Category: what i am reading


rich

Continuing the passage i am sharing from the Ron Sider book, ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’, i’ll back up one paragraph just to remind us where we were:

= = = = =

If there are poor people who need assistance, Jesus’ carefree disciple will help – even if that means selling possessions. People are vastly more important than property. “Laying up treasure in heaven” means exactly the same thing. “In Jewish literature, the good deeds of a religious person are often described as treasures stored up in heaven.” Continue reading

biko

A while back i shared a number of passage from the Steve Biko book: I Write What I Want. Which are all well worth checking out, as is the whole book if you get the chance. i found one more i would like to share with you which is an example of Steve’s conduct while under hostile examination as well as his ‘perceptive understanding of the difference of black and white uses of language’. This comes from Chapter 15 which asks ;What Is Black Consciousness?’: Continue reading

How would you fill those blanks in?

My good friend Sarah Bessey [slash i read her blog and she once tweetered me] has literally just released her latest book, ‘Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith’ which you can buy over here [and probably should!]

sorts

Today Sarah is hosting a synchroblog where she invited close personal friends [slash anyone who stumbled upon her blog] to write a post based on the above title.So i thought i would take her up on it: Continue reading

LET’S LEARN FROM THIS GUY

A couple of different people shared this story with me this last week and it was so powerful that i really wanted to try and capture the heart of it in a blog post so it would stick around for longer. You have likely seen this iconic Olympic photograph before and wondered, like myself and so many others, what is going through the white guy’s mind and possibly questioned his actions:

1968 Summer Olympics picture

Well this story [and seriously go and read the whole thing] gives us an indication of what was going on and it is a powerful story worth spending a few minutes on. The white guy’s name was Peter Norman.

Italian writer Riccardo Gazzaniga comments:

I always saw the photo as a powerful image of two barefoot black men, with their heads bowed, their black-gloved fists in the air while the US National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played. It was a strong symbolic gesture – taking a stand for African American civil rights in a year of tragedies that included the death of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

It’s a historic photo of two men of color. For this reason I never really paid attention to the other man, white, like me, motionless on the second step of the medal podium. I considered him a random presence, an extra in Carlos and Smith’s moment, or a kind of intruder. Actually, I even thought that that guy – who seemed to be just a simpering Englishman – represented, in his icy immobility, the will to resist the change that Smith and Carlos were invoking in their silent protest. But I was wrong.

To be honest, i imagine many of us had the same reaction and thought. But he explains a little later:

Norman was a white man from Australia, a country that had strict apartheid laws, almost as strict as South Africa. There was tension and protests in the streets of Australia following heavy restrictions on non-white immigration and discriminatory laws against aboriginal people, some of which consisted of forced adoptions of native children to white families.

Smith and Carlos had decided to get up on the stadium wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, a movement of athletes in support of the battle for equality.

badge

But then Norman did something else. “I believe in what you believe. Do you have another one of those for me”? he asked, pointing to the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the others’ chests. “That way I can show my support for your cause.” Smith admitted to being astonished, ruminating: “Who is this white Australian guy? He won his silver medal, can’t he just take it and that be enough!”.

Smith responded that he didn’t, also because he would not be denied his badge. There happened to be a white American rower with them, Paul Hoffman, an activist with the Olympic Project for Human Rights. After hearing everything he thought “if a white Australian is going to ask me for an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, then by God he would have one!” Hoffman didn’t hesitate: “I gave him the only one I had: mine”.

Peter Norman returned home and was completely ostracised for his actions and despite running qualifying times for two different events for the following Olympics, he was not allowed to compete.

For years Norman had only one chance to save himself: he was invited to condemn his co-athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s gesture in exchange for a pardon from the system that ostracized him.

A pardon that would have allowed him to find a stable job through the Australian Olympic Committee and be part of the organization of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Norman never gave in and never condemned the choice of the two Americans.

The story has a sad ending as far as Norman was concerned, but a powerful one in the greater scheme of things:

Norman died suddenly from a heart attack in 2006, without his country ever having apologized for their treatment of him. At his funeral Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Norman’s friends since that moment in 1968, were his pallbearers, sending him off as a hero.

Only in 2012 did Australia finally recognise his accomplishment, acknowledge his success and apologise for their actions towards him.

“Peter was a lone soldier. He consciously chose to be a sacrificial lamb in the name of human rights. There’s no one more than him that Australia should honor, recognize and appreciate” John Carlos said.

“He paid the price with his choice,” explained Tommie Smith, “It wasn’t just a simple gesture to help us, it was HIS fight. He was a white man, a white Australian man among two men of color, standing up in the moment of victory, all in the name of the same thing”.

WE DO IT BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT

What stands out in that story for me is that Peter Norman never received acknowledgement for his actions. He did what he knew to be right. And suffered for it. But didn’t even bother to defend his name or try to make people see what he did. He was content to take a step backwards and let those who the fight was really about take the podium.

What is there to be done in the world around us because it is the right thing to do and not simply because of what it will bring for us? How much are we prepared to risk or sacrifice for what is right? 

In South Africa i think the answers to that first question are many. For me one of the pressing needs as a white person is for me to try and figure out what it means to be a better Ally to my black and coloured friends. To Listen more. i believe that greater economic balance is essential, cos i’m not sure i’m suggesting we all have the same, but i definitely feel like the disparity between rich and poor [and by rich i mean anyone reading this on a computer and possibly phone that belongs to them and by poor i mean people whose struggles are enough food and money for rent and not what meal to order at a restaurant or what label of clothes to buy]. i have no idea how this will happen and so much more wrestling needs to happen and part of that is figuring what it means to live more simply. There’s a lot, but this story is a good reminder that it needs to not be about me, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be seen [unless it being seen mobilises other people to do a similar thing]. Lots to think about. And do.

justice

i really enjoyed reading this book by John Perkins recently. Despite being about his experiences in Americaland i found that so much of it resonated with the present conversations happening in South Africa. The passage i posted on Why Do You Live Where You Live? gave much food for thought and there are some other pieces i would love to share, but as always, you will do much better if you just make some effort and get hold of the book. But in the meantime:

ECONOMIC SYSTEMS

[From chapter 17: Can Free Enterprise Work for us?]

‘What kind of economic system is the most Christian? To many the answer seems self-evident – free enterprise.

I would like to agree. I enjoy the opportunity free enterprise offers me. But I cannot agree fully. Along with its advantages, free enterprise is handicapped by a serious flaw – man’s greed. Both biblical history and American history remind us repeatedly that greedy men will use economic freedom to exploit – to profit at the expense of others. Employers pay employees as little as possible in order to maximise their own profits rather than treating their employee’s economic interests as being as important as their own – or, to be thoroughly Christian – more important than their own.

Advertisers create markets for products which no one needs, not from a motive of servanthood, but out of greed, pure and simple. Businesses measure their success primarily but their financial profits – not by how well they glorify God and serve people. What a far cry we are from a truly Christian economy!

A truly Christian economic system would begin with the fact that the earth is the Lord’s, not ours, and that God and God alone has the authority to determine how His wealth will be used. Our job as stewards is to carry out His will. A Christian economic system would recognise that God provides the earth’s resources for all mankind, not just for some. It would be designed to distribute God’s resources to all humanity in some sort of equitable way.

Free enterprise, as it now exists, falls far short of God’s standard. It has failed to distribute the earth’s resources equitably. And when Christianity should have been calling the American free enterprise system into account for its immoral stewardship, it was instead “baptising” the system, adopting free enterprise as an implicit “article of faith.” Free enterprise has become almost a religious doctrine that justifies our greed and substitutes token charity for real economic justice. It enables us to blame the victims of oppression for their own poverty and lets us feel little responsibility to redistribute our wealth to the needy. The result of such a system is predictable – increasing production by the rich, but continuing poverty for the oppressed.

Communism, then, came along as an attempt to distribute the earth’s resources more equitably. Communism sprang into being because apostate religion could not challenge man’s greed. But atheistic communism has not brought justice either.

Neither capitalism nor communism can bring justice to the poor. Once we have seen what God’s Word means by economic justice, that is self-evident. While some economic systems are better than others, no system will serve the people well as long as those who control it are motivated by greed. We as Christians must champion an alternative. We must create a system that is based not on greed, not even on greed tempered by honesty (the ideal of free enterprise), but on justice and love. We must create a system that distributes wealth more equitably in response to human needs. This Christian economic system will by its very existence be a prophetic voice to the world system.

Selfish, unregenerated man will never develop this type of system. We, the people of god, must do it or it will never be done at all.

How do we begin to shape a just economy?

First, we must understand where our economy stands now. When man has abused his economic freedom, using it to produce an unjust distribution of resources, corrective action is called for. The economic plight of American blacks today has its roots in slavery and is the very center of oppression which followed emancipation. It is like a baseball game. In the ninth inning the team which is trailing 20 to 2 discovers that the winning team has been cheating all along. The leading team admits, “Yes, we were cheating, but we’ll play fair now. Let’s go out and finish the game.”

Now it’s good that the team is going to quit cheating, but with the score 20 to 2 the trailing team still has the feeling they’re going to lose. When injustice has been done, establishing justice means something more than “playing fair from now on.” 

In America [read ‘South Africa’ – brett] today, one group has the capital, the other has the labour and the broken spirit. We say to the trailing team, “Get onto the field and play. You are now equal. You don’t need affirmative action. You don’t need special access to job training. You don’t need any kind of special help; that would be reverse discrimination. You are now equal and free.”

Achieving justice in America [read ‘South Africa’ – brett] will require something more than “playing fair from now on.” Economic opportunity in capitalism depends on ownership of capital. The free enterprise system assumes that anyone can have access to capital through his labour and that banks and lending institutions will make investment capital available to anyone who has the will and the know-how to produce goods and services for the marketplace. There is only one problem with that assumption – it’s not true.

The oppressed among us know too well that the oppressive forces which created their poverty in the first place keep them trapped in it. The young black electrician, having never had an opportunity to establish a credit rating, finds it almost impossible to raise the capital to buy the tools and equipment to go into business for himself. The general rule is , “To get capital , you must have capital,” and so the system perpetuates and widens the gap between rich and poor.

Despite its serious failures I don’t want to throw out the free enterprise system. The freedom which many use to satisfy their greed can also be used to develop economic enterprises not based on greed. The free enterprise system gives us the freedom to create businesses designed to serve, rather than to exploit. If we Christians will devote our capital and ourselves to creating such a system, we can make just such a system work. And it can all be done within the context of free enterprise.

[To read the piece John wrote on Relocation, click here] 

Who am i reading? [2015]

lion

i love to read.

i was challenged a couple of years ago by the idea of diversifying the voices that i invited to speak into my life. For me that related mostly to books as i don’t tend to find the time slash bandwidth to do much podcast listening, but it would apply to both.

Continue reading

justice

i am loving this book tbV pickedup for me at The Warehouse by John Perkins. So much of it resonates with where my heart is for South Africa and, although he is using Americaland examples, so many of the truths still completely apply.

WILL I HOLD THEIR DREAM

The well-known Martin Luther King Jnr “I have a dream” speech was the dream of the black person in Americaland. But to be honest, it could only be fully realised once the white people got on board [which required much personal soul searching and recognising of white supremacy in themselves and actively taking on systems] to help get the country to the place it needed to be [although i imagine it, like ours, is still not quite there]. Similarly, in South Africa, for any reconciliation and restitution to take place, it is going to take both white and black people [simply speaking, plus of course all the other people groups respresented here] working together to ensure that the dreams of the currently-have-nots are made possible and in reach.

i want to share two passages from this book so far that greatly moved me in this regard and the first one contains snippets of Dr King’s dream alongside their present reality [despite these words being written some 30 years ago, sadly in the light of #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter and more, there is still much work to be done]:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

‘The crowd erupted into a cheering, applauding, chanting, banner-waving mass of humanity. Dr King had to wait a long minute before he could be heard above the crowd.

Then his voice rang out with the now-famous words of this speech, “I have a dream,” in which he proclaimed in part: ‘Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we now stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

…But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

…There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can not be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied  as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like the waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

…I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

…This will be the day when all God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning. “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

…When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

In these words, Martin Luther King captured many of my own hopes and dreams. His dream was my dream too. Yet at that very time God was at work in my heart, shaping a dream bigger than the American dream, a dream rooted in the very gospel of Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther King Jnr quote

As our little congregation in Mendenhall took shape my faith was approaching a crucial test. Mechanisation was displacing Mississippi sharecroppers, driving them even deeper into poverty. Racial tensions were rising. The problems plaguing our little community were so great, and we were so few. What could we do?

Did the gospel have the power to tear down evil traditions and institutions? Was there a faith stronger than culture? A faith that could burn through racial, cultural, economic and social barriers?

I remember as if it were yesterday how I started searching the Scriptures for principles, for a strategy I could follow. God’s answer came one day as I read the story of the woman at the well in John 4.

First, I noticed how Jesus approached the woman. He came to her on her territory. He chose to go through Samaria. Jews travelling from Judea to Galilee usually crossed over the Jordan river and went around Samaria because of their prejudice. A Jew meeting a Samaritan on the road would cross to the other side to keep even the shadow of the Samaritan from touching him. Jesus deliberately went through Samaria for one reason – He wanted to personally touch the lives of the people there.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

The other two points that John mentions above, that i won’t go into detail in are:

[2] Jesus’ love, His bodily presence in a community, could reconcile people.

[3] He let her felt need determine the starting point of the conversation. 

i want to jump a whole lot of chapters forward in the book to share the next passage which resonates so strongly on my heart – the idea of incarnation, or as it is described in the book, Relocation. Living among the people you are going to be ministering to. tbV and i saw in Philly how valuable that can be in terms of relationship-building and even having any kind of understanding as to what they face on a day to day basis. It is encouraging to see many more followers of Jesus starting to take this more seriously and see that choosing where we live can play a huge part in the reconciliation and healing our country so desperately needs:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

‘As God’s agents on earth, we are responsible to live out this special concern for the poor. You cannot be and you ought not to be in the president’s administration unless you are committed to the president’s philosophy. In the same way you cannot effectively carry out god’s program unless you have the mind of Christ. To have the mind of Christ is to be especially concerned with the poor. It is to have a special compassion for the disenfranchised, for the aching in our society. And it is to act on that concern.

Whether we take the gospel to the poor, then, is not an incidental side issue: it is a revealing test of the church’s faithfulness to Christ’s mission.

How then shall we proclaim Good News to the poor? Once again Jesus is our model. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory , glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” [John 1.14] Jesus relocated. He didn’t commute to earth one day a week and shoot back up to heaven. He left His throne and became one of us so that we might see the life of God revealed in Him. 

Paul says that we are to have this same attitude Jesus expressed when He humbled Himself: “Have his attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil 2.5-8]

Jesus was equal with God, yet He gave that up and took on the form of a servant. He took on the likeness of man. He came and lived among us. He was called Immanuel – “God with us.” The incarnation is the ultimate relocation.

Not only is the incarnation relocation: relocation is also incarnation. That is, not only did God relocate among us by taking the form of a man, but when a fellowship of believers relocates into a community, Christ incarnate invades that community. Christ, as His Body, as His church, comes to dwell there.

Relocating among the poor flies in the face of the materialism of Middle America. To consider relocating, then, forces us to confront our own values. Have we accepted the world’s values of upward mobility? Or have we accepted God’s values as demonstrated in the life of Jesus? That’s the issue.

As I speak around the country, some people find my words on relocation hard to accept. They ask, “Do all have to relocate?”

I answer, “Only those who are called have to relocate.” Then I add, “But if you’re asking the question too angrily, then you may be called. If you are uneasy about it, God may be calling you.”

If you resist the suggestion to relocate, you need to ask, “Why don’t I want to go and live among the poor and wretched of the earth?” Ask yourself the question several times. Your answer will be the reason you ought to go. 

If you have children, you may answer, “The kids in that neighbourhood don’t get a good education.” Then that’s why you need to go. you’ve just discovered a need! In moving to the neighbourhood, their need would become your need. The families in that community need others to feel that need with them, to make it their very own, to do something to improve the quality of education.

You might start a tutoring program, a preschool, a summer enrichment program, or even an elementary school. Whatever method you choose will grow out of relocating.

Now I’m not asking you to sacrifice your children. God gave us our children. They need a good education. If they can’t get one in the public schools, find another option. On the other hand, don’t overlook the educational advantages of sending your child to the neighbourhood school. Their increased understanding of the needs of the culture of the neighbourhood and the friendships they form may more than offset anything they give up academically.

Maybe you don’t want to move into the neighbourhood because of crime. Then that’s why you need to go. You’ve just found another need! Go identify with the people, help them understand the reasons behind the crime. Then work with them to solve the problem. Once you’ve relocated, once you’ve become one of them, you’re in a position to do that. People in an ethnic neighbourhood may hate the police. Refuse to share their hate, however justified: instead, commit yourself to now and the future.

Organise a neighbourhood watch group. Sponsor crime prevention workshops. Build positive, cooperative relationships with the local police. Invite the chief of police or the policeman on your beat to talk with church or community groups. Through letters to the police department, affirm those who do a good job: hold accountable those who do a bad job. Involve the policemen on your beat in community affairs.

In the past, our St. Charles neighbourhood in Jackson has had one of the highest, if not the highest, crime rates in Jackson. During the past year our community’s presence and our crime prevention efforts have cut the crime rate in half in our neighbourhood.

But you ask, “Can’t a suburban Christian minister to those who are aching without becoming one of them?”

And I answer, “Why on earth do you suppose these people have a welfare mentality?” It’s because outside “experts” have come up with programs that have retarded and dehumanised them. Yes, our best attempts to reach people from the outside will patronise them. Our best attempts will psychologically and socially damage them. We must live among them. We must become one with them. Their needs must become our needs.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

And more. This really is a great book to get hold of and read. i hope these two extracts have helped catch some sparks into flame.

Do you have a good answer for why you live where you live? 

%d bloggers like this: