Saturday, 21 January 2012

Clash of Cultures?

Now you might be forgiven for thinking I am a little addicted to the Guardian facebook app, given that my last blog was on an article from there and this one will be too.......! What can I say, it interested me!
Did I experience a clash of cultures at Durham? I have to say that it probably really depended on what college you found yourself in and who you found yourself living next door to. On the hill, my college was a real mixture of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Although some of us came from grammar school backgrounds, at least 1/3(in my estimation) did not! While the first few days were perhaps a bit of a shock to my system (formal dinners were nowhere near as formal at Trevs!) I soon found some kind of equilibrium and ways to avoid the drinking games I didn't fancy playing.

In my opinion part of the fun of university is the mix of cultures, not just in terms of class - but counties and countries (perhaps less countries represented than I might have expected!) There are very few places where people from different backgrounds mix - let alone live and study side by side. No doubt cliches do arise - generally around clubs, but there is nothing to stop anyone else joining these groups - nothing except ones own feeling of discomfort or inferiority.

I never had wood pidgeon at any meal, certainly not formal. I never met anyone who told me how to eat my food or who made statements about grammar schools. I did meet a whole load of people from different backgrounds and with different opinions. I did discuss and debate with them on a whole range of issues. I was enriched from meeting people who were different to me -although no doubt they found some of my foibles strange and me theirs.

It is funny that however much government and we try to erase class and race from being issues, they still continue to arise. However much we try to legalise and teach and train to create equality, there will always be things that divide us. We naturally gravitate towards people who have same backgrounds and interests as us, whatever walk of life we are in. It is easy and it is comfortable. Wherever there are places where people from different groups meet (school, university, football matches etc) there are clashes - it seems like it cannot be avoided.

Being part of a Christian community should truely be a place where there is a mixture of people from a multitude of different classes, races and ages gathered together in unity in Jesus Christ. It should be a place where those things don't matter any more, where we don't feel discomfort because others behave in a different way, where we don't feel inferior because of how much education we have or how good our table manners are. Jesus was snubbed by the 'upper class' of society because he associated with people that were outcasts from society (lepers, prostitutes, thieves) - but He pointed out that despite where we come from we are all in need of forgiveness. Jesus levels out our differences by pointing out that we all don't come up to scratch - that we all need Him. Perhaps in our churches we need to think more about the kind of group we've become - is it a place where only a certain person will feel comfortable? Or will everyone be welcomed and accepted? Are we radical communities growing together in Jesus, reaching out to everyone around us? Or have we become comfortable clubs with unwritten rules of how to behave?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Earth will expire by 2050?

Having watched Battlestar Galactica fairly recently and now reading an article in The Guardian: - 'Earth will expire by 2050', I am left wondering if there will be any planet left for me (perhaps!) or my children to enjoy.

I have to admit to secret imaginings of how we can become (more) self sufficient, as currently we are not at all and how I can use less natural resources. My plans for a vegetable garden are slowly taking shape and I compost (when I empty the container!). But unfortunately I also have to admit that most of my motivations in this department are monetary, rather than environmental or practical, as having a bin full of overflowing rubbish does not appeal in anyway!

It does seem like the very little I can do at all, when compared to the size of the carbon footprint of one person in the UK, will make very little difference. In fact, when compared to the size of the carbon footprint of the average person in the US (double that of the UK), I might as well use my tumble dryer all day long rather than ration myself (if my electricity budget allowed of course!)

I imagine that I am not alone in this thought and in fact, if we are all as selfish as I fear we are, unless it does indeed benefit us (monetarily, practically or even in an image boosting way) I cannot see that we will be able to stop this 'wasteful lifestyle of the rich nations' which is 'mainly responsible for the exploitation and depletion of natural wealth. Human consumption has doubled over the last 30 years and continues to accelerate by 1.5 per cent a year'. Perhaps I am underestimating what the human race can do when overwhelmed and moved by the plight of whole nations starving from lack of food, brought about by our waste? I think not.

The Bible opens and ends with God as the creator and sustainer of creation. Throughout the big picture of the Bible people are commanded to care for and enjoy creation and all the blessings it provides. The end of the Bible pictures a new heaven and new earth - in which creation is perfect, unspoilt, overflowing with plenty and better than we can imagine. I have to say that it would be easy to despair having read this article. I have no great confidence that next months Earth Summit will create any plan to save the earth from human consumption. But I do have great confidence that the earth will not end by humans destroying it, rather, it will be on Jesus' return. I also have great confidence that although we cannot save creation by our own efforts, God has a grand master plan to create a new earth that will even surpass the most beautiful splendour of this one.

So what should my response to this article be? Should I wallow in despair - the earth as we know it will be gone by 2050 and my grandchildren may well live in space? Or should I redouble my efforts to 'save the planet' and throw out my tumble dryer and only eat food I have grown (i.e starve?!) Neither. I must recognise that while I cannot save this earth by my own efforts, Jesus is the only one who can transform our hearts and this world. It is only through knowing Jesus and his transforming power that I will be able to receive forgiveness for my selfishness and waste and have the strength to follow Gods command to care for His world to the best of my ability. So I will strive to know Him more and care for His world better in all the ways I can. I am sad that this area of mission is one which I have overlooked. As part of God's community I need to remember my calling to care for His creation, but also remember that the only way the world will change is if it knows Jesus.