Monday, 21 February 2011

‘To Live in Peace’ – continued…

Some more notes and quotes from my book of the moment (see post below)… This gets to the heart of it for me: Gornik argues that Jeremiah’s ‘proposal to the exiles’ in Jer.29:5-7 offers “an overarching wholistic vision for the city”, offering a basis on which to explore presence (“a theology of context”), prayer (“a theology of spirituality”) and public activity (“a theology of mission”)…

Presence: Dwelling as Neighbours and Friends

“To share as neighbors and friends in the everyday experiences of life, to invest as neighbors and friends in the development of others is both the extension and the foundation of shalom. It means to reject – as individuals, families, and churches – withdrawing into privileged social and economic enclaves inside and outside the city.” (115)

On social capital in inner-city neighbourhoods…

“the more people build and remain in relationships of reciprocity, particularly in local institutions and associations, the greater the increase in trust that builds among them”

“while there is no question that local institutions in the inner city have been harmed and that the social fabric has been torn, every neighborhood also has considerable strengths, capacities, and reserves of mutual responsibility and caring. Indeed, without strong relationships of caring, survival in the inner city would be impossible.” (116)

On ‘neighbouring’, ‘hesed (‘faithful commitment’) and friendship

“Neighboring [for the people of Israel, as in the book of Proverbs] entailed the daily work of building a just and supportive community characterized by trust. ‘Without such trust … a healthy social environment could not be established, and where there was no such feeling of interdependence and solidarity (hesed) the very foundations of morality would be undermined.’ In hesed, the mutual commitment to the flourishing of others, we find the glue of community.” (117)

(Walter Brueggemann) “The Deuteronomic tradition presents society as a neighborhood and enjoins attitudes and policies that enhance neighboliness. Deuteronomy insists that economic life must be organized to ensure the well being of widows, orphans and immigrants. This response to dislocation insists that maintaining a public economy of compassion and justice is a way to move beyond despair.”

“A relationship with Christ, as the parable of the Good Samaritan expresses, is defined not by being a neighbor in the passive sense but by finding ways to cross boundaries and to be a neighbor to the afflicted in ways that advance their flourishing.”

“a deeper goal of relationships is friendship… Friendship that is in imitation of Christ’s friendship with women and men is both something of the peace that God desires and the relational bridge to the peace of the city.” (118)

Prayer: the Urban Future Belongs to the Intercessors

(Walter Wink) “Even a small number of people, firmly committed to the new inevitability on which they have fixed their imaginations, can decisively affect the shape the future takes. These shapers of the future are the intercessors, who call out the future, the longed-for new present.” (118)

“For Wink, prayer constitutes resistance against the powers. When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, which recognizes the authority of God over the powers of the age, the hope of the kingdom over the fallen world, they declare resistance and a counterview of the city.”

“Prayer is the cry from the depths to God, a plea that the world be different, that our children not die before their time, that our homes be decent, and that our hearts be made new.”

“When justice is required, when the daily struggle for life seems overwhelming, Jesus teaches us to pray and not give up in the face of oppression.” (119)

Public Activity: Putting Faith into Action

“To seek the peace of the city means that Christians are to be active participants – not spectators – working to bring alternative forms of urban life into being. Seeking the peace of the inner city therefore enjoins activity that enhances the social, physical, aesthetic, and economic world in which we dwell.” (120)

“In seeking the peace of the city, we do well to avoid beginning with complex plans and major proposals. Certainly community plans are important, but they should emerge out of genuine local ownership and responsibility. Responding to real needs, they will have an ad hoc, organic character. This means that what the church is called to do and how it should go about answering that call will not always be clear. The church is to bring its faith into the messy world of the city because it is called to ‘look… to the interests of others’ (Phil. 2:4).” (120-1)

The difference of peace-making

“The social and economic violence that created the inner city is not overcome with the simple announcement of a counter-narrative of peace, but rather requires the hard work of forging concrete new beginnings of shalom.” (121)

Peace-making without manipulation

“’serving’ others can get in the way of building community. All too often… human service ends up being about our own needs and desires, not the underlying human fabric of a neighborhood. … Whenever a church defines a community and its needs apart from the people of the community, a manipulative process is set in motion, one that often serves only the extension of the church’s own interests, goals, and power. Language, agenda-setting, and unconsciously held notions of superiority are common conductors of a manipulative process. … Inner-city neighborhoods are skilled in discerning between the well-intentioned and the self-serving. By necessity, they know and signal that they know the difference between sincere yet fumbling efforts (made by the church that is honestly attempting to be with the community) and insincere yet ‘professional’ attempts of ‘service’ (made by the church claiming to be ‘for’ the community). Inner-city residents are highly gifted in the art of discernment; they have often watched people trying to import their agendas. … My experience is that inner-city communities do not judge as harshly the stumbling yet humble. Indeed, they are quite likely to show an amazing grace in response. But to that which is self-serving and manipulative in the name of ‘service’, these communities react in ways that protect their own interests. At times it may seem like a community ‘buys in’ to a development plan or a religious project, but in subtle ways usually invisible to outsiders, resistance to such manipulation is constantly taking place.” (122-3)

“the church’s goal is to be God’s peace in the broken places and to bear witness to the kingdom of God. It sides not with the privileged and powerful but with those the world counts as nothing. This is the politics of Christ and the cross.”

“Miroslav Volf has called such an approach the ‘soft difference’. Developing this insight in an important reading of 1 Peter, he writes, ‘I do not mean a weak difference, for in 1 Peter the difference is anything but weak. It is strong, but it is not hard. Fear for oneself and one’s identity creates hardness. The difference that joins itself with hardness always presents the other with a choice: either submit or be rejected, either ‘become like me or get away from me’. In the mission to the world, hard difference operates with open or hidden pressures, manipulation, and threats. A decision for a soft difference, on the other hand, presupposes a fearlessness which 1 Peter repeatedly encourages his readers to assume (3:14; 3:6). People who are secure in themselves – more accurately, who are secure in their God – are able to live the soft difference without fear. They have no need either to subordinate or damn others, but can allow others space to be themselves. For people who live the soft difference, mission fundamentally takes the form of witness and invitation. They seek to win others without pressure or manipulation, sometimes even ‘without a word’ (3:1).”

“Not only should urban faith be soft, gentle, and humble in its witnessing and often non-conforming difference; it must be alive in practice. … Oriented to the plight of the non-persons in the urban world, Christianity is to offer living expressions of its hope founded and centred in Jesus Christ.” (124-5)

Making a difference

(Nicholas Wolterstorff, addressing children’s ministers) “It is your calling to struggle to make the world a place in which their innocent, vulnerable playfulness is appropriate… Be under no illusion that your efforts will bring about the holy city for children. But likewise, do not despair of making a difference. For it is God’s cause; and God will take both your fumbling and your skillful efforts and use them as building stones for God’s holy city.”

“Faithfulness toward the advance of more whole communities, not the development or promise of perfect ones, is the measure of peacemaking.” (125)

“Nourished by the guiding image of shalom, not the logic of the market, in a neighborhood where God’s peace runs like a deep current, weary families would find new strength and joy. Every gift would be appreciated and called into service. Those able to work would have employment that both served the common good and provided a living wage. Miserable housing would be a thing of the past, replaced by homes offering beauty and safety. Vacant land would be turned into gardens filled with flowers and vegetables, reclaimed for local economic development, or designated for affordable housing. Children would attend schools that nurtured the whole person, mind and spirit, enabling them to navigate the world successfully. Streets would be safe, and the innocent would not fear those who protect. No more would the emergency room be a doctor’s office, for quality health services would be personal and available when needed. An atmosphere of neighborly commitment would reinforce bonds of trust. And by virtue of all of these things being signs of shalom, at the center of this experience would be the acknowledgment of God as the giver of this gift, the One in whose service human beings are called to live responsibly. This is how the neighborhoods of the city should work.” (125-6)

“To be peacemakers in the … inner city is the opposite of giving in to apathy, of razing neighborhoods, of imploding buildings, of excluding the poor, of insulating oneself from risk. To seek the peace of the city is to have a vision of friendship and community and a commitment to justice, joy, forgiveness, and salvation. It is to engage in kingdom work in the city based on a distinctive understanding of what it means to be the people of God, an understanding that expresses itself in love and sacrifice in service to others, especially the most vulnerable. … As a model of God’s new urban social order, the church signals an alternative to all forms of exclusion.” (126)

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