Readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Ezekiel 2: 2-5; Psalm 123: 1-4; 2nd Corinthians 12: 7-10; Luke 4: 18; Mark 6: 1-6
I can’t believe that we’re still expected to believe that the United States and Great Britain are concerned about human rights or press freedom or that either has any leg to stand on in such posturing.
I mean, how can any of us still believe after the lies about Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the refusal to punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the imprisonment of Julian Assange, the demonization of Wikileaks, and the cooperation of the mainstream media (MSM) with all of it.
You’re telling me that either London or Washington has the right to pronounce on press freedom? On human rights? Please!
Demonization of China
Nonetheless, they’re at it again in relation to China and the desperate campaign of both Great Britain and America to demonize Beijing and its implied invocation of an Asian version of The Monroe Doctrine in relation to Hong Kong [which, by the way, (unlike the U.S. relationship to Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, or Venezuela) is actually part of China.]
More specifically, we’re supposed to join the MSM and “our” government as well as England’s in worrying about the recent shutdown of the Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong – a publication that sounds a lot like The National Inquirer.
Judge for yourself. A recent cover story in The Guardian describes the paper as a tabloid-style publication that has “a chequered history including cheque-book journalism, muckraking and sometimes unethical reporting alongside fearless investigation into government corruption and police brutality.”
What? Chequered history? Paying sources for information (probably with money from the CIA or the National Endowment for Democracy) and unethical reporting?
Oh, and the paper is owned by billionaire Jimmy Lai who has been imprisoned (according to The Guardian) “on protest-related convictions and national security charges.”
So, now it’s “Hands across the Planet” for poor Jimmy and his yellow journalism.
Meanwhile Julian Assange wastes away precisely in a British prison for publishing government secrets exactly about U.S. war crimes in Wikileaks – a source that publishes the Washington’s own unquestionably true confessions of the criminal acts it desperately wants kept secret from the rest of us.
So let me get this straight: Jimmy Lai’s a hero. And we’re all supposed to get misty-eyed about the Hong Inquirer’s brave reporters. But Julian Assange is a criminal. And Wikileaks doesn’t even qualify as journalism.
And, by the way, we’re supposed to forget that there was absolutely no press freedom all those years the Brits controlled Hong Kong.
Does anyone else sense the irony?
Such considerations are especially relevant this July 4th as we celebrate our supposed “freedoms” and the tarnished ideals of the United States. Significantly, this month marks as well the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party (CCP) whose good example (in drastically reducing world poverty and extending foreign aid) our country so fears.
Besides being July 4th, today also happens to be Sunday, time for a weekly “Homily for Progressives” where the theme of the day is prophecy in the sense of social criticism in the name of all that’s holy.
The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel implicitly reminds us that there were two kinds of prophets among the ancient Hebrews. Both are still with us today.
One type was a “court prophet” telling the king and power structure what they wanted to hear – justifying their oppression of the poor. (On this Independence Day you’ll hear a lot of their drivel as they praise “America” as though it were not – as Martin King put it – “the world’s greatest purveyor of violence.”) Think about The Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai and our MSM as court prophets.
The other type of prophet spoke for the Truth that was commonly referred to as “God.” The words of such men and women were routinely dismissed by the powers that happened to be. Some prophets (as is the case with Jesus in today’s final reading) were even rejected by the very oppressed people they were trying to champion. Their words were thought too dangerous and, in some cases, too good to be true. Think about Julian Assange as a prophet in the mold of Ezekiel or the Nazareth construction worker many of us claim to follow.
In any case, here are my “translations” of today’s selections. You should really check them out here to see if I got them right. As you read, think of Julian Assange.
Ezekiel 2: 2-5 I was startled When God’s Spirit Demanded that I criticize my own people As ungodly and stubborn Telling me To make them uncomfortably Aware That a fearless prophet Was at work Among them. Psalm 123: 1-4 Great and holy Parent We invoke your compassion On your prophetic Servants and handmaids So eager to serve you Despite contemptuous mistreatment At the hands Of our so-called “leaders” With their pride and arrogance Directed Against your beloved poor. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 Neither do prophets Have to be perfect. Even Paul of Tarsus Despite his many gifts Suffered under “An angel of Satan” And “a thorn in the flesh" To keep him humble Lest he take credit For the work Of the Holy Spirit Within him. Mark 6: 1-6 But like Ezekiel Jesus was rejected By his own townsfolk Who complained that He had gotten “above his raisin’s” They didn’t even Call him by His father’s name (Implying he was a bastard) While dismissing His brothers and sisters As quite unremarkable. There’d be No mighty deeds For such whiners. Only cures for A few ailing beggars.
In a recent New York Times editorial, another court prophet, Yi-Zheng Lian, the former chief editor of The Hong Kong Economic Journal, joined the chorus of warnings about China’s grave threat to the West.
To an audience acquainted with the revelations of Edward Snowden Lian decried China’s surveillance system. To those whose country has bombed and killed Muslims by the scores and thousands every day over the last 20 years, he complained about treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. To Americans who have lived through a Trump presidency, he criticized Chinese governance by lies. (His example? President Xi Jinping actually claimed that China seeks an international image that is “trustworthy,” “respectable” and “lovable.”) The horror of it all!
Nonetheless, Lian also pointed out the fact that the Chinese Communist Party retains high popularity among a vast majority of its people. In fact, the party has grown by 20% annually since its foundation 100 years ago. There are no refugees from China. Travelers and students come and go at will and usually return home.
For Lian, the bottom line is that China is showing no evident signs of decline. This means that it will remain a formidable force continuing to threaten the United States and Western allies for years to come. This will be true, he said, not just militarily and ideologically, but also technologically and economically.
So, the West, Lian concludes, had better get used to the CCP’s threatening presence “at its front door.”
Of course, all this talk of threat and menace from a country that (unlike the United States and Great Britain) has bombed no one in the last 40 years – all this imperial identification of a country more than 7000 miles away as at “our front door” is nonsense.
So is any continued posturing about “our” championing of human rights and press freedom. July 4th in the context of faith reflection is a good time for reminders of such home truths.