Saturday, September 10, 2016

Why Am I Here? Wrestling with Life's Big Questions

I'm struggling with headlines today. Front page: Kim Jung-un, the Most Dangerous Person in the World. Unable to read about the possible horrors awaiting us in the aftermath of North Korea's latest nuclear tests, I flip to the second page. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has revealed her true relationship with her best friend. “Death – or the prospect of death – has a way of clearing away everything that is not real,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

People all over the world will be wrestling with these questions at Alpha, this Fall.  I'm looking forward to listening to what everyone thinks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Brexit Lesson 3 - How Should We React When People Leave?

In my last Brexit post, I provided a bit of history to refresh our memories on what has happened in the forty years since Britain joined the EU.

One of the things we saw from the history is that in the European Union, like in most communities, the membership changes over time.  People leave for various reasons and new people join.  That is why it is important to bring in new people, because others will leave.  People leaving isn't in and of itself a bad thing.  It may be inevitable.  So why are those who voted to leave being labelled racist?

I'm not suggesting that there aren't racist people in Britain.  We've seen some ugly evidence of racism since June 23.  But the Leavers aren't all racist.  What is racism, anyway?  Back to the dictionary we go:

Prejudicediscrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior

No, the Leavers aren't using racial discrimination based on a belief in racial superiority as a reason for leaving.  Voting to leave due to the economic effects of immigration is not the same as racism.

The other label that the Leavers are being given is ignorant.  Having a different opinion doesn't make them ignorant.

Today's lesson is for everyone who lives in community (i.e. all of us).  We should think carefully before we label someone because they hold different opinions than we do.  Honest and rational debate doesn't need name calling.  If I think honestly about the last time I labelled someone, I catch a whiff of that superiority referred to above in the definition of racism.  Ouch!

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye."  - Luke 6:41-42

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Brexit - Lesson 2 - Bigger, Not Better

There was a time when Britain wanted to join the European Union.  They did so in 1973, when it was called the European Community.  And they wanted to stay - in 1975 a referendum was held in Britain, and 66% voted to stay.  This tells me that the objectives of the European Community and Britain were well aligned.  The British people thought that their interests were best served by staying in the Community.

So what changed between 1975 and 2016?  Forty years is a long time.  Here are the highlights of the history of the European Union:
  • By 1975 there were nine countries in the European Union:  Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland.
  • 1983 - 1985 - Greece, Spain, and Portugal joined.
  • 1986 - The Single European Act was signed, creating “an area without frontiers in which the free movement of goods and persons, services and capital is ensured.”
  • 1990 - East and West Germany were unified.
  • 1993 - The Maastricht Treaty created the Euro Currency.  Britain negotiated an opt out clause.
  • 1995 - Austria, Finland and Sweden joined.
  • 2002 - Euro banknotes and coins were introduced.
  • 2004 - 10 new Eastern European countries joined the European Union.
  • 2007 - Bulgaria and Rumania joined.
  • 2008 - A financial crisis hit the global economy.
  • 2013 Croatia became the 28th member country.
By the time of the recent Referendum, the European Union was a very different community from the one that the United Kingdom had ratified in 1975.  Several countries in the Union have had severe banking and fiscal crises.  Youth unemployment in these countries is at an all time high.  Poorer, Eastern European countries have joined.  Migration from these countries to the more affluent countries is occurring.

Had Britain not already have been a member, would they have joined the EU in the last few years?  I don't think anyone would have even tried to argue that it would be in their interest to do so.  So why should we be surprised if they leave?

The lesson here is that bigger is not always better.  As new members join a community, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep everyone's goals in alignment so that continued alliance makes sense for everyone.  Community leaders must work extremely hard to continually monitor and change, if necessary, the constitutions of organizations as membership changes through growth.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

This is another story about spreading love one piece at a time:

"What began as a fun love note for my kids has turned into a passion for finding, documenting, installing and sharing love notes.  You can join me changing the world one love note at a time."

Shannon has been going at it since 2010 and it has expanded into other things, including a Ted Talk.

Thanks for sharing this, Janice!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Singing in the Shower

A friend (who wants to remain anonymous) has got her own "Pay it in kindness" project going and has started a new blog.

Her project is to leave notecards around town for people to "send to someone you know who needs a lift".  The cards are all ready to mail, complete with envelope and stamp.

What a great project!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brexit Lessons: A Failed Community - Lesson 1

For the first Part of this series, you can read an introduction here.  In this Part I'll begin to look at meeting the needs of community members.

In any community, at any point in time, you will have some members who are dissatisfied with the status quo.  That is why people move from place to place, in search of better neighbourhoods, better living conditions, better economic opportunities or jobs.  By better, I simply mean more suited to their needs at this point in time.  When people move it does not mean that the community has failed necessarily, although it may mean that.

So, is the European Union a "failed community"?  Everyone seems to be reacting as if it is.  Back to the Oxford Dictionary we go.  What is the definition of failed?

not achieving its end or not lasting; unsuccessful

As I understand it, the European Union is largely an economic union, and many countries have wanted to join since its inception.  I think that one of the ends (or objectives), was to have this economic union continue.  This is the first time that a country has voted to leave.  The leaders of Britain and of the European Union were so unprepared for the result of this vote, that I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is an example of a failure.

If you are the leader of a community and you would like to keep your members, you must understand their needs and meet them.  Did the leaders of the European Union do that?  Many people in Britain would say not.  Given how surprised and unprepared leaders seem to be, despite continuing polls warning of the very real possibility, I would have to agree with them.

So how should community leaders respond to this lesson?  In order to keep your members, perhaps one should deliberately seek out the disenfranchised and work hard to understand their needs.  Once you understand their needs, you can decide what they mean to the community and how best to respond.  The possible responses are many.  Questions for another day.

From everyone who has been given much; much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  - Luke 12:48

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit Lessons: A Failed Community - Introduction

If you've read recent posts on this blog, you will know that I've been thinking about community.  The Oxford Dictionary defines community as:

a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

So, the European Union is a community of sorts.  As I read about Brexit, I am thinking about lessons we can learn about Britain's (not unanimous) decision to leave the community.  After all, if we are not learning lessons from this, why are we spending so much time wallowing in the sordid details?

These are the questions that are rattling around in my brain:
  • What went wrong?
  • What does it mean to be a member of a community?
  • How can we improve our communities so that this doesn't happen? 
  • Or should it happen?  Should communities naturally evolve in this fashion?
  • If it should happen, how do we make it less painful?
  • What are the responsibilities of people who manage or lead the community?  Of people who live in community?
  • How big should a community be - geographically or how many "particular characteristics?"
  • How will the community respond now? What new communities will form? 
I'm going to try and answer them in a series of short blog posts, for as long as questions keep rattling.  The questions will change over time, I'm sure; some will become irrelevant, some will be added.