Sad Little Circles

Today I got wind of what I think is a very sad story. I see it akin to one of those Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse stories. Sad because it is a story of ignorance and control in a church where one would expect enlightenment and grace.

I recall a conversation I had with my Rabbi friend some years ago. She had volunteered to be part of a multi-faith team invited to a regional city as part of Project Abraham. This was an ecumenical initiative to encourage respect between Jews, Christians and Muslims, seeking to promote inter-religious understanding and respect following the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City – remembered as 9/11.

We were having a coffee together the week after she returned from this visit. She told me how amazed she was that the young people they engaged with in schools were totally ignorant of the Bible. They appeared never to have heard about Noah or Moses; and Jesus was simply a swear word. She is American. So I suppose I was not totally surprised at how stunned she was that Australia, having its roots in a Christian past, had been so careless in its disregard for the sources of its moral heritage.

The problem we have, illustrated in the story I am about to share, is not that we have lost religion. It is that where we have religion, it is often uninformed. It is no wonder that young firebrands declare themselves qualified to be leaders, whether they be upstart, untrained Muslim clerics or so-called Christian (Youth) pastors who seem to claim they have all the answers. It has ever been so. But, as we are beginning to discover, our modern society ignores its ramifications at its peril – and at huge cost.

Here is a largish Uniting Church whose youth leaders have signed a covenant. It commits them to uphold a narrow view, including a rejection of homosexuality. And it claims to be ‘biblical’!

In days gone by, my first response would be to demonstrate that any number of the propositions put forward in the ‘covenant’ are actually ‘unbiblical’, particularly when lined up against the values displayed by Jesus and by his emphasis on love of God and neighbour, and his passion for inclusion of the marginalised.

But I now think there is a more fundamental dynamic at play.

I am informed by the missiologist, Paul Hiebert, who wrote a paper on a thorny issue facing Christian missionaries. Could an uneducated peasant, who couldn’t read the Bible or pass a catechism test, ever become a Christian? Reaching to a missiologist might seem a far stretch, but bear with me.

In my soon to be launched book on Radical Hospitality, I quote large sections of Hiebert’s paper as an appendix to make some points about exclusion and inclusion. Ironically, inclusion-exclusion is exactly what is at the heart of this ‘covenant’ approach. Culturally control and protecting religious purity are attained in one hit. It is classic Phariseism.

The untidy scribble below, an outcome of a coffee discussion with friends about organisational management, draws on Hiebert’s set theory modelling, applied to a discussion about ‘New Wave’ organisation.

IMG_2927 2

The circle on the left, with its list of ‘rules’, represents the ‘covenant’ approach, whether it be churches or other institutional or business regulations.  To enter the circle, there is a recruitment process and then an agreement to the demands of the culture inside the circle. You are either in or out. And if you break the rules inside, you are thrown out. The line of the circle and the rigid demands it protects keeps those who won’t play the inside game, out; and those who submit to them, in.

BTW, this was never the picture I get of Jesus as one reads the Gospels.

The mess on the right of the scribble represents an alternative model. Obviously we had quite a conversation about it! There is a centre. Our belonging in an organisation depends on our direction with respect to the centre. The nature of the centre itself is not necessarily settled. The centre itself is also dynamic, itself moving in a direction determined by the centre’s vision and values, carrying along those who belong by their relational connection to the centre.

Enlightened organisations support this second ‘centred’ model. It is a model that builds responsibility and releases freedom for creativity. It is risky (Jesus called this ‘faith’). Commitment to the vision and values of the centre relativises ‘rules’. ‘Purity’ becomes irrelevant. Change is inherent. Re-evaluation, both about the centre itself and its vision and values, is continuous.

Those who, for whatever reason, join the inside group in the closed circle will one day feel de-personalised. It is a sad outcome that their own spirit will become a spirit of conformity. Their human potential is captured in a bubble that is not interested in what lies outside its own interest. It is ultimately selfish.

Those who take the experimental risk of commitment to a vision and values centre that is moving into the unknown will know they are alive!

What a pity any institutional church with an intent on religious purity, or any business intent on protecting its brand, promotes an ‘in-out’ protectionist consciousness. Coping with present realities of pluralism for social inclusion becomes near impossible.

Perhaps the most exciting thing for me that came out of our coffee conversation was the suggestion: what if there are multiple centres heading in the same direction? I think that is worth further conversation.

 

Book Taking Off!

What a fascinating process, this business of writing a book. Certainly takes one out of circulation while you are working to a deadline.

I have the opportunity of a launch at the Conference of European University Chaplains in Dublin at the beginning of June. That meant a launch in Adelaide before Sandy and I head off. So this launch will be at the Duke of Brunswick Hotel, Gilbert St, City at 3 for 3.30 on the afternoon of Saturday May 26.

Front Cover copy

Anyway, today we finished a fairly intense month or so as we head for the finish line. I’m celebrating it being off to the printer so that the process of making it available globally through on-line booksellers can begin.

You can order a print copy here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/geoff-boyce/radical-hospitality-space-for-human-flourishing-in-a-complex-world/paperback/product-23630504.html

An eBook will soon follow.

Many thanks to the many who have encouraged, cajoled, proofread, made suggestions…and particular to my editor Paul Foord for the layout and negotiating all the technicalities of getting to print; and my son Nick for laying out the covers.

The surprising thing for me has been that throwing myself into burning the candle at both ends to get there has actually been invigorating, smashing my image of retirement as a gentler period of life. Not that the ability to find the right word for the elusive thought is anything but a slow Thesaurus operation! Or it is not a fight to keep at bay  the temptation of sleeping every afternoon!

But this morning I pressed the final button for Lulu.com to go to print.

Yeah!

I hope you enjoy it!

The Impact of a Dream

img_3376-1

 

My friend Robert Muller sent a link to The Now Tribe, which I pass on. It shows what can be done when a couple of social entrepreneurs put their mind to achieving a dream – 230,000 jobs created over ten years, impacting a million people in rural India.

http://www.womenonwings.com/2017/09/the-impact-of-a-dream-230000-jobs-for-rural-women/

Women on Wings’ founders Ellen Tacoma and Maria van der Heijden built a network of likeminded business professionals in the Netherlands and India that work consistently on realizing the dream of creating one million jobs for women in rural India.

230,000 families out of poverty
In ten years, Women on Wings has co-created 230,000 extra jobs for women in rural India, in partnership with 35 Indian social enterprises. That means for 230,000 families an escape from the cycle of poverty – directly impacting over one million people in rural India.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, banker to the poor and founder of Grameen Bank, is the key ambassador of social business. Yunus aims to build an eco-system to support the growth of these new kinds of businesses. Yunus’ belief: “We need to transform this greed based civilization into one based on real human values. We can do it, if only we want to.”

For me, this achievement demonstrates the success of a new way of doing things that matter for humanity, congruent with Frederik Laloux’s emerging fifth paradigm of organisation.

The challenge for churches, corporates and governments is to adapt to empower such new ways of thinking and going about their roles for the the good of humanity.

For the churches this will mean not just accepting religious and cultural pluralism in principle, but to boldly cross sectarian lines to network and work together across historically deeply divisive lines of exclusion, for the benefit of all.

 

Corporate Hospitality

Vector-clipart-office-furniture-free-vector-download-files

Have you ever been invited to a meeting and when you arrive it seems that everyone else knows each other, but you?

Picture senior management sitting around a big long table in silence, waiting for a meeting to begin. You get to sit at the far end of the table.

You start up a conversation with the person alongside. You find out what she does and why she is at the meeting, but that’s about all.

There is some finger food on a side table and we are invited to help ourselves. We are killing a bit of time before the exact time for starting the meeting. There are small bottles of water on the table and some mints in little bowls.

There seems to be complete social dislocation, as only individuals go to the side table one at a time and return with some food to their seat at the long table.

The time to start arrives, but the person to chair the meeting and the top boss haven’t arrived. So we begin a process of going around the table introducing ourselves. It comes around to me eventually, and I have nearly finished my introduction when the boss and his entourage walk in with apologies for their busyness. The process of introductions immediately shuts down as they take over.

The meeting is about a large commercial development with strong social and cultural aspects. These are the stakeholders and heads of various planning departments. The meeting provides an opportunity for the stakeholders to hear how the overall project is progressing.

I don’t get to go to meetings at this level very often and I am grateful for the invitation – offered on the basis of my interest in providing appropriate space to create a culture of positive intercultural and interfaith hospitality, particularly visitors to Adelaide.

I began to reflect on my experience of this meeting  when my daughter Aly and I had a conversation the following evening about a wonderful evening she had, coinciding in time with the meeting I just described.

Her husband, Tim, had written a jingle for Friends of the ABC a few years back: ‘Save the ABC!’ She and Tim had been invited to an ABC dinner, and Tim invited to play a couple of his songs and lead everyone in singing the jingle.

But what blew Aly and Tim away was the culture of genuine hospitality among the gathering.

‘Someone would come over, introduce themselves and after some exchange, say ‘O you must meet so and so! And then escort her over and introduce her to someone else – and so on!’

I must admit that I would have been happy just to sit next to Max Gillies, as Aly did, once the dinner started! (Max Gillies became famous for his Bob Hawke impersonations).

Good luck with commercial ventures that want human connections, if the strategists do not even know how to welcome a stranger to their meetings!

As Ghandi advised: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’!

The Friday Post

Geoff- doc title2.001

Sydney bus sign –
If you think violence against women is a big problem, tackle it when it’s little.

Idea of the week –
Project Auction

Projects are pitched in front of invited philanthropists and corporate representatives, who then bid on projects they want to support. Relationships are developed between the entrepreneurs and their benefactors.

Thought I’m pondering –
The god of religion is too small.

‘NOW’ New Years Party – 
I’m looking to support someone who would like to set up a date and venue for a BYO ‘New Years Party’ to enable the Now Tribe, and others on the same page, to make face-to-face connections and celebrate the opportunities of 2018.

Great Moment of the week – 
Paul Kelly and Co at the Sydney Opera House on ABC TV.

Friday Post

Geoff- doc title2.001

What I’ve been hearing on Radio this week – 
Interview with Swedish journalist Elisabeth Asbrink and her dynamic new book:
1947: When now begins.

1947 was the year that WW2 formally ended, with the signing of the peace treaty in Paris. In the same year Simone de Beauvoir started writing The Second Sex, and George Orwell completed ‘1984’. It was a year of momentous change, in Palestine, in India and Pakistan. It saw the development of post-war fascist movements, a new beginning for Jews, and the rise of the Islamic Brotherhood. The formation of the UN was underway, with the post-war mantra ‘never again’.

http://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgyGE8PeK7?play=true

Dumbest political comment of the week –
Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne says the 580 men refusing to leave the Manus Island detention centre are “squatters” and he’s urged them to move on.
(like the homeless in Rundle Mall?)

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/manus-island-detainees-remaining-squatters-christopher-pyne/9136760

New Music – The gentle Irish singer-songwriter with justice and peace never far from his intent: Luka Bloom, Refuge.
(Includes a new rendition of his anthem, I Am Not At War With Anyone.)
(Original version at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujmkUY4relo)

Moment of the week –
Lunch with Kitty, a homeless 30 year old, who is helping me seed the idea of the homeless caring for the homeless.
(See my last blog, Under the Blanket, for the reason why we have to de-industrialise the welfare sector and to empower people as ‘experts in their own lives’  – Dulwich Centre philosophy.)

What I’ve begun reading this week – An Other Kingdom – departing the consumer culture, by Block, Brueggemann and McKnight.

Our seduction into beliefs in competition, scarcity, and acquisition are producing too many casualties. We need to depart a kingdom that creates isolation, polarized debate, an exhausted planet, and violence that comes with the will to empire. The abbreviation of this empire is called a consumer culture.

We think the free market ideology that surrounds us is true and inevitable and represents progress. We are called to better adapt, be more agile, more lean, more schooled, more, more, more. Give it up. There is no such thing as customer satisfaction.

We need a new narrative, a shift in our thinking and speaking. An Other Kingdom takes us out of a culture of addictive consumption into a place where life is ours to create together.  This satisfying way depends upon a neighborly covenant?an agreement that we together, will better raise our children, be healthy, be connected, be safe, and provide a livelihood. The neighborly covenant has a different language than market-hype. It speaks instead in a sacred tongue.

Authors Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, and John McKnight invite you on a journey of departure from our consumer market culture, with its constellations of empire and control. Discover an alternative set of beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable?a culture in which the social order produces enough for all. They ask you to consider this other kingdom. To participate in this modern exodus towards a modern community. To awaken its beginnings are all around us. An Other Kingdom outlines this journey to construct a future outside the systems world of solutions.

Thank you of the week – 
To all my wonderful friends and family from all over the world! I am so inspired to have you all as friends!

 

Under the Blanket

No automatic alt text available.

I found this image on the Facebook page of Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, senior elder and Dhurili Clan leader of the Yolngu peoples of Northeast Arnhem Land. It represents the reality he, and  Aboriginal families, face daily.

In a recent interview, frustrated by the incapacity of successive Federal Governments to understand and respect the rights of Aboriginal people for self-determination, he said that the situation was like the Government holding a blanket over them. The rest of Australia only see the blanket. They cannot see what happens underneath.

This short edited section of a video message to the Labour Party Conference in 2011 expresses something of the frustration and sense of humiliation of the Aboriginal people, from their point of view.

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra message to ALP conference, 2011. (edited section)

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra responds to the ‘second Intervention’ otherwise known as ‘Stronger Futures in the NT’, a new Commonwealth Government initiative which will maintain key powers introduced through the NT Intervention. This message was screened in Sydney on Saturday December 3, at a meeting hosted by the CFMEU Indigenous Committee, “The Case Against the NT Intervention”. The meetings was part of the official Fringe program of the ALP national conference. Dr Gondarra is a Senior Elder from Elcho Island.

You put something on the spoon, and then you put the spoon in our mouth…like a child.

More recently, the present Federal Government dismissed out of hand, the considered will of the Aboriginal people for Federal political representation, expressed in the ‘Uluru Statement From the Heart’.

In doing so, I believe we see the continuing determination of colonialist interest to maintain control and superiority, while paying lip service and ‘buying off’ the original owners and custodians of the land.

I see these issues through the lens of the spiritual. Western culture seems to have cut itself off from its spiritual values, incapable of appreciating the deep meaning of ‘from the heart’, reduced to the tangibles of black letter policy and regulation to maintain the material interests of the few – making sure that the blanket of such protectionism looks beneficial to the rest of us, while hiding away the spiritual pain of the powerless beneath.

And most recently, more colour has been added to the blanket, by maintaining citizenship purity – of who can be elected to Parliament on the basis of an outdated section of the Constitution, interpreted by ‘black letter’ judges appointed by a ‘black letter’ government!

The situation of refugees on Manus Island, ‘The Pacific Solution’, is completely congruent.