Following on from my last Blog, there are a number of other things we need to consider, especially in relation to preventing war and if it does get to war, conduct during and after war. I will focus on the first in this Blog.
Apart from living a simple lifestyle, we need to tackle the issue of who owns the land and that which is on or extracted from it:
- The principle of ownership.
The psalmist begins the 24th psalm with,
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
In the beginning of Genesis, God creates everything and puts Adam in the Garden to work it and to take care of it. It is clear that man was created to work and that work is the stewardship of all of the creation that God has given him.
This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything, we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf. Therefore, stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves. Echoing Deuteronomy 8:17, we might say: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But Deuteronomy 8:18 counsels us to think otherwise:
Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.
- The principle of responsibility.
In explaining responsibility, Peel writes,
Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities. We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes.
- The principle of accountability.
A steward is one who manages the possessions of another. We are all stewards of the resources, abilities and opportunities that God has entrusted to our care, and one day each one of us will be called to give an account for how we have managed what the Master has given us.
This is the maxim taught by the Parable of the Talents. God has entrusted authority over the creation to us and we are not allowed to rule over it as we see fit. We are called to exercise our dominion under the watchful eye of the Creator managing his creation in accord with the principles he has established. Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority. We will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to us.
- The principle of reward.
In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul writes:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
The Bible shows us in the parables of the Kingdom that faithful stewards who do the master’s will with the master’s resources can expect to be rewarded incompletely in this life, but fully in the next. We all should long to hear the master say what he exclaims in Matthew 25:21:
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!
As Christians in the 21st century, we need to embrace this larger biblical view of stewardship, which goes beyond church budgets or building projects, though important; it connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world. We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us within the opportunities presented through his providence to glorify him, serve the common good and further his Kingdom.
One way of making sure the resources we have is to convert all businesses into smaller units but linked through a concept called ‘social franchising’.
Social franchising is the application of the principles of commercial franchising to promote social benefit rather than private profit.
In the first sense, it refers to a contractual relationship wherein an independent coordinating organization (usually a non-governmental organization, but occasionally a governmental body or private company) offers individual independent operators the ability to join into a franchise network for the provision of selected services over a specified area in accordance with an overall blueprint devised by the franchisor. Once joining the network, operators are given the right to employ previously tested incentives including: professional training, use of brands or brand advertisements, subsidized or proprietary supplies and equipment, support services, and access to professional advice. Members also gain beneficial spin-off effects such as increased consumer volume and improved reputation due to brand affiliation. Franchisees must adhere to a range of requirements including: providing socially beneficial services, meeting quality and pricing standards, undergoing mandatory education on provision of services, subjecting outlets to quality assurance mechanisms, reporting service and sales statistics, and occasionally, paying fixed or profit-share fees. Social franchises have been used for primary health services, pharmaceutical sales of essential drugs, HIV testing and counseling, and reproductive health services in the developing world.
A second application of social franchising is as a means of enabling social enterprises and the social economy to create more employment for disadvantaged people and achieve social aims. This is done principally by enabling joint working and knowledge sharing and transfer. The European Social Franchising Network has identified over 60 social franchises of this type in Europe, which employ over 13,000 people and more recently in 2012 The International Centre for Social Franchising identified 140. The largest of these is De Kringwinkel in Flanders employing 5,000 people. Others, like the Le Mat hotel and tourism social franchise or the School for Social Entrepreneurs operate in more than one country. Social franchising provides an opportunity to rapidly grow the sector to the benefit of disadvantaged people and society more generally.
Another way would be to turn them all into Co-operatives with social, environmental and ethical policies.
The next important issue is reducing the effect of what is called militarism and the Governments’ subtle support for it:
- The armed forces are an alternative to crime and poverty for many young people. Entering into the armed forces at a young age threatens long-term health, educational outcomes, career options, future relationships and quality of life. The armed forces should never be presented as the only option young people have; this undermines the concept of full consent, which requires valid alternatives to be available.
- The military needs to educate young people about what they do. The narrative painted by the military to young people about armed forces life is unbalanced and misleading. The image portrayed is one of fun, excitement, outdoors sports and opportunities to gain skills; violent conflict, ethical issues, the restraints of military contracts and the downsides of military day-to-day life are hardly touched upon. Other pressures, such as wanting to make family proud and lack of other job options, suggest the importance of young people being fully informed before enlisting.
- A ‘military ethos’ is good for children and young people. The Government’s policy of promoting a ‘military ethos’ in schools is based on a one-sided view which raises the military above other professions and provides a military framework for school activities which is inappropriate for an inclusive education environment. Targeting disadvantaged communities for these activities raises concerns about equal opportunities.
- We need to maintain a strong military capability to keep us safe. This belief leaves us blinkered to the biggest threats to human security, such as climate change and resource shortages. Militarism promotes an atmosphere of insecurity rather than asense of long term security. Investing heavily in the military prevents us from investing in nonviolent solutions to conflict. It also feeds into the international arms trade which increases global and national insecurity.
and there are many more ways Governments do it – see https://www.forceswatch.net/sites/default/files/difficult_questions_Feb17_web.pdf for more the rest of the article.
Then there is the close relationship between Governments and the military establishment (including the manufacturers):
‘Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned of the danger of the ‘military-industrial complex’. The huge budget and reach of America’s modern defence industry has proved him correct, says Rupert Cornwell
The true tragedy is not quite the one that Eisenhower imagined. The US by itself accounts for roughly half of military spending worldwide. How much better if some of that money would be used to improve the country’s education and infrastructure, or provide health care for all, or increase foreign aid, rather than on protecting America from threats that geography alone renders illusory.
In reality, the dangers of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” are not new; from the earliest days of the Republic, political leaders have warned of them. “Overgrown military establishments,” George Washington said in his own farewell address of 1796, “are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty.” Nor is the concept confined to America.
In the Soviet Union, the ultra-secret arms industry devoured a third or more of GDP (compared to around 4 per cent in the US currently) and was a cornerstone of Communist power. Or, closer to home, consider Krupp in Germany during two world wars, or later Dassault in France, or Vickers and British Aerospace in the UK. But nowhere has the synergy between government and defence manufacturers, most of them headquartered a lobbyist’s lunch drive from the Capitol, been as entrenched as in the US.
Ah yes, some say, but the tide is now starting to turn. After experiencing some contraction in the 1990s, the industry enjoyed a boom after 9/11. But the deep recession of 2008-2009 and the continuing colossal deficits will not spare even the hitherto sacrosanct Pentagon budget.
Once again, one might note, Eisenhower hit the mark in January 1961. Back then, budgets were more or less balanced, and the possibilities of the future seemingly boundless. Even so he urged his countrymen to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow”. That of course is what has happened with the “credit card” wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose costs will burden American taxpayers for years to come.
Nor is that reality lost on Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, who back in May was warning that Congress could not, and would not, write blank cheques for ever. The Pentagon had to make every dollar count, he said, rather than indulge in such projects as “$20m howitzers, $2bn bombers, and $6bn destroyers.” Alas, as Gates knows full well, the arms contract that comes on budget has yet to be invented.
Since then of course Republicans have taken back the House of Representatives, which controls the pursestrings of government, a victory driven by a Tea Party movement vowing to eradicate deficits. Last week, Gates announced $78bn of cuts over the next five years, to pre-empt demands from deficit hawks for even greater reductions. But the MIC has survived far worse, and will most certainly survive this modest downturn in its fortunes.
For one thing, even when the Pentagon wants to cut a programme, Congress – prodded by its defence contractor benefactors – sometimes won’t let it. Take the case of the back-up second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive procurement programme in even the Pentagon’s extravagant history, at a total of $382bn or a mere $112m per aircraft. The Pentagon doesn’t want the second engine, to be built by GE and Rolls-Royce, and nor does the White House. But it gets funded anyway.
And so the show goes on. The Republicans may vote through some shrinking of the military budget. But giant arms projects, however wasteful, provide jobs and exports at a time when the broader economy struggles to do either. Congress will not sacrifice them lightly.
At the same time, the infamous “revolving door” between the Defense Department, the top military contractors, their lobbyists and congressional staffers will continue to spin, strengthening a commonality of viewpoint between the separate components of the MIC, and tightening the bonds of the “Iron Triangle”.
Campaign contributions meanwhile will grow even more important. Defence companies give money to sitting Congressmen who have fought their corner. True, in the ferociously anti-incumbent mid-terms of last November, they could not save Ike Skelton, their ally and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, from defeat.
But financial support from Boeing workers was key in the re-election of Senator Patty Murray from Washington State, where she has fought hard to save Boeing jobs threatened if the company loses its bid for a $35bn tanker contract, for which the European-based EADS is also competing. That battle, incidentally, is also playing out in its own fierce ad war on WTOP, aimed at the same audience of government and Congress.
And even if budgetary pressures temporarily compress the market for top-of-the-line military hardware, fear not. The demand for national security and intelligence in the “war on terror” continues to surge – to the point that a Washington Post investigation last summer found that 33 facilities for intelligence work, equal to three new Pentagons, have gone up around Washington alone since 9/11.
Most fundamentally, there remains the popularity of all things military, at a time when civilian leaders with the stature and experience to challenge the Pentagon brass, and by extension the MIC, are few. George HW Bush was the last commander-in-chief to have tasted war and its horrors. His son famously had not, and – perhaps to make up for it – gave the military everything it wanted, and more. So maybe there is only one answer. America should elect a general as commander-in-chief. Like Dwight D. Eisenhower.’
Take the battle for Iraq which took place because of using false information as a reason to go to war. As a result of the downfall of Saddam Hassein, more civilians have died since then that all that were killed during the dictator’s period of rule – the difference runs into many, many thousands.
Another point to make is throughout the last decade or so, military spending rose by 50%, but the number of armed conflicts fell. Much of that spend increase was on the ‘war on terror’, but more US citizens are killed by lightning strikes than by terrorists. When we talk about ‘terrorists’ entering the USA, many thousands more of people have been killed by guns (including the police) than by any terrorist event.
A lot of conflicts could be sttled by very earlier mediation:
See http://www.mediate.com/articles/cloke5.cfm and http://www.accord.org.za/ajcr-issues/%EF%BF%BCconflict-and-conflict-resolution-in-africa/ for further thinking on the subject.
An example of a mediation/conflict resolution process:
A Twelve-Step Program
What follows is a multi-layered twelve-step plan for increasing the capacity of hostile communities to prevent, resolve, and recover from conflicts. I offer it in hopes that it can be modified to fit local conditions and used to break the cycle of violence that ultimately impacts us all:
- Convene a cross-cultural team of experienced trainers
- Meet with the leaders of hostile factions to secure agreement on a common plan, build trust, and encourage on-going support
- Interview leaders of opposing groups, sub-groups, and factions, listen empathetically, and clarify cultural mores, interests, goals, and concerns
- Elicit from each group or culture the methods currently used to resolve disputes and identify ways of supplementing and expanding them
- Identify a core of volunteers in each group who want to be trained as mediators, facilitators, and trainers
- Design a program to elect or select volunteer mediators and facilitators from neighborhoods and workplaces, and from key educational, social, religious, cultural, economic, and political organizations
- Form cross-cultural teams of mediators to design conflict resolution systems, conduct mediations, encourage forgiveness and reconciliation, and arbitrate disputes
- Train volunteer facilitators in techniques for processing grief and loss, reducing prejudice, facilitating public dialogue, and organizing truth and reconciliation commissions and similar interventions as needed
- Form cross-cultural teams of trainers to train others throughout civil society
- Build on-going support for conflict resolution programs
- Conduct periodic evaluations, audits, and course corrections to improve capacity and identify where future support may be needed
- Redesign conflict resolution systems in governments, organizations, and civil society to increase opportunities for early intervention, dialogue, mediation, and negotiation between adversaries
By implementing these steps and modifying them to fit each situation, we can substantially reduce the destructiveness of evil, war, and terrorism and create a platform on which deeper social and political changes might take place. By comparison with the long-term costs of war and terrorism, the most ambitious program imaginable would be inexpensive and well worth undertaking.
We need to exponentially increase mediation between the many people groups around the world to make sure that conflict does not arise. It also needs to be taught in schools and workplaces.
More next time!