As July nears I look back…

Just browsing my blog for July 2006 — 15 years on. Lots of items of interest to me, and some beyond that I feel. The first one intrigues me because I have no idea now who this might have been! Links have been updated where needed with the Wayback Machine.

6 July 2006:

Interesting email

I won’t give his name yet, save to say he went to The Mine (class of 1990).

…I have never been a big traditionalist but lately I’ve appreciated my education more than ever…

I’m now teaching English… I live in Indonesia, I’m married to a native Indonesian, and I’m a certified Muslim.

My credentials are: a Sydney High education, a love of twilight at the beach, time living in Surry Hills and Redfern, some Uni studies, a few years as a taxi driver, and a few years in banking.

If you have any questions about islam, I’d love to discuss it. The Jakarta Post publishes editorials on Islamic issues every day – Abu Bakr, Palestine, Indonesia, Sharia, thuggery, etc. It’s a great mag if you like talking politics. I’ve almost finished reading the Quran. Unfortunately, the advice it offers is not always reflected in the practice of Islam seen today so often.

Furthermore, many Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims don’t even know what they’re saying when they pray in Arabic. I wonder what you think about that.

Anyway, if you want to share opinions and ideas about religion, world peace, education, or diet, I would be interested. I’m not afraid of any points of view.

Peace be with you.

I hope this becomes a beneficial link for all of us.

Also 6 July: “The Poet” is former colleague Dick Stratford.

Nir Rosen: an interesting find by The Poet

This really is worth reading: Nir Rosen Reporting on Martyrdom and Chaos in Iraq.

Mind you, I worry about The Poet’s web surfing sometimes. So much of it strikes me as depressing, especially when done at 4am…

I see Nir Rosen is associated with something called the New America Foundation. Now I find it prudent when I see something like that, about which I know nothing at all, to check for credibility. Let’s face it, I could call this blog the New Australia Foundation if I wanted to. A good place to look is Source Watch*, and that indeed confirms the NAF is kosher and even fairly conservative, being not unconnected to the Atlantic Monthly, though not directly. You may find Rosen’s biography on the NAF site. In the light of recent events in Israel, his 2002 article (he was only 25 when he wrote it!) on Counterpunch Revisiting Israel: The Broken Home makes for poignant reading.

I stopped by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christians believe that Christ’s body had been placed there when he was taken off the cross. Faithful Christians could be seen in the dim light, kissing stone, pictures and nearly everything else. I walked up to the entrance for the Al Aksa mosque, from where Muslims believe Muhammad rose to the sky. Israeli soldiers barred me from entering. It was closed to tourists. This was the Temple Mount for devout Jews. Here, they believe the Jewish Temple had stood. And would one day stand. Finally, I made my way to the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest sight. It was allegedly the last remaining wall of the ancient Jewish Temple. Hundreds of Orthodox Jews clad in black swayed by the wall. The wall did not seem that big or impressive. Large worn out yellow stones with a few brown bushes growing out of the cracks.

It seemed odd to me, to invest rocks with sacred qualities. Even if there was a god, would his presence be in a rock? Could a wall ever be holy? Wasn’t it the idea that was supposed to be holy? How can you kiss an inanimate object in reverence? An icon, a wall, a rock? How can you kill or die for a rock? If there were a god would he want you to? I, who reject religion as absurd and backwards, can at least differentiate between holding ideas as sacred, and being truly religious, by acting in accordance with ideas through a genuine belief, and merely going through the acts, the formalities, the rules. Cross now, bow now, kiss this, say that. It’s like military marching drills, a way of achieving conformity and unthinking obedience.

Sigh! 

* When that yields nothing, Wikipedia is the go — with due caution, though I have generally found it worthy of consideration and often quite excellent. See, for example, Lew Rockwell, a source The Poet sometimes uses — it is where that “Battle Hymn of the Republic” entry yesterday came from — but I do not always trust.

5 July 2006:

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is not Christian

That is the thesis of Blasphemy in Song by Laurence M. Vance, which The Poet sent me yesterday. The much revered Cam Williamson, the Presbyterian Minister at Sutherland in my teenage years (before that church went crazy Calvinist), said as much fifty years ago, so this comes as no surprise to me, no matter how popular the tune, at least, has become in all sorts of places:

Glory, glory to South Sydney! Glory, glory to South Sydney! Glory, glory to South Sydney!… etc.

As Vance says:

Although the Bible likens Christians to soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3), and the Christian life to a battle (1 Timothy 1:18), the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is not a song that should be on the lips of any Christian. It is not a Christian hymn at all. It is a disgrace that the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” even appears in a Christian hymnbook alongside of such great hymns of the faith as: “Blessed Redeemer,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name,” “The Way of the Cross Leads Home,” “That Beautiful Name,” and “O Worship the King.” Julia Ward Howe was a Unitarian, and wrote the song as a partisan Unionist during the beginning of the Civil War. The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is religious war propaganda. It is no more a Christian hymn than “White Christmas.”

Like many who lived during the nineteenth century, Howe was very familiar with the Bible. Consequently, the language and imagery of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” are largely biblical. The problem, however, is that Howe applied the judgment of the “day of the Lord” to the destruction of the Southern armies by the North…

The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” ought to be parodied, satirized, and lampooned. It has nothing to do with God or Christianity. It is not a Christian hymn. It does not belong in a Christian hymnbook. It should not be sung in any Christian church – Northern or Southern. It should not be on the lips of any Christian – Yankee or Southerner. It is partisan political paean to bogus history and faulty theology…

I think we can see his viewpoint clearly enough there!

Odetta however shows how the song can be appropriated in a good cause, even more important than to support the Bunnies!