This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wild Goose 7. McLaren, Claiborne.

Brian McLaren.

            McLaren appeared in the geodesic dome to address the question: “What in the world should we change first, if we could?”
            He listed 4 major world crises:
            1.  The planet: we are living in an unsustainable way, such that extinction is a distinct possibility.
            2.  Poverty: the bottom third of the world population is collapsing; the middle third treading water; and the top third getting wildly more wealthy.
            3.  Peace: with 1 and 2 above we also get a rise in violence, from the local to the global.
            4.  Religion: we need an inner transformation in order to address 1, 2, and 3 above.
            This framing of the question makes the issue of spiritual growth the primary crisis for humanity.  If we can somehow solve that, everything else starts to fall into place.
            The fork-in-the-road options:
            a-  We need a more just global economy: we need regulations that will control the excesses of corporations… but there is very little hope here in reality.
            b-  We can put our efforts into local solutions.
            How do we live in both of these worlds?  How do we manage these two solutions?
            Meanwhile, we do what we can.  Wild Goose is an agent of fermentation for fair-trade, among other things.
            The whole system is bound to collapse anyway, but the toll of human suffering will be unimaginable.
            So we are looking for signs of hope.  For instance, he pointed out “the greening of Eritrea,” in which that small, new country is experimenting with salt-water agriculture.
            Life will be far better for all of us in a regenerative economy.
            The consequence of injustice, in the Scriptures, is exile.  Are we still in exile?  Republicans privatize profits and socialize costs.  We don’t want to save unjust systems; we want to transform or replace them.  This requires many, many hours of hard work.  For instance, with regard to the local people trying to address the long and costly war in eastern Congo: the secret is trial and error, and honest accounting.
            The church cannot solve these problems; they are too big.  The transfer of wealth over the last 30 years is staggering.  Corporate-controlled media filters the news.  We have seen a massive redistribution of wealth from the many to the few.  We need to recover “the joy of paying taxes” as a matter of personal responsibility.  But then things like the military budget indicate how we all share in the responsibility for the mess we’re in.
            Perhaps it will come down to local production.
            The church is important in stimulating people to do good.  If there is a collapse, the church will be there.  Maybe we should hold “collapse drills.”  He gave an illustration from the South African township of Soweto, where local people organized around the neighborhood latrines.  The organizations were the basis of the resistance against Apartheid.  When a collapse happens, community organizing is everything.
            Capitalism produces wealth, but distributes it poorly.  (Socialism distributed well, but didn’t produce much.)  Right now Capitalism is the only show in town.  So we have no choice but to imagine a “conscious Capitalism.”  There are many people who are not just interested in making money; some actually want to do good. 
            Maybe it isn’t about our money so much as our source of energy.  Coal and oil get work done.  But what we have to learn to do is get this year’s work out of this year’s sunlight (instead of milking the sunlight of the past, preserved in fossil fuels). 
            What does it mean to have your primary identity in God’s Kingdom, not nation states or corporations?

            McLaren’s talk was sobering, to say the least.  I think he is right about community organizing, rooted in churches.  But I think most churches are clueless about this.  We have been domesticated slaves to the dominant system for so long that we don’t know how to follow Jesus.
Shane Claiborne.

            Shane gave his spiel that I have heard several times.  It is very inspiring, funny, and powerful.  He lives in a community called The Simple Way, in Philadelphia, where they witness to God’s love by actually living with the poor.
            He pointed out that Christians are perceived by young people as having three characteristics:  1.  They hate Gays.  2.  They are extremely judgmental.  3.  They are hypocritical.  Why would any young person want to be associated with such an institution?  Shane hopes that maybe in 20 years Christians will instead by known by God’s grace.
            He quoted Dr. King, who asked, “Will we be extremists for hatred?  Or extremists for love?”

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