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A Food Experiment

Some friends of mine are doing a 7-month experiment–Getting By With Less. Each month they are focusing on a different area of life to simplify, based on Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. August was media; September will be food.

One person–my wife–will be experimenting with the food that her students had available before joining her classroom. She chose four of the countries of origin, and is only going to eat what is readily available to economically challenged people in those countries (in every country, some people dine while others barely make it). Here is her chart for the month:

food chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chart based on info gathered at COTS Fasts and Feasts.

Friday Web Round-up

Economics

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The Interrupters

The documentary The Interrupters is both deeply moving and troubling to me. It looks at the work of street leaders in Chicago who are putting their lives on the line to interrupt violence in their neighborhoods. While the interrupters do meet as a group and do intervene in group situations, the one-on-one conversations and the personal relationships developed by the interrupters stand out as the most powerful locations of change.

I will never have street cred in Chicago. I will never speak peace on those corners. But who can I reach out to in my own sphere of influence? Who needs me in my neighborhood or apartment complex? How can I be a peacemaker and a mentor here? Those are the questions the film raises for me.

Love, Justice and the Law (revised)

At times I have had conversations with people who object to the language of social justice because they believe (a) that justice is only a legal term about punishing criminals and giving people who have been wronged their legal due process, and (b) that social justice is really about mercy and compassion, not justice. dollarIn Less Than Two Dollars a Day, Kent Van Til takes on this very argument (p. 154):

Someone else may object that, while helping the needy is certainly a laudable thing, doing so is an act of mercy or love, but not justice. Again, I believe that the Bible speaks against that notion. The Bible makes commands: leave the gleanings in the field, declare a Year of Jubilee, redeem the property of your brother, do not hold back the wages of a hired hand, be open-handed toward any of your countrymen who are in poverty and need, and so forth. All of these are, very simply, commands. Not one of them is found in a biblical appendix labeled “For the Especially Merciful.” Furthermore, this objection is based on a false distinction between love and law. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and “if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 14:15; 15:10, NRSV). Law and love are not at opposite poles to each other in Scripture; the support each other. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia reference on “justice” puts it well:

The major point is that God’s justice is no abstraction at odds with an equally abstract mercy. To the contrary, as the description “a righteous God and Savior” implies (Isa. 45:21), God’s justice seeks concretely to express His mercy and to accomplish His salvation (Jgs. 5:11; Ps. 7:17; 35:23f.; 51:14; 71:15; 103:17; Isa. 46:13; 51:5f.)…. By these requirements [“To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8)] God’s goodness is structured into the social order.

To bring this to a real-world situation today, what does God’s love, justice and law say to human trafficking, as described in this video by the Shae Foundation:

Learn more at the Shae Foundation, 3Angels Nepal, Tiny Hands International or International Justice Mission.

Now what?

“Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” –Buddhist wisdom

I wrote earlier about my understanding of God’s priorities (more for SDA readers). If/when a person comes to believe that God is more interested in peace, justice, righteousness, compassion and love than in esoteric theology or ritualistic religiosity, everything changes. True, we still must carry out the basic tasks of life — chop wood, draw water — but we go about even these things with a new mindfulness.

If justice is a weighty matter to God (Matt. 23:23), then the way I live becomes more important than my hour or two of religious engagement per week. I begin to realize that my daily actions affect others, so I want to live in such a way as to embody peace, justice and mercy. Peter Rollins considers this in his blog post I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture:

Take the example of buying chocolate from a corner shop. If I know, or suspect, that the chocolate is made from coco beans picked by children under the conditions of slavery then, regardless of what I say, I believe in child slavery. For the belief operates at a material level (the level of what I do) rather than at the level of the mind (what I tell myself I believe). And I can’t hide in supposed ignorance either for if I don’t know about how most chocolate is made it is likely that my lack of knowledge is a form of refusal to care. For the very fact that there is Fair Trade chocolate, for example, should be enough for me to ask questions about whether other chocolate is made in an unfair way.

I bought chocolate before “enlightenment,” and I will buy it after, but now I look for the Fair Trade stamp of approval. I look for organic food because I know the workers weren’t subjected to pesticides and herbicides in the fields, and I know it is better for the planet. I go about my daily tasks in ways that look out for other people and for creation itself.

So the way I go about the small things of life changes, but bigger picture things begin to change as well–my expectations of the church in the world, the way I desire my business to operate, my political values, the purpose of education, the use of my free time. Everything begins to change.

Peter Rollins tells a story about a priest who has an unusual gift–the people he prays for lose their faith (“Finding Faith” in The Orthodox Heretic). Eventually the priest realizes that by helping someone lose their faith, they are allowed to open their eyes to themselves and to the world, thus enabling them to live more fully or rightly without religio-blinders.

This new vision eventually leads to regaining a type of faith on the far side of no-faith. That is, if I think going to church and believing “true” theological statements is what God is after, I’ll focus my attention there. I may not have time to help others and I may not be interested in their experiences, but as long as I practice my religion and hold “right” beliefs, all is well. I can keep being religious so I don’t need to be good. But if I lost that faith in religiosity, I would then see that all I have left is a selfish existence. That selfishness needs to change in order to live rightly, and this was hindered by my focus on religious pursuits.

If my “site of resistance” is the church, attendance can be just a valve to let off pressure so I can go about supporting the status quo. Without that release valve, the pressure builds, and I see that the place to release my energy and resistance is where it matters most–in the world where people (and the systems that affect people) dwell. For most of us, we will likely continue with some form of religious expression and continue to hold a concern for theology, but we begin to see these things differently in light of the bigger picture of God and God’s world. They are not ends in themselves; they are not the focus.

For the Christian who begins to believe that love, compassion, peace and justice are paramount, some changes require very little reflection. “Now I will chop wood and draw water for my family and for someone else in my community who needs these things.” This is direct, local and uncomplicated. However, moving to broader questions (e.g., access to the forest or the well, access to education on how to chop and carry, the possession of a home to carry the water to), then answers become more complicated. The quest for “social holiness” is not always simple and obvious. Consequently, I believe that resources and community are important for taking the steps of living out these values. A healthy community provides support, creativity, insight, grace and meaning. I recommend the following resources for personal and small group reflection leading to action:

BOOKS

WEBSITES (organizations + publications)

Recommended Reading (and viewing)

Here is your reading assignment for today:

Environment & Health:

Society & Culture & Life & Activism & Stuff:

Off-center Religion and Politics and Government:

Coffee:

Prana’s Wisdom:

Economics:

Selected Canadian Views on US Politics and Economy:

Against Democrats:

Against Republicans:

What’s an Independent to Do?

Random bits for the unemployed:

BONUS 1: Three Classic Articles on Christian Social Ethics

BONUS 2: I AM

>Random Links

Peak Oil & New Urbanism

These three documentaries on Peak Oil have interested me:

The Power of Community (2006, trailer, Wiki). This looks at the economic crisis in Cuba following the break-up of the Soviet Union, which significantly reduced Cuba’s access to cheap oil. The way food production, transportation, education and other sectors adapted is telling. Cuba is said to be a test case for global peak oil. I appreciated the focus on local food production/permaculture.

A Crude Awakening (2006, trailer, Wiki). General description of Peak Oil and the potential ramifications of passing the peak.

The End of Suburbia (2004, trailer, Wiki). I like the first two films better, but this one made more obvious the reason people are pushing for fracking today–dwindling natural gas accessible via traditional approaches of extraction. All three films demonstrate why there is pressure to build the XL pipeline. One thing I appreciated about this film was its consideration of new urbanism (Wiki), though they admit it could be too little too late. A documentary I value on new urbanism is A Convenient Truth (Curitiba, Brazil, 2006, trailer, IMDB).

I have not watched the 2007 follow-up, Escape from Suburbia, which received mixed reviews (pro, con, Netflix).

Human Trafficking

Here are four resources shared with me by a leader at Tiny Hands Intl:

Books

Films

BONUS: Project Soap