Bonhoeffer on overcoming the world

The world is overcome not through destruction, but through reconciliation. Not ideals, nor programs, nor conscience, nor duty, nor responsibility, nor virtue, but only God's perfect love can encounter reality and overcome it. Nor is it some universal idea of love, but rather the love of God in Jesus Christ, a love genuinely lived, that does this.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Meditations on the Cross
as quoted on God's Politics

Sermon competition?

From ENI:
Stellenbosch, South Africa (ENI). A South African student has won top honours in a competition run by a Netherlands newspaper for a sermon, written in Dutch, on doubt. Almatine Leene, a 24-year-old doctoral student in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University, whose mother tongue is Afrikaans, entered the competition hosted by the Dutch newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad. The other two finalists were Maarten Trimp, aged 22, from Utrecht, and Hanna Blom-Yoo, who is 26, from Amsterdam. The final leg of the competition took place on 12 November in Utrecht's historic Jacobi church, when the finalists preached their sermons. Leene said the Book of Judges from the Bible had inspired her winning sermon.
It's good that people give good sermons, of course - but to compete? Why not a competition to see who is best at celebrating the Lord's Supper, while they're at it?
It all seems a bit strange to me. But maybe it is I that am strange...

Shaw on sticks in the mud

We must not stay as we are, always doing what we did the last time, otherwise we become sticks in the mud.
- George Bernard Shaw

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

Alexander McCall Smith: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. Edinburgh 2007.
Having heard so many good things about Alexander McCall Smith's books about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana and its proprietor, Mma Ramotswe, I became curious. Finally, I was able to find one book in the series in the local library here in Porvoo. They are available in the local book stores as well, of course, but usually in translations. And out of principle, I always read books in the original language, if possible. Luckily, McCall Smith writes in English and not in Setswana...
The book I found, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, is the eighth book in this particular series (there is a ninth, and a tenth is due to be published in 2009). Not having read the others (yet!), I cannot compare them, but this was an absolutely charming novel. To my European eyes, the African setting seemed genuine - and McCall Smith was born in 1948 in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) and has worked in Botswana, so why shouldn't it be?
The characters in the book - Mma Ramotswe herself, her husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, her associate, Mma Makusi, and all the others, are warmly sketched with all the little flaws that people have. They are no sterile superheroes, but real people, that live in Botswana, but could equally well live in Finland or the U.S. Were it not for the African background, however. Their culture, their language, their city and their landscapes are African, of course, and so are these characters, as well. Universal - but African.
Ah, the language! It is clear that the characters actually speak Setswana, but the dialogue is in English, nevertheless. Luckily for me. The form of English used by the author is very colourful and full of Africanisms - technical terms, of course, such as names of animals and plants, but also the titels "Mma" and "Rra" for ladies and gentlemen, respectively, and notably the expression "to become late", meaning "to die". "The boy's mother is late" sounds far warmer than to say that "she is dead" or that "she kicked the bucket". I suppose the background of this novel expression is speaking of "the late Mr. Jones", but this form of it was new to me. And I liked it; not that I intend to use it.
This is, naturally, a detective story. The crimes that Mma Ramotswe investigates are not the high society murders of an Agatha Christie or a Ngaio Marsh, nor the brutal incidents of other more contemporary writers. They are, rather, small scale incidents that can make life miserable for those involved, but do not affect society as a whole - a theft of office supplies here, an unfaithful husband there. And that just makes the book the more charming.
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is no thriller. If you seek adrenaline and testosterone, seek elsewhere. If you, on the other hand, seek realistic people that you would like to befriend, you'd be well adviced to try the warm embrace of Mma Ramotswe!

Election fraud in Porvoo?

In Finland, we've always been proud of our reputation as an incorruptible nation - whether that's been founded in fact or not... The situation is admittedly good as a whole, but there are always things to be corrected.
Such as the (as yet alleged) case of election fraud that has surfaced in my own town of Borgå (in Finnish, Porvoo).
Apparently election functionaries studied the rolls on the day of the municipal election (October 26) to see which members of their own party hadn't voted yet, and then gave them a phone call to remind them to do so. I do not know, as yet, which party is in question, but that is beside the point. I hope, though, that it doesn't concern my own party, the Swedish People's Party, but somehow it sounds like something that some of us might get the idea of doing.
As election frauds go, this is, of course, on the mild side, internationally speaking, but it is a breach of the functionaries' impartiality, nevertheless. The fraudulent functionaries will be fined, if found guilty.
Påstått valfusk utreds i Borgå (Borgåbladet 7.11.08)
Valnämndsmedlemmar i Borgå anmälda (YLE 10.11.08)

Mother Teresa on feeding a hungry Christ

Every time you sacrifice something at great cost — every time you renounce something that appeals to you for the sake of the poor — you are feeding a hungry Christ.
- mother Teresa
in "Cry Freedom" by Charles Ringma
as quoted on God's Politics

Worst one, ever 1

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Nouwen on the future of the church

Our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need. If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen
Sabbatical Journey
as quoted on God's Politics

Vicar changes sex - and jobs

In the region of Savonia in eastern Finland, a vicar in his fifties has announced that he always has felt that he is a woman, and that he consequently is going to undergo sex-change treatments. The vicar of Imatra, Olli Aalto (54), gave an anonymous interview to the newspapers Itä-Savo and Länsi-Savo (the names mean "eastern" and "western Savonia" respectively), and it was published on Sunday, November 9, 2008 (but I haven't been able to find it on the Internet).
Aalto's occupation wasn't mentioned in the original interview. As the tabloids always seem to find ecclesiastical sex lives very titillating, the tabloid Iltalehti was only too happy to announce it the following day. Aalto's name became public the day after, when the local paper Uutisvuoksi published it.
Salailu ja kaksoiselämä ovat olleet elämäni raskaimpia ja surullisimpia asioita. [...] Nyt viimein uskallan antaa luvan naiseudelle, joka on ollut minussa aina.
("Secrecy and living a double life have been the hardest and saddest things of my life. At last, I dare permit me the femininity, that always has been in me.")
As most courageous decisions, this one, too, will have repercussions. The bishop of the local diocese of Mikkeli, Voitto Huotari, says that although no laws are broken, a parish priest (let alone a vicar) changing his or her sex would be so confusing to the parishioners that it would get in the way of the real message. This is, I suppose sadly, a realistic assessment. Bishop Huotari draws the conclusion, that Aalto would have to change jobs. Aalto herself doesn't quite agree. Nor do I, although I understand the argument. Even if Aalto makes people confused and forces them (by her very existence) to confront their own prejudices, that is not grounds for dismissal - neither legally (to which all agree) nor in practice!
The bishop admits to finding the situation confusing. He is, however, retiring next February, so in the long run it will be his successor's, Seppo Häkkinen's, problem. But if Aalto had belonged to the diocese of Porvoo, as I do, the problems would have been smaller. Our bishop, Gustav Björkstrand, says in an interview:
[...] Björkstrand [...] håller med om att ett könsbyte inte inverkar på arbetsförmågan.
– Frågan är hur församlingen reagerar. Det är viktigt att församlingen har förtroende för kyrkoherden för att den skall kunna fungera.

("Björkstrand agrees that a sex-change doesn't affect a person's capacity to work.
- The question is how the parish reacts. In order for the parish to work, it is important that it has confidence in its vicar.")
Aalto will change her name from Olli to Marja-Sisko. There is a support group for her on Facebook.
Itäsuomalainen kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuolta (pod.fi 10.11.08)
Kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuolta (Iltalehti 10.11.08)
Kirkkoherralta vaihtuisi sukupuolen lisäksi työ (Länsi-Savo 10.11.08)
Papin ura tyssäsi sukupuolen vaihtoon (Savon Sanomat 10.11.08)
Imatran kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuoltaan talven aikana (Uutisvuoksi 11.11.08)
Imatralla kohu kirkkoherran sukupuolenkorjauksesta (YLE 11.11.08)
Imatran kirkkoherra korjaa sukupuoltaan (Kauppalehti 11.11.08)
Kyrkoherde måste avgå på grund av könsbyte (Hufvudstadsbladet 11.11.08)
Osäker karriär för könsbytande präst (Vasabladet 11.11.08)
Sukupuolta vaihtava pappi ei irtisanoudu vielä (Savon Sanomat 11.11.08)
Kirkkoherra vaihtaa sukupuoltaan (Kotimaa 11.11.08)
Yhteys-liikkeeltä tuenilmaus Imatran kirkkoherralle (Kotimaa 11.11.08)
Kirkkoherran sukupuolenvaihdos: Ollista tulee Marja-Sisko (Aamulehti 12.11.08)
Prästen Olli byter kön och blir Marja-Sisko (Hufvudstadsbladet 12.11.08)
Transsexuell präst skapar huvudbry (QX 12.11.08)
Rytsy: Kirkolla ongelmia naiseuden kanssa (Savon Sanomat 13.11.08)

About dogs and people 7

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
- Ben Williams
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

The old dog

An old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. He followed me into the house, down the hall, and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.
The next day he was back, resumed his position in the hall, and slept for an hour. This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: 'Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'
The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: 'He lives in a home with ten children - he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?'
Thanks, Börje!

Edison on failure

I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.
- Thomas Edison

King's most famous speech on YouTube

The full version of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" -speech from 1963 can be found on YouTube here. Comments were disabled - apparently many of them were hateful and racist.
But, boy! What a speech, and what a speaker! As a professional speaker myself, I stand in awe!

Nouwen on the joy of giving

It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. We often live as if our happiness depended on having. But I don't know anyone who is really happy because of what he or she has. True joy, happiness and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life for others.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen
Life of the Beloved
as quoted on God's Politics

King on actions and silence

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Problems with electronic voting

In the recent municipal elections in Finland, an experiment with electronic voting was made in three southern municipalities. In Grankulla (in Finnish, Kauniainen), Högfors (Karkkila) and Vichtis (Vihti) over half of the voters chose to vote electronically, instead of using the traditional paper ballots.
Out of the 12,000 voters, however, over 200 did not successfully finish their session with the voting machine by pressing OK twice. Most, apparently, did so only once, and thought that was the end of it.
200 out of 12,000 is not a very high percentage, but since there shouldn't be any problem at all in such a serious matter as an election, even this percentage is unacceptable. It was not a question of faulty machinery or an untransparent inaccountability of the manufacturers (as in the USA - see video on YouTube), but simply human error and lack of experience. But that is serious enough.
Before we go to electronic voting, there are apparently a whole lot of bugs to get rid of. Get out the Raid, someone!
Lyckat försök med elektronisk röstning (YLE 26.10.08)
Röster försvann vid elektronisk röstning (YLE 28.10.08)

Schoolboy Howlers 9

In some rocks there are to be found the fossil footprints of fishes.

Tuovinen acquitted a second time

Lately, as the readers of my blogs have been able to discern, I've been engaged in my election campaign. Now, the campaign is (successfully!) over, and my blogging can resume more normal avenues. So, here goes:
Pastor Liisa Tuovinen performed something that has been called a lesbian marriage last summer; she claims that it technically was only a prayer meeting. A complaint was made against her to the diocesan chapter of Espoo, but she was exonerated.
Many people were dissatisfied with the process and its conclusion, and it was no surprise that another complaint was made. What was surprising was, however, that it again was made against Tuovinen. I'm not saying that the process wasn't a bit odd, but if there was fault to be found with it, surely the fault should be looked for among the members on the diocesan chapter. Tuovinen, the accused, naturally had nothing to do with her own acquittal!
Tuovinen was inevitably exonerated a second time - and the conservatives are still screaming bloody murder...
Tuovinen välsignade lesbiskt par (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 8.8.08)
Tuovinen blessed a lesbian couple (Karl's comments 18.8.08)
Uppdateringar: Koivisto, Phelps, Tuovinen (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 1.9.08)
Prosten Tuovinen frikändes (Kyrkpressen 30.9.08)
Protokollet i fallet Tuovinen publicerat (Kyrkpressen 1.10.08)
Tuovinens bönestund som video (Kyrkpressen 3.10.08)
Frågetecknen hopar sig kring bönestunden (Kyrkpressen 7.10.08)
Ny klagan i fallet Tuovinen (Kyrkpressen 13.10.08)
Espoon kapituliin kanneltiin jälleen (Kotimaa 14.10.08)
"Välsigna inte samkönade par" (Kyrkpressen 13.10.08)
Myös piispa Heikasta uusi kantelu kapituliin (Kotimaa 21.10.08)
Kapituli hylkäsi myös uudet Heikkaa ja Tuovista koskevat kantelut (Kotimaa 30.10.08)
Klagomålet förkastat (Kyrkpressen 31.10.08)

Luther on forgiveness

Forgiveness is not an occasional art, it is a permanent attitude.
- Martin Luther
as quoted on God's Politics

About dogs and people 6

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
- Mark Twain
as quoted by the Episcopal padre