Thursday 25 October 2012

A 'desperate, breathless, dependent' mother

This is a wonderful short video interview recorded by the 'Desiring God' team, in which Rachel Pieh Jones reflects on the birth of her third child in Africa. At the time she was working there with her husband as part of a nongovernmental organization that aimed to serve the local population. The child was born in a dilapidated hospital in Djibouti, a country in the horn of Africa. Her American friends kept saying to her, you're such a brave mother. But as she reflected on the comments of the people she had met when she returned to the US, she concluded otherwise. Was she a 'brave' mother? No! She was a “desperate, breathless, dependent” mother depending on God. She concluded that bringing a child into the world and rearing him or her, even in the USA, also requires this same sense of dependency. This short 3 minute video is worth viewing.

You can also read about her experiences HERE.

Rachel Pieh Jones on Brave Mothering and Raising Children in Africa from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Anti Poverty Week

A post by Edwina Hine

As I was reading the Anglicare report "When There Is Not Enough To Eat", I was surprised to learn that this week is in fact Anti-Poverty Week.

Anti-Poverty Week is a week where all Australians are encouraged to organise or take part in an activity aiming to highlight or overcome issues of poverty and hardship here in Australia or overseas. Over the years, Case has published various articles that address this issue,  particularly global poverty in the Case # 22.

In Andrew Sloane's article entitled Love and Justice in International Frame, he presents a relational view of love and justice. This is seen as underpinning an imperative for Christians to respond to global poverty. He goes on to argue that since poverty is globalised:
"...there can be no innocent bystanders. globalisation means we are related to the poor in distant places". 
Sloan completes his article by detailing a relational framework that
'...allows us to affirm our obligations to all in our global system without making those obligations the same...'.

Whilst perusing edition #22 of Case, readers will also find  Erin Granville's article on the Gospel and Globalisation. In this article argues that:

'...the beneficial potential of global interconnectedness has often not been realised. Rather, poverty and environmental damage seem to trail in wake of global market...'.

Courtesy of Wiki Commons
And yet, in spite of this, the Glanville suggests that we should consider globalisation in the light of Christianity and asks, " Christians can harness its potential for good".

In light of  Anti-Poverty Week, Case #22 God beyond borders would be a interesting and timely re-read for Case subscribers. For blog followers who are yet to become CASE Associates you can subscribe HERE or order a single copy of edition #22 HERE.

Monday 8 October 2012

77 days and counting

Post by Edwina Hine

This past weekend I learnt that the football season was officially over! I made this discovery not by viewing the jubilant Swans victory parade through the streets of Sydney, but rather, by noticing the following items in my local supermarket.

Photos courtesy of Wiki Commons
Yes, as I write this, it is 77 days and counting until Christmas (2012 Christmas Countdown). Once I recovered from the initial shock, I reflected on my recent reading of last year's December issue of Case (edition #29) entitled Selling Christmas.  As I perused the assortment of Christmas fare in my local Woollies I found many of the articles in Selling Christmas quite timely. The lead article of edition #29 was entitled "Brand Christmas" by Dr. Simon Angus. The article highlights that for most people, Christmas means gifts and not surprisingly, retailers have tapped into our materialism to develop a 'Brand Christmas'. He goes on to observe that often Christians think much less about the brand that they once owned, than the commercial entities do. Angus points out that: 

"...the Christmas  message is fundamentally appealing. It is  a message of goodwill, peace, joy, hope  and love....When it comes to marketing, narratives don’t come better than this. One of the best recognised and most robust effects of a person’s mood on the evaluation of a product or service, is that individuals in a positive mood are more likely to evaluate a product positively. It is no surprise that ‘good news’, ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ are on the ‘positive affect’ side of the ledger, ........Put simply, ‘hope’sells....."

The article goes further and reminds the reader that whilst

"...many people argue that Jesus is not God, or that his conception was natural, that the wise men of the East gave gifts to the Christ child is not a major point of contention. Gift giving at Christmas seems to be a non-controversial and highly agreeable form of remembrance of the first Christmas. To the retailer, this is manna from heaven—a culturally powerful ritual, where the norm of gift-giving is well established and unchallenged...."

In light of this observation it is little wonder that retailers are so keen to utilise  'Brand Christmas' (and why they may begin starting the Christmas hype earlier each year.......). The article continues by suggesting some ways Christians can respond to the commercialisation of Christmas, as it points out the reason why 'Brand Christmas' works so well is that we actually do buy into all the 'Brand Christmas' stuff. But it also discusses how we can also use the season to point towards the 'real' reason for the season - Jesus!

Selling Christmas (Case #29) included some other fascinating articles. Dr Diane Speed discussed  'The Magi and the Myths', Anna Blanch explored 'An Aussie Christmas, Poetically Speaking' and Dr John McClean asked can we believe in the incarnation today? in his article entitled 'Veiled in Flesh'.

For blog followers who are yet to be CASE Associates you can subscribe HERE or order a single copy of edition #29 HERE.

As for me, regardless of my initial surprise, and perhaps even annoyance at seeing the beginnings of 'Brand Christmas 2012', I finish this blog post on a positive, as I choose not to dwell on the Christmas periphery that is on display in the shops, but rather the true foundation of this celebration:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” … And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:9-14 ESV)

Now this is something worth celebrating!

Post by Edwina Hine (New College and CASE)

Monday 1 October 2012

The Importance of Civility in Public Life

Mr Jones. Photo courtesy
Australian readers of this blog will be well aware that the last 24 hours have seen the unfolding of a distasteful attack on the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard by media personality Allan Jones (details here). Mr Jones suggested that the Prime Minister's father, John Gillard, died recently of shame because his daughter, in Mr Jones' opinion, is a serial liar. The outrage from the Australian public has been strong, with a number of major sponsors dumping Mr Jones' program. As well, some regional radio stations will no longer air the program and a Facebook page has been set up to fight for Mr Jones' sacking. Mr Jones has admitted that his comments recorded at a Liberal Party function were "out of line" but has stopped short of an apology. The leader of the opposition, Mr Abbott has similarly stated that the comments were "out of line". This has led some to suggest that this appears to be an agreed Liberal party response.

I've been moved to write about civility in public life several times in recent years. Amazingly, on the last occasion Julia Gillard was again being attacked (here). As well, our last post by Dr John Quinn was also indirectly about civility (here).

Mr Abbott at the 2011 anti Carbon Tax rally. Photo credit: Alan Porritt (AAP)

Again I ask, does civility matter? The comments from another high profile public figure, suggest that it isn't valued as highly as it once was.  Civility isn't just good manners (though we could do with more of them), but rather behaviour between members of society that leads to a social code and foundational principles that help to shape a civilized society. This historically has been a major focus of political philosophers and has included concern with principles of justice, liberty, rights, freedoms, the law and the duties of citizens to government. The Carbon Tax protests in Canberra during 2011 set new low standards for public political debate. Mr Jones at a Liberal Party function has lowered the standard even further.

When people talk of civility today, they often mean the cultivation of character traits and virtues that are consistent with their own cultural and social practices. These at times simply reflect one's social class rather than well thought out ideas of civil society.  The distinction between practices that some see as demonstrating civility, and others that are uncivilised, can be based on the most tenuous of justifications.

Attempting to move beyond subjective debates about manners or a pretense of civility, requires us to return to the root of the word that is the opposite of civil. The word 'uncivil' comes from the Latin word incivilis, meaning "not of a citizen." To be civil, is to play one's part as a citizen in building a civil society. What any society needs to guard against is behaviour that runs counter to the well being of a society; that is, behaviour that strikes at the very structure and foundation of one's civil society. In the recent decades, many western democracies have seen the topic of civic virtue gaining attention. This has been particularly the case in relation to the good practices of government and the participation of citizens in relation to government. In my view, Mr Jones comments and the behaviour of others in relation to the Prime Minister have been uncivil.

In the 'The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends On It', well-known Christian Os Guinness argues that civility needs to be rebuilt in western societies like the USA (and I'd add Australia) if they are to survive:
"Civility must truly be restored. It is not to be confused with niceness and mere etiquette or dismissed as squeamishness about differences. It is a tough, robust, substantive concept… and a manner of conduct that will be decisive for the future of the American republic" (p. 3).

Os Guinness's book points to the threat of individuals and minority groups like the Religious Right and the secular Left in the USA, arguing that there is a need to avoid privileging one interest group over another, including religious groups and influential figures who believe that they can set standards for society. High profile figures like Mr Jones', who seem to believe that their views on matters of public policy have greater weight than others, can be just as dangerous.

A mature civil society will need to enable minority groups and individuals to have a voice, but they must not be allowed to establish their position by yelling the loudest or the longest in ways that damage individuals, public office and democracy. Guinness reminds us that in a democracy all have a right to believe anything, but this does not mean, "anything anyone believes is right". We need to expect differences of opinion in a civil society and also to work out ways to discuss them and reach consensus for the common good. Christians have a part to play in such public discourse, participating openly as people of faith with godliness, humility and respect for the rights of others to participate as well.