There are many Christian denominations whose devotees practice abstinence: Mormons, Amish, Methodists, Quakers, 7th-day Adventists, Mennonites, Salvation Army members, and there are probably more that I can’t think of. But not all preach abstinence, including Roman Catholics. Jesus himself turned water into over a hundred gallons of wine (John 2:1-11), seemingly to encourage its use at a wedding.
St. John The Baptist was big on fasting, and abstaining from wine. In fact, the angel Gabriel prophesied that he was to never drink alcohol his whole life. He seemed to have spent much of his adult life in wilderness, subsisting on a diet of locusts and honey. I would suppose he was a bit of a wild-man.
Reverend Jerry Falwell (1933-2007), as you might remember, was a fundamentalist preacher who led an organization called the Moral Majority in the States during the Regan era. A bit of a prankster, had a life with more than enough strange twists and turns. The fact that he was teetotal was influenced by his alcoholic father dying of liver disease. Strangely he was friends with Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. Flynt published a rather racy parody about Falwell, to which Falwell objected and sued him all the way to the Supreme Court. The court rejected the lawsuit, and upheld Flynt’s free speech rights. While Falwell and Flynt didn’t agree on anything relating to the lawsuit, they nevertheless became friends. Larry was lending him his jet in case Jerry’s broke down; they traded photos of their grandchildren; diet tips, … You never know how things turn out, do you?
Etobicoke. People in hard times. Yeah, there are good parts of this Toronto borough, but huge parts of it are run-down and filling up with down-and-outers looking to make a buck any way they can. People in hard times, closed shops and factories, low rates of literacy, and not much money to spend.
After decades of seeing their jobs moving to Mexico and the Asia-Pacific region, or having their job security thrown into torpor with the prospect of having them competing with jobs in these places, the members of Ford Nation are weary, and have lost hope in any prospect of a secure job. It is not like in times past anymore, where we lived in a work environment where the employer would take care of them. The differences in wealth have never been greater since the 1920s. The new employment strategy among the employers in Etobicoke seems to be to blame the unemployed for their unemployment.
There was, once upon a time, a way around this: Organize. Share thoughts and concerns, make demands. The ability to organize takes a certain level of self-efficacy, and not many seem to feel that they have it. It is a feeling, after all, since if illiterate workers in Argentina can do it, I am sure workers in Etobicoke can do it too. But there is a certain element of this that is emotional. if you don’t feel that you can do something successfully, you probably aren’t going to be successful.
But that’s another thing. Today’s employee is probably just glad they have a job at all, let alone one that would grant any job security. Unstable incomes lead to unstable families, marriages, and lives. Who do you turn to?
God. And possibly Oprah.
I believe in God. But I think that the number of churches where the answer to poverty is that “if you pray to God with love in your heart, you will get what you need” is on a worrisone rise, and the one-of-a-kind churches seem to specialize in this. While apparently everyone has seemed to given up on organizing, and working as a group of concerned people in a community, I sense that some denominations tend to mimic the effects of the major media, in exacerbating feelings of aloneness and atomization, the opposite of community.
But in comes Rob Ford. Like “us”, he drinks, says anything that is on his mind, and tells off-color jokes. People in Etobicoke identify with him, almost forgetting that his father was a factory owner (he was born into money), and he too is also rich, owns a bungalow and drives an Escalade. Also, unlike most of the working class, he can afford to smoke crack. But instead, the self-appointed denizens of Ford Nation choose to see that “he has his problems” like “us”. He admits his imperfection so that it may help heal his wounds. Even Jesus had wounds, and suffered greatly, so that he may heal others.
Does anyone remember the billboard that was up for one day long the Gardiner Expressway/Highway 427 basket weave (you can’t call it a cloverleaf) that mentioned Rob Ford and ended with a quote from John 8:7? The “cast the first stone” verse is a bad choice of quote, since, well, what is the context? If I recall my Bible correctly, a woman who committed adultery faced a public death by stoning. Jesus intervened and made his famous order that any man who was there (they were all men doing the stoning) who was “without sin” cast the first stone. I take this, and I believe not altogether incorrectly, that any man present who had also not been adulterous cast the first stone. “Sin” in this context usually always means having sex when you are not supposed to. They had, by how I interpret that parable, all been sinful, and likely sinful in the same way. I can say how this is a commentary on how we as humans tend to be the most passionate accusers of other people’s sins which we have ourselves committed, but you’ll be spared. Instead, I draw your attention to the fact that the “sins” are equivalent. All people Jesus faces are guilty of the same or similar sins.
We are given the impression through this sign that I, a sinner have no right to call out a mayor who smokes crack or acts in a highly unprofessional manner in many ways. This only works if my “sins” are equivalent to Ford’s (in this case, vices of many descriptions including drugs and sex). Not all of us smoke crack or consort with prostitutes and drug dealers. I think that makes the majority of our population free of such “sins”.
Rob Ford is not Jesus. Jesus did not smoke crack, nor did Jesus find himself in the company of crack dealers. If it were, it would only to be to get them to repent their crack-dealing ways forever. Jesus was never in “a drunken stupor”. Also, unlike Jesus, most of Ford’s wounds are self-inflicted, if we are to carry the “wound” analogy. Ford has a bigger problem that can’t just be confessed away, and it goes beyond any problems “us common folk” have. These are problems involving criminals, and the police. This is a larger set of personal problems that would dwarf most of ours by orders of magnitude. And they are all problems that Rob Ford made for himself.
Am I the only one who noticed that the King James Bible, written in 1611, is 400 years old this year? While I am not certain exactly what kind of a celebration we would have as a culture, but I believe that at least some mention is in order.
I remember that 1611 was the date, because 1611 was the same year Hamlet was completed, my most favourite of Shakespearian plays. I also think about the KJV, because my profession, education, has it to thank for introducing the elementary school system and teaching children of all families how to read. In 1611 english, the KJV was written for a grade 6 reading level. There is a modern Bible, also aimed at the same reading level, written in modern English: The Good News Bible.
The KJV, as I understand it, is still widely read, but is not considered the most accurate translation. It appears that the NAV (New American Version) of the Bible is the most authoritative to my understanding, but aimed at a higher reading level.
As I understand it, forgiveness is something that is given after the other party has admitted wrongdoing. If they had not, then forgiveness is futile, except maybe in one’s mind. In other words, if I had wronged you, and I don’t say I am sorry — in fact, I refuse to even acknowledge that wrong was done — then it would sound absurd for you to say to me “I forgive you”. It falls on deaf ears. I know I said that before, but it is worth repeating. There are a lot of wrongdoers in my life, who seem to have a warped sense of morals, who think in their own minds they have done nothing wrong; that they are perfect somehow.
I guess for some people, the two simple words “I’m sorry” are the most difficult words to say in the English language. It is an admission that you are not perfect, and with it an acceptance, I guess, of a certain loss of self-esteem (which seemed too high to begin with). After that, there should be an attempt to make up for it — a reparative justice, like the Greeks used to do.
But it seems for some people, it has gone beyond that, especially where rape and other forms of irrepairable harm was committed.