Freedom

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Freedom PosterFor a long time now I have ruminated on the concept of ‘Freedom’.  It carries such positive connotations and is used so liberally by people from all walks of life, from all points on the political spectrum and yet I wonder if we truly understand its implications.  For Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, the pursuit of it became his all consuming passion.  For Brooks Hatlen, the old librarian, it proved too much.  Or did ending his own life signify a final release into freedom?  Is my freedom conditional on the freedom of others?  Do I have a human right to freedom?  What does ‘Freedom’ really mean in the context of community and human interaction? If it was just me, if I was the only inhabitant of my own desert island, would the concept even be that important?  There would be no need to legislate for or against my freedom. But in our multi-cultural melting pot of a world, Freedom is not an absolute but a relative value defined not only by our own personal preferences, but by the community within which we live.

The US Declaration of Independence specifically entitles us a ‘Right’ to ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’.  It is an inconvenient truth that Thomas Jefferson, one of the main authors of the Declaration was a slave owner.  One presumes that the pursuit of liberty was thus reserved for those who did not originate from Africa.  It also highlights the uncomfortable reality that those with influence and power tend to possess a rather more concrete stake in this concept we call ‘Freedom’. As I have pondered this subject over the years, I have come to the conclusion that ‘Freedom’ is relative.  It is both relative to the individual and also to the community within which that individual seeks to operate.  What do I mean by this?  You deserve an explanation, particularly if you cling tightly to your own definition of what it means to have an ‘inalienable right’ to ‘liberty’.  Does it mean that I have the right to carry and AK47 or drive while under the influence of drugs.  Is my freedom limited by my resources or am I free to plunder the earth’s resources without impunity to further my own ability to do what I choose?  Does the unborn child really have absolutely no say in their freedom to live, and does the government have the right to curtail my freedom to further the interests of those with more influence than myself? Unfortunately, this is not an easy subject and there are no easy answers.

The problem is that we all live in a world that survives in delicate balance.  Our actions for freedom have an impact on those around us and the world in which we live.  As was once famously said, ‘No man is an island’.  I do not pretend to understand the ‘Butterfly Effect’ but few of us are ignorant of the potential a seemingly insignificant action can have on the lives of others.  In this way, Freedom rapidly becomes something that has connections with our environment, our fellow humans and our descendants’ futures.  So how does this outwork itself in the real world? To keep things simple, Freedom must be defined in relative terms as I mentioned above.  The freedom to live and breathe is surely at the top of most of our lists.  A few may argue that this freedom should also extend to choosing when we stop living, ie the freedom to choose to end our lives.  Those who support the right to abortion argue that women should have the freedom to choose whether they remain pregnant.  Those who support the life of the unborn child argue that no one has the ‘right’ to end another’s life even when still in the womb.  Even this most basic human right, to live or die is fraught with dilemmas.

It is quite clear that these ‘freedoms’ are shifting with the weight of public opinion.  And so as the years roll by, abortion becomes more acceptable, assisted suicide is allowed in more and more countries and yet we really don’t understand whether this represents more or less freedom. Cascading down through other contentious areas of debate revolve not around whether I have the freedom to live my life or end it, but of whether the ‘freedoms’ of others should have the potential to take away these basic freedoms.  One of my favorite examples of this and one where I feel more at liberty to express my own opinion is the right to bear arms.  I accept that the majority of citizens who own guns are responsible and unlikely to use their weapons to harm others.  Unfortunately, statistics tell a different story.  With over 30,000 people each year losing their lives due to the use of firearms in the US, it seems the freedom to live is being compromised by the right to bear arms.  Does responsible community make a decision to curtail the most deadly firearms for the sake of the thousands under threat?  Australia made such a decision in the late 90s and reduced its death by firearms by over 70%.  As most people have no desire to own AK47s or oversize ammunition cartridges, why is their such political opposition to this undeniably sensible measure?

Aside from the profiteering lobby of the National Rifle Association, it seems the real problem resides in fear that any removal of personal freedoms is the slippery slope to a totalitarian future.  Until we address this fear and abandon the ‘me’ in favor of the ‘we’, there will be an imbalance that does not allow for true freedom to exist in both a personal and communal sense.  This balance could be decried as a compromise, but learning to compromise is at the heart of creating liberated community.  I hope these thoughts might provoke us all to elevate our communal freedoms to the conversation of inalienable rights such that we enjoy our ‘Freedom’ with as many of our fellow human beings as possible.

Riots and Looting

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Rioters Show Off Their Stolen Loot

So I read with a mixture of sadness and shame the behavior of the unruly minority in my country of birth.  Like so many, my initial reaction was one of disgust at the mindless, wanton thuggery exhibited.  This only heightened when I heard 2 girls being interviewed on the radio, then saw the cynical theft from the injured young Malaysian’s back pack on Youtube.  The two girls happily admitted to drinking a bottle of Rosé they had stolen.  One of the girls proceeded to blame the government, even though her friend clearly didn’t even know who was actually in government.  Their parting shot was “We just wanted to show the police we can do whatever we want!”  I must admit, my mind drifted to an imaginary scene where I became the interviewer.  My response was to snatch the girls’ purses and tell them that I too was just doing whatever I wanted and how did they like it?  The young student with the back pack, I have since learned, had to have surgery on his jaw, which was broken.  As a couple of youths lifted him off the blood stained pavement, another reached into his back pack and calmly removed his wallet and phone!

But then the reaction faded to a more pensive approach.  I began to muse, like so many others, on the reasons why this was happening.  Frankly, this is nothing new.  When I was a teenager in Manchester, I knew boys of my own age who had been wandering the streets from pre-teen years with ill-intent.  Their nightly activities usually involved a few minor acts of criminal damage and very occasionally, left an unsuspecting bystander lying on the ground following a few well placed boots to the face.  We had the ‘Crombie gangs’, the ‘Bovver Boys’ and the ‘Skinheads’.  That was all back in the 60’s.  One of the  differences last week was the ability to mobilize many such gangs and a large number of ‘hangers on’.  Their sheer numbers gave them a feeling of invincibility that spurs even the rankest coward to malicious acts without fear of reprisal.  This is one of the many downsides of the social media revolution, more of that in a future blog.  Finally I began to ponder a connection I had previously missed, and yet, I believe,  sadly targets the very heart of the issue.

I asked myself the question.  “What is the difference between the criminal acts of those responsible for the financial crash of 2008 and those who are looting the streets in 2011.”  The first and most obvious difference is the swift arrest and charging of the perpetrators of 2011.  It seems to me that most of those responsible for the financial ruin caused in 2008 have not only avoided prosecution, but many continue to thrive and practice the very same businesses that were responsible for the ruin of so many in 2008.   Yes, of course there had to be a couple of scapegoats; Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers come to mind.  A second difference is that the majority of the recent rioters in the UK were young, even as young, apparently, as 11 years of age.  Many, if not most, were unable to explain their actions.  In the financial debacle of 2008, the vandalism that was carried out on people’s finances came from older, educated, business leaders who knew exactly what they were doing.  Their actions were calculated to deliver one thing….personal gain.  And therein lies the connection between the two.  Whilst the young thugs may have been less calculating and rode a wave of wanton violence, it seems that their underlying motivation began with a form of self-satisfaction from ‘screwing’ the authorities or the ‘rich’, the ‘Enemy’ and ended in nothing more than squalid personal gain.  The captains of our cherished financial institutions knowingly created systems to amass wealth at the expense of those who relied upon them.  Apparently, they even bet against those financial instruments they created and sold, knowing they would fail.  They too were motivated by the satisfaction of beating the system and then….personal gain.

Many small businesses and homeowners lost their livelihoods or their homes last week because of the looting and vandalism of predominantly disaffected youth in the UK.  I don’t condone any act of violence against either property or person.  Those who are arrested and charged deserve to suffer the consequences of their actions, even if their motives are vague and ill-defined.  In 2008, many more people lost their homes and livelihoods all around the world and yet where is the justice for those who perpetrated these more subtle and yet wider ranging crimes?

In the final analysis, the problem seems to lie with all of us.  I am as guilty as anyone else of perpetuating a society that thrives on acquisition of material goods and wealth to ‘satisfy the soul’.  Instead of going out and earning a living, the youth of last week chose to take what they desired in the heat of riots and opportunity.  In 2008, many financial institutions exploited the consumerism of the middle classes by lending money for houses and cars and televisions, in fact anything.  Credit, instead of paying with money already earned became the ticket to material comfort.  Is there really much difference in motivation?  Will we do whatever is necessary to obtain what we want?  Will we continue to apply inconsistent judgment to those who are more obvious in their greed and illegal acquisition?  Many of the looters of last week are unable to avail themselves of the credit most of us find so convenient.  We take what we want before we can actually afford it.  They take what they want because they feel they will never be able to afford it and it is unfair that others should be so able.  What happened to the good old days of making something, taking satisfaction in the creation, earning money from it’s benefit to others and enjoying the fruit of our labors.  It seems today that most of us are working hard to pay the institutions who made it possible for us to own the house, the car, and the flat screen TV.  The true joy of paying for something with hard earned cash has become a historical novelty.

I am ashamed of my part in the looting of 2011 and 2008 and I feel compelled to examine my attitudes to material goods, borrowing money and the ways in which I encourage the behavior undergirding these events in our recent history.  I hope these thoughts might provoke you to do the same, or to disagree and comment.  Thank you for taking the time.

There Really Isn’t an Adult Driver In this Car and its heading straight at us!

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I am usually loathe to weigh in on political matters, as people will immediately cast you in one camp or the other.  I consider myself an independent, but I read an article this morning by another independent from the Sunday Times in London who summed it up so well I had to reproduce it.  I was particularly struck by his closing metaphor “there really isn’t any adult driver in this car. And it’s heading straight at us”

The Times and The Sunday Times (Times Newspapers Limited.)

July 31st 2011

Your head, Barack – deal or no deal? ANDREW SULLIVAN | 1342 words The promise of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was that he wanted to move America past its deadlocked cultural and political warfare. That’s one reason this weekend is the nadir of his first term. On his watch the polarisation on the right and left — despite his preternatural calm, pathological reasonableness and habitual civility — has intensified. Even when faced with the potential economic catastrophe of the country defaulting on its debt, America’s Democrats and Republicans simply cannot seem to reach a final deal on something as basic as a rise in the debt ceiling, even when they have come close to agreement on the amount of savings necessary. As I write this, there is no final resolution. If there is to be one in the next few days, it will have to be forged by some combination of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate and then the House of Representatives. If there isn’t one and America does default, it will be because of one simple fact: there are no moderate Republicans left. That’s the core reason for the current crisis.

The Democrats have already compromised a huge amount. They have long since given up any idea of a new stimulus, even though many liberal economists believe it’s necessary if the economy is not to enter a double dip. They have surrendered on any tax increases at a time when federal revenues are a smaller proportion of GDP than at any time since the 1950s. Their proposal to raise the debt ceiling even includes more spending cuts than the Republican plan. At the very least it’s to the right of George Osborne’s austerity measures (because he enacted some tax increases). The president, meanwhile, has said he is open to a “grand bargain” with the right, coupling means-testing entitlements and raising the retirement age with a tax reform that could both increase revenue and keep marginal rates steady and possibly lower. These were, and are, big concessions by the left, just as it was a big concession for Obama to ensure that his stimulus proposal was one-third tax cuts. But just as he won zero Republican votes for his stimulus package in 2009, the grand bargain he tried to negotiate in 2011 with John Boehner, the Speaker, was vetoed by the Republican Tea Party caucus and fell apart a while back. The hardcore Republicans insisted on no revenue increases at all, ever. And so no grand bargain.

What would they say yes to? It’s not clear. Even Boehner’s own first proposal for spending cuts alone failed to win a majority last Thursday and had to be withdrawn. A hardcore faction of his party refused to sign on without upping the ante: insisting on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget (which has next to zero chance of passing any time soon) as a condition for raising the debt limit again later this year.

This is what we’re dealing with. In the American system the founders believed that divided government would facilitate compromise since everyone would realise they couldn’t pass legislation alone. The house, the Senate and the president were all necessary and each would work with the others. But the current Republican party knows its proposal cannot get through the Democratic Senate. “We simply do not have the votes in this body to enact such a measure,” Senator John McCain said last Thursday. And yet it has insisted on passing it anyway, even days away from national default. It has become for the party an exercise in ideological purity, a symbolic stand against everything it believes is wrong in Washington rather than a pragmatic step towards a compromise. I can, of course, see its broader point.

The Tea Party exists for a reason. On top of the current vast debt, the looming cost of healthcare benefits and a fastageing society mean either a huge increase in taxes or drastic cuts in those very benefits. The situation is unsustainable. To master the problem you need a blend of tax increases, drastic benefit reform and serious defence cuts. If you rule out tax rises, the depth of the cuts elsewhere would essentially end the already modest safety net in America and require an end to US global military reach. But revenue increases are not unknown to the right. Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times with a far tinier deficit. Reagan would be regarded as a sellout by many of the more foamflecked Tea Partiers.

Obama’s fault was in not seizing a grand bargain last January and reaching out to the Republicans with a debtcutting plan of his own. But Obama, cautious as ever, decided to avoid confronting his own party over cuts in healthcare and waited for the Republicans to make the first move. Ever confident in his own charm, he took the Speaker out for a round of golf. The two men even began to establish a moderate rapport. But Obama waited too long and underestimated the ferocity of the hatred on the right. So, it seems, did Boehner, who was reduced last week to expletives and tears in asking his fellow Republicans to back him. Both men began to understand that the Tea Party would oppose a compromise, not only because it was a compromise but also because it would have to be a compromise with Obama. More worrying was that when told that a default would lead to unknowable consequences for the global economy, higher unemployment in the United States, higher interest rates and a tax increase, in effect, on many Americans with debts, the hardcore Republicans were sanguine. They seem to believe that such an economic crash would hurt Obama more than them. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” said Mitch McConnell, a senior senator. It doesn’t get more honest than that.

And it may be working. A wounded economy could well hurt Obama next year; his rating hit an all-time low of 40% last week. If wrecking the global economy helps the Republicans to win back the White House, they’re fine with that. Perhaps the most galling fact is that the Republicans take no responsibility for the deficit, debt and depression that Obama inherited. Bill Clinton left the country with a surplus. A vast chunk of the debt was run up when the Republicans (like new Labour) were running the show during a period of growth. They added a new prescription drug entitlement for the elderly, cut taxes to levels far below even Reagan’s and started two wars, with an accumulated cost of $4 trillion (£2.4 trillion). You might think a party with this record would be more understanding. Instead it reverted to the old playbook — that all Democrats were spendthrifts — and targeted Obama for political oblivion. The deadlock Obama promised to end is deepening. It is compounded by the fracturing of the media, with Fox News acting as a de facto broadcasting channel for Tea Party resistance, and by the fact that the old Republican establishment (the kind of grandees who told Richard Nixon it was time to go and Newt Gingrich he had overreached) is no more. If a grand bargain was impossible this year, it will surely be more so in the run-up to a presidential election. The stars of the presidential campaign — Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann — will intensify the ideological purism of the party. The only hope is that a few of the remaining Republican moderates in the Senate will be able to swallow hard and back the Democrats’ proposal. McCain has awoken from his slumber to castigate the Tea Party as “hobbits”. Others may follow. But any deal will still have to pass the House and it’s hard to see how Boehner will remain Speaker if he backs a deal that requires more Democrats to vote for it in the House than Republicans.

Which leads one to the somewhat chilling conclusion: there really isn’t any adult driver in this car. And it’s heading straight at us. Martin Ivens is away andrewsullivan.com.

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The Speech That Was Never Given

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Below is a link to a speech written by Brian Mclaren.  It is an alternative to the speech delivered by President Bush in the immediate wake of 9/11 and I thought it appropriate to share on this day and particularly in the current climate of extremism, partisanship and religious bigotry.

The Speech That Was Never Given

I Am Not The Enemy

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So, why do we have to compete, fight against each other, or support some entity or organization that majors on winning at the expense of someone else.  Whether it be our favorite football team, political party, or even national allegiance, we seem to need some kind of opposition to rail against, criticize or quite simply hate!  It seems that so much energy is expended in finding fault with someone else or seeking to bring down or discredit that which does not comply with our own worldview or experience.

My son Josiah made me aware of a classic example of this in the political/educational sphere.  A writer of children’s books had been banned from schools in Texas because his namesake was coincidentally a professor at De Paul University who was a Marxist.  No one had bothered to do the research properly, and as a result, the wrong writer was banned.  But something more sinister was also going on, the irony of which did not escape my son or I.  Our treasured capitalist system can brook no criticism from a Marxist, so we proceed to ban the offender’s writing from our schools.  Wait, is that not one of the main criticisms we have of communism – censorship and control!  Communism is the enemy, and it must be stopped.  The same issue reared its head in the recent health care debate.  A major percentage of US citizens responded to the fear-monger tactics that suggested any increase in government control would be the thin end of the wedge ending in not just an African American in the White House, but one who is also a Marxist!  And by the way, the French health care system, ranked number one by the World Health Organization, is wholly private, and not socialist.  Oh, but it is French, and they are the enemy, right?

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am a fan of the free market economy, this is not an argument about political viewpoints, but of how we respond when our viewpoint is threatened.  It happens at every level of the spectrum.  The other day, I saw a clip on the local news channel of a Cowboys fan making scrap metal of a car with a sledgehammer.  The car was painted and decorated in complete Minnesota Vikings regalia!  It’s a shame the real Vikings were not so easy to trash!  Have you noticed, the language used?  We trashed the other team, we killed the Republicans in the election.  We hate Obama, Bush, substitute any of the last 42 presidents.  We hate the British, the French, the Dutch, the Germans, the Arabs, Opera, Punk, Hip Hop, coffee, tea, vegetables…

So what is going on?  Well, it occurred to me that I am no better than the rest of them, and so what motivates me to take sides, criticize the other team, trash the other viewpoint?  I have decided that there are a number of reasons, at least in my case, perhaps you can identify with me?  Fear.  Well, that seems to be the number one.  My security lies in my world not being turned upside down.  Sometimes that fear turns into reality.  We all know how the tragedy of 9/11 upended the psyche of a whole country.  But it also created a very real and deep seated fear and even hate towards that section of society known as ‘Muslim’ the rallying cry for an ongoing war in 2 separate countries and a continued suspicion of anything Middle Eastern.

What then happens, is anyone with a viewpoint that differs from our own cherished values or even hints of believing something that might have a connection to ‘the enemy’ is not only suspect, but to be feared.  Whenever my wife, Leyna and I inform people that we lived for 3 years in the Middle East, we are met with a mixture of surprise, concern and the oft asked question, ‘ wasn’t that dangerous’.  The fact that there were more murders in Washington DC in a week than in a whole year in Dubai did not detract from the underlying fear and suspicion towards the region in question.

And so, when I say I admire Barack Obama, there is either something wrong with me or I am from the ‘other side’ and to be regarded with some measure of suspicion.  If I believe that the US health system should be overhauled, it cannot possibly be because I genuinely believe that it could be better and have experienced better elsewhere, but because I have some agenda destined to regain control for the British of the US.

Which brings me to the other reason why I tend to spend so much energy in opposition.  Pride.  I just think I know better, that my country, team, city, coffee house, cuisine etc. is the best.  I regard all other manifestations to be inferior, but for some reason, still pre-occupy myself with having to prove it!  Perhaps it comes right back to fear once again.  Perhaps I fear that THEY are right, whoever THEY are, and that the edifice that is my life experience, dogma and worldview is actually not perfect.  Perhaps I still have something to learn from those I supposedly oppose.  One thing I know, Jesus said ‘Love your enemies’ and ‘Turn the other cheek’ and if I am not mistaken, he also majored on something called ‘humility’.  So, I thought, perhaps I need to spend more time listening, learning and accepting and less time fearing.  In the meantime, I will be rooting for England when they play US at Football (the right name for a game played with the foot), and by the way, if my views don’t line up with yours, please don’t kill me, I am not the enemy!

Slow Down!

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So, we are in such a hurry. We rush here, rush there, try to do everything faster and whilst we travel at 100 mph we miss not only the scenery, but we forget who we really are and what we are here for. When McDonalds invaded the city of Rome and captured a retail space for the purveying of their drive thru bland fast food culture, many Italians were disgusted. One Signore actually wrote a book which spawned a movement that has now become known as the ‘Go Slow’ movement. Many books later, including one with a title that really caught my attention, ‘In Praise of Slowness’, the ‘Go Slow Movement’ has grown and spread throughout Europe and has even now found its way to these shores. We even found that there is a chapter in Dallas! Whole communities have sought to transform their lives by offering places to eat, stay, hang out, read or just generally stop and savor life. You see, that’s the thing, we have forgotten that life is there to live and not a rush to some indefinable destination with the rest of the crowd.

What concerns me about the culture we have created, is that we have sacrificed quality for quantity, taste for filling our stomachs, shallowness for depth, institutional life for spontaneity and organisation for community. We have sought to pre-package our lives so that we can drive thru, rush thru, take out and not stop. Heck, we even spell it ‘thru’ instead of ‘through’. We are the losers. When I think of some of the most enjoyable and life-giving times in my own history, they all seem to feature a time when life was not so much traversed as savoured. It seems to me that many of our modern day conveniences have not only become the enemy of savouring life, but can actually be the reason why many of us are not in the best of health, have to rely on ‘drive thru’ pharmacies to provide artificial aids to help us make it through our frenetic lives and at the very least leave us weary and unfulfilled.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for doing a hard days labour and working smart and efficiently to achieve something meaningful. I do wonder sometimes though, how much of what we all do is actually creating the infrastructure for the fast food lifestyle we seem to have accepted as the norm. What I am talking about is a culture and a mindset that pervades our way of life. So what can we do to start a revolution of slowness in our own lives? We can stop texting someone in the next room, we can stop to make something healthy to eat, we can read instead of watching TV all evening, we can read to one another, take a toddler for a walk, sit and eat a meal with family or friends round a table and make it last all evening. We can refuse to be sucked into the drive thru lane and go in and talk to someone face to face, or better still, stop eating and drinking the largely unhealthy tasteless fare that is dished out to us through the window and frequent those places that take some pride in what they serve!

This will take quite a change of mind and attitude, but I truly believe that if we can start a revolution and seek to live differently, we will not only be healthier, but we will be able to savour life. We will also enjoy one another and experience the richness that is available through so much that takes time to really appreciate. That’s why, I for one, want to re-examine my lifestyle and begin in some small ways to slow down inside so that I can get the most out of this brief but potentially full life I have been given. I realize it will not be easy as I navigate through the endless neon drive thru sheds and the pressure to conform to this manic society we have created, but if you want to join me, let me know, perhaps we can slow down together and sow a seed to change the culture around us!

I took the time out to write this blog because it made me savor my ability to communicate. If you read this, you took the time out to listen to someone else’s viewpoint. Welcome to the world of slow! And thanks Daveen for introducing us to what I believe is a life changing attitude!

The Politics of the Heart

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So we were discussing the Sermon on the Mount at Buon Giorno yesterday, out of which emerged some profound insights. It is so tempting to do what so many of us do as Dallas Willard puts it and treat one of Jesus’ most famous discourses as a bag of marbles out of which we pluck an interesting saying and quote it as truth. On the surface, this looks eminently sensible until you actually start to examine what is actually said!

If your eye causes you to do wrong, then pluck it out as it is better to live without doing wrong and lose your eye. A similar statement would have many of us walking around minus at least one of our hands. To be angry at someone is now on the same level as committing murder and if someone sues us we should actually give them something in addition to making it really worth their while.

Frankly, none of us have a hope if we treat this new set of laws literally. Jesus even exhorts us to ‘be perfect just as His Father is perfect. OK, that’s it, I give up. But wait, perhaps there is a deeper more comprehensive message in the whole text. You see, as human beings, we are often so keen to have the rules spelled out to us. If we do 1,2,3 we will meet the requirements, we can check the boxes and feel accepted and dare I say it, acceptable to God. What I think is really being discussed in this important teaching is that when it comes to outward behaviour or even transformed thinking, our heart or inner perspective has to be renewed. If the natural reaction to hate or be angry is removed, I will not require a law telling me not to murder. If I no longer harbor unhealthy desires for the opposite sex or even the same sex, I will no longer be in danger of transgressing the law against adultery.

How does this play out in a more social and political sense? Am I suggesting abandonning the law? Not at all. but there is a sense in which our laws are in existence because we cannot guarantee that our inner convictions wlll lead us to do the right thing without them.

Conversely, history shows us that a change of heart or inner perception can lead to societal change and a fundamental shift in the laws of the land. The abolition of slavery and the gradual erosion of racism leading to civil rights legislation in the US are examples of the shift to values associated with Jesus. Legislation to outlaw abortion would be ineffective and dangerous forced upon a population of which at least a large minority and probably a majority would want the choice to be selfish and eliminate the inconvenience, embarrassment of an unwanted pregnancy. The inner transformation of the heart that Jesus is speaking of would lead so many more to pass up the opportunity for indulging passion without regard for the consequences.

If the greed that motivated so many to borrow money or others to lend money that could not be paid back were replaced by living within means and being content with less rather than more, we may not be experiencing such a widespread global recession. Instead, a revolution of the heart might encourage those who have to reach out and help those who hve not.

If the values of Jesus’ kingdom were so widespread that they became the dominant philosophy for life, the need for so much of the political agenda would disappear. Love, peace, forgiveness, generosity etc. would be the inherent persuasion. The politics of the heart would remove selfish agendas and replace them with a desire to love without return, turn the cheek, seek the good of others, lay down lives, and even, heaven forbid, love our enemies. It has to come from the heart for the revolution to ne effective, but what we are talking about is….the Kingdom of Heaven!

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