Monday, April 25, 2016

Learning about global inequality and hunger

Today my wife organised a hunger banquet (similar to those designed by Oxfam) for a group of friends. Guests were randomly assigned to one of three groups of people:
1. high income (15% of the world, living on more than $10K per year),
2. medium income (25% of the world, annual family income of $1-10K),
3. low income (60% of the world, less than $3 per day).

The different groups are then served appropriate meals:
1. steak, vegetables, and soft drink
2. rice and beans, water with a purifier
3. one cup of rice each, dirty water

You then discuss the associated feelings and issues, before moving to discussion of (local and global) initiatives we can be involved with to address poverty, hunger, and social injustice.

I found it quite confronting and illustrative. What was striking was, as the host, how much time my wife had to spend preparing and serving the food for the small number of "wealthy" guests. The other guests did not get much attention. This was quite representative of how the global economy is oriented towards to keeping affluent Westerners happy.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The narrative of Genesis

The first few chapters of Genesis can be a source of endless controversy and confusion. This need not be if one reads them in the context of the whole book. This video nicely introduces the narrative of the whole book.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The highs and lows of family

My wife and I enjoyed watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (at the movie theatre!). It is light hearted fun but does deal with the challenges of marriage, extended family, in-laws, immigrant identity, and children leaving home...

We enjoyed it so much we decided we will watch the original again tomorrow night.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Honour, shame, and the Gospel

The Gospel of Jesus transcends culture. Nevertheless, communicating it and living it out does take different forms in different cultures. This video nicely presents the Gospel that may be more meaningful in cultures in which honour and shame play a central role.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is eclectic Christianity an oxymoron or a tautology?

I have recently participated in several Christian forums where the content and/or participants have been described by some as "eclectic"?

Generally this term has been used in an endearing and polite sense of "cuteness" that borders on "eccentric" because there were a wide range of topics and points of view presented by people from diverse church/denominational backgrounds.

A dictionary definition of eclectic is "deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources".

On the one hand, some would say that true Christianity is narrowly and precisely defined by a set of very specific doctrinal statements. You are either in or out. If one is concerned with a general statement such as the Apostle's Creed this is reasonable. However, in reality some have much more narrow defining statements.

On the other hand, if you look at the life and teachings of Jesus you see he had a diverse set of followers, was very inclusive, and presented paradoxes that were hard to pin down in certain respects. Furthermore, historically church movements have been rather diverse.

I think this is one of the many dialectic tensions of Christianity: unity with diversity, truth with ambiguity, freedom through obedience, grace and law, ....

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Deconstructing "give a man a fish ...."

My wife brought to my attention this video can gives a simple but profound deconstruction of the popular proverb:
"give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Poverty alleviation in the 21st century is much more complicated than that.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

The offence of the egalitarian God

Jesus was a radical. He was the friend of the weak and social outcasts. He taught that "first will be last and the last will be first" and how a poor beggar such as Lazarus could be heaven while a rich man would not (Luke 16:19-31).
This is quite offensive to those who believe (whether consciously or sub-consciously) that society should be ordered in a certain way and that ordering reflects the status of people before God.
But, the radical message of the New Testament is not new. This is also found in the Old Testament.
Consider Hannah's Song of Praise in 1 Samuel 2 
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
 he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
 he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
 and inherit a seat of honor.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Grappling with our emotions

I watched the movie Inside Out with my wife and daughter. It is both a serious and humorous look at how we deal with our emotions (joy, sadness, fear, anger) and how they shape us. The interplay of the different  emotions with memory (short and long term), trains of thought, and ideas is dealt with in a stimulating way with elements of education, intrigue, and humour.

I found the middle of the movie really depressing as I felt the main character was plummeting towards a major mental health crisis. However, since it is Disney this does not eventuate!