Call an infidel an infidel

A rather unimpressive letter has been published on the internet by “The Muslims of Ottawa-Gatineau” decrying “[t]he recent attacks in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu [which] have shocked and horrified Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast.” The identity of the author, and any indication as to how he/she/they might have the authority to speak on behalf of “Muslims of Ottawa-Gatineau” is conspicuously absent.

If the “Muslims of Ottawa-Gatineau” or any other group, religious or otherwise, wish to know who to totally dissociate themselves from an individual who claims to represent their ideology, they are going to have to be a good deal less diplomatic about it. Take, for example, the response of the Canadian Forces to the conviction of Russell Williams: His “uniform was burned and his medals were also later cut into pieces, his commission scroll (a document confirming his status as a serving officer) was shredded, and his Pathfinder was crushed and scrapped” (Wikipedia). The message was clear. “You are no longer one of us.”

So here is what I would really like to see from from the “Muslims of Ottawa-Gatineau.” (And let’s make it clear — I’m not picking on Muslims. The letter below could be easily modified by any group, religious or otherwise, who wish to show the world that anyone blowing themselves up in a crowded mall in the name of their deity or cause is actually a loose cannon without the support of the group.)

Dear Mr. Bin Laden (or other terrorist)

As (title of person with actual authority), in light of your resent actions, I regret to inform you of your excommunication. Your actions, which you claim to have taken on behalf of Islam have brought shame to our worldwide community, and are a disgrace to our God. You are no longer a Muslim. As such, you will be barred from the Hajj and attendance at any mosque. May God have mercy on your soul.

You are not a Muslim. In fact, your sin is multiplied by your message to the world that your despicable acts represent our God and our faith. Until your actions and your words show a complete repudiation of this message, you are to be regarded as an infidel by those who were once your family.

It is not heaven that awaits you for what you have done, but the fiery torments of hell. Until you submit yourself to God and his messenger, you are lost.

Signed (name of Muslim with actual clout)

A brief note about tea and surgery

The proper way to make tea is to pour boiling hot water onto the tea bag. Purists would assert that there is certainly a much more involved process, but this is the bare minimum.

On the other hand, when I had my surgery at VGH recently, I discovered that they serve tea in a most unorthodox manner. I was chowing through the most delicious cream of wheat the morning after my surgery when I turned to my tea. Then, I discovered, much to my shock and dismay, a cup of tepid water, and a dry tea bag on the side. I had to insert the bag into the cooled water and wait for my tea.

It is one of the miracles of modern medicine that they can remove a body part from one individual, attach it to another individual, and have it function in its new body.

Yet they can’t even make a decent cup of tea.

tea

Donglegate: Adria Richards, Dongles and Burqas

The firing of Adria Richards this week has something to teach us about power, and how it can backfire.

Ms Richards took offence to some off-colour humour she overheard at a PyCon programming conference at Santa Clara California on Sunday. She photographed the perps, and posted the pics to twitter, along with her opinion of their conduct. The post cost one of the fellows his job, but not only his job, but Richards’ as well. Why?

I suspect that if a tech. company fires an employee for cutting up at a conference, it’s not so much because the executives don’t want employees with bad senses of humour. It has, I suspect, more to do with widgets — or, in this case, let’s say — dongles. A company is in the business of selling dongles, and they will enact policies that will increase dongle sales. Such policies make shareholders happy with their dongle shares and increase dongle dividends.

Now, if you get your picture posted to twitter for violating a conference code of conduct, you embarrass your employer, Dongle Corp. It’s not that Dongle Corp. can’t handle a few red faces, but when it affects their bottom line, without any return, you are now a liability,  rather than an asset. Bye bye.

So, that’s why the twittee might get fired, but why the twit? Why punish Richards for reporting the bad guys?

Because she didn’t just report them. She turned what should have ended with “Shush, guys!” into an international media event. There’s a principle in conflict resolution: resolve disputes at the lowest possible level. Or: don’t use a cannon when a fly swatter will do. You see that principle at work in Matthew 18. Paul also admonishes the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:1-6) to resolve their disputes internally.

The company that I work for has a similar policy of conflict resolution, and so, I suspect, does Richards’ former employer. By going public so quickly with a dispute that could have been resolved at a much lower level, she gained them much undesired attention. She then became a liability. It isn’t that they think that a PyCon conference is an appropriate venue for dongle jokes. As CEO Jim Franklin wrote in the corporate blog, they had to act in “the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers.” In other words, the bottom line.

According to a really scary comic book I read when I was a kid, if you call upon a demon to perform your bidding, the demon might just stick around and cause you more trouble. Richards invoke the PyCon demons against her annoying neighbours, and got whacked real hard.

What does this have to do with burqas? Plenty. Whenever I hear the suggestions that burqas (those black full-body tents that some Islamic women wear) should become illegal, I always feel a little uneasy. Does it really empower women to counter an Islamic custom that says they must wear a burqa with a law that says they must not wear one? As distasteful as I find burqas — even more distasteful than dongle humour — do I really want my government to be able to legislate what my wife or I wear.

Every time we invoke power against our neighbour – whether they be the annoying dongle comedians sitting behind us, or speeder in the lane next to us — we give a foothold to that power. And sometimes the power that we wield can turn against us. Something to think about.

Adria Richards ran out into traffic to defend her right-of-way, and she got hit by a truck. Now has plenty of time to think about it.

Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26)

The Stone Chumash makes the following observation regarding offerings to Hashem (God):

Throughout the Torah, only this Four Letter Name of God — the Name representing his Attribute of mercy — is used in connection with offerings, never the name Elohim, which represents His Attribute of judgement (Sifra). Ancient idolaters believed that animal offerings were needed to assuage the anger of a judgmental, bloodthirsty god. This is totally foreign to Jewish belief. The Torah teaches us that offerings are a means to draw closer to HASHEM — the Merciful God (R’ Hirsch).

“[T]o assuage the anger of a judgmental, bloodthirsty god,” versus “to draw closer to HASHEM.”

The former scenario sounds very much like I have heard sacrifice characterized in Christian circles: God was mad, and heads were going to roll, so the Israelites could keep him at bay by whacking a few lambs. Finally Jesus stepped into the picture and gave God what he really wanted, so now we can all live in peace.

For example, the MacArthur Study Bible has this to say about Lev. 1:9, which speaks of “a sweet aroma to the LORD” (NKJV): “[T]he costly ritual recognized God’s anger for sin committed (cf, 1:13,17).” Nowhere in the verse, or its cross-references, is any mention made of “God’s anger.”

How much different is the notion of sacrifice as a means to draw closer to God! And is that view so much removed from New Testament theology?

[R]emember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12,13).

Christian theology sometimes suffers from an underdeveloped understanding of the role that the Temple service played in the worship of the God of Israel. This is perhaps why the Apostle Paul’s intention to offer sacrifice in Acts 21, and mention of sacrifices being offered during the Messianic Era (i.e., the Millenium) in Ezekiel 43-46 has the potential to generate much discussion among Christians. Jesus did it all for us so we don’t need none of that, presents a simplistic understanding of Jesus’s fulfillment of the Laws of God in general, and the Temple service, in particular.

I would challenge Christians who might be stuck in fire-insurance soteriology to move beyond this and ask themselves how they might be “brought near [to God] by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

Worldly Vision releases their 2012 gift catalogue

The 2012 Worldly Vision Xmas Catalogue
(click to view larger image)

Worldly Vision announced Tuesday the release of their first annual Xmas Gift Catalogue, just in time for Xmas 2o12. “We’re very excited about this new catalogue,” gushes exective director Karma Grey. The catalogue, which features on its cover an enthusiastic tween showing off her new cellphone, allows Canadians to give gifts to needy tweens all over Canada.

“Goats and chickens are nice,” explains Grey, “but we wanted to find that niche that speaks to the self-esteem of a segment of the population that until recently has gone un-noticed.” Tweens, according to Grey, are lost in that gap between childhood and adolescence. “They feel they are ready to venture beyond the protection of their parents, but they are not quite ready to join a street gang or hang out all day at the mall.” Thousands of Canadian tweens, says Grey, lag behind their peers technologically. You might see them with a cellphone, but they can barely afford a phone card. Unable to receive text messages, they are unable to truly keep track of who said what with who and whether whoever knows.

The catalogue contains such items as cellphones, cellphone cards, computer games, internet access and much more. Canadians can pay for these on the Worldly Vision website, and receive a tax receipt.