First published in ‘Dead Men Walking’ (Kingsway 2002), I am posting this chapter as a ‘pre-lent’ reflection upon history, progress and regression.
I remember vividly 9/11 as I was in the States at the time with friends from NYC now living in New Mexico and the psychological horror and havoc of this act of terrorism had on us. The horror of listening to the phone going dead as we grappled for information from my friends daughter, and the havoc of the ensuing silence and emotional meltdown that followed for my friends.
This chapter captured in time where my thinking was in response to the rapid globalisation that was taking place at the beginning of 21 century, and how at the time I was searching for a response rooted in the ‘Imitation of Christ’. Although the facts and figures are dated and some of the cultural responses seemingly small, by comparison to later achievements like the introduction of Fairtrade Gold, it reminded me of what it was like to start the journey and how the DNA of God’s Spirit in that journey towards a lifestyle ethic remains as strong as ever.
Now as a contemplative activist, finding my way with the aid of inspirational figures like Columba, Patrick, and other indigenous Saints of the British Isles, the ‘Naked Imitation of Christ and the Evangelists‘, still requires a radical transformation of life rooted in an imitation of Christ, not the evangelical obsession with proclamation. All imitation includes proclamation, not all proclamation is imitation.
When asked to write a chapter for this book on the global village, I asked myself does it exist? It does to me! As I drive Route 66 post twin towers holocaust, watched live on TV, some sick reality TV repeat of our worst nightmare, I watch the smoke stacks holding their breath – in anticipation of the impending energy crisis on the west coast of America. Past ‘Los Alamos Nuclear Power and Research Plant’ paranoid over the threat of terrorist attacks. Through Tulsa (that boasts to me of the 10lb steak served blue to you from the prairies of the Mid West), I listen to the ‘Savage Nation’ proselytising Israeli propaganda on the 1000-year Jihad against Christianity and the lifestyle of the west. This seems no different to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who were reported to have blamed the 11th September on moral decline of the USA bought about by gay and lesbian people.
I fight back the psychological outrage of the global communication networks that feeds me information faster than I can process. I wage war on myself because I am impotent, to change the rising tide of war, revenge and the fatalism that wells within me. Its not that I rage against the machine and its technological advanced mechanics, I war with myself, my spirituality, my God and the apparent hopelessness that an ever-expanding world thrusts upon me. I am grateful for the information; grateful for the inter-net, grateful for the access it gives me to information and the vast array of cultural perspectives I can feed myself at the touch of a button. Yet this very gratitude is like the beetle that’s eating away at the Elm Tree. In time it will topple the faith we place in the immediate culture we have created.
I once heard a man talk about watching a child shit itself to death; he was left with no other words than, ‘the shame, the shame, the shame’. The Global Village is to some a defining reality, to others a dream of what we can become, to others a nightmare. It is morally irreconcilable that in monetary terms ‘the growth in global advertising’ “now outpaces the growth in the world economy by one-third”. If I am tortured by the world I live in, I deserve to be when millions of children die of diarrhoea every year because of my cultural selfishness.
Christianity is a faith of action. Action that is rooted in The Justice of God. This justice demands more than the Evangelical preoccupation with ‘saving souls’ or ‘new models of church that will (finally!) facilitate revival’. This justice requires a spirituality that transcends the personal preoccupation we all have with what we do with our genitals, or the male ghost of masturbation (I understand that women suffer from this demon too). If the totality of my faith is to listen to anointed preachers tell me about how we are going to save the world from the platform, I think I may become a Jesus-centred Buddhist. The day of the platform preacher is over, the day of the self styled guru (so called anointed) man of God is over, the day of the charismatic prophet who quivers when delivering a piece of inspired intuition must stop. Christian spirituality, if reduced to this level of soap-opera popular culture, no longer enshrines the values or the heartbeat of God.
God’s justice is not a demand or a social ethic; it is not an extra or a central part of the life of the body of Christ. It is the Body of Christ. How I live and behave as a Christian must be defined by the priorities of the Gospel. God’s justice is a reflection of his personality. Father, Son and Holy Spirit live together as Three in One and One in Three. We worship (and should reflect in our relationships with one another and the world), a Trinitarian God who is perfect relationship, perfect love, perfect communication, whose will is enshrined in action as well as words.
As we reflect upon the Trinity we are inspired to meditate upon the world and to identify where our society no longer reflects that perfect relationship. Jesus, the Incarnation of a Trinitarian God, encapsulated this idea in the teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. The poor, the grieving, the humble, the merciful, the justice seekers, the pure of heart and purpose, the persecuted, the misunderstood, the peacemakers all become the ideal and object of our life’s work. By enshrining these values into our lives we build a community that is genuinely counter-cultural. We reflect a gospel that no longer apes popular culture because of its morally impotent message and desperation to be heard, but begins to re-define culture for the benefit of the poor, the marginalised and the dispossessed. This justice, this lifestyle, this radicalism becomes the aroma of Christ to our world and the cause to which people are willing to give their lives.
I am willing to give my life for the dignity of the homeless because it is righteous and just.
I am willing to shop as ethically as I can because it invests worth in the labour of those that produce my food.
I am willing to embrace the violence of the prostitute because he or she is the victim of violence and deserves peace of mind.
I am willing to campaign to change the terms of trade between rich and poor countries because the increasing gap between rich and poor is morally unjustifiable.
I am willing to limit my lifestyle because resources spent on the expansion of my middle-class lifestyle are resources diverted away from the greater needs of the poor.
Our lives are the true reflection of what we believe and our actions as Christians in the Global Village must be tangible and just. I can wrap up my faith in Christ in the trappings and trimmings of popularity but, in my experience, those that are attracted to Jesus through these means, whether in the UK or Tanzania ultimately see through the shallow nature of cultural relevance and demand something more substantial.
Lifestyle the key to engaging the Global Village.
It is true that we are all participants in what is called the Global Village. We are all aware of the implications that this means on us and on those that we are never likely to meet. As I parade my new Gap top, Nike shoes, eat my mass-farmed breakfast cereal, climb into my German car, buy my child the latest Mickey Mouse Disney toy, I eat at the table of what we call the global free market. That market where items are manufactured or grown in one part of the world and bought and consumed in another.
An example of this would be the manufacturing of Nike Athletic Shoes. These are produced in many Export Processing Zones (EPZ). ‘These are tax-free havens in the 2/3rds world where goods are mass-produced in sweatshop conditions. One factory in China the Wellco Factory pays workers $0.16 per hour, runs 11-12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. Workers are fined if they refuse to work overtime, overtime rates are not paid, most employees have no legal contract, corporeal punishment has been reported, workers are fined if they are caught talking, approximately 10 children were found in the sewing section and virtually no employee had heard of the Nike Code of Conduct’.
This situation is not new, not uncommon and can be found virtually anywhere in the world in any industry. It is one example of how we are linked to the global world, through global trade and consumption and have a global responsibility to act as righteously as we can. It is here that a justice-orientated lifestyle kicks in.
Begin the Journey.
We begin by asking – what do we believe in? By that I don’t mean – just Jesus: if we say we believe in Jesus and change nothing in our lives other than our personal morality, we are hypocrites and have missed the point of following Christ. But we ask ourselves, what did Jesus believe in? Jesus believed in justice, righteousness, and compassion for the poor. He believed in challenging unjust structures that perpetuated violence and poverty and he attacked the roots of the problem in human selfishness and greed. Therefore if we say we follow Christ so must we do as he did.
We then move onto, what in my lifestyle needs to change in order more to reflect the values of Jesus? Perhaps we need to recycle paper as a way of not wasting the resources of the rain forest, or shop more ethically by buying Café Direct fairtrade coffee, or Green & Blacks organic chocolate, or researching if there is an organic producer who delivers to the door. By doing these things we are not only expressing a concern for our environment, but we are giving tangible expression to what we believe in.
We can then begin to look into getting involved with groups or networks that are actively working on issues relating to the poor, the marginalized and the dispossessed. We could join in a campaign that is working to see the trade rules around the world made fairer for poor countries. We could support a work amongst prostitutes in our own country or overseas. Or perhaps if you are feeling really revolutionary, write to a company and complain about their practices and say you will be telling all your friends what they are up to and you will not buy their product. At this time action speak louder then words and Christians must be at the forefront of seeing the world changed into a fairer and more just society for all people.
This is not an exhaustive list of things that can be done, but they represent some of the things that my household has done over the last 5 years. It must be recognised that this is a journey that you embark upon at some cost to yourself. You will discover just how little you know about the world, just how unjust our society is and how we are all complicit in the oppression of the poor. You will discover your own likes and dislikes, you’re prejudices and bigotry and, I dare say, a little cultural racism and superiority as well. This is a journey for the strong, the courageous and the dedicated, it is not a journey for the closed minded, the cultural supremacist and ego-centric amongst us.
I have not had the opportunity in this short space to talk in more detail about the lives of the poor, the fact that the global village means global misery to millions and that preaching at people in the form of crusades and evangelistic meetings leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of millions and does little more than create ‘rice’ Christians and boost statistics. Or that the inter-net revolution is only a revolution if you have electricity, literacy and the money to be able to buy a computer. (As I found recently in Ethiopia when discussing a Human Rights situation with community leaders from the slums, my technological sophistication was clearly beyond their capability of participating in). In a society that has reduced Christianity to a mere personal choice and moral framework, we need the strong and courageous to put substance back into what it means to follow Christ. Our lives must demonstrate the substance of the gospel and the justice of God.
In conclusion, it is my personal conviction that as we enter the 21st century the work of the Spirit of Christ in the world will focus more on issues of peace, justice and reconciliation than ever before. The Global Village gives us global access, and with global access we carry an ever-greater responsibility to act and behave in such a way as to honour Christ in thought, word and deed.
Founder CRED Jewellery and CRED Foundation
 1998 United Nations Human Development Report. (Italics mine)
 Naomi Klein. No Logo, Table 9.3 p474. pub Flamingo 2000