Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Reach of Salvation

A bit of a long blog today. I’d like to sit in the seat of a Mad-Scientist (complete with a dimly lit and disheveled “laboratory”, chemicals frothing in test tubes, cold coffee, mice, messy grey hair, sleepless eyes, and white coat) and with your consent, I’d like to try a little thought experiment on you.


Jim Wallis of Sojourners fame claims that:

“Salvation must not be seen as merely an individual event, but rather as a world event in which the individual has a part.”
Jim Wallis, 1976, Agenda For Biblical People.

I’ve sat in front of this thinking for some time now and have been secretly trying to coin a catchy phrase or term that could capture and fuel the energies/hopes/imaginations of our generation, a phrase that could help our mates see where they can fit into this larger, global story of salvation.

I started with glocalism, a phrase that cleverly mixes the global + the local, and despite its promise - it enabled me to grapple with some of how salvation connects and intersects international issues with the communities we live in - I felt it missed some of how and where global matters have a personal stake in them. I felt it failed to pin point some of where “I’m” personally responsible.

I placed my thinking face on - the frown - thought some more, drank more cold coffee, paced the floor of my “laboratory”, engaged in conversation with some mates, explored some other thinkers like Brian McLaren, Walter Brueggemann, and Naomi Klein, experimented with and tried on some other phrases like “multi-polar cooperation”, a complex (and dare I say it, clumsy) phrase that comes from the economic genius of Jeffrey Sachs(1), a term that I hurriedly decided should probably return there too, and then, when I felt completely desperate, “stuck” in what is called a ”solution deadlock”(2), I got a glimpse of something extraordinary, something incredible, something that I honestly hadn’t factored into my thought experiment.

The Home League.

The only consistent experience I had of Home League died with my mother - a faithful member of a small group of mainly delicate, grey dames (some had the permed purple hair thing going), who loved to drink Earl Grey tea, collect fine china and tea spoons, knit, eat freshly cooked scones, exchange recipes, laugh, and sing traditional hymns at the Corps Centre, the local expression of The Salvation Army.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

I got literally hijacked by a hard-core Home League initiative - the Malawi Project, a Territorial Project of The Salvation Army that connected individual Home Leaguers and local groups of the Home League everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga to the international issue of Human Trafficking.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

A global crisis of horrific proportions, a global demand that exploits and enslaves 27 million people on earth, one person every thirty seconds, five jumbo jets of people disappearing everyday, the fasting growing crime on our planet, a global crime that makes more profit every twelve months from the sale of people than Microsoft makes from its sales of Software(3), a global issue that fueled the creativity of dames and little purple-haired ladies in cities/towns/villages throughout the Pacific and ignited a flurry of baking, knitting, and doll-making, a flurry of fundraising with which these individual Home Leaguers and local Home Leagues partnered with the international efforts of The Salvation Army to stop the sale and trafficking of humans.

The Malawi Project fueled our imaginations too, and, within minutes, we started our own flurry of ideas, dreams, plans, prayers and schemes. We followed the Home League inside this incredibly grand narrative, inside a larger story than our own, a story that infused meaning and significance into how we were living everyday, a story that connected our little individual lives with the large global issue of human slavery, a story that handed our community a part to play in the salvation of our planet. The story of the Home League Project gifted our local community with something significant in that it helped it to think and act “beyond”, “further” and “wider” than itself, it inspired our community to “give a damn”, and for where we were at that meant sponsoring a non-stop run from Bluff to Dunedin, some 250 kms, to collaborate, we hoped, in the “bringing of freedom to the ends of the earth”, to help, we prayed, in stopping the global scourge of human trafficking.

A conversation started in our community that hasn’t stopped. The community delved into the global complexities and issues involved in human trafficking. We started to explore the cost, the feel, incidence, look and smell of the international sale and trade of humans. Some of our community grew concerned with how the move in our local/national laws to legalize prostitution could lead to a possible increase in demand and influx of trafficked persons into Aotearoa New Zealand. Some in our community started to explore the local gossip of foreign students at University mixing study with prostitution. Some drilled the global issue of human trafficking down into our everyday life and started to engage with it personally. We explored whether or not there is a connection between the global marketing and sale of humans and the sexual objectification of people in the many forms of media that we expose ourselves to. We looked at the connection that there is between our private flirtations with cyber-porn and the shameful sexual trafficking of people. We discussed the link that exists between how we define and depreciate sex and how we see and treat others. These conversations leave you considering how you could personally stop the demand and supply of the global trade of humans.

See what happened? See the three different places our salvation touched? See its incredible reach? See the seamlessness of our salvation story?

I now knew what I had been chasing. I now had something definite to hang my thinking onto. I could see that the mothers, sisters, and purple-haired grandmothers of Home League had latched onto a practice of salvation that held the potential to make a significant difference on our planet. And, less importantly, though hopefully packed with some of the same punch, and some of the same reach of these faithful Home Leaguers, the experience left me with a newer phrase that I hope can capture the energies/ imaginations of the next generation.

GLOPALISM. There it is.

GLOPALISM. The global, local, and personal face of our salvation story. The global, local, and personal reach of salvation.

GLOPALISM. The phrase that I think could help our mates see where they can fit into this expansive, international story of salvation.

It could look like this (and this is not a definitive formula/listing of practice; this is simply how we’ve evidenced GLOPALISM help our community contribute to a larger, global story of salvation):

Globally: Adopt a major issue facing the future of our earth (extreme poverty, hunger, conflict, terrorism, child mortality, financial instability, maternal health, AIDS/HIV, climate change, population/migration, sanitation, fair trade, environmental sustainability, gender equality, human trafficking), a global issue that energizes you or simply ticks you off. Make a commitment to get inside the issue, to connect with, learn from and pray with others interested in the issue, and, if/when you can, make a commitment to fundraise for and invest financially in a N.G.O. that is engaging with or supportive of the same issue (Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, The Micah Challenge, Make Poverty History, The One Campaign, Buy Nothing Day, Stop the Traffic, Fair Trade, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Tear Fund, World Vision, or The Salvation Army). Stick with this issue for at least 12 months.

Locally: Start a small group of like-minded people who can help you track the global issue of your interest into your local neighborhood. If its climate change, what is happening with the environment in your hood? If its human trafficking, who gains from the objectification of people locally? who is exploited and hurt? If its conflict, how is difference treated in your community? how is exclusion practiced? who is on the fringe and marginalized in the hood? where is there domestic violence? where is there the embrace of difference? who is making “peaceful” spaces for others and practicing hospitality? If its extreme poverty, what is the name of poverty on your street? Learn the names of neighbours who’re struggling financially. Engage with this from Shane Claiborne: “...It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle... that’s when things get messy. When people begin moving beyond charity and toward justice and solidarity with the poor and oppressed, like Jesus did, they get in trouble. Once we are actually friends with folks in the struggle, we start to ask why people are poor, which is never as popular as giving charity.”(4) Make a covenant with your small group to meet intentionally to creatively "plot goodness"(5), to scheme how to engage with where your adopted global issue is entrenched locally and where national policies/politics fuel the issue in your neighborhood.

Personally: Drill the global issue down even closer to home and explore it on a personal level: how is your own flirtation with cyber-porn fueling the global trade and trafficking of humans? how is the mileage you’re clocking-up, your own over-consumption and wastage contributing to climate change? how is the chocolate you enjoy, the latte you slowly sip at the local cafe, the clothes you dress in, the shoes on your feet, or the sports equipment you play with connect you personally to issues of fair trade?

Try to personally:
- engage with the Scriptures to fuel your imagination with stories of faith, hospitality and justice.
- experiment with a “buy nothing day”, a day on which you challenge yourself, family and mates to flick off the tele and give going to the shops a miss.(6)
- drive less, catch the bus, bike, or walk.
- form habits of extravagant generosity.
- gift some of your time to simply helping a neighbor, a local organization like the Community Patrol, the Family Store of The Salvation Army, the SPCA, a local school, a Home for the Elderly, the local mosque, or join/start a Neighborhood Support Group in your street.
- grow a garden.
- op shop.
- engage with a good book on global issues and social justice. Take a long look at Ronald J. Snider, 1997, “Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger”; Campbell Roberts and Danielle Strickland, 2008, Just Imagine; John Yoder, 1972, The Politics of Jesus; Brian McLaren, 2008, Everything Must Change; Jim Wallis, 2008, Seven Ways to Change The World; or Jeffrey Sachs, 2008, Common Wealth - Economics for a Crowded Planet.
- sponsor a child through The Salvation Army, Tear Fund, or World Vision.
- practice a Sabbath, a time and space to simply slow down and reflect on what God is saying.
- write to your local MP on issues of social justice.

Do you see how GLOPALISM links global issues with local communities and personal decision-making? Do you see how this makes our planet more smaller, more connected, more touchable?
Do you think this GLOPALISM could catch on? Do you think it would fly? Do you think it is something that could help you and your mates see where you fit into the salvation story? Do you think it makes the salvation of our planet doable, tangible, touchable?

The cynics and mockers scoff - “its too little, too late”.

I leave you with these final thoughts (and if you still can’t see the possibility of GLOPALISM, then may I humbly suggest a night at Home League):

“Multiply all these kinds of daily personal decisions by the increasing numbers of people, people like you and me, for whom they make sense, and you begin to see the power of personal action inspired by a new kind of faith.”(7)

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or woman or child) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he/she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy... those ripples... build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”(8)

1. Jeffrey Sachs, 2008, Common Wealth - Economics for a Crowded Planet.
2. Brian McLaren, 2008, Everything Must Change.
3. Human Trafficking Facts from Steve Chalder, 2008, Podcast, Mars Hill Bible Church.
4. Shane Claiborne, 2006, The Irresistible Revolution. Interestingly enough, "The Big Give", the latest feel-good reality tv game show from Oprah (screening Wednesdays, TV3) is simply that - charity and not justice. I didn't see anyone last night stopping to explore the harder "why" questions of the lives they were trying to help.
5. Brian McLaren, 2006, The Secret Message of Jesus.
7. Brian McLaren, 2007, Everything Must Change.
8. Robert Kennedy, cited in Jeffrey Sachs, 2008, Common Wealth - Economics for a Crowded Planet.

1 comment:

  1. Malcolm,
    For me this global to local & local to global process you are describing is a link i have longed to envision- and have really struggled to make. I think one of the things that stand out for me from what you are saying is the process of which we take these big global issues (that we ahve essentially distanced ourselves from and ignored our any inovlement) and then journey in thought and word and action with one another to see them on our own turff and then outwork this.
    This process brings clarity to the role we play in the world, to our connection with one another.
    we can know the issues, but how to address them in the way they need to be addressed (engaging with the kingdom of God)is the part where my brain freezes.
    I look forward to this simmering on my cooker and part two next week.