Posts Tagged 'politics'

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?

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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.

Ich Bin Ein Auslander

“If they come to ethnically cleanse me,

 Will you speak out?

Will you defend me?

Freedom of expression doesn’t make it alright .

Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right”

From “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” by Pop Will Eat Itself.

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Maybe I’m becoming middle aged and middle classed, but I was genuinely shocked when the flyer photographed above was lying in our porch when I came home tonight.

The European elections are on the 4th of June.  Surely there should be no room for fascist propaganda such as this.  I’m alarmed that someone has taken the time to shove such nonsense through our letterboxes and I want to rid our postcode and politics of such twisted logic.

I never really thought of our area of town as particularly diverse racially.  Yet any city is cosmopolitan by nature as people are attracted to fill the labour market. 

Can I imagine my neighbourhood without the spread of cultures it has?  I enjoy the banter I have with my neighbours in the Indian takeaway.  I always chat to the guy who runs our newsagent.  The girls who work in the coffee shops are often foreign and there is something nice about their accents.  The vacant church opposite us is about to become a Mosque. 

I might not share the same belief systems as many of my neighbours, but I would stand up for them rather than see the venom of racism infest the place I and so many others call home. 

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.

Wonder (part 8)

This the penultimate post in a wee series of musings I have posted up during December inspired by some lyrics that have stuck with me longer than many.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here , post 5 is here  , post 6 is here and post 7 is here.p7260034

The closing lines of the song that generated all these posts goes:

“This is Church.

This is State.

Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Amazing Grace.

It makes me think, it makes me deal

With the situation – how do I feel?”

from “Wonder” by King’s X

I love that phrase “Rock ‘n’ Roll. Amazing Grace”  I have found so much of God and so much that has shaped my world view in both of those things – rock ‘n’ roll and old hymnals.  I love playing my heart out on my drum kit and making a joyful noise.  I relish the fact that some folks in our church have permissioned us to do that once a month and I am so grateful to the little fluid collective of friends who are musicians and singers who join me in that.  We are all on the same wavelength and the music is so secondary.  It’s just about creating a time and space where we can set everything else aside and regain our focus and actually begin to engage and ask questions.

Sometimes I wonder if we elevate music in our services?  I mean that as a generalisation across the church rather than as a specific criticism of our congregation.  As someone involved in that side of things, I struggle with the notion that all we do is create a holy “knees up” or “feel good” session through swells of sound and music and then kid ourselves that we have “met with God”.  At the end of the day, if we are adding to the noise – then I would hope that someone would tell us to be quiet and to pack up our gear.  If we are all able to draw closer somehow with music used as a vehicle to prepare our hearts and ears ahead of a sermon or in a response time, then count me in.  If we walk out of our church building, into our everyday lives, with a changed perspective and a heart hungry to live in obedience and aware of mercy and grace, then I guess we have been good stewards of our gifts.

Wonder (part 7)

This the seventh in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be linked to here.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here , post 5 is here  and post 6 is here.

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I guess the largest political issue for many in my generation is rolled up in the September the 11th atrocities and the military decisions of the US and UK governments in the aftermath.  It is easy to judge our leaders rather than to pray for them and I read a recent interview with Moby where he was struggling to reconcile a natural inclination to judge with a more gracious response.

Here’s an excerpt from a book I would thoroughly recommend to you.  The American author at one point visits Iraq as part of a peace envoy.  Here is a small snippet of one of his tales:

“I was invited to worship services nearly every day while in Iraq.  The Christians in Baghdad gave me so much hope for the church.  One of the most powerful worship services I’ve ever experienced was just a few days before I headed home.  Hundreds and hundreds of Christians from all over the Middle East had gotten together – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox.  They read a statement from the Christian church directed to the Muslim community, declaring that they love them and believe they were created in the image of God.  Then we sang familiar songs like “Amazing Grace.”  We said the Lord’s Prayer in several languages. They lead us to the cross and prayed a prayer similar to the one Jesus prayed when he was on the cross: “Forgive us, for we know not what we are doing.”  Hundreds and hundreds of people continued to try and get into the service and ended up gathering outside with candles.  It was holy.

Afterward, I was able to meet with one of the bishops who had organised the gathering, and I explained to him that I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq.  He looked at me, puzzled, then gently said, “Yes, my friend, this is where it all began.  This is the land of your ancestors.  That is the Tigris River and the Euphrates.  Have you read about them?”  I was floored-by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith.  It is the land of my ancestors.  Christianity was not invented in America…how about that?

The bishop went on to tell me that the church in the Middle East was deeply concerned about the church in the United States.  He said, “Many Americans are for this war.”

I nodded.

And he asked, “But what are the Christians saying?”

My heart sank.  I tried to explain to him that many of the Christians in the US are confused and hope that this is a way God could liberate Iraqi people.  He shook his head and said, very humbly, “But we Christians do not believe that.  We believe “blessed are the peacemakers.”  We believe if you pick up the sword, you die by the sword.  We believe in the cross.”  Tears welled up in my eyes as he said, “We will be praying for you.  We will be praying for the church in the US…to be the church”.

That is in no way just a challenge to the US.  How different would our communities, the places we work, the places we hang out, the lives of the people we really invest time with be, if the Church of Jesus Christ actually acted and lived like the Church of Jesus Christ?  I have a long way to go, but I want to journey forward in that direction.

Wonder (Part 5)

This is the fifth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here.

This appeared on yesterday’s news.  Who is the peacemaker here?


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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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