Sunday, September 28, 2014

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program tries to intervene in Middle East conflict at the youth level; the ideas of "authority" and "respect" and how others see us overseas


Today, Sunday, September 28, 2014, at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA, Susan Stocks made a brief presentation of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, with link here.   The brief talk mentioned a number of very troubled parts of the world, like those affected by Ebola in West Africa, as well as the South Sudan.  It is normally very difficult for mainstream churches to send volunteers into areas like this now.  Generally, only specialized charities, like Samaritan’s Purse or Save the Children, have the infrastructure to do this.  If one has a portfolio for charitable giving, as at a bank, probably one or more of these organizations, after vetting, should be in it.
  
The presentation also mentioned a program in the Washington DC area where five Palestinian and five Israeli youths are brought to the area and housed (presumably by some chosen families) to learn to interact and start a dialogue.  I don’t know if this amounts to “radical hospitality”.

Rev. Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt addressed the topic of “Authority and Humility”, with a children’s sermon on “Respect”.  The relevant text concerned the Parable of the Vineyard (explanation).  I can recall, as a boy, resenting the idea of my father’s doing something “just for authority”.  The concept here was, how does someone get legitimate authority to get others to do what he or she says?  One can have formal authority but fail to command personal respect.  There are ideas like having credentials, standing, a stake, or “skin in the game”.  Authority seems to be a very important part of social structure.  But in a high-tech world of instant communications on the Internet, and asymmetric actors, authority seems to have much less relevance. 
  
The Prayer of Confession articulates what sounds like an idea very relevant to what I develop elsewhere:

 “Our culture tells us to exalt ourselves – to strive and to achieve and to be lifted above others through accomplishments and accolades. Our sense of success often depends on someone else’s failure. We twist service into convenience and leisure, denying that to serve means we must become servants.” 

No, this wouldn't suit John Galt in "Atlas Shrugged" very well.  I could add that individualistic, entrepreneurial "success" sometimes (or often) does raise the standard of living for most people, even most of the poor, but often at the cost (perhaps fatal) of at least some of the "losers".  I wonder how this feeds into the growth of brazen crime, lone wolf attacks, and terrorism as in the news.  I covered some of this ground on Sept. 25 when I reviewed Morten Storm’s book on my Book Review blog (“Agent Storm”).  The Danish double-CIA agent actually got into this a bit, how our values affect young men who don’t have parental upbringing that connects them to our value system. There’s some difference between the radical Islamic perception of “us”, and the perception from the far Left, which often became very personalized, venturing into outright Maoism, as I saw myself interacting with people when I was a much younger adult, like in the 1970s.
  

One other brief “international” item today:  there are protests now in Hong Kong over the expectation that mainland China (The “People’s Republic of Capitalism”) will soon take away a lot of freedom.  Consider the genesis of the word “authoritarianism”.  

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