Sunday, 27 September 2020
Sunday, 20 September 2020
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
Hello. How're you doing?
Discernment is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we need it in shovelfuls just now.
As I pick my way through the daily news, voices come to me like trumpet-blasts, offering denouements and revelations that most of the time don't amount to a hill of beans or offer anything useful in building a constructive life.
Last Sunday at The Campfire Church on Facebook our ministry of the word arose from the letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 12 and in particular this verse: "Lift up your tired hands, then, and strengthen your trembling knees! Keep walking on straight paths so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead be healed." That's from the NIV UK, but looking at several translations is helpful. It's talking about the fragility of the situation when something is out of joint, smoothing the way — "Make a straight path for your feet" — to protect and enhance the possibility of healing and progress, rather than loading the situation more and making everything worse. It seems to me we dearly need this advice at the present time.
Here's an example. In the UK, MP Angela Rayner is the First Secretary of State in the Opposition Party — which has my vote, but I find her pronouncements annoying because they so highly emotive as to be unconstructive. Yesterday she was all over Facebook slamming the government decision to exempt hunting and shooting expeditions from the new restrictions placed upon gatherings. In the UK we are now restricted to social gatherings of 6 people, though children can attend school and people can go to work. In other words, we are instructed to continue to be cautious and restrained when we meet for social and recreational purposes, but we are starting to re-establish interaction necessary for earning a living. Then, there are certain exemptions to what could be considered a social gathering, and hunting/shooting expeditions is one. Now, of course most of the people in the UK who go on hunting shooting expeditions are wealthier landowners, so Angela Rayner is blasting this exemption as classist and elitist cronyism and oppression, "Tories shooting our wildlife".
But there are alternative ways of considering this measure. In recent times, going vegan has been advocated as a means of promoting the health of the Earth, but this is bad advice. Mixed organic farming (animals and plants both), with proper attention to the regeneration of the topsoil, lavish addition of hedgerows to offer a wildlife habitat, and correct movement of herds to mimic what animals do in nature, is what obtains the best result for maintaining and improving the health of the Earth. Here's an example of animal farming for the health of the land and protection against wildfire damage — and this is the kind of thing the Earth needs us to do. As consumers and citizens we have both power and responsibility to get behind such projects at the local grass-roots level; this won't wait for government instruction, we have to start straight away.
Now, one of the most constructive and Earth-friendly ways of obtaining the animal-based foods that most people need to support health (I don't want to argue about this, but check out the work of, eg, Nora Gedgaudas or Natasha Campbell McBride et al, in support of this assertion) is to conserve large areas where animals can be raised and herded in the most natural possible way, culling the herds under gamekeepers' advice in shooting parties. If we're going to eat meat (and most people need to for bodily health) the most human way to do so is to allow the animal to lead a free and natural life, then at the right time of year shoot selected animals. It is better for the animals, and for the health of the people eating them, than farm-raised animals fed on large quantities of grain and kept in barns and enclosed fields. Exempting hunting and shooting parties from restriction is not social elitism (though as it happens it does benefit social elites, but then, what doesn't?), it is a very Earth-friendly practice. Angela Rayner is talking nonsense when she speaks out against "Tories killing wildlife"; that isn't what happens in hunting season. It's the time of slaughter for animals raised in the most natural possible way. They are shooting grouse and pheasants and partridges, not blackbirds and robins and eagles. It's better for birds that sheds of densely housed chickens.
Whatever your own opinion about eating animals, it's still important to think twice and refrain from spreading misinformation in a histrionic manner, particularly if you are an MP and the Shadow First Secretary of State. People won't take you seriously if your pronouncements are not intelligent and thought through.
In the same way, in recent times I've seen (I expect you have too) rumours of the Covid virus being all part of the government's master plan to control our lives, and the requirement to wear masks as integral to their efforts to dominate us and keep us in fear. I sincerely hope you can see this is just tosh. There are honest differences of opinion about the efficacy of wearing masks, that's quite true. There is disagreement over the correct way to manage viral spread — whether or not we should have lockdowns, what groups to allow, to what extent we should protect the economy from collapse while still trying to protect vulnerable people from the virus. It's difficult enough trying to pick a way through this without all the conspiracy theorists spreading panic over 5G and the government squirting mist up your nose to take over your mind!
I do think our UK (and US) government is profoundly corrupt. It has been entirely evident that those in positions of responsibility have shamefully diverted billions from public funds into personal bank accounts and private interest, and this is appalling. But to the question, "What can I do about this?", the short answer is, "Nothing except vote them out at the earliest opportunity."
It seems to me that my primary focus and concern should be living a holy life.
A holy life (according to the Law and the Prophets) is one centring on both reverence for God our Creator and social justice. This is expressed in three main ways:
1) Doing our utmost to reverence, respect and care for the Earth, because God has placed us here as stewards of it, and because despoiling the Earth is a crime against the human beings who live on it as well as a sin against God who made it. An integral aspect of personal holiness is educating ourselves about regenerative land-management and permaculture, and taking personal responsibility for walking as lightly on this Earth as we possibly can. This is serious, and we have to do it. The Lord sees.
2) Working in every possible way, according to our circumstances, to uphold and advance social justice. Aligning the detail of our daily lives and choices with what promotes equity for all people and justice for the poor. An integral aspect of personal holiness includes taking the trouble to educate ourselves about the effect on people far away of our government policy at home — thinking about the relationship between our investments and the arms trade, about who makes our clothes and grows our food, about where our fuel comes from and what effect that has on people living near mines and pipelines, about the pollutants and work force involved in products we buy; all that sort of thing. This is dauntingly complex, which means that living simply with few possessions and an uncomplicated schedule is imperative, otherwise we just drown in all the information, lose track, and fail to make a straight path for our feet.
3) Ensuring that our practice of holiness finds its way inwards as well as outwards — that our homes and families and close personal relationships shine with peace and kindness, that we are trustworthy friends and neighbours, that the vulnerable members of our families can rely on us for protection and support. I often see in the news reports of people in poverty who have even starved to death, disabled people who suffer terribly from lack of support, people who have been made homeless by family strife or divorce or financial problems. While I agree that government has a role to play in addressing these sores and griefs in our community, it is certainly true that unless we address them at the personal and family level things will never be put right.
So, I offer you three scriptures to hold firmly in mind as we pass through these chaotic years (and it will be years, this won't all be done and dusted by Christmas):
Matthew 22.35-40 (my paraphrase): One of the Pharisees asked Jesus: "Teacher, what is the most important part of the Law?" Jesus replied: "The first and greatest is that you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. The second comes to the same thing — that you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Philippians 4.4-9 RSV: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, my family, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.
Hebrews 13.1-3 and 14-16 (RSV): Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body. . . . Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
*Focus on the positive
*Choose the way of love
*Be discerning in what you believe and check the facts
*Live simply to leave yourself freedom to choose wisely and help generously.
*Remember your creation ordinances. Spend time every day in the hills or a forest or by the ocean or in a garden (you don't have to own it, a public garden will do). Make sure to be barefoot and to get your hands into contact with the living earth. Unless when you go back indoors they have great clods of mud on them, don't wash them. Also get some of that soap/handcream which replaces bacteria for your skin microbiome, and if for some reason you simply cannot go out of doors, get an earthing sheet for your bed.
Hold fast, kindred. We can do this, through God who strengthens us.