(Slight update: 6 April 2009)
This post is a little bit different. I read a LOT of news on my iPhone apps and recently I’ve been emailing interesting ones to myself, collecting them, so I can post them here for you. Here is a selection of talking points that perhaps Christians may want to be aware of and consider. As you read each one, consider this quote
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke (?)
Burke’s alleged quote bears a striking resemblance to the narrated theme of Sergei Bondarchuk‘s Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy‘s book “War and Peace”, in which the narrator declares “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” – Source: Wikisource
So read these and consider how you can be involved in taking practical action which helps others – thereby fulfilling the command of Jesus Christ to love one another.
Greater social connectedness is needed to recover
- Cities Deal With a Surge in Shantytowns – FRESNO, Calif. — As the operations manager of an outreach center for the homeless here, Paul Stack is used to seeing people down on their luck. What he had never seen before was people living in tents and lean-tos on the railroad lot across from the center. “They just popped up about 18 months ago,” Mr. Stack said. “One day it was empty. The next day, there were people living there.” Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”
My thoughts: Every healthy person became who they are because of the people around them – so what hurt people, what people in shantytowns need is the same: good people around them! If you are reading this and you are in a pretty good place in your life – relatively speaking – then consider that it may be because of your family or parents or friends somewhere along the way. You had company. You had some support. You had teachers, lecturers perhaps, classmates. Don’t underestimate what they did for you. They were there, they shared notes, they ate food with you. These people in favellas or shantytowns all around the world need people to come around them and assist. People assisted you to become who you are, they need you to assist them.
The groundwork for this problem was laid in WW1 and WW2 in my view. The world’s men left the world’s women and children. Both suffered from the separation. The men returned damaged or didn’t return. Their families received them back. No one healed. The problem deepened as the NY Times wrote:
”It has always been family, community and country,” she said. ”We are struggling now about whether it is going to be family and nation or if it’s going to be family, community and nation. That’s why I think it is in fact a watershed period, because we are making some critical decisions.” – NY Times Source.
That observation was made in 1997. I think we know how it went from there, at least in some parts of the world.
Dealing with the past, for the future
- The tortured memos – We had two powerful reactions this week after the C.I.A. admitted to destroying 92 videotapes of interrogations that may involve torture and the Justice Department released several of the legal manifestos that former President George W. Bush used to justify mangling the Constitution after Sept. 11, 2001.
- Bush to write book on important decisions of presidency – Former US president George Bush plans to write a “what would you have done?” book about the 12 toughest decisions he made in office. “I’m going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there’s an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened,” he said. “I want people to understand what it was like to sit in the Oval Office and have them come in and say we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, the alleged killer of a guy named Danny Pearl because he was simply Jewish, and we think we have information on further attacks on the US.”
My thoughts: We do not and must not combat evil with evil. And even more importantly, we must ensure that future generations never make the same choice again. Sending leaders to jail (if necessary) for their crimes will ensure that the “good old boys” system is ended and the rule of law and a desire for truth, transparency and justice is upheld. If the error was merely bad judgment, then issue a pardon.
But where the leader defied the law or twisted it and crushed people and tortured and ignored constitutions and destroyed evidence – and remains defiant about it – then we must take a stand in order to build a better tomorrow and ensure politics is not again used in such a way to achieve the goals of a powerful few.
Democratic government is for the people by the people. Not for the richest few by the people. Not for companies by companies.
Let’s not pre-judge the outcome of such an investigation, but rest assured that if we do not investigate and if we do not take a stand, it may be repeated by future generations, because “all that is needed for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing”.
Public service on the increase!
- Economy inspires public service – Online applications are coming in three times faster than a year ago at AmeriCorps, which was created by former president Bill Clinton in 1993 and strongly supported by former president George W. Bush. Those who are accepted into the program agree to serve for roughly a year, for an allowance of just $11,400, tutoring needy children, building houses in poor communities, helping the elderly sign up for health care, responding to natural disasters and more.
- House passes sweeping national service expansion – The Senate passed identical legislation Thursday by a vote of 78-20. President Obama, who spent several years working as a community organizer, is expected to sign it into law shortly. Among other things, the bill would more than triple the number of positions in the AmeriCorps program, from 75,000 to 250,000, by 2017. The increase could have a huge ripple effect in national volunteerism rates. Last year, 75,000 AmeriCorps members recruited and supervised 2.2 million community volunteers, according to Scott.
- People going to churches for help – Pastors say they’re giving out benevolent funds in record numbers, increasing ministries to the unemployed and the financially fearful, even reaching into their own pockets more to help.
- Hard times – Out in California, nearly 60% of all the adult members of the Whitter Area Community Church signed up last weekend for the church’s biggest ever community “Serve Weekend.”
- Prior to coming to power, Rudd seeks church role in politics: 1st article and 2nd article. The same comments are frequently found in Obama’s speeches, prior to coming to power.
My thoughts: It would be great if we could bring these funds to people throught the local church as well. Any avenue is useful. But the real gem is Americorps because it puts back into the community by building low cost housing and renewing the country after decades of exalting the “self” over others.
Explaining the global financial crisis
- The global financial crisis – From time to time in human history there occur events of a truly seismic significance, events that mark a turning point between one epoch and the next, when one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place. … There is a sense that we are now living through just such a time: barely a decade into the new millennium, barely 20 years since the end of the Cold War and barely 30 years since the triumph of neo-liberalism – that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time.
My thoughts: If you are wondering what is going on with this crisis and how did it happen, this is the “must read” article for you.
The centrality of Jesus Christ is needed
- God won’t rescue world from ‘stupidity,’ says top Anglican (Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams) – … the world faces “a whole range of doomsday prospects,” ranging from global warming to threats from what he called “bio-terror” weapons. In such end-of-the-world scenarios, Williams said, “the ultimate tragedy is that a material world capable of being a manifestation … of divine love is choked, drowned or starved by its own stupidity.” But “to suggest that God might intervene to protect us from the corporate folly of our practices is as un-Christian and un-biblical as to suggest that he protects us from the results of our individual folly or sin.”
My thoughts: I wonder what the archbishop thinks happened on the cross? Jesus Christ protected us from the results of our individual folly or sin… exactly the worlds he apparently used. It amazing to me that the spiritual leader of 77 million anglicans denies God’s nature and His intent when He sent His own Son to die for our sins, unrequested, uninvited, unthanked… and in doing so Jesus said that God showed His nature, a nature of forgiveness and kindness and benevolence. I am astounded that the archibishop doesn’t recognise that the core issue of the cross is that God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves – and now that the world is once again facing doomsday, He would simply delight in showing that once again it is only He who has the power and ability to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He shows this so that we might see it, recognise it and turn to Him.
The archbishop’s commentary reminds me of another leader’s amazing comment which directly contradicts God’s very reason for sending His Son.
- Pope says communion is only for pure of heart – June 23, 2008 – 6:05AM – Pope Benedict said on Sunday only the pure of heart could receive communion, a day after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi joked that the Church should extend it to those who have divorced and remarried.
This boggles my mind. The spiritual leader of 1.1 billion Christians/Catholics should be begging people to take communion, because the blood and body of Christ is the ONLY thing that defeats the power of sin and death in our lives. I can’t imagine anyone saying that people are required to defeat sin in their own lives FIRST, without the help of symbolic faith, and only THEN can they participate in the symbolic ritual which enables them to overcome sin in their lives. It’s backward!
It’s like a bank manager saying “first save $50 and then after that I will give you a $10 loan”. If the person is free from sin, then what’s the purpose of His death? And if they aren’t free from sin, then surely they need to participate in the very thing that frees them. I simply cannot understand denying people this act.
It’s like saying “before I give you drugs to heal your sickness, first go get well by yourself”. It’s just not logical and it’s denying people the help they need. Remember that God desires mercy, let’s not be too concerned about law and religious concepts. Let’s get people free from the entanglements that keep them in bondage, by giving them access to an act of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
A grave threat to Christianity
- Unlikely trio defends freedom of speech – They make for a strange trio of bedfellows, Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, David Marr, the journalist, and Janet Albrechtsen, the columnist – public figures whose views on politics, society and religion could not be more different. They may not like what each other has to say, but they will be defending each other’s right to say it… “There are times David Marr has offended me and times, I’m sure, that I’ve offended him. That’s freedom of expression.“
My thoughts: Few things have a greater long term negative consequence than the hoodwink that Tony Blair’s “faith foundation” project is proposing and which has been signed into law in the UK under his leadership and also in Melbourne and was progressing into law in Canada. The idea is that freedom of speech is crippled by “anti-defamation”. Sounds like a good idea, but recently Christians have been arrested in Melbourne for saying Jesus Christ is God and the only way to God. A muslim person was offended and using the anti-defamation laws, he took those Christians to court in Melbourne. Tony Blair thinks this is a great idea. Stop everyone from offending anyone else. That seems like a good idea, until you realize that it shuts down freedom of speech and will NOT AT ALL result in anything useful. On the contrary it will cause legal problems as people have to defend their right to free speech.
And what’s more, this faith foundation disconnects the word “faith” from Jesus Christ and would enforces the separation through freedom of speech laws. Faith is “a force for good” and it places all religions in one mixing pot, with no one able to separate them and claim one to be true and the others false. All in the name of free speech he would cripple and destroy free speech. What Tony Blair is proposing is evil, whether he knows it or not. I feel very strongly about this and while I still have the right to free speech I need to use it.
I have the right to think you are wrong and to say so. And Tony can say the same of me – without me seeking to have him arrested. But what we must not to is fight over our views. Countries can be neighbours and hold vastly different views – and not fight. But suppressing free speech as Tony Blair would do, is to increase the tension in the world and to limit the mingling and exchange of ideas.
And what’s worse is that faith in Jesus Christ on the cross is what brings freedom to this world, and he would exterminate that by outlawing it.
Light flooding the world
- Holder rescinds Ashcroft-era FOIA guidelines – “A presumption of openness,” is now supposed to guide federal agencies’ responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.
- FOI laws were also changed here in Australia.
My thoughts: This is fantastic! It happened during America’s sunshine week. Jesus said people love the darkness and refuse to come into the light. Here are two bold countries who are increasing the light. I think both are token efforts and much more can be done to insure future generations against the kind of abuse both countries recently went through in which lives were destroyed.
I think that what the world desperately needs is greater emotional maturity, not less. Greater ownership of their lives and greater connectedness to each other. Greater tolerance of diverse opinion, not less. More outspokenness, not less. More freedom, not less. We have come through very dark times, time during which people acted with impunity. Future generations will look at how we reacted to this, and they will note if we did nothing and tolerated it.