Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Surprised by Colbert

I was quite surprised to see that one of my favourite authors/theologians, NT Wright was on the Colbert Report last week. Check it out:

...uh, it appears that you can no longer get the clip from Colbert's site, Comedy Central's site, or YouTube... but you can watch it here. Please do.

If only Colbert would stop interrupting!

Wright asserts in this book that (as he barely has time to explain in the clip) contrary to popular belief, our true destination after death is not heaven but a recreated earth with the New Jerusalem as a "bridge" between the New Heaven and the New Earth.

I have frequently heard people ask the question that Colbert asks: if God is going to recreate everything then why should we bother taking care of the world?

Wright is interrupted before he can develop his analogy, so I will take the liberty of expanding it:

In a normal family household situation it is the job of the parents to make sure the home is clean and in order. However, parents often give their children the authority and responsibility to take care of their own rooms. The child could refuse to clean up their room saying, "Mom and Dad will clean it all up at the end of the day," which would probably be true, but that misses the point. The point is that the parents have given the child the job and responsibility of taking care of their room.

So it is with us. God has given us the responsibility of taking care of the Earth. This requires an holistic activistm. It includes environmentalism, humanitarianism, and evangelism.

So, the question is, do we just slack off, do nothing and say, "God will clean it up in the end," or do we step up to the challenge of stewardship and begin the process of New Creation here and now?

A while back ABC did a bit with Wright in which some of his thoughts are more cogently captured. It may be helpful in our discussion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA0NLb0pXGI (YouTube wouldn't allow me to embed it...)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rights vs Responsibilities

The comments from the previous post have taken us here:

I believe that our society is WAY out of balance. Everything is weighted toward the "rights" side of things with barely any emphasis on the "responsibilities" side.

Do you agree? In what areas of life do you see this?

Check out this section from the Canadian Bill of Rights (as taken from http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/C-12.3///en?page=1)

Recognition and declaration of rights and freedoms
1. It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,
(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;
(b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;
(c) freedom of religion;
(d) freedom of speech;
(e) freedom of assembly and association; and
(f) freedom of the press.
[all emphasis mine]
Language is a delightfully (or maybe despicably) subtle thing.
We often speak of the "right of the individual" but where is the responsibility of the individual? I remember reading in Meic Pearce's book, Why the Rest Hates the West, how we usually state our rights in the first person ("I have the right to...") while responsibilities are stated neutrally...
ie) Instead of saying, "I have the responsibility to feed the poor" we might say, "the poor must be fed." Subtle linguistic changes like this create a culture where we can push aside our Biblically mandated responsibilities (like taking care of the poor) to someone else; I have rights, while responsibilities simply must be done... by who? I dunno, but not me.
Do you see this displayed in your life?
What other conflicts between rights and responsibilities can you think of?
How does our discussion around Wants vs Needs tie in?
How does Philippians 2:5-11 play into this?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Want vs. Need: human rights

"It is easy... to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it." (Krakauer 155)

Stop and think about that one for a moment.

How much of society do you think lives with underlying assumptions like this?
How many of us are guilty of thinking this way sometimes?

I think part of the cause of this is the Western world's over-emphasis on "rights." We live in a culture that emphasizes "rights" more than "responsibilities." This has taken us so far that we rarely consider the fact that it is almost impossible for us to exercise our "God-given right[s]" without us infringing on someone else's.

How do you see this truth (assuming that it is true; feel free to argue) displayed in the world around us?

Check out the United Nations "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" . Below I have included Article 25, point 1.
Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family
[my emphasis], including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

I think, as North Americans as a whole, we have replaced "adequate" with "superfluous" ... and maybe we could add, "and the right to remain blissfully ignorant of the consequences of us exercising our 'rights'; which are really mostly wants." Or maybe that's just me.

But enough of me rambling off on my (possibly ill-founded) opinions.

What would be a Biblical basis for human rights?

Just to start us off, I think the foundation for human rights needs to come from Genesis 1:27:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (ESV)

What other scriptures can you think of that pertain to this whole discussion of human rights and needs vs wants?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Want vs. Need

I was talking with some good friends last night and as we were finalizing our plans to solve all of the problems in the world we were reminded of how brilliant Lesslie Newbigin was. He wrote some unbelievably profound critiques of Post-Modernism, Secularism, and Capitalism. He was, without a doubt, one of the most notable theologians of the recent past.

I don't know (I'd have to read more) that Newbigin was completely against all forms of Capitalism, but he diagnosed the problem of capitalism as coming from a shift from "distribution to production." When stuff is produced to fulfill the wants of one segment of society instead of fulfilling the needs of another segment of society simply because it is more profitable, we know that we have a problem; a serious problem.

Newbigin says that with much of Capitalism: "...growth is for the sake of growth and is not determined by any overarching social purpose. And that, of course, is the exact account of the phenomenon which, when it occurs in the human body, is called cancer. In the long perspective of history it would be difficult to deny that the exuberant capitalism of the past 250 years will be diagnosed in the future as a desperately dangerous case of cancer in the body of human society -- if indeed this cancer has not been terminal and there are actually survivors around to make the diagnosis..."

Is that overstating the problem (or understating it)?
Do you have difficulty discerning what is a NEED and what is a WANT in your life?
Have you ever had the desire to simplify your life?