Resilience or flourishing?

81g3l16743There has been a lot of focus over recent years on the importance of building resilience as if that were the only sustainable answer to the catastrophic impacts of structural inadequacy.

Resilience has to do with the habits and practises we all need to develop which help us to  cope in times of stress and adversity; it has to do with survival in a time of crisis. This is well and good when we define crisis as a temporary episode of ‘intense difficulty or danger’ (Oxford English dictionary). However, when crisis becomes the fruit of an ideological position which severely and negatively affects, on a continuous basis, the lives of some and not others and we expect those affected to become resilient then it seems to me we have a problem; we are no longer talking about an unavoidable crisis to which a valid response would be to build resilience, but we are speaking of a state of affairs or a status quo which produces unequal and unfair outcomes for citizens of the same state/federation/planet. To promote resilience under these circumstances can in effect affirm the very structures which produced the crisis for some and not for others.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said ‘That which does not kill us, makes us stronger’ and this saying settles easily, neatly and largely unchallenged in the stoical sub-consciousness of the post-industrialised mind, along with an array of modern idioms like ‘no pain no gain’ ‘you win some you lose some’ ‘take it on the chin’ ‘take the rough with the smooth’ and so on. These phrases have shaped the way we think about adversity and how we may respond to it, but they offer us no guidance as to what constitutes legitimate adversity to be endured and overcome and what constitutes (avoidable/illegitimate?) adversity, the causes of which need to be understood clearly and resisted or reformed. If Nietzche were to smoothly tut out his famous dictum to my son or daughter in the face of the latter’s protestations against the tedium and existential crisis produced by doing homework or learning to tie their shoelaces it would have wildly different resonance than if he were to belt out the same dictum to a line of child slaves weaving carpets. Yes, both the child slave and my own child would need to develop resilience but the reasons for the need for resilience are different; it is this which needs to be scrutinised.

When words and phrases become mobile and slip into use across an increasingly wide range of contexts they can become problematic, it seems to me. When they then fall into the hands of policy makers and politicians they can become dangerous. A word like resilience can, at best and in a legitimate context, be helpful and appropriate, but in another, it can take on rather ideologically-weighted meanings (I’m hoping that some of my socio-linguist friends will offer some further explanations!).

Recent research published by Kristina Diprose and summarised in her report ‘Resilience is futile: The cultivation of resilience is not an answer to austerity and poverty’ addresses the impacts of using the word resilience with an emerging generation of young people. She notes that

The mainstreaming of resilience in policy and politics coincided with the onset of – and long process of recovery from – the worst recession to hit the UK since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It also coincided with a sustained austerity drive from government; the first domestic manifestations of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and a seemingly irreparable standard of living crisis. A generation came of age and abruptly learned to lower its expectations. Resilient communities, resilient sectors and resilient people are required to suffer these troubled times. In this context, resilience resonates more as a statement of survival than of aspiration – and one that entreats people to consider man-made crises as mysterious tests of character.

Whilst she concords with others that resilience, resistance and reworking are all useful contributors to social and political transformation, she goes on to warn that in the light of her own research resilience can prove to be less than effective in the longer term:

Resilience is a way of encouraging people to live with insecurity because the status quo is deemed insurmountable. Thus conversations about climate adaptation and economic adjustment are dominated by discovering how storms are to be withstood, for they are presumed inevitable. An ingenious disregard for living within limits is how people change the world; but energy diverted to resilience leaves little time for dissent and asking difficult questions. Resilience is reactive and distracts from legitimate indignation. It fixes people to the present, hiding the history that fashioned beggars and kings and proves all imaginable change possible.

It seems that the problems begin when we accept a state of affairs as an unavoidable crisis rather than an avoidable and reformable product of human decision-making; after all, who in their right mind would recommend that an undernourished child, no longer able to cope with the cognitive activity of a school day find ways of becoming resilient in the face of their parents gambling habit? Imagine if schools set up ‘dumpster-running’ as an extra-curricular activity for such children in order to re-skill them in urban-foraging for survival. Would that not seem oddly irresponsible and a failure to intelligently address the reasons for the child’s suffering?

What that child and what many who are currently being encouraged to become ‘resilient’ and ‘buck up’ need is for those who peddle resilience to turn their attention to the concept of ‘flourishing’ rather than ‘survival’. For too long it seems, we have been affirming the law of the jungle; ‘the survival of the fittest’ mantra has shaped the way we think about life in a detrimental way and has made us accept the unacceptable.

The biblical model of managing and imagining community repeatedly re-connects with themes of ‘flourishing’ and ‘well-being’ ‘wholeness’ ‘health’ and legitimate (ie. not by foul means and well-stewarded in the wider community) ‘prosperity’. In spite of the fact that the biblical community (the Israelites or in the NT the Jews), itself often endured periods of genuine and severe crisis, their guiding vision was one of flourishing and abundance for all. The principles of holistic stewardship and the disciplines of wisdom contributed to and maintained the ‘good life’ rather than ‘resilience’. Perhaps this is because, in the wisdom of the scriptural tradition, social and political crisis was not seen as an unavoidable threat or inevitable state of affairs to be endured but rather as a the outcome of a set of simple human decisions which could be resisted and reformed…even if…for rather a lot of prophets it meant losing their head in the process.

Of course, we are not operating in a theocratic state but we are nonetheless sharing the planet with billions of other people and we need to ask ourselves if the concept of resilience (rooted in a scarcity/survival or crisis paradigm) is an adequate or appropriate one to promote the kinds of changes which will be required to enable the flourishing not only of humanity but of all of creation? Of course, there are many aspects to life which are a blend of crisis and challenges and possibilities which need to be navigated wisely and where both moments of resilience and flourishing can rightly be anticipated.

I leave you with another quote from Kristina Diprose:

Resisting resilience does not mean giving up. Quite the opposite – it calls for more courage. Imagine if the time and effort invested in future-proofing ourselves was instead given to fully occupying the present, and to more determinedly realising the change we want to see. The road to recovery is not easy, but with so many people in our communities pushed to breaking point, what other option is there? We can do better than survive: we need to reconnect with our conviction, and bounce back from the brink.

Post-election reflection on reviving exuberant hope

As the British election results sink in and we move on into the unknown but highly speculated upon future, there is little doubt that the mandate of those of us who profess to Hope, to Love and to have Faith, is largely unchanged…whatever our particular political convictions are. That mandate includes being salt and light; preserving and keeping fresh all that is good in our society and protecting against the toxic ‘social infections’ which ravage and destroy well-being. And, in addition, faithfully bringing revelation, insight and truthfulness into the public square to enable vision and expose lies. We certainly must neither lose our saltiness nor let the light dim and Jesus encourages us to remain in him in order that we ‘bear much fruit’ and stay salty and full of light; in fact his assertion was so strong he added ‘apart from me you can do nothing'(John 15:5). It is a good reminder to keep humble but it is also an urgent call to keep engaged and effective…Thomas Merton, in his reflections of Christian presence and resistance to evil in the chapter The time of the end is the time of no room, in his book Raids on the unspeakable, puts it this way:

It is therefore very important to understand that Christian humility implies not only a certain wise reserve in regard to ones own judgements-a good sense which sees that we are not always necessarily infallible in our ideas-but it also cherishes positive and trustful expectations of others. A supposed “humility” which is simply depressed about itself and about the world is usually a false humility. This negative, self-pitying “humility” may cling desperately to dark and apocalyptic expectation, and refuse to let go of them. It is secretly convinced that only tragedy and evil can possibly come from our present world situation. This secret conviction cannot be kept hidden. It will manifest itself in our attitudes, in our social action, and in our protest. It will show that in fact we despair of reasonable dialogue with anyone. It will show that we expect only the worst. Our action therefore seeks only to block or frustrate the adversary in some way. A protest that from the start declares itself to be in despair is hardly likely to have positive or constructive results. At best it provides an outlet for the personal frustrations of the one protesting. It enables him to articulate his despair in public. This is not the function of Christian nonviolence. This pseudo-prophetic desperation has nothing to do with the beatitudes…No blessedness has been promised to those who are merely sorry for themselves…the meekness and humility which Christ extolled in the Sermon on the Mount and which are the basis of true Christian non-violence are inseparable from an eschatological Christian hope which is completely open to the presence of God in the world and therefore to the presence of our brother who is always seen, no matter who he may be, in the perspectives of the Kingdom. Despair is not permitted to the meek, the humble, the afflicted, the ones famished for justice, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers…They refuse to despair of the world and abandon it to a supposedly evil fate which it has brought upon itself. Instead, like Christ himself, the Christian takes upon his own shoulders the yoke of the Saviour, meek and humble of heart. The yoke is the burden of the world’s sin with all its confusions and all its problems. These sins, confusions, and problems are our very own. We do not disown them. 1.

So how do we go about ‘owning’ the ‘burden of the world’s sin with all its confusions and all its problems’? Even for those who are rejoicing and relieved at the outcome of recent elections and certainly for those who are tempted to despair at the results, there can be no doubt that over the course of the next 5 years our nation faces considerable challenges to social cohesion; the possibility of growing outbreaks of instability rooted in growing inequality has neither evaporated nationally, nor even more significantly, globally and I find Walter Brueggemann’s insights on how we can participate constructively very helpful. In his book Deep Memory Exhuberant Hope: contested truth in a post-Christian world Brueggemann speaks of how we identify the dominant, destructive narratives of our time, their effects in society and how we can imagine and enact alternative narratives which subvert them.  He nails the dominant narrative, or version of reality as one of VIOLENCE:

This can run all the way from sexual abuse and racial abuse to the strategy of wholesale imprisonment of deviants to military macho that passes for policy. It eventuates in road rage and in endless TV violence piped into our homes for our watching pleasure. I suspect that underlying all of these modes of violence is the economic violence embedded in free-market ideology, which denies an obligation of openness to the neighbour who is in truth a deep inconvenience and a drain upon resources. (p6)2.

He suggests that a resistance to this Dominant Version of reality will require acts of ‘sustained imagination’ in 3 main areas: The first area is that of MATERIAL DEPRIVATION  ‘fostered by a myth of scarcity,the driving power of market ideology’ (p6) the antidote to which is a generous sharing and affirmation of abundance which is rooted in the faithful generosity of God the PROVIDER. The biblical account of the provision of enough in the wilderness and Jesus’ feeding of the thousands were subversive counter-narratives to the social myth of scarcity which breeds fear, insecurity and violence. In Brueggemann’s paraphrase, Jesus was demonstrating that even in times of oppression ‘where the gospel is trusted, loaves abound!’ (ibid) The second area he highlights is the BREAKDOWN OF CONNECTIONS-the ‘severing of elemental social relationships’ which drives people into isolation and defensive fearfulness. The antidote to alienation is the affirmation of covenantal community and solidarity which is precedented in the ‘offer of covenant, a vision, a structure, and a practice that binds the “haves” and the “have nots” into one shared community, so that we are indeed members of each other… where one suffers all suffer and when one rejoices all rejoice together…the only available alternative to the dissociation that fosters and legitimates and thrives on violence from below and violence from above.’ (p7) The third and final area he notes as being an important ‘breeding ground’ for violence is the SILENCE ‘of being vetoed and nullified and canceled so that we have no say in the future of the community or of our own lives’ (p.7). The antidote to silence is the legitimation of speech  a ‘speech that breaks the silence of violence and the violence of silence’ which often comes officially unlegitimated ‘from below in the daring speech of the silenced.’ Brueggemann notes a function of the Psalms as legitimating the voice of the oppressed and in doing so breaking the collusion of silence ‘speaking truth amidst power, speaking truth to holiness and evoking newness’ (ibid)

1.  Merton, T. (1994) Raids on the unspeakable, Burns and Oates Ltd.

2. Brueggemann, W. (2000) Deep Memory Exhuberant Hope: Contested truth in a post-Christian world, Mineeapolis: Augsburg Fortress

For the love of money

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It is budget day in the UK and in advance of a General Election the energy around it is heightened.

If there was one single issue which has greatest axis value in discussions around justice it might well be money and its affiliated sources and resources and attendant power.  Many who set out to ‘do the right thing’ can be derailed by what Paul in his letter to Timothy describes as ‘the love of money’. Our legitimate needs for security and provision can grow into excessive and anxious amassing of wealth which surprise us by tapping into our need for the power and the status it can bring.

The Jubilee Centre has done some excellent work in tracing biblical examples of fair distribution of resources and seeking to apply these principles to modern life. In addition, a recent Radio 4 series on Debt very usefully explores the history, theology and functions of debt in the modern use of money.

I often wonder what situations Paul was thinking about when he warned Timothy that the ‘love of money is the root of all evil’ or, as he went on to say next in the same passage, that, ‘Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’ (I Timothy 6:10). Paul would have understood the pressures of living under the shadow of Rome, where heavy taxation built roads which benefited the entrepreneurial merchants who scuttled down the new highways of opportunity and paid warriors (and their armourers and weapon-makers!) who patrolled the borders of the Empire. He no doubt also would have understood the temptations to abandon the ‘inefficiency’ of caring for the vulnerable or weak (weakness was anathema to the imperial mindset) and the ‘time-wasting’ and money that that involved. Yet, he saw incisively the threat that pursuing money as an end in itself posed to the integrity and wholeness of a faith community.

It is always sobering to consider how our national budgets reflect the values and priorities our politicians have for the economy and as we weigh these priorities it is worth reflecting on how we are using our resources as a tool to further the goals of caring for the sick and the vulnerable and providing for those who cannot provide for themselves as well as paving the way for sustainable economic development.

“For The Love Of Money”

Money, money, money, money, money [6x]
Some people got to have it
Some people really need it
Listen to me y’all, do things
Do things, do bad things with it
You wanna do things, do things
Do things, good things with it
Talk about cash money, money
Talk about cash money
Dollar bills, yallFor the love of money
People will steal from their mother
For the love of money
People will rob their own brother
For the love of money
People can’t even walk the street
Because they never know
Who in the world they’re gonna beat
For that lean, mean, mean green
Almighty dollar, money

For the love of money
People will lie, Lord, they will cheat
For the love of money
People don’t care who they hurt or beat
For the love of money
A woman will sell her precious body
For a small piece of paper
It carries a lot of weight
Call it lean, mean, mean green

Almighty dollar

I know money is the root of all evil
Do funny things to some people
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime
Money can drive some people out of their minds

Got to have it, I really need it
How many things have I heard you say
Some people really need it
How many things have I heard you say
Got to have it, I really need it
How many things have I heard you say
Lay down, lay down, a woman will lay down
For the love of money
All for the love of money
Don’t let, don’t let, don’t let money rule you
For the love of money
Money can change people sometimes
Don’t let, don’t let, don’t let money fool you
Money can fool people sometimes
People, don’t let money, don’t let money change you
It will keep on changing, changing up your mind

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

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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’.

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 

Churches and Sustainable Communities conference (part 3)

Part 3 of Richard’s blog…looking st science and theology in the light of Sir John Houghton’s short talk updating us on climate change and the church. Incidentally, climate change and its impact will be the main theme of next year’s conference…more details to follow in due course. Andy

Bread ovens and bicycles

This week I am reflecting on a conference I attended at the weekend, see part 1 and part 2 for more information.

Sir John Houghton

After lunch we had a short, informal session with Sir John Houghton who is a highly respected climate scientist, former head of the Met Office, founding member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and president of the John Ray Initiative.  He has recently published his autobiography, In the Eye of the Storm, which is a great book.  It gives a fascinating insight into the development of meteorology, a discipline which exploded through the second half of the twentieth century with the development of computers and satellite technology.  Sir John was at the forefront of the field all the way through those changes and the book charts his journey as he faces storms of public opinion, bureaucratic obstinance and powerful vested interests.

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Food waste and food loss

An excellent post on food waste/loss – thanks Jeremy for pointing out this interesting (and challenging!) research.

Make Wealth History

This week the World Bank has been highlighting the problem of food waste, reinforcing previous findings that between a quarter and a third of the world’s food is lost or wasted.

I’ve written about this before, pointing out that this happens in developing countries as well as overconsuming Western ones. The World Bank report gives us a breakdown between the two, which I’ve not seen before.

food-waste-breakdown

In deciding which part of the world has a bigger problem, bear in mind that roughly one in seven of the world’s people live in developed countries.

The report also gives us a helpful distinction between food that is ‘lost’ and food that is ‘wasted’.

Food loss is the bigger problem in developing countries, and “typically occurs at the production, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing stages of the food value chain. It is the unintended result of technical limitations or poor infrastructure.”

Food

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