30 January, 2009

One giant step...

A major milestone was reached today in the USA with the signing into law of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. President Obama along with his wife, the First Lady and several key members of his cabinet introduced the namesake of this Bill by saying, "It's about justice. It's about who we are. And on this "wonderful day," we're getting a step closer to both of those things."

It's remarkable to me that it is the 21st Century and we are still at the point equal pay for men and women and people of difference races is not something that happens regularly, if at all. My hope and prayer is that this legislation will be the beginning of an avalanche of justice in not only this area of concern, but across the board!

Read the transcript of today's announcement HERE.

~ Rob

26 January, 2009

24 January, 2009

Not meaning to be difficult...but...

I just read through the blog post from Rob below and I agree with 98% of it. In fact, I argue the same point a lot of the time! But reading it through it made me consider the point that has been raised somewhere on this blog before (I think around this time last year?)

The blog asks us to consider the following questions before making a purchase..."Do I really need it? Or can I do without? If I really need it, then...Can I avoid buying a new one? Can I borrow, share, swap, grow, make, or find it secondhand?"

These questions create an economic dilemma. If we exit the market (rather than just switching to a fairly traded company) then we could do massive damage to damaged people. If we don't spend our money on areas that require our investment, we will continue to be fine, but those poor among us will be left without a market. For example, do I need fair trade chocolate? No, of course not. But by buying it, I support an industry that supports poor people. Do I need this Thai bracelet? No, of course not, but it helped some poor widow scratching a basic living.

Anyway, I am not trying to stir the pot or disagree. I totally think we should be reducing our excess. BUT the savings we make from the reduction of frivolous spending must then be transferred into mission spending or targeted market spending. Our economy is delicate, and as we see in this current economic crisis, when the bubble bursts, a lot of disadvantaged people get hurt. So by all means, do your best to reduce your spending, but lets be careful not to hoard our wealth and our goods sharing amongst our wealthy neighbours.

Hope that is helpful!


Put your money where your mouth is!

Help your congregation practice conscientious buying:

Ethical shopping alone is not a "magic bullet." As Christians, we still need to think about our level of consumption. The New Internationalist, a magazine devoted to fighting global injustice, suggests asking these questions before making a new purchase:

Do I really need it? Or can I do without? If I really need it, then...
Can I avoid buying a new one? Can I borrow, share, swap, grow, make, or find it secondhand? If I really need to buy a new one...Can I find one that doesn't damage people or the planet? Or can I at least try to minimize my impact? After I've bought a well-made product...How can I look after it to make sure it lasts as long as possible? What maintenance should I do, and how can I mend it if it breaks?

Intentional consumption is directly opposed to our culture’s preference for quick, disposable, and cheap goods. Asking these questions before making a purchase can be inconvenient. It takes time to research companies that have high quality standards and fair trade practices. But thoughtful purchasing practices are worthy habits to develop for people who want to improve the world one step at a time.

Encourage your congregation to buy from retailers who support trade justice.

There are many fair trade retailers who are easily accessible and worthy of support. Keep your eyes open for them, support them, and spread the news! Here are some places to start (but don't forget your local and independent retailers):

Co-Op America
Equal Exchange
Global Exchange
Organic & Fair Trade Products and Resources
Just Salvos

taken from this month's Faith & Justice newsletter, from Sojourner's.

~ Rob

21 January, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Speech: Part III

Barack Obama Inauguration Speech Part 2

Barack Obama Inauguration Speech Part 1

worth a watch... amazing history unfolding.

Except I Am Moved...

I was glued to my television set today watching the Inauguration of President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. The day was moving to be sure as the first black American was sworn into office on the steps of the Capitol building that was built on the backs of slaves a mere 200 or so years ago. Not to mention, just 40 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood across the National Mall at the Lincoln Memorial and declared his dream for a country free from the evils of racism and segregation. Today, that dream was fulfilled in large part. But, I don't think the issue of racism is completely gone.

Feelings are still raw; people are still talking about it and hoping and praying that the election and installation of Obama will be the final nail in the coffin of such a social evil. A lot of rhetoric about peace and reconciliation has been voiced and it's is time for the rhetoric to end and action to take place.

For most of the day, the words of Albert Orsborn (1886-1967) kept playing in my mind:

The Saviour of men came to seek and to save
The souls who were lost to the good;
His Spirit was moved for the world which he loved
With the boundless compassion of God.
And still there are fields where the laborers are few,
And still there are souls without bread,
And still eyes that weep where the darkness is deep,
And still straying sheep to be led.

Except I am moved with compassion,
How dwelleth thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed
Burning love is my need;
I know I can find this in thee.

O is not the Christ 'midst the crowd of today
Whose questioning cries do not cease?
And will he not show to the hearts that would know
The things that belong to their peace?
But how shall they hear if the preacher forbear
Or lack in compassionate zeal?
Or how shall hearts move with the Master's own love,
Without his anointing and seal?

It is not with might to establish the right,
Nor yet with the wise to give rest;
The mind cannot show what the heart longs to know
Nor comfort a people distressed.
O Saviour of men, touch my spirit again,
And grant that thy servant may be
Intense every day, as I labor and pray,
Both instant and constant for thee.

Until all of humanity is treated equally, I fear that the rhetoric is all that will continue to be heard. Now is the time for action; now is the time for the lines of racism not only to be blurred, but erased!

~ Rob

18 January, 2009

Sweet, liquid justice...

Today saw 'Australia's Largest Chocolate Fondue Party' at Fed Square. It was a great event and I would guess 2000 people got to hear and taste the message of fair trade. The highlight for me was the look on a lady's face when I told her why we were supporting fair trade. It was a combination of disbelief, horror and then poise for social action. It made the day that much sweeter (even with the copious amounts of melted chocolate which at one point covered my face). It was reassuring to know that people could still be shocked out of their slumber with the harsh reality of injustice. However what is important to me right now, is not the moment after the initial truth is unveiled, but the decades of small and large actions to come.

In our crazy world, it is too easy apply the 'sensidine' to the nagging ache of oppression. On a happy note, there have been some bold Fair Trade moves. I heard that Virgin Blue now provide fair trade coffee. It makes sense, as Richard Branson likes to affirm his hippy business agenda from time to time. However what concerns me is not that Virgin Blue does and Qantas doesn't, its that Virgin Blue do and major Christian charities don't! How easy would it be to make one policy directing all units and agencies of a Christian charity to exclusively provide Fair Trade? Not easy at all you might say. Think of the back lash! Think of the complaints and the difficulty of enforcing such a position. I agree, it is not an easy thing administratively or politically. It is far easier to let injustice continue. I mean after all, we are all about what is 'easy' and convenient'. That's how we ended up with a 'developed' and an 'underdeveloped' world in the first place! It's not rocket science!

It seems that Fair Trade is not going to be able to rely on the backs of people who 'should' act. Instead, as I tried to explain to somebody this week, Fair Trade is going to have to succeed on the same capitalist principles we use for everything else...supply and demand. Let me quickly outline the scenario. There was a pile of free blood chocolate sitting before a friend at camp. He suggested that he may as well eat it given it was already there, otherwise the slaves sacrifice was for nothing. The problem with that logic is not that of the consumer, but of the purchaser. You see if the chocolate is eaten, the purchaser knows that there was a demand for it and continues the same level of supply. They think, 'oh, the chocolate was a hit, I shall continue to produce it for these teens who 'march' for one thing but ignore their own demands. If it was discarded however, the purchaser knows that next camp, slave chocolate would be a waste of money, no matter how cheap it is, and they switch over. And that is how we change the world! By beating capitalism at its own game!

You see when you give in, and buy slave chocolate, you are not just giving up on a principle, you are giving up on a reality. We could end slavery...but you have to first believe it, and then make good on your convictions.
So, please buy Fair Trade, and stop eating and buying blood chocolate. Spread the word!

16 January, 2009

Is this really necessary?

The Green Bible is yet another invention of a publishing house designed to make money. There, I said it.

I don't want to rehash a subject that's already being talked about elsewhere: The Rubicon & God's Politics, but isn't there a better way to talk about the issues presented in "specialty" Bibles?

The paramount message of the Bible is SALVATION for the lost, isn't it? So why would we overshadow that by highlighting an agenda instead of God's life-changing gospel? Whereas some Bibles are red-letter Bibles that highlight the words of Christ, the Green Bible is a green-letter Bible, highlighting every verse that talks about the earth. Brian MacLaren, a contributing author to this Bible likes this idea: "You realize how much of scripture depends on human beings having a real connection to the land, so they can understand the metaphors and imagery drawn from it. You also realize how much biblical writers have to say about our responsibility to care for the land."

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not sure that this is such a great idea. In fact, although I have some of them on my own bookshelves, I'm beginning to think that "specialty" bibles in general aren't such a good thing.

~ Rob

15 January, 2009

Stop the Traffik

650 salvo young people descended in silence on Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne... each of them part of a slave chain demonstration - identifying with the victims of trafficking in the world - recognizing the need to stand up for the abolition of slavery... WOW. Upon a silent arrival at Fed Square everyone took a knee, bowed down and prayed a prayer that God would help us stop the traffik. Perhaps it's time you joined the movement and stood up for the oppressed and exploited in your own community? If you are in Melbourne this SUNDAY come to Fed. square at 10:30-noon and join us in Australia's largest fairtrade chocolate fondue party!! Help us spread the good news... on Monday we joined in the heavy work of solidarity with the oppressed and on Sunday we are joining in the prophetic demonstration of the GOOD NEWS of justice for the poor. Come celebrate with us or BETTER yet - download the tools to host your own fairtrade chocolate fondue party today!! Stopthetraffik

11 January, 2009

A late but promising start to the year

The new year has well and truly kicked in. Resolutions that were made have by now, possibly, been broken and you have joined the masses in agreeing that resolutions are a bad idea. Well, here's an idea that might help. Don't make a resolution. Just live right!

This comes in the context of hearing a few talks by Steve Chalke
who is currently in Melbourne and kicking some justice butt! (I
apologise...I am not sure where that came from). Anyway, I have heard
him talk passionately and practically about human trafficking and have
watched many within the crowds simply not understand. They understand
Steve, and sometimes even agree with him just as passionately as he
delivered his message. But people don't seem to understand just how
involved they are in both the solution, and the problem of slavery. How
can this be? It's not rocket science! Vulnerable people all around the
world are being tricked, lied to, stolen, coerced and then sold...as
slaves! And they are not making cups of tea...they are being sold for
sex, or forced to kill, or chopped up and sold for body parts! This is
serious stuff, and yet I still continue to hear people whinge about the
'flavour' of fair-trade coffee as if slavery was a delicious taste, or
the 'inability' to give up yummy slave blood chocolate, or justify the
'bargain'tshirt the found which hardly shows any of the sweat from the
shop it came from. People just don't want justice I guess. Or are we
like addicts who say one thing but crack under the first sniff of

So here's the idea. Don't make a resolution to get skinny or save money or read more books, or any other selfish desire that intends to help just you. Make a decision to live a life that breaths justice principles. Don't do it for you, do it for the people who are dying for you, or better yet, do it for God.

If you don't know how, or you don't know what I am talking about, please go to the justsalvos homepage and check out the awesome events that are on for this week around Melbourne, and then make a decision to act in 2009. These events will spoon feed you all the info you need to get started. If you can't make them, then get on the net and start researching. But just act!

I am tired of hearing that justice is a big issue, as though that is a reason to not start! Get into it in 2009 and make it your life's work. No turning back, no giving up, no excuses. Let's bring some justice this year.

Good times,

08 January, 2009

Two steps back...

I was appalled this afternoon when I read the following headline:

Protester Calls for Jews to 'Go Back to the Oven' at Anti-Israel Demonstration

Had this been news reported directly from the Middle East, maybe...just maybe I would have almost expected it. It didn't come from the Middle East, though, it came from the land of tolerance - the US of A! There have been more protests like this elsewhere in the US, but the headline focused on the melee that had taken place in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. What makes today's skirmish unique is that the anti-Semitic rhetoric was taken to a dangerous low with the calls for the extermination of Israel.

Video of this atrocity caught one particular protester say: "Go back to the oven," she shouted, calling for the counter-protesters to die in the manner that the Nazis used to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust. "You need a big oven, that's what you need," she yelled.

What's remarkable about this is that had someone been screaming derogatory threats against a Muslim or homosexual, they would have been arrested for hate speech. It bothers me that tolerance is only tolerable when it doesn't include Israel or Christians.

I'm not condoning the violence currently taking place in Gaza on either side. Innocent people are being killed in the continuation of a battle for land that has been fought over for millenia. I think a more civilized method needs to be discovered. Then again, when people oppose something it usually ends up less than civilized. I wonder...

~ Rob

02 January, 2009

A Disney New Year...

I am currently at Disneyland...the happiest place on earth! And while I could blog on the injustice of a 'land' that inculcates magic and excess as an inspiring and truly utopian existence...I will refrain (mostly so that the guilt attached to the many 'keychains' I have bought as gifts will stay firmly embedded in my 'laughing place'). Instead I will attempt the miraculous and find an acorn of application in this massive nutty place.

I was lining up for Space Mountain having managed to avoid two hour queues with my nifty 'fast-pass', and I noticed something you rarely see at Disneyland. There was rubbish on the floor! Disneyland is notorious for being clean. And so to see an obvious piece of trash made both my husband and myself halt...perplexed by how it got there, and also, by how it remained there. It was a strange moment.

How can I possibly manufacture a justice thought from this ridiculously common situation? Well, I started to think...how and why is it so unusual for me to see rubbish here, and not elsewhere. The how is easy. First, there are lots of cleaners, and second, people don't drop their rubbish in this place. They, for some reason, do the right thing and put it in the bin. Why? This is more complex, but clearly, the culture of the place infects you, and you begin to act in alternate ways. I generally don't break into song while waiting for my food. I generally don't whistle a happy tune while waiting 20 minutes to use the bathroom. I generally don't smile when cut off by an oblivious parent with a giant pram! But at Disneyland, I do! The culture of Disneyland is so infectious and can therefore be aptly named 'the happiest place on earth'...even by me!

It's madness, but culture can help alter selfish and negative behaviour. It doesn't transform it, only God can redeem and transform. But it can move you into a zone where selflessness and joy become an option. This is important stuff so hold that thought.

The second question becomes how Disney creates this culture. The only answer I can come up with is 'resource and restrict'. They spare no expense and provide the people with the necessary resources to make sure their goals are met. And, they don't allow the things in the park that will disrupt their mission. They don't make any exceptions. And the result? They have people flocking to them to give them the joy and happiness they seek.

So my point? We, The Salvation Army have a mission. We want to create the happiest place on earth, and want that place to be 'earth'...all the lands. We need to create a culture in which justice, peace, love, acceptance, forgiveness, equality, and freedom are basic standards. To do this, we need resources. We need to start investing our money (and we have lots of it) into the right places. We need to resource this Army so that it can be released. We need to be releasing our people into places where this culture and this mission can be spread. And we need to be restrictive. We need to stop thinking that we are going to bring about a 'just' society, when our own lives are far from any template worthy to be modeled. We need to restrict ourselves to a simple life. We need to restrict our people to lives of justice. We need to say, 'we will not tolerate selfish behaviour', and we must stop watering down the mission of The Salvation Army. We need to create the culture, and that all starts with us living out the mission.

People are looking for joy and happiness, and when we finally learn how to deliver it, the people will flock.

It's resolution time. Please try to think about more than your waist line or your credit line. Think about restricting your life so that it can become the start of a trend that will alter the culture of the world. And start using your resources to help others to do the same.

Happy New Year! Next week's post will be from Australia!!!

Good times till then,