Posts Tagged 'justice'

Fallen World.

“This isn’t the way life was supposed to be.

It wasn’t like this in the beginning.

This isn’t the way life was supposed to be.

A world cries and in these eyes I see

A fallen world falling all around me.”

From “Fallen World” by The Altar Boys.

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I love when I get some uninterrupted time to sit by our big oak table and really just enjoy reading the newspaper.  It connects me with the world around me locally and globally.  It also makes me realise how little I know of geography, history and politics at times.  Sometimes there are stories that inspire.  Most of the time the scale of the world’s problems seem too distant, too vast or too systemic to change and I shrug off a sense of powerlessness and turn my attention to something else…

Over the last six months or so an ancient ideology has popped up in several books, articles and study notes I’ve read.  About 1445 B.C. a group of Israeli ex-slaves had fled from captivity under the Egyptian empire to start a new life and a fresh beginning.  They worked the land and every seventh year they let the land lie fallow, to be restored in nutrients in order that it may produce again thereafter.  They trusted that there would be enough provision to enable them to store sufficient produce to see them through this year when the land rested and through the first year of re-planting.  It removed a degree of separation between the provision of nature in rain and soil and crops and our own dependence upon the earth’s resources to sustain us. 

They had this hugely radical event in that every 50th year they had a sabbatical in the tuest sense of the word.  Families returned to their own clans and ancestors.  They didn’t plant or tend their crops.  They lived off what had been stored and what was produced naturally. 

Land was only ever owned for a period of 50 years and the value of it was derived from a capitalisation of the number of years of harvests that were left until next “50th year” or “Jubilee” as it was known – the more the years, the higher the price –  the less the years, the lower the price.  It stopped people taking advantage because the land was redistributed every 50 years.   

Slaves were released from their service at Jubilee.  Once in a lifetime there was a fresh start for everyone, a redistribution of wealth and a recognition that there was enough for everybody to live well.  The captives were released, the downtrodden freed from oppression and good news proclaimed and celebrated.  Families were re-united and all rested from their toil.

So what?  With our global systems such as they are “Jubilee” seems completly unworkable today.  But the nagging question remains, “how much have our technological advances, our systems, our politics and sophistication improved things when we really look at the statistics of poverty and malnutrition on a global scale?”  When I stop and ask those questions they seem too huge.  I end up in paralysis or feeling guilty and neither of them are good end results. 

There seemed to be a sense that we could change the world in 2005.  How many of us wore white wrist bands and placed pressure on the G8 and our world leaders to make poverty history?  For a while it seemed we’d won.  Some great things happened and I’m proud of the personally signed letter I received from Tony Blair at the time.  In 2009 though, I find it easy to think our agenda has moved onto solving the global recession or the environmental mess.  Have these become the causes of choice at the expense of others?  Then I end up feeling guilty or powerless again and revert to distracting myself with other things. 

This week I read of a group of individuals in the States who read of the idea of Jubilee as explained in Leviticus Ch 25.  They also considered how an early community were so transformed by the radical nature of Jesus teachings that they brought offerings and laid them at the apostles feet to be re-allocated to people as they had need.  You can read of it in the book of Acts.  This group in America started something called the Relational Tithe.  It’s a simple idea that might just have the power to change someone’s world.

It involves assembling a network of friends locally, nationally or even globally who can communicate by email or blogs and seek to take care of eachother.  The group pool a set amount of money into a common fund monthly.  Regularly the needs of their neighbourhoods, villages, projects they are aware of or global situations they are burdened about are brought before the community as a whole and they seek to help meet these as they are able.  All the time they are building relationships which tear through the economic, geographic and cultural walls that formerly divided them.

What would it look like if 10 or 20 or 50 friends got together and all pledged  £10 a month to a common fund that would be redistributed to others?  What would that really cost us in terms of sacrifice – a few coffees or drinks or magazines?  How about if there was no vested interest and that the money was always given to a new venture that the group loved the idea of and could help get started or to a local or national charity or a disaster relief fund or something similar?  The choice of recipient would be a group decision and could change monthly. Some months it may be decided that the fund simply stays in the bank so that a larger fund is built up to be redistributed the next month or the month after that.  Couldn’t that combined resource actually achieve something meaningful?

It reminds me of a question I rarely ask myself, “Why do I have so much when others have so little?”  Sure, I can look to others who have way more than me and I can covet their lifestyle or latest gizmos – but when I even take a brief look at my quality of life – there is so much to be thankful for. 

The story of these Israeli ex-slaves I referred to earlier can be found in Exodus and Leviticus.  During part of their travelling in exile from their oppression in Egypt they started complaining about their lack of food in the desert they were crossing.  God provided bread from heaven or “Manna” .  The interesting thing is that there was enough for all of them.  When they started to take more than they needed or to store it up, it demonstrated a fundamental lack of trust in God’s ability to provide.  What happened then?  Maggots ate what they stored away.

It also makes me think of the start of Jesus ministry when he visited the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth as described in Luke Ch 4:  17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  

Isn’t that a fulfilment of this ancient idea of Jubilee? 

Aren’t we the church meant to be a community of believers who try to live as Jesus did?

Wouldn’t that be proclaiming good news?

Enough Is Enough!

“Open your eyes,

time to wake up.

Enough is enough is enough”

From “Enough Is Enough!” by Chumbawamba.

I recently posted on the stance of the BNP ahead of the recent European elections here.  If you also strongly disagree with all they stand for, then please take a few seconds to sign this online petition produced by Hope Not Hate.

  http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/notinmyname

Thanks.

These Are Days

“These are the days.
These are days you’ll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you
Are touched by something.
That will grow and bloom in you”.

From “These Are Days” by 10,000 Maniacs.

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The little small group collective that gather around our dining table and inhabit our home and hearts have been working through a series looking at the topics of simplicity, love and justice in recent weeks. 

There are some big and small ideas that seem to challenge me to the core weekly.  Some little changes I can make and some bigger ones I am trying to work through. 

It’s good to enjoy food and laughs with friends who are also determined to encourage one another to grapple with things it’s easier to dismiss.  For each of us to become who we are meant to be and to think and live counter-culturally at times.

I seem to be hearing lots about consumerism at the minute.  I always falter with that when the new Howies or SAS catalogues arrive.  Mind you, this little piece made me smile:

“Come rain (and there will be), come shine (here’s hoping).  Even if our knees have knobbles and our calves are like sticks, we’ll be hunting through our wardrobes for our favourite shorts.  Because just a few hours of sunshine is all we need to remember those summers when we were kids.  When the sun shone for longer, the days were endless and our only deadline was tea on the table.  And when we got up in the morning and threw on our shorts and t-shirts, grabbed some toast and our bikes or skateboards and left for the day we knew that one day in the future the sun would be shining and we’d be putting on our shorts and remembering that feeling.

These are the days and they always were.”

Peace.

Wonder (part 9)

This is the final post in a series of  posts exploring lyrics touching upon the notions of “Church” and “State” written during the eighties.

Post 1 can be linked to here.  Post 2 is accessed here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here.  Post 5 can be found by clicking here.  Post 6 is here, Post 7 is here and Post 8 is here.

Since the time of the song being penned we have lived through the terms of office of George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.  As we crawl out of 2008 into a new year, we also sit on the cusp of a new presidency in Barack Obama.  There is a quote that seemed to be everywhere toward the latter months of the year:

“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama is running so our children can fly.”

Yet, as I learned of the Civil Rights Movements and Martin Luther King at school, it seemed like ancient history rather than something that occurred within the past 50 years or so.  What fast progress to now witness America’s first Black president about to take the reigns.  Whilst there seems to be a sense of a new dawn, he inherits a financial mess, an economic mess, an environmental mess in our ever shrinking global village.  If ever we need to pray for our leaders it is now.

These posts have sought to return to ancient truths whilst looking at issues we see around ourselves today; church and state; war and peace; God and politics; faith and action.  It reminds me of lyrics penned by Woodie Guthrie and put to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.  Woodie Gothrie’s recording career was over by 1947, however, he kept on writing hundreds of unrecorded songs and these set of lyrics do not have a specifc date, but seem just as relevant to me today as they would have been when dreamt up by Guthrie:

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“Let’s have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That they call the Nazarene

The only way
We could ever beat
These crooked politician men

Is to cast the moneychangers
Out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in

Oh it’s Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring

Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars

But with the Carpenter
On the seat
Way up in the capitol town

The USA
Be on the way
Prosperity bound”

From “Christ For President” – lyrics written by Woodie Guthrie

I guess that I am learning that Christ is my Saviour and My King.  If that is true, then He governs not just where I place my “X” on a voting slip, but how I vote in terms of what I consume, what I re-use, reduce and recycle.  It should determine how I vote with how I invest my time.  It should influence how I use my consumer vote with my money in terms of how ethical or otherwise my purchasing habits are – how are the goods I buy made?  What shops or manufacturers should I avoid (Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” might be slightly dated now, but still serves as an excellent manifesto and call to arms).  How many food miles have been involved in my food?  Do I buy fair=trade wherever possible?  Should I buy organic as often as possible?  Is my home properly insulated?  Do I use low energy light bulbs and do I switch them off when they are not needed?  Do I leave the TV on standby?  Do I take the plane when I could take the train?  Do I drive when I could walk or cycle?  Justice is a big thing.  Worship is a big thing.

Hopefully, this little series of posts have got you and I both thinking…

There was an old skateboarding sticker back in day with the slogan, “Don’t die wondering.”  Sometimes we need to stop procrastinating, to just act upon things or try them out.  At other times it’s good to challenge our beliefs or perceptions.  I think it’s good to grapple with how to really apply our faith in a myriad of situations we find around us – surely, that is what we are called to do?  The danger is that we just muse and talk and hypothesise. 

Whether you have found these posts helpful, interesting or irritating – then I would still recommend the following three books to you:

irresistable-revolution1a)  “The Irresistible Revolution – Living As An Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne.

 

 

jesus-for-presidentb)  “Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.

 

 

 

 

biblec)  The Bible.

 

Peace be with you all.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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