Monday, September 22, 2008

UN International Day of Peace

Yesterday was the UN International Day of Peace. It was marked in Edmonton with a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall. A couple of new Canadians spoke about what life was like in the war-torn countries from which they came. I sang a song I often sing at peace-related events, called "I Only Ask of God." It's not a religious song as such, but a prayer to God for peace and human rights. It is a folk song from Argentina, and I try to throw in a verse in Spanish at the end (I sing a very literal English translation). God can mean so many different things to different people, and even though we may not agree on who He is, and I am glad to bring Him with me to these events.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rally for Change

On Saturday, I attended the Rally for Change. It was actually a rally for Jack Layton. Which in effect would be change, a change from the Conservative government from which we currently suffer. There were hundreds of NDP supporters filling the lobby of the Winspear Centre. It was the first time I have ever seen a major political figure speak live. I ended up filming from the second floor, as it just got way too crowded.

In churches, we don't talk about politics too much. At least in Canada, candidates and parties cannot be supported from the pulpit, lest the church risk losing its charitable status. We talk about issues that are hot properties in political circles, like abortion, gay marriage, poverty, and peace, but ultimately, at least in my congregation, we encourage people to vote with their conscience.

I used to think that being a Believer meant I had to vote a certain way or have certain political beliefs. I was so wrong. Religion and politics tend to be way too tied up together. When I hear people ranting about "right-wing evangelical Christians" I know they are making a generalization, but it is borne of this cookie-cutter mentality that is far too pervasive in church circles. Christian does not have to equal conservative. Jesus was a socialist. Deal with it.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Amongst my activist friends I am often thought of as the "religious one." I have not gone to some events because they came out on Jewish holidays, for example. Yet quite a number of my friends are involved with the Unitarians. In Edmonton, there are two Unitarian churches, one on the north side, and one on the south side. Most of them go to the north side one.

The Unitarian church has intrigued me for quite a while. I am totally in love with its commitment to social justice, something which I think is lacking in evangelical churches today. There is a focus on people's sexual behaviour, but on little else. I commented to a friend of mine last evening that I would like to see someone put on congregational discipline because they do not support the poor. She felt that was not Biblical. "Well," I said, "We're supposed to help the widows and orphans." (James 1:27) To me, that implies the poor and needy. It's an extension of that verse, the same way many of the verses that touch upon sexual behaviour are open to broader interpretation. She suggested I take this up with our pastor. I think I will.

The main criticism of Unitarianism that me and my friend discussed, was that it takes the best of all faiths and puts them together under its own banner. There is nothing at all wrong with learning from other faith traditions. But when you pick and choose what you want, you end up with "everything and nothing" as far as a faith system goes. Yes, there are certain principles for ethical living that Unitarians follow, which are great, but they have little, if anything, to do with G-d -- and I am not just talking about the G-d of the Bible, lest anyone say I am lording (pardon the pun) my Judeo-Christian chauvinism over anyone. I am talking about G-d as a concept in general. And I am someone who holds following G-d and the Bible in high esteem.

Otherwise, Unitarians carry out their lives like any other church-going folk. They fellowship regularly. They make offerings. They sing hymns. They listen to sermons. The "sacred" in Unitarianism, seems to be social justice. Being good stewards of the environment, being critical of the government and its decisions, and treating everyone with dignity and respect. And with those principles, I cannot disagree.

Now, if only other churches got on board with those practices, we may see a radical demographic shift in church-goers!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pics'n'Vids: September 18, 2008

Let the War Resisters Stay & Anti-SPP Rally
September 13, 2008

Pics (24 images):

Peggy Morton, ECAWAR (6:47)
Linda Leibovitz speaking on Omar Khadr (2:16)
Dr. Gordon Laxer, Parkland Institute (9:34)
Dr. Martin Tweedale, Council of Canadians (8:13)
Event organizer Aaron Skaley speaking on
war resisters (1:45)
and TILMA (Trade Investment and Labour Mobility Movement between Alberta and B.C.) (5:13)
Doug Meggison, Council of Canadians and ECAWAR (8:28)
Harlan, Vietnam draft dodger (9:31)


Grandmothers for Africa
Grandmothers for a New Generation (GANG) is an organizations seeking to support grandparents in Africa who are caring for their grandchildren, mostly orphans who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. A rally on September 6 brought attention to the fact that inexpensive AIDS medications are needed in Africa, as they were promised by our government.

Photos (28 images):

Linda Duncan (3:43)
GANG Speaker (2:43)
Notre Dame de Bananes (3:53)
Raging Grannies (6:55)

Edmonton Poetry Festival
On September 13 I read some of my poems in front of a live audience at the Milner Library downtown. Edmonton's Poet Laureate Alice Major introduced all of the readers in our segment. "Poetry and politics do mix" was what she said after I finished. Five poems, five minutes (our allotted time). Three written by me, two with Radical Randy. Here is a look at my reading (4:53):
(Yes, I know I was reading very quickly -- like I said, I only had five minutes!)