Reason

“…Of us God demands that we apply our reason to many obscure things about which Scripture has left us free to decide, and when someone suggests you believe in a proposition, you must first examine it to see whether it is acceptable, because our reason was created by God, and whatever pleases our reason can but please divine reason, of which, for that matter, we know only what we infer from the processes of our own reason by analogy and often by negation…”

from The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Interesting to find so much of relevance to 21st century Christianity written in a novel first published nearly 40 years ago and set in Medieval France.

Choices

One of the first things I learned at Celebrate Recovery is that I can make choices. I also learned that my choices affect my life and the lives of those around me. Childhood abuse robs the victim of the awareness of being able to make choices, and as an adult I am still learning this. On the other hand, it has given me a keen insight into how and where we make choices and how seemingly innocuous acts can be part of something that helps another human being, or something that actively harms them, even though we’re not actively aware of it at the time. I think we who call ourselves followers of Christ must take stock of our choices, particularly in our consumer-driven culture.

…the endless debates about the rights and wrongs of aid often obscure what really matters, not so much where the money comes from but where it goes…

No one in the aid debate really disagrees with the basic premise that we should help the poor when we can… The philosopher Peter Singer has written about the moral imperative to save the lives of those we don’t know. He observes that most people would willingly sacrifice a US$1,000 suit to rescue a child seen drowning in a pond, and argues that there should be no difference between that drowning child and the nine million children who, every year, die before their fifth birthday. 

~ from Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish…

Mark 14:7 (NRSVA)

For the first time in history it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty (defined as those living on less than US$1.25 a day). One thing we can do, as ordinary people who are not managers of NGOs or politicians or Bill Gates, is to make ethical choices in various aspects of our lives. I can choose to buy food that has been produced by someone who received a fair wage, I can choose to buy clothing not produced in a sweatshop, I can choose to be a good steward of the resources I have been granted. I can choose not to buy or use the services of companies that are known to exploit people or resources.

Part of this choice for our family has been to sponsor a child through Compassion UK. Compassion work with and through local churches in more than 30 of the world’s poorest countries and, because of this, people’s needs can be met more accurately. They are child-focussed, Christ-centred and compassion-based. Theirs is the only child sponsorship programme that has been proven to work and Compassion always publish their yearly accounts for the public to view. Click the link on the right hand side of this page to find out more. You may need to scroll down to see it.

Where are You?

Sometimes people respond to ill health by ‘[feeling] that it’s all their fault, that they somehow brought it on themselves. I don’t know about you, but adding a heavy guilt trip to feeling physically lousy doesn’t sound like a recipe for recovery, does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that the individual has mistaken responsibility for blame…

Blame… is as pointless as what the farmer said to the lost motorist who asked his way to a remote village while driving through a maze of country lanes. The farmer, after scratching his head and thinking for a moment, advised the motorist, “Well if I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from ‘ere.”

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

~ from Healthier Every Day Hypnosis by Julie-Ann Amos

I have been using hypnosis as a tool in my recovery. I don’t go in for all of it, e.g. Set Free Your Inner Goddess or How to Get Rich. Those things are anathema to me. But that’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water, is it?

I am making good use of hypnosis and suggestions. I listen all the way through first, to make sure I find nothing objectionable, and then if it’s all – how do I put it? – in line with the bible? Yes, if it’s not promoting something absent or contrary to the bible, I listen regularly and I listen prayerfully. The words quoted above reminded me of Jesus’ words in one of my favourite gospel stories – the healing of the man born blind, found in John 9:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in Him.”

John 9:2,3 (NRSVA)

Note that Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind in order that he might be healed, but so that he could reveal the working of God. If you read the rest of the story in John 9, you will see that this man reveals God by his testimony, by his honest, earnest faith, not by his healing.

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

The Un-paving Paradise Project March 2014: Secrets of science: Hydraulic fracturing

Below is a very interesting and balanced explanation of fracking from The Amazing World of Science.

After having studied ‘Environment’ as part of my university degree, I now consider myself an environmentalist. Although when I first began my studies my main concern was eliminating extreme poverty (plus, to my shame, I thought environmentalists were all a bit airy-fairy), I soon recognised the vital role the Environment has to play in the life of every human being. However, unlike some other environmentalists, on balance I think the protests against fracking are a red herring. Those of us who are actively trying to promote more awareness of environmental issues, particularly climate change, would do better to concentrate on a more general message of reduced consumerism, less consumption of fossil fuels in all their guises, and to be challenging the West’s worship of the god of the ‘Economy’, which is so deeply ingrained in our culture (even among Christians) that we don’t even realise how much emphasis is put on the ‘Economy At All Costs’ policies of our governments. Don’t get me wrong, as the daughter of an Economics professor, I can hardly consider myself anti-capitalist. Rather, I would like to promote a balance between capitalism and responsibility –  for ourselves, for one another and for our planet. This is not sentimentalism at play, but a rational response to the existence of poverty in the 21st century, and to the threat of climate change.

 

If you’re interested, the following are a few examples of the kinds of questions I like to consider before making a purchase (any purchase) in an attempt to reduce my family’s greenhouse gas emissions:

 

  • Do I really need to buy that? e.g. I love the dress in the window of a local shop, but I really can’t justify the expense, or the unnecessary addition to my wardrobe.

 

  • How will it affect my life and the lives of my family if I don’t buy that? e.g. I will definitely buy a new pair of shoes for my daughter as the sole has detached from her shoe [there’s a sermon in that somewhere], but I would think twice about buying her a new dolly.

 

  • Can I make do using something I already have? e.g. I needed a ring-binder to put my Maths notes in, as I tend to write Maths by hand, so I reused an old work folder of Frank’s. I needed somewhere to store elastic bands, so I used a tin that a Christmas gift came in.

 

  • Can I make it myself instead of buying it? e.g. dishcloths – for which I bought crochet cotton made from recycled tee-shirts, I also intend to make a crocheted rag rug from old jeans and I use old clothes as rags for household cleaning which are stored in a DIY ‘rag hanger’ made from my daughter’s old tights with the feet cut off – this is a surprisingly successful way of storing cleaning rags!

 

  • If I definitely think I need it, can I buy it second-hand and thus not contribute to further use of fossil fuels (by buying new)? e.g. I found a second-hand coffee table for a fiver in a local charity shop and my next project will be a tablecloth made from ‘reclaimed’ fabric to hide the table’s flaws.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy new, can I reduce the number of miles it has travelled by choosing a local product? e.g. local honey, eggs, vegetables and meat, or even local wool.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy it new, can I buy in bulk and thus reduce the amount of packaging used (and hence less fossil fuel)? e.g. a 5kg bag of rice instead of the more usual 500g or 1kg – this also works out cheaper in the long run.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy it new, is it available made from recycled materials? e.g. stackable storage boxes made from plastic recycled in England are used to store all my craft supplies. 

 

  • If I see no option but to buy new, has it been ethically grown/reared? e.g. our towels, which were a wedding present, are made from undyed organic fair trade cotton. Also, we are lucky enough to have an award-winning pig farm which sells its free-range meat at the local farmers’ market.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy new, has my purchase come from a fairly traded source e.g. chocolate – my daughters’ primary school is holding an Easter raffle and has asked for donations of Easter eggs, so I went to the supermarket to look for fair trade chocolate Easter eggs. There were none, so I shall buy some fair trade chocolate and make chocolate roses using a mould instead.

 

I have gone way off topic from the original post about fracking (see below) but it is all interlinked. It is actually great fun seeing how we can change our consumer habits. It is liberating to exchange the manner of thought one once took for granted with a mind which questions. For me, this is also a spiritual questioning, and I find it both challenging and exciting. The ‘slimming down’ of the physical world is accompanied by a ‘slimming down’ of my faith – fewer distractions, more room for prayer.