Recognising the ǝƃɐɯI ɟo poפ

I read two articles which connected around one theme this week: the image of God in relation to justice.

The first article was about Claudio Vieira de Oliveira, a Brazilian man who was born with a severe and rare condition called congenital arthrogryposis. Not only was he barely able to breathe at birth, his mother was told that as he was unlikely to survive, it would be kinder not to feed him and let him die. She didn’t take that advice and today she claims:

…there’s only happiness now. Claudio is just like any other person – that’s how he was raised in this house. We never tried to fix him and always wanted him to do the normal things everyone else does. That’s why he is so confident. He is not ashamed of walking around in the street – he sings and dances.

One of the features of the rare condition Claudio is affected by, is that his joints cannot extend which results in his limbs being badly deformed; his head collapses backwards or ‘upside down’ over his shoulder. This has not prevented him from training as an accountant and engaging in an increasing amount of public speaking around the world, inspiring others to see beyond their limitations. One message he is keen to get across is that although his head is upside down he sees the world very clearly, the right way round…

Claudio Vieira de Oliveira

The second article was about a Brazilian film-maker, Julia Bacha who has chosen to see and portray the world in a way which is increasingly ‘upside-down’ or contrary to how we are frequently led to perceive it by the media. Her area of focus is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Julia summarises the simple philosophy behind her filming:

Violent resistance and non-violent resistance share one very important thing in common: They are both a form of theater seeking an audience to their cause.

Her focus is on non-violent resistance which is growing in both Israeli and Palestinian camps; relationships are being forged between people who believe that justice begins, to echo Rabbi Arik’s words, in ‘respecting the image of God in their neighbour’ and by refusing to be manipulated into fearful habits of hatred. You can see the trailer for her documentary, Budrus on non-violent resistance here.

Julia Bacha

Julia Bacha

The axis of a biblical vision of justice is, quite simply, relationship. The biblical love of neighbour flows from our love of God and is instructed by the prophetic stream which defines love as care through relationship.

Both Claudio Vieira de Oliveira and Julia Bacha may see the world from an alternative or upside-down perspective, but both of them know that it takes courage and persistence to forge and maintain relationship against all odds, demonstrating in very different ways that wholeness can manifest in the most unexpected, distorted and upside-down of circumstances.

Recognising the ǝƃɐɯI ɟo poפ in ourselves and our fellow human beings is just a starting point for forging bold, loving and respect-filled relationships which are crucial for the flourishing of justice.

Two Kinds of Justice

Andy Kingston-Smith:

This is Tim Stafford’s helpful follow-up piece on justice. Andy

Originally posted on Timstafford's Blog:

In my last post I made the point that we typically use the word “justice” differently from the way the Bible uses it. Our justice is limited to the ideas of fairness and just desserts. Everybody gets treated the same, and everybody gets what’s coming to him. This is justice suited to the courtroom.

God’s justice is much broader, incorporating mercy and charity. Its aim is to set the world right, by all means. Care for the poor is not voluntary, it is a requirement —as justice always is.

What practical difference does this expanded understanding of justice make?

First, though this may not seem very “practical,” a wider view of justice enables us to understand the Bible as a unified book. How many times have you heard the remark that “there are [pick a number] 900 verses about caring for the poor in the Bible?” One Bible highlighted all…

View original 905 more words

What Is Justice?

Andy Kingston-Smith:

The jusTice initiative has been collaborating with Tim Stafford and a number of others on a new justice project and here are some helpful thoughts by Tim on biblical justice, a concept which is so often misunderstood or conceived of in very narrow terms by the Christian community. Instead, Tim encourages us to see the incredibly wide panorama of biblical justice and how it can affect every aspect of our lives. We’re looking forward to reading and considering future posts where he plans to explore the implications of biblical justice for our daily lives. Andy & Carol

Originally posted on Timstafford's Blog:

If I have learned anything from working on biblical justice over the last two years, it is that the word “justice” can be confusing. The problem, I believe, is that the Bible means something different by the word than we typically do in contemporary English.

In our language, justice has two components: fairness, and just desserts. That’s the way we want it in a courtroom: everybody gets treated the same, and everybody reaps what they sow. If you are a criminal, you should pay. Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, you should be held liable for your crimes and be punished accordingly. Victims should be compensated, where possible.

Similarly, outside the courtroom, we want treatment to be equal and rules to be enforced. The teacher should grade every kid by the same standard. Cheaters should be punished. That’s justice.

Of course, that’s a pretty limited view. It…

View original 1,154 more words

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