Friday, November 6, 2015

Colleagues List, November 8th, 2015

Vol. XI.  No. 12



Wayne A. Holst, Editor
My E-Mail Address:

Colleagues List Web Site:

"Quicklinks" are included with many items
at the beginning of this issue. To get a more
complete picture, however, scroll down to
find your special selection in the body of
the blog.


Dear Colleagues:

Late last weekend 29 of us returned from
a sixteen-day tour of the Holy Land, and I
am gradually trying to catch up with life
back home!

For those interested, here is the link to
the blog-story of our trip, written by one
of our members, Michael Trew. It is an
unusually good piece of work, and I
encourage you to check it out:


My Special Item for this week is a book notice for -

"Not in God's Name" by  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

It is a study of religion and violence, but also
of peace, reconciliation and love from a Jewish

For particulars and my thoughts, please scroll down.


Colleague Contributions for this week are from:

Lorna Dueck (Toronto, ON) who asks:

"Why Did the Conservatives Lose So Badly?"


John Stackhouse Jr. (Moncton, NB) who writes:

"We've Got a Problem"
  Our Christian Image in Society is Not Good


Jim Taylor (Okanagan. BC) who contributes:

"The Theology Behind Harper's Loss"  (and)



Marjorie Gibson (Vancouver, BC) who suggests:

"Change the Only Constant"


Martin Marty (Chicago, IL) who reports on:

"Christians Fighting Christians"
  (At Vatican Synod on the Family)


Ron Rolheiser (San Antonio, TX) who reflects on:

"The Communion of Saints"

Net Notes - Items I found on the web this week:

"How to Read the Bible" - a new book by Harvey Cox
  who focuses on "Bible Wisdom that Comes to Life
  in Dialogue" (National Catholic Reporter)


"A Living Question Mark" - Protestants and Jews
 After Nostra Aetate - Interfaith-Dialogue Since
 Vatican II - an update I found quite helpful
 (The Christian Century)


"Inequality as a Religious Test" - Jim Wallis shares
  a presentation he gave recently at the Parliament

  of World Religions - "A Test of Our Religion"
  (Sojourners Online)


"Trudeau Faces Great Expectations" - our new
  Canadian prime minister enters the stage with
  the world watching - (Guardian, UK)

"Summary of Voting Patterns and Results"
  (CBC News)
"Justin Trudeau Sworn in as PM of Canada"
  (New York Times)

"Violent Palestinian Songs and Music" - this
  video was recorded on the West Bank and
  Jerusalem, currently a hotbed of protest
  (New York Times Video)


"How ISIS has Spread in the Middle East" -
  Here is a backgrounder to the current crisis
  (Atlantic Online)


"The Holy Spirit in Other Faith Traditions" -
  How Wide is God's Mercy? Here is a inter-faith
  theological presentation on a 'Christian' reality
  also found in other traditions (Christian Century)


"New Crop of Immigrants Appear in Parliament" -
  a reflection of modern Canada is to be found in
  those who have just been elected  (New York Times)


"Francis Calls the Bible "A Highly Dangerous Book" -
  More Thoughts from the pope's UN Presentation
  some weeks ago (The Christian Post)


"Ken Taylor Funeral - Honour for a Famed Diplomat" -
  a Canadian hero, who played a decisive role during the
  Iranian hostage crisis  of the 1980s (CBC News)


Wisdom of The Week:

Comes to us from Sojourners and the Bruderhof online -

Saint Teresa of Avila, Lesslie Newbigin, Simone Weil,
Marianne Williamson, Dag Hammarskjöld, Mother
Teresa,St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King Jr.,
Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer and Cesar Chavez

Please scroll down to read their thoughts.


On This Day:

From the archives of the New York Times - 

"Obama Elected First Black US President"

"Jimmy Carter Bests Gerald Ford in US
  Presidency Race"

"Indira Gandhi Assassinated"

"Jordan and Israel Sign Peace Accord"

"UN Admits China, Ejects Taiwan"


Closing Thought - Vincent van Gogh

Please scroll to the end of the blog to read him.


Appearing at blog's end -

Our New Program Season
Autumn 2015 Adult Spiritual Development
ACTS Ministry Programs through

St. David's United Church, Calgary.

Book Notice -

Confronting Religious Violence
by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Random House Canada, 2015.
Hardcover. 305 pp. $23.79 CAD
ISBN # 978-0-8052-4334-5.

Publisher's Promo:

In this powerful and timely book, one of the most
admired and authoritative religious leaders of our
time tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism
and violence committed in the name of God.

If religion is perceived as being part of the problem,
Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of
the solution. When religion becomes a zero-sum
conceit- that is, my religion is the only right path
to God, therefore your religion is by definition wrong
and individuals are motivated by what Rabbi Sacks
calls “altruistic evil,” violence between peoples of
different beliefs appears to be the only natural

But through an exploration of the roots of violence

and its relationship to religion, and employing
groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation,
Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence
has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the
heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. By looking anew
at the book of Genesis, with its foundational stories
of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Rabbi Sacks
offers a radical rereading of many of the Bible’s
seminal stories of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel,
Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and
his brothers, Rachel and Leah.

“Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought

to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith.
That idea, ignored for many of the intervening
centuries, remains the simplest definition of
Abrahamic faith. It is not our task to conquer or
convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief.
It is our task to be a blessing to the world. The use
of religion for political ends is not righteousness
but idolatry ... To invoke God to justify violence
against the innocent is not an act of sanctity but
of sacrilege.” Here is an eloquent call for people
of goodwill from all faiths and none to stand
together, confront the religious extremism that
threatens to destroy us, and declare:

Not in God’s Name.


Author's Bio:

Jonathan Henry Sacks, Baron Sacks, born
8 March 1948, is a British rabbi, philosopher
and scholar of Judaism. He served as the Chief
Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of t
he Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. As the
spiritual head of the United Synagogue, the
largest synagogue body in the UK, he was the
Chief Rabbi of those Orthodox synagogues.

Since stepping down as Chief Rabbi, in addition
to his international travelling and speaking
engagements and prolific writing, Sacks has
served as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global
Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at
New York University and the Kressel and Ephrat
Family University Professor of Jewish Thought
at Yeshiva University. He has also been appointed
as Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King's
College London.


Author's Words:

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully
  as when they do it from religious conviction."

- Blaise Pascal

When religion turns men into murderers,
God weeps.

Too often in the history of religion, people
have killed in the name of the God of life,
waged war in the name of the God of peace,
hatred in the name of the God of love and
practiced cruelty in the name of the God of
compassion. When this happens God speaks...
and what he says at such times is "not in
my name."

Abraham - a man revered by 2.4 billion Christians,
1.6 billion Muslims and 13 million Jews - ruled no
empire...  He sought to be true to his faith and a
blessing to others regardless of their faith...

The simplest definition of the Abrahamic faith is
that it is not our task to conquer or convert the
world to enforce uniformity of belief, it is our task
to be a blessing to the world. The use of religion
for political ends is not righteousness but idolatry...

To invoke God to justify violence against the innocent
is not an act of sanctity but of sacrilege. It is a kind
of blasphemy. It is to take God's name in vain.

Religiously motivated violence has not diminished
(in our time.) ... (for example) Islamic extremism
(like ISIS) is stronger then ever...

Christians are being systematically persecuted in
many parts of the world... In 2001 there were 1.5
million Christians in Iraq. Today there are 400,000.

A century ago, Christians made up 20 per cent of
the population of the Middle East. Today, the figure
is 4 per cent. What is happening is the religious
equivalent of ethnic cleansing. It is one of the
crimes against humanity in our time.

Muslims form the majority of victims of Islamic
violence. This is true in Iraq, Afghanistan and
and Pakistan, all of which have a mostly Muslim
population. Many Muslims feel deeply threatened
by what thy see as Western hostility, whether in
the form of civilian casualties of the war in Iraq,
drone strikes in Pakistan, or Israeli retaliation for
Hamas rocket attacks, or a generalized antagonism
in countries where they are a minority.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism has returned to the
world in full force within living memory of the

It is not only members of the Abrahamic
monotheisms that are under attack. So too are
Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians and
Baha'is... There is nothing banal about the evil
currently consuming large parts of the world.

"Altruistic evil" is the name we might give to
evil committed in a sacred cause, in the name
of high ideals...

As Jews, Christians and Muslims we have to be
prepared to ask the most uncomfortable
questions. Does the God of Abraham want his
disciples to kill for his sake? Does he demand
human sacrifice? Does he rejoice in holy war?
Does he want us to hate our enemies and to
terrorize unbelievers?  Have we read our
sacred texts correctly? What is God saying to
us here, now?


To put the argument of this book as simply
as I can: there is a connection between religion
and violence, but it is oblique, not direct...

The relationship between Judaism, Christianity
and Islam has been historically a poisoned one,
and I seek to understand why.

(I believe that the very texts of our scriptures,
that lie at the heart of our problem, if properly
interpreted, can provide a solution. This, though,
will require a radical re-reading of those texts,
through an act of deep listening to the pristine
voice of monotheism itself...)

What made this book possible is knowledge of
the transformation that has taken place when
Jews, Christians and Muslims face one another
in their full humanity.

(We must move past the education of the
last half century that was dedicated to the
proposition that loving God means hating the
enemies of God. The end result has been a
flood of chaos, violence and destruction that
is drowning the innocent and guilty alike.)

We now have, with equal seriousness, to
educate for peace, forgiveness and love.

Until our global institutions take a stand
against the teaching and preaching of hate,
all their efforts at diplomacy and military
intervention will fail.

Ultimately, the responsibility is ours.
Tomorrow's world is born in what we
teach our children today.

That is what this book is about.

- from Altruistic Evil  (chapter one)


My Thoughts:

Many have recently read Karen Armstrong's
scholarly volume "Fields of Blood - Religion
and Violence" an extensive, enlightened study
of the association between two powerful forces
in our world. The connection between the two
has existed from time immemorial.

Still, Armstrong believes that true religion is
compassionate and seeks peace in spite of
what many have done in its name.

Armstrong writes from a British Christian
background, with a strong global and interfaith

The Sacks book under consideration here
is by a British author who is Jewish. Like
Armstrong, he has strong academic credentials
but addresses the issue of religion and violence
from a Hebrew Bible perspective.

That is the first important point that stands
out for me. Christians take the Hebrew Bible
as authoritative, but they also view things
from the perspective of Christ and the missionary
impetus of the early church. Christianity was
based in Judaism but evolved into a faith that
has appealed primarily to Gentiles.

The similarities and differences between
Judaism and Christianity are important to
keep in mind as we move from a Christian
to an interfaith discussion on a pivotal theme. 

“Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought
to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith."
That idea, ignored for many of the intervening
centuries, remains the simplest definition of
Abrahamic faith. "To be a blessing to others
regardless of their faith" is not classically the way
we might describe the missionizing and conversion-
seeking focus of Christianity (or Islam for that matter.)

There is much we can learn from a faith tradition
that is, at its heart, not a missionary one but a

The second important point that stands out for
me is that the three religions of Jerusalem are
being addressed by a representative of Judaism,
the founding tradition of the three. In addition,
the author is concerned about religion and violence
in all the great religious traditions - both east and
west. Thus, he is concerned about global missionary
as well as non-missionary faiths.

We are fortunate to read from a scholar firmly
grounded in the Abrahamic tradition but open to
all traditions.

Finally, I would suggest that what we learn from
Armstrong and Sacks opens the door to a similar
contribution from the Islamic perspective. The
commitment to justice, peace  and reconciliation 
is also very real in Islam. We need to hear that.

Sacks brings to the attention of Christians
and others a view of faith and reality that we
should respect "from an older brother."

As you, like me, continue to seek guidance and
pursue truth from an ever-expanding array of
religious insights, I highly recommend this book
to you.

The author shares many of my own perspectives
on the subject and helps to refine and enhance


Buy the book from


Lorna Dueck,
Toronto, ON.

Lorna Dueck's Blog
October 20th, 2015

"Why Did the Conservatives Lose So Badly?"

John Stackhouse Jr.,
Moncton, NB

Faith Today
Nov/Dec. 2015

"We've Got a Problem"
  Our Christian Image in Society is Not Good


Jim Taylor,
Okanagan. BC

Web Log
October 24th, 2015

"The Theology Behind Harper's Loss"

Web Log
November 4th, 2015



Marjorie Gibson,
Vancouver, BC

Marjorie Remembers Blog
November, 2015

"Change the Only Constant"


Martin Marty,
Chicago, IL

October 19th, 2015

"Christians Fighting Christians"
  (At Vatican Synod on the Family)


Ron Rolheiser
San Antonio, TX

Personal Web Site
November 2nd, 2015

"The Communion of Saints"



New Book by Harvey Cox

"Bible Wisdom Comes to Life in Dialogue"

National Catholic Reporter
November 4th, 2015


Protestants and Jews
After Nostra Aetate -
Interfaith-Dialogue Since Vatican II

The Christian Century,
October 20th, 2015
Jim Wallis at Parliament of World Religions
"A Test of Our Religion"

Sojourners Online
October 22nd, 2015

New Canadian PM Sees World Watching

Guardian, UK
October 24th, 2015

"Summary of Voting Patterns and Results"

CBC News
October 21st, 2015

"Justin Trudeau Sworn in as PM of Canada"

New York Times
November 4th, 2015

Recorded on the West Bank and Jerusalem

New York Times Video
October 22nd, 2015

Backgrounder to the Current Crisis

Atlantic Online
October 29th, 2015

How Wide is God's Mercy?

The Christian Century
November 3rd, 2015


Seen as a Reflection of the New Canada

New York Times
November 3rd, 2015


More Thoughts from His
UN Presentation Last Month

The Christian Post
October 19th, 2015


Canadian Played Decisive Role
During Iranian Crisis

CBC News
October 27th, 2015



Love turns work into rest.

- Saint Teresa of Avila


I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

- Lesslie Newbigin


To be rooted is perhaps the most important
and least recognized need of the human soul.

- Simone Weil


You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.

- Marianne Williamson


God does not die on the day when we cease to
believein a personal deity, but we die on the day
when our lives cease to be illuminated by the
steady radiance… the source of which is beyond

- Dag Hammarskjöld


There is only one God, and he is God to all;
therefore it is important that everyone is seen
as equal before God. I’ve always said we
should help a Hindu become a better Hindu,
a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic
be come a better Catholic.

- Mother Teresa


Always from the child's hand the sword
should be removed.

I think every nation is an infant.
- St. Francis of Assisi


Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred
rather than love. It destroys community and makes
brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in
monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends
up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the
survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

- Martin Luther King Jr.


A human being is a part of the whole – called by
us Universe – a part limited in time and space.
We experience our thoughts and feelings as
something separated from the rest – a kind of
optical delusion of our consciousness. This
delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting
us to our personal desires, and to affection for
a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to
free ourselves from this prison by widening our

circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature in its beauty.

- Albert Einstein


In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another
human being. We should all be thankful for those people
who rekindle the inner spirit.

- Albert Schweitzer


It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice
we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the
world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of
life and allows us to choose the way we will use our
limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.

- Cesar Chavez



"Obama Elected First Black US President"

"Jimmy Carter Bests Gerald Ford in US
  Presidency Race"

"Indira Gandhi Assassinated"

"Jordan and Israel Sign Peace Accord"

"UN Admits China, Ejects Taiwan"


CLOSING THOUGHT - Vincent van Gogh

If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us,
even though we are certain to experience real sorrow,
and great disappointments, and will also probably
commit great faults and do wrong things. But it certainly
is true that it is better to be high-spirited – even though
one makes more mistakes – than to be narrow-minded
and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for
therein lies the true strength; and whosoever loves
much performs much, and can accomplish much;
and what is done in love, is well done.



Our New Program Season -
Autumn 2015 Adult Spiritual Development
ACTS Ministry Programs through St. David's

United Church, Calgary.


Theme: "Living in Darkness - Living in Light"

Books: "Learning to Walk in the Dark"
              by Barbara Brown Taylor

             "Between the Dark and the Daylight"
               by Joan Chittister

A  ten-week study in contemporary spirituality
with books by two prominent Protestant and
Catholic writers.

Ten Monday evenings, 7-9PM
In the St. David's TM Room
September 21st - November 30th, 2015

Books and Registration/Hospitality - $60.00
Books only - $35.00

Registrations to date: 28.

We have sold all of our 35 supplied book sets,
but registration is still open.

Thanks to Brenda and Joan who helped Jock when
Wayne participated in the "Jerusalem and the Land
of Three Great Faiths" tour (October 16th - 31st)

Now into our sixteenth year of Monday Night Studies
Our thirty-first series of (usually) ten week sessions!

Our Current "Spiritual Darkness" Study Design/Links:

Check our complete archives for all 45 book studies:



Theme: The Book of Exodus from the Hebrew Bible
              "A Classic Story of Human Liberation"

Ten sessions 10-11 AM
Gathering at 9:30AM
In the St. David's TM Room
September 17th - December 3rd

No charge.

Study resource -

The DK Complete Bible Handbook

(copy available in our church library)



"Jerusalem and the Land of Three Great Faiths"
  October 16th - 31st, 2015

Tour Company: Rostad Tours Calgary
Tour Hosts: Wayne and Marlene Holst
Sponsored by: St. David's ACTS Ministry
Endorsed by: St. David's Church Council

Talk with or write to Marlene and Wayne

We had 29 paid-up participants taking
the tour.

A service to "report to the congregation
on the tour" will take place, Sunday,
November 15th.

Recommended books -

One City, Three Faiths
by Karen Armstrong (1997)

DK Eyewitness Travel (2014)

TOP TEN: Israel, Including Sinai & Petra
DK Eyewitness Travel (2014)



Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre
Cochrane, Alberta

Mark your calendars!

Sunday February 28th
11:30 AM - 4:00 PM

John Griffith is on sabbatical this year.
Reflections will be led by a Franciscan on staff.


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