stolen words

April 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm (Things I want to see changed) (, , , , , , )

This is cheating isn’t it? Not my own words, but there is something tearing at me, something that must start to be written and worked out and shared and grappled with. This is that start. I’ll be writing more on social justice and creativity and strategy in the next few weeks and sometimes I will repeat myself, because I’m working it all out too.

Quote from Jim Wallis’ response to Glenn Beck’s attack on social justice

“But we do say that while social justice begins with our own lives, choices, and sacrifices, it doesn’t end there. Those of us who have actually done this work for years all understand that you can’t just pull the bodies out of the river, and not send somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in. Serving the poor is a fundamental spiritual requirement of faith, but challenging the conditions that create poverty in the first place is also part of biblical social justice. In countering Beck’s misunderstanding of social justice on The Colbert Report, James Martin, an editor of the Jesuit America magazine, quoted a Catholic Archbishop as saying, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint; but when I ask why people are poor they call me a communist.” He suggested Beck has that problem.

Private charity, which Beck and I are both for, wasn’t enough to end the slave trade in Great Britain, end legal racial segregation in America, or end apartheid in South Africa. That took vital movements of faith which understood the connection between personal compassion and social justice. Those are the movements that have inspired me and shaped my life — not BIG GOVERNMENT. And my allies in faith-based social justice movements have wonderfully different views on the role of government — some bigger than mine and some smaller than mine — but we all believe social justice requires changing both personal choices and unjust structures. Apparently Beck thinks social justice ends with private charity, but very few churches in the nation would agree with him.

Listen to what we teach: you start by practicing social justice in your own life, then you act for social justice in your family, your congregation, your community, in the most local way possible. The Catholics call that “subsidiarity” — look it up. And you only work to change government when you can’t accomplish things on a smaller scale. Churches were the very best in responding to Katrina, for example, but churches can’t build levees. And Glenn, voluntary church action can’t provide health care for millions who don’t have it, or fix broken urban school systems, or provide jobs at fair wages, or protect our kids from toxic air, water, and toys, or fix a broken immigration system that is grinding up our vulnerable families, or keep banks from cheating our people. All that requires commitments to holding governments accountable to social justice, and advocating for better public policies.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/what-glenn-beck-doesnt-un_b_511362.html

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creativity

April 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm (Things I want to see changed) (, , , , , , , )

“The bottom line is that to turn information into strategic action, we need people/groups who are ready to take responsibility for what happens at teh intergroup level of mission, a level at which we can talk beyond reacting to needs and focus on teh factors that create and maintain those needs. It takes a system to intentionally transform a system, and I beleive that is what the church is for 🙂 ”

I have been grappling with the micro/macro split in the church’s approach to social problems and social justice. On the one hand we tend towards taking the moral highground on many issues and become known more for what we are against than for what we are for. So we vehemently oppose prostitution and abortion and gays etc. But we very rarely have viable solutions to the ’problems’ we so readily identify. As a result, the church often ends up taking the back-seat to international aid organisations, government and ’secular’ civil society groups.

On the other hand, where we do attempt reconciliation and to rectify social issues, we often limit our effectiveness by haphazard (albeit well-meaning) and often naive responses. As noted above, we often fail to do our research and find out what is really going on and what the issues at stake are. We go in with small-scale micro-level programmes attacking the symptoms, but very rarely having any effect on the causes and the macro-level systems which are causing, for example, gross human rights violations (human trafficking), HIV/AIDS, poverty, and gender inequality. We are very effective at changing individuals, but less skilled at transforming peoples, groups, societies and culture.We do need to start talking beyond “reacting to needs and focus on the factors that create and maintain those needs…that is what the church is for .”

As an example, South Africa is currently caught in a national debate around the decriminalisation of prostitution. For the most part (and I stand to be corrected), Christian response to this issue has been in the form of well-intentioned letters to the editor or the Commission, or to government, lobbying for prostitution to remain illegal. I too, vehemently oppose the legalisation of prostitution. But in our vociferous responses, and through a severe lack of information and understanding, the church in South Africa has come across as callous and unconcerned. In reality, prostitution in South Africa is very often a series of gross human rights violations (and again, situations do vary so this is a generalisation but highlights some of the issues at stake). Women, often struggling to support families in a context of severe poverty, are raped by clients, picked up by police and raped, locked up in jail overnight and raped, and in the morning released for the process to start again. They have no recourse to the law or any protection. Instead of providing alternative and creative solutions and ’strategies’ to impact this state of affairs, the church has often taken the moral highground in condemning the symptom rather than addressing the system.

I passionately desire to see us step into the FULL CREATIVITY of our Creator God! I desire for strategies that blow the world away. I desire to see the church at the forefront of creative strategy and engagement with the concerns of society. We have a God who is more than able to provide solutions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and which transform society, people groups and culture. How to tap into that creativity and those strategies is the question…

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dear carlzen

April 24, 2010 at 7:59 pm (People I have known) (, , , , , , )

Your eyes. Your eyes stay with me, years and years on (memories tag, snag, haunt, call). I look into your eyes, only child. Child only. The depths of your eyes – deeper than the depths of the sea;born from the depths of crashing waves – your eyes hold the secrets of the old, hold the sorrows of the world, hold in them the stories of every story come after. Every child only who tore my soul (tears my soul) lived and died and lived first in the stories of your eyes. Child only, my first child. I look back into your beautiful, beautiful eyes and I promise to speak.

Your silence – all the tears, all the sandcastles, all the soundless screaming, dying for hands that must not touch you – your silence screams at me. Your silence – which turned from me and felt its lonely way away, hugging close-tight the walls – your silence pleads with me. Around you go for hours and hours and endless hours. Hours which tear me to my core as I watch you, round and round.

You turn – turn from me and stand still – tense, frigid – you stand willing yourself away. Willing the walls to hold you. You stand – breath held til it hurts – lest they see you. Lest the world see you. Sees you. Silently standing.

The wave – monstrous wave. Monster. Raises itself, dwarfs you, pauses a moment to savour its own sadistic menace. Then crashes down on you. Crushes you. Grabs you and smashes you. Child. Only. Air – all the air that filled your tiny lungs, breathed your moment life – is sucked from you. Life is ripped slowly from your clenched child hands. Your body cries, sorrow wrought from timeless ages gone.

Silence descends. Silence which kept you alive before your soul’s death. You lie – tense, frigid, still. Willessly slipping away. Your eyes stare up through the depth of the sea which holds you still. You stare motionless up through the white foam, ageless, blown furiously aside. Your soul is old.

You lift your eyes to mine. Your scream pierces. I lose my soul within your pleading eyes. I lose my soul yet also find it.

Your eyes stay with me years and years on and drive me. I’ll scream. I’ll scream as loud as it takes. I’ll fight. I’ll fight with all of my soul for you.

I’ll take your tiny child only hand, again, in mine and sit with you. Teach you all the colours of the morning sky and more. I’ll hold your hand as waves and breakers (the roar of waterfalls) wash over you. Wash you. We’ll chase that ageless white, holding the colours in our hands as the sun shines down through the sea’s breath – breath that breathes into you. Breathes you. Your breath fills me – breathes life into life, passion, vision, devotion.

You become my life anthem; my voice sprung from your vow of silence. You are what drives me. Because I love you. I love you, beautiful child only. Carlzen.

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