02 December, 2010

What a difference a Day makes

Anniversaries are significant times in the lives of individuals, families and communities. And December is a month that has far more than its fair share, for me, my family, South Africa and indeed the world.  

It starts with my birthday – naturally, it starts for all of us with our birth day. 

I share a birthday with Woody Allen and Bette Midler and, I discovered, December 1st is also "Eat an Apple Day" and "Pie Day" in the USA. In solidarity, then, I thoroughly enjoyed the apple crumble my wife baked for my birthday. Thanks, love!

Besides that, December 1st is a day remarkable for the number of what I believe are significant events in history. Issues of human rights and health technology feature high on my list of chronologically ordered kairos moments. (If you missed them, feel free to scroll down to my posts below on Time as chronology and kairos.)

I selectively sourced from Wicki these December 1st ‘happenings’ because they are, in my mind, closely connected:

1834 - Slavery was abolished in the British Cape Colony (South Africa).

1864 - President Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed in his State of the Union Address his commitment to ending slavery as per the Emancipation Proclamation.

1919 - Lady Astor became the first woman Member of Parliament to be sworn in at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

1955 - Rosa Parks was arrested for violating the racial segregation laws of the city of Montgomery, Alabama because she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. This incident which lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycott was pivitol to the American Civil Rights movement.

1969 - The escalating Vietnam war led to the first draft lottery in the United States since the Second World War

1981 The HIV virus was officially recognized. December 1st  is now commemorated as World AIDS Day.

1982 – At the University of Utah, Barney Clark was the first person to receive a permanent artificial heart.

1999 - An international consortium of geneticists “released into the public domain the genetic code of a portion of human chromosome 22”. (Related to DNA Mapping/The Human Genome Project)

However, one PARTICULAR December 1st really caught my eye due to what I believe is also its UNIVERSAL connection.

This year December 1st  was the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah (Dedication). This holyday commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabee/Hasmonean resistance against the edict by Emperor Antiochus (165 BCE) making observance of Judaism an offence punishable by death, and ordering the worship of Greek gods in the Temple.

Discrimination, conversion by force, mob violence, mass destruction, and even genocide has taken place “in the name of God” throughout human history. However, I believe this is frequently a fear-based tribalism/nationalism stage-managed by corporate greed, power politics and trigger happy militarists. Often this is deceitfully concealed under the cloak of religious faith and affiliation.

However, it’s not simply fanatical nationalism, care-less consumers, and techno-driven economies that feed the flames of conflict. Religious believers must confess that all too often religious leadership has ignored, condoned, approved or actively supported these godless activities.

I want to elaborate on this thought in later posts, but for now I only ask that we re-dedicate ourselves to a common humanity, to the shared experience and universal expressions of what we consider Wholeness, Goodness, Truth and Beauty.
May we all act in G-d’s eyes what we really are because, as the priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us  
Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces

Happy Holydays... 


  1. Rich blessing on your birthday!

    Thanks for your blog. I have found your posts deeply thoughtful, challenging and inspiring.

    It has been a joy to pop in from time to time and read your thoughts and insights. Thank you.

    Why have you decided to remain anonymous? Clearly you are a Presbyterian minister or lay person who lives in South Africa.

    Rich blessing,


  2. Or perhaps... A Presby minister in Ireland!?