Friday, 23 December 2011

ASBO Activist Calls Time On War


ASBO Activist Calls Time on War
ASBO to ban anti-war activist from City of Westminster for 10 years

Chris Cole, (Right) at Downing Street in October. 
A Christian peace activist has been served notice by the Metropolitan Police that they are seeking an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) to exclude him from the City of Westminster for ten years.   

Chris Cole (48) from Cowley, Oxford was served with papers as he attended a pre-trial hearing following a demonstration at Downing Street on October 7th to mark the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.  

Cole, along with Catholic Priest Fr Martin Newell face charges of criminal damage following the pouring of paint on the Downing Street pavement.

The ASBO seek  to ban Cole from being in the City of Westminster except while passing through as a passenger on the London Underground;  being in possession of any can of spray paint, tin of paint, marker pen, chalk or charcoal in any place outside the city of Oxford or being in possession of bolt croppers in any place outside the city of Oxford.   

The application for the ASBO sites fourteen occasions over the past twenty-one years that Cole has been arrested at anti-war protests involving spray paint or bolt croppers.

Chris Cole said “Waging war is the great anti-social behaviour of our time.  Thousands of people have been killed and injured in the great follies of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, while billions have been wasted on preparations for nuclear war and arms companies continue to make vast profits from hawking  weaponry around the globe.  Rather than spraying bullets in Iraq or spilling blood in Afghanistan, I have spilled paint on the Downing Street pavement and sprayed paint on the MoD walls.  In all honesty, which is the real anti-social behaviour here?”  

The application for the ASBO on Cole will take place at the end of his trial for the protest at Downing Street, a date for which is yet to be set. In 2005, a District Judge refused to impose an ASBO on anti-war activist Lindis Percy. District Judge Anderson said: "I am firmly of the view courts ought not to allow anti-social behaviour orders to be used as a club to beat down the expression of legitimate comment and the dissemination of views of matters of public concern."


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Robin Hood seen in Birmingham's Banks


On a cold December afternoon a crowd of students and staff from the Queen's Foundation, Birmingham, went into the Bull Ring shopping centre, hoisted the Queen’s banner, and launched into song. 

The tune was that of ‘While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night’ but the words were ‘While Shoppers Shopped by Day and Night’. The old carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ was heard as ‘Slow Down Ye Frantic Shoppers’.

Queen's Foundation Students on Birmingham High Street
As the crowd swirled around us, stopping for a few moments to listen, ‘Jingle bells’ was transformed. It became

Profits here, profits there, 
profits everywhere
Christmas time is funny 
we smell money in the air.

People smiled, some joined in, others asked for copies of the song sheet. Lead by Robin Hood, waving their signs and placards, the party of about 25 processed to New Street where there is a line of banks.

We stopped outside Lloyds TSB, the horns blasted their call for attention, Robin produced a scroll and proclaimed

I, hereby dressed as Robin Hood,Do call upon the government of this landTo act for fairness, stability and the wellbeing of nation,To seize as tax one two-thousandth part of each Commercial Financial transaction – So small a part as barely to be noticed –And to use such funds for the good of those in need,  So help me God (who cares for the poor, the marginalised, and the oppressed),And I call upon your support.Are you with me?

Robin’s supporters then shouted in unison “We’re with you, Robin!” and were joined by quite a few bystanders, some of whom cheered.

Robin Hood with three then entered the bank itself, giving out chocolate coins wrapped in golden foil and leaflets describing the Robin Hood tax proposal. Smiling cashiers accepted these graciously and so did good humoured customers waiting in queues. 

At the next bank, things seemed a little bit cooler, perhaps news of Robin’s approach had spread? Now some of the cashiers seemed a little nervous and a bank manager was seen pointing at the door. 

Outside, the crowd seemed to grow with each proclamation of the scroll which was also greeted with the singing of the Robin Hood tax song

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, just a tiny taxBanks can share, show they care, let’s just face the factsA change in the law could help the world’s most poorRobin Hood, could do good, so we should.

At the last bank pulled out his key intending to lock the front door of the bank, making Robin Hood and his merry men prisoners. But while he fumbled to get the key into the lock, the little band in true Hollywood style deftly slipped through the doorway and made their getaway to the cry from outside ‘We’re with you Robin’. 

In the Queen’s Foundation, all students training for publicly recognised ministry, whether in the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Church of God of Prophecy, the New Testament Church of God or the Wesleyan Holiness Church are required to become familiar with social justice or, as it is often called, prophetic witness. The demonstration drawing attention to the need for a Robin Hood tax was planned by trainee clergy and carried through by them.

By

Mark Earey, Director of The Centre for Ministerial Formation (Anglican)
John M Hull, Professor of Practical Theology
5th December 2011 Mark Earey, Director of The Centre for Ministerial Formation (Anglican)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On Civil Government: Its Origin, Mission and Destiny and the Christian's Relation to It (2011) by David Lipscomb

In this book David Lipscomb shows why Christians should not support, or rely upon, civil government. Lipscomb is a Christian pacifist who believes that war is the result of human government, as he explains:

"All the wars and strifes between tribes, races, nations, from the beginning until now, have been the result of man's effort to govern himself and the world, rather than to submit to the government of God." (page 14)

He believes that governments are ruled by Satan, executing wrath and vengeance, and thus Christians should have nothing to do with them.

"Every one who honors and serves the human government and relies upon it, for good, more than he does upon the Divine government, worships and serves the creature more than he does the Creator." (page 50)

Although Lipscomb does concede that human government is necessary and has a place in God's plan, in the same way there is a place called Hell.

"Human government, the embodied effort of man to rule the world without God, ruled over by 'the prince of this world,' the devil. Its mission is to execute wrath and vengeance here on earth. Human government bears the same relation to hell as the church bears to heaven." (page 72)

However he is also critical of Church institutions, believing they too have been corrupted by ambition and pride, just like civil governments. Lipscomb goes on to propose a Christian form of anarchism, where Christians should neither support human government nor use force to overthrow it.

"It is the duty of the Christian to submit to the human government in its office and work and to seek its destruction only by spreading the religion of Christ and so converting men from service to the earthly government to service to the heavenly one, and so, too, by removing the necessity for its existence and work. No violence, no sword, no bitterness or wrath can he use. The spread of the peaceful principles of the Savior, will draw men out of the kingdoms of earth into the kingdom of God." (pages 84-85)

This withdrawal of support for human government has been achieved by various Christian anarchists in the 20th century, including Ammon Hennacy who followed a lifestyle of simple living and voluntary poverty, thus reducing his taxable income.

First published in 1866 and nearly 30 years before Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You, On Civil Government is a ground breaking book.

Update: An e-text version of the 1913 edition is now available here.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The London Riots: a lamentation

I've been trying to work out the lyrics to this track for a workshop I'm doing next week in Leicester. I'm nearly there but would value your help!



Here Mr Prime Minister, would you mind if I got a couple of minutes of your time?
Why the fuck did you attack our wages when you never done a days work in your life?
And what the fuck d’you know of our business? I can wait till the day that all of you die!
And it’s funny how you keep your distance but send the police to fight the life of crime.
Were you travelling on London transport the day that the bombs went off?
How about you try an’ pay rent to the landlords earning shit money doing a labouring job?
Why we livin’ like shit in this country while you’ve got your feet up livin’ nice and comfy?
Well we got where the problem is, people acknowledge this stand up to the politics!

Chorus from the original track by Muse:
They will not force us,
They will stop degrading us,
They will not control us,
We will be victorious,
So Come on.

They put cameras up ‘cause they’re mad at us and they still wanna blame it on terrorism.
Newspapers talk shit don’t believe anything that you see on the television.
And the thing is that people don’t listen they take away your rights and stick you in prison.
Well I’ll never forgive ‘em, their tax has risen, for fuck sake check […]
Well I say we turn on ‘em now; let’s stick together and stank our ground; go outside and rip cameras down. Let the pricks no that we ain’t fuckin’ around.
Let’s reclaim the United Kingdom ‘cause I don’t wanna be a face in the distance. 
(Fuck it) listen to my words of wisdom ‘cause all they do is feed ‘em with fiction. 

They will not force us…

I wanna get my hands on David Cameron and when I finish with ‘im he won’t have any legs to stand on.
I’ll grab a knife and stick it in the pussy like a tampon.
And if you’re in a packed out tube and there’s never any room to breathe:
Pray to Allah out loud, people will scatter and then there’ll be plenty of seats.
Drive an RPG into all MPs in the houses of parliament.
I’ll make […] proud when I wipe every last single one of ‘em.
Fuck the government, I’ve had enough of ‘em especially now the beer price is doublin’.
Sacrificing the lives of soldiers […] never before.

They will not force us…



Tuesday, 8 November 2011

More Media Mulching of St Paul's Spot Light

Perhaps Rowan Williams is right and the Church takes the vicarious role of having the ethical dilemmas on behalf of wider society. We all are part of the system, one way or another, a system that both traps and treats us.

But Ken Costa is not the Church he is representative of the way the 1% dictate the theology of the Church by bankrolling the notorious Alpha Course - a course which conservative evangelicals use to steam roller their nonsense into people's heads. The Guardian send him up brilliantly here.

Far better to listen to the debate on Radio 4, where the middle classes play out the ethical dilemma for us. I flag this up mainly because Jonathan Bartley is on and he's always got something to say that's worth hearing. So click here to listen to that.

Meanwhile, instead of getting people to play out the debate while we watch perhaps the rest of us should think about our own ethical dilemmas and comforting God-talk. Maybe we need to stop looking at the 14 carat gold speck in Ken Costa's eye and take a look at the plank in our own? Um.... Nah!


Thursday, 3 November 2011

The French Government outlaws vegetarianism in schools

I know the French like their meat but really...

A governmental order issued on October 2, 2011 has determined that all meals served in school canteens in France must contain animal products, and that meat and fish will be served at a certain minimum frequency. This implies that by law from now on no vegetarian can eat at any public or private school in France.

Six million schoolchildren are now forced to eat animal flesh, whether they wish to or not. For many families lunch at home is not an option. At best, a vegetarian student will be allowed to leave the meat on the plate, and consequently suffer from inadequate and imbalanced meals.


Following a law voted last year by the French Parliament, similar decrees will be taken shortly regarding almost all forms of catering from kindergarten to hospital, prisons and retirement homes. Vegetarianism will then have effectively been banned for a large part of the population.


These measures ostensibly aim at ensuring the nutritional quality of the meals. Animal flesh is imposed as the only source of good quality protein and iron and dairy products as the only sources of calcium, in disregard of the fact that all these nutrients can be obtained in adequate quantity and quality from plant and mineral sources. The internationally recognized fact that: "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases [and that] well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes" (source: American Dietetic Association) is flatly ignored.


No practical considerations warrant a blanket prohibition of vegetarianism even in those canteens where the management is willing to offer vegetarian or vegan alternatives. These decrees are thus an arbitrary violation of the rights of the vegetarian citizens of France.


The European Vegetarian Union wishes to point out that the decision that many citizens have taken not to eat animals is not a mere dietary whim or a nonconsequential choice of lifestyle, but follows, for many of them, from deeply held beliefs about the way animals should be treated. A democratic government cannot arbitrarily restrict the beliefs of its citizens nor the practice thereof. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is binding on member states including France, holds that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

The public debate regarding animal rights and the moral status of animals is active in France as in many other countries. Citizens are entitled to choose freely where they stand on these issues, and those who believe that they cannot, in conscience, accept to eat animals must not be discriminated against.

A government cannot settle a philosophical, ethical and political debate by restricting the rights of those who disagree with its own positions. For years, the official policy of the French government has been openly hostile to vegetarianism. The French agriculture minister, Bruno Lemaire, declared in January 2010 that the government's aim in determining its public nutritional policy was to defend the French agricultural model and specifically to counter initiatives such as those of Paul McCartney calling for a reduced consumption of meat.


The European Vegetarian Union demands that the recent governmental orders outlawing vegetarianism in school canteens be rescinded and that the French government respect the civil rights of its vegetarian citizens.

Renato Pichler

President
European Vegetarian Union


See here and here for more information.

For those interested here is the petition. I am never sure these things do anything but I have signed it anyway.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

St Paul's Cathedral hires patronising free-marketeer

The apparent 'U-turn' in policy from St Paul's, headed up by the bishop of London is nothing of the kind. They have brought in retired city-banker and conservative alpha-male Christian Ken Costa to deliver an ethical framework for a free-market economy.

On 28 October 2011, three days before his appointment by St Paul's, Costa wrote in the Financial Times. He called discussions among those camped out 'naive' and their protest 'of little consequence'. He defends the free market as having done nothing more than to have 'drifted' from its moral foundations.

We shouldn't be surprised by this appointment. Bishop Richard (London) has already denied that he wanted violence while refusing to rule out its use so why not claim to take the protesters seriously while simultaneously appointing an adviser who doesn't.

I have a feeling decisions from those with the most unwittingly wed to the ideology of the powerful will continue to lead policy at St Paul's by the nose, into one disastrous decision after another.

Ultimately it is the wedding of Church and State that has made it impossible for the Anglican Church leaders to properly understand the signs of the times and take seriously the hopes of the marginalised. These people were trained to ignore injustice and appointed because they don't rock the boat. These are not the people to come up with any useful solutions. Not now or ever.

Visions of tomorrow: This is what democracy looks like

Those involved in permaculture know that it's on the boundary between environments (e.g. hedge meets the meadow) that the most productive signs of life are found.

So creating boundary places and stepping back is often enough.

The OLSX camp at St Paul's Square is doing just that and those people on the boundaries (established church, activists, bankers) can't help but be drawn into it. It catches them off guard to be drawn into the real world in this way.

But it's not just boundaries. It's bridges as well. Activists over the last couple of decades have been rediscovering the 'internationale' of radical politics. A soldier, in uniform, stood outside St Paul's and declared the soldiers as 'the 99%' being exploited in wars that only benefit the wealthy. What a source of truth!

And the OLSX began as an act of solidarity with the Adbusters call to Occupy Wall Street. UK government policy is often little more than an arm of US foreign policy so the demands of Occupy Wall Street to 'take the money out of politics' as concrete and direct implications for UK political life.

As with all big social changes a combination of unavoidable factors and social pressure create great changes. Slavery was abolished in Britain because of a change in economics as well as social pressure. Women got suffrage because of the Suffragettes but the reality of it became unavoidable when after the war women found they had been skilled up to do paid work and extending women's right became near impossible to avoid.

The US is losing it's super-power status bit by bit. We saw it in the decision by UNESCO to invite in Palestine against US/Israeli wishes. We see it in the economic changes that are taking place around the world. There is no better time to demand global and local change.

Luke Bretherton, writer on Christianity and politics and a participant in London Citizens, offers a wonderful and simple analysis of what is at play in St Paul's Square.

If you've had to face down the irritating "they don't even know what they're protesting about" bollocks that some people are parroting from the mass media then this might be helpful document to turn to for a less than straightforward but an extremely helpful response. 

I don't want to summarise it because it's worth reading in full. So have a look here

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Giles Fraser makes a stand

Giles Fraser is - sorry 'was' - the Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral in London. Today he resigned, with regret.

I don't know what a canon chancellor is so to that extent. Pffft! But I know who Giles Fraser is, he's one of the Anglican Priests willing to publicly engage with the politics of the gospel. And I know what St Paul's Cathedral is: it's a den of thieves that charges people to enter a place of worship built on the backs of the poor by the rich so they can celebrate their God given right to screw us all over. It's beautiful too.

 Photograph: Alex Diaz/PA: Giles Fraser: when the protest arrived
he sent the police on their way. No he's being forced to do the same. 
He resigned because the clergy and laity who run the show, including Bp of London Richard Chatres and high-powered finance folk, are plotting to remove peaceful protests by violence from St Paul's Square. Giles Fraser quite rightly sees what  a mockery and self-parodying nonsense the Church becomes when it makes such decisions. He wants no part of it. In his own words here.

So we don't know when but we know that violence will be used and the Church of England will get it's hands dirty for a change instead of letting the state do its dirty work. The Church of England imagines itself a neutral or benign power in matters of politics so often. And happily blesses the violence of others (as many clergy will do next month on 11 November) without getting the blood on its own cassock.

The protesters arrived thinking they would camp at Paternoster Square and expose the violence of Capital as it is expressed by bankers. That didn't know that another imperious power would be exposed in the process.

Perhaps its time the Church made up her mind: God or Caesar? What belongs to God is all creation. What belongs to Caesar are the empty promises of capital. So why does the church give everything to Caesar and only empty promises to God?

Meanwhile Giles Fraser might need some help this week. He needs to pack, he needs to figure out what to do next. God bless him as he discerns his calling in a church he loves but not more than he loves the image of God in his neighbour.

A line from the Paternoster prayer might be a good conclusion: give us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Amen.

But if you want a better and funnier conclusion there's always the wonderful newsthump!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

What's your message?

Mainstream media outlets and commentators are complaining that the Occupy Movement has no message: "They don't know what they want", they cry. Of course this is not true and if there was a single simple change they'd probably be dismissed as naive and simplistic.

I wonder if the media in Jesus' time complained that he lacked a coherent message. Certainly 2,000 years later people are still unclear as to what exactly the Kingdom of God is about or where it is.

Jesus was interested in the questions, the parables, the dilemmas of his age and in presenting them to the 99% so that they could discover their own solutions.

Just before our last General Election I was invited, along with the other deacons, to a dinner at the Bishop's house. As we ate he casually turned to me and said, "So I hear you're telling people not to vote." This was a wonderful way to light the blue touch paper and watch the fireworks go off!

Among the comments and questions from those around the table I was asked what I would replace the current system with. I suppose I could have said a Swiss cantonement, a federation, Total localism, or any other thing that took power from the elite to the people. But I resisted that totalitarian urge within me. Because I know I don't have the answer.

The answer to the question 'If not this, what else?' lies in the space between I and Thou. It will emerge from our situations not from our text books. I don't want a blue print for a better world. I want to turn my mind to a parable, as the psalmist says. I don't want to be the answer but I want to be part of a generation that is willing to live the questions.

I also want corporations to stop buying politicians. ;-) 


Monday, 17 October 2011

Sheffield Social Centre

David Cameron would be proud. The Sheffield Social Centre are running a really free Free School event with a broad curriculum for spiritual activists, anarchists, and anyone with the imagination and curiosity to learn and create learning.

Their first day of term was Saturday 15 October. A one day event. I hope there are more to come and in future will post them here in advance. Follow this link to find out more.







Saturday, 15 October 2011

Kind, True and Necessary

I thought you may find this film interesting. Its the biographical story of a Mennonite couple, Ernie and Mary Lou Goertzen, who chose a life of art, pacifism, activism and simple living.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Dave Andrews in the UK

*events in bold are public events, events in feint print are not.


Mon 10 Oct
Tonbridge Baptist Church teaching event (evening event)

Tues 11 Oct
CUF training day (1-5pm)
Birmingham, 
Booking and information: Contact andy.turner@cuf.org.uk
Wed 12 Oct
Tearfund staff reflections (10am-12pm)
Teddington

Thurs 13 Oct
Be the Change: Christian community involvement day event (11-3:30pm)
Leeds,
Booking and information: www.communitymission.org.uk

Fri 14 Oct
Community Development for drugs and alcohol work at Matthew Project(day event)
Norwich

Community Development for agencies working for change in Norwich(evening event)
Norwich
Booking and information : Contact Julian Bryant onjulianb@uwclub.net

Sat 15 Oct
Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor enquirers day (day event)
Southall, 
Booking: Contact Helen Sidebotham on uk@servantsasia.org

Mon 17 Oct
All Nations Family Focus (day event)
Hertfordshire

Be the Change: Christian community involvement event (6:30-8:30pm)
London,
Booking and information: www.communitymission.org.uk

Wed 19 Oct
Love thy Neighbourhood- Livability 2.5 day residential
Hothorpe Hall, Leicestershire, £195 single room, £165 shared room
Booking and online payment: www.communitymission.org.uk

Thurs 20 Oct
Love thy Neighbourhood- Livability 2.5 day residential
See above

Fri 21 Oct
Love thy Neighbourhood- Livability 2.5 day residential
See above

Sat 22 Oct
Oasis event (day event)
Kent


Monday, 19 September 2011

Turbulent Priest

I visited an interesting bloke last week. An Anglican Priest, nearly 90, living in a middle-sized English village.

So far so good.

Of course he's not allowed to preach or preside at his local church and has been warned off by both Bishop and congregation for his unseemly outburst. Or as John Papworth himself puts it "I'm a an annoying old bastard, you see."

So what's so annoying about John? It could be his engagement in local politics. He organises a bread-making guild, maintains some common areas, and edits a village magazine among other things. It could be his engagement in global politics. John has written and campaigned extensively against the menace of 'Giantism' in all things and argues for a renewed localism in public life.

"Anything that can be done locally the national government should stop interfering with." John believes that the future is small and that small is powerful. And power needs wresting back from the powers.

Welcome to the village of Purton. Oh, and welcome to Purton University.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Christ? No! Jesus? Yes!: A radical reappraisal of a very important life (2011) by Tom O'Golo

In this book the author puts forward a number of unorthodox theories about Jesus and Paul. The author proposes that:
  • Jesus was an anarchist who flouted religious and political conventions. "Jesus was living and promoting...anarchism: spiritual and political anarchism." (page 123) 
  • Jesus was a radical, refining down the ten commandments to principally two: loving one another and loving God. The author states that there is no need to be dependent on dubious supernatural Gospel stories such as the virgin birth or his miracles. Jesus' radical message should be enough to follow him.
  • The first followers of Jesus (or "Jesuans") were communal-living anarchists. "There is little doubt that the earliest followers of Jesus, and all those who continued the monastic tradition into modern times, have adopted the anarchist principle of leading a simple, industrious, mutually self-supporting life." (pages 131-132) 
  • Jesus' brother, James, was vegetarian.
  • Paul corrupted "Jesuanism" by making Jesus into a God, reducing salvation to a matter of belief in Jesus almost regardless of the Torah's demands and establishing a Church hierarchy to create and control the beliefs of its membership. "All that is good about Christianity stems from Jesus, and all that is bad about it stems from Paul." (page 199)
  • Jesus may have travelled to Britain during his lost years to study with the Druids.
This book is a revised and retitled version of Jesus, Antichrist, Anarchist, Economist and a Theist (1998). Tom O'Golo may be a pen name for Gordon Strachan but this is unconfirmed. Strachan was a radical Church of Scotland minister who died in July 2010, aged 76.

Best Christian anarchist books:
By the way, for those who are interested I have put together a list of my favourite Christian anarchist books. For those in the US see here.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Moved to action

Sunday 25th September
Moved to action
Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

We know we are supposed to take care of the environment (reduce, reuse, recycle) and we do our bit, but in our hearts all but the most ardent environmentalist knows that how we presently live is doing is more harm than good: too little, and a bit too late. Talk of the earth being God's creation, our responsibility to care for the environment, or how we are only looking after it for the next generation are more likely to produce guilt than motivation to change our habits.

So we carry on with a nod to environmental responsibilities when necessary, but with the same corporate inertia. If we're all so scared about what will happen to the planet – and what is already happening – then why don't we act? Why do we just talk about action? Our politicians are no better: international conferences like Kyoto and Copenhagen have sometimes done more harm than good and the recent promise that 'vote blue and go green' seems to have been unrealised as business continues as usual in the corridors and washrooms of power.

But what's causing this mismatch between what we know to be right and what we do? One of the problems is we receive mixed messages: even if we read newspapers with articles that urge us to act, the same paper will have far bigger more attractive adverts urging us to buy a big car and go skiing. Over £15bn pounds was spent in the UK last year telling us to buy more stuff – when was the last time your favourite TV programme was interrupted to remind you to knit your own hemp sweater? We can't rely on education to save the environment because the loudest voices have a vested interest in its degradation. And we can't rely on politicians to save the environment because every time they try vested interests trip them up.

What we can do is create virtuous circles of action and reflection instead of the inertia of feeling guilty because we said we would act but knew deep down that we wouldn't.

Jesus said, “A man had two sons.” It's a really simple parable that speaks to the heart of so many issues. Both children wanted to please the parent but only one actually did something. Only one of them put boots on, picked up a sickle, slapped on the factor twenty five, and went out into the vineyard to work. The only way to beat our complacency is to get outside and begin: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And like any pilgrimage it's easier with company. We are stronger and more resilient if we walk this road together.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Steven Woods, Christian anarchist


Richard Perry Esq. gets a huge applause when it is mentioned how many people were killed on his watch as governor of Texas. Richard Perry Esq. wants to be president of the United States of America, and as we all know, that is a position in which one can and will kill many people more - innocent or not.
Frankly I am lost for words about Steven Woods, whom I heard about a few years ago and attached to as attachments went on Myspace. And then Myspace went out of style and yes, I forgot about him.

As far as I know this Christian anarchist who has claimed innocence all along will be killed today, September 13th, because Richard Perry Esq. will want to prove that he is tough on crime.
One of the sites dedicated to Steven Woods' case.

update 14 September 0.30 British Summer Time
Steven's corpse has been released for his family to touch it "while it is still warm".

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

God's Commonwealth: each according to need

Sunday 18th September

God's Commonwealth: each according to need

Matthew 20:1-16 


No doubt the householder was a wealthy landowner: vineyards don't run at a profit until thy have been tended for many years and so represent a considerable investment for a luxury cash-crop probably for an international market. The presence of a steward – probably one of many – is another clue to the economic status of the householder or more literally “house-despot”.
We tend to assume that powerful figures in parables represent God even if, as in this case, they profit from the poorly-paid, sun-beaten and exploited day-labourers.


So let's throw aside the complicated allegorical readings of the parable, so loved by theologians-past and do two important things that may turn this story from a bit of Christian whimsy into something that actually matters. First let's take it at face value; this is a story about a God's values in relation to land and labour, second let's begin not with the most powerful figure but with the powerless.
The day labourers aren't quite the poorest of the poor but they aren't far off. Perhaps they once owned a little land; handed down from generations, but a few bad harvests and a couple of weddings later and they found themselves in debt and having to sell their livestock, land, and finally even their home to the big farming companies who turned the whole area over to cash crops and started hiring by-the-day.

Such labourers are still around today so it doesn't take too much imagination: we have our eastern European seasonal workers on illegally poor wages in English mega-farms, we have our Chinese cockle-pickers risking their lives in our unforgiving seas, we have our agency workers in warehouse offices able to be dismissed at a moment’s notice. And we have pension funds, supermarkets, the Queen, insurance companies, and the Church of England – owning or buying up greater amounts of land from family farmers and squeezing every penny of profit from the soil to devastating effect on wildlife and on communities.

So let's picture the scene that Jesus paints for us. A group of landless men and women gather at dawn at the town gate. All of them are desperate to work, all of them are a few meals away from starvation. Naturally the youngest and fittest will be chosen first because they will be the best value for money. The least able and the elderly will be left standing through the heat of the day waiting for landowners to get desperate enough to give them work. It's these folk who are at the very bottom of the spiral of poverty: the weaker they get the less they earn, the less they earn the weaker they get. This is a meritocracy: each is given according to his or her ability. It's fair and just in a secular logic: if you work you earn if you don't work you don't earn.

But Jesus' story has a twist in the telling. Because in Jesus' economy things are different: there are no undeserving poor. There are only needs and the loving desire to meet them. It is the rich who are undeserving in Jesus' economy because they take more than they need and merit is no excuse for greed while others starve in the kingdom of God.

What Jesus was suggesting in this parable: that God wants to give us all we need rather than just what we deserve was nothing short of scandalous, even blasphemy. But is it so different today?

There are at least two challenges in this parable. First, the challenge to see needs and meet them regardless of merit or reward. The second, to begin to ask the questions about how these people came to be in such a vulnerable position in the first place and who benefits from keeping working people vulnerable to poverty and exploitation.

The seventeenth century visionary and theologian Gerard Winstanley called the earth a “common treasury” belonging to God and gifted to us all. He recognised the profound link between economy, ecology, and theology. Drawing on that other visionary who described for us in the Old Testament 'the jubilee' he reminds us that we give it all back to God or we imperil first our worth and then our very lives.
The Kingdom of God is like.... What is it like? What sort of world does Jesus describe and how can we proclaim it for our land and our county. 


Friday, 2 September 2011

Religious anarchism - the paperback


The paperback edition is out now!

Table of contents (and authors):
- Preface
- Introduction by Peter Marshall
Part I: Christian Anarchist Pioneers
Chapter One: The Pelagian Mentality: Radical Political Thought in Fifth Century Christianity by Richard Fitch
Chapter Two: A Theology of Revolutions: Abiezer Coppe and the Uses of Tradition by Peter Pick
Chapter Three: Religious Dissenters and Anarchists in Turn of the Century Hungary by Bojan Aleksov
Chapter Four: A Dead Seed Bearing Much Fruit: The Dutch Christian Anarchist Movement of the International Fraternity by André de Raaij
Part II: Christian Anarchist Reflections
Chapter Five: Love, Hate, and Kierkegaard’s Christian Politics of Indifference by Richard A. Davis
w Chapter Six: Responding to the State: Christian Anarchists on Romans 13, Rendering to Caesar, and Civil Disobedience by Alexandre J. M. E. Christoyannopoulos [Available here.]
Chapter Seven: Building a Dalit World in the Shell of the Old: Conversations between Dalit Indigenous Practice and Western Anarchist Thought by Keith Hebden
Chapter Eight: The Church as Resistance to Racism and Nation: A Christian, Anarchist Perspective by Nekeisha Alexis-Baker
Part III: Buddhist, Daoist, and Muslim Anarchism
Chapter Nine: Anarchism or Nihilism: The Buddhist-Influenced Thought of Wu Nengzi by John A. Rapp
Chapter Ten: Kenneth Rexroth’s Integrative Vision: Anarchism, Poetry, and the Religious Experience in Post-World War II San Francisco by Michael T. Van Dyke
Chapter Eleven: To Be Condemned to a Clinic: The Birth of the Anarca-Islamic Clinic by Mohamed Jean Veneuse
Chapter Twelve: Imagining an Islamic Anarchism: A New Field of Study Is Ploughed by Anthony T. Fiscella
Contributors
Index

The introduction by Peter Demand the impossible Marshall is a good review of "the field" and the author identifies with religious (transcendental) anarchism himself. It can be read here. [pdf]

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Anarchy and Apocalypse: Essays on Faith, Violence, and Theodicy (2010) by Ronald E. Osborn

This book consists of eleven essays Ron Osborn wrote between 1999 to 2010. He covers a wide range of subjects such as the Holocaust, President Obama's Christian Realism and the death of the Seventh-day Adventists as a peace church (Osborn was raised as an Adventist). All the essays bar one were written in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jesus called his followers to not resist evil but turn the other cheek. The US government contravened this command by retaliating to 9/11. Osborn explains that such a response only serves to create more violence. To break the cycle of violence it is necessary to return good for evil.

In reading Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You and Noam Chomsky's The Chomsky Reader, Osborn was led from pacifism to Christian anarchism. Tolstoy viewed the state as a violent and deceitful institution that has no place in a truly Christian society.

Anarchy and Apocalypse is a great book for all those who believe Christianity is not merely a faith but a radical way of living.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The world's largest "defence and security" fair


Arming repressive regimes. Boosting arms company profits. Displaying the latest killing technology. It’s an event you don’t want to miss.

The world’s biggest arms fair – DSEi – is coming to East London this September. Unless we stop it.

This year we’ve witnessed more of the horror that comes when the UK arms repressive regimes — armoured vehicles used to suppress protest in Libya and Bahrain were sold by the UK, along with crowd control equipment and tear gas.

With over 1200 companies exhibiting, and military delegations from all over the world, DSEi 2011 is back and bigger than ever, selling everything from F16 planes to unmanned drones.

There are also training sessions happening across the UK in the run up to DSEi.

Stop The Arms Fair coalition have called a day of action on 13th September and there’s loads of other actions planned…

Further reading.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

What goes around comes around

This cartoon reminded me of Jesus' rebuke to Peter, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who live by the sword will die by the sword." (Mathew 26:52).

It Shoots Further Than He Dreams (1918) by John F. Knott
For more anti-war cartoons see here.

Monday, 15 August 2011

I guess it was bound to happen one day


Yesterday, Sunday afternoon, I saw a young lady, obviously going to the city centre here in Amsterdam, carrying a black linen shopping bag with an encircled A on it. That, unfortunately, may be part of the modern marketing mix of rebellion (think of Levi's advertising a riot just in the days of the #ukriots).
This A within an O was different however. It had an extra vertical line through the horizontal line of the A, making it a cross symbol.

She walked verry hurriedly, as if not wanting to miss a second of the modern day Sunday worship of buying, so I could not take the opportunity of stopping her to ask what this printed symbol was supposed to mean.

Search engines yield no significant results.
Christian anarchism cannot possibly be that hip, can it?
Especially when you think that it is supposed to be critical of consumerism.
If anyone sees one...

Updates

Here is some commercial "offering" but it is the Alpha-Omega type.
This comes closer to what I saw, see the illustration. The thing I saw yesterday was a bit more modestly looking.
Don't know if I should laugh or cry now.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Christian pacifists

There have been many Christians who have courageously followed Jesus' teaching and example over the last two thousand years, but these two Catholics have just caught my eye:


Franz Jägerstätter was an Austrian conscientious objector during World War II. At the time he was criticized by his countrymen, especially Catholics who had served in the military, for failing in his duty as a husband and father. Jägerstätter was sentenced to death and executed in 1943, aged 36.


If you think this sort of thing could never happen in the US or UK, think again...


Ben Salmon was an American conscientious objector and outspoken critic of Just War theology. During World War I the Catholic Church denounced him and the The New York Times described him as a "spy suspect." The US military (which he never joined) charged him with desertion and spreading propaganda, then sentenced him to death (this was later revised to 25 years hard labour).
For more on Ben Salmon see here and here.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Plowshares action today

Bryan Law, anti-war activist has been arrested today following an action at Rockhampton, Australia. He was riding a tricycle down the run way and carrying a mattock! That's all I know at the moment.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Report from the ash heap


Hannah Arendt's book about Eichmann in Jerusalem was close to where I laid my head to sleep, alongside Dutch author Harry Mulisch's report on the Eichmann trial. Arendt and Mulisch were present at the trial and wrote about it - the phrase "the banality of evil" was coined. Arendt had already written the monumental Origins of totalitarianism, Mulisch was on the way of becoming the monument he eventually was as himself.

Evil indeed is trivial, banal.
It does not prevent your telling the world that you like to travel and to eat out. That you watch Gray's anatomy (!) and are interested in the solitude of prime numbers. Place a picture of yourself in the inevitable blue jeans, legs wide open, sitting on a sofa in a tank top, and - screenshot saved from Google-cache - yourself (on a holiday presumably) near a waterfall.
The signing tag of your email tells you are a "case manager dwelling fraud" which looks important. You did not finish your study of the French language, your curriculum vitae as published out in the open leaves a gaping hole but who will care - you are on Facebook.
Someone gave you the key to the appartment of the only student of Christian anarchism in that country of yours which prides itself of being governed by a regime to the right of the nazis. The building corporation you represent is led by a former secretary of War, member of one of the brown coalition parties. "This key seems to circulate in the building - odd," she tells you. But it was convenient to walk into the premises and decide you were SHOCKED SHOCKED about the mess and you decided he - well, it is about me, so let me say: I - did not live where I was supposed to live. She got the address she phoned to from snooping through "the mail" as she in a mixture of stupidity and honesty tells.
She concludes I have not been there for two years.
I am stunned by the brazenness of telling you walked into somebody's place and ask him about it, using the phone number of his (my) beloved. "I don't know if it is just accidental I should find you here."

She will call back to this number later in the week. She does so on the day my mother is unexpectedly admitted to hospital, a nightmarish series of events which ends in her death on the 12th of February this year.

The case manager however kept on pushing for a conversation about my living conditions or however you should translate this bureaucratic phrase emanating from the Fourth Empire. To me it was like answering questions about your sex life to your rapist so I did not comply. THEY do not like that.

Let me cut this short now.
On Monday 11th of July I was thrown out of the house which I have rented (and for which I automatically paid every month) for more than 27 years. Someone representing the Community of Amsterdam decided there was nothing of any value in my house so everything could be rightly destroyed.
It was thrown out of the window in a finite but long-lasting waterfall of plastic bags. I lived on the third floor, just to give you an idea.
My vinyl collection (a lot of Northern Soul and rare British Beat), my library (books revised for a second edition by the author himself), the books I have written myself (there were about four boxes of them around) - nothing of any value.

I did not have a flatscreen television set or anything else which presumably would be considered "of value". "What you consider to be of value does not count," I am told.
Culture is garbage, the regime decided somewhere in the autumn, no money should be spent on it at all and if you have anything which testifies of any intelligence beyond some hospital soap and a crime novel everyone but me seems to know THEY will gladly throw it on the dust heap. Along with your miserable self.

I had to laugh when I saw a broken set of dentures of mine rolling along the pavement. The ridiculous side of aggression against your intimacy. To make a picture of it I put it on some plants I keep in a garden house where I shall spend some future days. Look and be horrified...

- to be continued, I fear - Jobe did not have a laptop but I have -

P.S. I beg for some leniency about forgetting to tell that the lady who had given herself permission to snoop around very recently ended her facebook entry (that is why the screenshot was taken from the cache), I gather she expected some negative publicity coming from someone who did not keep anything of any value.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Lost Religion of Jesus

Lost Religion of Jesus is a Christian anarchist community for those committed to Christianity, pacifism, anarchism and vegetarianism/veganism. I started the Yahoo group back in 2005 and took the name from Keith Akers' book on simple living and nonviolence. Please feel free to join, your input would be appreciated.

I also set up a Google group for Christian anarchists called Christian anarchism last year. Again your input would be appreciated.

Watch out for those vegetarians


The state of Missouri grants Christian anarchists the honour of having to be spied upon:
Christian vegetarians are apparently something to be feared, at least by Missouri officials, who fail to explain how being a vegetarian deserves a mention on a police watch list.

Here’s what Missouri officials say:

“Christian anarchists have opposed war and other ‘Statist’ aggression through nonviolent tax resistance. Many Christian Anarchists were vegetarian or vegan.”


Further reading.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

What would Jesus Smash?

On March 26th alongside the sedate TUC anti-cuts protest in London anarchists also protested though in a more dynamic, confrontational fashion. Included in their version of protest was the deliberate targeting of banks, The Ritz and other sites that symbolise financial oppression, exploitation, exclusion and inequality for property damage.

The damage was symbolic protest, a physical cry of resistance, an expression of ‘the scream’ that Holloway refers to (in ‘Change the world without taking power’). No one imagined it would bring down capitalism it was, as protest often is, to do with symbolism and communication of ‘if only’.

As I thought about the protests, the smashing of a bank window, I realised that it was very similar to the acts of Jesus in clearing the temple. You know the incidents; they are recorded in all 4 gospels. Jesus deliberately, as an act of protest and resistance, carries out property damage at a site of financial exploitation. He temporarily disrupts the exploitative system associated with temple worship while knowing his actions wouldn’t bring it to an end. It was confrontational but he was angry that what should have been a place of prayer had been turned into a place of financial exploitation with inflated prices being charged for sacrificial animals and temple currency.

On the second occasion Jesus says “It is written ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’” (NIV Mt 21:13). Some would dispute the comparison between 21st century anarchists and the 1st century Jesus emphasising that his actions were an expression of anger over the corruption of temple worship.

Both include anger at a system that was exploiting the poor, an anger that was the consequence of knowing what should be. The anarchists were expressing their hostility towards a corrupt system that causes misery, suffering and deprivation on a global scale, Jesus was expressing a more localised version of the same while including the added dimension of concern over spiritual corruption also. To paraphrase a famous question ‘What would Jesus smash?'
by Tim Foster