25 May, 2008

Turning the Tables, Resurrection as Revolution

"While we believe in an interim period after death before the Lord returns—when we will be in a disembodied state—most of us also affirm the truth of resurrection as future embodiment at the end of the age. However, even though we believe in bodily resurrection, Wright contends that we have unyoked it from its original context of reversal and revolution. In doing this, we have lost some of its original force as a doctrine of social reversal and diluted the powerful hope it presents for the oppressed and downtrodden of the earth.

The Sadducees, as we have said, denied it because they did not believe it was taught in the Five Books of Moses. However, the deeper reason was that by denying it they protected their own position of wealth, privilege, and power.

Wright believes that resurrection was a threat to the Sadducees. They hoped that by denying any anticipation of an afterlife (in any form) would add leverage against the most extreme teaching on the afterlife: resurrection. It was safer to deny all hope of an afterlife than to open the door to a possibility of resurrection, a teaching that the God of justice is going to right every wrong and turn the established order upside down. They knew resurrection was not a doctrine in which the afterlife was seen as “an opiate to mollify the poor and the powerless,” a teaching to make them content with their suffering in this world by giving them a promise of some alleviation in the next. Resurrection, according to Wright, while it was to happen at the end of the age, “was to happen in this world, not another one.”

The Sadducees denied it, therefore, because they wanted to maintain the status quo and their position within it. A belief in a divine in breaking that could take place at any time and turn everything upside down was a huge threat to their position of power and wealth.

By way of contrast, a promise of “heaven” offered by the powerful to the poor was no threat, it was indeed an opiate. However, the doctrine of resurrection, rather than being an opiate, was social dynamite—and everyone knew it. Wright says, “Resurrection has to do with this present world, not with escaping and going somewhere else. It was God acting within history to put right what was wrong.” He points out that it is interesting that even Herod demonstrated that such an understanding was commonly understood by the Jews. In Mark 6 Herod is terrified when he hears of the supernatural works that Jesus is doing. He understood that resurrection was social reversal, and for this reason came to the conclusion that John the Baptist, who he had put to death, had been raised. And if so, he, Herod the king, was in big trouble! "

Turning the Tables, Resurrection as Revolution - Ray Mayhew

Posted by Heath

24 May, 2008

A little bit more on structure vs mission

Ok, here’s the next section to structure vs mission…

We need to redeem our structure. What does that mean? Well the way I see it, there are two strategies in achieving a mission. One strategy is logistics and the other is action. Logistics includes planning, preparation, PR, networking, budgeting etc. Action is when the rubber hits the road and we attempt to deliver on our goals. The problem is of course is that these two streams are not mutually exclusive. They are both interdependent and beneficial for each other. In other words, they not only rely on each other for success, they also benefit from positive collaboration. However the two tend to work in both isolation and at times opposition from one another. So we have people planning wonderful programs getting frustrated that they are not delivered effectively by practitioners. And we have people in the field crying out for funding and programs that actually meet the need on the ground, getting frustrated that bureaucrats are just ‘out of touch’. So we call for reformation because we see the structure failing. But is it failing? Or are we failing to use it properly?

Let’s look at some aspects of The Salvation Army. We have a mission to win the world for God and to reach the last, least and lost. To make that a reality, we need all parts of the body of Christ working together. We need people who are strategizing listening to the people on the ground. And those that are on the ground need to make time to share our experience with those that can influence structure. Neither group is superior and neither holds more power. In this Army, climbing the ranks should be an exercise of humility that runs according to calling and gifting, and should therefore not hinder or strain relations with those above or below on the ‘ladder’ of our organization. The only ‘promotion’ in The Salvation Army is the promotion to glory and there aren’t too many fighting for that.

I heard an analogy yesterday that fits quite nicely with this topic. It gives the picture of an elephant surrounded by eight blind men. Each feels a different part of the animal and in turn describes the animal in contrary ways. The one that feels the tail describes the elephant as thin and hairy, the one touching the belly declares the elephant large and round and so on. The point is they are all right and all wrong. People can’t see how all the parts fit together and in turn are limited in their understanding. Until we share our perspectives we will continue to limit our effectiveness. We can’t say, ‘the Army should be this or that’. Rather we need to accept that it is many things (welfare provider, corps, outreach, advocate, international movement) and in every area seek to produce the results of the mission.

Wow, this has turned into quite a confusing blog! But essentially it boils down to this. We are in a movement which in my opinion calls us to love the downtrodden, to renew their hope in life, to transform the structures that keep injustice active, to bring the Gospel to all the world and to set people on a path toward God for eternity. I have great pride and passion in my service to this denomination and that will not change because organizationally it has a few flaws. We are not an institution waiting to declare bankruptcy. You cannot pull your shares out. You have a part to play, and we must work together to ensure your part fits within the larger body. But unless you are prepared to submit to the will of God and buy in completely to our mission, your part of the body may be flushed away as an unnecessary by-product! Our organisation is great. It is global, well branded, relevant and still very much in need. But the thing is, we are not an organization. We are a holiness movement and we will only be truly effective when we give God the reins. So, original question…how do we use The Salvation Army as a tool? We submit to God, buy in to the mission, serve humbly, communicate well, challenge your leaders, challenge yourself, keep informed, pray hard, support new initiatives…basically, be a good disciple and a loyal soldier for God. If we could all do this, perhaps we would start to see the results we are looking for instead of trying to manufacture spiritual growth through nifty structures.

Well, there’s a lot of mish mash there but hopefully something worthwhile to ponder and apply.

Good times,


22 May, 2008

L.A.'s Salvation Army offers poverty simulation

The organization provides an exercise in which volunteers are immersed in the difficulties faced by the working poor as they navigate the transit systems, social services, pawn shops and check-cashing
By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 22, 2008

Brian Deemer, 13, is accustomed to the good life in Manhattan Beach. This week he saw how the other half lives.

In a poverty simulation at a Salvation Army facility in downtown Los Angeles, he pretended to be a 42-year-old out-of-work college grad attempting to provide for his three children. He saw how hard it can be to put food on the table and a roof overhead when expenses vastly outweigh income -- or when there's no income at all.

"It made me look at Los Angeles with a new perspective," said Deemer, a seventh-grader at Rolling Hills Country Day School, a private school on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

He and 60 other volunteer participants from businesses and nonprofit organizations gained a new appreciation for how difficult it can be for the thousands of working poor in Los Angeles to navigate the often unfriendly transportation system, social services, pawn shops and check-cashing stores that sustain them. read more...

19 May, 2008

My sanity has returned!

Sorry for the delay on this weeks blog! I went on a camp last week with a few year ten students and it took a little brain power away and therefore prevented me from producing any interesting thought last Friday. Now I want to stay on topic from the last blog I posted but I want to acknowledge an observation I thought was interesting from camp. So you will have to hold on for another few days for the part two of structure vs mission.

Picture this…
It was a school camp (the school is in a poor area of Melbourne) and I was there as a member of the school welfare team, and therefore not advised to take on a discipline role. The first stage of the trip involved a 2.5 hour bus ride where myself and my fellow welfare staff member were seated with 42 year tens on the top level of a double-decker coach. The four teachers and remaining nine students were seated below in the section of the bus later named ‘the library’. Mike and I failed to see the humour. After one hour, I thought my brain would explode. The students’ language was painfully appalling and there was absolutely no love or respect shown to us. Now I am confident I could persuade just about anyone to do just about anything, but I could not compel these children to resemble humans. The setting is the closest description I could give to hell! The only quiet time was around 4am. Most students were sleeping. One boy however thought it would be an hilarious time to sing songs and make strange alien noises. I found it hard not to smile when Reservoir justice prevailed for that child at the hands of another student at McDonalds later that morning. Who would want to help these children? They are too far gone! Not a moral between them! There is no hope! I am sinking in despair!
However throughout the week they began to take on human form. They started to converse with me, they reduced their swearing without being asked, they stopped destroying the curtains in the bus, they asked me to sit next to them, go on rides with them at the theme parks, encouraged me when I was scared and congratulated me when I overcame those fears, offered me their junk food, included me in on jokes, came to me for help and advice, let me help them through their trials, accepted money from me when they had none for food, and called me Gen instead of ‘miss’. These kids went from being unlovable to being precious children wanting attention and guidance and grace. The transformation was amazing to watch. Now the justice lesson here is this. Those with very little to offer often produce a facade that turns most away. Only those that truly love and truly hate tend to stick around for the long haul. Their morals, values and capacity to love is there so you don’t need to teach it to them. God has placed it within each of us at the time of our creation as we are made in his image. So instead of using your time in discipline and reprimands, use your time with them to surrender to them. Love them unconditionally and they will turn to you as a small child in need.
The second lesson is a rebuke to those of us who hold our ‘controlled’ façade in place so firmly. When I make a first impression, I tend to try to make it one that will allow the person to see I am a well mannered, intelligent, caring person. It is not until people get to know us better that our less refined qualities make their appearance. Those with a higher level of education and grooming tend to do things in reverse. Why? We want everyone to like us at first. Only those we like or need stick around for the long haul. Now am I suggesting that we should all act like ill-mannered teenagers? No, but I am suggesting that we let those around us see our more vulnerable side, for it is only then that they can truly help us and only then that they can embrace and love us for exactly who we are. Disadvantage may reduce the level of decorum, but it may increase the full experience of humility and grace.
Just some random thoughts,
have a great week and I’ll have more for you on Friday,

18 May, 2008

The Justice Creed

We believe that the living God is just
And that the true and living God loves justice.
God delights in just laws and rejoices in just people.
God sides with those who are oppressed by injustice,
And stands against oppressors.
God is grieved by unjust people and the unjust systems they create and sustain.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, and
God's kingdom belongs to those willing to be persecuted for the sake of justice.
To God, justice is a weighty thing which can never be ignored.

We believe that Jesus, the Liberating King, came to free humanity from injustice
And to display the justice of God,
In word and deed, in life, death, and resurrection.
The justice which God desires, Jesus taught, must surpass that of the hypocrites,
For the justice of God is a compassionate justice,
Rich in mercy and abounding in love
For the last, the least, the lost, and the outcast.
On his cross, Jesus drew the injustice of humanity into the light,
And there the heartless injustice of human empire met
The reconciling justice of the kingdom of God.
The resurrection of Jesus proclaims that the true justice of God,
Naked, vulnerable, and scarred by abuse, is stronger
Than the violent injustice of humanity, armed with weapons, conceit,
deceit, and lies.

We believe that the Holy Spirit is here, now,
Convicting the world of sin and justice,
Warning that God's judgment will come on all that is unjust.
We believe that the Kingdom of God is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Empowered by the Spirit, then, we seek first God's kingdom and God's justice,
For the world as it is has not yet become the world as God desires it to be.
And so we live, and work, and pray,
Until justice rolls down like water,
And flows strong and free like a never-failing stream.
For we believe that the living God is just
And that the true and living God loves justice.


Posted by Heath

16 May, 2008

A question of bondage

Article from The Age - May 15 2008

By Dr Anne Gallagher (Dr Anne Gallagher is a former UN adviser on human trafficking. She is technical director of ARTIP, an AusAID-funded project that works to strengthen criminal justice responses to trafficking in South-East Asia.)

What does it mean to be a slave in the 21st century? A court case in Australia is seeking to define the legalities of "owning" another human being, writes Anne Gallagher.

THIS week in Canberra, the High Court is considering what it means to be a slave in Australia in the 21st century. While the legal questions before the court are highly technical, the real issue is much more straightforward: under what circumstances will Australian law allow us to say that one person is effectively "owning" or enslaving another?...

Read full article here

14 May, 2008

Surrender and JUSTLive

Justice types all over Aus. won't want to miss out on the Surrender conference (July 18-20)!
It's also the first kick off event of the JUSTLive network - a collection of local SALVO incarnational communities among the poor... interested in the training days before the conference?? July 15-17 (a limited space so book early!). email justsalvos@aus.salvationarmy.org for more info.
posted by Danielle

12 May, 2008


A huge way we can contribute towards justice on the earth is through prayer.
Here are some times available for the 24/7 prayer coverage of The Salvation Army in Aus. Southern Territory...
why not get some friends together and pray for God's justice to rule and reign on earth as it is in heaven!

Monday 5th May (from 7pm) - 9th May (7 pm)
11th ( 7pm) - 27th May (7pm)
28th (7pm) - 31st May (7pm)

if you could take a week/a day or even an afternoon or evening please click here.

if you'd like to sign up for Freedom Fridays (fasting and prayer every friday at noon) email justsalvos@aus.salvationarmy.org with freedom friday in the subject line and you'll receive a prayer guide every fortnight to help you pray!

Your Kingdom come!!
posted by Danielle

11 May, 2008

Idealist and/or a Capitalist?

I was challenged yesterday when a friend I was talking to about the pros and cons of capitalist world we live it (yes a very light topic for Saturday morning coffee!), said in a backward way that I wasn’t an idealist.

It has got me thinking. Helping Danielle Strickland and Campbell Roberts with their new book Just:Imagine over the summer, we came to a very clear conviction that we need to be dreamers of a better world for justice and equality to become a reality.

So my question is – can we be dreamers and idealists if we are capitalists too? I have to admit I enjoy the joys of my new little ipod and I enjoy the relief of antibiotics when I am sick. Both innovations driven by profit.

But for those of us working with people on the margins, we see the flaws, warts and wounds of the system we live in. We don’t need convincing that there is something terribly wrong.

The main argument that has been given to me is that the capitalist system inherently contains motivators for greed. But my question is- is it the capitalist system that is the problem or our flawed humanity? I think that even if we created another system, wouldn’t those same broken qualities simply rot it away?

So is it about imagining a new system? Or a better humanity? Does that question then shift our focus from the structure to the people as the starting point?

In the words of one of my heroes, Muhammad Yunus, “I support globalization and believe it can bring more benefits to the poor than its alternative. But it must be the right kind of globalization. To me, globalization is like a hundred-lane highway criss-crossing the world. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies. Bangladeshi rickshaw will be thrown off the highway. In order to have a win-win globalization we must have traffic rules, traffic police, and traffic authority for this global highway. Rule of "strongest takes it all" must be replaced by rules that ensure that the poorest have a place and piece of the action, without being elbowed out by the strong. Globalization must not become financial imperialism.”

For these rules to become a reality, people have to change too. We have to change. People power has to tell the market they demand fair trade, ethical business practices, laws that prevent people preying upon the vulnerable…

That's enough sunday rambles from me. Love to hear people's thoughts...

Til next time,

10 May, 2008


May 9, 2008
More than one million homeless in Burma are battling to stave off disease and hunger, but the military government maintained tight limits on foreign assistance six days after a massive cyclone.

With death toll estimates near 100,000 and the clock ticking for those who survived, Burma's junta - long suspicious of the outside world - came under new pressure to fully open up to help from abroad.

Aid was only trickling in despite warnings that specialists were needed to deliver food and water into disaster zones strewn with rotting bodies, and it was unclear if the regime had yet given visas to foreign aid staff.

United Nations humanitarian chief John Holmes said he was "disappointed" with Burma over its failure to facilitate entry to more foreign relief workers and supplies to cope with the disaster.

And UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the regime to focus on mobilising resources to cope with the cyclone disaster rather than on the upcoming constitutional referendum.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AND PRAY - you can donate at The Salvation Army.

posted by Danielle

Freedom Vs Structure

Robyn writes a great blog below, and I echo the sentiment and challenge. I often have the debate surrounding ‘reformation’. We recognize that there is need. We recognize that The Salvation Army was raised specifically to both minister to that need and transform society to eliminate that need. We recognize that this calling has not passed us by. And we recognize that significant change needs to occur to start this process once more. So we inevitably call for a reformation of structure. We look back into history and try to find the catalyst that inspired soldiers, the strategy that transformed lives, the structure that mobilized thousands. We transform through emulation which is like trying to revive a corpse. Sure, reviving a corpse has been done from time to time, but it takes a fair amount of work! So others mourn for the corpse and move on to another denomination and pray that this move will be the ‘new birth’ they have been searching for. While others still attempt to take a lesson from ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ and go on with life pretending the corpse is still alive and kicking. We don’t fool ourselves, but we convince a few others.

We can’t go back and live out history. Yes we can be inspired by it and learn from it. But we serve a living God, and He can do even greater things than you imagine. Would you believe He can do even greater things than William Booth imagined?

Is our mission to reform a structure? No. A great leader once said to me that The Salvation Army is not an individual that requires salvation. We are not attempting to get our denomination into eternal life! We therefore cannot waste time trying to ‘save’ our wonderful and much loved Army. Instead we must BE an army. An army of soldiers engaged in a battle that is fought on all fronts; spiritual and practical. We must commit to a sacrificial life of service and humility to our God. We must get out of our ‘structure’ and get into the mess of the real world.

So, should we dismantle the structure to make this easier? Should we decentralize and go each man for his own? Should we take the freedom before us and roam as salvation vagabonds? Should we just shrug our shoulders and acknowledge that while the system isn’t perfect, it does a good enough job? No to all of the above!

There are many elements that require reformation. There are many parts of our army that need to be shaken and rocked and cleaned. But there is also great success that comes from our current structure. I do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Now before a friend of mine has a field day with my apparent contradictions (hat tip RC) let me attempt to clarify my point. There are parts of our structure and tradition that hold us back from ministering to the poor. And yet focusing on the structure to eliminate these concerns is only going to make things worse! We need to redeem our structure by using it as it was intended; as a ‘tool’ to bring about the mission Jesus has for The Salvation Army.

How do we do this? Think it over and I’ll blog some more thoughts on that question next week!

Have a great week everyone!

09 May, 2008

Reaching further than welfare

Since I have started working for the Salvation Army, I have begun to realise the vast amount of people that we have contact with, but whom never integrate into our church and I wonder why this is. I started to look at church structure and how the community services and actual church often run side by side and often never meeting. I question our purpose of church, if we are not reaching into the lives of our local community. I do not disregard the hard work of the many community services staff, but I guess I am continuing the age old question on how the church can do community work better, rather than it being assumed that the community centres is enough.

God called us to align ourselves with the poor, not just provide their needs but rather live with them, love them and serve them as we would Jesus. Jesus said “I assume you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers, you did for me” Matthew 20:40

Welfare is a part of the service of the Salvation Army but it is not the total, complete or finite of social justice service, but rather one practical way of fulfilling a specific need. Welfare is important as so many people now live in crisis and need this ongoing support, but it isn’t enough, when the crisis is over whom do they turn to be shown a better way, an alternative to live – that should be the church, God’s church, the Salvation Army and where are we?

Often we are hiding in our buildings, serving God through the only ways we know(often singing), rather than challenging ourselves to go out seek his people so they are no longer lost. If we were out in our communities living the way that Jesus intended, as the Acts 2 church did, we would see our numbers growing daily and the most lost and broken in our society would find a life that is secure, not because there is enough money, but because it is invested in God and they would be cared for by his body, the church and experience God's healing power.

So often, the poor and marginalised come to the Salvation Army to receive assistance and so often all they get is vouchers or food and not the Jesus they need. So many of the community staff try to build the gap and offer more, but this journey requires more than one person of the body of Christ, it requires the whole body to work together, to love together and to allow themselves to be challenged by the need in their local community. It’s a long journey but one God is hoping we will choose to take up.

For many, doing community work is scary, it is seen as a profession rather than a ministry, but actually it is a calling on God’s people to do his will, to serve a lost and hurting world, not just to do charity, but to bring about change that is Godly and just for all. For so many in the world, they want someone to care about them, someone to remember their birthday and someone to teach them the things they missed out on because they didn’t get to grow up in a loving and supportive family. This doesn’t take a professional this just takes a loving and compassionate person who loves to serve God.

People need to be loved through the difficult times and have someone to celebrate with in the good, but most of all people need to be loved in the times when they make bad choices, fall back into old habits and need lifting out of the gutter – as Christians we should all play a ministry role in this, not just leave it for the professionals.

The church needs to wake, and be aware of the needs in the community and look for opportunity to serve and not serve because we have to, but serve out of love, for without love it is another charitable deed rather than a God loving action.

I know there are many in the community that already serve like this in their church and I applaud them, but does the structure of church need reforming and are we to caught up in serving the church rather than the church serving the world? Are there even avenues to serve your church in this way- if not why is this so?

Church attendance is decreasing, while emergency support numbers increase, what are we doing about this on a local level? I know this is not the only way to engage with people from the community, but they are literally coming to our door - it feels like we need to do something very differently. I am reminded of the Freedom blog below and maybe we need to free ourselves of our christian structure so that we can free those who are lost?

These are questions that I grapple with as God continues to reveal to me the many ways that I am Christianised into habits rather than living in freedom and doing God’s will as he intended. These are probably questions that many Christians ask themselves.

Bye for now


04 May, 2008

Climate Change - It's not up to us!?

Over the last few months, I have been helping Nikki Capp with the Beyond Connections consultations around the territory and one particular question we asked a lot was ‘what areas of work the Salvation Army should be focusing on?’ The list we gave to choose from was long…from drug and alcohol, homelessness, asylum seekers, indigenous ministries, mental illness and environmentalism only some amongst them. The debate often came to…do we specialise or do we try and be the catchments for people falling through the cracks, and end up inevitably trying to be all things to all people?

Interestingly, I can only think of a couple groups that even ranked the environment as an issue the Salvation Army should be responding to. Both times, the support was then contended and debated among the group as going too far, the argument being that we’re spreading ourselves too thin.

I have thought about this a lot – Why an issue that is now ranked as one of the most pressing in the Australian community, doesn’t even rank a mention in the Salvation Army community??

I wrote a little on the social justice facet of climate change last year on this blog after the storms in Bangladesh. I talked about the injustice of the fact that it is developing countries that are going to be affected the most when it is us in the developed world that have created the mess. But this issue isn’t just an international one - it is a local justice issue too.

Now to preface this: I am not saying that we should start environmental programs etc and my life is far from being carbon neutral so I am preaching to myself as much as I am to you…But I view the issue of the environment in the context of the Salvation Army a bit like the fair-trade one - it isn’t the focus of our ministry here in Australia and I don’t argue that it should be, but it is important and we shouldn’t just remain ignorant saying it is out of our domain. There are ways we should be getting informed and incorporating a response into the everyday reality of our work.

Beyond the obvious fact that as God’s children we should be looking after his creation… let me argue why we should be at least asking the questions of how climate change and environment relate to the people we are working with in our ministries…

In response to the Climate Change issue, the Government is set to introduce a Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme in 2010. This means a limit is placed on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution which companies can produce. Setting a total allowed emissions for industry, it will force heavy polluters to buy credits from companies that pollute less -- thereby creating financial incentives to fight global warming. But it also means that emissions trading will reveal create a price for carbon emissions, which will increase the direct cost of energy and indirectly most goods and services. Any production (think agriculture and food!) that requires the use of fuel now has higher costs that will be pasted onto us as the consumer.

For Australia and global warming, I believe this is a positive step. We have to start responding - reducing our consumption of natural resources is essential to lessening the impacts of climate change.

But research done by the Brotherhood of St Laurence showed that there is always a catch – it is going to be those of low income who are affected the most. Why?

• Low income earners tend to live in areas more likely to be adversely affected by climate change (such as rural areas), and have far less ability to move or make other necessary adjustments to their living circumstances. Many live on the outskirts of the city, where transport is limited, with older less fuel efficient cars to get around...

• On average, low income earners spend a greater proportion of total weekly household budget on energy and water than wealthier households. In real dollar terms, low income households spend half as much on electricity and gas as the wealthiest households. But as a proportion of household spending, lower income households spend almost twice as much as wealthier households. Similarly, the cost of water and sewage is, relatively, a third higher for low income households than it is for households on an average income. Given that energy and water are essential services, when the prices of these services increase, householders are left with little option but to pay the extra. All price increases have a far greater impact on total household spending in low income households.

• Lower income households are currently less able to introduce measures to improve energy efficiency. Few households with low incomes are able to afford significant energy efficiency measures such as insulation, new hot water systems or rainwater tanks. One in four Australian households are in private rental or public housing and do not have rights or incentives to make capital improvements. Energy consumption in low income households is partly shaped by the market in second-hand appliances. Many second-hand appliances are inefficient, waste energy and increase bills. Factors affecting efficiency include design, technology, age and maintenance. Appliance efficiency details (energy ratings) are usually removed at first purchase, making it difficult for subsequent buyers to choose wisely.”

“Many of the lower cost, quick response measures involve some combination of behavioral change and technology. Installing water efficient shower heads, compact fluorescent lamps, sealing out draughts and installing blinds are examples. Behaviour change measures (that may be perceived as ‘cutting back’) include short showers, putting on a jumper instead of turning on the heater, switching off lights that aren’t needed, and so on. In reality, the threshold of ‘cutting back’ that is socially acceptable is the key issue. Most people would think it reasonable to wear a jumper inside in winter. But many would see going to bed during the daytime with an electric blanket and doona as extreme and, where it occurs because of lack of resources to maintain home comfort, a form of fuel poverty.

Past studies of the socio-economic aspects of energy efficiency have highlighted that access to capital and control over housing circumstances are important factors. In the past, when energy prices have increased, it has been found that the poor often cut costs by cutting back on consumption, while those with resources invest in energy efficient equipment or upgrade their appliances.”

The above facts came from Energy and Equity by Choice – I recommend reading!
Also see: http://www.bsl.org.au/main.asp?PageId=5394 for research done by the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Victoria.

To me, there is inequality in this situation, and inequality built into what could be seen as the necessary carbon emissions trading scheme, so the question remains - what practical steps can we take to reduce the impact on our friends that can’t afford to be hit by ever increasing utility and petrol bills?

Some practical questions I thought we should ask ourselves?
In our salvo stores are we selling people electrical appliances that are old and energy INefficient that will simply end up costing people on low incomes more to run in the long term.

In what ways can we help people to become more energy efficient, to minimize the impact of energy price increases in the near future?

How can the Salvation Army show its commitment to reducing our energy consumption?

If we’re driving around in fleet cars – how can we make sure we stay in touch with the impact and reality of fuel price increases that our communities are facing?

In our homes, corps and social centres are we demonstrating an alternative way of living that values God’s creation or are we simply the same as our neighbours?

We and our communities are not immune to this issue. Lets start thinking.

Til next time,

02 May, 2008

Some thoughts on freedom

Freedom is an interesting concept. When I look at a bird in a cage, I instinctively want to release it. I want the bird to do what it is capable of doing - fly! Not flutter about in a cage, waiting for the odd person to walk along and perhaps attempt to stick their giant, fat finger through the bars of a tiny bird cage. But let’s say I release it. Who’s to say its first moments of landing post-flying won’t be its last after it is gobbled up by a neighbour’s cat? Freedom for the bird can come at a cost higher than it is willing to pay.

We say we want freedom in our political spheres too. Democracy for the whole world is the mantra of the US. And yet let’s do a little comparison. I was sitting in a lecture yesterday and was fascinated by the information presented. The professor reeled off some facts and figures that were terribly weighted towards a liberal (bordering on socialist) political agenda. For me this is always fun to hear so I listened intently. He said that in Cuba, there are three times the amount of doctors per head of population than the United Kingdom. Cuba is the only environmentally sustainable country in the world. Close to 100% of adults in Cuba are literate. And Cuba works from a preventative health care model and invests strongly into immunization, sanitation and ensures there is food for all. Some of the stats for poor Cubans are much better than those for poor Americans. How interesting what freedom has brought to the great democratic nation of America. Americans are free…to fend for themselves. Of course it is not all hunky dory in Cuba. They are a socialist nation and many personal freedoms are sacrificed, however that personal sacrifice can bring about a greater good.

This leads me to my third reflection. What does freedom mean in The Salvation Army? Does it mean we are released to be all that we were created to be? Perhaps, but there are some definite negative side affects. Do we all get to do whatever we want? Do we get to serve wherever and express whatever we think and blog whatever thing is on our heart? Perhaps. I guess my point is, are we living to be free, or are we serving to free others? Are we concerned that our paradigm is used, that our method is used? Or are we simply interested in freeing as many people as we can from the grips of Satan and the powers of this world? Maybe they are one and the same.

It seems there has been a lot of talk this week about models and imagery and processes and preparations and tools used by The Salvation Army. It is interesting (to a point) and filled with good intention. However it often releases the dangers of discontent and opposition that lurk within each of us, and as a result, our freedom to express ourselves leads to being eaten by a giant cat of selfish disagreement. To put it more simply, there are times we need to sacrifice the freedom of our own ways and instead fall in line with the structured way placed before us. Does that mean we compromise who we are? No. But it may mean submitting to a structure or a viewpoint that may differ from our natural inclination.

I did a home visit this week with a child whose life is utterly depressing. I won’t go into details but he has been touched by abuse and neglect and violence his whole life, and now he is paralysed with sadness and doubt. In his eyes, freedom right now is escaping his life in whatever way he can find. That is a dangerous road for a thirteen year old. Instead, his real path of freedom will be found on a tightrope walk of school attendance, avoiding drugs, choosing friends wisely and controlling justified anger and sadness.

And since this is a social justice blog after all, let’s look at revolution. Do we want to overthrow structures that are unjust? Yes, but we don’t want to overthrow structure itself. Freedom and revolution is not about being selfish. Quite the opposite, it is about radically adjusting systems to ensure the people as a collective are advanced, and not us or our views per se. This is freedom?

What I am trying to say, is that freedom is often very sacrificial, very measured and very structured rather than care-free, powerful and emancipated. Jesus used a cross to bring freedom. What painful sacrifice will you make in order that others would be free?