Friday, September 30, 2011

58: Conscious Christian Leadership

Group Epignosis (City of Peace) in concert with Greene Memorial United Methodist Church and Roanoke's interfaith community is hosting a Release Screening of 58: The Film at 6 pm on Sunday, October 16th.  This special showing has been said to depict "an empowering vision of the Church rising up to its remarkable potential to end extreme poverty".  Reflecting on a broad range of related issues, this article subsequently invites community support, participation, and attendance in response to Isaiah's plea to 'God's people'.

Jesus Rejected in Nazare
To Judaic and Christian heritages in particular, the prophet Isaiah's writings as transcribed in the Book of Isaiah, bear a deep cultural, historical, and spiritual, relevance.  Though contextualized in a setting of Assyrian and Babylonian domination, including the imposed exile of a divided Israel, its content prophetically directs the course by which 'God's chosen' (Jeremiah 32:38) are to realize a future 'kingdom' in which justice (again) reigns supreme.  It's similarly significant in this respect that Jesus himself, in addressing Nazareth's citizenry (Luke 4:16-21) reads from Isaiah 61 in pronouncing the underlying purpose (and authority) of his own ministry.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."  Luke 4:18-19

In Luke's account, and as alluded to previously in "Leading in an 'Unthinkable' World - Towards Holistic Community", Jesus' proclamation to reinstate Jubilee; or the healing conferred by 'forgiving indebtedness' and 'releasing from bondage', met only with raucous opposition from local religious, civic, and business leaders (Luke 4:23-30).  Nevertheless, yet in this same spirit perhaps, a creative team of film makers including Directors Tony Neeves, and his son Tim, along with Associate Producer Scott Todd, have adopted Isaiah 58 as their project's guiding theme.

In so doing, they've boldly adopted Isaiah's precept to "loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke" and "let the oppressed go free" (58:6), as a call "to create, shape and join communities of passionate, like-minded Christians who will work together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime" (1).  Consequently, and joining with Accord, the 58: team has forged a partner network comprised of established ministries including Compassion International, Living Water, Hope International, and Plant with Purpose.

"Toward a Sustainable Future: Leadership in the New World Economy"

"The world's economic, technological, agricultural, and political systems are breaking down.  While the causes are debated, it's certain that the human assault on the natural world has wiped out vast numbers of species and polluted the land, the air, and the oceans.  After the past 100 years of history, with two world wars and low-grade but vicious warfare going on almost continuously somewhere in the world since World War II ended, it seems impossible for human beings to live together in a state of harmony either among ourselves or with the planet we call home." Richard C. Cook from "Global Crisis: The Time of Testing is Here" (2).

At the same time however, both the scope and complexity of the systemic breakdown to which Richard Cook alludes in the preceding quote, suggests that mankind has entered an unparalleled stage of evolutionary challenge (see - "A New Era Has Begun").  As the video, "Ecologize Growth" below attests however, where modernity's empirical approach over the last four hundred years has fashioned socioeconomic systems that appear sorely inadequate of "better supporting value(s) of human relatedness", an increasing number of socially conscious individuals including clerics, artists, academics and everyday citizens are stepping into roles of global advocacy (3).

Among these are Barrett C. Brown whose recently published findings in "Conscious Leadership for Sustainability", evince the orienting mindsets of highly developed 'leaders' and 'change agents' with established backgrounds in designing sustainability initiatives.  Although there are a number of factors which distinguish these figures from their cohorts, one of the things Brown notes is an underlying difference in referential worldviews between values associated with a dominant social paradigm (DSP) and those aligned with a new ecological paradigm (NEP).
Dominant Social Paradigm contrasted with New Ecological Paradigm - Table 7
Consequently, but where the (DSP) is "characterized by belief in the virtues of economic growth, free enterprise, technological progress, and human domination over nature", the (NEP) by contrast "is an ecocentric worldview based on a belief that economic growth is limited by natural resources, that technology will not necessarily overcome our environmental challenges, and that humans should live in harmony with nature" (4).

Innovation Resets Singularity - Fig. 4
As one might imagine however, the respective 'truth claims' associated with each of these two perspectives differ dramatically in their theoretical approach to 'sustainability'. There are those like Geoffrey West from the Santa Fe Institute for example, who in a recent TED talk entitled, "The surprising math of cities and corporations" presented findings concerning an "inexorable trend toward urbanization worldwide" where not only does 'the city' serve as a "predominant engine" for societal innovation and wealth, but also purveys "its main source of crime, pollution, and disease."

The "Window of Viability" - Figure 2
As a result, the group subsequently concluded that were it not for the generation of "major innovation cycles" at "a continually accelerating rate to sustain growth", those same 'systems' become subject to the vulnerability of "stagnation or collapse" (Bettencourt et al. 5).  In its own way then, their research mirrors the work of Bernard Lietaer's team with natural ecosystems, where efficiency isn't obtained by imposing economies of scale as an arbitrary function of design.  Instead, their study suggests that systems not utilizing man-made, ultra-efficient (e.g. monopolistic, constrained) streams to control and distribute money, energy, water, or whatever, aren't dependent on innovation for survival but rather, resilience.  Consequently, their conclusions render "a single metric as an emergent property of (the ecosystem's) structural diversity and interconnectivity" which, in turn, represents a sustainable balance between efficiency and resilience (6). 

"The effects of current economic and monetary policies are starting to approach the level of genocide against large segments of society, if not in their intention, at least in their effects.  Crime, health, and income statistics identify vast areas of both urban and rural environments as what have aptly been called 'death zones'" (Cook 7).

Tragically though, but as the "Planting Hope" video above illustrates and is further conferred by Robert Neuwirth's TED Talk on 'shadow cities', factors accompanying global debt and globalization are increasing urban slum populations at a rate of 25 million per year.  Similarly then, and as recent events like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street seem to make plainly obvious, the world is poised at an epochal point of turmoil in witnessing a rare convergence of good and evil . . . one comparable to that envisaged by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.

Nevertheless, yet for these same reasons, the Live 58: project affords a unique opportunity to connect with others as a holistic community of compassionate practitioners, heeding Isaiah's injunction to "divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house" (Isaiah 58:7).  We'd encourage you to join us.


Works Cited

1. "The 58: Initiative." Live 58:. n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

2. Cook, Richard. "Global Crisis: The Time of Testing is Here." (2010): Centre for Research on Globalization.  22 May 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2011.

3. McConnell, Brian. "Toward a Sustainable Future: Integral Leadership in the 'New World Economy'." (2011): Integral Leadership Review. June 2011, Vol. 11, no. 3. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

4. Brown, Barrett. "Conscious Leadership for Sustainability: How Leaders with a Late-Stage Action Logic Design and Engage in Sustainability Initiatives." (2011): Fielding Graduate University. 2011. Web. 27 Sept. 2011.

5. Bettencourt, Luis, Jose Lobo, Dirk Helbing, Christian Kuhnert, and Geoffrey West. "Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities." (2007): Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). 24 April 2007, Vol. 104, no. 17. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. 

6. Lietaer, Bernard, Robert Ulanowicz, Sally Goerner, and Nadia McLaren. "Is Our Monetary Structure a Systemic Cause for Financial Instability?: Evidence and Remedies from Nature." (2010): Journal of Futures Studies. April 2010, Vol. 14, no.3. Web 27 Sept. 2011.

7. Cook, Richard. "Poverty in America: Progressive Schemes to Reduce Poverty will Fail Without Monetary Reform." Chapter 7 of We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform. (2009): Tendril Press., 2009. Centre for Research on Globalization. Web 29 Sept. 2011.

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