Julian Burnside gave another excellent address at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas last weekend. His topic was “Do we Care?”.
He has been thinking a lot about empathy lately. So have I.
A quick look at Wikipedia –empathy – the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another.
I like Berger’s definition – “The capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person, the capacity to sample the feelings of another or to put one’s self in another’s shoes.”
Clearly, our capacity to care is closely related to our capacity for empathy. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion and act out of that compassion – to care.
I recall reading an article recently reflecting on the emphasis on self-esteem we teachers adopted in the 70’s, which I expressed (in my former life as a teacher) through my commitment to use Health Education as a vehicle for promoting it within the context of the well-being of students. But did our emphasis on self-esteem play into a kind of individualised narcissism at the expense of empathy? The research revealed in this article indicates that capacity for empathy among students in the US is in sharp decline. It suggests that, among other things, a myopic emphasis on self-esteem at the expense of empathy may be part of the blame. http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Should-We-Care-What/128420/
If this is so, then the answer to Julian Burnside’s topic “Do We Care” is likely to be –
…well, ‘yes’, at the moment, but in the future, perhaps not!
Julia Gillard may be unpopular at the moment, but I find myself in sympathy with her determination to “be on the side of history” (her words) with regard to dealing with climate change.
I’ve always been taken by the word of the prophet Isaiah that “God is doing a new thing – see God is doing it already!” In the eye of faith, it is God who is acting in history, even though we may be players in it. We can see what “God is doing” – if we know how and where to look!
God is not contained by our thinking or theology. God is always doing God’s new thing. And to this extent I like Julia Gillard’s approach. To “do the right thing” in response to climate change and to seek to be “on the side of history” may well be a secular way of answering Wesley’s two fundamental questions “what is the Spirit of God doing?” (in the world), and secondly, “how shall we meet the needs of this hour?”
The 9/11 of the Jewish people took place in 586 BCE when, against all tenets of their faith, the Temple in Jerusalem, in which they believed God resided, was utterly destroyed and the Jewish elite were forcibly exiled. It is not surprising therefore, that Isaiah, looking back towards the end of the exilic period, suggests that God cannot be contained by our thinking – even our most orthodox thinking. Only the Jeremiah’s were able to see what was coming – and didn’t he have a hard time trying to sell it!
Our task is to discern as best we can, the movements we see at large, and “to be on the side of history”. The majority will always tend to want things the way they always were. But I find little evidence in the Bible that life is static or that faith is static. God as Spirit (ruach = breath) sees to that! “The wind blows wherever it wishes,” says Jesus,” you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going”. Love may be eternal, but the temporal is forever changing.
Bring on a price on carbon, and let’s do what we can to support those adversely affected!
This video interview reveals a positive relationship between a local church in Denmark and the local University – the university recognising it had a problem and the church willing to help. As a result, a chaplain and a psychologist have begun working as a team to identify the critical issues and to work on them for the benefit of the students.
Washington DC. What do nurses, soldiers, pharmacists, elementary school teachers, doctors, and police officers have in common? U.S. Americans say they are all more ethical and honest than members of the clergy, according to a Gallup survey released on 3 December, Religion News Service reports. Slightly more than half of Americans (53 percent) rate the moral values of priests, ministers and other clerics as “very high” or “high.” . [Ecumenical News International, ENI-10-0795]
That raises a few questions. Is that just America – factoring in the purveyors of religion for money or miracle healings or the persistance of cults?
He has had his Californian eye on the Mexican border, where “people smugglers” are called coyotes.
Jonah, Jesus and Other Good Coyotes
Daniel L. Smith-Christopher.Abingdon, 2007
Here is a portion of my review:
During the Howard era, “People Smugglers” became part of the dirty vocabulary promulgated to justify border protection. It gained traction as part of a suite of fear-based “them-and-us” policies designed to keep “us” safe from people who might want to destroy our way of life. “People smugglers” were the bad guys ripping off “queue-jumpers” and leaving them to sink in leaky boats. The Ruddock idea was that if you could make our detention centres bad enough, this would deter the “illegals” in the first place and stop the “trade” of “people smuggling.” The word would get around and they wouldn’t come!
But what about good “people smugglers”? What if there are good people wanting to help those seeking to escape desperate situations? Surely they are unsung heroes! There are enough examples of good people hiding Jews and others facing certain death from the Nazi’s during the Second World War to give us pause for thought.
So, to protest the labeling and vilification of groups of people, no matter how big the grain of truth, (as Samaritans were branded and condemned in Jesus’day), I offer a liberal refreshment of the Parable of the Good Samaritan for our day (Luke 10: 25-37):
The Parable of the Good People Smuggler.
The PM came up to Jesus and asked “Teacher, what is the best thing we could do about these boat people that keep arriving without visas?”
Jesus answered, “What does the law say? How do you interpret it?”
The PM answered, “Well, under international law, which Australia has ratified, anyone who is in fear of their life from religious or political persecution has a right to flee and claim asylum in the country to which they flee.”
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you do well.”
But the PM wasn’t satisfied with such a simple answer, so he asked Jesus, “But what about our own Australian law and our immigration policies?”
Jesus answered, “ There was once a long running feud between two peoples who had different cultures and religions. After many years of fighting to establish what they thought were their rights, one of the peoples prevailed and began to extract revenge for past conflict, killing many of the others; but some escaped in fishing boats with only their clothes and meagre supplies. They eventually came to land in a new country but it had not signed the international refugee convention and they were sent back out to sea. They came to another land but they were told they would be put in prison for illegal entry, so they left again. But a people smuggler who happened to be travelling by boat came across them, and when he saw them, his heart was filled with pity. He came alongside and gave them the food and water he had and took them in tow to a place where they could seek asylum as refugees.
And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which of these three did the best thing for the boat people?”
The PM answered, “The one who was kind to them.”
Jesus replied, “You go then, and do the same.”
For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” But if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one another.
(St Paul’s letter to the Galations, Chapter 5 verses 14 and 15.)
Is a threat to
Justice everywhere. Dr Martin Luther King
Major Michael Mori, appointed by the American Government to defend David Hicks, interned for 5 years without trial in ‘Guantanamo Bay’, seems to me to be a straight and honest man with a strong sense of justice.
Hear his side of the story at the western end of Rundle Mall at 5:30 pm this Wednesday, August 25.
Afterwards there will be a candlelit walk to Alexander Downer’s office (BYO candle).
Sitting with some staff at morning tea this morning, I was asked if I had seen “the other photos of David Hicks.”
“No, I’ve only see the one of him with the grenade launcher that keeps being repeated on TV.”
Seems like we could have another “Children Overboard” selective use of image situation.
Can anyone verify this?
In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.
I was having coffee with my colleague Rabbi Patti Kopstein yesterday. I happened to use the common proverb “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”, which, when you think about it, is pretty horrible!
Patti tells me that in Israel, the saying “to kill two birds with one stone” has, through continued exposure to conflict, gradually been replaced in common parlance with “to feed two birds from one bowl’.
I thought to myself, someone has been aware enough and creative enough to begin that change!
Who said “From little things big things grow”?
“To feed two birds from one bowl.”
And a Lesson on Saving a Life
A friend of mine had dinner this summer with a dear friend. During the BBQ their friend stumbled and took a little fall – she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics) and just tripped over a brick because of her
They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food – while she appeared a bit shaken up, Ingrid went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. At 3:00am my mother received a call from Ingrid’s husband telling her that his wife had been taken to the hospital -(at 6:00pm, Ingrid passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ – had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke perhaps Ingrid would be with us today.
Her husband said when they arrived home about 11:00pm that night that she told him she had enjoyed the evening and it was the best time she had in a long time
Thank you, Erica for sending this in.
The three simple steps for recognising a stroke are attached. Recognising a Stroke
The foundations of a person are not in matter but in spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you for comments and suggestions about Spirituality News. Thanks, Paul, for this very readable article on spirituality: Spirituality – Ben Dean and Erica for the Lowitja O’Donohue speech attached to the last Spirituality News.
Help within the Religious Centre:
We are always on the lookout for voluntary help:
Conversing with international students in a friendly, relaxed environment – Friday mornings from 10 am to 12 noon.
Event management – helping organise, publicise and run events such as The Round Table and Life Conversations.
Maintaining the Religious Centre website
Managing Chaplaincy finances