The late 1100s were a time of great social upheaval in Western Europe. Thousands left agriculture and migrated to the towns, which grew rapidly and a new ‘middle class’ of merchants and craftsmen evolved. Also, the Crusades had led thousands of men to their death, leaving an imbalance of women.
The Church was not well placed to cope with this new climate. For centuries, the beating heart of the faith had been in the monasteries, which were almost always in the country, sticking to ancient traditions and out of touch with new social developments. Women who wanted to live radically for God had few openings. The time was ripe for a new expression of the kingdom of God. A group called the Beguines rose to the challenge.
This was a spontaneous movement that began with a group of praying women in Liège, Belgium, in the 1190s. Not wanting either of the usual options of marriage or a nunnery, these radical women pioneered a new form of community. They pledged themselves to prayer, poverty and celibacy. Seeing how society was changing, they chose to stay in the towns, especially the poor suburbs, where they could serve the people with Jesus’ love. Continue reading The 12th Century Nuns who Demanded to be Free
by Sarah Stenmark.
I have discovered that few things are so controversial among Christians and met with such incomprehension (and ignorance) as veganism. “Do you eat only salad?” is a question I often get, or “you don’t eat wheat flour, right?” Not to mention all the extremely hilarious meat jokes (sarcasm intended). But I have discovered that most times people have preconceptions about what it means to be vegan and the reasons behind it.
When I tell people that I’m vegan, most assume that it is due to the animal ethics. And to be honest, it was probably how it started. Twelve years ago, I became a vegetarian because I loved animals, and felt like a hypocrite towards them when I ate meat. But over time I began to think about whether this really was a sufficient reason. As a Christian, I believed that humans have been appointed to manage creation and that we have a higher value than animals. If an animal’s death would be the prerequisite for human life, it would be a morally acceptable thing to do (as it turns out this is not the case today, as I will explain below).
The Bible doesn’t condemn meat eating or consumption, it doesn’t forbid us to kill animals. Jesus ate fish. Paul ate meat. I know. But this is not directly applicable to today’s society; partly because of the meat industry’s impact on climate change, but also because of hunger. Continue reading It Should be Natural for Christians to be Vegan
by Micael Grenholm
I’ve been a peace and justice activist now for eight years; campaigning, advocating and debating for things like disarmament, pacifism, economic equality, poverty reduction, sustainability, environmental protection, gender equality, open borders and religious freedom. My motives are Christian: I believe this is what Jesus wants me to do and that it makes the earth represent God’s goodness and love better. Still, I’ve stood side by side with atheists, agnostics, Muslims, New Agers, Buddhists and others in a common fight for a better world for all.
I’ve found that activism for peace and justice can serve the role of a common denominator and a platform for cooperation between different worldviews and beliefs. That’s why it plays such a prevalent role in different ecumenical and interreligious councils – we might not agree on who God is, but we all agree that no child should starve to death. It’s why many people who aren’t Christians will still agree with Christians on one thing concerning Jesus: that he was a good moral teacher.
Hence, morality can be viewed as one of the least exclusive claim of any religion. In fact, it can be viewed as one of the least religious! I’ve had several friends who, when they doubt their Christian faith, becomes activists for a while and emphasises Jesus’ ethical teaching, before leaving the faith altogether and becoming atheists or agnostics. Continue reading Why Activists Need God to Make Their Case
by Mark Gent
Human trafficking is the modern form of slavery. With illegal smuggling and trading of people, for forced labour or sexual exploitation.
Trafficking is officially defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of power of a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.
I don’t know what runs through your hearts or minds when you read or hear of women being sold as “Sex Slaves” or being lured into a trap of deceit for the purpose of drugs, being mastered and controlled by pimps who exploit them as personal puppets. Crack, cocaine or heroine are usually the pimps bait. Sometimes it’s for money for those who are homeless where there is no form of shelter provided… so women will sell their bodies that they may be sheltered, eat, and clothe themselves. A lot of women don’t survive this filthy Game! Some are kidnapped, raped and killed. We hear of children being sold also. Continue reading The Horrors of Human Trafficking
by Faith Totushek
Who are the poor in scripture and how are they to be treated among the community of God’s people? As believers and those who believe the Bible is our guide, we might examine the many stories, and passages in the Bible to find our way through the various conundrums our society faces. Especially as believers, we have a great and holy call to be agents of God and healers of a sin-sick world.
The group I wish to examine in the Bible are the widows, orphans and foreigners. They are described as the vulnerable ones who need the extra support and focus from God’s people. They are also the ones whom God has said that He himself would defend.
Who are the widows? Widows often become poor or socially vulnerable due to the loss of a husband. This could apply to women who are divorced and raising small children, to women who are emotionally abandoned through abuse and neglect by a spouse. These are women whose husbands have died and are now vulnerable in the community. Continue reading Caring For The Vulnerable Among Us
by Micah Bales, originally posted on his blog.
When I became a Christian, following Jesus seemed like the most revolutionary thing I could do. The teachings of Jesus are radical. The way the early church lived out the gospel inspires me to go deeper, give more of myself, and nurture a grander vision for what human community could be like.
The more I read the New Testament, I more I find myself pushed towards a lifestyle that challenges our present society to its foundations. In contrast to the radical individualism of consumer capitalism or the enforced conformity of most religious communities, the way of Jesus demands both radical openness and profound submission to the guidance of the Spirit.
This revolutionary new reality plays out in love for enemies. We find it when we choose relationship and trust rather than money and self-interest. It comes alive in the healing power of forgiveness and the daily practice of justice. Continue reading So you Want a Revolution?
Brian Pipkin’s and Jay Beaman’s new book documents some of the pacifist and social justice convictions of early Pentecostals, many of whom were called traitors, slackers, cranks, and weak-minded people for extending Jesus’ love beyond racial, ethnic, and national boundaries.
They wrestled with citizenship and Jesus’ prohibitions on killing.
They rejected nation-worship, war profiteering, wage slavery, patriotic indoctrination, militarism, and Wall Street politics–and many suffered for it.
They criticized governments and churches that, in wartime, endorsed the very thing forbidden in their sacred book and civil laws. Continue reading New Book: Early Pentecostals on Nonviolence and Social Justice