, but compared to the Republicans, they’re as pure as the driven snow. The programme of the GOP is evil… ergo, all decent people must oppose it. They want to enshrine racism, greed, warmongering, fear, and low-wage slavery. No amount of waving “Pro-Life” banners can change that…

Listen to Eddie… he’s trying to tell us something…

BMD

 

31 December 2013. Back-to-Back “Terakts” in Volgograd… MChS Reports 32 Dead

00 Terrorist Act in Volgograd. 31.12.13

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00 Terrorist Act in Volgograd 01. 31.12.13

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I don’t have time to edit a story, but here are two photos. Click here and here for reports on the “terakts” (the Russian neologism for “terrorist acts”). Click here for general info on the topic in English. The actions didn’t do much damage to fixed infrastructure… but the loss of life was considerable. Initial reports from the MChS say that 32 died in the two attacks, including the two bombers, with at least 68 suffering injuries. The authorities will clear the material damage in a trice… the emotional damage to the families will last far longer. The trolleybus bombing took place on Monday morning… people were going to work… they were riding the usual public transport… chatting with their usual seatmates… getting ready for the New Year. Without warning… BLAM! It was all over. That’s the way of it kids… life isn’t only precious, “we know neither the time nor the hour”… say, “I love you” to those closest to you… ya NEVER know…

The usual troglodytes crawled out of the usual cesspits to caterwaul about “Muslim terrorists”. There are a lot of Muslim people in the Volga Region. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that many of the victims were innocent Muslims. Besides that, I’d warn that certain parties are known for provocations… it wouldn’t be the first time that Langley provoked something (don’t forget, they engineered a coup against  Ecumenical Patriarch Maximos Vaportzis in 1948… they’ve acted as agent provocateurs amongst Muslims for years). It’s a possibility. Lay off the Muslim people around you… they not only didn’t have anything to do with it, they don’t like “terakts” any more than you do.

Pray for the souls of the departed… pray for those injured in hospital… ask your priest to mention the dead and injured at the Proskomidi this Sunday, and ask him to serve Pannikhida for the dead. We’re Christians… let’s act that way. Above all, don’t hate… if you do, the devil wins…

BMD

Click here and here for more information in Russian

Monday, 30 December 2013

30 December 2013. The Cabinet Weighs In On Fr Igor Soroka

01 good shepherd

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One of the Cabinet sent me this. It’s read n’ heed calibre and needs nothing from me:

Fr Igor Soroka has been at the same parish for 54 years. Can you imagine? So many of these guys who go to SVS and even STS don’t want to go to old established parishes because they’re not interested in learning to navigate the complex social and relational webs that come with parishes like that. They want to mould parishes into their image and likeness, according to their messianic reform plan, and old parishes don’t lend themselves to that. Therefore, they prefer to go off to mission parishes and live off a mission grant and/or welfare! These sorry types can’t hold a candle to the likes of Fr Igor. Not only did he walk into an established parish as a rookie priest, he managed to succeed, and he stuck with it for more than half a century. Now, THAT’S a model to emulate, not the aimless roving of a JP.

Hear, hear… truly, there’s nothing for me to add. God is good… I don’t have any money, but I have true friends. I’m a VERY rich woman, indeed (richer than a Rush Limbaugh or Wet Willy Romney, that’s for certain)…

BMD

 

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