Tag Archive: Two Cents


twocents2

Two Cents is the blog associated with Common Change, the non-profit that tbV and myself work for. It is a blog site which we are hoping till become a hub for conversations, dialogue and media sharings on the theme of where FAITH intersects with ECONOMICS [with a healthy measure of JUSTICE added in] and it is starting to gain momentum. Here are a selection of some of the top articles from the last couple of weeks that people have been particularly interested in. We would love for you to pick one [or all of them] and go and read it and leave your thoughts [your two cents?] in the comments section…

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http://twocents.co/features/the-amish-and-economic-innovation

‘What can we learn from this case study about finding imaginative and innovative ways to stay true to our own principles in the modern economy?’

http://twocents.co/articles/moving-from-a-minimum-wage-to-a-living-wage

‘The principles and foundations Nigel expresses have deep significance across geographic contexts. What does it mean to pay a living wage in our context? What will paying a living wage “cost” you and what are the potential effects doing so will have on the individuals and societies you find yourself engaged in? Is it worth “finding a bargain” on wages that impact people’s ability to live?’

http://twocents.co/articles/a-pontiff-for-the-poor-is-there-any-other-kind

‘In his short tenure, Pope Francis has redefined and breathed life into the papal office. As a result, a office that many saw as dead and irrelevant; is now brimming with life. While we at Two Cents applaud much of what he has done, we are especially interested in how he views the intersection of faith and economics.’ 

http://twocents.co/features/the-liturgy-of-abundance-and-the-myth-of-scarcity

‘Can we, like Jesus, imagine a new reality, an economy of enough, a liturgy of abundance? “When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd [as told in Mark’s gospel] found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread. These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. ” But our taking, blessing, breaking and giving – our sacramental expression of our fundamental belief in “creation infused with the Creator’s generosity” and our call to express this same open-handedness to our neighbors – cannot exist if we continue to believe in the myth of scarcity. With that all we can do is  hoard, profane, accumulate and keep to ourselves the richness of God’s abundance.’

http://twocents.co/features/the-not-so-simple-life

Below are three points I want to remember as I attempt to gouge entitlement out of my own life. I suspect, like pulling weeds, it’s going to be a life-long exercise:

1. I have enough.

2. People matter most.

3. God simplified.

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So there you have it – just a glimpse of what we are trying to do at Two Cents and we would love for you to get involved which you can do in a number of ways:

[1] Visit the site, read the articles, comment on them – share them with people who you know that you think they will resonate with.

[2] Send me articles/videos that you feel are relevant to the theme of where FAITH meets ECONOMICS [with a generous helping of JUSTICE] – I won’t be able to use all the ones I get but if you find something that is particularly challenging or encouraging then please email it to brett@commonchange.com and give me the option of using it.

[3] Suggest a writer – if you know someone that writes well on that theme who might be up to writing an original piece for the site, please send them my way.

[4] Volunteer – we are looking for a team of 10 to 20 people who will donate an hour or two a week to Common Change by committing to visiting Two Cents a few times a week and commenting on at least one but preferably two of the new articles we post. If this sounds like something you’d be up for or if you know someone who has a passion for this theme of stuff then email me at brett@commonchange.com and sign up.

changeA little bit of a catchup on how tbV [the beautiful Val] and my work is going at Common Change

Things are going pretty well – we have moved from a space of setting things up and getting them ready to having them ready and seeing people start to slowly come on board and so it is an exciting time but also feels a bit like a time of pregnancy [no, we’re not!] in terms of something has happened but the main event still feels a little bit in the future.

I have moved from doing a lot of bug fixes and testing on the new site to a space of marketing and sharing the vision of Common Change and seeing people take steps to sign up. We had a really successful online webinar a few weeks ago and most of the people who were part of that have started or continued a journey with us at Common Change. That is a great way to get started and have some of your questions answered and we will be doing two more on Tuesday the 6th of August so if you are interested then check out the event and sign up.

Val does a bunch of stuff involving policy and procedure but is also largely involved with moving people from being interested parties to joining Common Change and becoming part of functioning groups [when a group is fully active and functioning it gets passed on to me to keep an eye on and walk alongside] and there are a bunch of groups at the moment that are close to full on launching stage and so that can be really exciting although hugely-patience-enducing too as we just want to see them jump and get going. She does a really excellent job at managing that side of things and staying in touch with people. She has also recently jumped into the finances side of things as well so learning and contributing much there.

So the online phone call is one way to get involved. But we have recently added another which is a great way for people who are excited about it but maybe have not got a group of people around them who are interested or at the point of jumping-in’ness yet and are really wanting to get moving. We have started a group called CONNECT [with a monthly contribution of $25 asked for] and one called MOVE [monthly contribution of $50 required] as a 6 month commitment for anyone who is wanting to try this Common Change thing out and see how it works and get started with it. The hope is that as you take part you will have some stories to share your friends or colleagues and that after the 6 month participation you may have found the people in your life to be able to start your own group with. So a great way to get ones feet wet with a fairly low input.

Another part of Common Change that we are excited about is the Two Cents blog we have going which looks at aggregating [collecting] and also creating articles and other media looking at the intersection of where FAITH and FINANCES [or economy] meet up [with a healthy side order of JUSTICE] and so we have three to five articles added there every week and are inviting people to get involved in the conversations and discussions that emerge as people engage with what is going on around the world. We would LOVE for you to stop by there and add your two cents. Bookmark it and visit it regularly or simply subscribe to the blog to stay in touch with what life-transforming conversations are being had.

At the moment Common Change is set up [from the money perspective largely] specifically for American groups but we have had a lot of interest from countries as varied as Costa Rica, South Africa and Holland and so people are wanting to get going with this and we are definitely investigating ways in which people from other countries can more easily become involved.

So ja, exciting but looking forward to to when the groups that are processing take the final leap and start presenting and meeting needs and we will have more stories to celebrate together.

For those of you who may not be familiar with how Common Change works, in a nutshell it is about connecting resources to people in need through already established relationships. The idea is for a group of people to commit to contributing a certain amount of their finances each month into a common pool. At any point anyone in the group can then share a need of someone that they know [a person they are in one degree of separation of relationship with] and the group will share wisdom and ideas on how best to meet the need long-term and then vote to approve the need. The question we generally hold on to is not whether or not we will meet the need but how will we meet it. This is based on the early church in Acts method of everyone sharing their resources and no-one being in need and feels like a really healthy way of helping us to be intentional in stewarding that which we have well.

For more information check out the website at commonchange.net, jump aboard one of the phone conversations on Tuesday 6 August or check out our blog at twocents.co.

racisteggs

It is obvious there is a problem, that does not need to be proved [and if you still think it does, please head down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of ‘Racism for Dummies’] but the question facing us all [and more especially those of us on the privilege side of things as we have the power and resources to do so, but we had definitely be listening to and following the voices and lives of those on the prejudiced against side as this is their long walk to freedom] is what can we do about it? 

Interestingly enough, this is a blog post that has been waiting in my draft box to be written [enter the Trayvon/Zimmerman court ruling debacle] and so timely that I get to it now. I really hope this will spark a discussion because I am really wanting to figure out some answers here so if you have an opinion or even a thought towards one, please leave your comments at the end of this.

Thought number 1:

# I don’t know that white people are more racist than black people – I think we just profited from it. Black people had to be racist for free.

Right? Having come from an apartheid-past South Africa [legalised racism for the unaware] which still almost 20 years later is filled with the residue and leftovers of our racist past I know there is no easy fix. The excitement of watching sporting events such as the 1995 Rugby World cup victory [with Nelson Mandela playing the hugest part in wearing a Francois Pienaar jersey and presenting the cup] and the recent 2010 Soccer World cup [both hosted by South Africa] and their effect on bringing races and cultures together. Balanced negatively by the racist ideas and ideologies sadly still held by so many and the comments so dismissively thrown out that make an event ‘a racist event’ in seconds.

Conclusions that I have come to from living in South Africa:

Conclusion #1: Racist white people are racist

Conclusion #2: Racist black people are racist

…and so on.

So where does that leave me? What can I effectively do to make a difference?

Reality: I can’t do a whole lot about racist black people except shine – I have no voice there. Only my actions of demonstrating a different reality to the one they have known is likely to make any difference at all. The starting point here is not being listened to. For the most part this is going to have to come from other black people who will at least be able to get a word or example in before being dismissed.

When it comes to white racists, I do have more of a voice, but the reality is probably not to the extremes. Again I can model something different, something diverse and full of working unity, but those in whom it is entrenched are going to take a miracle to get through to [fortunately I do believe in One whose business is miracles].

I think where I have the largest impact potential is in the lives and minds and voices of those who embrace subtle racism [starting with me, always easier to notice this crap in other people – who are the friends of colour I am inviting to point out racist thoughts, ideas and attitudes in my own life? Good start!] So those who don’t think they are racist but say or do racist things in my presence, particularly those I have relationship with [whose lives I have perhaps earned the right to speak into]

An example of a subtle [in a South African context at least] – calling the 60 year old man who works in your garden ‘boy’ – maybe a way to figure out if it is racist or not is to reverse the races of the individuals in the example and so now you have a 20 or 30 year old black man calling a 60 year old white man “boy” – how does that go down for you?

Maybe it’s even taking it one step further – maybe a subtle is even making a 60 year old man work in your garden?

Not knowing the names of the children of the woman who has cleaned your house every week for the last two years? Not being invested in their education and wellbeing? [Surely if her family life is worse somehow as a result of her working for you there are some serious questions to consider?]

Perhaps it requires asking a higher grade of question with regards to the people who work for you, as evidenced in this Living Wage vs Minimjum Wage article on Twocents.co?

If your friends make a racist joke or comment in your presence, doing something about it or at the very least walking away to show you are not up for that. [Although I think it requires some form of direct confrontation, if maybe a private one later, for the thing to ever be actively dealt with]. Refusing to allow racism in any form to be allowed to safely pass by in your presence?

What else? Where do you see subtle ways in which racism is evidenced around you? What solutions would you recommend for those of us who are really wanting to be a part of the change but don’t really know where to start? 

In terms of people of other races who exhibit subtle racism, I think we have a part to play with them as well. That of friendship. It is a lot easier to be racist towards people you don’t know – towards “the other”, “them” or “those people” but once relationship has formed… once there is a name and family members and a shared story… well then suddenly it becomes a lot different. So I definitely think a huge key in this is for white people [in particular] to listen. To learn names and invite stories and really listen. Not to justify or to be defensive or talk about how we inherited this and it’s really not our crap. It’s the crap we are in and it is our reality and we have to own that. And start working together to move beyond that.

skeletons

 

“I think the church has lost its path, you know. It is so entertainment-focused. The true place of the church is here, where Jesus would be and we are trying to bring that back. We are motivated by convictions around justice, and looking at the life of Jesus, and the book of Matthew in which we learn to love our enemies. The job of the church is to be a sign of hope for a community and the greatest weapon we have as Christians, is love. At the end of the day Christianity is about sacrifice and the cross.” [Nigel Branken from this article by Jessica Eaton titled, ‘Hope in Hillbrow: ‘If Jesus lived anywhere, it would be here.’]

branken

The Two Cents blog I help put together [conversations on the intersections between FAITH and FINANCES with some JUSTICE thrown in for good measure] recently ran a deeply challenging article by Nigel looking at the difference between minimum wage and a living wage in terms of how we pay those who work for us. So not too much surprise that I discover that him and his family are practicing what they preach having moved into one of the worst trouble spots in South Africa.

In the midst of everything that has happened around us in Americaland such as the whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman shooting case which brought a lot of issues of colour to the fore], this feels like a timely word and example. As church leaders, families and individuals wrestle with trying to find an appropriate response and to journey with those who would return violence for violence [understandably to an extent as this is not an isolated incident but rather one more to add to a history of fear and prejudice] the example of this middle class South Africa family might have something to say:

Nigel takes me out to the balcony overlooking Kapteijn Street and points at all the people he knows. “The best way to keep safe around here is to know as many people as you can. If you know people, they won’t hurt you.”

This all sounds too familiar to my own journey of reading Acts 2 and 3 and looking at the early church and sensing something different from what it has become and the line about church being entertainment-focused does not sound too far from the truth for a large number of them at least. Having moved into Kayamandi township for 18 months and then spent some time at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, although I didn’t quite find the answers and resonance I was searching for there I certainly was introduced to some of the deeper questions and made connection with a variety of different people who are seeking out this Truth in very different contexts and ways.

Like Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I feel like I’m getting closer. Looking at Nigel’s motivation there are some similiar echoes and a call for me to head back to Matthew:

“I had been going through a bit of a journey myself … now obviously we are doing this as a result of our Christian faith and we looked at Matthew 5,6 and 7, huge scriptures for us, all about Jesus’s beatitudes and the same text that inspired Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and all of those significant leaders.

“They have all looked at those teachings of Jesus and have felt that their lives were totally different from how we live our Christian faith. And when I looked at those scriptures again five years ago, I was shocked because I realised my Christianity looked nothing like it.

So take the time to read this article and try and hear and see the sounds and smells of Jesus in their story and ask the difficult questions about your own life, the church you are part of, the mission Jesus really called us to. And if there is something that needs to change, then be bold enough to step out – start small if you must, but do something, because this status quo is starting to smell…

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