Cease Praying in Somerset

Caroline Petrie is a community nurse who offered to pray for patient during a home visit.

The patient said she wasn’t offended, but she reported the “incident” to the nurse that changed the dressing on her leg the next day because she thought someone else might be offended if Mrs Petrie offered to pray for them. I suppose if someone is laid up with a bad leg, they have time to ponder the potential for political correctness in everyone else.

As a result, Mrs Petrie has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of an investigation. No doubt it will take a terrbily long time to determine if she offered to pray for the patient (which she acknowledges) or if the patient was offended (though she claims she wasn’t). I suppose they will want to find out if Mrs Petrie has actually offered to pray for anyone else. This would not be germaine to the actual incident for which she was suspended, but bureaucrats aren’t best known for due process.

What I’m not clear on is whether North Somerset Primary Care Trust has an actual official policy against prayer or whether it is rather a general policy against Christians.

Given the Third World quality health care in this country that can’t afford to pay for treatment that is standard in the rest of the civilised world, you would think they could use any available help, even in the form of divine intervention.

Advertisements

Necessary Intention

Following on my previous post, I have had further thoughts on the use of language.

Without intention, language has no meaning.

In my teaching I often refer to the Shahadah – the statement of faith that is the first pillar of Islam. Saying it publicly is a requirement for becoming a Muslim. I say it publicly all the time, but that does not make me a Muslim, because I have no intention of becoming a Muslim.

I can read the Liturgy aloud and this does not transform any bread and wine present, even if it is on the Holy Table, into the Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood. Even if I was a priest, this would still be the case. Nothing would happen. There is no intent.

Likewise, I can use unacceptable language and if I do not have an unacceptable intention, it is not evil. I do not punish my children if they say a swear word that they did not know was a swear word. When they said it, it was nothing more than an association of sounds. Once they know the meaning and that it is unacceptable, then they are liable.

Thus we arrive back at the things we call people. Further to my discussion in the previous post about the historic inoffensive use of the word “nigger”, the very extensive Wikipedia article about the word is quite useful.  Nomi, a commenter on the previous post, has a very interesting article of her own how to refer those who are bi-racial. I won’t go into the historic terminology and whether it would solve her quandry, but as a bi-racial person, she doesn’t include it amongst modern options.

I don’t know if it unique to matters of race and ethnicity, but it seems strange that perception overrules intention, even when a term is used outside the vocative case. I’m not sure how a group of people with common genetic characteristics decide that certain terms can or cannot be used, and particularly how they change they can the value of a term from acceptable to unacceptable in a matter of a few years.

Because intentional language has meaning, I will usually not use the term “African-American”, unless I’m referring to Barack Obama. As I’ve said before, most black people I know are American Americans. Their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and almost certainly as far back as their great-great-great-great-grandparents were born in the United States. They are not ethnically African. There have been attempts by some to re-Africanise with the adoption of faux-African clothing, African language names, and made up holidays like Kwanzaa (the celebration of communist principles made up by convicted violent felon Ron Everett) notwithstanding, their culture is entirely unrelated to and does not measurably derive from anywhere in Africa.

If people want to use it to refer to continent of ancestral origin, then I’m happy to use African-American if I am also using European-American to refer to people who ancestry can be principally traced to Europe. I wouldn’t use it for myself, because almost all of my ancestors for at least seven generations have been in the United States. I have the odd English ancestor who immigrated in the 1820s or so, but by and large my ancestors were in the US (or what became the US) for at least a couple of generations prior. I could refer to my children as European-Americans, because they are dual citizens of a European country and the US.

I think language should be accurate and avoid intentional offense. I also think it is important not to try to find offense.

Keeping History in Context

At the same time as the election of Barak Obama, in GCSE history we are covering race relations in the United States 1929-90. I’ve never taught this in an American school, but imagine the approach of the syllabus would be roughly the same. We look at the KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the effect of the Depression on blacks, segregation in the Second World War, Brown v. Board of Education, Little Rock, Ole Miss, Rosa Parks, MLK, and the key events of the Civil Rights Movement. The key idea is that white people, especially but exclusively Southern white people, hated black people (though we aren’t authorised to cover that they were only called “black” for a brief moment in time in the shifting language from Colored to Negro to black to Africa-American). Whites were mean and evil to them, but somehow the black people passively resisted all the white people and eventually Barak Obama was elected.  That last bit falls outside the time period, but it is too good to not mention.

I was commenting on another blog about the relationship between Obama and the legacy of slavery, an institution which the blog owner referred to as an atrocity, saying the same thing I told my students when introducing the background of slavery in the US: we have to be careful in imposing the values of the present day upon the past. People in the mid-19th century lived within a completely different frame of reference. It is very possible that people living 130 years from now will be tempted to condemn aspects of the present day which we cannot imagine would be any other way.

C.S. Lewis says as much in his well-known introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

Thus I think about my cousin Melba. Melba was my dad’s first cousin, born in Kentucky in 1915. I got to know her before she died and I don’t think there was an unkind bone in her body. I don’t think I ever heard her speak an unkind word.

Melba and her husband were tobacco farmers. Her husband had died not long before I met her as an adult (we had visited in their home when I was a very young child) and she was winding down the farming. Being the family genealogist that I am, you can imagine that I took in every story I could about living through the 20th century as a tobacco farming family. Tobacco farming is very labour-intensive. Melba spoke with affection about the niggers that worked for them, especially one man who worked for them for many years.

My late 20th century ears were a bit shocked at first. After all, this was a word for which I received corporal punishment from the school principal when I was in the second grade back in 1972. (In my defense, even then, I didn’t habour any ill feelings for the black pupil. I was only saying it because my friend Scott was saying it, but it was a offense of strict liability.) Then she referred frequently to a nigger woman that had been her domestic help until recently.

I don’t for a minute think that she thought of any of these people as equals. But neither did she habour any ill will. It was just the society in which she was raised. She probably supported segregation as long as it lasted in the Bluegrass State. I don’t remember her speaking about it in any negative way. That was just the way it was. On the other hand, I never heard her complain about integration. Maybe she did at the time, but by the time we talked, that was just the way it was.

At the same time we can be glad that everyone in the United States has the same civil rights and participation in the political process, and appreciate that common attitudes have changed, we need to be careful how we characterise the nature of those developments and the broad strokes with which we tend to paint history.

Fewer Men in the Judiciary

The Times claims today that women “are finally breaking through the glass ceiling of senior judicial appointments.” A Telegraph headline asked last month, “Why are there so few women in the High Court?” Of course I’m going to ask the opposite question: why are women more successful in getting on the High Court?

There were 22 High Cout posts available in the latest round of appointments. Five of the successful candidates were women. That’s nearly 23% of the posts given to women. However, there were only eleven female applicants, so the success rate for women was 45%. There were 118 male applicants from whom were filled the remaining 17 posts, so the success rate for male applicants was 14%.

While the Government claims that all judicial posts are filled on merit, this would appear to be more discrimination based on gender. Just like they are intent on having a certain number of female MPs, but to a certain extent are dependent upon the electorate. The judiciary is different. They are appointed by the Lord Chancellor.

But don’t expect things to change when the Tories take power at the next election. David Cameron already has a policy of forcing more women on safe and key marginal parliamentary seats. I have no doubt his Lord Chancellor will follow the same affirmative action policy.

Council-sponsored Muslim-only No-go Area

And they said there were no no-go areas.

In January, when Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali suggested in The Sunday Telegraph that some areas had become no-go zones for non-Muslims, he was excoriated on all sides. His fellow Anglican bishops distanced themselves from him. From Muslims he received death threats.

Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington has Muslim-only swimming on Sunday mornings. Actually, it is Muslim males-only swimming. I don’t have any problem with separate sessions for men. After all, leisure pools have long had some of their facilities set apart at times for women. And as long as there is equal access, I got no problem with that.

But Clissold Leisure Centre owned by Hackney Borough Council in north London doesn’t have a Christians-only swimming session.

So have Muslims created this no-go area? No. The Muslims don’t mind swimming with Christians. It’s the leisure centre employees who have done it. After David Toube and his son we refused admission, even by a manager, they went back several days later to speak to another leisure centre employee, who confirmed the Muslims-only policy.

Since this hit the news, the leisure centre’s tune has changed. Seems they don’t want to openly discriminate in the face of media exposure. The sessions may still be for Muslim men, but they now say that staff cannot ask about someone’s religion or refuse them entry if they don’t appear to be Muslim.

Jews Mad At the Pope, Because They Don’t Want To Be Saved (Unless It is on Their Own Terms)

The Pope has changed the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Last year, when he re-authorised the Tridentine Mass, he included the 1962 prayer. Jewish organisations like the Anti-Defamation League got all upset. The ADL said it was “a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations, after 40 years of progress between the Church and the Jewish people.”

A theological setback? The Jewish ADL is pronouncing upon Catholic theology? Isn’t that just a little presumptuous? Not only is it a “theological setback”, but it apparently has some sort of affect on the religious life of Catholics. Do the ADL think that Catholic religious life takes one bit of notice of one liturgical prayer on one day of the year? It seems to me they are grasping for a reason to get offended.

The Pope has changed the prayer, but it isn’t good enough. The ADL says the changes are only “cosmetic revisions”.

The problem is that both prayers are essentially for God to have mercy upon the Jews and save them. Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations sums it up:

It is a disappointment. While I appreciate that the text avoids any derogatory language towards the Jews, it is regrettable that the prayer explicitly aspires for Jews to accept the Christian faith, as opposed to the text in the current universal liturgy that prays for the salvation of the Jews in general terms.

All I can hope for is that, through further dialogue, the full implications of the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation of the eternity of the Divine Covenant with the Jewish people might lead to a deeper understanding of the value of Torah as the vehicle of salvation for the Jewish people.

The only problem is that if the Catholic Church recognises the value of the Torah “as a vehicle of salvation” it denies the Faith. Plain and simple. I’m sorry if that’s a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations. There is no salvation outside of Christ. “He came to His own and His own did not received Him.” I’d say a prayer for mercy is about the kindess thing the Catholic Church could do.

I’ve put both versions of the prayer below the fold.

It would seem the Jewish lobbying organisations aren’t worried about Orthodox Christian-Jewish relations. Or maybe they can’t be bothered to go through the pages of our Good Friday liturgy. If the ADL and Rabbi Rosen want some theology, perhaps they should look there. I’ve also put some of that below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yet Another Apology for Slavery

When I saw on the CNN website that New Jersey was considering joining the misguided legislators of the Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in apologising for slavery, I thought, here we go again, more of liberal white folks and their politically correct guilt. Then I got curious.

The resolution is sponsored by Assemblymen William Payne and Craig Stanley. They are both black. Funny, CNN didn’t mention that. Why are they apologising for slavery? So it’s not so much that they feel guilty for slavery as they want to make other people feel guilty for it.

The resolution is being considered today by committee. The Assembly Appropriations Committee. When I saw that, I thought it seemed odd. There’s no spending involved in the resolution. Why would it get assigned to Appropriations? Somebody must have convinced the Assembly Speaker to send it to Appropriations. Will it get an easier ride there than somewhere else?

After all, the closest comparable legislation this session was ACR 175 which “Honors victims of the Holocaust forced to wear yellow badge with Star of David.” It was sent to the State Government Committee, where it died there without action. It was, however, introduced by two Republicans.

And maybe the Holocaust resolution wasn’t forceful enough. It was, after all, a modest five “Whereas” sentences long. ACR 270, the slavery resolution, with a verbosity that would make Al Sharpton proud, runs 26 paragraphs, some of them quite lengthy. See for yourself.

When I looked into why ACR 270 might get an easy ride in Appropriations, I saw that Chairwoman Nellie Pou had co-sponsored other legislation with Payne and Stanley, including extra money for the Wynona M. Lipman Ethnic Studies Center at Keen University. So you know me – I wanted to find out more about this facility. I found a report on the dedication of the center in 2003. It was in this report that I found a unique bit of journalism.

The daughter of the late Senator for whom the center is named spoke at the dedication. Or as the writer put it, “In memory of her mother, and in honor of the event, she read a stirring poem from the late poet, rapper and activist Tupac Shakur. . .” This is the same Tupac Shakur who shot two police officers, went to prison for a sexual assault that the judge descibed as “an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman”, went back to jail for an attack on a former employer, paid off a family in six figures for the death of their six-year-old son, had a former friend murdered execution-sytle, and finally beat the crap out the wrong person which led to Tupac’s death the same night in a drive-by shooting.

But for Assemblymen Payne and Stanley, all that is no doubt the fault of white people in the 18th and 19th century, so they want an apology.