Saturday, 23 October 2010

Only being loved makes a man lovable: basic Christianity

One of my favourite passages to quote is from Harold Loukes (1960) The Discovery of Quakerism. Here are a few selections from a longer piece...
'the Quaker effort for criminals and the insane brings out something of the meaning of their search for "that of God in every man".'
'The problem comes when we meet the unlovable: how is that to be loved? It was because this was to hard that through so many Christian centuries the treatment of criminals and the insane was marked by such bitter cruelty.'
'the Friendly challenge... was to say that whether or not a man was "unlovable" was beside the point: he was made to be loved and only being loved makes man lovable. As a doctrine there is was nothing new in this: it was basic Christianity. The novelty lay simply in the way Friends sought out the two most unlovely groups they could find and set their unsentimental caring to work.'
This seems very apposite as a new project is launched in South Yorkshire, Circles of Support and Accountability, which aims to provide a network of support to sex offenders who would otherwise be lonely, isolated and... all the more likely to re-offend. If criminals in general can be thought of as an 'unlovely group', then surely sex offenders are the most vilified and despised of the lot?
It's a project which started in Canada in 1994 and from the beginning has relied heavily on volunteers being drawn from faith communities.
Volunteers are now being sought to set up 2 or 3 groups in this area. There's more detail in our Sheffield Quaker website. I fervently hope that we will, as a community, being able to get involved in the project.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Zimbabwe latest

It looks like Morgan Tsvangirai (Prime Minister of Zimbabwe) has finally had enough of trying to work in government with Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF. In a statement yesterday he is calling for civil disobedience and refusal of recognition to illegally appointed State officials. Wonder what happens now...

Extract from a Statement by the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai
7th October 2010

"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with some sadness that I have to make a  statement today about the state of this transitional Government.  It  relates to the Constitution and Sovereignty of Zimbabwe, and the  principles of democracy for which my Party and I stand for. The MDC  utterly rejects the notion of one-party or one-man rule. The MDC utterly  rejects any suggestion that power is an entitlement through historical  legacy, or that power is a God-given right of an individual or individuals.

"The MDC firmly believes that political leaders should only serve and
  act on the basis of a mandate of the people.  Lest we forget. The MDC  was given that mandate on March 29, 2008, when the people of Zimbabwe  clearly rejected the notion of one-Party and one-man rule.  That mandate  was to govern on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, in  September 2008, I signed an agreement, allowing for the formation of a  joint transitional government with those Parties which the people had  rejected. I did so for several reasons that I outlined at the time. Not  least, I did so to try to help end the needless suffering of the people  of Zimbabwe which had been inflicted on them by the failed and corrupt  policies and abuses of the previous regime..."

"...We are all - citizens, politicians, soldiers, policemen, workers,  mothers, fathers and children – subject to the Constitution and laws of  this country.  None of us own that Constitution and none of us own this  country.  None of us, whatever our history, are above the law.  We are  all but caretakers for future generations. Ladies and Gentlemen, The  MDC’s National Executive has today resolved that we must make a stand to protect the Constitution of Zimbabwe and to return it to the custodianship of the citizens of Zimbabwe. As a first step, we will  refuse to recognise any of the appointments which the President has made  illegally and unconstitutionally over the past 18 months.

That includes:

  •  the Governor of the Central Bank, appointed unilaterally by Mr Mugabe on 26 November 2008
  •   the Attorney-General, appointed unilaterally by Mr Mugabe on 17 December 2008
  •   the 5 judges, appointed unilaterally by Mr Mugabe on 20 May 2010
  •   the 6 Ambassadors, appointed unilaterally by Mr Mugabe on 24 July 2010
  • the Police Service Commission
  • the 10 Governors, appointed unilaterally and furtively by Mr Mugabe last week
"As Executive Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I will today be  advising the countries to whom these Ambassadors have been posted that  these appointments are illegal and therefore null and void. I will be advising the Chief Justice of the improper appointment of the judges  concerned, and that they are therefore null and void. I will be advising  the President of the Senate of the improper appointment of Governors,  and that they should therefore not be considered members of the Senate,  which is therefore now unconstitutional. I  will be advising the joint  Ministers of Home Affairs and the National Security Council of the  illegal appointment of the Police Service Commission.

"We now similarly call on the people of Zimbabwe, at whose pleasure we  serve, not to recognise these individuals as the legitimate holders of  the posts to which they have been unconstitutionally and illegally 
appointed. In doing so you must all remain peaceful. I now call upon Mr Mugabe to return the country to Constitutional rule by correcting the  unlawful appointments. I invite SADC [South African Development Community] to join me in calling on Mr Mugabe  to respect the SADC Resolutions, the SADC Charter and Protocols, the AU  Charter, and the principles of democracy. I invite SADC to deploy  observers before the constitutional referendum  to help protect the  rights of Zimbabweans to express their views freely and without violence  or intimidation. And I invite SADC to urgently intervene to restore Constitutionality in Zimbabwe."

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Faith and Money

Some people choose to dismiss faith, especially faith in the invisible, because they regard it as unreal. “Give me the facts,” they say. “Show me something real. How do we know that God exists, anyway? What proof is there? Man made God in his own image,” and so on. Richard Dawkins assumes that statements about God are meant literally, and concludes that because he can refute the literal meaning of such statements (as if God were just another bit of science, to be proved or disproved) he can therefore ignore the whole domain of faith.

Likewise, some people dismiss the concept of marriage, on the grounds that a marriage certificate is only a piece of paper. Well, so is a cheque for a million pounds only a piece of paper. Each of these pieces of paper is worth how much importance is invested in it. If you believe in marriage and value your own marriage, then you can have a marriage that is believable and valuable. If not . . .

In case anyone should think that it is money, not love, that makes the world go round, let me say that the whole monetary system entirely depends on faith and trust. There was a time when money was coinage, and coins were standard sized pieces of gold or silver, metals regarded as valuable because they had a use in jewellery. Now, people accept as valuable a chunk of brass or a piece of paper, which is useless in practical terms (you could use a £50 note to light the fire, if you had nothing else) or a string of numbers on a screen. Or a string of cowry shells. Money is whatever people believe is money, treat as money and use as money.

The system works as long as the next person also accepts that these things are valuable and treats them as if they were. Money works, as long as people believe in it. When people cease to believe in money, it becomes worthless. This happened in Germany, between the two World Wars. They tell the story of the man who took a wheelbarrow-load of notes to the bakery, to see if he could buy a loaf of bread. He made the mistake of leaving the wheelbarrow outside the shop while he went in and enquired. When he came out, the money was on the ground, but someone had stolen the wheelbarrow.