1. The wonderment of grace
What’s so special about Marilynne Robinson? William Boyce takes a crack at an explanation in Fare Forward:
Most of all, Robinson seems to be clearing a space for mystery in our (post)modern world. Although it is lost to many in this age of tweet and taint, Robinson appears enraptured by the precariousness of a sacramental vision. Indeed, a prophetic gift lingers prayerfully at the center of her works. Nothing in our present age of whirl and woe escapes her redemptive gaze. She imprints a symbol of anointing on every issue she addresses. By shining a glorious light of praise on the cosmos, the mind, and the faith, she hallows the gift of sanctified wonderment. Like a humble votive, Robinson reveals how a wonderment of grace in a world so loved by God can arise from faithfulness, reverence, and assurance without ever calcifying as obduration, intransigence, or certitude.
2. A conversation on repairing the world Stan LeQuire, a former professor of mine at Eastern, and Jay Renfro, a member of Nashville A Rocha, are reading Paul Farmer’s new book, To Repair the World, and are having an ongoing conversation about it on the A Rocha USA blog. So far they’ve shared their thoughts on chapter 1, and I’m looking forward to following along as they work their way through the book.
In the Christian community in which I grew up, the common approach to the environmental movement was to see everyone involved in it as a left-wing, tree-hugging, pot-smoking, nature-worshipping, hippie wannabe. While I’m sure some of these modifiers have been warranted at times, such disingenuous and uncharitable cynicism failed—and fails—to entertain how Christianity might speak to such an important issue as to how we are to best work within a natural world of which we are a part. Yet it would be years that I was first introduced to a writer who undertook the task of clearly articulating how a love of the creation could inform and be informed by a love of the creation and its Creator. This Kentucky farmer and man of letters, Wendell Berry, made real for me the complex interplay of religion, literature, and agriculture in informing a holistic way of life—in other words, towards shalom.
Like many in the field of international relief and development, January 12, 2010 is a date I will not soon forget. That’s of course when that devastating earthquake struck Haiti.
The news from Haiti has been sobering these past two years, but good, dedicated people — Haitian and otherwise — continue to help Haiti build back better. It’s been a learning experience for a lot of us, and I know we’ll hold on to what we’ve learned for a long time.
One person who has much to teach us about Haiti is Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical doctor and anthropologist who has split his time over the past few decades between pioneering community health initiatives in rural Haiti and teaching at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He is also the founding director of Partners in Health and has written numerous books.
Because of all this, I’m grateful for Dr. Paul Farmer’s latest book, Haiti After The Earthquake (PublicAffairs). I read it last fall, and I’m pleased to say my review appears in the new issue of PRISM magazine.
As a little FYI, my next piece for PRISM is slated to be the May/June cover story, focusing on farmworkers here in the US and the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
1. What does a CEO with integrity look like?
Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, had an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times about Gerard Arpey, the American Airlines CEO who just walked away after 30 years out of a belief that filing for bankruptcy — a procedure that’s become standard in the airline industry — is wrong. That he is a man of integrity is worth celebrating; that he is a rare exception among CEOs, though, is lamentable. Lindsay writes:
Over the last eight years, I have interviewed hundreds of senior executives for a major academic study on leadership, including six airline C.E.O.’s. Mr. Arpey stood out among the 550 people I talked with not because he believed that business had a moral dimension, but because of his firm conviction that the C.E.O. must carefully attend to those considerations, even if doing so blunts financial success or negates organizational expediency. For him, it is an obligation that goes with the corner office.
2. Culture wars and Pentecostalism in Brazil
The days of the Religious Right might be mostly behind us here in the US, but in Brazil, it seems to really be catching on. The New York Times has a profile of Silas Malafaia, a televangelist with a massive following who is known for his polarizing views, and takes a look at the rise of Pentecostals and other Protestant groups in Brazil:
About one in four Brazilians are now thought to belong to evangelical Protestant congregations, and Pentecostals like Mr. Malafaia are at the forefront of this growth. In a remarkable religious transformation, scholars say that while Brazil still has the largest number of Roman Catholics in the world, it now also rivals the United States in having one of the largest Pentecostal populations. Not everyone in Brazil is enthusiastic about this shift.
3. Evangelicals rethink nuclear weapons
Members of the National Association of Evangelicals board of directors have written a piece for Washington Post’s “On Faith” column that’s worth prayerful consideration:
Christians hold that all people bear God’s image (Genesis 1:27).Therefore, human life and freedom are precious and should be defended from injustice and tyranny. Nuclear weapons, with their capacity for terror as well as for destruction of human life, raise profound spiritual, moral and ethical concerns. We question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense. The just war tradition admonishes against indiscriminate violence and requires proportionality and limited collateral damage. New scientific studies reveal that even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would have profound global consequences, harming billions of innocents. The very weapons meant to restrain evil could potentially destroy all that they were intended to protect.
4. “Our voice, our memory”
Mike at the Central American Politics blog shared this 30-minute documentary about the 36-year civil war in Guatemala, which, according to the makers of the film, meets the international criteria to be considered genocide. Needless to say, it’s not for the faint of heart, but is important for the understanding of history, as well as what you might call “the roots of the present illness.” It’s in Spanish, too, by the way.
5. How free music makes more than sense
Derek Webb, one of my favorite artists who started NoiseTrade (a great place to get free music legally!), has a new reflection on the state of the music industry and what it means for those who make and listen to music (hint: he’s not a fan of Spotify):
There has never been a better moment to be a middle-class or an independently thinking artist making and performing music than right now. The costs and complications of creating, recording, manufacturing, and distributing music are at an all-time low, enabling more music to be made and more artists to make a living than ever before. If your ego can bear not being rich and famous, you can make a respectable and sustainable living as a blue-collar musician. The problem used to be access; now it’s obscurity. And this brings with it a completely new set of problems and opportunities.
Poverty in Latin America is at its lowest level for 20 years, the UN’s regional economic body, Eclac, says. From 1990 to 2010, the rate fell from 48.4% to 31.4%, which means 177 million people currently live in poverty… “Poverty and inequality continue to decline in the region, which is good news, particularly in the midst of an international economic crisis,” said Alicia Barcena, Eclac’s executive secretary. “However, this progress is threatened by the yawning gaps in the productive structure in the region and by the labour markets which generate employment in low-productivity sectors.”
8. Top 100 global thinkers Foreign Policy has released its latest list of top global thinkers for the past year. A number of the leaders of the Egyptian revolution are atop the list. I was especially interested to see that Yoani Sánchez, Cuban dissident blogger, and Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist with a long history in Haiti, made the cut as well.
9. And justice for all [infograhic] GOOD and Column Five Media have produced an interesting infographic on how the US is doing in terms of income equality and providing all citizens with access to the market economy (click on the image below to view the full-size infographic).
Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!
1. Paul Farmer on post-quake Haiti
NPR’s Fresh Air had a half-hour interview this week with Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, in which he talks about Haiti a year and a half after the devastating quake in January 2010. It’s tied in with his new book, which is one I’ll definitely plan to read and possibly review for the blog or a magazine. Farmer has been working in Haiti for a very long time, and his perspective is sobering but worth listening to. In the interview he says:
Some people talk about Haiti as being the graveyard of development projects. Our own experience has been very positive working in Haiti — building health facilities and working with the public sector and creating jobs — but [we are now thinking about] how we can now make these other, more ambitious projects also effective on the implementation front.
2. Haiti: 18 months later
Roseann Dennery, a good friend of Katie’s, has a new piece in Relevant Magazine on Haiti as well, focusing on the country’s tragic orphan crisis. She has been living there for the past year, working with Samaritan’s Purse along with Justin, her husband. Her first-hand experience of the crisis has led her to a unique perspective:
It is one thing to read statistics about Haiti’s expanding orphan crisis, but it is quite another to witness it; to walk down a squalid dirt road and visit several overrun orphanages within a few minutes of one another, each with greater need than the last. Wide eyed, hungry, soiled. Each humble face tells a different variation of the same story. It is unsettling and overwhelming. And it feels harshly unjust. What does it mean, then, to be a Christian in the midst of a swelling sea of abandoned children, a trend that shows no sign of slowing?
3. Snapshots of Suffering
My friend Chris Horst, who works for HOPE International, has a great personal reflection on dignity and suffering, based on experiences in the Dominican Republic. He concludes:
I’m thrilled to serve a God who truly knows me. A God who does not define me by my weaknesses. A Creator who made me in his image. A Father who “exults” over me, his child. These truths convince me that If God and I sojourned across the Dominican together, his pictures would look strikingly different than mine.
4. Are humanitarian groups doing the media’s job overseas?
This was an interesting one for me, since I’m a communications specialist for a large NGO not unlike the one featured in this post. It is an interesting observation Tom Paulson makes about this trend of NGO communicators doing something very similar to journalism and what this means for mainstream media.
Much like the recent influx of immigrants from Latin America into the general U.S. population, MLB has seen a remarkable shift in it’s demographic over the last 20 years. Ozzie Guillen, the outspoken manager of the Chicago White Sox, said last year that within 10 years “American people are going to need a visa to play this game because we’re going to take over.” And while Guillen’s comments can be taken as a humorous exaggeration, there is an element of truth to what he says. Baseball might be America’s pastime, but the sport is becoming increasingly Latino at heart.
6. Trailer for :58 film
I highlighted the new :58 campaign here on the blog a month ago today. Now here is the trailer for the campaign’s feature length film, due for release this fall.
With the Haiti earthquake almost a month behind us, itâ€™s natural to feel ready to think about something – anything – else. A lot of us have watched the news, given to organizations we believe in, and in some small sense have perhaps even grieved with our Haitian brothers and sisters in their time of need.
But we all know that it will take years to rebuild Haiti. So how do we ensure that, in our Presidentâ€™s words, Haiti will not be forsaken nor forgotten? For starters, by getting to know the context.
In the week just before the quake, ironically, I read a memoir called Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle by Kent Annan, co-founder of Haiti Partners. It had been highly recommended by Andy Crouch, who calls it “an unsparingly honest story of relocation to Haiti that captures the complexities of crossing differences of power, wealth, and culture in hopes of being part of God’s work of transformation, without and within. It’s funny, gritty, and strangely hopefulâ€”just what a Christian memoir should be.”
So when I heard there had been a 7.0 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter near Port-au-Prince, I pictured the shacks on those steep hillsides Annan had described, and I knew they must have been destroyed. I thought of the real people described in the book, and I wondered if any were alive.
In the days that followed, I decided I wanted to learn more. I went to Busboys and Poets and picked up a copy of Mountains Beyond Mountains, which tells the remarkable true story of Paul Farmer, a Harvard doctor who has devoted his life to curing infectious diseases in the worldâ€™s most impoverished places – especially Haiti.
Both books are challenging, entertaining, informative, and inspiring, and if you want to learn more about Haiti they may be worth checking out. You might also be interested in this music video from Arcade Fire, a stellar rock band with one Haitian member. This video was filmed on location in Haiti, capturing its vibrancy of life before the devastation. As you watch, consider what it will take for Haitians to once again experience this vibrancy.