legal. tender.

25 01 2017

There isn’t much tenderness in public conversation. Human lives are reduced to economic units. Economic units are
traded
bought
bargained.

Given value. Have value taken away.

whatislegaltender

Some people have larger economic value. They tend to be in charge. Society values economic value. It proves something about being successful. In collecting units.

Those units are described as money. Legal tender. But there’s not much tender about it  in public conversation.

Being every job lost or gained, there are people with a story.
Behind every business growing or struggling, there are people with a story.
Behind every Foodbank client, there are people with a story.
Behind every Brexit promise of prosperity or poverty, there are people with a story.
Behind every cleaner struggling on a ‘living wage’ cleaning the offices of the wealthiest bankers, there are people with a story.
Behind every ‘workplace assessment’ there are people with a story.
Behind every commuter’s season ticket, there are people with a story.

When talking about what is legal tender we need to talk more tenderly. Because it is never just numbers, economics, figures. It’s part of someone’s story.
The economy is not an ‘it’, it is ‘us’.
It is not over there, it is in here.
It exists only as a collection of human relationships and decisions.

We are not subservient to it, we are inherent within it.
We are relational humans, not neutral units.

We do well to remember this, in a world that separates people from the economy we serve, and prizes the collecting of units above all else. It is legal tender, so let’s tender it, legally, with tenderness.

Because people are not units to be
traded
bought
bargained.

We should give each other value, not take it away.

 

 





unexpectedly political values | being taken advantage of

26 04 2015

In this world of Katie Hopkins-style vindictiveness and politicians’ obsession with only supporting “hard-working families”, I know I’m onto a loser with this next in the series of ‘unexpectedly political values’: being taken advantage of. advantage Is that even a value? Isn’t it a bit… negative? Well, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, which is actually about humiliation not fighting. When you are slapped on your right cheek, it is because you have received a publicly humiliating back-handed slap. So to turn the left cheek means intentionally offering yourself more humiliation. Being taken advantage of.

Jesus said if a soldier taken your cloak, give him your coat also. This is in military dictatorship. They didn’t ask, they demanded, and even if it was your only cloak, you complied. Jesus says offer more. Be taken advantage of. In these times, with vindictive welfare cuts and Mediterranean boat people and a continuous attempt to hold tightly to what is ours at all costs, we need to learn from Jesus.

To be taken advantage of. On purpose.

How does this work out in practice? Take Foodbanks – people have said to me, don’t people take advantage of it? My response: yes, some will. But it is worth it for those that don’t. Take the welfare system. People say some will take advantage. My response: yes, some will. But it is worth it for those that don’t. Take the tax system. Won’t some take advantage? Yes, but we don’t stop the system because of that. 

When the young people would hang out on the church roof and we befriended them, there were times they took advantage of our kindness. But we were ok with that, because it was worth it for the times they didn’t. The same goes for being the local drop-in for a hundred different things, as I talked about in knock knock, with this selection of items we’ve been asked for:

string for conkers / stamps / broadband / cookies / postman’s wee-stop / trampoline storage / trampoline usage / duct tape / brownies / a football / puncture repair / advocacy / fixing up a gate post / cushions / banter / first aid / Facebook / umbrella / a step ladder / laundry / a garden fork / oranges / downloading Enrique Iglesias / telephoning social services / a shower / odd jobs / water / a lift in the rain / a youth club / Nesquik / time

It is an unexpectedly political value to accept being taken advantage of. It doesn’t often feel noble or heroic. Usually it just feels like being taken advantage of. But the Jesus we follow was taken advantage of, and did not retaliate. In fact, he voluntarily gave his advantage away. There’s a challenge. 

Will we allow ourselves to do the same? Will we give our advantage away? Or are we too proud, or too scared of what we might lose…

Other posts in this series of unexpectedly political values:
introduction: the values vacuum
redemption
confession
resurrection





unexpectedly political values | confession

1 04 2015

When you know you have mucked up; when you know One who will take that burden from you; when you know the one who sees all things has seen your life and still says come; when you can no longer live the lie of 21st century consumers trampling on others and just need release; then, confession.

It may sound a bit religious, granted. But the value of living a life in confession cannot be underestimated.

Confession demands humility, you see. And humility means no longer lording it over others, no longer blaming others but taking responsibility for your own cock-ups. Taking responsibility, owning up, confession. This is the stuff of liberation. Freedom. New life. Confession leads to restart, reboot; confession means owning up and asking for help – help! – in not repeating the same negative patterns. It’s repentance, lived out. 

confession

Thinking politically, this takes me to those who hold the money and the power; those in the financial industry who gambled and lost the country’s money; those who rewarded themselves grossly, yet when it all went belly up have taken no responsibility.

It takes me to the interconnected politicians who have fed the public the lie that the poor are to blame and must face the consequences. Who have moved discussion away from Hedge Fund Street to Benefits Street; and a media who have colluded, joined in, protected their own interests.

Confession says we mucked up, we take responsibility; we’re the grown-ups, we can look you in the eye and apologise. Confession is not just me in my little world; or us in our church; confession is an unexpectedly political value that could bind society together, rich and poor, strong and weak; confession says we’re genuinely a community, in humility, under God, who sees all things, knows all things, loves all things.

Confession is and could be an integral part of life, lived as community, in humility, together. If we want that. 





the values vacuum

22 03 2015

The person or people or God you look up to, value, worship; that is where your own core values are likely to come from. We build up on those fundamentals as we develop our own thinking. 

Maybe it is the self-made rags-to-riches kind of hero we look up to, value, worship; and so commend, approve, and emulate. Hardwork, financial success, personal gain, self-improvement, becoming something from nothing. Sacrifice, for personal gain.   

Or maybe its the self-made riches-to-rags kind of hero we look up to, value, worship; then what we commend, approve and emulate might look very different. Self-giving, personal loss, uneconomical generosity, becoming nothing from something. Sacrifice for someone else’s gain. 

Two polar opposites, to make a point. 

values vacuum

My core values come from who I believe God to be. God, as the creator and foundation of everything, including me; his character deeply influences mine. Forms mine. God who does not clutch power like a toddler; God who made himself nothing (Phil 2.6-7); God who endured humiliation. My internal script, my blueprint, my drivenness; they honour and respect this type of God, as revealed in Jesus, who entered the community he cared for, lived in it, listened to it (John 1.14), died for it, rose again for it.

Where do yours come from? Certainly not from a neutral vacuum. 

These values necessarily affect our politics. They have to. And maybe in unexpected ways. Because unlike our current politicians obsession with tiny variations in numbers, being £700 better or worse off over a year does not override all other values. Because of our values, we may have to make political choices that do not directly benefit us, which goes against the visionless politics of ‘what’s best for me’.

Can we do that?  I plan to explore some of these over the next few weeks, putting out questions and challenges to myself, and maybe to you.    





natural (s)election 2015

6 01 2015

Darwin’s theory of natural selection sounds quite lovely, as soft-focus nature browses to select the prettiest flowers to match it’s rousing theme music. But is actually part of the cruel evolutionary process of survival of the fittest; or, elimination of the weakest. Funny how we don’t call it that. Such a cruel process of nature, it was one of the reasons Darwin, a ‘sort of’ Christian, began to question faith in the God of natural theology. How could there be such cruelty in a godly world?

We humans like to think we’re above the cruelty of nature, but in these turbulent political times I think it’s clear we’re not. Christians can be unpopular when we talk about humans being innately “sinful”. It sounds unfair, harsh, after all, just look at all the goodness in the world… But it is in our nature to survive, our instinct to preserve our own at all costs. That’s why Jesus’ teaching about actively loving those who are not our kin were controversial then, and still are now. Which is how we get from Darwin to the election.

This upcoming election will not be about the economy, or immigration, or the NHS, although it will look like it is. Instead it will be about innate human selfishness. It will be the election of natural (s)election – the ‘what’s in it for me’, survival-of-the-fittest generation grabbing whatever toys they can and clutching them like angry toddlers. Black Friday in a suit. 

Or can we be better than that? Can we choose to vote for policies that don’t directly benefit us? Can we put our own situation in second place to society’s need? Will wealthy Christian individuals and business leaders openly speak out for intentionally paying tax? Will the capable and motivated campaign for issues that do not just affect them, but the weakest around them?

The Christian story doesn’t stop at the sinfulness of humanity. Our story goes on to speak of the generosity of God, of his grace that transforms our sinfulness into love and kindness and sacrifice. Our story overcomes natural selection to a very unnatural selection, in which our model is Jesus, who did not clutch his equality with God like a toddler, but made himself nothing for us; in which we look to love and support the weakest, not eliminate them.  

May this upcoming election campaign be one that does not degenerate into a selfishness competition, in which our greatest value is tolerance; but one in which outward-looking values of love, generosity, humility and loving our neighbour triumph. To do that, it must begin with us. 

thingsjesusdidntsay8tolerance








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