Friday, April 30, 2010

Blah Blah Blah

"When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom" - Confucius

Meaning is the extent to which words are embodied.

So what of a blog on social justice? Words are cheap in cyberspace: they are disembodied ideals that float through pixels on anonymous screens without real authors or readers.

And in reading about social ideas and needs, in writing articles that discuss and evaluate, we are given the illusion that we are doing good. But my neighbour is still a bitter cat lady, I still seek value and identity in buying CDs and books, and thousands of kids are still going to die today of starvation.

"A protest is no longer an act of defiance but a confirmation that one’s democracy is functional. Everyone’s political appetite is satisfied – hawks fight a futile war overseas while liberals fight a futile war against that war from the comfort of their laptops."

We protest against social injustice 'here', along with countless others who are a mere click away (to the column on your right for instance). Is this just a cultural placebo to keep us quiet, for both myself as author and you as reader?

At the end of the day, you probably don't know me, and I probably don't know who you are, or if you read this. There is no accountability to real meaning in action.

Maybe we need to pursue more face to face conversation, where our words will be made meaningful through real relational encounters. Where we won't be 'free' to write esoteric and romantic rants that we don't believe in (and therefore don't act upon) because we will be challenged by those we share our lives with, who know us.

So who knows you, and who will recognise the meaning in your words?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Empire

Social justice is about the formation and reconciliation of healthy relationships.

Slavery is where relationships have become broken and distorted to the extreme - where the essence of the personhood of 'the other' is neglected, and they become ruled or dominated by someone else. So we care and we fight against sex slavery, child trafficking, forced labour etc.

But what about in our western context? Yes, unfortunately we do hear of sex slaves and those horrors normally associated with the concept of slavery, but what else is slavery in our culture?

Economic poverty?

Substance, sex, entertainment addiction?

Consumerism?

And so who are our slave masters?
Apple, Women's Weekly, ASB bank?
Or in naming them as such are we ascribing them too much power?
Should we care enough to fight them, and if so, how?

Do we know who we are without them?

And what about a slavery of our own self-centeredness?

In the first century Mediterranean world, Caesar was Lord. The stories of his power and peace brought by his sword dominated the minds and imaginations of the Roman Empire. The world was "held captive" by this picture. Until Jesus, who defeated the last weapon of the Empire, so that we could be truly free for others:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind... Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment..." - Romans 12

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Raising of New Public Stories?


David Tacey in Re-Enchantment (2000, p.242) comments:
"We are witnessing the death of one public story and the birth of another story, and no part of society can be immune from such a transformation. We have outgrown the narrative that used to contain our lives and provide meaning, because it is too narrow and we have matured. We no longer want life to revolve around the rational mind or ego and its wishes and desires... We desperately require a larger story, one which allows us to shed the illusions of the separate ego and join together in celebration of our spiritual unity."

A host of social commentators, some religious, some secular, have since Sept. 11 joined David Tacey and argued that we're now entering a "para secular or post-secular era", that there is a new place for religious discussion in the public domain.

Have you heard this in your conversations? What does this sound like where you're at? How could The Salvation Army enter into this new public discussion? Where are the possibilities? Are there dangers?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

practising values

Last weekend (April 10-11) a number of New Zealanders undertook a 36 hour 100 km walk around Lake Taupo. They put up with blisters and cold for the long term focus on raising funds to support Oxfam NZ’s “humanitarian, development and advocacy work to lift some of the world’s poorest people out of poverty” (Oxfam NZ, 2010). As a contrast with “greed is good”, “it’s all about me” and “I want it now”, the goal was to put up with short term pain, discomfort, and tiredness to fundraise to help the poor. These walks have taken place since 2006 and New Zealanders are continuing to support this cause. This year there were 350 teams taking part (about 1500 participants). This is part of an international fundraising effort that has raised more than $70 million internationally. (See http://www.oxfam.org.nz/oxfam_trailwalker/default.asp?s1=About%20Trailwalker)
There are all kinds of social justice activities in New Zealand that give us the chance to practise positive values by contributing to global needs. Another is Oxfam’s Biggest Coffee Break May 1 – 16 to raise awareness of Fair Trade. (See http://www.oxfam.org.nz/index.asp?s1=what%20we%20do&s2=issues%20we%20work%20on&s3=fair%20trade&s4=coffee%20break )

Friday, April 9, 2010

Capitalism vs. Grace

Here's just a few random thoughts after our focus on Jim Wallis...

Our whole western society seems to be built around the idea that humanity is self-centered and independent.

Our science says "Survival of the fittest."
Our advertising says "You only get out what you put in."
Our religion says "What you reap is what you sow."

We operate out of our idea of 'justice' - that a person gets what they deserve, whether that be through good actions that leads to reward or through bad actions that lead to punishment. We're responsible for our own skins. Individualism.

So our identity was in what we produced (what we do), and now is more in what we consume (our rewards for what we do). At a party, we ask "What do you do?" and "Have you seen that movie/read that book/been to that place?". That is how we identify ourselves. Do we have inherent worth?

Church plays this game as much as anyone. Religion is about individual performance ("Am I sinning?") and consumption (entertainment-driven church services and youth groups etc.). We are plagued by guilt and fear over whether we're "good enough" to have God's forgiveness...

We are too self-obsessed.

So what is grace? What does it look like in our society?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Business as usual?

The economic crisis is for Jim Wallis a learning opportunity. What have you learned? Do you think things will change or will it simply be the same old same?


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