NT Wright on dropping African debt

Interesting piece by NT Wright (as usual), defending his opinion that the massive debts that many African countires owe to Western countries and banks should be canceled.  Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:

In the 1970s, for example, Western financial institutions loaned the best part of a billion dollars to Idi Amin of Uganda – a vicious psychopath and known to be such. By doing so, they not only saddled that impoverished country with a millstone of debt, but financed the dictator’s reign of terror. These actions were both financially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. After Amin’s fall, the debts were inflated by massive rates of compound interest (up to 20% p.a.!) resulting mainly from economic policies pursued by the developed world, not least as long-term results of the Bretton Woods agreement. At the same time, the bottom fell out of the market for Uganda’s main exports.

Here in North East England, Christian Aid received an unsolicited email from Dr Simon Challand, when he was working in southern Uganda with the Church Mission Society. He wrote that: “Debt relief means money stays in the country instead of pouring out to Europe and the US and there have been huge improvements in health and education… The Ministry of Health has just increased the grant to all the health centres by 85%… four years ago they got nothing. Many health centres are able to provide immunisation, growth monitoring, health education and antenatal care to remote rural areas… Everywhere you go you can see new classrooms going up to support the Universal Primary Education programme which gives every child 7 years of free schooling.” [Uganda used its first tranche of debt relief to improve basic medical provision and to abolish fees for primary school.]

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: Emergent Village blog)

The only ones that don’t know, are the Church (John Wimber)

Years ago in New York City, I got into a taxi cab with an Iranian taxi driver, who could hardly speak English. I tried to explain to him where I wanted to go, and as he was pulling his car out of the parking place, he almost got hit by a van that on its side had a sign reading The Pentecostal Church. He got real upset and said, “That guy’s drunk.” I said, “No, he’s a Pentecostal. Drunk in the spirit, maybe, but not with wine.” He asked, “Do you know about church?” I said, “Well, I know a little bit about it; what do you know?” It was a long trip from one end of Manhattan to the other, and all the way down he told me one horror story after another that he’d heard about the church. He knew about the pastor that ran off with the choir master’s wife, the couple that had burned the church down and collected the insurance—every horrible thing you could imagine. We finally get to where we were going, I paid him, and as we’re standing there on the landing I gave him an extra-large tip. He got a suspicious look in his eyes—he’d been around, you know. I said, “Answer me this one question.” Now keep in mind, I’m planning on witnessing to him. “If there was a God and he had a church, what would it be like?” He sat there for awhile making up his mind to play or not. Finally he sighed and said, “Well, if there was a God and he had a church—they would care for the poor, heal the sick, and they wouldn’t charge you money to teach you the Book.” I turned around and it was like an explosion in my chest. “Oh, God.” I just cried, I couldn’t help it. I thought, “Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it’s supposed to be like. The only ones that don’t know are the Church.(emphasis mine)

(HT: Catalyst Blog -> ThinkChristian -> Jordon Cooper -> John Wimber’s Jesus’ Mandate for Justice, pg. 4)

“…Modernity had its place, but it is over.”

“We look at church history and think it’s beautiful, and modernity had its place, but it is over. And it’s not like postmodernism is better, but it is more relevant. It’s just growth. Is a two year old more important than a fifty year old or vice versa? And it’s not that emergents are rebelling against the modern church; it’s that we are asking questions because we have to.”

-“Matt” – from ON APOLOGETICS, SALVATION, DECISIONS AND HELL: An Interview with a few Emerging types at a local Baptist church

(HT: Emergent Village)

What the heck is this “Emerging Church” thing?

So I wanted to shoot up a quick post here for anyone who’s reading that may still be unaware or confused about what the “Emerging Church” is. If you spend any amount of time online, reading blogs, etc. it may be a term that you’ve stumbled onto. It’s something that I’ve personally found enough value in to associate myself with, even though it’s not really a real organization or entity or something that you can actually be a member of.

I wanted to put up a couple links to some of the best descriptions that I have found, in the hopes that this will shed some light for anyone who happens to stop by here and read. And please feel free to drop some comments here if anything is unclear or you’d like to ask me what I think about some of the statements in the articles I’m going to link to.

The first one is by Scot McKnight and it’s called “Five Streams of the Emerging Church“. It was brought back to my attention when Heather posted on it earlier this week. This one has been my favorite of all of the attempts I’ve seen to explain what exactly the emerging church is, and what the different facets of it are. A very good read in my opinion.

However, I think that I may have found a new favorite. This one is called “Four Models of Emerging Churches” by C. Wess Daniels. I think what makes these particular models very interesting is the criteria that the author used to create the categories. Here’s what he did:

The way I’ve tried to construct these categories is around

a) philosophers and theologians who have influenced these groups, and

b) their stance towards Western culture.

I think this is a really helpful way to not only describe some of what these various groups think, but to also explain who it is that they’ve been influenced by which can help us gain a better picture of where they’re coming from. I think it’s a worthwhile read.

Check these out, and drop a comment if you have any thoughts or questions. Enjoy!

(HT: Dan Kimball -> DJ Chuang)

Who says we should live by the rules?

I found out about this really interesting site/blog called Location Independent Living. It seems to be outlining how one person was able to start their own business that was not tied to a specific location (web-based, I’m guessing) and how that freed them up to do what it is they really want to be doing. In this person’s case, it seems to be to travel the world.

Check out this excerpt from the About page:

Who says you should live by the rules?

Are you fed up with having to live by the rules that say you have to work really hard, make lots of money so you can buy a house with a big mortgage that you then have to work even harder to pay off, until you can finally retire with a nice little nest egg pension…and finally start enjoying your life?

So were we…that’s why we packed in our jobs, set up our own location-independent businesses, sold our house & most of our stuff and left to travel the world indefinitely, searching for our paradise places.

I think this statement has some interesting parallels for followers of Jesus living in America today. Imagine for a moment, if we replace a few words in the last part of that statement:

Who says you should live by the rules?

Are you fed up with having to live by the rules that say you have to work really hard, make lots of money so you can buy a house with a big mortgage that you then have to work even harder to pay off, until you can finally retire with a nice little nest egg pension…and finally start enjoying your life?

So were we…that’s why we packed in our jobs, set up our own location-independent businesses, sold our house & most of our stuff and redirected our surplus of resources (time, money, creativity, etc.) towards furthering the Kingdom of God by helping those in need around us.

Granted, I don’t think we all have the know-how to setup online businesses, but the principle behind this idea, of not simply going along with the American Dream, is a good one no doubt. I haven’t heard too many Christians in America that are challenging the notion of “work really hard your entire life so that you can rest once you’re really old.”

Where’s the balance in that? There’s got to be a happy medium.

Am I taking crazy pills here? Let me know…

(HT: Lifehacker -> ZenHabits)

Missions in Suburbia

I stumbled on a great list of resources (blogs, articles, books, etc) related to being missionally-minded while living in suburban America. There’s a few things on the list that I’ve seen and heard of before, a few I’ve written about here, and a bunch of new ones. Check it out, and see if there’s anything that might be of help as we learn how best to love God and love our neighbors in the 21st century wasteland that is suburban America: Mission to Suburbia (from the blog of Steve McCoy, called Reformissionary)

(HT: The Suburban Christian -> Joe Thorn)

Ten Ways to be the People of God in Suburbia

Some excellent thoughts here, on what living for God’s Kingdom rather than the Suburban American kingdom could look like. Here’s a link to the original post this came from, but I’ve pasted it all here because it’s just SO good. Check out the original post for the comments and conversation in response to it.

What do you think?

Ten Ways to be the People of God in Suburbia
by Chris Smith

In response, to Brian McLaren’s call for urban churches at the Mayhem gathering last weekend [in Cincinnati], my friend Mike Bishop has been stirring up some conversation on “suburban ministry.” Here’s my response to that conversation, ten ways for those called to suburban ministry to be in the people of God in radical ways in suburbia. This list is meant for people to chew on and not all of its points may be applicable for all suburban missional church communities.

1) Live with others from your church community

Whether you share your home with another person or family, or whether you have several families that have homes in close proximity or both, sharing life together is perhaps the most powerful (i.e., going against the grain of suburban culture) way to be the body of Christ in suburbia. If you can’t live together, at least find a way to share resources (power tools, lawn mowers, children’s clothes/toys, etc).

2) Work Less!

One of the major powers that enslaves suburbia is the idolization of the career. There are many ways to pay the bills that do not involve a 9-5 job, and even within a 9-5 job, there are ways to work less (turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave, etc.) Working less will free you to serve your church community, your family, your neighbors, etc. It will also spur creativity: finding a solution for working less, finding a way to “make ends meet” financially, etc.

3) Throw out the television

Another (and perhaps larger power) that enslaves suburbia is consumerism. You’ll be amazed at how your desire for things ebbs as you take the TV out of the picture. If you can’t bring yourself to kill the television, at least take steps to lessen its influence (get rid of cable, only use it for movies, put it on a cart that can be wheeled in and out of a closet, etc.) Throwing out the television will also stimulate your creativity.

4) Drive less

Suburban culture is also enslaved to the automobile. Find ways to loosen those bonds (much more difficult in suburbia than in urban areas). Share a vehicle with others in your church community (much easier if you are doing #1 above). Invest in a good bicycle. Walk. There was a segment on “60 minutes” a few weeks ago about how much we miss when we zip around in automobiles. Walking and/or biking will help you be more attentive to your surroundings

5) Have a garden / grow food

Suburban life is often very shut off from the food cycle (Food comes from the grocery store, of course!). Homegrown food is more healthy, it gives you a good excuse to be outside (see #7 below), and it provides you with a resource to share generously with your church community and your neighbors. Phil Kenneson outlines a number of horticultural lessons for the people of God in his intro to LIFE ON THE VINE that are additional benefits of this practice.

6) Get to know your neighbors / listen for their needs

To be human is to be poor. Or in other words, everyone has needs. The challenge of suburbia is that there are many more ways to conceal that poverty, and similarly that it will take more effort to get into a position where a neighbor can reveal their needs. Be intentional about building relationships. Share meals, play poker, have block parties, whatever it takes.

7) Be outside as much as possible.

Another temptation of suburbia – fueled by individualism – is that of the house as an impenetrable fortress. Dissolve this temptation by eating, playing, relaxing outside. This practice is also one avenue to interact with your neighbors.

8 ) Do not fence in your yard

All apologies to Robert Frost, but fences do not make good neighbors, and in fact they often keep us from making good human neighbors. This is a corollary to #7, the fence is a major component of the impenetrable fortress syndrome; it protects our privacy and keeps out our “evil” neighbors. It often is a statement of distrust. If you must have a fence (to corral a dog for instance) make it as low and as permeable (i.e., not blocking off the view) as you can get away with.

9) Take a stand against the greed of mega-corporations

Whenever possible, resist buying from domineering mega-corporations (e.g., Wal-mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, and others). These corporations destroy local economies and have little or no concern for the environment. Buy as much as you can from businesses that are as local as possible (family-owned businesses are preferable to local chains, local chains are preferable to regional chains, and regional chains are preferable to global corporations.)

10) Utilize and support non-commercial public spaces (parks, libraries, colleges, etc.)

This point is another corollary of #7 above. We must utilize and show our support for these public spaces, lest they be conquered by the powers of individualism (by becoming private property) or by consumerism (by becoming commercial or industrial property). This is also a wonderful way to foster relationships with our neighbors.

(HT: Emergent Village)