Blessed are Christians through the Pandemic

We Christians will be stronger and our faith will be deeper – we will be more blessed – because of living through this moment.


Irene Alexander and Christopher Brown (editors), To Whom Shall We Go? Faith responses in a time of crisis, Cascade 2021

Paperback ISBN 9781725289550
Hardback ISBN 9781725289567
eBook ISBN 9781725289574

Available from the publishers, Koorong, or from the authors at holyscribblers.blogspot.com

Hardback $40, eBook and Paperback $25

Reviewed by Ted Witham

Part of us wants to pretend the Coronavirus pandemic has not happened, and that the Church can go back to its old ways after the worst of this is over. I have no doubt, however, that there will be enduring changes, not least in the way Church organisations use technology.

The collective of Christian writers behind To Whom Shall We Go, who call themselves the “Holy Scribblers”, are also convinced of permanent change. Their interest, as shown in this series of eleven essays, is in changes to our spiritual lives more than technology.

The book is loosely structured around the Beatitudes and this structure gives the book an optimistic feel: we Christians will be stronger and our faith will be deeper – we will be more blessed – because of living through this moment. Their grounds for optimism are historical. We have before lived through past pandemics and challenges and emerged changed and stronger.

The authors are an eclectic mix of academics and thinkers who are looking for thoughtful Christian readers, clergy and lay. Two Franciscan Tertiaries, Terry Gatfield and Charles Ringma, are among the contributors. As is always the case with essays from diverse authors, individual readers will find some essays stronger than others. For example, Chris Mercer’s explorations of Desert Father Evagrius’ “eight deadly thoughts” (gluttony and lack of thankfulness for food, sexual lust, sadness, boredom and apathy, vainglory and pride) resonate for me.

I have some quibbles with the structure of the book. Each section gave rise to prayers and questions for reflection. The reflection questions were at the very end of the book. In the eBook format, especially without hyperlinks, this rendered the questions almost useless.

The prayers were crafted along quite traditional lines, so some could be used or adapted, for example, for intercessions at the Eucharist. I found them a bit too stolid, with none of the creativity of the stunningly beautiful prayers of another Australian, Craig Mitchell, in his recent Deeper Water (Mediacom).  

To Whom Shall We Go is a timely book and will stimulate lively thinking about where God is now leading God’s Church.

How to Use Power to Make a Better World


1743540132-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms, New Power: How power works in our hyper-connected world – and how to make it work for you, Sydney: Macmillan 2018.

ISBN 9781743540138; Available online from $25

 

Reviewed by Ted Witham

You would have to say that the Coalition Government is terrified of the progressive membership organisation GetUp! Not only are there more members of GetUp! than there are of the two main parties combined, but GetUp! has proven expert in using ‘New Power’ to advance specific agendas. Despite two attempts to pass legislation to clip GetUp’s power, the Government has not succeeded in destroying the organisation.

New Power reveals some of the thinking behind GetUp! and its international counterpart Avaaz. Heimans and Timms describe ways to mobilise a community using social media, how to spread ideas, raise funds, and gather participants for action. They use case-studies like Uber, Donald J. Trump, #MeToo and Reddit to show how people seeking change blend old power with new power to influence others.

 

Participation Scale
page 71

 

Some like candidate Trump used new power to consolidate old power values. The TED organisation spreads ideas by mixing old and new power to retain quality control of TED talks and invite wider participation through TEDx talks. Through this blend of power, Pope Francis and Candidate Obama are ‘Crowd Leaders’ using new power techniques to further new power values. After his election, however, President Obama became more a ‘Cheerleader’ using the old power structures of the presidency to further new power values.

ISIS is a clever manipulator of new power techniques in the service of old power.

The authors of New Power, Australian Jeremy Heimans and Briton Henry Timms write from experience. Heimans, co-founder of GetUp, began that organisation in 2005, before smart-phones and the spread of social media, with the intention of harnessing the internet to spread progressive ideas and change Australia for the better.  Timms is CEO and President of 92 Street Y, a ‘cultural and community center that creates programs and movements that foster learning and civil engagement’.

I read the 324-page book in a 48-hour period. The writing is engaging; the stories are fascinating. The implications for action, whether in leadership or in engagement with one’s community are clearly described.

Anyone interested in changing the world – bringing home the refugees from Nauru, stopping the environmental depredations of Adani, or just reminding your politician that you vote – will find good food for thought in New Power.