Sunday, May 11, 2014



“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. … In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”

- Bryan Stevenson

The words of Tyler Durden, the nihilistic protagonist of Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel Fight Club: "The things you own end up owning you."


Miroslav Volf: 'Perpetrators' memories are famously short, while victims' are long. We have to remember justly, for we cannot forgive well or apologize well without being truthful... We see forgiveness as beautiful because we are created in the image of God, which is unconditional love.' (Recently on his speaking tour in Melbourne).


Maternal mortality [around the world] is down by almost half since 1990

Melinda Gates, Time, May 12, 2014, p. 93


Tony Campolo used to utter an expletive whilst describing the fate of starving children and then pointed out that what would outrage people is the use of the expletive.


The world's $96 billion human trafficking industry exploits 27 million victims, including millions of youths and children. Time May 14, 2014, p. 76.



“Justice and righteousness…Caring for the poor and needy … Is not this to know me? says the Lord”. Jeremiah 22:15b-16

Christians of all kinds – Catholic, Conciliar and Evangelical – are now more concerned than ever about social justice. Theology is never a “value-free” discipline, and in a world of stark injustices, many are doing theology from the side of the poor, rather than from an acquiescent, privatised Western perspective.

For CATHOLICS, Mater et Magistra (1961) broke the long alliance between Catholicism and socially conservative forces. Twenty years later Laborem Exercens inveighed against multinationals fixing high prices for their products and very low prices for raw materials.

EVANGELICALS in Berlin (1966) saw social involvement as the enemy of ‘biblical evangelism’; Lausanne (1974) viewed them as complementary; Wheaton (1983) saw social action and political engagement as integral to evangelism.

The WCC’s Towards a Church in Solidarity with the Poor (1980) urges us to read the Bible from the perspective of the poor: :The Bible is a book of hope, concern and solidarity with the poor …. Unfortunately when the poor were given low priority in the life of the churches … ecclesiastical institutions frequently become part of oppressive systems.”

Who am I to write on this subject? I belong to the group least qualified to speak about justice and the poor. I am a white, Anglo-saxon Protestant evangelical, middle-class, a ‘senior citizen’, well-educated, living in a rich, lucky country (Australia) with a happy family in a quiet, treed suburb. I can “work” most systems to my advantage. My job’s fulfilling, I’m on a full pension, I’ve been around the world several times. I’ve worked hard, saved hard, studied hard, and I play hard. As a kid I scrounged bottles, animal manure and scrap metal for pocket money. We were not rich, but we were never hungry.

I grew up believing most of the poor were either lazy or stupid. Why the constant shortage of bricklayers? If Japan can do it, why not Bangladesh?

Righteous indignation focussed on things like pornography, violence and sexual sins, rarely such macro-ethical issues as poverty, injustice, race and war.

My “conversion” began when I found that most of those who served the poor did not share these ideas. Dom Helder Camara, for example, flirted with fascism (“God, Fatherland and Family”, “order is more important than justice”) until he worked in the favelas in Rio – those festering piles of human beings separated by bits of cardboard and corrugated iron.

Paulo Freire says the middle class have a choice – to identify with the rich and influential, or with the poor, who have very few choices. Such a conversion is scary: there’s fear of giving up what we have worked hard for; guilt that what we spend on luxuries would keep many starving families alive; a feeling of helplessness …
The income gap between the poor and the rich, everywhere, is widening. Since the Industrial Revolution we’ve never learned to share it properly. It’s not “trickling down” to the ever-increasing poor.


THE BIBLE is certainly big on justice. The Hebrew and Greek words for justice (yashare and tsedeg, and dikaiosune) may have three meanings: personal virtue (Noah, or Joseph, were “just” Gen. 6:9, Matt. 1:19); judicial fairness (:Lev.19) or social responsibility: behaviour towards others which is like a covenant God’s gracious concern for us. Unfortunately the KJV’s use of “righteousness” for tsedeg gives the impression, not of justice, but rather holiness of living, which is an important but diminished understanding of the biblical idea.

Social justice concerns attitudes to the least privileged – the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners. When harvesting, the Israelites were to leave them something (Deut. 24:19-21). Interest on loans is forbidden (Ex. 22:25). All persons – including slaves and migrants – are entitled to rest on the sabbath (Ex. 23:12, Deut. 5:14). Slaves must not be treated harshly (Lev. 25:39-43). There is a clear relationship between oppression and poverty: “Remember you were once slaves” (Deut. 26:5-8). The God of the Exodus intervenes on behalf of the powerless and oppressed: so must his people.

The message of the prophets: “Seek justice, correct oppression” (Is. 1:17). They thunder against the rich and powerful who oppress the poor but their outrage is strongest against a religion devoid of justice (Hosea 6:6, 8:13; Amos 5:15, 21-25; Micah 6:6-8, Is. 58:1-11; cf. Prov. 21:3). God accepts or rejects Israel’s worship according to their concern for the poor. Even prayer mustn’t be a substitute for helping the poor (Isa. 1:15-17). In the relatively affluent 8th century BCE Israel, poverty was not accidental. The prosperity of the rich rested largely on the exploitation and mistreatment of the poor – through a legal system biased towards the rich, monopoly control, restrictive trade practices, unjust wages and arbitrary price increases. Many of the poor had lost their land to large property owners. Later, Ezekiel rebukes the rich for unscrupulously accumulating real estate for profit (22:28).

Many of the Psalms describe God judging the world with justice (e.g. 96:13; cf. 97:6, 98:9). His will is that justice and peace kiss each other (85:10-11). “The Lord executes justice for the oppressed” (146:7).

The angel’s message to Zechariah promises that John, in the prophetic tradition, would summon a people “back to the way of thinking of the righteous” (Luke 1:17) (not “national self-interest”!).

Mary’s Magnificat praises a God who shows mercy, scatters the proud, puts down the mighty, lifts up the lowly, feeds the hungry (and by these means “helps Israel” Luke 1:46-55).

Jesus” ministry will bring good news to the poor … announce a “jubilee” (Luke 4:16-19). In the Jubilee (Lev. 25:3-5, 8-12) soil was to be left fallow, debts remitted, slaves liberated, and property returned to owners who had forfeited it by debt.
God in Christ becomes poor, choosing the weak, as Paul says, to “confound the mighty”. The Kingdom, says Jesus, is given to the poor (and to the rich if they will repent). It is all about new relationships – with God, with others. It turns our customary values upside down: so the “first in the kingdom” are those with no status in society. The poor are blessed, not because of their poverty and misery, nor because they are “better” than others but because they recognize their need for God (Matthew 11:5, 5:3-11, Luke 6:20). To the rich, the gospel is “bad news before it is good news”, so the rich young ruler, with his inordinate love of money and power is told to sell his possessions and give them to the poor so that he could have “treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:16-30). It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom. We echo the words of Jesus’ friends: “Who then can be saved?” No wonder the poor, the outcasts, the “excluded” heard him gladly. He enjoyed parties with disreputables, so the religious establishment was outraged at his behaviour. They “rubbed in” the fact that he was from Nazareth, an obscure therefore despised town.

The Kingdom is not something we passively await (as the Thessalonians later thought), but we help make the kingdom happen. There is mystery here: we must sow seed, God gives the gift of life, so that we can reap the harvest. He calls us to be co-redeemers with him. “They have no wine” at Cana, so Jesus asks for the cooperation of the servants as he produces some. Today, they have no jobs, no justice, no opportunities, no freedoms, no homes, no hope. If we don’t fill the jars, there will be no miracle……

Jesus cut across selfish patriotisms and universalized the idea of “neighbour”. Injustice done to anyone, anywhere, is my concern. One’s neighbour is chosen, not given, as Hans Kung put it.

At the great judgment (Matt. 25:31-46) we shall learn that to serve others in their need is to serve the Lord himself. To ignore the poor is to turn away from the Lord. To be persecuted for the sake of justice is to be persecuted for the sake of Jesus (Matt. 5:6, 10,11).
The NT epistles are replete with admonitions to care for the poor (e.g. Gal. 2:10, James 2:5-7, 5:1-6, 1 John 3:17, 1 Tim. 6:17-19). Greed is a cardinal sin, a form of idolatry (1 Cor. 5:10-11, 6:10, Eph. 4:19, 5:3, 5, Col. 3:5).

The Bible does not condemn inequality of possessions per se. Redistribution so that “all have an equal share” is not a biblical idea. Those who argue this way will have to do it on philosophical or socio-political rather than biblical grounds. (Jesus enjoyed Galilee’s feasting and suffered Golgotha’s thirst. Paul experienced both prosperity and poverty, Phil. 4:12). What the Bible condemns is indifference by the affluent to the plight of the destitute. We “bless the poor”, not paternalistically, but as God has blessed us – “grace justice” rather than “parity justice”. The goal of justice is not equality, but shalom, a peace which assures the true humanity of individuals and communities.


A THEOLOGY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE must include the following:

* Every human being is made in God’s image. (So we uphold the right of every person to live in freedom, in dignity, in peace, in health, and to know the One whom to know is to experience fullness of life).

* Our generous Creator has entrusted us with a bountiful world, which we “subdue” but also “replenish”. The earth was given to all, not just to the rich. (There is enough food to go around – for our need, but not our greed. It is not God’s will that a quarter of us live in luxury while the rest struggle to survive).
*The “mark of Cain” is upon us – we are all sinners – but God’s gracious concern is for both Cain and Abel, exploiter and exploited. (Jesus differentiated between “sinners” and “sinned against”. To the Pharisees he preached judgment, so that they might receive forgiveness; to the sinned-against – “I do not condemn you: go and sin no more”).

* I am my brother’s keeper. (I must not walk by on the other side of the road/tracks/sea).

* He sends his prophets who say “The effect of justice will be peace” (Isa. 32:17). (False prophets want “peace, peace” without justice).

* Abundance may betoken God’s blessing, but it carries an awesome stewardship. Because God’s shalom issues in and from right relationships between us and God and each other, we have a simple choice: his kingdom, or violence. (Outside the kingdom all are oppressed, some by unjust systems and persons, others by their selfishness and greed. Jesus said the second oppression is much worse than the first).

* God comes among us both as judge and victim (rebuking our selfishness and being nailed to a cross).

* He calls upon us to repent, to live in radical obedience to the Kingdom’s demands, not just as individuals, but in loving community. (A mural in a Romanian church shows people ascending into heaven in community, but falling into hell alone and isolated).

* We pray “Give us this day our daily bread”. (If I am hungry that is a material problem; if someone else is hungry, that is a spiritual problem – Berdyaev).

* Our mission in a lost world includes word (preaching good news), deed (faith without works is dead), and sign (words and deeds without the Spirit’s power may not be Christian, 1 Thess. 1:5, I Cor. 4:20).

Finally, something to ponder from Billy Graham’s latest book Approaching Hoof Beats: “My basic commitment as a Christian has not changed, nor has my view of the Gospel, but I have come to see in deeper ways the implications of my faith and the message I have been proclaiming. I can no longer proclaim the Cross and the Resurrection without proclaiming the whole message of the Kingdom, which is justice for all.”

In the next section we shall look at the five practical ways of Doing Justice (research, reflection, prayer, compassion, action).



“The really important teachings of the Law (are) justice and mercy and faith. These you should practise….” (Matthew 23:23)


Talk to the “poor” – single parents, unemployed, migrants – and to social workers, district nurses, etc.

Who are the poor? Definitions are elusive, but the poor know who they are. They have no “place”. Some are poor geographically, “displaced”. Others are poor emotionally, with no place in a loving family/community. Others are poor spiritually, having no place in Christ’s kingdom. Many are materially poor – they are deprived, within their communities, of the basic necessities to “live decently”. In Australia, they may not be starving, but they can’t afford a good education or holidays, or car repairs, or all the bills.

Why are they poor? Is it their own fault? Most answers are either too simple or untrue. Perhaps it’s the death of a parent, ill-health, physical/mental disability, collapse of a business, breakdown of marriage, lack of basic education, medical bills for sick children – the list may be endless. As someone wisely put it: “….the causes of poverty are precipitated more by problems in the organization and structures of society than by individuals themselves.”

Which brings to economics. Our national and international systems revolve around greed and power – “the international imperialism of money” (Pope Paul VI). People are rich or poor because of the “distribution system”; what makes money gets done, what doesn’t make money doesn’t get done. Richard Nixon, when U.S. president said in a moment of candour, “The main purpose of American aid is not to help other nations, but to help ourselves.”

Selling powdered milk to poor people (who can’t read the directions) makes money, so – until too many babies die – why not? And your morning cup of coffee: it’s grown in the two-thirds world, where people are hungry. We have money for coffee while people in Sao Paulo’s favelas have no money for food. So the plantation owners grow coffee for us instead of black beans for them. Understand? (It’s the same with tobacco: and, incidentally, if you smoke and drink coffee you are 40 times more likely to get lung cancer than if you imbibe neither). Brazil has more cultivated acreage per person than the U.S. , yet in recent years the proportion of undernourished there has risen from 45% to 72% of the population.
1.9% of El Salvadorans own 57.5% of the land – mainly selling cash crops abroad while at home hunger is endemic. Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out against his country’s injustices and the newspapers almost daily vilified him as corrupt, insance, a communist – and never printed his sermons. (Many wealthy El Salvadorans are mass-going Catholics too). Behind him on an office wall were huge photos of two priests who were murdered, and a banner HE WHO GIVES HIS LIFE FOR ME IS SAVED. Romero was shot while celebrating the eucharist on 24 March, 1980. In El Salvador, to work among the poor is an act of subversion.
The multinational corporations exist to make money for their stockholders, and they do it very well (Coca Cola invested $80,000 in India and by 1977 had made $16m. profit). Dom Helder Camara said for years that if rich nations paid fair prices to developing countries for their natural resources there would no longer be any need for aid and relief projects. Most developing countries rely on cash from one or two products. For example, in 1960 three tons of bananas in Honduras could buy a tractor; but in 1970, the equivalent was eleven tons. They say it’s each government’s role to legislate morality. (But if the government is in the pocket of the multinationals, and against the poor…..?).

Heard of Minimata disease? A company in Japan kept dumping mercury into the water for years after knowing it was causing paralysis, retardation, insanity and death. The company was simply making money. There’s money in mercury poisoning, red dye #2, fluorocarbons, alcohol, and a million other harmful things.
Back home, 50% of Australian university students are from families in the top 16% of the occupational scale. About 35,000 households in Victoria alone have their gas and electricity disconnected each year: many others go hungry to avoid this (they choose hunger to being cold). Over 100,000 each year are now seeking help for food, clothing and rent from relief agencies.

What are the functions of poverty in a country like Australia? Peter le Breton (Australian Politics, A Fourth Reader , pp. 99-100) says they include:

(1) Dirty, repetitive, dangerous, undignified and menial work is done (mostly for low pay)

(2) The rich can divert a higher proportion of income to savings and investment, to foster economic growth the benefits of which mostly favour the rich

(3) If you’re rich enough you’ll pay little or no tax: the tax burden falls unequally on poorer wage-earners

(4) Poverty creates jobs like corrective services, police, social workers

(5) The poor buy goods no one else wants – secondhand cars, clothes etc. – enhancing incomes for sellers of these commodities

(6) Those who espouse social norms of the desirability of hard work and thrift can accuse others of being lazy and spendthrift. So these latter are, of course, undeserving of the privileges the former enjoy

(7) The deserving poor (e.g. the disabled) can allow the rest of us to feel altruistic, moral, and practise the Judaeo-Christian ethic

(8) The powerless absorb the economic and social costs of change and growth: they are pushed out of their communities by high rents, urban “development” and freeways to convey the middle-class from the suburbs to the central business district …..

For Jesus when a system got in the way of people’s wholeness, it had to go. Inveighing against the Pharisees’ legalistic religious system he said, “The sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Our systems are mostly serving mammon, so we too will call for systemic change. We may not hold to any particular economic/political theory: a Christian is called to critique all ideologies. (As the cynic put it, capitalism is man exploiting his fellow-man; with communism it’s the other way around!!). Systems either do God’s will, or they are under his judgment …..


Working hard to think clearly is the beginning of moral conduct (Pascal). Reflection and praxis go together. If one is sacrificed the other suffers (Freire). Some are too quietist, seeking only bliss, or too philosophical, seeking only ideas, or too activist, seeking only bread. (Don’t just do something, sit there!).

Beware of temptations not to think objectively. Our church congregations are mostly embedded in the rich half of society, so our “suburban captivity” can be self-protective. We meet few destitute “hidden people”.

The problems are complex, but some things can be said simply:

2-1 Poverty is not just a lack of resources, but of power, of knowledge, of help and of hope. Poverty is loneliness. So it’s not alleviated by handouts alone, but when the poor themselves become givers.

2-2 The best prophet of the future is the past, Lord Byron said. Reinhold Neibuhr has argued (convincingly in my view, in Moral Man and Immoral Society) that if we wait for the powerful to come altruistic we will wait forever. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The powerful have never – well, hardly ever – relinquished their privileges without some form of coercion being applied to them. Those with a biblical view of sin and evil won’t find that surprising.
The dictionary says power is “the capacity to act”. Because the exercise of power-for-good may be dangerous Christians often have an aversion to the use of power. Power means responsibility: and flight from power may mean a flight from responsibility.

2-3 Let us beware of “selective indignation”, preaching only against evils threatening my family/group/church. Ask what Jesus got mad about …. And I accept myself as part of the problem, rather than blaming others: what have I not done that causes this one to be poor?

2-4 Our education system encourages us to “succeed” – which may not be the same as enhancing good human relationships. There’s a tension in education between conformity to and the transformation of society. Some education may aim at collecting knowledge and certificates; transformation means asking how education can be liberating. (In Latin America learning to read is more than learning a skill, as in the West. It’s a revolutionary activity as people learn about values and rights. That’s why the powerful keep people illiterate).

2-5 Each of the world’s peoples has its own particular cultural, ethnic and political distinctives: these must be respected. “First world” models of development may not be appropriate to developing countries. May we arrogant westerners be sensitive to the feelings of some overseas oppressed who consider us impertinent meddlers in their affairs. In the film Gandhi I remember that great man saying to the British, “Let us fail, if necessary, but with dignity, rather than have you here running things better while we are deprived of our liberty.” The “excluded” must become the subjects of their own history, being part of the decision-making, and encouraged to control their own destinies. If an oppressed group is not crushed completely, they will organize themselves to defend their rights and values. With regard to injustice, we – the helpers – must always ask, What do the helpees want us to do? Speak out or not? Exert pressure on their oppressors or not? Engage in some form of activism or not?”

2-6 “You can’t legislate morality” is a cop-out. All that is legislated is morality: the question is “What kind?” When the state fails to legislate mercifully, the church will do what it can, and will call the state to account, as the prophets did.

2-7 Jesus grew up in an oppressed country. The Zealots were “freedom fighters”, Herodians and Sadducees went along with the status quo; Essenes withdrew to the desert; Pharisees debated questions of private morality. Jesus disappointed them all, renouncing violence, exploitation, apathy and moralism: they’re all dehumanizing. His was the way of sacrificial love.  [See "Was Jesus a Christian?" ]

(2)  PRAY. Ask “Who are my people?” then pray fervently for them – and their oppressors. Prayer, says Jacques Ellul (Prayer and Modern Man) is the ultimate act of hope. Prayer is “God with us” in our struggle. It is the only possible substitute for violence in human relations. Without sincere and earnest prayer the church can easily develop a bureaucratic oppressive mind-set, becoming an ally of, and operating like, worldly powers. Prayer rescues action from activism, and inaction from bewilderment and despair. But prayer is not a substitute for action. Contemplative love is not the end, but a means to the end of authentic love. As Thomas Merton put it: let us not forget that Mary and Martha are sisters

(4) FEEL. This is “listening presence”, compassion, identification and encounter (i.e. incarnation). We won’t do this as well as Jesus did but we must try. Reality is much more than objective facts. We must not act for others merely through feelings of personal outrage, but when – and until – through caring friendship we earn the right to be invited to be their helper or advocate. Such feeling presence enables us to transcend narrow bigotries. (Pharaoh’s daughter saw more than a baby crying; she saw the baby of an oppressed Hebrew crying). Our practical help and advocacy for the poor will have the marks of suffering – the beatings, crown of thorns, and the nails – if we are truly the church of Jesus Christ. Only thus will it be sacramental, mediating the grace of God to those in need.

(5) ACT CREATIVELY. We must do theology, not just be committed to reflection on reflection.

Let us not ever be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems: if enough individuals act, in concert, almost any problem can be solved. To act is to effect change; godly action is to bring in the kingdom somewhere on earth. Robbers move against their victim; the priest and Levite have a passive mind-set and move away – to be “neutral” (encouraging more injustice); the Samaritan uses the materials at his disposal (donkey, oil, wine, clothes, money, physical strength, compassion. In our culture he would also make representations to the police about security on the Jericho Road).

The church is involved politically if it does nothing: it is voting for the status quo. All it takes for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing. The villains in Jesus’ stories were seldom men who did things they ought not to have done; usually they were people who left undone the things they should have done. The rich man let Lazarus lie unhelped at his gate; the servant made no use of his talent – these received the severest condemnation. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Churches are bearers of traditions concerning ultimate meaning and value, and are already organized, so they are ideal mediating groups in our society.

If “charity begins at home” then a church will ask: “What needs exist in our neighbourhood, and what resources do we have to meet them?” Day-care facilities, a food box in the foyer, counseling centre (with fees related to ability to pay), housing for the homeless/elderly, writing letters to keep elected officials honest – these are some beginnings. Above all, let us build “shalom churches” where the values we preach to the world are incarnated in the faith community.

However, charity is not justice. A charitable act is a somewhat spontaneous, temporary, non-controversial response to an accident or tragedy. Conditions of injustice are not accidents. They are never “acts of God” but acts of men and women with power. To relieve victims of injustice demands that the root causes of injustice be addressed and removed. Charitable acts must not be a substitute for this more controversial and radical activism. Giving a pneumonia sufferer a box of tissues may be of some comfort, but it is irrelevant to the victim’s recovery, which depends on other factors.

Father Brian Gore, an Australian priest held for 14 months in a Philippine prison, said that aid organizations were actually supporting a system of injustice when they do not ask why Filipinos went hungry. “An organization which exclusively looks at the effects rather than the causes is a dead loss”, he said. We must therefore be involved in process as well as projects. Dom Helder Camara’s best-known quote is devastating on this issue: “When I give money to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask ‘why are they poor?’ they call me a communist!” From a biblical perspective, mercy and justice belong together.

Individual activism can be encouraged. Jeremiah got across ideas through “prophetic signs” – going around in a loin-cloth, wearing a wooden yoke, etc. These are more than symbols, they are dramatic parables of judgment, arousing peoples’ inquisitiveness and enabling them to hear God’s message more clearly. Our mass media would notice this sort of thing! Collective advocacy is usually more effective however (prophets today can also be dismissed as crackpots). Public opinion can be changed. (In Australia, unfortunately, it’s not the quality of the opinion that counts, but how many hold it. Our elected representatives mostly follow public opinion, they do not lead it, as in some European countries).

Often church councils and assemblies think they’re doing something when they pass resolutions. Being reactive rather than active, these often change nothing, if they are not linked with other courses of action. (An offensive U.S. TV show interviewed married couples in their bedrooms about their sex lives. Churches passed resolutions which changed nothing – until someone organized 5000 families to boycott the sponsors!).

Such activities force us to ask tough questions. Polarizations will occur; we may find ourselves crusading with the “ratbag element”; and we’ll discover that self-interest and power games exist even in churches!

FINALLY, the evils here are ubiquitous, huge and complex. But we must not succumb to immobility: let us do something, and be free to learn through failing, if necessary. Let us repent of our sins of omission before we blame others for their sins of injustice. Then let us get involved. Fighting poverty is war: the violence of poverty kills just as surely as bullets. I am convinced, however, that we must fight this war non-violently. Christ gave his life for others who could not save themselves: let us give our lives for the wretched of the earth. Let us begin with ourselves, and in a world of crying need, adjust our lifestyle accordingly. Let us renounce addictions, especially those involving the desire for immediate gratification.Let us be Christ to others, as Luther put it – serving them, being advocates for them, acting as agents for change. Albert Einstein said: “The problems of the world cannot be solved with mechanisms, but only by changing the hearts and minds of people and speaking courageously.”
But remember, there’s no point in bearing a cross if you don’t believe in resurrection.

[For one modern story about confronting "The Powers" in the context of gross injustice, see The Amazing Dawn Rowan Saga - ]
Rowland Croucher


Richard Rohr: Everything belongs and no one needs to be scapegoated or excluded. Evil and illusion only need to be named and exposed truthfully, and they die in exposure to the light. The Sin of Exclusion: Those at the edge of any system and those excluded from any system ironically and invariably hold the secret for the conversion and wholeness of that very group. They always hold the feared, rejected, and denied parts of the group’s soul. You see, therefore, why the church was meant to be that group that constantly went to the edges, to the “least of the brothers and sisters,” and even to the enemy. Jesus was not just a theological genius, but he was also a psychological and sociological genius. When any church defines itself by exclusion of anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God.

Only as the People of God receive the stranger, the sinner, and the immigrant, those who don’t play our game our way, do we discover not only the hidden, feared, and hated parts of our own souls, but the fullness of Jesus himself. We need them for our own conversion.

The Church is always converted when the outcasts are re-invited back into the temple. You see this in Jesus’ commonly sending marginalized people that he has healed back into the village, back to their family, or back to the temple to “show themselves to the priests.” It is not just for their re-inclusion and acceptance, but actually for the group itself to be renewed.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 28

Footnote from a friend:

This reflection from Richard Rohr might be one known to you.
Perhaps I might say that you, Rowland, have exercised the calling of an extraordinary kind of gatekeeper for the Body of Christ here in Australia today (and maybe extending much wider than our country too). Most gatekeepers decide who is coming in and who is going out, but in contrast, your function has been to keep the gates open...

Of course this kind of (subversive?!) behaviour (after the style of Jesus, I would suggest) has drawn out of the woodwork many destructive voices. Those who are threatened by inclusiveness wish to point out that you are not performing the role of gatekeeper as traditionally defined. They suggest that your activities are not legitimate, and that your open door to the marginalised and to the questioning voices is plain and simply against the will of God.

This kind of reaction has been happening for a long time in your ministry. There are many of us who would thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your clear, empathetic and compassionate stance in the face of opposition from Christian / evangelical ‘heavy weights’. I hope that this insightful statement from Richard Rohr might encourage you and Jan as you are journeying through this really difficult time. [16 June 2013]


 ‘Why do we mistreat so many people – defenceless children, religious and racial/ethnic minorities, the handicapped, sweat-shop workers… the list goes on...


Maternal mortality [around the world] is down by almost half since 1990

Melinda Gates, Time, May 12, 2014, p. 93


Over the years, political commentary - from both the left and the right - has grown more and more shrill. Both sides talk past each other in an endless repetition of poll-tested sound-bites.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, Time May 12, 2014, p. 94. 


The world's $96 billion human trafficking industry exploits 27 million victims, including millions of youths and children.

Time May 14, 2014, p. 76.

I like the present Pope's motto: Miserando atque eligendo: Lowly but chosen. True Christianity is not essentially a religion which appeals to the rich and proud, but to the humble and poor...


JUSTICE & LOVE: Keys to all healthy relationships.

‘Why do we mistreat so many people – defenceless children, religious and racial/ethnic/gender minorities, the handicapped, sweat-shop workers… the list goes on…?’ 


Where have all the prophets gone?


"I find that it is better to love badly and faultily than not to try to love at all. God does not have to have perfect instruments, and the Holy One can use our feeble and faltering attempts at love and transform them. My task is to keep on trying to love, to be faithful in my continuing attempt, not necessarily to be successful."

Morton Kelsey, via Inward Outward

How did Shakespeare put it? Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.


An interesting Facebook discussion: A wealthy proprietor of a whitegoods chain - may have a personal fortune of about $1.6 billion  - said giving money to the homeless is wasted. 

'His point (clumsily made) is that some charity money could be better spent to help people in other ways. I'm not defending that point of view, but he's not as callous as the quote makes out. 'He donated and delivered a $2000 fridge to my workplace (charity serving 35 000 free meals a day) with no fanfare or expectation of acknowledgement. I've never met Harvey but I thank God for his business and others like his who put so much back into the community.'

'The comment that I find so hard to swallow is where he said that homeless people are no-hopers, and that their survival is for no good reason. In Grow (A community based peer-support, mutual self-help mental health organization), we say "no-one is a no-hoper" in recognition that there is inherent value in every human being. Our challenge and privilege as a community is to reach out and provide opportunities for those who are struggling to discover their personal value that they may be encouraged.'

'Ask him for a fridge.... I reckon you'd get a better response from them than most other groups their size. He said he was taken severely out of context and I believe him. I tend to believe people's actions more than their words.

'I think the real question that needs to be asked in response to this attitude (whether Harvey was quoted out of context or not, this does represent an attitude of many) is how do you measure the value of a human? How do you measure 'contribution'? It may well be that a homeless person could be contributing in immeasurable ways to their peers or those around them. Jesus was (effectively) homeless - I think even those who are not Christians would have to admit that he contributed a great deal to society!

'This makes a lot more sense, "What I think is that we should be helping people so they can reach an even greater potential.". People tend not to be willing to invest in something they believe is worthless, even themselves. So by helping people discover their true value, we increase their potential by increasing their willingness to invest in their own development and progress. The article that is listed above (Gerry Harvey hits back over homeless charity stoush) supports this idea, and presents a very different picture to the comments made in the original post.

'Many of the homeless people I know have shared horrifying stories of what happened to them when they were children and then admit to making bad decisions to deal with pain as they matured. They admit their adult choices were their own but their childhood experiences were thrust upon them by sinful adults. Very sad. I know some (homeless) drug addicts who spent a year at Teen Challenge in a loving and supporting environment. They were like new people afterwards and you may never had guessed their background. Perhaps (putting words in Harvey's mouth) he might be using the old argument that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach a man to fish you are feeding him for a lifetime?
Almost all large corporations have a budget for giving.

'People like 'Christians Against Poverty' work with some of the biggest (in commas) 'no hopers' who are seriously in debt and have addictions. Paying off the debt (short term) without dealing with the addiction (source of the debt) is like pouring money down the drain. Why is a person homeless? Why is a person addicted to substances? Why does a person have life controlling problems? Let's address those deeper issues rather than just endlessly throwing sandwiches at hungry people.... but keep handing out sandwiches along the way to keep people alive until they can turn their lives around.

'I think that Australia's wealthy could do a lot more in the way of philanthropy, but badmouthing them is hardly likely to encourage that desirable outcome!

"I think I it's pointless giving money to these people but we still do it". His essential point that these people are a drain on society while he takes more than his share of the pie in terms of our collective resources is a bit rich.

'It is particularly wrong, but is the prevailing view of liberalism, if you claim to adhere to logic and science- survival of the fittest etc...'To throw my two cents worth in concern is the thinking that homeless people are there as a result of addiction & bad choices....who has been through a divorce/break up, when your assets get split & for some, leaves them struggling: sickness & you lose control over your business or finances: lose your job & get stuck without one, what about those with mental illness....most of us are closer to the mark of being on the streets then we would like to think…  but I think one of the things with the biggest impact on anyone that is homeless or going through hard times is the way they are thought of....... The homeless do put back into society, because the people that help them ie. their case worker, doctor, hospital staff etc all get paid and pay tax.

We have always been a welfare nation, back to when the British pinched the country for nothing (welfare) to them and convicts. To change this "welfare," you'd have to arm the Aborigines with guns and antibiotics, to protect from the European's biological and projectile violence, which killed so many of them. We haven't earned Australia. We got it for nothing and most of the big guys, live without struggles.

'But as I told a business guy this week. If they took away welfare, he'd have no clients, after welfare pay-day. So welfare is profitable for his business. In a small economy such as ours (based on small population), welfare might actually keep our economy rolling at all. But when welfare exceeds 5%, problems may arise, and then maybe no one wants to work.

The British were cruel to their own kind (i.e. child slavery!) And, it was because we were convicts we acquired compassion for the Aborigines and gradually (once we became independent) were able to offer them better conditions. It never came fast because convicts were another form of slavery. Not until we stopped being slaves ourselves, could we see it clear to improve the plight of the Aborigines. It is sad that both sides cannot understand this.

'Yes the convicts themselves were victims of cruelty and often this produces cruelty towards others. In some it creates compassion. The tendency to treat new arrivals harshly in Australia seems to be well entrenched in our political class as well as other sections. Often the new arrival in turn initiate the next lot of arrivals with the same rite of passage often called bastardisation to new recruits in the military

'It is not the new arrivals that worry us so much as WHO is hidden amongst them! Australia's borders have well protected us from being conquered, but Troy was not captured from the outside but taken by a Trojan Horse to conquer it. Australians, like myself, can see this and we don't want to end up the same. Some very brave Middle Eastern men in Sydney have stood up to warn us at great risk to their lives.


Jewish views on love

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