Questions…how shall I know?

Bridge of Europe, Strasbourg

Theodore Zeldin

Theodore Zeldin, Oxford historian, wrote the following as a contribution to the art installation,  Writing the borders, the Bridge of Europe, Strasbourg.

Questions

How shall I know that we have something to say to each other, that we ought to meet? How can I guess that you too believe that humanity’s most memorable achievements in extending knowledge or creating beauty have been the result of meetings between people and ideas that have not met before?
How shall I know that you wish to go beyond the language of politeness, beyond repeating what you have said before? How will you reveal that it is not mere information that you would be willing to exchange, but questions, doubts and dreams, the dreams which refuse to die?
How shall I know that, just as this garden is a work of art made out of plants whose history began in distant continents, you too are trying to shape your life into a work of art, however modest? How will you tell me that you welcome into the garden of your mind everything that civilisations all over the world have discovered about wisdom and folly?
How shall I know that busy and stressed though you are, you do sometimes find the time to pause and think, to ask whether they world has to be the way it is?
How shall I know that, just this bridge was built by people who wished to stop ancient enemies hating and fighting each other, you find it rewarding to be a bridge yourself, between individuals who fail to recognise what they have in common, and what they could do better together than alone?
How shall I know that you do not judge people by their religion, or even by their beliefs, and that you are much more impressed by how they put their beliefs into practice, whether with dogmatism, or humility, or compassion?
How shall I know that you applaud people not for their victories over others, but for the thought they have given to their failures, for the courage with which they handle their disappointments, for their ability to continue to laugh and hope?
How shall I know that you are not a prisoner of the prejudice which separates people of different sex and age? Or that you are more interested by what a person’s appearance conceals than the first impression it creates?
My answer. We can only discover who we are, and what we would like to be, by having conversations with one another. There are so many possible links between us, and we have to search behind the fashions and facades for them. That is why I rejoice that this garden has been created as a place, I hope, where people will meet to start long conversations, not just to pass the time, but to become clearer about what matters most to them, and what they can achieve together.
What is your answer?
Theodore Zeldin

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…

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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…

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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…

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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).