Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Medieval Help Desk/Faith & Laughter

Over at Faith & Theology, Kim Fabricius has some good reflections on faith and laughter.  But never let it be said that Christian philosophers have less of a sense of humor than theologians. To the contrary, Cynthia Nielsen of Per Caritatem has posted this hilarious Youtube video, “Medieval Help Desk” which I am reproducing here.  Or, for a real treat, you can click this link and see it at Cynthia’s blog and, while your there, check out the deep thoughts regularly posted by  Ms. Nielsen! (Who says Augustinian philosophers from conservative, Reformed backgrounds can’t be both brilliant and funny! Not me!)


July 18, 2007 Posted by | blogs, humor | 3 Comments

War Made Easy: The Movie

warmadeeasy.jpgThe film version of Norman Solomon’s War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death is now out on DVD for under $20 plus tax, postage & handling.  Narrated by Sean Penn.  Although not made from a faith-based perspective, this is an important movie.  Buy a copy, get your church to air it on an evening, and have discussion afterward about what actions can be taken in response. 

July 18, 2007 Posted by | just peacemaking | Comments Off on War Made Easy: The Movie

Today in Church History

18 July 1504, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) is born in Switzerland.  Bullinger was a Protestant Reformer who succeeded Zwingli as pastor and Reformed leader in Zurich.  Bullinger is considered by many to be the founder of the “Covenant theology” strand of Reformed theology. Max Stackhouse and others give Bullinger credit for the strand of Reformed thought that led to the support of democracy and human rights (rather than the more imperialist or theocratic versions of Reformed thought). 

18 July 1870 Vatican Council I votes 533-2 that the pope is “infallible” when speaking ex cathedra in defining a doctrine or moral teaching that must be believed by all Christians. To say that Orthodox and Protestants disagreed would be putting it mildly.

18 July 1970, 100 years later, Pope Paul VI names St. Teresa of Avila, the Spanish mystic, as a “Doctor of the Church.” She is the first woman to be given such a title.

July 18, 2007 Posted by | church history | Comments Off on Today in Church History

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela

mandela_minus_clinton.jpgOn 18 July 1918, Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Qunu in the Transkei, South Africa.  Born to African royalty, Mandela (a Methodist Christian) studied and practiced law, joined the African National Congress during its Gandhian nonviolence stage, and later came to lead this central organization in the struggle against apartheid(racial separation) in South Africa.  After the Sharpesville massacre (1961) of unarmed students, Mandela led the ANC to abandon its commitment to Gandhian nonviolence and take up arms in a campaign of sabotage and guerrilla warfare (terrorism was rejected). On 05 August 1962, Mandela was arrested and tried for treason and spent the next 27 years in prison where he was often tortured.  In 1990, the ANC was unbanned, Mandela was released from prison, and in 1994 became the 11th President of the Republic of South Africa–the first non-white president and the first to be elected in free and fair elections open to all races.

This amazing contemporary leader is not without his faults. He is now married for the third time and has been a largely absentee father. His autobiography is painfully honest about what his dedication to the freedom struggle has cost in family life.  As a Christian pacifist, I criticize his abandonment of Gandhian nonviolence during the anti-apartheid struggle–and I am persuaded that ANC’s choice to resort to sabotage and guerrilla warfare did NOT speed up the end of apartheid and may have even delayed that end.  Nevertheless, it must be said that Mandela is one of the few revolutionaries who maintained his ideals once in power and continues to grow and stretch as very public moral leader. 

Mandela has been honored with over 100 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize.  Although he himself engaged only in sabotage, he has admitted that not only the white government, but also the ANC, committed human rights violations during the years of struggle, especially the 1980s. He has sharply rebuked those who have tried to have statements in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission removed which have given evidence of ANC human rights violations.  Since leaving the presidency of South Africa, Mandela has led the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and has become a champion of the environment–and one of the most vocal of global leaders in strong opposition to the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush.

From Mandela’s closing remarks at his trial for treason:

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

UPDATE: Note, all (polite) comments are welcome, but some visitors to this blog from Africa seem to have the mistaken idea that this is a good place to send birthday greetings to Mr. Mandela. As far as I know, Mr. Mandela does not read this blog and is unlikely to see any birthday greetings you leave here.  You would do better to send those personal wishes here.  Thanks for stopping by anyway. 

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Africa, liberation | 6 Comments