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Posts from the ‘slavery’ Category


Q Conversations 5: Politician Elizabeth, Baroness Berridge

Elizabeth Berridge, until very recently, was the youngest woman in the House of Lords, the UK’s upper house in Parliament. Raised to the peerage in the 2011, she was before that a barrister and then in 2006 became Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship which exists to bring together Conservative Party voting Christians of all denominations. She describes herself as a classic Tory ‘wet’, as opposed to the ‘Dry’ Thatcherite end of the party’s spectrum. If that terminology is rather meaningless to you (or even sounds mildly offensive!) then listen in! Read more »


Q Conversations 4: Jazz Singer and Photographer Ruth Naomi Floyd

While I was in the States at the end of last month, I had an afternoon to kill in Philadelphia. So the completely obvious thing to do was record another Q conversation. This time I sat down to chat with Ruth Naomi Floyd, whom I’d met at the European Leadership Conference in Hungary a few years ago. It’s available on iTunes podcasts, or if you prefer a direct feed, here on Jellycast.

Read more »


The British Empire was never quite what you thought: John Darwin’s Unfinished Empire

Nearly 10 years ago, a dear friend of mine was addressing a gathering of Ugandan MPs in the Parliament building in Kampala (around the 40th anniversary of independence). It included those from all shades on the political spectrum, including not a few post-colonial firebrands. My friend is certainly no great apologist for imperialism, but he posed two simple questions.

  • “Which Ugandan regions (of those that the British failed to develop) have we since developed?”
  • “What aspects of public life, government and rule of law have we improved on or done better in than the colonial regime?”

Read more »


Barack Obama 2: The Media’s Red Carpet

It is a truism to say that the media is influential in politics. But there is no doubting that its power to mesmerize and acclimatize contributed to Obama’s election. Having focused yesterday on the way in which Obama both innately and deliberately sought to build bridges across community divides and with historical landmarks (as described in David Remnick’s remarkable book The Bridge), I want to pick up on how he was able to surf the media’s wave all the way into Pennsylvania Avenue. Read more »


Barack Obama 1: The Bridge from Selma to Pennsylvania Avenue

If there is a point to Barack Obama becoming US President – and let’s face it, how can we ever reduce anyone’s life to having ‘a point’ – it is not his politics but his race. Race is what made his election seem so unthinkable, and yet, conversely, once he was the Democrat candidate, such a difficult opponent to beat in the 2008 election. And it is what will give him his enduring legacy (politics and 2nd term aside). Read more »


Provocations and Grace from Tim Keller’s Generous Justice

I have been waiting for years for someone to write this book. And so I’m hugely grateful to Tim Keller. He’s clearly the man for the job – his years of ministerial experience, academic ability and personal integrity well qualify him to write of the crying need for Evangelicals to engage with issues of justice and poverty. He’s done it before in his celebrated Ministries of Mercy, but this book seems to have a greater apologetic edge.

And he knows his audience. Or rather his audiences. For he is well-aware, no doubt from heated interactions, that there are various groups out there who are profoundly sceptical of this passion. The problem is that they are coming from such conflicting starting positions; so it takes a masterly lightness of touch to engage each without alienating another.

A complex battleground

But part of the approach is to identify his interlocutors from the start (from page xi) and then interact with each as he goes along – I’ve tried summarise them like this:

  • The Instinctive Advocate: those Christians with the gut feeling that poverty and justice are important but who have never been able to integrate that with their faith. To them, Keller seeks to give a thought through, biblical rationale for why this instinct is god-given.
  • The Sceptical Evangelist: those who fear any journey down this road will inevitably lead to doctrinal compromise and the ‘social gospel’. We’re here just to evangelise, aren’t we? To which Keller challenges by articulating both Old & New Testament motivations and commands to love the poor, and to question what a reluctance to such love might indicate about their ministerial context and personal spirituality. He doesn’t think they are the same thing – and this is important to what he goes on to say – but he does argue that we can’t have one without the other:

… to consider deeds of mercy and justice to be identical to gospel proclamation is a fatal confusion. I propose a different way to understand evangelism and social justice. They should exist in an asymmetrical, inseparable relationship. (p139)

It is also impossible to separate word and deed ministry from each other in ministry because human beings are integrated wholes – body and soul. When some Christians say, ‘Caring for physical needs will detract from evangelism’, they must be thinking of only doing evangelism among people who are comfortable and well-off. (p141-142)

  • The Revisionist Campaigner: frustrated by evangelicals’ sluggish or avoided engagement, these go further than Instinctive Advocates and blame what they perceive as the ‘individualism’ of protestant orthodoxy. Their solution is to water down or distance themselves from it. To them, Keller is resounding in his appeal to evangelical orthodoxy – not just because he seeks to prove its biblical faithfulness, but also because he sees it as the fundamental bridge to a changed life and ethical behaviour, when it is properly understood. This quotation could serve as a summary of a point that he frequently returns to:

But as we have seen, doing justice is inseparably connected to preaching grace. This is true in two ways. One way is that the gospel produces a concern for the poor. The other is that deeds of justice gain credibility for the preaching of the gospel. In other words justification by faith leads to doing justice, and doing justice can make many seek to be justified by faith. (p140)

  • The Atheist Accuser: those who follow the likes of Christopher Hitchens by claiming that ‘religion poisons everything’. Keller has interacted with such issues before, most notably in The Reason for God. But the focus is narrower here. His approach is to question the ethical basis for human rights in the forbidding frigidity of a godless universe, and then to suggest that talk of human dignity is an inevitable corollary of divine creation and redemption. He even seems to have Derrida on his side on that point! (p167) It is a trenchant argument – proving that far from being poisonous, religion, and Christianity in particular, is pivotal for the protection of the vulnerable and the weak. This is, of course, why it is such an affront and scandal when Christians don’t do that.

I suppose for a number of years I fell very much into the first camp – troubled by the world’s injustices, but unable to articulate an integrated theological response. Many friends, whom I hugely respect, were in the second – and part of the problem, I think, is that they would not read or engage with many who think differently on this issue (because of their lack of orthodoxy in other areas). What is so refreshing therefore about Keller’s approach is that he is explicitly and deliberately approaching the question from the vantage point of the classic reformed doctrines of creation, substitutionary atonement, justification, sanctification and so on. Some attack him because his social involvement leads to suspicions that he has gone soft on these. But Keller retorts by saying that it is precisely this gospel that drives him to it. And he enjoys great precedents in reformed luminaries as diverse as Jonathan Edwards, Murray M’Cheyne and Abraham Kuyper (all of whom he quotes at various points).

Getting back to the Non-Question

Having lived in the two-thirds world for a number of years, it was impossible to ignore the  appalling conditions and social realities of people’s lives. It would have been callous to do so. That, in part, is why very few African friends understand the western church’s hang up on social action and evangelism. It’s a non-question for them. But in Generous Justice, Keller convincingly argues in a coherent, accessible and readable way why it should be non-question for us all. I sensed when we lived in Uganda, and I sense all the more strongly having read this book, that one mistake is to get lost in the intricacies of working out theoretical priorities (a necessary activity, of course). You start pitting this life against the next life and … well … it seems no contest.

But suppose we take the concern for justice out of the mission equation, just for a moment (don’t panic – I do think that it is an integral part of what God is doing on earth, which is why we should be involved. But bear with me just for a moment.) Instead, place justice and poverty in matters of holiness and discipleship and suddenly the landscape changes. It’s not then primarily a question of priorities. It’s a question of godliness. We don’t ask, ‘is it more important to be honest, humble or generous?’ That would be ludicrous. We shouldn’t expect to have to choose – we should strive after all three.

So it is with seeking justice and loving the poor. And as that is God’s heartbeat, so it should be ours. As Keller points out, it’s fascinating that God introduces himself as

‘a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Ps 68:4-5). This is one of the main things he does in the world. He identifies with the powerless, he takes up their cause. (p6)

To be like God is to do the same thing – to care for what has been called the “quartet of the vulnerable” (the widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor cf. Zech 7:10-11). (p4)

Grace changes everything

The thrust of this book’s argument is that grace is the heart of everything. And so Keller returns to the well-worn but crucial paths on the dangerous road to Jericho. His earlier book Ministries of Mercy was subtitled the Call of the Jericho Road. And here he is very clear why we should:

Before you can give this neighbour-love [e.g. as the Samaritan does], you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to  help absolutely anyone in need. (p77)

This is why the gospel of grace is absolutely pivotal – both for motivating and modelling an all-round holistic ministry, and for reminding us of our own deep needs and equality with those we serve and love.

In the next post, I’ll pick up some of the more practical and political aspects of Keller’s case.


Petina Gappah on John Simpson’s Head of a Negro

Just been leafing through the latest Tate magazine – one of my favourite bits is the regular feature MicroTate where people from different walks of life offer a brief reflection on something from the Tate collections.

I was gobsmacked by this picture painted in around 1827: John Simpson’s Head of a Negro. It portrays such dignity and yet also such stoicism – above all, it surely points to a common humanity. There shouldn’t be a surprise there – of course. But just consider what was going on in that year (a few very random factlets):

– George IV, the former Prince Regent, had 3 more years left to reign
– Beethoven and artist William Blake died
– Aluminium was discovered (!)
– More significantly, it was 20 years after the British Slave Trade Act (1807) but 6 years before the Slavery Abolition Acts (1833)

So slavery was still a gruesome reality around the British Empire at the time. The famous Wedgwood medallion was still profoundly necessary.

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean who is a lawyer and writer, working in Geneva. These were her MicroTate reflections:

I don’t know whether John Simpson had a model for this portrait, whether he met a real black man who sat for him, or whether he glimpsed someone on the street whose eyes he could not forget, or whether the picture simply came straight out of his imagination. When I look at the painting, I like to imagine what its first viewers saw. Those eyes pull you in without looking at you; you cannot turn away. Did they recognise a common humanity shining from those eyes, those first viewers in the age of slavery? Did they recognise that beauty can come in this form? There is beauty in those eyes, yes, and there is a look of nobility and suffering borne with defiance.

I cannot help but think of the first two verses of HW Longfellow’s poem The Slave’s Dream:

Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land.

Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descend the mountain-road.

The poem about a dying slave’s remembered past life of contented nobility, complete with a dark-eyed queen, kissing children, a powerful stallion and bright flamingos, was written on the other side of the Atlantic, and long after Simpson’s painting, so it cannot have influenced this portrait. There is no possibility of a direct connection, other than in the idea of the enslaved nobleman, a romantic notion that has a strong pull on the imagination. Perhaps it was necessary that those first viewers saw this man as a king in chains in order for them to understand that black slaves were people too. This is ultimately what those eyes demand; a recognition of a shared humanity.

Head of a Negro was presented by Robert Vernon in 1847 and is currently not on display.


The Devotion of a Slave: Michael Card’s A Better Freedom

Slavery is a fraught subject – and for too many, it’s no historical artefact or long-gone curiosity. Its effects are still pervasive. Furthermore, it’s not simply a matter of its legacy for African-Americans in the US or the Caribbean. UN estimates suggest that 20 million people were held in bonded slavery in 2004; and in that year, there were more slaves than were seized from Africa in all 4 centuries of the transatlantic slave trade combined. It is a matter of no small interest, therefore, that slavery is such a significant biblical theme – and for a large number it can form a stumbling block by itself.

Michael Card is a renowned singer, but he is also a careful student of the Bible (the result, in part, of a long mentoring relationship with William Lane, author of e.g. The Gospel of Mark in the NICNT series). More than either of those factors, however, is the fact that he has a pastor’s heart and passionate commitment to integration across racial barriers – so crucial in his home town of Nashville. It is through his many African American brothers and sisters that he has learned truths about slavery in the Bible. Particularly striking is the insight from one friend who said:

slaves generally referred to Jesus as ‘Master’ to let their earthly masters know they weren’t (p19).

Because being freed from human slavery doesn’t exempt us from all slavery – we are, if Christian, slaves of Christ, who was himself humanity’s slave.

This book is unusual for its effective combination of pastoral warmth and academic research. He very skilfully weaves between three eras of slavery in order to establish what being a slave of Christ is all about, and just as significantly, what it is not. He shifts with ease and learning between the covenant-tempered slavery regulations of ancient Israel, the harsh realities of Roman Imperial slavery and the horrors of the American Deep South. This approach is simply unavoidable for any treatment of this subject – but this is one of the best because Card is so personal committed to the discipleship implications of what he finds.

The chapters are short and pithy – and many are illuminating of familiar texts. It was particularly striking to see how many of Jesus’ parables were immersed in the world of slaves. The book closes with some very helpful appendices, listing such things as the slaves in the Bible’s story, the distinctives of the slavery from the 3 eras mentioned above, and chillingly, statistics about contemporary slavery. Having done a little work (but by no means as much) on this subject (The NT & Slavery), this is a book that I would love to have written, had I even half of Card’s insight and passion! If you’re looking for a more thorough and sustained handling of the topic, you could do much worse than Murray Harris’ Slave of Christ (in IVP’s fab NSBT series) but A Better Freedom is a great introduction and, more importantly, stirring devotional.

This is a challenging book but it is pastorally real and at times very moving, approaches some familiar truths with an engaging freshness.


Age of Wonder gems 4: Shelley & Walpole on Hot Air Balloons

Yet more from Holmes’ Age of Wonder. This time the focus is the new-found fascination with flight, as provided by hot air balloons. For the first time human beings could escape the shackles of gravity and deliberately ‘fly’ – albeit in a rather clumsy and highly dangerous way. What struck me was the contrasting reactions from those who gawped from the fields below.

James Sadler floating above Oxford

On the one hand, balloons provoked a wild sense of possibility, with all the enlightenment fervour and ambition that entailed. Here’s the poet Shelley again, dreaming of abolition:

Perhaps Shelley put it best, when he was a young undergraduate at Oxford in 1811, and had just witnessed another of Sadler’s balloon ascents one sparkling summer morning from Christchurch Meadows:

The balloon has not yet received the perfection of which it is surely capable; the art of navigating the air is in its first and most helpless infancy; the aerial mariner still swims on bladders, and has not yet mounted the rude raft… It would seem a mere toy, a feather, in comparison with the splendid anticipations of the philosophical chemist. Yet it ought not to be altogether condemned. It promises prodigious faculties for locomotion, and will allow us to traverse vast tracts with ease and rapidity, and to explore unknown countries without difficulty. Why are we so ignorant of the interior of Africa? – Why do we not despatch intrepid aeronauts to cross it in every direction, and to survey the whole peninsula in a few weeks? The shadow of the first balloon, which a vertical sun would project precisely underneath it, as it glided over that hitherto unhappy country, would virtually emancipate every slave, and would annihilate every slave forever. (p162)

And yet, as at every great technological advance, there is the dread of the malicious ends to which it might be used.

Surprisingly, balloons did not appeal to the gothic novelist Horace Walpole, though perhaps at sixty-six he was a little old for such perilous novelties. He thought balloons might be sinister [as he wrote in a letter of 1783]:

Well! I hope these new mechanic meteors will prove only playthings for the learned and idle, and not be converted into new engines of destruction to the human race – as is so often the case of refinements or discoveries in Science. The wicked wit of man always studies to apply the results of talents to enslaving, destroying or cheating his fellow creatures. Could we reach the moon, we should think of reducing it to a province of some European kingdom.

It was an ominous prophecy. (p135)

As ever, the rough with the smooth – and our forebears were all too aware of both… It is no surprise therefore that Holmes gave his book the subtitle: How the Romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science.


Provocative Child Soldiers Ad

HT: Ads of the World


Obama’s victory: the picture that says it all

He never thought he’d see the day – but politics and policy aside (whether of Jesse Jackson or Obama), this picture of Jackson last night says it all. And McCain caught the mood in his more than gracious concession speech (eg references to Roosevelt and Booker Washington).

(Photo HT: Christian Scharen)


Blonde Roots: the slave trade turned upside down

Blonde Roots is a remarkable book. That should be reason enough to check it out – but of course, most will need more than that to go on. I spotted a Saturday supplement review of it and so picked it up – and couldn’t put it down.

It was one of those books that got under the skin and provoked a response – so i ended up reviewing it for Damaris, here on their CultureWatch site. But to give you a hint of why it stuck in my mind, here is an excerpt from the review:

How on earth do we help an ethnic majority to understand the realities of racism? What needs to be done to expose any lurking prejudice?

Bernardine Evaristo’s answer was to write a novel. Blonde Roots is the daring and shocking result. Her premise is simple. What if it had been Africans who enslaved Europeans for 400 years, and not the other way around? What would that have looked and, more importantly, felt like? As someone who is half-English, half-Nigerian, she is perhaps more well-suited to write this book than most.

The book depicts a universe that is both eerily alien and yet also unnervingly familiar. Geography and place names are familiar but in the wrong place or spelled differently; history is not so much revised as ransacked – and yet the way she does it leaves one in no doubt about the horrors of ‘real’ history.

But the reason I found this book so challenging in the end was not its utterly reasonable attacks on racism and slavery. No instead, it is the fact that Evaristo makes a pretty well crafted case for dismissing all truth claims on the grounds that they tend to be at root power claims. And that is a challenge that is not easy to dismiss.

To find out more, read on… Even better, read the book.


micah challenge – what reasons NOT to?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To ACT JUSTLY and to LOVE MERCY and to WALK HUMBLY with your God.

(Micah 6:8)

23rd Sept was our annual World Needs Sunday at All Souls. A challenging day, needless to say. Chris Wright in particular was yet again on form – with a masterly exposition of Deuteronomy 15 – download from All Souls site.

It struck me as we watched the latest Micah Challenge video when it was shown in the service (see below) that you need a very good reason NOT to sign up and side with it.


The Abolition of Slavery and the NT

latimer-ntslavery.jpgWell, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t be ruthlessly self-promoting. So I’m now going to be ruthlessly self-promoting.

Just out is a little booklet based on my now rather ancient thesis – condensed, edited and hopefully improved. It touches some controversial areas, but i hope fairly. Certainly not meant to be definitive or anything, but is aimed at putting the battles over slavery in the bible into some sort of context and thereby extricate them from some of the more extreme things people use abolition to justify in contemporary debates. This is what the blurb on the back says:

Evangelical Christians in the nineteenth century led the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, and then of slavery, throughout the British Empire. Yet their opponents argued that the Bible itself supports the institution of slavery. How can one book be used to uphold two contradictory positions? In this Latimer Study, Mark Meynell examines the conundrum. Why did the apostle Paul not campaign for the abolition of slavery in his day? What did he really teach on the subject? Was slavery in the ancient world different from modern slavery, like the horrors of the American Deep South?

You can get it direct from Latimer Trust (by clicking on the image) or through Amazon if that’s easier. It’s only £2.50 – but then of course, it is only 40 pages. But just think of all the hard work that went into it…



Jamaican Joys – the 2007 LPI conference

Well, it wasn’t all fun, fun, fun – there was some work as well – but it was full of joy. We all met at a government-owned training hotel in Runaway Bay on Jamaica’s north coast (what a great idea that is – 90% of the staff are students training to work in the hotel industry across the Caribbean – each has to spend a few months doing all the various jobs needed in a hotel – from the front desk to cleaning the rooms via the kitchens and waitering). There were around 80 delegates on the conference, from around 7 or 8 different denominations and representing the whole island of Jamaica.


United by Language

This is the only country that i’ve visited with Langham where English is everybody’s first and only language – and what a difference that makes. LPI Jamaica 1.jpgIn fact, Bishop Harry Daniel, one of the leading lights behind Langham’s work in Jamaica, told the story of how years back he was filling an application form to study at an American college which asked him to fill in a box on the standard of his English – he left it blank because it seemed unnecessary. For he was from JAMAICA, after all! The truth is, from my little experience of being there, many Jamaicans have much better English than Brits, let alone Americans. But far more significant that simply sharing a language, it really felt like a meeting of minds – sharing the joys and challenges of ministry with people who face similar issues despite huge differences in culture and context.


Cross-Global Impacts

Read more »


At last, Big Brother has a NAME! Naomi Klein & NoLogo

no-logo.jpgThis is an edited version of an article i wrote about Naomi Klein’s brilliant No Logo, which came out in 2000. I have to say that for all the controversy and debate it generated it is still one of my favourite and most challenging books of recent years. Pretty radical, definitely lefty, and certainly compelling! I think that 7 years on, the book is as relevant now as it ever was (if not more so). You can check out her more recent publications and journalism on her NoLogo website.


Nottingham University caused a storm at the start of December 2000 by accepting nearly £4 million from British American Tobacco (BAT) to set up a School of Business Ethics. As Alex Thomson reported on Channel 4 News, ‘It couldn’t be more ironic. One of the largest tobacco manufacturers in the world providing cash for a centre for corporate social responsibility.’ (C4 News, 5 Dec 2000) Corporate sponsorship has been a feature of modern university life for a while, so BAT’s move would previously have been confined to a few column inches on the business pages. But now, multinational giants have been under intense scrutiny. Where before new products and inventions hit the headlines, their manufacturer’s ethics are now just as likely to be big news. And it’s not just the tobacco companies who are in the firing line.

naomi-klein.jpgCanadian journalist Naomi Klein set out to analyse the antagonism to global capitalism that sparked off the riots in Seattle, London & Prague in recent months and NO LOGO is the fascinating, gripping and disturbing result. What she found was a growing voice of discontent from the very people that many of the big corporations (like Nike, MTV, Tommy Hilfiger and Gap) are seeking to entice through their brands. The protesters are quite simply not the ‘usual suspects’ of eco-warriors and Socialist Worker vendors. So what has brought all of this on?

The corporations are no longer seeking to sell products – instead they want us to buy their lifestyles. So Nike has not just sold trainers. Their aim has been for the Nike ‘swoosh’ to represent first:

…the idea of sports, then the idea of transcendence through sports; then it wanted to be about self-empowerment, women’s rights, racial equality. It wanted its stores to be temples, its ads a religion, its customers a nation, its workers a tribe. (No Logo, p379)

swoosh.jpegThis reached a logical, if totally bizarre, conclusion at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, when Nike created the Kenya’s first Olympic skiing team. Kenyan runners are renowned for their athleticism and so Nike wanted to demonstrate that ‘sports shouldn’t have boundaries’. (No Logo, p53) They spent $250,000 creating a Kenyan Skiing federation, training two runners in cross-country skiing in Norway (because Kenya has no snow, let alone training facilities!) and giving them custom-designed uniforms (marked by a ‘swoosh’ of course). Needless to say, one didn’t qualify and the other came last. But that was not the point. This is the world of the branding:

… by equating the company with athletes and athleticism at such a primal level, Nike ceased merely to cloth the game and started to play it. And once Nike was in the game with its athletes, it could have fanatical sports fans instead of customers.

Not that Nike are alone or unique in this. Walt Disney has been playing this game for years – the Mouse is the grand-daddy of branding. While the world’s press focussed on the shenanigans in Tallahassee, Florida in the aftermath of America’s 2000 Election,mickeymouse.gif citizens of a town called Celebration, Florida were quietly living their lives (no doubt having avoided the dreaded dimpled chad on their ballot papers). But it is a town with a difference. Celebration was meticulously planned, authentically built and completely owned by Disney. It mimicked the wholesome Midwest communities of American folklore – with picket fences, a Disney-appointed homeowners’ association and even a phoney water tower. As Naomi Klein points out, ‘for families who live there year-round, Disney has achieved the ultimate goal of lifestyle branding: for the brand to become life itself.’ (No Logo, p155) The genuine virtual ‘Truman Show’ world has arrived!

sweatnew.jpgThat is just the start – it seems no exaggeration to say that brands are surreptitiously taking over our lives. This take-over of public space by private corporations who are accountable only to shareholders has been alarming. But it was only when the true costs of such brand expansion began to emerge that people across the world started protesting. In our global village, many of the high street’s wealthiest brands are built on the murky and oppressive foundations of sweatshops and wage-slavery in the 2/3rds world. For example, it’s shocking to discover that:

Disney CEO Michael Eisner earns $9,783 an hour while a Haitian worker [manufacturing Disney clothes] earns 28c an hour; it would take a Haitian worker 16.8 years to earn Eisner’s hourly income; the $181million in stock options Eisner exercised in 1996 is enough to take care of his 19,000 Haitian workers and their families for 14 years. (No Logo, p352)

So now, protesters are as likely to picket the HQ of a big global corporation (if not more so) as they are an embassy of an oppressive regime.

When you discover that of the top 100 economies in the world, only 49 are countries, while 51 are actually corporations forces us to ask uncomfortable questions. Could it be that George Orwell’s vision of Big Brother is gradually being realised not politically, but economically? Since capitalism ‘won’ the Cold War in 1989, this has perhaps been inevitable. So people are protesting in whatever ways they can and Klein records a number of the many subversive and creative examples of this (such as Adbusters’ brand subversion – the site is well worth a look).

big-brother.jpgBut we shouldn’t be surprised. Human beings have always played the power game using whatever means available, regardless of the suffering it causes. Surely the domination and oppression by brand culture is just a 21st Century manifestation of something that has a branded logo all its own – a serpent coiled round a piece of fruit with two bites taken out of it?

Brands lull into a false sense of security with their promises of free and easy lifestyles, where the watchword is ‘Just Do It’. Could it not be that they have domesticated Big Brother? And could it not be that we have actually known his name for years? Could it not be that Big Brother more resembles a mouse with big black ears, who answers to the name of ‘Mickey’?


This article originally appeared in UCCF’s Monitor magazine, Spring 2001


abolition of slave trade bill – 25th march 1807

Sunday 25th March was a remarkable day at All Souls.

In the morning, CHRIS WRIGHT (my Langham Partnership boss) preached a gripping and profound sermon on the crucifixion narrative in Luke 23:26-43 in which he was able to bring out a number of different layers from the passage:


  • 4 Last Scenes: full of Scripture
  • 3 Last Temptations: full of Irony
  • 2 Last Words: full of Hope

Then in the evening, HUGH PALMER (my All Souls boss) preached an equally gripping 3-part sermon on the lessons and challenges we face 200 years after the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade bill (25th March 1807), based on Paul’s speech to the Athenian Areopagus in Acts 17. How we are precisely to respond is a question that is hard to answer; but that we must respond is surely beyond question.

Here is a video that we made specially for the service, aimed to give some crucial background to the bill’s passing. However we can’t remain rooted to the victories of the past – not least because the bill itself did not abolish slavery outright, only the slave trade on British ships; and because of the reality of 27,000,000 estimated to be slaves TODAY.

As Hugh said in his talk, we evangelicals too easily focus entirely on the family of the redeemed and forget that we are members of the family of humanity. Too often we have simply forgotten that we are human. BUT we would actually mind very much if one of those slaves was actually OUR sister or cousin. See the posting from earlier this month (5th March) and especially the note on Gary Haugen’s GOOD NEWS ABOUT INJUSTICE.

THE SERMONS ARE NOW ONLINE – click on the preacher above to download.