Posts Tagged ‘UC Observer’


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Azeem and child discussing diversity.  Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

It was my summer of Writerific, I was 12 years old and with other young writers discovering our voices, strengthening our ability to tell stories…and yes part of that was moving into areas that some would deem controversial. It was also the summer I first picked up A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It was the summer as well, with Robin Hood, and this great exchange between Azeem, a Moor from the Holy Land who stood with Robin Hood, and a child, who simply asks about that which she had never seen. It is a simple scene, some may never remember it, yet it is one that teaches so much about dignity and respect in a world of belonging. It teaches, curiosity is never wrong. Conversation is never wrong. Oh, and when one has a question, ask as politely as you can to the one you have the question of.

This is our mission this year (and every year) to raise the level of discourse and dignity within the community of super heroes my son is apart of. The most offensive thing (well maybe not the most, but on the royally ticking off scale) is being out and about, and a parent shuffling their child by saying don’t stare. Let your kid come up and chat with my son, he will be his loving self… Oh and adults…you have questions…don’t bypass my son and speak to us, start talking to him first.

Other pro-tips for the professional and non-professional out there to bring better dignity to our world:

  1. It is “What’s wrong with him?” rather it is, what does he use a wheel chair? What does that gesture mean? or like the child, why did God sculpt him this way?
  2. Anyone with a pulse knows (or should by now) that the R-word is as atrocious as any racial slur…regardless of how you try to use it and needs to cease. The challenge is many do not understand the root of “handicap”. Much legislation and language needs to be updated to speak of accessibility or universal design/barrier free instead of this word. Historically it was the term for those with disabilities, as they were on the lower socio-economic spectrum (poverty class) and would come cap in hand for alms. So much like in the Franciscan tradition when the term Mendicant was tossed at those monastics as a slur, so handicaps root is such…it means beggar, less than, outcast. Words matter in reclaiming dignity and belonging.
  3. Ableism is what happens without dignity (at its worst is Eugenics). The plastic straw ban is ableist, and how the religious and spiritual jumped on board to support shows their lack of understanding around the issue (please see other posts on this topic)… not only the life giving of the plastic straw for some with disabilities, but when the United Church Observer online finally after months of debating their editors changes from “plastic straws evil” to “plastic straws should be available for anyone via a fee” finally a strong stance, but one that does not understand the socio-economic history of persons with disabilities, and goes back to a misreading of the gospel from a spectrum of theology that sees less than, not full belonging (we shall see if they print my challenge to them this coming September).
  4. Diapers!!! ARGH!!! The most indignity we present to persons who are differently abled. Unless you are a newborn or a toddler, it s not a diaper or a nappy. They are undergarments that happen to have incontinence protection. Underwear. (YES CBE AND MEDICAL COMMUNITY AND ALBERTA GOVERNMENT LOOKING AT YOU!!!), the simple things make life livable, do you go around telling people oh I am going to wipe my butt now? Or hey I just left skid marks in my boxers? NO. Why assume we can treat someone else that way.
  5. Grief. Yes it is a scary world for those our society deems “typical”. We like to code to prove cognition and whether or not someone comprehends “death and grieving” for if they qualify for “counselling”. Let’s keep it real (again Alberta Education and Alberta Health looking at you, but also the Church)… at any level any child or person knows when someone was in their life and gone. They cycle through missing them, whether or not they have the ability to vocalize or communicate it in such a way that we understand. It is not on them to enter our world to heal, it is on us as their neighbour to enter their world  This is where the church women’s group from the movie Lars and the Real Girl got it right, it is about just simply being, and yes sometimes it is in the silence.
  6. Do not live in the grief/shame or inflict it upon us. That is to the world in general, and to the family unit. We are given a narrative of what a child’s life is to be. Then when something changes that narrative we are put in this place where if we choose to move out of grief/shame or the “you’re a hero for doing this” or the “it takes a special kind of person” narrative then we are ungrateful. NO! We choose to stand in the beauty of the life before us. Yes, we truly believe this is part of the rainbow of life, the beautiful image of the Holy Mystery. Everyone is who they are meant to be, and they will achieve vocational life and wholeness because we come around as community in love and belonging. The grief/shame is perpetuated when our world stops at only accessibility or inclusion.
  7. yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

    1. -James 4:14 (English Standard Version)
    2. As the words of the brother of Jesus- James, Bishop of Jerusalem, the man who was because of the love of his Mother, Mary of Nazareth, says it directly. In our world we too often let the labels, the coding, the diagnosis become the prognosis or script for life. It is time to shatter the glass ceiling for everyone in our world, and to simply know that each and everyone of us belongs. That, and the life that appears and is lived is shaped within the community from those who are blood and chosen family to broader neighbours. Are we willing to live life with out barriers?
  8. Oh, and if we are not a service being paid for out of pocket by the government or ourselves, it is not something “FOR”… if you are an elective community group (community association, church, sports leagues, etc), you are doing things “with” the person. For they are a part of the community, and as such are a full member, who like any member just needs different things to belong. Hell, even if there is a pay… the activities better be WITH, as everyone’s communication (voice however it is found) and life has value and worth…as such, deserves dignity. (Special shout out to the Presbyterian Church in Canada for using “with” language in your justice documents for persons with disabilities, and acknowledging the poverty and socio-economic disparity that exists in the community)

These are but a few ways to show love to your neighbour, and yourself. These are but a few ways to understand the answer to the child’s question to Azeem.

Better yet, look at yourself in the mirror. And simply let the inner-child ask you the question:

Did God paint you?

How does your inner Azeem answer?

Now be with your world, as the child, and as the answer.


The later 1990’s early 2000’s through the United Church Observer is when I became aware of a Matriarchal Wisdom movement, that sadly has fallen off the radar. Women from some U.C. congregations, local mosque and synagogues in Ontario were meeting on a project to bring the three major Abrahamic faith texts together (Hebrew Bible, Christian Testament and the Qur’an). The idea being to provide the cross-reference texts through all three to show how the faiths are more similar and connected than adversarial.

Part of why I am enjoying being the host family for UCM Alberta’s questing through the Qur’an is the real-life reproduction of this project. The past gets together we had a local mosque’s missionary via skype for roughly half the time being able to answer questions, share in readings and discussions. It was also good as I have written about before as common ground allows good things to grow, and that can change our world better than anything.

This post points to an horribly overlooked point in western religious world, and that is the idea of equality and equity for all God’s children and creation. Our continued readings through Sura 2 highlighted the equality and protection of men and women afforded equally through contrasting divorce laws instead of discussing marriage vows. Yet it also shone a light on the ending of scape goatism, and standing firm in yourself accepting the consequences one’s own actions creates regardless of their socio-economic status.

O ye who believe! Equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you: the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if one is granted any remission by one’s brother then pursuing the matter for realization of the blood money shall be done with fairness and the murderer shall pay him the blood money in a handsome manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. And whoso transgresses thereafter, for him there shall be a grievous punishment.

-Sura 2:179

At first reading, this appears to be a retelling of the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth teaching from Exodus 21:24. This short treatise was a counter-culture teaching that stopped the children of Israel from restraining ancient justice and wiping out whole townships due to a small infraction, the response was now commanded to be measured response. This can appear as an expansion, as it points out that you could not buy your way out of offense, or use a wife, or a slave or a societal lesser to pay for your crime as was a normative practice as well. You were responsible for your actions, no one else.

Yet it was more. For it truly echoes back to the nativity story. Think of it, a movement of one of the holiest prophets/messiahs/spiritual teachers, Brother Jesus, came from a working-poverty class village, where life expectancy was on average forty years old. Chances are carpenter was a political choice of translation, when in fact he was part of the unskilled labouring classes. Joseph arranged and purchased Mary, she had no voice (regardless of what you believe about the conception of Jesus, she was a teen girl who was sold by her family as was the practice of the time) in whom she would wed.

Yet this is what the Christian testament tells us of the voice in the decision to birth Jesus:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged[a] to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly.

20 While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus,[b] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,”[c] which means “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, 25 but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus.

-Matthew 1:18-25 (New Century Version)

Part two was Joseph choosing to be apart of this. He had many options before him, as Matthew’s text was written for the Jewish members of the Jesus movement. Culturally they knew that Joseph could have Mary killed for adultery, or simply cast her and the baby outside the village to work in the sex trade and begging until her and the child died, these were the quietly put away moments. What this contrasting showed, was the Joseph heard the same choice to be made by the angel, and had to make a choice. In this small of a centre he knew the whispers, the scandal, the gossip, the possible loss of income and what the world his son would be entering into in this microcosm, and even the scorn that could come to Mary. Yet he needed to choose. One of 2 that had to choose.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’sname was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. 30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! 31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will neverend.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. There fore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. 36 “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age – although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 -Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 (bible.org)

Before coming to Joseph, the one with no voice, was spoken to and asked directly. One can say the question was asked of one so young due to naivety, yet be honest in such a small village she knew what the consequences would be. How could one find the strength to say yes to such a weird event for the time?

Simple, Mary got what the old men’s club did not of her era (and sadly many eras since), everyone’s voice matters, and everyone is created in equality, equity and justice. The gifts of peace, faith, joy and hope reign in our beings, but the cosmic dust at our core is shaped in L-)’V-E. That is right, Mary had the same choice as Joseph tradition tells us, unencumbered by society, simply one question asked, yes or no. She mattered.

How did she know?

Simple beginnings in the Hebrew Bible:

27 God created humankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them,

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them 

Genesis 1:27-28 (bible.org)

A simple ancient poem of the creation of everything. An ancient poem stating the why to the people. Humanity was created in the Creator’s image. Both genders (and all sexualities, all races, all cultures, all religions, etc)…one river many wells to drink from.

Each person in autonomous, but their decisions have consequences, good, neutral or bad within their communities. Like the pebble hitting the pond and the ripples going outwards. The first step is understanding though that we are autonomous in an interdependent community. This is why it matters to discover what and how our neighbours believe. So we can see where the common ground is for moving forward, and creating a world that was dreamed of in that first moment when -BANG- it all appeared.