Thursday, June 25, 2009

A true democracy in Iran and thoughts on public protest

not sure if you are up to speed on the role Twitter has played in the resistance movement in Iran but it featured as a tool that helped mobalise thousands of truth tellers to demonstrate against the government.
Here is a way you can support the movement. Click here.
Freedom of speech and freedom to protest are some rights that we often take for granted in the Western world. Although if you've ever been at a pro-life demonstration you may have felt (like I have) that those rights are easily ignored and changed at the whim of public opinion. I remember one conversation with a university student at a demonstration who said to me, 'don't you know this is a university - we have ethics classes!' to which I responded that Germany was one of the best educated nations (with heaps of ethics classes) when it launched a genocide... what is the fear of public protest? why the defense? If people are inspired to speak - I think it's at least worth a listen to their argument - we may well choose to disagree - but it is worth a check. Have you listened or spoken recently? Cornel West suggests (in the Call and response rockumentary) that truth is love and love is truth - and truth hurts but it also liberates. Even though he says it well - he didn't think of it. Check out Jesus for more on truth setting us free.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I've been spending the day trying to work out positional statements for The Salvation Army in Aus.
Abortion, Prostitution, Environment, Gambling, social justice and so on... it's a tricky business sometimes... I am reminded of Andrew Marin's book Love is An Orientation where he talks about love being more about a posture than a position. Often positions themselves hem us into boxes and make judgements on principles instead of on people. I spoke about putting people over principles as a lifestyle being one way to combat pharisaical living. On the other hand without guidance people falter... and come up with their own 'positions' that can damage even more.
So, living in the tension as Marin so beautifully calls it is trying together to use Godly wisdom and collective understanding and experience to offer some guidance in our positional statements. Look forward to some study guides coming soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Righteousness and Justice

Am doing some research and thinking about the connection between righteousness and justice.
The camps of personal holiness piety people versus those liberal break the rules social justice types is an interesting divide.
I'm not sure why the chasm needs to exist apart from judgement on both sides and ungrace in general... but I know the connection between righteousness and justice is so important that together they form the foundation of God's sovereignty on the earth (check out Psalm 97).
Is it possible that high levels of personal holiness prevent us from rubbing shoulders and exchanging lives with those people who are oppressed and broken (because of their sin?)... I remember John Smith (the legend) telling me that he has never felt more connected with the average person than he does when he sits down and has a beer in a local pub with the bloke. All of sudden they are at the same level and the person feels comfortable to unload and tell the truth about his life etc...
That said, I've had some pretty decent conversations in a pub over a diet coke or a coffee but maybe holiness (in a religious puritanical sense) can sometimes act like a barrier as it shields and protects us from the realities of life. On the other hand of that one I come from a movement of people who's earliest memories are engaging themselves in the muck and mire of deeply oppressed people... sharing their lives etc... didn't seem to act as a barrier for them?
On the other hand what is justice if it doesn't impact people from the inside out. Obviously external rights aren't the same as a change of mind and behaviour. Only God can change the heart. Anyway, I won't write the whole ten pages of questions and roots and history etc... suffice to say separating justice from righteousness is like trying to separate one body - you can only do so with great pain and the end is death - to both. I'd prefer God's presence... even in the tension.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Slumlord millionaires cash in on hard times

important article by Tom Reilly
June 14, 2009
SLUMLORD John Pisani has two simple rules when it comes to business: be discreet and never let anything get in the way of making a profit — rules that have made him a very rich man.
Pisani and his three partners — all convicted criminals, three of them for sexual offences — are pocketing about $100,000 profit a week by controlling Melbourne's private rooming house market, a shadowy world where some of society's most vulnerable members are forced to pay exorbitant prices, often in cash, for squalid accommodation or face life on the streets. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE...

I'm very aware of the realities of slumland lords and the consequences of people living in these conditions.
I wonder - what is the long term response of The Salvation Army?
Are there righteous landlords who will take the opportunity to match this evil with something better?
I'm praying for a righteous end to an injustice that continues to exploit the poor.

God's Kingdom Come

I was speaking last night at Waverley Corps in an attempt to introduce the gospels (in 25 minutes or less!). And that is one great topic! The introduction of the gospel:
"The central message of all four canonical Gospels is that the Creator God, Israel’s God, is at last reclaiming the whole world as his own, in and through Jesus of Nazareth. That, to offer a riskily broad generalization, is the message of the kingdom of God, which is Jesus’ answer to the question, What would it look like if God were running this show?" (N.T. Wright)

I think for most of us we rely on what the 'gospel' means to me personally (and even that is highly spiritual). When in fact, the gospel in it's entirety means the salvation of the whole world. And even in our own little lives it means the complete abandonment of any other alliegance and a total surrender to a new Kingdom with a new authority and a new set of values! To live in this kingdom means humility, sacrifice, love and grace poured out - it means much more than our own comfort or satisfaction or even spiritual state - it is deeply rooted in how we live our lives day to day and how we see others...

"At the core of Jesus’ Kingdom summons is this mind and heart-altering challenge…repent, for the Kingdom is upon you. To repent is to change your way of thinking – or more precisely to change the way you see life. The Greek is clear, metanoia (repent) means to shift the way you perceive. There is an alternative reality beyond what we see through the fallen sight of our natural eyes. There is another way to live, a way higher than the one we are comfortable in or resigned to.”
– David Ruis (The Justice God is Seeking)

Often when we hear 'repent and believe' we think it means a simple spiritual transaction of being sorry for our sins and then receiving forgiveness and inviting Jesus into our lives... that is true in one sense - but the true gospel - the real good news is the reality that there is a new King in town and it's a new Kingdom that we join. It means a complete change of life - it's an affront to this current culture that puts priorities and privileges associated with position and prestige and power.. it is an upside down kingdom where the weak and the poor are invited first!

Is your Christian experience simply a list of feel-good and behaviour modifications that make you seem like a good person to others? Or is your Christian experience a life altering, mind changin, neighourhood winning expression of God's kingdom come?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Total Depravity

I've been reading the book Wild Swans which tells the epic story of three generations of Chinese women - and through their encounters exposes the cult of Mao and the realities of life in 20th century China.
It's a fascinating read - having read many books on the soviet realities of communism it's safe to assume from what I've read that communism is a failed social experiment. Of course unbridled capitalism hasn't worked out so well either. Pope John Paul II suggested that the greatest threat to the next generation was excessive capitalism (this from the man who Gorbechev suggested was the reason for the wall of communism collapsing in Eastern Europe) and the death of children not yet born.

I've been thinking about the ideals of communism - which I believe are some shared ideals with Christianity (and to be sure some real similarities to the structure of The Salvation Army) - a common purse, a flattened hierarchy, a widening of family, an ideology larger than ourselves... the greater good etc... so, if all of these values are good why has communism failed so miserably? Perhaps at the heart of these failed ideologies are some misunderstandings about the human race.

In communism (from the top down) it seems there was a gross misunderstanding of the nature of humanity. Communism makes the leap that humans are good - and can make decisions that sacrifice their own well being for a cause greater than themselves (the state). Surely there were many who did and have. but what communism forgot (as many ideologies do) is that humans are at the heart of us completely depraved... we are inclined towards selfishness and greed. If it's not money that we strive for, it is power - if it's not power, then it's control and the cycle continues... in communist China as in Russia as in many other places around the world - the individual still seeks power, money and control... it's the depravity in us.

An ideology that doesn't deal with the internal dilemna of sin is a failed one. Simple? yes. and obviously no time for a more complete checklist of why communism failed (surely tyrants of power and cult of personality is a good one... more later?). But suffice to say - sin is a good reason. it's also a great reason why capitalism is killing us..... but more on that later.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

legend in the land

Major David Eldridge adds to the legend as he joins the company in the order of australia. Read the news article here.

Now, to be sure, the real honour in David's life is the wisdom, advocacy and transformation he has poured out and seen make a difference through the lives of countless people he has introduced to Jesus and the power of the gospel towards freedom and fullness of life.
The real honour are the countless innovative programs and ideas he has launched that are still going - some of them further than he would have thought possible.
The real honour is to sit with people over coffee and hear about how their lives have taken a different turn - a turn towards the poor and the marginalized because of his example.
The real honour.... well, I could go on - but the thing is David is an example of the believers in his willingness to do the stuff. In the end, if the truth be known, there is no fancy program or skillful rhetoric that can rescue people and make the world a better place... the truth is there are people willing to leave the comforts and conformity of 'normal culture' and roll up their sleeves and get to work... even if that work is thankless, tough and seemingly impossible. David is a man who when he receives this kind of award if you look closely, you will find dirt under his fingernails. And for that his name is a great fit... David is a true worshipper. Isaiah 58 indeed.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I'm a debater. I enjoy a rigorous exploration (often vocal) of different perspectives and views - argued and reasoned out. Now, I'm aware that those times can be chock full of potential areas of sin - contempt, arrogance, pride, self-focus, winning at the expense of someone else's well-being... I'm learning that not everyone appreciates or benefits from debate.

God is shaping me and that process is changing my opinions - not in conviction or in action-based response but in the early reactions. I'm learning (maybe it's age?) that my view is only one - that perhaps I haven't taken the time or met the person who can help me understand in order to learn more about certain issues. I'm rarely convinced that there is only one stagnant conclusion about any one issue. Quite the opposite actually - a variety of diverse and colourful actions accompany almost any difference of opinion. The thing is I think even in areas of passionate disagreement love can still be present. And that is the ultimate learning curve for an opinionated activist. Love is the language of God's kingdom and the greatest expression of Him on earth. I'm learning how to love even in the midst of difference. A life-long learning curve to be sure.

“A man is getting along on the road to wisdom when he begins to realize that his opinion is just an opinion.” -proverb
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
Thomas Jefferson quotes (American 3rd US President (1801-09). Author of the Declaration of Independence. 1762-1826)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stop The Traffik

This week has been an exciting one for the efforts of Stop The Traffik around the world and here in Australia.
We've launched an events team in Sydney - Brisbane is always representing with crazy and wild activism and awareness (like stop the traffik booths at sexpo) and Adelaide and Perth are consistent in their involvement... actually, there aren't many cities that aren't actively involved in Stop The Traffik's campaign - it's very exciting.
Globally, we are getting ready to launch a student/educational campaign called START FREEDOM which will be satellite lessons beamed into a limited amount of schools - geared to students on Oct. 14th... stay tuned for more details as they emerge but suffice to say it will be in at least 6 languages, have three lessons on human trafficking and what to do about it and be one way of changing the world... don't you love being part of something that really is getting to work on justice issues right now?
If you want to get involved there is plenty of room for even more strategies and efforts... send me a email or check out for the australian scene or for the international site. We are looking for ordinary, everyday people who want to change the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New guest blog post on Sojourners.

You may want to check out my guest blog spot on Sojourners.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Centraal Station Antwerpen gaat uit zijn dak!

what good news should look like - joy spreading - sure to bring a huge smile to your face today... go ahead and watch it!

A Justice Education

a sample of an article By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: May 30, 2009One of the great failures of American universities is that they are far too parochial, rarely exposing students to worlds beyond our borders.

If colleges provide credit for dozing through an introductory Spanish class, why not give credit for a “gap year” in a Bolivian village? If students can learn about microfinance while sitting comatose in 9 a.m. lectures, couldn’t they learn more by volunteering with a lender in a Bangladesh slum? (read the whole thing here)

So, I've been thinking about justice and education. I do a fair bit of teaching/speaking and writing about justice and biblical principles equality and economic distribution and legislation that is fair. Now, to be sure - I do try my best. But, my hunch is (and this could be rooted in my own learning style) that justice cannot be taught it must be caught. To truly be 'educated' in justice there usually is an identification with the oppressed - at least that's the kind of justice education that will lead to any kind of action.
For Ghandi it was in South Africa where he was thrown off a train, for King Jr., it was many memories of a childhood where his father and family were consistently dishonored and publicly humiliated, for Nelson Mandela the same - for Wilberforce it was in his identification with the abolitionists (and the bits of time he spent sleeping in a casket to feel what it was like to be chained up in a slave hold of a ship) and on and on it goes. Every one who has actually received a proper justice education has been immersed in injustice and oppression.

So, I'm exploring options - there are many 'gap' year training programs that are designed for an immersion experience ( is my favourite!) but order614 (in Melbourne is a great one) and is another (from Sweden), ignite (toronto) and don't forget New York's Railton school for youth leadership (and there are more) and they offer an education different from a workshop and lecture.

I'm thinking about a Global Justice Trek... where we journey to discover the oppression and identification with the world's poor and then use that education as a tool for social reform.. The Salvation Army finds itself in 117 countries (that may be even more now...) and many of those places are home to suffering, persecution and injustice. Perhaps there is a way to share the global education necessary to raise up world changers within our own movement? Just thinking.