Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Conflicting Thoughts about Occupy Vancouver

Post 47--:

Occupy as a Critical Election Issue

Vancouver is currently in a campaign mode for her City Council. It could just be that the Occupy Vancouver movement will provide the tipping point about who will be elected, especially for the mayor position. The two major mayor candidates are quite at odds with each other on this issue. While Suzan Anton of the more conservative CPA, a designation of honour to me, wants to close down the Occupy Vancouver campout at the Art Gallery, the incumbent Mayor Gregory Robertson wants also to end it but seems fearful of riots if force is used.

My Observations as Visitor

May I treat you to my humble opinion. Almost every day I take a walk through downtown and then always take a detour to check out the camp. I have observed their meetings and listened to discussions. Most of it is quite civil; crudity is kept to a minimum. Also I can sympathize with many of the complaints written out on thousands of banners, cardboard and other means.

Just a half hour ago on this Halloween night, I checked out the place again. A leader was informing her followers that she would be speaking at the meeting of City Council tomorrow to help defeat Anton’s proposal. Nothing was said about Robertson. Apparently, they do not consider him a threat, perhaps even an ally?

Justice and Ending Prohibition

Another speaker affirmed two things about the movement. One: people have joined the movement for a large variety of reasons and purposes; nothing has been defined. Two: underneath all the variations is the hunger for justice. That’s what ties the whole movement together. He went on to assert that a huge justice issue is the imprisonment of some 52,000+ people for the simple act of drug possession. This, he explained, is a tremendous drain on the national economy and eats up our resources in terms of police, prison staff, lawyers, judges. It diverts much needed money from more needy causes and thus represents a great injustice to all Canadians. He proposed that simple drug possession should be decriminalized and all these prisoners be freed. Prohibition should be scrapped.

My own reaction to this is partially affirmative. Prohibition has never worked and only creates an underworld of crime and violence, with every prisoner costing us around $120,000 p. a. You’ve read that statistic before in my blogs. Yes, $120,000 a prisoner p.a! For 52,000 prisoners that spells a cool $6,240,000,000! If I’m not mistaken, that translates to nearly six and a quarter billion dollars! Per year! And the FG wants to increase the number of prisoners? For them to do so for crimes of violence and other dangers, is one thing, but for simple possession? I am a member of the federal Conservative Party, but I do not agree with the continued imprisonment of mere possessors. Prohibition should be scrapped forthwith and distribution regulated and taxed like all other products.

Concern about US Reaction

If the US balks at this, let them improve on their drug detection skills. After all, we don’t want their guns coming into our country but they freely allow everyone to own guns. We end up with smuggled guns we don’t want, but that has not moved the US to curtail gun ownership. And we end up with extra security expenses. At the same time, you don’t want to alienate the best customer of our products too much. That could really do damage to our economy and create more of the injustice Occupy is lamenting.

Advice to Occupy from a Sympathizer

However, as to the Occupy Vancouver movement itself, it is high time they begin to focus their efforts on specific issues. They owe it to the public whose resources they abuse and even ruin, such as the lawn at the Art Gallery. They should take responsibility for the public expenditure and reimburse the authorities that are currently spending their resources on them. And then they should move on to a less offensive location. They should realize that the public is getting tired. If they continue much longer, they will lose a lot of goodwill. And then they should form a committee to represent the movement.

After the movement has established a committee and decided on certain issues on which to focus, city and provincial governments should seriously listen sympathetically to them on condition that they pay for the expenses and the damages they have caused and that they move to another less public space. Together they should agree on some forms of action that will address various justice issue.

My Meaner Moment

In my meaner moments, I feel that the media should perform a news blackout on them, ignore them totally. It is the media that keep the dynamic of the movement going. If the media blacks out all references to the movement, it will soon lose steam and disappear from the people’s radar. They will simply dissipate and disappear as far as the public goes. But then, the dialogue will not take place either and that would be a shame. Let’s face it, there is a lot of injustice that needs to be addressed and I thank Occupy for forcing the discussion on us.

Source of Income

A final remark: someone (in the media?) should do a poll of Occupy participants as to where or how they get the wherewithal for food and other basics? Do they have jobs? Are they students with public scholarships they are now squandering? Are they on welfare? How have they contributed to society before they joined Occupy? I think that the public would be very interested in this question. I am going to suggest it to the Vancouver Sun.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rick Warren: Wealth and Purposes

Post 46--:

Introducing Rick Warren

You may enjoy the new insights that Rick Warren has with his wife now having cancer and his having 'wealth' from book sales. This is an absolutely incredible short interview with Rick Warren, 'Purpose Driven Life ' author and pastor of Saddleback Church in California.

Someone sent me this interview and I pass it on to you not because Warren has the last word on wealth. I would probably use it for some other or additional purposes, less oriented to church, more to the world. But that's OK. Here is another concrete example of NOT using your wealth for your own purposes, to invest in the good of your neighbour.

The Purpose of Life

In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said: People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body -- but not the end of me I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity....

Life: Hills and Valleys?

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.
The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

Life: Railway Tracks

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life..

The Strengthening Focus

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:

If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain. But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her - It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

Dealing with the Good and the Bad

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life. Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

What He Did with His Wealth

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.


We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity?
Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)? When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do. That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD..
If you do not pass it on, nothing will happen. That's a switch!!

God's Blessings

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jack Layton: Love Is Better than....

Post 45--:

Wonderful Summer Weather

It’s been and still is a wonderful summer here on Canada’s West Coast, though it was unusually slow in starting. I have loved it and spent a fair amount of time—weeks in fact—away from my desk and, hence, away from this blog. Visiting our kids and families in WA and near SF in CA with days of RV-“camping” in between. Since then, “backyard” RVing in southern BC—with more to come. If you like a moderate climate without extremes of heat and cold, then BC’s south-west coast and much of Vancouver Island is the place to be. So a bit of a lull, but one you can understand, I believe. But, while it’s still great summer stuff in the middle of September, here I am, once again slogging/blogging it out. Welcome to Fall.

The Passing of Jack Layton

While my wife and I were enjoying it out there in the sunshine with children and grandchildren and, not to forget, the 20-foot RV, not everyone was so blessed. In fact, most of my cohabitants in Canada and, indeed, the world, were either working hard, which really is a blessing, or they were suffering in any of a thousand ways. One of these was Jack Layton, the leader of the opposition in the Canadian Parliament. Layton succumbed to cancer at the relatively young age of 61.

Though I am interested in politics, I have not followed Layton very much in his activities or speeches and am hardly enamoured with his party, while my concern for the poor and marginalized is no less than was his. But everyone one liked and respected “Jack” as he now is popularly called, personally, even his political opponents. He was honoured with a state funeral. Maclean’s, Canada’s premier news magazine, published “A Special Tribute” about him.

Jack and Religion

I don’t know whether Jack himself or others would consider him religious. Admittedly, I have read little about him, even during these days of national mourning, but I get the impression that religion was not one of his focal points. I have not read any references to such a phase of his life, except that I did read that he was deeply influenced by Charles Taylor, one of Canada’s premier philosophers and an overt Christian.

Jack's Dictum

Be that as it may, among other things, Jack left behind him a statement that has suddenly become very popular. Not only is it featured on the Maclean’s cover (Sept. 12, 2001), but parts appear on T-shirt and on all kinds of popular trinkets. The entire statement reads:
“Love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.”

There is, of course, nothing new about these sentiments; the Bible is full of them throughout. Was Jack intentionally summarizing Biblical teachings or was he merely expressing common platitudes that few would disagree with but understand in a secular framework? I don’t know. Probably only his closest associates know.

The Dictum's Popularity

My question is why this has become such a popular quotation in Canadian culture. Why do I see it all around me in Vancouver’s secular downtown? I suspect it is because it strikes a common chord in the minds of my fellow citizens. Many of them are plague by anger, fear and despair. Jack knew his countrymen well and was aware of the negative climate blanketing the nation. Canada has never been cited by the polls that measure degrees of happiness. A country as wretched as Nigeria has made it more than once near to the top of such happiness polls, but Canada has never come close. Vancouver as the best place in the world to live? Polls have often concluded that, but the happiest? Apparently, even living in the best city in the world is no recipe for happiness.

If a Christian preacher were to make such a pronouncement publicly, few Canadians would pay attention. Most would regard it as just so much Christian humbug, but when Jack Layton, a popular politician who just died, says it, it touches a deep chord in the hearts of the people of the status of the Dalai Lama.

Why the Popularity

I believe Jack was aware of the blanket of anger, fear and despair over the nation and wanted to leave a positive message to them, a way to overcome those negative features with love, hope and optimism. I appreciate his words of encouragement. But why are these sentiments not common place among us, when they have been in the Bible all along and are being preached from Christian pulpits for centuries? And why do people listen to it now, from Jack? My answer would be that there is a general anger, fear and despair among the people that is directed towards Christianity and the church. It is the same when the Dalai Lama comes to town and makes pronouncements very similar to what the church has been preaching all along without being heard.

I would urge you, my readers, to think about Jack’s words of encouragement and seek to deepen your understanding. There is no place like the Bible for you to find that. That’s what it is all about.

Thank you, Jack. May your words resonate in our hearts deeper and deeper and lead us from anger, fear and despair to love, hope and optimism, the genuine article, the one found in the Bible.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Visible and the Invisible

Post 44--:

Hypocritical UN Accusations
Maclean’s Magazine triggered something within me with Alex Derry’s article “Political Correctness Gone Mad?” (Aug 5, 2011). The subtitle goes “The UN upbraids Canada for its use of the term ‘visible minority.’ The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is challenging Canada’s use of the term as being out of step with the aims of this UN committee. My initial and instinctive reaction is the malign thought that, in view of this UN challenge, there must be something good in Canada’s approach to merit such attention. Though I favour the existence of the UN, I am often very skeptical of the work of its departments and committees. The member nations represented on these committees are often blatantly guilty of the challenges they hurl at Western nations, often much more so in fact. I sometimes wonder whether these challenges are not the result of these members being offended at, in this case, Canada’s behaviour, because the contrast exposes them and puts them to shame. Rather than correct their own, it is easier to cook up some Western misbehaviour and yell loud enough to cover up theirs.

Today's Canada Racist?

The term “invisible minority” is a racist expression, according to the UN committee. It is said to “somehow indicate that whiteness was the standard, all others differing from that being visible.” Racism? Canada accused by a UN body of racism? People who have read my books know how embarrassed I am about Western imperialism in all its forms and how ashamed I am about Christian participation in it. It is a major theme in my writings and has been ever since my doctoral research during the 1970s opened my eyes to it. I am not one to defend the West, though Canada, being of young age and small in population, is thereby also one of the “smaller sinners.” But to accuse Canada of racism?! And that by members of the UN whose countries are rife with the stuff, whether it is racism or tribalism? Get off the pot!

Canada's Open Doors
That there is a high degree of racism in Canada I do not deny. But which country has and continues to invite people of all races more than Canada is doing presently? Oh, of course, there is Canada’s vested interest in immigration. It does not all come out of a national heart bubbling over with generosity. China, India, Nigeria—just name any non-Western country. Not to speak of that jewel of modern development, Japan, one of the worst when it comes to racism. Which of them have opened their doors more widely to people of other races than has Canada?

Racism among the "Visibles"
Again, Canadian Caucasians, of which I am one, can be faulted of racism, but let me tell you that Canada has imported more racists than you can shake a stick at it. We have more racism and tribalism in Canada now more than ever! And most of it is imported. Just ask any Korean what they think of Blacks! That’s racism. And just get two Nigerians, an Ibo and a Hausa man, living in Canada, to work together—only if they have discovered a common enemy and only in so far as that enemy affects them. That’s tribalism, complicated and made worse by religion.

"Reverse" Racism
For Canada to be accused of racism because of her use of the term “visible minority” causes me to laugh with derision. Well, yes, there is an element of racism in the concept. It is applied to me, a Caucasian immigrant, and when I think of it being applied to me I do more than laugh: I am now offended. It is racism. Living in the Vancouver downtown, I often feel like a minority, what with all the people from every Asian country around me, not to speak of Eastern Europeans, Latinos and Blacks from everywhere. In restaurants, on the bus, along the sidewalk, lined up at some counter, I definitely experience minority status. That does not bother me, for I got accustomed to it during my 30 years in Nigeria. But what is so invisible about me? I am as visible as anyone else. And I am discriminated against. Let any Caucasian try taxi driving. He is not likely to get in: Indians have sowed it up for themselves. Same for the trucking industry. Or let any Black chef try to break into the Asian-dominated restaurant industry. Now it’s “visible” vs “visible.” The term does not prevent discrimination, for the prevention of which, I understand, it was coined in the first place.

Challenge to the Visibles
And so I end up agreeing with this UN committee after all. Let’s get rid of the term along with the notion behind it. Regardless of the past—and there was that past—Canadian Caucasians can hardly be accused of racism today, unless all my Asiatic neighbours have the finger pointed at them first and work at their governments opening their doors to others the way Canada has to them. Japanese-Canadians, are you listening? Chinese-Canadians? Indian-Canadians? African-Canadians?

But regardless of all this, welcome to Canada. Many of you “visibles”, unlike my “invisible” self, were born here. Thanks for letting me in!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Civility and Freedom

Post 43—:

My Current Situation
I’ve been traipsing around again, visiting two of our three children and their families. Currently I’m in Silicon Valley, but plan to be back in Vancouver sometime next week. In between now and then, we will be RVing our way up north with our little 20-footer. Camp here and there along the way. Pick up a couple of grandkids near Seattle and then move on to Vancouver with them.

That said, you will understand there is not a lot of time for reading and reflection in prepping myself for the next post. Well, it’s time you hear from me again. So, not having my hard paper archives I use for much of my writings at hand, I am going to do you next best. I am going to pass on to you a discussion about civility in public discourse. Sorry, it’s from the USA. As you know, I try to concentrate on Canada and Canadian sources, but sometimes you got to make do with what you have. Of course, Americans do not have a monopoly on lack of civility! I judge that sharing part of this article with you is better than simply to keep silent for another week.

Call for Civility Produces Hatred
Carrie Daklin is a Minnesota public radio commentator recently called for civility in the gay-marriage controversy in the US. She was reportedly inundated with hateful attacks. Here’s some of her reactions to these attacks:
Within days, my words, taken completely out of context, and my message — better manners — had been used as the basis for a rallying cry: Carrie Daklin of Minnesota is a homophobe.

What Happened to Civility and Toleration?
I am not sure how my message got so skewed. I have become the object of hate mail and really vicious comments, all in the name of etiquette. Go figure. I found this all rather unsettling.... What has happened in our culture, that so many of us are completely unable to accept someone who doesn't share our views? I don't agree with all that my conservative Christian friends espouse, but I support their right to their beliefs. I don't agree with a very liberal friend who said certain members of the religious right should be shot. Actually, he used the word murdered. Sadly, I think he meant it.

In retrospect, the original infraction I wrote about is positively innocuous compared to the resulting uproar. To be blunt: My article was not about gay rights, it was not about the Defense of Marriage Act, and it most certainly was not a promotion for the National Organization for Marriage.My article was on civility, it was on manners and about respect for other people, it was on public decency even toward those you might not agree with. It was about creating a conduit in our society that allows for the paradigms and values of others, so that we can get to a place of compromise. It was about working to replace anger with a tolerance that allows us to thrive.

In the last few weeks I have been a poster child for extremism — the left vilifying me, the right holding me up as some sort of hero. Both make me equally uncomfortable. Both are unwanted. If I am a poster child for anyone, it is Emily Post.

I believe these are warnings and words of caution that we can use in Canada as well. Have a great day and see you when I’m back in Vancouver.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Contentment and Freedom

Post 42—:

You might argue that this is really no way to start off with this new blog that is supposed to deal with concrete life events. “Contentment” and “freedom” are pretty abstract terms and really belong in the other blog, “WorldlyChristianity,” that majors in more abstract issues. Well, yes and no. These are somewhat abstract terms indeed, but they are based on and evoked by a great story of people who have found those qualities of life. Besides, I did warn you at the outset that the two sometimes merge or that they cannot always be neatly separated.

I am reacting in this post to an article by Elizabeth Payne (“Imagine the Freedom of a Contented Life,” Vancouver Sun, July 26, 2011). She begins with reference to the common Canadian dream of winning a lottery fortune. Now a dream may be abstract somewhat, but this one is such a common nightly and daily phenomenon that the abstract has become a concrete and a regular event in the lives of many of us.

Allen and Violet Large, an elderly couple—both in their late 70s-- in Nova Scotia recently won $11.25 million. They had always lived a life of simplicity and contentment and saw no reason to change this just because of this sudden intrusion in their lives. Of course, it did not come altogether unwanted. After all, they did buy the winning ticket. But in contrast to others, they did not expect to find some kind of new and exciting freedom with these new resources at hand, for they “had something far more valuable and rare: satisfaction,” according to Payne. Violet, the wife, said, “We haven’t bought a thing. That’s because there is nothing we need.” So they gave it all away. Paine details the gifting. They gained in satisfaction and freedom by giving their fortune away.

Violet died shortly afterwards. Preacher Harrison said at her funeral that the reaction of the Large’s was “almost antithetical to the way many of us would respond.” That’s true. “It is a safe bet,” Payne continued, “that few imagine freedom the way Violet did—something you gain by giving those millions away.” She concluded her article thus: “That may be the real freedom: Imagining being happy with what you have.” Not sure why she used the word “imagining” here. The Large’s were content and therefore free; they did not merely imagine it.

Their attitude was indeed antithetical or opposite to the more common approach of living it up and then, for many, ending up with a life “ruined by the stuff and stress and expectations (and often, eventually, the debt) that come along with the (unexpected) money.” But that only goes to show how far removed we are from the reality that the Bible portrays. In the world of the Bible, their attitude is the common, the normal, the standard, the expected, the prescribed. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the more contemporary style of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language by Eugene Peterson, it reads, “You’re far happier giving than getting.” Again, Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39—New International Version). Peterson has it as “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Me, you’ll find both yourself and Me.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:11, Peterson’s translation).

This is not to promote the view that poverty is virtuous, as has sometimes been thought and promoted in some Christian circles. There is that vow of poverty some take upon themselves. I have lived too long in Africa and have seen too much poverty to spiritually trivialize hunger as something acceptable. That is the opposite extreme from what obtains in much of the West. As my father used to say, “Money is nothing.” He would pause slightly and add, “as long as you have some of it.”

The Large’s had caught on to that secret of life, practiced it and were happy, content, satisfied.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Introducing a New Blog

Post 41--:

This is a brand new blog but, at the same time, a continuation of one of my other blogs that you may already be familiar with: < WorldlyChristianity.blogspot.com >, to which I will refer as “WC” in this particular post for easy reference.

Reasons for This New Blog
For some time I had been aware of the need for a change. WC was too much a mixture of the concrete and abstract, of comments on events and on more philosophical-theological issues, on principial issues if you will. Though some people will read both, I also sense that some people prefer the one over the other and read the one more readily than the other. In order not to bore either group, I decided from here on to separate these two by establishing an additional blog, though that division may not always be that simple to maintain.
WC will continue under its present name and will deal with more abstract considerations, while this new blog will concentrate on the events part of the discussion. Its principial underpinnings and the basis of my opinions will be dealt with, but not in as great detail as I will in WC.

What This Blog Is About
This blog deals with issues and events in Vancouver, in British Columbia, in Canada and, sometimes, in the wider world from my Calvinistic version of Christianity. Features of that version include a wholistic view of religion that insists on the application of Biblical perspectives to the issues of life and that rejects secular privatization of religion. It emphasizes love, compassion and justice, reconciliation and the coupling of human rights to human responsibility. Compassion may be tough love and rights may be denied where shorn of responsibility. While the companion blog majors in more abstract perspectives that underlie this one, this one deals more with concrete events and trends in society and with government policies.

Housekeeping Details
The capital letters are only for easy reading; they are not necessary for accessing this blog. The numbering of this blog starts with 41, the same number for the post in WC in which I introduce the change there. This is a device to emphasize continuity. That does not mean that the two blogs will keep up with each other by discussing parallel topics simultaneously. Post 42 of each blog probably will deal with different topics. The one may also feature more posts than the other. I do foresee, though, that there will occasionally be cross references from the one blog to the other, from the event to the underpinnings of my approach to that event.

I hope you will appreciate the new arrangement. As for me, it will be more work. So, it may well be that the average time span between posts on these two blogs will somewhat increase, but between the two of them there will be more posts than under the previous arrangement. I hope you will stay with me and even that some of you will read both blogs regularly. I will appreciate any comments you may have on this new arrangement.

Christian-Muslim World Blog
I herewith either remind or inform you that there is a third blog that will continue under its current title, “ChristianMuslimWorld.blogspot.com.” As you can tell from the title, it will deal with different issues but from the same perspective.