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G20, protests, globalization and Christian faithfulness

pittsburgh.jpgI believe that Hearts & Minds customers are the sorts of folks who are aware of the news..  I am sure I don't have to explain the significance of the recent G20 Summit, and I suspect many of us are praying that the diplomats there will follow through with intentions to be fair and just.  

You also know that there were protests.  It needs to be said that some of the protesters (a large number of them) are anarchists;  some have legitimate concerns about the complicity of the modern state in Empire building and colonialism and injustice.  Some are just rowdy ideologues wanting to smash stuff--nasty left wing versions of skinheads out to cause some trouble. And, it seems evident, Pittsburgh sure did have a lot of riot-police there to suppress dissent, which, it seems, they did quite thoroughly.

police.JPGHowever, it is also important to note that many who marched were attempting to make an important statement, a witness to the ways in which these important global leaders have failed to take the poorest members of the human family into consideration; from its earliest days, and the infamous meeting in Seattle, this Summit has symbolized how just a few powerful countries (or, should we say, a few powerful leaders within those countries) have dominated and set the terms for international economic issues.   So, many NGOs and human rights groups use it to campaign for a more just global order, and they are right to do so.

The Jubilee USA campaign to Drop the Debt, for instance, has been embraced by denominations and church leaders from across the globe and this is a perfect venue to ask questions about the Western developed nations promises to set right the injustices and human suffering that were caused by their previous manipulation of aid and trade, debt and high interest.  An evangelical friend of mine, with many contacts in the African community in Pittsburgh, helped lead workshops and teach-ins on this huge issue this week.  He worked with African diplomats, scholars and students and, while they threw no bricks and did no rioting, their good work is seen and dismissed too easily by lumping them all together with the anarchist disruptions.  (Click on the Jubilee USA campaign link above to find a chapter near you if you want to be more involved.)

The ONE campaign, also had a presence in Pittsburgh with a simple plea: schedule the next global economic global economic summit in Africa, where the needs are so great, and the voices under-represented. Again, they have a great website with some good information.  If you haven't visited them lately, please do.

This is the moral heart of the protests, that those who are in greatest need--sometimes and in some ways because of the bad policies of previous Western leadership--are given a voice of redress, are treated as participants in their own futures, and that the trade and aid biases be reconsidered in ways that are guided by justice for all and not the self-interest of the powerful. Yes, there is much to the critique, even if it obscured by the kids with handkerchiefs over their faces and their silly sloganeering.

I heard a radio advertisement on a Christian radio station in Pittsburgh that week that cheerfully advised listeners to avoid downtown during the Summit (which was garrisoned off by National Guard, anyway) by attending a helpful event that they were sponsoring in the suburbs.  "Get far away from the crazies and the politicians," they advised.

It is a shame that evangelicals (and many other faith traditions) so easily dismiss both groups, without realizingsummit.jpg that they had brothers and sisters in Christ in both camps, politicians and protesters, whose calling they (unintentionally) demeaned.  Surely there are some well-intended Christians seeking to be salt and light Daniels or Josephs or Esthers, voices of wisdom and justice, within the high-powered diplomatic community;  likewise, as I have noted, some of the protesters were themselves devout Christians, seeking to raise a Godly voice for the common good.

 Perhaps instead of running to the suburbs the radio station should have boldly invited folks into the mix of politicians and protesters.  Yes, yes, I know, it is easy for me to say this from the relative quiet of Dallastown.  And I understand that there was some danger, not knowing what the unauthorized, wilder faction of protesters were going to spring.  Still, there were congregations and faith communities in Pittsburgh that were trying to support both Summit leaders, protesters, the press and the curious with a ministry of presence and involvement. (There was also a considerable prayer ministry, behind the scenes, that some churches had developed.)  I hope you had some friends that were there; one good friend went to "pray with his feet" as Rabbi Abraham Heschel used to say, but left when the tear gas canisters came; another H&M fan was quoted in one of the national news stories.  I hope you were paying attention to some of these reports.  Resistance to injustice is a holy calling and while hitting the streets, doing civil disobedience and mass protest may not be the most effective way to work for appropriate reforms, there obviously is a time and place for such public witness. 

There are opportunities to be involved in issues of creation-care, global justice, economic stewardship, witnessing for peace and public righteousness and the conversations next week about the Summit will be interesting, I'll bet.  In my September monthly review column (to be posted soon) are a few books that will help guide us as we engage in thoughtful conversations about what went on in Pittsburgh this week, in the convention center and in the streets, and what will continue to go on in the months to come. 

We have specialized in these kinds of books about Christian views of public justice and international affairs since we opened, and are sad to hear that not many religious bookstores stock stuff on global poverty, Christian views of economics, stuff for citizen action.  Maybe that is changing, as most religious publishers have done some books along these lines.  Let us pray they continue to do so, that bookstores stock them and that people buy them.  It is easy to fault local bookstores or church libraries for not having this kind of stuff, but it is often because they are not purchased by the consumers.  (Uh, dear reader, that you be you.)  When they don't sell, the publishers are understandably reluctant to issue too many more, and then, of course, folks complain that the church isn't adequately resourced.  We'll, we stock 'em whether they sell or not, and trust that the right readers will find us.

 So if you care to know that we have these kinds of things, pony up and buy some; read 'em or give 'em away to people who might be interested.  Start a study group, get a social concerns committee going at your church or campus fellowship, start a Sunday school class.  Let us know what your doing, and perhaps we can serve you further by offering resource lists, book titles or action projects.  There are so many really good books available.  Will  trust you value our telling you about them.  Will you help us get the word out?  We believe that is why you choose to read our blog and order from our shop.  For that, we thank you.

Here is the link to the book list of a few good titles on globalization, international justice  over at the monthly column pages.  These may be helpful to inspired faith-based folk to raise up a witness for the common good, offering unique insights and passions, Biblically-influenced and spiritually sound.  Feel free to forward it to anybody who might care.  Thanks again.

In the meantime, though, I will do a brief shout out to a few that you just have to know about.  Firstly:

shaking the gates.jpgIf you want to do some theological reflection written by the kind of person who would be protesting---and arrested--at the Summit, I have to tell you about Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado (Fortress; $20.00.)  The first page of the book describes her night in jail after the infamous Seattle G-8 Summit.  Here, she speaks hard truths about the injustices of the global economy, the imbalances of power, the rape of the Earth and the way nonviolent active resistance can be spiritually enriching, joyful, showing a better way as a symbol of Christian hope.  Jurgen Moltmann says of it, "This book is authentic and convincing with personal experience and a great vision.  In many corners of the world there is a new paradigm emerging...I read this book with a moved heart and new encouragement."  Catherine Keller, a theologian from Drew, simply says, "This book doesn't just shake, it rocks!"  If you wished you could be part of a spiritually rooted, nonviolent uprising, this is for you.  If you really don't have a clue why some people see the world like this, and intend to make a better world a reality, read it and learn.  Before you dismiss the protesters as crazies or anarchists or fools, give her a chance.

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Thanks for this article. We have always been the sort of evangelicals who are concerned about poverty and injustice, finding ourselves a woeful minority on Sundays. Our daughter has a passion for these issues. She built and led a successful silent demonstration on the Carnegie Mellon campus, site of Michelle's breakfast and across the street from the Friday G20 dinner. She is constantly presenting Christ as the One who cares about the poor, to skeptical Christians and those outside any faith who work in poverty areas (and, this particular week, to anarchists).