Monthly Archives: October 2011
When is it a “monopoly,” and when do we need “choice”? I ask not because I think any person or group should have a corner on any market, nor do I think people should be deprived of choice. I wonder about how things get framed, and then how people support – or don’t – things that are in their interest.
The Canadian Wheat Board is at risk of being dismantled by the current federal government. It has been called a “monopoly.” But is it? Farmers sell their grain to the board at a set price – so those who produce at a large-scale and can manage to sell for a lower per-bushel amount, simply because of the volume they produce, would, otherwise, have an advantage over the smaller producer. In this sense, it is not at all a monopoly, but an organization that sets standards that go beyond grain-pricing: it puts value on smaller farming ventures, it puts value on the environment (because industrial farming invariably means more pesticides and herbicides, and bigger tractors that burn more oil, and potential for more soil erosion – in short, large-scale farming is bound to not be as connected to the land as smaller-scale farming operations).
The National Farmer’s Union says that the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board is in line with trade agreements, and if it goes, it won’t ever be possible to reinstate it. And what do trade agreements do for us? Recently, I heard a definition of trade agreements that explained them as a “race to the bottom” – basically, the idea is to lower standards, reduce [what some call] “barriers” to trade, and make it possible to truck more and more consumer commodities around the world with less and less controls in place.
And for those who argue “choice” in the matter of the Wheat Board… why don’t we argue the same about other such institutions where they’re in place for the betterment of life for the broader population, not the select few? Why don’t we say that accessible health care should dismantled? Why don’t we say that there should be more “choice” for education programs, so those who can afford better ones get the ones they pay for?
When we’re talking about programs and institutions that are developed for the common good, we are not talking about consumer goods – where buying a Pepsi instead of a Coca-Cola becomes the “choice.” Let’s be clear on what the agendas, and longer-term effects, are when we make these kinds of statements and then decisions!
The “Occupy Wall Street” has gained world-wide momentum, and local groups have “occupied” their own cities calling for change.
I wonder: if it’s systemic change that we’re seeking, maybe we in the church could go for an “occupy” movement. Occupy the church! (…in a different way than the “Back to Church” sentiment…!)
What kind of systemic change is needed? The simple answer: less “save ourselves,” and more “be open to others.”
It seems to me that churches have, for too long, sought to preserve themselves. The idea of “mission church” or “church plant” or “church start-up” is to create what we’ve created before. Namely, that we build a building, have people come, and raise money to support that and other church-edifying endeavours. That works, certainly. But it works, primarily, for those who have had a connection to church. It works for those who know about church.
What about those who don’t know about church? Does our language suite them? What about those who have a negative impression of church? Does our space and decor allow them to feel comfortable? What about those who have been excluded from church? Does our style of welcome change their impression?
For too long, we’ve been doing things ‘a certain way,’ and it works for those of us ‘on the inside.’ The problem is: we fear going to new places. We fear it because it may mean that the new folks darkening our door-ways may not put as much money in the plate, or that they may want to change the focus from Sunday attendance to daily living, or from Bible study to community activity.
If we want to have a church in the future, we must be open to other ways of reaching out. Yes, we have a tradition to preserve – but let’s not let that prevent us from connecting with those all-important ‘un-churched’ people. And, us ‘churched’ people could go for a make-over!