Category Archives: Other People’s Business
Observations on whatever examples of spiritual living I see in the world around me.
It’s considered cruel to surgically alter the genitals of baby girls. Yet when it comes to baby boys, it’s common practice in a wide range of very civilized countries, and it’s not getting talked about all that much. Except now, when a proposed circumcision ban in California has raised the issue and gotten people talking.
So I might as well add my voice.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about New Age spirituality, which is about way more than wearing crystals and listening to Enya. The worldview that underpins New Age thinking is diverse and spiritually rich – whether you take it as truth about our metaphysical world or just a good fantasy story. To some it’s myth, and to some it’s fact, but either way it’s fascinating.
“I think people should be allowed to reap the benefits of their hard work,” said one of my friends late last night in conversation, and I agreed. Capitalism as a system works better than any other. But unfettered capitalism, the reign of the free market? That leads nowhere good.
When even the most caring person acts in their capitalist role, all focus rests on the goal: making money. That’s what it’s all about. And concerns about things like ethical behaviour or human tragedy fall by the wayside when there’s a moneymaking opportunity. People don’t mean to be cruel and heartless . . . but, after all, they have a debt to the shareholders. If we’re not extraordinarily mindful of our choices, money can make us mean.
I guess we’re now getting what we asked for. From the introduction to this morning’s episode of The Current on CBC Radio One:
A new poll finds that a majority of Canadians don’t believe in corporate tax cuts or buying F-35 fighter jets, two major pieces of the Conservative government’s plan. Currently, I guess those same Canadians also don’t believe in actually voting.
So how are you celebrating the end of the world?
It’s closer than you think. The 2012 crowd may be surprised to find out that Judgment Day is slated for May 21, 2011. That is, next Saturday. Yup, it’s more than just the Victoria Day weekend for us north of the border.
I’ve been remiss. I should have warned you earlier. I’ve been driving by a roadside ad about it for about a month now. I even took a picture of it on my cell phone. But that’s okay: it’s not too late to make your own plans to celebrate the Apocalypse.
In the U.S. of A., picketing funerals is a Constitutional right, according to the Supreme Court. Given that, I just want to make the highly unoriginal point that just being legal is not enough to make something okay.
The irony here is that Westboro Baptist and other picketing fundamentalists (if any even exist outside of crazy Westboro Baptists) would agree with me. They would argue that legalizing same-sex marriage or abortion doesn’t make it right or acceptable in the eyes of God. In fact, they’d argue, it’s so repugnant to God that we’re actually doing the right thing by picketing these funerals, raising people’s awareness of His coming wrath.
And yet, somehow they don’t get the fundamental rule of social courtesy: that you don’t treat somebody in a way you wouldn’t want yourself treated. That there are certain social boundaries that need to be respected, and one could make the argument that customs around saying farewell to a loved one are some of the most important. The message about how much God hates fags/abortion/you can come later.
Just the other day, I was excitedly posting about a crafter who knit a bunch of hats and then hung them up all around her downtown core so homeless people could take them and use them to warm up over the winter months. I was psyched about the possibility of bringing a similar project to the nearest big city to me (that’s Toronto, Ontario, Canada). And I wrote that post calling on all my crocheting and knitting friends to join me in yarn-bombing downtown Toronto.
But after I finished it, I didn’t feel quite so good about it. It gradually dawned on me that the whole idea seemed to be all show and no substance.
I’m crafty. I do a huge range of different types of crafts, from needlecraft to papercraft to . . . well, anyway. For the purposes of this post, here’s what you need to know: I knit and crochet.
Which is why I’m so captivated by this idea from a craft forum one of my friends came across. (Tip of the hat to Drumrider.) The basic premise: a crafter in California used remnant yarn she had stashed to make a bunch of hats, which she then spread around downtown San Diego – pinned to posts, tied to fences, left on shrubs. Every one of them had a tag that said “FREE!” and was left for somebody with a cold head to pick up. What a cool idea!
I’d already been planning to make a bunch of scarves to donate to an appropriate charity this time next year, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to distribute them. This seems like a wonderful idea! And I mean, the brilliant knitting maven who came up with it thought it was chilly in San Diego . . . but I live in Ontario, Canada! Talk about cold!
So here’s my proposal, and I’d especially like all my knitting and crocheting friends to pay attention: I think we should do something similar for people in need around the Toronto area. (Or if you want to propose another place that has a huge poverty problem, I’m amenable. I just picked Toronto because it’s big, familiar, and known to have many homeless people.) I’m thinking scarves, hats, mitts, gloves, socks, whatever: anything that people need when it’s cold outside.
I propose that we spend one year crafting some pretty, uplifting, and above all WARM winter wear, and then around this time next year (perhaps a little earlier) we get together to check out each other’s handiwork, attach similar tags, and then yarn-bomb the city with gifts to bring warmth to the people who need it most. No religious agenda, no fanfare, no controversy – just the knowledge that we have enough to keep ourselves warm, and winter wear as a gift for those who don’t.
I’ve never done anything like this before, but I hope you’ll join in and help me warm up the winter for 2011. Maybe it won’t make a difference to everybody . . . but it can make a difference to somebody.
Until last year, I had never realized there were Christian traditions out there that made a very careful distinction between Advent and the Christmas season. But last year I’d joined the First Communion Prep team at my little Anglo-Quebecois parish, and all of a sudden, I was part of one.
And they were dead serious about it. I wanted to institute a “giving tree” for the parish to collect items for a local women’s shelter, and the priest gave his blessing – but it couldn’t be a Christmas tree. Ever tried to scour Wal-Mart for an Advent Tree? It’s nothing but naked branches! I found one, though, and the endeavor was a success. We had a Jesse tree, too – though I’m not sure the kids get what that’s all about – and an Advent calendar from World Vision or some other organization with ideas for collecting money each day of the season. (“Put 5 cents in the jar for each toy car you own”; “There are x doctors for every y people in Zambia. Put $1 in your jar for a child to visit a doctor”; and so forth.) Advent wreaths were de rigeur, lit in church every Sunday and also to be lit in the home. Until December 24, there was not a manger or poinsettia or Christmas light to be found.
And then suddenly, an elite task force swarmed in to dress things up for the Midnight Mass. Instant Christmas.
This year, the struggle for Advent has made it to the media limelight, along with all those “War on Christmas” stories you hear where the ACLU bans a nativity scene here or some store tells their employees to say “Happy Holidays” there, or – God forbid! – somebody writes “Merry X-mas!” in a Christmas card. In a culture where many of us have been shopping under red and green garlands since All Saints’ Day, some denominations are getting counter-cultural by delaying their festivities until the very last moment. Check out some of these Advent-related stories from around the blogosphere:
- Let Xmas be Christmas? from GetReligion (which apparently has a podcast! I’ll swoop in on it later.)
- Some deck the halls earlier, others check the calendar from the Washington Post
- Celebrate Christmas – gasp! – on Christmas? from T-Matt (Terry Mattingly) on Religion
- Celebrating Christmas before Dec. 25? Bah humbug! from Religion News Service
- Waiting in Joyful Hope – a pastoral letter from John C. Wester, Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City