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)

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Israel vs Palestine: Is there a “third way”?

Fantastic article called Israel/Palestine: Which Side Are You On?

Here are a few good quotes, but you should definitely read the whole thing:

Every time I read the two sides on the Middle East conflict, I can’t help but notice a strange resemblance in their narratives. There is the common sense of gloom, for one. There is, of course, the mutual finger-pointing. And there is the insistence that the core identity of the other is inherently violent, that the people over there are simply dominating by nature – and therefore must be stopped at all costs

Most Sundays, I would have just shook my head and flipped the page. I’ve heard it all before. We all have. Each side has a library full of facts and stories championing their cause, and demonizing the other side.

But on Saturday, at the Pangea Day Film Festival in Los Angeles, I saw things that flipped the script. I watched a segment of Encounter Point, a film about Israelis and Palestinians who are part of the Bereaved Families Forum. Each lost an immediate relative in the conflict, but they had decided that forgiveness was the weapon they would wield instead of revenge.

Robi Damelin, an Israeli mother read a letter she had sent to the family of the man who murdered her son: “Nothing for me is more sacred than human life. No revenge or hatred can ever bring my child back … We are looking for ways to create a dialogue, with a long-term vision of reconciliation.”

(HT: Brian McLaren)

“Fake” List of Global Warming Skeptic Scientists

yikes…

Curious about the Heartland Institute’s list of “500 Prominent Scientists” who deny global warming, Kevin decided to contact some of the folks on the list. He put together a list of 150 email addresses…simply the addresses he found it most easy to acquire. After only 24 hours, he’d received 45 emails from angry scientists saying that they, in no way, denied anthropogenic global warming.

Read the whole thing here, including some very angry quotes from those 45 emails, like this:

“I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite.”

(HT:EcoGeek -> DeSmogBlog)

Rob Bell on Suffering

Here’s a neat video clip of Rob Bell, speaking at something called Seeds of Compassion InterSpiritual Day, in which different leaders from different religious backgrounds came together to discuss important issues.

I can’t actually embed the video here on this page, so you’ll have to go over to the original poster’s blog and check it out there:

“Rob Bell on Suffering” – by Mike L.

Here’s a quote from the end of it, to spark your interest, but I would really recommending watching the whole thing; it’s only a couple minutes long. Rob is speaking about revenge and forgiveness when he says this:

…when people choose not to hand it back, but to bear it, it will always lead to suffering. And you will unavoidibly become a better person on the other side. …that is what changes the world when somebody chooses not to hand it back.

On the topic of Global Warming/Climate Change…

I’m having a pretty heated discussion over at the Catalyst Blog concerning Global Warming/Climate Change. I wanted to carry on that discussion over here as well, and see if there is anyone on here that wanted to chime in.

In my understanding of the Bible, God has appointed humans as the caretakers of His “garden”, so I think this is an important issue to sift through, provided we can keep it civil. 😉

Drop a comment here, or over at the original post.

Scot McKnight: The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel

This one’s just a quick head’s up about a great article from Scot McKnight:

The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel

Our problems are not small. The most cursory glance at the newspaper will remind us of global crises like AIDS, local catastrophes of senseless violence, family failures, ecological threats, and church skirmishes. These problems resist easy solutions. They are robust—powerful, pervasive, and systemic.

I sometimes worry we have settled for a little gospel, a miniaturized version that cannot address the robust problems of our world. But as close to us as the pages of a nearby Bible, we can find the Bible’s robust gospel, a gospel that is much bigger than many of us have dared to believe:

The gospel is the story of the work of the triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) to completely restore broken image-bearers (Gen. 1:26–27) in the context of the community of faith (Israel, Kingdom, and Church) through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Pentecostal Spirit, to union with God and communion with others for the good of the world.

The gospel may be bigger than this description, but it is certainly not smaller. And as we declare this robust gospel in the face of our real, robust problems, we will rediscover just how different it is from the small gospel we sometimes have believed and proclaimed.

(HT: Emergent Village)

Bright Eyes – Four Winds

A little while back, my super-hip-sister Nicole sent me a track by Bright Eyes, called “Four Winds”, from the new-ish album called Cassadaga.

Aside from this being a musically fantastic song (a little folk, a little rock, a little bluegrass/country fiddle), the lyrics are continually bowling me over with layers and layers of interesting themes. Here’s the part that hit me the most:

The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Qur’an is mute
If you burned them all together you’d be close to the truth still
They’re poring over Sanskrit under Ivy League moons
While shadows lengthen in the sun
Cast on a school of meditation built to soften the times
And hold us at the center while the spiral unwinds
It’s knocking over fences, crossing property lines
Four winds cry until it come

Setting aside Conor Oberst’s (the singer/songwriter) obvious disdain for religions and their texts… I think he makes some really profound points, if I’m understanding him correctly.

He’s pointing out that all our studying and searching of ancient texts is causing us to ignore the increasing problems that are all around us (the shadows lengthening).

While I would disagree with him a bit, and say that I personally believe that the Bible is life-changing and life-giving (when read properly, as a narrative of the history of God’s involvement with man and not a science textbook), I absolutely agree with him on this point. We’re stuck in our religions while everything is unwinding around us (“And hold us at the center while the spiral unwinds”).

God wants to bring his Kingdom/Heaven to Earth, here-and-now, and start making the world more like it was intended to be. We can’t do that if we’ve got our heads stuck in the sand.

Here’s another quote with a similar theme, it’s the opening of the song:

Your class, your caste, your country, sect, your name or your tribe
There’s people always dying trying to keep them alive
There are bodies decomposing in containers tonight
In an abandoned building where
A squatter’s made a mural of a Mexican girl

This seems to be an indictment on the fact that we’re fighting/killing over stuff that doesn’t matter (class, caste, country, etc.) while there are people dying simply because they’re trying to get to America to start a better life (people from Asia dying inside shipping containers as they’ve traveled on a boat across the Pacific, Central/South Americans coming up to America and squatting in abandoned buildings, etc.). Regardless of what you think about illegal immigration, I think (hope?) that we can all agree that people dying for any reason is a problem…

You can check out the rest of the lyrics here, along with a lot of people’s thoughts and ideas about what else the song might mean. Also, you can watch the music video for the song below, if you’d like to hear the whole thing. Really cool idea for the video, by the way. Since he’s (obviously) saying some fairly inflammatory things in this song, the video is staged as a live performance somewhere, and people gradually get more and more mad at him as he’s singing, and they start booing and throwing stuff at the band while they’re playing. It’s pretty cool.