Sunday, November 26, 2006


(So, being back home for the week was great. I really enjoyed it and got almost no work done, so I'm really going to have to lose my social butterfly mentality and get some work done these last 3 weeks before Christmas. By the way my brother is still in hospital, healing extremely slowly, and pretty much would do anything to get out of there, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. )

So I've only been in the U.K. for a little over 2 months now but there's something that I've been noticing, and even though I'm not here that long yet, I still want to begin commenting on it.

Over the past 4 years when I was studying at Wheaton, I found myself involved with Christians who had a particular understanding of what Jesus' message was all about, it was my interaction with these people, communities, and ideas, along with God's incredible grace that kept me from throwing away my faith altogether. There's lots of ways people use to describe these Christians; some involve big theological definitions, some other terms are more derogatory, but the one (which I still don't like, but which I think most people understand) is basically these were "social justice" christians or maybe a better one is "wholistic" Christians. These people were trying to understand and live out the message of Jesus which involves both word and deed, basically speaking love and showing love.

Anyway, naturally being in a new place I've been trying to connect myself with these types of christians here, and I have found some really good groups of people. It's interesting though, but I'm finding that although these people hold sort of the same understanding of Christianity as my friends back at Wheaton did, their approach and ideals are quite a bit different. And I think that's a really good thing, the more i look into it the more i think we have to learn from one another.

Christians I've met in the UK are passionately concerned with structural, societal and environmental justice. They campaign for issues such as Fair Trade, and buying Organic food. They advocate what people call "Ethical" living. What I've come to understand by that term is that it means, trying to live a life where your purchases were produced fairly and safely, where you're day to day life has as little negative impact on the environment as possible and where even the money in your bank account savings is not being invested in unethical activities (such as the arms-trade).

These Christians wouldn't wear Gap (probably close to a sin), or buy "super cheap" things (at places like Primark- like a K-Mart), because if something is super cheap it has most likely exploited someone.

There is the understanding here that if you spend just that bit extra you are ensuring justice for the person you've bought it from (of course it's not that simple, but that's the general gist).

Churches hold Fair Trade Sales, and at my church a woman sells ecologically friendly cleaning supplies everyweek at the back by the information table. The last church I visited had successfully campaigned to have Southampton become a Fair Trade city.

In America however, although SJ christians are aware of these issues(Fair Trade, organic, non-GM modified food) they are not the focus, and usually less effort is put into them (I think i'd make an exception for Shane Claiborne though...who makes his own clothes). More effort/intention goes into the personal and relational side of justice issues. More common issues such as: where you live (whether in the subarbs - a seemingly cardinal sin- or in shafted areas -i.e. 'where Jesus would live......'), Racial Reconciliation, Who you spend you're time with, and Learning not Teaching become primary.

The mantra of some of the American SJ christians might be as Viv Grigg said (I think quoting someone else) "Earn as much as you can, Spend as little as you can and Give generously." People frequent the shops that UK SJ christians would think sinful, they buy the super cheap foods, they buy the super cheap clothes (well in fairness few clothes are bought at all, holes are a matter of spiritual maturity wherever you go). But they do this for the greater value of "identifying" with others, with the outcast and the shafted. The way of life is rather called "Simple Living" on that side of the pond.

I have to admit I'm not here long enough to even begin trying to understand UK multi-ethnic relations, from what little i've talked to people, I keep getting different opinions, and all I can tell so far is that the situation here is VASTLY different from the US and also from Ireland, who untill recently had never seen any sort of economic immigrants from other parts of the world. So with that in mind I won't even venture to see the Church deals with "racial-reconciliation" if that phrase even makes sense here.

Anyway, my point is that we need to learn from each other as we all have potential pitfalls. We need to be acutely aware of how we (wherever we are in the world) are part of intertwined webs of connection that mean what I buy in my local Tesco has an effect on someone living in Peru, or Spain. And that the clothes I wear, may be the handywork of exploited children and other economic slaves. Taking care of the environment is not an "add-on" for Christian faith, but is central to Christain doctrine from the very begining..... (try to answer the question of "what humans were originally meant to do?" without thinking about this).

At the same time, we must never forget that what is just as important is how we live our lives locally. As Shane Claiborne puts it (the poor don't need your money, they need your time, your relationship -). If we truly believe that the roots of "poverty" come from broken, perverted, and misused relationships, then it is only through relationship that "poverty" will be alieviated.

One of the quotes on my facebook page is by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start." That quote always cuts me deep..... how can I so be concerned about others far away when I treat my family so badly?

Our living out Christ's love must both be local and global, as we in a globalized world are very much connected to both levels. However, we must remember that one thing that separates Christian social action from it's secular or governmental cousins is that if something is Christian (i.e. following the example of Christ) it must be necessarily personal and relational for this is how Christ shows himself to us.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I've got the chance to go home this next week, which I'm really looking forward to, especially since I'm spending all of Chrsitmas in America, and won't have much time at home then. It's called reading week, so i'll need to be doing a good amount of work as well, but it will just be good to get to go home. My mother is leaving for America with Hailey and the kids on Wednesday, this will be a chance for Hailey to show off the kids to the relatives who haven't seen Moia yet, and will be a welcome break for my mother to see her family. They arrive just in time for American Thanksgiving, so I'm sure they're all looking forward to that.

My brother's still in hospital, and they were told that if they had waited another day to bring him in they would have had to amputate! He's doing okay, but his body is going through a battering with all the medication and anti-biotics that he's on, and who likes being in hospital this much? Hopefully he'll be out in a few days (just in time to have his wife and kids leave...ah well....great timing right?).

Still, I'm really looking forward to the week. If any of you are around and want to meet up let me know.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Film night, life expectancy...and depravity

So I had fun tonight. Back when I was at wheaton, during my Sophmore year, we had a few months where every week (or so) we would have "trippy movie night." Where a few of us would get together and watch a movie that you definitely had to be awake to understand... American History X, Magnolia, Adaptation, were some to name a few of the ones we saw. Here at Southampton it seems that trend is reviving slightly. A couple weeks ago I organized for a group of us to see the South African film Tsotsi, and then tonight a few of us went to see the Palestinian film Paradise Now.

It's a film i'd seen before, but was still powerfull. The part I enjoy most about seeing a film is often the conversation afterwards. Getting what other people thought of the film and the themes and issues they pull out of it, makes it so that it feels like you've seen 3 or 4 different films for the price and time of 1. Tonight i was definitely moved by what a friend of mine thought of the film and how she related to some of the characters personally (I won't go more into that though for privacy's sake), but it really did give me a perspective on the film, which I hadn't seen before, which i probably wouldn't have seen because of my background. Again that film just brings back how complex, difficult, heart wrenching, terrible, injust, peaceful, violent and current, the situation in the Middle East is. If this film does one positive thing, it's that it forces the viewer to accept these terrorists as humans, it deletes the option of demonisation, and that has to be a good thing.

In other news, this week we've been studying obesity. This morning we had a symposium, or a series of short lectures on obesity and public health issues, and I found it fascinating, as well as challenging. In an off handed comment of one of the presenters, he said that even in Britian the health inequalites can be very different from different populations. He said that if you are born in some parts of Glasgow, you're life expectancy is only 50, while if you're born in parts of Devon, you're life expectancy (male) is in the late 70s. How can that huge of a difference exist in such a small country where its free, equal, health system is known around the world? It's amazing to me how much we as a society have failed eachother. We have divided ourselves regionally, by class, and by background. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but we've split the village up, and only some of the kids, living in the right areas, get the village's attention and guidance and opportunities it seems. This is just the case of inequality in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world. Compare us to Cambodia, Sierra Leone, India's or Kenya's mega slums.... Our global village seems to do an even worse job at this.

I get this far in the post, and I realize, I don't know what else to say. I hate writing posts like this, and i do it too often.... what's the point? We all know the world is a messed up place, just as much here in Southampton as it is in Bolivia or DRC. Why is it messed up? It's cause I'm messed up and you're messed up. The Christian doctrine of human depravity seems to me to be one of the religion's strongest arguments (along side the understanding that the depravity was not the original design or intent nor the end point of the human narrative). We talked today in class a bit about why leaving market forces to themselves in issues such as self-regulation of the advertising industry won't work for maintaining good public health policy, since advertisers, like most human agents, will naturally work from the values of greed and profit, rather than looking out for the public at large. This is why we still have coercive junk-food advertising aimed at children, the most vulnerable of our society.

I know total depravity is probably not that popular of an idea. And it's true, most of us aren't murderers, compulsive liers, or extorionists, but what we are is probably something worse, apathetic. We don't care that we are part of global systems that are designed to keep our countries richer and others poorer. We don't care that the clothes we buy were often made in horrendous conditions, or that the coltan in our mobile phones is part of what fueled the war in DRC where more than 3 million people died in the last 5 years. This subtle side of our depravity is perhaps worse than the easily identifiable and visible sides, and probably the hardest part to change.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A necessary read...just think of Haggard's Kids...

Hey, I just stumbled across this post on Andrew Jones's blog. He shares some of his past story and really puts this whole situation into a light that I needed to see. It's powerful, and such a reminder of what shame can do to an individual and a family. If you get a chance pray for Ted Haggards wife and kids, and I guess even for him too, although that seems a bit harder.

Here's the link to the post.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

He's in pain and he's my brother...

Hey everyone, I heard news from my Dad today (by way of text message) that my brother, Matt, was taken into Accident and Emergency at St. Vincents Hospital today and wasn't doing well. It all started last week when my brother went in for a "routine" procedure to deal with some ingrown toenails... I know not nice. Anyway, they had to remove the nail, and subsequently the wound has got really badly infected (if you want to know more about the background to this, and see a REALLY unseemly picture then click here for Matt's Blog).

Anyway, he's been a bit up and down with pain and feeling sick, but today got really bad and his surgeon recomended that they take him right away into the A&E, so now Matt is in a bed at Vincent's with a severe case of cellulitis and probably not having much fun. Please include Matt in your prayers (if you normally pray and even if you don' can't hurt), I know he'd really appreciate it.