Book review: Carnival Kingdom

Andy Kingston-Smith:

Thanks Jeremy for your review of Carnival Kingdom! Copies are still available from the jusTice initiative with a 20% discount for a limited period only.

Originally posted on Make Wealth History:

carnival kingdomI don’t review many Christian books on the blog here, but I recently finished a collection of essays from the JusTice initiative called Carnival Kingdom. I’m going to mention this one because I love the premise of the book: it’s all about working for social justice by being ‘positively subversive’, drawing on the cultural theory of the carnival.

We have one of the biggest carnivals in Europe in Luton, where I live, and I took my three year old son down to it this summer. We saw the dancers and the parade, but for him the highlight was being able to walk down the middle of the road, the crowd oblivious to the traffic lights blinking red at the junctions. On carnival day, I explained, you can walk in the road. The people dance in the street and barbecue on the kerb, and just for one day the cars…

View original 567 more words

Loving enemies?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

 

I’m trying to imagine what Jesus would say to the Christians fleeing their homes in Iraq just now. As I wade through article after article flooding social media I hear many voices and much pain…what keeps coming back to me are these words: ‘what would it look like to love your enemy in Iraq…in Gaza…just now’?

I’d like to think that those weren’t just meaningless words but that they carried real, effective guidance and power for change…I’d like to think that Christians all round the world were putting them into practice by the power of the Spirit every day…but I can’t quite imagine what it would look like just now in Iraq…in Gaza…and that’s partly due to the fact I’m not hearing any stories coming out of the atrocious, hateful mess which are describing what I’m looking for…

I wonder if there are any?

Book Review – A Very Short Introduction to Globalization (3rd edition – 2013) by Manfred B. Steger (Kindle edition)

Below is a book review by a current MA Global Leadership student at Redcliffe College, Michael Greed, which is posted in its entirety as a guest blog.

I thought it would be helpful to publish this, firstly, as this book is a stimulating introductory text to the concept of globalisation which deserves wide readership, and which is set as a key text in Redcliffe’s MA programme (module titled The mission of the church in the context of postcolonialism and globalisation), and secondly, as Michael’s excellent summary provides useful brief commentary on related issues around leadership and a Christian engagement with globalisation.

Thank you Michael for granting permission to publish this book review here.

By Michael Greed, May 2014

Then came the churches then came the schools
Then came the lawyers then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road
(Knopfler, 1982)

Thus came the relentless advance of globalization. As peoples have spread across the globe and interacted with one another, the law of the jungle has prevailed: eat or be eaten. Discover, control, exploit – as illustrated by Knopfler’s lyric above.

Steger begins his Very Short Introduction by investigating what globalization is and defining it: “Globalization refers to the expansion and intensification of social relations and consciousness across world-time and world-space.” (18%) He then shows that globalization is not a new phenomenon: it began with pre-historic early human migration. Rather, what has been happening from 1980 onwards is the expansion of globalization to a point of “convergence” (28%). Steger introduces its four dimensions:

Economic: “neoliberal capitalism” is the dominant ideology, in which western-based transnational corporations run the globe to their own advantage.

Political: nation-states have lost their dominant role to transnational corporations, but use immigration controls to counter an increasingly borderless world.

Cultural: “McDonaldization” is on the increase, though “cultural hybridity” may be gaining momentum.

Ecological: the two major issues are “uncontrolled population growth and lavish consumption patterns in the global North” (58%).

Steger then identifies three “globalisms”, ideologies that claim global scope: market globalism, justice globalism and religious globalisms. I was startled to find “justice” and “religious” at opposite ends of Steger’s spectrum. The Bible places them hand in hand: “Pure and genuine religion … means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1.27, NLT) Using the term “religious” in this way may be confusing. In his longer volume (2008) Steger writes of “Jihadist Globalism” rather than “Religious Globalisms”.

As a further critique, I offer a fourth globalism: spiritual globalism, something to do with the biblical prophecy that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2.14, NIV). The Bible states that this is God’s world (Psalm 24.1), and he has good and great global plans for it (Romans 8.19-21). The global Christian missionary movement, which embraces both justice issues and fundamentalist proselytization, is in response to this. The focal point is generally local Christian congregations, in partnership with the global Church. Combs’ article (2014) is an excellent example of this.

Steger places market globalism in the centre with justice and religious globalisms on the left and right. Jesus states that we cannot serve God and “Mammon” (Matthew 6.24). I suggest that market globalism is the lavish and unconstrained worship of Mammon. We have put it centre stage, in God’s rightful place, where “spiritual globalism” should be.

Steger concludes his book with some strong exhortations: because of the “uneven” way in which the world is integrated, “we must link the future course of globalization to a profoundly reformist agenda” with “a moral compass” and “an ethical polestar” to guide us (83%).

Who is the leader who can guide us in this reformist agenda? Robert House and his team discovered that all cultures value inspirational leadership (2004, p. 61). But inspiration is not a moral compass. Additionally, House’s data was drawn from middle management (Grove, 2005, p. 2), whilst most of the world’s population are not middle managers.

Does the world need strong leaders who can enforce a reformist agenda? Kaplan (2013) argues that where there is a clear “top dog” with sufficient “coercive power” stability and order are maintained. But do “stability and order” bring about a “reformist agenda”?

Or are strong leaders themselves the problem? Mahatma Gandhi argued that the ideal is “government of the people by the people and for the people” (1982a, p. 28). Is the result of that anarchy? Tim Harle (2011), entitling his book, “Embracing Chaos” maybe says Yes.  But what Gandhi and Harle understand is that people do not need to be controlled. Rather, they need to be recognized and valued.

Che Guevara makes the same point with his emphasis on us, the people: leaders have a role, he writes, “insofar as they embody the highest virtues and aspirations of the people and do not wander from the path” (1965). Those leadership approaches that emphasise “followership” and the servant-facilitator role of the leader have a similar focus. “Let the poor man stand up tall, give him back his pride,” sang Garth Hewitt (1982) after experiencing the poverty of Calcutta (Kolkata).

This, I believe, is the moral compass of Steger’s reformist agenda. Global leaders who will “integrate” the people of the globe “evenly” are those who recognize the value and dignity of each individual and each community, identify with them and make their hopes their own.

 

References

Combs, C. (2014) Local church, global Church: serving together in Russia, Wycliffe Global Alliance. Available from < http://www.wycliffe.net/stories/tabid/67/Default.aspx?id=4721&gt; (Accessed: 7 May 2014).

Gandhi, M. (1982a) The Words of Gandhi, selected and with an Introduction by Richard Attenborough, 2nd edn. New York, NY: Newmarket Press.

Gandhi (1982b) Directed by Richard Attenborough [DVD]. Culver City, California: Columbia Pictures.

Grove, C.N. (2005) Introduction to the GLOBE Research Project on Leadership Worldwide, Grovewell LLC. Available from: <http://www.grovewell.com/GLOBE&gt; (Accessed: 9 April 2014).

Guevara, C. (1965) Socialism and Man in Cuba. Available from: <http://www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1965/03/man-socialism.htm#body-41> (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Harle, T. (2009) Fractal Leadership Emerging Perspectives for Worldly Leaders, Bristol, UK: Bristol Business School.

Harle, T. (2011) Embracing Chaos: Leadership Insights from Complexity Theory, Cambridge, England: Grove Books Ltd.

Hewitt, G. (1982) Road to Freedom, Myrrh.

House, R.J. (2004) Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Kaplan, R. (2013) Anarchy and Hegemony, Austin, TX: Stratfor. Available from: <http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/anarchy-and-hegemony> (Accessed 6 May 2014).

Knopfler, M. (1982) ‘Telegraph Road’, from the album, Love Over Gold, Vertigo Records. Available from <http://www.poemhunter.com/song/telegraph-road/> (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Lewis-Anthony, J. (2011) Book Review of ‘Embracing Chaos: Leadership Insights from Complexity Theory’, Modem Leaders Hub. Available from < http://www.modem-uk.org/resources/MODEM+book+review+Harle+Embracing+Chaos.pdf> (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Northouse, P.G. (2012) Leadership: Theory and Practice, 6th edn. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Steger, M. B. (2008) Globalisms: The Great Ideological Struggle of the Twenty-first Century, 3rd edn., Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

The Bible, New International Version. Available from < http://www.biblegateway.com&gt; (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

The Bible, New Living Translation. Available from < http://www.biblegateway.com&gt; (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

Young, R. J. C. (2003) A Very Short Introduction to Postcolonialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available from <http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks&gt; (Downloaded: 14 April 2014).

jusTice update – July 2014

Dear friends and supporters of jusTice,

We have just returned from Chennai, India. It’s our second trip to India in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM) to engage church pastors in thinking around issues of justice from a biblical and theological perspective.

It is always a huge privilege to be invited to take part in a conversation around issues of justice and faith but it is also deeply humbling to hear first-hand the stories of how much it costs to ‘do the right thing’ in contexts where biblical concepts of equality and fairness are very far from the norm. In addition to the stories of bonded slavery there were also personal stories of how seeking to do the right thing makes life so much harder; like the father who took the risk of sacrificing his son’s entry to further education because he refused to cooperate with systemic corruption, or the professional who had blown the whistle on workplace injustice and been sidelined for promotion and eventually forced out of their job.

Seeking to do the right thing is often slow, hard work; there are very few ‘efficient’ short cuts. It is painful to see the woundedness of those who leave the comfort of the cultural highway to forge a new path through the thickets…pioneering a new way of being human…transgressing culturally-accepted norms which don’t measure up with the biblical picture of shalom; the well-being and flourishing of both human and non-human creation.

IJM’s focus is specifically on assisting marginalised individuals and communities in accessing legal justice and in Chennai much of that work revolves around issues of bonded slavery, where generations have been enslaved to ‘pay back’ a small debt. Biblical concepts like the year of jubilee are deeply relevant in such contexts and yet they are far away from the public imagination. The radical scope of the biblical vision in the contexts of many of our empire-building and unequal cultures is breath-taking. It begs the question…how can we dare to hope for change?

At the heart of the biblical vision for justice is the hope in the goodness and faithfulness of God to complete His work of reconciling and renewing all things. That reconciling work came by the way of the cross, and in contexts such as India it is particularly easy to see the sufferings which accompany the kind of faithful discipleship of which the apostle Peter speaks in 1 Peter 4:12-13.

One of the starting points of a journey of justice is the recognition of injustice in our world and lament is an appropriate response to the chronic and sometimes severe and brutal effects of injustice in our communities. As we engaged in some teaching around themes of lament one pastor shared how his wife was a composer and a number of her songs of lament were written from the perspective of the abused and disabled children they worked with. She sings these songs of lament in churches and schools and often teachers and children weep as they hear them. Changes of perspective and attitude take place which begins to change the culture of the school environment. Lament had turned hearts of stone into hearts of flesh…compassion opened the way for a tangible change.

Howard Zinn emphasises the ‘infinite succession of presents’ in which our actions determine the future…

 ‘To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.’

Other news

1. Carnival Kingdom: biblical justice for global communities book

Last year saw publication of Carnival Kingdom which we co-edited with Jonathan Ingleby & Marijke Hoek. Sales continue to be encouraging, but we know that there are many more places where we would like to see the book made available and publicised.

More information can be found here: Publisher: Wide Margin, Facebook Page: Carnival Kingdom

If you would like to buy a copy, or more, for your organisation, please contact us, as we can offer discounts on multiple copies. We are beginning to think through some further book projects for the next couple of years, including a booklet on biblical advocacy.

2. jusTice on the road

In addition to the recent India trip, we presented internal research findings at Latin Link’s international assembly in Ecuador in February, within a keynote talk on the biblical and missional imperative for justice, along with a couple of seminars to explore issues that missionaries are engaging with on the ground. This followed our engagement at mission-net, Europe’s largest youth mission congress, in Germany at the start of the year, where we coordinated the justice stream, including contributions from Micah Challenge and A Rocha. In early July (8th) we speak at the Justshare network at St. Mary-le-Bow (http://www.justshare.org.uk/), and In late August we lead a justice retreat near Madrid, Spain.

 3. Redcliffe College – Justice MA programme

  • Redcliffe’s new Contemporary Missiology MA retains the justice modules as a specialist stream within the programme. If you are interested in further study, more information can be accessed on Redcliffe’s website at http://www.redcliffe.org/Courses/Postgraduatecourses/ContemporaryMissiology
  • The next Environment Day conference, in collaboration with the John Ray Initiative and A Rocha, is set for 7th March 2015 at Redcliffe College, on the topic of climate change. Andy will be leading a seminar on the effects of climate-induced migration, exploring the role of the church in mitigating/adapting to this increasing reality and being a conduit of hope
  • We hope a post for a ‘scholar in residence’ at Redcliffe College could be available in the next couple of years – if you know of anyone interested, particularly from the Global South, then please encourage them to contact us. We are also looking for placement opportunities for undergraduate students and also research possibilities, both for students at Redcliffe College and the initiative more generally

 4. Resourcing and social media

Please pray that we will be able to secure the funding needed to continue to develop the initiative. It is a faith-based ministry; if you would like more information on our financial needs, or would like to give, please let us know. You can follow us on twitter (@just_mission), subscribe to our blog at http://justiceadvocacyandmission.wordpress.com/, like our facebook pages (jusTice initiative and Carnival Kingdom), or check out our website (www.justice-initiative.com). This August, we plan to do some more thinking and planning for the initiative’s work in the coming academic year, and in particular hope to develop our social media presence further., interest and support.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support

Andy & Carol 

A just India

Andy and I have just returned from Chennai, India. It’s our second trip to India in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM) to engage church pastors in thinking around issues of justice from a biblical and theological perspective. 

It is always a huge privilege to be invited to take part in a conversation around issues of justice and faith but it is also deeply humbling to hear first hand the stories of how much it costs to ‘do the right thing’ in contexts where biblical concepts of equality and fairness are very far from the norm. In addition to the stories of bonded slavery there were also personal stories of how seeking to do the right thing makes life so much harder; like the father who took the risk of sacrificing his son’s entry to further education because he refused to cooperate with systemic corruption, or the professional who had blown the whistle on workplace injustice and been sidelined for promotion and eventually forced out of their job. 

Seeking to do the right thing is often slow, hard work; there are very few efficient short cuts. It is painful to see the woundedness of those who leave the comfort of the cultural highway to forge a new path through the thickets…pioneering a new way of being human…transgressing culturally accepted norms which don’t measure up with the biblical picture of shalom, the well-being and flourishing of both human and non-human creation. 

IJM’s focus is specifically on assisting marginalised individuals and communities in accessing legal justice and in Chennai much of that work revolves around issues of bonded slavery, where generations have been enslaved to ‘pay back’ a small debt. Biblical concepts like the year of jubilee are deeply relevant in such contexts and yet they are far away from the public imagination. The radical scope of the biblical vision in the contexts of many of our empire-building and unequal cultures is breathtaking. It begs the question…how can we dare to hope for change?

At the heart of the biblical vision for justice is the hope in the goodness and faithfulness of God to complete His work of reconciling and renewing all things. That reconciling work came by the way of the cross…and in contexts such as India it is particularly easy to see the sufferings which accompany the kind of faithful discipleship of which the apostle Peter speaks:

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.

Instead, be very glad–for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. (1 Peter4:12-13)

One of the starting points of a journey of justice is the recognition of injustice in our world and lament is an appropriate response to the chronic and sometimes severe and brutal effects of injustice in our communities. As we engaged in some teaching around themes of lament one pastor shared how his wife was a composer and a number of her songs of lament were written from the perspective of the abused and disabled children they worked with. She sings these songs of lament in churches and schools and often teachers and children weep as they hear them and changes of perspective and attitude take place which begins to change the culture of the school environment. Lament had turned hearts of stone into hearts of flesh…compassion opened the way for a tangible change.

I leave you with this quote which emphasises the ‘infinite succession of presents’ in which our actions determine the future…

 

‘To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.’ Howard Zinn 

Church and Community 5: The Cross

Andy Kingston-Smith:

The latest post (part 5) by Ruth Valerio in her series of reflective writings, following on from the church and Sustainable communities conference at Redcliffe College, Gloucester last month.

Originally posted on Ruth Valerio:

world-cross-shadow So DOES the church have anything to offer when it comes to building local sustainable communities or should we just hang up our coats and recognise that others simply do it better?

I hope over the course of this little series I’ve been able to show that, whilst we do need a heavy dose of humility and recognition of where we haven’t got it right, there is so much within our theological underpinnings that we can bring to the table, including the Incarnation, eschatology, and anthropology. Christians have a unique faith and, therefore, unique emphases that we carry with us.

Perhaps one of the things that makes us most unique is the Christian emphasis on the cross: on the fact that the God we follow became a human being and allowed himself to be killed in order to put back to rights all that had gone wrong…

View original 463 more words

Church and Community 4: Anthropology

Andy Kingston-Smith:

The tricky business of being human!…In part 4 here Ruth Valerio continues her series of reflections from the recent conference at Redcliffe College, which looked at sustainable communities and the engagement of the church. Andy

Originally posted on Ruth Valerio:

weca canal ‘The Human Propensity to F**k Things Up’ (otherwise known as THPTFTU) is Francis Spufford’s memorable definition of what sin is. I think it’s a great description. I know it applies to me.

Another way of looking at it is the platitude beloved of preaching about church: ‘if you think you’ve found the perfect church, don’t join it.’

One of the foundations of the Christian faith is a pretty robust assessment of human beings, both positively and negatively.

We can be the most amazing of creatures, able to reach beyond ourselves and carry out wonderful acts of bravery, generosity and sacrifice. We all know ‘big’ stories of that. One of my favourite ‘little’ stories though happened in one of the roads on our estate – actually the road historically considered to be one of the worst in Chichester and a dumping ground for people who are evicted from elsewhere.

One of…

View original 325 more words