Sunday, May 13, 2012

Speaking Soon at IPC - Mary Poplin of Finding Calcutta

The word is that Mary Poplin, author of Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service, is going to be preaching at all three worship services of Irvine Presbyterian Church on Pentecost Sunday -  27 May, 2012 (9:00 AM Sanctuary; 10:30 AM Sanctuary; 10:30 AM Veritas in the Fellowship Hall).  Most fitting!  I cannot wait to meet Mary and hear her.

Here's a  recent talk by Mary Poplin, along with a summary.

April 2012 - "The Uniqueness of Christ in Forming Just Schools and Classrooms," Keynote Address at The Justice, Spirituality and Education Conference, Biola University, Los Angeles. Follow this link to watch and hear Mary on YouTube, video uploaded by Biola.

This is a 41 minute-long and powerful talk that ranges from a welcome beginning about the Christian roots of Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther whose involvement in social justice/civil rights/charity came directly from their religion - Mother Teresa called it "religious work" - to atheist philosophers of science such as J├╝rgen Habermas, Marcello Pero, author of Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians who stunningly concludes that Christianity is the answer to Europe's problems, and of course her own area of professional expertise, educational research. It is liberally interspersed with Scriptural references.

Equity, not equality, is the word more commonly found in the Bible. She discusses what this means in the context of providing equitable education. Social constructivism is misused in collaborative and co-operative learning! This sort of learning actually comes from secular humanism (quote from evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson to show where cooperative learning comes from - not created by God). All theories of education come from secular humanism and they are not real solutions.

In Christianity, transformation starts from the inside, work is a calling. God is apolitical, He calls people to be leaders, to change systems - all human systems are flawed and need changing from the inside out. God wants each individual to be self-reliant, fully functional, performing like He created, intended them to be. While God loves and created diversity, multiculturalism is also not the answer to bring about equity in our schools. There's something wrong with every culture, including Western culture (quote from Lesslie Newbigin here) and she highlights Paul's famous I Corinthians 12: 12-30 (Unity and Diversity in the Body). Only Jesus gave us the perfect answer: God's culture, which is the Kingdom of God (very nice - I love this definition of the Kingdom of God as His culture!). Justice and righteousness are key concepts in God's Kingdom, they are the foundations of His throne.
Related to this is a Biblical principle that is mentioned in the Bible 9 times. God tells the people He's called: Turn neither to your left nor your right.  Her favorite illustration for this principle is in I Samuel 4-6 when the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord was captured by the Philistines. They then had horrible things happen to them and so they put the Ark on a cart with two cows never yoked before, and they turned neither right nor life but went straight home to Beth-shemesh (I Samuel 6: 12b; I love the range of her Scriptural references - and this resonated too with me as I am studying Samuel right now!). When one is called by God one goes straight, neither left nor right.

Most evangelicals don't like to talk about righteousness because that's what was emphasized in their homes and so they focus on justice. Justice and Righteousness are both necessary, together and cannot be pulled apart. Mother Teresa told Mary just before she left: "God does not call everybody to work with the poor like he called us to. And God does not call everybody to be poor, like he called us to be poor. But God does call everybody to a Calcutta. You have to find yours." Mary thought she'd have to go to Africa but it turns out God was calling her right where she already was!

Another Biblical principle, the last one Mary shares: Justice is a sacrifice. Again, this resonated with me. I feel totally affirmed that she quoted from Isaiah 58 which includes our non-profit's theme verse: Isaiah 58:6.

Discouragement is from the Devil.

God only gives us the piece of His calling that we can bear. Not the whole thing.

"All you need to bring is a heart to serve Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor."  Matthew 25.

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