Friday, February 24, 2006
how cool is that.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
I was up at 2:15am this morning to watch Australia play its first game in the Asian Football Confederation.
For those that haven't been following the news, Australia switched on the first of January 2006 from the Oceania Confederation to the Asian Confederation.
This morning's game was the first senior mens game since the switch.
Australia beat Bahrain 3-1.
It was a good game to watch.
Yesterday was a new beginning because Melissa and I bought a new computer.
We bought a 14" ibook.
It is a great computer, we are loving it.
Anyway, I am heading off to play my new computer.
Will post again soon.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
"Poverty is no shame for those who have not. Poverty is a shame to those who have"
“Poverty is perhaps the greatest threat to faith in a just and loving God.” How does poverty fit with the idea of a loving God? This is an issue that the Biblical writers grappled with. God does not miraculously intervene in the situation of the Biblical poor. Does this mean that God does not care for the poor? In Deuteronomy 10:18 we are told that God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien. But verse 19 shows us how God plans to intervene in the situation of the poor, ‘you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.’ In the Biblical narrative we are presented with a God who cares for the poor, he doesn’t wish to leave them to be poor. But rather than miraculous intervention, God expects his people to intervene in the situation of the poor.
The Biblical narrative is full of God directing his people to care for the poor. In the Torah, God speaks through the statutes of the Israelite people, directing them to look out for and care for the poor in their community. Leviticus 25: 35 they are told ‘if one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” In Deuteronomy 15:7–8 they are told not to be tight fisted to the poor, but ‘rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.’ In the Psalms God’s people are told that, ‘the wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.’ (Psalm 37:21) God speaks through the prophets, telling the Israelites to remember the poor amongst them and not to take advantage of them.
Justice is a key theme in the Biblical narrative. As Steve Bradbury writes, “Biblical justice is a restorative function – affirmative action on behalf of the powerless to restore their proper (meaning God-ordained) position in human society.” The picture of justice that is presented in the Scriptures is a restoration of what has been lost. The poor are without, so justice is to restore to them. As Stephen Mott and Ronald Sider state, “frequently, God commands those with resources to treat their poor fellow Israelites with the same liberality that God showed them at the Exodus, in the wilderness, and in giving them their own land” God continually encourages his people to look after the poor, to practice justice and restore them. As Mott so eloquently states, “in Scripture, the people of God are commanded to execute justice because God, after whom they in grace and love pattern their lives, executes justice. Since God has a special regard for the weak and helpless, a corresponding quality is to be found in the lives of God’s people.”
One facet of the Biblical narrative is that the poor lack and it is the responsibility of God’s people to act justly and give to those who do not have. This is the medicinal response to poverty, the restoration to those who do not have. But the Scriptures also speak of the causes of poverty. Proverbs 13:23 says that ‘a poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.’ Psalm 10 speaks of the wicked man who thrives on injustice, robbing the poor and boasting of his evil deeds. Psalm 94 calls for God to avenge the poor and give the wicked what they deserve. They crush God’s people, they slay the widow and the alien, all because they say that the Lord does not see what they are doing. It is not only the Hebrew Bible that sheds light on the oppression of the poor. James 5 warns the rich of the misery that is to come to them. It warns them that the cries of those they have mistreated have reached the ears of God. These passages show the shame that is upon those who have, because not only have they failed to help those who are poor, they have actively mistreated people and oppressed them so that they have become poor. The Biblical narrative reinforces that poverty is not shameful for those who do not have. The shame falls upon those who actively work to gain for themselves at the expense of others, especially by mistreating them.
The causes of poverty that the Biblical narrative presents are no different to the causes of poverty today. Poverty can be seen as a break down of community. As Mott writes, “Community membership means the ability to share fully within one’s capacity and potential in each essential aspect of community.” Poverty is not just a material state, it is the inability of members to add to the life of the community. In the twenty first century we live within a global community and so the definition of poverty must be extended to those who are not able to fully share within the global community. The causes of poverty have not changed from Biblical times. Some people become poor through environmental factors, drought, disease and death, others become poor through their own doing, laziness, lack of preparation for hardship and others become poor because of oppression by other people.
Those whose poverty is no fault of their own cannot be put into a position of shame. It is not shameful to lack when what you had has been taken from you. For those who would wish to lay blame on those who are poor through their own doing, which needs to be qualified by saying that it is the vast minority, they must first look to themselves. The Biblical narrative points out that it is the responsibility of those who have to share with those who do not have. It does not say that we must ask them why they are poor, just that we should help them. The Scripture does not allow for a debate on the ‘deserving poor’, whatever that may mean.
How do we, as those who have, respond to the issue of poverty? Bono puts this question in a way that is so succinct, yet so uncomfortable that I will quote it in full:
fifteen thousand Africans dying each and every day of preventable, treatable diseases … for lack of drugs that we take for granted. This statistic alone makes a fool of the idea many of us hold on to very tightly: the idea of equality. What is happening in African mocks our pieties, doubts our concern, and questions our commitment to that whole concept. Because if we’re honest, there’s no way we could conclude that such mass death day after day would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else … Deep down, if we really accept that their lives – African lives – are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It’s an uncomfortable truth.
Bono’s question cuts right to our core. As he says it is an uncomfortable truth. In the face of such overwhelming poverty how do those who have respond? The lack of adequate response shows the shame of poverty. The shame of poverty does not lie with the African dying of a preventable disease. The shame of poverty lies with the person who has the means to prevent that disease, but does nothing to prevent it. Or perhaps even worse, acknowledges the problem and only gives a token response to prevention. That is where the shame of poverty lies. Bono continues to ask the hard questions by stating, “We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies- but will we be that generation? Will we in the West realize our potential or will we sleep in the comfort of our affluence with apathy and indifference murmuring softly in our ears?”
Bono’s questions come in the forward to Jeffery Sachs’ book “The end of poverty” where Sachs, an economist, shows that poverty can be ended by 2025. He says that our generation has the ability to eradicate poverty. Our generation is able to, in our lifetime, live out the image presented in the Biblical narrative. He states that, “the wealth of the rich world, the power of today’s vast storehouses of knowledge, and the declining fraction of the world that needs help to escape from poverty all make the end of poverty a realistic possibility by the year 2025.” The shame of poverty comes if those who have refuse to make this possibility a reality.
So far this essay has focused on the material issues of poverty. Whilst it has looked at the Biblical narrative, it has looked at the material issues raised therein. This however is an incomplete view of poverty. As Bryant Myers points out perhaps the greatest blind spot in relation to poverty in the West today is,
the belief … that the spiritual and physical domains of life are separate and unrelated … The result is a tragic pair of reductions. First, poverty is reduced to a merely material condition having to do with the absence of things like money, water, food, housing and the lack of just social systems, also materially defined and understood. Second, development is reduce correspondingly to a material series of responses designed to overcome these needs.
Perhaps the lack of a spiritual understanding of poverty is a reason for a lack of adequate response to poverty in the Western world. For Christians the spiritual dimension goes further. God’s preference towards the poor is displayed in the Biblical narrative, he cares for those who are oppressed and who lack. Tim Chester believes that because of this, this is where we find God. He states, “God gives us an opportunity to know him more through the poor. We lose out when we do not read the word of God with the poor of the world. We must see the poor not as objects of charity, but as people from whom we can learn.”
Poverty is no shame for those who do not have. This essay has shown that poverty is not shameful for the poor. God cares for the poor, he intercedes on their behalf and he has instituted means of caring for them. There can be no shame for those who do not have, because God does not wish for anyone to be poor. God has shown the way to eradicate poverty. God’s justice is that those who become poor will be looked after by those who have, it is their responsibility to share what they have. The shame of poverty is when those who have refuse to share with those who do not have. It is shameful not to share and it is even more shameful to take advantage of and oppress people. The Biblical narrative also highlights and speaks strongly against the oppression of people. The shame of poverty does not lie with those who lack, rather it lies with those who have.
Bono, “Foreword”. The End of Poverty, London: Penguin. 2005
Bradbury, Steve. Micah Mandate Lecture. Whitley College, November 2005
Bradbury, Steve. The Message of Micah then and now. Unpublished paper. 2005
Chester, Tim. “Justice, Mercy & Humility: Integral Mission and the Poor” Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 2002
Mallone, Adrian. Essay Topic, Micah Mandate timetable handout,
Whitley College, 2005
Mott, Stephen. Biblical Ethics and Social Change.
Mott, Stephen & Ronald Sider, “Economic Justice: A Biblical paradigm.” Transformation 17.2 (Apr – Jun 2000)
Myers, Bryant. Walking with the Poor, New York: Orbis. 1999
Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty, London: Penguin. 2005
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Wow over a week...
Just checking to see if people will still check my blog.
Anyway, went for a lovely walk around Westerfolds Park this afternoon with Melissa. It was great to be out in the sunshine.
But then all of a sudden, something occured to me.
I thought about the structure of the Salvation Army, and I have found a problem.
If you think about our structure at a Divisional (or territorial for that matter) level, what does it say about us as an organisation/movement.
We have a Divisional Commander, divisional womens ministrys co-ordinator, divisional youth and childrens secretaries, divisional secretaries, corps program deparments, mission development departments.
You know what is missing. A men's ministry secretary/department!
To my viewing, this means one of two things.
1) Men are overlooked and under catered for in our movement.
2) The movement views Men's ministries as the primary ministry of our movement, and the secondary ministries need there own secretaries (Women and Youth & Children)
I am leaning towards the second one. But what about you, how does it resonate with your experience?
(By the way, I could pull out alot more evidence to support my argument)
Monday, February 06, 2006
The Prayer Breakfast is attended by Members of the US government and President Bush. It is usually a time for nice speeches about the place of God in personal lives and the like.
This year Bono spoke a prophetic message.
I have been pondering this blog post all weekend, but after reading this I will post that idea later in the week.
Here is Bono's address.
If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.
Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.
Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural...something unseemly...about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the south of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert...but this is really weird, isn't it?
You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind.
Mr. President, are you sure about this?
It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned - I'm Irish.
I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws...but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.
I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here - Muslims, Jews, Christians - all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.
I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.
Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here - but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was...well, a little blurry, and hard to see.
I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays... and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.
For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land...and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash...in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment...
I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.
Even though I was a believer.
Perhaps because I was a believer.
I was cynical...not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)
Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick - my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call - and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.
'Jubilee' - why 'Jubilee'?
What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lord's favor?
I'd always read the scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)...
'If your brother becomes poor,' the scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself...you shall maintain him.... You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'
It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he's met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he's a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn't done much...yet. He hasn't spoken in public before...
When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' he says, 'because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.' And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favour, the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:18).
What he was really talking about was an era of grace - and we're still in it.
So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate - in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn't a bless-me club... it wasn't a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions...making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.
But then my cynicism got another helping hand.
It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called AIDS. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The ones that didn't miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children...even [though the] fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.
Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself judgmentalism is back!
But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.
Love was on the move.
Mercy was on the move.
God was on the move.
Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet...conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS...soccer moms and quarterbacks...hip-hop stars and country stars. This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!
Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!
Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!
Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.
It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.
When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened - and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even - that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying...on AIDS and global health, governments listened - and acted.
I'm here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.
Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.
Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.
I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places."
It's not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. (You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.) 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.
Here's some good news for the president. After 9/11 we were told America would have no time for the world's poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it's true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.
In fact, you have doubled aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund - you and Congress - have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.
Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.
But here's the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.
And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.
Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.
And that's too bad.
Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.
But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.
Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.
Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature." In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.
It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.
You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."
And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews - but not the blacks."
"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."
So on we go with our journey of equality.
On we go in the pursuit of justice.
We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than 2 million Americans...Left and Right together... united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.
We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King - mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.
Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market...that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents...that's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents...that's a justice issue.
And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.
That's why I say there's the law of the land�. And then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?
As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.
God will not accept that.
Mine won't, at least. Will yours?
I close this morning on...very...thin...ice.
This is a dangerous idea I've put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God...vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.
And this is a town - Washington - that knows something of division.
But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the scriptures call the least of these.
This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.
'Do to others as you would have them do to you' (Luke 6:30). Jesus says that.
'Righteousness is this: that one should...give away wealth out of love for him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that (2.177).
Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The Jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.
That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.
A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it�. I have a family, please look after them�. I have this crazy idea...
And this wise man said: stop.
He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.
Get involved in what God is doing - because it's already blessed.
Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.
And that is what he's calling us to do.
I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to 10% of the family budget. Well, how does that compare with the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than 1%.
Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:
I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing.... Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional 1% of the federal budget tithed to the poor.
What is 1%?
1% is not merely a number on a balance sheet.
1% is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. 1% is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. 1% is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. 1% is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This 1% is digging waterholes to provide clean water.
1% is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism toward Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.
America gives less than 1% now. We're asking for an extra 1% to change the world. to transform millions of lives - but not just that and I say this to the military men now - to transform the way that they see us.
1% is national security, enlightened economic self-interest, and a better, safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, 1% is the best bargain around.
These goals - clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty - these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a globalised world.
Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.
But I can tell you this:
To give 1% more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed.
There is a continent - Africa - being consumed by flames.
I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did - or did not to - to put the fire out in Africa.
History, like God, is watching what we do.
Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The Discipline of Simplicity
It is only a small thing, but it is a thing none the less.
My work computer is running slow.
I realised that it was because it only has 128MB of RAM.
So I decided to do something about it.
I rang up the IT department and told them I needed some new RAM.
They said, what is the sticker number on your computer.
I told her and she said, "ah that computer is 4 years old, it is probably time for a new one"
I am so proud of my response.
Maybe so, but all I want is some more RAM.
I said it wasn't big.