We all know the power of language within public debates. In such debates, most participants will use language that aligns their point of view with that of the wider culture. And most will try to distance themselves, lexically, from attitudes and actions that have negative connotations. In the abortion debate, for example, both sides describe their own position in positive terms – as either pro-life or pro-choice. We know that our language shapes public perceptions, and will shape the debate, and so we respond accordingly.
The question of this column is how to describe a certain kind of death. The death I’m referring to is that of a person who has a serious sickness that causes her substantial pain and suffering – and that pain and suffering cannot be relieved to her satisfaction. Her natural death is reasonably foreseeable and, at her request and with her consent, a medical practitioner gives her a series of injections that kill her cause her to die.
Within the Canadian context there is now agreement that this kind of death should be called “medical aid in dying.” This is the language now used in legislative frameworks, by most medical practitioners, and in public discourse generally. Continue reading
A piece I wrote 14 years ago this month, published in the Montreal Gazette. Time has flown, but the cultural issues are much the same.
A child’s first birthday is a wonderful event in the life of a family – filled with balloons, cake and party hats. For many parents, however, the joy of first-birthday celebrations is tempered by the realization that mom’s year of federally-subsidized maternity leave is coming to an end. Going back to work means finding someone else to take care of a child. And as my wife and I recently discovered, a year of advanced notice doesn’t make it any easier to work through this time of transition.
They are all angels while sleeping.
As a part-time pastor and full-time graduate student, caring for our little one didn’t seem to be in the cards for me – time was in short supply. And my wife was returning to full-time work as a nurse. Her twelve-hour shifts, seven days out of fourteen, meant that we needed someone to care for our daughter two or three days a week.
Thus it was that we turned to daycare, that near-universal institution, to solve our dilemma. It wasn’t easy to find a daycare that would accept a child for only two or three days each week (five-dollar-a-day daycare seems only to be available to those who part with their children five days a week), but we eventually found a non-subsidized daycare space we thought would be good for our daughter.
The first week of September our daycare ordeal began – and it was an ordeal. Day one was no problem – our daughter found everything new and interesting at the daycare. Day two wasn’t so pleasant – this time she knew that mom and dad were leaving her behind and she clearly expressed her displeasure. Days three through four left us guilt-ridden and in tears – our little one was equally teary-eyed on each morning’s hand-off, and again at pick-up. Continue reading
Has anyone every pulled you aside and said: “You know, what you are doing is really not a great idea.”
Has anyone ever pulled you aside and said: “You know, you better stop and think about what you’re saying.”
When someone pulls you aside it’s generally because they care about you – they want to put the brakes on something you’re doing or saying before you get carried away. They care about you, and so instead of speaking to you publicly in a way that might make you look back or shame you – they gently pull you aside to have private word with you. Continue reading
At the Musée des beaux-arts the other day, visiting the exhibition on Peruvian art and culture, I was intrigued with this 18th century (Cuzco School) painting of Mary. The painting owes a great deal to European traditions – both artistic and religious/cultural – and to some extent represents the effort to convert Inca peoples to Christianity. There is, then, much that is ambiguous about it. Yet there is also much that is interesting and hopeful about it.
The image casts Mary as a child weaving, with traditional indigenous weaving materials. This owes to two things: a tradition from the (non-canonical) gospel Pseudo-Matthew which represents a young Mary as spending her time weaving from the 3rd to the 9th hour; and, the tradition of weaving that was common among the indigenous peoples. The painting represented an attempt to both valorize the everyday activity of weaving and to draw a link between Christian spirituality and the indigenous women of Peru. Thus we have the following detail from a painting of the (later) indiginismo movement in Peru, which shows women with similar spinning materials.
Aside from hesitations on questions of Mariology (and on the elevation of cloistered life, where weaving was done) and also acknowledging the colonialist heritage represented in the first painting, there is nevertheless a very real valorization of the tasks and vocations of everyday life as these are given by the God of creation/covenant and as they are experienced/lived in the Spirit. There is an effort to take seriously the life and experiences of those to whom the gospel is being related. The gospel of Jesus Christ encounters the culture, valorizes aspects of it, and insists that here the Spirit of the risen Jesus (of the creator God) is present.
The beginning of a short sermon series – this week, looking at transformation through travel…
A few decades ago the Swiss theologian Karl Barth offered a suggestion to young seminary students and theologians, a suggestion we are going to take him up on over the next few weeks. Barth suggested that they read with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other hand.
These two texts represent two worlds? There is the world of the bible, in which the ways and identity of God are opened up for us. The world of the bible, in which ancient human experiences of God are recounted. And then there is the world of the newspaper, in which our contemporary world is described, in which the opinions of our neighbours are offered, in which the preoccupations of our society come to light. Continue reading