Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Bono and Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Bono and Eugene Peterson struck a friendship some years ago when the U2 singer messaged the author of The Message in thanks for the translation and the impact it had on Bono.

What followed was a connection between kindred spirits who both had a passion for the rawness and brutal honesty of the Psalms.

Last year Bono met with Peterson and his wife at their ranch in Montana and recorded a conversation about the impact the Psalms had had on each of them. The conversation was released to the public today. It’s a fascinating insight into the minds of two remarkable people…

 

Bono & Eugene Peterson on THE PSALMS – Fuller Studio

Special Thanks to David Taylor , Brehm Texas , and Fourth Line Films for their vision for this project. + Bono , Grammy award-winning artist and lead singer of U2. + Eugene Peterson , beloved author, pastor, and writer of The Message.

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Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

George Monbiot has written another insightful article, this one on the problem of neoliberalism, and the fact that most people in our neoliberal society don’t know what the term means.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it.

Here are my thoughts on some of the points Monbiot makes:

  • “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.”

Just like communism reduced people to cogs in a machine, neoliberalism, or market capitalism, does the same. We become consumers whose value lies in how much we contribute to the ongoing efficiency of the economic machine. We are not seen as having inherent dignity in ourselves.

  • “When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation.” Think Tony Abbott and ‘stop the boats’ in Australia.

The rise of Bernie Sanders is as much a response to the current climate as is the rise of Donald Trump. The failure of the Left has been seen by them and is responding in the rise of Sanders.

“Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed”. I remember when communism fell over in the late 1980s, Jim Wallis said the same would happen to capitalism one day. It might take another generation, but we are seeing it happening now before our eyes.

  • “it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed.” Perhaps one option (and there may be others along the lines of what people like Bernie Sanders are putting forward) is Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth.

The problem with unfettered market capitalism is that it is an amoral system. It doesn’t take into account human nature, the fact that humans are ultimately committed to their own self-interest. That’s why it needs people in poverty to survive.

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Brene Brown: love weeps…

I love Brene Brown.

I mean, I’m not in love with her, but I love her reflections on life. Her raw honesty, especially about grief and shame, are so refreshing. Having experienced a fair amount of grief in the last few years, and learning to recover from shame, what Brene Brown says resonates so strongly with me. 

In this short interview montage, Brown talks about a number of things, but her take on why she says God is love and Jesus is the Son of God is disarming in its rawness and challenge to nice, middle-class faith. Check these words out on love:

“People would want love to be like unicorns and rainbows, and then you send Jesus in and people say, ‘Oh my God, love is hard, love is a sacrifice, love is eating with the sick…love is trouble, it’s rebellious.”

Then she quotes one of my favourite song lyrics, from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah: “Love is not a victory march; it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah”

Brown goes on:

“Love is not easy; love is not like hearts and bows. Love is very controversial…Jesus wept – love weeps”.

When Brene Brown talks, I listen. This is someone who knows what coming through the other side of suffering is about.

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort’, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'” Good words from Brené Brown as we enter Holy Week.

Posted by The Work of the People on Saturday, 19 March 2016

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Donald Trump as a reflection of an adolescent culture

Before people like me judge Donald Trump for his bombastic statements, let’s remember that he is a reflection of the adolescent culture we all live in.

Here is an article of mine on the Trump phenomenon, published here in Ethos…

Donald Trump as a reflection of an adolescent culture

Monday, 4 April 2016 | Nils von Kalm I find myself fascinated by the Donald Trump phenomenon. Why is it that a man who blatantly lies, advocates war crimes, promotes xenophobia and can’t decide whether or not to condemn the support of a KKK leader, is set to become the Republican nominee for the leadership of the most powerful nation in the world?

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Crying for home

DSC02059Sometimes when I feel the pain of life, whether my own or that of others, I just long for the kingdom of God to become fully realised in this world. I recall the words of the U2 song, Peace on Earth: “Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this hanging around…sick of the sorrow, sick of the pain.”

I relate to that. I’m sick of the pain, I just want justice, peace and love to rule the world now.

This morning at church we remembered the passing of a much-loved member of our congregation. He died two years ago today. At the end of the service we sang a song he wrote before he died. The lyrics are as follows:

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Why the Resurrection still matters in the 21st century

Behold-the-Man-Antonio_Ciseri-e1330966503449Another Easter has come and gone. As we reflect on what it means 2,000 years after the event, I am reminded that the circumstances in which the world finds itself in today, early in the 21st century, are similar to that in which the first Christians found themselves 2,000 years ago.

On that first Easter day, a handful of Jesus’ disciples became convinced that a new King had been enthroned, a new Lord. They became convinced that the teacher from Nazareth who they had been following around for three years was alive again, was the saviour of the world, and was the world’s rightful Lord. He actually was who he said he was, and now they finally understood.

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The myth that poor people are happy

person-woman-sitting-oldScott J Higgins has posted a wonderful piece today shattering the myth that poor people are happier.

As with any myth, this notion contains a kernel of truth. It goes to the idea that they have more of a sense of community when compared to the rampant individualism of the affluent West. It also comes out of the idea that living simply leads to less anxiety. There are many people living in poverty who exhibit much joy in their lives.

Despite this though, it doesn’t take away from the fact that poverty is awful.

Poverty is about identity, a sense of being “less than” and trodden on. Not that riches make people happy; the social statistics for people in affluent countries are awful in different ways. Having some money though provides access to things like health and education, each of which enhance wellbeing.

Some points to take out of this are:

  • Poverty is miserable, which is why it is incumbent on all of us who can, to do all we can to eliminate it.
  • Neither a poverty mentality nor a riches mentality is Christian. I am reminded of Proverbs 30:7-9 which describes the temptations of both poverty and riches.
  • Martin Luther King said that everyone has the right to realise their human potential, and poverty severely diminishes that possibility.
  • It all shows me that the human family can all learn from each other.

Here is Scott’s post:

Who are the happiest people in the world?

Upon their return from countries with high levels of poverty I often hear people say “they might be poor, but they seem so much happier than us.” It’s a comforting thought for those of us who live with great wealth. But it’s not true.

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The 7th-Century Saint Who Can Help You Discover Your Gifts

This today from Sheridan Voysey. We all need someone who believes in us:

This 7th-Century Saint Can Help You Discover Your Gifts

Saint Hilda was a woman ahead of her time. A profound teacher, patron of the arts and spiritual guide to both peasant and king, the story I love most about her is her interaction with a farmhand named Caedmon. As Hilda helps Caedmon test his unexpected calling, we too can learn how to discover our God-given dreams and gifts.

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Message to men: you have nothing to prove…

9780310343370_31_image-1024x886The last twenty years or so have seen an encouraging increase in the number of books being written focusing on what it means to be an authentic male in our culture. Ever since Steve Bidduph wrote his epic Manhood in the mid-1990s, the growth in the men’s movement has seen more men work towards becoming more emotionally centred and available to their families and other loved ones.

This life-giving trend towards becoming better men has been equally seen in Christian circles. Richard Rohr, Parker Palmer, John Eldredge and others have written and taught much on what a real man looks like in a culture that pressures men to be someone they are not.

Into this mix comes probably the best book I have read on being a man among men. Nate Pyle’s Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood is a breath of fresh air in the increasing volume of literature on men and their issues.

It is wonderful to see an author be so open and vulnerable about his own vulnerability about not feeling like a man for such a long period of his life. Pyle’s experience will resonate with many men in the Church, including myself. It is only in recent years that I have done a lot of work on what a genuine man looks like. Reading Pyle’s book has allowed me to breathe a huge sigh of relief that you don’t have to be a “warrior man” – as some Christian authors emphasise, to be a godly man.

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Donald Trump and Christians

Two things from this article stand out to me: the utter foolishness of Donald Trump, and the equally utter foolishness of every Christian who supports him. Check these quotes out:

  • “It’s hard, because my whole life, I take money, take money. Now, I’m going to be greedy for the United States. I’m going to take and take and take.” – Trump, at a rally in Georgia on Monday.
  • John Lee, 47, who runs a small business selling ‘Christian clothes’, was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the second amendment. ‘We want to see The Donald,’ he says. He has common sense. He doesn’t put up with wish-wash; he’s not your standard politician. He stands up for principle and takes care of his people.’

Meanwhile, I hear Jesus whisper down through the ages:

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:15-21

Crisis for Republican party as Trump heads for Super Tuesday victory

Donald Trump appears poised for sweeping victories on Super Tuesday that would effectively anoint him the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, leaving the polarised conservative party in the throes of an existential crisis.

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