Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Distributism for Africa

It is sometimes said that the social philosophy of Distributism cannot easily be applied or implemented in complex, developed economies. Let us accept this point, for the moment and for the sake of argument. It does rather imply, however, that Distributism might well be eminently applicable – and beneficial – within a "less developed" society, and the vast, largely rural economies of Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia, come to mind.

Some years ago, John Kanu, a bright student at Plater College in Oxford, who later went on to obtain a degree from Oxford University, conceived the idea – while sitting in the G.K. Chesterton Library learning about Distributism – of going back to his homeland of Sierra Leone (one of the poorest countries in the world, thanks to a long and devastating civil war) and setting up a Chesterton Centre there that would contribute to its economic and spiritual recovery.

He would help train people to farm the land, and educate them to understand that self-sufficiency is the key to economic recovery. He would work with government and NGOs and local chiefs to find ways of building local community and distributing resources and responsibilities more widely. And he did just that. The details of what he has achieved and photographs of some of the work of the Sierra Leone Chesterton Centre can be found on our web-site.

John still needs prayers and support, but he has shown himself a capable and inspiring leader, and we are happy to be associated with his work even in a small way.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Head of the family

A notorious section of St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33, see below) telling wives to be “subject” to their husbands is much argued over. Evangelicals tend to take it as confirming that the man should be the moral and intellectual head of the family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church draws no such conclusion, and Blessed John Paul II makes the point that Paul opens his remarks with an insistence on “mutual submission”, not the one-sided dominion of one over the other. The teachings on headship have to be understood in that context. In his Theology of the Body he writes of the instruction “love your wives” that this “excludes every kind of subjection whereby the wife might become a servant or a slave of the husband, an object of unilateral domination.”
“Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife, and thereby subject to the Lord himself, just as the wife to the husband. The community or unity which they should establish through marriage is constituted by a reciprocal donation of self, which is also a mutual subjection.”
Paul is trying to transform the ancient understanding of marriage into a teaching about how to live one's marriage as a sacrament in Christ. What he is really talking about is not the power to command, or authority to make decisions, but the sacramental life of the Christian. (It is no wonder that Protestant commentators tend to miss this.)

But why then does Paul address the woman first, and why the difference in the way the two spouses are commanded – the woman to "be subject" and the man to "love"? As so often in Paul, it is because he has in mind a passage from Genesis. The passage in

Monday, 17 September 2012

Doing something for peace

Peace Day 21 September 2012, sponsored by the UN, is intended to be a day of ceasefire and non-violence, a "Global Truce". Unrealistic? A worldwide campaign called Peace One Day is calling for and working towards the largest global reduction of violence – including domestic violence – ever recorded on one day. Surely that is worth supporting? On Peace Day 2008 the UN Department for Safety and Security announced a 70% reduction in violent incidents in Afghanistan. Peace Day agreements have already led to the vaccination against polio of 4.5 million children in recent years. If only this kind of pressure could also be applied to ongoing violence against the unborn. In any case, information about this year's "Global Truce" and how you can get involved can be found here.

Meanwhile the Pope has been in Lebanon, at the heart of the troubled Middle East, giving one of his great speeches on the building of peace in the world. The heart of it is this:
A commitment to peace is possible only in a unified society. Unity, on the other hand, is not the same as uniformity. Social cohesion requires unstinting respect for the dignity of each person and the responsible participation of all in contributing the best of their talents and abilities. The energy needed to build and consolidate peace also demands that we constantly return to the wellsprings of our humanity. Our human dignity is inseparable from the sacredness of life as the gift of the Creator. In God’s plan, each person is

Friday, 7 September 2012

Questioning consumerism

Is there a party in American politics that stands for community, the common good, the human person, and a sustainable civilization? Just asking. Without commenting on the candidates now standing for election, it seems worth mentioning some points of view that don't get much of an airing in the mainstream political debates. Take Amitai Etzioni and the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University, for example. Worth following the link and seeing what they are about. Etzioni has an interesting article online called "Spent: America After Consumerism", where he calls for a balance between consumption and other pursuits, and a rethinking of what we mean by "the good life".