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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in Christianity (6)

Thursday
Nov152018

The anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's ordination - Christians and power relations

Today is the anniversary of the Ordination of German pastor, theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (15 November 1931).

I spoke to Bradley Kirsten on 729 Cape Pulpit this morning about how Christians engage with 'power' - power in our nations, power in our communities, power in our families, power in our workplaces.

I chose this theme in reflection upon the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And then, in my morning devotional reading, this reflection by the South African theologian John Van De Laar challenged me deeply! It is well worth reading. I will place a link to John's daily devotions at the end of this post.

How do we respond to the ways of power and dominance in our world? The most natural response is to retaliate, using force to overcome force and violence to deal with violence. It’s tempting to place our faith in bigger guns, more money, and better power plays, but there is no peace or security to be found in that course. It doesn’t matter whether it’s conflict between nations or conflict between individuals, when we allow violence to beget more violence, we bring nothing but greater destruction, pain, and death into our world. It may feel good to dominate another, or to get revenge on an antagonist, but ultimately, when we make the quest for power the guiding force in our lives, we lose our souls.

Jesus had a very different way of living. When his disciples admired the grandeur of the temple, which had come to represent both political and spiritual power and wealth, Jesus warned them that such human power systems would not survive. The temple, and those who enjoyed power because of it, would be destroyed. Human attempts to claim power – whether through war or pretending to be great spiritual leaders (messiahs) – would ultimately bring nothing but destruction. What lasts is the way of powerless peace that Jesus lived and preached. As powerful as the Roman Empire was when it destroyed the temple (as Jesus had predicted), it could not withstand the power of the Gospel. It took a few hundred years, but ultimately love and peace remained and the Empire collapsed.

Most of us will have little to do with the power plays of governments and nations, except as we use our vote or our voice to engage in political processes. But, we all have to face power dynamics in our lives, our families, and our communities every day. Here is where we need to make the choice either to embrace the power games of the world, or to embody the “powerless” peace of Jesus, refusing to retaliate, being quick to forgive, and quick to share whatever power we have with others. This is the theme we will explore this week.


See John's daily worship resources at: http://sacredise.com/category/daily-worship/

 

Sunday
Oct282018

Pyrotheology - searching for certainty, and embracing our doubts

The Irish theologian, Peter Rollins, was part of a unique Church community in New York City called 'IconNYC'. If I understand it correctly, it was a year long experiment in Christian community that sought to consider the Christian journey, indeed the Christian community, in ways that held the tensions of doubts, uncertainties, and the realities of our struggles with belief.

Having some understanding of how the brain works, I realise how difficult it is for us, as human beings, to live with uncertainty. Our neuro-evolution has formed us to want patterns, to create certainty and predictability, for the sake of our survival. This can be seen in how we seek out communities of belonging that we understand (what in inter-group contact theory is called 'in-group' identity). We can understand how persons of a certain race, culture, economic class, religion, think and behave. So we seek sameness, and become afraid of difference. This leads to inter-group contact anxiety between the self and the other. It is not surprising to me that Americans want to build a wall, that European countries are trying to keep migrants out, and that racism and identity politics continue to thrive in South Africa. None of these things is just, right, or even desirable. Yet, we fall into the traps of self interest, and self protection. We are wired for it to a certain extent.

However, we soon find that even in the in-group there are differences. White protestant women in Chicago, IL see the world differently from white protestant men in Birmingham, AL. Not all South Africans see the world in the same way... You get the idea.

In my experience, the pursuit of certainty is painful, it is limiting, it binds us to our fears, instead of releasing us for freedom.

The 'IconNYC' community, and Peter Rollins' 'Pyrotheology' speak to me as I contemplate these issues. I am currently in Gothenburg in Sweden. Here I am the cultural, linguistic and geographical stranger (not to mention a stranger to the climate! I realised yesterday as it snowed, that my body was formed from the African soil, and baked in the African sun!) Yet, the difference, the strangeness, the doubts, can be OK. I can learn about others, and about myself. I can slow down and listen - paying a little more attention to unfamiliar people, places and experiences. And the difference becomes a gift. I don't have to collapse it into my world-view, or contain it in my understanding or experience. I can just participate, observe, experience, and know what I can.

It is a sacred experience. It reminds me that God is Swedish... And also African... And Asian... You get the idea? We are because of who God is. Our diversity is an expression of God's creativity.

Here is what Rollins had to say about uncertainties, doubts and pyrotheology:

 

The good news nestled in the heart of Christianity is not that which gives us certainty and satisfaction, but rather is that which helps us embrace our un-knowing, our doubts, and our dissatisfaction… Instead of seeking a burning bush, a place where God is, we will discover that every bush is burning, that everything is sacred and full of depth, if we only have eyes to see.
- Peter Rollins, Pyrotheology

If you have 3 minutes more, you may want to listen to him speaking about this in his wonderful Irish accent! See the video below, or at this link: https://youtu.be/gY-VITTf7k4

 

Thursday
Oct252018

#ThursdaysInBlack - towards a world without rape and violence for women

The sad reality is that women and girls continue to face the threats of physical and sexual violence as part of daily life. How is this possible in 2018?

The World Council of Churches started a campaign some years ago to bring awareness to this issue, it is called 'Thursdays in Black'. They encourage persons to wear black clothing on a Thursday, and if you have one, to wear a Thursdays in Black 'pin' (you will see an example in my little video). 

By doing so we show solidarity with women and girls, we commit ourselves to living in a different way, and we create some awareness and conversation around this crucial issue.

Please consider joining this movement at http://www.thursdaysinblack.co.za - this link will take you to the CABSA website. Here you can read about the history of this movement, get some resources and ideas, and even order your 'Thursdays in Black' pin.

There is one additional element that has emerged from persons commenting on the video - some people have asked me about the idea that men can also be feminists. Prof Nico Norman Koopman wrote a beautiful article addressing men on this issue. I am trying my best to be an ally to women. Some would say that when one embodies these values, even men can be feminists. See Nico Koopman's article here: http://scriptura.journals.ac.za/pub/a...

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Tuesday
Aug012017

Religion and Public Life across the world? A week of teaching at Cambridge University

It has been almost two weeks since I returned from Cambridge. I had the privilege of teaching on a Doctor of Ministry course at Wesley House, Cambridge University. This particular degree is co-hosted by Wesley House and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. My senior colleague, and friend, Prof Bruce Birch (the Dean of Wesley Seminary) had invited me to teach on the course. It was such a wonderful blessing to be able to visit Wesley House again. I have been a friend of the Principal of Wesley House, Dr Jane Leach, for more than a decade.

You can find out more about this magnificent doctoral course at this link - I can highly recommend it for anyone who desires to engage in relevant, critical, theological study that will make a contribution in Church, society and academy.

The 'cohort' of students that I had the joy of spending a week with were amazing. It was a diverse group of academics from all across the world (18 in total, one colleague from Liberia could not get a visa). Each of them had a particular connection to the Church and was seeking to develop as both a theological and ministry leader to better serve in their context. The class discussions were deeply challenging, lively, and of an extremely high level. I was so impressed by the persons, their experience, knowledge and preparation for the course.

The week on which I taught aimed to bring together an understanding of Christianity as an historically 'glo-cal' phenomenon i.e., a faith that is globally oriented, yet locally contextualised. During the week we considered a number of aspects of the history, theology, geography, culture and demography of different Christianities across the world and across history.

We read Kim, S. & Kim, K. 2016. Christianity as a World Religion: An Introduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic. It is a wonderful 'survey' text that traces the development of contextual expressions of Christianity across the continents of the world in historical and theological detail. I can highly recommend this book.

In addition we also considered the work of Taylor, C. 2009. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. And some exceprts on the role of religion in public life from the brand new book: Kim, S. & Day, K. Eds. 2017. A Companion to Public Theology. Leiden Bosten: BRILL.

It was just such a wonderful experience to be in community at Wesley House - it is truly one of the most remarkable places of learning - a true scholarly community with a deep commitment to academic excellence and spiritual discipline. I learnt a great deal from the colleagues on the course, and in my preparation to teach the course was once again inspired and challenged to think critically and carefully about the role of the religion (and the Church) in public life. It can be a great source for good, but also a space of struggle. I was reminded just how much good work Christians and Churches do, and how much more work there is to do in service of God's Kingdom and humanity and the planet's wholeness.

Below are two videos: First, is a video I recorded in Cambridge on the content of the course and some of our focus points in Christianity as a Global / World religion. My thoughts were a little scattered, and I was also a little destracted by the persons walking past. But, it gives some idea of what I was thinking.

Second, I would commend this video, recorded with Prof Jan Jans from Tilburgh University (about a year earlier) on the death of religion and the rise of spirituality in Europe. It is also a very interesting discussion! Jan is a great friend who visits us at Stellenbosch each year. I love his energy and insights!

As always I would love to hear your thoughts, and ideas. How do you express your faith in your context? What is the role of Christianity and religion in your community?

 

Wednesday
Aug182010

Let's Re-Abolish Slavery!

The sad reality is that slavery exists throughout the world today!

Simply stated there are millions of people across the world who are enslaved to work for others without being paid, or are being forced to work against their will. This is slavery.

Women and men are enslaved throughout the world by unscrupulous people trap them into a form of 'debt bondage' - the most common form of slavery in the world. For example a young woman is approached for a great job in a new country. When she arrives she has to hand over her passport to her 'employer'. The employer then tells her that for her to have food and shelter will cost her much more than she will earn by working as a waitress... For example her housing and food will cost her R1000.00 a day, while she may only earn R100.00 a day. Within a matter of days the ammount she owes her emoployer becomes so high that there is no way she can repay it. The 'employer' refuses to release her passport, or her, until she pays her debt. The only way to pay the debt is to sell her body for sex (at a higher rate of payment). In truth, the debt is seldom paid and the person is enslaved for the rest of their lives!

If you are wondering if there is slavery in your area please visit http://www.slaverymap.org and check your area. You may be shocked to discover how common slavery is across the world! David Batstone Not For Sale Campaign.jpgOne of the other amazing, and necessary, areas that the Not For Sale Campaign is working, is to ensure that there is no forced labour within the supply chain.

For example who made the shoes that you're wearing? Are you and I inadvertently wearing people's suffering? The way of Christ is a way of freedom for all - as a Christian in the marketplace you can stand with us to transform the structures of society within which God has placed you. Please join the Not For Sale Campaign to help people to have the dignity to be free to live and work without suffering. Please check out http://www.free2work.org to get your company or business rated.

Buying products is not only about cost - it is also about price - we need to ask ourselves Who paid the price for this product? Not only what is the cost?

Yesterday I was truly blessed to meet David Batstone at the Power Group, and today I attended his workshop at the Louis Group. David is an amazing guy who is rallying people for the sake of the Kingdom of God and freedom of all people.

David is an incredible example of Colossians 3:23-24 'Whatever your task do it as for the Lord'. He is truly using his work, influence, network of relationships, and passion for ministry! Please pray for him and the campaign, and together with this join him in re-abolishing slavery!

Tuesday
Jun012010

A new way of 'being community' - Ron Martoia's ttTribe Manifesto

I have been a fan of Ron Martoia's work for some time now.  I devoured his recent book 'The Bible as Improv' (on my iPad no less!) and found it to be one of the most accessible, and clearly reasoned books on forming a Biblical faith in a world of competing truths.  Ron's style is not to skirt around thorny issues, but to approach them head on, thoughtfully and meticulously deconstructing the facts from the fiction.  His work is well researched, extremely well written, but what sets it apart from other such excellent texts are his ideas!

Ron has a passion for authentic faith and an authentic expression and experience of being in community with Jesus Christ.  I find a great personal resonance in his passionate approach to knowing Christ and making him known.  When I read Ron's books, and the posts on his blog, I get an image of someone who is not willing to live with a lie, or a half truth, or a denial of the difficulty of being in relationship with God in Christ in real world situations!  There are far too many Christian authors and theologians who skim over the tough questions and real challenges for the sake of comfort; placing a higher value on appeasing the masses than on discovering and sharing expressions of truth.

Today Ron released his 'Transformational Trek Tribe Manifesto' - it is a challenging series of invitations for authentic Christian living.  As I read it my perceptions of the Christian faith and Christian living were challenged and reshaped.  It is only 12 pages long, but perhaps these are among the best 12 pages I've read this year.  There are some points that I am still digesting, considering, and praying through.  I guess that is the way it should be with challenging thoughts!  You may not agree with everything that Ron writes in the ttTribe Manifesto, but it will certainly challenge you to seek a deeper, more sincere, and more authentic faith life in Christ and the world.  I invite you to read it!

I will be making this required reading for my students!  Once you've read it I would love to hear your feedback and comments!