Category Archives: Religion

WWJD: What Would Jesus Defund?

Further to our previous post: It is difficult even to imagine that the Prince of Peace, who exalted the least among us, would defund any of the organizations below. The Conservatives, on the other hand — led by a man who is a declared Christian and has said that there is room for religion in Canadian politics — defunded all of them. (List compiled by

Despite our budgetary woes, however, we can still afford jets, jails and corporate tax cuts. Just like the Sermon on the Mount teaches us.

Unofficial tentative list of organizations whose funding has been cut or ended by the Harper government, including government agencies that supported civil society groups.

Community organizations, NGOs and research bodies reported to have been cut or defunded[1]

  • Action travail des femmes
  • Afghan Association of Ontario, Canada Toronto
  • Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
  • Alternatives (Quebec)
  • Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
  • Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre[2]
  • Brampton Neighbourhood Services (Ontario) [3]
  • Canadian Arab Federation
  • Canadian Child Care Federation
  • Canadian Council for International Cooperation
  • Canadian Council on Learning
  • Canadian Council on Social Development
  • Canadian Heritage Centre for Research and Information on Canada
  • Canadian International Development Agency, Office of Democratic Governance[4]
  • Canadian Labour Business Centre
  • Canada Policy Research Networks
  • Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
  • Canada School of Public Service
  • Canadian Teachers’ Federation International porgram
  • Canadian Volunteerism Initiative
  • Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition feminine
  • Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA.)
  • Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples (Toronto
  • Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
  • Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Specialink
  • Climate Action Network
  • Community Access Program, internet access for communities at libraries, post offices, community centers
  • Community Action Resource Centre (CARC)
  • Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
  • Court Challenges Program (except language rights cases and legacy cases)
  • Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
  • Democracy Council[5]
  • Department of Foreign Affairs, Democracy Unit[6]
  • Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
  • Environment: Youth International Internship Program
  • Eritrean Canadian Community Centre of Metropolitan Toronto (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010)
  • Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
  • First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
  • First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program
  • Forum of Federations
  • Global Environmental Monitoring System
  • HRD Adult Learning and Literacy programs
  • HRD Youth Employment Programs
  • Hamilton’s Settlement and Integration Services Organization (Ontario) [7]
  • Immigrant settlement programs
  • Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services (Peel)[8]
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation
  • Kairos[9]
  • Law Reform Commission of Canada
  • Mada Al-Carmel Arab Centre
  • Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency – has received only a promise of “conditional funding IF it avoids any & all connection with abortion.
  • MATCH International
  • National association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
  • Native Women’s Association of Canada
  • New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
  • Northwood Neighbourhood Services (Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
  • Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
  • Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Housing (OAITH)
  • Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
  • Pride Toronto
  • Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
  • Riverdale Women’s Centre in Toronto
  • Sierra Club of BC
  • Sisters in Spirit
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • South Asian Women’s Centre[10]
  • Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying
  • Tropicana Community Services
  • Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
  • Women’s Innovative Justice Initiative – Nova Scotia
  • Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program
  • York-Weston Community Services Centre Toronto

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Frye on Democracy and Religion: “An open mythology has no canon”

Continuing with Frye on religion and democracy, here he is in The Modern Century:

[D]emocracy can hardly function with a closed myth, and books of the type I have mentioned as contributions to our mythology, however illuminating and helpful, cannot, in a free society, be given any authority beyond what they earn by their own merits. That is, an open mythology has no canon. Similarly, there can be no general elite in a democratic society: in a democracy everybody belongs to some kind of elite, which derives from the social function a particular knowledge or skill that no other group has.

The earlier closed mythology of the Western world was a religion, and the emergence of an open mythology has brought about a cultural crisis which is at bottom a religious crisis. Traditionally, there are two elements in religion, considered as such apart from a definite faith. One is the primitive element of religio, the collection of duties, rituals, and observances which are binding on all members of a community. In this sense Marxism and the American way of life are religions. The other is the sense of a transcendence of the ordinary categories of human experience, a transcendence normally expressed by the words “infinite” and “eternal.” As a structure of belief, religion is generally weakened; it has no secular power to back it up, and its mandates affect far fewer people, and those far less completely, than a century ago. What is significant is not so much the losing of faith as the losing of guilt feelings about losing it. Religion tends increasingly to make its primary impact, not as a system of taught and learned belief, but as an imaginary structure which, whether “true” or not, has imaginative consistency and imaginative informing power. In other words, it makes its essential appeal as myth or possible truth, and whatever belief it attracts follows from that. (CW 11, 67)

This is not what we’re seeing from the highly politicized religious right: it tends to be aggressive and exclusionary, and the agenda seems largely driven by intolerance of secular values as well as resentment of the freedoms they promiscuously provide irrespective of belief, gender or sexual preference. Issues relating to these areas, at any rate, always seem to be top-of-the-list targets. Want to make a religious conservative group resolutely committed to political action? Just raise the issue of gay marriage or the rights of women over their own bodies. It never misses.

I will be posting a list of agencies and organizations that have already been defunded by the Conservatives. Those no longer worthy of government assistance unmistakably have the “wrong” set of priorities: women’s organizations, agencies offering various kinds of assistance to the poor, including immigrants and children, and organizations promoting gay rights, among a number of others with a recognizable progressive mandate. It is a persistent pattern of behavior.

Frye on “the separation of church and state”

From The Double Vision, which aptly anticipates the increasingly intrusive religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism into politics:

In the course of time the movement begun by the Reformation did achieve one major victory: the gradual spread throughout the Western world of the principle of separation of church and state. Something of the genuine secular benefits of democracy have rubbed off on the religious groups, to the immense benefit of humanity, and depriving religion of all secular or temporal power is one of the most genuinely emancipating movements of our time. It seems to be a general rule that the more “orthodox” or “fundamentalist” a religious attitude is, the more strongly it resents this separation and the more consistently it lobbies for legislation giving its formulas secular authority. (CW 4, 174-5)

I’ve expanded an earlier post to provide some sense of how and why that is already happening here.

“The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada”

Marci McDonald has started a blog based upon the book she published last year, The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which is in turn based upon her earlier article in The Walrus, “Stephen Harper and the Theo-Cons.” The article is a concise review of the American-inspired and Alberta-based republican nationalism that most Canadians do not seem to know anything about. It will no doubt surprise many how deeply embedded this movement is in the Conservative party, and that it seems to be achieving increased access to the institutions of government. It has, at the very least, ready access to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Religion is of course a private matter. But when it begins to impinge upon the public sphere, particularly in government, then it must be scrutinized and made accountable.

Over the next little while we’ll be rolling out a number of passages from Frye in which he discusses the necessary subordination of religion to secular interests in a democracy.

A thorough-going review of McDonald’s book here.

An interview with McDonald on TVO’s The Agenda here.

Rupture (Reposted)


Bill Maher’s Armageddon weather forecast

It’s 6.30 and we’re still here. But then so probably is our pro-family values (i.e. anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion), pro-corporate and anti-NGO evangelical prime minister. But as long as we are all here and in it together, we should pay close attention to any overlap between public policy and the fundamentalist religious beliefs of Stephen Harper and those who advise him.

For example, the proposed “Office of Religious Freedom” doesn’t sound like it’s about “freedom” at all, but about imposing particular religious values upon our foreign affairs and commitments, where they have no place. Harper and his supporters in the evangelical community can believe to whatever degree they wish that Armageddon is coming and that Canada has a specific role to play. That’s their business. But they can’t make it a problem for the vast majority of Canadians who do not share it.

Update: Article 11 of the “Statement of Faith” of the Christian and Missionary Alliance based in Colorodo reads:

The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent(32) and will be personal, visible, and premillennial.(33) This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth which is an incentive to holy living and faithful service.(34)

Articles 10 and 11 of “The Statement of Faith” of the Canadian CMA, of which Harper is a member, read:

10. There shall be a bodily resurrection of the just and of the unjust; for the former, a resurrection unto life;22 for the latter, a resurrection unto judgment.23

11. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is imminent and will be personal and visible.24 As the believer’s blessed hope, this vital truth is an incentive for holy living and sacrificial service toward the completion of Christ’s commission.25″

There appears to be a deep-seated premillennarian disposition in CMA theology which is not explicitly present in the Canadian branch of the church, but the shared theological base seems otherwise consistent. particularly with regard to the resurrection to “life” of the “just” and a resurrection to “judgment” of the “unjust.”

Furthermore, Marci McDonald’s reporting suggests that there are elements of a growing premillennarian faction in Canada, apparently encouraged by increasing American influence and the use by the PMO of American religious advisers. In any event, the shared doctrine that the second coming is “imminent, personal and visible” seems to indicate an exclusionary fundamentalism. That in turn appears to be consistent with openly proclaimed intolerance for secularly evolved priorities defined by generations of popular will and expressed by many decades of government initiatives and legislation. The hostility to women’s rights, gay rights, and rights in general has to be coming from somewhere, and its sources do not seem to be just a difference of political opinion.

We’ll be returning to the efforts pursued so far by the Conservatives to turn back these secular advances, as well as their continued efforts to do so on other fronts: such as the law and order bill promised within the next 100 days that will reportedly compel Internet Service Providers to provide the police with increased power to conduct internet surveillance of citizens without warrants.

Panoramic and Participating Apocalypse

Further to the impending Judgment Day, here’s Frye in The Great Code distinguishing between panoramic and participating apocalypse:

There are, then, two aspects of the apocalyptic vision: One is what we may call panoramic apocalypse, the vision of the staggering marvels placed in a near future and just before the end of time. As a panorama, we look at it passively, which means it is objective to us. This in turn means that it is essentially a projection of the subjective “knowledge of good and evil” acquired at the fall. That knowledge, we now see, was wholly within the framework of law: it is contained by the final “judgment” where the world disappears into its unending constituents, a heaven and a hell, into one of which man automatically goes, depending on the relative strength of the cases for the prosecution and the defence. Even in heaven, the legal vision tells us, he remains eternally a creature, praising his Creator unendingly.

Anyone coming “cold” to the Book of Revelation, without context of any kind, would probably regard it as simply an insane rhapsody. It has been described as a book that either finds a man mad or else leaves him so. And yet, if we were to explore below the repressions in our own minds that keep us “normal,” we might find very similar nightmares of anxiety and triumph. As a parallel example, we may cite the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead, where the soul is assumed immediately after death to be going through a series of visions, first of peaceful and then of wrathful deities. A priest reads the book into the ear of the corpse, who is assumed to hear the reader’s voice telling him that all these visions are simply his own repressed mental forms now released by death and coming to the surface. If he could realize that, he would immediately be delivered from their power, because it is own power.

If we take a similar approach to the Book of Revelation, we find, I think, that there is a second or participating apocalypse following the panoramic one. The panoramic apocalypse ends with the restoration of the tree and water of life, the two elements of the original creation. But perhaps, like other restorations, this one is a type of something else, a resurrection or upward metamorphosis to a new beginning that is now present. We notice that while the Book of Revelation seems to be emphatically the end of the Bible, it is a remarkably open end. It contains such statements as “Behold, I make all things new” (21:5); it describes God as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all possibilities of verbal expression; it follows the vision of the restoring of the water of life with an earnest invitation to drink of it. The panoramic apocalypse gives way, at the end, to a second apocalypse that, ideally, begins in the reader’s mind as soon as he has finished reading, a vision that passes through the legalized vision of ordeals and trials and judgments and comes out into a second life. In this second life the creator-creature, divine-human antithetical tension has ceased to exist, and the sense of the transcendent person and the split of subject and object no longer limit our vision. After the “last judgment,” the law loses its last hold on us, which is the hold of the legal vision that ends there.

We suggested earlier that the Bible deliberately blocks off the sense of the referential from itself: it is not a book pointing to a historical presence outside it, but a book that identifies itself with that presence. At the end the reader, also, is invited to identify himself with the book. Milton suggests that the ultimate authority in the Christian religion is what he calls the Word of God in the heart, which is superior even to the Bible itself, because for Milton this “heart” belongs not to the subjective reader but to the Holy Spirit. That is, the reader completes the visionary operation of the Bible by throwing out the subjective fallacy along with the objective one. The apocalypse is the way the world looks after the ego has disappeared. (CW 19, 156-8)

Karl Barth

Today is Protestant theologian Karl Barth‘s birthday (1886-1968).

The responses to Nicholas Graham’s query posted Sunday mention Karl Barth and include a digression into Frye’s attitude toward fascism, so we’re putting up two anniversary posts today: one relating to Barth and the other (below) to Nazi book burning.

Frye cites Barth on the metaphor of creation in Creation and Recreation:

I want to begin with what is called “creativity” as a feature of human life, and move from there to some of the traditional religious ideas about a divine creation. It seems to me that the whole complex of ideas and images surrounding the word “creation” is inescapably a part of the way that we see things. We may emphasize either the divine or the human aspect of creation to the point of denying the reality of the other. For Karl Barth, God is a creator, and the first moral to be drawn from this is that man is not one: man is for Barth a creature, and his primary duty is to understand what it is to be a creature of God. For others, the notion of a creating God is a projection from the fact that man makes things, and for them a divine creator has only the reality of a shadow thrown by ourselves. But what we believe, or believe that we believe, in such matters is of very little importance compared to the fact that we go on using the conception anyway, whatever name we give it. We are free, up to a point, to shape our beliefs; what we are clearly not free to do is alter what is really a part of our cultural genetic code. We can throw out varieties of the idea of creation at random, and these, in Darwinian fashion, will doubtless descend through whatever has the greatest survival value; but abolish the conception itself we cannot. (CW 4, 36)

Howard Carter and Tutankhamen


From the BBC, the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb

Today is the birthday of Howard Carter (1874-1939), an English archaeologist and Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen.

From “The Metaphor of Kingship” section of the lecture series, “Symbolism in the Bible”:

The society that went furthest in identifying the entire society with and as the king was ancient Egypt. If you look at, say, the Tutankhamen collection, you would say to yourself that it would be absolutely incredible that all that labour and expense went into the constructing of the tomb for a pharaoh. We’d never believe it without direct evidence. And yet, when we understand how pervasive royal metaphors are in Egypt — that Pharaoh is not only a king, he is an incarnate god, identical with the god Horus before his death and with the god Osiris after it, and that he was called “the shepherd of his people” — it becomes more conceivable. And unlike the Hebrew practice, he was high priest as well as king. So it is possible that the ordinary Egyptian found an identity for himself within the mystical body of Pharaoh which was of a kind that our mental processes simply cannot recapture. (CW 13, 490)


Query Regarding Frye Marginalia in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”

Nicholas Graham sent us this email a couple of days ago:

Here is one of the many highlights to be found among Frye’s Dante annotations.

I would like to share it with anyone who is able to throw some light on Frye’s distinctions.

I have asked some of my theologian friends to explain Frye’s distinction between “the Maritains & the Barths”. Also I would like to know a little more about each of the types of visions that Frye presents here.

Maybe you could start an annotations corner on your wounderful blog?

You can see Graham’s transcript of the annotation here. Please have a look, and if you have anything to add, leave us a comment.

The answer to Nick’s question is, yes. We will set up a dedicated space for annotations.  We’ll let you know once we get it up and running.,

And, of course, queries of any sort are welcome.  We are always glad to post them.

Here are two responses to Graham’s query.

From Bob Denham:

Isn’t the Maritain/Barth distinction simply that Maritain accepted the analogia entis and Barth rejected it.  See Barth’s Church Dogmatics, vol. 3, pt..2, trans. Knight et al. (Edinburgh: Clark, 1960), 220.  See also Keith L. Johnson, Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis (2010).

I have a brief discussion of Frye and the analogia entis in “Frye and Giordano Bruno,” which has been posted on the Frye blog.  In a “General Note: Blake’s Mysticism,” Fearful Symmetry, CW 14:415–16, Frye contrasts Blake’s analogia visionis with “the more orthodox analogies of faith and being.”

Frye’s aligning the four forms of analogia with Dante’s four levels of meaning is a pretty ingenious schematic.  Of course Frye’s ultimate commitment is to anagogy, where the principle of identity, as opposed to analogy, operates.

From Michael Dolzani:

My knowledge here is highly limited, despite growing up Catholic; I thought analogia was a girl I went to high school with. However, I think Bob is basically right. The Catholic Maritain accepts the analogia entis and is thus trapped in reason; the Protestant Barth rejects it and manages thereby to open a path to the analogia visionis, to vision, via the Logos. I wonder when these notes were written:  this all seems an outbreak of Norrie’s visceral antipathy to Catholicism, which I’ve never really understood.

I know that the Catholic Church of his youth was extremely reactionary, and that he disliked the potential authoritarianism of the neo-Thomist movement, which he saw as parallel to something like Eliot’s Anglo-Catholic insistence on “orthodoxy,” but Catholicism really seems to have been a sore spot. After all, Aquinas may be dryly Scholastic, but I find Augustine’s obsession with sin, damnation, predestination, and the like as repellent as anything in the Inferno. When Benedict recently abolished half of Limbo (the unbaptized infants), there were a lot of articles talking about the historical background; I don’t know if it’s true that where Aquinas said the souls of unbaptized infants were merely denied heaven, Augustine went further and said that they shared to a degree the punishments of the damned–but it sounds like something he’d say.

In short, Norrie saw the shadow side of Catholicism, but seems to minimize the shadow side of Protestantism. It was the Augustinian tradition of obsession with sin and guilt and the corruption of the human will that led to Luther’s tormented ferocity; to Calvinism’s making predestination practically the whole of the Christian message; to the burning of witches; and, after all, Barth’s theology was itself called “neo-orthodox.” Hardly a line of vision. If you wanted to be unfair in the other direction, you could counterpoise all this against enlightened Catholics like Erasmus and Nicholas Cusanus and Rabelais. Norrie knows all this–in fact, he says some of it in Fearful Symmetry. But when he gets emotional he tends to think only of the bad side of Catholicism and the good side of Protestantism.

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John Wyclif, Heretic

The opening of the Gospel of John from the Wyclif Bible (completed 1385): “In the beginning was the Word”

John Wyclif was declared a heretic by the Council of Constance on this date in 1415, twenty-nine years after his death. His books were burned, his body exhumed and burned, and his ashes scattered in the River Swift.

Despite this effort at obliteration, he remains The Morning Star of the Reformation.

Frye in “Symbolism in the Bible”:

Already in the Middle Ages, the question had arisen of translating the Bible into the vernacular (or modern) languages. It was resisted by authorities of the Church establishment, partly because the issue very soon got involved with reform movements within the Church. One of these reform movements was led in England by John Wyclif, a contemporary of Chaucer in the fourteenth century. His disciples, working mainly after his death, produced an English translation of the entire Bible, which of course was a translation of the Vulgate Latin text, not of the Greek and Hebrew. Nevertheless, the Wyclifite Bible became the basis for all future English translations. (CW 13, 420)