To say that not every Jew was happy about the census and taxation which the Romans were imposing through Cyrenius would be the height of understatement: there had been other census/taxations before Cyrenius, but Mary and Joseph’s trip was Cyrenius’ first. A Pharisee named Sadduc and Judus of Gamala became zealous to lead a revolt: they both said this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty. Basically, they instructed the people to violence by passionately convincing them that God helps those who help themselves. Josephus states “the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree.” Violent war after war ensued, as well as great robberies and murders of the Jewish nation’s principle men on the pretext for the public welfare but really for personal gain.

So, by the time Mary was ready to deliver, the new Zealot sect was well in play within the Jewish nation. They were looking for a Savior– a perfect storm.

(Josephus also recorded Judas of Galilee elsewhere, but Galilee and Gamala are on opposite sides of the river Jordon.)

Josephus: The Complete Works. The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, verses 1 to 10.

We see the strength of Mary as she accepts the charge of bearing the truth teller, the shower of the way, and who is life-breathed by the Holy Spirit. Her strength only matured over time and she authoritatively began her son’s ministry at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) by doing what all good mothers do—she set the stage for the action to take place: she alerted her son that the wine was all gone; he began his response in the salutation of the day, “woman,” denoting respect according to some commentaries; Mary told the servants to do whatever he told them to, thereby passing on the torch of authority onto Jesus and revealing her authority over the servants as well. Jesus responded in obedient respect to his mother.

Mary truly was a powerful helper (ezer).

How do the political tensions of today relate to burgeoning reactive sects such as the Zealot sect spoken of above? Who are the truth tellers of peace and love in our day?

Islam’s perspective on political development begins with the spiritual concept of the community of believers (the umma), their individual responsibility to community and to God. With this, other faith groups are not in dispute concerning their own spiritual communities.

In turn, the spiritual community of believers takes precedence over institutional structure within the Christian community. It is understood that the Holy Spirit– God’s breath and power– is upon all followers of Jesus and joins them together. The Passover Feast was Jesus’ last meal, emphasizing the scapegoat motif. Followers of Jesus ritually partake of that communal feast, and despite the Reformation of some 500 years ago that led to institutional splits, believers are still spiritually united in communion and identify with one another.

In antiquity it was the responsibility of the community to hand out justice. The five centuries up to now slowly evolved as there were attempts to put Godly principles into play politically, but the respective faith institutions became private personal affairs of conscience. The Holy Roman Empire had finally lost its grip.

The political Islamic perspective is that it is the responsibility of the state as the organizer of the community to promote and facilitate ethical behaviour prescribed in the Quran. It is a moral mission and activist posture to build with a divine role in the world.1

It has been said the Western perspective is that “political development is inversely related to religion in politics because secularism is a fundamental criterion of political development.”2 Mackenzie King might have disagreed. King started out longing to put an end to class conflict with a growing idea that the union of “religion, politics, and education” would best deliver reform. Ramsay Cook wrote that in the late nineteenth century King, shunning laissez-faire orthodoxy, had blended Calvinism [indicating the hand to the plow and not quitting?] and social reform producing a ‘religious liberalism.’ King’s aim for the Kingdom of God on earth ironically saw the development of the secular city.3 Industrialization and urbanization brought the end of many of the old ways of life and livelihood.

Cultures organize themselves with mores and routines; at a sophisticated level, we have political-civil society expressed by John Locke (1632-1704) as a tool for interpreting political behaviour, affected by beliefs, social forces, material traits of a social group. National identity might be associated with tribal, or clan structures or sects, carrying a collective awareness of a common history. Historically we have been limited by affectations of distinctive language and culture, and seeing differences in spiritualities instead of discovering similarities once weeding through dialects and customs. We need common identifiers in a transient world. Everyone needs to know at their core that they are a vital part of the community or we become as lost ships at sea.

1. Esposito, John L., ed. (1980). Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, pp. 3,4.

2. Ibid, p. 3.

3. Wardhaugh, Robert A., (2000). Mackenzie King and the Prairie West. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p.9.; George Ramsay Cook (1985). The Regenerators: Social Criticism in Late Victorian English Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p. 169.

A recession is wonderous thing–everyone suffers! Such a grand leveler. You know the old saw, “Misery loves company”.  But beyond that warm fuzzy feeling the poor get that the richer, for now, understand how the poorer suffer on a regular basis, we also see fewer foods being sent to food banks.

Some, not many, governments are tightening their belts like R. B. Bennet and Herbert Hoover in the 1930s who contributed to the financial slump into the Great Depression. In just such a situation a “balanced budget”  concept of the Canadian Finace Minister Jim Flaherty leaves the house empty with the residents cast out onto the street.

A balanced budget is laudable as far as it goes. However, since the Great Depression, this concept hasn’t gone very far. In the modern world, how you handle credit is just as–nay–more important than being debt free every month. Higher financing and demonstrating the finesse and vision and leadership to make the hard decisions to get the job done are what speaks of value in the financial world today.

We need a governance that sees that “getting the job done” means guiding the path for all Canadians to find their vision, voice, hope and confidence that we are standing for one another to be the best that we can be. 

So be it.

Janet A. Wiebe

As countries go, Canada is pretty small, population speaking. Geographically it is rather large with many natural resources which we have used as a major economic base.

Recently we have cause to worry about the Prime Minister’s Office, actually about Prime Minister Harper himself. He has a great financial backing from the “right”, those people we may consider to be of enlightened self-interest (what is good for me ought to be good enough for you).

It was bad enough the other week when the news informed the public that he had pulled Canada out of managing the software we had spent 30 years in developing to monitor and hopefully manage the current and growing water crisis throughout the world. Considering Canada has the largest amount of fresh water in the world, it was appropriate that we lead the way, cooperating globally as is our want. It was enough to want to, to feel the need to, run for office myself.

But now our very democratic process is under attack as Harper and his friends work, not to find economic solutions to the current crisis (anybody else out there not able to sell their home?), but to gut the opposition parties’ ability to effectively fund-raise. Admittedly, I do not know the details. However, let us look at what money actually does to keep democracy alive.

We initially think it is to “get out the vote” so one’s party can get as many seats as possible in parliament to speak out, pass bills and be on long detailed discussions in committees.  The core of all the busy-ness is to amass information, “intelligence” if you will, about the dynamics of a multiple score of issues. The lack of money limits your ability to effectively be the watch-dog on the ruling party. Lack of funds cripples efficiency and throws you out of the game…It ceases then to be a true democracy–you have a virtual one party system.

As I said, I haven’t read the details. It may even “sound” intelligent. But intent and effect of an action must needs be addressed in all situations or the whole process is tainted and we have an ungodly stench. Such an excellent example of the need for “sober second thought”!

Janet A. Wiebe

 “I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules. Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words….” Dumbledore to Harry and Ron in the final chapter to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling, 1998.

Two leaders in the Twentieth Century history knew the value of changing their minds. Thanks be to God that they did. They lived in different parts of the planet but had a major impact on their respective countries in the same era.

Mahatma Gandhi was the best known of the two throughout the world. Gandhi read the Sermon on the Mount every morning in his devotions for 27 years. His conclusion was to hate the British government but to love every individual Englishman. He was known for propagating the non-cooperation movement in the 1930s and 1940s which included the glaring phenomenon of volunteering to go to jail. In the midst of this Mahatma taught not to hate the judge, but to write in love an annual letter.

Gandhi taught not to clout police dogs –they were only doing what they had been taught to do. Not to curse the police since they are only carrying out their orders and they didn’t know what they were doing.  

 Gandhi’s disciples had been rigidly trained in non-violence, forgiveness, self-control and self-sacrifice. This was the how and why they won independence. He knew that this peaceful resistance could end up in anarchy. He wasn’t blind to the dangers. Amidst all this Gandhi declared in one of his letters that of course he contradicted himself.

What he meant was that at any one time we only know in part. As we learn more about life and develop better communication skills, we express ourselves differently to convey our new understanding. Maturity and growth brings new realizations and adjusts one’s understanding and point of view. It is absurd to hold it against someone when they change their mind after careful consideration!

 Do you have trouble with the very idea of changing your mind? Do you fear that you will look weak? Do you fear that no one will look at you the same if you seem indecisive? Gandhi was willing to step up to the plate and go to bat when the ball was in play. He was willing to strike out on some ideas because he knew he had home runs inside him. He began with a kernal of truth and developed from there.

The other Twentieth Century leader also knew enough to change his mind. The well known politician (at least to Canadians) Tommy Douglas decided that it wasn’t enough to spout theories. He served as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Premier of Saskatchewan between 1941 and 1961, becoming the first leader of the New Democratic Party. Before this rise to power he visited Germany in 1936 and was frightened into repenting of his eugenics tendencies. In 1944, as Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health, Tommy rejected two papers calling for the sterilization of the “feeble-minded”.

It is a little known fact that this Baptist minister of Saskatchewan was so desperate to do something to improve society’s lot in life during the Depression he began his career as a supporter of hereditarian theories. Along with other Canadians, he had been receptive to biological determinism where in 1933 he wrote his Master’s thesis supporting it. He had argued that “mentally and physically subnormal were…the causes of a good deal of the distress of the depression…threatened the smooth functioning of society.”

At the time, Canadians were preoccupied with concepts of “racial inefficiency, social inadequacy, and ill health.” Tommy and other Canadians wanted to restrict marriage to those holding certificates of health, segregate the “unfit” on state farms where they couldn’t procreate, birth information to “subnormal” families and sterilization of the “defective.” Don’t even begin to think we as a society are now immune to victim-blaming. We just give it new names and new targets. 

Americans had a racial eugenic agenda, the Brits had a “lower class” overflow concern (which WW II casualties took care of), and in Canada classist and racist agendas snuck into targeted sex instruction, intelligence testing, special education to social welfare, immigration and birth control.

Tommy hit the high ground when Hitler hit the lowest ground. Tommy helped to promote a social net for health care which we still struggle to maintain to this day. He stepped up to bat, practiced his skill, struck out on some ideas, developed in the skill of thinking things through and helped to hit a home run for the welfare of the Canadian people–all Canadian people.

Tension still continues. There were pretensions about being able to decide who should and should not reproduce. Are not such arrogant political agendas in play today?  We minimize services to the poor, keeping them uneducated and impoverished.  Others, with their “correct” thinking are encouraged to have many children. Governments think in terms of scarce resources. This is the invariable outcome.

This  blog is an invitation to think responsibly and to responsibly re-evaluate your direction periodically. Then you become a good leader of your own heart and lead others by serving them well. 

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, final chapter.


S.R. Bakshi, Gandhi and his Techniques of Satyagraha, Oriental University Press, 1987, 88, 89.

Angus McLaren, Our Own Master Race; Eugenics in Canada, 1885-1945, McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1990, 7-9, 14, 166.

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Raincoast Pub., Vancouver, 1999.

Janet Wiebe