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Will we make a difference?


If what I write below is close to what is here and coming then taking heed could really unlock some health into our world and for the next generation. If we do not heed it…

I have been very exercised about some of the significant global crises that are on the horizon. For the past 3 weeks I have been seeing a very serious economic upheaval. Then a few days ago the global climate report was published with the ‘we have twelve years to address this’. It would be crazy to dismiss this report, as crazy as if I had a group of credited medics in front of me all pushing for the same diagnosis but I argued for something different, someone with no medical expertise. The only, and invalid, reason for dismissing this UN climate report would be because of the economic ramifications to the world we have created.

We have entered a window of time when the façades are opening again, so I wish to repeat a dream I had at the beginning of the decade and in the same season as another dream that seemed to indicate that it was relevant for this decade. For those who have read this before feel free to jump ahead.

I was in a town square and simply standing at one side of it.. I was observing the buildings on the other side and knew that they represented every institution that had shaped the public space as we have it today: education, health, government, business, trade, church, etc. were all present. With no prior warning and all at the same time the fronts of the buildings came froward and then up as if they were on a hinge. Anyone could look inside the buildings. My first thought was I need to warn those on the other side of the square as buildings acting like that will soon become very unstable and fall over, so I considered anyone close was in real danger. I got ready to shout my warning but soon realised that the buildings were not going to fall over. I then held my warning as I tried to work out what was going on. I felt a sense of danger but knew it was deeper than ‘get away from the buildings’. While I am contemplating what the danger was someone began quietly to sing a well-known worship song that focused on the Lordship of Jesus. There were obviously enough people in the public square with Christian faith that a second person added their voice, then a third and so on. The volume of the singing rose some, and then when it reached a certain level, all the buildings simply closed up again. I was very disturbed by what had happened and did not know what I should shout out. While pondering this, trying to get a handle on the appropriate warning I heard an audible voice that came from just behind me (I never looked left nor right but simply focused on the buildings that were across the square.) The audible voice said:

It is the familiar that restores the status quo, that brings everything back to where it was.

Now I knew the warning I needed to get across. The warning was concerning pulling on the familiar, and the shock in the dream of course was that the familiar that caused the façades to close up was the response of singing by those of faith – but familiar is familiar however we define it.

Knowing what the warning now was I cleared my throat, took a deep breath and then shouted out: ‘It is the familiar…’ I got those four words out and a person from my right side stood right in my face, eye-balling me, to intimidate me. I was determined that I would not be put off, so stepped to my left, cleared my throoat, and then once more got the first four words out and the person repeated their intimidating action. This happenned one more time, so three times this person prevented me shouting out the whole warning. I stepped aside once more and again shouted the first four words. This time the person finished my sentence (‘It is the familiar…’) with the words

that brings things back to normal.

Similar but such a false representation.

Given that I consider Scripture calls the body of Christ to act priestly what takes place in the public square is our responsibility. There might be a battle, it might take time for a change to come, we might well also have ‘failures’ as we engage, but the point is we have to step up to our responsibility. We cannot control what happens there, but through our positioning in the world and our petitioning to heaven we can shift the spiritual atmosphere and create boundaries so that there is an opportunity for the growth of righteousness. In the light of that it is not surprising that in the dream it was the response of believers that short-circuited what was happening in the public square. There is evidently a time to sing, and there is a time not to. I say this as I am convinced that the façades are opening up again. We have to learn what the right response is in this season.

An aside on some current reflections – with the acknowledgement they might not be the most relevant and tomorrow they might not even be relevant. Many Western nations are not willing to engage in any level of sanctions against one of the main human rights violators (Saudi Arabia) because they purchase arms from us – this is certainly true of Spain, the UK and the USA. Economics triumphs over ethics. Mammon or God, Jesus said, and although we would be naive to expect some kind of ‘Christian’ standard in a nation we do have the right to expect a level of right action, and nation after nation are putting economics before any humanitarian perspective. In a few days we are in Brazil and will be there for the final vote for the presidency. A figure who seems to have huge support from many Christians is of course pushing a strong agenda that might increase their economy but at what cost to the environment and to the marginalised? No candidate is perfect but to get behind someone because they are pro-a-number-of-moral-issues and pro boosting the economy as if they are God’s candidate is extremely naive. Maybe we can suggest at times a particular approach better accords with our beliefs but it really is time to drop the idea of a God appointed candidate or a Christian nation.

The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.

What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:

  • greed and consumerism
  • misogyny
  • protectionism that demonises the ‘other’

The inevitable result will not just be trade wars, but war. It will not simply be a major shift to extreme right wing policies (as we see rise in Europe) but the establishing of a neo-nazi totalitarianism that will eventually be seen not be favourable to faith, including that of the Christian faith.

I suggest we have the next two years, when either a level playing field will be established or we will leave the next generation a Herculean task to bring things forward to something that resembles a God shape for society.


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12 thoughts on “Will we make a difference?

    1. Thanks… hope to see you next year in the land of the ‘true north’.

  1. Wow, yes that is so powerful. What shall we do though? How do we make our voices heard or make a difference. With the weight of so much Christian support and prayer surrounding unjust systems or candidates how are the few voices (some pretty isolated) and prayers from ordinary people like me who want to see his kingdom come and dismantling of truly ungodly structures to be effective? I feel powerless to change things and the way the world is going seems horribly inevitable. I’ve been wracking my brains and praying for a way but so far can’t see what to do.

    1. Wish I had a smart answer. If it is in the wilderness that the journey is made from the Imperial dominance with a vision of a land of promise, then I think the small acts, responses and prayers have to carry great weight. The future is the multiplicity of the small and the richness of diversity. And we are not alone!!! Angelic / heavenly help.

  2. I teach that next generation so what comes is important to me. Here is what I am seeing. Since I am in the middle of a real estate situation that will, temporarily, put me into debt (no, not happy about it but there was not an alternative due to the greed and obstructionism of my co-owners) I have been speaking with agents. I teach in the field of architecture, landscape and interior. Over the years, I have become aware that no matter how much technology we have for sustainable buildings or net zero construction it is the folks who broker land transactions who control whether or not people can make good choices for the future. And my read on real estate agents is that they neither value or even care about ‘green’ things. I was recently informed that in Canada one can obtain a certification as a ‘green’ real estate agent for $15.00 and no training of any kind.

    But since the IPCC report dropped like a bomb I have had two conversations in a week with 2 different agents. One was already concerned and heading in the ‘green’ direction, so to be expected with her (she will also act as the broker when I sell my ultra green house in the spring), but the other was a stranger. He knew of the report and was eager for information on green building design. So the IPCC report is a starting point for conversations with people. I am glad it gives limited years. For too long many people have projected climate change as something they do not have to deal with, but putting a date on it means we can all focus on it. And it is a close enough date that we can focus and maintain the urgency. First step in response – talk about it to everyone. And use it to hold politicians to account – you can at least send an email to your local representative or 3 or 5 or daily. Become an eco-crank if necessary. Its urgent.

    Make no mistake. I am 61 years old. This climate situation is on all who are around my age. This is our problem to solve in our remaining years. We owe it to the next generations. So , no, sitting back in horror and concern without action is not acceptable. If you are a parent, this is on you. Get on it. Do something.

    So to my students. . . these are young people trying to figure out what to do in the future. And I end up in all sorts of conversations with them. I continually challenge them that climate change is now and they will spend their whole lives in the context of a chaotic climate (the climate is not going to move smoothly into some sort of new steady state, it is going to be quite chaotic for awhile). So I tell them to think seriously about what profession they intend to pursue. Will it employ them during the inevitable economic downturns? Architecture will not. It takes a growing economy to build buildings. Is it a way to address climate change? Can it enable them to make money off of climate change? Their eyes light up at that one. They are at a moment in their lives where it is still fairly easy to make shifts so I push a little here and a little there. In a week I will meet with several hundred college students and lead them through an exercise that involves finding ways to adapt to climate change. I’ve done this many times. I seek to instill hope in them, that we can do something. But maybe I need to start doing it with their parents’ age group somehow. Something to think about.

    Change is here. The Christian church is a problem not a solution. Sorry about that but overall that is the reality. They long ago sold their souls for political power. I regard them as the enemy not as friends. Both Catholics and Protestants are corrupted so little help there and will heartily seek to pull those facades back down and into place. Now is the moment to determine how this change will go. So far, the rich nations (I am looking at you Canada, the planet’s piggies per capita) of the world have tacitly agreed that they will ignore the situation as much as possible and allow the poor of the world to continue to pay the costs. Though level 4 hurricanes or never ending huge wildfires can make that more difficult to do. These next couple of years will determine the morality of climate change and its economics. Who wins? Who loses? Why? Who enforces the intentions and policies?

    I always take Greenland and Easter Island as my morality tales for this kind of situation. On Easter Island, the natives began to worship huge stone gods that they carved. Carving and transporting these idols meant cutting down all the trees which degraded the landscape and changed the climate of the island. Food ceased to grow. People starved to death. To me, this is what capitalism does. We build idols at great cost to our resources which eventually kills us. In Greenland the European colony was settled in the Middle Ages during a warming period. The people took pride in their attachment to Europe. They rejected the native population and their time tested means of survival. Then a cooling period came and the supply boats failed to turn up. People starved to death even as there was food all around them. This is the folly of clinging to the familiar at the cost of learning to live in a new context.

    This is where we are at today. The answer, as I tell my students, is to build arks. The ark was a vehicle for saving humans and other species from climate change/chaos so that they could go on when things settled down. An ark could be anything – planting trees, buying land to preserve habitat, promoting climate independent agriculture so that land can be given back to habitat, eating less meat for the same reason, using transit rather than driving so that you mitigate greenhouse gases thereby refusing to contribute to warming and acidifying oceans, installing better insulation in your home, adding solar panels. There are many approaches, many ways to build an ark. Find a community with a similar vision and have at it. We need all the arks we can build as quickly as possible.

    1. PS: I am willing to concede that some who call themselves Christian are doing what needs to be done. Unfortunately, way too few. And way too many are actively working against all that is truly needful and good. Its unfortunate.

      PS2: Am fascinated Martin by your description of worship songs. I actually lost my ability to sing in the early 90’s. It began to go then (the Toronto revival thing) and went completely by 2000 or so. I had a beautiful voice, actually considered training for opera. And I loved to worship. But in the early 90’s I realized there was something really wrong with what we called worship. Something was off. And I lost my voice. I could not sing. At times I could not even speak. Interestingly, my voice is returning. I sing now to my cat. I make up silly songs for her as she loves to listen. It has startled me – getting my voice back. Not sure what is happening but maybe moving forward, building the future will allow us to sing again – to sing new songs. Time to discover who the other singers are, where they are, and what they are singing.

    2. Thanks!!! So many challenges, but we have to see the small good news of the conversion such as with your estate agent multiplied many times over.

    3. While I believe that individual actions count, if not just to train how we think, the issue of climate change/chaos is way past whether or not we keep our lights on too long or other individual actions. I’ve been living mostly vegetarian, in an eco-home with solar energy, using transit (don’t own a car) and doing most everything the way an individual is supposed to for 30 years. Doesn’t matter. Christians and post-Christians/Church go-ers are going to have to do something we have not done much in a while – join with others in collective action to make change. Whole economic systems have to change because they are based on fossil fuels. Agriculture is based on fossil fuels, construction is based on fossil fuels, clothing is made from fossil fuels, pharmaceuticals are made from fossil fuels, politicians are corrupted by fossil fuels. If we are going to deal with those facades, the answer is to collectively rip them down, reduce them to rubble and build anew. And we must do that in very short time. So yes, individually assume leadership and create a collective that grows food differently, or provides better housing (net-zero) for the marginalized or whatever you are led to do. But we need, all of us, to get on it. It is the single most urgent issue of our lives right now. All else is less important. Really. And it is mostly a social and political issue and that is where it must be resolved. As the writer I am going to copy/paste below says, it is not our fault but it is our problem to solve.
      By: Mary Annaïse Heglar, Senior Policy Publications Editor for the National Resources Defense Council

      “Given the sheer enormity of climate change, it’s okay to be depressed, to grieve. But please, don’t stay there too long. Join me in pure, unadulterated, righteous anger.

      The dominant narrative around climate change tells us that it’s our fault. We left the lights on too long, didn’t close the refrigerator door, and didn’t recycle our paper. I’m here to tell you that is bullshit. If the light switch was connected to clean energy, who the hell cares if you left it on? The problem is not consumption — it’s the supply. And your scrap paper did not hasten the end of the world.

      Don’t give in to that shame. It’s not yours. The oil and gas industry is gaslighting you.

      That same IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it. […]

      It’s not our fault, but it is very much our problem. It’s dire, but we have to dig in our heels and fight — for each other.”

      from: https://www.dailykos.com/
      It references her article in VOX: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/10/11/17963772/climate-change-global-warming-natural-disasters

  3. Thanks Martin, your writing seems increasingly focused and revealing-appreciated.
    I have been in construction much of my working life (academia and church also). I empathise with you Ann. Here in the UK construction is incredibly slow to change. The commitment to Code 6 zero carbon house by 2016 scrapped because the industry was not moving and it became impossible. There are some good signs. The Centre for Alternative Technology running Masters course that are resulting in real green businesses. Yet in the volume building sector little has changed and land remains the bringer of unbalanced profits resulting in non-affordable housing. I don’t do church as ‘normal’ too much anymore, but have never heard a sermon on the environment. Our spiritual health seems to me connected to the land on so many levels from our daily mental well being to our long term survival. Why does the church suffer from such a short term view in light of eternity? Christians are out there and doing. The longer I am marginal the more I meet. My prayer and hunch is that the new song would come from there.

    1. Thanks Simon. Our experiences seem to have brought us to similar places in terms of our thinking. My biggest concern right now is that much in academia, both university and trade/applied tech schools (colleges here in Canada) are still focused on sustainability. We are far enough along into climate change that really resilience is key. I’m all for sustainable design but we must now go further and enable buildings and cities to deal with extreme weather events. That conversation is barely happening, yet again, because of the drivers of land values and development. We continue to engage in the wrong conversations about the wrong things that solve the wrong problems rather than deal with the real context in which we now live. Utterly frustrating, especially for the young people I teach. If nothing else, I hope the latest IPCC report stimulates some new conversations and songs!

    2. The CAT courses (https://gse.cat.org.uk/) are sustainability and adaptation. The adaptation part being the recognition of the need for resilience in recognition of change already being with us. I think resilience will require all disciplines and will require many voices. Climate change is no longer some kind of niche study it reveals too much and reaches economics, health care, community, family and more….thanks Ann

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