‘Broken Britain’: what do you think are three key issues for equipping the church for mission today?


If you were asked for your three key issues for equipping the church for mission in contemporary Britain, what would you say? I would be interested to hear your views on what you consider to be three key ones.

Here is a short reflection on what I think; not necessarily the three most key ones (up to date research would need to be done) but ones that occur to me at this time.

I don’t propose to critique the contemporary meaning of some of the key words in this title; equipping, church, mission. Of course, the concepts of church and mission are in flux – dealing with that will not be my priority here. Rather, I simply wish to reflect briefly on a few key thoughts that seek to challenge the core of what being a disciple of Jesus means for us living in Britain today, so that the community of believers may be better equipped to engage in meaningful and authentic mission practice.

A contemporary snapshot…

We live in a world of insecurity, despair and hopelessness – that is the picture for a major part of humanity as we lurch through economic crisis, displacement of identity, war, conflict and a loss of confidence in truth and meaningful existence…this presents a significant opportunity for the global church to reflect the love of God in its mission. In the West, and in the Britain in particular, fresh challenges meet us – an angry constituency demands effective political leadership and greater economic justice, as food banks dole out provisions to more and more in need each week. Distrust in authority, the erosion of purpose and tiredness of existing brittle structures, leaves the community of Christ-followers standing on the threshold of an opportunity that has, perhaps, been rarely available in the recent past – people are looking for signs of hope amid the rubble of despair and lostness, as Leslie Newbiggin once discerned and articulated. Generous dialogue with ‘the other’ is imperative in our cultural milieu.

So, I wish to raise three key dimensions as to how the church might be better equipped to engage effectively in reaching 21st Century Britain. These three dimensions touch on; where we are (the contextual dimension), who we are (the empathic dimension) and where we are going (the hope dimension. These dimensions are to be understood within an overarching framework which is the biblical vision of shalom – or in other words, being sign-bearers of God’s reign ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

Firstly…where we are

I suggest there are 3 key issues we need to fully engage with in contemporary Britain. Firstly, our community must be inclusive and welcoming. In Hebrew life the alien was given certain protections and the Old Testament is full of provisions which sought to include the outsider and welcome the alien amongst God’s people. Contemporary migration gives the church opportunity to show loving acceptance and warm welcome, as well as change cold and oppressive attitudes. Secondly, economic inequality is rampant and a recipe for social dislocation and conflict. Challenging unjust economic and financial structures, and promoting simpler and more creative life-affirming lifestyles is part of the churches’ prophetic function. Being bold, courageous and true disciples points the way that others may follow – becoming missional communities affords that possibility. Thirdly, the Gospel of love and truth needs new forms of expression within a plethora of ideologies and worldviews. We stand at the crossroads where our legitimacy and message is questioned and critiqued as never before. Postmodernity asserts that we no longer hold to a meta-narrative of the Truth, but that we must mutually tolerate each and everyone’s truths. Secularism, consumerism, pluralism and multiculturalism make for a lively context in which to live and breathe – our voice is one of many, but our actions can be unique. So, a long hard look at our context and awareness of these three key issues which face our nation today, is a good starting point for taking a reality-check and beginning the process of equipping the church for mission.

This is the first dimension for equipping the church for mission – contextual awareness

Secondly…who we are

Our brokenness and weakness make us ideal vessels to carry the love of God; a counter-cultural message which perhaps is foolishness to the ‘Greeks’, yet carries the only power to really change things. God’s enormous love for the whole of His cosmos, somehow is enabled and manifest in each and every one of us – a love to be shared out and poured out with kenotic extravagance. This is being the missional people of God; in love with God also means being in love with His world, a world which He declared to be good. This love requires us to share the pains as well as the joys of each other.

Do we live what we proclaim? Are we pretending to care when really our love has gone cold? Do we prefer ‘the other’ when we are told ‘the other’ has come to take our jobs and suck our welfare system dry? Do we really understand what incarnational living is, when this may require downward-mobility, the relinquishing of selfish individualism and other privileges we have enjoyed? These are tough questions that cut to the core of our identity. Perhaps the world judged the people of God for who they thought they were, rather than who they really were. We need to be authentic disciples of Christ, and by acknowledging our broken reality, and our utter dependence on God’s loving grace and each other, we may be on the path to fulfilling this second dimension for becoming an equipped community.

Acknowledging our weaknesses and failures gives us hope that we may be lights in the darkness, so I suggest a missing ingredient to be unearthed again in our contemporary society, is empathy; we must rediscover our empathic nature. This is the ability to see ‘the other’s needs, feel the other’s pain and be moved to respond lovingly and appropriately. Jesus was our prime example – moved to compassion, he acted. Loveless and cold duty ultimately serves no one; if it is not done in love we are merely clanging gongs, as 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us.

See this highly watchable video on the Empathic civilisation. In it bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. See also Krznaric’s recent book, Empathy, for more on this subject.

This is the second dimension for equipping the church in mission – becoming an empathic people, who are moved with compassion to love the unloved.

Thirdly…where we are going

The journey of life leads to certain death, and yet the resurrection narrative gives us hope to share with our ‘broken Britain’. Whilst many of our leaders are trying to steer us to ‘business as usual’, we have a significant opportunity as a missional community to model another way. Our eschatology may require re-interpretation. Our future home is a new heavens and a new earth – this world of need and brokenness, destruction and decay, of which contemporary Britain serves as a microcosmic example, is going to be refined and made good. We have a hope that is promised in Scripture, glimpsed in the books of Isaiah and Revelation, and we have been entrusted to be co-participants with God in the working out of that. And yet our hope is not just in the ‘yet to come’, but also in the ‘now’ – this is the reality of God’s kingdom which has been ushered in, and is active today. Working for the common good of His creation is demonstrated through provocatively and pro-actively calling into being this new reality; that is a very hopeful place in which to be.

This is the third dimension for equipping the church for mission – walking the hope journey, founded on an integrated eschatological vision of the Kingdom of God.

The details of this, of course, have to be unpacked – that is for another time! For now these three dimensions of equipping the church for God’s mission, the missio dei, are framed within a vision of shalom – the biblical flourishing of all aspects of life. Our God is an imminent God, intimately in love with His creation, and desiring of our worship and connection, for His glory; that is the essence of being a missional community, and the three dimensions for equipping the church are part of the process of becoming that missional community. I finish with a quote from the book Carnival Kingdom:

‘…the Kingdom is described as an ‘upside down Kingdom’ – radically different to the status quo of earthly kingdoms where power and privilege coalesce in the hands of a few, often at the expense of the majority. At the heart of the vision of the reign of God is the belief that this reign will result in shalom; the delightful and convivial energy of a community at one and at peace with itself, in purposeful service to God and the greater good of the rest of creation’

In summary, we have considered context, empathy and hope. Today we stand only a few months away from the General Election; we need to vote intelligently and courageously…not just what we’ve always voted, nor playing tactical voting ‘games’, but voting for real policies and then holding our political leaders to account to see those promises delivered.

If we have the above dimensions in mind, and the issues raised within them, then our part in helping to equip the church for mission may just help see ‘broken Britain’ become ‘flourishing Britain’.

Book review: Carnival Kingdom

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.

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 post 567 more words

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 https://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 

Business as Mission, Justice and Human Dignity

In the last chapter of Carnival Kingdom, Mats Tunehag explores how the entrepreneurial gift has the potential to bring social reform, model justice and equality, and reduce poverty. Amid complex historic, ethnic, climactic, economic and social dynamics of communities,
biblically-shaped enterprise holds the capacity to serve God and the common good. Historic and contemporary vignettes highlight the vitality of the entrepreneurial strands in our re-imagining and re-weaving of society.

Here are a few snippets from his chapter:-

In just 100 years, this country went from ‘unreached’ to ‘churched’, with approximately 90 percent of the population attending church as members. It is the ultimate success story in the history of Christian mission— if the success criteria are church planting and church growth. In just over 100 days, nearly one million citizens (and church members) were killed—by other citizens and church members—in a brutal genocide in the spring of 1994. The country? Rwanda. It had seen tremendous success in evangelism and church planting but little penetration of the Gospel in ethnic relationships—it had people in church, but not church in people. How we define our mission has both short and long-term implications. Church planting and growth is not wrong, but clearly insufficient as a success criterion. As we look at sub-Saharan Africa today, it has some of the most Christian countries in the world (percentage of Christians), some of the poorest countries in the world, and some of the most corrupt countries in the world. What is wrong with this picture? Is this success? Is this in line with our mission as Christians? Is this what God wants? Our mission and success criteria must include transformation. We want people and societies to be transformed—holistically. The global Business as Mission (BAM) movement is aiming at transformed lives around the world through ethical business with integrity. This sounds grand, but what does it mean?

Many people live and work in the insecure, informal job sector, which is often filled with survival activities in the form of subsistence businesses. Most people hope for a formal job, but many have little or no prospect of finding one. And the problem is increasing. 50 million new jobs need to be created in the Arab world alone by 2020 and there is no indication of that happening. According to the Economist, unemployment rates are 24% in Egypt, 27% in Jordan, 30% in Tunisia, 39% in Saudi Arabia and 46% in Gaza. 44 million people in the so-called rich world are unemployed and another 11 million are underemployed. The human costs are enormous, for joblessness increases depression, divorce, substance abuse, etc. Youth are disproportionately affected and this goes for both rich and poor countries. In Spain, for example, 46 percent of young people under the age of 25 are out of work. In South Africa it is over 50 percent. The challenge is huge and global. What must be done?

Human trafficking, modern day slavery, is the second biggest organised crime in the world. It is worth many billions of dollars and involves very sophisticated transnational operations. Some estimates indicate that about 27 million people have been tricked, shipped, deployed to slave-like work and are held against their will. This is happening all over the world. It is big business. It is organised. The trafficking operations involve all kinds of professions and skills and they are very interconnected;…To adequately address and combat human trafficking we need to build critical mass…and build strategic alliances… I see two major challenges for anti-trafficking initiatives. One problem is that it is mainly two categories of people and groups who are involved: Firstly, legislators, policy makers, and government agencies. Secondly, NGOs, non-profit and volunteer based organisations. These people and groups are good and needed. They are not the problem. The problem is the people and groups who are not involved or not even invited to combat this evil. We know that unemployment makes people vulnerable to traffickers. It is also a fact that we cannot talk about restoration of victims of human trafficking unless we can offer them jobs with dignity. Thus adequate prevention and restoration must include job creation. This means that business people must be a part of anti-trafficking networks…The second problem is disconnectedness. Local and national disconnected anti-trafficking measures are not sufficient to tackle big, organised crime, to initiate preventative steps and to plan and effect rescue and restoration of the victims of these criminal gangs.

Mats Tunehag is a freelance consultant, speaker and writer from Sweden. He has worked in nearly half of the countries of the world, developing global strategic alliances for various constituencies, including Business as Mission. He is a senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, and has lectured widely on Business as Mission as well as published numerous articles and papers on the topic. He initiated and co-led the first global think tank on Business as Mission (BAM) 2002 – 2004, and he is now co-chairing the second global think tank on BAM. He also serves with a global investment fund based on Christian values that helps SMEs to grow in size and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia, by providing financial, intellectual and human capital. He is also a global spokesperson on Religious Liberty & Freedom of Speech for the World Evangelical Alliance. He serves on the Global Council of Advocates International, a global network of 30,000 lawyers in over 120 countries. He has lectured to lawyers in Europe, Latin America and North America on Human Rights issues and lessons learned in building strategic and influential alliances shaping public opinion and legislation. He wrote editorials on international affairs for ten years for a national newspaper in Sweden.

Peace and Violence – the minority Christian experience in India

“The Church has not been able to
successfully articulate the development
needs of the Christian community.” – John Dayal

How do minorities get justice? Judging from the study of minority rights (or thelack of them) in contemporary India in chapter 5 of Carnival Kingdom, the answer seems to be–with great difficulty! In this chapter, Dr John Dayal details the way that justice for minorities, originally skilfully written into the Indian constitution, has become increasingly problematic.

Here are 3 excerpts from his writing:-

“The Asian Centre for Human Rights called it ‘India’s Christianophobia’. ‘That secular India suffers from entrenched Christianophobia is well established but not publicly acknowledged by the State and the society at large. Nothing reflects it more than the denial of reservations to the Dalits who converted into “Christianity” solely because of their religion’, ACHR director Suhas Chakma said in a special report in January 2012. ‘Dalits’ is what the former untouchable Indian castes now call themselves in a militant rejection of the system crafted three centuries ago, and codified by Manu, the Hindu law giver.”

“The impact of a fast globalised economy on the lives of Tribals living in poverty in a land flush with mineral wealth, and an acceleration of large migrations to the six megalapolises of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai, collectively become a short fuse to the powder keg of this nation of 1.2 billion people on the cusp of the second decade of the twenty-first century who see, but do not share in, the oil, land, and digital booms. The emergence of a powerful Maoist movement in a third of the Union’s 35 States and central territories is the violent response to exploitation of resources by multinationals and the mass displacement of people by government acquisition of their homelands.” 

“The established Church [in India] finds itself cornered, partly because of its need to protect the large number of educational and medical institutions it runs, which can be put under pressure either by the majority community or by the state apparatus, as Bishops have found in the past sixty years. This also is the reason why the Church has not been able to successfully articulate the development needs of the Christian community, and explains the many ways its progress has been hindered in the past years. In fact, there is no collective statement made by the Church impressing on the government the need to focus attention on the economic development of a micro-minority which has given to the nation so much in the important fields of education and medicare. The Church has had no success in articulating the crisis in tribal areas where the implementation of the Forest Act in an arbitrary manner and several other administrative actions, have led to large scale deprivation, alienation of land, and mass migrations.” 

Dr John Dayal is one of India’s foremost voices on human rights, and particularly the situation of religious minorities, having been a writer and activist for the past four decades. He is a member of several governmental bodies, including the National Integration Council, and holds senior roles in numerous non-governmental organisations and networks, including as co-founder and Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, and a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He has had a long and distinguished career in the media and in academia. He has authored and contributed to several books, and regularly writes articles on human rights issues in India. He has a long record of investigating and producing substantive and influential documentation on communal violence in India, including Hindu-Muslim rioting and violence against Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. He is one of India’s leading experts on the situation in Orissa state, following the communal violence in 2008.

Human Dignity, Equality, and Liberty in Classic Protestant Perspective

Lat week we profiled some excerpts from John Witte Jr.’s chapter in Carnival Kingdom.

His chapter offers a historical angle on the concept of human dignity as a precursor to contemporary notions of human rights. Luther is not generally known for theologising on such issues, so John Witte Jr. helpfully examines some of Luther’s 16th Century writings to argue that freedom and rights not only have a long-standing tradition in Protestant thought, but find their culmination in God’s perfect law in the new heavens and new earth. Until then, egalitarian notions of equality and liberty still require significant development for a just societal order.

Here are some extracts from his chapter:-

the current ubiquity of the principle of human dignity testifies to its universality. And the constant proliferation of new human rights speaks to their power to inspire new hope for many desperate persons and peoples around the world. Moreover, the increased pervasiveness of these norms is partly a function of emerging globalisation. Since the first international documents on human dignity and human rights were issued, many new voices and values have joined the global dialogue, especially those from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and from various Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Islamic, and Traditional communities.

The task of defining the appropriate ambit of human dignity and human rights today must be a multi-disciplinary, multi-religious, and multicultural exercise. Many disciplines, religions, and cultures around the globe have unique sources and resources, texts and traditions that speak to human dignity and human rights. Some endorse dignity and rights with alacrity and urge their expansion into new arenas. Others demur, and urge their reform and restriction. It is essential that each community be allowed to speak with its own unique accent, to work with its own distinct methods on human dignity and human rights. It is also essential, however, that each of these disciplines, religions, and cultures develops a capacity for conceptual bilingualism; an ability to speak with insiders and outsiders alike about their unique understanding of the origin, nature and purpose of human dignity and human rights.

Luther’s Freedom of a Christian thus became, in effect, his Dignitatis Humanae; his bold new declaration on human nature and human freedom that described all Christians in his world regardless of their “dignity or lack of dignity,” as conventionally defined. Pope and prince, noble and pauper, man and woman, slave and free, all persons in Christendom, Luther declared, share equally in a doubly paradoxical nature. First, each person is at once a saint and a sinner, righteous and reprobate, saved and lost, simul iustus et peccator, in Luther’s signature phrase. Second, each person is at once a free lord who is subject to no one, and a dutiful servant who is subject to everyone. Only through these twin paradoxes, Luther wrote, can we “comprehend the lofty dignity of the Christian.”

The heart of the Protestant theory of equality is that we are all priests before God. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev 5:10, 20:6). Among you, “[t]here is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28; Col 3:10-11; Eph 2:14-15). These and many other biblical passages, among Luther’s favorites, have long inspired a reflexive egalitarian impulse in Protestants. All are equal before God. All are priests that must serve their neighbours. All have vocations that count. All have gifts to be included. This common calling of all to be priests transcends differences of culture, economy, gender, and more.

The great American jurist Grant Gilmore once wrote: “The better the society the less law there will be. In Heaven, there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. In Hell, there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.” This is a rather common Protestant sentiment, which Luther did much to propound in some of his early writings. But a Protestant, faithful to Luther’s most enduring insights, might properly reach the exact opposite projection. In Heaven, there will be pure law, and thus the lamb will lie down with the lion. In Hell, there will be no law, and thus all will devour each other eternally. Heaven will exalt due process, and each will always receive what’s due. Hell will exalt pure caprice, and no one will ever know what’s coming.

John Witte, Jr., B.A. Calvin College, J.D. Harvard, is Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion Center at Emory University. A specialist in legal history, marriage law, and religious liberty, he has published 220 articles, 13 journal symposia, and 26 books. Recent book titles include: Christianity and Law: An Introduction (2008); The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (2009); Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (2010); and Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (2012). Professor Witte’s writings have appeared in fifteen languages, and he has delivered more than 350 public lectures throughout the world. He has directed 12 major international projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty, and on marriage, family, and children. These projects have collectively yielded more than 160 new volumes and 250 public forums around the world.

Yeasting the Public Debate with Good News – part 2

In part 2 of this post, we continue the theme from yesterday, considering how the Christian community can engage constructively, imaginatively and creatively in the public forum. So often injustices result in the perpetration of further injustices (retribution and revenge), whereas the teachings of Jesus offer us a more positive and life-affirming approach, without diluting the seriousness of the impact of injustice on the oppressed. Rather than being irrelevant, the Christian community has much to offer society in the challenging times in which we live. Economic challenges call out for creative and modest grass-roots responses, which a true community has in ample supply – the good news and good acts of the Kingdom!

Marijke will also share some brief insights from her chapter and the concept of the book, Carnival Kingdom, at the launch on the 2nd March (Redcliffe College, Gloucester, UK).

Some further excerpts from her chapter are set out below:-

Dickens is considered to be one of the most persuasive advocates for the poor of his time. His style of writing belongs to Realism. Contrary to the Romantic Movement of the 18th century that gave an idealistic representation of life in literature and the arts, Dickens’ novels vividly describe the world as he knew it, shining a light on dark realities such as the destitution and exploitation of children and the oppression of women. Capturing the imagination across social classes, his books raised awareness and created a vein of sentiment, not merely entertaining Victorian society but giving it a progressive impulse for change.”

Our sonship and our discipleship need to shape our citizenship in the social, economic, cultural, and political complexities of our world. Whereas it is commonly thought that a ‘critical mass’ is needed to bring about social change, most change occurs through strategically placing ‘critical yeast’ into the wider society.”

Proverbs reflects that when God’s people thrive it does society good: ‘When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices.’ Wise living generates blessedness, riches, peace – in other words, shalom (11:10; 3:13-14). And so, our influence is not so much determined by our position in the pecking order or our status, but rather by living our lives through Christ as they are founded on biblical truth.”

Blessed are the shalom seekers, the peacemakers. Blessed are they who have a glimpse of the renewed earth they will inherit, the first rays of which already illuminate their lives. For it disturbs, challenges and inspires them today, invites to new frontiers, awakens the hopeful imagination and makes them gloriously creative.”