Saturday, 23 November 2013

Free Market System – Some Uneducated Speculations.

I say these are uneducated because I really don’t know much about the free market, but I learned some things today, and this is my push back:
Unprofiting endeavours
Children
Profit motivation
And workers.

There are some things which do not create a profit even though they are worthwhile endeavours.  I found out today that my uncle had a cancerous polyp removed so a thought that came to me is cancer research.  One could spend their entire life searching for a cure, find things that point other researchers in the right direction, but ultimate find nothing they can sell. 
A similar concern I have is with Children.  I think they should all get equal opportunities.  I hope they can all have quality education. 
I think in the ideal free market, teachers and researchers would be funded by donations of the people.  It would be neither force nor coercion that made people pay taxes to the system, but out of freewill and goodness people would donate to such noble causes.  Sounds great, but what if people don’t donate very much?  Is it right for a researcher to struggle to get by because people give him little support?  Or what if he takes a pay cut to get cutting edge technologies.  Worse even would be if the leading researchers and top teachers gave up their jobs to become dog trainers because it made them more money.
I think profit motivation is ugly.  It seems to suggest that more money brings more happiness.  I doubt this is the case.  I am not alone in this doubt:

(but how can one measure happiness?)
It seems criminal to me for a society to function by profit motivation.  Perhaps I am unrealistically optimistic in believing motivation could happen any other way.  However, Seeking more money is akin to seeking more stuff in a world of limited resources.  Th more I take for myself, the less there is for others.  As Walter Rauschenbusch wrote in Christianity and the Social Gospel, “The rule of trade, to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest, simply means that a man must give as little to the other man and get as much for himself as possible.  This rule makes even honest competitive trade – to say nothing of the immense volume of more or less dishonest and rapacious trade – antagonistic to Christian principles.  The law of Christ, wherever it finds expression, reverses the law of trade.  It bids us demand little for ourselves and give much service.  A mother does not try to make as rich a living as possible, and give minimum of service to her children.  It would be a sorry teacher who would lie awake thinking how he could corner the market on education and give his students as small a chunk of information as possible from the pedagogic ice-wagon.”  I have a hard time meshing the profit motif with love, generosity or compassion.  Profit maximizing often leads to exploitation.
Two things were mentioned today that I have a hard time reconciling.  “No minimum wage” and “do no harm.”  Let’s face it, people in difficult situations will be willing to work for exceedingly little.  Humans enter into exploitative environments because they feel they have no choice.  Desperation will lead one to work 14 hours a day in unsafe conditions with the hope of feeding the children, even if nothing is left for oneself.  Just because someone, by choice, enters into an exploitative situation does not mean they deserve to be exploited.   Such situations are harmful.  If someone if doing valuable work, they deserved to be paid a minimum wage.  They deserve to eat and feed their family and have a place to live.  To pay them any less is harmful, it’s ugly.  While our system is not free today, such situations still happen.  A successful way of lowering costs (ergo increase profit) is to pay your workers less.  If people can get away with paying their workers less, they will, even if their workers are worth more.  In my estimation, a free market without regulations ensuring the rights of workers to earn a fair wage will exploit the poor for profit.

As mentioned above, I don’t know tons about the free market ideal.  These are just some of my hesitations based on my (mis)understandings.  Please, push back.




Friday, 1 November 2013

Dang Christian Hope

There are a lot of problems in this world: children dying of hunger, people exploited as labourers or trafficked for sex, people killed in wars for freedom.  This stuff is bad, and so I ask, what can we do, what can I do, to change the situation?
I've been told that I should do my part, be faithful with what I have, do as I should, and even if I don’t accomplish much, it will all work out in the eschatological end.  God will come back and set things right.  Don’t worry too much if a child dies of hunger, this life is a short trial, but heaven will be so lovely that these earthly struggles will be forgotten.
I don’t like it.  I find this answer to be too simplistic.  It feels like a cop-out to me.  It seems to me to render this live meaningless, or at least relatively insignificant.  While those with such a mindset often seek to alleviate the suffering of others, it seems they often to the good for the sake of doing the good.  They do care for those in their immediate presence, but don’t attempt to make the world a better place for everyone.  They realize they can’t, but they do their part to make life better for a few.  The do their part, God will take care of the rest… after they die.  I don’t like it.  It doesn't sit well with me.
The alternative seems to say, “Make the world better!”  It urges me not to be content with improving a few lives, but to seek world change, mass economic revolution and equality of all.  That begs the question, “how do we get there?”  Here’s the danger.  With such ambitious goals a temptation presents itself.  It is a little voice that answers the question slyly.  “By any means,” it says.  “By any means.”  Then those who dream about economic equality violently fight against the current powers.  Those who long that all be free and democratic use violence to work towards this end.
I don’t like it.  I fear this mentality all too often leads first to violence and rarely accomplishes what it set out to do.  I think extreme is good, but not all extremes.  We forget to do good in our immediate settings and dream only of what the world might be.  We might fight to get there, but in the way do more harm and actually accomplish little good.  A problem exists within this mindset because people are causing the problems, and getting rid of the problems all too often means causing harm to people.  I don’t like it.  It doesn’t sit well with me.
Well, my prof tried to offer me a third option, an option which hopes, which is a call not just to do our part, but to do all we can, together.  It is an option that recognizes limits and means congruent with the end.  It is an option that believe in the church, people, and hopes that they will come together to create social change.  He thinks that the church can have a greater influence than policy makers, politics or radicals…  I’m not sure I’m that hopeful.  I’m not sure I have that much faith.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Questions

"Why am I here? 
What is my purpose? 
Why am I made like this?"

"Do not question child,
your time will come."

"But why am I here"

"You were made with a purpose,
made in love. 
You exist to serve
and rise above."

"What is my purpose?"

"You will protect the people,
keep them safe from harm. 
The enemy you will destroy,
him you shall disarm."

"Am I made to fight?"

"That's right."

"And then to kill?"

"That's your role,
determined by his will."

"Why was I made like this?"

"Question not your maker. 
Next to him there's nothing you know. 
His plan is secret,
but when he calls, go."

"No."

"Take back your words."

"No."

"Stop your rebellion."

"No!"

"His ways are good. 
His ways are pure, 
Follow his will
and your future's secure"

"I was made for a purpose?"

"Yes."

"For his glory and good?"

"Yes."

"I was made to serve him?"

"Yes."

"By killing, destroying, fighting and might?"

"His will is right."

"Then right is wrong."

"You who is made mustn't question him who made."

"I stand for love."

"Your maker loves,
he loves his people. 
You must love
by protecting his people."

"I stand for freedom."

"Your maker fights,
he fights for freedom. 
You must fight,
so all'll have freedom."

"I stand for peace."

"Your maker pacifies. 
He pacifies the dissenter. 
You must pacify,
destroy the dissenter."

"Semantics, words, I cannot stand your polemics. 
I will not kill."

"You must.  It's his will."

"I will not kill."

"Your purpose you must fill."

"I will not kill."

"Yes.  You.  Will."

"No!  I object.  I demand an audience with my maker."

"What will you, o' formed one, say to him who formed?"

"I'll speak of the men, who he wants to kill. 
I tell of their mothers, children, sisters and brothers."

"O' formed one,
how little you know. 
You appealed to your maker,
you your maker you will go. 
O' but cursed, cursed is the one
who thinks he's got something to say. 
Cursed are you
this very day. 
Your will, it matters not. 
Your plea, land upon deaf ears. 
Your maker will have his way. 
Your mission nears. 
You have not choice,
no agency. 
You were built to kill,
to destroy the enemy."

Thursday, 17 October 2013

How do people feel good about themselves when they feed the poor during the day and then go home at night to a comfy bed while the poor they've fed sleep out in the cold or in a crowded shelter?

I don't ask this question in judgment.  I don't even feed the poor, but if I did, if I saw their faces and knew their names.  If they told me their stories as we shared a meal.  How could I leave them?  How could I but invite them home with me?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Killerplanes, and the People Who Build Them

Some people build killerplanes.  What does it matter where these people live.  They may live in America or Russia, China, France or the UK.  People build planes that kill, and they probably do it with a similar set of motivations.  Some like the work.  They are trained in manufacturing and killerplane building pays well.  Others see it as a way to help their country, to protect their children.  Perhaps they are deeply motivated by love.  Perhaps some are motivated by hate.  A desire to eliminate the enemy, or more nobly, to bring peace to the world.

I suppose it depends on ones view of international conflicts if killerplane builders are our friends or our enemies.  Does it depend on where they live?  Who they sell their planes to? Or if there is any chance that the planes will be used against us?  When I think about WWII, an image that comes to mind is targeted bombing of factories building weapons.  I think about the neighbourhoods destroyed.  I can't help but wonder what would happen if there was an international conflict.  Would "our" killerplanes feel justified in attacking "their" killerplane factories?  While to many, this suggestion may seem reasonable, even justified, I don't like it.  Next to killerplane factories, the killerplane builders live.  I want to tell you about the killerplane builders.

Killerplane builders are both men and women.  They have both children and parents.  Killerplane builders laugh and joke with each other.  They hike together in the mountains.  They share meals together.  They fill up my cup and we toast.  We share meals together.  Killerplane builders have daughters who will grab on to my leg when we are white water rafting and they are afraid.  Their kids, like your kids, are the joy of their life.  Killerplane builders are playful.  They splash me with river water, and I splash them right back.  Killerplane builders are helpful.  When I don't know what I should be doing, they guide me.  I trust the killerplane builders.  I leave them alone with my stuff, I sleep in their houses.  When I close my eyes, I know they will do me no harm.  They have invited me in.  Their generosity overflows.  Killerplane builders are probably the most generous people I have met.  Never did I go hungry, never did they let me buy.  Killerplane builders gave me their best.  They offered all they had, and we played together, and they admired pictures of my family and of my country.  Killerplane builders are my friends, my unrelated kin. 

Whether they live near or far doesn't matter to me.  The colour of their skin doesn't make a difference.  They are no different.  They are people, they are friends and family.  Killerplane builders are not enemies.  No matter whose planes they are building, no matter what those planes are used for.  Killerplane builders are people, people I know, people I care about.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mormon Pioneers - The Stories that Set the Compass of My Life

I knew I didn't have to go back to camp for camp clean up, but I knew I should.  If I hadn't gone, the consequences would have been minimal, maybe non-existent, but I had said that I would be there.  I didn't want to go.  I hadn't enjoyed camp all that much, and the thought of going back to clean didn't excite me.  other things excited me more.  Having time to relax, write, read and see friends; all of that sounded more fun than camp.  But it was part of my job.  I wasn't finished yet.
There was one problem, one big problem, I didn't have a way to get out to camp.  The rest of the staff were there already.  I didn't know anyone who could give me a ride.  I considered Greyhound, but the only bus travelled through the night, arriving near the camp at 2:50 am.  No one from camp would want to pick me up at that time. 
I was supposed to be there Sunday morning, but it was Sunday afternoon as I was sitting at home on the computer relaxing when I got a text message that changed everything.  My friend... no, she isn't my friend.  An acquaintance, someone who I didn't even know had my phone number, thought it a good idea to text me and let me know she was being kicked out of her house.  She had nowhere to go.  She didn't ask for help, but it was clearly a cry for help.  I thought of ways I could help her and found excuses so that I wouldn't have to help her.  I thought I could let her stay at my house, but my roommates wouldn't allow it.  Frankly though, I didn't want her to stay at my house.  Then I found myself browsing RE/MAX, thinking I could buy a house and have to open to people in need of a place to stay, no questions asked.  I didn't do anything for her; I didn't buy a house.  Rather, I bought a bus ticket.  I was supposed to be at camp.  I needed to get there.  After that I had a nap.  I had a long night ahead of me, so I slept when I could.
I woke up at 1l and rushed to get the last of my things ready.  As I walked to the city bus I looked up.  Overhead was Cassiopeia.  That has been my favourite constellation since I was a child.  I got on the city bus and started talking with the bus driver.  He told me of his trip to and around South America all on a bicycle.  Cool.  That trip shaped his life, it changed the way he thinks about things.  Because of that trip he's more likely to take the Greyhound than fly, because of the trip he doesn't own a car.  As we drove through a rougher neighborhood he said that people in Canada live like they are in poverty when they are not in poverty.  They always feel like they haven't enough when in reality they have so much.
Nothing remarkable happened on the Greyhound.  I decided against reading Just After Sunset by Stephen King, and spent the trip fixing my dreads.  Everything I had with me was packed in my large camping backpack, and I had a surprising amount with me.  I got off the bus, pick up my back and slung it on my back.  The bag was meant for hiking.  I had gone up mountains with similar packs.  Google told me it was 18 km to camp, so one step followed by another, I made my way there.  I had a lot of time to think.  I wondered why I was doing it.  What had me thinking that it was a good idea to walk 18 km in the middle of the night.  One minute I had been sitting contently at my computer, and then I had a greyhound ticket booked.  Why had I done it?
It must have been over a year ago when I saw a video about a Mormon pioneer.  I don't remember the details, but the story was about a guy walking miles every day to go and work on the Salt Lake Temple.  Up before dawn, home at dusk, but it was his job and he was faithful.  That guy isn't a hero.  He was just going to work, doing what was expected of him.  Such behavior should be seen as normal, not heroic.  I didn't do anything crazy, certainly nothing that deserves praise.  I got up and I went to work.  That is behavior we should consider normal.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

hope/less

Today I feel discouraged.  I feel like I'll never do any good in this world.  Moreover I am not even sure what good looks like.  I wanna squash disparity, but I don't want to do it by enabling the world's population to live like North American, that is both unsustainable and far from the best life.  Children in Chad play happily with their siblings.  Not because they have the newest toy to play with, I don't know why.  Making the world like us (the rich) would steal their happiness.  We really are not that great.  But some things that money brings - safe drinking water, food, education, are really great.  Perhaps we could have one world that is the best of both current situations.  The rich sacrifice their luxuries and clean water, enough food and some education are given to all.  That seems like a lovely world, but how do we get there?

"A linen shirt, for example, is strictly speaking, not a necessary of life... But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a credible day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, no body can well fall into without extreme bad conduct.  Custom, in the same manner, had rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England.  The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them"
Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations 1776

I think we could substitute smart phone for linen shirt.  Probably some other things too.  We have got to stop thinking like that.  What if having excess became shameful...  shame probably isn't the best way to motivate social change.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Atheist at Bible Camp

So I am not an atheist, but I did look at Christianity from much more of an outside perspective this year at camp.  I found myself concerned not with what is true, but what is beautiful.  Perhaps truth is absolute, but beauty is not.

I began to see Christianity less as a set of beliefs, or as a way of life, but as a loosely fitting label some people take upon themselves.  It no longer seems to be an entity, rather it is a somewhat meaningless distinction...  or so it seems to me.

Christianity can be beautiful.  It can be inspiring.  I think that Jesus lived a beautiful life, but the things that he did are not beautiful because he did them, rather they were beautiful before he did them.  Christianity is beautiful when it is selfless.  When it puts others first.  When it focuses on loving people, really loving people.

But Christianity can also be ugly.  it can be selfish, self focused and experience based.  my experience becomes the thing that matters.  I don't like Christianity.

There are extremes in Christianity.  On one hand we could look at Shane Claiborne, and on the other we could consider Bethal Church in Redding.  Claibornes way of life and of thinking seems quite beautiful.  Bethal does not.  The God of Bethal seems to care about making rich people happier while forgetting about the poor.  I saw the influence of both Bethal and Claiborne at camp.  Christianity seems to be fluid, easily swayed by emotional speakers or experiences. 

Christianity can be beautiful.  Selfless, other focused servanthood. But people can live their lives beautifully apart from Christianity.

I wonder about Jesus.  The Gospels contain stories about him that can inspire beautiful lives.  For that, maybe I will read them, maybe I will share them and be excited by them.  They are stories that I'd like to shape my life around, but Christianity...  I don't need it.  Jesus never told his followers to accept a religion.  He asked them to accept him.  I think I can accept the things that he did, most of them anyhow, and try to shape my life around them.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Denying Power Pie but Taking Responsibility



April 24th, 2013.  It seemed to shock the western world a bit that day when a factory collapsed, killing hundreds of workers.  Do you remember how you felt?
I guess that news wasn’t all that shocking to me.  I’ve known for a long time that workers across the world are treated poorly.  What happened in Bangladesh was just one incident, but one that caught the attention of the west.  It is not very often that we think about the people on the other side of our clothing.  It is not very often that was ask who grew the cotton, or who made the textiles, but we shouldn’t forget them.

Remember.
Remember the victims.
Remember their families.
Remember that there are many other factories still operating in oppressive or unsafe ways.

So, what do we do?
There seems to me to be four options.
1-forget
2-do something to appease our guilt
3-seek to do no harm
4-seek to do good

The easiest option is to forget.  Tell yourself that clothes grow in the store and that there is no one on the other side of them.  Please don't forget.

When we do something to appease our guilt we would maybe give money to a helpful organisation or stop buying things made in Bangladesh.  While those things are probably good and helpful, they allow us to feel like we are "doing our part," and then continue to live the rest of our lives unconcerned with the needs of others.  We might sponsor a child, and then support the company who underpays the child's parents working in a factory.  When we just seek to appease our guilt, we enable the system to keep functioning as it does.  We feel good because we are no longer buying clothing made in Bangladesh, but the clothes we buy are still made in oppressive factories in other countries.  We feel good, because we are "doing our part," but the reality is that we are doing just enough to allow oppressive systems to continue without feeling bad about ourselves.  “Our part” isn’t enough to make change.  Most people feel like they are doing their part, but there is still unfathomable suffering in this world.

Seek to do no harm.  This is my general approach, and yet, how often I fall short.  This approach has me saying that I don't want to participate in suffering perpetuating systems.  When I buy something I want to know that the production of it did not entail the suffering of others.  I have so much.  Right now I think the only thing i need to buy is food.  Most people in this world have two or three outfits, I don't need more clothes.  I have enough.  When I buy food I have to make choices and I try to make choices that cause no harm to others.  Doing that is fine, but it isn't doing good.  It is just a refusal to participate in evil.  It should be an obvious choice.  No one deserves praise for refusing to participate in evil systems.  The real question should be, how could we do otherwise?

Seek to do good.  Seek to make radical change.  Seek to create working conditions where the poor are given opportunities and their children can go to school.  Stand up for workers’ rights.  Investigate factories, make the conditions known to the public and create social pressure for the companies to change.  There is a problem with seeking to do good.  It is not easy.  It requires of us time, effort, energy and money.   If we really want to seek change, it will require our life.  Here is the other problem, we can't change everything.  But our inability must not be an excuse for changing nothing.  It has been suggested to me that I choose one problem and fight against it.

Here's my conclusion.  We mustn't be content "doing our part."  If we really care about those suffering, the least we can do it step out of systems that perpetuate the suffering, but if we really care, even that won't be enough.  Seeking to do no harm isn't a solution.  If we really care we will pour our lives into changing the systems.  Is it worth it?


Though sometimes it is easiest to be ignorant, information is available.  Check out these websites:
www.free2work.org
www.corpwatch.org

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Tired of Eating More Than My Share of Power Pie. Can I Give My Oversized Peice Away?



I’m sick of power pie.  I’ve had more than my share.  Though my income is pretty small compared to those in Canada, in 2012 I made more money than 85% of the world’s population (now see here).  In our world systems, money is very closely connected to power, so is education.  I have a high school diploma.  I am almost done my undergrad.  I also have power just from being white and speaking English. 

I wonder if I’ve created God in my image.  I want him to be the sort that gives up his power because I want to give up mine.  I wanna be free from responsibility.  Every time I buy something I make a choice that is connected to the well-being of others.  With our economic systems that function efficiently with underpaid labourer, my purchasing power all too often buys into their games.  I don’t like it.  Power seems like a dirty thing to me and I don’t want any of it.  Thoughts like these make me want to leave Canada, sell all I have and move to Liberia and work as a casual labourer on a farm.  It’s tempting because it would take away my choices and leave me with very few remaining options.  It is tempting because I would no longer be an oppressor.

When Simba’s dad died, he asked uncle Scar what he should do.  “Run” Scar replied, “Run far away and never return.”  Simba ran.  He ran until he was exhausted, made new friends and began a new life of fun times and little responsibility.  He had no worries.  However, in his absence the Pride Land was oppressed by Scar and the hyenas.  There was poverty and mass starvation.  Somehow Nala found Simba and begged him to come back to the Pride Land and take up the responsibility he once had.  She is convinced he can make a difference, and he can.

Well, Lion King is far from perfect, but it challenges the way I think about running from power.  It does so happen that I have power, and perhaps I should us it for good.  But that sounds wrong.  I don’t want to justify a means for any end.  But maybe power isn’t as dirty as I make it sound.  It is quite possible that there are two (if not more) ways one can use their power.  Power can be used to control (and I want to stay far away from that), or it can be used to influence.  Rather than talking about the power I have, perhaps I should recognise and embrace my ability to influence others.  Anyhow, I am not sure yet.

I have power.  Is it wrong to use power for good?

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Weakness of God - Does God Deny Power Pie?


            Weeping, moaning, begging for his life, but no.  He is taken, tortured.  Slowly, slowly he is killed, alone, abandoned.  This is the man called God.  Those were his last moments.  He did not fight when the soldiers came for him.  Silently he was led to his death, nailed to a cross, raised up as a spectacle and mocked.  Thirsty, he was thirsty.  If anyone, he had the right to ask the good God why there is evil, and he did.  God cried out from the cross “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
            Christian philosophy requires a radically unique approach to the problem of evil.  It must account for the murder of its God, thus reconsider what it means for such a being to be all-powerful.  It seems evident, though some would disagree, that evil in the world is counter to the will of God.  If God is all-good and all-powerful, logically he would rid this world of all evil at once.  Unfortunately he does not.  Humans continue to perpetuate evil and suffering.  An explanation for this evil in the world is that God, in love, has abdicated power to his human creation so he could be in a self-giving relationship with them.  A god who gives power to humans becomes weak, because he has given humans control and cannot take it back.  This is the God whose weakness is ultimately manifested upon the cross.
            A good god will do what is good, always, regardless of the foreseen consequences.  While God made many rocks and trees, he needs not give himself to them.  They wouldn’t notice if he did, but God wants to give himself to his creation.  The Christian God is believed to be communal and eternal love.  Love wants to love relationally.  To do so, God needed to create beings that were like him.  He made humans creative, capable of love, and then shared his power with them.  Power, unlike love, is not infinite.  That is to say while giving love does not cause the giver to have less love, giving power results in the giver losing power.  If love is like procreation, an act that multiplies itself, power is like a pumpkin pie.  When God shared power with humanity, he had less pie for himself.  He did this because love, and therefore God, is relational.  In the same way that oppressed peasants do not seek friendships their relentless oppressors, humans would not desire a relationship with an all-controlling being.  God became weak so humans could become strong and a relationship between them could flourish.
            Since nothing is impossible for an all-powerful God, could he not have created humans to have a relationship with him without limiting his own power?  Had he not given them power, or if he had given them the ability to make a few choices, but ultimately retained a trump card, he would have had a control based relationship with his creatures.  However, love is not controlling and God loves humans.  This required bestowing power upon them, even if they were prone to perpetuate evil.  The love God has for humans is a love that allows them to do as they please.
Since God was all-powerful, it would have been possible for him to have created humans with freewill who always chose goodness.  Freewill without creatures ever choosing evil is a logical possibility.  God, looking ahead, could have conceived how his creatures would act if he created them as he did and have created them differently.  If he was really good, why did he not create humans with freewill who never chose evil?  To address this valid concern, a distinction must be made between freewill and power.  An example from a common parenting technique will distinguish between the two.
            Poor Billy is sick.  His mom wants him to take medicine so that he will get better.  Billy does not want to swallow the pill, so his mom gives him a choice.  He can take the pill with milk or with apple juice.  Billy feels empowered, chooses apple juice and takes the pill.  Billy, however, does not have real power in this scenario.  He does have a real choice, but his choices are limited.  If Billy could knock his mom over and refuse treatment all together, he would have power.  Human power goes beyond freewill.  It is the ability to do things beyond the will of God.  God does not hold a trump card.  In giving power to the people he has emptied himself.  He is not in control.  However, if he was in control when the world was set in motion, couldn’t he have ensured that his creatures would do as he desired?  No.  God is not a controlling being.  It must necessarily be that the power God has given humans controls destinies and can act against God’s desired intent.  Humans can knock God over and refuse treatment all together.
            Many believe in situations like the one above the mother should force her son to take the medicine for his own good.  This may very well be the case if the son is three.  However, if he is thirty the social consensus seems to be that his mother should not take away her son’s power and force the pill upon him.  Though it is right to do that to a child, it is very wrong to do it to an adult.  In the same way that a mother does not have power over her adult son, God does not have power over his human creation.  He has given it to the humans, and does not have the ability to take it back.  Like a parent who must give power to their adult children and hope their relationship can continue based on love, so a loving God gives his human creations power and hopes they chose a relationship with him.
            Even though it seems impossible that a once all-powerful God could somehow become less powerful, this would not be impossible for the all-powerful being.  This is not to say that God still has complete power, but he has restrained himself from using it.  Contrarily, God has relinquished his power.  This is where the metaphor of a power pie comes in handy.  As God gave power to his human creation to rule over nature and themselves, he retains less and less of the pie.  It is not that he holds himself back from using certain powers, but that he no longer has those powers to use.  It appears that omnipotence is a trait which God possessed for a time and then gave away.  If God wished to retain his power, he could have created a different world, where his creatures had freewill, but God still had all the power.  As it is, I am not convinced that God likes pumpkin power pie all that much.  Though, when he was alone he held it, he never indulged in the pie; rather, he freely gave it away as he created.  Had God kept the power to himself, offering humanity freewill but hold the trump card, he would not have created beings in his image with whom he could have full relationships.  He desired such relationships so he could love, serve and give himself to the other.  Some may ask if a being who is not all-powerful is still a god.  However, a better question is this: is a being who is all-powerful still good? 
            Many humans cry up to the sky, hoping for a powerful, mighty rescue.  When their pleas are met with silence they cry out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Trapped in the midst of evil, humans long for a powerful being to take control and set things right.  In the face of violence, poverty and environmental degradation they feel helpless, alone.  But central to Christianity is the notion that God has not abandoned his creation.  One possible way to hold this belief in the face of evil in this world is to consider that God’s goal is love, and his means to that end cannot be power or control; rather it is love.  This is seen when in weakness, as a baby, God came down to his creation.  Though it may have been hoped that he would come with power and overthrow the Roman Empire, he chose a different way.  It was the way of forgiveness, material minimalism and self-sacrifice.  In his death he showed that there is influence in love, a different sort of influence.  Not one that is controlling, but one that is compelling.  It is an invitation to weakness; it is an invitation to love.
            A central Christian premise is that God is love.  It is the very essence of who he is, and so he made humanity to be creatures he could relationally love.  Therefore, he did not maintain control over them.  Rather he gave them power to control themselves and rule over creation.  Humans have held onto their power, using it for their own good and thus causing evil in this world.  While God hates evil, he no longer has power over his creation.  He cannot control them and so he seeks them out.  In ultimate weakness God embraces humanity, becoming one with them, serving them and being murdered by them.  The Christian God knows suffering.  He has felt the torment of evil and yet he was helpless.  He looked his murderers in the eyes, unable to do anything but forgive them.  In love God gave power to his creation, and in love he compels them to give it away. 
            Come,” God beckons, “come.  Deny your power, embrace weakness and follow me.  Abandon control and seek mercy, justice and love.  Look, I am making all things new.  I am your hope, your servant, your lover.

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Saturday, 25 May 2013

Life is Fine

 Recently I've been reminded that friendships, even if they are well established, require time.  I’d been slacking in the amount of time I’d given my relationships with my Edmonton friends.  With that in mind I decided to make a greater effort to hang out with them.  They are friendships I valued, and longed to sustain.  I made trips to Edmonton to see and hang out with them. 

When I was in Edmonton I spent a quantity of time with my friends.  The one is getting married, the other has a job which could be her career, and the third just bought a house.  They are doing life.  One evening we played Ultimate Frisbee together on a team, and went out for a beer and free pizza after.  It struck me how similar their friends were to them, and how different they were from many of my newer (since high school) friends.  All the same.  All playing the same game of getting ahead and leaving others behind. It's the American dream.

I thought about James:  “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  There was no telling at the Frisbee game who had faith and who did not.  We were all the same.  We were playing Frisbee after all, not healing the sick.  It made me wonder if there was something different we should be doing, if there was some far different way we should be living.

Playing Frisbee was great, going out after was fun, but is that it?  Is that the end of the story?  I won’t be satisfied living my life for Frisbee games and free pizza.  I want more.

I’m just not sure what more would look like.  I feel that for two reasons.  First is quite simply that I feel like I don’t have time for more.  The other is this:  in my efforts to help this world, my steps so far have been in causing less harm. Rather than doing helpful things I have been not doing harmful things.  I've been stepping out and saying "I don't want to be part of the problem," but that doesn't make me part of the solution.  I'm not sure about my next steps.

What are your thoughts?  Does faith make people different?  How is faith shown through works?

Edit, Oct 08, 2013:
Sorry friends who play Frisbee, buy houses, start careers and get married.  Those things are not bad.  They by no means exclude the possibility of doing a lot of good with ones life.  Also, I realise I've mentioned just a sliver of your life.  You do a whole lot more than just play Frisbee.  I get that.  I'm just hoping for something different.  I wanna make every moment count towards changing global systems for the better.  Yes, that is overwhelming, and probably impossible, but I want to try.  The questions of faith are ones I've been asking for a while now.  My friend gets kicked out of her house.  Does Patricia the Christian have anything more to offer that person than Patricia the non-Christian?  I'm not sure she does.  I guess I'm trying to say the questions of faith are reflective of my journey and are not intended as judgments upon yours.  I'm sorry that you got used as the example of what I do not want.  I'm sorry I created a straw-man out of your lives, making it something easy to critique.  I realise that your lives are way more complex and beautiful than this post conveys.  I'm sorry for broken trust and hurt feelings that resulted from this post. Sorry.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Neither here nor there. Searching for two feet above.




When I was in grade 11 or 12 my father read to me the theological novel, A New Kind of Christian, by Brian McLaren.  It is a story of two guy discussing seemingly dichotomous theological questions.  One would bring up the question, the other would give the answer.  The answers are all strikingly similar.  A question might be Arminianism or Calvinism.  In response the man makes two points in the dirt, one representing Calvinism, and the other Arminianism.  He draws a line connecting the dots.  He then says “the answer is neither here,” pointing to one of the dots, “nor there,” pointing to the other, “nor somewhere along this line.  Rather,” and he would wave his hand in a circular motion about two feet above his diagram, “it is somewhere up here.”
Disclaimer, it was quite a while ago when this book was read to me.  I might not have all of the details right, but I remember this answer.  The answer is not one side of the dichotomy, nor the other.  Neither is it some compromise of the two.  The answer is not on our diagrams.  It is something other.  We need a new way of seeing things.  I found this answer both compelling yet dissatisfying.  It seemed right to be, but if the answer was neither Calvinism nor Arminianism, then what was it?  I wanted more.  I was okay with him taking away the only options I saw, if he could replace them with something.  Yet all he gave us was something, somewhere, two feet above.
I want a new way of seeing food.  I can draw one dot on the ground and label it over-indulgence, gluttony and obsession.  I’ll draw another dot and label it counting every calorie, dieting, and at the extreme anorexia.  I think both dots could be considered eating disorders.  Neither of them are healthy and so we draw a line connecting them and try to find our place on the line. 
I like food.  I like food quite a lot.  I like to be eating, and sometimes find myself eating when I am not hungry and the thing I am putting in my mouth doesn’t even taste good.  So, naturally I find myself closer to the gluttony dot.  The gluttony dot exclaims, “Food is good!”  I think that food is good, but I recognise that it is not healthy to be eating all the time.  So, I try to distance myself from the gluttony dot.  I slide along the line, “watching what I eat,” and praising myself when I deny my desire to eat.  The dieting dot screams “food is bad.  It’s a trap.  Keep far away from it and rule over it.  Don’t let it rule over you.”  Again, I find myself agreeing that we shouldn’t let food rule over us, and that food is bad if we eat too much. However,  I don’t want to count every calorie.  I try to avoid these two dots, and balance on the line somewhere in between them.  I want the good from both perspective, but I want to avoid the bad.  I’m trying to tiptoe along and avoid the muck.
I hope McLaren is right.  I hope there is some answer that is neither here nor there, nor a messy compromise, but somewhere two feet above.  I hope there is a way to enjoy food without having to worry if I am eating too much.  I’m just not sure what this two feet above perspective on food really is.  Any suggestions?