Repentance IS the Revolution

Here we are at the start of ‘Green Week’ in which the UK government has decided to ask some experts about whether or not we should amend our target of being carbon neutral by 2050?! Talk about asking a stupid question! In the very same week, Cuadrilla will be allowed to start fracking – drilling for more fossil fuels in Lancashire, whilst those who peacefully protested are sent to prison (a little ironic!) and the Climate Change Minister –  Claire Perry, has declared it is not her government’s job to advise people on a climate friendly diet (despite the evidence, which I regret, showing that we need to seriously curtail our meat intake, especially of beef and lamb). What is the role of government, I am left wondering…….?

 

We have 12 years! That really isn’t a very long time. 12 years in which to drastically change our minds and our behaviour about how we are living, or face the devastating consequences of the impact of climate change for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

 

Gandhi wrote so powerfully about the seven social sins, as he saw them:

 

1) Politics without Principle

2) Wealth without Work (weird how this has switched in the social conscience to poverty without work….how did poverty become the sin?)

3) Commerce without Morality

4) Pleasure without Conscience

5) Education without Character

6) Science without Humanity

7) Worship without Sacrifice

 

For the health and wellbeing of people and the planet, we need to change and we need to change now. As my friend Martin Scott says, the facades are down. We can see things clearly for what they are. That means we cannot and must not allow ‘business as usual’ to continue. This is our moment. We cannot simply carry on with the same old, same old. If ever there was a moment for us to change – it is now! Our economic model is literally destroying us. Our politics are increasingly tainted with a rhetoric of blame and fear. Unless we change now, with the backdrop of environmental disasters, food and water shortages, driven by human greed, then within a few short years, we will be facing war and humanitarian atrocities at a truly alarming scale.

 

Our only hope, is repentance. Repentance, as David Benjamin Blower tells us, IS the revolution. An old, biblical phrase which means to completely change our hearts and minds and instead live utterly differently. It means laying down our consumerism of the world and instead choosing to become good stewards of it, letting go of our own hedonistic selfishness in preference for the ‘other’ and sustainability of the earth. It means recognising that our economic model is broken and unjust, so we need to find a new way that is distributive and regenerative. It means learning to love our enemy rather than hate them, curtailing our excesses and learning to live more simply, caring for the poor instead of scapegoating them, promoting the welfare of children rather than constantly comparing and measuring them. It means breaking the chains of the global slave trade, stopping our appalling pollution now, not in 2050 and finding a way to live in peace.

 

This isn’t some hippy utopia, it is, I believe, what God always hoped for with us.  Repentance isn’t some weirdo religious experience, it is a gutsy, humble recognition that we’re in a mess and we need forgiveness from God, ourselves, each other and the planet. Repentance is a complete change of heart and mind, away from death to life, from greed to gift, from destruction to renewal, from darkness to light, from hate to love.

 

I  have found in my journey of faith in the person and teaching of Jesus, that only the love of God really changes my heart and deals with my pride, my greed and my selfishness.  Sadly, (predominantly) white, evangelical Christianity has aligned itself more with nationalism and free-market capitalism than what I read Jesus to teach in the scriptures. A dangerous theology has developed which equates a strong economy as being a sign of God’s ‘financial blessing’ and ‘favour’, giving little thought to the raping of the earth’s resources or the injustice upon which such ‘prosperity’ is built. When Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here”, he wasn’t saying that he was going to replace the Roman Empire with an even more awful and utterly destructive system. He was inviting us to open our eyes and see that the ways of God could not be more different to Empire and are about ‘life poured out love’ or ‘self-giving, others empowering-love’, where all are welcome, all are set free and all can become stewards of this way of kindness and peace. It’s not easy to go against the system – it takes sacrifice – but it is the only thing that can lead to our salvation – something we need more than ever.

 

I have little hope that any government or system, with all their vested interests, can or will take the precarity of our situation seriously enough. And so it falls to you and me – we the people together. Personal and corporate repentance. It’s time (As Michael Jackson sang) to look at the man or woman in the mirror – and make that change.

 

It is true, that our work may well feel apparently worthless, futile and achieve no result at all – in all honesty it’s why I’ve made excuses for not changing certain things (like eating beef far too often – though that changes now!)……so as Thomas Merton reminds us, we must focus on the value, the rightness and the truth of the work we must do, itself…….In the end….he says…..”it is the reality of personal relationships that save everything.” So, don’t feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Make your own repentance yourself and amongst your relationships and bit by bit, we might just make a difference. Doing nothing is not an option. Repentance IS the revolution – and a revolution is what we need. Grace gives the opportunity to make a fresh start. Are you ready for it? What changes will you make? If not now, when? If not us, who?

 

 

Future Peace

If we are going to reimagine a future of peace, we have to ask ourselves some deep and absolutely uncomfortable questions. We must question some truths that we have come to believe and uphold about the nation state and the role of the armed forces. The three videos below are seriously worth watching.

The Myth of the Nation State

Here begins a mini series, which will take a few blogs to get to where I want to go, but please bear with me, as I give some background to where my thoughts are currently!

I had until fairly recently misunderstood what is meant by a myth. I thought it to be a story which lacks truth. This can be the case but is only one of its meanings. It can also describe “a traditional/legendary story which may or may not have a factual basis and is used to explain some part of life.” Or it can refer to “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social norm.”

If we are going to reimagine the future, we must become more aware of some of the myths we believe to be true and question their basis for having shaped our thinking. I have recently been reading a book entitled ‘Theopolitical Imagination’ by a chap called William T Cavanaugh. It is deeply challenging. Cavanaugh argues that all politics is a practice of our imagination. The state itself, he argues doesn’t actually exist. It exists only in our imaginations. What actually exists are things like buildings, tax forms, border patrols and aeroplanes. “What mobilises these into a project called ‘nation-state’ is a disciplined imagination of a community occupying a particular space with a common conception of time, a common history and a common destiny of salvation from peril’. Our belief in this myth is so strong that a young man (or woman) from a rural village can become convinced that he/she must travel to another part of the world to kill people he/she knows nothing about. (Think on that for a minute or two). We have become reliant on the state for our provision and protection.

The nation state, as we know it, is relatively young, having only found its place in history within the last four hundred years. Cavanaugh argues that the myth was born out of the context of the ‘religious wars’ in Europe (in the sixteenth and seventieth centuries) to ‘save us’ from the ill effects of religion and enable us to live peacefully. The hope being that the borders and flags to which we would give our allegiance would save us from the divisions that plague us. Yet this has not been the case. The borders and flags in fact deepened our sense of the ‘other’ and created barriers where previously there had been less. Cavanaugh would argue that it was the ‘spirit of empire’ that used religion as an excuse for the wars, that was the real culprit. Mitchell would argue, however, that it was a complicit agreement between Church and Imperial powers that lead to the vast blood shed in the 30 years war that in turn gave way to the enlightenment and the creation of the nation state. What’s the point? The point is that the nation state is not our saviour. It is built on exactly the same foundations of empire and employs the same currencies – money, law and violence.

If you don’t believe me, then witness the economic threat of Westminster towards Scotland, or see how much clout the banks and huge corporations play in their lobbying power of government and ability to run the show. Or think about those who are held in the state of exception in our eleven detention centres around the UK alone (plenty of examples in other countries) where law is put aside to maintain the status quo, revealing the true foundation of ‘the law’. Or have you noticed how we now talk of those who die in war as being ‘martyrs’? I am not saying that we shouldn’t remember the lives of those who were given so appallingly in war, but let us also clearly see the undergirding message that strengthens the myth of the nation state. “War brings peace”. ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’…. it is sweet and right to die for one’s country…….

The nation-state project is both waning and failing. But the myth which perpetuates it is incredibly strong and acts as a huge barrier to our imagination of anything different. Peace will not come through a remodelled version of empire. True nationhood will not be recovered whilst configured as states. But there is a hope rising of something different, of new ways of being. Sometimes we have to tear down some mindsets in order to think in new ways……

Sacred Economics – The Illusion of Scarcity

“If money, in its simplest form, is about connecting human gifts with human needs, what perversion has turned it into an agent of scarcity?” A great opening question from Charles for this next chapter.

He sets out the following argument: We live in a world of abundance, but we waste and abuse it. Half the world starves, while the other half wastes enough to feed the first half. Vast numbers of people cannot afford food, suitable housing or clothing, yet we pour an unbelievable amount of resources into: war and theimages armaments industry ($2trillion a year), plastic junk we don’t use, McMansions serving no real human need, ridiculously sprawling suburbia requiring more and more cars (worsened by poor public transport), huge farm to retail wastage, bottled water (what’s that about?!), child care (gone are the days when we would watch our kids for each other), various goods we never recycle or fix (like lawnmowers or blenders – just how many do we need per street, exactly?!) – the list goes on!

There is so much poverty, but it is not due to a lack of productive capacity. Nor is imagesit due to a lack of willingness to help. So many people would love to feed the poor, restore nature and do loads of other things, but there is simply no money in it. Yet we are in a situation in which many people have jobs which contribute perhaps to more growth, but not at all to well-being. What if people were not employed to make more and more cars, or lawnmowers or blenders or plastic nonsense, but instead could devote themselves to permaculture, caring for the sick and elderly, restoring ecosystems and other tragically unmet needs?

How are we living like this? Surely the answer is greed?

But Eisenstein argues that blaming greed is an easy ‘get-out clause’, because greed only makes sense in the context of scarcity. The story of our time assumes it – the story of the separate self with competition and therefore greed written into the basic axioms of our biology and economics. But what if this assumption is false? What if greed is only manifest because we perceive that resources are scarce? He quotes some interesting studies which show that people earning less than $25k give 4.2% of their money to charity, but those earning over $100k give 2.7% to charity. But this is crazy. Greed makes no sense in the context of abundance. Perhaps money itself causes the illusion of scarcity?

For something to become an object of commerce, it must become ‘scarce’. As the economy grows, so more and more of human activity enters the realm of money – the realm of goods and services. We pay for things we would never dream of paying for. And most of us have an underlying anxiety that we simply don’t have enough money.

The biggest indication of our slavery to this way of thinking is the monetization of time. He tells the story of a mexican woman who visits her sister in the big city.images “She has all kinds of amazing time-saving devices, yet when I visit, she is always so busy, she barely has time to talk.” When did time become money? How have we become unable to afford the time?

Scarcity, he argues, is actually an illusion created by the way we handle money. Money (that embodies our cultural story) has turned abundance into scarcity and caused greed. No one can deny we’re in a mess – Peak Oil, overpopulation, global warming, the raping of the world’s resources. Real problems, but the solutions currently on the table to tackle them are too little, too late. How did money in it’s current come to afflict our minds so severely?