Monday, April 27, 2009

Think Before You Buy

I've had NO time lately to even think about posting anything here. Anything beyond a few tweets once and again has just not been possible. That being said, watching this video tonight about the employment conditions of workers in Malaysia for a company contracted by Nike makes me sick.

Any ideas on how we can make this stop? Personally, I think we can complain and protest all we want, but until we start hitting these companies where it hurts the most (their profit margin), I don't really don't think they could care less. To take it one step further, maybe we need to take on not only Nike, but those who accept multi-million dollar sponsorship deals from them. Tiger Woods seems like a decent guy, but if he's being paid $20 million for wearing Nike clothing while the person who made that clothing is making $6 per day and is living in squalor, is he not at least partially responsible for the injustice?

I need to think about this some more, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on how we can educate all of those who endorse Nike so blindly. Is there something more powerful than money? A little bit of bad publicity maybe?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Canada Turns Its Back

Read this article in today's Globe & Mail (follow the link for the complete story.)

Although International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says the government's recently announced foreign-aid realignment will continue to support people in greatest need, finite development resources are being shifted to better-off countries with a bigger trading potential to reinforce Ottawa's preferred focus on Latin America.This new policy abandons Canada's traditional emphasis on reducing poverty in the world's poorest countries, notably in Africa. It will hurt some of the world's most needy people and diminish Canada's stature in the developing world. According to the announcement, eight African countries have been removed from the list of priority recipients of Canadian aid: The losers are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda and Zambia. They have been replaced by Colombia, Peru and the Caribbean, middle-income countries with whom Canada has entered into or is negotiating free-trade agreements.

The new policy has understandably dismayed representatives of the countries diminished by the new thrust. They had been given no hint by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon when he met the heads of African missions in Canada a month before Ms. Oda's announcement. His commitment to the group that Canada would continue to be an active development partner with Africa now has a hollow ring.

This is unconscionable. Aid should go to those who need it most. Not where it is politically expedient.

Just The Facts #25

It's Famine Day in Canada!

Fact: Proverbs 31:8-9 says, Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

This will be my last poverty fact now that we've reached the National 30-Hour Famine date. There is still lots of time though to support your local famine group as there are many groups who aren't doing their famine until late April or early May. So please do what you can to help the 1.4 billion people who live on one dollar per day or less. They need YOUR help!

The End Poverty Concert is April 25!

New Zealand:

No one to support locally? Support me!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

An Eye For An Eye

I came across this story in the Toronto Star today:

A Palestinian with an axe and a knife killed a 13-year-old Israeli boy and wounded a 7-year-old boy in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank today, two days after a right-wing government took power in Israel. Citing Israeli "crimes of occupation," Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility in a statement.

As always in a case like this, the story is followed by a plethora of angry comments blaming one side or the other for what happened and who should be taking revenge on whom.

As often happens, the first thing that came to mind after reading the story and the comments were song lyrics. In this case I immediately thought of Derek Webb's song I For An I and the lyric, "An eye for an eye will never satisfy 'till there's nothing left to see." It should be an easy concept to understand but we humans are not real bright when it comes to these things. Seeking revenge for a violent act only leads to more violent acts. It's as simple as that.

If ever there was proof of this truth, it is the situation in the Middle East. For generation after generation, Israelis and Palestinians have been killing each other to gain vengeance for a previous misdeed which has only led to both sides becoming even more deeply entrenched in their positions; neither side willing to make any real strides towards a lasting peace.

That being said, seeking revenge occurs everywhere, not just in the Middle East. Neighbours take revenge against each other over small disagreements. Teens will take revenge on someone who "dissed" them. Drivers will cut each other off in traffic for a perceived violation. Husbands and wives will doing things to tick each other off just because "he said..." or "she said..." members...the list is endless. We are a venge-filled people.

The desire to seek revenge is embedded deep in our hearts and will rear its ugly head at the drop of a hat. As with most of my posts, I point the finger at myself first because I recognize the depth of violence and anger that lives within me. But what would happen if we just stopped? Just stopped seeking revenge for every slight, large or small, perceived or real. Imagine if Israel or Palestine just said, "That's it. We're done. No more eye for an eye. No more repaying suicide bombers with rocket attacks." If I learned anything from being bullied in elementary school it's that the tormenting will stop if you stop fighting back.

To bring it a little closer to home, what if church members stopped taking such offense over small infractions that were more than likely unintentional anyway? What if we really did become a community of love choosing to turn the other cheek?

Finally, what if you and I were filled with forgiveness instead of vengeance? I know that sounds difficult if not impossible, but if the Kingdom of God dwells within us (Luke 17:21) is anything really beyond possibility? If the same Jesus who created the heavens and the earth, the same Jesus who forgave his crucifiers even as they were driving the spikes into his cross, if this same Jesus dwells in us, then nothing is impossible. As I wrote a couple of days ago, if we have died to ourselves, then we have undermined the powers; in this case the power of vegeance. I'm not talking mere behaviour modification here, I'm talking real change.

And when it comes to violence and vengeance, it seems a change would do us all some good.

Just The Facts #24

Fact: The UN estimates that unfair trade rules alone deny poor countries $700 billion every year (that's $2 billion per day). Support your local 30-Hour Famine!

The End Poverty Concert is April 25!

New Zealand:

No one to support locally? Support me!

A fact a day until April 3rd, the date of the 30-Hour Famine.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fight The Powers

We had a really great discussion at our manuscript Bible study at church last night. In looking at Colossians 1:15-23 in it's historical context, we come to understand that when Paul refers to Jesus using words of authority...kingdom, thrones, dominion, rulers, is in fact a not so subtle reference to the authority of Caesar and the ruling authority of Rome over the Colossians.

If you lived under Roman authority, you were a part of the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. But this peace came at the point of a sword. You see, while the Roman Empire did in fact bring an aura of peace to the lands over which it claimed ownership, that peace was achieved by eliminating any dissenters, which is why we hear stories of Christians being thrown to the lions, or used as human torches along roadways, or nailed to crosses.

So when the Colossians received this letter from Paul who was in a jail cell in Rome, claiming that Christ was in fact the true authority, the authentic ruler of all things, it was nothing short of sedition. Furthermore, Paul posits that the cross of Christ, which Jesus took upon himself willingly as a sacrifice for all is far more powerful than the Roman cross of torture. And how is sacrificial death on a cross more powerful than the enforced cross of Rome? Well, if you were living under the Pax Romana in AD 60, which peace would be more appealing to external peace through the aggressive power of Rome or internal peace through the transformational kingdom of God?

It's an easy question to answer in an historical context, but what happens when we ask that question today? What are the powers today that keep us enslaved, that we feel threatened by if we don't follow them? How about...

Business - As the engine that drives our economy, big business has the right to expand regardless of the human or environmental destruction it leaves behind.
Progress - It is imperative that mankind continue moving forward. Technology is our panacea.
Fear - There are evil forces out there who want to do terrible things to you, your children, and your way of life. You need to go to war if necessary to fight them.
Money - Make sure you have enough. Hoard what you have. Save for a rainy day. Don't give it away because you never know when you'll need it.
Success - If you are successful, you should have the biggest and best of everything.
Greed - I need more. I want more. I deserve more.
Perfection - I need to look perpetually young. Perpetually beautiful/handsome. Failure is not in my vocabulary. There is nothing wrong in my world.
My Kingdom - In the end, life is all about me. My needs, my wants, my comfort. I don't have time to help someone in need or to consider someone else's suffering.

These are just a few examples. I'm sure you can think of others. The point, however, is that we are enslaved to these powers in so many ways. How many of the above list can you identify in your own life? I know I easily fall prey to the power of Money and Perfectionism.

So how do we overcome our enslavement to the powers and give our allegiance wholeheartedly to the kingdom of God? I believe the answer can be found in Romans 6 wherein Paul, writing about our enslavement to sin, says :

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:5-10)

Jesus submitted to death, and in doing so, he overcame the power of death. As it says in verse ten, death no longer has mastery over him. In submitting, Christ became more powerful than death. This brings to mind Matthew 5:38-42:

You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

How does an aggressor have power over you if you offer him the left cheek after he has just slapped you across the right? Or how does a soldier enforce his power over you if you offer to carry his gear twice as far as he's commanded? In willfully submitting to the authority of the power, you are in fact undermining the authority of that power, therefore the power no longer has authority over you just as Christ now has power over death by submitting to death in the first place.

To further illustrate the point, if you watch a magician pull a rabbit out of his hat, you scratch your head in amazement at his 'power' to perform a great illusion. But once you know how that illusion is performed, it no longer has the power to amaze you. In fact, the magician is no longer a remarkable performer, but just a guy with a vermin problem. The power of the magician is gone.

It's a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, especially in a culture that tells you that the most important person in the world is you, but if we have already "died with Christ" as it says in Romans 6:8, then the authority of the powers has been undermined and we no longer have to be slaves to them.

Even here, the power of perfectionism grabs hold of me saying, "if you have died with Christ, then why are you still a slave to me?" I need to keep in mind that while I have died with Christ, I am still on my journey home. I am still looking toward the day when I'll see him face to face and the authority of the powers will be broken once and for all. Until then I continue striving to see the powers for who and what they really are: every bit as much an illusion as the magician and the rabbit. As I continue to realize that the powers no longer have authority over me, I am able to recognize their enmeshing strategies and say "no, I have died with Christ. I belong to him now, therefore you no longer have the ability to threaten or manipulate me, because I belong to the kingdom of God. A kingdom over which your authority has been broken."

And when it comes right down to it, I'll choose a kingdom of love and light over a kingdom of power and darkness anytime. I hope you will too.

Just The Facts #23

Fact: Every month, 770,000 people in Canada rely on food banks-40% of whom are children. Support your local 30-Hour Famine!

The End Poverty Concert is April 25!

New Zealand:

No one to support locally? Support me!

A fact a day until April 3rd, the date of the 30-Hour Famine.