One day people were standing around talking about the Temple,
remarking how beautiful it was, the splendor of its stonework
and memorial gifts. Jesus said, "All this you're admiring
so much -- the time is coming when every stone in that building
will end up in a heap of rubble."
They asked him, "Teacher, when is this going to happen?
What clue will we get that it's about to take place?"
He said, "Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders
are going to show up with forged identities claiming, 'I'm the
One,' or, 'The end is near.' Don't fall for any of that. When
you hear of wars and uprising, keep your head and don't panic.
This is routine history and no sign of the end."
He went on, "Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler,
over and over. Huge earthquakes will occur in various places.
There will be famines. You'll think at times that the very sky
"But before any of this happens, they'll arrest you, hunt
you down and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad
to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry
my name. You'll end up on the witness stand, called to testify.
Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I'll give
you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to
stammers and stutters.
"You'll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives,
and friends. Some of you will be killed. There's no telling who
will hate you because of me. Even so, every detail of your body
and soul -- even the hairs of your head! -- is in my care; nothing
of you will be lost. Staying with it -- that's what is required.
Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry; you'll be saved."
<The Message >
is an article about breaking one's own community. I recommend
the author and his weekly e-mails]
POWER WITHOUT WISDOM IS DANGEROUS
Remember the singing group called the Weavers? Pete Seeger, Lee
Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert were, to my mind, the
first and best of the folk groups. In the early 1950s, they sold
millions of records. They saved their record label from folding.
Then, suddenly, the record company dropped their contract. Television
programs quit inviting them to appear. The Weavers had been blacklisted.
They were suspected of communist sympathies. (Seeger refused
to testify before Senator Joe McCarthy's House Un- American Activities
Committee. He was formally exonerated in 1962.)
"How many spies were pulled in by that dragnet?" Ronnie
Gilbert demanded later. "Nary a one. Instead, it pulled
down thousands of teachers, union members, scientists, actors,
entertainers like us..."
Fast forward to today. Ronnie Gilbert is being investigated again,
this time for belonging to a group called Women in Black. She
describes it as "a loosely knit international network of
women who vigil against violence, often silently... Because my
group is composed mostly of Jewish women, we focus on the Middle
East, protesting the cycle of violence and revenge in Israel
and the Palestinian territories." For this, the FBI has
threatened Women in Black with a Grand Jury investigation.
TRAINING IN KNOWING ONESELF
The current frenzy over security has given power to people who
never learned to separate their personal prejudices and animosities
from their jobs.
When chaplains and counsellors train for service in hospitals
and other institutions, they take something called Clinical Pastoral
Education, or CPE. A key element of CPE is learning to recognize
your own values, convictions, and prejudices, so that you can
avoid imposing your private views on those you work with.
It makes sense. An agnostic dying of cancer should not be badgered
into an evangelical conversion by an chaplain, whatever the chaplain's
personal beliefs. A bedridden patient should not become a captive
audience for Buddhist, Hindu, or Islamic teachings.
The principle is simple. In any power imbalance, the weaker person
should not be exploited by the stronger -- sexually, physically,
economically, or theologically.
PERSONAL PREJUDICES EVIDENT
I doubt very much if the FBI -- or in Canada, the RCMP or the
Canadian Security Intelligence Service -- gets any training comparable
I'm sure that Canada Customs doesn't. For years, some officers'
prejudice against lesbians meant that they continually impounded
shipments headed for the Little Sisters' Bookshop in Vancouver.
But they let Duthie's, Vancouver's biggest book retailers, import
many of the same publications without question.
Until you've been on the receiving end, it's hard to realize
the imbalance of power when officials confront ordinary individuals.
One summer, I had a temporary job as a Customs Officer on the
B.C./Idaho border. The only accommodation was on the Idaho side.
Even though I entered only 50 feet into their territory, even
though I worked for their Canadian counterparts, U.S. Immigration
fingerprinted me. Checked my records. If they found any reason
to reject me, I would have no place to stay. No job. And no recourse.
I remember standing outside the international arrivals door in
the Toronto airport, waiting for my friend Sam Nazombe from Africa
to walk through the frosted glass doors.
Other people greeted friends and relatives with squeals of joy,
hugs, or distant handshakes. The crowd dispersed.
Then the public address system squawked, "Mr. James Taylor,
awaiting Mr. Samuel Nazombe, report immediately to Immigration."
In Africa, I had known Sam as bouncy, confident, even cocky.
In that immigration cubical, huddled in a chair, he seemed little
more than a shadow.
The immigration agent -dark suit, white shirt, pink skin, red
tie -- dominated the situation. He doubted the legitimacy of
Sam's visit. Sam had a return ticket, but no money. Just my name
In fact, Sam was coming to Canada for a kind of apprenticeship
in journalism. I had met him while doing some writing and editing,
as a Crossroads Canada volunteer, for the Christian Service Committee
of the churches in Malawi. Sam's CSC employers wanted him to
learn some new skills. So they sent Sam to spend three months
as an intern with various Canadian church publications.
It was all legitimate. But the only way I could get Sam into
the country was to sign a paper accepting total responsibility
for anything he might do here. Fortunately, Sam didn't commit
any criminal acts, or incur any financial liabilities.
But I still remember the power wielded by the immigration official.
Over Sam. And over me.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WITCH-HUNTS
All of which makes me wonder why there is so much fuss about
Canada being too easy for refugees and potential terrorists to
First, it's not that easy. Of 599 Chinese refugees who risked
their lives to cross the Pacific to B.C. on a collection of rusty,
ready-to-sink freighters, only two dozen received refugee status.
Almost 400 were deported to whatever punishment awaits them back
Second, even if some people get into Canada, they still have
to pass American inspection at the border. The terrorists who
destroyed the World Trade Center did not catch their flights
in Canada. They were granted entry into the U.S. by U.S. officials.
Now the U.S. and Canada are both tightening up. I'm concerned
that the new mood puts more power into the hands of those who
have so far shown little wisdom about using it. This past week,
we heard that the FBI had rounded up more than 650 people, merely
on suspicion. Some, apparently, only because they had Arab ancestry.
By contrast, European security forces arrested and charged just
23 persons, with no mass detentions at all.
Power is dangerous. Especially when influenced by prejudice,
paranoia, or patriotism -- these days it is sometimes hard to
tell the difference. Power always needs to be tempered by common
sense, compassion, and sober judgement.
But I don't get the impression that those are part of the security
curriculum these days.
Copyright 2001 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations
and study groups permitted; all other rights reserved.
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passage comes hard on the heels of the poor widow who gave extravagantly
(in contrast to the rich). It is always interesting to see where
breaks come in the scripture. To separate this one from what
goes immediately before tends to have us think that two separate
things are being talked about.
What is admired more in a capitalistic society than rich people?
This is the modern temple. If you are brave enough to think about
the World Trade Towers you might make the connection between
it and the Temple mentioned here.
It would be a natural response for us to exclaim, "The time
came for every stone in that building (WTT) to end up in a heap
of rubble because the rich were eventually shown up by a poor
widow." This is still difficult for many to think about
but at least needs a brief mention.
If one does not want to go all the way down the line of what
might be heard as treason in a patriotic time, there is also
room to indicate that these times we are in are not a sign of
anything beyond "routine history."
In either case, "rubble" or "routine," it
is important to deal with questions of assurance. When we do
not get excited by the hubbub around us it may not be that we
are unaware of the situation, but well grounded in knowing we
are cared for. The struggle here is finding images of assurance
which can speak across the usual boundaries. What expresses the
sense of being cared for is different for different generations
and classes within generations (where folks are with their sense
of security and control). This is a current struggle point for
Blessings upon you as you find the hope of assurance in a scared
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