International White Band Day 1, when across the globe, in the South and in the North, millions of people will wear a white band as an act of solidarity against poverty and call for world leaders to do more to eradicate poverty.
That's plenty of warning for you. If you don't already have a band, get one. In fact, get 5, and give some away.
But confidence in business and religious leaders has also taken a hit. Thirty-six per cent of those asked said they had little or no confidence in business leaders – a drop of two percentage points from a year earlier. When it comes to religious leaders, 40 per cent said they had little or no confidence. That's down three percentage points from 2004.
Religious leaders come in 4 points behind business leaders. That's not good.
Time for the second installment of thoughts that may or may not belong together. This is an adaptation of a story I heard Jim Wallis tell about a year ago. I believe at the time he said he had borrowed if from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every morning in Washington, in Ottawa, in London, in every seat of political power for that matter, politicians stick their index finger in their mouths, then raise their hands.
They're checking to see which way the wind is blowing.
It's what they do; it's who they are. Our political leaders don't make a move without checking to see which way the wind is blowing on the issue at hand. We go to them with our passion - nothing short of the alleviation of global poverty - and in go the fingers and up go the hands. It's automatic; it's unconscious. It would be naive of us to think we could change that reality. It's not going to happen.
Instead, we need to change the wind.
This is where Make Poverty History comes in. Initially, I didn't understand what they meant when they said "We don't want your money. We want your voice." I caught a glimpse, just about a month ago, watching a blue glow spread through GM Place as thousands of us took out our cell phones and called Paul Martin. Now, as I recall this story, another piece falls into place, and the understanding grows.
Every email and phone call to a political leader, every passionate conversation with friends over coffee, every heart and mind focused on a distant Scottish city in July... these are all little breezes. Individually they are hardly noticeable. Combined, they are formidable.
I've got a couple of thoughts spinning around in my head which may or may not belong together. Lets give Part 1 a try and see what happens from there.
Let's talk about justice and mercy. I'm going to borrow from Brian McLaren, who gave us a wonderful illustration of both last month in Banff. No doubt I'm going to very poorly paraphrase what he shared, but hopefully you'll be able to glean the wheat from the chaff.
One day I stood by the edge of a raging river. Barely audible over the roar of the water I heard a faint cry for help. Looking up, I saw someone in the water, rushing towards me. With just enough time to act, I grabbed a tree branch, leaned out over the water, and grabbed the person by the wrist as they went under. Another bystander happened along and and helped me pull the victim from the frigid water.
Just as we did, we heard a faint cry for help.
Someone else was bobbing through the rough water towards us. Working together, my new friend and I quickly pulled the hapless person from the torrent.
And as we did, we heard another cry for help.
This went on for hours. There were many of us now, pulling people from the water as fast as we could. Two or three times I could have sworn that we pulled the same person out more than once, but I may have been mistaken.
Here's the point. Pulling these people from the water was an act of mercy. It is critical work; it saves lives. However, it did not become a quest for justice until a number of us left our spot on the shore and went upstream to see who was throwing them in.
A while back I ranted a bit about alternative energy, a subject I know very little about. That, however, has never prevented me from having an opinion.
Jim, who is a new find for me and has a huge number of informative links, brings us this good news:
On May 27, Purolater Courier Ltd of Canada announced that it had introduced ten hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and one hydrogen fuel cell electric (FC-HEV) into its fleet in Toronto. An additional 20 HEVs will be introduced shortly in other metropolitan areas. If these vehicles live up to expectations the company plans to add up to 100 to its fleet annually. They emphasized the reduction in emissions from the vehicles. The HEVs are expected to eliminate up to 50% of emissions compared to its current vehicles.
It's too early to say whether it's a trend, but Victrola Coffee & Art in Seattle shuts down its free Wi-Fi on Saturday and Sunday...
But "over the past year it seems that nobody talks to each other any more," she said. On the weekends, 80 to 90 percent of tables and chairs are taken up by people using computers. Many laptop users occupy two or more seats by themselves, as well. Victrola isn't on the way to anywhere; it's in the middle of a vibrant stretch of shops and restaurants on Capitol Hill’s 15th Ave. It's exactly the kind of place that you want to sit down in, not just breeze through.
This morning I was chatting with Mac, and our conversation turned to Walter Brueggmann. (Actually, it turned to living in the alternative script, which led to Brueggmann, but now I'm splitting hairs.) I emailed over my copy of Brueggmann's 19 Theses, (download the .pdf file here
) which had been transcribed from the mp3's on the Emergent Village web site. (Transcribed by some kind blogger whose identity now escapes me... I'm thinking someone in New Zealand, but I can't recall.)
So this morning on The Grind (new link for you!) I tried something different. Instead of Axel Rose, Walter Brueggmann pushed me up the mountain.
During the session I was listening to there was a lot of the words "certitude" and "certainty" - as in our modern need for concrete answers. (Walter mostly used certitude, and his questioners mostly used certainty.) As I huffed and puffed I played with the language, and this is what I came up with.
Certainty implies... exactly that. Certitude, on the other hand, implies the promise of certainty, but never delivers. (As Walter said, you can't silence the voices of doubt and the conversations that go on in your head, even if you think you're rock solid on a particular point.)
For that reason, I think "certitude" is the word to use.
UPDATE: At the risk of setting off a critical mass trackback loop, Vaughn, who links to this post, also links us to the article from Harpers where the above quote is taken from.
In Pastor Ted’s book Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century, he describes the church he thinks good Christians want. “I want my finances in order, my kids trained, and my wife to love life. I want good friends who are a delight and who provide protection for my family and me should life become difficult someday . . . I don’t want surprises, scandals, or secrets . . . I want stability and, at the same time, steady, forward movement. I want the church to help me live life well, not exhaust me with endless ‘worthwhile’ projects.” By “worthwhile projects” Ted means building funds and soup kitchens alike. It’s not that he opposes these; it’s just that he is sick of hearing about them and believes that other Christians are, too. He knows that for Christianity to prosper in the free market, it needs more than “moral values”—it needs customer value.
This is a brilliant piece. Thanks Vaughn.
UPDATE: Still More...
Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family has long been a media magnet, for obvious reasons: Any organization willing to take on an enemy as wily as SpongeBob Squarepants is bound to receive attention. But lately, another Christian institution in the area -- New Life Church -- has joined Focus in the national spotlight. The sizable amount of coverage New Life has garnered to date will be supplemented by plenty more in the coming months, and thanks to a Springs-based blogger known as Non-Prophet, outside observers can learn how insiders have been preparing for the onslaught.