1. Advent and excess
Today being Black Friday, Alissa Wilkinson shares some timely perspective on excess and the season we’re about to celebrate:
[E]xcess is only good if we have something to compare it to. Celebration in this world can only be a taste of what is to come in the resurrection; a grand and sumptuous supper makes us long for the final, unending Supper. But if we only practice excess, we come to deprive others of their needs. This is a tough concept for us Westerners, who can eat what we want, pretty much when we want it, buy something on credit if we need or want it badly enough, and rarely have to spend long periods of time with our desires unfulfilled. Fasting is a way for us to better appreciate the fulfilled desires through restraining ourselves. It’s a lot like when you were a child and asked your parents why it couldn’t be Christmas every day. The answer was not because Christmas is bad for us. It’s because if Christmas were every day, we wouldn’t appreciate it. We would grow weary of it. The magic would be gone.
2. Totem pole values
Steve Haas reflects on the iconic Native American totem poles throughout the Northwest which “make values visible” and asks what our totem poles would look like:
What if I cut down the massive cedar standing sentinel over our home, notching our own values into its fragrant bark? What legacy would I instill for both my family and future generations? Crowded by the competitive values of strength, smarts and speed, would the less dominant traits of love, mercy or reconciliation make it into the wood? What about compassion or grace, would they make the cut?
3. Largest Christian gathering in Egypt in 1,000 years
Andrew Jones, super-blogger from New Zealand, has a couple of interesting posts from time he recently spent in Egypt (where, incidentally, the #Jan25 revolution appears to still be underway). On 11/11/11, Jones joined 71,000 Egyptian Christians in an enormous cave church for what is apparently the largest such gathering in that country in a millennium. Here’s a fascinating video of the gathering that he posted:
4. Religious lobbying in DC
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a new report saying that “religious groups spend $390 million a year to influence U.S. domestic and foreign policy.” The most common domestic issues these groups are pushing have to do with the relationship between church and state, civil rights for religious minorities, bioethics, and family/marriage. Meanwhile, religious freedom, human rights, debt relief, peace and democracy are the international issues these groups focus on.
5. NGOs and big business
Brendan May writes for Ethical Corporation that NGOs can have more influence when they work closely with large businesses, but that they also run the risk of “selling out.” He offers a blueprint for NGO-business partnerships and concludes:
Collaboration between NGOs and business is critical in the effort to tackle the planetary crisis. Engagement is essential, not least because government is so fundamentally useless on so much of the sustainability agenda. But increasingly vocal questions about how engagement happens are risking a return to old debates about whether to engage at all. It’s up to the NGOs who choose to work with business to stop that happening.
6. Development and defense
Meanwhile, Bill Easterly warns against the dangers of US foreign aid being too closely tied to the defense department, arguing that public support for foreign aid has waned considerably as the relationship between aid and defense has become more cozy in recent years. He offers two points to help “salvage the future” of aid:
First, protect the aid that has been working against cuts, which should come instead from the areas not working. The current House proposal doesn’t get this elementary principle – aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq would be cut by 13%, but everything else would be cut by 23%. Second, recognise what the last decade taught us: there is actually a great divide separating development and defence. Announce that henceforward aid is for poverty relief and only for poverty relief, not for supporting military operations. Build a firewall between USAid and the defence department. Let defence run its programmes or counter-insurgency, but don’t be misled that this has anything to do with aid. American aid should concentrate on areas with a better track record – health, education, infrastructure, and clean water and sanitation – operating in societies where war, repression and corruption do not make it pointless for aid to operate.
Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!