Why not other spheres?

In a recent post from a few days ago I suggested that the media, education and the arts might be best placed to help lead to a new scenario, opening space where believers and non-believers alike can imagine and work to a new future. I might be mistaken, I could be too pessimistic about, for example, politics, business or one of the other aspects of society. I hope I am, but where we are wedded to an-shackled consumerism it is difficult to be optimistic.

2008 supposedly brought about the (banking) crisis, but was it a crisis or a blip? It really depends on who one asks. For those, such as the youth of Spain, a crisis of enormous proportions, for those who received yet again a bonus for their ‘work’ in the economic realm the word ‘crisis’ surely has no meaning.

Consumerism seems to be the root issue with what is wrong. ‘I saw, it was to be desired, I took, I ate…’ Words so profound in ancient culture and if anything more profound today. Entrance to the land that was apportioned, strict laws about debt, restrictions about moving boundaries, and partial resets every 7 years and a major one every 70 years. Enjoy but live within boundaries. An economics that does not stipulate boundaries is not a biblical economics – and in the case of Israel a state enforced boundary.

Suppose you are harvesting your crops. Then do not harvest all the way to the edges of your field. And do not pick up the grain you missed. Do not go over your vineyard a second time. Do not pick up the grapes that have fallen to the ground. Leave them for poor people and outsiders. I am the Lord your God.

A business model that is based on maximising profits is hard to justify biblically. Do not harvest to the edge of the field. From all business ventures there was legislation that gave from those businesses provision for the marginalised and the immigrant. All backed up by God’s authority!

Jesus’ team building had at its heart a strategy of how to lose money. Not some arbitrary loss but set in motion to break any love of money and to give a path of freedom to those who needed it from that. Thankfully even Judas found that path, even if he did not realise it due to being overwhelmed in sorrow.

A new economics is called for biblically, not a simple step of occupying the current ‘mountain’. If to be able to successfully ‘buy and sell’ (trade) is the mark of the beast perhaps there is an economy being called for that is deeper than that, based not on commodity but on life? Everything that flows from a resurrection based faith has to be life-giving.

Money is not evil, the love of money is the (or ‘a’) root of evil. Yet money itself is problematic. How much exists? How can a stock market lose x-billion or gain x-billion in a day? If I lose 20euros I have lost it, someone else finds it and they gain 20euros. The money is not ‘lost’. That makes sense, but money in the big scheme of things does not make sense. Run your private accounts on the less-than-500 year old system that we have and see if you are allowed to become rich or face a prison sentence.

Have someone loan you 1000 euros (it is a loan as you sign to ‘I promise to pay the bearer 1000 euros upon demand’, though legally the loan money is yours to do with what you wish).
From that loan to you, you can now loan someone 900 euros (and charge interest)
Then loan the next person 810 euros, the next 729 euros and so on (this is the banking system…)

After simply 10 times of doing this you will have loaned out 5.5k and still have almost 400euros left.

Imagine doing that over a week… you had nothing, you are loaned 1000 euros and have had enough money to loan out 5.5k. At the beginning of the week you were broke, at the end of the week you are the source for countless others, could invest ‘your’ remaining 400 euros, or have a (or 2 or 3) nice meal(s) out and start again the next week, meanwhile each person who you loaned to will be paying you interest… who would have believed that was possible?

What prompted such a system? The financing of war was the main ingredient. So much war is to do with establishing new boundaries.

Sadly the system is based on debt, and debt is based on how the present relates to the future.

This is what we have… I am not saying the creativity involved is evil, and I am thankful that good / evil are not the only two biblical categories but the very important ‘fallen’ category is there too. Yet the more fallen, or the more persistent something is to lean in that direction the harder it is to see something redemptive enter. Can we see something redemptive enter the economic realm? All things are possible, but this is why I suggested the arts, education and the media might be the areas where we can see a leverage effect take place. And the media maybe against all odds until recently might have been another area for pessimism, so that should give us a faith boost for the economic realm.

To all those who follow Christ whose context is the economic / money / business realm a big respect to you as you wrestle not against flesh and blood, but live out your lives and values in the light of the cross.

Footnote: do not try at a private level to work your finances along the banking loan model. I think prison might be the context that could lead you to.

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To boldly go

Changes, changes, changes. Who can predict the future? Post Brexit referendum the jury is still out as to what that all means. Gibraltar the clearest ‘remain’ vote (could this be down to vested interest?!!) and yet one of the biggest financial contributions to the leave vote campaign came from there. How will a year-old party shape up in France? Across the pond what is happening?

Dependent on the glasses one wears and therefore how we see the world I guess we could be anxious wanting to go back to some safe boundaries (for safe read yesterday and status quo) or we can see opportunities in the space that is opening up. I lean heavily to the latter. From a theological perspective I do so as my eschatology does not have space for a future antiChrist, but consists of an open future that we are challenged to shape in the light of the gospel of freedom; and from an intercessory perspective I see the open space as a result of prayer. Our task is to open space and let it be filled by those of positive vision for the future whether they have faith, as we define it, or not.

In some correspondence today I suggested there are three aspects of society that are essential to shaping the future at this time. I do not place them in an order of priority but suggest they are:

  • education
  • media
  • arts

All aspects / spheres of society are important but some have been colonised more than others; some have been suppressed more than others; hence I select these three as perhaps containing the greatest potential. In reverse order…

The arts. Years ago I gave a crazy prophetic declaration that when we learn how to value art the housing market will be re-valued (in many areas that means de-valued). When house prices dictate who can live where, we are not living in a free world. There are also come crazy valuations in the art world, but there are many artists (in the broad sense of that word) who are working with little return. Meanwhile there are those who make money from money… Paul was clear that those who are entitled to eat are the ones who are working, which of course begs the question as to how the word ‘work’ is to be defined biblically. I mentioned above that some spheres have been colonised, and some words certainly have. We have colonised ‘work’ along an ’employed’ / ‘unemployed’ line. Once we remove those terms from a creational context we will have very little left to pull us in a new-creational direction.

Artists are gifted to open our eyes, ears, emotions and imagination to where we could be going. There is a lament contribution that can be made that exposes the right grief about what we have done, but I think now we need more than ever a message of hope. Faith is related to what we hope for, it creates the shape for faith to develop.

The media. We have prayed for a new media. I admire the way that the media continues to push to get stories, even when so much of it has been designated as ‘fake’! The media is not unbiased, and this applies to the media that I like as well as the media that I disagree with. Thank God for social media, although so mixed, it gives access to alternative perspectives, sometimes alternative facts, but even when that is the case these are alternative facts coming from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down.

A free media is vital. In most of our democratic western nations we struggle to really have a free media. The mainstream newspapers of the UK… the TV channels in Spain… ‘freedom’ is not the first word that could be used to describe them. But we are witnessing the same kind of shift as during the Reformation with the printing press and the release of Scriptures in the ordinary language. Controlling the press cannot and never will be absolute, and I applaud those who are committed to its liberation and doing so at personal cost.

Education. I love history, knowing the story of where we have come from is essential. The wisdom and knowledge that has got us here has great value. Animals seem to learn some aspects through instinct, but we as humans learn this through intentionality. We have the knowledge how to build a car, but imagine if you were the last human alive. I would struggle to put together a cart akin to one from ancient society. The knowledge and gifts are held corporately. We can build a cart, a car, a space rocket. Knowledge has great value in being passed on, but creativity birthed from questioning will take us further. Education is not simply teaching people what to think, it is certainly teaching people how to think, but perhaps its greatest goal is to teach people to question.

Neo-liberalism has all-but destroyed most aspects of the economic and business realms, so much so that there seems even in the Christian world very little radical thinking. Unless we have at the core the deliberate non-maximisation of profits, coupled to a strategic plan to be free from the love of money, and at least a measure of embracing the principle of jubilee there does not seem much hope for a change there. (And if this is not arrested I might well have to change my beliefs about an antiChrist – not because of the Bible but our inability to take the Bible seriously enough…)

So in this little musing coming out of this morning’s correspondence I am suggesting that the three areas of education, media and arts might be at the forefront of setting health care free from the monetary colonisation that is there… and from health care there might even be a shift elsewhere.

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Gates of society

I have written at times on what can be variously termed ‘gates’, ‘spheres’ and (one I object to) ‘mountains of influence’. Recently though I have been thinking again about these aspects. So first to note that language, with all its weaknesses, is important. Language carries concepts, hence the ‘mountain-type’ language I consider very unhelpful as it embeds the continuing belief of hierarchy and top-down change. It is not compatible with the kenotic / uncontrolling love of God.

I started this past week to think about the myth that we now have of the interdependence of the spheres. In the UK – and indeed much of Europe – there is a continuing wonderful health service available to one and all. Increasingly though this is being placed under threat and the response of junior doctors in the UK to the cuts that have been made to the NHS is more than understandable. Likewise, we see threats to education with an inevitable preferential treatment given to those from more privileged backgrounds.

Myth 1. The ‘gates of society’ are not as simple to define as interdependent spheres. Politics rules over, for example, the gates of education and health. We have an education minister and a health minister who shape up how the education and health spheres are developed. Some consultations are made, of course, but how much do those consultations shape the outcome? Ask the teacher in the classroom or the doctor / nurse in the hospital and hear what they think about the policies that they are instructed to implement.

Myth 2. The political sphere is not the top. But there is a top! Something is out of control. Take the payment of tax made by Google in the UK. When Mr. Corbyn asked on behalf of ‘Jeff’ in PM’s question time about the possibility of the individual coming to the government to make the same agreement about the level of tax to pay as Google had just done, the response revealed the situation. There was no effective response other than ‘we did better than former leaders of the house’.

So seems there is a hierarchy (particularly at the global level) with economics occupying the top seat. What if all institutional power needs a voice? Maybe politics is now fast becoming trapped in a double minded prison, seeking to reign in what is out of control, and yet defending it. (Consider the unusual symbiotic yet antagonistic relationship of the beast and the prostitute of Revelation.)

So what conclusions do I come to? Tentatively:

1) at the individual level we have to continue to move into the ‘spheres’, ‘gates’ (or whatever) in order to dismantle mountains – or at least hilltops!

2) we look to the truly uncontrollable areas such as the arts to disturb. Thanks Banksy!

3) we look to see a media that becomes free. (In Spain the majority of channels are controlled by the conservative government, with one channel being owned by a certain infamous Italian politician! In the UK just check the ownership of the press.) The underground press is increasingly important. And as we have been praying for a regeneration within the media, a new media, we have to ask as those shaped by a kingdom mentality, how we define ‘media’ (communication and language). Is it defined by what is or by its purpose?

4) we provoke democracy, not simply the democratic process. And by provoke we do that at whatever level is appropriate – and this has to include prayer to shift the mountains that are now eating democracy, often through the democratic process.

5) that we look for the voice of the street to rise. Untidy, not so articulate, but full of wisdom.

6) that we call for a new landscape while believing that there will be monumental shifts in the structures that have gone out of control. Wholesale collapse is not the way forward – we need to see low-level alternatives springing up.

The European project is rightly being challenged. The fault lines are becoming increasingly visible. There are signs of hope at grass roots, and the way of mercy has to be the way forward.

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