Wednesday, November 29, 2006

more G20 stuff

Check out Christop's account of the weekend: day one, day two and day three. He's got a bunch of the news articles we're in at the end of his account too.

G20 Christian Collective info sheet

"I would contend that the witness of this Spirit in action through small, often misunderstood groups of people, from Jesus to the early church and throughout history, is that love can and will, time and time again, make capitalism impossible and communism unnecessary." --Shane Claiborne

Climate change, human destruction of our natural world and the growing gap between rich and poor are stark evidence that we are failing as caretakers of our earth and each other. We are here as a group of faith-based people who are not prepared to sit back and allow this to happen.

We are here to protest the G20 because only the high priests of economics of the world's 20 richest countries have been invited to the table. Those who most strikingly pay the price of G20 policies - the environment and the poor - have been excluded.

We are here to remind the public and those in the meetings that it is useless to discuss economic policies in the absence of representatives of the poor and the environment. And so we are here to bear a physical reminder of the excluded, the marginalised, the ignored. To symbolise their presence, even here, outside the barricades.

As Christians we believe in and work towards an alternative economy where there are no rich or poor, and all have a seat at the table.

"A G20 Christian Collective" will hold a 60-hour street vigil from 7:30am Friday 17th November to Sunday 19th November. We are setting up a "3rd World and Environment Ministers' Embassies" outside the barricades to the Hyatt hotel, where the G20 are meeting. We camp here requesting tickets to the meeting on behalf of the excluded.

Some of us will be staying overnight at the barricades and will eat nothing but rice and water for 60 hours to show our solidarity with the world's poor and to experience a little of the suffering they experience on a daily basis.

We are committed to nonviolence. A G20 Christian Collective will, however, actively confront oppressive policies by embodying an alternative, not just this weekend, but every day. We invite all people to join us - police, other protestors, G20 representatives, Christians and those of other or no faith.

Together, in love, we can make a better world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

reflections on the g20 weekend

Wow, what an experience. I've written my reflections on the weekend, and it comes to 11 full pages. I'll post a selection here, and if you're interested in reading the full account, just email me.
I’m running late for our scheduled meeting time of 7:30am, pedalling my bike as fast as I can. As I enter the city I note, with some joy, the flashing orange signs saying “Streets closed”. I put my bike upstairs at Urban Seed and race down to arrive on the street right on 7:30. Jess, Ann, Anthony, Ross, Ash, Barry waiting there, in front of Collins St. steps, so we decide to move so as not to confuse us with Collins St or Urban Seed.

Immediately we have media approach us: first it’s a cameraman from the ABC. He asks us just to walk with sign; we say we’re not going to pose for him, but we were heading there anyway, so walk with it. Other cameramen quickly come in – channel 7. Photographers are snapping photos left, right and centre. It’s a weird, self-conscious feeling.

We cross the road at Scot’s church, aware of not jaywalking at this early stage – not wanting to give the police any reason to get rid of us. We start setting up right outside Gucci. Talking to the cops, we say we’d arranged this with John Costelloe, the G20 intelligence officer, a young guy who had been quite helpful to us. Initially wanting to partially obscure traffic, we are told to move it away from the road: we do. It takes a while to set up the tent. The media wait patiently, many of them filming. We finally get the tent up, set it up on the pedestrian crossing next to the barricade, and police immediately come and tell us to take it down. Like she’d been expecting this, Jess immediately yells at the media, “Police have said that the Third World Embassy cannot have a structure, so the Third World Embassy will have to sit out in the open.” Cameras click and whirr. We start to set up cardboard boxes on ground.

Police tell us we can’t have cardboard on the pedestrian crossing: it’s too slippery, and they don’t want us to get sued (yeah, right!). We push it back a bit; they say no, pick it up. We comply. They tell us we have to move into the corner. Jess is not impressed, but we pow wow again and decide this is acceptable: we can still see the Hyatt, and most importantly, they can still see us.

Jess is getting frustrated. Chris Duthie, the officer in charge of the operation, is being fairly antagonistic and not helpful. I’m calm, but aware of a lot of attention. We’re not wanting to back down at this early stage and give the police all the power. We make sure we’re clear on what we can and can’t do so no misunderstandings happen later.

We pow-wow (the first of many) and decide this is not the battle we want to fight. We want to maintain a long presence here. We set up our banners, saying “Jesus invites all to the table” pointing to the Hyatt and “3rd world and environment embassy” pointing to the road. By the time all is done, we have moved only a matter of a couple of metres.
The overnight shift:
I’m woken at around 3:15am by a text from Jess saying, “g20 christian collective having barricades errerted (sic) around them and are going 2 b asked 2 move. PLEASE NOTIFY MEDIA” There’s a text message from her there too, but by the time I get it and then ring her, I might as well have just rung her. So I do: she explains that they were just woken to the sound of barricades being erected around them and they are being asked to move and need to decide what to do. I suggest they check what the police situation is – whether they would arrest us for not moving – and decide then. Not worth getting arrested for. Our continued presence is what’s important.

They do check. Jess asks, “What if we don’t move?” The policeman says, “We’ll physically move you.” Jess asks, “Will you arrest us?” The policeman says, “No, we’ll just physically move you.” Three of the group refuse to move, as a form of protest to our being shifted. The police carry them down the road to the edge of the new barricades.
A God moment (one of many):

At one stage I go down the front of the party, right to the police barricades, because someone says that they’ve moved the Collins St. barriers back to where they were on the first night, and we might therefore have a chance to return there. I quickly see this is not the case, but there is a man ranting at the police, doing a clearly rehearsed spiel about masks – and how the police are the masks of the state. I recognise him even with his balaclava on, as the anarchist guy Fred I met the day before. When he finishes, he dramatically whips his balaclava off, screaming, “I am not a terrorist!!” I go over and greet him warmly, shaking his hand and saying g’day. He says he heard we got moved during the night, and this is something I am soon to hear from tons of people – how this news travelled so fast can only be put down to word of mouth from my indymedia article. I look at police, who are watching the crowd, and wonder whether there is any bewilderment in this obviously Christian guy (with Jesus on his shirt) greeting this angry anarchist so warmly, and being warmly greeted back. I smile, thinking that right here, in the embrace of the alienated, is the Kingdom of God, and head back to the others.

The ubiquitous Credo cross:

At one point when police were particularly toey, they get their crowd control officers to tell us they must take the Credo cross behind the lines: immediately I feel annoyed, but almost as quickly, excited. The Credo cross gets to go where we all can’t! This symbol of a poor palestinian jew getting in behind the lines seems wonderful. We’re given the choice between them taking it behind the barricades or us taking it to a safe place. I like the idea of it getting in too much to pass up the opportunity. It still strikes me as a remarkable symbol. There is some confusion as to where they want to put it, as we had initially agreed to it going behind the lines so long as it was visible to us. They reneged on that deal, and so I asked for it back (also so I was ready with the camera). Initially they refuse, saying that it will be safer behind the lines. Eventually we persuade them to give it back: I make sure to get some pictures of the policeman carrying the cross.

Breaking our fast:
Later we decide to break our fast around 6:30pm, ready to pack up and leave at 7:30pm. Ash goes to make some dinner, and doesn’t return till around 7:30; we decide to wait for him (“just 5 more minutes…”). We begin by inviting police to join us; not surprisingly, none of them take us up on the offer. During the meal we again get up and offer food to them; again, it is refused. That’s ok. Just asking them feels right.

It’s an entirely freegan feast, totally provided for out of the abundane of our society; a real, concrete example of the providence of God. We begin our meal with Jess telling the story of how we came to have two Picnic bars – given to us by police on Friday. This is deeply significant for us, in expressing the inclusiveness of God and there being “enough for all” – so we break these together as our communion feast. Then we share some freegan wine to finish off. And then we tuck in.

There is much talk, much laughter, and much sharing of stories. This is true community. An amazing experience of shared life, with no division, no stereotyping, no hate.

The formal part of our meal is a time which Barry leads, encouraging us to think about where we have met God this weekend. We go around the circle; people who have been here for 60 hours sharing with those who have been here for one. I begin with “I could talk for days on this…” eliciting much laughter, as my almost nonexistent voice belies my words. I get teary as I talk about the way activists have responded to our presence and actions here, and about this moment as the culmination of months of planning and indeed of a life of faith. What could be better than this moment, where we embody everything we profess to believe, a moment where all are invited to the table, where we have homeless people as much a part of us as anyone else, our enemies invited, a feast that embodies the providence of God, and the love of Christ? I share about my moment the day before with anarchist fred and the police, and about the blessing and curse of the media. I know there are things we could’ve done better, that we have not been perfect; but I know too in this moment that God has graced us with covering over those imperfections.

I thank Jess for her self-control this weekend, because I know that I’ve held her back a few times, and Julie for looking after our girls, enabling me to take part in this weekend.

As we finish the meal, we pass the peace among ourselves, and then among the police. Only one of the twenty or so refuses to shake our hand. This is another expression of what we’re about – that while we oppose what they stand for, we mean these individuals no harm, rather including them in the alternative society we have set about to create.
Plenty more where these came from.

Girard on the scapegoat mechanism

This is an extract of an interview with Rene Girard, a philosopher who revealed the nonviolence of Jesus (and therefore God) perhaps better than most. In it, he explains the scapegoating mechanism in much simpler terms than any of his books, which are amongst the most difficult to read books I've ever encountered due to the translations from French to English. This is the point we fail to recognise in our theology, that is absolutely central to understanding atonement and why there is no peace on earth.
Gardels: Is Christianity superior to other religions?

Girard: Yes. All of my work has been an effort to show that Christianity is superior and not just another mythology. In mythology, a furious mob mobilizes against scapegoats held responsible for some huge crisis. The sacrifice of the guilty victim through collective violence ends the crisis and founds a new order ordained by the divine. Violence and scapegoating are always present in the mythological definition of the divine itself.

It is true that the structure of the Gospels is similar to that of mythology in which a crisis is resolved through a single victim who unites everybody against him, thus reconciling the community. As the Greeks thought, the shock of death of the victim brings about a catharsis that reconciles. It extinguishes the appetite for violence. For the Greeks, the tragic death of the hero enabled ordinary people to go back to their peaceful lives.

However, in this case, the victim is innocent and the victimizers are guilty. Collective violence against the scapegoat as a sacred, founding act is revealed as a lie. Christ redeems the victimizers through enduring his suffering, imploring God to "forgive them for they know not what they do." He refuses to plead to God to avenge his victimhood with reciprocal violence. Rather, he turns the other cheek.

The victory of the Cross is a victory of love against the scapegoating cycle of violence. It punctures the idea that hatred is a sacred duty.

The Gospels do everything that the (Old Testament) Bible had done before, rehabilitating a victimized prophet, a wrongly accused victim. But they also universalize this rehabilitation. They show that, since the foundation of the world, the victims of all Passion-like murders have been victims of the same mob contagion as Jesus. The Gospels make this revelation complete because they give to the biblical denunciation of idolatry a concrete demonstration of how false gods and their violent cultural systems are generated.

This is the truth missing from mythology, the truth that subverts the violent system of this world. This revelation of collective violence as a lie is the earmark of Judeo-Christianity. This is what is unique about Judeo-Christianity. And this uniqueness is true.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

G20: the washup

Too much to officially cover here. Am working on my recollection of events: it's up to 10 pages already. Phew. Suffice to say it was amazing. More later.

culture jam

Someone's done some great adbusting here (no pun intended) - check out the words stuck on her leg:

This one's a bit closer:

And then this one in a laneway near Flinders Lane. It reads:
Those who speak of revolution and class struggle with explicit references to everyday life without understanding the subversiveness of love and what's positive in the refusal of constraints they have a cadaver in their mouths.

Hosier Lane poster art

In case you can't see what they say I've added the main content as a caption underneath:

The Monotony of Growth Society

This building has been chosen for immediate destruction due to crimes against architecture and humanity. It has been designated as the site of a future forest. You have been chosen to strike the first blow. Your time starts now...

No we're not. We don't and we won't. We're not generous, we don't care and we won't share. Do tell us Johnny - why the bloody hell would anyone want to come here?

The more you spend the more they profit.

Visions for a better world.

Join the war on truth. Undermining trust in society, A vote for conservatism, Will ensure your wealth.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

AAP came through for us...

"A G20 Christian Collective" media release:

Christian pacifists demand tickets to G20

At 7:30 am on Friday November 17th, a group of Melbourne Christians will set up camp outside the barricades that surround the G20 meetings at the Grand Hyatt hotel, demanding tickets on behalf of those excluded from the meetings.

While those who missed out on tickets to U2 camp outside Telstra Dome in the hope of a last-minute ticket, a G20 Christian Collective will camp outside the G20 meeting, demanding a last-minute ticket for those who have been excluded from the talks. In a 60-hour vigil from 7:30am on Friday November 17th to 6pm Sunday November 19th, they will be a presence for those who have a significant stake in the outcome of the G20 meetings, yet who are not represented: the environment, health and social ministers, and the poor themselves.

The group includes teachers, lawyers and church ministers. Many of them will stay overnight at the temporary ‘Embassy’, some eating nothing but rice and water for 60 hours to show their solidarity with the world's poor.

Rev. Simon Moyle, spokesperson for A G20 Christian Collective, says, “Discussing economic issues in isolation from the poor and the cost to the environment is a form of economic tunnel vision that must be held to account.”

"People are dying because of the ideas accepted or rejected by groups like this,” says Jessica Morrison, another member of the group. “We must do the most we can to ensure the voice of the poor are always in their ears."

Committed to nonviolence, A G20 Christian Collective will actively confront oppressive policies by embodying an alternative. “We invite all people to join us – police, other protesters, G20 representatives, Christians, and those of other or no faith,” Rev. Moyle said.

Which resulted in:


And this.

And this.

"Tomorrow, a group calling themselves "a G20 Christian Collective" will begin a 60-hour vigil outside the Grand Hyatt demanding "tickets" to the summit on behalf of those excluded from it.

The group - which includes teachers, lawyers and church ministers - will set up a temporary "embassy" and some will consume nothing but rice and water for the duration."

And hopefully more to come over the weekend.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

More Rosebud photos

Some more photos from my phone from our most recent trip to Rosebud with my family last week. My brother and sister in law had been away in the UK for almost two years, so this was a chance for us to all catch up and get to know each other again.

I love the beach, in case you can't tell.

365 Bible promises for hurting people

I found a book in an op shop in Rosebud with the above title, and immediately thought, "Wow, that's a delightfully ambiguous title. Are these Bible promises supposed to relieve people's hurt or cause it?" It wasn't clear that it wasn't a book of tools for how to hurt people.

(Interestingly, an book reviewer picked up on this ambiguity too, posting this little ripper: "I bought this book hoping to learn a few traditional, tried and true methods for inflicting suffering on others. Instead, all this is is a namby-pamby rehash of simpy Biblical homilies about being nice and crap like that. More Old Testament plagues and the like would have improved things a bit." Classic!)

But it seems to me the church, and Christians in general, are much better at hurting people than they are at relieving people's hurt.

Not to mention the way that books like this use the bible: rip a verse or three out of its context, then slap it down as a timeless, infallible, cure-all promise. Especially when it's aimed at people who are hurting, this can be incredibly dangerous.

It seems to me that, even when they're not intended to, these kinds of books often cause more hurt than they relieve.

I can't speak for this book really; I didn't buy it or read it, so Alice Chapin, I have no doubt that your intentions are pure. But I have to wonder what view of the Bible or of Christian this kind of thing comes from and perpetuates.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Richard Rohr on the contemplative stance

Went and hear Richard speak last night and it was completely mindblowingly fantastic. I made the following notes from just one-liners he gave that summarised some wonderfully tranformative points. Essentially he sees contemplation as the basis for action; that is, if we can get the contemplative stance right (for want of a better term - right isn't quite it), acton automatically follows. So here are some of the pearls he cast before this swine:

How to see is how to be.
You get a sense of the kind of seeing he's talking abou there in the Mary Oliver poem 'Snow Geese' (below). It's a kind of presentness to the moment that relinquishes judgement or criticism, and em.

Love and death are the only things worth writing about, the only things going on in the world.
See the opening line of the Mary Oliver poem below.

"What matters is that when I saw them, I saw them" (Mary Oliver). Experiencing your experiences.
He made this point via the following Mary Oliver poem:
Snow Geese
Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.
What matters is that when I saw them, I saw them. The contemplative stance, Richard says, is about seeing with more than just a critical eye. Most of the time we operate out of a dualistic mindset, which is about discrimination, good and bad, right and wrong.

Classic dualistic arguments (liberal, conservative, Liberal/Labor, etc.) are based in the idea that if you argue for long enough or persuasively enough, the other person will simply capitulate and you'll emerge the winner. But as Richard says...when has that ever happened? Instead, what we get most of the time is classic addictive behaviour - behaviour that is repeated despite nothing changing (or the situation worsening). Something needs to be transformed.

Most people don't see things as they are, they see things as they are.

Obviously, the emphases are important here. Basically, he was saying we make the world in our own image - our perspective, who we are, determines in many ways what we see. In a contemplative stance, we attempt to open our eyes to see what is really there - see things as they are, not as we are.

Religion is what you do with your pain. Whatever is not transformed is transmitted/ transferred.
The first part, Richard said, is one of his most quoted sayings. The second is the heart of nonviolence. Either our violence towards each other is transferred to another (counter-violence or the fight reflex), taken into oneself (passivity or the flight reflex), or it is transformed (nonviolence). It's classic Jung.

Nothing is wasted - everything belongs.
The idea that nothing is wasted is mindblowing. "Everything belongs" is the title of his best-selling books; he assumes this is because of the title.

God comes to us disguised as life.
I think his point here was something like: we seem to constantly engage the age old problem of evil - that is, if God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world? - and yet, in the entire Bible, God never answers this question. God is simply present in the suffering; willing healing and reconciliation, but present. In the spirit of "everything belongs" we can accept it and look for God's presence in it rather than assuming God's absence when things go wrong.

Grace is always a defeat for the ego; it is always humiliation.
Wow! What a profound thought. No wonder we reject the mercy of God so often, and make it into an "I must have to earn it!" thing, even if it's just by acceptance or whatever. The fact that God loves us unconditionally is a scary thing because we can't control it - thus grace is a defeat for the ego because regardless of what we are or do, we are loved, with a love that cannot increase or decrease.

The contemplative stance is most often experienced as a letting go. All you can do is get out of the way.
And yet how rarely we do let go!

There was some real resonance with stuff that's going on for us at the moment - talking about the cross and how Bonaventure saw it as being wedged between two extremes because he rejected (or embraced) both. This is precisely what's been happening at Urban Seed with the whole G20 thing - by embracing both ends of town, the rich and the poor, we have found ourselves wedged.

So if you get the chance to hear Richard speak, on audio tape or CD or read his books, do it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My G20:WWJD? report

G20: What Would Jesus Do? was a nonviolent direct action training event aimed at engaging Christians in more serious and committed efforts for peace and justice.

The makeup of the group was exciting. Most of the 25 participants came from four significant but different communities, lending a diversity, balance and depth to the whole day. For every person there (with the exception of the trainers), this was their first experience of nonviolence training. Having said that, the experience levels too were diverse, with some hardened activists on the one hand and people who had never even thought about engagement in justice issues on the other. For all the diversity and difference, the one unifying factor was a desire to take seriously Jesus’ call to justice.

Jarrod McKenna (activist and nonviolence trainer from Perth) led most of the day, with Simon Moyle, Brent Lyons-Lee and Marcus Curnow from Urban Seed in support. Content ranged from exploring what violence is, to the theory and theology of nonviolence, through to planning some actions. A Sunday Age reporter and photographer turned up interested in what we were doing, and though they stayed for almost three hours (and wrote the story), it didn’t run.

The outcome of the day was two working groups; one based around prayer and liturgy and the other around the idea of representing the presence of the (excluded) poor. Details of the actions will be nailed down in the remaining few weeks, but already those groups have expanded outside those who attended the training. The sense I have is that there is a Christian activist movement building in Melbourne – people who want to take discipleship of Jesus seriously - and that this has been a catalyst for bringing that movement together.