Archive for the ‘Ted Schmidt’ Tag

Church: thermometer or thermostat?

A reflection by Ted Schmidt

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

ML King Jr “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” April 16,1963

One of the sad developments over the years has been the loss of power and agency in the institutional Catholic church.

“While it is inevitable that large institutions run down and in uber-capitalist countries will be co-opted by the culture, there will always be counter-movements fighting against such lassitude. History is full of examples beginning with the early church in the Roman Empire, then the Beguines, Francis of Assisi, Wesley’s challenge to high church Anglicanism, the Catholic Worker.” The examples are too numerous to mention. The Church at Vatican ll stated that it was “ecclesia semper reformanda”, a church always in need of renewal.

Today a Vatican ll pope has arrived, a man who understands that the church must be thrust into society as leaven.his theology is focused on Jesus’s call to God’s reign. Too many bishops are still locked into the church as the heart of the gospel. Sadly they resist Pope Francis.  The world today ruled by corporate power will always resist the gospel. Vatican ll reminded us that “we to must shoulder the cross which the world and the flesh inflict on those who search after peace and justice.” As King reminded us the church should not be a thermometer.

In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
Birmingham Jail

All of the above and below reminded me of a remarkable student I had in the 80s. John Popiel went on to do significant development in the Dominican Republic and today coordinates the Jesuit Volunteers in Canada.

In the nuclearized 80s I sent out students 2X2 to knock on doors and join the resistance to Canada  testing the Cruise Missile. Johnny came in with  a harrowing tale of some guy running him off his porch , telling him to eff off , saying he was all for testing.

I just laughed and had John read the gospel for that day in home room class. The gospel was Luke 10:5 ff

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’”If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Earlier the Jesus of Luke gave this advice If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

John was stunned. The gospel had leapt off the page as it always does when we turn it into action. It’s like putting on 3D glasses—you see a new reality.

Chris Hedges recently wrote (below) about an Anglican bishop who basically asked the church to become the leaven, stop mirroring the corrosive culture and take a stand for God’s reign of peace and justice.
Carrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state, says retired Anglican bishop Packard, who over the years has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest and other demonstrations. It will be a long, difficult and costly struggle the decorated Vietnam vet says. But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

“This is the renewed presence of the church, people of spirit wandering around in the darkness trying to find each other,” Packard said to me before he was taken into custody by police during the Montrose protest. He stood holding one corner of a large banner reading, “We Say No to Spectra’s Algonquin Pipeline Expansion.” “When you find a cause that has spine, importance and potency you find the truth of the Scripture. You find it inside your gut. There is an ache in the culture.” Gesturing toward his fellow demonstrators, he added: “These are a few of the people who are speaking to it. This is what the church used to be. It used to be standing in conscience.”


Labour Day

This is a post from Ted Schmidt:

Labour Day: the Search for the Lost Heart

September 1, 2013


Each year I walk in the Labour Day parade. The reason is simple. It protects me from amnesia. This annual pilgrimage from downtown Toronto to the Dufferin Gates is a gentle reminder of the Story which gives me meaning. It reminds me that I owe solidarity to workers struggling today for a decent life

This age old story reminds me that i am part of creation, that my labour is an essential part of building God’s reign. It reminds me  that the work I did and do,  that of teaching is holy work. It reminds me that much of labour today is exploited and devalued. It reminds me that labour unions which fought and are fighting still for worker dignity are in full retreat today and need our support. This past week I saw American workers at fast food outlets demanding a living wage. The Walmartization of workers occurs in the wealthiest country in the world which is also deemed “the most religious.” What kind of religion is this?

This is why i walk on Labour Day

I was invited awhile back to speak at city council about the need for a living wage not a minimum wage. Forces at City Hall were attempting to cut the wages of those largely female municipal cleaners from $19.00 an hour to $13,00.

“God love them, they’re nice people but they don’t deserve $19.00” said  councillor Doug Ford, he born with a silver spoon in his mouth

I was enraged at this lack of respect for these workers.

I was haunted by the women who preceded me, one Irish and one Jamaican who spoke so movingly about the pride they had in their work. They both said they could not survive on $13,00 an hour.

I came as an adult educator who has taught thousands of Catholic teachers about Social Ethics, the extraordinary teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as it relates to the Common Good of the broader community. This teaching began with Pope Leo Xlll in 1891 and is built on the inherent dignity of each human person. It broadly resembles the call to compassion and justice at the heart of all religions.

The right to unionize and collectively bargain was vigorously promoted by the Church and this created stable communities and secure families based on living wages. Sadly the last 30 years has seen the advent of  market fundamentalism, the neoliberal nightmare which has shredded organic communities and facilitated a race to the bottom.

The wonderful Toronto Labour Council mounted an effective challenge and the motion to cut was defeated. Decency, common sense and justice prevailed.

When Catholics moved out of the economic straightjacket of poverty in the post-war years, something was lost. The  rush to the suburb and the middle class life played havoc with our call to solidarity with the poor. We substituted charity for justice. We began to vote for parties which defended our economic interests. This embrace of “a life of pitiable comfort” of course was not unprecedented.

Philosophers  had warned us of the consequences.

Mang tzu (370-286 BCE), known to the West as Mencius, was  probably the greatest interpreter of Confucius. He reminded his countrymen and us that we must pity “the man who has lost his path and does not follow it and who has lost his heart and does not know how to recover it. …The principle of self-cultivation consists in nothing but trying to look for the lost heart.”

Jesus of course in his crucified cry for the kingdom reminded us  of “the Way” of “the heart”—radical solidarity with all of creation.

Organized religion, Catholicism included, seems to have lost “the Way” The real social justice tradition of the prophets has been muted. Bishops are decidedly absent from the front line struggles for justice today.

In March of 1965 on the historic march from Selma to Montgomery the great rabbi Abraham Heschel was seen walking arm in arm with Dr.King. He knew that this march was not simply a political occasion. It was a religious event.


Heschel shook the Jewish establishment’s ‘comfortable pew”. he challenged his co-religionists to “re-member”, to knit the body scarred by segregation, back together again. “For many of us,” he said,”  the march from Selma to  Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are  not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our  legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march  was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

There will be no religious leaders  walking hand in hand with with unionists  in the Labour Day parade. That is the sad reality. Our religion is still searching for its lost heart.

For many of us, like Heschel, this is not merely a secular  parade and Labour Day is not simply a holiday. It is indeed a holy day. It is a sacred pilgrimage. Our goal is not a modern Canterbury but a simple act of solidarity with brothers and sisters, workers all, whose dignity is under attack.

It is always inspiring to see many Catholic educators flying the flag of solidarity this day. I am happy to join them.

Easter economics (2)

This was originally posted by Ted Schmidt on his blog: Theology in the Vineyard:

Sport as tool of corporate ideology

by Ted Schmidt


There is one simple reason we have Mayor  Rob Ford and former mayor Mel Lastman and the US had GW Bush and Ronald Reagan  twice. It is advanced capitalism. Never underesimate the power of wealth and advertising to suborn good intentions and decent orientations. On any Saturday in the USA watch the real liturgy—hordes of fans  heading to the stadium to watch their favourite college teams play. Sport obsession is a powerful seducer of dreams, a terrible substitute for authentic living. In the words of the great cultural critic Lewis Mumford, “one of the least effective weapons against the machine.”

Dave Zirin writes below about  March Madness, the annual basketball  tournament to name a number one team. The time and energy which goes into sporting events like this and US pro football is shocking. People phone in to talk radio and with amazing analyses tell you what is wrong with their local teams. It seems to be , given the time expended, of ultimate concern.The sport fanatics are not stupid but as Thomas Frank brilliantly wrote in What’s  the Matter with Kansas: How is it that poor people vote against their own interests? How  do blue collars line up with the corporate bandits of Wall Street and the Republican Party? The manipulation is mindboggling and so very injurious to the common good.


Fantasy sport leagues are treated with utmost seriousness and leach critical time from the needed analyis of our common life.  Time wasted here is time not used to analyze societal ills or cut through the awful propaganda which paints ambitious politicos as friends of the commons when in fact they are tools of corporate ideology.Ronald Reagan was the biggest robber of the common purse in US history, an affable spokesperson for the corporatocracy.

Zirin writes :

You most have to tip your cap: no non-profit does buccaneer profiteering quite like the NCAA. What other institution would see a tibia snap through a 20-year-old’s skin on national television and see dollar signs—Kevin Ware tee shirts  at 24,99 with the meaningless quoation, “Rise to the Occasion”? In accordance with their rules aimed at preserving the sanctity of amateurism, not one dime from these shirts will go to Kevin Ware or his family. Not one dime will go toward Kevin Ware’s medical bills if his rehab ends up beneath the $90,000 deductible necessary to access the NCAA’s catastrophic injury medical coverage.

How sick is the American college system where athletics wag the educational dog?  The coach at Louisville University Rick Pitino makes  $4 million a year. I wonder what the profs make at this elite university.

The point is the sick rule of money, in this case, sport promotion. All of this in the best entertained and least informed nation on earth.

Now in Toronto we are supposed to be hyped about having a winning team with the Blue Jays this year.

But we’ll still have a mayor like Rob Ford.

Both Jesus and Buddha had great advice: Stay awake!”

Lent 2013 – day 7

IMG_0159What to do in Lent 2013?

Yes, updating one’s theology might be the beginning of a new journey into the unknown, with God’s Spirit. Was that what Sunday’s Gospel reading was about? Did Jesus model the beginning of  his ministry with a wilderness experience, accompanied by God’s Spirit?

On day 7 of Lent 2013 I received a blogpost from a friend in the Roman Catholic denomination of Christianity; Ted Schmidt.  Ted also wrote about updating our theology – no kidding!  

He says that:

“The  bigger story for Christians  is the acknowledgement that we are living in the midst of a massive paradigm shift in history, one in which the old theology is hopelessly unable to discern.”

Part of Ted’s conclusion is that:

” The Church needs to recover its “kingdom” focus, to be a herald of that evolutionary power. When it does maybe religion can make a comeback. Right now most people  have moved beyond it to spirituality.”

The full post can be found at:

Advent Love

Love in Advent

Christmas 2012
(The Divine Unfolding)

Through your own incarnation, my God,
All matter is henceforth incarnate
Teilhard de Chardin

Christmas melts the coldest hearts
The shortest day and the longest night
Dancing, feasting, fires and tarts
moves our inner axis to the cause of right.

The old Romans scoured the sky
for the first signs of lenghtening day
missed the babe emerging from the sty
and a deeper clue to the life-giving way.

Those clever folk of yore wisely scanned the stars above
filaments of mystery in a cosmos  frightening
missed the miracle of Word made flesh. Love
incarnate, a new creation, the deepest truth of things.

Winter solstice, December 21 and four days later on
Lo the renewal of light, the naked eye espied
The very birth day of Sol Invictus,Unconquerable Sun
“We’ll take it for the risen one” we cried.

We continue to gather two millenia now, an Advent gestating
We have seen something fresh, a new way of being
The  mystery of Christ, new patterns unfolding
The  Galilean points to a new way of seeing.

Wassail and rejoice; Hope has bought us gifts galore
Reconcilaition, forgiveness, compassion beyond compare
Tears, kindness, justice, peace and much much more
A heart attuned to the stars and grace, grace everywhere.

Ted Schmidt