Dying to Live: A Theology of Migration by Dr Daniel Groody

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Two open lectures this week.  Excellent.  Here is a report on the first.

We have been migrants since we left Africa.  We may live a lifetime in one place.  Our genes passed on after us travel onwards with the next generation.

We encounter otherness in the migrant: perhaps the other is someone to fear, or someone to use, or someone with which we can connect.  It is our choice to respond to the alien with a fortress mentality, or a hospitality of need.  Our levels of population mean that there is more migrants alive today than at any earlier point of past time.

Border patrol agents are human beings.  They can do their task of patrolling borders at risk of life, injury and well-being.  It is also true that migrants seeking a better life, security and work opportunities are people who practice faith and ideology, and have their families too.

People of faith associate natural rights with the likeness of god.  The question gets asked, Which part of the law don’t you understand? Usually the law of good conduct which is dictated by those who feel that native culture is under pressure.  (For native culture read “culture that broke out of Europe 400 years ago”!)  The longest migration that between the head and the heart and back again, between understanding and feeling, and creating spirituality which we can live by.

I found Dr Groody interesting when he started talking theology.  God is the ultimate migrant.  In the Christian incarnation god migrated to reconcile us and bring us back to the homeland.  The migrant is the image of god.  The inception of Jesus was illegal, announced to Mary, betraying marital fidelity.  Then Jesus invited everyone to his table, he rejected rejection.  (I really want to see a religious picture entitled Jesus Teaches His Disciples How to Party!)  We are connected to the human family.  The body of Christ is One, it crosses borders.

The spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour.

Stop GCSB and TICS

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It was estimated that 400 people turned up for this demonstration in Dunedin’s Octagon.  I arrived about 20 minutes early and watched the people gather.  The numbers grew quickly and at the last moment.  Advertising for the Dunedin event had been low key.  Rather like being at church, complete with its own liturgy best known to the in-group.  I stayed until the end of the formal speeches.  After two hours of consecutive speeches the numbers and energy levels had dissipated.  I didn’t stay for the open microphone or the music.

Repeatedly the refrain People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from surveillance was quoted and dismissed.  People with nothing to hide shouldn’t be under surveillance in the first place.  History has shown that the surveillance states of the past have produced nothing but dysfunctional and paranoid societies where opinion and expression are suppressed.  The acts of terrorism of recent times have happened despite our current surveillance states.  We are surrendering security to distrust.

Alternatively the GCSB has something to hide from us that its surveillance is not under supervision that members of the public can trust.

Meanwhile the GCSB would like you to download that fish casserole recipe again.  It was delicious but they’ve lost the link!

GCSB: Government Communications Security Bureau; or as I’ve memorised it: *Government Communications Savings Bank (Looking after you in a very, very special way!)

And TICS I understand is Telecommunications Interception and Communications Security Act.  This is the less familiar abbreviation.  It might prove to be the more scary one in consequence.

Toi Karaitiana: Christianity and Maori Art and Architecture

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This was a series of lectures given by Professor Jonathan Mane Wheoki in the Albert Moore Memorial Lectures.

The first lecture was on art and architecture in the Anglican Church in New Zealand.  Professor Wheoki is an Anglican and could speak about its architecture as an insider.  The Anglican Church arrived in New Zealand at the time it was becoming more ceremonial in its practice of worship.  Anglican translators were responsible for the Treaty of Waitangi.  Its language can be called ‘Missionary Maori’.

The book on church planting among Maori has yet to be written.

The image, The Light of the World by Holman Hunt, toured New Zealand in 1906.  Any image of it in New Zealand Churches, inspiring stained glass windows based in its image, can be dated to this time.  It was probably not this time that Albert Moore saw it.  According to his autobiography he was aware of it as a Bible Class Student and viewed it in the Keble College Chapel when he was studying in Britain in the 1950s.

Early Maori Anglican churches appear on the exterior to be colonial Gothic churches.  Their interiors are ornate.  Although the missionaries forbade the iconography of ancestral images, regarding them as obscene.  It is possible to consider the inclusion of pre-Christian ancestors in religious space as a challenge to the one god the missionaries of whom the missionaries demanded exclusive worship.

It is possible that the Otakou church on the Otago peninsula with its exterior patterned on casts of Ngati Porou design (not the local iwi, but with originals that could be obtained from the Otago Museum) and its Arts and Crafts workmanship was among the first churches with a Maori exterior and marks a transition in architecture.

The Kaik

The new prayerbook of the Anglican church united the Church of England in New Zealand with the Haahi Mihinare.  Together with the Polynesian strand of New Zealand Anglicanism they became the three tikanga, or streams, of the Anglican church in New Zealand.

The second lecture was more about art and painting in the Maori Catholic tradition in New Zealand than about its architecture.   The architecture of Catholic churches lacked the same Maori ornamentation.  It has made use of an architecture that allowed in a mystical light into its space for worship.

The first Madonna and Child done in New Zealand by Patoromu (Bartholemew) Tamatea.  The madonna is adorned with a full facial moko to show that she is set apart and not touched by a man.  The Christ child is represented as a Tiki, the first man.  The image was not received by the Catholic missionaries.  It was received by Pope John Paul II when he visited New Zealand at the end of the twentieth century.  I wonder what a contemporary representation of the Madonna would look like if it included this influence.

The lecture moved from Bishop Pompellier to Ralph Hotere.  Hotere was a Northland Maori who came to Dunedin and made it the base of work and his art.  Hokianga was his whenua and it was there that his body was returned to be his burial place.  Dunedin was the inspiration of his work.

A Fall of Rain at Mitimiti: Hokianga
Drifting on the wind, and through
the broken window of the long house
where you lie, incantatory chant
of surf breaking, and the Mass
and the mountain talking.

At your feet two candles puff the
stained faces of the whanau, the vigil
of the bright madonna. See, sand-whipped
the toy church does not flinch.

E moe, e te whaea: wahine rangimarie

Mountain, why do you loom over us like
that, hands on massive hips? Simply
by hooking your fingers to the sea,
rain-squalls swoop like a hawk, suddenly.
Illuminated speeches darken, fade to metallic
drum-taps on the roof.

Anei nga roimata o Rangipapa.

Flat, incomprehensible faces: lips moving
only to oratorical rhythms of the rain:

quiet please, I can’t hear the words.
And the rain steadying: black sky leaning
against the long house. Sand, wind-sifted
eddying lazily across the beach.

And to a dark song lulling: e te whaea, sleep.

Hone Tuwhare, 1974

The third lecture was on Regret and Resistance, the Maori response.  The chiefs of the tribes marked the Treaty of Waitangi with a cross beside their names, a sign of assent.  The substance of the land belonged to them, now the shadow of the land belongs to the first-comers.  There is a lot to be restored before there can be good faith between the people of the land and the churches again.  It is a long walk back.

The millennial movements took to flags Pakeha brought with them.  The Maori word is te haki, the Jack, as in Union Jack.  The flag engages the wind, it is an intermediary between us and the god of the wind.  Te Kooti’s flag, te Wepu, the whip, ended up in Auckland Museum where it was used as dusters!  As an archivist I feel the outrage!

Maori art has moved from nostalgia to political engagement.  We stand in the river of time looking downstream on the past; the future is coming up from behind us.

The Crucified Tekoteko by Darcy Nicholas

The tekoteko is the carved figure at the top of the meeting house.  The lightning rod, so to speak.  Christianity has crucified the indigenous image, and by the looks of things, bloodied it.  Still, look closely, the ancestors are still in the land.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass

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I think I saw this book mentioned on an interesting blog I’m reading at the moment, John Vest’s blog, a youth pastor who is currently moderator of Chicago Presbytery.  It had been mentioned a couple of times.  As the Hewitson Library had displayed a copy I made the point of flagging it for my own reading.

It’s a good argument.  I’m not sure I’m convinced.  Bass’s thesis seems to be that the conservative Evangelical resurgence in American politics and culture has faltered.  The old mainstream church is having its own crises, an unattractive alternative that is fading away.  Belief is in such a free-fall that free-thinking critics of religion may know more doctrine than those who actually subscribe to it.  The progressives are sidelined out of the churches.  They have become identified as spiritual without being religious.

There’s an spiritual awakening that is untapped by organised religion.  I’m skeptical of the conviction that we are in an axial age.  I’m not seeing the evidence.  I see too much civilised darkness out there and to say that the spiritual awakening will herald in a new age of global community is mechanistic.

Bass recognises that the revived dream offered by Obama has given rise to a reactionary religio-political movement.  Indeed Obama in presidential office may be part of the backlash.  The conflict exists between the doctrinaire and the innovators.  However America is still a generation behind the rest of the western nations in the withering Christendom.  The result has been most people have taken the post-Christian option to the extent that any religious identity is suspicious and suspect.

In the end what holds organised religion together may be that someone has to keep paying for the pension.

Bass looks forward to a belief that includes emotional response.  Give up on orthodoxy and return to just living.  I always think that ‘just’ should be stressed.  It is not deprecatory; it is Living Justly.  We don’t seek pantheism, we seek to live in god.  Maybe we can a new word: entheism, for living in god.  If the Resurrection is not a historic event that does not stop us from living it out in our lives.  Pray to be discontent, so we may want more more in our lives; and live so that the filling of the absence of god may become real in our lives.


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Generation Zero: What’s the Hold-Up?

Monday evening was a visit to the Castle theatre for this talk by the Generation Zero people.  Very well attended with lots of young student types present.  People in my generation and older were in the minority.  As it should be for the age bracket Generation Zero targets.

Here’s some thoughts:

Speakers for Dunedin included Dave Cull, Letisha Nicholas, Janet Stephenson and Louis Chambers.  Dave Cull is mayor of Dunedin and Letisha Nicholas is one of the candidates standing with him on the Greater Dunedin ticket.  Having both of them speak felt like a campaign launch for the up-coming local elections.  Call me cynical.  This local election is going to contested by other progressive factions which were not represented on this panel.

Janet Stephenson is from the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago.  Louis Chambers is one of the founders of Generation Zero.

Reducing carbon emissions is like pissing into wind.  One of the first initiatives of the National Party-led government was to scrap our carbon trading scheme.  We have stopped being leaders and are happy to follow.  Indeed we have become foot-draggers, carbon fossils.  And we keep coming back to the spending on transport infrastructure, a cost with poor returns.

There is a shift among youth to dematerialisation, living life with less: travel less, own less.  Adopt digitalised music and reading.  This is convenient where it is available.

Generation Zero includes a lot of Denmark love, a nation that is making push to be among the first  of the post-fossil fuel nations.  Denmark has stepped up to become a leading nation in this field.  It took a cross-party concensus to begin this process.  That initiative has not yet appeared in New Zealand.

Breakfast is good for the brain.  Exercise is better.  Take the opportunity for walk to school.

There is a daily peak demand for electricity during the day.  Take the advantage of when power is available and cost is lower.

I’m curious, and suspicious, about the use of the conservative figures to promote energy saving and alternative transport.  I respect the idea that even conservative leaders like Boris Johnston and Richard Branson support making these savings and rescuing society.  But still….

One in twenty people in Dunedin bike.  One in four would like to bike if it was more convenient.  One in three prefer to drive.  Dunedin needs to become more bike friendly.

Local government is legally constrained to impose a standard on rental housing in Dunedin.  This is an issue for national government to pick up on.

In the end there are still people struggling in this society.  It’s not looking good for the vulnerable at the moment.  It’s up to those that are better off to become advocates.

If this audience votes at this election then I’m hoping to see change.  Don’t let them come disempowered.

Generation Zero: What’s the Hold-Up?

Ideology, Culture and Translation ed. by Scott S. Elliott and Roland Boer

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I borrowed this book from the Hewitson Library because I was interested as a language creator to see where criticism of bible translation was going.  The book reads like the product of a symposium, especially after four chapters a response is given, and then again another response as the conclusion of the book.  Part one, the first four chapters and the response is entitled <deep breath>Exploring the Intersection of Translation Studies and Critical Theory in Biblical Studies</deep breath>, and the second part, eight chapters and the conclusion are entitled Sites in Translation.

It turns out the way people create languages and Bible translation is pretty similar.

Here’s some thoughts before I return the book.

Many Bible translations are using English as an authority language.  How did this happen?  Are the original languages of the Bible being displaced?

The Bible is a narrative made out of the writings from another language based on an oral tradition, much of which is in a third language or languages.  Jesus in the Gospels is a literary character based on an oral tradition in the third language: from spoken First Century Aramaic, to written Koine Greek, to New English.

Who is the translation for? the author, the translator, or the reader?

What authority does a translation have if it by-passes  the literary traditions in which a language may share?  These literary translations are not neutral in themselves and may impose an outside local authority over the literary traditions of a target language.

Is the mission creating Christians in a language group or creating super-cultural Christians?

Faithfulness in translation versus transparency is a re-occurring theme.

There is even less consultation for the source text in children’s bibles.

A fascinating couple of chapters on the Greenlandic Bible.  I would have liked a lot more information about the language and its pidgins.  There is a fascinating account of a shamanic spirituality.

Behind the visible world there was an unseen one that could by approached by the shamans, the so-called angakkut.  Everything visible had its own spirit, inua.  This word was the same as inuk, “person” or “owner”, inflected in the possessed singular, literally meaning “its owner”. … The shamans and their helping spirits mediated between the perceptible and the unseen world.  Every shaman had his (or, rarely, her) own personal helping spirits, toornat.  The most important one among them the shaman called his toornaarsuk, which probably means “the special helping spirit”.

The demonization of traditional beliefs made the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil very complicated in translation, and new meaning  was added to it unintentionally.  Egede had no word for “temptation” so instead he wrote that Jesus was frightened by toornaarsuk.  To the Greenlandic audience of the day this must have conveyed the impression that Jesus was a shaman-to-be who had left his village and gone into the wilderness to meet his helping spirit. … [T]his must have meant that Jesus refused to be a shaman and receive the help of a special helping spirit.  Instead he was served by angels.  [The missionary] rejected the Greenlandic toornaq and borrowed the Danish word engel into his Bible translation.

The missionaries created a literary language and changed the society of which it was a part.  Greenland moved from local religious practices to part of Christianity.

Can we live with the translation “In the beginning was the dreaming, the dreaming was with god, and the dreaming was god”?

A tension exists between  those who are translating to prove the superiority of their culture to enforce conversion and seeking universals from the unconverted culture that reveal god at work in the target culture (and conversion potentially unnecessary).

I do not wish to say much on the translation of the Gospels into Yiddish.  I am interested that the translators used rebe, rabbi, for master, teacher, restoring a title for Jesus that the authors of the Gospels  in the First Century rejected in translation into Greek.

If the foreign world is unfamiliar then what are the foreign words from English?

The Klingon Bible gets a mention, on the last page of the conclusion.

The Cost of Equality: Democratic Capitalism at the Tipping Point?

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This lecture presented by Robert Hunter Wade, a professor of the London School of Economics.  Wade is a third generation graduate of the University of Otago.  His address was hosted by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues and the Department of Political Studies.  It was also heralded by an article in the Otago Daily Times on Saturday.  As a result when I arrived just before six the lecture was moving into a slightly bigger theatre in the Archway Building.  By the time the lecture began every seat was full, including the spare seats at the front.  There were some people standing around the sides as university policy forbids sitting on the stairs.

There was an high turn out of people who looked like accountants and economists in the audience.  They were nodding along to what was said quite a lot!

What follows is a write up of my notes:

There is no inequality in New Zealand, Bill English, Minister of Finance (yeah, right!)

His statistics for New Zealand showed that the top decile earn on average $300 000 dollars a year, the next two figures he highlighted were $100 000 and $30 000.  The bottom decile earn on average $11 000 a year.

Inequality was coming down in the United States from 1929 (the financial crash) until 1980s.  Since the initiatives of Ronald Reagan it has sky-rocketed again to levels equivalent to that of the heydays of the 1920s.

The share of the top 1% in the United States (Pre-tax growth)

1990 (Clinton) 45%

2000 (Bush)     73%

2010 (Obama) 93%

Economists talk about people as High Net Worth Individuals (H. N. W. I.s) when they have 1 million dollars in discretionary cash not tied up in property.  When they get up to 30 million dollars economists call them Super High Net Worth Individuals.

Poverty bothers me.  Inequality does not.  I just don’t care, Willem Buiter.

The World Bank has not said anything about inequality of income for 20 years.  Language of inequality is political and they prefer to see themselves as  a non-political body.  Instead they can talk about equity and development.  Watch out for those code-words.

The United States may lead the non-Anglophone countries of North-West Europe on GDP per person, however North-West Europe leads the United States and other Anglophone countries when GDP is measured on hours worked.

I am a rich man, as long as I do not have to repay my creditors, Plautus, 300 B. C.

More unequal countries, and more unequal states in the United States, have higher average levels of social and health problems — Wilkenson and Pickett, The Spirit Level.

Oligarchic and Plutocratic elites are more unequal than ‘establishment’ elites.  People are more likely to be considered aids or obstacles to ambitions, and treated as such.

The rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests rather than the interests of others, Paul Piff.

Economic policy is being made by the 1% for the 1%.  High-inequality capitalism is weakening democracy, pushing democratic market capitalism towards oligarchic impunity capitalism.  It affects us all.  There is no such thing as a non-peeing end in a swimming pool.  (This is what they mean by the trickle-down effect!)

So what should progressives push for?

  1. Capitalism should work for everyone — not just plutocrats.
  2. Talk about inequality of opportunities.
  3. Challenge the myth that inequality of incomes is necessary for economic incomes.
  4. The economic costs.
  5. More attention to pre-distribution: laws and regulations; market income distribution, rather than taxation and subsidies.

We have a conservative nanny state, Dean Baker.

Wealth redistributes upwards.  Those who have made it to the top are being rewarded.

End qualitative easing.  Strengthen corporate governance law.  Legislate.  Organise.

This won’t be picked up by our current caucus.

Update: Bill English rebukes visiting academic

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