still don't forget about Haiti

I made a similar call on my blog back in May - "don't forget about Haiti." Today I was reminded Haiti still needs help.

I received an email this morning from One International (yes, co-founded by Bono), an organization that focuses on "the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease" through advocacy. In particular, they seek to "hold world leaders to account for the commitments they've made to fight extreme poverty." Such was the topic of today's email:


Dear David,Take action now: sign the petition

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this...When Haiti was devastated by the earthquake in January, government pledges of support poured in. Many of us made our own commitments and delivered upon them, so I’m mortified that six months on, only 10% of their pledged support has actually been delivered.

Only four countries have followed through – meaning that Haiti’s recovery is effectively paralysed. Here's the good news... Canada is on track to deliver its promises, but we need your help ensuring the rest of the world follows through.

President Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, is chasing up these deadbeat donors and we want to give him some ONE support to help him.

To sign the petition, click here:

http://www.one.org/international/actnow/haitiaid/o.pl?id=1827-4512555-aDHyl0x&t=3

Petition text:

Dear world leaders,

Don’t renege on promises to those who need them most. Keep your commitments and urgently deliver the support you pledged so that Haiti can begin to rebuild.

In the last 6 months, work has begun to build 50,000 transitional homes and fund rubble-clearing programmes. However, with only 10% of the promised funding, these projects are at risk of grinding to a halt.

Your support in achieving debt cancellation for Haiti was critical. I hope you’ll join me once again in ensuring Haiti is not forgotten.

Thank you,

Roxane Philson, ONE.org

Together as ONE we can make a difference!


I'm usually not the advocacy/political type, but I don't want Haiti to be forgotten.

You can join me by signing the petition here:

peace is a choice (3)

It makes sense after my most recent post - peace isn't a position - that I offer another installment of "peace is a choice."

peace is a choice...

peace is a choice (2)

Here goes:

Learn forgiveness...remember the past, turn to the future.

You have probably heard the phrase "forgive and forget". But when you have been hurt really badly, it is not easy to forget what someone has done to you. Sometimes you really want to hurt them back. Forgiving is about letting go of the hurt and its power over you - a power that makes you want to get even or take revenge or even just keep feeling sorry for yourself. Forgiving is not about forgetting - it is about moving on. When you learn to forgive, you remember past hurt, but you turn to the future. God can give you the power to forgive others.

"And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us." Luke 11:4

Thoughts? Easier said than done? Right on? I think the quote only begins to touch on the psychological complexity that accompanies the challenge of forgiveness.

These "peace is a choice" excerpts are part of MCC BC's monthly newsletter.

peace isn't a position

What do you think of when you consider “love and nonresistance” beliefs of Mennonites and Anabaptists in general, often referred to as “pacifism”?

Well, here I offer some considerations on the topic (i.e. I’m not claiming to provide any sort of definitive answers on the subject).

The Mennonite World Conference - “a community of Anabaptist-related churches” - states:

The Spirit of Jesus empowers us to trust God in all areas of life so we become peacemakers who renounce violence, love our enemies, seek justice, and share our possessions with those in need.

At the conference last week discussing Mennonite Brethren (MB) identity after 150 years (which I've already mentioned here), the question of peace arose on several occasions. MB’s are a diverse bunch, so it wasn’t surprising to hear a variety of opinions on this theological “position.” It’s nothing new or surprising that the peace “position” is often viewed as idealistic, impractical, and theologically narrow. Hence it’s held by a minority faction within the larger global Christian community. As an Anabaptist myself, I can’t ignore the critiques especially when I realize the way of peace offers no easy answers.

But the problem, as I see it, is this very idea that peace is merely a “position” we choose to accept or reject. Peace is an abstracted idea we kick around in the playground of theology and culture. Sure, we can provide good arguments theologically and even socially for why peace and nonresistance is a viable option for Christians to follow (or we take our toys and run home!), but we also know there are many thoughtful and faithful Christians who don’t choose to accept this position, many times for very good, often theological, reasons.

But as Christians, we need to be reminded that peace doesn’t only come as a position. Peace comes in a person.

First and foremost, peace needs to be understood in the concrete reality of Jesus Christ in history. As the anointed Son of God, the true King of Israel, the “Prince of Peace,” Jesus offers a tangible expression for the reality of peace - an expression consistent with God’s work in the world (now and in the future). Jesus' way peace wasn't based on pragmatic or popular ideas but in the very presence of God in the world.

Recently, in a similar discussion, Ryan helpfully quotes Stuart Murray’s description of Anabaptists’ confession for peace:

Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.

The biblical way of peace - this subversive, active, creative response to injustice - is a direct implication of the gospel itself, evident most clearly in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ could only live out his way of peace because of who he was. And the same goes for us.

Any attempts to follow Jesus’ way of peace must recognize this fundamental factor: living out peace requires an ongoing transformation by the Holy Spirit, both individually and communally (I’m thinking Fruit of the Spirit might help - Gal. 5). We aren’t inspired to live peacefully through an idea alone, but through God’s transforming presence with us.

And Jesus himself only describes loving our enemies in the context of our God-given identity (Mt. 5:38-48). For peace to be more than an idea or position, then, we must live in this reality of who we are: Spirit-filled followers of Jesus. Only then, in the words of the MB confession of faith, can we explore how to be “agents of reconciliation” in which we work towards “alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice” in a world so often characterized by violence.

I realize this reminder doesn’t answer the difficult questions facing our attempts to faithfully follow Jesus’ way of peace. I mean, really, it’s easy for me to say I support Jesus’ way of peace from the comfort of my office - you could call it "armchair peace." Yet knowing peace was an historical reality in Jesus’ life and how it will one day be a reality for all, I can’t help but hope that God’s people can offer glimpses for peace as an historical reality now.

What about po-St/mOd(ern)ity?

This week I'm attending Celebration 2010 - a gathering of North American Mennonite Brethren marking the 150th anniversary of the movement. A part of the gathering is a study conference titled "Renewing Identity and Mission" in which a variety of topics are explored by many different presenters from many different fields. It's been enriching to say the least!

During the conference I've had the chance to participate in a blogger's forum for the MB Herald, our denominational magazine. What follows is my entry responding to a presentation by my friend and mentor Myron Penner.

What about po-St/mOd(ern)ity?

Yes, this is how actually how Myron Penner spelled the oft-controversial term “postmodernity,” alluding to the idea that postmodernity is by no-means understood or even accepted as a helpful term in academia. With an intellectually stimulating presentation, Myron suggested that postmodernity is misunderstood and misused when Christians describe the world. Working from his perspective as a philosopher, Myron was quite critical of Christian characterizations of history, particular in the blaming of philosophy for our “alleged” postmodern context. Postmodern thought, Myron suggested, was only about a 10-year span in the ’70s and ’80s, seen now as “sophomoric skeptical posturing” in philosophical circles.

In fact, Myron proposed that postmodernism has little traction in much of academic discipline in general. In this line, to suggest philosophy is somehow father and proponent of postmodernism, as Christians are prone to suggest, is simply wrong. At best, postmodernism describes a cultural situation, but not a philosophical position. Myron concluded, then, that philosophy is not bound by the caricatures of worldview (e.g. “modern” or “postmodern”), but has and continues to offer an “intellectually viable” presentation of Christian beliefs.

As one trained in theological studies, I was challenged by Myron’s critique of theologian’s caricatures of cultural developments, particularly our descriptions of postmodernism and “secular” academic disciplines. Despite popular Christian opinions often fuelled by critique of belief in God (e.g. Dawkins), Myron helpfully clarified, citing the work of Alvin Plantinga, that “actual contemporary philosophy is not hostile to belief in God…God is alive and well in the academy of philosophy.” To summarize, I think we as Christians too often tell the story for others instead of allowing others, in this case philosophy, to tell the story themselves. To that end, Myron told us a much-needed story.

limits to our escape

As I mentioned previously, an important part of vacations for me is relaxation. And reading has always been a primary mode of rest in my life. This vacation was no exception, although I’ll admit, I had to deviate from the norm somewhat with the presence of a near two-year-old, as this picture shows:
In particular, I want to comment on my reading of Frederick Buechner’s book, Godric, which tells the tale of a 12-century gallivanting adventurer turned hermit holy man - an individual revered for his faithfulness, yet as Buechner’s explores, perhaps a more complex character than saintly legends remember. At one point in the book, Buechner explores Godric’s practice of silence and meditation. And in the context of my own rest and reflection, I was especially drawn to Godric’s own description of experiencing silence:

Voices that I haven’t heard since I was young call out to me. Faces long since faded bloom afresh. Legs that barely hold me up grow strong again in dreams to carry me wherever I would go and where I wouldn’t too.

“That hermit Godric!” people say. “How holy must he be to rest in one place, rooted like a tree, so he may raise his shaggy arms to God alone while holy thoughts nest in his leaves like birds.”

They do not guess that in my mind I’m never still...oh the thoughts that come to roost in this old skull!...hermits sleep like other men, alas, and in the dark all men go mad.

I fill the box of empty years with thinking back on how things were--some good, some bad--and dreaming into life again what’s dead and gone (selections from 139-141).

Not quite the idyllic picture of holiness from one whom some call a saint, eh!?! But to Buechner’s credit, even if embellishing the Godric historical account, he reveals how too often we idealize the holiness of religious folks, and forget the challenging realities all people face in seeking faithfulness to God in their spiritual practices. Attaining perfection, however we envision it, is no easy task.

Now, besides reading, vacations (especially road trips) offer a chance to listen to new music. So prior to leaving, I downloaded Keane’s latest album, Night Train, a creative and collaborative effort offering quite the musical variety - a good listen in my estimation. Anyway, shortly after reading Godric, I listened to the song, “Stop for a Minute,” recorded with rapper K’naan. Besides it’s catchy tune, I was struck by how the lyrics touch on ideas I was thinking about from Godric - the idea that we all have hidden imperfections as humans, often experienced as this busyness of the mind that Godric described. The beginning of the chorus admits it like this:

And if I stop for a minute
I think about things I really don't wanna know

Again, like Godric, this song admits to the dark side of reflection - we all carry with us an inability to consistently live and think the way we would like. I find such honesty refreshing. I think religious and non-religious folks alike would do well to admit their own internal struggles in attempting to be better people.

Interestingly, both the book and the song allude to a critical component to living well despite our imperfections - our reliance on and need for others. Despite being a hermit, even Godric valued the role his few companions played in his solitary life, often represented in the simple services they provided him in his old age. And in “Stop for a Minute” the chorus continues like so:

And I'm the first to admit it
Without you I'm a child and so wherever you go
I will follow

And so rest, silence, meditation, vacations, etc..., while valuable practices for bettering our lives, are incomplete, perhaps even harmful on their own, lest we allow our “busy minds” as Godric would say, to overcome us in our silence.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love vacations full of rest and relaxation, but as I return to the real world this week, Buechner and Keane have helped me realize the limits to my escape and my ongoing need to “follow” more than myself.

rest

As we vacation in the San Francisco area this week, I keep thinking, “oh, I should blog something...” But for me, obligation is the enemy of relaxation when I’m on vacation, hence the blog silence. So all I offer are a few quotes I Googled that aptly describe how our time has been. Oh, and there’s this picture I took of Landon - who brings new meaning to “rest” and vacation:-).

Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind (Eccl. 4:6 NIV).

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time (Sir John Lubbock).

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen (Leonardo da Vinci).

Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest (Ashleigh Brilliant).