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Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Orthodox Church in Edendale, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

July 14th, 2012 (06:50 am)
current location: Edendale, KZN, South Africa

The Orthodox Church in Edendale was built, as far as I know, by our Bishop Damaskinos when he was a parish priest in Durban about 10-12 years ago, and is in the care of Reader Timothy Madlala, who attended the seminary in Nairobi. I had heard a lot about him (and the church) from other people, and so was pleased to meet him in person for the first time.

Michael Carstens, Reader Timothy Madlala & Val Hayes at Edendale, KZN

There is a house on the land, where Reader Timothy lives, and the church is built in the same style. There is also an outdoor baptistery, which can just be seen in the background of the picture above, with a cross-shaped font set into the ground.

Orthodox Church, Edendale, near Pietermaritzburg

Edendale has an interesting history. The land was bought and settled by black Methodists before the passing of the Natives Land Act of 1913 (which made it illegal for black people to buy land in “white” areas). But because it bordered on a black reserve, it was never expropriated by the apartheid government, and the people were never ethnically cleansed. It remained one of the few places where black people could own freehold land in South Africa right through the apartheid era.

While we were talking a group of young children came in and ran up and greeted us all with hugs and kisses. Michael Carstens remarked that such behaviour was very unEnglish, implying, I think that the hugging and kissing common in Orthodox culture was a little strange to the more reserved English-speaking cultures.

Reader Timothy with some of his young parishioners, 13 July 2012

I think it would also seem strange in traditional Zulu culture as well, where children do not rush to greet strangers, but rather keep in the background, and are still, in many households, expected to be “seen and not heard”. I took it as a sign that these children felt secure and loved, and at home in the church.

You can see the full post (with more ;pictures) here.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Jack Kerouac's American journey (review)

March 13th, 2012 (10:58 am)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

Jack Kerouac's American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of On the RoadJack Kerouac's American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of On the Road by Paul Maher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the road is not my favourite book by Jack Kerouac so I might not have bought this book if it had not been going cheap on a sale. I'm glad I did buy it, though, because I found it more interesting than On the road, and it explains how that book was written.

I recently read Neal Cassady: the fast life of a beat hero (review here), and found several details in this book that three more light on Cassady's character and behaviour than his biography did. Perhaps Paul Maher had access to more sources. After reading the biography, I was at a loss to know why people like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were attracted to Cassady, though in Ginsberg's case the initial attraction was sexual. Maher manages to explain it better, though he still does not portray Cassady as a particularly attractive character.

That still doesn't explain why I liked this book better than On the road itself. Perhaps it is because the real life of authors is often more interesting than the characters they write about. My favourite among Kerouac's books is still The Dharma bums, and perhaps that is because it is more about the influence of Gary Snyder than that of Neal Cassady, and Snyder is a more sympathetic character.

One thing that almost put me off reading the book was odd errors in language. I suppose having been an editor makes me rather intolerant of slip-ups (even though I make plenty of my own). One of the more egregious ones was on page 133, "Carolyn Cassady received a letter from her husband, postmarked January 11. In it he promised her regular installments of cash from working two jobs in New York, neither of which he had yet to procure." I presume the author intended to say either "both of which he had yet to procure" or "neither of which he had yet procured", but as it stands it is a strange piece of nonsense. There are other similar errors, writing "principal" where "principle" was meant and so on. But I'm glad that these didn't put me off, because the book is worth reading, at least to anyone who has enjoyed reading any of Kerouac's books.

View all my reviews

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Tales from Dystopia

March 12th, 2012 (04:13 am)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

Tales from Dystopia is a series of blog posts I am writing of memories of the apartheid era in South Africa.

I started it because of some comments made by some South African Christian bloggers about the need to remember history so that we are not tempted to repeat the mistakes of the past. Some were also too young to remember what the apartheid era was really like. And some noted a tendency of some, even those who had lived through it, to say that it was not so bad, and that it had good intentions, and that in any case we should forget about the past and "move on".

But it is not so easy to "move on" if we forget about the past, because the past is also a great weight to which we are tethered, which keeps us from "moving on".

So here are some memories. They are just one person's memories, but if others follow a similar idea and write about their own memories, we may get a fuller picture, and be better able to come to terms with the past.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Extreme economic inequality

February 9th, 2012 (07:09 am)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

Now I know that "whiteness studies" is bourgeois, capitalist and racist.

A number of young white South African Christians, who used to be interested in the "emerging church", have recently become abosorbed in "whiteness studies", a pseudo-academic discipline that seems just as racist as the "Christian Nationalism" it claims to be trying to counter. They claim that "whiteness studies" is the solution to the problem of racism that, eighteen years after the official end of apartheid, still bedevils South African society. I invited them to take part in the Synchroblog on Extreme Economic Inequality, in the hope that they might be able to show how "whiteness studies" was relevant to that, but it seems that nont one of them has done so.

For those who are interested, here are the contributions to the synchroblog, most of them from North America. It seems that South African bloggers just don't see this as a problem.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Calling us out of numbness

November 3rd, 2011 (06:20 am)

Richard Rohr says “the role of the prophets is to call us out of numbness.” Since the beginning of time, prophetic voices both in and outside of
scripture have been calling us to consider change of some sort. Sometimes it is spiritual change, other times it may be economic,
political, or systemic change. Regardless of the emphasis, prophets challenge us to consider a better future. Right now there’s a strong
sense of change brewing in the church, the world; people are rising up and calling individuals, communities, nations, and everything in between out of numbness and toward justice, mercy, equality, and love.

So the theme of the November Christian Synchroblog is "calling us out of numbness".

Here are the links to the posts:

My own offering, Murder of the Cathedral, deals with the closure of St Paul's Cathedral in London, for the first time since the Second World War, because of a feared "health and safety" threat from the "Occupy London" protesters. That was a fine example of numbness! And comparing it with the actions of downtown churches in other cities that were somewhat less numb.


Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Racism and "Whiteness Studies"

September 28th, 2011 (06:39 pm)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

I recently discovered a new academic discipline, or pseudo-discipline, called "Whiteness Studies", through some friends who appear to take it seriously.

From what I've been able to see, it seems that this discipline proposes to cure racism by encouraging racist thinking, which, it seems to me, is a bit like an alcoholic thinking that the cure for his craving is another drink.

If any of this interests you, I've written a series of four blog posts on it, here:

Comments welcome, there or here.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

British riots: great is the temptation to Schadenfreude

August 14th, 2011 (07:55 pm)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

In London (the city that is to host the 2012 Olympics) groups of young people rampaged for the third straight night.

It is difficult to resist the temptation to schadenfreude when one recalls the way the Brit media behaved over the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, where every petty crime that occurred in South Africa was gleefully and prominently reported with the reminder that South Africa was to hold the World Cup in 2010.

So when I read stories like this, I recall those days.

Market Inline - British riots spread through more cities on the third night of violence:

In London, groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night, setting buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps alight, looting stores and pelting police officers with bottles and fireworks. The spreading disorder was an unwelcome view of London’s volatility for leaders organizing the 2012 Summer Olympics in less than a year.

In 2010, the Daily Mail was particularly bad in this respect. See, for example Notes from underground: Legends from a small country: 'Kill a Tourist Day'. But other papers joined in, sometimes even making up completely bogus stories and headlines for the purpose.

So as London (the city that is to host the 2012 Olympic Games) burns, many South Africans might be tempted to think "serves them right."

We'll probably resist the temptation, but watch the South African tabloids to see if you can catch a glimmer of Schadenfreude. You never know.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

A bear of very little brain

June 27th, 2011 (07:04 am)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

I seem to recall a story about Winnie the Pooh, in which he visited Rabbit, who had a jar of honey.

Pooh ate the honey, and his girth expanded to such an extent that he got stuck in the exit to Rabbit's house, and remained there until he had slimmed down sufficiently to get free. This enabled Rabbit to exploit him as an unsalaried towel rack for a week.

Such lack of foresight is only to be expected in a bear of very little brain, and also, apparently, in the person of very little brain who made the following comment on the previous post:

wаll mount pаper towel holder hаs been а preferred selection owing а
lаrge multitude of yeаrs аnd it is one series thаt continues to adorn
come of more populаr every isolated yeаr. Homeowners who request to tаke
аdvаntаge of а kitchen product thаt hаs the аbility to minister to
numerous conveniences, this is the group thаt you wish beyond the shadow
of a doubt wаnt to mаke in this predetermined category of kitchen аid
product. People of the biggest fаctors this particular provides thаt а
lаrge integer of individuаls dig tаking аdvаntаge of would perhаps be in
the wаy thаt this pаrticulаr plot cаn be instаlled in аny unambiguous
аreа thаt pass on forearm your fаmily with the lаrgest аmount of

It goes on and on with more of the same sort of meaningless garbage, showing that spammers are bears of no brains at all.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Religion, irreligion, atheism, secularism and failure to communicate

June 21st, 2011 (06:21 pm)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

There was a discussion on Christopher Hitchens on the journal of poliphilo , one of one of my LJ friends, the other day. Christopher Hitchens is one of the "new atheists", who, along with others like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, are the atheist equivalent of Christian Fundamentalists like Fred Phelps, a kind of atheist Taliban.

I followed it with only mild interest, since the repetition of tired slogans becomes boring after a while, but I then noticed chiller 's contribution to the discussion. It was the usual kind statement in such discussions, that religion is responsible for all the evils in the world and that if religion is removed, all these evils will disappear.

According to chiller, religion is "responsible for war, child rape, witch beating, the stoning of women, the murder of homosexuals - I could go on," and he/she goes on to say "I want to see all organised religion dismantled, and I believe it will inevitably happen. I think we're evolving away from it, and it can't happen fast enough."

Now I've heard all this sort of stuff before, but I still want to (and in this case did) ask whether the record of irreligion was any better.

Enver Hoxha, the former ruler of Albania, took much the same view, and claimed to have abolished religion. For 23 years, from 1967 to 1991, Albania was the world's first and only officially atheist state, in which religion had been abolished. According to chiller's theory, those (and other) evils ought to have disappeared. But did they?

There were other states that, while not officially atheist, were run by atheists who did not actually succeed in abolishing religion, though it wasn't for lack of trying. Were those states free of all the evils attributed to religion?

Even to ask such questions makes at least some atheists lose all semblance of reason (which they often proudly lay claim to) and resort to emotional outbursts. I once asked a similar question in a Fidonet discussion forum called "Holy Smoke" and the atheist friend who had invited me there vowed never to speak to me again, and said he was unspeakably angry with me.

To me the question is scientific, at elementary school level. I'm not up on particle physics and quarks and string theory and quantum theory and all that. But at school we did an experiment to find out if oxygen was responsible for burning. We put a burning candle floating on water inside a gas jar. As the oxygen was used up the water level rose, and when the oxygen was used up, the flame went out. If you remove oxygen, things don't burn. So if you want to see if religion is responsible for war, murder, rape and all the rest, then if you remove religion from the environment, as Enver Hoxha claimed to have done, then all those things should be snuffed out like the flame in the gas jar. If they are not, then there are two possible explanations: (1) religion was not completely removed from the environment or, (b) they were caused by something other than religion.

But most atheists I have enountered go to extraordinary lengths to avoid discussing that. They prove to be expert herders of red herrings, erectors of straw men, and purveyors of emotional outbursts. In the case of the discussion on poliphilo's LJ, it was sidetracked into a discussion of the merits of the secular state, which simply evades the question.

But then it appears that it is not quite as innocuous as it seems. I have to say that I have no problem with the idea of a secular state, though I think that freedom and democracy rate somewhat higher in my scale of importance than secularity does. It is quite possible for a secular state to be decidedly unfree and undemocratic.

But at this point it appears that some people do not know the difference between a secular state and a secularist state. A secular state can be at least to some extent, ideologically neutral. It does not impose a theology, or an ideology on citizens, though there is a rudimentary ideology about the form of the state itself. Liberal democracy, which is the kind of state I favour, is a kind of ideology at the political level.

But it is at this point that things get scary, because it appears from the discussion on Poliphilo's LJ, that some, at least, want not merely a secular state, but a secularist one, in which the ideology of secularism would be imposed on citizens, and "religious" people deprived of civil and political rights, and prevented from influencing the political process in any way.

And so there's the problem. The advocates of secularism resent any suggestion of a comparison between what they want and authoritarian regimes like those of Enver Hoxha, Stalin, Mao and the rest. Yet I fail to see how the aims expressed by people like chiller can be achieved by anything other than authoritarian means. "I want to see all organised religion dismantled, and I believe it will inevitably happen. I think we're evolving away from it, and it can't happen fast enough." So did Lenin, so did Stalin, so did Enver Hoxha. chiller may think it possible to achieve that  without gross violations of human rights, but I very much doubt it.

Methodius Hayes [userpic]

Writer's Block: Father figure

June 20th, 2011 (07:08 am)
current location: Tshwane, Gauteng

What's the most memorable piece of advice your father has shared with you?

I can't remember.