Archive for November 2012

Extravagant Generosity   Leave a comment

IMG_0027There is, within each of us human beings, a NEED to share.

It is unfortunate that, in North American societies, there are powerful forces that promote selfishness, rather than sharing. Of course, nobody calls putting oneself first selfishness.

To some, the trend towards individualism rather than community would appear to be dominant. For example, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community in Washington, D.C. wrote this week that:

“A recent Harris International and World Vision poll showed that Americans plan to spend more this Christmas season on consumer gifts than they did last year, but give less to charities and ministries that help the poor. Many say they are less likely to give a charitable gift as a holiday present —a drop from 51 percent to 45 percent.

So we will have more Christmas presents this year, but less help for the poor. While retailers, economists, and politicians may rejoice at the news about higher consumer spending this year, the lower levels of support for the ones Jesus called “the least of these” should legitimately bring some moral judgments from the faith community. “

One possible response for Christians is to model extravagant generosity. We can do this through recognizing that Christmas is a birthday celebration for Jesus. We can match our giving to family, friends, etc. with a gift to charities, or to groups who are involved in the struggle for justice in God’s world. It would be following the invitation to love others in the same way that we lavish love upon those who we know.

Just imagine how responding to our NEED to share can help change the lives of others.

We can be the change that we want to see happen!

Posted November 30, 2012 by allanbaker in Christian Faith, Inspiration

A Question of Direction   Leave a comment

Weathercock near Waupoos, Ontario

Living on Earth as if we want to stay

That is the title of the presentation by Mike Nickerson that we experienced last night.

Nickerson contends that when we collectively acknowledge that our planet has limits, and when we accept our responsibility for living within them, then we are fully capable of redirecting our efforts and securing well-being for the next seven generations and beyond.

It is such a positive attitude!

Why would we not want to live on earth AS IF we, and our children and grandchildren, want to stay here?

It really is a “Question of Direction“. Do we need additional weathercocks to show us the way the wind is blowing? The direction to well-being was outlined on the cards that Nickerson distributed.  Some of the words on his card are:

Well-being can be sustained when activities:

1) use materials in continuous cycles.

2) use continuously reliable sources of energy.

3) come mainly from the qualities of being human (i.e. creativity, communication, coordination, appreciation, and spiritual and intellectual development.)

Mike Nickerson’s website is: www.SustainWellBeing.net

Posted November 20, 2012 by allanbaker in Economics, Environment

Tagged with , ,

Why Worship?   Leave a comment

“to see with the eyes of faith”

Why do people all over the earth set aside time to worship?

What does it mean to worship?

Robert Schnase, in his book “Cultivating Fruitfulness” has this contribution to make to those questions:

” Understanding the meaning of worship requires looking beyond what people do to see with the eyes of faith what God does.”

Schnase also writes that:

“God uses worship to transform lives, heal wounded souls, renew hope, shape decisions, provoke change, inspire compassion, and bind people to one another.”

Posted November 19, 2012 by allanbaker in Christian Faith, Inspiration

Tagged with , ,

Remembrance Day, 2012   Leave a comment

November 11, 2012, was “Remembrance Day” here in Canada. What are we “remembering”?

During our worship service on Sunday we were reminded, “If war is the answer, we’re asking the wrong question.” How true. What do we “remember” without glorifying violence?

At the funeral for a veteran of the “First World War”, I read the following words on his medal: “The Great War for civilization 1914 – 1919

That war was followed by “World War II”, the “Korean War”, the “Cold War”, and war upon war upon war. Is this “civilization?”

When Christians attempt to follow the way of Jesus, we are confronted with a very high standard for dispute resolution. According to Matthew’s gospel Jesus said; “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.”  (Matthew 5: 44,45, The Message)

 If war is the answer, we’re asking the wrong question.

What our Canadian government needs, I think, is a Department of Peace.

Do we dare remember that dream of a better world for everyone?

Posted November 12, 2012 by allanbaker in Christian Faith

Tagged with ,

The Prerequisite of the Common Good   Leave a comment

The “election season” in the United States of America has passed, for 2012. What are we to make of what happened? Jim Wallis of the Sojourners Community in Washington, D.C. argues that: argues that; “Only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to the common good can we rescue and redeem our politics.”

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis
The day after the 2012 election brought a great feeling of relief. Most of us, whether our candidates won or lost, were so weary of what elections have become that we were just glad the process was over. Many were disappointed that dysfunctional and bitterly partisan politics in Washington, D.C., had undermined their deep desires for “hope” and “change.” Politics have severely constrained those possibilities by focusing on blame instead of solutions, and winning instead of governing. And, as the most expensive election in American history just showed, the checks have replaced all the balances.But the election results produced neither the salvation nor the damnation of the country, as some of the pundits on both sides seemed to suggest. The day after the 2012 election brought a great feeling of relief. Most of us, whether our candidates won or lost, were so weary of what elections have become that we were just glad the process was over. Many were disappointed that dysfunctional and bitterly partisan politics in Washington, D.C., had undermined their deep desires for “hope” and “change.” Politics have severely constrained those possibilities by focusing on blame instead of solutions, and winning instead of governing. And, as the most expensive election in American history just showed, the checks have replaced all the balances.The results of the presidential election showed how dramatically a very diverse America is changing; people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes everyone. As one commentator put it, “the demographic time bomb” has now been set off in American politics — and getting mostly white, male, and older voters is no longer enough to win elections, as the Romney campaign learned on Tuesday. The common good welcomes all “the tribes” into God’s beloved community, and our social behavior and public policies must show that. Even after such a discouraging election campaign, many still hope that we are not as divided and cynical a people as our politics would lead us to believe, as President Barack Obama passionately said on election night to the diverse American coalition that had just re-elected him.As for religious voters, it appears a strategy of citing a “war on religion” — and doubling down on the long-failed strategy of citing abortion and traditional marriage as the two “non-negotiable” religious issues — once again failed. But at a deeper level, the meaning of “evangelical” in American politics is changing to now include African-American and Latino Christians whose theology is clearly “evangelical” and who overwhelmingly voted for the president this week. And despite the opposition of many Catholic bishops, Obama also won the Catholic vote, again, because of the influence of Latino Catholics and Catholic women voters.But people of faith aren’t going to be entirely happy with any political leader, and they shouldn’t be. Many of them feel politically homeless in the raging battles between ideological extremes. But they could find their home in a new call for the common good — a vision drawn from the heart of our religious traditions that allows us to make our faith public, but not narrowly partisan. That requires a political engagement that emphasizes issues and people above personalities and partisanship.For example, fiscal responsibility is indeed a moral issue, but how we achieve it, and at whose expense, is also a moral choice. As the debates about the “fiscal cliff” now begin, expect the community of faith to be visibly and actively involved in pressing both Republicans and Democrats to protect the poorest and most vulnerable. An even deeper unity has grown across the faith community about the need to “welcome the stranger” by fixing a broken system with comprehensive immigration reform.

Trust has been lost in the fairness and opportunity of our economic system, and must be restored by asking what a “moral economy” would look like. More people think everyone deserves a “fair shot” and believe both our economic and political systems have been rigged on behalf of the wealthy and powerful. New senate voices like Elizabeth Warren are promising to be champions on those issues.

Whether government is serving its biblical purpose of protecting from evil and promoting good is more important than ideological debates about its size. How can we move from an ethic of endless growth to an ethic of sustainability, from short-term profits to longer term human flourishing, from the use and consumption of the earth to stewardship and creation care?

The need to restore the health of households, to strengthen marriage and prioritize the raising of children, is essential now, and can go even deeper than equal protection under the law for same sex couples — which also gained ground on Tuesday. Protecting “life” can no longer be restricted to a few issues, but must be consistently applied to wherever human life and dignity are threatened.  The failure of strident and partisan efforts by people like Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed to narrow those issues in the final stages of this election was very evident and significant. More and more Christians, especially younger ones, now believe our congregations will be finally evaluated not merely by their correct doctrines, but by whether their missions are serving the “parishes” of this whole world; here and now, not just for the hereafter.

The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. How do we work together, even with people we don’t agree with? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves, but also one another? Only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to the common good can we rescue and redeem our politics.

Many of us believe that to be on God’s side, and not merely claim that God is on ours (to paraphrase Lincoln), means to live out the prayer Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in early 2013.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

 

Democracy ?   Leave a comment

” Democracies do not run on autopilot –

they are only as vibrant as the level of participation by our citizens.” (CIW)

November 6, 2012 is what political types call “E Day“. It is a day for elections in the United States of America. Eligible American voters will be casting their ballots for President, and many other positions. This is a part of what Americans refer to as, “democracy.”

Tomorrow there will be many analyses of the results of the elections, including analyses of the number of eligible Americans who actually voted. Pundits and analysts will attempt to measure the health of democracy, as it is practiced in The United States of America, by the level of voter participation.

However, according to the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, a healthy democracy requires ongoing democratic engagement both during and between elections. The CIW measures eight factors that contribute to “democratic engagement”. The following graph is an illustration from research on democracy in Canada.

A line graph of the Democratic Engagement showing in order from greatest value - GDP, Democratic Engagement and CIW.

How Well” is democracy in Canada? Additional information, and the factors involved in this research, can be found at:

http://uwaterloo.ca/canadian-index-wellbeing/resources/infographics/democratic-engagement