Archive for the ‘religion’ Tag

Are “Thoughts and Prayers” getting a bad rap?   Leave a comment

Mourners light candles and leave flowers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting victims memorial in Las Vegas, on Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by Gian Sapienza/iStock

Writing in the UC Observer, Jackie Gillard comments on one common practice of the political class. When a tragedy, such as a mass shooting occurs, politicians tell the media that “our thoughts and prayers” are with the bereaved; the victims, whoever. Then, life goes on.

Gillard writes that, “The world has had enough of those feeble sentiments.” However, in this column she also writes that, “Thoughts and prayers can be seeds that germinate into affirmative action.”

Access the whole column at:


Posted March 7, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Christian Faith, Politics

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Living Spiritually?   Leave a comment


In 2017 Anne Bokma attempted to “live spiritually” for twelve months. The UC Observer says that; “Having long explored the “spiritual but not religious” demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.”

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Bokma summarizes her journey in this column, published in The UC Observer: 

At the bottom of her column there is an opportunity to access each of the 12 monthly columns that she wrote on this topic.

It is an interesting journey to observe, especially if one believes that all of life is infused with Spirit.



Awe, humility and gratitude   Leave a comment

The words, “awe, humility and gratitude” are frequently used as “spiritual” terms. But what does it mean when they are used by a well-known environmentalist in a reflection on life?


Could it be a “spiritual, but not religious” moment?

If you’re wondering, check out the blog post by one of Canada’s prominent environmentalists, David Suzuki, at:





What Can One Do in These Times?   Leave a comment

Feeling helpless is seldom a solution to responding to what is going on in the world. We all have power, and all to frequently we give that power over to others. The following column was written by Jim Taylor and there are suggestions about how we can act. Taylor suggests that we avoid “wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes”.


Take Responsibility

A week ago Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business ties. He branded them “evil”.

Two days later, a Canadian with far-right sympathies entered a mosque in Quebec City and shot six men in the back as they knelt in prayer. Eight others were injured.

The timing is too close for pure coincidence. If you’re a white supremacist feeling you should take action against people you dislike, what better justification could you ask for than encouragement from the world’s most powerful person?

Trump called Ottawa to offer his condolences. I think he should be charged as an accessory to murder.

So far, the man charged with six murders and five more attempted murders, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at Laval University, has volunteered no information about his motives. But his Facebook page reveals that he paid attention to Trump’s rants.

The Quebec murders are not an isolated incident — although they are the most extreme example of the anti-feminist, Islamophobic, and homophobic outbreaks since Trump’s election. The same mosque previously had graffiti painted on its walls, and a pig’s head dumped at its door during Ramadan.

Several readers have written, in response to earlier columns, asking “What can we do?”

I hesitate to prescribe anything that I am unwilling — or unable, by my nationality — to do myself.

I know that not everyone can do what Oyama resident Bev Edwards-Sawatzky did last weekend. As a 70th birthday present to herself, she flew to Washington to take part in the Women’s March.

With half a million other women — massively more than attended Trump’s inauguration in person — she pushed her walker through Washington streets. Over a million more joined in marches in 670 locations around the world.

But we can’t all go on marches. And marches in cities Trump has never heard of will have little influence on his policies.
We need to avoid wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes.

The widely known Serenity prayer, written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr back in 1934, offers some valuable advice:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

First, then, accept that some things, we cannot change. Mass protests will not undo an election. Clever placards will not unseat the emperor, with or without clothes. Storming Washington with scythes and pitchforks will not eliminate the electoral college.

We cannot, as individuals, reverse Trump’s immigration bans or reshape international diplomacy. We cannot call back the missiles and drones. We cannot make ISIS vanish.
And it’s futile to reason with unreasonable men.
So we need to focus on things that we can change.

Which means that we start with ourselves. We need to ensure that our words and actions never, never, foster the prejudices we deplore — racism, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry. We must exemplify — nay, incarnate — the virtues we claim to value.

By forcing us to examine what we consider right, Trump may actually have done us a favour. (I don’t recall him ever saying that he would do something because it’s the right thing to do.)

Doing the right thing might mean offering hospitality to marginalized minorities, regardless of their origins or religions. For me, it requires being scrupulously honest — both with others and with myself. As far as possible, I intend to avoid purchasing products from, or investing in, companies that support Trump’s version of justice.

And I shall try not to remain silent when I hear racial, sexual, or religious slurs.

When the indigenous peoples of Central America were being slaughtered by government-backed death squads, when survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools were being ruthlessly cross-examined in courtrooms, representatives of North American churches risked standing with them. To simply be there.

Perhaps, once again, we need to be companions, to stand in solidarity with those being demonized. A recent report says that Trump plans to change the program “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Islamic Extremism” — despite an FBI report showing that the primary danger to Americans now comes from home-grown white supremacists.
So we may want to attend worship in mosques, with their permission. We could recognize — even celebrate — non-Christian festivals like Ramadan and Divali.

Yes, that may involve some personal risks. That’s why Niebuhr’s prayer asked for courage.

Know what your values are. Do what you can, in accordance with our values. Don’t waste energy on what you can’t change.

But most of all, don’t do nothing.
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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The Gulf Between Macro and Micro   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – January 1, 2017

Another year end, another statutory holiday, and so I’m under no obligation to deliver a column of 750 words focussed on current events to the local newspaper.

Like most of us, I find myself thinking back over the last year.

Certainly, if you lived in Syria, Yemen, Gaza, or either of the Sudans, it would not have been a good year. And perhaps not in the U.K. and the U.S.A, depending on your political alignment. In the news, too, famous people toppled like ten-pins.

But that’s the macro level. At the micro level, most people I know have had a pretty good year. Stock markets have soared to record levels. Employment has risen, if fractionally. Mortgage rates have stayed low. Even without autopilot features, cars have been getting better and better – economy models now have safety features you couldn’t get on luxury cars 20 years ago.

Here in Canada, we have a federal government that at least seems to operate from an ethical base. Some things move too fast for some, too slow for others. But it seems that we are going to have more humane legislation governing marijuana use; removal of bureaucratic blockage of safe injection sites; maybe even a more equitable system for voting. We already have something closer to satisfactory laws allowing the terminally and hopelessly ill to get medical assistance in dying.

Medical care and treatment have improved. My wife Joan currently benefits from chemotherapy that didn’t exist just 5 years ago.

And over the last year, we have given almost 40,000 desperate refugees a new home. Media reports claim they have integrated about as well as could be expected. It’s not easy, giving up everything you have known to start all over again.

The challenge for the coming year, it seems to me, is to reduce the disparity between the macro and micro perspectives.

On that theme, I think of an article distributed by CounterCurrents, an alternative news source out of India.

Do not lose heart,” wrote Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a certified Jungian analyst with a doctorate in ethno-clinical psychology. (No, I don’t know what that means either, but I like what she says.)

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. It is not given to us to know which acts, or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

“What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up…”

If you’re interested, Ms. Estes best-known book is Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype, which was on The New York Times’ best seller list for 145 weeks. And if you’re interested in CounterCurrents, you can check it out at www.countercurrents.or, or write to editor Binu Matthew at
Happy New Year!
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write


Hope in the struggle; a video   Leave a comment


“This Christmas, let’s remind each other where to look for hope. Not among the wealthy and powerful, but in a poor young woman who said “yes” to transformation. Not in the halls or houses of the rulers, but in a manger “tucked under a donkey’s nose.”

That’s a part of a video for this season that was released by KAIROS Canada. For the full, inspiring video, go to:



Conversation with Walter Brueggemann   Leave a comment

Courtesy of Walter Brueggemann

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann was recently engaged with The United Church Observer in a conversation. Here’s an example:

I understand that one of your favourite texts is Isaiah 43:19, in which the prophet describes his vision of the “new thing” God is doing. What is your own new vision for our world? 

A My vision would include a neighbourly economy in which all are given access to what is needed for a life of dignity, security and well-being. It includes a new humanism in which we value our own faith confession but make room to take seriously the faith confessions of others. It is open to a new internationalism in which nobody, including the United States, is permitted to be a bully. It means the re-characterization of all of our social relationships in ways that are healthy, generative and restorative. This is obviously a huge leap, but I think that’s what Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about when he said, “I have a dream.”

The full conversation can be accessed at:



Posted December 14, 2016 by allanbaker in Christian Faith, Inspiration

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