Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Clattering Train

I found this poem quoted in Winston Churchill's book, The Gathering Storm, and it keeps coming to mind. Even though Churchill was talking about the rise of Nazi Germany, the poem seems frighteningly contemporary - as if it is speaking to the world today, though may God forbid.

Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak and the couplings strain,
and the pace is hot and the points are near,
and sleep hath deadened the driver's ear,
and the signals flash through the night in vain,
for death is in charge of the clattering train

There is even an excellent video of actor Albert Finney portraying Churchill reciting the poem.

The poem is abbreviated from a longer poem called "Death and his Brother Sleep," which, according to one source I found, is by Edwin J Milliken in Punch Magazine.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Culture Change and Social Justice in Christian Ministry

I am frankly quite concerned about the new focus on "culture change" as a priority in Christian ministry, and it might allay my fears if its advocates could answer these questions:

1. I read a long article by culture-change advocates and was left with this question: What do you want culture to be like? "Change," in and of itself, can be good or bad, so please spell out what you mean. Tell me as exactly as you can HOW you believe culture needs to change. How can I know if I should agree with you if you don't say where you are going?

2. By your emphasis on long-term - sometimes "many-generation" - change, are you assuming that human institutions are perfectable? Really, I don't know; I'm just asking.

3. Related to the previous question. Are you quietly slipping amillenialism into your philosophy? Again, just asking.

4. I am of the view that C.S. Lewis advocated, that individuals are eternal and societies are temporary, so human beings are priceless. Do you see the salvation of individuals as more, less, or equally important to the reform of cultures?

5. I am a bit concerned about your advocacy of "community." By "community," are you including the government? If so, are you suggesting the government should have some additional authority? If so, what?

6. Related to the previous point, the term "social justice" has been used in the past by socialist and communist groups to advocate for governmental redistribution of wealth and an overiding of the market. Are you using the term in the same sense?

7. Regarding Christian missions, in the past Western missionaries have been accused of imposing an I-know-what's-best-for-you cultural view on non-Western cultures. More recently mission leaders have attempted to maintain as culturally-neutral a stance as can be accomodated within the teachings of Scripture. In advocating "culture change" in Christian missions, are you suggesting a return to something more like the earlier view?