This is the series on the Christian lessons from the 12 step movement.
It provokes a number of questions for me – a lot of them that this is good, but then we have to look at what we are saying when we say this essentially theistic movement with its roots in Christian tradition (and in particular the Oxford movement, which is much criticised by John Stott among others) has some big lessons for us. Once again, where is God in the place that is good but doesn’t name itself Christian. Or does 12 steps also in a way have to admit it’s own faults and need of redemption, or is that a bit too meta.
Anyway, this is really interesting to look at, because the thing that so many of us want above all is change. Continue reading
Francis often quotes the words of the German poet Holderlin
“may the man not betray what he promised as a child” (page 25)
Francis knew some familiar struggles
“One regular gripe was that vocations to the priesthood had fallen in Buenos Aires in his time” (page 121)
On Rafael Tello, the Liberation Theologian silenced by the Church
“Nobody who has opened up new paths leaves without scars on his body.” (page 138)
“Guilt by itself… is just another human resource. Guilt, without atonement, does not allow us to grow” (page 146)
On going out to the peripheries (a now famous speech before the conclave and given here) the surge needs to surge forth to the peripheries.
“The Church is supposed to be the mysterium lunae, the mystery of the moon is that it has no light, but simply reflects the light of the sun” (page 155)
“It’s about a shift in our understanding of Church. The community which presides in love; that is putting the Pope back in the college. It is ecclesiastically radical. He has thought through what he is doing. It is the produce of the many years of practical theology.” (page 166)
He calls for “a church that gets out in the street and runs the risk of an accident” rather than a church which “doesn’t get out and sooner or later gets sick from being locked up” (page 180)
Borrows the idea from Elise Boulding that we live in a 200 year present (page 22) – easy to calculate if we think about the age of those who have influenced us, and the ages of those that we will influence in later life.
Structural History and Personal Biography are connected (page 23)
Turning points are moments pregnant with new life, which rise form what appear to be the barren grounds of destructive violence and relationship. This unexpected new life makes possible the processes of constructive change in human affairs and constitutes the moral imagination, without which peacebuilding cannot be understood or practiced. (page 29)
Violence is the behaviour of someone incapable if imagining other solutions to the problem at hand – from Vincenc Fisas (page 29)
A crisis is a terrible thing to waster – Paul Romer, Stanford (page 149)
In a change program as the one needed here, ‘Someone has to be the unreasonable one’. If you start accepting the excuses, however plausible, it is a slippery slope. As I look back on four years in the Delivery Unit, I regret a number of cases of giving a department the benefit of the doubt, I can’t remember a single case of being too tough. (page 154)
Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes — the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let’s further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes.
THEN IT HAPPENED!
By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough!
But notice: A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea…Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes.
Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind.
Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people.
But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!
The great public health advances of the past are different from just changing public perception. The old joke is that public health doesn’t make you live longer, it just feels like it.
We need commitment devices to helps us change – diet sheets, marriage. As society changes we need commitment devices.
There are three approaches to ethics – individual rights, utilitarianism and virtue ethics. Increasingly we need to head towards virtue ethics. We need a re-imagination of what a good life is. We need the true, the good and the beautiful.
Two Greeks and a Jew:
Jesus the truth
Plato the beautiful
Aristotle the good
There are so many barriers to successful reform that one wonder sometimes how anyone ever achieves anything at all. It is not just the cynicism resulting from the track record that gets in the way. There is the tendency to have pleasant little projects which tinker at the edges of a service but do not change teh core business. There is the ever present risk of watering down a proposal to gain consensus, with the result too often that roaring lion becomes a squeaking mouse. There is the risk that before a reform has really made a difference, the agenda shifts, attention is diverted elsewhere and the service slips back to its pre-existing state. Most of all , there is the danger of underestimating the extraordinary deadweight force of institutional inertia. No wonder most reforms fail, and I haven’t yet mentioned the barriers – bad ideas and gross incompetence – which are so obvious they would hardly need stating but for their historical pedigree. Remember the Poll tax?
There are thousands of people in government bureaucracies whose job it is to complicate matters (lawyers spring to mind – ‘It all depends’, they begin). I don’t necessarily criticise this – government is, after all, a complicated thing. However, to get something done, a countervailing force is required; people who will simplify, keep bringing people back to the fundamentals:
– What are you trying to do?
– How are you trying to do it?
– How do you know you are succeeding?
– If you are not succeeding, how will you change things?
– How can we help you?
‘The neglect of implementation issues is more than a simple intellectual mistake: it may be a rational response to the fact that our political system confers more rewards for the shrewd deployment of symbols and generalising arguments than it does for detailed realistic analysis, and forecasting.’
From page 481:
It [the conflict over tuition fees] is an object lesson in the progress of reform: the change is proposed; it is denounced as a disaster; it proceeds with vast chipping away and opposition; it is unpopular; it comes about; within a short space of time, it is as if it had always been so.
The lesson is also instructive: if you think a change is right, go with it. The opposition is inevitable, but rarely is it unbeatable. There will be many silent supporters as well as the many vocal detractors. And leadership is all about the decisions that change. If you can’t handle that, don’t become a leader.
And the lesson goes wider: it is about rising above the fray, leaning how to speak above the din and clatter, and about always, always, keeping focused on the big picture.
During the course of that attempt at reform [pensions] I had learned one rather larger lesson: be clear that if someone isn’t screaming somewhere, it probably isn’t going to work. Consensus is great, but in modern politics, where debate unfortunately works through disagreement, it is like the philosopher’s stone sought by alchemists: if it sounds too good to be true that you can turn base metal into gold, that’s probably because it is. So consensus is wonderful, but not if it is part of a delusion that making real change with real impact is going to please everyone. It isn’t. And in these circumstances the ‘consensus’ can be a sign that the reform isn’t really biting, in which case it probably isn’t going to fulfill its purpose.
– Why is that I want to succeed so badly in my ministry? Is it out of need to prove my worth and value or is it because I am a good steward of my gifts and talents? What is going on beneath the surface of my life?
– Why do I avoid confronting difficult people at Church? Is it because I am trying to model humility and peacemaking or is it because I don’t want to be rejected?
– Why am I so rigid about dropping everything to return my phone calls and emails? Is it because I want to please people? Is it because I want everyone to think I’m competent as a leader?
“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people” – Richard Foster.
“Al men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” – Pascal
3. Linking the Gospel and Emotional Health
“If God ever allowed us to see more than 1 per cent of our sin, we would fall down dead.”
“you can be yourself because there is nothing left to prove.”
Final quote is from Glittering Images by Susan Howatch.
4. Getting rid of the “Glittering
Chester looks at three reasons we try to change.
1 that we want to impress God
2 That we want to impress ourselves
3 That we want to impress others
Then looks at the reasons we should want to change because we are a temple of the Holy Spirit or because we have a new identity or because we like righteousness
We cannot change by resolve. Look at Colossians 2 or Puritan John Flavel “we are more able to stop the sun in its course or make rivers run uphill as by our own skill and power to rule and order our own hearts. “
Telling a slave to be free is adding insult to injury but telling a liberated free to be free is telling them to enjoy their freedom and privileges. Page 55