That's in Toronto?!

The Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple opened in Toronto today (or just north-west of Toronto, I suppose), and it is an awesome sight.
The entire project was created by the Hindu community both in Canada and in India. About 2,000 Indian craftsmen were hired to bring the temple to life. About 100 were brought to Toronto to construct the temple while about 1,800 were hired in India to carve out some of the intricate, detailed carvings that adorn the temple. (From CTV.ca)
I'm astonished something like this has actually been built in Canada. This isn't too far from Pearson Airport, so I'm hoping I'll have a chance to swing by and get a look when I go home next week.

The CTV.ca story is worth checking out, as they have more pictures that show the intricate design.



Massacre of the Midianites

In last week's parsha reading (the combined Matot-Masei), one of the more disturbing stories from the Hebrew Bible was read: the massacre of the people of Midian by the Israelites.

Here's part of it:

They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.

The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty. All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, but they took all the spoil and all the booty, both people and animals. Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the Israelites, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, "Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam's advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves." (Numbers 31.7-18)

Rabbi Brant Rosen, in a post on Radical Torah, points out that this attack "can only be described as holy war." I found his reflections on this text, and what we should make of it today, to be quite illuminating. I would encourage you to read it, if you haven't already.



George W. Bush: More than meets the eye?

Funny stuff by Andy Borowitz, posted on HuffPo:
Increasingly frustrated by the Iraqi government's failure to meet a series of defined benchmarks, President George W. Bush today proposed sending a group of giant robots known as the Transformers™ to Iraq...

In announcing his new proposal, the president authorized an $85 billion defense contract to Hasbro, believed to be the largest military contract of its kind ever awarded to a toy company.
Read the whole post here. The made-up quotes from Bush are hilarious.

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Benedict Steps Back

I haven't commented at all yet on the two recent sources of controversy from the Vatican, namely the pope's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum allowing greater use of the Tridentine Mass, or the recent CDF document affirming that Protestant churches are not actually "churches." Or whatever it said. I don't really know, because I haven't actually read it, and the reason is that I don't particularly care, to be perfectly honest.

Based on criticisms that I've read of the CDF document, it sounds to me like it simply restated an old doctrine using pretty much the same language used in Dominus Iesus a few years back. Remember that whole brouhaha? But there was nothing particularly shocking about what it said -- in fact, it would have been quite shocking if it had said something else. The mainstream media completely misunderstood what made that particular document newsworthy, and I suspect the same is true of this recent CDF document. Not that I have any intention of reading it anytime soon.

It seems like it's essentially an argument over terminology. Protestant communities (or whatever) say that they are churches, while the Vatican says that they are not. Well they are what they are, and if Protestants want to call them "churches," I don't see why they particularly care if the Vatican disagrees. (Hello? They're Protestants!) The word "church" can mean one thing in Protestant theology and something entirely different in Catholic theology, no?

Now what about the Tridentine Mass? I don't particularly care a great deal about this either. I love the Latin language. I love to read it, I love to hear it spoken, I love to hear it chanted, Gregorian-style. I have no problem with people going to Mass in Latin if that's what they want. I do, however, have a very serious problem with using the 1962 Missal, without eliminating the prayer for the "conversion of the Jews." Apart from the use of Latin, I don't really understand why Traditionalists were so gung ho about the Tridentine Mass. But obviously they would not have been satisfied with simply having the Novus Ordo liturgy in Latin.

Anyway, I thought I would call attention to this article, "Pope Benedict's Mistake," by James Carroll in today's Boston Globe. Carroll takes issue with Benedict's literalist understanding of apostolic succession, among other things. It's quite interesting. The whole concept of "apostolic succession" is so ludicrous when one looks at the historical evidence that it really cannot be used as the basis for any serious ecclesiology, but Benedict persists...

I suppose it would have been shocking if he had said anything else.

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Why I Love Jesus Meme

So...got tagged by Talmida.

The Rules:

Those tagged will share 5 things they "love" about Jesus. Those tagged will tag 5 other bloggers. Those tagged will provide a link in the comments section here with their name so that others can read them.

1. His embrace of the poor and the despised, his condemnation of legalism, and his challenge to those who emphasise "purity" over compassion, reflects a value system I can really get behind. And he truly practised what he preached. Think about it: how many people actually do that?

2. He demonstrated that genuine authority comes not from holding some official title or institutionally-sanctioned position, but by speaking the truth, persuasively. Something our own religious authorities often fail to grasp.

3. Of all the founders of the major world religions (or the movements that became world religions, usually), I can't help but feel that Jesus was the one who really got it. There are important and profound insights in the teachings of, for example, the Buddha or the Prophet Muhammed. But the answer to the big question that religion is meant to answer -- the question of the very meaning of life -- is most adequately expressed, in my opinion, in Jesus's teaching about the reign of God (my own understanding of which is explained in detail here).

4. He transcended the narrow ethnocentrism so ubiquitous in his own day (and still extremely problematic in our own), and dared to assert that a Samaritan could better fulfill the commandments of God than a priest, or a Levite. That would have been pretty shocking, to hear that at the time. But Jesus wasn't afraid to be shocking.

5. He liked to party with his friends. Far from being a life-denying ascetic, Jesus knew how to have a good time.

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More surrealism from Fox News...

Neil Cavuto of Fox News recently had a very earnest conversation with some random guy about a possible link between universal health care and...terrorism.

Yes, terrorism.

Random guy asserts that the British shortage of doctors has led to a dependency on imported foreign doctors, who often come from the Muslim world. They then have to work in a massive bureaucracy, where it is easy for terrorists to go unnoticed. This makes the UK and other countries with universal heath care vulnerable to terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Therefore Americans should shun the very idea of universal health care.

Uh huh.

You can watch the video here (opens new window). It's a riot.



Oh, Mahmoud...

Just read this on IMDB.com:
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has turned down a request by director Oliver Stone to be interviewed for a documentary film about him. Aides to Ahmadinejad said today (Tuesday) that they had been contacted by Stone through
Iranian filmmakers acting as intermediaries. But Mahdi Kalhor told the Fars news agency: "While it is true that Oliver Stone is considered to be among the opposition in the U.S., the opposition is still part of the Great Satan. ... We believe that the American cinema system is devoid of all culture and art and is only used as a device." Stone responded: "I have been called a lot of things, but never a great Satan. I wish the Iranian people well and only hope their experience with an inept, rigid ideologue president goes better than ours."
I thought that was a terrific response.



Made in America...or else

Here's an amusing story: several American states are passing legislation prohibiting the sale of foreign-produced American flags.
The (Minnesota) law's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Tom Rukavina, said the flag deserves extra protection. To celebrate his legislative victory, he plans to hand out 1,000 miniature flags at Fourth of July parades in his district.

"The biggest honor that you can give the flag is that it be made by American workers in the United States of America," he said. "Nothing is more embarrassing to me than a plastic flag made in China. This replica of freedom we so respect should be made in this country."
I'm not sure how the flag is a "replica of freedom," but nevermind.

Some Minnesota lawmakers dissented:
"That flag should be made throughout the world because it is our message to the world that there is hope for freedom and justice," said Republican Rep. Dan Severson.
Uh huh.


Howard Zinn on the dangers of nationalism

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed. Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.
Read the rest of Zinn's article here (opens new window). It's very interesting, and not very long.


Happy Canada Day

I'm not normally much of a flag-waver, but living in a foreign country the past six months has given me a much greater appreciation for my home and native land.

I feel very blessed to have grown up in Canada, and today I am going to celebrate that.


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